Shadow wandered down the halls of the temple, Mith’s voice softly echoing through the hallways with one word: fortnight. He could see the confused expressions on all the faces of the people he passed and anger on some. Everyone had expected the issue to be settled today, and the prospects of it lingering set well with no one, even if it was Mith’s decision. Mith was far from a tyrant, and a goddess that was very close with her priesthood; the fact that she was deliberately silent on the issue of Sunhawk and him was making more than a few of her priests uneasy. Still, he was glad that he now knew the reasons for Mith calling them to the temple, and could only feel relief that he once again had her support and love.
“Priest Shadowhawk, please come quickly. Your consort, he has gone crazy,” said a young priest that almost ran into him as he came around a corner.
Shadow’s eyes widened slightly and he nodded, following the young man as they ran through the corridors avoiding the outraged looks of older priests. He shouldn’t have been surprised, since Mith had told him Sunhawk was angry and confused about the knowledge of why Shadow had become Mith’s priest. Yet he hadn’t expected Sunhawk to lose control of himself to the extent to send a priest running to find him. As they sprinted through the hallways it soon became apparent that they were heading to the main entrance of the temple, and Shadow quickly realized Sunhawk was trying to leave the temple, something he was sure Mith wouldn’t allow, at least for the next fortnight.
When they arrived at the large arch leading out into the main temple and the exit he saw Sunhawk battering against an invisible wall across the door, totally alone, his fist completely bloody and a wild look in his eyes as he hit furiously at thin air that dripped with his own blood. Without even thinking about it Shadow threw himself between him the archway, unwilling to see the man try to hurt himself anymore.
“Stop it Sunhawk, you can’t leave, not yet,” Shadow cried out, flinging himself into the man’s chest as a fist sped towards him, stopping abruptly at the sound of his voice.
“Let me go, tell your damn goddess to let me go now,” Sunhawk growled.
“Not for a fortnight, not until she makes her decision,” Shadow replied, leaning into the tense hard body, feeling it quiver.
“She can’t do that.”
“She’s a goddess, she can do what she wants.”
“No she can’t, there are rules,” Sunhawk retorted angrily.
“Sunhawk, she is a goddess, do you honestly think she can’t keep a mortal in her temple? You entered here of your own free will,” Shadow said quietly.
“Damn it, why can’t they just leave me alone,” Sunhawk asked quietly, backing away from Shadow.
“Do you want me to leave you alone?” Shadow asked softly, looking up at Sunhawk, feeling his heart beat loudly, a slight edge of fear coming to his own voice.
“You should want to. You should hate me. Because of me the gods have toyed with your life. Offered you up as a sacrifice to a monster,” Sunhawk replied bitterly, backing up further from him.
Shadow took the few steps that Sunhawk had put between them and threw himself into the quivering body, wrapping his arms around the man completely, laughing softly. It was absurd for the man to feel guiltily about something that wasn’t his fault, about something that Shadow was glad about. He knew that his life had been far from normal, but how could he resent having met the man that he loved so much? Although Sunhawk rarely admitted it, he did care about him, so very much that it made the oddities in his life unimportant.
“So that just means I’m perfect for you. Do you really think it bothers me that I was born to help you? Or that I’m Mith’s priest because of you? I love both of you and I wouldn’t change that. Besides Sunhawk, what has been done can’t be undone. You turning your back on me wouldn’t change what has happened, would it? It wouldn’t change my past or anything else,” Shadow said firmly, looking up at Sunhawk.
“No, come on, this isn’t the best place to hold this conversation and I want to look at your hands,” Shadow said, pulling slightly away from Sunhawk and taking his wrist.
“No, I’m leaving,” Sunhawk said stubbornly.
“You said you loved me, that you would protect me. You said we would leave together. Are you going back on your words?” Shadow asked softly, looking up at the uneasy golden eyes.
“Shadow you don’t understand…”
“I understand perfectly. Do you love me?”
“Then you need to stay,” Shadow said firmly, pulling Sunhawk back to their rooms.
“Please, Shadow, I can’t do this,” Sunhawk said, his voice hoarse as he followed Shadow.
“You can’t let me treat your hands?”
“No I can’t… my past,” Sunhawk almost whispered.
“You’re already remembering, aren’t you? Whether you speak of it or not the memories are already returning, they aren’t locked away anymore?” Shadow said softly.
“Yes,” Sunhawk whispered, fear in his eyes.
“Then please just let me help you as much as I can,” Shadow pleaded softly as he felt Sunhawk relent and allow himself to be led back to their set of rooms.
Shadow remained quiet, wondering what he was supposed to do now. He ached for the man and the obvious fear and pain in his eyes. He couldn’t help but wondering if what he and his goddess were doing was right. Sunhawk had been reasonably happy before he had shown up in the man’s life. He had made a new life for himself and had a family in the Hawks. Yet since he had come into the man’s life Sunhawk had experienced a lot of unhappiness and sadness. The resurfacing of his past seemed to ripping the man apart, and it was undoubtedly Mith and his fault that Sunhawk was now going through this. Could Sunhawk’s long dead mother truly want her son to go through this pain and sadness?
He reached out to his goddess, feeling lost as he looked back at Sunhawk, who was almost lifeless again as Shadow pulled him along to their room. Mith presence filled him instantly, soothing him as flickers of images of Sunhawk appeared; Sunhawk before Shadow had come into his life. The small white house empty of everyone except Sunhawk, countless nights and days of loneliness. Of a man who dealt with every problem alone and man who never let deeper feeling touch him. Shadow had never given much thought to what Sunhawk’s life had been like before he had come into it, but now he saw it in vivid detail. Day after day of the man going through his life, refusing all offers of any deeper relationships. Corrin had said that Sunhawk had changed greatly after Shadow had come into his life and now Mith gave him a glimpse of what the man meant.
They finally reached their room and he pulled Sunhawk into their chambers, seating Sunhawk down on the bed as he gently lifted the man’s hands, horrified at what he saw. He looked up at Sunhawk’s face, wondering how the man couldn’t be howling in pain. They were broken, terribly broken. Without Shadow’s power there would be no way the man would ever be able to even hold a sword again properly. He couldn’t understand how Sunhawk could even think about doing something like this to himself. Was his need to escape whatever Mith had said to him so great? Shadow felt himself almost overwhelmed by the challenge that was put before him. How would he ever be able to help Sunhawk through something that could make him do this to himself? Trying to pull himself together he focused on the one thing he knew he could do.
“Sunhawk, you’ve broken your hands.”
“What? I couldn’t have,” Sunhawk said, shaking his head, looking at the bleeding hands.
Shadow watched as shock spread over the man’s face as he looked at his hands and the realization of what he was seeing sank in. Pain started to spread across his face as the unreasoning terror of whatever Mith had said to him was overshadowed by the present situation and what the damage would mean to him. He knew that Sunhawk, although not a healer, would realize quickly what the extent of the damage was.
“My sword hand,” Sunhawk choked.
“Sunhawk it’s ok, I can fix it,” Shadow said quickly. “It’s ok, don’t worry.”
Sunhawk looked up at him in surprise as Shadow gently picked up his hand and let his magic flow into it. Even as his other senses flowed into the broken hand his eyes concentrated on Sunhawk, and he saw fear and sadness flood over the man’s face. His mind barely thought of what he was doing with his magic as he felt tears flood his eyes. He blinked, trying to keep them in check as he finally looked away from Sunhawk’s face, unable to see the wavering emotions there.
“Shadow, I’m sorry,” Sunhawk said quietly even as he felt the large hand in his own tremble slightly.
“Saying the words changes nothing. You can’t stand me like this can you? Even when I’m helping you,” Shadow said softly as he lost the battle with his tears.
“It isn’t you. I swear it isn’t you,” Sunhawk said, pulling his hand away from Shadow and pulling him up into his arms.
“Your hands,” Shadow protested.
“Later, I promise you later,” Sunhawk said, burying his face into Shadow’s hair.
“Why Sunhawk, please, I need to understand,” Shadow whispered.
“Because my childhood and family are full of magic, and because of it I killed my father and lost my mother,” Sunhawk said softly.
Shadow said nothing as he let Sunhawk hold him, stroking the man’s blond hair comfortingly, letting Sunhawk take his time. It reminded him of the time Sunhawk had opened up to him about Daras. He knew once Sunhawk started that he would eventually continue pouring out the whole story, as long as Shadow remained quiet. He felt no horror or shock at Sunhawk’s admission, knowing that whatever Sunhawk’s past held it wouldn’t be happy or pleasant.
“You’re not going to ask me anything?” Sunhawk asked after a few minutes.
“No, I trust you Sunhawk. You will tell me what you can, I know you will,” Shadow said softly.
“I don’t want to. I just want to forget, what is so wrong about that?” Sunhawk said hoarsely as his hold on Shadow tightened.
“Nothing except, Sunhawk… I’m filled with the magic you hate, and would you really be ok if we parted? Think about it Sunhawk, could you go back to the way things were before we met?” Shadow asked hesitantly.
Sunhawk remained quiet for a long time, completely still against Shadow’s body. He wished he could hear what the man was thinking about; he wished he could at least feel the man’s emotions like his fellow priests. He didn’t know if hearing Sunhawk’s story would really help either one of them, but it was the only place he had to start. Right now he didn’t know anything about what was really hurting the man he loved and he just didn’t know what else to do.
“Shadow, I don’t hate you or your powers. They are different from my father’s, from my own. They remind me of my mother, of her family, but that also reminds me of other things. Even if I tell you the story it doesn’t take away the memories or the pain,” Sunhawk said slowly.
“No, it doesn’t, no more than it did when you told me of Daras,” Shadow said softly.
“On your birthday, when you told me about when he died,” Shadow reminded him gently.
“This is far more difficult,” Sunhawk trembled, his voice harsh.
Shadow pulled Sunhawk onto the bed and arranged the man’s head on his lap. Sunhawk remained quiet as Shadow’s fingers massaged Sunhawk’s temples, waiting patiently for the man to begin, knowing that he would eventually find the courage; after all he was Sunhawk, a man that had more courage than anyone that he had ever known.
“How much do you know about the power that you have? About the gods and the powers they give mortals?” Sunhawk asked softly.
“Not much,” Shadow said, shaking his head.
“Not many people do, not even the ones that should know. All magic that mortals have comes from the gods, a spark of their immortal power. The gods aren’t allowed to use their powers on the mortal world unless it is on their own holy ground such as their temples, so they give mortals a spark of their power to use to further their own ends. Mostly in blessings, but occasionally they allow mortals to be born with the power as well. There are a couple of differences between being born with power and being given it through a blessing. People born with the power are incredibly strong, their magic is at least ten times more powerful than those who acquire it through a blessing of the gods. The second difference is that those born with their powers are not bound to the gods like those that receive it through blessings. Blessings can be taken away, power born within your soul cannot be; even punishing these people is difficult as long as they stay away from holy ground,” Sunhawk said softly, his eyes closed as he spoke.
“Then why would the gods do it? I mean, they couldn’t control those people right?” Shadow asked, confused.
“No they can’t, but they can arrange things so that these people end up under the gods’ control as priests more often than not. You for example were born incredibly close to Mith’s temple, a very specific temple that was already corrupt, right?” Sunhawk answered, looking up at Shadow suddenly, golden eyes filled with sadness and pain.
Shadow gently caressed the man’s face and nodded.
“More often than not those born with power are within a specific family. Like my mother’s family was sworn to Keilth and have been for generations. Most of her family had the power to heal; it was more unusual for someone to be born without the power than with it.”
“Your mother? You mean that you come from a family sworn to Keilth?” Shadow said in surprise.
“No, my father was entirely different, and mother wasn’t born with any power whatsoever,” Sunhawk said grimly, shutting his eyes again as if to shut out the very memories he was now talking about.
Shadow cursed himself quietly and remained silent, stroking Sunhawk’s temples, trying to sooth away the frown lines.
“Gods can do a lot to toy with people, but they cannot interfere with their minds and hearts. They can’t force love and devotion, they can’t make people change their hearts or manipulate their minds. It is something most people beyond high priests don’t know about because it is related to how you can kill a god,” Sunhawk continued after a few minutes.
“You can’t kill a god, they’re immortal,” Shadow protested.
“Yes and no. The gods live through us mortals, through our love for them. If we don’t worship them, love them, if we forget them, then they die. Slowly, painfully they die. They need our love. That is why they are unable to interfere with the hearts of mortals, because only through our love of them do they survive. Mortals have free will to choose to love and support the gods or turn away from them, and they can’t interfere with that choice in any way; their inability to tamper with our minds and hearts keeps them honest, I suppose,” Sunhawk explained.
Shadow remained silent, thinking about Sunhawk’s words, almost unable to believe them, yet in a strange way it made sense as well. Still, as fascinating as the idea was he had no idea what it had to do with Sunhawk’s story, about the pain that he now was trying to face.
“My father was born into a noble family, a very powerful noble family but one without any history of being favored by the gods. He was the second child destined to be sent to the temple of Argoth, except for the fact that my father was also a genius. By the time he was seven he could speak four languages and decipher ancient texts written in long forgotten languages. It is a tradition in Estria that all middle born children are sent to the military; high born ones are sent to the temple of Argoth for training and then shuffled onto the army if they are unfit for a priest’s life. My father wanted no part of it, he was ambitious even as a child. Three days before his tenth birthday, where he would be dedicated to Argoth, his older brother died in a hunting accident. No one thought it was anything other than a horrible tragedy. My father obviously never was dedicated to Argoth and became the heir to his family’s title and estates. What nobody realized was that my father held a spark of a god’s power, and that allowed him to murder his own brother.”
“Argoth’s,” Shadow guessed.
“No, not Argoth’s, although he would have been under Argoth’s protection and guidance. He had the spark from Elos. Why I do not know, for few are ever given his power,” Sunhawk answered.
“But isn’t Elos… he is the father of all the twelve gods,” Shadow gasped.
“Yes, but he is also the only god without temples or priests. His own power comes from the love of his children, and perhaps something else, although not even my father knew what it was. Elos doesn’t interfere in this world that often, and only one or two people each generation are born with his power, sometimes hundreds of years can go without anyone holding a spark of it. Elos doesn’t try to control his chosen people and lets them do what they want with their power, although often times one of his children take control of these people and guides them, so they do not become uncontrollable. Father would have gone to Argoth, but he turned his destiny by murdering his brother.
“With his brother’s death he became the heir to the second most powerful family in Estria besides the royal family. He began to use his position as heir to accumulate more and more ancient texts, especially religious ones. My father was a genius and he was looking for something, something to circumvent the gods’ will,” Sunhawk paused, his brow furrowing.
Shadow remained quiet, almost fearing to breathe as he listened to Sunhawk’s story. Of all the things he hadn’t expected something like this. Each time he made assumptions about Sunhawk they ended up totally wrong. He knew very little about Elos, for he wasn’t a well known god, but to think that Sunhawk’s father was one of his chosen seemed unreal, and the fact that someone chosen by that god could kill his own brother was terrifying.
“Elos isn’t bound by the rules like his children are, but at the same time he hardly interferes in the mortal realm. Neither my father nor any of the texts he found were able to determine why Elos gives mortals a part of his power, for never once in his life did father ever hear a thought from the god who gave him his power. Of course that could be simply because my father was ambitious, cruel, and evil,” Sunhawk said bitterly.
“Then why would Elos give someone like that power?” Shadow asked quietly.
“For fun? I don’t really know. Maybe my father was changed, after all some of the books he got his hands on as a child were far from acceptable reading. Some of them dealt with elder gods that Elos killed eons ago. Ancient texts that were taboo but were no longer remembered as such. I remember just touching them made me cringe, yet father treated them as precious treasures. My father was an enigma and I never saw him clearly as a child, and by the time I did I wanted nothing more than to forget everything about him.
“When my father turned eighteen he emerged from the family estate and went to court. A little demonstration of his powers, saving the kingdom from bad trade negations, landed him a position on the council next to own his father, separate from his heredity title. There were of course whispers about him since he could read minds yet wasn’t attached to any god. He could also transmute things, something that very few could do, yet he had sworn loyalty to the King and was proving a valuable asset to the kingdom. The fact he wasn’t attached to any god was attractive, since there was no divided loyalty. He totally belonged to Estria and proved his worth countless time.
“My father, when he wanted to be, was incredibly charming and seemed almost gentle. The King had no doubts about him and he had an uncanny knack of making his enemies into friends. When he asked my grandfather for my mother’s hand in marriage my mother’s family was thrilled. Belana was terribly shy and gentle; combined with her family’s background in the priesthood, which had no real political connections, made the match seem like a miracle. Father was of course handsome and he treated mother with a gentleness that was reserved only for her.”
“Did he love her?” Shadow asked.
“I don’t know. When I was a child I thought so but…” Sunhawk shook his head. “He had ulterior motives for marrying her. Her family had been receptacles for Keilth’s power for centuries. Her mother and father both contained Keilth’s power, although her mother only by a blessing by the god himself. The family was saturated by magic, and that is why father choose her. She didn’t contain a hint of Keilth’s power and his offer came before her fifteenth birthday, so she hadn’t sealed her fate in the priesthood. It was a condition of the marriage agreement that she not become a priestess, something that bothered mother a great deal. Her family was willing to overlook it with the advantages of aligning themselves with the Delicort family.
“Father was looking to breed a child born with his powers to pass down magic without the intervention of the gods. I still don’t completely understand how he did it, although I poured over his writing and questioned him endlessly. But I was too young, and unlike father I wasn’t a genius. I think in the end he wanted to make sure the gods could never take away his power or control him in any way. By creating me he proved that it was possible to…”
Both of them jumped as a loud knock startled them out of their conversation. Shadow cursed silently as Sunhawk got out of his lap, the man looking wrung out and tired, his shoulder slumped as he sat on the edge of the bed. Shadow got up from the bed and headed out into the other room to answer the door, ready to kill whoever had interrupted them only, to find Sirus standing behind the door.
“Priest Shadowhawk, please come with me,” Sirus said gently.
“Can’t this wait?” Shadow asked, looking over his shoulder, concerned.
“No, the conclave is be convened. We must know what is going on,” Sirus replied firmly.
“Then ask Mith,” Shadow said bluntly.
“We are asking you,” Sirus replied without anger, his face calm.
“And if I choose not to go?” Shadow asked frowning.
“Nothing, this isn’t about Mith, it is about your fellow priests who want to understand,” Sirus said simply, his hands open.
“This isn’t the best time,” Shadow said, looking over his shoulder to see that Sunhawk was standing against the doorway looking at the two of them with unreadable eyes.
“Your consort can come,” Sirus offered, without looking at Sunhawk.
“No, go Shadow, I won’t leave here until you come back. I don’t think I could continue with our conversation now anyway,” Sunhawk said tiredly.
“I should stay with you,” Shadow replied, going over to the man.
“Just give me something to sleep without dreams, please,” Sunhawk said tiredly.
Shadow looked closely at Sunhawk and sighed, nodding. Without a word to Sirus he led Sunhawk back into their room and dug through his pack until he found what he needed. He had never seen Sunhawk willing take medicine of any kind so easily and worried about what this was doing to him. When Sunhawk had settled with his eyes closed Shadow quickly sunk his power into the man, re-knitting the bones in his hands, wondering how the man had endured the pain without notice the whole time. Despite Mith’s assurances and reasons he couldn’t help but wonder if what they were doing was right, that perhaps it wouldn’t be better to let the man forget his past instead of forcing him to remember it. Still, unlike Sunhawk he was bound to the gods and knew that unlike his partner he wasn’t ready to refute them. Sighing, he leaned down, kissing the sleeping man before rising to face his fellow priest, who wanted answers he wasn’t sure he could provide.