Light, Dark and Shadows
"Aw, come on now, pretty one. I bet you're a bit hot in that dress, eh?"
"Go away, you pervert!"
"I'm just trying to give you a compliment! Someone as gorgeous as you must get them all the time."
"Lay a hand on me and I'll slap you."
"A feisty one, are you? Where are you planning to slap me then?"
"Shut up and go away!"
"Hey, play fair now. Fancy getting a drink-owowowTempestgetoffyousod!"
"Sorry miss. Please excuse my brother."
"That's quite alright."
"Sorry again. Come on, Squall."
Lugging his brother around the corner, still with a firm grip on his ear, Tempest gave him an icy glare. "Just exactly what do you think you were doing?"
"I was charming the ladies, until you spoilt it!"
"Looks like you were doing a pretty good job of that yourself."
"I nearly had her-"
"Had her? She was about to slap you!"
Squall thought about this. "Nah, she was being kinky." He squealed as Tempest's hand caught him around the back of the head. "What the hell was that for?"
"You perv." Tempest shook his head and brushed a lock of dark hair out of his even darker eyes. Sometimes it was difficult to tell they were even related, well apart from being the whole twin thing. Apart from the hair and eyes, they looked exactly the same. Oh, and the wings.
Speaking of wings… glancing around to make sure no one was looking, he unfurled his rich, dark wings from their uncomfortable position, tucked tightly against his spine. It made them ache: holding them stiffly out of view for so long. Smoothing a few black feathers, he stretched them out until they reached their impressive 14ft wingspan. Squall glanced at him questioningly.
"They were hurting. We'd better get going back now anyway."
Squall pouted. "Do we have to?"
"Torrolan will start wondering where we are." His brother snorted but said nothing, staring sullenly at the ground from beneath his electric-blue fringe. He'd dyed it at the end of the winter, and it was now getting long enough for his natural white hair to start showing at the roots. Tempest had threatened to chop off his wings if he dyed it again, but then he was always threatening him about something, and besides, with his hair like his it matched the colour of his eyes almost down to the exact shade. Flexing his own wings, which were the same size as his brother's but a silvery white instead of black, Squall rubbed his stomach. "Can we eat first?" He whined, growling stomach adding its own two pence. "I'm starving!"
"You're always starving."
"I'm a growing boy! I need my food!"
"You can eat back at the palace." Tucking in his wings again, Tempest turned and started walking back towards the centre of the city, Squall trailing behind and griping all the way. "Tempest. Please can we get something to eat?"
"But I'm sooo hungry!"
Around them, people went around their business without even giving them a second glance. They were just two more faces in the crowd. Large, rambling and busy, Aridguard city was the hub of the Kingdom. Diversity and randomness were its watchwords. Sprawling on the top tire of the rocky Silver Steps, Aridguard was set out in three vaguely circular sections. On the outside ring, through which Tempest and Squall wandered, sat the homes of the mass of the city's population. The buildings here were all different, as varied as the people who lived in tem. Some leant against each other as if too tired to stand alone, others with a proud bearing, brand new and glittering.
The next ring in was the commerce centre of the city. Workshops, shops, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, everything you could need made or traded here. The smells of the livestock, the tallow from the candle-makers, curing leather form the tanners, sawdust from the carpenters, and so many more that were lost among the chaos lingered in the air. You could almost find where you wanted to go simply by following your nose.
Inside the craftsman's ring came the homes of wealthy, the well-off merchants and the noblemen. All these houses were proud and elegant, meticulously maintained by white-gloved servants.
In the centre of the city, like some metaphorical bull's eye, Aridguard Palace stood over the city like a teacher watching over her class. In the sunlight, the outer sandstone walls took on a rosy hue, glowing like a ruby beacon. Towers soared up into the blue sky, seeming to go on for miles. Clustered around their bases were a whole host of other buildings, from kitchens and stables to ballrooms and libraries, all enclosed within a solid outer wall. It was practically ancient, having been the home of the royal family since before anyone could remember.
The whole city of Aridguard was counted as neutral ground, have no allegiance to either the Dark or Light side of Heaven. It was a meeting place between the two.
"Tempest, can we-"
"For Dark's sake! Can you shut up, Squall?"
"But I'm hungry! I'll be quiet if we can eat."
Tempest heaved a heavy sigh. If it was going to relieve the headache his brother was giving him… "Fine. We'll eat. Just shut up." Squall's face spilt into a triumphant grin as he grabbed Tempest's arm and dragged him off to the nearest place that served food. The place they found was on one of the main streets, a large sign declaring that it was serving "some of the finest food in all of Aridguard!" Wondering how true that claim was, Tempest followed Squall at a more sedate pace as the blue-haired womanizer bounded it. It was a fairly nice place: the front was open to the street and had a counter at the back where food was ordered and served. People sat at some of the tables, but it was reasonably quiet. A fey bartender was behind the counter, doing the universal actions of barkeepers everywhere: wiping glasses. He looked over his glasses as the two brothers sat down on the stools lined up along the bar.
"What can I get you boys?"
Squall rattled off a list as Tempest looked around. Two girls sitting at the opposite end of the bar were watching them curiously.
"Wow, you sure do eat a lot." The barkeeper was saying. "Anything for your friend?"
"A cup if tea, thank you." The bartender nodded and turned away to deal with their orders.
"I'm not paying for all that food, you know." Tempest said with mild distaste as Squall began to drool over the smells that wafted their way.
"I wasn't expecting a tight-wad like you to anyway."
"At least I don't needlessly splash out on things, unlike some I could name."
"I don't see why you're fussing. It's not like we have to be careful with-"
Tempest kicked him under the counter. "Not here, you fool!"
Squall made a face at him but didn't continue. Tempest was right. Nobody was supposed to know they were here.
The two girls started giggling over something. Squall seemed to notice them for the first time and ran his eyes up and down them, grinning what he thought was his most charming grin. Seeing this, the taller of the two girls began to frown, and the other carried on giggling, a cute little blush rising to her cheeks.
Tempest's hand snapped out, grabbing the back of Squall's top and yanking him back down again as he went to go over.
"No more preying on innocent girls."
"I was only going to say hi. Don't you trust me?"
"I know you too well to trust you."
Squall made a face and settled for winking at the pair, earning another disapproving glare and innocent giggle. "Squall…" Tempest warned, but then their food was put in front of them and he fell on it ravenously. Sighing again, Tempest stared into the depths of his drink, ignoring Squall as he bolting his food down.
It wasn't often they got to leave the palace on their own. Most of the time there were guards with them, or they were staying with some dignitary or other. So they had to sneak out, hiding their wings and trying not to look like they were princes. Which could be a little bit difficult with an idiot like Squall tagging along. He stirred his drink absently. Even if he did spend most of the time covering that blue-haired rebel's lecherous backside, it was usually fun. Seeing what new things Aridguard's strange and slightly twisted populace could come up with next was always interesting. Some of the legal – and some not-quite-so-legal- pastimes of Heaven's people could not be experienced in a palace, so they ventured outside. It was a break from having to sit listing to inane lectures from people more concerned about reputation and wealth than anything else. It was simply boring.
"Hello there, pretty ladies." While Tempest had been lost in his own head his brother had managed to slip away and was now perched between the two girls. "How are you lovelies on this fine morning?"
"All the better if there wasn't a slimy pervert sitting with us." Snapped the taller girl, shooting a cool, emerald-eyed glare his way. They were a lovely pair of eyes, thought Tempest distractedly. Darker around the edges, then lightening to a lush, bright green near the pupil. Magic glowed within her, a hostile red against the invasion of privacy that was Squall. Not human then, to have that much power, more likely a Gudan as she didn't have the pointed ears of the elves nor the long-fingered hands of the fey. The girl beside her was the same; they could be sisters.
"Did we invite you over here? No. Now get lost."
Squall looked hurt. "Here I am, trying to make polite conversation, and you're being rude!"
"Actually, I'm trying to drop hints that we don't want you here so you will go away." Tempest took a sip of his drink, hiding a smile. She certainly had a mouth on her.
Rolling his eyes, Squall turned to the other girl. "So what's your name then?"
"Zephyre." She gave him a shy smile, peering out from behind a curtain of long chestnut hair. "Zephyre Roy, and this is my sister Breeze." Breeze gave an annoyed snort. "What's yours?"
Squall gave her another smile. "Me? I'm Squall Ligh-Lighmer!" Mentally cursing himself for the slip of the tongue, he hoped no one would notice. But it seemed his luck had run out.
"Squall Ligh-Lighmer?" Breeze said, narrowing her eyes at him.
"Uh, yeah, it's, umm a dwarfish name!"
"You look more like a pervert than a dwarf."
"That's not fair! Why does everyone keep calling me a pervert?"
"Maybe because you are one?" Tempest drawled, stepping in before someone (most probably Squall) got slapped.
"Go away, Temp." Squall glowered at him.
"No. I think I'd like to stay." He sat down on the other side of Breeze, who looked at him like his choice of seating was a personal insult. Turning back to Squall, she growled, "Oh, so now you're buddy's come to join you. Is he as much of a pervert as you are?"
Tempest raised an eyebrow. Squall gave a short bark of laughter.
"Him? No, he's more into people of the, how shall we say…male persuasion?"
Tempest gave him another smack around the head. "You're sick, Squall. Just because I'm not a lecherous ass like you doesn't make me gay." His brother muttered something under his breath. "I'm going to ignore that." He said lightly, and promptly hit him again.
"I thought you said you were going to ignore it!"
Tempest blinked at him innocently. "My hand slipped."
"If you two are quite finished," Breeze said, rapping her fingers irritably against her glass, "Will you kindly get lost? My sister and I would like to continue our lunch in peace."
"Fine with me." Tempest said, standing to go. After paying the bartender he grabbed Squall's collar. "Squall, leave them and lets-"
A woman's shrill shriek split the quiet air just as something whistled past his head and shattered against the wall behind him, showering them all with wooden splinters.
For a moment Tempest could only stand dumbly, staring. A swarm of figures had burst into the bar, through both the back and front. Small, beady eyes set haphazardly in squashed faces searched the room, guttural squawks and growls that might have been speech rising to a fever pitch. There were more on the street, chasing people. One leapt on a fleeing man, gorilla-like arms coming round with terrifying force and sending the guy straight through a wall. The thickset, out of proportioned bodies, all covered with oily black fur, were everywhere.
The woman was still screaming, only to be abruptly cut off as one of the creatures separated her head from her body.
"Tempest!" Squall grabbed his arm. "What the hell are they?!"
"I don't know! Look out!" One of the invaders was lumbering towards them, bearing rotting yellow teeth in a sickly grin. Shoving his brother aside, Tempest brought his hands up and thrust them forwards. Two intensely bright bolts of energy shot from each palm and slammed into the brute's chest, sending it crashing to the floor with a pained squeal. Gasping slightly, he turned his attention to where the barkeeper was being harassed, drawing a small dagger and leaping into the fray.
Squall stumbled slightly as Tempest pushed him away. Quickly recovering, he worked his own magic on another creature that was coming up behind Tempest, making it crumple soundlessly. The ungrateful S.O.B. didn't even notice.
"Get away! Leave us alone!" Breeze shrieked angrily, brandishing a stool at two beasts that had she and Zephyre cornered. They towered over the sisters; snarling and growling, drool dripping from their disfigured lips. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a flash of blue hair, and then one of them was roaring in pain, sickly red blood bursting from its nose and ears. Throwing the stool at the other to distract it, she seized Zephyre's trembling hand and together they ran.
Tempest snatched up a glass from the bar, hurling it at a beast before diving to the floor as it took a swing at him. Scrambling on hands and knees, he crawled to the relative safety of the bar, grimacing as a body flew into the wall and slid down. It had no head.
Conjuring a magical fireball, he leapt up and aimed it at the nearest monster, another already in his hand before the first even reached its target.
"Breeze, watch out!" Zephyre screeched as the beast the Squall had made bleed reared up in their path. Hulking arms came up and hands tipped with lethal-looking claws bore down on them.
Breeze squeezed her eyes shut, a scream tearing itself from her throat as she waited for those horrible claws to snuff out her life.
But they didn't come.
Opening her eyes, she gasped. Squall had his hands raised above his head, a flickering barrier of magic holding the black-furred creature away.
"Run!" He hissed, sweat beginning to bead on his brow. "Get outta here!"
Then, from nowhere, a huge dark shape hurtled at him, catching him in the midriff and sending them both crashing over the top of the bar.
Tempest whirled, his dark eyes wide and hair tousled, as Squall went down. Breeze snatched up another stool and was rushing to his brother's aid. Before he could join her, there was a massive crash as part of a wall collapsed, the two beasts that caused it dancing away, delighting in the destruction. Now choking on the dust, Tempest strained to see where the others had gone. Tensing as he felt something on his arm, he spun, magic already at his fingertips only to find Zephyre, her wide green eyes wide with fear.
"Breeze has got Squall! Lets go!" Coughing and choking, they fought their way through the bar and out the back into the clean, fresh air. The street beyond was empty – all the action was inside and out the front – save for Breeze. She was knelt over a blue-haired body.
Tempest felt a rush of dread. He couldn't be…
Abandoning Zephyre, he dropped down beside his brother and gathered him into his arms. "Squall, oh Squall." He was breathing still, strong and steady, but there was already a dark bruise on his temple.
"He'll be alright. He's just unconscious." He felt a soft pressure on his shoulder and nodded. Looking up, his words died on his lips as he caught the look the girls were giving him. It was something between curiosity, fear and awe.
He realized why he was getting such a look. During the fight he'd let his wings come loose, sometimes using them to bat away his attackers. Now they were in plain view, dark feathers glossy in the sunlight. Squall's, too, were out, trailing along the ground behind him.
"You're an Archangel…" Zephyre took a hesitant step forward. "Only the royal family are Archangels."
"I can explain, I mean-" Tempest bit his lip, unsure of how to proceed. Finally though, he sighed and stood up, lifting Squall's limp form with him. "You're right. We're both Archangels. He's Squall Lightthwait," he indicated his brother, "And I'm Tempest Darkthwait, the crowned princes of Heaven." He gave an awkward bow.
"Huh. You fight well for princes." He looked up as Breeze snorted. She was smiling slightly. Zephyre was standing timidly beside her, but gave him a reassuring smile.
Tempest felt himself returning it. In his arms, Squall moaned quietly, twitching, but didn't wake. "Thank you for getting Squall out."
Breeze waved a hand dismissively. "I couldn't exactly leave him there, could I?"
"Heh, I guess not… but thanks anyway. He-he could have been killed."
"Well, he wasn't, so everything's okay, yeah?"
Tempest began to nod slowly, but stopped when an idea came to mind. "I know it's a random question, but what do you do? I mean, what's your job?"
Breeze gave him an odd look. "I'm a waitress, and Zephyre's a tailor's assistant. Why?"
"Well, you saved my brother's life." He shrugged in embarrassment. "It's only fitting that I repay you. Would you like to come and work at the Palace? It would be a good position, and pay well."
"How much exactly?" Breeze gave him that cool, calculating stare of hers.
"We could be flexible."
Breeze was about to say something, but Zephyre pulled her away, calling back over her shoulder. "Excuse us for a moment!"
Tempest watched, mystified, as the pair shuffled away, stopping at the end of the street and proceeded to have a rather animated discussion.
"Tempest?" Slightly startled, he looked down into Squall's groggy blue eyes.
"Hello, sleeping beauty." He couldn't help but smile in relief.
Squall just grunted. "Put me down." He swayed slightly on his feet but if he had enough energy to be sarcastic, he was okay.
"I see nobody died then."
"I wouldn't say nobody, but the girls are okay. So am I, thanks for asking."
"Whatever." Squall sat on the ground and leant back against a wall, cradling his bruised head in his hands. "Oww. It hurts."
"It would do, stupid. You were hit by a thirteen stone mutant!"
"I didn't see you coming to save me."
"I had my hands full. It was Breeze who got you out, so you'd better thank her."
Squall grumbled something unintelligible, but cocked his head to one side, frowning at Breeze and Zephyre.
"I offered them jobs at the Palace as thanks. They must be discussing it." Tempest answered his unspoken question.
Squall nodded and went back to holding his head in silence. With a sigh, Tempest left him and walked back to where they had escaped from, peering round the battered doorframe. The inside was torn and smashed, with one wall supporting a large hole. People were picking their way across the debris, looking numb. At least the beasts had disappeared.
It might not be a good idea to stay for the clean up, Tempest thought. Although a little compensation for the barkeeper would be.
"We've decided." He turned once more to see Breeze and Zephyre striding towards him.
"We accept. On one condition."
Author's note: Mwaha! A new story launched off to relatively decent start! I just got so fed up with all the others…. But anyway, I dedicate this to Chris… Thank you for kicking my ass and telling me to carry on writing! Anyway, I hope to update this weekly. Please read, enjoy and review!