A thousand times sorry for the delay. This epilogue has been laying around for months now, but I couldn't reach them, trapped on my computer as they were :(
The grey color of the granite floor created a cool atmosphere. The heavy steps that had been drumming down the hallway came to a halt, and for a moment the king of the grozoners stopped and enjoyed the cool entrance to the royal apartments. The smell of forest still clung to his cape: muddy, swampy and mossy.
New footsteps sounded from the terrace and Alys appeared.
"She has left," Ghorr told her.
She nodded. "Yes. I can feel it."
"I saw your magical mark. Impressive."
"Sally's not the only prodigy." She looked down at something she was holding in her hands and said: "I hope enough hate for you and sympathy for me lives in her so she'll one day use her powers to punish you."
Ghorr made a sort of snort. "I just sent the girl in the direction of 'home' with a bag full of supplies. That will not be happening anytime soon."
Alys closed her eyes and sighed. Ghorr closed the space between them and took her hands in his, opening them and looking at what was inside. It was a piece of silver that looked like it had formed itself to fit her palm perfectly. There were even thin lines depicting the crevices he knew from her skin.
While he watched what she had created her hands began to tremble. His eyes would not have picked up on the detail, but his fingers did (or the thing that dragons had instead of fingers). He clasped her hands between both his claws and waited for a long time till she stole a glance at him.
"Alys, don't fear me," he said. "I went through every ceremony your people require. I am your husband in both my way and yours."
"Yes," she hissed, "you really went out of your way for me." Her slender hand turned between his, and their palms touched. Suddenly heat spread from every crevice in her skin and then an electrifying shock went up through Ghorr's arm. He jerked back and she started for the door, but he grabbed her arm and the excess force of her fly made her fall sideways to the floor with him following. He landed on his knees and moaned in pain. "Get away from me!" she ordered, but he didn't.
"That would have put me out for days if not for the spells I put on you when we married," he muttered and shook his head. "How did you learn? Was it Sally?"
With a half roll she tried kicking him off her, but instead she ended up writhing helplessly on the floor, with his eyes there for pity. He reached over her, the flap of his wing touching her belly, and grabbed her other arm, holding her fast to the ground. She kicked and spat and tried to roll, and as she struggled against him and he used his magic to try and calm her, he noticed another presence.
"Alys, calm yourself!" he growled, and the deepthroated sound made her stop, goosebumps spreading all over her body. "You're pregnant. Please think of our son!"
She blinked. "What?"
"You already knew, didn't you? That's why you're attacking me." His voice was level and eyes focused on her quivering lips. There were no tears to spot in her eyes, though he was looking for them.
"I didn't," she whispered and shook her head once, then again and again until it was a frenzy going through her whole body. "I didn't, I didn't, you monster, monster, mosnter -" She continued to repeat the word until he put his claw over her mouth, careful not to scratch her pale skin.
"Fine, Alys, you didn't. I believe you."
Her eyes looked up into his with arched eyebrows and he sighed so his tongue hissed against his teeth. "Alys, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not angry."
"Then don't touch me," she whispered and turned the side of her head to him. He felt the static of her hands trying to break the border of the countless spells that shielded him.
"How stunningly much you hate me," he muttered. "I understand, Alys. But don't worry. If you don't pull this again I won't ever touch you again. I don't need to. The rule of the heir is done."
"Don't call it that," she spat. "It's rape. Rape!"
"Fine. Rape. Is it that much worse than all the other things I've done to you? Dragged you from your home, concealed you beneath the ground, treated you like a child by giving you simple books and trying to get you to talk with me by baiting you? I'd taken everything from you. How could it mean so much more? You were already powerless and degraded."
"Stop it," she wailed, but still no tears. Her eyes had closed, so if she was crying they were walling the salty water away.
Ghorr had continued to raise her from the ground a bit with each word, and now that he let her go she fell to the ground with a quiet thump and a smack of the head. He grabbed her again, turned her scalp and discovered no wounds or blood.
"You've got to make peace with your life, Alys, or you'll never be happy."
"I don't want to be happy," she claimed.
"Of course you do. Everybody does." Sharp nails stroked away a sweaty, red lock of hair. Then he bent down and kissed her forehead, and her skin went flat, her eyes closed and her body relaxed. He snuck his arms under her and carried her to their bed. For a time he watched her sleep peacefully, then he got up and went into their living room. A plate of gooseberries from the mountains lay in a bowl. Holes in their formation revealed that she'd been eating them since that morning. He took a handfull and ate them one by one.
Sally Petune crept back into his mind. For a moment he'd forgotten all about her in Alys' fit, her lost, hanging shoulders and the way she continued to look over her shoulder as she disappeared into the forest. He knew he had been able to see her for a lot longer than her human eyes could depict him. He wondered when she would be able to bind a spirit to her that would solve that problem.
Knocks on the door sounded, and he loosened the spell on Alys, giving her an easier and more confused sleep. He made a backwards move with his hand and the door swung aside to reveal Carder, with the rest of the council behind, marching through the threshold with serious faces.
"Good," Ghorr nodded.
"I apologize for our late arrival," panted Heleth and lifted a paper. "A corridor had collapsed and I was out dealing with the problem when you sent the message."
Ghorr smiled. "It is no problem, Heleth. I am rather glad you came a bit later, actually," he said, glancing briefly in the direction of his bedroom, "because it gave me some time to think further on what I would say."
Malign stepper forward and handed him a thick folder with documents. "Here, my Lord, are the statistics over our population, monthly consumption of food and a list of items in the libraries, offices, workshops and barns."
"Thank you, Malign." He looked briefly over the papers, then cast them on the table with a nonchalant whick of the wrist. "My loyal council," he said solemnly, "I have called you here today because The Moving Day has come again."
"What?" burst Dylin, Qan, Whass, Heleth and Shin, while Tinne breathed a quiet "no!" and closed her eyes.
"I apologize for separating you from our beloved estate," Ghorr added in the direction of Tinne. "But it is no worse than what the Wooden People in your bloodline experienced when we seperated them from their forests and brought them here."
"Is this necessary?" asked Manthys with a deep frown. "The earth is rich, we control the lands well, our enemies are scarce and have problems bigger than dealing with us and the few women we steal."
"But we do have a new enemy, Manthys," Ghorr said with a shake of his head and an excited grin. "The future. The pieces of chaos are planning something big. I do not know what it is, but as we already discussed it is going to be something unimaginatively huge. Our mountains are not safe." He fingered with two gooseberries, turning them between his fingers. "We'll have to move back to our roots."
Opul quaffed down a gasp. "Ghorr - excuse me, my lord, I ..." She shook her head. "Home?"
Carder groaned, and his red iris sparkled despite that there was no lighting to provoke it. "Home, Opul? You do not strike me as that old." She bowed her head and looked away with a pout, and he turned his shining gaze on the king, who was looking towards the royal bedrooms with an alert concentration. "Ghorr, you were my student. I have taught you about our past and the unanswered questions it involves. How can we be sure we would survive going back? We might have left due to a bigger threat than this one, or we may have developed into something uncapable of living in that invironment."
"Then we'll simple redevelop what we were," Ghorr answered simply. "No trait is ever lost."
"Except if the whole race dies before they can produce offspring," Shin said.
"Why not just another, safer, more remote place?" asked Whass.
"Yes, our place is strategically perfect against any enemy," added Dylin. "We know these lands better than our own pockets!"
"I doubt anyone but I know them that well," Tinne murmured unheard.
"The pieces of chaos knows our halls and corridors almost as well as we do. It would be best if we could leave unnoticed, but they will probably know as soon as we break up." Ghorr scratched his advancing chin. "The most problematic is to get everyone to leave, of course."
"On your command they will leave," Malign said hesitantly.
"I will do what I must as king, but I am not fond of forcing my people into doing things they absolutely won't. So, I will be the father of two kings, then."
Carder's eyebrows raised, and the others' surprise soon followed. "The queen is with child?" asked the magician breathlessly.
"So soon?" Opul muttered disapprovingly, but Ghorr ignored her.
"One of my sons will stay here and lead the people, while my other son comes with me to rule the new kingdom I create - or to continue the creation of it, if I fail to finish it."
"Shame your brother is not here," Viverys observed. His white polar bear fur almost shone in the dimly luminated room.
"Yes, but his ways are unknown and most likely far from here," Ghorr said.
"It would not be impossible to find him, my lord," Viverys conjured. "With my blood mages and some time we could find him and perhaps bring him back."
Ghorr shook his head. "Too much time, Viverys, too much."
"Well, how long do you expect it to be before half the kingdom uproot and leave the other half to a child king?" demanded Opul. "As soon as he is born?"
Ghorr said nothing, simply looked at her with a vibrating nostrils. She crossed her arms and bowed her head.
"My lord, while Sally Petune was here I had the fortunate experience of seeing her fall, which left bloodstains on the floor. I offered to attend her, and she accepted, another opportunity to examine her. While her bloodline is impressive, I can tell that it will be a long time yet before she reveals her true purpose, whatever the pieces of chaos wants that to be."
The king looked at Viverys of the Blodth family and felt a thrill of what on human skin would have been goosebumps run down his arms and back, even through the membrane of his useless wings. His eyes were wide open.
"And you did not tell me this because?"
"There was no occasion nor reason," Viverys said. "You already knew something would happen sooner or later, and since I could read in her blood it would not be soon my knowledge would make no great difference. Of course I see now that it would. Marvelous thing, then, that I am a part of the council." He smiled with sharp, canine teeth.
"How long do you think we have?" Ghorr asked.
"So and so, perhaps up to ten years. Not very long, but long enough for the most important preparations."
"That is," Opul questioned, "if the pieces of chaos mean to use her as soon as she has ripened."
"So," Carder said, clapping his hands together. "For the first time in two hundred and thirtyfive years the grozoners will have two heirs. I am excited to be a part of this, my lord, and will, of course, follow you."
His eyes looked dedicatedly at Ghorr, waiting for the next - any - order. But Ghorr shook his head. "I hate to disappoint you, but you are the single person in this council that I will refuse. As much as I need you, my son will need you more. Tinne," he added, cutting off his old master beforehand, "I expect you will stay, also."
Tinne nodded serenely. "I would like that."
"Good. You, almost as much as Carder, will be important for the future of the grozoners who stay. I do, however, implore you to find members of your family willing to leave your beloved grounds and follow us."
"I shall do my very best," Tinne promised with a smile.
"Commencing into all of the details will have to wait for a clearer, more prepared time. Within few years this action will be set to motion. Until them -" a grim smile spread across his face, and his scarce hairs raised on his back - "we need as much new blood as possible. Give word that the hunt is free. Any target not too big to handle is allowed."
Manthys, who had long been discussing the possibility of an outsider wife with the king, smiled.
One by one the council left after saying individual words of polite goodbyes, until Opul was left. Her ears were erect and alert.
"I should very much like, Ghorr, to go hunting as well."
"Opul, you are, happily, I might add, married."
"Not with an elfent creature," she said. "My husband wouldn't mind, not when it is for the kingdom. Also, he wouldn't need to see it much, when we consider how long it will take me to find an elfent creature to begin with."
Opul smiled. "I would send the child with you, Ghorr, so you might have the strongest elfent representant possible. Stronger than I."
Ghorr's forehead creased. "I would have wanted you to come with me, Opul."
She nodded but her jaw was fixed as hard as her mind. "I'm very powerful, Ghorr, not as powerful as you, of course, but that is why you must also know the exhileration of magic. You will not become less powerful underground. I will, far away from our forests and elfent roots. Far away from all of the things that strengthen my bloodline. But a child of mine, growing up far away from these things, would never have that barrier, would never have to know that he or she didn't reach their full potential. WIthout that mental barrier, a lot is possible." She folded her hands. "I'm afraid I would be very unhappy underground, Ghorr. Truly."
"I lose both my female counterparts, then?" Ghorr sighed.
Opul laughed, and her big, frontal teeth seemed to jump out of her face. "Oh, not all of us. You still have Alys." At that she turned sideways towards the bedroom threshold where Alys was leaning against the wall. "Goodnight my queen. My king."
When she had gone Alys wandered around the room a bit, then sat down across from Ghorr and picked two gooseberries. She held them up in front of her eyes, pressed them between index finger and thumb, watching them yield slightly.
"As I grew up I watched many women who were married off to men they despised, yet they grew to love their children," she said. "Through all this missery, all the hate, all your abusive misuse, I hoped I could at least love our child - of which there are apparently two? This only further supports my theory that you are deliberatedly keeping me in the dark, if you didn't know. Still, I thought 'how can I love that child? A monster that will do the same thing that happened to me to some other woman'. I don't love it. Them. I don't." She bowed her head and breathed several very deep breaths. "But now you're already talking about taking them away from me. One, at least. And who will it be? The one that does his first act of cruelty? The one that makes me scream or cry the most? You don't think you're doing a good enough job?" She raised her head and studied his face with narrowed eyes. "Do you?"
He said nothing, only stood there, for once taller than she, and just as terrifyingly ugly and powerful as always.
"I want to stay here. When I have given birth I have done my duty, right?"
"Then I'll stay. I will not let any more women be mistreated as I have! Your mother already did a poor enough job of preventing my horrifying experience."
"My mother did what she thought was needed," Ghorr snorted. "She's a fairie. They're not like you humans."
"I would not have guessed."
"Alys." He sat down on his knees in front of her and looked up into her face. He put his hands around her shoulders and she did not shrug them off. "You cannot stay."
"Why?" she demanded.
"Because you've already declared war on my race. You hate us. You hate our children. How could I leave you as the sole parent? No, better that Carder do the job."
"Cruel monster," she whispered.
"Yes, you have already pointed this out. Besides," he added as he stood up, "I will need your compassion for the prisoners when we leave. You heard us. You understood us, and I am quite proud of that, I might add. I said the hunt has begun. Indeed it has. We are bringing as many outside wives and husbands as possible. It would be best if they adapt quickly."
Tired and worried he turned around and headed for their bedroom. Alys continued to mutter something to herself, and he had just decided to leave her alone for the night when he stopped and turned around again.
"My mother hated my father once. She was a fairie. Of the free folk, flying across the skies. Can you imagine the pain she must have felt, being locked in here? About a thousand times what Opul fears would happen to her if she went with me on our journey. But even Exilin found a place in her hard for acceptance and for reconciliation. Goodnight, Alys."
The light from the living room disappeared when he closed the door behind him and it was completely dark in the bedroom. He undressed and lay down, sending a thought to Dity, wondering where she was and why she wasn't there to foresee all the troubles that would be coming. He then decided that Dity was gone forever, but his kingdom still existed.
Sleep overtook him then, and somewhere in the back of his mind he was preparing himself to leave all of the things he and his forefathers had build behind. He could not help but smile with pride as the last of his clear thoughts turned into a mush of mist and chaos.
And thus the story of Ghorr and his bride concludes, or at least the part of the story that I will be writing for now. I hate to discard the possibility of writing further on stories and characters, but in this case I do not think it will happen. The actual lead of this story is Sally Petune, and not the grozoners, who are but a small part of a greater picture. But it was a good practice and I got to develop the story as I went. It did change a lot, as well, and I am sorry for the many coherence problems. I didn't exactly sit down and close every plot hole in this one.
I hope you enjoyed :)
By the way:
The pieces of chaos that visited the grozoners can be found on my deviantart page. It's the strange woman witht he purple hair, white skin and black dress.