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03 May 2016 @ 08:44 pm
The Promise That I Made  

Fandom: Hetalia Axis Powers.
Title: The Promise That I Made
Claim: Fem!Northern Ireland, England.
Summary: They woke up and didn't know what was happening. They woke up and walked, and walked, and walked. They shouldn't stop walking, not until they reached the end -- even if they died trying. They had to keep a goal. They all were lost, in the end.
Notes: England (Arthur) and Fem!Northern Irelan (Niamh). Magic. This is AU, so very AU I'm not even trying to justify myself anymore.

The sky was a faint shade of plumb when they opened their eyes. In the air, the cloying smell of perfume made a redhead woman cover her nose and mouth in a quick motion. She felt sick, but looking around, gathering on her new surroundings, made her realise she was the only one who could smell the wrongness in the air.

She wondered where she was, and how had she arrived there. Tightening her grip on the knife hidden on her thigh, she wandered off to investigate her surroundings after confirming the group she had found was harmless.

It was a labyrinth, soon she realised. Tall walls of solid granite hidden under a flowery and childish exterior went up, trying to reach the sky, provided a more or less advantageous position once she was able to climb to get a better picture of the labyrinth.

She discovered the labyrinth was wide and seemed endless to the east, and even wider to the west. Up north, her eyes caught the faint silhouette of a castle, or something shaped with a similar height and columns. She couldn’t distinguish many details, but it was enough to make her chose that direction. Down south, the labyrinth seemed as endless as the other directions.

The woman spent some time memorizing a route, and back on firm ground, she marked a cross on the walls she passed on her journey to the castle.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

The sky was coloured in a faint shade of plumb when he woke up. His name was Irving and he was a teacher, an English teacher for a primary school in Los Angeles. The night before he had drowned himself in booze after his girlfriend of nine years cheated on him with her best friend.

“I must be hung over,” thought he, walking with a killing headache to the nearest wall. He wasn’t scared, but the aura of deep sadness and self-loathing was honey beacon for the labyrinth.

Soon, his feet wandered by themselves, following no pattern, no structure at all. He walked like a man who had lost everything, and wanted nothing from life or God. He had lost his compass, and he was a lost vessel waiting to be wrecked.

Rarely the labyrinth had such easy preys.

Irving walked through a narrow corridor, following the sweet smell of flowers and corny syrup. The smell transported his mind back to his old house, when he was six, and his mother poured the delicious syrup over piles and piles of pancakes on a lazy Sunday morning before mass.

He walked for what seemed like hours, his feet aching and sore. He kept walking, as if something outside his body gave him the strength to keep going, to reach the end of the corridor until he hit a door with his face.

It was a red door and the smell came from there. He also heard the sweet accords of an old lullaby his mother used to sang him when he was young, before the cancer stole her life away.

“Wouldn’t it be fantastic if this could go forever?” mumbled he, touching the doorknob with a tender caress, like something dear to his broken heart. When the door opened, he took a step back.

The music grew stronger, and thinking he had heard his mother calling, he took a step inside. His heart pounding in his chest felt like exploding, but he knew all too well how much damaged it could take.

The door closed behind him and disappeared.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

Arthur had been running all day and he was tired and hungry. He looked famished and his clothes were dirty, as if he had been wearing them for days, and maybe he had. He had lost the ability to tell the time, as the sky never changed on the labyrinth.

He realised that after a while, when he had fallen on his knees, too tired to keep up with the pace Gilbert had set for them. The albino, a though German man with the biggest ego Arthur had ever seen, had mocked him for his poor physical condition. Gilbert had mocked him, and then dragged him until a narrowed corner and left him there to his fate, setting a clear message that only the strongest of them would survive their travel out of that damned place.

Arthur closed his eyes for a minute, or maybe an hour, he couldn’t tell. When he had waked up the sky was plumb and there wasn’t a breeze to alleviate the burning of the sunrays against his pale skin. He looked more than tanned now, almost sunburnt.

Arthur kept walking after that, but his stomach was killing him and he had embraced his destiny after his legs had given up on him and his eyes couldn’t be kept open. He dragged himself on his arms until the skin of his stomach peeled all the way, and the burns made him howl in pain.

He was going to die there, all by himself. He would die as he had lived all his life: like an ostracised pariah. He would die standing up, that was the only thing he would never let go, because when you had no one and nothing, pride feed you and made you go on even if it killed you.

After managing to drag himself to a slightly more standing up position, he closed his eyes. He was standing on his knees, looking up at the sky with the burning, merciless sun high above it, and closed his eyes.

He had always been dead anyway. No one would miss him, and he would miss no one.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

Babies came to the world with a piercing cry. Arthur woke up abruptly, as if someone had used his chest as a punching bag, his lung hurting even if that shouldn’t be possible. Sitting beside him, a woman was looking at him as if he was a walking corpse, but instead of fear, Arthur found wariness and the unmistakeable taste of iron in his mouth.

The sky was dark and bare, no stars shinning on the horizon, and the cold air bit his skin and he shivered. The woman was dressed in light hunting attire, with leather boots and a bag filled with what he thought could be raw meat.

She started a fire with some leaves and branches she has stolen from the walls and Arthur stuck to the fire, warming his previously unconscious body. She never spoke, but didn’t kick him out either.

“You smell wrong,” she said, after a while. “Smoke and burnt, as if you had been burning from the inside,”

Her language was crude and her manners blunt. Arthur lifted an eyebrow and stared at her, but she stared back and he felt sick. She was looking through him, as if he was something to be studied.

“I’m a Pariah,” Arthur said, lifting his right arm and showing her the scar his older brother had cut onto his skin, when he had been kicked out of his clan. “I am wrong”

He had never said so much of his life, but the look on her eyes was not of disgust, but of curiosity. She either didn’t understand or didn’t care, but in his lifetime Arthur knew women were wiser than they showed.

“I am a hunter,” said the woman. “I am Niamh, daughter of no one. Hunters are claimed by Death as her emissaries. We belong to no one and to nowhere,” she shrugged. “We are the same, aren’t we?”

Arthur didn’t answer, but he supposed they were.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

The sky was black several days after they met. They had waited for the sun to rise, but it never happened, and Niamh had grown restless. Arthur had managed to heal after eating some of the raw meat she carried on her pouch. By the fourth day, Arthur found himself following a leader once again.

“I am no leader,” said Niamh, hushing him to sniff the air. The norther they went, the faintest the smell of perfume became. The weird thing was, she had found no other smells yet, even as she has seen a bird or two flying from time to time, and she could heard the sound of some animals.

She couldn’t smell moist, couldn’t hear the flood of a river or lake.  She felt lost, but walking was the only thing she had.

“You feed me and healed me. You chose a path, even as you haven’t disclose to me which one, and I’ve been following you since You feed me of your hunting, and you keep watch. You are the leader,” said Arthur.

“A sky without stars gives no direction,” said she, looking back at where he was standing. “We have yet to meet someone; don’t you think all this silence is weird?”

“I think is a blessing,”

They stopped for the day. When they opened their eyes next the sky was a lovely shade of blue, like any normal sky, and puffy clouds covered the horizon, sparing them from the burning sun that had punished them before.

“I don’t like this world,” said she. “It’s whimsical and wrong,”

The days kept changing regularly after that. On the third day of walking through corridors larger than life, and cautiously climbing to the walls to see how close they were to whatever Niamh was taking them, they found Gilbert.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

Gilbert was boisterous and obnoxious. It was Niamh’s first impression anyway, and she growled at him when he dared to come too close to her and Arthur. Arthur growled too, if only to protect his pride of the mocking stare the albino was throwing his way.

“Woah, you survived, weakling,” the albino said in that husky voice of his, half mocking and half impressed. “Did you come back wishing to join us?”

The group had visible reduced its number. They were barely ten, and it was composed mostly by men, with only two or three women. Last time Arthur had seen them, there were more men than women, and most of them were teenagers. It took him a while to discover that wasn’t the original group that had left him to die.

“No,” Arthur said, harsher than needed, but feeling all the better: All his life he had lived under the boot of someone. His father, his older brothers or his brothers-in-law. All his life he served someone, until his older brother became the chieftain and decided to kick him out of the clan, making a pariah of him, marking his body with the wound of shame. 

He had craved belonging somewhere. Now Gilbert was offering willingly, but now Arthur looked stronger after been nourished and learnt how to properly survive. Now he was useful, and he knew that was what Gilbert needed.

“What about you, darling?” Gilbert asked, suspecting she was more than eye candy. And even if she was only that, he thought, it never came bad. “We can always use some help,”

“No,” Niamh said. She looked at the albino in the eye, then back to Arthur, then at the albino again. “We are the pariahs of our worlds, we don’t belong with you. Besides, what kind of leader starves his people?” she asked, blunt as ever, and turned to leave.

Arthur stayed there, shaking. He had always carried the weight of been lesser than others. His brothers hated him. They blamed him for the death of their mother, since she had died giving birth to him. His father couldn’t even look at his face, too similar to hers. He had inherited her green eyes, while his brothers’ eyes were plain brown and dull.

He refused to believe she was doing that for him. He refused to believe her, until she stopped and turned her head, looking at him as if she was expecting something.

“Hunters are few and far in between, but we stick together. Now move, Arthur, you have your answer,” she said, and turned again, walking back to the corridor they had been investigating before Gilbert arrived.

Arthur had the answer to a question he never dared to ask. He hadn’t needed to ask, she had knew all along. In Arthur’s life, he had never been someone people tried to understand, not even someone people wanted to look over.

Niamh had seen, and she had chosen Arthur. Something inside him broke, leaving him with a sensation of vulnerability and happiness. He had never felt quite like that.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

“What does ‘Niamh’ mean?” Arthur asked after he had finished cleaning the rabbits she had hunted three days ago. He raised them up for her to see and approve.

After the first weeks they had spent together, Arthur had stopped counting how much time it was taking for them to arrive to the castle, or to anywhere for that matter.  At some point, they had started talking more freely, and he had discovered Niamh had a pretty whimsical side to her, and her smile could send shivers down Arthur’s spine.

They hadn’t seen Gilbert and his company again during their wanderings. Arthur sometimes thought about it.

“Bright,” she said, arching one of her eyebrows. “What do you want to know? You are not one for silly chatter,”

That was true, but she awoke Arthur’s curiosity and he had always been a curious child. He followed the caravans of the merchants; he followed his brothers’ during their journeys to the nearest cities and back. He loved to know things.

“You said you are a hunter, and that hunters are both isolated and very privileged in your society. You also said you stick together, so how did you end up here?” it was a question that had been nagging at him for so very long time

Niamh took the cleaned rabbits from his hands and turned to the fire she had lit in spite of the moisture in the air. They had never seen rain, but she swore she could smell the salt of sea water, and Arthur believed her. Usually her hunches meant food and rest.

“If I tell you, you will tell me your story,” she said, impaling the rabbits in a branch each that she put over the fire. “I won’t accept otherwise,”

Arthur nodded, taking a seat near her. She smiled, it was a small gesture, but seemed so real that he felt content at that moment.  He wondered if that was how it felt when someone cared about you. Niamh smiled at him very often now, even if she didn’t speak so much. Her presence made him feel calm.

“Our society believes women are fiercer than men. We birth children and as mothers we can kill to protect what is ours, or to feed our own. Men are physically stronger, but they are emotionally weak and depend on women to take care of them. It’s a system that works with people knowing all of them are important, but it’s also restrictive, because you are born to play a role in life. Everyone expects you to be what you were born to be,” she said, looking a bit nostalgic, but she sobered up quickly.

Arthur waited for her to continue her story, and she promptly did so.

“It’s all based in old traditions. That doesn’t make them less important,” said she. “Dadu is the Goddess of Life. She created elements from a song, and they sang to create more daughters. Those daughters were fierce, but couldn’t reproduce on their own as could their mothers. Dadu sang for them, and thus was born the first man. It was Aiyín, the one whose spirit was stronger, who birthed the first fleshed child. She died, and never before had anyone died. The Elementary and their daughters shed unnumbered tears of sorrow, and sang a song that moved Dadu to remade Aiyín. She returned, but she was cold and nothing brought her happiness. Not her man, not her sisters, not her mother. Only her child made her smile. But the child was made of flesh, and the flesh rots away and the child died when he was old and grey. Aiyín sang for him and abandoned her sisters to go and watch for him. When Dadu saw this, she made Aiyín to keep count of every child who would be lost. Aiyín became a Goddess, an omen of death, but also she means protection,”

Arthur nodded, assimilating the information given.

“She gives mothers’ the strength to protect their families, to be strong. It is an old custom that families are expected to have at least seven daughters. The first daughter will be the head of the home once the mother dies, she represents Dadu. The second, third, fourth and fifth are the Elementary, and they carry the responsibility to birth children. The youngest daughter is Aiyín, and she will bear the weight of death on her shoulders. She is sent away to live with the hunters, all females, to be trained. They teach her how to search food and water. On them rest the survival of the tribe. We mean death, if we fail. We also mean protection and nurture, if we succeed.”

“You don’t know your family,” Arthur said, finally understanding why hunters were supposed to stick together. They didn’t have anyone else. “That’s cruel,”

“It’s different,” Niamh said. “We are respected. Our word is highly valued, and without us they would die of hunger. Men work to make our borders strong, to build houses and weapons. They are warriors and traders. Women are nurturers,” she looked at him. “I was hunting near our borders; one of the men said he had seen a beast wandering in and out. The Triade sent a group of six hunters, but we found nothing. It was too late to go back, so we decided to sleep there. I woke up here the next day,”

She didn’t speak after that, and Arthur ate his meal in silence, pondering in everything he knew about her. It was still little, too impersonal, but at least he knew someone probably was searching for her.

Or they would think her dead, but even then, she would be mourned.

Niamh was someone Arthur could imagen people would mourn.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

They had been walking for long hours and the sun was shining high above them, hotter than the days before, when Arthur fell to the ground. It took him a moment to realise his legs wouldn’t move any longer, and it took Niamh just a second to kneel beside him.

“Are you hurt?” she asked, touching his chest and arms, and his forehead. He was burning and her vision blurred. “You are sick,”

Arthur had been a pariah, but even as that, he had been feed and not exactly sent to force labour as many others. Niamh was used to go days without food, and to keep moving even as the hunger and the pain crawled near.

“Wait here,” she said.

“Where else should I go, uh?” he said, snarky as ever. “I can’t even move, Niamh,”

That would have earned him a good beating from his brothers. Niamh only looked at him and shook her head, smiling.

“I’ll search somewhere we can rest for a while,”

Arthur didn’t notice when she left, or when she had returned. He didn’t even notice when she dragged him away from the corridor they had been moments earlier. When he woke up, she was offering him water and the labyrinth was gone.

“Where are we?” he asked, looking around him trying to make sense of his surroundings. “Is a cave…?” Niamh nodded. “In the middle of a fucking labyrinth”? She nodded again. “This cannot be possible,”

Although Arthur knew quite well that impossible was, as a matter of fact, what the labyrinth makes happen.  He knew it, because he had seen every single little soul get corrupted there, everyone lost a part of their soul, a part of what made them thicker…except Niamh. She had stayed true to her personality, and the values her tribe had. She had even cared for Arthur after Gilbert’s conviction to keep everyone alive had shattered.

“I stopped questioned this place a long time ago. I suggest you do the same, Art,” she said, giving him a worry glance. “You need to rest some more, and the sky colour has changed again. It’s light red, and that is never a good omen,”

“Is a red sky an omen of death in every world?” Arthur asked, looking at her, but he felt a pang of sorrow filling him.

She was an omen of death. He had never paid her looks too much attention. Except that now, he seemed to be unable to look somewhere else but her face and her rebellious whirls and tugs of red hair, and the way she bit her bottom lip nonstop until it started bleeding.

“What?” he asked, trying to ease the feeling that something awful would come soon.

He always knew friendship was a thing not made for him.

“Red sky means something will happen, something usually bloody. The oldest of the Triad used to say that a red sky meant blood has been spilled in the name of betrayal. Here, ‘though, I don’t know if that matters,”

Arthur nodded and for a long while he pondered on his thoughts, and what she meant. When he turned to face her, wanting to ask for more about her past, she had disappear, probably searching something for him.

“Attachment shouldn’t feel like this,” Arthur whispered, looking at his side where a small pair of blue eyes looked back.

“I am hungry,” said a voice, small and childlike, but the command that carried through didn’t pass unnoticed, nor did the impatience. “Really hungry,”

“Don’t the albino and his troops satisfy you?” Arthur asked, unnaturally cold and brisk.

“No!” cried the voice, with childlike delight. “I want her. She smells so really good,”

Arthur closed his eyes and pretended to fall asleep. He needed to plan something.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

“You never told me about you,” Niamh said one day, when the sun had just begun to rise on the horizon. According to her, they had been in the labyrinth nearly three months, and yet the castle seemed far as ever. However she kept walking towards it and Arthur kept following. She said they needed the sense of purpose.

Arthur had grown attached to her. He couldn’t deny it any longer. Also, he could see she had grown attached to him as well; now, Niamh slept during the nights at his side, when before she barely closed her eyes, much less near him.

They had developed a routine. She hunted food and rationed it, while Arthur cleaned it and ate it. He felt useless sometimes, but she refused to let him wield her spears and knives. She had taught him how to make his own out of the sharp rocks they encountered on their journey.

“I supposed you never asked,” Arthur said. He had a story. Actually, he had several stories, each crafted to cater to his listener. But he had never spent so much time in the company of someone who cared for him first, or who had chosen him first except for…well, better not dwell on that yet.

“I’m asking now,” she said, rolling her eyes. That she had learnt from him.

“It’s a long story, maybe at night?” he said, hopping she agreed. He needed to think, because a part of him wished to tell her everything, to warn her and sent her home.

She nodded with a sharp smiled, as if she could sense his distress, which was possible. She had a way to read him that scared him. “Arthur, you know I am a hunter, right? I took my vows, my life has only one meaning…”

Arthur knew, since she had said it before, when he had asked why she always feed him first. She hunted their food, but she always gave him the main part instead of teaching him. He had given up the fight, only because it made her feel useful.

He told himself he was using her as much as she was using him, but that had stopped making sense a long time ago. He waited for her to continue, feeling his stomach twirl and squirm.

“We aren’t meant to be mothers, we aren’t the chosen ones, but,” she made a long pause, and her face was set in firm determination when she said, “but here I am just a woman with good skills,”

The next thing made Arthur’s heart sank, as she proceeded to kiss him. It was a soft brush of lips, but it tasted bitter in his mouth and the guilt almost made him choke. He needed to push her aside, to growl at her, made her hate him… but he couldn’t, and in that moment of weakness, she broke her old vows and made allegiance to him.

“I will birth you children, Arthur. And they will be strong in skill and spirit,” she whispered against his ear, and Arthur closed his eyes and held back emotions, because emotions caused pain and he had wished to never feel pain again.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

Arthur bowed his head only an inch. The childish laughter made his skin crawl, but he bit inner cheek until he tore the flesh and the iron taste of his blood feelings mouth. The small and blond child smiled widely at him, looking slightly perturbing as their surroundings changed to suit him.

The labyrinth greeted its master, and so did the mage. The demon child cracked a laugh.

“You’ve been awfully lazy,” said the child. “You have brought me lots and lots of food, brother! But they aren’t yummy yummy like the nice lady. I want the smart, nice lady,” the child demanded, and his voice twisted with an edge of guttural noises and howls.

Arthur’s knees went weak and he lifted his chin, daring to look at the creature wearing his younger brother’s face. His sweet, darling Alfred.

“We made a deal, didn’t we? One thousand hundredth souls for your baby brother, Mage. You have done well in this last years. Now, you only need one more soul…and it must be hers. Give her to me, and he will be yours again,”

“I can give you any other soul,” he said. “She has endured, she has remained herself…!”

The demon laughed. Alfred laughed. Arthur winced in pain.

“Don’t think me a fool, Mage,” the demon said, patiently, like a parent speaking to a child. “She is strong and willed, and indeed she will birth you children that will be great in strength and spirit and magic. Is that worth the live of sweet, precious Alfred?”

Arthur didn’t answer, he didn’t have to.

As much as the humans he kidnapped were tested to see if they were true, so was Arthur.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

Niamh didn’t lie when she said she would birth him children. She didn’t lie when she kissed him and loved him as no woman or man had ever loved Arthur. She didn’t lie when she swore she would put him above her own life.

Arthur wished she had lied about everything.

“I born in a far off land, it was a small village hidden in the mountains. My mother had two sons before me, and she died when I was born.  My brothers never forgave me, not even when I was the walking portrait of my mother and they were not. My father married again when I was fifteen, and his new wife had a boy. My brothers hated the child, but he was sweet and very likeable, and I spent many times telling him stories. One day, when we were napping after a long journey to a neighbour village, which was several weeks from home, I heard a noise and went to investigate, thinking it could be wolves. When I returned, my baby brother was gone, and in their place was a rescue note – I thought it was my entire fault, so I left, searching for him. That’s how I arrived here,”

Arthur wished Niamh hadn’t promised to help him find his brother, or that she hadn’t tried to comfort him.

“You will be happy,” Niamh said, kissing his cheek with a soft smile on her eyes. Her eyes were always smiling out of late. “I will make you happy, no matter the cost,”

Arthur didn’t bear to look at her with the knowing of how deep he was ruining her.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

The day they reached the end of the labyrinth it was really quiet. Unnaturally so. They had shared a meal and a kiss, and walked with high spirits to the end. She had been so happy, so filled with hope.

Arthur knew no one was meant to reach the end of the labyrinth unless it was time. Niamh extended her arm and held him back, smelling the air. It was sweet and sickening.

“Something is wrong,” said she, looking around. Everything seemed harmless, innocent even, until a sharp cry of pain dragged their attention.

Arthur had never reached the end of the labyrinth with anyone, not really, so he wasn’t expecting the pained howl that made him ran as fast as he could towards it. “ALFRED!” he yelled, and soon as he did, Niamh followed him in a mad rush.

She was yelling something, probably to “stop and think” but he was so close, so very close. He couldn’t stop now, not now that Alfred was there, kneeling and crying as if he was being tortured by something invisible.

“Alfred!” he yelled again, falling down before his baby brother, his heart pounding fast and mad against his chest, and his lungs trying desperately to push air to his brain. “I’m here, I’m here,” he panted.

Alfred’s body was limp in his arms, when Arthur was able to hold him against him. He was warm, but not fevered, and Arthur’s eyes watered because for the first time in years he was holding his baby brother again. It felt real. The weight in his arms, the salt in his eyes, the smell…

“Well done, magician,” a husky, manly voice said from behind him, followed by a sharp cry of pain. Arthur turned around, still carrying Alfred, and his eyes widened when he saw Gilbert holding Niamh by the shoulder. “I wasn’t sure if you would actually make it, but just in case I had a sparse body to play with,” he chuckled, and no longer possessing Alfred’s body, he seemed really menacing.

The look of betrayal was almost worse than the broken ‘Arthur…?’ Niamh uttered, rasped and breathless, gasping as Gilbert squeezed her shoulder. The bone broke and she growled in pain, like a wounded animal that could only fight because it had never been taught different.

Gilbert left eye was bloody, a clear sign of fight. Arthur wondered if the albino had suffered. The demon licked his lips and smiled lewdly.

“She is a real thing, Mage. Almost scratched my eye out, protecting you. Did you tell her you don’t need protection from me, Mage?” the demon asked, and laughed at the pain on Arthur’s eyes. “Did you tell her how you lost yourself to the dark arts until you found the labyrinth, and about our bargain for little Alfred’s life?”

Arthur growled and raised a shield. The demon laughed at him.

“That’s a no, cht. He traded one hundredth thousand souls for his brother, Huntress,” the demon said, smiling. “Up ‘till now, he had ninety-seventh hundred thousand souls.”

“No…” Arthur whispered, after everything he had done, after everything he had sacrificed. “You promised!” he growled, and guilt assaulted him when Niamh looked at him with anger and hate.

It was a look that burned down to his soul and made Arthur sick.

“Yes, yes,” the demon said, dismissive. “Alfred and you can go, you are free, Mage. You have given me something more precious than your soul and that child’s,” he smirked, and then feigned innocence. “Oh. Huntress, you never said, did you? Is that any way to start a relationship? Hiding secrets are very bad,” the demon said, using Alfred’s voice, and Arthur had to look down just to be sure his brother was fine.

“What do you mean?” Arthur asked, fearing the following words.

When the bone of her other shoulder broke Niamh didn’t even made a sound, and the look of utter hopelessness almost made Arthur go to her, but his cargo was so precious he didn’t dare to make a move. It was worse when she didn’t even look pained by his abandonment.

“I told you she would birth you very strong sons. A child made of magic is sweeter than those who simply learn how to wield it. The huntress carries two healthy boys in her belly. As I said, well done, magician,”

Arthur didn’t even had the time to act when he was expelled from the labyrinth, back to the old cottage where he had been so many years back, searching for Alfred.  The cottage was in ruins, and in his arms wasn’t a small boy, but a young teen.

The season had passed and changed them, and the time they had known had left them behind.

= = = = = = = = = = == = =

Alfred smiled at the young cashier, apologising for his brother’s behaviour. It had taken a while to get used to the new world, but Alfred was nothing if not enthusiastic.

“You never told me how we escaped from the demon,” Alfred said, pointing at his older brother with a fry. He had started university some months ago, and Arthur had finally got around the idea of Alfred living on his own for nine months.

Arthur, now looking like someone in his early thirties, glared at his younger brother. He had never told Alfred, and he wouldn’t be telling him now. He couldn’t sleep at night, and sometimes it was so hard to breathe that he thought he was choking.

It became harder when Alfred left. There was no one to take Arthur away from his memories, no one to remind him he was loved and he had done the only thing he had. Except that he didn’t believe that.

He had lost his magic, too. He had tried everything to go back once Alfred had moved out, but he was no longer a Mage. He was no longer anything he was.

“I stroke a bargain with the demon, and once I fulfilled it, he released you.”

“What did you trade for me…?” Alfred asked. He wondered why his brother always looked sad; as if he loathed the fact he was alive.

“My magic,” Arthur lied. Alfred didn’t need to bear the weight of Arthur’s crimes. “I cannot ever go back,”

Sensing it was one of those moments, Alfred swiftly changed the topic. Arthur always seemed less sad when Alfred talked about school and friends. Besides, he had brought Arthur to McDonald’s with a purpose in mind. That purpose walked right ahead to his table, wearing black denim jeans and a green t-shirt and smiled at them, looking shyly at Arthur.

Arthur looked up when he felt something, like a pulling, like something he needed to see. Standing in front of him, a tall blonde man with a stricken resemblance to him was standing. Something in his face made him thought of Niamh, though. It stole his breath away.

“Hey, I told you, you guys looked similar, didn’t I?” Alfred said, standing to greet his friend with a quick peck on the lips that made Arthur realise this guy wasn’t Alfred’s friend. “Artie, this is Pat, my…uh… well, y’know. He’s from England, that’s Europe…right?” Alfred said. He had never gotten around learning the geography of that world.

Arthur was pale, as if he was looking a ghost, or perhaps a mirror.

The words of the demon resonated within his soul.

She will bear you healthy and mighty children. Maybe, mighty enough to survive.
My feelings: amusedamused