Author: sporkess PM
A country plagued by demons, a prophet missing his hero, a knight who's broken his vows and a powerful talisman fallen into the wrong hands. Treygan, a demon killer on the run from his former life, is thrust right into the middle. Slight M/M slash.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 10 - Words: 33,228 - Reviews: 21 - Favs: 29 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 05-18-09 - Published: 05-02-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2668014
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: It's been a very long time since I wrote things. Sorry about that, guys. Though I can't promise updates on other stories, I can at least tell you that this one will be going up in its entirety; it's already finished, and I'll post each chapter as I edit it.
I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 1: "Do you think that a Voice should pray?"
Two years ago: the year 7020
Caspian stared at nothing, sitting on the stony sill of an unglazed window and gazing blankly at the cloudless sky as it slowly faded from blue to pewter to midnight blue. A cool breeze drifted in, and he shivered; his sole garment was a white cotton robe, thin enough that it did little to protect from the cold. He could move, of course; the tower was by his choice humble, but it was far more comfortable than this chill perch. But the breeze was too little a thing to disturb him, even to the point of belting his robe a little tighter, and he stayed still, looking eastward.
Once, someone would have come to him, the merest brush of discomfort an immediate alert. How many times had he sat in the window staring at the sky? How many times that soft, immediate footfall, the hand gentle on his shoulder, the soothing fingers in his hair?
But no longer. Caspian moved at last, brushing a wistful thumb over the jewel clasped loosely in his lap, drawing forth a muted glow that looked like sunlight on new leaves. No warmth, though; the stone was cold in his hands.
"Caspirín," he whispered softly, sadness in his voice. When Caspirín had touched the Stone, it was like walking through a stand of beech trees in spring, and had all the heat of any pulsing life. But the Stone he'd given to Caspirín had long since been returned, and Caspirín wasn't ever coming home.
Even silent, the words ached, and he wondered if Caspirín felt the same. Did he notice the emptiness, find it hard not to reach?
Caspian closed his eyes, and found himself once again hearing a heartbeat not his own, pulsing at the edge of his soul. It would be so easy, now, to find Caspirín, wrap his mind in his own, sink into his body until Caspian could feel the breath whispering past his lips and into his lungs, feel the stray lock of hair falling loose to caress his neck. So easy to whisper pleading summonses into his sleeping mind.
His Black Knight.
But he'd promised he wouldn't, promised himself that he'd let Caspirín go. He was a Knight no longer; he'd broken his vows, broken his sword, left only the Caspirín Stone, lifeless and cold, to be given back to the one who had made it.
Caspian opened his eyes again. The first stars were shining brilliant in the sky, now, and he remembered with sudden, painful sharpness the silver chains Caspirín had woven through Lelina's dark hair, when they'd danced in the village square by a bonfire under the moon, and laughed like something really could be forever if you tried.
Footsteps interrupted the tender memory, but that hurried, uncertain shuffle was not what he wanted to hear. The door opened despite his wishes, and someone gave a discreet cough - but Caspian ignored him, eyes locked on the arching sky. The footsteps shuffled anxiously closer, and there was a second cough before the intruder finally gave up and spoke.
"Holy one, I must have words with you," he said deferentially.
"Speak, friend Rikah," Caspian said without looking at him. "I listen." Did the village remember? Did they know how blessed they were to have seen the Black Knight smile?
Rikah shifted his weight uncertainly. "A report has just come in," he said uncomfortably. "Demons have been sighted around Ranus City."
Caspian paused for a long moment, running his thumb again over the cold stone in his hands before answering. "Oh," he said, his tone disinterested. He forced himself to respond more appropriately. "Has anyone been hurt?"
"No one as yet, Holy Voice," Rikah replied. "But it is only a matter of time before too many arrive for the priests to keep them back. Voice, what will you do?"
Caspian had been to Ranus only once. That had been enough; it was in Ranus, that should have been their triumph, that Lelina had died fire-eyed, in Ranus that Caspirín had used dark magic to shatter his bloodied sword. "Let the demons take it," he said listlessly. "They owned it for five hundred years. What difference will it make now?"
What would Caspirín have done, to hear him speak this way? Shaken him, maybe, or embraced him; it was too hard to tell now. Either way it would be a touch, a taste of humanity. Never again; no one but the Black Knight would be brash enough to touch the Voice of the God, much less chastise him.
Rikah's voice was dismayed and doubtful when he spoke again; his words were punctuated with the shuffling of his soft-shod feet on the stone floor. "Holy one, people will die," he pointed out.
Caspian shrugged. "People die every day," he said, tone indifferent, eyes empty.
"My lord!" Rikah's voice was shocked now, and Caspian knew an unaccustomed moment of bitterness.
Yes, even your precious, respected Voice can be dismissive; even I can be heartless sometimes.
"I am no one's lord, Rikah," was all he said.
Rikah was not yet put off, however. "Voice, you cannot simply stand by as these people die!" he said indignantly. Caspian did not respond, looking out of the window with lost eyes. The adviser took a breath. "What of Lelina, Holy Voice?" he asked carefully. Caspian's hand, absently rubbing the Caspirín Stone, stilled, his fingers tensing. Rikah pressed his advantage. "Would you have Lelina's resting place defiled by demons?"
Caspian was silent for a long time. "You are right, Rikah," he said finally, the slight slump of his shoulders almost shamefaced. His voice had life in it again; weariness and sadness, but life at least, and when he turned from the window to look at the thin, anxious Rikah, there was a wistful, rueful half-smile on his face. "Forgive me. We must send more priests to the temple at Ranus as soon as possible. Ask for volunteers at first; advise them that promotion will be encouraged for those willing to make sacrifices for Thyria." He sighed a little. "If demons still lurk, I shall make a visit to Ranus myself," he decided, reluctance and dread dripping from every word. "Perhaps my presence will frighten them. In the meantime, please request that at least one demon killer go there with the priests."
"Yes, Holy one," Rikah said, relief clear in his tone - yet he hesitated again before continuing. "Voice... there is another subject on which I must speak to you."
"Speak, friend Rikah," Caspian said, with a ghost of a smile for his advisor's diffidence and his own half-ironic repetition. "I listen."
Rikah met his eyes straight on, blue-grey to a bright, bright blue. "It has been nearly two years since Caspirín left."
His words created a silence when they fell, rippling outward to the corners of the room. Caspian winced in slow motion, turning blindly back to his window. "You need not think I am unaware of how long it has been, Rikah," he said softly, voice pained.
"We have had no sign of him in all this time," Rikah continued doggedly.
Caspian turned to glare at him; his eyes were dry, but his mouth was twisted with misery. "I gave orders that he not be followed," he said tightly. "If he wishes to stay away, I will not force him to remain at my side."
"We have had no word in over a year," the advisor said heavily. "His feelings, it seems, are clear. Voice, you need a Black Knight. Perhaps it is time you started seeking... a replacement."
"A replacement?" Caspian echoed, incredulity and shock in his voice as he stared at his advisor. "You want me to... replace... Caspirín?"
"Holy one, think!" Rikah urged him. "You need a Black Knight. With a Black Knight at your side, you would not simply be warding the demons away, you would be eliminating them! That is what a Black Knight is for! The lesser demon killers simply are not good enough."
Caspian was on his feet; he was shorter than the angular Rikah, but that did not stop the advisor taking a step backwards at the fury in his face. "There is only one Black Knight!" he shouted. "There can only ever be one Caspirín! It is not simply a choice that I made; how can I make it anew? Caspirín was and is my only Black Knight. Never, in all history, has it been different!"
"But never in all history has a Black Knight abandoned the Voice of the God, either!" Rikah replied, the earnestness and reason in his tone forcing the words into Caspian's unwilling ears. "Voice, you must think! It is possible - it must be possible - that with Caspirín a mistake was made. That he was not truly meant to be your Black Knight."
"No." The rebuttal was immediate. "He was my Black Knight. The bond between us... it was unmistakable."
"And yet he broke it," Rikah said; gently, but persistently enough to make it almost cruel. "Voice, Thyria needs a Black Knight. If a new bond cannot be forged, then do not try. But surely you can lend your power to the demon killers, to aid them in their fights?"
Caspian's hand clenched tight around the jewel. "It is Caspirín's stone," he said curtly. "Not theirs."
"He left it to you," Rikah said firmly. "Voice, you cannot let our country fall into ruins just because you are grieving! Caspirín is gone. If you refuse to call him back, it is your duty to do what you can to mend the damage."
"I cannot," Caspian whispered brokenly. Rikah didn't know what he was asking. Give Caspirín's Stone to another, when every night he could hear the Black Knight's heartbeat, as close to him as the breath of a lover? "I cannot, Rikah!" Already he could not be in darkness without seeing Caspirín's golden eyes, sick and weary; how could he face them, having given his jewel to someone else? Caspian's back hit the cold stone of the wall; he put his arms up to protect his face from the accusing glare of his Black Knight as he slid down it to crumple on the floor. Huddled there, the slender young man looked more fragile than he should; far too like the wise-eyed child who had been brought to the Temples for training, not so very many years ago.
And Rikah could not go to him, even when he heard something like a sob. Custom said that only the Black Knight could touch the Voice of the God. So instead he waited, head bowed so as not to witness the prophet's distress, until at last he heard the soft breathing even itself out once more. "We all do what we must for Thyria, Voice. If the price we pay for our ancestors' folly is pain, then pay it we shall, in the hope that our descendents, one day, will not be likewise bound."
Rikah stood there for a long time, but Caspian neither spoke nor looked at him. Finally, he turned to go; it was only when his hand touched the door that a rustling from behind him bespoke the Voice's movement. When Rikah glanced back, impossibly blue eyes were watching him from a drawn face half hidden behind too-soft hair.
"Do you think that a Voice should pray?" Caspian asked, his words too quiet to fill the room.
Rikah frowned at the question, and let his hand fall. "No one doubts your piety, Holy one," he replied, unsure of what answer was hoped for.
"But I am the Voice of the God," Caspian said, his whisper still not reaching the shadowy walls. "I was given to Thyria to answer prayers. Who can answer my questions, my pleas, if the God has no Voice but me?"
"I do not know, Holy one," Rikah said regretfully. "I am simply your advisor. There are questions you should ask your Black Knight, not I."
Caspian turned his head away. "Caspirín never prayed except to weep," he said dully. "I am just the Voice of the God; I have not Its eyes. I cannot see into men's hearts if they guard them. I cannot answer someone if their prayer is never spoken."
Caspirín had knelt, more than once, as if crumpled under his own weight, and cried like a blooded warrior never should. "Why can't you tell me?" Caspian had begged him. "Why can't you?" when the room was full of shards from the things he'd broken, when he shuddered uncontrollably.
He'd always stubbornly shaken his head. "You are the Voice," he'd whisper. "I will not sully your purity." Over and over, until the words lost all meaning, desperately fumbled in his mouth, a rote formula that had been forced into his head. Until Caspian wanted to find the priests who had instructed the Black Knight and make them see what they had wrought. Force them to take it back, and let Caspirín lean on him.
Rikah could say nothing. What words did a priest have to comfort a prophet?
"I feel them, you know," Caspian continued. "The prayers. Not the words, not that, unless I try to single one out from among all the thousands. But the pressure. The pleading. The want. An entire country of people, all tied to the God, all tied to me, all wanting, so much. That's what the Black Knight is for, Rikah."
Rikah's face was sad as he listened, but he started when he was addressed; he had thought himself forgotten entirely. "Voice?" he queried, confused by the enigmatic statement.
"The Black Knight is not meant to be a demon killer, or a confidant," Caspian said softly. "He is meant to be human. Just human. A mind where the Voice can hide from his own self. That is why he cannot be replaced. Caspirín is the only one who can ever balance me."
The advisor took a step forward. "Voice -" he began, not really knowing what to say.
Caspian cut him off. "Leave me now, friend Rikah," he said quietly, letting his head fall back against the wall, as if he was too weak to hold it up any more. "I have heard your words. I will pray for guidance." As Rikah turned to leave, he thought he heard a whisper follow him. "Even though I will not be answered."