When the elusive and absurdly rich Lord Hawthorne announces his unusual competition to seek a bride, you don’t think it would be any harm to enter. But perhaps there is a reason no one has ever seen Lord Hawthorne in person...
(this is the first terato story I’m publicly sharing so like.. Be nice to me pls T_T)
[Part Two] [Part Three] [part Four]
PART ONE (SFW)
[Content: Regency era, male monsterxfemale reader, Forest god/Horned monster/Cernunnos, Advantageous marriage, Low self image]
When news came of Lord Hawthorne's unusual proposition, your mother was a flurry of excitement. “The Lord is lonely!” She howled, flitting around your modest estate, wildly waving the promulgating letter – a copy of which had been delivered to almost every home in the county – as though it were a battle flag. When you and your three sisters finally managed to wrangle her into the kitchen and seat her by the range, she slapped the paper down against the table. “The Lord is lonely!” She panted, breathless from her deranged spin around the house.
“Yes, so you've said,” You prompted, unsure of what could have spurred this episode.
“He is eager to choose a wife!”
“What?!” Elouise, your eldest sister, snatched the letter up and held it close to her face. “Who has he in mind?”
“He has no one in mind!” Your mother laughed, swinging her legs like a child. “He is soliciting for a suitable match!”
“By what means, soliciting?” Abigail was already pawing at Elouise, peering over her shoulder eagerly.
“A ball, I hope!” Isadora, your youngest sister, clung to Elouise's elbow.
You hung back, eager as any of them, but feeling a pit of reservation in your stomach. You were, in your own opinion, the least lovely of your sisters, and had already suffered one failed engagement years before. You had learned not to hope for too much – least of all the elusive Lord Hawthorne, who owned half the county and according to the gossip of your friends, made at least £10,000 a year.
“It's quite bizarre,” Elouise turned, her two flanking sisters whipping around with her. “He has written a riddle and invites eligible ladies to respond.”
“Sounds pretentious,” You sighed.
Your mother hissed your name and scoldingly kicked your shin, “He's allowed to be pretentious, he's rich! Have you any better prospects?”
Elouise met your eye, her brow furrowed, and of course you understood. You weren't exactly the heiresses of a stately home. You had a decent house, with a large farm, healthy livestock and a decent crop of vegetables, all of which would go to your brother, Reginald, who would kindly ensure you were looked after for the rest of your days. The urgency wasn't so much to find a husband and save yourself from destitution... It was to find a husband and save yourself from your mother's frivolous nagging. Elouise and yourself were already in your twenties, and Gods, mother wouldn't let you forget it. Every day she greeted you with a shocked gasp and a “Is that a crease under your eyes?!” (No, mother, I'm just tired) “Is that a grey hair?!” (No, mother, the sun lightens my colour).
And, you supposed, it may be novel, to write back to the Lord.
“Tell us the riddle, then,” You leaned in to your sisters, taking a peek at the lovely penmanship on the parchment.
“Inbound, a procession of my brothers:
The first to arrive at our wedding tells you
The meadow's wealth, he trades for gold,
And wisdom in his waters hold.
My second brother arrives at our wedding, he says
So be it! Though I am not high,
As I walk, my tailcoats sweep the sky.
Lastly, I stand at the alter. I tell you,
I fumble my words, and I deter when I'm seen,
But I'll gift you a crown fit for a queen.
Can you name us?”
“What a ridiculous way to choose a bride!” Isadora exhaled, frustrated. “I don't know what any of that is supposed to mean!”
“You're too young to be marrying, anyway,” Elouise muttered, though you could tell she too was confounded. “When he says he deters when he's seen –”
“That part's easy,” Abigail took the letter with some confidence. “He's saying he's ugly!”
“He must be ugly,” You agreed, thoughtful. “As rich as he is, I can't think of a reason he wouldn't be able to find a wife through normal face-to-face conversation, unless-”
“Lord Hawthorne is never seen in public,” your mother chastised you, getting up from her seat to set the kettle on the hook over the fire. “He is a very traditional gentleman, and very reserved.” “So he must be ugly,” Elouise agreed.
“Girls!” Your mother snapped, “Who cares if he's ugly? For his income, you could live in a mansion so large you'd never have to see each other!” “Is that all you think about?” You challenged her, swiping the letter from Abigail to re-read the riddle. “What of your daughter's happiness?”
“You'll be happy when you're rich!”
Elouise laughed, and reclaimed the letter from you, staring at it thoughtfully. “I will write back to him at once,” She finally said.
Abigail gasped, “You've cracked it already?” “Well I must give it my best shot, and quickly, before some other girl solves it!” And with that she disappeared out through the servant's hall and up the stairs, the stampede of Abigail and Isadora behind her vibrating through the house. Their giggles and shrieks faded away until they were decisively silenced with the closing of a bedroom door somewhere overhead.
You and your mother sat in silence for a few moments. Eventually, she asked, “Won't you even try, my love?” “I am trying,” You mumbled. Not so much for the prospect of a rich, lordly husband – you were maintaining your cautious pessimism on that front. But you liked solving riddles, and grew frustrated at the prospect of being outsmarted by one of your sisters, or your friends, or neighbours, or worst of all, some stranger from another town, and you having no access to the girl to ask what the hell the answer even was.
By nightfall, all three of your sisters had come to their own unique conclusions about what the riddle meant, with your ever generous mother stopping in to provide hints and encouragements (and to harass you into participating in the contest as well). Elouise believed it was a trick, that all three must be “Lord Hawthorne”, as naturally brothers would share a name and title. Abigail, taking the literal route, had badgered father about the Lord's lineage and what his brothers may have been named – but according to father, no one had ever seen Lord Hawthorne in person. He had allegedly won his entire extensive estate in a game of cards (soul destroying to have been the loser of THAT wager) and no one knew of his parents, his brothers, or any family that had taken up with him. Abigail therefore guessed the names based on what sounded nice in front of “Hawthorne.” Isadora, on the other hand, cunning for her age, suspected that he was not speaking of blood brothers but more likely a bretherin of other rich aristocratic men in the area. She reasoned that the first brother, who traded the meadows wealth, had to be Lord Ardagh, for he owned the largest swath of agricultural land in the province. Meanwhile the brother who was “not high,” and therefore short, Isadora concluded had to be the paltry Lord Minnow, known for his extravagent expenditure and outrageous fashion (He had once worn to a funeral a glittering top hat adorned with a fountain of peacock feathers). You actually thought Isadora's guess was probably the soundest of the three, but you kept that to yourself, knowing your other sisters would be highly offended.
You couldn't help but feel that all three of their answers were wrong, though.
In spite of your mother's pressuring, you resisted the urge to pen your response to the Lord, and decided to sleep on it. You had colourful, restless dreams, of standing in a stream in a meadow, trying to make sense of this strange poem – this hurricane of words that the Lord had sent to challenge you. In the dream, a figure shrowded in black stood across the field, unmoving and staring straight at you, though you couldn't see his face.
When you woke, you followed an odd compulsion to your father's study, where he kept a modest library on mostly practical subjects. There was a book you remembered admiring as a child for its illustrations – on the medicinal properties and archaic beliefs pertaining to different types of wood. You sat and skimmed the pages until you found the passage you remembered – about the hazel tree. You recalled a story your grandmother used to tell by the fire on winter nights, about a salmon who ate hazel nuts and gained all the wisdom of the world. And there it was, in this book now:
“Traditionally, hazel trees were believed to offer insight and knowledge. If a hazel tree grew by a fresh water spring, drinking the water was thought to endow one with wisdom.”
You took up your parchment and wrote a response to Lord Hawthorne.
“My dear Lord,” You wrote, “Though I find your method of selecting a suitable bride to be unorthodox, and I suspect this riddle has already been solved, pride compels me to respond to your challenge. The meadows wealth, I assume you mean HAY, and to trade for gold, is to SELL, and the tree whose water holds wisdom is the HAZEL. This is your first brother.”
You paused, considering if you truly wanted to go on with this challenge. Perhaps solving the riddle for yourself was enough. Perhaps...
A strange feeling swelled in your stomach. Of wanting... To be challenged. Of wanting to be engaged with. You realised you were feeling excitement.
You wrote on, “This suggested to me how I might derive your second brother's name. So be it, you are stating your WILL, and to not be high is to be LOW, and the tree that sweeps the sky is the WILLOW. This must be your second brother.”
You had to contain the strange giddiness rising up inside of you, as it was starting to affect your handwriting. You were so eager to get the words down, you splotched the ink a little.
“I must then posit,” You continued, “That to fumble your words is to HAW, and to see a THORN would surely deter, and of course, traditionally, a bride wears a crown of hawthorne flowers. This was the easiest, for I already knew your name to be HAWTHORNE. I enjoyed this little challenge, and I wish you luck in your pursuit for a bride.”
You signed your name, putting in a little more effort than usual to make your signature look tidy and, if you were being truly honest with yourself, alluring. You sealed an envelope with your father's wax and went out to the gate. You were planning to give the letter to the post man in the nearest village, but you saw your neighbour walking down the old path and, upon hearing he would be passing the Hawthorne estate, asked him to deliver your letter.
“Trying to solve the riddle, eh?” Your neighbour chuckled, taking the envelope.
You tried not to seem overly confident. After all, it was best practice not to get your hopes up. “Just thought I'd try my hand.” “I heard it made a fuss in town last night, you're a bit late to the contest,” he teased. You tried not to let your disappointment show on your face as that familiar feeling of despair surfaced in your chest. Of course, you weren't expecting a proposal from the Lord. You weren't even expecting a reply. You only wrote to him because you had nothing better to do. And you refused to be disappointed by the inevitable lack of interest your letter received. And these were things you believed. These were things you believed.
It was late, hours after nightfall when an urgent banging on the heavy wooden door woke the household. You and Elouise were the first to the hall, your father and mother grumbling down the stairs behind you. Elouise opened the door, her candle illuminating the wet face of the messenger who stood on the step as rain poured down around him.
“My apologies for the late hour,” he wheezed holding up his own lantern to Elouise. “I was told it couldn't wait.” “For the sake of the Gods, man,” your father griped, moving between you and Elouise to confront the man. “What news could you possibly bring at this late hour?”
“A letter sir, an urgent letter,” The messenger patted down his pockets, slipping out an envelope with a liquid gold wax seal, bearing the emblem of a horned goat. “For your daughter.”
The letter bore your name.
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In a Sleepy Town [Headless Horseman x Reader][pt.7]
Summary: “The horseman who rides atop his alabaster steed, cloaked in crimson without a head.”
In the sleepy town of Moorwick, you are drawn into the legend of horseman when you learn it is associated with your father’s disappearance twenty years ago. When the local ghost story turns to be anything but that, and a bargain goes awry, you delve into Moorwick’s dark history with hopes of saving more than just yourself.
Chapter Seven: Following that bloody night in the forest with the horseman, you couldn’t bring yourself to go back. It’s only after a startling revelation from Asta Lang that you find the courage to return; albeit you find that the horseman isn’t your only encounter.
TW; VERY BRIEF MENTION OF SUICIDE! IT ONLY SHOWS UP ONCE, THE REST OF THE CHAPTER IS SAFE. PLEASE READ AT YOUR DISCRETION.
Maverick Decatur was a mere memory to the hazy town of Moorwick these days. More than four months had passed since that cold night in the forest, and just about as long since the search parties to recover his remains were dismissed by Colson. The decision was ultimately dictated by the hand of the town council, who were more agitated by resources trickling into such a cause as opposed to slapping an even gaudier shade of terracotta on three-hundred-year-old brick. Colson, a man who you had come to recognize as composed and fastidious, had created such a ruckus over the council’s unanimous decision that he had been temporarily suspended and escorted from the premises.
You couldn’t attest to having much fondness for him since the realization he knew about your excursions to the forest most nights, as well as tricking you with the gold coin. However unsettling that was, during the two weeks where a disproportionately large number of people from town flooded the outer perimeters of the Atticus, he had been dauntless, leading with an unabashed frantic flair. The structure of the searches had been nonsensical, only the order to find something left of Decatur; his hat, a slither of clothing or even a decaying finger.
Predictably, they never found those traces of Decatur and you knew that they never would. The townsfolk of Moorwick stayed far too superstitious to touch a toe anywhere beyond the great maw, checked only by daylight, and were already confident in their hearts that the sheriff had met his demise. You thought yourself selfish to have any part in a fruitless search for that man, knowing he belonged to the Atticus now.
Following the close of the second week as well as the subsequent disbandment of the official party, the town resumed life as normal beneath the somber sky of distended clouds. Those impassioned discussions on the disappearance were quick to fall to the wayside in anticipation for how bad the flooding season would be this year; if the mudslides would be as deadly as they were in the previous autumn. It was almost as though Decatur had never mattered in the first place, never existed.
Perhaps it only bothered you as much as it did because of your feelings over the ordeal; you felt like a hypocrite, a fucking beast to have any part in pretending to hope for a recovery. The horseman had viciously, effortlessly decapitated him; you saw his body drop into the feet of snow and ice, writhing those few seconds while his blood sprayed onto the pristine sheet of white. You recalled it so vividly even now, in your dreams, in your thoughts as you traveled through the monotony of everyday life.
More than that, you remembered so strongly how the horseman kept you in his arms and refused to let you go for well over an hour. It had taken that long for the forest to smother your wails, your screams, your attempts at provocation so the horseman would just leave you be. What was an hour to him, compared to the centuries he had wandered, though? So, you would rest for a moment, thrash and flail, then catch your breath before deafening the air with cries enough to make a banshee shrivel. The air in the Atticus was so dense that your agony did not carry far; that moment remained private between you and the horseman.
Decatur’s death was the last time you dared to venture into the forest. The passage of time for you from that moment onward had slowed, yet moved with an impressive quickness you hadn’t acknowledged until the morning you were stirred from sleep by the symphonic patter of rain atop the tin roof of your father’s house. Curiosity begged a glance out the window, prompting you to swipe away the thick veil of condensation with a sleeve. The clean landscape of untouched ice spears and snow thawed, showing you stubby patches of green grass peeking above saturated ground with murky rainwater and mud. Distantly, a collective of spirited trills from peach-bellied birds had your eyes on your phone the next moment; the screen declared it the end of April.
How did time slip away from you so easily? It couldn’t have truly been that long since the last you had seen the horseman. It occurred to you then that you hadn’t returned to the forest because you didn’t want to, because you were afraid to. You were awash with such discomfort it was nearly unbearable; your throat felt thick, your chest squeezed, your stomach was an empty void that seemed to swallow you.
You were nearly in tears again.
This truth you had recklessly pursued since arriving in Moorwick led to this moment. If the answers you were looking for only cost people’s lives, was it worth continuing? You hadn’t laid a hand on Maverick Decatur, and yet he had been murdered trying to keep the town’s secrets. What if you hadn’t gone in the forest that night, would he still be alive? What if you had waited for the rain to end and left Moorwick the day of the festival, would he still be alive? What if you had listened to Winston’s warning to not obsess so deeply over your father’s disappearance, would Decatur still be alive?
If the price to pay for closure was death, you weren’t sure you wanted it anymore.
Despite those thoughts, you weren’t so sure of their authenticity. There yet remained that magnetism; that insatiable pull that connected you to the forest. As much as you pretended it not to be so, your relentless task of finding your father had led you there among the spindly trees, stagnant bogs, and most importantly, to the horseman with enough frequency that being there was an ingrained behavior at this point. It felt as normal to you as the air that expanded your chest with each breath.
You brought those thoughts with you to dinner with Asta and Winston not long following, seated at their modest table with taut shoulders and an unfocused, distant gaze that did not go unseen. There was a sharp contrast to the way the silvery prongs of your fork rolled pieces of sauteed vegetables and pork across Asta’s embossed dishware, to the mundane chatter you tried to engage them in. When neither of the pair showed particular interest in entertaining you, only half-truths came out; cautious not to allude to the forest or Decatur.
“Sorry, it’s just been a weird couple of months,” you explained to them while gathering the dishware and utensils once everyone finished with the meal. “I guess I’m just not used to spring without sun. It’s pretty weird.”
“Aye, it is,” Winston gruffed and cleared his throat, fingers wadding the edges of his cardigan to wipe away the smudges on his rectangular eyeglasses. “I’ve been here for a better part of my life, too. Can’t recall the last time I saw the sun and felt it on my skin. The beach for that matter, too.”
The way he said those words made your heartache, eyes flitting downward at the plates piling up in the sink. There were traces of guilt that gnawed at you for bringing your solemnity with you to dinner with the couple; the only people in this entire town, aside from Nellie, who had treated you with nothing but extraordinary hospitality and love since your arrival. Undoubtedly, the rapid shifts in your mood must have been as startling as your consistent appearances following the disappearance of Decatur. What you had found interesting about it, though, was his name was barely an utterance in the household, much like with the rest of the town at large.
Despite their incredible ages, they had actively participated in the search; the first few to sign on to help and among the last to relent to the fate the sheriff had faced. From that day onward, life went on as it did normally, and they continued to invite you to meals in their home with idle chit-chat that branched into one thing or another of nothing substantial. Perhaps that was one reason why you found yourself in their home so often, they were the only semblance of normalcy you could hold onto now; a constant, unchanging, and recognizable thing that didn’t make you uncomfortable.
“Nellie is very fond of strawberries, as I found out today,” Winston was telling you, taking the dishes you had washed with a towel to dry them before placing them in the cupboard. “Can you believe she told me she couldn’t stand strawberry in tea, though? Strawberry is an exquisite complementary flavor to green tea, similar to raspberry and mint!”
Little by little, the corners of your mouth dimpled as a smile pulled your lips taut. You couldn’t say you were a tea connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but something about his impassioned tangents on the topic was homely, easily ebbing the tightness in your shoulders until you found yourself asking him the differences between white teas and black teas. His expression and tone grew severe, carefully navigating the topic as his pacing with the towel drying slowed to a crawl.
“Winston,” Asta called from the threshold of the sitting room, coaxing your gaze as well as his towards her where she stood with an old cardboard box with bent corners. “Could you put on some tea and give us some time. My knees are hurting tonight, so I’d like to sit down and talk for a while.”
The crevices in Winston’s face seemed to deepen further at the sight of the box, eyebrows drawing in tight and somewhat doleful. His thin lips were pressed firmly as he took his walking cane from where it leaned against the counter, passing a glance of uncertainty towards you before walking opposite of the kitchen for a kettle. “Don’t do too much tonight, Asta. I’ll bring you some medicine to help with the swelling, darling.”
Asta’s posture collapsed at the slightest as her dark eyes turned to you, her smile devoid of the typical jovial mischief you had come to cherish seeing. They were a pain in the way the corners of her eyes crinkled, the lines in her face especially prominent as she did so. You were close behind her as she led you into the commodious sitting room; a space you had come to associate with bubbles of mirthful laughter, as well as the unease of quick heartbeats and bitter revelations.
“I’m sorry, dear, it seems as though every time I bring you here,” Asta began, rolling her painted lips together with her fingers still tightly clinging to the box, “I don’t have much good to tell you. I couldn’t tell you what made me think of this tonight, but I think it’s time I cleared up a few things for you… and myself.”
You took a seat on the cushions of one of her chairs, finding the high-back and broad armrests to be less accommodating than sidling as close to the edge as you could, elbows on your thighs as you hunched forward. There was already so much you wanted to ask. “Can you at least tell me what this has to do with first?”
“Oh, honey,” Asta let a sigh hiss through her teeth while letting the box rest on her lap, back molding against the chair she sunk into. Being that Asta was usually such a sprightly woman with an oddly dignified air around her, to see her withering away from you and troubled did little to stir confidence. “I don’t know where to begin this time, though I suppose I normally don’t, do I?”
When you didn’t give her a reply, Asta let her fingertips trail across the top of the lid of what you realized was an old cigar box. Decorated with old luggage stickers from times long past, they had lost their vibrancy to varying shades of yellow and brown, some torn to indistinguishable globs of remnant adhesive, while others frayed and faded beyond recognition. At that moment, you could see the significance that it held to Asta as her expression phased through fragile softness, to a longing for a time she couldn’t return to.
“Growing up,” Asta started a bit forcefully, propping the lid open against her stomach to show you the inside contents. It was a hearty stack of photographs; mostly black-and-white worn to a yellow hue and crimped edges, though there were some in color tinted similarly. “Growing up, your father was such a good boy. Not an ounce of mean in his sou. For those first ten or so years, his mother did a spectacular job with him. He was a studious boy with a rather… impressive knack for mischief and curiosity. Always wanted to know the ‘well, why?’ and ‘how come?’ to everything.”
You were quick to pluck one of the photographs from Asta’s bent fingers as she held it out to you. It depicted a much younger version of your father; a lad of no older than ten or eleven with a gleaming grin and a trophy in his hands that dulled in comparison. Standing on either side of him were two women, their shoulders tall and chins lifted in pride with dazzling smiles of their own; one was immediately recognizable to you.
“Is that you?” you asked incredulously, flipping the photograph from front to back repeatedly as though missing some critical detail on it. You were looking for a date or year to try to grasp the concept of Asta’s appearance before you now mirroring that in a picture from at least thirty years ago. “That’s you, that’s Dad… who’s…”
Asta offered you a forced smile, “That is your father’s mother. So, your paternal grandmother.”
Your heart gave an inconsolable flutter in your chest, prompting you to fidget on the edge of your seat while your eyes continued to rove the picture, again and again, scanning hard for any new details you could pick out. “Grandma? I didn’t know I had a grandma on my dad’s side. I didn’t even know he still had any family at all. Why didn’t he ever tell mom about her? Why aren’t there any pictures with me? Why…”
As your voice trailed, Winston emerged into the room with his ornate silver tray cluttered with delicate teacups and serving dishes brimmed with cubes of sugar. You could barely register the gentle clatter and tinkling of glass as he placed the tea on a table nearby. Asta kept her eyes on you, her face weighed with whatever torment she carried in her heart, yet accepted a cup from Winston with a quick peck on the cheek.
Winston didn’t immediately leave the sitting room, rather he limped over to where you sat, unaccompanied by his walking cane this time and laid a large hand atop of your shoulder. You felt him lean down on you, and the light kiss to the top of your head before finally leaving you and Asta to your privacy.
“It was a cold December that year,” Asta was entranced by the faint wisps of heat rising from her drink, following the trail until it dissipated into the air. “It was so brutal that there were five deaths that year in town. All elderly mind you, but it was a great loss, regardless. I’ll always remember it, some nights I still dream about it…”
You lifted your face to show your attention to her, placing aside the first photograph in favor of taking the entire box to rummage through. They were all memories freezing a moment of time in your father’s youth; some were solitary captures of simply him, and gradually there were more of him with Asta and Winston at different stages in life.
So few existed of him with his mother, less than five.
“It was around two in the morning, it was your father on the other line. He was crying, crying so hard that I couldn’t understand him at first,” Asta blew on her tea, testing it with a single sip. “I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t get him to calm down. Your father was hard to rattle, even as a boy. But that day, he just cried and told me that his mother was dead.”
Slowly, your fingers holding the pictures lowered to your lap. “Dead? How?”
“She went mad… absolutely mad. She wanted to escape something that scared her, I suppose. That’s the only thing I can tell myself that makes sense.” Asta’s gaze stayed affixed to the cup of tea she continued to hold with particular care. It was almost as though she couldn’t bring herself to even look at you, though you weren’t so certain it was because of her grief. “Yes, I tell myself that because those things you just don’t forget. I, sometimes, wonder if I had paid enough attention if I could’ve stopped her and how different things would be now.”
You remained quiet, afraid to derail her train of thought.
“She must’ve been suffering privately because it came as a surprise when it happened. Your father said she tried to drown him in the bathtub, but he got away and hid. Hid behind a loose panel covering the hot water heater, I believe he said.” She paused, willing herself to take a few white pills Winston had pushed into her palms, chasing it with another sip of tea. “He stayed there, fell asleep. He found her when he looked down the stairs, tied herself a noose. She must’ve been there for hours…”
Suddenly, it was hard for you to swallow through the clamp in your throat and chill that rushed through your veins. Your palms felt clammy when you squeezed them, and your face burned. It felt disrespectful to pry into the affairs of the dead, even if she was your relative. There was a feeling prickling at the back of your neck that there was more to this than Asta was saying.
“Your father,” Asta exhaled through puckered lips, sniffing in between words. “He came to live with Winston and I until he turned eighteen and left Moorwick behind. He wanted his own life, he didn’t feel like he could have that here.”
“But he came back, and he went missing,” you supplied, assuring that fact didn’t fall to the wayside. “What I still don’t know is why he came back. Why did he really go missing, Asta?”
“I wish I knew. That boy was my entire life for so many years.” Her eyes moistened, turning red at the rims, whereas her chin dimpled and wobbled. “He was so stubborn. I would give anything to have him in my arms again.”
Finally, you asked the one thing you had delayed yourself from pressing: “How do you know so much?”
To this, there was a distinguishable change in her demeanor. Her chest rose high with an inhale, chin tipping up in a manner more befitting of the strong-willed woman you had come to know. Despite the few tears that managed to escape the corners of her eyes, leaving streaks in the fuchsia tint across her cheeks, she composed herself well and displayed a proud smile.
“Because she was my sister.”
“Your sister?” Those words hardly felt like your own as they filled the quiet space, strange on your tongue and in your mind when you understood what they actually meant. While you observed the elderly woman sitting across from you, the folds around her mouth and between her brows seemed almost cavernous the longer you stared. Without a doubt, she wanted some kind of validation from this reveal; those dark eyes of hers were earnest and gleamed hopefully, yet you couldn’t ignore the way her shoulders sunk back into the chair as though the stress had alleviated from her body all at once.
You weren’t sure you could give her what she wanted, let alone a reply that would suffice from how ardently she watched you. Anything other than sprawling your arms for her would be a disappointment, yet you found you had little desire to do that. There were so many questions you had, they spun in your head like a vortex until none of them were coherent, nothing you would utter would make any sense right now. Your heart did not give a great leap of joy, rather you felt a void open in your stomach, prompting you to look on apprehensively.
“Just how long have you known about me?” Again, it didn’t feel like you were the one speaking. “You sent me the letter, so you’ve known for a long time, right?”
To that accusation, Asta did not deny a thing. Her cup of tea had long gone abandoned on the polished tray before her, those charming swirls of steam had all but disappeared and the murky liquid instead no longer felt as welcoming as it once had. “Oh, how do I answer that… I suppose I’ve known since you were little. Your father told me he had a family, and showed me a picture of a beautiful, smiling child that looked so much like him. I knew it then.”
Her fingertips were cold against your hand, both hands tracing the peaks of your knuckles as that momentary high she had experienced crumbled into something far more fragile; wistful, even. “I’m very old now. I’ve outlived almost everyone I’ve ever loved, but when I learned about you, I knew that I needed to hold on long enough to see you. Only once, no matter how short that time was. You’re the last thing I have left of my sister and your father, the last of our family, and I needed to see what kind of person you grew up to be.”
Asta was an extraordinarily willful woman who had lived several lifetimes in a single one, truly unflappable to most things all except in that moment, you sat there watching her dissolve into gentle sobs. Her spirit may have been hot as embers, but the armor she wore around herself had weakened over time; she was tired. Perhaps, this was the price of a long life.
You waited at the kitchen table for some time afterwards at Winston’s request while he took Asta away to their bedroom to rest for the night. Her cries were brittle, eventually tapering bit by bit until they melded into the rhythmic clicks from the large clock hanging over the stove. As troubled as you were by the things she had told you, it didn’t feel right to simply leave.
“I’m guessing you knew about it, too?” You startled Winston with that question at first sight in the doorway, alerted by the crack of his ebony cane against linoleum from down the hall. “I don’t know what Asta expected me to say to all of that, but I don’t… think it was what she wanted.”
“Ah,” he grumbled with an understanding nod, holding a handkerchief to his mouth to wipe away the saliva peeking from the corners. “I’ve known every bit as long as her, but I’m the outsider here. It wasn’t my place to bring up family ties and whatnot. She’ll be alright, probably be up first thing in the morning to water her plants.”
“Hope so,” you replied meekly, craning your neck towards the little window overlooking their sink. As an endearing touch, they included a strategic row of porcelain animals decorated the shelf above the faucet. It softened the blow of deepening sky absent of all the sanguine hues of sunset. “Guess I’ll head back out, then. I’ll come back later this week.”
Winston was a man who moved at his own pace, so he took his time with a contemplative frown whilst kneading his stubbly jaw with knobby fingers. “I think I’ll need you to fetch a bottle of wine from the cellar downstairs for dinner this week. A nice, aged red would go nicely with some steak, don’t you think?”
“I forgot you guys even had a downstairs,” your eyebrows jumped up, finding those rather peculiar parting words for the evening. “But, yeah. Sure. Haven’t had a real drink in a while, so it’ll be nice. Don’t try to go down those stairs, Winston.”
"Wouldn't dream of it!" he flung a dismissive wave in your direction, croaking out belts laughter that instantly morphed into panicked fits of coughing. “I’m alright, I’m alright…”
It wasn’t until about an hour later that you were fishing your hands through all of the pockets on your person for the key to the front door of your father’s house. A little over six months had passed since you arrived in Moorwick with nothing in tow except two suitcases, an unsealed letter, and the dimmest hope of finding answers of your father’s fate. Forwarding to now, you felt no closer than you had then, and you still couldn’t find solace in this house nor call it your own.
Since your last encounter in the forest, the same question floated around in your mind: What do you do now? The gravity of Asta’s revelation from earlier was a burden on your mind, forcing you to acknowledge the reality that shirking your oath to the horseman would not change anything. Pretending that those countless nights at his side were something you could erase like mistakes on paper would not yield you peace.
You let those feelings outweigh the trepidation that still held some grasp on your nerves, imagining them as something you could cram down into a box and lock with a key. It was a harder concept to put into practice, especially when you were relying on sheer willpower to guide your feet forward from green grass wet with fresh dew to the sting of snapping twigs and mud bubbling underfoot. Now it was pure obstinance keeping you upright, from your bones liquefying and dropping you to the forest floor.
To be back in the Atticus meant that you were conquering every embodiment of fear; it meant that contrary to every instinct, every hair on your body yanking invisible strings on your limbs to flee -- you weren’t going to. Nevertheless, your strides were purposeful and stiff while the yellow beam from your spotlight rarely drifted from the path ahead that you created. You would not allow your eyes to wander away from the reach of light, preferring ignorance to knowing what could be lurking in that air of obsidian around you.
Truly, you had forgotten how quiet it was in the Atticus; how even the simplest of life seemed to collectively hold their breaths as you trudged deeper. Although the night air was brisk and moist, giving the feeling that your skin was damp in spite of the layers of clothing you wore to stay warm, it remained suffocating. It was the way your brain was wired, to take that uneasy needling at the back of your head as warning of impending doom, you knew that those feelings held some grit in this forest.
Those select moments where you thought eyes watched you from a distance, that was almost certainly the case. You just had the sense to not stop to find out what it was, not until the path ahead from you slowly began to obscure. At this, the light moved trajectory from straight head to left and right, moving with the wild motions of your body as the light haze of grey from the evening mist thickened rapidly, so opaque that you could no longer see what lay beyond you.
Your heart gave hard pangs against your chest, you felt each one. It made your breath quicken, quivering as it was expelled into the crisp air, spiraling in tiny white wisps that were instantly ensnared by the fog. As you watched it come closer, tightening around you at all sides like it meant to trap you there, you reminded yourself that this wasn’t new.
Suddenly, the fog stirred and writhed furiously as though startled by something, gradually dissipating to clear a path to your side that your light could effortlessly pierce. Thin tendrils of it remained around you, slithering through the air in a fashion you found almost serpentine. It was then that you were struck by a sensation that had long been forgotten, of eyes boring into you so deeply it anchored your legs to ground, throat clamping shut.
Just then, your spotlight weakened to the point where the opening before you began to dim until the darkness swallowed it. Muttering under your breath in desperation, unmindful to the beads of sweat peeling from your forehead to your coat, you beat the spotlight with the heel of your hand in a heated fury until it flickered to life and illuminated your surroundings again.
The light did not dim again, but it faltered towards the ground once you took notice of what lurked there at the farthest reaches of it. That sallow face of taut skin pulled over abyssal black sockets was far closer to you this time around than when you had first seen it. The ground of brittle branches and soggy leaves went undisturbed as it hovered nearer, its body an inconceivable mass of depth and dark.
You could not perceive a beginning, nor an end to the Atticus. However, your eyes were drawn almost entirely to its sickly, twisted face with textures of stretched flesh and dilated veins that sprawled throughout its head like a labyrinth. It was a ghastly sight that made your skin crawl, second only to the bumps raising tiny hairs on your arms with a rush of air howling through the trees. For a moment, you wondered how this creature could be a God; how could something like this have so much power over the dead and living alike?
There was no denying the visceral need to flee; there was a harsh twitch in your limbs that climbed through down to your fingertips and toes. As incessant as the urge was to turn tail and bolt like before, you pushed through that instinct to take two or three tentative steps forward, further lessening the gap between yourself and the entity. More than your quickening heartbeat, the flutters in your stomach spurring waves of nausea, and sense discouraging you from intervening with something you shouldn’t -- you were curious.
For whatever reason, you felt the words you chose in that moment mattered above all else.
So, you rolled your shoulders back and tilted your chin high, speaking with as much gumption as you could force, “I want to know the truth!”
Your voice did not echo in the forest, rather it was smothered by the dense air and ancient trees which blanketed this space in impenetrable nothingness. The Atticus was not thwarted by your resolve, choosing to react in a far more unpredictable way with a great crack. At first, you had thought something nearby crushed a large branch; it was a substantial noise. It was when your attention fell upon the entity once more that you realized its head was bent at an impossible angle, jerking with the continued movement. The noise came from it, mimicking what you expected a spine would sound like if it were being twisted in that manner.
It only stopped once it peered at you through gaping, fathomless sockets where it’s chin had been moments ago. Everything about this was wrong.
The thoughts that spun through your head as it started towards you again were an incoherent mess, reflected outwardly as loud breaths when you dug your heels into the soft ground, backpedaling to create distance. The entire time your light never lost sight of its terrible face.
You were so far removed from your surroundings at this point, engrossed only by the presence of the Atticus, refusing to let your attention slip for even a second, that you when a second large gust of air pressed against your back with enough force to propel you forward -- you still didn’t notice. Only when a cacophony of shrill screams pervaded your mind were you broken of your trance, just in time to feel your coat tighten around your body as you were grabbed from the back, hoisted high into the air until you were astride a saddle.
The horseman spurred the alabaster steed on more furiously than you had ever seen him, occasionally cracking the reins so hard it resembled thunder. Aside from keeping his arms aloft at both sides to keep you seated, he gave no regard to your presence. Right now, you couldn’t tell if your heart was racing from the ecstasy of being with him again, or the rush of having narrowly avoided an unsavory situation. Judging from how hard he pushed the alabaster steed, you could only assume that he had helped you escape -- not that he was excited to see you again.
There was no telling how long and for how far he pushed his horse to run before finally pulling the reins inward to bring it to a halt. You managed to keep hold of your belongings the entirety of the ride, partially due to experience teaching you to keep things on you with a death vise or they’d be lost forever. Although, in the past, the horseman did have a knack for fetching things you thought were long gone and bringing them back; albeit in disrepair, or anomalous to whatever it once was.
Your stomach gave a hard lurch when you were suddenly lifted by the back of your coat like a cat by its scruff and flung off of the saddle to the ground, air bursting from your lungs with a wheeze when you hit. By the time you managed to blink a time or two, orienting yourself to what was happening, the horseman had you in handfuls by the front of your coat, lifting you so far from the saturated ground that the tips of your toes came nowhere near to touching it. The spotlight dropped from your hands once you struck the trunk of an old tree, rolling on a few inches and shining a beam at the horseman’s feet.
“Wh-What are you doing?! Let go!” you cried, thrashing your legs midair while clawing at his hands with the hope he’d loosen his grip. It was like being restrained by stone; his wrists were solid, locked in place while his fists were covered in so many layers of leather, there was no way to get any hold on them. “Horseman, knock it off!”
To this, he took some steps away from the tree with you in tow, never allowing you the chance to get your footing back beneath you as he thrust you against the tree again. The impact made your teeth chatter, it was a discomforting noise in your head. It yielded a groan which gauged no reaction from the horseman; he held you there steady, unrelenting.
“Are you upset?” you let both hands rest atop of the back of his. “Is that what it is, you’re mad?”
It was difficult to perceive him much at all through just how dark the forest was; you had taken for granted just how much you had acclimated to it back then. Oddly, it was a fleeting concern of yours as adrenaline had waned to give rise to tremendous waves of guilt that made your bones ache and chest tug. Although the horseman had no head or eyes, you could feel the rage he was trying to convey just by how snug he had his hands wound in your clothes.
“I’m sorry, alright? I just didn’t know what to do after that night.” You tried pointing your toes towards the ground, the horseman did not slacken. “Seriously?! What else do you want me to say?!”
On most occasions, the horseman being unable to provide you with auditory responses wasn’t much of a deterrent for you; all he had to do was write in the mud, or gesture enough times and that’d be enough. Right now, the only thing that made sense to you was he was upset you were gone for so long without any word. Unlike most other instances, he wasn’t giving you much to work off of aside from thrashing you into a tree and scraping off bark.
What were you not considering?
A wild idea crossed your mind, was there a possibility that he had been lonely while you were gone? Up until now, you thought you had a decent grasp on his range of emotions, the degree to which was able to experience and feel things on a more human level. He was more monster than he was man, yet that wasn’t something that had stopped you before; treating him like more as a man than a beast, that is.
At no point since that night when he held you in the blood speckled snow had you thought of him outside of your own longing. Surely, your absence felt like a betrayal to him, probably the only thing that could truly hurt him besides the Atticus. And even when you decided to spontaneously reappear after so long, he still came back to you.
“I’m sorry.” This time you were sincere, easing your hold on his hands. “I’m sorry I ran away, I’m sorry I didn’t come back. I saw… I saw what you could do, and I got scared. I wondered if you’d do the same thing to me if we ever found your head. Does that make me a coward?”
He did little to show that he understood what you were saying, you weren’t surprised.
“Do you know how many times I thought about leaving town? God, I got so close a couple of times. It would’ve been so much simpler to just pretend nothing happened.” Your body ached from where he held you, but you muscled through it as best you could. “I thought my life behind a desk was so much easier than this. Lots of people live their lives without knowing a parent, or dealing with things like this…”
You slid your hands to his wrists, shifting in his hold. “I don’t know, I don’t get it. I just couldn’t leave, because I have to find him. I gotta find Dad; I can’t stop now. And, I promised you that I’d find your head.”
His grip on the front of your coat loosened as he plodded backwards in the mud, pulling you away from the tree until you finally felt the soft ground cave under the weight of your feet. It took a while for you to regain a sense of balance, the ache in your shoulder slowly ebbed despite his hands still on you. “I told you that I’d bring your head to you with my own hands, I’m going to do that. I couldn’t live with myself if I gave up on you…”
The weight of his hands lifted off of your body, replaced by his palm anchoring to the back of your head forcing you to stumble forward until your head lightly bounced off of his worn breastplate. He secured you there with no indication he intended to let you move anytime soon, perhaps what he was capable of to show forgiveness.
You let yourself sink against his large body as well as you could, tightening your arms around him to where your fingers could dig into cloth and hold him like that.
“I missed you, too.”
a/n: AND SO, WE HAVE CHAPTER SEVEN!! it is so nice to have the story up and moving forward again! i genuinely hope it’s something you all enjoyed. what took me the longest to figure out was how to structure the reveal that asta gave.
so, PLEASE if this is something you enjoyed reading, i would truly, sincerely appreciate feedback on it! i love this story, i love writing it, but it is absolutely CRITICAL yall let me know your thoughts. it takes so much of my time and energy to produce these chapters, and getting out of a writer’s block is HARD.
so, please SUPPORT ME AND GIVE ME FEEDBACK! A REBLOG, LIKE, COMMENT, AN ASK. ANYTHING!
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The dark thunderheads bruising the horizon crack open on your way home, releasing a downpour of April showers.
"Just fucking great." Normally, you enjoy the rain and all the lovely scents and blooms it brings with it, but you have had such a shitty day.
In your line of work, which happens to be retail, you've been called every name in the book, sneered at, talked down to, and even had merchandise hurled at you.
You know, the typical customer service employee experience.
But never have you been spit on.
And all because you were out of some old bat's size of clothing and wouldn't be restocking your store's supply for a few weeks. But hey, at least you got to tell her that you ARE the manager, and bring her little power trip to a screeching halt.
"Why do people have to be such assholes?" You seethe and your knuckles pale as you clutch the steering wheel in a death grip.
Your wheels follow the winding road, splashing through puddles as you drive deeper and deeper into the woods.
It floods your veins with relief when the silhouette of your tiny house crouched among the timbers finally comes into your watery view. Headlights spill a jaundice yellow glow over the short shrubs that you planted years ago to frame a driveway of sorts, and it's pitch black outside when you shut your car off.
The full moon most mercifully burns through the curtain of storm clouds, and it is the only thing which grants you enough light so you don't stumble in the dark.
Still, you trip over your feet because why the fuck not, but thankfully maintain your balance.
Running a hand through your rain-soaked hair in frustration, you finally manage to dig your keys out of your purse and unlock the door.
'Damn it.' Of course, the first thing to greet you when you push it open is a mess.
"Hun, I told you to wipe your paws before coming in when it's raining." You remind Malphas with a sigh as your eyes track the dinner plate-sized pawprints that trail all the way from the front door into the living room. They finally end before the hulking black wolf that is curled up before the flickering hearth, drying his pelt after a run through the woods behind your house.
Standing with your hands on your hips, he can read that you are not too pleased with him.
His reply is a low whine of apology accompanied by a submissive flattening of his ears. The three-hundred pound werewolf rises from the rug by the fireplace and trots back to the front door, and then tries to compress himself enough to where all four massive paws fit onto the area of the welcome mat; he then carefully wipes them in a too-little, too-late attempt to comply with your request.
Looking up at you, Malphas cocks his head, and lets his tongue loll out of mouth in a wolf's grin.
You can't help but laugh, and you feel the chill in your bones melt when his tail goes from zero to sixty.
"That's… better, but you're still cleaning that in the morning." You tease as he trots up to you and nudges his muzzle under your hand. He stands as high as your waist and your fingers disappear into the dense black fur of his facial ruff.
As you rub his face, you hear the unsettling bony pops as he shifts from his quadrupedal form in favor of his bipedal.
In no time at all he grows from the size of a Great Dane to a towering seven feet; a solid wall of muscle and primal power.
He maintains the head of a wolf- with a long muzzle, tall ears and eyes of molten gold which gleam with predatory intelligence.
"And if I make it up to you?" He suggests in that voice which is like chocolate- rich and dark and smooth.
"Well then… maybe I would be willing to clean up instead?" You reply with a wry smile, and he flashes a mouthful of ivory fangs as the rough pad of this thumb gently strokes your cheek.
He then pulls you into his arms, and his embrace is hot steel wrapped in lush fur.
He buries his nose into your hair and breathes you in.
"Rough day?" He asks, smelling your frustration.
"Very. This is why I prefer animals to people."
"Then I must be quite the catch, hmm?" He jokes.
"Don't go getting a big head, now."
"Oh, but it isn't my head that gets big-"
Playfully smacking his chest with a giggle, he lets out a low, growling chuckle, and then immobilizes your arms by squeezing you even tighter.
"Careful, little girl." Malphas swipes his velvety tongue along the artery that runs up the side of your neck, and it makes you shiver despite how your blood thrums with heat.
"Mmm. And what a big tongue you have there, Mr. Wolf." You purr.
Corny, you know. But he's more than happy to play your game.
"All the better to eat you with." He rumbles, raising a brow ridge. "Why don't you get out of these wet clothes and take a hot shower?"
"Gladly. I'm soaked."
Your words are instantly followed by a chuff of interest from him, and you know then he's going to be knot-deep in you before the night is over.
And oh, how you could use that kind of stress relief.
Hot water cascades over you, soothing your tense muscles with gentle fingers of warmth.
Dipping your head under the spray, you let the water pour over your face and your lips part so you can breathe in lungfuls of refreshing steam.
Taking your time to enjoy the fragrant soap, you whip the bar into a lovely lather that smells of relaxing lavender and scrub down in slow circular motions.
You finish rinsing off and turn the handles with a squeak, shutting off the flow and then step out. A fluffy towel and fresh set of dry clothes awaits you on the sink, courtesy of Malphas. After exiting the bathroom, you poke around in your bureau and fish a pair of black lacy panties out.
These are your favorite- as Malphas said, they accentuate your curves and make for one lovely full moon.
Slipping your legs into them and the t-shirt over your head, you decide to forgo the pants and prance into the living room in your skimpy threads. When you find the house to be empty, you head for the back door and flick the porch light on. It seems the storm has finally passed.
Venturing outside, you hear thunder still roiling in the distance. The gentle patter of water rolling off the leaves of the surrounding trees collects into puddles between the gnarled roots below. The mineral scent of rain, cedar and sodden earth is thick in the air as you hop along the cobblestone path, guided by the light's dim glow.
You watch as Malphas sniffs around the trees closest to the house, and his right ear swivels in your direction.
His fiery eyes simmer as he takes in your state of undress when you close the distance on quiet, bare feet.
"It's a beautiful night." You offer.
"Indeed." He agrees, and then rakes his talons down the trunk of an old aspen, carving deep grooves into the bark.
Malphas typically marks his territory using traditional canine means, but the rain always washes it away. So each time a storm passes through, he scores the four corners of the property with claw marks. Any werewolf who would happen upon them will know to steer clear from his domain.
"Was that the last one?"
"It was," He confirms, and then he winds an arm around the small of your back, and leans down to brush his face against your neck. "But now that my most priceless treasure has showered, I will need to mark her once again."
His sweet words make warmth curl low in your belly.
"Fair enough. We can't have anyone thinking I'm free game, now can we?"
He licks along your throat. "Mmm... certainly not. You're far too delicious to pass up."
Likes are lovely, but reblogs help me grow and reach more readers! 💖💖💖 Please reblog!
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Too all my monster lovers out there.
( this isnt my main account )
But let me give you some suggestions on monster blogs I adore and binge on
(I'm diving deep and looking for more monster blogs, so if anyone knows any please share them)
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#35 for the monster prompt? love you~ uwu 💜
October Monster Prompts
Frisk (Gender Neutral Shadow Monster) x Gender Neutral Reader
Warnings: Possessive Behaviour, Mentions of Murder
The clock ticked over your head. Tick tock. The hand shuddered before it moved, clunk, another minute of the hour gone by. It was torturous noise in the otherwise silent house. You had been left, strung up in the wall by the creature you had once called a friend. You play mate. An imaginary best friend. Frisk wasn’t your friend anymore. The barely corporeal creature had distorted the wall, moving the brick and mortar like fluid to pin you in place like a carbonised fossil, strung up, safe and sound for when it decided to come back. The shadow had promised it would be soon. There were some loose ends to tie up, or so it claimed as it fazed through the wall, eyes rolling backwards to watch your horror struck face as it purred as disappeared. Frisk wasn’t the same. When you were younger, playing in the corners with the shadow, it was small and puppy like with small, disturbing arms tipped with claws which helped you brush your hair and place blocks on top of high towers, holding them all together with its ability to distort reality. You’d left at the age of sixteen, having forgotten about the creature in the shadowy corners of the house by the age of thirteen.
“You left me and forgot about me.” Frisk growled from the shadows, the black smoke of its body dripping between the cracks in the plaster, leaving trails of blood behind in the wall, “No matter how much noise I made, no matter how many things I moved, how much I cried, you didn’t care. You couldn’t even look at me!” It howled as its face contorted and twisted, the vaguely humanoid figure lengthening and twisting with claws, eyes and teeth. A gnashing mouth opened in its face, stomach and hands as it slinked up to you, smoke sliding back into the shadows as the mouths in its hands opened and licked at the skin exposed from the contorted wall. The mouths dribbled spit over your body as Frisk pressed closer, sucking heat from your body like a blanket of fresh snow. Two eyes rolled up its arms and into its face, fixing you with a white eyed stare as you tensed against the plaster and bit your lip, trying not to cry.
“Now you can’t look away, can you?” Frisk asked with a mouth full of venom, spit dripping from the corners of its maw as it pressed closer to your face, ensuring your vision was full of only its visage.
“Why?” You asked quietly, trying not to cry as you looked at the blood dripping from its claws, face red with anger and embarrassment as the creature’s claws trailed a slick path up your body.
“What do you mean why?!” Frisk fumed as its claws flashed in front of your eyes, threatening to take your eyes, “You know why, flower.” It purred, stroking your cheeks with bloodied claws, “You left me. I’ve waited, fumed and howled waiting for you to come back and remember me. So when your parents said you were finally coming back for a visit, I knew this was my only chance.” Frisk told you as the wall bubbled and shook, releasing you from your brick prison before dropping you into it’s waiting arms, “Now, its just you and me.” Frisk purred against your neck, a black, freezing tongue rolling against your skin, “Just us, forever.”
You tried to fight the tears as you realised what they had done, “You’ve…”
“Killed them?” Frisk stated without an inch of remorse in its icy voice, “Yes. For us.” It reached and stroked your face again gently, “You’re blushing... It looks so wonderful on you.” Frisk purred as another pair of eyes opened in its arms to get a closer look at you. Slowly, they inched you back towards the corner of the room, where the shadows coalesced and pulsed with the promise of a cold embrace. Frisk licked your tears as you clutched at their shoulder and sobbed into the solid shadows of the creature, hands slick with the blood of your own family as the creature sucked you into the shadows of your childhood home.
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Male Tiefling Burlesque Dancer (Sol) Part 2
Support me on Ko-fi!~ - Patreon
Forgive the grammar mistakes, my laptop has gone into service.
Warning: Some mild language. Long chapter ahead!!
Words: 3k words
Relationship: Male (nonbinary) monster x Asexual Female Reader (Modern AU)
Bourbon High Part 2
The Siren's Rouse was a dreadful yet familiar place for you, its flashing lights a luring illusion in oddly steadily your beating heart; streetlights dimly lighting the darkened parts of the bustling nightlife.
You told yourself you wouldn't be back: that this place would only bring back embarrassment, but now handing over your ID to the bouncer as he let you through, past the cladded red rope, brought the familiar chills you once felt when you first entered with unfamiliarity.
It could've been foolish by anyone: seeing a lonely girl underdressed simply at a strip club, anyone could see that it was as if you were looking for something- asking for trouble to come your way- but as much as that struck fear in your mind and heart, you could only hope that the person you were looking for was there this night.
The floors were littered with people of all races: humans and monsters, all giving you strange looks; some more obvious than others, hands lingering as if ready to snatch you up to dance with, others keeping their hands as far away from you as possible.
You only kept your head down low, following the small path to what you hoped led you to the remote bar, stationed with only one bartender, eying you carefully up and down.
"A water please."
He nodded as if he shifted into a different mode of control, effortlessly pulling on tap a glass of water and resuming to cleaning the cups, letting you imagine if you had been there all along and he had just handed a free cup to no one.
You took your glass and said your timid thanks, but you doubted he had heard over the blasting of music, thrumming loudly in your ribcage and spilling out the swears that came from the lyrics, dancers already in their places on the poles and some on their stages. Still, no sign of him.
"I think I remember you from last time?" A warm hand was placed around your shoulder, making you flinch as you pulled yourself to look into the familiar warm lavender eyes of someone you briefly recalled.
You stepped back in surprise by the bright appearance of the woman, her silver locks pulled elegantly into a low bun, a few strands framing her slim face, the same red silk ribbon around her neck and dressed in the low-slung pale fur coat, a welcoming smile curving to meet her eyes.
"Madame Opal?" Her name was like caffeine on the tip of your tongue, slipping out when you remembered her most famous name.
"The one and only!" She laughed warmly and smoothly, like smooth whisky being poured into a tall glass. "I didn't forget the special birthday girl." She gave you a wink. "How was your evening with Iris Nova?"
That name, a name you never wanted to forget. It brought your heart to stammer like an outdated record player, the smile from your face dropping, cheeks rouged even in the low light. The Madame seemed to smirk at the change in your demeanour, pulling you easily to sit at in a booth in a secluded area.
"What brings you here? Your friends had other places to be?"
"I wanted to come alone tonight. Thought I would try and be brave for once."
Madame Opal smiled at that, "Brave girl indeed. I don't think I know many who would have the balls to come here alone. Still, shame on your friends for not escorting you. They seemed a bit... inane."
That was certainly one word to call them. You sipped on your drink lightly, mind wishing it had been alcohol to subdue your senses and judgement, but you needed to be sober to see him.
"But as I said, there are always ways to develop into a better person. Your courage is certainly of note." Her long nails tapped in tune to the deep-bass song, eyes drifting to whoever was on stage before glancing slowly, languidly, back to meet your gaze.
"I'm assuming you're wanting to see him again, hmm?"
Her assumptions were startling, bringing a rush of heat that spread through from your face to your chest, spreading like wildfire, suffocatingly tight. It was like she had looked right through to you, seeking so easily something you didn't even think you knew yourself.
You choked on your own words. "That... I-- perhaps."
"Ah, Iris does have this way of luring people back to him, it's a gift he has so well in using." Oh. That was what stung, you had to be reminded, he was performing not just for you, but for others, using this as a professional job and not picking favourites. "That being said, I can happily book a room for the two of you backstage. I would just have to ask him-"
"No, not like that!" You spluttered, hands rattling the table as you startled the both of you. "I mean... just seeing him if he has a break would be nice. Nothing too long."
Madame Opal didn't seem to answer at first, but her eyes did all the talking. A thick, horrible tension that you wished could suffocate and swallow you whole. She finally smirked, lifting her fingers to rest against her cheek. "As you wish. I'll see that he is free for the rest of the night."
"That-- it's not necessary-"
"Dearest, sometimes in life, we cannot help but be lured by such sweet things." She touched your hand, warmth never seeming to put you to ease. "Make sure you have a good, safe evening."
You didn't respond to her words as she wordlessly stood back up tall, "I hope to see you around, we have some good numbers out this evening. The dancers await their crowd." And walked away, seemingly disappearing through the crowds regardless of her height.
You sat still in your lonely booth, recollecting her words, the only ones coming to mind were loudly spoken in time with those cheering to the next song coming on. "What the fuck."
You made it eventually to the middle of the stage with some effort other others shoving past you, others not hearing your pardons to squeeze past, and by the time you got to where the main stage had been, the exhaustion of movement had rendered you slow and lethargic.
You found your way to find somewhere to sit, a barstool and high table just in almost reach of the stage, not thinking much of whether there were any cons to the practical front row seat, you settled your sore feet with others surrounding to get to their tables.
There, the music quieted as Madame Opal appeared from backstage, walking elegantly across as if her long legs were making her glide effortlessly. She appeared to of had an outfit change: the silver glittery dress was floor-length, allowing her to appear graceful as she traversed the stage.
The roar was deafening from the crowd, all cheering for what they knew was to happen next.
"Ladies and gentlemen, are you having a good time tonight?" Madame gave her usual words as the crowd roared louder with excitement, your heart pounding with the deep reverberation.
"I bring back to the stage one of your favourites, both on stage and in private." As if she was scouting the many faces of the large room, she found your face with ease, the microphone doing little to hide the smirk on her face.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me the greatest pleasure to welcome to this stage, your Iris Nova."
When the cheer settled, the curtains opened and appeared thick grey smoke, taking over the entire stage, billowing to the floor surrounding, the lights settling to pinks and reds. In the middle of the stage, the silhouette of the man you remembered so fondly was situated in a chair, posed with his body nearly hanging off of it, long legs poised up in the air and resting against the back of it. The performance hadn't even begun and the sounds of joy were thunderous, and even you cheered shyly in anticipation.
When the lights came up to the stage, the tiefling was dressed in similar clothes from his last performance: slender legs dressed in fishnet tights and black stiletto pumps. He was dressed in what you could only describe was the theme of Halloween sorority party, the short shorts were not doing much to the imagination, leaving most of his cheeks on display in what could've been a thong, the police uniform was ripped and tight around his chest, a few buttons were undone to show most of his lavender skin.
Immediately upon seeing his outfit change, the familiar feeling started to spread across your body, hot and unyielding. Your eyes never left the stage.
The tiefling smirked cheekily to the audience, pulling playfully something from his pocket as he stalked the stage, swinging the handcuffs with controlled grace.
His eyes were everywhere and anywhere, scouting someone you could only think was going to be his 'assistant', before his figure was just in front of you, eyes lifting and batting his heavy eyelashes at you.
It was as if time itself at froze to a complete standstill, music and people have forgotten about as you swore his eyebrows lifted with what you could describe as a surprise to see you there, before the usual sly smile appeared back on his handsome face, beckoning a finger to you, winking your way.
You looked around you to make sure he wasn't pointing to someone else, pointing shamelessly at yourself. Yes, you. His eyes could've eaten you whole, grinning with white teeth, as you shakily and slowly got up from your table, making your way to the bottom of the stage, a sea of jealous eyes letting you through where he awaited for you.
You were taken into his arms easily as the crowd still cheered for what was coming next, as Sol smiled down at you, leaning over to your ear. "I didn't think I would see you again." His words were hushed and low in your ear, setting shivers down your spine as he led you to the same chair he sat at, the music helping in some ways as you familiarised yourself with the lyrics.
Once sat down, Sol danced around you, holding the handcuffs up as you looked anywhere but the crowd. You thanked anything for Cato and Luken not being there with you, they would've certainly had been recording this event going down.
Sol circled once more, leaning into your ear as he prepared something behind you. "You trust me right?"
You nodded with some nerves bubbling in your throat, not once sure when you would answer him properly. He hummed into your hair, the sound so airy and light, like wind carrying leaves so carefully.
"Good, you sit pretty for me and keep those arms behind the chair. I'll do the rest." With a click, the handcuffs were gone from his grasp, but there was no restriction around your wrists.
Sol moved around again as the crowd cheered with his following moves, handing touching at you but not at the same time, his hands never travelling across areas of your skin in some sort of illusion, but even so, the crowd didn't seem to see these changes, cheering and bellowing at what looked from their angle him gyrating on you. Your facial expressions and blush were helping tenfold for the fakery, clapping and eating everything up like they were at the best buffet.
And certainly, the angles so up close of him in front of you were making you feel many different emotions, certainly wanting to just bury your face into your hands, but you knew to keep your hands; gripping the chair tightly.
Sol leapt like a cat into your lap, his full weight not on you as he continued to 'gyrate' on you, and this closeness indeed made you want to stop everything and lean up and kiss his pretty lips again.
The tiefling's hands glided down the back of the chair, hovering behind your arms as he flipped his purple-blue hair around majestically, allowing the crowd's noises to boost his ego, smiling down at you. If anything, it helped to make you feel ever-so special, only you and him and no one else mattered.
By the end of his dancing, he had situated you once more to have him in front of you, doing a cartwheel into the splits to end his show, the crowd going wild with an uproar of voices that all blurred into one.
Sol pretended to unclasp the handcuffs from you when he stood back up, helping you down from the stage as he was nearly swarmed by others. "I'll find you at the bar." He promised before many women tried gaining his attention, circling him until he was barely there insight.
The evening had calmed down by the end of the show, with fewer people around and fewer dancers, some had passed in couples hand in hand, others more obvious they were going for an evening of pleasure, all genders.
It made you wonder whether some of those at Iris' show had asked for a night with him, or had he been aware he was given the rest of the evening off. Either way, you could only hope he was in the loop of what was happening and not lying to you in his promises-
"There you are, darling." You spun in your chair, expecting to see Iris, more dazed to see Sol, dressed simply and almost unrecognisable. He was dressed in jeans and a leather jacket, and high boots with a slight heel, hair tied up into a long ponytail.
"Oh," you couldn't find the right words.
"What? Expecting the feather boa and glitter?" He laughed melodically, taking a seat beside you and ordering, "A pink gin, please," to the same bartender. You had ordered a diet coke this time, stirring the rim with nerves as a sudden hand came to connect with yours, lifting to kiss your bare knuckles. "My, you look beautiful tonight."
"I could say the same about you," you smiled easily, allowing the nerves to ease. "Were the handcuffs your idea?"
His laugh was beautiful like him, carefree yet soft, "Hardly, Madame likes to think of all the ideas before we even have a chance of pitching something." He got his drink and lifted it to his lips, hovering before taking a sip. "Speaking of which, she told me you were wanting to see me."
The laughter bubbled over nervously, "Is that bad of customers?"
"No, not at all, I've had plenty of crazy requests." The drink was fizzy when he took a long sip, humming, golden eyes closed in silent appreciation, allowing you to marvel at him quietly. When he pulled back and put his glass down, there to be some more life in him, the smile returning, eyes soft and calm.
"So, where to first?"
"Well, you have me for the rest of the evening, I don't suppose you want to get out of here and go somewhere a bit less... shady."
You could only think of one place, somewhere your friends deemed fun but you always wanted to go somewhere less lively. "I think I know a place."
"Have you been here before?"
Sol blinked, trying to register what you had said over the blasting of House music, your body flushed against his as the two of you would have to whisper-shout to one another for the other to hear. It helped nicely that he smelled amazing: of expensive perfume and oranges, a smell you would never get tired of.
"Once, I think." His body swayed in time to the upbeat music as if tipsy, his hand never seeming to let go of yours. "But that was before getting a job at the Rouse. I was a bit of a party animal back in my day."
"Oh?" You awkwardly shuffled next to him, trying to keep in time to the music, concentrating hard on his words, his warm hand holding your own and ignoring the strong stench of alcohol and vomit.
"I like to think I'm a bit tamer." He gave a silent laugh, getting into the rhythm of the song than you. "What made you get a job at the Rouse then?"
Pausing, as if outweighing his options, mouth numb and opening and shutting, he seemed to still for a moment. Just before he opened his mouth to speak, the crowd surrounding you both enclosed with the ruckus, more people getting up to dance from their seats.
Sol looked to you almost nervously, smiling shyly. "Wanna keep dancing?"
You nodded hesitantly, looking to the crowded floor of other dancing feet. "I can't dance very good if you can tell."
"Oh, I'll help you, if you want?" You nodded, finally watching how the tiefling pulled you ever so close to him, his long hair tickling the side of your face, feeling a hand slip around your waist.
"You make it look so easy." You marvelled at how he was able to get into the beat, slowly helping you get the timing of the fast song.
"Years of practice, darling. Here," he pulled you away arm's length before he spun you into the back of his chest, feeling the steady lull of his heart making you feel safe. Just before he continued, the hold around you grew weak. "Is this... okay? I know you don't-"
"No, this is fine." You pulled him back to holding your waist, and slowly, following his moves, begun allowing him to swing your hips in time to the song.
What if I just hold on for a while
Baby, there's no drug quite like denial
If this is goodbye
"There you go, you're getting the hang of it, sweet girl." He hummed into your ear, breathy and fruity to listen to, as you closed your eyes, allowing more of the music and his hands to take over. He never strayed from moving his hands any higher or lower, sticking to just where they were, holding your hips.
When the chorus finally grew, Sol pulled you to whisper, "Ready?"
Don't leave me, loving you
Whatever you do
He suddenly pulled you back round to face him, legs almost entangled around one another, dancing as if both trying to bewitch the other. You concentrated on him and only him, trying to ignore the feeling of being embarrassed when he had you around his little finger.
His golden eyes were on you and only you, never drifting to the other sweaty warm bodies on the dancefloor, only keeping his eyes on you as he leant his forehead against yours.
Don't leave me, loving you
If you tip toe out in the morning, I need a warning
His lips were so close to yours, whispering encouraging words of how amazing you were doing, all hushed and muffled to the music, but you knew somehow what he was saying. You couldn't control your movements to stop yourself from doing what you wanted to do, surprising him by leaning up to kiss him, shyly yet full of longing.
Sol stiffened for a moment before he kissed you back, holding the side of your face as he guided you both through song and kiss, ignoring all as the two of you pulled away, a dazed yet soft look that was evident in his features; yearning.
The two of you had pulled away from the dancing to go sit down and cool off, sitting in his lap as he pressed soft kisses into your neck, slowly coming back round to focusing on one another.
"Would I be greedy if I said that I was waiting a long time for that?" You finally brought the courage to tell him. Sol lifted your chin to meet his gaze, heated and gold eyes pooling with adoration. "Would I be a copycat if I said the same?"
"You did too?"
"I see no lust, not like those who ask for my time. Nor wanting to waste it with money, pleasure, and dolling me up. I can be myself when I'm around you."
"I can be too," you whispered, resting your cheek against his broad shoulder, as he kissed your forehead carefully. "Hey, Sol?"
"Would Madame be okay with you getting me home safely?"
The tiefling chuckled warmly and smoothly, holding you close. "She wouldn't have to know, dearest. She's not here."
"That's true." You leant up to him, lips pouting as he tried gauging what you wanted from him. When it finally clicked, the tiefling gave a genuine smile, teeth pointy and white. "My, are you wanting another kiss? How greedy of you." But he still allowed for his to meet yours ever-so sweetly.
Light poured through the space of the curtains, spilling through the early morning across your face, as you rolled to escape its sharp rays. Morning, and no recollection of what had happened after the club.
No, you did remember some, how Sol took you back home, but you had been indeed too greedy, and the pleading for him to stay the night had turned into a yes. All you remembered was kissing, heated kisses, and the softness of your bed, before nothing.
You rolled back over, groggily sitting up with pain to your head, aware you in your PJs and not nude, finding the other warm body beside you, exposed back facing you and long beautiful hair fell over the pillow.
You looked up closely at Sol's sleeping features: the calmness in his closed eyes and face, how his breathing was relaxed and steady. You touched gently up his back to not startle him awake, but the tiefling rolled over to face you, peeping one eye open to greet you.
"Mornin'." His voice was laced heavily with sleep but still so soft and luring.
"Morning," you eyed him up carefully, wringing your fingers with slight jitteriness. "We -- uh didn't, you know,"
"No, as I said darling, I know of a thing called consent." He kissed your shoulder, finally revealing that he was indeed, not naked. You could finally relax beside him, allowing him to cuddle into you, slowly letting the morning hours pass with tranquillity.
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The Night Shift at a Funeral Home
Content warnings: Mention of dead body, no gore
You always preferred to work the night shift at your family's funeral home. Sometimes you would read during the shift, waiting for a call or someone to come in. Other days you would talk to whoever the family was preparing for burial. You'd ask them about their life, if they had any regrets or how they were liking death. They never answered, of course, but you felt somehow as if your conversing made them feel a little less lonely. Sometimes you would ramble on to the deceased about your day, talking about nothing and everything. Because only the dead would listen to your ramblings. Most likely, you just talked to them to the deceased to make yourself feel a little less lonely and were projecting your own feelings on people who no longer cared about those sorts of things.
This entire week was just absolutely terrible. As soon as you clocked in on Friday night, you just started ranting to Mr. Smith, who died due to "overexertion during coitus" (what a way to go)
An hour and half later, you finally run out of steam. It's just been a lot with your parent's expectations to run a funeral home, to complete school, and to have a somewhat active social life (that is, to meet up with your one friend for lunch every so often). Once your anger burnt itself out, you started crying. You weren't sad exactly, but it has just been a lot.
After a moment, you felt a presence near you. You managed to wipe the tears of your eyes enough to see what you could only describe as a three-dimensional shadow sitting next to you trying to soothe you.
"Umm, I'm sorry, I didn't see you come in. Did you need help?" you said in your best customer service voice, because you were working after all. They seemed to shake their head and pointed to you.
"Me? I don't understand" was this Death coming to take your soul to whatever lies beyond?
"You sad. I comfort you." your heart broke at their earnest voice. They seemed to wrap themselves around you as you cried some more. They weren't solid enough to lean against, but you could still feel them around you.
Eventually, you stopped crying to tell them your name and say"Thank you for comforting me. I appreciate it. What is your name?" you hiccuped, because you somehow always got the hiccups after a good cry.
"Name? I not have name. No one talks to me."
"Well, if you don't have a name, do you want to name yourself?" they looked excited by the idea.
"Name? Name. Me. Name? Me. Name. Me? Name?" The kept repeating to themselves.
"Yes, you name. If you want, I can give you suggestions of names that I think might fit you." they pause for a moment, then ask,
"What is name?" you never really thought about what a name is before. What it means.
"A name is a way to identify yourself to others. It lets others know who you are. Once you know someone for a long time, your name is what they will remember you by even after you're dead. It won't be the only thing that is remembered, but your name will help them remember who you are." you say slowly, not really confident in your definition of names.
"Yes. Need help choose good name."
"Mort?" They looked a bit uncertain, or as uncertain as a shadow could look. "Thana?" hmm, that didn't seem quite right either. "Sephtis?"
"Sssephtiss" they repeated, drawing out the word, "Sephtis. Seph-tis."
"Do you like that name? Sephtis?"
"Yes. I Sephtis. What your name?" You tell them your name, and they repeat it back to you, seeming to savor your name like they did theirs.
"Thank you for cheering me up, Sephtis." They seemed to do their version of a hug.
You spend your shift talking with Sephtis. A lot of their answers confuse you, but your shift passes too quickly. Before you know it, it's five in the morning, time to clock out.
"I hope I see you soon, Sephtis."
"Soon." and they seemed to disappear in the dark corners of the mortuary.
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Seeking a Certain Story
This came up in a Discord I’m part of from another reader:
“Trying to find a tumblr post/story about a girl that rents an apartment only to find out her two roommates are an orc and an orge?troll? mix. She gets cold and sits on the couch all wrapped up in blankets and the orc comes back from work and makes them hot chocolate. Really cute and warm feels kind of short story; and still in-progress, I think? Ring any bells for anyone?“
If anyone has heard of this story, please share or reblog to help in locating said story. It sounds like a great read, and I’d like to give it a go myself. Thanks, y’all!
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Family Reunion (2017)
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On the Dock of the Bay--(M Satyr/FtM Reader)--SFW--Modern AU--1st Person Perspective
Word Count: 1k
(A coming out story.)
‘I think we should talk,’ might have been the hardest words I ever uttered if it hadn’t been for what came after. We went to the pier. I hoped it would provide a peaceful place, that the familiarity of it and the good memories would help me say what I had to say.
“I’m a man.” The words spilled out of my mouth with little preamble and just as I felt the relief of them I felt the fear.
He just looked shocked.
“I don’t want to change this body. I know what I look like, I know what my parts are. It doesn’t change who I am. I just feel like that’s what I should want to do. And maybe, some part of it is. But I don’t want to spend my whole life fighting to change. I don’t want to deal with the heartache and struggle. I’ve spent my whole life coming to terms with this body and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life coming to terms with a new one. I’m okay in this body and that is a blessing. I need you to be okay with that too.” He looked out over the water, blessedly, giving me a moment to blink back the tears that had gathered in the corners of my eyes, trickling down my cheeks. With a hand that wasn’t held in his, I wiped them away, my gloves soaking them up as fast as they fell down.
“I don’t care what your body looks like, I love you, not your body. And if you’re a man, then I will love you as a man.” He answered, thumb gently stroking mine in a soothing gesture. This only made the tears start anew. Part of me wanted to comfort him, pull him close and kiss away his worry. Part of me wanted to let the conversation be over, to swallow down my pain so no one else had to feel it. But-
“That’s not good enough. I want you to want my body. I want you to care. I want to be loved for everything.” I didn’t know how to make the words come out right, to make them stop sounding so cruel, but I didn’t know another way to get them out. I knew that if I tried to think out a more tactful way of saying it, I never would. That’s why we are here in the first place. I turned to look at him how, could see his throat work, the red line of unshed tears in his eyes.
“I just want you to be happy. I just want you to feel loved.” His voice caught a little at the end and he gave a sly sniffle. I gave his hand a squeeze to pull his attention to me. With his face not in profile, his distress became all the more apparent.
“I know, baby. I know you love me.” I brought my hand to his cheek, something I had done before, but this time to wipe away the tears starting to fall down his face. This only seemed to make matters worse.
“I want you to feel desired.” He didn’t try to hide his distress now. Some part of me relished in it, in not having to guess, not having to wonder.
“I want that too.” I whispered.
“Will you give me a chance? I can learn about this, it doesn’t change anything for me.” It tugged at a sadness within me to here him say this. I had every intention of giving him a chance. This conversation hadn’t been meant to end with him thinking I would leave him. I also knew he did have so much to learn, because it does change things.
“Rin, it does change things. Even if you might think it won’t.” The rubbing of his thumb had stopped and I took up the job in his stead, soothing him in what little ways I knew how.
“I don’t know what I am supposed to say.” I gave up on wiping the tears from his face, instead letting my hand come to wrap around the back of his neck, drawing him into me, holding him with both arms. He buried his sobs in my shoulder, between the hood of my coat and my bare neck.
“There aren’t any supposed to’s. I need you to tell me what you are really feeling.”
“Scared. Scared that I’m going to lose you. Scared that we won’t be able to make it work. Scared that you’ll change your mind. Maybe scared that I’ll change mine. I’m scared it’s going to be hard.” I started crying at this point, hearing some of my worst fears come from his mouth. I tried to breathe and let them go, so I could pull away and look Rin in the eyes. I smoothed the hair from his forehead, but everything I did only seemed to make him more upset.
“I’m scared too. I’m scared I won’t be able to trust you when you touch me. I’m scared that I won’t be able to trust you and I’m going to ruin this. I want to try though.” I was scared he wouldn’t want to touch me most of all.
Would he think of it as a woman’s body?
How could somebody go from being straight to gay overnight? Did he realize what it would entail, staying together? Did I? The mechanics of it made my head hurt.
“I want to try to. I don’t want to lose your trust. Tell me how I’m supposed to do this.” Rin begged, but I didn’t have an answer.
“Just hold me? For now?” In that moment, it was enough.
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When the elusive and absurdly rich Lord Hawthorne announces his unusual competition to seek a bride, you don’t think it would be any harm to enter. But perhaps there is a reason no one has ever seen Lord Hawthorne in person…
[part one] [part three] [part four]
PART TWO (SFW)
[Content: Regency era, male monsterxfemale reader, Forest god/Horned monster/Cernunnos, Advantageous marriage, Low self image]
“Open it! Open it!” Your mother panted, half clawing at your hands to get the letter for herself. You tried to swat her away, but she was persistent, and no sooner had you turned to tell her to back off but Abigail and Isadora were grasping at the envelope from behind you.
“Enough!” You snapped. “It's my letter and mine alone to read!”
Your mother recoiled, exaggerating her hurt. “How ungrateful!” She sobbed performatively. “And after all I've done-”
“That won't work!” You held the letter against your chest, as nowhere else seemed to be safe. The poor messenger was still standing soggy in the door, blushing at the indecency of these squabbling women in their nightgowns.
“You can go, sir,” Your father tried to dismiss him.
“I'm afraid I can't,” He admitted. “I was told not to leave here without the lady's answer.”
“Answer?” Your mother gasped, and then the whole house was silent. They turned to look at you, the anticipation on their faces unmistakable. A terrible dread rose in your throat.
There must be some mistake, you thought miserably, looking down at the Lord's golden seal, unbroken on the envelope. Surely he isn't asking me...
“Dearest,” Your father's voice cut through the highly charged silence. “Go ahead into my study and read your letter.”
You almost didn't want to. The fear of getting your hopes up – of your whole family getting their hopes up – would make the reality of rejection only hurt so much more. But there was no other option available, you couldn't just not read it. Your mother and sisters did not dare harass you as you walked alone to the study, and closed the door behind you.
In the light of a single oil lamp, you slid your finger under the lip of the envelope, cracking the wax seal. You recognised the same beautiful penmanship from the riddle, this time spelling out your name. You held the parchment close to the light.
“Your response to my letter brought me such pleasure as you cannot imagine. I do believe our minds are most compatible, and knowing that you are a woman of such wit and wisdom, I think it is safe to assume that you know what I am going to ask.”
You squeezed your eyes shut, heart pounding, hands sweating, almost afraid to read on. But you do.
“This is no game to me, and I do not trifle with matters of the heart. You are the only lady to whom I am extending my hand. From this moment on, I intend to court you, if you are willing. Should you accept my courtship, I invite you and your family to a picnic on my estate this coming Sunday. Should you decline, simply inform my messenger, and I will bother you no more.
You blinked at the letter, both over and underwhelmed. In so many ways, you were relieved there was no proposal to address. And at the same time, a courtship was almost more intimidating – now there was ample time for him to meet and change his mind about you. Swallowing this feeling of inadequacy, you stood and left the study. After all, there was no way you could simply decline the offer of a Lord. The choice to end the courtship would be his, of course.
“Well?” Your father greeted you, seeming somewhat anxious. Your mother was hunched forward , crushing Elouise and Isadora's hands in her grasp, practically salivating like a hound dog.
“We've been invited to a picnic on the Lord's estate,” you explained as levelly as you were able.
Your mother seemed to deflate, “Is that all?! Let me read it!” She whipped the letter out of your hand and snatched the messenger's lantern. Even in the flickering light, you could see a wicked smile grow across her face. “He is courting you!” She whispered, grinning knowingly at your father, who seemed a little less pleased.
“Then we shall be obliged to attend this picnic, I suppose,” He grumbled, also stooping to read the letter. “As your chaperones.”
“Return at once to your master,” Mother turned to the messenger. “And tell him we will arrive no later than noon. Oh, this is wonderful!” She threw her arms around you, squeezing you close. “To see you marry so well above your station – we must write to your brother and tell him the news!”
“There has been no proposal, Mother,” You objected, but your sisters were already joining in the hug.
“My Lord will be very happy,” the messenger beamed, taking his lantern back from your mother, who scarcely noticed.
The next few days crawled by at an agonizing pace. Sunday was far too close, and yet couldn't arrive fast enough. You were sure that if the Lord met you and promptly changed his mind, then at least the ordeal would be over quickly. Perhaps your plain face or lack of dowry or unimpressive personality would be enough to convince him that his whole riddle shtick was an absurd mistake. It will be worse, you realised, if he sees lovely Elouise or Abigail and immediately falls in love. And I will try to be happy for them, but that will be the worst. You had half a mind to ask them not to attend the picnic, but explaining the reason would be humiliating, and wholly unfair. Besides, your mother would be thrilled to see the Lord marry any of her daughters – it didn't have to be you.
Lord Hawthorne did not attend mass with the rest of the village. He had a private chapel on his estate, and had never once been seen at weddings, funerals, or anything in between. So you had been feeling safe enough on Sunday morning, until you stepped out of the church and saw the Lord's messenger waiting in a carriage at the gates.
“Good heavens,” Your father muttered next to you. “Surely they don't mean to collect us from here.”
You met the messenger where he stood, at the threshhold of the Holy Ground. He smiled warmly at you. “So sorry to trouble you here, of all places, my lady,” he tipped his hat. You could see your neighbours staring from the church yard, hotly whispering their speculations. You tried to angle your head so that your bonnet would cover your face, which you knew must be flushed with embarrassment. The messenger went on, “My Lord asked to give you this before your meeting, and no one was at your house for me to leave it.” He handed you a letter with that same glittering golden seal.
“We will take our own carriage to your estate,” Mother informed the man loudly, wanting the neighbours to hear. “I'm sure you understand. We ladies have some getting ready to do.”
“Of course,” The messenger laughed. “I will attend you at the gatehouse when you arrive.” He climbed back onto his carriage – a most unusual vehicle, carved of jagged blackthorn, and pulled by four colossal horses.
You opened the letter when you arrived home. It was a short note.
“Indulge me this one;
Bring a Noble with you to my table,
who is greater than me in worth,
who sustained Condla in his crystal currach
when it made its berth.”
“Condla?” You repeated aloud. The name sounded so familiar. You could hear it in some faint corner of your memory, some story you had heard by the fire...
You had scarcely the time to think about it before you felt a painful tug on your hair. “Ow!”
“We must work quickly to make you beautiful,” Your mother was combing through your thick locks with her talons, braiding and unbraiding, fussing over the stray wisps of hair that weren't obeying her designs. While you were trapped at the mercy of your mother's hands, Abigail appeared with the rouge, smacking it into your cheeks while Elouise held two dresses up beside you.
“The white or the pink?” She asked frantically.
“You're right,” she answered for you, “The white is too bridal, we don't want to seem desperate.”
“Mother,” You started, in between winces, “Do you remember the story of Condla?”
“You want a bedtime story at a time like this!?” Your mother scoffed, scraping back the curls that were already coming loose from her plait. “Focus on the task at hand, my love! We must ensnare the Lord quickly, before he loses interest!”
Ouch. You had shared her concern, of course, that the Lord may change his mind once he met you. But it stung to hear it said all the same. You tried to meditate on the note instead, on Condla, and what little you remembered of him. You were sure it was a love story, an old folk tale that your grandmother had told on Winter nights, just as she had spoken of the salmon and the hazelnut. Condla sailed on a crystal boat somewhere to be with his lover, but the details were foggy. And he must have been sailing with a nobleman, you thought, though the image in your mind – the imagined memory of Condla – was him alone in his currach, reaching a lush, magical shore, embracing a sparkling princess. And how would I bring this noble to the picnic with me, anyway? You asked yourself bitterly, frustrated by the riddle.
“There we are,” Mother cooed, pulling back your fringe to show you your face in the mirror. “Now you look as lovely as possible.”
“I'd like to wear my green dress-” you started to suggest, but both Elouise and your mother groaned loudly.
“You're not going to a village ball,” Mother chastised, “This is a Lord's home. The pink dress is much finer.”
By the time they were done poking and prodding you into an acceptable state, it was past noon. Your mother was howling about how this was going to make a bad impression on the Lord, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was responsible for the delay, not you. She was all but whipping you and your sisters into the carriage, when something flashed in your mind.
A noble. Greater than me in worth.
Not “greater than a Lord” in worth. Greater than Hawthorne.
“Just a minute!” You jumped back out of the carriage, just as it began to move.
You could hear your family shouting after you, halting the horses, demanding you return. Vaguely, you heard your father say, “I told you this was too much for her.”
You rushed through the house and out the back door, pulling up your skirts so as not to ruin them with the fresh mud of your garden. Your shoes were less fortunate. You stopped at the small grove of trees at the base of your land, and removed your shawl to use it as an improvised sack.
“What's gotten into you?” Elouise's voice called out from behind. You turned to see her in the back door, with hands on her hips. “Are you really getting cold feet so soon?”
“Not at all,” You smiled, feeling more excited than terrified for the first time since receiving the Lord's invitation. You cradled the sack-shawl to your chest. “It would simply be rude to arrive empty handed.”
As promised, the messenger was waiting at the gatehouse. He acted somewhat giddy as the wrought iron gates yawned open before your carriage. The horses seemed... Suspicious. They were not panicked, or even very stubborn, but they were not easily coaxed through the gate. The messenger had to take their reigns and lead them by hand, rewarding them with some wild carrots which he pulled from the Earth beside the road.
The estate was like another world entirely. The grounds seemed both wild and tame at once – both overgrown and carefully manicured. Wild flowers, berries and roots were growing everywhere, and yet the layout seemed curated, and designed to be beautiful. Even the air smelled sweeter and was full of merrier birdsong.
The iron gate closed behind you with a musical clang.
The messenger, who finally introduced himself as Dáire, led your carriage down the winding path to a huge manor house, which like the rest of the grounds appeared overtaken by nature in a very intentional way. Greenery and flowers had crept up the stone walls and spiralled around the large, bright windows. As your carriage came to a stop, a cloud of butterflies erupted from the purple flowers growing up the walls, bursting into the sky as though the very manor was alive and fluttering off into the sunlight.
“It's a fine house,” Your father nodded approvingly.
“It's a mansion!” Your mother squealed in delight.
“It's like a fairytale,” Isadora whispered, leaning against you to get a better look at the home. “It doesn't look like it should exist.”
“Why would you say that?” You asked her, a little troubled by what she might mean, but Dáire opened the carriage door before Isadora could explain. He helped you out one by one, eyeing your make-shift shawl-sack with curiosity, though he didn't ask any questions.
“My Lord thought you might be hungry,” he smiled in a somewhat dazzling, surreal way, which particularly seemed to effect Elouise. As Dáire stepped out towards a narrow foot path, your sister seemed to float after him, as if he were a magnet she had become attached to. “The banquet is all set up by the stream. Once you've eaten, my Lord will take you on a tour of the grounds.”
“Where is Lord Hawthorne?” You asked, uncharacteristically eager.
Dáire turned back to you, a devilish smile on his lips. “He's waiting for you all at the stream, of course.”
You travelled down a little grassy trail carpeted with daisies and dandelions, with Dáire in the lead, followed closely by Elouise. Your mother complained quietly about her shoes getting dirty, but you pretended not to hear her, and especially hoped she wouldn't notice that your own were already ruined with mud. The path descended into a mossy wood of ancient trees, their branches so long and heavy that they spiralled down towards the ground like silent, tentacled creatures. You could hear Dáire annotating quietly to Elouise the names he had given to each of the titan trees in the Lord's wood - “King oaks,” you heard him call them.
The farther you walked, the scarcer the sunlight that came scattering through the leaves and onto the path. Your father remarked on something on the ground beside you, and you looked down to see a large pawprint sunken into the soft mud.
“Surely your master doesn't keep wolves on his land,” Father said, astonished.
“Oh yes,” Dáire turned back, that enchanting smile on his face again. “Wolves, bear, and great elk.”
“That must make for excellent hunting,” Father marvelled.
“Not at all,” Dáire turned back to the path. “The Lord never hunts unless he is hungry.”
“How... Novel,” Your mother eyed the pawprint nervously, clinging to your father's arm. You thought the Lord was being quite sensible, actually. To treat his own land as if he were simply a part of the ecosystem – another animal in the food chain. But you thought it best not to describe the Lord as an “animal” in front of his messenger.
The deeper into the woods you walked, the darker the world seemed to become. And then suddenly, all at once, golden sunlight burst through the trees ahead of you. You thought you could hear the distant strings of a harp being softly plucked, but as you stepped into the sunlight, the music diffused into the sounds of nature. In front of you was a meadow, familiar and yet entirely foreign, dazzled by a crowd of wildflowers dancing in the light breeze. At the lowest point of the meadow was a bubbling stream of black water, cutting across the clearing like a shining silk ribbon, its depth and contents entirely unknowable.
Next to the stream was a swath of short, inviting grass, laid with large fur blankets, upon which was a low wicker table. You had never seen such a feast before – fresh fruit, salted meats, divine pastries and cakes that were precisely painted with frosting and cream and adorned with strawberries. Abigail and Mother both gave a little laugh of delight and trudged heartily towards the banquet.
“I'll give him this,” your father chuffed happily beside you, “He knows how to throw a picnic.”
You cradled your shawl-sack, feeling suddenly overcome with nervousness. Perhaps you misunderstood his letter entirely. Perhaps he didn't even want to court you and in your delusion you had completely misconstrued his intent. Perhaps he wouldn't even want to come and meet you. Perhaps you were trespassing...
“I don't know if we should eat that,” Isadora whispered, tugging at your sleeve. You looked down at your little sister, who was watching your father descend the meadow to the stream, where Dáire was giving Elouise a lesson on their fishing stock, and Abigail and mother were already at the table, dipping plum slices into a bowl of sugar.
“What do you mean?” You asked.
“I don't know...” She admitted, “But doesn't this all feel just a bit... Impossible?”
You felt an ache in your chest. Of course, even Isadora could see the truth. Just as your mother had pointed out earlier, just as you had known from the start. Of course the Lord would change his mind, if he hadn't already. All of this wasn't meant for a woman like you. “It is impossible,” You agreed glumly. “I feel foolish for even hoping for it.”
Isadora frowned, like she was doing math in her head. “What are you talking about?” She asked, crossing her arms. “I meant this land, this banquet, the house – and the fact that nobody's even seen the Lord – I thought that's why you were asking about Condla earlier. I thought you must be thinking the same thing as me.”
Now it was your turn to be confused. “I don't know what you're thinking, Isadora-”
You both turned at the sound of Dáire's voice calling out. Your family were also standing to attention, staring downstream to a figure emerging from the woods. You felt your lungs ache and held your breath.
The man crossing the colourful meadow towards your family was impossibly large – taller than you thought any man could be, with broad shoulders cloaked in a thick shimmering fabric of a sort you had never seen before. At first glance, you thought he was floating down the hill, his movements seemed so glidingly effortless, but as he got closer you could clearly tell there was an immense gravity to every step, not unlike the slow stride of a great elk, gracefully carrying its considerable weight with ease. Most notably, he wore the widest brim hat you'd ever seen in your life. It would have been comical if you weren't so intimidated. You could only assume that the hat was some new aristocratic fashion, because its brim was nearly the width of his strong shoulders, and from the brim fell a black veil, completely shrouding his face. As he approached your parents, you understood more fully the scale of his height; your father was a reasonably tall man, and he seemed tiny next to the Lord, who was easily over seven feet.
And though you could not make out one single distinguishing feature outside of his sheer size, you felt a swelling in your chest – an unmistakable jolt of anticipation. You watched Lord Hawthorne reach your family and bow his head in greeting, the shimmering fabric of his cloak and shroud glittering in the sun. He reached a large, gloved hand out towards your mother, then Abigail, then Elouise, though he did not kiss their hands as you were expecting.
You could hear a low, rumbling voice, but you were too far away to hear the words, and then he straightened and began... Looking around. You could see the shroud and the hat swaying as his head turned left and right, and it occurred to you suddenly that he couldn't see you and Isadora from where you stood by the trees.
Wordlessly, your youngest sister and you made your way down towards the black stream. Dáire raised his hand, gesturing toward you, and Lord Hawthorne quickly turned, the many fabrics on his person twirling with the inertia. Though you could not see his eyes, you knew instantly he was looking at you, and that swelling in your chest felt as if it were expanding, preventing air from entering your lungs. Your heart was thumping so hard it was painful, you could feel the heat in your cheeks and on your neck, and you wished to God that you were the one with a shroud to hide behind.
As you drew close to one another, the Lord's massive figure blocked out the sun, and you stopped in his shadow, a few feet away. You could just about see that behind him, your mother and Abigail were frantically miming a curtsy to you. Both you and Isadora bowed as politely as you could, though you caught Isadora staring open-mouthed at the Lord as she did so. His gloved hand extended out towards you, and as the dark cloak shifted you caught sight of a beautiful suit underneath, embroidered with shining gold and purple.
You placed your hand in his, feeling almost embarrassed by how tiny yours seemed in his grasp. He ran his thumb along your knuckles, and raised your hand close to him. To your surprise, he slipped it under his shroud and you felt the soft, hot pressure of his lips against the back of your fingers.
“My lady,” his voice vibrated against your skin, a gentle rumbling voice that felt like the soft thunder of a distant summer storm.
“Lord Hawthorne,” You squeaked in response.
“And I'm Isadora,” Your sister interrupted, thrusting her hand in front of the Lord's face. He released your hand with a gentle chuckle and took Isadora's, though he did not kiss it.
“I am honoured to have you here,” He stepped aside, gesturing to the banquet. “Please, you must all be hungry.”
Your family obediently sat on the fine furs by the table, while Dáire lingered nearby at the edge of the stream. Even Isadora sat, although she politely declined the plate that Lord Hawthorne offered her. You hesitated, unsure of where you ought to sit, first moving towards Elouise who made a show of spreading out her legs so there was no room for you. Nervously, you sat down next to Lord Hawthorne, who was pouring nettle tea from a porcelain pot into your parent's cups. Your father's expression was completely unreadable, your mother was doing her best to look anywhere except the Lord.
“What wonderful gardens you keep,” she was saying, her eyes darting to the flowers, the woods, the stream, the sky. “Your gardener is a credit to you.”
“Thank you,” Hawthorne answered, “All my staff live within the grounds, so this is as much their garden as it is mine.”
“Rather hot weather we're having,” Your father said, making an underhanded point about the Lord's attire. Abigail's elbow found its way to your father's ribs as she reached for the sugar.
“Yes, we are having a pleasant spell,” Hawthorne sounded as though he were smiling. “Perfect weather for a picnic, don't you agree?”
“Perfect weather for weddings, I should say,” Abigail nodded soundly, popping a raspberry into her mouth.
“Abigail,” You hissed, embarrassed.
“What?” She shrugged, “Isn't Lily Barns getting married? And Maisy MacDuff? And Josephine Clarke?” She turned then to Lord Hawthorne, “That's all I meant, my Lord. It is always best to marry before the good weather leaves us for the year.”
Hawthorne chuckled quietly beneath his shroud, “I will keep that in mind, Miss Abigail. Thank you.”
Abigail sat back, pleased with herself, and for a few moments there was only the musical sound of the stream and bird song, and the soft chewing of cakes. You felt increasingly pressured to say something, though you didn't know what exactly, and you were afraid to look directly at the Lord, lest he see something in your face that he wouldn't like. You fidgeted absently with the shawl in your lap, staring at the untouched food on your plate.
“Not hungry?” Hawthorne asked, and you realised he was speaking to you.
You looked down, wishing you were not so visible, envying him for his enigma. “It all looks very tasty,” you admitted timidly. “Thank you for inviting us.”
Hawthorne said nothing, but you could feel him watching you. What? You wondered, Is he disappointed? Is he bored of me already? Why must this whole ordeal be so painfully awkward! Trying to move the conversation on, you quickly added, “You aren't eating either.”
“Ah. Yes,” There was a smile in his voice, “I was wondering if you brought a Noble with you.”
That got your mother's attention. She looked up from devouring her lemon cakes, “My Lord,” she laughed daintily, “You flatter us. We are not so happily connected with the nobility-”
“I'm not sure if I got it right,” You interrupted, speaking directly to the Lord, unfurling your shawl to reveal a half dozen apples from your trees at home. “But I know that the apple is a Noble Tree, and the hawthorn...”
“Is a peasant tree, you are correct,” He was certainly smiling now. In fact, you could imagine a toothy grin on a handsome face under that shroud. He opened his hand, palm up to you, asking for an apple, and you placed it in his hand. “The apple tree is worth much more than the hawthorn, because it gives life and nourishment. I am deeply pleased you are familiar with the old laws,” he raised the apple under his shroud, and you heard the crisp crunch of him biting into its flesh. “Thank you for this gift, lovely Úlla.”
You felt yourself blushing. Úlla – meaning “apples” – was not a term of endearment you had ever been called before, but the way he had spoken it, slow and low and lingering, it echoed in your chest and raised a strange tension in your stomach. “Condla...” You started, your voice faint, “He was given a magic apple by his lover, isn't that right? I barely remember the story.”
“That's exactly right,” Hawthorne smiled, taking another bite. “That one apple sustained him for the rest of eternity.”
“And then he was enchanted by a fairy and stolen away from his family,” Isadora piped up, watching Hawthorne with intense suspicion. “Isn't that right.”
It wasn't a question.
There was a lengthy, awkward pause at the table. Then, you heard the smile in Hawthorne's voice again. “Well remembered,” he placed the finished apple core on his otherwise empty place. “You are exactly right.”
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Astride [Headless Horseman/Reader]
Summary: He could never be predictable.
The passage of time felt different when you were astride the alabaster steed, guided only by thin straps of leather attached to the fragments of a metal bit wedged deep in the horse’s cheek. It never got any easier when the horseman would spur the beast to surge forward from a lethargic walk into a gallop, often finding the abrupt change in gait enough to dislodge you some ways out of the saddle.
In almost all instances you never knew the horseman’s plans, nor where you would find yourself ultimately. The vastness of the Atticus was unparalleled, most of it remained untouched and unseen by even your eyes despite the approach of your first year since arriving. In a way, that enthralled you; it meant that there was an enormity of forest for you to explore, and just as many opportunities to spend it with the horseman.
You had learned to take his impromptu, likely innate behaviors in stride as you suspected they were something that could never fully be worked out of him. These days, at your insistence, he communicated intentions a little clearer to you by sometimes scrawling something in the mud with the tip of his sword. It was never much, but offered a glimpse inside his thought process (which was an exhaustive effort in and of itself).
His favorite method of making it explicitly obvious was simply by grabbing you around the waist and heaving you up into the saddle in front of him. It was never graceful, always left you sore with a couple of dark bruises blotched around your hips and thighs, and gave you next to no insight on his next move.
So, all you could do was match the alabaster steed’s stride to keep your seat in the saddle, and distract yourself with the horseman’s grip tightening just a little more around you.
a/n: ayy, idk. not happy with it but whatever. the goal is just keep myself writing. teaching yourself self-discipline is HARD.
don’t worry tho. chapter 8 of the story is coming later this month.
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Running a hand through your rain-soaked hair in frustration, you finally manage to dig your keys out of your purse and unlock the door.
'Damn it.' Of course, the first thing to greet you when you push it open is a mess.
"Hun, I told you to wipe your paws before coming in when it's raining." You remind Malphas with a sigh as your eyes track the dinner plate-sized pawprints that trail all the way from the front door into the living room. They finally end before the hulking black wolf that is curled up before the flickering hearth, drying his pelt after a run through the woods behind your house.
Standing with your hands on your hips, he can read that you are not too pleased with him.
His reply is a low whine of apology accompanied by a submissive flattening of his ears. The three-hundred pound werewolf rises from the rug by the fireplace and trots back to the front door, and then tries to compress himself enough to where all four massive paws fit onto the area of the welcome mat; he then carefully wipes them in a too-little, too-late attempt to comply with your request.
Looking up at you, Malphas cocks his head, and lets his tongue loll out of mouth in a wolf's grin.
You can't help but laugh, and you feel the chill in your bones melt when his tail goes from zero to sixty.
Okay, so I'm going to incorporate Malphas into my monster boyfriend works, because why not? He's ideal boyfriend material, and I will be doing male reader x werewolf boyfriend stories too. X3
And yes, there will definitely be more of this to come, and it will eventually be NSFW when things get... knotty. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Likes are lovely, but reblogs help me grow and reach more readers! 💖💖💖 Please reblog!
Follow me for the continuation of this story.
EDIT: Part 2- https://apocalypticromantic666.tumblr.com/post/657345683508150272/likes-are-lovely-but-reblogs-help-me-grow-and
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Hey! Happy Halloween time, and I love your work! Could I request from the list numbers 2,3, 30, and 47 with a short piece about a angsty drider boy and his girl/crush(like the drider boy is very insecure about his appearance but reader just like loves him).
Thank you, and have a nice day!
https://itstheendofthegoddamnworld.tumblr.com/post/663839364948918272/monstobermonster-sentence-starters-nsfwsfw - Monster sentence starters
I took a small break but let’s keep going with these! This one is shit so sorry!
2) I’m not afraid.
3) You don’t scare me.
30) Look at me, I’m hideous.
47) Stop pushing everyone away.
His limbs were twitching: all eight, rigid and taut, a similar part you’d seen when his mind was consumed for only hunger. This time though, Ezes’ anger was resonating within and pooling off him, rolling like hills off his intimidating body.
His many eyes were on you, eyes squinted and narrowed, his upper body was narrow and lithe for his nimbleness, but the prowess and height made up for his slimness; powerful black hairy spider legs were hunched over, giving the sight that he could bolt or attack.
“Go on then,” his voice, no matter how angry he seemed, always held the rich timbre and charm. “Hate me.”
“You know I can’t.” You whispered, holding your stance, holding eye contact for as long as possible. You knew at that moment if you broke away, he had won. “We’re not doing this again.”
“Yet, I can smell the fear on you, rolling like foam from the sea.” Ezes laughed wryly, his many red eyes trying to guard the sadness in his eyes. “You want to leave like everyone else. Too afraid of me like the rest.”
You took a step towards him, shoulders pushed back. “You don’t scare me and you know it, Ezes. I’m not afraid.”
The drider didn’t hesitate to push you away further, body moving and twisting to make him turn round, away from you. You wished you could’ve seen his face, to hold him close to him, to reassure him he was worth all your quarrels, and that you would never leave despite his insecurities.
After what felt like some time, he finally answered you. “Why?”
“Why do you stay with me? When you could be with anyone else. Anyone who would be normal.” He gestured to himself. “Look at me, I’m hideous.”
“Why must you be so harsh on yourself? I’m with you because I love everything about you.” When you approached him closer, he didn’t push you away, silently allowing you to take his hand into your own, stroking his knuckles. “So please, stop pushing everyone away. Stop pushing me away.”
When Ezes looked back on you, for the first time, his eyes were glassy and tired, but the smile he wasn’t showing was sad and longing, features soft. “You mean the entire world to me, my love.” He coddled you close to his warm chest. “And I’m sorry I’m a fool to push you away.”
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Oct 22: Listen Closely
The first wave licked her legs with a cold tongue. The ones that followed did not reach quite as high. Anneliese stood in the ocean, the wet sand swallowing her slowly.
She held her camera close to her body. Only the lens peeked out of her jacket. Staring out at the horizon were three eyes. Anneliese’s own two— brown and tired— and the camera’s one— endlessly awake. Together, they watched the waves crash and spray. The sky above them was gray. The ocean was black.
White shells poked out of the sand around her. As a child, she would go to this very beach to collect them. They were all white and round, one half of a sea creature’s armor and ribbed like the yarn of her sweater. Anneliese didn’t even spare them a glance now. The wonders beneath her feet could scarcely compete with the terror before her.
There were eyes in the ocean. And they were watching her. Underneath the roar of churning waves, she heard whispers.
Something snapped behind Anneliese. With much effort, she ripped her eyes away from the ocean. A cold chill lingered in her spine. She studied the black cliff face. It was a bowl holding the beach, the sheer walls rising on all sides until they sloped down into the water. Tufts of wiry grass poked up from the top of the cliff. The wan headlight of Anneliese’s car watched over her from above.
Nothing was there. Nothing could have snapped, save perhaps a rock falling from above. Anneliese looked back out to sea. Perhaps it was an echo…
The cold water washed over her feet hundreds of times, leaving them numb and inches deep in the thick sand. Looking through the viewfinder in her camera, Anneliese saw nothing. Nothing, nothing, but she felt something.
Finally, she shivered. Her spine was ice, her nerves threading her muscles and skin like sleet. Her legs were trees uprooted from the coarse sediment. Feeling was slow to return, but the scuttles of sand crabs lightly tickled Anneliese’s soles. The hike— or rather, climb— to her car was slow. She had plenty of time to scratch her fingers and toes on the cliff face. Sparse white veins ran through the black rocks, much like the caps of waves in the sea. Every divet and mark on the rock was an eye to her, hungering after her as she hoisted herself to her car.
The car was unlocked. She didn’t care enough to close the door. The upholstery was ripped in some places and stained in several others. Anneliese got in the car. Her shoes sat in the passenger seat along with the keys. She turned the car on, the dull sound competed in vain with the roar of the ocean. The headlights did nothing to brighten the gray world.
There was still no warmth in her body when she drove home. There was still no warmth when she laid down to sleep. Anneliese was empty.
Her pillow was stone, her blanket almost nonexistent. In the darkness she heard the echo of the ocean in her ear, a phantom sound that never ceased. She itched to feel the dark sand under her feet, she missed how it ripped around her ankles in the cold, forceful surf. She longed to search for those unseen eyes and hear those silent words.
Anneliese ripped off her blanket. She couldn’t sleep. Her head was filled with crashes and rasping whispers. She climbed in her car again— it whined and seemed to protest against going out into the night. She didn’t care for the hunk of metal’s pitiful feelings. She didn’t care about the house’s door left ajar in her wake. She didn’t care for the old camera sitting on the table, forgotten.
All Anneliese cared for was getting back to the beach.
She sped down the rough seaside road, her eyes half glued to the churning mass to her left. It was beautiful, it was powerful, it was—
It was close.
Instinctively, Anneliese spun the car’s wheel furiously to keep it from launching off the cliff. She pumped the brakes, jolting her forward. Every movement from the seat of her car to the edge of the cliff was blocky and stiff. There was no grace in her limbs, neither was there a doubt in her mind.
Her fingers gripped the edge of the rocks in front of her. She was crouching on the edge of the cliff, looking out at the ocean. Her ocean.
The descent to the beach was clumsy. Her feet scraped the jagged rock face as she half-slipped, half-stumbled to the dark sand. She didn’t even wince when the salt of the water splashed into the open wound. It stung greatly, but Anneliese was numb to it.
The waves curled around her pajama clad legs. The foam was colored red as it washed back out. She breathed in deeply, savoring the smell on her tongue. Her head was filled with real sounds and real sights, not empty dreams and hollow memories. The feeling of being watched had also returned. With her next exhalation, she took another step further into the water, searching for the eyes hidden under the surf.
Deeper and deeper, the fragile frame of a human walked willingly into the waves. Her body tried to rebel, it found the water too cold and the current too strong. But Anneliese walked anyway. She was pulled by the eyes and the whispers of the depths.
Again she heard the voice.
Listen. Listen, my love…
Her eyes stayed open for far too long considering the salty spray bombarding them. She searched for the being watching her. The only thought in her mind was of the creature.
And what was that creature? Was it even really there? What did it possess that enticed this lonely girl so fully?
The water was up to her chin now. She kept walking, eyes ahead with the stiffness of stone. Her feet were too numb to feel the limbs grabbing at her ankles.
Her mouth was under the water. It was then that she smiled. With a wide grin, Anneliese let out a gasp. She saw it! She saw the red eyes, as red as her own in the saline, glowing beneath the white caps of the waves. The bubbles of her breath floated to the surface, caressing her cheeks as her face kissed air for the last time.
The ocean was pulling and pushing her, as if it was conflicted about letting her drown. Does it let this fragile human lose herself to the depths? What a silly question! The ocean is water. It does not think.
It let her convulse in the water, inhaling fluid and flailing her arms as she was dragged down.
It let the creature grin with teeth sharper than a shark’s, preparing to feast on a meal long awaited.
It let Anneliese be eaten by the siren.
About the Author:
Hello! i'm waxflowerwoes, a student writer. i hope you enjoy the story! i love writing tension and atmosphere, so halloween-y type stuff is super fun!
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Pairing: Male Sasquatch x GN Reader
A commission for a friend who wanted me to write about Sasquatch. I both love and fear you, T. XD
I felt my hip shatter the moment I hit the bottom of the ravine. It had been my first time hiking on this side of the mountain, and I knew I was in trouble when I lost sight of the path that I was on and traveled into deeper forest. I cursed myself through my tears as I tried to wriggle off of the broken hip and onto the uninjured one, but the pain was so keen that every sharp lance momentarily blinded me. It took me several minutes to get through the onerous task, whimpering pitifully all the while. I should have turned back. I should have gone through my familiar routines instead of daring to change. I would never forgive myself for this, I knew—and that’s when he approached me.
Easily over six feet tall, the large, hairy beast that moved through the trees walked on two legs, heading right for me where I lay on the forest floor. I had bear spray and a hunting knife, but those were in the pack that lay several feet away from me in a pile of fallen leaves between me and the rustling trees. Desperately, I tried to pull myself towards it, some self-preservation instinct urging me to try despite knowing that this creature was moving faster than I could writhe. When he emerged, I was stunned into stillness, sure that there was some cosmic joke somewhere being laughed at by the gods.
It had taken me breaking my hip in the wilderness to find the Bigfoot.
We stared at one another for what felt like an age, both seemingly startled to see the other. I didn’t dare make any sudden moves, instead trying and failing to reach for my pack. The act shook another agonised wail from my throat, and the creature seemed to startle and come back to himself. He eyed me warily and began a careful approach, circling around me as his nostrils flared and he took great, big breaths in an attempt to suss out my scent. I truly felt as though I was living my last moments when he came to a decision and approached me with confidence, but then he crouched beside me and cocked his head to one side, grunting something that sounded like, “Uyta.”
Bigfoot could speak. Cryptozoologists would shit their pants if they knew.
“Uh,” I said intelligently, trying to breathe through my panic and pain. “No? I don’t—I’m afraid I don’t understand you, dear.”
The Sasquatch blinked back at me, tilting his head the other way. He reached out to jab my shoulder with one meaty finger, then pointed up where I’d come from at the top of the ravine.
I nodded, dumbstruck, and then realised that he couldn’t understand me, so I pointed at myself and up at the ravine a few times, nodding and saying, “Yes. Yes, I fell. Yes.”
“Yes,” echoed the creature, nodding his great head and briefly baring his sharp teeth. Then, without warning, he picked me up like I weighed little more than a dish rag.
The noise I made as he jostled my hip was more animal than human—a broken howl as I struggled not to writhe or fall out of his arms.
Uyta—for that was the only word he’d given me—crooned down at me soothingly, and he adjusted his grip so that my hip lay a little less uncomfortably. Delirious from the pain, I could only watch his face as he carried me up and around the ravine, heading back up the side of the mountain with me in tow. He smelled like earth and musk and the sickly sweetness of rotting flowers, and I lost myself to imaginings of what his life must have been like out here, and whether or not he was alone. Surely not, I decided. Otherwise, if he were the only one, where would he have come from?
So distracted was I by my thoughts, I didn’t immediately realise that my surroundings were becoming oddly familiar. When Uyta finally set me down, it was against a tree on the path that I’d been following earlier that day, shifting me onto my uninjured hip when I made a noise of distress. Then, in a peculiar exchange, he reached out and gave my head a gentle pat or two, and then he turned and disappeared back into the trees, leaving me in the middle of a well-traveled foot path where I was sure to be found.
I was going to have a hell of a time explaining this to the park authorities when I asked them to retrieve my pack.
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A Cave in the Emerald Mountains
Pairing: Nazzog x Gender Neutral Reader, Dragon x Reader, Dragon x Human
Warnings: Animal death, threat of violence.
A/N: The artwork below was done for me by a close friend, @sleepybatart , for my icon, and was based on my beloved Nazzog, the dragon featured in this work! Please go check out his work!! This is my first attempt at writing something quite original so I hope it lives up to everyone’s expectations.
The woodlands were cool this time of day, hiding you from the heat of the sun with the shade of new summer leaves. The trees stood tall and proud over you as you pulled away the leaves on the floor and rummaged for the truffles hidden deep under the roots. You turned the soil with a little trowel and whistled softly as you worked, picking through roots before you snatched the singular fungus from the ground and tucked it into a small cloth. You wrapped it with twine before making sure it sat at the bottom of your bag, out of the reach of any naughty animals that might come snuffling on your way back to the village. You shook dirt from the trowel before tucking it back into your belt and looking around the trees. Pine needles and some herbs were left on the list. Wild garlic was probably the thing you could pick up easily before you stopped off at the lair of the dragon you had come to know. The beast was hidden deep within a grove, hidden in a deep cave reaching into the base of the smallest of the looming Emerald Mountains. Carefully, you plucked a garlic bulb free before thumping the dirt off against the tree. You tucked them into your leather satchel, in the deep pocket behind the products you had stored away for the trip. With another two bulbs in your bag, you moved on from the garlic cluster and looked out for the pine trees. When the largest one appeared, you knew to veer to the left to enter the grove of the giant, old dragon you had come to know.
The trees grew a little thinner towards the grove, yet they stood tall, ancient in the face of the stone structures around them, facing a curling wall of smog. The grove was like another world. You stepped through the fog, breathing deeply as it whipped around you, dragging your hair upwards before it parted like a puddle, spewing to the sides, and revealed a moist grove. Moss covered the floor and you stepped over the moss in your heavy duty boots with a smile, looking up in time to see the lights in the vines float a little lower, revealing cheeky, butterfly-like Fae, smiling with razor sharp teeth as they tugged at your bag and hair.
“Nazzog is sleeping.” One of them sung before giggling as you plucked a cake from your bag for them. Three of them snatched the cupcake and you nodded at the one floating before your face. She shrugged, “He won’t like it. He told you to stop coming.” And sang.
You ran your hand over the weeping willow tree’s leaves and shrugged, “Since when do I listen to him?” You joked before waving to the little Fae and continuing towards the looming cave entrance. Fog followed your ankles as you stood before the great cavernous entrance. Water dripped down the side of the stone, the mineral deposits hanging in small stalactites from the ceiling. You ducked as you entered, despite the hole being large enough for a crouched, twenty-five-foot dragon to enter.
Inside the cave was even cooler. You tugged your thin travelling cloak closer to you, tucking your arms through it as you walked along the long passageway. It ended with two new passageways and you took the right one, making sure not to step in the mushroom circles as you headed further in and followed the glowing trail of bioluminescent mushrooms down the left side of the passageway. A great gust of hot air made you smile. Nazzog was sleeping, just as the mischievous Fae said. Trudging along, you finally reached the glow of Nazzog’s centre most chamber. With a quiet, deep breath, you gazed up at the piles of treasure adorning either side of the open cavern and huffed at the immense candles burning near them, dripping oozing piles of enormous wax across the floor. You climbed one of the piles before heading towards the dragon’s snout. Nazzog was a massive beast. His black scales glimmered with a purple sheen in the candlelight. Smoke curled from his nostrils as he slept and you walked closer to his snout with a soft laugh, laying a hand on one of his great, downwards curling horns, stroking the hardened scales around them as you sat in one of his giant cushions, making sure to put your feet down by his exposed teeth. The dragon rumbled from his slumber, smoke curling through his teeth as giant, orange eyes opened. Gold sliced through his pupils as he peered closely as your body, sprawled awkwardly over one giant cushion that you couldn’t sit in properly.
Nazzog raised his head with a stretch, pointed tongue dipping from his mouth as he moved his head from his crossed paws. After giving a smoke filled yawn, Nazzog peered down at you, one, burning eye lowered to your level as his talons reached for the pillow you were sat on, pushing it away from his eye. Dragons had bad eyesight close-up. Their eyes were made for hunting and looking at prey from amazing heights.
“I told you to stay away.” He growled as he laid his head back on his talons.
“I know, but I know you need that wound seeing to. Its been a week since the last lot of salve and I know you’ve probably been licking it again.” You teased him as you reached into your satchel to draw out the large jar of green medicinal salve.
Nazzog’s eye closed as he grunted, “It is fine.”
You wiggled your way off the pillow, clutching the salve close, walking towards his leg, “Leg, Nazzog.” You scolded the dragon, poking his scaled leg.
“Persistent pest.” He growled as he span his leg over, revealing the almost healed cut on the soft part just above his paw. He flashed his talons as you poked at the tender flesh around it. Nazzog growled, “Be careful. Its tender.”
“Stop being a big baby. You’re older than the village, Nazzog!” You joked as you opened the salve and began to smear it on the cut. It was barely a graze now thanks to your attention and hard work in the apothecary.
Nazzog watched you apply the salve quietly, great head bowed to observe a little closer as you poured the last of the mixture on and patted it gently. He turned his nose towards your bag on the pillow and huffed at the smell of the garlic.
“Why do you always come in here with the most pungent smelling things.” He complained as you went to put the jar back in your bag, “I could give you these things from my own supplies every time you come.” He offered gruffly as you closed your bag.
You smiled up at the old dragon, “I like to get it myself.” You denied his offer, “Plus if people get suspicious about me coming back with all these things already dried, it could put you in danger…and you’re already hurt because of me.”
Nazzog gave a smile full of daggers, “The spear nicked me.” He soothed, “They didn’t live long enough to tell anyone about my home. You worry far too much.” The dragon leaned down before shoving you back towards the entrance with one huge paw. Before you could leave, he draped a purple heavy cloak over your shoulders, a garb fit for royalty, “This should ward off the evening chill a lot better.” He nudged you towards the tunnel and turned his neck to coil back around his bed of silk pillows and scattered gold trinkets.
A fire roared in the cavern the next time you arrived. The summer was beginning to give way to autumn, yet the grove was still blissfully warm and in full season. The Fae tittered at the silver spoon you offered before revealing the great entrance to Nazzog’s home. The cave was cool, quickly turning cold, and you hugged the royal purple cloak closer to yourself as you navigated the mushroom traps and approached the flames. Nazzog was awake this time, dragging his claws through his treasure as though he was searching for something among the piles of gold. He speared a chalice and tossed it down by his tail before he hummed at a small treasure box. The dragon slammed it open and shifted through the jewels that poured out with another huff. Evidently those were not what he was looking for either.
“Have you lost something, Nazzog?” You asked as you pulled the hood of the cloak down onto your shoulders. The dragon turned his fiery eye on you before turning with a few thunderous steps.
“Its none of your business.” He answered before settling on his paws, perched, watching you with curiosity, “Are you so bored that you need to come and harass me still?” He asked as his spiked tail coiled through golden coins, scattering the coins with a whipping motion, obscuring the jewels and evidence of his sorting.
“I came to see you again. I know for sure that wound is healed now.” You stood looking up at the ashen dragon with a determined smile.
“Are you that confident in your work?” He snarled before softening when you grinned, “Thank you for your work. I can pay you for the inconvenience. You humans like gold still, correct?” The dragon pulled a pile of coins forward and you laughed at him.
“I don’t want payment. You saved me. I paid you back by helping heal you.” You insisted as the dragon stretched his neck and stood in the tall cavern, “Plus…I enjoy talking to you. Looking after you wasn’t that much of a big deal.” You placed a gentle hand on his leg before watching the dragon spread his wings and shudder. With a stretch of his jaws, smoke poured from the dragon’s mouth, wrapping around his form as he let out a echoing cry and disappeared in the cloud of smoke. A foot stepped out of the smog and your eyes went wide as you gazed at the figure of a prince that came out of it.
“You can’t wear the skin of a dead prince!” You hissed at the dragon as he tossed dark hair from his eyes and bent down to pick up something to cover himself.
“This is better for moving outside, is it not?” Nazzog grumbled as he shuffled closer, golden chains dripping from his body around the silk cover.
“You’re being stubborn and annoying on purpose at this point.” You sighed, “I don’t have to be seen walking around with a human. I’m not scared of you or of what people will think if they saw us, just scared of what they will do to you... You’re the last of your kind, Nazzog.”
Nazzog’s golden, human eyes widened before he hid himself behind the curtain of his dark hair and walked back behind a great pile of gold. Smoke rushed over the metal in a wave before the black dragon’s wings burst from the cloud and he slammed his great paws down in his lair once more.
“Fine. Then we shall take to the skies.” His great head lowered, grazing the pile, knocking gold coins free, until his chin rested on the floor by your feet, “Climb on, human, or I will hold you in my claws.” Nazzog scoffed playfully at your hesitance before snatching you in his paw, like he said and depositing you in the groove behind his horns.
“Hold my horns or you will fall.” He rumbled with mischief as he ducked his body and began to slither along the passageway back towards the entrance of his lair. The mushrooms were dark, their natural light gone as the dragon weaved his way out of his den. Tentatively, he stuck his nose out of the entrance and sniffed, smelling for danger before he glanced around and crawled free, out into the clearing. The Fae snickered and rested in his horns, tugging on your cloak as the dragon stuck his head through the trees and sniffed again, peering around for any signs of danger once more before he turned and slammed his claws into the rock face.
“We’re going up this way?” You asked as you wrapped your hands around the base of his horns, your fingers encompassing about half of the circumference.
“I have to find a place to take off. This is the easiest way. Once I climb high enough, we can go.” Nazzog rumbled as he began climbing up the rock face, easily propelling himself upwards with his great, black talons. The stone held steady as you both reached a reasonable height above the trees, and Nazzog quickly pulled you both over onto a great platform on the mountain. It was wide and long enough for the dragon to make a running leap into the air.
“Hold on.” He shouted at you before rushing towards the edge of the sheer drop. Subconsciously, you clenched your eyes shut and grabbed hold of Nazzog’s neck tight, holding on for dear life as the dragon jumped from the rocks and opened his shining wings. The leathery, black skin rippled before going taut, the sun shining shades of purple over them, the skin snapping as the wind slammed against you both. You opened your eyes as Nazzog gave a great beat of his wings and soared upwards with three more powerful strokes. The ascent was hard work, but you gasped as you both burst over the top of the smaller mountain in the range. The snowy peaks ahead made you smile in awe, gazing at the cold sprinkling of white snow with glee as Nazzog swerved towards the highest mountain and dipped to dive slowly, heading towards the highland fields where the weather was cool but the air was fresh.
“This is amazing!” You cheered as you pushed your fingers under his chin, listening to Nazzog rumble happily as you grazed a scent gland beneath his hard scales.
“Don’t expect me to do it again. I’m not a horse you can saddle.” The black dragon snorted as he banked to the left and slowly circled lower and lower, churning the white fluff of the clouds around you as he made his descent to the highland fields below. The heavy, long grass came into view as the dragon flapped his wings hard, blowing great gusts of air that pushed the grass down against the earth. His back feet connected with a rock structure before he grasped the front of the rock with his front paws, talons chipping the stone. His wings fluttered, shaking before he planted them in the rock as well, the hooked claws on the end tucking into the structure with ease. He laid his neck on the rock and turned his head to the left, letting you down from your seat.
“Did you enjoy yourself?” He asked with a purr.
You looked around at the rocky field with a smile, “That was astounding. I never thought I’d see the world from the air like that. It makes me wish I was like you.” You sighed wistfully as you held your bag and sat down, resting against his thick neck as you gazed up at the cloudy sky.
The cold bit at your nose and you tugged your cloak closer before nestling close to the gas glands in Nazzog’s neck, soaking in the heat they generated as he peered around, tucking himself close, making himself appear like another heavy rock atop the structure you were both sat on.
“I don’t think my life would suit you. Hiding from kings who wish for magic and my bones isn’t the life I ever wanted.” He growled against the stone, shooting smoke from between his teeth as he thought of darker things, “I would like the company of my own kind again though. Perhaps if you did become Draconic we could share tales and tear open brigades of merchants for their jewels?”
Your nose wrinkled at the idea of such slaughter, “I would rather not.”
The dragon laughed, “Of course, but you forget such trivialities when faced with a life as long as mine.” Nazzog watched you grow contemplative with a sigh of smoke.
“Has anyone ever become a Dragon?” You asked curiously as Nazzog spewed more smoke, making fire in his throat to keep you warm.
Nazzog peered at your face, quiet and solemn, before answering carefully, “There was a tale once. As a hatchling my Mother told it to me. A princess once became a dragon. The beast of the volcano in the far west kidnapped her for a ransom from her father, an evil man that wished to sell her off to the highest bidder. His gold never came yet he found himself adoring the human. She did not cry when he took her, and never tried to leave. She read him poetry and sang songs of her people when he could not rest. The Red Beast offered her a life with him, away from the agony and pain the King had put her through. She accepted his offer. One night she wished for the Mother of the Forest, the Queen of the Fae, to give her more time in her life to spend with her beloved dragon. The Fae Queen appeared to them both in the churning lava, offering to change her into a dragon for the price of his greatest jewel. The dragon plunged into the lava and returned with a grin. He gave the Fae Queen a diamond from the depths of the volcano. The Fae Queen took the Princess’ human life and bathed her in the flames of the volcano, hardening her skin to scales and changing her into a Draconic creature that could spend eternity with her lover. It is said that only that diamond holds the power to change someone so, and if two lovers hold it, they can become what they desire.”
You gazed at Nazzog and smiled, “That is a beautiful story.”
Nazzog scoffed against the stone, “A tale for children. I have mastered magic and studied the Fae. They hold no such power.” He wrapped a protective set of talons around you, “Besides, who would want to be a beast such as a Dragon?” The black dragon teased as you wrapped a hand around one of his toes, careful to avoid the razor-sharp edge of his claws.
“I would if it meant I could see the world and if I could…”
Nazzog hushed you as he curled himself tight, exposing the jagged plating of his body as he whispered a hiding spell in his own, hissing language, hiding himself from whatever was approaching. You grumbled as you sat on top of his foot, trying to appear as though you were resting against a large rock as a young man walked over, his dog following, nipping at his heels.
“Hey there! Its not often we get walkers or travellers up here! You sure you ain’t lost?” The young man was a sheep farmer, clad in woollen layers with a sheepskin cloak tied around his shoulders. He had a pale, freckled face, dark eyes, and a bright smile. They probably didn’t get many visitors up in the highlands, never mind people from the villages below the mountains.
You pushed yourself up against Nazzog and smiled politely, “I’m okay, thank you! I just came to the field for a walk.” You insisted. Fear laced in your gut as the boy started to climb the stones. You admired Nazzog for not throwing the boy away as he set one foot on his leg. He could only see a very bumpy boulder.
“You ain’t from here though. Nor the next village.” He looked at your expensive cloak, gifted to you by Nazzog and your plain travelling clothes beneath it, not made for the highlands, “How have you got up here? You’re from the villages…” He scowled but didn’t say anything else, “Hush Betty, I’ll be down in a minute!” He scolded his dog, whistling her away as he sat himself down.
Before he could say anything else, you stood up, “Well I better be on my way!”
He held your cloak with a curious look, “Hey I ain’t gonna bite ya!” He drawled, “Just wanted to talk to a cutie like you is all.”
You felt Nazzog rumble underneath you, and so did the poor Shepard. In a sudden flick of his foot, you watched Nazzog send the poor boy flying off the rocks. His neck whipped around with his great, spiked tail, extending himself to his full height, teeth on display as he snatched at you protectively, grabbing you between his two front paws.
“What right do you have to speak in such a manner?!” He hissed, fire burning in his mouth as he passed you to his other clawed paw and watched the boy’s dog howl at him. He scared Betty away with a roar and a blast of fire, scorching the grass to black ash in a fiery display.
“DRAGON!” The boy screamed as he sprinted after his dog, rushing towards the barn and the flock of sheep. Nazzog roared again, tongue out, spit flying, and rushed into the air with three great beats of his wings. He soared behind the boy before snatching one of his flock with a snap of his talons. The sheep bleated in his grasp before going quiet. You grunted in his grasp and tried to look away from the bleeding animal as Nazzog rushed back down the mountains, towards his lair in the grotto.
The sheep was bones now. Nazzog picked at his teeth with the animal’s leg, ignoring you, his tail coiled around himself and his spiney back facing you. You moved towards his pillow pile and kicked at his tail.
“Are we not going to talk about what just happened up there? You could have killed me!” You scolded as Nazzog turned one fiery eye on you. He regarded your pathetic tantrum before shifting, lugging his body around to face you, his paw scooping you closer gently, easing you on top of the pillow pile, underneath his chest. You poked at his thick, plated chest, admiring the grey plating and scales underneath his belly, even as you tried to appear upset.
“Are you used to such attention from other humans?” He asked quietly, peering down at you, the lines of his scaley snout amplified by the downwards curl of the horns framing his face. It was like looking at a crowned beast.
You cocked an eyebrow, “Not really. No one wants to marry the one that smells like herbal medicines constantly.”
Nazzog revealed his teeth in something akin to a smile, “Not even the pig farmer?”
You scoffed at him, “I wouldn’t want their attention!” and scowled, “Apparently even they have senses of smell.”
Nazzog hummed, “No marriage proposals…” He raked his claws through his treasure pile before turning away again, “I find that odd.” He commented before he turned in his bed again and went to the other piles, searching through them with a determined gaze.
“Why do you care, Nazzog. You’ve wanted rid of me since I started coming here!” You huffed before grabbing your bag, “Which is fine, because I’m leaving.”
The dragon turned to catch you with one great paw, pulling you over to the pile of treasure as he pulled free a great chest with one claw, sending gold cascading down the pile, “There is something I want to give you…” He offered before tipping the chest open, “I know what I did was rude, but…” He opened his paw, “I do not like you speaking to humans like that one. It seems as though I have grown fond of you in these months…” The dragon confessed as he plucked free a giant emerald from the pile of treasure that had spilled out of the chest.
“Why are you giving me this?” You asked as Nazzog raised the jewel towards you. It was huge and a rich, dark green, shining brilliantly in the light of the candles of his lair.
Nazzog purred, lowering his head towards your own to press his muzzle to the side of your head, “It is a gift. My own kind give each other their greatest treasures to prove their worth.”
You choked on your words, “Are you proposing to me?!”
Nazzog’s tail trailed through the piles of treasure before he let out a great laugh, fire bursting from his teeth. Smoke curled from his nose as he dipped his head, “I suppose it is a proposal.” He offered the gem again and watched you take it with a purr, “I would not just let anyone do what you have. No one has ever been allowed to touch me…let alone ride upon my back.” He declared.
You were silent, looking at the emerald in your hands with a small frown.
“I am truly sorry for my behaviour, gem.” He rumbled as he nudged you again, pressing your hand to the tip of his snout.
“You should be.” You grumbled before smiling at the immense emerald in your hands, “But I forgive you. You only gave him a fright.” With a small laugh you hugged Nazzog’s head and felt hot tears burn behind your eyes.
“I love you…at least I think I do. I just want to escape everything, Nazzog. Home. People. I want to know about the world!” You pulled away from his scales and laughed as his tongue licked away your tears.
“You will have the world.” He promised as he took you into his paws and tucked you close to his chest once more.
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The Tale of the Rikity Tig
A couple of years ago I collabed with @oddacle to write the first Rikity Tig story. Just in time for spooky season, I bring a new tale of the Rikity Tig.
The bonfire is burning white-hot, and I could feel it searing the fuzz off my cheeks. It was much better than the winds that came off the sea, which I know all too well can wear a person raw. After so many months at sea, I’ve almost forgotten what solid ground felt like. Having grown used to constant motion, the stillness unsettles me.
All around me, large bodies move back and forth, shuffling until they begin to look like a vast forest stretched out before me. I stare blankly into the fire, and within it I can hear screams of panic, cities falling, lives coming to a halt. I don’t know how the others can go about and not hear that within the flames.
“You are looking at that fire as if you know her.” A voice reaches me, seemingly coming from the flames. I turn slightly to see a man sitting near me. His head is bowed as he looks over his string instrument. Long, elegant fingers bring chords into the air, covering the screams within the flames.
“It is keeping me from becoming too agitated.” I shift in place, wrapping my coat tighter around me. I do not know where this man came from. He appeared as if out of nowhere, but considering how lost I had become in the fire, it is no surprise someone did.
The man strums slowly, keeping my mind focused on his presence. The forest of men appears to still, and the fire casts its glow upon the man.
“How long have you been gone?” His eyes focus on me, beautiful and haunting all in a single glance. They are as dusky as the morning sky, a heathered shade that looks hypnotic. Does he know me, and I have simply forgotten him after all this time away?
“Long enough for my children to have forgotten me,” I answer.
He brushes aside his long dreadlocks, then continues to play. “You have children?”
“Not any more,” I murmur.
The man looks up to the fire. “I am sorry to hear about that.” He starts playing a song, something unfamiliar yet nostalgic. “These are not the nights for children anyway.”
I don’t reply. I just look straight ahead at the fire.
The man’s long fingers gracefully pull music from the strings. It soothes me, and my head begins to nod as exhaustion lays upon my shoulders. “There are things in this world much worse than man these days,” he says.
I sniff and raise my head, blinking sleep away for now. “What do you mean?”
A smile comes to the man’s lovely face. “Surely there must be something in the dark that you fear.”
I scoff and shake my head. “You’re talking about children’s stories.”
“Stories begin somewhere. Sometimes they begin with truth.” He lays his palm flat over the strings. “So tell me, have you heard of the creature called the Rikity Tig?”
The bonfire flickers, hissing loudly. It causes a stir and a silence in the forest of men I had never witnessed before.
“The Rikity Tig?” I stare at the man in confusion. “What sort of language is that?”
“It is no language,” the man says with a sort of smile. “It existed before all that, and will stalk us long after.” He plucks a single chord. “Have you ever seen lights out in the darkness, with no explanation as to what they are? Noises that you have never experienced before, coming from corners that should hold no sound?”
I bite at the edge of my tongue while meeting his smile with a sneer. “Are you trying to scare me?”
His lovely smile grows. “Is there something for you to be scared of?”
I look away from him and return to silence.
He chuckles, strumming away again. “It is alright to be afraid of things in the dark, for that is where fear often starts for us. The shadows and the unknown are the birthplace of most stories. I have learned many of them.”
“You’re a storyteller,” I chuckle to myself. “That explains it.”
“Most of it.” He places his instrument between his legs. “One of the first I ever heard was that of the Rikity Tig.”
“That again,” I roll my eyes. “If you want to tell me something, then tell me. But do not go in thinking that you will receive anything from me.. I have nothing. No coin, no home. Only what you see before you.”
“I do not tell stories for the joy of a coin. I have many reasons to share the tales I know.” At this point, the forest of men have taken notice and begun to crowd all about us. “Stories are important, and they should be shared with everyone.”
The crowd starts to gather thicker around us. They want to listen to this man’s tales, while all I want to do is be left alone to gaze into the fire. I have no use for his songs or his words. I just want to go back out to sea, where none of those things matter.
“Why are you trying to lull us into this false sense of security?” I point into the trees. “Do you have friends out there waiting to take our skin and sell our bones?”
“I am alone, aside from you.” His smile is surprisingly serene. “Once, long ago, there was a woman like you who lived alone in the woods, and held onto the things that made her miserable.”
The forest of men is too close for comfort. “Let me guess - this Rikity Tig thing ate her her alive, but spat her up because she was bitter.”
The man shrugs, returning to strumming. “No. It does not eat flesh.”
A lump forms at the back of my throat, causing a tension that makes my neck stiff. “Then what else is there?”
“I’ll tell you, but you must listen. It is important that you hear this story. Can you promise me that?”
I nod in silence. The man looks deep into the woods, and begins his story.
Long ago, a woman lived alone in a house her husband built. He was gone, their children were gone, and she let that weight sit upon her shoulders. She never took it off - she simply let it bend her over time. She kept to herself, wishing for company while her door always remained closed. She lamented her life, bemoaning the time she had left to her. It was always too much, too heavy, and yet she lifted the burden of solitude onto her back without a second thought.
The woman was haggard despite still being in her best years. Grief had tried many times to escape her, and yet she clung to it like a lover. She needed that pain, like strong drink or sleep. Not many people came to visit her. Many who knew her were long gone, and others came to be frightened of her. She was not a witch, but her loneliness and anguish made people believe she was one. She accepted their scorn.
Then one day, a young man in the village passed away. It was a shock to everyone, and no one could understand what had happened. He was so vital, and yet he was found dead in his own home. His wife spoke about his strange behaviour in his final days. “He complained of a light in the woods,” she said. “He said he saw something out there moving around. But every time I looked I didn’t see a thing. Just yesterday, he said it felt like something was breathing on him. So he left the house to search. I thought he came back to bed when I was asleep, but it may have been a dream, because when I woke he was slumped by the window.”
The sad woman came to pay her respects to his family, but her welcome was long overstayed as she pulled their grief into her. “It is best he died now rather than suffer the years he has before him,” she said almost proudly. “What is there for men these days? What did he have to look forward to? War? Famine? Illness? The plague is due back again. He had much more to suffer had he been alive!”
“This is not the time to be speaking of such things!” someone hissed at her. “The family is sick with grief, and yet you only say things that placate you.”
“I am telling them the truth!” the woman protested. “I am preparing them for the yoke of this world. I am trying to make them happy.”
She was grabbed by the arm and forced towards the door. “No one wants your truth! No one wants to hear misery on top of misery.”
“People need to know!”
The other mourners pushed the woman out the door. “You complain about your life, but if you knew how long you really had, you would bemoan that too!” The door was slammed in her face and she stood there, believing she was right.
“You will all do much better seeing things my way. You would rather remain blissful in your ignorance? That is no way to live!” The woman shuffled off, leaving the town behind to return to her home. “I would be happy to know my time is short! I would celebrate it. At least I would know.” She locked the door and sat herself down before the hearth. The embers were low, but she made no move to stoke the fire. There weren’t even any logs remaining by the fireplace.
As night began to settle over the mountaintops, the woman’s house grew colder. Mumbling and complaining, she went outside to fetch some wood from the stockpile. As she pulled a log away, she noticed something in the distance. At first, she thought it was a star, perhaps a sliver of moonlight, but it seemed far too bright and far too close for that.
She continued to gather logs until she felt as if something was watching her. She looked around to see nothing but the growing darkness of the forest. The light still flashed in the distance, and the bright spot appeared even closer than before. The woman watched it, wondering who was in the woods at this time of night. She hoped it was no one looking for help, for she had none to give. The light moved erratically, sometimes close to the ground and sometimes high in the trees. It must have been a firefly out of season.
The woman returned to her hearth to stoke the fire. As she sat in her chair, watching the logs catch, she could not shake the feeling of being watched. After having been alone for so long, it felt unfamiliar on her skin, almost creeping along like the legs of insects on her arm or cheek. She would touch them knowing nothing was there, except a gaze she could not find.
She went to the window, peering outside into the darkness. There was nothing to see this night, no stars or moonlight to illuminate the land and cling to the trees. Merely a deep, unending stillness, something she was familiar with. Then, in the distance, she saw that lonesome little firefly again. It swung in the air, back and forth, up and down, then shrinking to a pinprick. It didn’t move, but the light it exuded flickered in strange finger-like beams.
The woman leaned towards the window so her breath fogged the glass. She watched as the light flashed brightly, burning her eyes and making her look away. She dropped the curtain, rubbing at her eyes, and decided someone was playing a trick on her. It would not be the first time some arrogant children had tried to frighten her. She sniffed and bit her thumb at the window. “Childish. I see your game! You will not frighten me tonight, nor any night.”
She turned on her heel sharply and took to bed. Yet that feeling of eyes upon her clung to her skin, making it difficult for her to find peace that night. She tossed and turned in bed, almost suffocated by the presence. A few times she felt breath on the back of her neck, but she blamed it on her long hair.
The feeling persisted, even as the morning turned into noon, now a moist warmth on the back of her neck. She tied up her hair, hoping it would alleviate the sensation. The longer the day went on, the more frustrated she became. It became a grating constant, slowly wearing away her nerve. Every sound became a threat, every breeze an enemy. She stayed in her home, cautious of every step she made. Each creak of the boards sounded like someone speaking, and she would stop and turn to look out the window.
That night, she saw the light at her window again. It hit the corner of her eye, and when she turned to look it burned through the curtains. “I see you,” she rasped under her breath. A laugh bubbled up in her throat. “I see you. Your little joke does not fall on deaf ears, but it falls uselessly on an unfearing heart.”
She said this, but her eyes remained focused on the light. Like the night before, it made the shape of flickering fingers that stretched out to touch the trees and ground, clawing as it brought itself closer. Rather than burning anything, the light seemed to burrow into whatever was around it. It danced in the darkness, swinging around before it stilled again. Then it began pulling away her curtains. In the gaps between the fingers of light grew pools of darkness, thickening the air so a halo hung around it.
The woman stared so long, she began to see shapes in the light. No doubt the tricksters responsible. She came to her senses to scowl, gazing at the figure in the light with an angry scowl. “I know you are there! I can see you. Whatever trick you are pulling, stop.”
“You can’t hide forever,” a man’s voice said. “I found you once. I will find you again.”
The woman couldn’t breathe from shock. The voice was so familiar, but its owner had been gone many years. He had vanished during a storm, swallowed by the sea he used to love. “It cannot be!” she wailed, clasping her hands about her ears. “It is not possible.”
The shape of a man stood in the shadows outside. “I’ll find you,” he said again.
“Darling!” The woman ran from her house and stood at the edge of the light, watching the shadow of the man walking forward. “You’re alive!” She tripped over a branch, falling on her face into the dirt.
The hot breath beat down the back of her neck again. She moaned in pain, rising from the ground. But the light was gone and with it her husband. She stared into the darkness with a pitiful moan. On the back of her neck she felt the touch of a pair of lips. Whipping around, she lashed out her arms to find no one there, only the chill of evening. She returned to her home, leaving the fire out and sitting by her window all night.
She knew she was being watched. She was no fool, and she would not allow anyone to make her feel this way. She knew the truth of things, and if they wanted to harm her, they should have been more direct about it.
The voice was the only thing she would admit to being bothered by. It sounded just like the final words her husband had said to her at the dock. They had bored so deeply inside her that, when she received word he vanished, they never left her.
She went into town to the market to buy a few things she needed. In the town there was a change all around her. The people were all guilty of something. She cast glances on them as if cursing them all. They laughed at her. As she entered a shop, she noticed an axe beside the door. She took hold of it, looking down the blade and sneering.
“They’re making fun of me,” she snarled under her breath. “Always calling me a witch. Always mocking me.” She squeezed the handle of the axe in her hand. “This is another threat towards me. Well, it won’t work. They don’t scare me so easily.” She grumbled away, unaware of the man approaching her from behind.
“Excuse me, ma’am.” He put his hand on her shoulder.
The woman screamed, whipping around and striking the man with the axe. She hit his shoulder with the blade, then his head with the blunt side. “I am not a fool! You can’t scare me with your tricks!” she screamed, hitting him again and again. The blood that gushed from him did not stop her. The man cried out, and it did nothing to calm her rage. She was the victim of a joke, and all the villagers were guilty.
A child screamed, and the woman raised her head. She looked around, rushing away as people came towards her. “It was a trap!” She jutted out a bloody finger. “You all did this. You can’t blame me. All of you wanted this!”
She fled, dodging those who tried to capture her. She hid in the woods until nightfall, then crept back to her home. But someone was still watching her. She stumbled into her house, watching through the window. “They did this. They shouldn’t make fun of me. They know I am right.” After a while she returned outside to gather logs for a fire, when the light shone in the distance again. It was bigger than a pinprick now, swinging from side to side.
In town, the man she had attacked with the axe died, and the people discussed what to do with her. Due to the number of witnesses, they agreed there was no need for a trial. The woman would be hanged after her capture. Already men were coming through the woods to her door. She remained by the window, watching the light outside. Maybe her husband would return, and he was using a lantern to find her. But how could he be lost? He knew where their home was.
Her breath fogged the window, and the light looked like the flickering of a candle. It moved as if bobbing in the hand of someone walking through the woods. It glowed brighter when she focused on it, but faded away as soon as she blinked. Whatever was moving out there waved through the dark trees, but that could just be because of the wind.
She could hear breathing just behind her, blowing down her neck in a ripple. She wouldn’t turn around. All of her attention was focused outside. “Why would there be candlelight out here?” she murmured sleepily. “Why a candle at all?”
She pressed herself closer to the glass, looking for someone that didn’t exist. Her breath continued to fog the window, which showed no reflection, so she did not see what moved behind her.
Suddenly, she saw the candle. It sat in the empty eye socket of a skull, wax dripping down all over its strange, grotesque visage. The old bone was dry and cracked, with moss and dirt between its teeth. The candle guttered, short and about to go out. It was the breath of the creature that fogged the glass, not hers.
The woman stared, horrified by what she saw. “Is that me?” Her voice croaked as she clasped her hands around her face. She could feel the wax on her cheeks and under her eyes. It dripped like the steady ticking of a clock. The candle was so short.
The hot breath on the back of her neck began to feel like fire. As the face in the window breathed, she was grabbed from behind. The woman screamed, struggling against the men who had seized her. She was dragged from her home, still watching the candle burn.
She was taken into town and thrown into a cell, where she lay with nothing but darkness all around her. Her slow breaths filled the silence, and then she heard dripping. Opening her eyes, she saw wax on the floor. Looking up, she saw the candle in that monstrous face hung from the ceiling above her.
“I found you,” her husband said.
“I knew you would.” The woman relaxed onto the floor. “I knew you’d come to me eventually. I’m so happy.”
“Mama, it’s cold,” her son whispered.
“Come close to me.” She stretched out her hand across the floor. “My baby, come here. I’ll keep you warm this time.”
A cold, shriveled thing slipped into her palm. Wax struck her cheek, and the light began to dim.
“I found you.”
“I wasn’t hiding.” She looked up as the candle began to flicker out. “No! No! Don’t go!” She stood up, reaching for the candle. “You can’t go out! You just can’t go out!”
The breath was breathing on the back of her neck again. This time it felt like her husband’s kisses pressing hard upon her spine.
“You can’t go out!” She grabbed hold of the candle, and the wax burnt her fingers. “I’m not ready! It’s not enough!”
The kiss became a fist that struck hard at her neck. The candle was snuffed out, and her feet dangled in the air. Her dead eyes stared at the ground, while the eyes of the entire town focused upon her swinging from the noose.
She complained that her life had gone on too long. And yet, when the candle was snuffed out, it wasn’t enough time for her at all.
I stare at the man, and the forest of men seem to huddle closer to one another, becoming a mountain range. I let out a shuddering breath, but I am far from cold.
“But what about the Rikity Tig?” I ask. “Was it her? What was it?”
The man looks at me with his lavender eyes and he hums. “The Rikity Tig is what we give power to devour us.”
I swallow hard. “But you said it didn’t eat flesh.”
“And it doesn’t.” He smirks at me. “It devours us, and we are not flesh.”
“But that woman...” I grab hold of his hand so he cannot move. “She was hanged, right? That’s what happened to her?”
The crowd of men separates, slowly becoming a forest again.
“She was, but had she not let the Rikity Tig inside her, she could have saved herself.” He holds my hand, rubbing his thumb into the center of my palm. “All those years of grief she held onto, collecting burdens like sticks into a bundle. She never let go of her suffering. She made her Rikity Tig, and it hanged her in the end.”
I release his hand and catch my breath, clutching my chest. I look back at the bonfire, but I do not let myself stare. I turn back to the storyteller with tears in my eyes. “How do we get rid of it?”
“It will always be there. You just cannot let it grow.” The storyteller picks up his instrument and stands. “Have a good evening.” He vanishes into the forest of men, much like how he appeared before.
I take a deep breath and look up into the sky. Then I feel a breath upon my neck.
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Fate at Work [Headless Horseman/Reader]
Summary: You’re willed into a part of the forest older than time, only to be reminded of the horseman’s greater purpose.
There were certain parts of the forest that you could not reach by simple means such as walking in a straight line and hoping for the best; two hours, you’d realize that your navigation was all wrong, and you were certain you had passed the same tree at least four times. A rule, as you had learned from experience, was that the forest was not forgiving to newcomers nor the curious adventurer and only allowed those in it who it wanted to be there.
In the past, the horseman had been the main issue, pursuing his fate as warden of the Atticus with great ferocity and violence. You still could not be certain how many lives had been ended in an instance by him, or how horribly they may have been killed. Whether it was far too complicated of a question for him to understand, or from disinterest in entertaining your curiosity, he never satiated you with an answer. Although the horseman remained as a fearless protector, you thought that the greater threat came from what else lurked in the greater atrium of the forest, always just out of the corner of your eye and on the edge of a shadow.
The Atticus rarely involved itself with your affairs, albeit always seemed somewhere near enough to observe what you were doing. It reminded you that it made the forest breathe, evoked the wind that carried a susurrus among the trees, and the mist to coil around you as an appendage of its own body. And, to a greater end, the Atticus controlled the horseman’s existence entirely and, undoubtedly, would never let him go,
This realization came to you the night you had been willed into a vaguely familiar part of the forest mostly submerged by bog and standing water. The trees that grew here we odd and gargantuan and ancient, their foliage created a dark sky all their own, and their roots could bear the weight of skyscrapers while burrowed deep into the earth.
You had no doubt that these trees were older than humanity, older than mountains and fossils. In more ways than one, you felt small in their presence- a similar feeling in the few instances where the Atticus chose to make itself clearly seen to you. The entity itself lurked close by tonight, just outside of where you could immediately see it.
“I’ve been here before, haven’t I?” you weren’t asking it directly, but it came into your view a little more. “Isn’t this some crossing point for the dead?”
Your answer was received with silence, something you were accustom to at this point. It had taken you some time to adjust to the Atticus’ horrid appearance, to find any modicum of ease when it chose to appear to you. It still bothered you to look at its sallow, taut skin and black sockets for too long.
You thought you might go mad if you did.
It was then your eyes were drawn elsewhere in the forest, a fair few yards away and too far for you to distinguish many details in the inky veil of night. Still, you could just make out a glow of green that seemed to sway rhythmically, much like pendulum. As the light green light grew larger, more vibrant, you realized that it was a lantern held out at arms length by the horseman.
He sat astride the alabaster steed, body rigid as stone and focused onward for an unknown path that you weren’t quite sure you should seek out. Lingering there behind him, though never diverting far were the walking corpses of some tragedy or misfortune. Much as the first time when you had seen them, many of the bodies were unidentifiable; their wounds so great and terrible that to see them moving about unimpeded was something out of a nightmare.
The dead never noticed you, not even a little. You didn’t really want to know what would happen if they did; not when some of those people were walking around with eviscerated bowels and heads held on a neck by a few vertebrae.
You stayed there, breath caught in your chest until the moment that the horseman’s green lantern was completely out of sight. Once you exhaled, your heart thrummed wildly in your ears, and your attention returned to the Atticus still hovering some feet away.
When it turned and floated beyond a thicket out of sight, you cautiously followed after it.
a/n: one of my favorite parts of the horseman story i’ve written was the chapter where the mc saw the horseman acting as a “ferryman for the dead” and i’ve always wanted to expand on it more. it’s a fun idea.
not canon, btw. i don’t think a casual existence with the atticus is possible lmao
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