By Kammy Gaffney
The elf leaned forward, and balanced his delicate, pointed chin on equally delicate, pointed fingertips. "When can we collect the child?" His hair was so blond it was nearly white, the crown pulled back into a tail, bound by an elaborately decorated coiled band of metal, the rest flowing freely down his back, and some over his shoulders, looking like twin beams of moonlight as they hung there, shining in the dim candle-light. His clothing was also elaborate, heavy brocade, and shining silk, beaded with sparkling gems. He was a shimmering vision of mother-of-pearl and silver, amethyst and lavender. His eyes were a pale violet, large and luminous in a face of heart-breaking beauty. "Well?" His voice was as finely cultured as the pearls that edged his collar.
"Be quiet. I'm thinking. You have the easy part of the job. I have to figure out how to make this happen without my father finding out - after all, the entire reason I'm doing this is to avoid getting myself killed." The boy rubbed his forehead with his fingertips, as he scowled at the elf from across the table.
The elf started to say something, and bit his tongue. As much as he would like to put that insufferable child in his place, the boy really did hold all of the cards at this point. A little restraint now, and the reward.... The elf sighed and he let his hand fall, and caressed the delicate silver design of his sword hilt, as he continued to study the boy across from him. He shone, in spite of the shabby, ill-fitting clothing, and lack of jewelry. Even the scowl couldn't ruin the boy's loveliness, and just from the raven hair and intense blue gaze alone, contrasting so sharply against the pale skin, he might have recognized him as a Drakthos, almost without even having to see the sweeping dark wings.
Other than the occasional red-head, and a few draconic elements more or less, such as horns, or tails, or scales, the entire tribe of them pretty much looked as alike as peas in a pod. And also typical of their kind, he was as impetuous as any Sidhe lord. Very pretty, though. He wouldn't have minded taking such a boy as his lover, but as a rule, dragon-kin were notoriously difficult, bad-tempered, high-strung, and a little too bloodthirsty. Drakthae did not make good pets.
"How about this," the boy said, in his perfect, precise Sidhe, "you will need to keep watch. But tomorrow I shall do my best to get him out alone, during mid-afternoon."
"Do you take me for a fool? I will not reveal where my father nests. Tell me where your hunters will be and I will lead him to them." The boy's face was hard, and his eyes burned into the elf's own. My, he is a fierce child, and not an entirely stupid one either. At least he knows where his best interests lie. That's more than can be said for that fool Rhaegal.
"I wouldn't harm a hair on your father's head, child - nor yours. We made a deal, did we not? Your brother's life, and we will drop the charges against you and your father. You may live in peace again. It is the least we can do after what happened to your mother." The elf gave a regretful shake of his head. "A pity that - it was handled very poorly. Such a sordid little affair."
"I imagine that's all that it was to you, elf."
"You may call me Díamand, child."
"And you may call me Markkastanen. My name is neither 'boy' nor 'child'."
"You are very impertinent, Markkastanen."
The boy shrugged. "Father says that we can only be what we are."
The elf smirked. "That's not a very... inspirational philosophy. It does not encourage one to strive to be above one's baser instincts."
"No. But I didn't realize that was a requirement for philosophy. You've never read about Nietzsche, have you? Even he could not live with his own philosophy." The boy's eyes were moving to and fro, studying the elf as the elf had studied him earlier. Something about that made Díamand vaguely uncomfortable.
The elf's lip curled. "What would I have to do with human philosophers?"
"They live out entire lives in the time it would take for you to grow a moustache. I would think they would be the ones to ask, in matters regarding life and death. They have such an intimate relationship with it." The boy actually smirked at him, his fingertips caressing the tabletop.
The elf decided to ignore the smirk. Perhaps he was misreading the boy, coloring his actions with his own desires. He shrugged. "Perhaps, though I do not know what a boy of your age would know of intimacy." The boy blushed slightly, and lowered his eyes, almost coyly, but the smile remained. Ah, still a virgin, then, but I doubt he will remain so for long. Díamand briefly considered propositioning him, then thought the better of it.
"At any rate, I do not have time to sit and debate with you any longer, chi - I mean, Markkastanen." The boy's smile grew a little, and he raised his eyes again. They were truly dazzling, now that he wasn't angry.
"You've said my name twice. I like the way it sounds when you say it... Díamand..." Charming did not adequately describe him, at that moment. Díamand swallowed, and took a second to collect his thoughts.
"Do you know the pond, not two miles distant of here?" The elf gestured, and the boy nodded. "My men will be there tomorrow. See that your brother is, as well." Díamand rose to his feet, and gave his cloak a dramatic twirl. "Fare well." He gave a small nod of his head, and Mark nodded back, as if they were equals. Then the Sidhe lord was gone, leaving the young vampire alone. Markkastanen stretched, got up and wandered across the room, to a closed door.
"Hey, little brother, all is well, are you okay?" His English was also good, though it still bore heavy traces of a Sidhe accent, much like his father. He opened the door, and strode over to the still figure lying on the bed. An old man lay there, under his blankets, looking for all the world like he was sleeping. It would have taken someone with the eyes of a hawk to spot the pinpoint marks on his neck, and there again, even smaller ones above the wrist, hidden beneath the cuffs of his stained flannel pajamas. Mark frowned. Other than the old dead human that had been their meal that day, there didn't appear to be anyone in the room at all. "Davy?"
"Here..." There was a low thumping and scrabbling and a very small blond boy scrambled out from under the bed. "I heard you talking - who was it?" Mark's little brother had spent his entire life on the human world. He never had an opportunity to learn Sidhe, although Rhaegal had started to teach him a few words.
"Just an elf passing through. He was lonely, and wanted some company. I guess he was an outlaw, too. Nothing to worry your little yellow head about, Davy."
"My hair's not yellow, Mark, it's blond."
"And what color is blond?"
Davy frowned for a moment, trapped, and then brightened. "Father says it's gold," he said, brightly.
Mark rolled his eyes. "Of course..." he said in Sidhe.
Davy's eyes widened. "Did you just say a bad word at me?"
"You called me a name, then."
"No, I didn't."
"Yes you did!"
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did!"
Mark smacked him.
"No. I Didn't," Mark snapped, and stalked out of the room, without a backward glance at either his brother or the rapidly stiffening corpse lying on the bed. "You had better come on - we need to be back before dawn, or Father will kill us."
"I'm telling Father that you hit me!"
"And if you do, I swear you'll regret it with every breath you draw for the rest of your life. The Drakthae aren't tattle-tales. Ask Father, he'll tell you the same." Mark quickly scanned the inside of the tiny tin roofed cabin for anything they could use, and then heaved a sigh. This human had been even more poverty-stricken than they were. "C'mon, let's get out of here."
The two boys slipped out of the dilapidated cabin and into the woods. A mixture of sand and pine needles provided a soft silent cushion for their feet. Unlike some areas of the Barrens, where the scrub pine barely reached Mark's head, the trees were tall here, great dark brooding spirits, that wailed like banshee whenever the wind blew, and their limbs creaked and groaned loudly, like the old men they were, as they swayed. Somewhere a melancholy owl called. For all that they were on the human world, the area definitely had an air of Mystery to it. But then Mystery was not a lady to be bound by barriers, dimensional or any other. She belonged to both of the twin worlds, and wandered them as if they were her own private gardens, leaving many footprints in her wake. Surely this strange, haunted place was one of them.
"Mark? Aren't we gonna fly?"
Mark turned and looked at him, then squatted down in front of the boy, and grabbed him hard, by the shoulders. "Listen up, Davy. When we talk to Father tonight, I don't want you to say anything about the elf."
"But Father says - "
"Yes, I know what Father says. But that elf wasn't looking for us; he wasn't doing anything but trying to get the hell out of here. But Father will use that as an excuse to pack us up and move on tonight."
"Aw... but we just got here... I'm tired... I don't wanna move tonight."
"Neither do I, and neither does Father, I'm sure - but he will. He's exhausted, Davy. He hasn't fed in days, and half the time, he's feeding you - he needs to rest, and he won't do that, if he hears about a strange elf in the woods."
"I guess...." Davy still looked doubtful.
"Well, if it still bothers you, we can tell him tomorrow night, when he rises. Just give him the day to sleep, okay? Does that sound good to you?"
"Okay." Davy smiled. His brother was so clever. Father had looked very tired lately, and he'd been even more quiet than usual, speaking only to issue short, harsh commands. Perhaps he would feel better if he had a good night's sleep, and Mark was right, he wouldn't sleep if he was worried about elves. "That sounds like a good plan, Mark." Davy nodded.
"Good. Now let's fly." Mark spread his wings and launched himself into the air, and Davy followed, flapping his little wings vigorously.
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
The Drakthos © 2001 by KL Gaffney
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