Due to a labor-intensive course load this semester, my updates are going to be slower than they had been. I'll try to keep them at least one every two weeks, but it might just be wishful thinking on my part. So after a long wait, Ch. 35 has finally been written and proofed by my ever-helpful muse. Enjoy!

-K.Z. Langford


Silas felt his legs go numb with fear, felt it creep up into his stomach and try to come out his throat. He heard anxious cries of surprise from the Magi, the screams of horses and pounding hooves, then absolute silence. Something warm pressed against his leg and he fought the urge to pull it up, then the dark was lifting like fog.

Silas started when he saw Rathessa mounted beside them on a pale grey horse, sidled up against his leg. As the shadows spread out and disappeared, Silas saw arcs of red snow, glistening dark and scarlet among the morning's rays where the Magi had been. Bloodied hoof prints led away from the worst of it, into the woods; Silas could see no remnants of flesh, no bodies. The rest of the fellari were standing near them, untouched by blood, all mounted and silent, then Rathessa had pulled Kirian towards her and buried her face into his hair. Silas tried not to touch her, feeling a strange tingling of warning trembling against his skin from her. Jealousy flared a tiny fire inside him, and his agitation grew when the other darklings crowded closer, as if trying for a touch themselves.

Again, Silas felt silent speech going between them and hugged Kirian more tightly. His entire leg was alive with pain, arm aching and nerves thinned out like hide stretched too far; being made as an outsider only drove his hurt further home.

"The camp," Silas said weakly, heart beating a little faster when the blood-haired darkling's caramel and gold eyes met his.

He didn't expect the utter hatred in them, and it rocked him back. Kirian gripped his hand, looking over his shoulder at him and frowning the slightest bit.

"Your humans have survived. Xamber and I killed most of the men, but we could not fend off the Magi."

"But your fastening- they were trying to take you."

Kirian didn't reply, but Silas saw a sharp and quick fear flash inside golden depths. Rathessa's head jerked up and she stared at him, then let him go with a beseeching expression.

"We cannot go back, Silas. The Magi were sent for me, and they will follow the Demise. It is too dangerous to stay with them, and they will not protect me. I must stay with my fellari."

The bottom dropped out from Silas' stomach and he felt ill.

"No! Kirian, please, you can't leave me, I have to protect you! I have to help you with the fastening, I can't do that if I'm not with you!"

A million other senseless arguments wanted to flood from his lips but Kirian caressed his cheek quickly, the shadows inside him soothing him.

"I would have you stay with me," Kirian told him quietly.

Silas watched him, thinking of his dedication to the Demise, of how desperate they were; but he couldn't leave Kirian, even the thought was unbearable and physically painful.

"I won't leave your side."

Silas saw regret written in Kirian's features, then he had turned and urged the mare forward. The movement jarred more pain up his leg and he bit his lip to stifle a cry, resting his head against Kirian's back.

"We do not go far, Silas," Kirian said softly.

Silas tightened his arms around Kirian, trying to pull some of his strength into

him, and closed his eyes.


When the rocking motion of the mare stopped, Silas opened his eyes and blinked blearily. Snow was falling around them, everything grey with cloud-ridden sunlight; the darklings were like satin shadows among it.

They had come to stop beside a frozen waterfall, its cave guarded by giant rippling icicles like teeth. Rathessa and the blonde dismounted, leading the way into the cavern. The horses stumbled, picking their way delicately among the distorted and uneven ice into darkness. Light flared up around them, strange white fire that didn't melt the ice but gave off heat that quickly filled the rocky cradle.

Kirian slid off and Silas braced himself, barely able to lift his leg enough to fall gracelessly to the ground. Someone righted him before he fell completely, helping him to sit then ran fingers over his cheeks. Kirian's hair hung around him, then he had knelt next to him and was gently straightening out his leg.

Silas grimaced and yelped, feeling that sensation of pebbles in the joint again. He glanced to the fellari, unnerved by how they were ignoring him. Only the blonde glanced to him at his sound of pain, looking to Kirian as if for guidance.

"I think I shattered it," Silas whispered, feeling dizzy.

He laid back and Kirian widened the tear in his pants knee with his claws, exposing a bruised, grotesquely swollen mass. The fellari were all paying close attention now, Silas saw with a wave of nausea; they seemed trained on Kirian.

"Do they have names?" Silas asked, closing his eyes and trying to keep his mind off both the fellari and the pain.

"Yes, but you will not listen to hear them."

Silas made a face, jerking a little when Kirian touched his damaged knee, "If they were the slightest bit friendly I might try listening."

Kirian didn't respond, then heat suffused Silas' wound and seemed to seep into him, drawing shadows from him that cocooned him and tingled pleasantly.

"Your power's inside me now, isn't it?"


Silas didn't dwell on that, enjoying the strange warm miasma blanketing him. If this was what having shadowfell inside him felt like, he wouldn't complain. It was too upsetting to explore the darker aspect of what it meant, of how it had and would change him. He had killed men with this shadowfell; he felt it was too clean, taking the ruthlessness of the act from it.

A cool touch to his forehead intensified the pleasing warmth so that it eased into his thoughts. That tremendous, breathing power opened to him, sidling up next to him and making him gasp with surprise. He opened his eyes to see Kirian looking down at him, the blonde sitting next to him, both with strange hazy auras around them. When the darkling reached out and gently ran his hand down Silas' arm another liquid, huge consciousness pushed alongside his, threatening to swallow him. He tried to push away from it and the blonde frowned, his hand tightening on Silas' arm, his power like a deceptive lavender-scented poison; it was like trying to push away the ocean.

"Silas," he heard Kirian whisper, some deep sorrow in his voice, then Silas had released that part of him that drew on Kirian, shadowy hooks into that other power, and the blonde let go quickly.

"Don't touch me," Silas managed, Kirian's calm power dissipating his anger as quickly as it came; "Please," he added.

"If you refuse us, Silas Noble, we will refuse you," Rathessa's disembodied voice echoed throughout the cave.

Something inside Silas snapped at that and he sat up quickly, shaking off whatever Kirian had been doing to him. The blonde didn't move, but something pressed against Silas' mind fleetingly, reminding him of a snake warning off danger.

"I have refused you nothing!" he snapped, scooting back against the cave wall and fighting the urge to draw his daggers.

"You would have of us and give nothing in return," the blonde said calmly.

Rathessa stood beside him, her glowing blue and stormy grey eyes accusing and steely.

"I don't know what you mean! I haven't done anything to you, I haven't refused anything to you! You're the ones taking, trying to push me away from Kirian and invade my thoughts!"

Rathessa let loose a discordant shriek that bounced around the ice surrounding them. The twin darklings flinched, drawing away from her, making adrenaline sing through Silas' blood. A quick word from Kirian had her silent, but shadowfell poured off her like a cloak and dissipated around the other fellari.

"We came to you when you had need, we gave of ourselves when you asked! You call on us, but when we call you turn your back!"

Silas felt himself trembling with anger, furiously pushing away Kirian's power from his mind when he tried to calm him again. He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to settle himself enough to speak again without shouting. He didn't know what they meant, and they refused to see his side of things. Taking a deep breath, he looked to the blonde.

"I don't know what you mean."

The blonde's eyes narrowed the slightest and he tilted his head; the motion reminded Silas of Kirian.

"You had called us, when you needed our power to calm you. You needed our restraint and we gave it. When you needed our strength, we allowed you take it from us."

Silas felt even more confusion; he'd never called on the fellari, he feared them and they hated him. But even as he thought it, he knew there had to be some truth.

"When did I call you?" he asked, voice quiet with a dawning apprehension.

Rathessa stepped forward then and shadows pulled from the cave despite the ethereal fire, gathering around her like moths to a lantern.

"Listen," she told him, before the shadows swarmed to him and tugged at the tendrils within him.

He gasped, fighting them off; they shed like down, only to brush against him again. Then an answering power was cosseting him, his power and it settled him. It joined with that persuasive force and absorbed it, and Rathessa's power ran through him like a river. He could see her intentions and thoughts and memories as Kirian took them, saw when his own stress at Kirian's refusal to let him in had overwhelmed him and they had sent him power like calming clouds- and he had taken it. Saw when he had wanted to bite into Kirian's throat and tear, drink from him with that unstoppable craving, taken from them again when they offered their experience as restraint for him- the fellari's despair when he had pushed them out and not even allowed them a taste of their Fellaar. And when he had feared for Kirian, leaked it through to them and driven them into a frenzy, they had offered their power and he had absorbed it, all of it and nearly killed himself. When he had told them Kirian was dead and then he had gone and they feared for him, and he had lived again and pushed them out and they had flown-

The connection snapped like frozen metal, pulling from him like threads embedded in his flesh. He shuddered and had to make himself breathe again as the terrible burning of Rathessa's anger left him. Sharp and reprimanding words, and Silas looked up in enough time to see Rathessa answer Kirian in flowing dialogue, eyes blue and darkened grey embers.

"I'm sorry," Silas managed, "I… I didn't know, I was afraid and you were… you frightened me, all of you."

Those embittered embers turned softer, almost questioning, then died down.

"We do not understand you. We try and you push us away."

Silas put his head down, shamed and angry; he wanted to be back at the camp, where it was familiar, with Kirian against him in their tent and still only his.

"You were forceful. You offered him our power without tenderness."

Silas felt grateful to Kirian, his shoulders relaxing and letting that darkness drift into him. The penetration opened the other darklings to him, a version of what Kirian felt, making him uncomfortable. He pushed away that part, understanding now that his wish for privacy was taken as refusal by the fellari.

"I don't want to refuse you, any of you," Silas finally spoke, "I don't want to hurt you or make you my enemies. But I want privacy, I want to keep some parts of myself. I don't want to change into what you are."

Rathessa hissed and turned her back on him, going to the blood-haired darkling and sitting beside him; gently, she began running her fingers through his hair. Silas drew up his knees, scrubbing at his face. His knee ached, and when he looked at it he saw only mottled bruising and slight swelling. Uneasy at the rising tension in the cave, he got up and limped out to the opening. He found a place in the middle of the lake where it hadn't frozen over completely, kneeling and kicking at the thin sheet of ice until it broke. He dipped his hands in the cold water, throwing it on his face and gasping at its sting.

"We did not mean to harm you."

Silas whipped around, slipping on the ice and banging his injured knee. The blonde darkling stood before him, robes pulled tightly closed. He took a step closer, as if trying to decipher him.

"We were not gentle. We did not want to frighten you."

"Are you apologizing?" Silas asked.

Brilliant green and flashing brown eyes narrowed, and Silas hurried to erase the irritation.

"Do all of you feel this way, or only you?"

The darkling looked perplexed, and again Silas felt the tugging at his consciousness.

"Never mind, I don't need to know."

The blonde was silent, then went to him and knelt beside him. Silas leaned away from him, then tried to act as though he hadn't. The blonde was ignoring him, however, putting a pale hand over the hole Silas had made. Water streamed up in rivulets that sparkled and twirled, twisting around his hand but never quite touching.

"Kirian did that," Silas said, "but larger. I interrupted him and all of it came down and soaked him through."

The blonde smiled, letting the water fall back in scattered droplets.

"We have never known him as he is…"

Silas looked at him, admiring how the sunlight reflected off his hair, setting it off like pearls and gold. The faintest traceries of veins were beneath his pale skin, only adding to the ethereal beauty of him.

"How do you mean?"

The blonde's brow furrowed and he buried his hand back into his cloak.

"He is… different. Part of him is destroyed, changed."

Silas contemplated that, trying to think of how Kirian might have been before. He had changed so much in the short time Silas had known him, yet he had never given thought to how he had been before the fastening.

"What part has been destroyed?" Silas asked, unsure if he wanted to know the answer.

The darkling took a while before he spoke, and Silas realized how difficult the language barrier was between them.

"He is more cautious, not fearful, but… he is guarded. We had always known him to be bold, ruthless. He would never shy from what needed to be done."

"That isn't so terrible a quality," Silas interjected.

The flash of anger from him surprised him, made him resist the urge to stand and get away from him.

"He was part of us! He was part of everything, and it was part of him! Now it is not, and we suffer!"

Silas caught flashes of the blonde's thoughts with the whiplashes of his power, of the cruelty of nature that was absent in Kirian now. He had had a different sense of justice, a different interpretation of laws. It had reflected on him through the pure energies of nature, and the wills of his kind. With a start, Silas recognized what Kirian was emulating- he had taken on aspects of humanity.

"Do you see?" the darkling asked, and Silas couldn't help nodding.

The blonde seemed to settle, and the anger like heated smoke dissipated.

"He is still part of us, but he carries your humans with him. Through you he feels a responsibility to your kind."

"But why? He isn't responsible for them, just as we aren't responsible for darklings."

The blonde looked perplexed again, looking back over his shoulder at the cave. The sun had set low into the sky, and Silas could see that in only a few hours it would be twilight.

"But we are. The earth does not belong only to us, or the oceans. Your kind cursed our Aruth, and it has… it has damaged us."

Silas didn't know how to respond, too mystified and overwhelmed. Humans had made themselves responsible for the fate of the darklings, and in turn the darklings would be responsible for the fate of humans. Whichever outcome, neither party would remain unscathed.

The blonde turned, looking back at the cave, then rose gracefully. There was a tension about him, almost nervous and eager.

"What is it?" Silas asked, rising.

The blonde looked to him quickly, then hurried toward the cave. Silas tried to follow him, falling behind with his knee; only a darkling would make slipping over ice look elegant. Silas made it to the cave entrance, gingerly picking through the icicles, all the while feeling that strange tension building. It writhed around the cavern, filling it and making it difficult for him to breathe.

The blood-haired darkling was kneeling in front of Kirian, one hand grasping the front of his robes and pulling gently like a small child. The twin darklings stood behind him like silent, dark-haired sentinels, their mismatched eyes alight. The blonde darkling had fallen beside Rathessa, leaning against her legs and tilting his head up to her absent caresses.

When Silas looked to Kirian for an explanation, he stepped back involuntarily. Kirian's power swam around him, twisting and voluminous shadows, and Silas could see those half-formed beings dipping in and out of it. His features bore a serenity and anticipation that intrigued him, kept him quiet. The blood-haired darkling reached out a hand, running fingertips tenderly along Kirian's throat; the smallest moan escaped soft lips. Then Kirian was tipping his head back, exposing his neck, and those fingers explored the dulled silver of the collar. He made a noise like a hissing snarl, calming when Kirian ran fingers through his wavy hair.

"Kirian," Silas whispered, inching forward, disturbed at the near-intoxicated looks of the fellari, "What are you doing?"

Trepidation shot through him when Kirian turned that distant, burning look on him, head still tilted back and long raven hair framing his face.

"They have waited so long. They need it," he answered in a soft voice.

'Need what?' Silas wanted to ask, but he was afraid to speak anymore. There was a danger in the atmosphere, a promise of violence should anything stop the darklings from their deed.

The blood-haired darkling rose on his knees, hair a darkest red curtain teasing among ink-black locks, and the tension rose to a hum that vibrated within Silas' bones. The darkling turned his fiery caramel eyes up to him, the golden depths heavy with a threat that frightened him, and drove his fangs into Kirian's throat.