Hesperos threw his two opponents aback by a rapid slice of his sword through their neck.

The fall he ran to prevent it but his father was already on the ground and the Trausi launched themselves on his body like scavengers.

It seemed to the King that the moment warped and twisted his mind and he flew to shield Kronos with his own body.

His father he believed to be the essence of dignity when as a boy he watched him parry and begged for him to show his moves.

The alertness of his strikes, the composure without break and a spark then in his eyes for his son only to contemplate.

When Kronos hair had been still stark black and his favourite place was still the outdoors, before he had learned the tedious and obscure language of the Court, before the burden of laws and the making of a state.

The slow downfall of the warrior had left in his place the brittle, sometimes pathetic Councilor Kronos and Hesperos would not bear it.

Crouched over the body he was ready, no longer the King but a child with nothing but blood to fight for.

He struggled as the Trausi clawed the left side of his face.

With a roar he stood against the destruction of his flesh and remembering that someone as pure and strong as Nova thought him a demi-god, he drove in the blade as far as he could aiming for the heart of the fiend. He went far beyond the hilt his own hand plunging into the boiling depths, the fouled organs of the enemy.

Hesperos had never expected so intensely that something would die and while he felt the insides of the Trausi clench and quiver around his grasp, living Kronos took his other hand and held it tight.

The Trausi stopped still in slight disarray as if the death of one of them had cut something in the motion of their own body.

In this uncommon battle, the handful of enemies retreated as slowly as they had come in a blur they marched back toward the countryside of Sestos.

Nova gasped in surprise as she observed them running away with a sway that betrayed the opposite of fright.

"It is not finished'' said Yeva "they never leave it unfinished".

The tactics of war was not in their nature, they knew only to take and hunt in the moment, they would come again and try to massacre the warriors, like wolfs pushing their luck again.

"They are here for you" said Nova ''we could just flung you to them''

The Trausi woman raised her head with visible delight.

''This King of yours would never allow that, he has too much uprightness"

Before Nova could answer anything, Aristarchos raised his hand as if he were about to hit Yeva.

His face was blemished, his breath rushed.

His gaze fell on the prisoner face, Nova could only supposed for they were turned toward each other and she could not see well with the light coming their way, and he merely let his arm fall back to his side.

They were straining with the wait and the sights of what happened outside gnawing, eating them alive.

When it was clear that the army was going back to the Fortress, Hesperos (she could distinguish the sacrificed side of his face) carrying his father's body in his arms, Nova let out a long suppressed cry.

Nova was bending over the King's face ''Do not move at all'' she said as he slightly flinched under the hurt. The claws had left blue-purple furrows deep on the skin; it went as deep as the cheekbone. She had no time to waste with these wounds as the putrescent stain of the Trausi was already there in the remains of their attack. She had asked for Lady Aurania's assistance in her doing. She hated this sight of Hesperos with his flesh raw and his eyes closed with the suffering. She wanted to kiss his face and smooth the torn skin, lick the blood and pour the healing magic from her mouth like a she wolf protecting her mate.

Lady Aurania brought some dark-green velvety leaves with her.

"Salvi is the most efficient thing I know to cleanse the foulness but I do not know what it can do against this ill".

"I thank you" said Nova.

They cleaned his face as gently as they could and applied a poultice made from the leaves.

Then Nova applied her hands to the cuts.

Tears of anger fell on Hesperos' face; it was her tears she realized.

Aracely she thought, Aracely, lend me your gift, bring me the strength to mend his wounds, to make his face untouched and to purge the poison of the Trausi.

Healing had never been her main craft, as she had watched her sister's hands stained by clay-like matter, potions and concoctions.

The range of her remedies which smelled like palm trees and dusky earth, Aracely kept her mixtures in pots she carefully painted with myrtus and Nova had touched the plant and tasted it when mixed to water to keep it fresh and pure.

They would go to the fount, hidden in a breach of the near desert rocks, the orange stone sheltered the subterranean spring of life, it was the primal ingredient of all cures.

Then the magic came from the mind, it was forged from the influence of this earth Aracely believed in, the healing would have not been possible without her strong creed that Aegyptus was somehow her own, she closed her eyes and she cosmically was part of the burning skies and the sand, she would imagine herself a speck of it flying with spellbinding sounds over the vast hollowness, the intimacy she had with the land the true skill the community ignored.

Unlike them Aracely had achieved the impossible: like a weed from the drought she had roots in the barren soil.

She needed not to see far or to fight hard; she held a world in the cradle of her hands.

Nova startled.

She had never been so close to her sister in spite of the distance, the understanding had reached her at last.

She took the energy from there, the reenactment of gestures she had not learned, pure instinct guided by memory, a usurping that was not under the right of sisterly love.

"You are working well'' said Lady Aurania beside her. And it was true, she had already managed to repair one of the cuts to a clean pink scar.

Showing gratitude she closed her eyes again for a rapid nod to Aracely, having a brief vision of her sister holding the turquoise pendant of Ballard.

He straightened himself and to his aunt he asked "How is my father?"

"Kronos is mostly fine, Hesperos, he has been shaken and I think he might be mortified with himself still his life is safe. He said he wants to escape the clutches of the physician who is trying to attend to his bruises''

Hesperos sighed loudly.

"Next battle is the end. I shall kill all the Trausi and throw Yeva among their carcasses" he said.

For the Trausi there was only one enduring law they could never rise above.

As they did frenzy at funerals, they reversed the law of nature but one thing they could not bring themselves to undo: unite totally with the animal.

They had the dark secret of the beginning of time and more than any other tribe they walked the thin line between possession and embodiment.

The animal was theirs in battle, it took their body and unleashed it feasted on the enemies' flesh yet the temporary desecration left a part of the warrior rotten for a time, bitten by putridity.

Adhan the weakling scorned by their father, had enough of the rule, he spoke the complete spell and cried and supplicated for the force of the ancient monsters dwelling in the forest, beasts with claws and fangs of iridium, and when it came he felt ripped from himself, thrown under the mass of a big pawed creature whose skin was leather and hands crooked.

He saw the underneath of their world, entered dream territories and the desolate depths of the human mind.

Being the beast he was learnt, never to be deceived again.