Sunhawk awoke with the first rays of dawn shining into the room. Shadow lay snuggled firmly against him, his long black hair curtaining his naked body and spilling onto Sunhawk’s chest in inky tangles. Neither one of them had left their room after Shadow had returned and yet neither had they spoken of anything. Even though Shadow had assured him that he didn’t have to tell him anything of his past, he knew it didn’t matter anymore. It was far too late to go back to the way things had been before Mith had summoned them to her temple. The lock on his memories had been broken and all the things he had forgotten in the aftermath of the destruction of his young world were now clear to him. He had buried so much after he had killed his father, including his own magic. Yet driven to protect himself from the interfering goddess he had even tapped into that as well as his painful past.
Mith was wrong, he wasn’t afraid of magic, he was afraid of remembering, he was afraid of the gods’ interference once again. Magic had always stirred unwanted and unknown feelings inside of him so he had avoided it as surely as he had avoided the gods themselves. Now he knew why, but the cure was worse than the disease he had suffered from. The gentle glow of Shadow’s magic no longer held a spark fear for Sunhawk, but the painful memories of his mother. Mith and her brother were playing with something that they shouldn’t have without even realizing it. If they had left well enough alone he would have eventually died, probably with a sword thrust through his guts, and everything that had happened twenty-two years ago would have been completely forgotten except to Elos.
Sunhawk covered his eyes with his arm, unable to look at Shadow anymore. It wasn’t his fault, he was as much of a victim of Mith as Sunhawk was, more so since his life had been manipulated by his goddess before he was even born. Yet if he had never met the boy he would never have had to face his past as he was now. There was no protection, no place for him to hide from the now clear memories of his past. He had unwittingly helped his father to kill his mother with magic even as his father seized control of the King of Esteria’s mind. He could vividly see her pale, trusting face and feel her small cool hands as they clutched at his own. His pride filling him at being entrusted with such an important task as changing his mother’s body, filling it with his own magic. His mother’s screams echoed in his mind over and over again as her gentle smile twisted in agony while he fought to control the magic that his father seized and pulled through her body, destroying her. He never knew if his mother’s death had been intended by his father, but Sunhawk never had any hesitation in killing his father for using both him and his mother, betraying love and trust for power. When he fought his father with the magic he had schemed to give to Sunhawk he had done it with eyes unclouded by the lies his father had fed him his entire life. He knew that the fact his son had dared to defy him, and even worse overpower him, was considerably more fitting revenge than the fiery sword thrust in the gut by his ten year old son who could barley contain his own magic. The absolute hate and anger on Griffith’s face left little doubt of his dying feeling for his only son.
No matter how hard he tried, Sunhawk couldn’t banish his mother’s pain from his mind. Her screams of agony as he unwittingly killed her when his uncontrolled magic filled him. He had never paid attention her, ignored her in favor of his father and his teachings. He had brushed aside her love so carelessly, as only a child could do, not realizing how very important it was. Even in her pain and agony he could feel her love for him. Love that he had done nothing to deserve and everything to betray for a cruel, evil man. The pain of those memories filled him to the brink, overflowing through him. He had killed both of his parents and he found the knowledge unbearable.
Unable to remain in the bed any longer Sunhawk rose quietly, pulling on his clothes and leaving Shadow asleep on their large bed. As much as Shadow tried there was nothing he could do to take the pain of Sunhawk’s past away from him. He didn’t know what Mith and Kelieth were trying to do, but he doubted very much it was to help him. He didn’t doubt the fact his mother prayed for his happiness, leaving the two scheming gods an opening to do what they had, but he was very sure that wasn’t the only thing the two gods wished. Whatever it was, he didn’t care’ all he wanted was to leave the temple with Shadow unharmed. He didn’t want to be pulled back into the game of gods, or of magic, he knew the price was far too high.
Slipping out of the room he headed to the only place in the entire temple where he had found any sort of peace. He was surprised to find the guards’ training hall completely empty, the huge hall even bigger in the absence of anyone. Sunhawk walked into the room, his booted feet echoing loudly on the hard wood floor. Closing his eyes he breathed in the smells of the place. familiar and comforting in a world that had become nothing but chaos. Breathing deeply, he felt the edge of his newly wakened pain dull as he unsheathed the sword belted on his waist, holding the familiar plain hilt in his hands. The cool leather wrapped hilt warmed under his hand as the memories flowed out of him. Opening his eyes he swung his sword in the first practice pattern Daras had taught him so long ago. Each move flowing into another as the screams of his mother died, replaced by the distant sounds of battle.
Shadow hurried down the ornate corridor to the main hall of the Temple, hoping to find Sunhawk. He had awakened to find the man gone and panicked. When they had finally fallen asleep the night before, Sunhawk had become withdrawn and quiet. Now he had slipped from the room without waking Shadow, and the only thought that came to Shadow’s mind was Sunhawk trying to beat down the invisible wall that the Godesss had put into place separating the Captain from freedom from Mith’s domain. He rounded the corner to see the high arching marble exit with two guards standing off to the side. Quickening his pace he wasn’t surprised to see Duncan and Tovas both talking quietly to one another.
“Have you seen Sunhawk?” Shadow asked as he approached.
Both men turned to him in surprise to look at his tangled hair and wide eyes. Tovas threw a glance at Duncan and nodded at the man as Duncan gently took his arm, leading him away from the wide archway back into the temple. Shadow gazed up at the man’s calm face as he let himself be led away, looking for answers.
“You know where he is?” Shadow asked anxiously.
“No, but I have a good idea, but I think perhaps that isn’t where you need to be. It seems as if I have been unwittingly assigned to you and Sunhawk,” Duncan said wryly.
“You don’t understand. Sunhawk shouldn’t be…” Shadow started only to stop when Duncan pulled him into a small, sunlit chamber with stunning stained glass windows filled with a rainbow of vibrant colors.
“I understand perfectly Shadow, far more than you do I think. I can vaguely feel him right now, he is very calm, although there are jagged painful edges to his mind that were not there two days ago when we sparred. There is also a powerful barrier around his mind that wasn’t there before. It is obvious something has happened between him and Mith that has upset the balance within both of you. Look at yourself, Shadowhawk, you’re a mess,” Duncan said, leading him over to a small table next to the intricate window.
“I don’t want to leave him alone right now. He’s so hurt inside, Duncan and I don’t know what to do. Mith said only I can heal him but I don’t know how! Everything I do just seems to make it worse,” Shadow said, frustrated.
Duncan pulled a cord next to the door as Shadow spoke and sat down opposite him. Duncan folded his hands in his lap, gazing at Shadow calmly as the frustrated torrent of words flowed out of him. Shadow looked at the calm man unhappily, wondering if he should just leave. He felt a desperate need to find Sunhawk, worried despite Duncan’s reassurance that Sunhawk was calm. It seemed impossible that the despondent man of the night before could be calm and ok somewhere within the temple. There wasn’t anywhere for Sunhawk to really go, for Shadow knew that the captain wasn’t the type to find peace sitting in a garden or an empty room.
“Shadow, right now I don’t think you are going to be any help to Sunhawk the way you are. You’re visibly upset and that will only feed into Sunhawk’s own unhappiness,” Duncan started, only to be interrupted by a small young girl entering the room. Shadow looked over at the bronze haired girl with an innocent face that could be no older than ten bowing awkwardly and ooking up inquiringly even as the flower cornet she wore slipped crookedly on her head.
“You forgot something Lila,” Duncan chuckled as the girl snatched the cornet off her head, blushing furiously. “Please ask Cara to fix us her special tea.”
The girl nodded, backing out of the door even as she tripped over her pale rose colored robes. Shadow looked surprised as Duncan quietly chuckled again.
“I don’t have time for tea,” Shadow said rising.
“Shadow, please sit down. Let me help both you and your lover. You couldn’t even find the joy in Lila’s simple innocence just now, how can you find the joy in your life with Sunhawk? I do not know what has happened between you and Mith, but I can see that you need help. Let me help you,” Duncan urged gently.
Shadow looked at the man’s open face, devoid of any malice. Duncan had helped them since they had arrived at the temple, more so than anyone else. Even more importantly he seemed very genuine in his offer of assistance. He was also a full priest, trained as Shadow had never been. Shadow was out of his depth and very much afraid of his own abilities, so before he had given it any thought he found himself pouring his story in an almost incoherent mess. He barley noticed when Lila returned with the tea that contained a subtle mix of herbs designed to calm a person, as he unburdened himself to the sympathetic priest. Duncan listened, rarely interrupting, his whole face and body language encouraging Shadow without words.
When the balance of Shadow’s problems had been told Duncan sighed and looked at Shadow, shaking his head slightly. A small frown appeared on his brow as he leaned back in the high back wood chair, gazing at him.
“From what you say, Sunhawk’s memories of that time were repressed either from the shock of what happened or something else. I feel Mith’s tampering, for such memories to resurface so easily and overwhelm him. The Captain seems like a remarkably strong man, but even the strongest men have their weakness and can break under the weight of an unresolved past. I do not think this problem can be easily dealt with, especially not within a fortnight. It also troubles me that Mith has left you to deal with this alone, for it is very obvious this is not where your skills lie. Your love of him would under normal circumstances be a solid foundation for him, something to lean against. Yet Mith shattered that by revealing the circumstances of your meeting of Sunhawk. From everything you have told me of Sunhawk, this fact will only drive him further away from you, feeling as though you are nothing more than a piece used to manipulate him,” Duncan sighed, crossing his legs and looking up into the stained glass window with a deep frown. “Something is very wrong here, the pieces of this do not fit together.”
“I know and I feel as though I’m hurting him more than helping him. Mith assures me that this will help but I feel…” Shadow stopped, looking down at his hands, unable to continue.
He knew that he had to be wrong, that Mith couldn’t be trying to hurt Sunhawk. He couldn’t voice that fear to Duncan, knowing it crossed the line for a priest to say such a thing about one’s god. He just didn’t know everything. Mith had to know something he didn’t.
Duncan didn’t seem to notice that Shadow had stopped, lost within his own thoughts. He looked very troubled as leaned forward to take the delicate white tea cup and slowly sip the tea. Shadow shifted in his chair, feeling suddenly uncomfortable as he felt Mith’s presence surround them. It was the first time he had ever felt disapproval from her, and he instantly felt ashamed of his thoughts. Closing his eyes he felt her reprimand wash through him, her gentle disappointment in his doubt and her sadness at the division between them. Without thinking a tear slipped down his cheek at the depth of the emotions surrounding him until he felt her forgiveness flow into him. Opening his eyes he was surprised to see Duncan’s frown had deepened as he looked at Shadow; his clear blue eye held a hint of anger.
“Priest Shadowhawk, as a fellow priest I would suggest you follow her wishes, but as a healer I would suggest you follow your heart,” Duncan said, rising to look down at Shadow, an uneasy worry mixing with the anger on his face.
“I’m truly sorry Shadow, but no one here in Melos will be able to help you. Only you can choose,” Duncan answered, a look of sadness flowed through his eyes.
Shadow sat on the chair, unmoving as Duncan left him, feeling as though something important had happened. Something he wasn’t aware of, and it made him feel incredibly uneasy. Looking up at the stained glass window he suddenly wondered if perhaps he really would have to choose between Sunhawk and Mith, and what such a choice would bring. He had been so happy to find that Mith didn’t disapprove of his relationship with Sunhawk, and that she had even arranged it. But after seeing Sunhawk’s terrible pain and the prodding from Mith to make the captain remember such painful things, that happiness was no more than a vague memory. Something wasn’t right, something deeper was going on that Shadow couldn’t fathom, and it had nothing to do with Sunhawk and his happiness. Duncan’s very strange words and behavior only made Shadow’s faint feeling of something being wrong stronger.
Shadow looked down into the amber liquid in his small tea cup, closing his mind for the first time to Mith. He knew if she wanted she could force her way into his mind easily through the bonds of oaths to her, yet he would also know if she did. That much he had learned through his studies with Corrin and Teal, an awareness of his mind and body beyond normal humans. Something he was sure Mith hadn’t planned on, nor did he think could she have planned on Shadow’s deep love for Sunhawk. Two years ago he would have never dreamed he would ever close his mind to his goddess, yet now as he closed his mind he felt a pressure lift from him. He could feel Mith’s vague presence hover on the edge of his mind, but she didn’t intrude. With her gone from his mind he felt the deep guilty at his previous thoughts lifted slightly.
No longer under the influence of Mith’s gentle prodding he thought back to his conversation with Duncan. Nothing about it had made sense. Duncan had seemed like he had genuinely wanted to help him, but then left him no wiser than when they had started the conversation. He had confirmed Shadow’s own suspicions that whatever was wrong with Sunhawk couldn’t be healed simply or as quickly as Mith had alluded to. There was no way Shadow could fix things in a fortnight, but what did that mean? Not only that, what did Duncan mean by following his heart? His heart lay with Sunhawk, and he was sure that Duncan knew that. Shadow bit his lip worriedly at the implications of the man’s words, what was best for Sunhawk would not lie within Mith’s wishes. Things were too complicated and he simply didn’t know enough, and it seemed that for the first time in his life he was truly alone, for he couldn’t turn to Mith or Sunhawk. He had already made up his mind to follow Sunhawk, but now he was beginning to realize that in doing that he would be truly turning his back on his goddess for good. There would be no arguing or pleading if he disobeyed her in this. She had asked him to heal Sunhawk, he wanted to do that, but the question that plagued him was why? Why was it so important and how was he supposed to do it as ill equipped as he was?
Sighing, Shadow put his tea cup down, his eyes tracing the patterns of colors in the window, wishing for an answer that seemed impossible to find.