Sunhawk walked purposefully through the sunlit meadow, ignoring the fact it was impossible, that it shouldn’t exist. His whole attention focused on the two at the center of the flower covered meadow. His eyes quickly noticed Shadow kneeling on the ground and a beautiful gorgeous woman, who could be no other than Mith, standing over him; all of his attention focused on the pair. Without a thought he marched up to them, discreetly putting himself between Shadow and the woman as he glared at her. He had no idea why her voice had echoed throughout the temple, demanding his presence, horrifying all of the priests that stood waiting for the monumental decision to be made. He did not hesitate for an instant in coming into the room, ignoring the line of gaping priests and priestesses to find and hopefully protect Shadow.
It was the last thing he wanted, to be so close to an immortal goddess who could read his mind and past. Interfering, whimsical, and never caring about the havoc they wrought in people’s lives, Sunhawk didn’t want to be within leagues of this gorgeous, alluring form that he knew wasn’t human despite her cloak of mortal skin. There were things he didn’t want anyone to know about, things he didn’t even want to think about ever again, and he knew with an instinctive twinge buried deep within him that this nosey immortal was going to poke and probe him until everything was out in the open. He didn’t know how he knew, but he knew that this dainty immoral was going to rip his life apart, yet he remained firm in his resolve to protect the one he loved.
Despite knowing this, despite the fact that every coherent thought was screaming at him to leave, he held his ground and glared into the golden eyes of the Goddess Mith. He would not abandon Shadow; he would not leave the temple without him. For the very first time in his life he knew without a doubt that he cared for someone more than he cared about himself. It had been so long since he had felt such emotions, feelings that he had long since buried when he was still a boy. The need to protect one person, a deep powerful love that he had only recently acknowledged, and that he wouldn’t abandon even if it meant fighting a god.
“Are we free to leave?” Sunhawk growled, unable to bear the silence any more.
“No Sunhawk,” Mith said, measuring him with her intent gaze.
“Then you have decided against us,” Sunhawk said, his voice harsh to his own ears.
“Then what?” Sunhawk demanded, feeling every fiber of his being tense.
“What do you think I will do, Solas Delicort?” Mith asked calmly.
Sunhawk stiffened at the name and his whole body shook. He felt a snarl bubbling up inside of him at the mention of the name he had long abandoned. His instincts where right, and he wanted nothing more than strike out at the calm, implacable face that was ready to destroy everything he had spent years building up. It was a name that he had not heard in over twenty years, a name that swept through him with a vengeance, bringing back bitter memories that he had locked inside of him long ago.
“Your mother begged us to look after you, but of course you made that impossible,” Mith said as she watched Sunhawk’s face.
“Shut the hell up, Solas died years ago,” Sunhawk snarled, trying to banish the thought of a pale blond woman that looked far too young and delicate to be a mother.
“Shadowhawk is part of your mother’s dying wish,” Mith responded, ignoring Sunhawk’s outburst as she looked past him to Shadow.
Sunhawk involuntarily turned around to see Shadow slumped on the ground, his eyes closed. Before he could think he was kneeling on the ground by the boy, seething in anger. He could tell Shadow was still breathing and alive, but he didn’t respond to Sunhawk’s touch. His hand cupped the white, delicate face of the boy who had become without knowing it an integral part of his life. He had no idea what was going on, what this goddess wanted from him or Shadow. His past, his poor mother had nothing to do with the here and now or his love for the unconscious priest in his arms.
“What have you done to him?” Sunhawk hissed, glaring up at the breathtakingly beautiful woman.
“I’ve taken away his senses for the time being, or do you want him to know about you Solas?” Mith asked.
“Stop saying that name,” Sunhawk bellowed as he felt himself shake.
“You do not acknowledge the name, but you still cling to your past. Your shield is very good, worthy of Griffith’s son,” Mith noted.
“Fuck you,” Sunhawk said, turning away from the woman to look down at Shadow’s pale face, trying to remember why he had entered the meadow in the first place, what he needed to do.
“We are not here to talk about the past, but the future. Shadow is mine and I won’t let you take him from me,” Sunhawk said, trying to put a lid on his overflowing temper.
“Your past is part of your future, Sunhawk. Until you face it and accept it then you will never accept Shadowhawk,” Mith said calmly.
“I’ve accepted him. I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” Sunhawk said stubbornly, his eyes narrowing dangerously.
Suddenly something battered against his weakened shield, surrounding his mind, and everything disappeared from his vision except an image of Shadow healing. Red glowing tendrils of energy flowing through the boy’s thin fingers as it sank into his patient’s body, re-knitting broken skin. Image after image rolled past Sunhawk as he watched Shadow use his powers, something he had avoided watching during the time both of them had been together. Each time he had seen the boy work it had been under extraordinary circumstances, or the boy had collapsed, making Sunhawk’s worry overshadow his revulsion. But now there was no avoiding, no escaping the visions that swept through his mind as Mith held him firmly in place, not letting him look away. He could feel his stomach knot as he watched vague flickers of his own past haunting him, superimposing themselves on the visions Mith was showing him. Magic that had once been a part of his own soul but had destroyed everything he had held dear.
“Stop,” Sunhawk’s voice grated between clenched teeth.
“I thought you accepted him,” Mith said mockingly, a grim smile on her face.
“As much as I can. Do you think Shadow could stand to watch me on the battlefield?” Sunhawk shot back defensively. “There are things about a person that just can’t be touched.”
“You can’t stand to watch yourself on the battlefield, Sunhawk. Whether you want to admit it or not, your past influences your future,” Mith said softly.
Sunhawk glared up at her, refusing to accept her words. The past of the boy named Solas should remain dead and buried. Nothing good could come from him trying to remember such times, nothing that would help Shadow and him be together. The closer he came to those memories the further he felt himself pulled from Shadow. It wasn’t the boy’s fault, but he couldn’t bear the pain, guilt, and overwhelming despair of who he had once been and what he had done.
He could feel Mith reaching out to his mind again, but he was prepared this time for her. Using everything his long dead father had once taught him he slammed his mental barriers up before the immortal could touch him. He knew the rules, he knew what was allowed and what was not, thanks to man he wish he could forget. He had thrown all those lessons and their uses aside long ago, but now that he was once again threatened by the gods he used what he could to defend himself. Pulling from long forgotten memories he did something he swore he would never do again, he began to remember the past that had come close to destroying him.
“You say it was my mother’s dying wish that you help me? Well then leave me the hell alone, you bitch,” Sunhawk growled.
“I can’t do that, Sunhawk,” Mith said shaking her head.
“Yes you can and we both know it. I have refuted all of you, I want nothing whatsoever to do with any of you, and that is my choice,” Sunhawk said fiercely.
“Yet you came to my temple of your own free will, Sunhawk,” Mith replied.
“For Shadow,” Sunhawk said, looking down briefly at the unconscious face, hoping that he was ok.
“If you are to twine your future around him you must accept me, and the powers he possesses,” Mith said quietly.
“He was born with them, you can’t take them away and we both know it,” Sunhawk said with firm conviction.
“Maybe not, but I can withdraw my blessing on him,” Mith countered.
Sunhawk snorted, looking up at the woman with a dark chuckle. He knew it was a hollow threat. With the unlocking of the buried memories of his past things had become clearer to him, things that he had forgotten or suppressed were surfacing deep within him. Lessons and rules that governed the gods, and mortals who were invested with small sparks of their power. Things that he never wanted to deal with again but now was being forced to. Ancient laws that most mortals didn’t even know about, so the gods could play dangerously close to breaking them.
“Shadow has chosen, otherwise you wouldn’t have called me in here while taking away his consciousness. You wouldn’t threaten me otherwise, you have no power to control my fate any more than your father did,” Sunhawk said in a firm voice, his eyes pinning Mith’s golden ones.
“Perhaps, but what of Shadowhawk? Will you let him choose, will you let him throw away half of himself so you can cower inside your thin, brittle shell?” Mith asked calmly, her eyes piercing Sunhawk.
Sunhawk looked away, down at Shadow, feeling his triumph slip away as he looked down at the boy’s innocent face. He felt something twist inside of him as he remembered another innocent face, just as pale and delicate as the one he now gazed upon, one that he had loved just as deeply, and lost. He silently cursed, hating the surfacing of the darkest part of his life even more than the part of him that stood on countless battlefields. Why did he have to face this again?
“Is this revenge? I’ve turned my back on everything, including the powers within me and the very gods themselves. Isn’t it enough?” Sunhawk asked quietly.
“No Sunhawk, this has nothing to do with revenge. This is for Belana, her dying wish,” Mith said quietly, kneeling down close to Sunhawk.
“She never prayed to you, you are the last one she…”Sunhawk stopped, looking down at Shadow, horrified as something clicked into place at the mention of his mother.
“You two couldn’t have….you wouldn’t…” Sunhawk gasped, the color draining out of his face as he looked down at the boy who carried the powers not of Mith, but Keilth, her twin.
Keilth, the god of healing, and Belana, the only daughter of the house dedicated to Keilth. Sunhawk’s grandfather, uncle, niece—all born with the spark of Keilth’s power. One of the noble priest classes within his homeland, powerful and wealthy and favored by the gods. His delicate mother, who only survived his birth because of the power of her family. His mother, who was dedicated to Keilth despite his father’s ire. Keilth, Mith’s twin, the one who gave Shadow his spark of power, and entrusted him into his sister’s care.
Sunhawk, looking into the ancient eyes of the goddess, saw the answer within the deep gold. He had guessed right, and Shadow was nothing more than a pawn in the game of the gods. Everything the boy had gone through had been some twisted, sick game the gods where playing to fulfill a wish of the gentle woman who prayed for her son’s happiness even as she died. He didn’t deserve this, his didn’t want this. Guilt washed over him in waves.
“Shadowhawk has chosen you, and you know better than anyone that it is real. We only hoped, but we couldn’t guarantee that it would work. He can heal you, Sunhawk, if you let him,” Mith said quietly.
“No! Damn you all, NO!” Sunhawk whispered fiercely in denial as he swiftly laid the boy down and jumped up, turning his back on Mith and running out of the meadow as he felt deep sad eyes burn into his back.
Shadow drifted in the soft blackness even as he felt Mith’s conciseness surround him. Her gentle warmth soothing him, taking away his fear and worries despite the fact he knew that things were far from ok. He tried to fight off the false feelings of security, trying desperately to wake himself from the fake sense of peace. He couldn’t imagine a confrontation between Mith and Sunhawk turning out anything other than bad. He needed to stand between the two of them to try to find some way to reconcile the two very different viewpoints. He loved them both and couldn’t bear to lose either one of them.
Mith had been a pillar for him for as long as he could remember. Whenever he was lonely, sad, frightened, all he had to do was reach out and she had always been there, easing his pain with her gentle warmth even though he knew he was far from a proper priest. She accepted his limitations and helped him to be more than he ever thought possible. He didn’t remember his mother very well, and his father not at all. In the lonely temple kept apart and separated from others, Mith had become his sole means of support. When he thought of his mother her face often took the features of his Goddess. To Shadow she was irreplaceable, not as someone he just worshiped and served but someone he truly loved. She was his family.
Sunhawk had also become something irreplaceable to Shadow, despite their short time together. Mortal, human, he was someone that was like him, someone who he could touch and was real. His intelligence and deep, introspective mind hidden underneath the strong fierce warrior. His passion that sparked feelings that Shadow could have never imagined existed within. He would have never imagined the longing and need had to simply feel the touch of another’s skin on his. Never before had the light touch from another human ever been able to make Shadow feel at peace, yet Sunhawk could do that to him. To have Sunhawk’s arms around him could sooth him as fast as Mith’s mind. For him, Sunhawk’s embrace meant home, it meant safety and protection. Without him Shadow was sure that he would never again be able to feel safe and happy, even with Mith’s presence within his mind. Sunhawk had filled the deep hole of loneliness and companionship that could never be truly filled by a formless presence.
As he struggled, his mind trying to escape from the soothing blackness, he heard a deep sigh in his mind. He could feel Mith’s aggravation and surprisingly worry drift into him. He stopped his struggling and listened, waiting, knowing that something had happened while he had been surrounded in blackness.
“He is more stubborn than I imagined,” Mith said quietly as Shadow once again found himself in control of his body.
Opening his eyes he looked around wildly for Sunhawk to find that he was once again alone in the meadow with Mith. He looked at the kneeling Goddess in front of him, feeling himself go cold with fear. He knew Sunhawk would have never have left of his own volition, so Mith had to have done something to him. Something terrible.
“Please…” Shadow begged as tears began to form.
Mith sighed again, looking at him for a moment, her face full of sadness. Shadow felt Mith’s arms wrap around him and he stiffened. He didn’t want to be comforted, he wanted to know where Sunhawk was. He wanted to know what in the world was going on.
“He isn’t in any danger, he left of his own will. I didn’t expect things to turn out quite like that, he has changed much since the last time we had dealings with him,” Mith said, not releasing Shadow from her embrace.
“What are you talking about? What is going on, have you made your decision?” Shadow pleaded.
“The decision? I guess I must do something about that soon,” Mith said, shaking her head.
“You act like it isn’t important,” Shadow said suspiciously.
“It isn’t and it is. I didn’t want to do things this way, but my priesthood has forced the decision, and I thought it would be better to do things here. Still, there is a chance…”
“A chance? For what?”
“That you will have to choose between Sunhawk and your life here, if you cannot heal Sunhawk, you cannot stay with him,” Mith said softly, her hand tracing the line of Shadow’s face, her eyes looking down at him sadly.
“Heal him?” Shadow asked, thinking for a moment as Mith’s words sank into him. “His past,” Shadow gasped.
“Yes, and your future. You where born for him, Shadowhawk. That is your purpose, to heal him, at least that is our hope,” Mith answered.
“You meant for us to be together,” Shadow gasped, a smile spreading out on his face as a deep sense of relief flooded through him.
It didn’t matter Mith’s reasons for bringing them here, as long as she approved of him being with Sunhawk. He had worried that Mith and Sunhawk would always be at odds, but it seemed that Mith had another purpose for bringing them here that didn’t involve her priests’ decision. The fact that Mith approved of his love for Sunhawk, that he had even been born for him, brought a sense of relief. For the first time since the horrible day that he had been summoned he felt the tension drain from him completely.
“Yes, although you aren’t bothered by the fact that we guided you to Sunhawk? That your birth and life at the temple were planned in advance, only to force you into a path towards him?” Mith asked curiously.
“Of course not! Why should I be? I’m glad I met Sunhawk, and ever gladder to love him. He is special, isn’t he?” Shadow said, surprised by the question.
“Yes, although his mother is the real reason for all of this. Keilth feels bad for not protecting her more, I suppose,” Mith mused.
“Sunhawk’s mother? Is she the reason Sunhawk doesn’t like my magic? Was she like me?” Shadow asked eagerly, hoping to find the reason Sunhawk wouldn’t talk about his past to him.
“No, she was an ordinary mortal without a hint of power, although she would have made a fine priestess for me. No, the problem is with his father, but Shadowhawk, you don’t need to hear the story from me but from Sunhawk. I truly believe that the only way for him to escape from the guilt and pain of his past is to face it with you at his side,” Mith said.
“But… but I’m not… I can’t…” Shadow stammered, shaking his head.
Shadow felt Mith touch his face gently, smiling at him.
“It isn’t about training or power, Shadow. Not one of my priests could do what you are doing. Think, why would Keilth let one of his own go to me, instead of just having one of my own go to Sunhawk?” Mith asked softly.
Shadow remained quiet, mulling over the possible reasons. There were many in the temple with strong gifts far superior to his that could help Sunhawk come to terms with whatever had happened in his past. They dealt with all sorts of trauma and emotional wounds that broke people’s spirits. They would know just what to say and do to help Sunahwk deal with whatever had hurt him; it was what they were trained to do, unlike Shadow. It didn’t make any sense, surely Mith would have helped her brother without Shadow’s presence.
“It should be easy to realize, Shadow. Why are you here in the first place?” Mith asked gently.
“Because the council ruled that Sunhawk and I couldn’t be together,” Shadow said hesitantly, his brows furrowed in thought.
They couldn’t accept he loved Sunhawk. They couldn’t accept a mercenary. He slowly began to realize the true reason Mith’s priests wouldn’t be able to help, the reason Mith had allowed one of her temples to be corrupt for so long. The reason he had been born near that particular temple instead one of Keilth. Everything began to slip into place in his mind, of why he had been given into Mith’s care. Why Mith had allowed his corrupt temple to remain, only to be tricked into destroying itself. Why the tattoo on his back was that of a hawk holding a sword. Why he had been blessed by Mith. All the puzzle pieces slipped into place as comprehension of the strange things in his life flooded him.
“Exactly, Shadow. You are able to love a mercenary because you don’t have my power. You can’t feel the destruction and pain they cause when they kill. You can follow him into the battlefield, where my priests couldn’t bear to tread. You weren’t trained like you should have been because the priests in that corrupt temple were too busy using you for their own gains, because of the spark of power given to you by my brother. Yet you’re still my priest as well, and so I am able to guide you because of the bonds we share. You are unique,” Mith said as she followed his thoughts.
“But I might not have fallen in love with him, or him with me,” Shadow said.
“No, that is a risk we took, but we knew what kind of soul you would have. I am the goddess of love after all,” Mith said with a grin, tossing her blond locks with a wink.
Shadow shook his head in amazement. He couldn’t feel angry at what they had done, and their manipulations for it had led him to Sunhawk. Now that he knew there wasn’t a problem with him being with the man because he was a mercenary, he didn’t feel the horrible sense of dread or anger hanging over him. He was no longer torn between the two people he loved most in the world, he didn’t have to choose. Mith and her brother had gone to a lot of work to help Sunhawk, so he must be important. Shadow felt a determination fill him, a need to fulfill Mith and her brother’s expectations, but most of all to help the one he loved so he would never again have to see him sobbing as if his very soul had been broken.