AN: This is the back story to one of my main antagonists in the much longer Iron Butterfly. I don't believe it's necessary to read IB first, but reading even a little would help with subtle nuances.

Relevant information (laid out much cleaner and in a more fun manner in IB but necessary for a smooth read here):
- Rae`lirs are oviparous hermaphrodites. For convenience, and because I hate using 'it' for living creatures, all gender-neutral pronouns in El'ink (their language) are translated to the masculine equivalent in English.
- Fen = parent that produces the egg
- Ka = non-egg producing parent

So from here, I hope you enjoy as well as you can the rather short and tragic tale of the Rise of a Monster:

Lythel looked up when a hand trailed through his hair, guiding his head back. He smiled as he accepted the warm kiss that trailed over his silver lips along with the gentle thought that flowed from his bonded:

You're working too hard.

"Sweetheart, you know I must do this. I have even more responsibilities now." He tried not to sound too condescending. After all, though Weldan was not a temple keeper himself, he'd been by Lythel's side for many years. He understood the weight of Lythel's new role as High Master of the High Northern Water Temple, the highest of all the Water Temples on El.

Weldan smiled and pulled around to plant himself in Lythel's lap. A teasing pout settled over his fine features before he arched his neck to fawn at Lythel's jaw. "You promised me yesterday that we could go away today," the younger sulked with a teasing smile as his hypnotic fingers trailed up and down Lythel's neck and then slid a little beneath the edges of his robe. "I know you're High Master now, but come on, love, don't let it eclipse us."

Lythel smiled as he felt himself caving. He knew if he pushed, Weldan would withdraw with a smile to hide his disappointment. He also knew that it would be wrong. Weldan was right about even his tasks being of lower importance than their bond. "You know, sometimes I think that you'd be able to convince me of anything.

Weldan laughed and kissed him again, excitement and joy rolling through their mental connection. "Don't be silly. You know I could. Now, hurry up and put this away. Lydan is ready to go and waiting for us."

"Who's watching him?" Lythel inquired, instantly anxious for their young son. He'd assumed that Lydan was either playing or sleeping in his room down the hall, since Weldan was with him. Neither of them left their son alone doing anything else, and even then for only short periods.

"You're so sweet," Weldan laughed and kissed his forehead. "He's with those two young keepers that have been doting on him. He's safe. Don't worry so much; you'll turn into an old man so much quicker."

When his bonded lifted off his lap, Lythel laughed and leaned forward to begin putting away his reports and answering-instructions. "Even when I do turn into an old man, earlier or later, I know you'll stand by me, so it doesn't really matter either way, does it?"

Weldan laughed and stopped to nuzzle his ear. "No, but you want to please your bonded with your firm body and attractive features for as long as possible, don't you?"

He smiled and caught Weldan's wrist before the other could slip away. He pressed a kiss into his beloved's hand and looked up with a grin. "Anything for you."

Weldan smiled—innocent and sweet and loving. "Hurry, Lythel. We're waiting."

Lythel smiled. I'll be there soon.

Weldan smiled again, accepting the mental answer, and disappeared through the doorway.

"And where do you want to go this time?" Lythel asked as he joined his beloved by the main gate. Overhead, the tall trees danced in the Dry Season wind, bending and creaking.

Weldan chuckled and touched foreheads with Lydan. "Your Ka-nah hasn't taken us to the Polriss Station yet, has he, banu? Perhaps he should do so now."

Little Lydan laughed and wiggled his head back and forth, holding onto Weldan's shoulders.

"High Master, sir, you're not really going to go so far, are you?" a nervous young keeper inquired as he hovered at the edge of the little family. The rest of his unvoiced question stood in the air: what if the temple needed him? After all, he hadn't made arrangements to be gone for more than an afternoon.

Lythel sighed and glanced towards him, conflicted as to what he should do. As High Master he had duties to the High Northern Water Temple. However, as a Rae`lir-Bonded he had far more important duties to his bonded and their child. Nevertheless, each and every one of the Elemental Lords condemned those who pushed the needs of their bonded behind others. Even more so, Weldan was the light of his life—his very breath—how could he deny such a person whatever was within his hand to offer? "Yes we are," he answered at last, turning to smile at Weldan and Lydan. "I haven't taken them yet it seems. While I'm gone, Temple Keeper Favrin will see to things."

"Yes Master."

Weldan smiled excitedly and leaned over to press a quick kiss over Lythel's cheek. "You're so wonderful," he whispered and turned to flounce towards the waiting transport while Lydan sang in excitement.

} • {

Lythel kept his eyes focused straight ahead while he walked, half-limping, through the main gate and then over the rice-stone pathway towards the main compound. In his peripheral vision he sensed how the others members of his temple beheld him with both pity and compassion. Some lowered their head in reverential prayer, while others turned away to offer 'privacy'. As if privacy could help him now.

The burning tightness in his chest would not be eased with 'privacy' nor would the blazing ache in his soul. Water Lords why? Why had he agreed to Weldan's request? He shook his head and rejected the thought. It was a dangerous one.

"Master, is there anyth–"

"No," he answered, turning a detached gaze upon Keeper Favrin. "There is nothing I need except to be informed of what's been going on here in my absence." He winced a little, the wound in his abdomen aching as they walked. Damn it. Damn himself and damn those bastards that caught him off-guard.

He listened, hearing but only half-focused on what the keeper was telling him. All he could focus on was the bitter memory, the horrible images that replayed in his mind, and the harsh, ugly darkness settled in his chest. Without Weldan, how was he supposed to fight such shadow? He'd always been a little more aggressive and unforgiving than most, but Weldan had always been by his side to laugh and remind him that he was supposed to live in understanding and grace.

"High Master, Master Hallor wishes to speak with you."

Lythel froze. Hallor? Could he really bear to meet with Weldan's older brother now? As much as Hallor respected him, he'd had never seemed to like him; how could Lythel face the older individual with this horrible guilt weighing on him? Even more, with the dark anger? After all, Hallor traded with the likes of the scum who had stolen his lights and his life.

"I will not see him," he answered. "Send him away."

"But High Master…"

He shook his head and pressed on. "No. Inform him that I regret my failure to protect his brother and his nephew, but I cannot see him. Not now… probably never again."

"Yes, Master."

Lythel would just have to find another way now.

Little by little, he readjusted to his life—his life alone—his life without his bonded, his very breath—without his smiles and without their son. Day by day, he fought to regain a sense of normalcy. He knew he would never be the same again; how could he when he'd lost half of his soul as well as the angel he and his beloved had given life to? No, it would never be the same, because without their laughter and their love, it was like he'd fallen into the very pits of gatha—the realm of isolated forgetfulness where those who embraced evil were condemned to suffer for their transgressions in life.

However, repetition and duties carried him a long way. He woke every day and served his lords. He welcomed the new apprentices; he trained those beneath him, saw to the temple business, guided the Masters of the other temples, and continued to breathe. Day in, day out.

Still, nothing eased the dark ache in his chest. Nothing could combat the cold anger that festered there, growing every time the nightmares returned to taunt him for his mistake of taking his family anywhere near Polriss Space Station, for being so blind as to not notice the ill-intent of those wicked 'merchants'—those Lords-condemned humans. His guilt merged with his anger with those foul humans to morph into some dark monster lying in wait at edge of his control.

One day, many, many years later, her jerked awake after a particularly vicious bout of bloody dreams where all he could hear Weldan's dying gasps as little Lydan wailed, screaming for his fallen fen, while Lythel lay helpless, held down by the crippling wound and taunting foot. Their minds cried out to him, and then total silence; the moment in which he lost everything.

He gasped, gripping his head as rage and grief overflowed. It was too much. It had always been too much. Only in moments like this did his front crack enough that even he could see that he could not handle his loss. However, life moved on, and while he hadn't ever actively blamed his lords for what had happened, every day he found them far more distant than ever been before. Not that he really cared. If they didn't care enough to spare him his walking death, he didn't really care to seek them out. Of course, it'd been a long time coming to such a place, but moment by moment, there he was.

"Master," a tentative voice called from the other side of his door. "The new apprentice has arrived."

"I'm coming," he called, rising from his sleeping mat and preparing. He glanced into the shined, reflective metal after he'd donned his rob and prepared for the day. He had to laugh to himself. Wouldn't Wendan be pleasantly surprised? Even now, after all these years, he hadn't changed physically. Now, when he should look like an old rae`lir, withered and worn, he still looked almost the same as the day Wendan and Lydan died. Irony. Wendan had expressed his desire for Lythel to keep from changing; and he hadn't, yet Wendan was not around to enjoy the 'gift' of stopped time.

Lythel shook his head. Yes, perhaps that was what had happened. Time really had seemed to stop for him—everywhere but his eyes. Those, he could see screamed his age and, he feared, the cold darkness that lay just beneath his surface.

He shoved away thoughts of self-analysis as well as the painful memory of what had happened the day he and his little family had been ambushed by those human-bastards. Humans. Elemental Lords, what had possessed that old coot to bend to that trader's request to provide housing and education to the child of a human-business partner?

It doesn't matter, he told himself. And it only mattered a little. That was until he arrived at the main gate and saw the individual that was supposed to live and serve in his temple. He froze, staring at the short individual whose eyes darted around.

The darkness Lythel carried around for so long roared past the surface to gnaw at the edges of his mind, salivating like a rabid beast. That hair—that Lords-damned black hair; it was just like the monster who'd plunged the blunt club clear through his beloved's chest, and laughed while the young rae`lir fought for breath and curled protectively around Lydan while both their minds whirled and pain and fear.

Lythel fought to even his breathing, fought even harder to remind himself that this human had nothing to do with his past. It was so difficult. All humans were the same: lying, hateful snakes. His own personal memories synced with the Rae`lirs Memories from the War to assure him that this was true. Why had the Elevated Master insisted he accept this little monster into his temple? Surely the Water Lords were as disgusted with his presence as Lythel was.

No matter.

The Elevated Master had made his ruling, and without a direct intervention by the Elemental Lords, even the High Master of the High Northern Water Temple was bound to obey. Someday, they would rouse from their current apathy and strike down this affronting presence. Until then, Lythel would do whatever he had to in order to ensure the little beast kept in line.

"Master, a letter of greeting from this new apprentice's parent."

Lythel accepted the small data-plate, and skimmed the words. The Gartian words. That arrogant fool hadn't even deigned it worthwhile to put the communication in the trade-tongue. He scowled and hit the translate function. El'ink was far less wasteful when it came to time and focus.

The old rae`lir shook his head, little encouraged by the haughty, almost-apologetic description of a weak child without backbone or intelligence that was now his temple's responsibility. Lythel swallowed back an additional growl and lowered the data-plate to appraise the boy once more. He frowned. That hair would be the first thing to go.

"Come along then, boy."