Eri was frightened. No, Eri was horrified. The feathers of his bluish wings were rustled and he had a vague recollection of Nive teasing him about this particular characteristic of his. Eri closed his eyes as he remembered.

It was in the years before the temple, and it was one of the few memories, one of his few precious memories as a child. A snow storm had taken out all the lights in the palace. Snow storms were very rare in Virere, even in the cold season, but when they did happen they brought dense clouds and terrible winds. As a child, he had been terrified of the snow storm, and he'd actually thought that they were all going to die. Nive had laughed and tried to cheer him up: "Would you stop it with your fretting? Yours feathers are all rustled, you look like a big bluish hen. Your wings are bigger than the rest of you anyway. Besides you have a snow storm in your house, why are you afraid of the one outside?" When that hadn't worked, Nive had promised to be there forever for him and then he had held him all through the storm.

Eri wasn't afraid of snow storms any more, but he knew that the king was much worse than any weather phenomenon. He shuddered thinking what their father was going to say if he found out about Nive's new escapade. King Imbris was terrible in his punishments, even with his own children; even if Eri didn't live at the castle anymore, he knew the king did his name justice and Nive himself had been subject to them more than once. Strikingly enough, he and his brother looked very much alike, but their characters were completely different. Sometimes Eri thought that King Imbris was indeed very much like a storm of hail, harsh and stern, while his brother was softer, yet still cold, like the falling snow.

Still, the two could never get along and Nive always got in trouble with the king. Eri inwardly sighed; he knew that partly Nive's rebellious nature was due to his separation from his younger brother which he had never accepted. Partially, he maybe blamed himself for not being able to protect the younger Viridian prince. Eri had gotten used to being an acolyte in the temple of the twin goddesses, but Nive…he had grown more and more frustrated. No one understood that, of course, they all thought his brother was shallow and irresponsible and that it was a miracle he had achieved the highest rank in the military at such a young age. Although he didn't live at the castle, Eri knew the awful rumors about his brother, as well he knew that they had no truth in them whatsoever.

Still, Nive did tend to be extremely rash and proof of this was the fact that Eri was at present looking for him in The Floating City of Sodora. The prince trembled again as he felt eyes on him, eyes of unknown beings analyzing his every move. It was unnerving, no, beyond unnerving, it was unusual and scary. He wasn't used to being in the center of attention, but rather passing unnoticed among other acolytes such as himself.

In fact, he'd never even considered himself beautiful, special, not like his brother was or his sister, who looked like Avria herself, with green eyes and green wings. He was pretty at most, in a common sort of way. Therefore, a long time ago he had concluded that even if he hadn't been an acolyte, prohibited from all sexual contact, he wouldn't have found love in the first place simply because he wasn't beautiful like them. But right then and there that didn't matter. All that matter was finding Nive and the problem was that Sodora the city of sin was simply not very welcoming for an acolyte of Quies and Aecus.

Eri took another deep breath and continued walking on the dark street. He touched the talisman from his neck and prayed for courage and strength. What a bad timing for his brother to leave in one of his nightly escapades, particularly when their father had demanded his presence. If the king found out about this Nive would lose his rank for sure; and Eri couldn't, wouldn't allow that.

In the darkness, the shadows seemed to be getting closer. All of a sudden, Eri felt very trapped; he realized that the closed space didn't allow him to spread his wings and fly away. He heard snickers in the dark. Something was after him.

Eri started reciting every prayer he knew as he ran desperately. Oh Aecus, he was so stupid! Stupid and worthless. How would he help his brother if the creatures trapped him? Tears ran on the pale skin of his face until he couldn't see where he was running to any longer. Or maybe it was just getting darker. Eri didn't know, he just knew he had to run. Then suddenly he ran straight into a wall and fell disgracefully on the ground.

He heard the steps behind him hesitate and then stop. Strange, Eri thought. Looking up, he saw the tall figure of a man looming above him. It was too dark to tell exactly his features, but there was something about him, a feeling, an aura of power…Apparently, whoever had followed him felt it too because he as the tall man looked into the darkness, he could here steps again, but this time they were hastily retreating.

Eri shakily got up, steadying himself with his trembling hands. He opened his mouth to thank the man, but before he could say anything, the man started to say:

"What are you doing here, little bird? This is not a place for ones such as you."

Eri chose to ignore the little bird part, supposing that he did look quite pathetic in that particular moment, if not most of the time. He finally answered.

I'm looking for my brother, kind sir. Maybe you have seen him.

The man said nothing and started to walk away. Suddenly Eri panicked, realizing that this man was probably the only chance he had to find Nive and get out of there in one piece. He scrambled after the man who was now heading towards a lighted building.

"I'm really sorry, I'm so rude. I didn't even thank you properly or introduce myself or…."

Eri suddenly stopped. The street they were now in was lighted and he could see the man's face. Oh Aecus, he was breathtakingly beautiful! His shoulder-length hair shone in the darkness with streaks of scarlet and his dark eyes sparkled mischievously. He was impeccably dressed in a black, tight leather pants an that hugged his athletic body, complementing his caramel skin. Eri couldn't speak; it was like his power of speech was gone and he was too busy staring to talk in the first place.

"What's wrong, little bird?" The man looked at him with undisguised amusement.

Then the prince was suddenly painfully aware of how he must look, sweaty after running through the dirty streets, his long hair tangled and his robes dirty. He looked down, feeling humiliated and stupid. What WAS wrong with him?

"No, nothing…I meant to say…Umm…Thank you for before…"

"Yes, I understood that…You already said it before you starting staring at me."

Oh no!! Could he get more humiliated? Eri blushed and barely managed to stutter:

"Ummm…s-sorry…I…I didn't mean to offend…I only…"

The man laughed, a husky sound that made Eri warm all over.

"Come on, little bird. Follow me."

Eri was confused. Nevertheless, he followed the man through the winding streets of Sodora. After a few minutes, he finally asked:

"Umm, sir…Pardon me, but where exactly are we going?"

The man laughed again: "We have been walking for 10 minutes now and it is only now that you ask where we are going?"

"Well, sir…you did help me and if you had wanted to hurt me surely you would have done it already. So I think I can trust you."

The man turned, an unreadable expression on his face. "Silly little bird. So pure and

naïve." He looked into Eri's eyes and a moment later the prince's body was trapped between a wall and the body of the other man. Eri could feel the other man's breath when he whispered in his ear "Never give your trust so easily. You will be just as easily hurt and deceived." The man then looked in his eyes and crushed his lips into Eri's.

Shock took over the young Viridian. He felt the other man coaxing his mouth open and then his tongue was in Eri's mouth, claiming, stroking, licking. His body was on fire, he was certain he was going to be consumed. He couldn't think of fighting off the dark man, at that moment he couldn't think anything coherently. Then just as abruptly as it had started, it stopped and the man said: "And stop calling me sir. I'm Komo-Nubayo Theli." With a smirk, he added "I suppose, little bird, you can call me Theli. Come now, I believe you were on a quest?"

The prince looked at the man, confused, not exactly sure what he meant. It took Eri several seconds to remember who he was, where he was and what quest exactly the gorgeous man was talking about. The dark man, Theli, continued walking on the streets, brushing his body casually with his from time to time. In a few minutes, Eri was feeling faint and wanted to scream; he didn't understand this place, he didn't understand Theli and he didn't understand himself. But for some reason, he didn't resent the man, nor did he want to be away from him.

Suddenly, Theli stopped, a dark expression on his face. Eri was confused. Had he done something wrong? He hesitantly asked, lightly touching the man's shoulder: "Sir…I mean, Theli? Is something wrong? Did I do…?"

"No." Theli snapped, pushing him away. Eri winced and took a step back at the suddenly harsh voice. He reminded himself that indeed, he didn't know the man, but still, his rejection hurt. Theli continued with a slightly warmer voice. "No, little bird. You didn't do anything. But there's something I must do. Come, I will take you to your brother."

Theli grabbed the prince's wrist into an almost painful hold and started dragging him through a labyrinth of dark streets. They were moving so fast, Eri didn't even have time to think. Before they stopped before a two-storey building; he couldn't tell its color, but the multi-colored lights that shone from various angles before gave it a fantastic, extravagant look. Before he could further observe the weirdness of the building, he was dragged into a dark alley and through what seemed a side door. Theli was moving so fast Eri was getting dizzy. Finally, they stopped; relieved, the young Viridian managed to draw a few breaths. He saw that Theli was engaged in a conversation with a stocky man, who looked in his direction and gave him a suspicious look.

A few moments later, Theli came over to him and said: "I have to go now, little bird. Follow Hingi,he will take you to your brother." Eri opened his mouth to thank him, but the other man cut him off harshly. "After this, never come here again. And forget you ever met me." He turned and left without saying goodbye.

Eri stood and watched as Theli dissapered through the door, not understanding. Finally, the stocky man, the one named Hingi demanded his attention. "Hey there! Yes, you, Viridian. Come on, the Komo said to take you to your brother."

Eri followed the stocky man through the building; soon, he was wide eyed and felt terribly out of place. Looking all around him, he could see men and women touching and kissing and…doing other things…Eri was thankful for the relative darkness, because he was sure all the things they were doing were terribly indecent. And were those two men kissing? Oh, sweet Aecus! But why was he surprised? Theli had kissed him in the alley. No, no, he wasn't going to think about Theli; bad Eri, BAD! Anyway, what they had done was immoral and furthermore illegal for Viridians. Theli had been right, he would just forget.

While Eri was lost in his thoughts, Hingi led him to a reasonably remote corner. Finally, he detected the familiar shade of silver of his brother's hair. He was lucky for the uncommon shade of said hair, because his face was lost in the breasts of a purple haired woman, while a brunette was touching him from the back. Eri was so embarrassed! How could he intrude on his brother's private moment?

Apparently, Hingi saw his difficulty and with an irritated sigh took a step forward. He coughed and said. "My lord." When there was no answer, he spoke again, a little louder. "My lord". At this, Nive's familiar's face appeared from the woman's bosom, a bit flushed. Hingi continued. "There's someone here to see you." A pause and then Nive's voice sounded from the corner. "Someone to see me? Are you sure?" "Yes, my lord, quite sure." Eri took this as his cue and finally stepped forward and shyly said. "Ummm, hello, brother."

Nive froze in shock. Obviously, out of all the people that could have possibly looked for him there, his little brother was the last one to cross his mind. In the meantime, the purple-haired woman, now neglected, turned her attention towards Eri and practically pounced. "Oh, Nive, this is your little brother? He's soooo cuuuuuuuuute!! I just want to eat him up!" Eri was suddenly crushed by her huge bosom and he bemoaned his weak form as he hopelessly attempted to escape her clutches.

At this, Nive snapped out of his apparent trance and pushed the woman of the younger Viridian, causing her to pout in displeasure. Eri was just about to thank him from saving him from the purple-haired woman's tentacles, but he was brutally grabbed and pushed away from the table. "What the hell do you think you are doing, following me here?" his brother hissed. Eri didn't answer. He was shaken. Nive had never used this tone of voice with him, he had always been kind and gentle, even when he was teasing. Eri felt terrible; he had wanted to help and instead caused his brother's anger. And then Theli…It was suddenly too much…

"Hey, stop, stop…Hey don't cry…" Nive's voice was kind, the voice of the brother he knew. "Come on, Eri, tell me what's wrong. Why did you come here?"

Eri sniffled and finally said "I saw Father was looking for you, to send you South, to scout in Aithinne. I knew you come back late when you go to the Floating City…and I was afraid Father would find out…so I escaped from the temple and came to warn you."

Nive paused then hugged him tightly. "Oh, Eri, Eri. What did I do to deserve a brother like you?" Nive interrupted the hug and looked into his eyes intently. "Listen to me, Eri. Never come here again. It is not a place for you."

Eri stared into his brother's quicksilver eyes, remembering the same words being uttered by a different mouth. A beautiful, so warm mouth…Theli…But in the end, Theli had been so cold…What could have possibly happened? Was it because of the kiss? Maybe Theli hadn't liked it? Or maybe…maybe…Eri just realized what he had done…Oh, Aecus…He had behave with such shamelessness, allowing a man he didn't know to kiss him…No wonder Theli didn't want to have anything to do with him…Eri sunk back into his brother's embrace as he again felt tears accumulating in his eyes, for a different man this time. He refused to ask himself why the rejection of a man he'd only met a few hours ago could hurt him in the same way his brother's anger could.