Title: Tales of a Fallen Seraph (1/4)
Friendship/Angst/PG-13 (For some mild violence, foul language and comsumpstion of alcohol. Not much.)
A trip through the Arias Mountains goes horribly, horribly wrong! A rather nasty confrontation hits home for Sin, leaving a very confused Draca to painstakingly uncover the truth behind Sin's past. It's time to remove the shroud of mystery around our favorite assassin, no matter what the cost!
Time Line:
Early winter, 2465 A.S. Seven years after At the End of the Day.
Sin – 465 years; Draca – 110 years; Gwen – 26 years; Kyris – 50 years

EXTRA SPECIAL NOTE! The very beginnings of slash. X3

Tales of a Fallen Seraph

"Only truth and tears may clear the way to a deep and lasting friendship."

At the very center of Viranus' eastern continent, Espyra, lay the great mountain range of Arias. The vast mountains stretched almost endlessly across the eastern land in a magnificent crescent. These mountains were the most well-known peaks in all the world – not simply for their vast size, but for the sheer wilderness which it created. Adventurers of all generations had attempted to tame its might, but none could ever tame its forested peaks, secret caverns, and breathtaking cliff faces. Sense of direction became useless when inside those valleys. Even compasses and the strongest of mapping spells were known to go haywire the moment one stepped foot in the great shadow of the Arias. Most travelers followed the path of the Ouroboros, the only river which cut a clear – and relatively safe – path through the Arias. To do otherwise, certainly, meant death – especially in the oncoming, merciless winter.

All around him was a wall of white. The snow fell in relentless torrents, sticking to his skin, his hair, and his ill-suited clothes. His legs were numb and frozen as he waded through the near hip-deep snow – each step sending a burning pain throughout his cold and battered body. His chest heaved with the force of his sobs, his tears long since turned to ice against his skin. By some miracle, his eyes hadn't frozen shut with his tears yet.

It was so cold. So very cold. So cold that it seared his very bones.

He was hungry. So very hungry. He couldn't remember the last time he'd fed.

And he was tired. So very tired. All he wanted was to sleep – to lay down and let the cold death take him.

But he couldn't. He wouldn't. They were still chasing him – as they had been for at least the last week. Even if he gave in to death, there was no guarantee he'd pass into the next world before they found him. And then his death would painful in a way that made him sick to imagine.

'Mom,' another gut-wrenching sob ripped from his chest, 'Mom, I'm only fifteen. Why did this have to happen? I-It's so cold, Mom. Why'd you have to die?'

A screech came from above – one that sent a whole new kind of chill through his veins.

They'd found him!

He forced his body to run, though the pain was nearly unbearable. He didn't want to die. Hopes help him, he didn't want to die!

His body gave out after merely six feet. He was sent tumbling into the snow, the icy substance engulfing his body in a world of cold fire. He panicked. He thrashed about in his white prison, unable to escape its stifling cold. His limbs flailed. His breathing went out of control. His vision began to darken. He couldn't get enough air. 'Please... I don't want to die. I'm sorry! Gaia, I'm sorry! Please don't let me die. Someone help...' He could hear the beats of those mighty wings now – knew they were closing in on him.

"PLEASE!" his own voice was the last thing he heard before darkness took him.

A distinctly paranoid shiver worked its way up Draca's spine as a twig snapped somewhere nearby. He swiveled his head to glare at the expanse of snowy forest just behind him, knowing before he even moved that nothing would be there. He scowled. 'Fuck, I hate this place.' A light breeze blew through the forest around him, wracking his too-sensitive body with shivers. On reflex, he wrapped the thick material of his winter-suited – and more importantly sleeved – duster tighter about his thin frame. But his body still trembled despite his efforts – now more from the memories than the actual chill.

Gaia, he hated this place. He'd spent too much time here as a child – fighting to simply survive while his Vampyric abilities were developing. The harsh environment, the fear of becoming lost in the deceitful valleys, and not to mention the constant threat of being discovered by those who hunted him had left a lasting impression on his life. The day he finally found his way out of the Arias was perhaps the happiest day of his life.

But here he was, back within the gazes of those hellish mountains. During winter, no less.

The Vampyre turned his scowl towards his partner, who was the cause of the mess they were currently in. "Don't look at me like that," Sin called back to him from his position some yards ahead of him. He had long since stopped being astonished at how the man knew exactly what he was doing at every waking moment. "Where would you have gone?"

Draca scoffed. "Anywhere but here!"

They had been on a routine joint commission in a town just west of the Arias only a day prior – an assassination of some lower diplomat that required a spy's touch. Or... something. He couldn't remember. He didn't particularly care. But once the job was finished, they had to deal with an unexpected obstacle: bounty hunters. The little pests had been getting more and more bold as of late, thinking they could take down some of the Underground elite. He and Sin had been simply too annoyed – they were dogged by the hunters from their first step onto the mainland, it seemed – and too ready to return to the Haven to deal with them. So they simply fled town in search of a place where they could lie low and wait out their pursuers.

Unfortunately, Sin had chosen the nearby Arias as that place.

Sulking, the blond stuffed his hands into his coat pockets and trudged along through the snow behind Sin as they made their way through the dense forest. Draca's gaze still darted about his surroundings in paranoia – an old habit from his stay there. They had been walking for some time now, attempting to find a sufficient place to rest.

And, despite the fact that it had been nearly eighty years since he'd been here, things were beginning to look... familiar.

Draca stopped, glancing about in mild confusion. Sin did not seem to notice, as usual, and continued on. Unperturbed by this – too used to it now – the Vampyre examined the trees around him with a critical eye. He found what he was searching for a ways west of him – or at least, he thought it was west. You couldn't tell in this damned hellhole.

It was an old oak, long since turned white and ghostly. It towered high above him, so far that the very top was obscured against the gray sky that promised snowfall. And across the bark, at his chest level, a single line was carved into the bark – an aged scar.

"Hey!" he called. The soft crunching of snow some ways ahead of him paused. "I found something!"

He waited silently for his partner to return, losing himself once again in the memories of this place. It seemed like an eternity ago that he'd awoken here. He had been merely a child then – weak, frightened, and searching desperately for a place to hide from those who hunted him. After that fateful incident on a cold winter's day – the one that was forever engraved in his memories – he'd woken up in this very spot.

Since then, the old oak had become his sanctuary – his keep.

The blond thief came back to reality as Sin stepped up beside him. The man was staring quizzically at the white oak. With a flash of embarrassment, Draca realized that while Sin was capable of Seeing the life force of the tree, the old scar would remain invisible. Immediately upon realizing this, the Vampyre gathered some of his own energy into his hand and brushed it over the carved line, painting it in living Color before his companion's eyes. The assassin reached out to touch it, studying the mark with calloused fingertips.

"What is it?" Sin questioned after a moment.

"The entrance to my... well, keep, I guess you could call it. I used to hide out here when I was still young." Draca gestured to a large gap covered in snow and soil between the roots. "Once I was strong enough, I sealed the only way in." Indeed, there had once been a tunnel there decades previous. One that he no longer needed.

"You're... going to let me in?" Draca understood exactly what his partner was getting at. This was his eden. The place where he felt safest. Sin knew a thing or two about those. He knew what Draca was potentially risking by opening up his keep to the man.

"Eh, sure, why not? It's better than being out here in the cold, anyway." Truthfully, Draca needed to be in his keep right about now, Sin or no Sin. Another one of those paranoid shivers ran up his spine, and he tried to force away the urge to attack anything that so much as moved.

"So how do we get in if the entrance is sealed?"

At this, Draca couldn't help but smirk, and he tugged the assassin to stand shoulder to shoulder with him. "Don't move." Sin tensed, his breath halting as the ground beneath them rippled and gave way to inky blackness. The pair sank into the world of shadows.

They emerged from the side of a rock wall a mere moment later. Sin stumbled, gasping a deep breath. "I hate it when you do that," he growled.

Draca chuckled, the previous tension in his body melting away and reveling in the sudden warmth of his keep. "And how would you have gotten in?" he replied, mocking Sin's earlier words. He ignored the assassin's glares, patiently waiting for the man to discover their surroundings. He did, of course, a few seconds later. His mouth, which had been open for a scathing retort, clicked abruptly shut – eyes widening in wonder and mild shock.

The Vampyre's grin widened to fanged proportions, and became smug. Pride swelled in his chest. His keep was capable of making even his cold bastard of a partner momentarily drop his guard.

Really, though, he supposed it could do that to just about anyone. It still shocked him sometimes, when he'd return after a long absence. The chamber itself was bordering on gigantic - considering it was underground – circular, and had a high, domed ceiling. In some places the roots of the great white oak would trail down the rock walls like searching hands. The atmosphere was surprisingly comfortable for being so far beneath the surface. (It was cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Draca loved it.) Fresh air was circulated throughout the chamber by minute tunnels in the walls – probably made by some animal and abandoned long, long ago. Fae lights lined the walls and high ceilings, shedding a dim luminescence upon the keep.

And, to his eternal delight, the room was full of extravagance.

Despite his contempt for its location, Draca still used his keep. Now, though, he preferred to phase in long-distance via shadow jumping – an exhausting but effective feat – to visit the place. He was a Vampyre by race, but his origins were very much a Dragon's in nature. Thus, his keep – his childhood hideout – had now become a vault for his various conquests.

Large tapestries, colorful and expensive, were hung onto the walls and used as rugs to insulate the cold stone floor. Treasures he'd procured over his career were stored in the chamber. Piles of gold coins, extravagant jewelry, precious jewels, and priceless artifacts were lovingly displayed throughout the room. Even the mythril scepter – from that heist that had catapulted him into fame – sat on a low dais, still in the protective binding he'd used to move it. There was a small section of the room near the back wall which was left clean of gold or treasure. Instead, the largest of his tapestries, depicting a great Dragon in reds, golds, and greens, was hung on the stone wall. The rest of the tapestry was filled with tiny figures, telling the story of a time long since passed. He'd never bothered to figure out what legend it told. Beneath the wall hanging was a makeshift bed made of the highest quality furs.

Many of these treasures, he knew, would emit an aura visible to Sin's eyes.

Somewhere in the keep, if he remembered correctly, was a collection of fine Sylvardas wines. 'Wine sounds good right about now.' He left his partner to wander about the room, undoubtedly still a bit shell-shocked, and went in search of that elusive bottle.

By the time he returned with a bottle and two gold inlaid glasses, Sin had regained his composure and was studying an old necklace that had once belonged to a powerful Sorceress. He popped the cork easily and poured a glass for the man, who took it silently. As Draca poured himself a glass, Sin took a sip from his. "How long has all this been here?" the raven-haired man asked at length.

The Vampyre glanced about the treasure trove, considering. "Well, that scepter," he pointed to it, "was my claim to fame in the Underground about... fifty years ago? Damn. It seems like forever ago now. I've been stealing for about eighty years all together – ever since I left the Arias. Started off small, y'know? Pickpocketing and petty theft. Then I moved on to wealthy merchants, and then anyone I wanted." He shrugged. "And eventually it came to this."

Sin nodded, apparently satisfied with his explanation, and went back to examining the artifacts around him. Draca sipped his wine, sitting back on his pile of furs.

It was all a matter of waiting now. But at least they were out of the cold.

The next handful of hours was spent in a comfortable silence, with frequent bursts of jovial (if decidedly one-sided) conversation. Sin spent the time wandering about with that subtly intrigued expression on his face. He would study the various pieces of treasure and art in the chamber, often asking where the thief had acquired one artifact or another. By the second hour, Draca had become bored with simply lounging and joined Sin in rediscovering his triumphs. He would frequently start retelling the tales of how he'd acquired each piece – more than once going off on a seemingly nonsensical tangent. For the most part the assassin didn't even seem to heed him as he told daring narratives of his conquests, but the occasional sound of quiet amusement or the quirk of lips told him that Sin was indeed listening.

The thief would be the first to admit that they'd come a long way in the last seven years. They were truly partners now – no longer miserable in the arrangement. There was a new-found trust between them, built upon years of watching each other's backs and guarding one another's weaknesses. The incident with Gwen a few years back significantly boosted Sin's faith in him as well. Things were capable of being companionable, even comfortable, with them now.

But they, by no stretch of the imagination, could be considered friends. While the hate and distrust had faded, the two were still prone to argue constantly. That aspect, Draca figured, would never change. They had gained the ability to agree with each other on some things, but both were too stubborn, too prideful, too different to hold a real friendship. At least, he believed so.

Draca had never had that elusive entity called "a friend." He had acquaintances. He had family (if you could call that family). But never friends. He wouldn't know how a friend would act even if he met one. He had Kyris; he had Gwen; he had Sin. But could he really call them friends? He tried not to worry about it. It wasn't his style to be concerned about what he didn't know.

"Are these magic-infused?" Sin had found his stash of rare books, and was holding one up in question. There was no title or adornment on the cover, unlike the others which had gold inlay. The cover was sturdy gray leather. But despite the lack of title and decoration, Draca recognized it immediately. Panicked embarrassment – that of a child caught trying to nick food before dinner – flooded his mind. He fought not to avert his gaze like a common thief. Sin's expression became quizzical, having undoubtedly Seen the change. Draca cleared his throat. "Er, yeah. It should be. I got it from the Tower of Wisdom, anyway."

"Stealing books from the Tower of Wisdom?" Sin's tone was mocking, albeit good-naturedly. He opened the book, skimming over the contents. "That doesn't sound like you at – oh." His eyes widened in realization, brows rising to his hairline.

Draca felt like dying, really he did. He'd acquired that particular book in the midst of one of his heists in the Tower. It was one of his more embarrassing urges – one of those that revealed his bitterness about his childhood. It had been a theft of chance: discovering a book on Dragon Lore as he escaped from the Tower. It had been that need – that disgusting, embarrassing need – to know more about his people (for he still secretly considered them his, regardless of all that had happened) that had caused him to steal that book.

And the Vampyre had been so ashamed of himself afterwards that he hid the tome in his keep, hoping to never see it again. For why should he want to know anything about them? They were the ones who had it in for him. They were the ones that estranged him; cursed his name; locked him away. They were the ones who hunted him.

Sin glanced between his partner and the book, and then nodded to himself. He turned away from the Vampyre, flipping through the spelled-fresh pages of the book without another word. Relieved, but still feeling sheepish, Draca wandered elsewhere. He began sorting through his long forgotten treasures once more, but this time in silence.

He had just found that old Elfin cloak that had belonged to a warrior prince or some such – seemingly hours later – when he heard the crash. Draca glanced up, curious. 'Did Sin trip over something?' There was no further sound that greeted his ears. No shuffling, no muffled curses – just thick, dreadful silence. After a few moments concern started to seep through him, and the Vampyre weaved his way back through his acclimated treasures, back to where he'd left his partner.

"Hey, buddy!" he called as he rounded the last pile of coins. "The hell was that noi- Sin?"

The stacks of books were in chaos, strewn about the floor. The leather-bound book – his eternal shame – lay open on the ground. He found himself staring at the very Dragon tapestry that hung over his bed of furs, forever immortalized in ink. The thief forced his eyes from the tome, cautioning a glance at his partner.

Even at first glance, he could see that something was terribly wrong. The assassin's normally honey-toned skin had gone alarmingly pale. Ruby eyes were wide, shaken, and panicked. They were trained intently upon the fallen book, upon the magic-infused illustration. Draca had never seen him quite like this before, not even when the Glyph had all but exploded nearly two decades ago. He'd never seen him so shaken and – dare he even say it – so scared.

He moved closer, slowly, and reached out a hand for the man's shoulder. "Sin…?" The man flinched almost violently at Draca's touch. Those panicked ruby eyes focused on the Vampyre, and a grim kind of realization dawned in them.

"How long?" Sin's familiar Omegan lilt was both cold and strained, both enraged and panicked. He seemed to be fighting to keep his voice steady. His hands were trembling. Draca had never seen him like this before.

"What?" He had no idea what the assassin meant – what he wanted to hear.

"How long have you known?"

Confused, Draca could only reply. "Known wha-?"

"HOW LONG?" Sin all but screamed, his composure broken.

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"That I-" He stopped abruptly, choking off his words. He was breathing hard, chest heaving, and glaring at him – judging him. "No," he murmured finally. "No, you don't know."

"Sin, what the hell are you-"

"How do you get out of here?"

Draca was left, utterly bewildered, as Sin did not wait for an answer, but raced up through the tunnel at the far end of the chamber like a man with Hellfire at his back. It was only when he heard the tell-tale sound of crumbling rock that he sprung into action, casting a final glance at the book before sprinting off after Sin.

The tunnel was longer, and more cramped than he remembered it. The blond thief had to stoop down to avoid hitting his head on the jagged ceiling. With his speed, he came to the once sealed off entrance quick enough. It had, by the looks of it, been hastily blown open by Alchemy. Back out in the winter chill, his whole body shuddering in protest, Draca sent his shadows to work repairing the tunnel before dashing off into the snowy forest.

He set off in a random direction, letting his old instinct guide him. Old habits returned, using every bit of his practiced stealth to weave between the trees – avoiding fallen branches and using his Vampyric abilities to muffle his footsteps and erase his footprints behind him. His senses expanded on reflex – sight, shadows, smell, and hearing all focusing on his surroundings. The thief picked up Sin's trail early on, but no matter how fast he ran, Sin seemed to be just out of his range.

He quickly grew tired of this game of cat and mouse, an age old panic igniting in his veins. He dissolved into shadows, by which he could travel at least twice as fast.

With this change he began closing in on his distraught partner, who seemed to be running blindly through the forest. 'What the hell is going on?' he kept asking himself. 'What spooked him this badly?'

Draca suddenly skidded back into corporeal existence, slowing to a low stalk close to the ground. He fought not to hiss as the snow burned his hands and snuck beneath his thick clothes.

Sin had halted quite a few yards ahead of him in a clearing, his head turned towards the sky. He still appeared shaken and pale. Slowly, cautiously, the Vampyre crept forward, hiding behind a barrier of trees and dead underbrush. What was going on in that head of his? Didn't he know how dangerous it was to run around in these mountains? They could run into-

A chorus of deafening roars sounded from the sky, and shook the forest around them. A dark shadow fell over the clearing. Draca's blood turned to ice in his veins. "Oh…fuck."


End Part 1. Walk on, Traveler of Worlds.

So a time skip allows us to see that the boys are now something, kinda like, friends. It also lets us see a glimpse of Draca's less than spectacular childhood. =/

Action and slash implications are up next!

Thanks for reading! Oh, and I enjoy feedback. ^ ^