— Mary Oliver, Entering the Kingdom
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Could you do a confident!hero x easily flustered!villain? If it's not to much trouble
"-What is it?" The villain cut their monologue mid-speech, glaring at the hero. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
They could already hear, in their head, the echoes of a million people who had told them to shut up. Who had implied that they were being annoying, or outright said that they were weird. The hero's expression wasn't that, but the villain couldn't read it. All they knew was that it wasn't the dawning terror or even disgust they usually got.
"You're really something when you talk about your passions," the hero said, a smile crossing their face. "Content aside, it's actually very endearing."
The villain - spluttered. Their fists clenched.
"Don't mock me."
"I'm not," the hero said, and the bastard had the audacity to sound sincere. "Not enough people love what they do. And you..." they tilted their head. "Your eyes go all bright. You get this energy. It's beautiful."
It seemed like it could only be further mockery, or a trap of some sort.
"Yes, well." The villain cleared their throat. "That still won't help you stop me. It won't save you."
"I don't need saving, but thank you for the concern."
"It's not concern-"
"And I already figured out how to stop you ten minutes ago, I just didn't want to interrupt. You clearly worked hard on the speech too."
The villain's cheeks burned.
"Not mocking." The hero held up their hands up in a placating gesture, never mind that their body should have been completely frozen unable to move. "It was - is - a really good speech. Powerful. Excellent word choices. I especially liked the use of rhetorical questions. World leader's have done worse. Can I hear the rest?"
The villain had worked hard on the speech. Maybe that was lame, but they'd always enjoyed language and what it could do. A speech could be its own weapon and - and they were being distracted.
"What do you mean you worked out how to stop me ten minutes ago?"
The hero shrugged. The look on their face finally clicked, and the villain's heart stuttered. The expression was desire. The expression was admiration. The expression was huh, wow.
Nobody had ever looked at the villain like that before.
"You worked out how to stop me because I'm an idiot who decided to monologue?"
"I don't think you're an idiot," the hero said. "I just think you want to be understood. We all do. Anything else is too lonely." The hero pushed to their feet, and they shouldn't have been able to do that either and -
The villain's feet rooted to the spot, eyes wide, as the hero stretched and sauntered over to them as if they didn't have a care in the world. The hero stopped in front of them. The villain's mouth went dry.
"But there's no one in the world quite like you, is there?" the hero asked. Their voice was soft, too soft.
For all of their apparent eloquence, the villain couldn't think of a single good thing to say to that. They weren't witty. They planned everything they said ahead of time, so they could make sure it was right. When they didn't - well, look how this deviation had turned out?
The villain closed their eyes.
"Are you going to kill me?"
The hero's fingers skimmed along their jaw, gently, making the villain's breath quiver.
"Of course not," the hero said, frowning. "I haven't heard the end of your speech yet."
The villain's eyes snapped open again.
The hero tossed them a small smile, wicked at the corners.
"You're teasing me." The villain swallowed.
"Only a little. I do want to hear the rest of the speech, I just don't intend to kill you after either. Or ever, if I can avoid it."
"If you know how to stop me, why haven't you done it yet?" It occurred to the villain, belatedly, that they should jerk their head back.
"Because I'm enjoying spending time with you."
The villain didn't move back. Maybe it was trap, it was definitely a trap, but having someone looking at them like the hero did was about as intoxicating as it was unbearable.
The hero's grip tightened on their chin, tipping the villain's head up.
"Tell me the rest of the speech," the hero said. "I'm listening."
Someone was listening, actually listening.
So the villain did.
And that was the start of everything.
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I think the coolest thing about being a writer is that as long as you write, you /are/ a writer. It doesn't matter if you're not great at it, it doesn't matter if you've put a project down for now or you're taking a small break from writing altogether, if you're not published or don't have any plans of being published.
You write things? You're a writer.
I just think that's pretty rad.
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"No," the villain gasped, falling to their knees beside the hero's body. "No, no, no."
They pressed their hands to the hero's chest in a pitiful attempt to stop the bleeding. They were shaking from head to toe, trembling as panic built up in their chest. The hero couldn't die. The hero couldn't die. The hero couldn't die.
"Hey, it's okay," the hero whispered, placing a hand over the villain's, intertwining their fingers together, holding them close to their heart.
"You promised me you’d be okay. You promised me you would live," the villain whimpered, a single tear falling down their cheek. "You promised."
The hero only let their eyes fall shut with a final sigh, a soft smile twisting up the corners of their lips.
"Sometimes it's easier to lie."
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if it's not too much, could you please write about a protagonist who is tipsy/drunk and flirts with the antagonist? if you could make it a bxb, it'd be very very grateful. love youuu ❤
"You know," the protagonist said. "You have a very kissable mouth."
"And that's you cut off."
"I'm not even drunk!" The protagonist clutched his wine closer, pointing a warning finger in the antagonist's direction.
"No?" The antagonist's voice was a low, low rumble - somewhere between amusement and danger. He leaned against the table, crowding the protagonist effortlessly into the booth. "Then what's your excuse?"
"Excuse?" The protagonist's brow furrowed. His heart skipped. His death grip on the glass loosened.
"Mm." The antagonist said, tucking a finger beneath the protagonist's chin. "Your excuse for thinking you can get away with saying something like that to me."
"Oh." The protagonist's cheeks coloured. God. He had just told his nemesis he had a very kissable mouth, hadn't he? What kind of idiot move was that? Of course, it was true. Otherwise such blatant facts wouldn't slip out while he was staring at those exquisitely kissable...The protagonist's gaze snapped back to the antagonist's eyes. He bit down on his lip, then, measuring.
Okay, yes, he was probably a little tipsy. Yes, he could probably pretend he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. But, he did. Just as he knew the words might just make his nemesis look at him like that, all dark and heated. Just as he knew the antagonist would glance at his mouth at the bite.
"You know," the protagonist said, jutting his chin up. "I wasn't really planning to get away with anything. Not this time. Thought maybe you'd find a creative way to shut me up."
The antagonist's expression flickered, no doubt registering the protagonist's intent and deliberation. The tectonic shifts of their convoluted relationship, ready to shatter the world.
"A few ideas did cross my mind," the antagonist mused, after a moment. "But, you see, given you're drunk...."
"Now you care about ethics?"
"Not ethics." The antagonist leaned in.
"Not you." The antagonist huffed, but for a moment he seemed - fond - something. "Well, you, I suppose. In a way."
The protagonist raised a brow. He leaned in, leaned up, so there was only a few inches between them. "In a way?"
"Mm. The way in which...when you end up in my bed, golden boy, you will be of clear mind and sanity, so that you can't pretend you begged my name for any reason other than that you wanted to."
The protagonist swallowed. His mouth dried. He felt a grin curl the corners of his lips; challenge offered, received and matched.
"It was just a statement of fact, you know."
The antagonist reared back.
"That you have a kissable mouth." The protagonist's eyes gleamed. "Just a statement of fact. Very objective. You're the one who took that and jumped straight between the sheets. Something on your mind there?"
The antagonist opened his mouth and...spluttered.
The protagonist's grin grew.
"I'm flattered," he purred. "Really. Now, I believe you were saying something about cutting me off-"
The antagonist grabbed him by the shirt, and kissed him.
Goddamn, but it was a kissable mouth.
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Could you write one where the hero is completely broken by their abusive mentor who believes "cant break what's already broken" so trains him to be broken and all they are good for is hero stuff and the villain finds out...and hero wakes up in the villain's base, no clue how they got there and they notice the villain caring for them gently and lovingly and the hero dosnt understand why because, thanks to the mentor, pure fear and pain and being heroic is all they know/felt/endured...
The hero stumbled back to the base, almost collapsing as they passed through the entrance. They were exhausted, sore, aching, but they had made it home.
But the hero couldn't rest, not yet, despite how they longed to curl up right there on the floor and sleep off the ache in their limbs. The hero had braced theirself to return here and face their mentor empty-handed, yet still they winced at the sight of the mentor waiting for them, waiting for answers—feet planted firmly apart, shoulders back, arms crossed.
"I let them get away," the hero whispered, leaning against the wall to keep from toppling right over. They hung their head, unable to face the disappointment in that cold, unforgiving stare. "I was hurt, and cornered, and... I ran. The villain... I wasn't ready. They were going to kill me."
The hero whimpered—a small, choked sound—and bit their lip to hold back tears as their mentor approached, each footstep heavy and deliberate. The hero kept their gaze pinned on the floor, wishing they could hide, disappear.
"You were weak."
The hero couldn't bring theirself to speak, couldn't think of what to say. Their mentor was right—the hero was weak. They had one job, one purpose in this life, and they had failed. Again.
"Look at me." The mentor gripped the hero's chin, fingers pressing hard enough to bruise, and tilted it up until their eyes locked. Held it there long enough for the hero to read the emotions in those dark eyes—anger, disgust, disappointment—and then, faster than the hero could anticipate, the mentor's fist slammed straight into the hero's face.
The hero screamed, crumpling to the floor.
"Can't even take a punch. Pathetic," the mentor snarled. "Get up."
The hero struggled, arms shaking, to push theirself off the floor, whimpering at the pain that had the corners of their vision going black. Despite it, they obeyed as the mentor instructed them to take off their shirt, to face the wall, to brace their arms above their head.
"Please," the hero whispered. They had already been dealt so much pain today—
But their mind went blank as the first lash broke through their skin, warm blood leaking down their back. They bit their lip to keep from screaming—the mentor liked it when they kept quiet, took the punishment without a sign of weakness. They pushed the pain to the back of their mind, burying it like the mentor had taught them.
"Good," the mentor said, and the hero smiled, and replaced the pain with thoughts of happy things.
Your body is an object. A weapon. Weapons do not feel pain. Weapons cannot be broken.
Another lash. Again, again, again.
By the time the hero passed out from the pain, their palms were bleeding from how hard their nails had dug into the skin, their lip bleeding from how hard they had bitten down to keep from screaming.
─── ･ ｡ﾟ☆: *.☽ .* :☆ﾟ. ───
When the hero woke, the pain had faded to a dull throbbing from their head to their toes. They kept their eyes shut, wanting to stay in bed for just a moment longer, not quite ready to face the day that awaited them—but the bed they lay in was not their own. The blankets beneath them were soft and fluffy, the mattress thick—a far cry from the scratchy sheets and cardboard-thin mattress on their small cot at home. They opened their eyes to see walls that were blue, not gray, and a large window open to let in a fresh, cool breeze. They didn't have a window at home.
The hero scanned the room and stiffened when they saw the villain, reaching immediately for a weapon that wasn't there. They had been stripped bare, their torso wrapped in bandages, wearing nothing but a clean cotton shirt and pants. Completely and utterly defenseless—and alone with the enemy.
The hero pushed theirself out of bed, ignoring the agony as wounds in their back split open, blood soaking through the bandages.
Bury the pain.
The villain was on their feet in the instant, reaching for the hero. "Stop, you're hurt. You need to rest-"
The hero flinched at the movement, backing away with their teeth gritted.
'Why are you hurting me?' the hero had sobbed when they first started training with the mentor.
'This is for your own good,' their mentor said. 'I will break you so thoroughly that you can never be broken again. You will learn to bury your pain, to not feel it, to let nobody use that weakness against you. They cannot break what is already broken.'
"Where am I?"
"My home," the villain said, gently, carefully.
"Your mentor," the villain snarled, nearly spitting out the word before regaining their calm composure, "left you sprawled on the floor like a bloody slab of meat. Unconscious, defenseless, free for the taking."
The hero swallowed down their questions, a nauseating mix of emotions swirling around inside their gut.
"I assume this was supposed to be another test," the villain sighed, after a long moment of silence. "Send you straight into the enemy's hands, already injured and hurting, see if all that training did any good. But I assume you're tired of all the training and tests. You look like you could use a vacation."
The hero stiffened. That's what this was. Another test. Another chance to prove theirself.
"Don't pretend to know anything about me or my training," the hero growled. They squared their shoulders, forcing theirself to meet the villain's eyes with determination instead of fear. "What I'm really tired of is games, so stop playing them. You can trick me and torture me all you want, but I will never tell you what you want to know and I will never surrender to you."
No pain. No fear. No weakness.
They repeated the words silently as the villain drew closer.
No pain. No fear. No weakness.
The hero flinched as the villain's arms wrapped around their body, the villain's hand reaching up to hold the hero's head against their shoulder. This wasn't like any kind of punishment the mentor had given them—it didn't even hurt.
"What are you doing?" the hero hissed, arms hanging limp at their sides.
"It's a hug, dumbass," the villain sighed. "You look like you need one."
"I'm not playing games, and I'm not going to hurt you. I know you're in a lot of pain, and you've been forced to be strong, all alone," the villain whispered, pulling back to meet the hero's eyes.
"But I'm here for you now, and it doesn’t have to be like that anymore.”
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i am asked about my favorite color.
i am seven
and my reply is
because i am a girl
is a princess color.
i am asked about my favorite color.
i am ten
and i like
because a boy told me that pink
is lame and girly.
i am asked about my favorite color.
i am thirteen
and i tell them
it is unique and spunky
like i want to be.
i am asked about my favorite color.
i am seventeen
and i just say
i do not say
it is bright and angry at the world
as i am
i cannot form the words to express
all of my frustrations
so i paint my lips with
i am asked about my favorite color.
i am twenty
and it’s pink
i remember the joy
of being a child
i reclaim the freedom
because i cannot remember
what my shoulders felt like
before the depression
hung from them.
i am asked about my favorite color.
i am twenty-six
and my answer is
it confuses most people
they don’t see it
they may think of dirt
and dead things
but it is coffee with friends
and the chocolate chip cookies
my mom used to make.
it is my hair
and my eyes
amber and gold
in the sun
and i love myself
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Hero forced to go on a date with a villain to convince them to help? Hero is terrified and villain is flirty. (Love your writing so much ❤️)
"Oh, good," the villain purred. "You received the clothes I sent you."
The hero's skin prickled under the villain's admiring gaze, heat rushing to their face.
The villain smirked, even though the blush was hardly flustered pleasure, so much as some flushed combination of helpless, frightened fury and humiliation. The villain made a twirling gesture with their finger.
The hero turned in a slow circle, however much they hated putting their back to the villain for even a second. Not that it mattered. The villain was just as dangerous standing in front of them as behind them. The hero still jumped when they turned to find the villain right in front of them, movements perfectly silent. Or maybe the hero's heart was simply pounding too loud to hear.
"You are even more stunning than usual," the villain said. "Now say hello." They tapped their cheek.
The hero leaned in, dizzy, and pressed a quick chaste kiss where the villain indicated.
The villain curled an arm around them, pulling them flush in one easy movement.
The hero squeaked.
Any thought that this could even vaguely be like a normal date, with the same expected courtesies, social niceties and distance, vanished. They really hoped they weren't expected to put out on the first date too. They weren't sure what they do would do if that was the price that the villain demanded in return to their aid.
The hero tried to focus on the main goal, but their every instinct twitched to have the villain so close. It made it difficult to think straight.
The villain inhaled, lips brushing the hero's cheek in turn.
"Fear," they said. "Is such an exquisite perfume on you, my dear."
Then the two of them teleported.
The villain's ability was such that they could transport themselves across both great distances, and also great time periods. The only thing they needed to do it was some small thread, an item or even a memory, to connect them to where they wanted to go.
It made them almost virtually impossible to imprison or out-trick.
It also made them the only person the hero knew who could rescue the trapped civilians before it was too late.
Unfortunately for the hero, 'too late' for the villain, given their abilities, was rather less of a ticking time bomb than it was for the hero's stress levels. How long would they draw it out? There were still limits, there had to be. Bringing back the dead on one's own timeline was a rather different skill, after all.
The two of them appeared upon an empty beach, the sky lit the same fading gold as the sand. The air was warm and sweet. There was a picnic blanket awaiting beneath a small marquee like-covering, its hangings entwined with glimmering lights. There was a picnic basket, too.
"I'm told," the villain said, "that you enjoy picnics."
The hero was never going to enjoy a picnic ever again.
Their stomach squeezed, unsure how they were even going to manage to eat anything without hurling. Except, well, they could imagine how well throwing up in the middle of the date would go. They resisted the urge to start running, or at least recoil. They let the villain lead them to sit down instead.
The villain retrieved delicate glasses, too fine for any normal picnic, and poured them - it was the hero's favourite wine, too. Their favourite food. How could the villain know? How intently did they watch?
The hero shoved away another wave of dizziness.
"So," they said. "You said you'd consider helping, if I came to this date with you. I'm here, so-"
The villain clicked their tongue and held up their glass in toast.
"Don't be so eager to skip the foreplay, love. You'll need it."
The hero nearly dropped the glass in panic.
The villain smiled, head tilted in that admiring way once more.
"I said I'd go on a date." The hero tried to keep their voice light, careless, suitably at an advantage. "That was it. I said nothing about how long that date would be, or how good it would be. I've shown you what it can be like if I behave, but-"
"But if I don't help you, you'll be a naughty little hero?" The villain bit down on their lip, as if delighting in the idea.
The hero stopped short, feeling like they'd put their foot in a minefield. An active one.
The villain laughed, softly. "Whatever would I do with you, if you did that?"
"You could save them now," the hero tried again, mouth dry. "Come back, after - I'm not going anywhere." There was nothing light or careless in their voice now. "Where would I go? I have no idea where we even are."
And thinking about that, about being somewhere completely alone with the villain...
"And miss that adorable desperation on your face? Sweetheart."
The villain sounded chiding, and the hero shivered.
They gulped down a mouthful of wine but couldn't taste it over the acrid panic burning in their throat.
The villain settled back, perfectly at ease, and set their glass their down. They arranged food on...there was only one plate. One plate, two forks. The villain loaded up a bite, holding the morsel out the hero's mouth, eyes agleam with dark amusement, with a hunger that had nothing to do with the horrifyingly delicious scents surrounding them.
"I'm curious," the villain said, "how far you'd go save them. And the night is still so young! Shall we find out?"
In the end, everyone was saved from the caves and the oncoming tide. In the end, the hero lay upon a picnic basket, cool evening air stroking bare skin and...
And the villain stopped. Arms braced on either side of the hero's head, studying them.
"I said I wanted to see how far you'd go to save them," the villain said. "I didn't say I'd make you do it. When you pick me you'll do it of your own volition."
The hero stared at them, brain un-computing.
The villain smiled, and pressed their fingers to the hero's lips instead, parting them a fraction.
"They're saved, my dear. Have been for a while. Now." They sat up, and pulled back. "Shall we do this again and see what you do next time? I still can't quite predict you...you're incredible."
And time looped back to the beginning of the evening again.
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a short story about slaying dragons
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The Witch Who Spoke to the Wind
Sequel to Eindred and the Witch
In which Severin, the golden eyed witch, learns that his greatest enemy and truest love is fated to kill him.
Dealing in prophecies is a dubious work. Anyone who knows anything will tell you as much.
“Think of all of time as a grand tapestry,” his great-grandmother had said, elbow deep in scalding water. Her hands were tomato red, and Severin watched with wide golden eyes as she kneaded and stretched pale curds in the basin. “You might be so privileged to understand a single weave, but unless you go following all surrounding threads, and the threads around those threads, and so on - which, mind you, no human can do - you’ll never understand the picture.”
Severin, who was ten years old and had never seen a grand tapestry, looked at the cheese in the basin and asked if his great-grandmother could make the analogy about that instead.
“No,” she replied. “Time is a tapestry. Cheese is just cheese.”
And that was that.
By fifteen, Severin who was all arms, legs, and untamable black hair, decided he hated prophecies more than anything in the world. He occupied himself instead with long walks atop the white bluffs well beyond his family’s home. Outside, he could look at birds, and talk to the wind, and not think about the terrible prophecy which followed him like a shadow.
His second eldest sister had revealed it - accidentally, of course. Severin lived in a warm and bustling house with his great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, two aunts, and three sisters. All of whom were generously gifted in the art of foretelling (a messy business, each would say if asked), and every one of them had seen Severin’s same bleak thread.
He would die. Willingly stabbed through the heart by his greatest enemy and truest love.
Willingly. That was the worst part, he thought.
Severin, who had no talent in the way of prophecies, but plenty of talent in the realm of wind and sky, marched along the well-worn trail, static sparking around his fingertips as the brackish sea breeze nipped consolingly at his face and hair.
I will protect you if you ask me to, it blustered, and Severin was comforted.
He didn’t care who this foretold stranger was. When this enemy-lover appeared, Severin would ask the wind to pick them up and take them far, far away. Far enough that they could never harm him. The wind whistled in agreement. And so it was settled.
At seventeen, he was still all arms and legs, though his eldest sister had managed to tame his hair with a respectably sharp pair of shears. The wind, who had delighted in playing with his wild, tangled locks, did not thank her for it. Severin did thank her; in fact, he’d asked her to do it. He was of the opinion that his newly shorn hair made him look older - more sophisticated. And he left his family home with a new cloak draping his shoulders and a knotted wooden walking stick in hand, thinking himself very nearly a man. He was far from it, of course. But there was no telling him that.
He set out on a clear, cool morning to find his own way in the world, and was prepared to thoroughly deal with anyone who so much as dared to act ever so slightly in the manner of enemy or lover.
He discovered, soon enough, that this was not a practical attitude to take when venturing into the world. Severin spent his first months away from home making little in the way of friends and plenty in the way of thoroughly baffled enemies.
When you meet his gaze, you’ll know, the wind chided as it whisked in and out of his hood.
“His?” Severin said aloud, lifting a single dark brow. “Do you know something I don’t?”
The wind whistled noncommittally in answer.
The wind did know something, as it turned out. At twenty, Severin stood on the warm, sun-loved planks of a dock. As gulls cried overhead, he pressed his fingers to his lips. The young sailor had touched his lips to Severin’s in a swift, carefree kiss before departing on the sea. And though the feeling was pleasant enough, Severin knew that his enemy-lover was not on the great ship cleaving a path through the cerulean waves.
“When I meet his gaze, I’ll know,” Severin said, golden eyes sweeping the horizon. The seaward breeze blustered in such agreement that the gulls overhead cried out in alarm.
What will you do? The wind asked, delighting in whipping the gulls into a proper frenzy.
“Get rid of him, of course,” Severin replied.
What if you don’t want to?
Severin thought that was the stupidest question he’d ever heard. “He’s going to stab me through the heart. Why in the world wouldn’t I want to get rid of him?”
People are foolish, the wind answered, shrugging the nearby sails.
“Not me.” Severin leaned on his stick and looked out at the sea. “I won’t let anyone get away with stabbing my heart.”
When he was twenty-two, Severin knelt at the bedside of a withered, wilting woman. She was a stranger, but the town’s herb witch was away, and Severin happened to be passing through. Though his true strength would always remain with the wind and the sky, the youngest of Severin’s two aunts had a special way with plants, and she’d taught him a fair bit about the many healing properties of the region’s hardy, windblown flora.
He boiled water, adding the few herbs he carried to make a rejuvenating tea. He helped the woman drink, his hand supporting her head and fingers tangling in her sweat drenched hair. After, he pressed a cool cloth to her head, and in the half dark room, she murmured, sharing delirious fears that she would accidentally speak cruel dying words and lay a curse upon him.
Kindly stroking her forehead, Severin assured her that he was not afraid of curses. Even uttered by the dying, a true curse was rarer than the superstitious soldier’s and barbarians liked to believe. Besides, she wasn’t going to die. Severin, who’d seen just enough of the world to have a taste of wisdom, was certain he could save her.
She died within the day.
Whether her condition had been beyond help, or Severin lacked the skills to twist the herbs to his bidding, he would never know. The wind rustled reassurances through the sparsely-leaved trees, but Severin was beyond consolation. Clouds gathered on the horizon, and by nightfall, great branches of lightning crackled across the sky.
He spent the next year and a half in the wilds. Beneath the jubilant light of the sun, he collected plants, acquainting himself with the earth. And beneath the soft, watchful light of the moon, he whispered to the wind and dared to wonder at the shape of his enemy-lover’s face. He could never seem to summon the slightest picture in his mind. Though it really didn’t matter, he supposed. Their eyes would meet, and Severin would know. And then he’d use all of the power at his disposal to send his enemy-lover away.
During this time, Severin sometimes saw bands of barbaric warriors crossing the plains. He kept his distance, but he doubted any of them were interested in either recruiting or killing a scrawny young man in a worn woolen cloak. Few he encountered ever suspected he had any great abilities, and Severin certainly didn’t go out of his way to advertise the fact that he could command the wind and sky when he wished. The barbaric companies had their eyes on more obviously lucrative targets, anyway. A handful of city states which spread across the great peninsula were openly at war with the barbaric tribes from the north.
It was when Severin was returning from his self-imposed isolation that he had his first real encounter with war. He held his sturdy walking stick in hand and carried a bursting bag of herbs, poultices, and leather-bound journals over his shoulder. Severin was so surprised by the sudden, brutal clash of metal and the primal cries that erupted nearby that he halted where he stood. His curiosity both outweighed and outlasted his fear, and after a minute or two of tense consideration, he pressed cautiously onward in the direction of the noise.
By the time he arrived, the battle was done.
It had surely been an ugly, bloody affair, if the splayed out bodies of the city soldiers and barbaric warriors were anything to judge it by. Holding a hand over his mouth, Severin gingerly navigated the carnage and valiantly resisted the impulse to be sick right there in the field. He was nearly on the other side of it when movement caught his eye. Squinting, almost afraid to look, he glanced from the corners of his eyes, sure that it was some grotesque remnant of warfare which awaited him.
Instead, it was a man.
Just a man.
The movement Severin had spotted was the rise and fall of his chest.
Only after turning a careful look around the terrible and silent battlefield did Severin approach the fallen man.
The barbarian’s eyes were closed and his pale brows drew together, as if reflecting pain. His face would probably have been handsome in a rough, simple sort of way if it weren’t smeared in dirt and blood. His light hair, braided and pulled away from his face, was bloodied as well, and Severin frowned at the sorry state of him. After a second wary look around, he knelt with a sigh.
The barbarian’s leather vest was cut, and his thick, scarred arms had earned several new slices as well. Severin, who had more than enough herbs and poultices on hand, reluctantly tore his only spare shirt into bandages. Within the hour the stranger was fully bandaged and muttering in fever addled sleep.
“Don’t worry,” Severin murmured, knotting the last makeshift bandage. “I’ve learned enough from the plants and trees to save you from both fever and infection.”
Behind closed lids, the barbarian’s eyes flitted anxiously to and fro and he mumbled something that sounded like no. Nose wrinkling, Severin leaned in. He heard the sleeping barbarian say, his voice low and cracking, “The curses will take me.”
Severin frowned down at him, unimpressed. “No they won’t,” he snapped, and yanked the bandage tighter.
The barbarian silenced then, and Severin stared at him a moment longer, pursing his lips in consternation. It wasn’t that he minded using his supplies to heal a stranger. But a part of him worried that healing a warrior made Severin responsible for whatever slaughter he resumed when he rose.
Severin abhorred warfare. It was such a terrible waste. But he supposed there was no helping what he’d already done. The barbarian was already on his way to recovery, and Severin certainly wasn’t going to murder him in his sleep. He reached out, intending to test the temperature at the man’s temple, but no sooner had Severin’s fingers touched his overheated skin than the world bled around him. In its place: a vision.
Shock echoed through him, because he was not like the women in his family, able to see phantoms in time. He’d always simply played with the air. The vision dancing before his gaze, however, didn’t seem to care.
Like droplets of ink spreading in water, a prism of colors twisted, threading together into nearly tangible shapes. From the chaos, rose a blond child holding a knit sheep. He was ruddy cheeked and pouting up at his mother. Then ink and water swirled and the images collapsed and shifted. Hulking shadows loomed over the child. The mother wailed her grief. The formless ink shivered, morphing from one scene to the next, nearly too quickly to follow, and Severin was swallowed up in it, overrun and overwhelmed by violence, blood, and pain. Beneath his fingers, Severin felt the movement of shifting, slipping thread.
Just as abruptly as it had started, the vision ceased. Severin’s knees ached where they pressed against the dirt and the barbarian’s skin beneath his hand was no longer overheated. How long had he been within the vision’s grasp, he wondered?
As Severin shifted back, the barbarian groaned. Severin watched as the man’s eyelids fluttered - and at once, the air turned heavy, as if the wind had drawn and held an anticipatory breath.
Dread flooded Severin and he rushed to stand. The barbarian had not yet opened his eyes, and Severin knew with a terrible nameless certainty that he must not be here when this man awoke. Severin could still feel those elusive, unknowable threads beneath his fingers, and his hands shook as he rose. Awakened by his urgency, the wind roared, lending him speed as he fled the clearing.
By the time the barbarian cracked open a single, world weary eye, Severin was long gone, heart still safely beating in his chest.
Severin endeavored to forget about the barbarian. He convinced himself that the vision had been the hallucination of an overexerted body, and that the sensation of inexorably moving threads beneath his fingers was nothing more than a flight of fancy. Severin did not think about how the threads had felt - certain and unyielding - beneath his fragile, very mortal hands. If he did, he feared he might ask the wind to whisk him away from the world altogether, and that, surely, was no way to live.
In a deep, secret place, however, Severin suspected the reason he was granted such a vision was because the stranger’s thread was woven perilously close to his own. Because of this, he set upon an easterly road, endeavoring to put a healthy distance between himself and the pale barbarian.
After nearly a month of travel, he arrived in a small village which sat nestled in foothills, tucked beneath the shadows of great mountains which stood like sentinels above. Severin hadn’t intended to stay, but when it was discovered he had some skill with plants and medicine, the villagers eagerly led him to a hut some distance from the village. It was empty, they explained, and had been for some years. A healing woman had occupied it, some years back, before she’d passed on. The villagers had been saving it, hoping the space would be enough to entice a new healer to make their isolated village a home.
Severin had nowhere else to go, and he supposed a distant, mountain village was as good a place as any to avoid a blade to the heart.
Two years passed, and Severin settled into his little hut. He spent his mornings taking long walks around the surrounding lands, collecting herbs and specimens. Returning home, he’d throw open the windows to allow his friend the wind a brief but wild rampage through the hut. With the air freshened, Severin spread plants across his square dining table and sorted them into jars to be sealed, dried, or preserved in vinegar. His neighbors in the village visited frequently, just as often for his company as for his medicines, and Severin delighted in visiting the town on market days and making the streamers dance in the wind for the children. Evenings were spent in his rocking chair, with a book in his lap and his feet pressed near to the low fire in the hearth.
He was happy, and hardly thought of the barbarian he’d found bleeding in the dirt. That is, until fate caught up with him.
One day, when he was foraging for moss on the hillside behind his hut, Severin felt the whisper-soft touch of thread against his palm. He sat upright at once, and turning and craning his neck, he absently rubbed his palms against his robes.
A company marched into the village. From up on Severin’s hill, they appeared a swarm of ants overtaking the miniature thatched roof homes. The slipping, shivering feeling beneath Severin’s palm intensified, and he stood. His heart drummed a frantic beat against his ribs, and Severin felt with a terrible certainty that fate, like a hunting hound on the scent, had sniffed him out at last.
When Severin called out, begging the wind’s help, it rushed to him, howling atop the hill.
I am here. I am here.
Cradled in the gale, he begged the wind to take him and hide him away, so that the tapestry’s relentless threads might cease dragging him toward the one he never wished to meet.
So be it, the wind said. If that is truly what you wish, I will take you and hide you away forever.
In that moment, nearly caught as he was, Severin was willing to do anything to avoid meeting this man who would kill him - until the screams rose from the pastures in the valley beneath his hut. Severin’s heartbeat was in his throat, on his very tongue, as he held up a hand to stay the wind.
“Just a moment,” he murmured, and turned bright, pained eyes toward the village. The terrified screams of his neighbors pierced him as surely as any blade, and with a mournful twist of his fingers, he bade the wind disperse.
By the time he reached in the pastures, the shepherd, the blacksmith, and Helvia’s two sons lay dead. At the sight of his friend’s bodies, grief and rage stirred within Severin, and the wind, always nearby to him, trembled in sympathy. Gaze sweeping the warriors, he marked the five whose weapons were stained red. Severin was not violent by nature, but if he was to die this day, he resolved to remove from the earth at least these five men, who with bloodied blades, uncaringly spoke of feasting upon the village’s few precious sheep.
When the warriors turned and finally noticed Severin, he lifted his chin and prayed his voice did not betray his fear. “These are simple people. They have little in way of money or goods. It wasn’t for nothing that the shepherd, blacksmith, and teenagers died. They need these sheep. And I cannot allow you to take them.”
The men glanced at one another, eyes filling with a cruel sort of mirth. They laughed at him, and Severin steeled himself for what must come next. He was friends with the wind, but to call down the heavens was an entirely more serious matter. And he’d never done it. At least, not like this.
Severin turned his palms up and glared at the heavens, daring them to refuse him now when he needed them most.
For a long, terrible moment, nothing happened.
And then, the skies erupted.
He had never felt pure, visceral power in such a way, and as it whined and crackled, Severin, with splayed fingers, used all of his strength to tear the lightning from its home in the sky. It rained upon the warriors, screaming in wild, untamable fury. Severin watched the men cry out in agony, and he felt horror and satisfaction in equal measure.
When a single figure broke from the group, agile enough to evade the lightning and charge across the field, Severin could only look on in exhausted realization. It was the pale barbarian. The man from the battlefield. The child in the vision.
The barbarian charged like a beast, his thickly braided hair bouncing. His brows were drawn down in focus and his lips poised on the precipice of a snarl. It was with a hopeless sense of finality that Severin met the stranger’s gaze.
He met eyes of icy gray, the color of hazy, snow capped mountains in winter, and Severin knew, he knew with a certainty that was sunken into his bones and twisted in his marrow, that this barbarian was the shadow which had haunted him. And he knew, more than anything, the crude blade in the man’s scarred-knuckle hand was fate’s exclamation point at the end of Severin’s ephemeral existence.
Watching as the barbarian pivoted, drawing back his blade, Severin only wished he understood why the women in his family had persisted in calling this man Severin’s truest love. If this was love, the man had a spectacularly terrible way of showing it.
Time slowed to a crawl, and sunlight flashed, reflecting off the blade. As the jagged edge touched the fabric of Severin’s robe, the wind whispered at his ear. Let me show you a piece of the picture.
The wind around him froze, and so too did the world.
Look up, said the wind, a rustle within his ear.
The complexly woven image was shaped by currents in the air - all but invisible to any whose eyes are untrained to look for them. But Severin had a born understanding of the wind and sky, and when he looked up, he saw bits and pieces of an impossibly complex tapestry.
He saw scarred knuckles gently shaping wood. A small child that sat upon broad shoulders. Rocking chairs placed side by side before a glowing fire. Warm hands enveloping his own. Safety. Home.
It was...everything, and Severin’s heart ached with a strange and complex longing for a future that surely could never be.
It’s not impossible, the wind whispered. But the threads will have to tangle and untangle just perfectly so.
“How?” Severin asked, and wondered if he was a fool to feel so desperate a pull towards this life glimpsed in impressions and half images.
The warrior must weep and repent. And a curse must come to fruition.
“And if these things do not happen?”
Then your soul will fade from the earth.
Severin felt torn in two.
The blade has not yet struck your heart, the wind murmured, kind and conspiratorial. There is time still for me to secret you away. I could pull your thread from the tapestry altogether.
“But there would be no hope for that life,” Severin said with a last wistful glance at the scattered mosaic above.
No, none, the wind agreed.
“Okay,” Severin whispered, “okay.” And it felt terrifyingly like surrender.
The wind stirred, and a breeze like a kiss tousled his dark hair.
The blade struck.
It was an intense pressure and then swift, vibrantly blooming pain. Severin wavered on his feet, and looked up. For the second time, he met the warrior’s gaze. And Severin saw and understood that there was no malice in those wintry eyes. Not even frustration or anger. But, instead, an exhaustion deeper than Severin could conceive.
When Severin toppled backward, it was concerning to realize he could no longer feel the grass beneath his body. The man knelt down, and Severin blinked tiredly up at him.
It seemed as though the man were waiting for something. Severin’s slipping mind struggled to think of what - until he recalled the dying woman and her talk of curses. And hadn’t the barbarian said something about curses when he was fever addled and hurt? What had the wind said? Severin was struggling to remember. As his life trickled away in red rivulets which stained the grass and soil, he thought of the boy in the vision - lost and afraid. And he thought of the man he’d become, kneeling stonily over him.
And Severin knew exactly which words should be his last.
Swallowing, he mustered the strength to whisper, “-my hut…it’s just past…the next hill over. In it, I keep medicines and herbs. For the villagers. And travelers who pass.”
For the barbarian would have to stay if he were ever to show remorse. He couldn’t very well continue going about fighting and murdering his way across the peninsula. Which brought Severin to his final words. It took all of his remaining strength to lift his hand. When he reached out, the barbarian startled, as though he expected more lightning to spring forth from Severin’s fingers. But Severin merely tapped his chest and smiled. “May you live a life of safety and peace.”
It was a fitting curse, he thought, feeling particularly clever. And there, on the field, surrounded by sheep, Severin’s heart stuttered and stopped.
It was an abrupt, slipping sensation, like losing your footing on iced over earth. Raw existence rushed around Severin, and he was battered and blown about, like a banner torn loose in the storm. This continued for a dizzying moment, or perhaps a dizzying eternity - Severin really had no way of knowing which. But it stopped when a familiar presence surged around him, blowing and blustering until the wild chaos of existence was forced to let him be.
The wind could not protect him forever, Severin knew, and so he focused his energies until, like a wind sprite, he swirled about the hillside. Below him, he saw the barbarian, his great head bent. Severin, as incorporeal as a breeze, could not resist blustering over the barbarian’s shoulder and observing himself, limp and pitiful in death. Whipping around, he beheld the barbarian - because surely this sight would bring him at least to the verge of tears.
The barbarian frowned down at Severin’s body and rubbed a scarred hand over the patches of stubble on his chin. And then he rose with a great sigh and set off down the hillside, away from Severin and the village.
Severin, who was nothing more than wind and spirit, watched him and despaired. He could do nothing more than whip and howl through the hills as his murderer left him without a backward glance.
Severin did not follow after the barbarian. What good would it do? In this form, it wasn’t as though Severin could speak to him. And if he was doomed to fade and dissolve from existence, he would much rather do so here in the hills he loved than in some strange land trailing after an even stranger man. The wind kept him company, at least, and Severin spent his days whistling through the black, porous stones at the base of the mountains and blowing bits of dandelions across wild tufts of grass.
One day, long after Severin had begun to feel more spread out and thin than was entirely comfortable, the wind rushed to him, carrying with it the scent of dust and dirt and faraway lands.
The barbarian had returned.
Severin was an icy breeze that whipped around the edges of town, and he watched with cool distrust as the man trudged through the streets. His shoulders were slumped and his blond head was turned down. He looked utterly defeated, and any sympathy Severin might have felt was eclipsed by petty spite. He didn’t hold any of the pettiness against himself, though. He was dead, and therefore felt he’d earned at least a little pettiness.
When the barbarian crossed the field, stopping to stand before the place where Severin had fallen, Severin swirled around him, newly curious. The man didn’t look grief stricken, but his face was difficult to read. There were dark shadows beneath his eyes and lines of exhaustion around his mouth. Mostly, Severin thought he just looked tired.
When the man approached Severin’s home after having ignored the invitation for months, Severin had a second moment of pettiness and whipped the wind up on the other side of the door, sealing it closed as the barbarian tried to open it. Only when the man shoved it with his great, muscled shoulder did Severin retreat, allowing the door to swing open.
It was with a strange sort of melancholy that he watched the barbarian’s silver gaze sweep over the room. The man looked first at the damp, unkempt hearth before slowly making his way across the room. He glanced from Severin’s well-loved walking stick to the bookshelf built into the wall. He fumblingly ran the backs of his fingers along the spines of the books, as if he was unlearned in the ways of a gentle touch.
Severin was still very much put out about the whole being dead business, but as he watched the barbarian’s almost reverent inspection, he unthinkingly twisted the air in the room, drawing out the cold and pulling in a bit of sun warmed breeze.
By the second day, the man was sitting in Severin’s chair. Severin stewed, swatting at floating dust by the window as his killer rocked to and fro in Severin’s favorite seat. Later, the barbarian stood, stretching his strong arms overhead and twisted his back experimentally. Brows lifting in pleasant surprise, he gave the chair an appreciative pat.
By the third day, Severin had no more dust to swat about. The barbarian had rolled up his ragged sleeves and set about scrubbing every inch of Severin’s little hut. When the hulking man worked open the stiff windows, the wind rushed in, delighting in whipping about the space once more.
He’s done a better job of cleaning than you ever did, the wind sang, slipping once more outside.
He was dead and that meant the wind had to be nice, and Severin told it as much. It’s reply was a soft rustling of chimes that hung from the house’s eaves, and the sound was almost like laughter.
Days passed, and the man began reading Severin’s books. This was probably the most surprising development yet, in Severin’s opinion. It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought the large, scarred warrior capable of reading, just - well, he hadn’t thought the large, scarred warrior capable of reading particularly well. But the man seemed to be doing just fine, and sat in Severin’s rocking chair, putting a far greater strain on the sturdy wood than Severin ever had, as he thumbed carefully through the book’s smooth pages.
When little Mykela took ill, Severin knew it well before anyone else. He’d taken a spin through town and as he rode the wintry wind past where she played in the yard, he’d felt the rattle of air in her lungs. But at this point, Severin was little more than a memory on the breeze, and though his worry was agony, he could do absolutely nothing. He spent the rest of the day roaring about the mountain peaks, sending snow flurries spilling down the far side of the cliffs.
Two days later, Severin was idly observing the barbarian, watching the crease between his brows twitch as he slept, when a great pounding broke out against the door. The barbarian rose at once, and Severin watched him cast a brief glance at the walking stick before turning instead to the candle on a nearby shelf. With warm light cupped in his palm, the barbarian approached the door.
When Dormund, Mykela’s father, entered the hut, carrying a limp mound of blankets, Severin felt a spike of icy terror. As the barbarian poked and prodded the fire, Severin carefully stirred the wind to better feed the flames. Severin would have shouted instructions, had he lungs to shout, but the barbarian already had two jars in hand. He held them up, looking a little lost, before he hurried to the bookshelf and selected a thick book. Muttering under his breath, he flipped hurriedly through pages until he found what he was looking for. And then he was kneeling before the pot of water he’d set over the fire, and Severin watched as he scooped careful measurements of Severin’s dried herbs into the roiling water.
Mykela was saved, and as the barbarian sent the girl and her father off with a bag of herbs, it occurred to Severin that he wished to know the barbarian’s name. He wouldn’t learn it until two days later, when Old Cara arrived at the hut, seeking the barbarian’s help for her arthritic knee. After supplying her with the appropriate poultice, the barbarian helped her to the door, and looking up, she patted his shoulder and asked him his name.
Eindred, was his answer.
Severin wished he had lips to test the shape of the name.
Months passed, and was easier now to watch Eindred move about Severin’s hut. In fact, Severin had even begun to enjoy riding the soft breeze from the windows as it wafted around Eindred’s shoulders, curiously observing whatever small thing he happened to, at any given time, be doing with his hands. One day, Severin was surprised to find Eindred’s hands at work, deliberately whittling the curved back of a rocking chair. When the chair was done, Eindred set it carefully, almost reverently beside the first. At the sight, Severin had a bright, nearly overwhelming flash of recognition, and he thought of the image the wind had shown him - of the rocking chairs before a warm, crackling fire.
Severin was fading, he could feel it. To hope was to court a greater disappointment than Severin could rightly comprehend, and yet - he watched Eindred set out with Severin’s walking stick to join the festival, and saw when Mykela took his hand. The barbarian’s stony expression softened, then melted as the girl tugged him after her.
It was the strangest of sensations, because while Severin didn’t strictly have a heart these days, watching the great Eindred meekly follow little Mykela made something in Severin’s incorporeal being ache with unexpected warmth.
Whatsmore, Eindred had been reading Severin’s journals and he would sometimes stop and stare about the hut, as if trying to picture the ghost of Severin’s life there. Once, Eindred draped a thick blanket over the back of one of the rocking chairs and ran his rough hands over it as he frowned contemplatively into the fire.
Summer had come and gone and Severin feared that parts of his soul had already begun to slip into that other-place. And so, with a tender sort of weariness, he drifted on the sunbeams cutting through the clean window glass, and watched with only mild annoyance as Eindred carefully tore a blank page from one of Severin’s journals.
Lips pressing together in focus, Eindred wrote in with small, precise letters, what appeared to be a list.
Confused, Severin drifted closer.
May your every loved one die screaming in pain.
I hope you die with your eyes stabbed out and your heart in your hands.
You will never know happiness.
Your existence will be suffering.
It was a list of curses, Severin realized. Morbid curses, by the looks of it. The last two, however, caught his attention.
May your greatest enemy rise from the grave and never leave you alone.
May you live a life of safety and peace.
And Severin understood.
When Eindred set out from the hut, looking drawn but resolved, Severin began at once to gather his energy. It had been nearly a year since his death, and he feared that there might not be enough of him left to make a return. The second to last curse would help things along, but Severin knew it would be a mistake to rely on it.
And so, as Eindred entered the village, Severin stretched upward and out, calling wind and storm clouds with reckless, hopeful abandon. For his entire life, Severin had lived, certain in the knowledge that love and happiness were not meant for one such as he. How could they be? When a blade was foretold to make a home in his heart?
But Eindred had changed. And the patchwork pieces of tapestry were there, a life Severin had never dared to dream of, right there - if he could only summon the strength to reach out and grasp it.
Below, Eindred bowed his head before the townsfolk, confessing his part in the tragedy which played out on their soil. Above, Severin swallowed the skies and became the storm.
Severin felt it, distantly below, when the people in the village forgave Eindred. And he felt when Eindred’s bittersweet tears tickled the earth. He felt Eindred return to the hut, and then after pacing restlessly about, return at last to the pastures where it had all begun.
And then came Eindred’s pained voice, calling out from the fields below. “Severin!”
Eindred had never said his name before, and Severin, who was the clouds and the wind and the rain and the sky, rumbled his joy at the sound of it.
“It was my hand which ended your life,” Eindred continued. His deep voice was shaking. “And with your dying breath you gifted what I thought was a nightmare. Did you know that it would turn out to be a dream? I think you did.”
Just wait, Severin wanted to tell him, because he’d seen a future better still. The only question that remained was whether he had strength enough to reach it.
Rugged face upturned, Eindred called to Severin and the sky, which were one and the same. “Though it’s a dream, I’ll never know peace. How can I? When I live in the home of the one I so coldly murdered? I would leave, but the villagers have my heart - as they had yours. In this state, I don’t think I’ll ever truly know true rest or true peace - despite the great power of your curse.”
You will, Severin said, and lightning streaked across the sky. I will.
“Even now,” Eindred said, through wind and rain, “I’m not sure if you are my greatest enemy or ally.”
There it was.
His greatest enemy.
Severin, with every ounce of power he possessed, claimed the title. For he was the greatest enemy the old Eindred, warrior and killer, had faced. With his parting curse, Severin had forced the old Eindred to do the one thing he’d feared most of all: to live and face all he’d done.
Severin felt a rushing, coursing energy thrumming within and without and he knew that he must catch it and hold it, though he wasn’t sure how.
The tapestry threads, the wind whispered. Severin had spread so thin, his old friend was nearly a part of him now.
Severin listened, and felt for that thread which had teased and tickled his palm. And when he was sure he felt it, he wrapped himself around it and pulled. The sky around him screamed as he dragged himself forward toward something - something -
White light was all around him, and then it wasn’t. The air was cool and damp, and the evening sang with the wind’s gleeful gusts and the soft patter of rain on grass. Severin lifted a hand, and looked it over in tentatively blooming relief. Pressing the hand over his heart which beat with a strong, steady rhythm, Severin breathed a relieved, ragged sigh.
Eindred stood in the field, turned away from him. Drawing in a breath, Severin delighted in the sound of his own voice. “May your greatest enemy rise from the grave, Eindred, and never leave you alone.” He smiled as he spoke, and very nearly pressed his fingers to his lips to feel the shape they took when saying Eindred’s name.
Eindred turned. “So you are my greatest enemy then?” He sounded wary.
“I don’t think it’s so simple as that. Do you?”
Eindred’s expression shifted and he shook his head. When he next spoke, it was soft and fumbling, as if he still hadn’t fully adjusted to a world which was kind. “I made a chair,” he blurted out. “A few actually,” he added, rubbing a hand over the back of his head.
Severin wanted to say, I know. I saw. But that would require more explanation than he cared to give at the moment, so instead, he replied, “Do I get the new rocking chair or my old one?”
“Any,” Eindred stammered, “Either. Both?” He looked at Severin, and the earnest weight of his gaze held the promise of all the chairs Severin could want and anything else Eindred could possibly make with his scarred hands.
The fondness that bubbled up within Severin was so abrupt and filled him so thoroughly that he wanted to laugh with it. “Lucky for you, I only need one chair. You can keep the old one if you like it. I trust your craftsmanship.”
Severin turned then, because it was cold and every part of him felt so entirely bright and buoyant that he thought he might die if he didn’t move. However, when he realized Eindred was not following, he stopped. “Well? Are you coming?”
Eindred looked up, as if he’d been startled. “Where?” he called.
Standing there, sodden in the field, Eindred looked after Severin, as if he was afraid to hope - as Severin once had been afraid to do. And it occurred to Severin that Eindred would need to hear it said aloud.
“Home, of course. Where else?”
“Home,” Eindred repeated, as if confirming it to himself.
And when Severin turned again towards home, Eindred followed.
By the time they reached the hut, both were shivering from the cold, and as they crossed the threshold into the warm space, Severin swayed on his feet. He’d almost forgotten the immense power he’d used, and now the harsh ringing in his ears was a stark reminder. Warm, rough hands steadied him and when Severin tilted his head up, he saw that Eindred wore an expression of poorly concealed terror.
“I’m not going to die all over again,” Severin assured him. “I just used a lot of magic.” As he said it, he swayed once more, this time falling forward.
Eindred caught Severin again, one arm wrapped around his back and his other hand braced against his chest. Beneath where Eindred’s palm pressed, Severin’s heart thrummed. And Severin watched, curious, as Eindred’s expression twisted. He no longer claimed the title of warrior, Severin knew, but it was nonetheless with a warrior’s gravity that Eindred met Severin’s gaze.
“These hands will never again harm you. I swear it.”
“I know,” Severin replied, and pressed a hand over the back of Eindred’s rough knuckles. “Help me to a chair?”
Eindred did, and helped to remove Severin’s thick outer robe before Severin sank gratefully in front of the fire. Eindred left him a moment, and Severin closed his eyes.
He intended to just rest them for a second - maybe two, but when Severin next opened his eyes, the room was darker and he was draped and bundled in blankets, softer and thicker than any he recalled owning. The fire was still crackling, and the warm light made soothing shadows dance across the hut’s wooden floor. The other chair was occupied, Severin realized, and he watched as the hearth’s orange light played across Eindred’s sleeping features. Compared to Severin’s mountain of blankets, he had just one draped over his lap, though he didn’t seem cold. Nonetheless, Severin shifted a bit, and peeled a soft fleece blanket off his own pile to toss it onto him. The blanket fell short, and with a quick whispered word, the wind slipped under the door and flipped the offending blanket up onto Eindred’s chest.
“That’s better,” Severin said.
The wind played a little with the fire before tousling Severin’s hair and departing with a sibilant, save your strength foolish human. You’re still recovering, and slipped out the way it had come.
When Severin turned back to Eindred, he saw the large man was sitting up and his eyes were now open. Blinking, Eindred rubbed a hand over his face and then, stiffening in sudden shock, he whipped to look at Severin. Heaving a great sigh, he rocked back in the chair. “Still breathing,” he said.
“I don’t plan on stopping.”
Something almost like a smile twitched at Eindred’s lips and Severin was enchanted by it.
“You were dead and now you’re alive. Forgive me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”
“You’re the one who believes in silly curses.”
Eindred’s brows rose. “Silly? Says the one who was brought back from the dead by one.”
Severin waved a dismissive hand. “The curse might have set the stage, but I was director, crew, and cast.”
And there was another smile, like a glimpse of sun between clouds. Severin was beginning to fear there might be no practical limit to the lengths he’d be willing to go to see another smile.
“I’ll take your word for it,” Eindred replied. “I get the feeling you know a great deal more about the world and magics than I.”
“Well Eindred,” Severin said, scooting his chair a little closer to both Eindred and the fire. “What do you know of grand tapestries?”
Eindred, looking more than a little lost, shook his head. “Nothing. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one.”
“Well,” Severin said, and grinned. “What do you know of cheese?”
EDIT: A novel based on Eindred and the Witch and The Witch Who Spoke to the Wind is in progress! I will post news about it on my Tumblr and my Patreon as news becomes available :)
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Hello! I adore your work so so much, and I was wondering if you could write a snippet where the antagonist is the only person who can touch the protagonist, so the antagonist starts teasingly flirting with them about it. It could be slightly NSWF as well! Thank you :)
"You're so responsive," the antagonist murmured. "Starving for even the smallest of touches."
The protagonist's breath hitched.
They knew they should move back, knew they should knock the antagonist's hand away, knew they should tell them to 'get the hell off' in no uncertain terms. They didn't do any of those things. Just like they hadn't last time, or the time before that. They watched the tips of the antagonist's fingers as it traced down the sleeve of the protagonist's shirt, not yet touching skin.
But they could.
The antagonist could touch, and so the protagonist stared entranced, anticipation notching along each rib as their heart pounded in their chest.
They could feel the antagonist's eyes burning into their face, examining them, watching the way that even the thought of contact laid the protagonist bare.
The antagonist's fingers stopped, pressed atop the protagonist's racing pulse.
The protagonist knew, theoretically, that they didn't have to wait. They could simply reach out, but...well, if they did that with anyone else then the other person would die. The protagonist's touch was toxic. So they held still, pulse betraying them, their own fingers gripping the materials of their jeans in a white-knuckle hold. They waited.
The antagonist shifted a little closer in their own chair, expression barely visible in the dim light. Their knees brushed.
The protagonist squeezed their eyes shut.
They heard the antagonist laugh, softly. Then the protagonist felt the antagonist's other hand pushing back their hood, tucking their hair back behind their ears. The antagonist's hand was so warm. And their - their lips, as they grazed against the delicate shell of the protagonist's ear, was even warmer.
The protagonist bit back an absurd whimper.
They could feel the puff of the antagonist's breath, perfectly steady.
"Is it too much?" the antagonist teased. "Should I stop-"
"Don't you dare," the protagonist hissed.
The antagonist laughed again. They dipped their head, nuzzling a kiss against the hollow of the protagonist's throat. Their fingers slipped down, off the protagonist's sleeve, tugging off the protagonist's glove.
The protagonist's hand tingled in the cool air. They let their wrist curl, then, just skimming the antagonist's palm as they let the glove drop carelessly to the floor. The antagonist entwined their fingers properly for a moment and gave the protagonist's hand a firm squeeze.
The protagonist had never even imagined they would be able to have that much, once.
"I'm going to wreck you." There was a promise in the antagonist's voice. "Now, tell me please."
"Please." It slipped out, without hesitation, without thought.
The antagonist grinned against their skin, all teeth.
They made achingly slow work of the rest of the protagonist's clothes after that.
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A one-page short story.
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Dolittle opened the door and looked inside. He closed the door. He opened the door again. He closed the door again.
"There's an elephant in there," he said.
The agent with the yellow hat nodded. "He's agreed to speak with-"
"It's an elephant."
"Yes," said the agent. "He's-"
"It's wearing a suit." Dolittle opened the door. He closed the door. "It's wearing a very, very large suit."
"He is a delegate from a French north African micronation."
"He is an elephant."
The agent closed his eyes. "Doctor," he said in a slow, careful voice. "I want you to understand the gravity of the situation. Prince Alexander comes from a micronation of extremely intelligent elephants who have just captured a French missile base with the intention of launching a strike against Europe. He has agreed to speak with us regarding the location of the missile base."
Dolittle stared at him. He said: "He's French?"
"Fluent in French, English, Greek, Italian, and German," said the agent, leafing through a file. "He can also understand French Sign Language, but can't sign."
Dolittle stared at him.
"He doesn't have thumbs." The agent waggled his thumbs in example.
"And you need me why?"
The agent closed the file. "Alexander has agreed to speak with us on the condition he can speak with one of our non-human agents," he said. "The first we had available is a loan from Interpol who can only sign with FSL. You are fluent in FSL, and will serve as our interpreter."
Dolittle stared at him. His eyes were watering.
"Non-human agent?" he said, grasping at what straws he could.
Something tugged at his coat. He looked down.
It was a chimpanzee. It grinned at him, stood up from its knuckles, and signed, Salut.
"His name is George," said the agent with the yellow hat.
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Hey! I found your blog and have read a lot of your posts recent, your writing is really cool. I was wondering (if you haven't already) could something like: after a villain helps the hero(s) defeat a bigger threat, villain is treated like one of the heros and is struggling to get used to the good publicity (swarms of fans, cameras shoved in their face everywhere they turn, etc)
They couldn't do this.
The villain had never been great with attention. Attention, in their experience, typically meant trouble. It meant the flash of a father's furious eyes, or the scorn of their classmates for being just a little too much as a person. It meant punishment. It was much safer to make a study of invisibility, in short, and if that wasn't an option - to make oneself so terrifying that nobody would dare meet your eye.
"No comment," the villain snapped, not even listening to the question.
Unfortunately, in this instance, neither invisibility nor intimidation was having any effect at all.
Their words didn't stop the demands for comments. It didn't stop everyone from staring at them or the cameras from being shoved blindingly in their face. Too much. Disorientating.
"I said no comment - and no pictures!" They held a hand up in front of their face, struggling to shunt through the crowd. Their heart pounded in their chest, like a grenade about to go off. Unease wailed like a siren in their brain. They could feel their powers itching beneath the surface, desperate to slam everyone away from them, to find some room to breathe and "don't touch me. Get back. Please."
The questions grew louder. Some inane. Some cutting. All wanting a piece, and then another piece, until the villain felt like vultures were circling them, ripping at their flesh bite by bite and-
"Excuse me! Coming through." The hero's voice rang out through the crowd, just as the villain was about to completely lose it. Their arm encircled the hero's shoulders, and the villain would have been annoyed, except it was such a merciful shield against the lights and the sound and the madness. "Alright?" they muttered, into the villain's ear. "Just - hold on. Gonna get you out of here."
The villain released a shuddering breath. Their powers itched, clawing beneath the surface. The hero had to be able to feel the ominous hum of it.
"Thank you all for your support!" the hero said. "We just have some business to take care of, alright? Crime waits for no autographs!"
There was some good natured laughter at that.
The hero smiled and answered a few questions with their usual easy charm, and the villain hated them, and they hated themselves more for the lightheaded relief they felt. They wanted to bury their face in the hero's chest. The moment after that, the hero had pushed them up off the ground and into the air, away from everyone.
They landed on a rooftop some distance away.
The hero immediately let go, taking several large steps back.
The villain fell to their knees, and let their powers go. It leeched into the concrete beneath them harmlessly - no life there to touch, nor destroy. They cursed under their breath.
"Alright?" the hero asked.
"I'm going to kill them."
"You did well."
"Ugh." Horribly, the villain's ears prickled with tears. They swiped at their face, shoulders hunched. "I hate them."
"They don't mean any harm."
The villain looked up, and glared.
The hero took a step back seeming on instinct.
"I'm not a piece of meat." The villain's teeth bared. "I'm not some - they can't just - how do you stand it?" They used to mock the hero for loving the attention of their adoring fans, sometimes they'd even wondered what it would be like to be so loved, but this...
It had been barely a week, and the villain had never felt more powerless in their entire life. Everything they did was watched and they knew, they just knew, that the second they inevitably screwed up the whole thing would come tumbling down and everyone would hate them even more for having the audacity of not fitting the pedestal they'd been given. As if a pedestal wasn't a tiny, very high to fall off, thing that allowed no room to manoeuvre.
The hero eyed the remnant tears on the villain's face, and the villain looked down. The hero sighed.
"I'm sorry," the hero said. "I know it's - difficult. And I know that just because they don't mean any harm, that doesn't mean they don't it."
The villain stilled. They'd half expected the hero, even after all they had been through together, to mock them for not being able to handle it. Certainly, they'd expected the hero to take the side of the adoring public, who could do nothing wrong ever, and obviously had every right to their curiosity.
"I've just got so used to it." The hero shrugged in their periphery vision, a little helplessly. "I didn't think what it would be like for you. Will it help if I say it will get better?"
"You mean I'll be so broken down that I won't care about my privacy, like you?"
The hero said nothing to that, but the villain grimaced into the silence, hearing the words back.
"Sorry," the villain added, softer. "That was - sorry."
"I used to care." The hero turned to look over the city stretched beneath them. "It got exhausting. If it doesn't matter how many times you stop saying no, it's sometimes easier to stop saying it. Hurts less. Makes it feel less like -" the hero's shoulders squared.
"Makes it easier to pretend it's your choice." The villain pushed to their feet. "That you're in control."
The hero glanced back, and their eyes met.
"God, why do we protect them." There was less bite in the villain's tone that time, because they both knew why. The villain moved over to the hero's side, to peer down too and break the stare between them. They cleared their throat.
"You're shiny and new," the hero said. "I'll do something big. Get some of the aggro off you. That should make it easier, if you keep your head down for a bit."
"What about you?"
The villain could feel the hero's attention on them again, but they kept their gaze trained on the horizon.
It was the hero's turn to clear their throat.
"I can handle it."
"Meaning I can't?"
"I didn't mean -" The hero made another helpless little noise, and pivoted to face the villain directly. "Hey."
The villain considered ignoring them, because their skin was still crawling, but...well. The hero had come swooping in to rescue them, and nothing was exactly how it used to be. They glanced over again.
"I didn't mean it in a bad way," the hero said, seeming unable to find any of their famed eloquence now. Their cheeks burned. "I meant I don't, bloody hell. You don't like attention. That's what I meant! You start flinching like you expect them to hit you and - I'm making this worse, aren't I?"
"Completely." But a small smile crossed the villain's lips, without their permission, and their eyes softened a fraction. "But thank you."
The hero clearly had questions, about exactly why the villain reacted the way they did, but unlike the reporters and the crowds, they didn't ask. They didn't force themselves into the villain's space. They smiled back, tugging a sheepish hand through their hair.
The last of the tension left the villain.
The air, up high, was clean and cold. The world felt small and manageable, and far away.
"Any time," the hero said. "You're not on your own in this, after all."
The hero laughed, at the expression on the villain's face and the villain...well, the villain found themselves laughing too.
The hero didn't let it get so bad after that.
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not all heroes wear capes
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“Will I know you in my next life?” His feet kicked at the surface of the creek. “Like, will we have to find each other or will it just happen?”
“I dunno. I imagine we’ll be married though.”
“You do? Are you gonna be a girl next time? I think I’ll still be a boy.”
“I’m not sure yet. If I get to decide then probably yeah. But this time I am really enjoying just being whatever I am.”
“Yeah that.” They both laughed. He picked up a rock and tried to skip it. Instead it clattered against some rocks further down stream.
“Will we have kids next life?” He asked. They pondered for a moment.
“Do you want kids this life?” They asked.
“Well no. And I don’t want to get married. This life is for adventuring. But next time I’ll want a restful life. To make up for this one. So I thought maybe some kids.”
“Kids aren’t restful.”
“No I guess we’re not. Will we have some?”
“Cool.” He tried again at skipping a rock. Again it sunk. They picked up a nice flat stone and skipped it twice.
“How will I know it’s you next life?” He asked. “Will there be some sort of sign?”
“Well,” they looked thoughtfully up towards the sky, “if you fall in love with somebody, that somebody will be me. That’d be the sign.”
“Makes sense to me. I look forward to it. Getting to fall in love with you again.”
“Me too. That’ll be fun.”
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Made my own version OCs of Among Us Comic: Who is suspicious?
(I’m hungry too.)
Others (1) (2)
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If you wanted, I'd love to read something about a god and their favorite priest. Maybe other priests thinking they're a heretic, or thinking they're not pious enough. Or the god and the priest having a disagreement about ethics.
Your brothers pray to me for your salvation.
Daniel shivered at the god's voice - always somewhere between familiar and unfamiliar, ever-changing and ever-them all at once. He couldn't say for certain if the great one spoke aloud or in his head or both. All he knew was that when the god was there, the rest of the world fell away. Gods were like that. They did not share with anything.
"Don't hurt them," Daniel said. "They do not know what they ask."
They call you a sinner. A heretic. They think that the devil has claimed you.
"I know what they say. I'm blind, not deaf. I still ask you to spare them."
They say your name like it is a synonym for a problem, for some terrible unspeakable disappointment. I know you are angry too. I can taste it in you like poison that tries too hard to be sweet.
At first, the god had visited him only when he prayed, in the deepest recess of the temple. With time, though, the god could appear anywhere. In Daniel's dreams, or when he was tending the garden with the sunshine warming his skin, or sometimes the god would even speak with Daniel's mouth or move with his body.
The other priests always hated it when the god did that.
They wish to save you by cutting me from you like a cancerous limb. It is an insult. You are mine.
A god's favour was a dangerous thing in the wrong hands.
A careless vengeful whisper to a god could raze cities, if the god in question was inclined to be indulgent, and the god usually was when destruction and sacrifice was involved these days. Not enough to tip the scales, to suck dry the well of believers that gave them power, but enough to remind humans every so often that they were but temporary residents in somebody else's doll house.
A god's favour was a dangerous thing, because they did not suffer kindly those who would harm their favoured in any way.
A god's favour could swallow a human whole.
Their god was certainly a vengeful god, but Daniel could understand that. They shared the same fury. The difference was that Daniel buried his rage and the god did not believe in such things.
But the priests, after all, only whispered their untruths about Daniel. They preached their lies about the great one loudly like it was fact, so loudly that they never stopped once to listen in the temple silence. Their prayers were demand masked as entreaty. Their love was fickle, yet it did not occur that the god who made them might feel fickle also as the centuries slipped by.
To the other priests, the god's own voice was blasphemy.
Daniel removed his hands away from the temple floor and offered them into the darkness, to the velvet night that came before all things and had since been shunned.
The god took them.
You see me, and they hurt you.
The god's voice grew softer.
I could burn their eyes out for their blindness. Maybe then they will see. Maybe then they will not be so arrogant as to question my choices.
Daniel released another steadying breath, his heart pounding.
"They will learn, with time. I am not asking you for their sake, i am asking you for mine. They will call you a demon and make you one with their convictions - I prefer you as you are."
Not good, exactly. But not bad either. Their god was a creature of balance, viciously protective, and hopelessly lonely. Screaming out in the dark not to be forgotten.
Daniel knew that feeling too.
The silence stretched between them, and then they felt the press of the god's lips upon their brow, or something similar. Something that mimicked humanity because it was the only way they could talk.
I will not hurt them. Not yet. But if they lay one hand on you...
The temple would run red with blood.
The priesthood had no idea how many times Daniel had saved their stupid lives.
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i’ve been in love with her from the moment i met her, but that’s not what you say when people ask how you fell together. what else is there to say? what is the socially acceptable thing to pull from your mouth like baby teeth you’ve outgrown? i met her by chance. i met her by fate. i met her at a concert or a dating app in the middle of a strange fall. i didn’t expect it, they expect me to say. and maybe that’s a little bit true. but the real truth, the true that stands in its entirety, is that i needed to meet her. my soul wouldn’t have survived a moment longer without knowing hers existed. the truth is i was wild and drunk and blue in the face on the idea of her until i was sobered by her skin. the truth is the world was too cruel to survive without her. the truth is that every hand that touched me before her were made of hawk wings and she was made of the clouds. she knows a lot of random facts. it’s one of the things i love about her. she told me the other day that clouds weighed a million pounds. but i wanted to tell her, all the clouds landed on me from the moment i saw her. this is the weight of my love for her. what else is there to say? what other truths can i tell? she is the only sky in the world that i’ll never lift off of my chest.
—(ap 4.20) when people ask me how we met
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