Vanya and the Green Knight

High Hebridean

The Trials of the High Priest

He was tired beyond sleeping. The morning had been maps spread on tables, maps without names, matching little rills in silver and green ink to the mountains of his visions. Or maps all in High Hebridian, no relation to what people who lived in those places now would name their mountains and rivers. The afternoon had been falcons. Writing orders on strips of paper the width of a blade of grass. It was difficult with only one hand, and he had to weight the ends with stones before he could start. At least the eye that remained to him was still keen and the tiny script didn’t make him squint. He suspected his eye was keener than it had been. Were nights supposed to be as luminous as day? Ought he to be able to see the hawk waiting in that distant tree down to its speckled breast feathers? Without the depth a second eye would lend it, the world was like one of Atropos’s hyper-detailed paintings. Almost disturbing in its abundance of life. His hearing too. That evening had been hosting the young lords who came to talk to him, feasting them in simple fashion in his garden. When they had talked softly to each other at the far end of the orchard, he could hear every word. At least it had been talk of the beauty of his Avariel wife, and not doubts about his strangeness. Even his most devout new followers thought him strange. It was a change from being the level head, the chaste untouchable, the old fogey of Morrigan. Stripped of the other fanatics, he was a lone tree, visible to all around. One with too few branches.

Oh where was Innis? He had no one to joke with. Lillith didn’t like his humor when it was dark. He hoped to have a bird from Innis soon. It would be happy to meet again, even on a battlefield, and hear him crack gallows jokes as the enemy approached in that lilting accent.

“Can’t sleep?” a dark, joking tone, just as he had been wanting. There was a light on Lillith and the children in bed, lining her scarab feathers in opal. His shadow was long across the floor from where he stood leaned in the doorway watching them, the light behind him. He got hard just at the voice. It was liquid as mercury, rolled over your skin.

“You know I can’t.” He almost never slept at night. The need to watch was in him, as he watched Lillith now. Or to walk under the trees with grass on his feet and let the stars pierce him. Or to slip into the cold pools and float, feeling light and silver as the water. He napped during the day in his hammock.

“Will you watch with me?” It had some other meaning, how it was said. He turned, quizzical. Lucern was already walking away, sparing him the glory of his face. Tirion followed him out to the pools. Lucern was wading into the water, leaving a bright silver path behind himself. Tirion loved how water looked near him, how it always lead to him. He was watching openly, but when Lucern turned he dropped his eyes. And there, in the water…an eagle’s view. The castle he ever saw in his hammock dreams, but a single window, movement beyond. There were pale and smokey limbs twined, black and white hair, bodies thin as racing hounds. Beautiful, even with ribs plain and scars, almost too elongated and stark to be human. A race of hunters. He blushed when he realized they were kissing.

“So this is how you got the epithet.” Watcher in the Dark indeed. Those poor youths had no idea. He looked up at Lucern instead, ashamed at playing the moment’s voyeur. The god’s hair was pinned in tufts like fur or small wings, a halo about his head, but lit by his face. He had a wicked grin, canines indenting his soft lips, somehow full even though they were bow curved thin. He had learned that grin from the Bodhisattvas. Predator. It was his to play the prey that night. He didn’t hesitate, but fled.

His feet were grown swift. The short green grass, always moist and soft in that land, was like a springboard for his steps. Every stride pressed him harder into his breeches, twinging. The day’s weariness was dust on his skin, vanished when he dove into the silver light. He could feel the thunder of hooves in the ground, or a shudder of wings in the air, the hunt closing, the hawk diving. Lucern bore him down before he made it to the orchard.



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