In the End

Monthly Challenge SubmissionIn the End
by Ophelia

Story Notes

I suppose I must say that I have a strong and healthy love/obsession with Cobweb, so there is a lot of Cobwebness in this story, hehehehe… But, I just hope it makes sense and people like it. I have never written a story with Seel before, so I hope his characterization is all right. Anyway, thank you for the opportunity!

In the End

These dreams are agonies that gnaw at my mind incessantly. They scrape my intellect raw with their blinding righteousness. My past, my present, my future…all are mixed up in these nefarious dreams that haunt me to an extreme. Swift doesn’t really understand but I don’t expect him to. So many things have occurred between us and around us that this one minor smudge in my life can not compare to the blights that have elsewhere occurred.

In all my dreams, there is red. Red fire, red light, red water. It is night and when I open my mouth, fire hurls out in streams of red. Raw, gaping wounds where fresh blood flows out incessantly, coating everything in a fluorescent scarlet. Open, wanton mouths where gums are as pink as a freshly hatched harling and the lips are achingly red, bitten and ravaged by others. Images race through my mind, and I never understand why.

Well, perhaps I am not being too honest here. I had grudgingly asked Cobweb for help one day and to my surprise he actually put up with the horror of speaking to me. His marvelous eyes, so liquid and shiny, seemed to peer straight into my mind, and straight into the horrible place where the dreams were born. Long strands of soft mossy brown hair clung to him as he walked, some hiding in the voluminous folds in the silken light green robe he wore.

“Does Swift know?” he asked in his soft, all-too-wise voice. I couldn’t meet his gaze, so I looked outside the window. We were standing in the red room of Forever (incidentally Swift’s least favorite room; he liked to remark that he found it altogether too stiff and unwelcoming) and the sun was falling down the sky, leaving a strand of fiery light in its wake.

“No.”

Cobweb lifted one thin eyebrow, so like a crescent moon. “Doesn’t he notice?”

“Notice what?”

Cobweb had the grace to turn away. “When you move around the bed at night. Can’t he feel the tremors in the sheets?”

If I had been a human I might have blushed, but I am Har so I didn’t acknowledge the embarrassment. “He doesn’t say anything about it.”

“Well, Swift is Swift. He wouldn’t want to press you, but these dreams do sound serious. Why do you think they are happening?”

This time Cobweb looked straight into my eyes again. I couldn’t look away; Cobweb and I might not get along together, but I must admit that he has such an entrancing air about him. I can’t look at him too long without wanting to ravage his too-thin perfectly white neck.

“I-I am not sure. Perhaps all the fighting I’ve seen…” my voice trailed off and Cobweb knew as well as I did that there was more to it at that. Haunting memories of love too strong and hatred too raw.

In the end, Cobweb told me to keep a record of these dreams. Yet, it is too difficult to write them down in full detail. They are full of rushing sounds and streaming images; they all blend together like colors thrown onto a wall and melding together into one whole mess.

Waking up to the languid caresses of Swift’s hands on my skin, his lips on my collarbone, his eyelashes kissing my skin as gently as moth wings…these things keep me from losing my mind. Swift never says a word about my thrashing about and moaning at night, but his hands and mouth are the only things that calm me. They keep the red fire of my dreams from returning to haunt my waking hours.

He curls his fingers around my hair, which I keep long and dark for him. His smile is as sweet as the sweetest untouched fruit of the season; he is unsullied, yet he would shake his head at me if I ever told him so. I would reach out and touch his suddenly hard-set jaw and down-turned mouth. Swift doesn’t believe in his own goodness. Nor does he believe in anyone else’s goodness anymore. Yet he still loves me. I, Seel, with my black and wizened soul, full of the red fire of my dreams. I am burning inside.

One day, I wandered out into Cobweb’s garden, not expecting to find him there. Shimmering sunlight fell across the green leaves of the trees Cobweb lovingly cares for, and scattered across the different colored petals of the many flowers that grew. Cobweb’s little herb garden looked thriving; I can only name about half of the herbs growing, which says too much about Cobweb’s past in the Sulh tribe.

I saw his hair first, twirling around him as he walked, the sun catching strands of it and turning them molten.

“Come closer, Seel. It isn’t proper to stalk a Har in his own garden.”

I bristled at his choice of words (I do not stalk!) but I could hear a faint smile in his voice. Stepping on the stone steps leading around the garden, I walked a few steps ahead. A smooth bare shoulder, peppered with spots of sunlight peering through the leaves overhead, caught my gaze first. Cobweb then turned around, a watering canteen clutched in his hands.

“They look so healthy, don’t they?” he said, his slim fingers caressing leaves and petals. Looking over at me, he seemed to smile and I walked up a bit closer.

“They weren’t always this lovely, though.” A bit of a sigh escaped his slightly parted lips, and he continued watering them, stepping lightly on the stones that formed a winding path through the garden. Swift had fixed it up for him, as a sort of special place Cobweb can call his own and take care of. No one ever goes into the summerhouse. It just stands empty and dilapidated, stained with too many memories of harsh words and unrestricted passions.

“Cobweb,” I said, letting his name pass through my lips softly. “I am not sure what to do anymore.”

He turned towards me again, eyes beautiful and shining in the streaming sunlight, and pressed a hand to my brow. Frowning slightly, he said, “You feel a bit hot to the touch.”

I clenched and unclenched my hands. The fire is burning me from the inside.

“But…” Now there was the hint of a smile on his face, sweetly shaping his lips. “I am sure it will all be all right in the end.”

“’In the end’? Cobweb, what does that mean? Do you understand what is happen-?”

“Shhh,” he said, pressing a finger to my lips. His finger was a bit cool, like the underside of a leaf in the shade, and seemed as fragile as a strand of crystal. “Wait.”

And with those cryptic words, he turned away from me and with a last swish of his hair behind the leaves, he was gone.
***

It was night and I was burning again. My hair tangled itself around my limbs and I felt as though I was about to suffocate in the too-hot strands of my hair. Even the comforting presence of Swift lying next to me did nothing to soothe my turbulent feelings. The heat of his body was stifling—I had to get out.

The garden….

My feet started moving on their own and dragged me out of the wide bed; I was only clad in a loincloth, if even that. All I could see was burgundy flames licking the edges of my consciousness.

It was only when I fell to my knees in cool grass that I realized I was outside. A bright moon looked down and illuminated the flowers in a hazy silver aura. Cool hands stroked my brow and caressed my chapped lips. Wavering in and out of my consciousness was the faint scent of lavender and smoke…and all I could see was red…

“My dear Seel…stubborn as ever…” a terrible voice, so like the baying of hounds at midnight, met my ears and I shuddered.

“Why did you fight me so?” the voice continued, the hands still stroking.

“I don’t like being forced into things, Thiede.”

He sighed and the flames cleared from my eyes. To describe Thiede is like trying to describe a rainbow to a blind person. Too many things don’t make sense, and the beauty is too hard to harness down with words. Flames of red hair roared about his head, and his smile was as blinding as a crescent moon on an unnaturally clear night. I couldn’t meet his eyes; his gaze would chain me.

“Seel, look at me. Have I ever forced you into anything you didn’t come to like?”

“That’s just it, Thiede. I had to learn to like it.” I sighed, clenching my hands on my knees. “How can your loyal servant help you now, Master?”

I wasn’t expecting the blow that sent me sprawling backwards; the cool tips of the grass tickled my bare skin, but I was grateful for their coolness.

Thiede stood over me, his eyes full of flames and his mouth curved into a sneer—his eyes filled my whole view and the sheer power radiating of him sent goose bumps all along my skin.

“Ungrateful har! Look at all you have, Seel! A beautiful consort, a lovely and healthy son, and a place to live…what more could you have wanted?

“Ha! Don’t tell me you still salivate after that golden demon, Cal!” Thiede leaned over me, strands of hair falling across my chest, burning my skin, and leered at me.

I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything. Yes, the memories still lived inside me, like the whispery, sure touch of his hands on my lips and the all-knowing tilt of his grin.

But…I loved Swift.

I shook my head and sat up. “Forgive me. I just don’t understand why you wanted to torture me before calling me out here.”

Thiede straightened up and peered at Cobweb’s plants. “I was worried about you, Seel. I just wanted to make sure all was well with you. I thought you would be happy here.”

“I am happy here, Thiede, believe me.”

He walked back over to where I was leaning and looked down upon me smiling, like I was a favored son. “You dwell in Forever now, Seel. Tell me, do you think you will always be happy?”

The flames licked the edges of my mind again. Was all this a test?

“Yes…I have Swift,” I said, meeting Thiede’s gaze straight on. “Do you want my thanks, Thiede? Is that what this is all about?”

“You are too proud to give me that. All I ask is that you live well and are grateful. The past is a wily serpent that can wind around you until its poisonous patterns are all you can see and then it strangles you.”

I knew that all too well.

“A pair of eyes that can never be forgotten…well, they linger on, but must pale in comparison to another’s love. Memories can not feed our hopes and dreams,” Thiede continued as my eyes began to close and I fell limp to the ground.

A cool pair of lips met my brow and I remember no more.

***

A pair of strong arms enclosed me, and I almost wriggled about in them until I remembered who they belonged to. Opening my eyes, the scattered strands of Swift’s soft brown hair lay across the pillows and my skin. The sheets were cool and the sun lit the room up like a smile. I was home.

I smiled into the pillow. When was the last time I had ever thought such a thing? Home isn’t really always a tangible place; Swift’s arms wrapped around me tightly…his eyes shining upon me in the dark…the soft petals of his lips molding to mine…those things are my home.

Thiede was right; it would be awhile ‘till I could ever properly say ‘thank you’…yet, I think he knew what is in my heart anyway.

“Wake up Swift! We can’t let another day in Forever pass us by, can we?”

We kissed, and I could feel a slight breeze caress my skin, carrying with it the sweet scent of summer and lavender.

***

“Cobweb, still beautiful I see…to what do I owe this pleasure?” Thiede folded his arms and gazed longingly at the willowy form of Cobweb gliding towards him the moonlight. Strands of hair whispered along his legs as he made his way through the garden.

“I should be asking you that question, Thiede.” A faint smile played upon Cobweb’s lips. “Are you paying a visit to all your minions, or are we special?”

Thiede chuckled and stroked Cobweb’s smooth cheek. “Everyone is so cranky tonight…I just want to make sure you all are happy.”

A shadow passed over Cobweb’s face, but it faded away as Thiede laid his lips upon his brow. “It had to be done, Cobweb. You never knew his true heart. He—”

Cobweb clutched the folds of Thiede’s robe. “I know. Let us not speak of him again. I am not sure if I could stand it.”

“Of course. But…are you happy?” Thiede cupped Cobweb’s face in his own large hands, and Cobweb managed a small smile.

“Yes, Thiede, I think I am. I have my Swift back, and he is happy.” “

Cobweb…you know, I…”

“Thiede…don’t make promises you can’t keep. I am happy here.”

Sighing, Thiede enveloped Cobweb in his arms, stroking his back and gliding his lips along his throat. “If you are ever lonely, smile up at the sky and I will see it. Always.”

Cobweb’s hands shook as he clutched Thiede; he knew he was strong, always has been, but…letting go for one moment, and enjoying the strength of another’s body pressed against his, giving him strength, felt so wonderful, even if for a moment.

The End

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