Please read the Author’s Note at the end of the chapter. Really important post, and really needs your input.
Edited by the wondrous, amazing and talented Luuuuci-
chaaaan! She has an awesome fiction too, pretty dark and complex like HTSAS.
Chapter 20: Surviving the Other
“Ultar’el solpariel kalfheg’hn |
Trapati touirj y’tter agashein`
Krom’tul alapirn faeve salashin|
They know not of death, nor pain.
Life is but a dreary existence,
Hence they seek oblivion, the gods.”
-Verse of the Elders 25:71, inscription on The Temple of the Molten Sun, Olyelnore Ur’van
Dawn was breaking over the world. Pristine white sand glowed a deep orange as the ball of fire rose from the red seas. The roaring wind carried the salt breath of the deeps.
We were on the point of no return. After this, we will never be the same people again.
“Faeve?” I gazed upon her rosy cheeks.
“Mmhm?” she answered while engrossed at how my hands moved.
“I am going in, alright? It’s a bit tight…so I’ll start with two fingers”, I said while I looked deep into her green eyes.
“Don’t go too vigorously. Slowly use your fingers” she said, half mumbling, “the hole is really tight…”
I grunted once and put my fingers inside. I massaged the hole slowly, as Faeve watched.
Her eyes went wide with surprise as her teeth clenched. I knew my feelings transmitted to her. Her eyes swam with water as the pain finally hit her in full.
“Fucking piece of shit! Cuntsucking tossher!”
“Somaru curse! Rot worm shit!”
Faeve and I cursed at the same time as I drew my hands out of the hole. The Porlek was hanging onto my fingers with its pincer. The things chattered at having been disturbed in its hiding hole.
What? What hole were you thinking I was putting my hands in?
The crab-like animal held onto my fingers as I swung my arm like a windmill. Fuck! It hurts so much! Even Faeve was rolling around at the sudden pain. I smashed it down on the sand. The thing just bounced off the sand and tried to stab me with its stinger.
I jumped back and spat fire. The porlek retreated into its shell like armoured body while digging down with its claws. In a moment, it buried under the sand.
There goes our lunch.
“Faeve!” I called her loudly.
“What?” she scrunched up her eyebrows at me.
“I thought you were an Elf. Can’t you…you know, sing or something to make animals come and offer their life to you?”
“No, I can not. Besides, these are not animals of the forest”.
“You are useless”.
“So are you, Humankin”.
By now, dawn had fully broken. The white sand stretched across the distance on both sides. Deep blue sea lapped at the beach, carrying the song of the wind.
And here we were, hungry and miserable.
The red carpet moved on the white beach. It was as if a river of blood flowed endlessly through the sands. Porleks. Thousands and thousands of porleks, skittering away in the sand as far as eyes could see.
And we couldn’t fucking catch one of them!
“By the way, do you know where we are?” I stood up.
“Nay. I didn’t go out scouting since I couldn’t leave you alone and unconscious. However…”, she trailed off, “what are you doing?”
“Stretching exercises”, I replied while I twisted my hips, “you were saying?”
She kept staring at me with narrowed eyes, “There is only that cliff behind us, extending as far as eyes can see. So, we have our heading made for us”.
I stared at the white cliff she spoke of. The cave we took shelter in appeared like a crack on that flat cliff. More like something had gouged it out.
“An ancient Kaloptris nest probably”, Faeve spoke out, “I could trace faint claw marks eroded by age”.
I don’t want to meet a beast that could gouge out holes in a basalt cliff.
The cliff loomed in front of us like a barrier. Twenty, no thirty feet high probably? The huge cliffs seemed to dwarf the skies itself. The wind cried out in strange voices as it passed through the small holes and tunnels in the structure, born of time and erosion.
“Well…atleast we have clean water”, Faeve said while she squeezed a blue lizard type…thing.
“I am not sure that is ‘clean’. That is a lizard! and it has gills!” I rubbed at my forehead.
Faeve arched her eyebrows, “So you have a better choice, humankin? The Gilahari lizard is our only choice right now. Its humps store the water that its red branch like gills absorb from the sea and air”.
“Bear Grylls would be proud of you”, I said splaying my hands, “but I am just disgusted”.
“What is that?” she said while she kept squeezing the blue lizard. It squeaked at its water being drained.
“Bear Grylls? Someone terrifying”, I said while staring at the red porleks that basked in the sun some distance away, “now stop giving that lizard a handjob and give me a hand…to catch the porleks”.
Armed with sticks we approached the porleks milling in the sand. Our shoes were still wet so we walked barefoot. The heated sand stung at out feet.
I walked as quietly as I could. Faeve’s footsteps were like a cat anyways, so she wasn’t having a hard time of it.
The pincers of the porleks moved continuously, like grass blowing in the wind. Red claws stabbed the air in a relentless dance.
Just a little more…
The white rice-grain-like eyes whirled around at us. First a few, then some more, slowly all of the porleks turned their eyes at us. Then all of them made a dash towards their own holes in the sand. Within a moment, it was as if the beach had always been empty.
Faeve sighed loudly beside me, “so it is the hard way”.
“Yeah”, I walked over to the nearest porlek hole, “the hard way it is”.
I stabbed the stick down the hole and waited. Well, I’ll just shake it to be sure.
Faeve stood beside me, cocking her head. A sweet smell drifted from her. She does smell nice…
She stiffened when she sensed what was on my mind.
Bloody hell. It’s like a romantic comedy about telepathy but swapped with lots of hate.
I shook the stick inside the hole even more, “Faeve, it’s just that…it’s getting tough controlling myself. The connection is getting stronger”.
“I know”, she replied quietly, “the Tree of Life wants you to…take me and bound yourself to it”.
Dammit! Why isn’t the porlek biting the stick!
“Do you hate me for…all this?” I asked. Why am I asking her this? I…I what am I doing?
She picked up some sand in her palms, “Yes. Even if unwitting, you were the one who initiated the contract. You are the one responsible for this whole trouble”. The sand sifted through her fingers.
“But, I also know you are as much trapped as me, Eridan. You too are being played by forces out of your control”, she let the rest of the sand fly away in the strong wind, “as such, I pity you as much as hate you”.
I stared up at her, her green eyes bore into mine.
Her lips quivered, “This is my own thought, Eridan. Not influenced by the connection”. Her voice caught, “or at least that is what I think. I do not know, Eridan. I do not know anymore”.
The stick seemed to have gained weight. I pulled it out fast. A large porlek had grabbed on to it, as it attacked the stick with its stinger. I slammed the stick down on the sand.
Faeve moved like lightning and stabbed the porlek with her dagger. Its shell made a sharp snap and broke through. Blue blood drenched the sand underneath.
I stared at the twitching porlek, stabbed clean through with the dagger, “Faeve?”
She turned her head towards me.
“Just hate me. For the things I have done and for the things I will do”, I said quietly. I sound so angsty, don’t I?
Faeve stooped down to deal the suffering porlek a final blow, “Like you told me before, Eridan. You had no choice but to kill those after your life. You can’t afford to be merciful when your opponent is a god”.
“Sometimes I doubt whether I have made the right choices”, I looked on as Faeve beheaded the porlek, “but I wasn’t talking about the CurseBlade . I am talking about you”.
She stiffened. Her lips opened and closed in a voiceless utter. Finally, she picked up the dead porlek, “I do not deserve that pity, Eridan, I really don’t”.
Why is she saying that?
“Hurry, we need to get some more Porleks”, she urged me.
Well, let’s eat first.
My stomach growled loudly while I stared at the porleks grilling slowly over the fire. Is it just me or is this taking too damn long!
The fire crackled merrily as the aroma of burnt meat wafted off the sticks. It’s done!
I snatched at the sticks, the fire almost singed my skin, I tore into the meat ravenously. Bits of shell that still remained crunched under my teeth.
Fuck! A small splinter of the shell lodged itself on the roof of my mouth. Faeve shivered, the sudden pain through the connection surprised her. I picked out the splinter with my other hand. My stomach growled again. Spitting out the shattered pieces of the shell, I bit down at the soft white flesh. A tangy, sweet flavour exploded inside my mouth.
Faeve was sitting a bit away from me, holding her share in her hands. She gazed at the seas. The cave was littered with our belongings.
“Why aren’t you eating?” I called at her, “it will get cold”.
She woke up from her daze and bit down on the stick. Her eyes went wide as she wailed in sudden pain. She spat out the meat as her whole face turned crimson. She grabbed the Gilahari lizard and squeezed. Water trickled out into her mouth.
“What are you doing?” as her pain hit me like a sharp sting and vanished.
“Elves”, she drank some more water, “can not eat hot food”.
“Then why did you eat it?”
“It just felt like…I should”, her face went rigid, “no…it felt like that’s what I should do since you told me to”.
I whirled around at her, “Tell me clearly what you felt”. Oh no no no, it can’t be what I am thinking.
She stiffened when as my anxiety flowed into her. Her hands pressed down hard on the Gilahari lizard, “It feels like I should do things that please you. Sometimes, it feels like I should seek your affection”.
The lizard squeaked loudly. Faeve loosened her grip, putting the creature back in a piece of hide improvised into a bag.
Oh, my god. So it really is like that.
“Does it make you inexplicably happy if I praise you or you do good things for me?” I asked her to confirm my sneaking suspicions.
Her hands shivered, “Yes”.
My hands clenched tight, “When I touch you, does it feel like you should give yourself up to me?”
Her jaws clenched, “You little—”
“Just answer me!”
Her eyes hardened, “Yes. Even now, when you commanded me to answer, it felt like that”.
I took a sharp breath. It really is just as I thought. I didn’t care for Faeve. But even so, the absolute monstrosity of the situation terrified me. Her eyes widened as my fear touched her, and enveloped both of us.
I looked at her. Her eyes met mine and rippled like a green lake. She shivered as my gaze took all of her in, her bisque skin, her flaxen hair, her lithe body. Her mask of a cold assassin fell away before me, revealing to me what I had refused to believe earlier.
She was just a young girl, terrified of what’s happening to her. Her hands shook as the connection carried my thoughts to her.
I took a deep breath before talking, “Do you know why we feel emotions?”
“No”, she shook her head, “I did not study academics, humankin”.
“There are…chemicals inside our brain. When those things are secreted, we feel emotions. Certain chemicals would make people feel a certain way”, I spoke slowly as I took the horror of the situation in.
She didn’t speak but looked on as I spoke slowly. The air outside raised a strange song passing through the cliff’s tunnels.
“I don’t know about Elf bodies, but I can guess what is going on. Dopamine is the name of a chemical released by human brains that make us feel happy. Some people like to do a certain thing because their brain releases Dopamine while doing such things” I spoke on.
Her body shrunk back as she realised what I was getting at. Her mouth opened in a voiceless scream.
God, she looks just like a normal girl now…why does she have to go through this…
“The contract is probably releasing something like Dopamine in your body whenever you…do things that I tell you to. Slowly, that will make you feel like you should do what I tell you. That will grow into an irresistible urge, and make you seek to fulfil my desires, always”.
Her mouth released the scream she had been holding in. The stick of meat dropped from her hands on the dusty floor as she hugged herself. Silent sobs wracked her whole body as tears fell from those deep green eyes.
The contract is training her to like me. Her mind…is being forced to accept my ideals, my desires. No…more like her mind is being rearranged itself to accommodate me.
My hands hurt from clenching. Just how far will the gods use us?
I let her sob in silence. I stared at the girl mourning her own death. It was indeed a sort of death, losing your personality bit by bit as you are ‘taught’ to feel new things. What is our ‘self’? Is it our emotions, memories and ideas? If so, isn’t what the contract doing is like killing this girl bit by bit while she watches her own self die?
Her pain and unease flowed into me, making my own mind turbulent. I took her in and let her emotions rage inside me. She went quiet after a while. Looking up, she wiped her eyes with her sleeves, “I…I knew something like this was happening, yet…”
Her eyes were downcast , staring at the crackling fire.
I took the half-eaten stick from my hands and passed it on to her. Her eyes went wide.
“Why…why you…”, she muttered while she took the stick, her fingers touching mine.
I snatched the stick back, while I gestured her to wait. She frowned at me.
She watched in silence as I blew on the stick. I looked into her green eyes, “Elves can’t handle hot food, right?”
Faeve nodded, as a tears ran down her cheeks. Her emotions flowed into mine. This time, however, it wasn’t all pain.
We stared at the white cliffs that rose up like a wall. There were occasional breaks in the Cliff faces that went all the way to the top. The thirty feet high cliffs stood majestically on the beach of fine white sand, like guarding to what lies beyond.
“It’s a hike then, along the broken paths” I declared half-heartedly while I scratched my scraggly beard. Haven’t seen a razor in days, dammit.
“Yes”, Faeve answered, “we must start soon if we are to use the light of day”.
We packed our things up as we left. Our clothes gave off the pungent smell of wet hide and sea. Luckily, all our weapons were still with us, except for Faeve’s crossbow. She had lost it when the Spire-Master had knocked her out.
I went to the corner where Thirst was kept, intending to put it inside my—the fuck? A pool of water had spread in the corner, making muddy water run in rivulets.
I looked at the source of the water—no, no no! I snatched at the leather bag I had got from Ichvarrion’s. It was leaking water. I opened the pouch with shaking hands and…saw what I feared. I closed up the pouch promptly, pulling the drawstring tight. I can’t deal with this right now. Who knows how much got inside the bag?
Faeve called me from the cave entrance, her voice boomed low in the cave. I walked out, Thirst clinking softly against my armour. Her green eyes tracked my movements as I walked out slowly.
“Which way?” I asked
She pointed towards the left, “There is a break in the cliff that way, I scouted it out when you were sleeping earlier”.
“I thought you didn’t want to leave me alone?” I asked as I twirled Thirst in my hands, “not that I am complaining, a man needs time away from his wife”. I forced myself to make a joke, to lighten up the situation. The weight of the blade was a comfortable weight in my hands as I kept walking, without waiting for her to answer.
After a pause, her footsteps followed mine. She sighed, “I needed some time alone with my thoughts…I do not know for how long I have that”.
What? No snappy reply? I mirrored her sigh. Not just you, Faeve,till how long before the souls claim my mind too?
We walked through the white sands, the sea to our rights. The wind roared into our ears, carrying with it the song of the deep. Porleks scampered away at our footsteps. What’s that?
Something glittered in the white sand. I picked up a purple coloured….sea shell? The thing felt smooth in my hands, triangular in shape. It flat surface had wave patterns on it as if carved by the sea itself. The thing was oddly heavy as I played with it, tossing it up, snatching it out of air the next.
Suddenly, I stumbled forward as something slammed into me from behind. I scampered to keep my balance but the fine sand offered no footholds. The purple seas shell dropped out of my hands as I kneeled on the beach to avoid slamming headfirst into the sand. My leg gave a scream of protest as my whole weight fell on it. Fuck! It still hasn’t healed fully!
Sharp pain lanced up my legs, as I winced in pain.
“Sorry”, Faeve’s voice drifted down. “Sorry”, she repeated herself as her eyes fell on me clutching my legs.
A sharp pang echoed with me, like a sudden jolt. Faeve stared at my legs, lost in thought. I haven’t been able to sense her thoughts for a while.
She stretched her hands towards me. I grabbed her with one hand and got up, the effort making her stumble towards me a bit. She immediately let go of my hands as I stood. Her eyes didn’t meet mine, drifting away towards the beach behind me.
I turned around once again and walked on the sand, picking up the purple shell.
“A ress for your thoughts, Sin?” I smiled towards her, suppressing the steady throb of pain that crept up my legs while I walked. Shit. I miss the bustling city too much.
She didn’t answer me. But I knew she followed, I could hear her shoes scrape the sand beneath her feet. I sighed. This is going to be a long journey, isn’t it?
I ran my fingers through my hair, This is fucking frustrating! She knows whatever I think of and I know nothing. My fingers clenched hard Shit. I need to rein in my insecurities, dammit.
Her feet momentarily stopped, “Eridan…it’s not something you need to know”.
“No”, I spat out. “I need answers. Now. Not taking a step without it”.
“Alright, what do you want to know?”
I took a deep breath. “Everything. I hardly know anything about where we are going”.
A long silence ensued. The sea kept roaring till it drowned out even the slightest sounds. Sand crunched under my feet as I walked, waiting for the girl to speak.
“Olyelnore Ur’van is the capital city of the Sun Elves, deep within the Mountain of Trees—”
“Yeah, I have been wondering, why is it ‘Mountain of Trees’?”
“You interrupt me as soon as I start to speak”, she sighed. “The forest we live in is dominated by the Tree of Life. It is so huge that it looks like a green mountain, dwarfing everything else. The Tree and its children radiate from the centre, making it seem like a mountain”.
“Even the children of the Tree do the shit the Tree does?” I threw the purple shell in my hand. “You know, like mind-controlling people?”
The purple shell hit the white sand and rolled a little. It began to wiggle a bit. What the?
“No, the children do not have the same power as the Tree. Though they are its ilk, they are like normal trees”.
The purple shell flopped on the sand once, then small membranes extended from its either sides. Sunlight glimmered on those small wings. Trembling, the wings flapped and the shell took flight. Flapping towards the seas.
What the actual fuck? Flying clams?
“Oh! an Eleter clam! Why didn’t you keep it! We could have eaten that!” Faeve chimed behind me.
It’s a flying clam, dammit! How are we supposed to eat it?
“Nevermind that”, I grumbled. “Tell me something, why does the Tree need to bind people to it? Like it has bound me?”
Shit. I hadn’t fucking noticed this before but…wasn’t I going with her too easily? Why hadn’t I fucking asked her before?
Her feet didn’t hesitate this time. She, however, took a sharp breath. “How much do you want to know?”
Don’t fucking tell me…the connection was suppressing my urge to know its intentions? Fuck! Fuck! Just how much are our minds being controlled?!
I stared at the azure sea in its unaccountable vastness. The stench of salt hit me full in the face, till my lungs were full of its wind. My teeth gnashed against each other, Fucking piece of filth! Every fucking god is a bastard!
Faeve’s feet stopped momentarily, as my sudden rage flowed into her.
“Like I said”, I took deep breaths, further inhaling the clammy winds. Calm down…calm down. “Everything”.
“It is going to be a long story, humankin”, Faeve rasped.
Even little emotions are affecting her now, is it? Just how close is her mind to eroding in full? Dammit! Damn everything!
“So be it”, I answered, “in this piece of shit place, time is all we have”.
I turned my head towards her. She walked at a steady pace, her fingers fidgeting beside her. Deep forest green eyes stared back at me. Her face was paler than it usually was.
Is she…suffering? The erosion must be worse than I imagined. Fuck. We need to reach the Elf city soon.
A sudden shiver ran down my spine.
How can I…read the emotions on her face?
She jolted back too, as my thoughts washed over her. Her lips opened in a slight gasp.
“Fuck!” I snarled. “We really don’t have much time before the connection—”
I didn’t have to finish my words before her eyes went hard. Her knuckles curled into little fists at her side, the skin turning white.
“I know!” she spat back, “You do not have to remind me every time, you filth!” her voice rose over the din of the sea, “I know! I know, I know! It is creeping up on me every single moment! It is eroding me slowly! Somaru curse everything! I…I—”
“Faeve”, I looked into her eyes.
She inhaled deeply, her breathing settled into the familiar controlled rhythm.
“Keep walking, I will tell you the stories”, she urged, her eyes downcast.
I would have made a PMS joke if it was back on earth but…
I turned towards our destination, the white cliff beside us like a behemoth reaching for the skies. White sand crunched under my feet again as I started walking.
Faeve followed behind me, not to let me see her crying.
Dammit! My hands clenched again, Fucking gods! Her mind is on the brink of falling apart!
I kicked at the sand. A torrent of fine grains flew up in the air, scattering downwind, towards the cliff.
Do I really have to watch as she falls apart?
I was not sure if the Tree made me feel this way or it was myself. A sigh escaped my lips. I don’t have the right to feel pity for her…it was me who caused all this after all.
I walked on the beach of white sand, as I waited for the girl to speak. The girl who I doomed, and in doing so, doomed myself.
Rigel…your crimes keep piling up, don’t they?
(Extra) When Cats Fight.
Faeve was startled as a voice called out to her. This new addition to her recurrent nightmare scared her.
“Oi bitch”, the voice was now much closer to her. Her heart pounded loudly. She knew all this was a dream, just a dream, yet…
“Stop dreaming inside a dream, you manstealer”. The owner of the voice manifested a few feet away from Faeve. Her slender form conjured out of thin air, bit by bit.
Just a dream. Faeve reminded herself, just a dream.
“This might be just a dream, but the thrashing you’ll get will be very real”, the girl dressed in white skirt rasped. “Hello, Faeve”.
Realisation hit Faeve like a tidal wave. “A-Arin!? What are you doing here?”
“Teaching you a lesson, cunt”.
“What?” Faeve took a step back, “no, how are you even here?”
“Unimportant. However”, Arin’s eyes took and a dangerous glint, “You are stealing my man. I do not like it. I will never, ever let—”
“But you are dead”, Faeve interrupted Arin. “like burnt up and scattered, what not”.
“Being dead is just a minor inconvenience”, Arin spat. “that doesn’t give you the license to steal him”.
“I am not stealing Rigel”, Faeve sputtered. “In fact, I hate him”.
“LIES! I know you are shaking your tits and ass at him, you,you long-eared-golden-haired…bitch”.
“You were never so foulmouthed in Rigel’s memories”.
“Of course not”, Arin flicked her hair, “Anyone would be their nicest in front of the man she loves”.
“Right”, Faeve sighed in exasperation. “Anyway, I am not stealing him”.
“You better not be”, Arin huffed. “I heard you guys aren’t getting many ratings and advanced reviews? It’s very easy. Did you ask them to go to this page and click on the stars and hit submit? The new RRL ranking system has already sunk you guys real low, you need the ratings”.
“Yeah, we do. Actually, we also need votes on TopWebFictions. Readers just have to go here and click on vote. Very easy and they don’t even have to register. And they can vote for as many fictions as they like. Voting on one doesn’t remove votes on others!”
“You better get your game up, girl”, Arin threatened, “Otherwise, I’ll drop you faster than ABC dropped Castle. Then I’ll replace you”.
Faeve threw up her hands, “I repeat. You. Are. Already. Dead”.
“That won’t stop me from whooping your ass, you skank”.
So, I guess you guys wanted a bit of lighthearted chapter? Well, somewhat?
I need you guy’s opinions on something. Lately, RRL’s ratings and policies have changed. I’ll tell you guys about that in a different post, but know this: it screwed over HTSAS101’s ranking on lists. The change was necessary, but we got shafted.xd
Secondly, this fiction has crossed the 100K word mark. Which means…it’s time to think about getting published, make plans for new volume etc. Which means it would need artwork, hire an editor, promote on RRL etc. besides, I want to have higher quality stuff for my readers, nice artwork, better ebooks…
Which needs money. I was thinking of opening donations. Well, I can’t just ask for donations so I want to ask you guys an important question.
I worked on one model.
1. What many Patreon owners do. Have early access to chapters for a monthly pledge.
2. Release special content on here upon completion of a milestone for paypal donations on RRL/Wordpress.
I might decide having one system one or both. Thing is, I need you guys input on this. What are your thoughts? Would you help HTSAS? If you pitch in, the novel will get published one day. Believe me, I like writing the story and presenting it to you all. But, seems like it isn’t the only thing that will ensure its success/publication.
It needs your help. Would you? Please let me know what are your thoughts on this.
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