You may be a god, my love, but here on my blade you die like any mortal and here in my forest you rot like any animal. Fear not; I am here with you in your dying, just as I shall be with you in your rotting. I shall be with you when your laboring heart finally spasms and stills (not too long now, you have lost so much blood already). I shall be with you when your cells begin to slowly suffocate en masse, thirty trillion microscopic deaths triggered by your last shallow breath. I shall be with you as your cooling meat begins to spoil. I shall be with you when the coyotes tear at your choicest organs, muzzles stained red and tongues lolling (your godblood tastes so sweet, you know, it is the only drink I have ever hungered for), and the crows bicker over the honor of pecking out your eyes. I shall be with you as your flesh is consumed like holy communion to feed my host of scavengers and decomposers, leaving only your lovely bones behind as grave markers. And I shall be here still when fungi sprout up through the sockets of your whitening skull and wildflowers twine around the bars of your rib cage, nourished on the nutrients of your long forgotten corpse which yet enrich the soil. I am always with you, beloved, so fear neither the blade nor the breaking down. Death has ever been your dearest companion.
You are a more valuable lover to me dead and gone than alive and in my arms. I would rather mourn the person you might have had the possibility of becoming than have daily to face who you really are. You are awful, do you know that? You are cruel and selfish and fickle. It was attractive once, that danger, that heartbreak, but now it is simply tiring. I am tired of begging you to stay. I am tired of the inevitable disappointment when you don’t. I am tired of being left behind.
So I am not asking this time. If you keep making the wrong choice I have no option but to take choice itself away. You brought this on yourself, darling. Why couldn’t you just stay for once?
You are a terrible person but you will make a lovely corpse.
All these tales about the moon killing the sun on the winter solstice, all these gruesome stories of betrayal and bloodshed on the longest night of the year… Did you never wonder why the sun seems to so easily succumb to his lover’s blade each year, knowing as he must when it will come for him? Why he has never chosen to break this cycle? It’s not because he can’t; it’s because he doesn’t want to. He needs me. He’s tried every other option, after all. Drugs, alcohol, nicotine; rope, blades, bullets; drowning, jumping, suffocating. Every method of suicide and every combination thereof. None of them work, you see, because fate long ago bound us together, I to be his killer and he to be mine. No matter how much he longs for death, I am the only one who can decide when and where he shall meet that end. So like a key into a lock, this is how it must be: my blade, his throat, our endless dance choreographed down to the last struggling heartbeat. It is a gift. One that no other can ever fully understand, true, but a gift nonetheless.
Some say revenge is a dish best served cold. Others say the best revenge is a life well lived. These claims, however, are in actuality both quite inadequate. I have taken revenge countless times, in every manner possible and with every kind of weapon, and I therefore can state with confidence that the most satisfying revenge is intimate. A razor to the throat; a blade to the breast; a knife to the back. The sort of sharp, bloody end most fitting for traitors and cowards, those whose betrayal has cut you to your very core. You want to hold your victim in your arms so you feel the moment his strength finally fails. You want to hear the blood bubbling in his throat as he struggles to breathe. You want to hold his gaze as he dies so in his final moment he knows you did not forget and will not forgive. It is like a dance, two partners entwined, heartbeat to heartbeat, and then the knife. It always ends with the knife.
You ask why the Moon killed the Sun but never why the resurrected Sun in turn killed the Moon. Did he really do so to restore balance to the world, as the story says? To complete the cycle of sacrifice and usher in glorious summer? Perhaps. It gives a nice symmetry to the mythology, doesn’t it? Death for life and life for death. But maybe that’s just the fairy tale version where everything has a purpose and everyone a happy ending. Maybe that’s nothing more than a lovely lie.
Maybe the truth is that the Sun killed the Moon simply for the sweet satisfaction of revenge.
It was all there on the table. The candlestick. The rope. The lead pipe. The wrench. The knife. The gun. He trailed his fingertips along each weapon with veneration. Clue had always been his favorite board game. He loved the idea of giving six people unique opportunities to kill one another. When he played the game as a child he often concocted complex scenarios that resulted in the deaths of all six guests. He’d been sent to Sister Reverence’s office more times than he remembered. It was always the same.
“Young man, this is becoming habitual.”
Habitual. Habit. Like that stupid thing she wears everyday. It would be so easy to grab her by it and pull. Up, up, up. A widening grin. Until she turned purple, like that bitter chalice offered every morning.
(STOP TELLING IT. YOU’RE TELLING IT WRONG.)
Rain falls hard as hail in the night; in the heavy sky above lightning flickers and thunder sends shudders vibrating through the air. The guests enter the mansion beneath an arched front doorway over which is written, “Do not die before your death”. There are six of them, not including their absent host, and each carries a golden envelope in which the mysterious invitation sits.
Tanim arrives first, of course, in a navy blue suit over which he has draped a pale blue scarf with gold tassels. He bides his time by the fireplace, whiskey in hand, staring into the bright flames until another guest arrives. There are two this time, Bast and Wepwawet, both dressed in layers of desert silks and gold adornments. Wepwawet introduces himself as Anubis; Tanim does not comment on the deception. The three trade amicable conversation until Inanna arrives, her spools of red-gold hair commanding attention as they capture the firelight. Tanim nods to her in greeting and steps to the side, continuing his conversation with Wepwawet as the goddesses greet each other. Soon they are joined by the Morrigan, her blood-red dress offset by a gold collar draped across her clavicles. She is polite yet aloof until Mage swaggers in, almost unfashionably late though highly fashionable in her black leather and gold piercings, and then the two fall to discussing something gruesome. They could be sisters with their pale skin, black hair, and cold eyes.
Their host enters last of all, dressed in his customary black. Daren’s only concession to the formality of the occasion is a single gold ring on his left hand. He looks to each of the guests in turn, noting their placement in the room, their dress, their body language both before and after they notice him. “Now that you have all arrived,” he says once the conversations have ceased, “shall we begin? Come this way.” He turns and leads them across the wide marble-tiled hall and into the dining room. Exchanging glances that communicate a variety of emotions, his guests follow in silence.
THE DINING ROOM
The long table is set for seven, three seats on each long side and the seventh at the head. Crystal and polished silver gleam amid candlelight, the china white as bone. Upon each dinnerplate is a weapon: a candlestick; a rope tied into a noose; a lead pipe; a wrench; a knife; and a handgun. The seventh is empty. Daren stands behind the empty seventh seat and rests his hands on the back of the chair. “I assume you know why I’ve called you all here,” he begins, “and thus will not waste time with explanations. Every window and exterior door in the house is locked, save for a single window – though I would be careful, I imagine the roof is quite treacherous right now. There are six weapons and seven of us. You have two hours.” He gestures to the table’s deadly spread. “Good luck.”
Wepwawet stands in the center of the observatory, watching the raindrops light up in silver strands every time lightning cracks across the sky. Inanna enters, bearing the lead pipe, and approaches him from behind. “Do you know why I’m here?” she asks. Wepwawet smiles, neither surprised nor concerned at her presence. “Because you came,” he replies, turning to face her. He stretches out both of his arms, kneeling down on one knee, and lowers his head reverently. Then he then raises his head again and looks up at her, his dark eyes filled with a humble peace, and says, “As you will, Queen.” Inanna nods once. She strikes him across the jaw with the lead pipe; the sound of his neck cracking echoes through the room. She then kneels down beside the god’s prostrate body and caresses one slack cheek. “The Duat has missed you,” she murmurs. As she walks away, his body turns to gold and drifts away on a wind that does not stir her hair.
The warm glow of antique light bulbs is reflected by a myriad antique mirrors and the polished wood panels in between. In one corner a piano plays Moonlight Sonata, though no one sits at its bench to press the keys. No one dances with Inanna, either, and yet her raised arms and twirling form suggest an unseen partner. So does the way she suddenly stumbles back, a hand clasped to her red cheek as if she’s been struck. She glares up through the hair fallen into her eyes and hisses, “How dare you defy me!” In response, something throws her backward as easily as a discarded toy; she crashes into the piano with a discordant shriek of keys, scattering bits of polished wood and ivory across the marble floor. She lays unconscious in the wreckage of the instrument as red blood trickles along the curls of her fiery hair. Above her the wrench floats for a moment before something brings it crashing down on her temple. Once the golden ashes of her body have drifted away, all that remains in the middle of the broken piano is the rusty wrench.
THE BILLIARD ROOM
Daren finds Mage in the billiard room, sitting cross-legged atop the pool table with a drink in hand. She doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the knife in his hand even though she does not have a weapon herself, unless you count the 8-ball she rolls back and forth across the felt. She cocks her head as he comes to stand in front of her, her green eyes to his black. She asks, “Do you think it will work? Will you learn what it is you wish to learn?” and he nods. “I’m confident I will, yes.” And then he sinks the dagger deep into Mage’s right thigh, moving so fast she doesn’t even have time to retaliate before he pulls away. The dagger stays behind.
“Motherfucker!” Mage bites back a grunt of pain as she grips the dagger’s hilt. “I knew you were going to do that.” Daren only gives her his ghost of a smile and leaves. Mage downs the last of her drink, briefly considers pouring another but decides she doesn’t have the time, then yanks the dagger out and begins cutting strips of cloth from her pants for bandages. When she has staunched the worst of the bleeding and can put at least some weight on the leg she grabs the dagger and goes in search of the single open window. She is just passing into the hallway when every light in the house extinguishes at the same moment, plunging the labyrinth of rooms and hallways into darkness. Her swearing is hushed but prolific.
Bast is in the library, perusing the shelves of leather-bound books, when the lights go out. Firelight catches her eye and she turns to see the Morrigan walking in, a tall white candle set in the candlestick she bears. Its flickering flame is the only light in the room. “What happened to the lights?” she asks. The Morrigan removes the candle from its holder and approaches. “Here,” she offers, proffering the light. Bast accepts it with a nod and returns back to the books. Behind her the Morrigan raises the candlestick and whispers, “The weight of the world,” before striking Bast in the back of the skull. The goddess collapses to the carpet and lays unmoving in a widening pool of blood. Then her body begins to glow, transforming into something like golden ash, and then the ashes blow away as if by a strange wind.
The Morrigan never sees her killer. She has found her way through the darkness to the cellar where she searches now along the cool walls for the circuit breaker. She cannot see the two hands which appear out of the darkness behind her, nor are they accompanied by any sound of footsteps or breathing. Between them they hold a length of the untied rope taut. Just as she locates the circuit breaker the hands bring the rope down over her head and pull it tight around her neck. The goddess struggles against her assailant, nails scrabbling at the thick rope, but to no avail; her vision flashes with brilliant fireworks of pain as she runs out of oxygen. Once she ceases fighting and goes limp, the hands let her fall to the cement floor. After a moment her body turns to gold ashes which blow up and away.
Tanim stands in the doorway to the study, the gun lowered at his side. Across the room Daren stares into the fireplace, his form silhouetted by the red glow of the coals; these shed the only light left in the tomb-like mansion, just as these two men are the only living things left in it. He does not move as Tanim approaches, nor when the man stops a few feet behind him. Instead he merely asks, “Is it done?”
“Yes,” Tanim raises the gun to the back of his lover’s head. “Are you satisfied with the state of things?”
“Almost,” Daren strikes just as lightning illuminates the room for one stark, white second, its attendant thunder a cacophony all around them. With one arm he pushes Tanim’s out of the way so the shot goes wide; with his other he sinks the dagger deep into Tanim’s chest. Darkness reclaims the room and the two men fall still. Then the gun falls from Tanim’s limp hand and with a folding of his knees he follows it soon after, collapsing on his back as a red stain blooms about the hilt of the blade still lodged in his chest. Daren kneels at his side and smooths the hair from his face. “Now I am,” he says softly. “Goodnight, brother.”
It is an ancient dance – white teeth and lolling tongue, sharp hooves and swift legs, predator and prey united in survival’s endless contest. Breath mists white in the cool morning air of a summer solstice while wolf and stag twist in choreographed ferocity; feint and fight, snap and stab, blood and brutality. Life, death, to nature it is all of a kind, one long revolution like the earth upon its axis. The stag does not begrudge the wolf his hunger. The wolf does not begrudge the stag his resistance. They were born for this combat, hunter and hunted, and without the one the other cannot exist. Thus when skill or chance contrive to spear leaping wolf upon lunging antlers, sharp tines sinking through flesh and muscle, there is neither regret nor animosity. Today it is the wolf who lays bleeding out on the tundra, but in six months the stag may just as easily take his place.
A dark stage. Tanim stares down into the glass in his hand, gives the amber liquid an idle swirl while I sought you in the last sip of laudanum, he muses aloud. From the darkness behind him, the snik snik and spark of a lighter. The flame catches, burns a small spot in the darkness to reveal Daren as he lights the cigarette poised on his lips, closes the lighter with a metallic snap. Tanim, oblivious, continues. I sought you in brothels and fight rings, and Daren, pacing, wreathed in smoke, they say madness is repeating the same action yet expecting a different result. I sought you nightly like a man possessed, Tanim finishes the drink in one long swallow, as if parched, yet you evaded me. That is not quite true, however. Tanim lifts his head, eyes searching, seeing nothing. The hand holding his glass shakes slightly less than his voice. I prayed to you; you did not reply. I prostrated myself before you; you turned your back. I courted you like a lover and yet you denied me time and time again. Daren drops the cigarette, madness is repeating the same action despite knowing you shall never produce a different result, leaves it burning in the background while he moves closer. I loved you most dearly of all hence we enter this dance again yet you are fickle, o death not because we hope to change the ending and I have winced in the light of so many unwanted dawns but because we know we cannot. Tanim, with a sigh, Can this be the end now? Can I be done? Come, fifth sword, and cut down this hanging man. I am so tired. Daren steps into the candlelight, lays a gentle hand on his jaw. Hello, brother, softly. Did I keep you waiting overlong? Tanim’s weak smile, oh sweet relief, oh final mercy. Never. They kiss. The gleam of the blade in Daren’s hand is the last movement seen before the stage goes completely dark. The glass hits the floor, shatters. The cigarette burns itself out.
The apple. The pomegranate. His hand.
Chest to chest, hip to hip as if one heartbeat, as if one breath
(step, turn, step)
hand to the small of the back and fingers trailing over stiff linen
(step, turn, dip)
and then the bite of the blade, too sharp to even hurt
(step, turn, step)
red drops on white carpet, rose petal wrists
(step, turn, step)
arm sliding around narrow waist, mouths bruising
then the blade to bare throat with merciful speed
and gentle hands amid the red river
lay him down.
The longest night is one of blood and death, but there are many ways to die. The longest night is one of sin and a falling from grace, but there are many ways to fall. Bodies entwined, limbs twist and clutch; fingers dig crescent moons into sweaty flesh; teeth nip and graze and sink deep to leave possessive bruises. Lips seek the source of heat and longing, eager for union, for submission, for the chance to worship on bended knee. In this moment there is nothing but the joining of flesh and spirit, no love or desire greater than that which brings two together in the ancient rhythm of skin against skin. Thus wordlessly, amid only gasps and groans and the erratic cacophony of competing heartbeats, they melt with the heat of the sun and move with the pull of the moon. Entwined, they share the climax which washes over them with a shuddering force, a giving and receiving, a taking and leaving. The longest night is one of death, but tonight it is the little death, and they both partake.
Standing in the bedroom doorway, frozen: Tanim. Laying on the bed within, languid and smiling: Daren. Between them: the heady, noxious odor of gasoline.
“What’s going on?” Tanim asks slowly, taking in the glistening bed sheets, the soaked carpet. Daren lifts his arm to take a drag on the cigarette balanced between two long fingers; his wet clothing clings to his thin frame. “It’s so easy to mold the mind of a madman, isn’t it?” he replies as idly as if commenting on the weather.
“What are you talking about?” White-knuckled, Tanim grips the doorframe as if torn between running and coming closer. “What have you done?” Daren exhales a stream of smoke and blinks dreamily. “I think you know.”
“Come out of there,” Tanim extends a hand, frowning, and steps over the threshold. His shoes sink into the wet carpet. “Careful,” Daren waves the cigarette back and forth, the embers carving light trails in the dark. “I wouldn’t take another step forward if I were you.” He waits until Tanim has eased back before asking, “Does it anger you, that I got to it before you could?”
“You’re not making any sense, darling,” There is a note of pleading in Tanim’s voice, but Daren continues as if his lover hasn’t spoken. “What were you planning, anyway?” he wonders aloud. “A gun? Poison? Or perhaps something more intimate, like your bare hands?”
“You won’t know now, will you?” Tanim’s scowl is sudden and dark, his teeth bared like a predator whose prey has been stolen. Daren only sighs. “My loss, yes.” He holds his arm out over the side of the bed, dangling the cigarette between two limp fingers. His gaze is quite clear now, no longer lethargic and amused, but the smile remains as he locks eyes with Tanim. “You might want to run now, beloved,” he advises.
Tanim runs. Daren lets the cigarette fall.
It starts in an unfamiliar city, a maze of empty streets and gaping alleys and the sick yellow of dying streetlights. As he walks he can sense the presence pacing him, never close enough to glimpse in the darkness yet never far enough to lose track. He does not quicken his pace, only casually slips hands into pockets to grip the switchblade’s cool metal. He knows better than to run from a predator of any species – and has no intention of becoming anything’s prey. As he walks, trees begin to appear along the road and alleys, the leafless skeletons of deep winter. Snow begins to collect along the pavement and black branches; soon it covers the ground and drifts lazily from the sky. His feet crunch as they break through the top layer of ice. Still he walks, and still the presence keeps pace, its own footsteps silent. With a slow and subtle motion he removes his hands from his pockets, the knife hidden inside the cradle of his fingers.
Eventually the buildings are left behind and the forest becomes the landscape, bare trees and snow covered earth stretching into darkness in all directions. In the way of dreams, the streetlights continue in an unbroken line, their weak light offering only enough illumination to pass through the treacherous landscape safely. He follows the path of the lights as if in search of their destination, but all of his senses are focused on the creature moving out in the darkness. He can hear faint breathing now, coming first from his left, then his right, then behind and ahead. Whatever follows him moves through the thick snow with practiced ease. It is fast, he thinks. Is he faster?
A low growl rumbles in a throat too close for his comfort and he comes to a stop beneath one of the anachronistic streetlights. The cone of light flattens the surrounding shadows into a two-dimensional wall, but sight isn’t the sense he relies on now; instead, he closes his eyes and strains for any sound beyond the soft hush of falling snow and the last notes of the growl. There is only silence… silence… silence… and then the nearly inaudible sound of a foot depressing the snowpack. Eyes snapping open as quickly as the blade in his hand, he whirls toward the sound and brings the knife up just as a hulking black wolf leaps from the darkness. For a moment they are almost one, man and wolf, white teeth descending and silver blade rising…
…and then the moment passes and they are falling past each other to collapse on opposite ends of the circle of light. Bleeding from long scratches to his face, neck, and shoulder, he stumbles to his feet and turns, blooded blade raised to ward off the next attack. But the next attack does not come, and will not. Across the circle, disturbed snow turns black-red around the unmoving body of the wolf and the beast’s thick fur masks the gash with which the sharp little blade felled its foe. Seeing the hunter turned slain prey, he sinks in exhaustion to his knees once more in the snow. Overhead, the streetlights wink out one by one.
– – – –
Daren woke with the sharp awareness of someone used to assuming danger’s nearness. He lay still for a few seconds, letting his senses process and report the all clear. His hands felt strange and he flexed them, noting his right gripped the knife kept always beside the bed. When he touched the fingertips of his left together he felt the tacky wetness of drying blood. Only now did he turn his head to the warm weight curled beneath the blankets at his side. Tanim lay motionless as if in a deep sleep.
[ And so another solstice passes. ]
A living room in an apartment in a dark city of glass and steel. Battle lines drawn, Daren standing rigid on one side and Tanim the other. Interrogator and suspect.
“So what will it be?” Daren’s voice flat, arms crossed. “Have you decided?”
“Yes.” Tanim averts his eyes. Answer enough.
“You’re going to do it, aren’t you.” Daren scowls, disgust in the curl of his lip, the narrowing of his dark eyes.
“It’s complicated.” Tanim’s hands open and close at his side as if grasping for words. Daren doesn’t allow him time to find them.
“Complicated!” A short, harsh laugh. No humor in it, only mockery and pain. “Oh yes, you would say that, after the promises you made.”
Tanim, head flying up, “I never promised–”
“Please.” Daren’s hand cuts the air between them. “Lying doesn’t become you, darling. If you respect me at all, you’ll at least forgo deception.”
“…fine.” Tanim’s shoulders slump, eyes turn away again. “I was wrong, and for that I am sorry. I thought we could fight this. I thought we could change the ending. But we can’t.” A glance up, beseeching, hopeful of understanding if not acceptance. “It’s a cycle, we both know that. It’s necessary–”
“Don’t tell me she made you do it!” Daren’s voice louder than ever before, teeth bared and finger pointed in accusation.
“What else would you have me do?” Anger now in Tanim’s raised voice as well, an animal backed into a corner.
“I would have you choose me!” A step forward, snarling, all threat in the lithe form. “Or at least own your sin, you coward!”
Chaos, then. One lashes out first, or maybe the other. Fists falling, fingers clawing at flesh, raking eyes, brawn versus speed. Then the slim little blade, always somewhere on his person, and Tanim leaps back with a cry of pain. Blood running down his arm, down the knife gripped in Daren’s hand. One heartbeat in between; before Tanim reaches, before the thunder. Before Daren, mouth open in silent shock, looks down to the blood stain spreading quickly across his chest.
He falls before Tanim can catch him.
Blood washes away battle lines. Tanim kneels, the gun forgotten, the argument likewise but for the glaze of rage and disappointment in Daren’s eyes. Blood on his lips, he finds energy enough to draw breath, hiss, “This was your choice and no other’s.” Another breath, shallower. “Remember that.” And a final one, a struggle but he manages. “I do not forgive you.”
“Need a light?”
Tanim whirled around, grabbing desperately again for the gun and aiming at a shadow by the balcony door which he had most certainly checked just a moment ago. From its depths a figure stepped, clad in a long black coat with a hood which concealed the wearer’s face. Tanim scowled, leveling the revolver toward the hidden visage. “Fucking assassins. Can’t you people use the front door for once?” The figure chuckled, but it was not a kind laugh. Nor was it an unfamiliar one. Before Tanim could speak the name burning his lips, two pale hands rose to fold back the hood and he found himself staring into eyes as dark and hard as the shadows which had just obscured them. He swallowed, fighting to keep the hand holding the revolver from trembling noticeably. “So. They finally sent you.”
Daren shrugged languidly, his expression unreadable. “You’ve managed to kill the last three, and they were not novices. What did you expect?” A smile flickered over his thin lips. “But of course, you did expect this. Why else the fear? The paranoia? Those emotions are not becoming to someone so high in the Templar ranks.”
“Skulking in the shadows is certainly becoming to you,” Tanim spat. “Did they send you because they think I can’t harm you? I can. I will, if I have to. If you make me.”
“If you recall, I am the only one who can make you do anything,” The assassin moved forward with a slow, easy stride, hands loose at his sides as if this were nothing more than an old lovers’ spat. “And you so enjoyed the things I had you do…” He chuckled lowly as Tanim backed away, edging toward the open bedroom door in an attempt to keep as much distance between himself and Daren as possible. That Daren had not made a grab for the revolver yet was no comfort; Tanim had little hope he could hit him even at this distance, as fast as Daren was – not to mention the man would sense his intention before he ever fired and likely throw off his aim. He had to get out of the confines of the apartment. “I remember you rather enjoying them as well,” Tanim quipped back, buying time as he came in line with the doorway. “And yet, here we are.”
“Yes,” The wry twist to Daren’s mouth could not quite be called a smile. “Here we are.” Without another word the assassin shot forward. Tanim fired rapidly; when he felt Daren’s hand knock the revolver from his grip, he turned to flee toward the back of the apartment. Daren’s cold laughter followed him as he burst through the private roof access door, though Daren himself did not seem to be in pursuit. He climbed the stairs two at a time, throwing open the heavy metal door at the top and stepping out into the chill night. Perhaps he could jump down to one of the adjacent roofs, or–
“Come, Tanim, this farce makes fools of us both. Stop running from your own desire,” Tanim whirled around. Framed against the city lights, Daren’s silhouette stood like a scrap of darkness atop the roof ledge. The assassin had not donned the iconic hood again, though Tanim found himself wishing he had; it was easier to fight back when his opponent was just another faceless enemy. Yet there could be no denying the history between them, and when Tanim spoke his voice lacked vehemence. “Desire?” He managed a bitter laugh. “Yes, this is what I want; to die at the hands of someone who once loved me and now hunts me like an animal.”
Daren held his hands out, encompassing the whole of their stage. “And yet you ran up to the roof, from whence there is no escape, instead of down to the street.” Tanim had no snide response to that; turning his back to Daren, he surveyed the glittering city skyline and tried to ignore the accuracy of Daren’s observation. An inexplicable weariness settled over him and the urge to flee numbed to a dull ache of regret.
“Aren’t you tired of running, Tanim?” Daren’s voice issued from directly behind him, though Tanim had not even heard the assassin step down from the ledge. “They will never cease hunting you. Better that it be myself who does the deed, don’t you think? You know I will be quick.” Tanim shuddered at the familiar sensation of warm breath against his neck but refused to glance back. Instead, he closed his eyes and shook his head ruefully. “I suppose it was always going to come to this end, wasn’t it.”
“We are what we are,” Daren replied, and Tanim imagined he could almost hear a note of remorse in the words. He squeezed his eyes shut tighter as cool fingers slid along the line of his jaw, hesitating over but never quite touching his lips. It was all he could do not to lean back into Daren’s embrace, let alone pull away or manage a struggle. He wondered if things might have been different, had they not been driven apart by this ancient enmity. Somehow, he doubted it, and that thought gave him a queer comfort.
When the assassin spoke next, his voice was a low murmur against Tanim’s ear. “Requiescat in pace, frater.” Daren’s hidden blade made no sound as it slid from its sheath against his arm, nor as he drew it across Tanim’s neck in a single swift movement.
[ For those of you who have started following my blog since the summer solstice – hello! welcome! you might regret this! – you can read the solstice myth to understand better why my characters murder each other so gosh darn frequently. ]
high above the city, the world, if it must be done then just let it be done spoken with a weary sigh to the chill night, silent night, one way or another, what does it matter? holiest night and the sun long set, where is the sun? by my hand or his, blood or bruises, or just one simple step off this edge no sun, just the darkness and the wind tugging at hair, fingers, clothing like a lover’s supplication but I don’t want simple, not this time gentle yet insistent, urging him to take that one step into oblivion no, I want to fight, I want to rebel, even if it means falling I just want to live a different kind of lover’s supplication as the hand closes around his wrist, if you fight, I fight at your side and the wind picks up, fate demanding submission to the ritual death, howling for blood, how dare they defy? but I choose the dawn not this time, not this night, destiny denied as the Moon steps down and the Sun releases his wrist, kneeling in allegiance, adoration and abdication, and I choose you, always
[ I have a number of new followers, so to those of you who are new to my characters, here! Have a tragic solstice myth! ]
Do you know why the Moon first rose up to slay his lover the Sun? Some say it was sorrow or jealousy or fear that moved his hand, or that the Moon had gone mad in the darkness and did not know himself again until he knelt with the dying Sun in his arms. There may be a fragment of truth in all of these – does love not encompass all such emotions? – but I have glimpsed another sliver of truth. Perhaps the Moon raised his blade not to punish or sacrifice his lover the Sun, but to spare him. To save him. Perhaps the Moon wanted only a way for them to never be parted, to cease the chase which kept the lovers forever a horizon’s length away, and did what he must to change their fate. Can you deny that it is better to perish in your lover’s arms, rather than never feel their embrace at all? At least in death the Sun remained with the Moon, as the Moon would remain with the Sun when his turn came to embrace the blade and spill his silver blood. An ill fate, yes, but no worse than the agony of constant separation.
You must hold tight to the thing you love, for it can be taken from you without warning. Do you understand, now? I cannot allow you to be taken from me. It is better, this, than leaving our luck to fate. I spared you the blade, though, and I doubt you ever tasted the powder. (Though I wonder, darling, if even knowing, you would have drank anyway?) The Moon required suffering for his pact, but not I. You need not bleed, darling, only drift to sleep and fear neither pain nor loneliness; I am with you in this, as in all things, and I will hold you safe. You are mine, now, and only mine.
If I stick a knife through your eye, beloved, will the darkness within come spilling out to fill our lungs and drown us both?
If I put a bullet through your temple, darling, will the nightmares inside break free and raze the world as they’ve razed your mind?
If I crack open your sternum, angel, will the ice in your heart creep out to cover us over in an everlasting winter, freeze us in a grotesque tableau?
If I cut your throat, dearest, will the screams you’ve choked down all these years finally burst forth in a banshee’s wail to haunt me in waking and dreaming?
If I slit your wrists, lovely, will the sickness coursing through your veins infect my blood as well, rotting me from the inside out?
Would I drown for you? Be razed and frozen, haunted and rotted, for you? Oh, I would, Daren, I would infect myself with your madness to know just once the richness of your blood, the tremble of your whimper, the wet warmth of your last dying gasp. Let me cut you, my love. Let me break you. Let me rend and tear and open you wide. Let me know you inside and out.
[ Ah, another solstice. A good excuse for Tanim’s darker side to come out and play. There’s as fine a line between love and obsession as between the Sun’s heat warming one’s skin and burning it to a crisp… ]
There comes a moment in every man’s life when he must decide between the easy way and the hard. It seems I have faced more than my fair share of these moments and my preference has always been to choose the path of least resistance. Not out of laziness, I assure you, or uncertainty, but simply because the leaf which allows itself to flow with the river’s current worries far less than the one striving for shore. It is safer to become an anonymous component of the greater whole than draw attention by pushing upstream.
This, too, was the easier path, though I doubt the man at my feet would agree. He took the hard way every time; that’s why we would never have worked. We were always pulling each other in different directions like prisoners chained at the wrist, one wanting to run and the other to stand and fight. Sometimes the only solution in a case like that is to hack off a hand and be on your way. Might hurt, sure, but it’s better than being bound to someone else for the rest of your life, vulnerable to their influence, their fallibility, their loves and fears and cruelties. That’s the ultimate hard path and not one I desire to walk any longer.
“It’s easier this way, darling,” I explain, forgoing metaphor or elaboration; there isn’t much point in either now. His reply is the bubbling of blood out his lips, the slight twitch of fingers that may long to wrap around my neck or pull me close for a final embrace, who knows? Those expressive eyes are already dulling over, fear and confusion faded to a kind of understanding, or perhaps simply resignation. Maybe he does understand. A knife in the chest tends to clarify things, or at least clear out all the unnecessary thoughts and worries you’ve held onto for so long. Maybe now he’s seeing how much easier, how much better it is to let go, to stop fighting. Not that he has much choice.
“Love’s a bitch,” The sticky blade in my hand feels strangely light for all a man’s life gleams and drips from its edge. “One way or another it ruins you. I’m just hurrying things along.”
[Another winter solstice, another bloody death for poor Tanim. You gotta love tradition.]
[ For those who don’t know my story of the solstice and how it relates to Tanim and Daren, this retelling of the myth will explain what Daren is talking about. To read past solstice entries, check out my solstice category. I particularly liked the piece for the most recent winter solstice. ]
Put down the blade, beloved. You need not pierce my flesh this time. Whether you raise your hand against me or not, the cycle will continue. Fulfillment of our fate is written in my genetic code; my very cells are branded with the judgment of my crime. They turn against me now as punishment and payment for my betrayal so many countless lives before. My body eats at itself from the inside out like a seed of rot spreading slowly through veins and marrow until I taste blood with every swallow. I am my own murderer and cannibal, an unwilling suicide requiring neither rope nor razor to finish the job. There could be no more fitting penance than the constant agonizing consumption of this disease. A blade is too cold to hurt and a bullet too impersonal. Yet dying by small degree, wasting away one cell at a time, that is an execution worthy of one who betrayed brother and lover both. So fear not, my love; there will be no blood on your hands this time. Only on my lips, and yours should you deign to gift me one last kiss in parting.
It’s easy to say you would die for the sake of love. Death is a paltry price to pay for the assurance your beloved is safe.
His hands are sure as he opens the kitchen drawer and selects the sharpest blade.
And it’s easy to say you would kill for the sake of love. Any other’s life is meaningless compared to the one you adore.
His steps are even as he crosses into the living room and approaches his unmoving companion.
But if you are asked to stand aside and do nothing for the sake of love?
His heart is calm as he steadies Tanim with one arm and raises the other, pressing the blade against the taut rope which binds the man to the rafter above.
If you are asked to stay your hand and willingly watch the one you love destroy themselves? Could you let them make that decision, knowing their misery may end but you will never be whole again?
His body is steady as Tanim’s limp weight collapses onto it, and he bears his lover to the floor with utmost care.
Dying for love is no great martyrdom; it’s easy to be the one doing the leaving. But choosing to set your love free and remain behind despite the loss, despite knowing you will wake each morning alone, forever alone, is another ordeal entirely. Yet if that is the sacrifice love demands, could you deny its supplication?
… the sun blackens his skin, roasting away layer upon layer of crackling flesh. Raw muscle sizzles as it’s exposed; steaming blood and bubbling blisters glisten wetly beneath the flaking char. Pressure builds in his skeleton as the marrow cooks, releasing with the sick splintering of heat-brittled bone. His mouth gapes wide in a howl of agony but his lips have long burned to a crumbling crisp and his vocal chords shrivel and snap like overburdened violin strings.
The sun’s blaze blinds him. He cannot escape it. His eyes are nothing but melted pools in scorched sockets yet still the white light fills his vision, searing all thought and coherence from his mind. The only sound is the roar of his inferno prison as its flames lick at his body. He is trapped in an endless cycle of constant dying, an eternity of final agony without the mercy of death’s cool darkness beyond. It has become his past, his present, his future forever. He burned. He burns. He will always burn.
For a moment he is almost sure the fire hisses with pleasure as it consumes his flesh …
The walls are all of black polished stone, so thick no sound or light may penetrate. There is only one door, only one way in and one way out: between pillars as tall and gilded as Heaven’s gates. Inside, the vault is suspended by a circle of columns wider than a man’s arms may stretch, their heights lost in shadow. No torches burn in the sconces along the walls to dispel the darkness enough to illuminate the mosaic which patterns the floor. In the center of the circular chamber rests the sarcophagus. It is nothing but a weighty presence in the darkness, but I watched the procession to the mausoleum from afar and glimpsed its gold and silver scroll work, the celestial scenes crusted with glittering gems. Even now the stones seem to wait in the dark, eager for the glowing touch of my torchlight to wake their beauty again.
Yet the extravagance of the tomb pales in awe before its noble inhabitant. I push aside the heavy coffin lid and gaze upon the last king. He is not as I saw him in his final moments, pierced by his own battered armor and drowning in blood like rich wine. No, the filth has been washed from his flesh and his fatal wounds sewn tight with gold thread. He has been dressed in the finest golden robes, silks as light as air and velvets as soft as untouched snow. On every graceful finger sits a ring, each set with a different precious gemstone, and upon his brow rests a golden crown wrought in the shape of the rising Sun. Even his skin, pale and cold as marble in death, glows handsomely with scented oils and his thick hair shines as glossy as ravens’ feathers. But his spirit finds no comfort in perfumed soaps and ruby collars, nor can the gold dust on his lips lessen the grief which rends his face. This finery binds him to the harsh world of men as tightly as does his sealed crypt. He is not meant for condemnation below the earth. He does not deserve to rot in darkness. How may he ever ascend beyond this prison when even starlight cannot breach his tomb? How may he ever know peace in this private hell when even the wind cannot kiss his lifeless flesh? He was the King of Light, the Master of the Sky, the radiant Lord Sun himself. How could they bury him inside cold, dead stone? They know not their own blasphemy; it is up to me to make amends.
I lift him from his bed of silk and stone and carry him out the great pillars of the mausoleum. Out on the open earth, beneath the clear night sky and its field of silver stars, I have built him a proper pyre. The interwoven oak and ash branches which form his pedestal were nourished by the Sun, and now their many fingered arms will lift him back to his true kingdom. I have no flowered water with which to anoint him, only plain lamp oil to wet his skin and slick down his sable tresses. I remove the weighty charms and jewels, the multitude of velvets and silk ribbons. What use are such frivolous mortal baubles to one so glorious, so transcendent? He is of the dawn and the dusk, the spring and the summer, and so he should return to his vaulted kingdom. I touch the burning torch to the base of the pyre; the fire leaps to the oiled wood and spreads with a hungry crackle. The inferno welcomes him back as the Lord of Flame, relieving him at long last of the burden of mortal flesh. It returns him as weightless ash to the waiting sky, and thus he transcends. I have given him his pyre. Now it is for the winter to mourn him and the spring to witness his resurrection.
[ A quick (and not particularly elegant) rehashing of the solstice story so I don’t have to keep referring to the one I wrote six years ago. ]
In the beginning there was only day and night. There were no seasons, no summer or winter, autumn or spring. In the beginning the Sun and the Moon were brothers and lovers, yet ill-fated to be forever a vast horizon apart. The Sun ruled a realm of light and warmth, while the Moon was lord of ice and darkness. They were alone in their separate worlds, never together save for the fleeting moment when the kingdoms of eastern dawn and western dusk were equal. And so every day as the Sun rose and the Moon set, and every night as the Moon rose and the Sun set, the lovers touched but once.
Yet one morning a terrible thing happened. As the Sun lit the land with light to banish the Moon’s darkness, the lovers met. And as they did, the Moon rose up and drove his cold blade into the Sun’s chest, spilling his own beloved’s blood. The Sun collapsed into the Moon’s arms, choking on golden blood that bubbled on his lips and soaked into his elegant robes. Grieving, the Moon pulled from his shoulders the cloak of midnight and wrapped his lover within it, veiling the Sun’s light with his own darkness. The land grew cold and silent as the Moon cradled the Sun close and pleaded for his lover’s understanding. With his dying breath, the Sun kissed the Moon and forgave him.
The Moon’s mourning sank all the world into the first black, icy winter. Nothing grew; nothing lived. The land starved, the oceans froze, and darkness reigned. It seemed as if dawn would never come again and the world never awake from its grieving hibernation. Even in his misery, however, the Moon knew the eternal night must eventually end; no night should last forever. So with the darkness and his lover’s cold corpse to witness, the Moon surrendered half his heart and half his life to resurrect the Sun. One kiss upon the Sun’s blood stained lips sealed the sacrifice and completed the pact.
The Sun arose, then, bringing glorious summer to a land which had forgotten the touch of warmth and light. As the oceans thawed and the first green shoots broke through the melting snow, the Sun drew his own shining blade and drove it into the Moon’s pale chest. The Sun caught the dying Moon and held him close, wrapping his slain lover in the golden cloak of morning. The Sun begged forgiveness for his crime and with his dying breath the Moon kissed and forgave him. The day the Sun arose became the Summer Solstice, longest and brightest of days. When half a year had passed, the Moon rose and slew the Sun once again. The day he awoke became the Winter Solstice, longest and coldest of nights.
And so the cycle continues, each lover’s death and resurrection ushering in the change of the seasons. The legend never reveals why the Moon first rose up and slew his lover the Sun. Perhaps the Moon was weak and the never-ending darkness of his night realm drove him mad. Perhaps he wanted the Sun to himself and the loneliness poisoned his heart. Or perhaps he simply understood that they were ill-fated and the betrayal inevitable, even necessary. The Moon’s reasoning is lost now, but all that matters is that he slew his bonded, his lover and brother, and sacrificed himself to undo the crime. All that matters now is that both betrayed and were betrayed, forgave and were forgiven. Murder and sacrifice, heartache and death, all in the name of love.
This moment is perfect. Dawn falls across our shared bed in brilliant stripes, a golden cage for the angel who slumbers at my side. I long to wake him, with a touch to his bare chest as it rises and falls in sweet breath, perhaps, or one kiss upon his smooth lips, but I should not. He will wake soon enough. Instead I rise slowly, with a care not to disturb my companion, and drink in the sight of him. He has never seemed so relaxed, so peaceful. His eyelids tremble as he dreams; his fingertips twitch and dig into the cream colored sheets. The subtle motion sends a tremor of hungry memory all along my body. I have known those fingers. They have touched me, tested me, taken me and claimed me for their own. I am part of those fingers and they are part of me. But I will never have him so completely again. When he wakes, he will leave me. When he wakes, this moment will be taken from me. I will be alone again. I will be empty again. I will–
He stirs, shaking me from my thoughts. The sunlight has shifted and a bar falls over his lidded eyes, making him wince and turn his face away. Even now, retreating from the cruel morning light, he is beautiful. I want to say “good morning, my king”, but hold my tongue. I must not rush these things. I settle for a murmured “good morning, my love” and a wandering kiss upon his sleep-warmed shoulder. He shivers and begins to draw away from my touch, but my arms catch him and pull him close. “Did you sleep well?” I inquire, unable to keep my lips from seeking out all the delicious dips and hollows of his body. His chest presses against mine as he exhales gently.
“Like the dead, deep and dreamless.” Like the dead? I restrain an amused chuckle and continue to explore the body I have already mapped and memorized. For a moment he responds to my curious fingers, but then wriggles from my embrace with an apologetic, “I should go…” and untangles his limbs from the cool sheets. Before he can rise, though, I catch his wrist and press my lips to the place where the sharp curve of his radius strains beneath his smooth flesh. His radial artery is a steady pulse there, his heartbeat a flutter against my lips. “Oh, don’t go,” I beg. “Please. Stay with me.”
“I can’t, darling,” he replies with a laugh like a silver bell. “What are you afraid of? That I won’t come back?” My hand tightens around his thin wrist. “Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m afraid of. So don’t leave me. I forbid it, Daren.” I try to draw him back into my arms but he slips from my grasp with another peal of laughter. He drapes one sheet over his shoulders as he rises and turns to deliver me an amused smile.
“Forbid it?” He stands framed in the window, illuminated from behind by the rising Sun. The light gleams in his pale hair like a bright crown and transforms the sheet clinging to his naked body into a golden robe. “As if you could forbid me anything, Tanim.” Tears spring to my eyes, though in awe or love or envy I cannot tell. He could be a king. He could be a god. He could be mine. Now is the time. I have been patient, I have waited, and now I am blessed with this vision: the creature he can become, with my help. I hold out one hand to him and repeat “stay with me.” This time it is a command, not a supplication, yet he does not heed my warning tone. Instead, he grimaces irritably at the edge in my voice.
As he turns his back to me, tiring of this game, I slip the knife from beneath the mattress and rise from the bed. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand that he is the master, I the servant, and that together we shall reshape him. But I forgive him for his ignorance. He has not seen the golden crowned god-king as I have, so he couldn’t possibly comprehend his own potential. So I will show him. I will transform him. By my hand he will fall, and by my hand he will be reborn.
“Do you know how beautiful you are, Daren?”
Before he can turn from the window, I cross the distance between us and plunge the blade into his sunlit chest. He gasps and shudders, a full-body tremor so much like a quiver of ecstasy, and sinks back into my arms. “I have been waiting for you,” I murmur into his ear as he struggles against this violation, “my lord; my king.”
“Tanim–” He whimpers, pain and confusion twisting his angelic face into a mask of misery, but does not cry out. Only his labored breathing and bloody fingers digging madly into my hand betray his agony. I brace his heavy body against myself and tear out the knife, causing him to convulse and groan. “Hush, hush,” I instruct patiently. “I know it hurts, but it has to. This moment will never be so perfect again, don’t you see? It’s the only way, my love. You must die so that you may be reborn.” I gather his body into my arms and settle onto the bed, cradling him in my lap. Crimson blood soaks the pale bed sheet entwined around his torso and smears his alabaster flesh. He no longer struggles to speak, sinking into shock, but his glazed, panicked eyes meet mine.
“Don’t be afraid, beloved.” I take one of his bloody hands in mine and kiss the same small curve in his wrist, but this time the heartbeat under my lips is shallow, and slowing. I smile. “You aren’t alone for this. I’m here. I will always be here. I will never leave you.”
The stain on his chest continues to blossom, a vibrant rose against his pale flesh.
“. . .”
The liquid in his voice softens his consonants so that I must lean closer to discern his words.
“What was that, darling? You will have to speak more clearly.”
“Y-you…” He chokes on his own voice. “You’re a cruel bastard, you know that?”
I smile and touch my hand to his flushed cheek. He winces at the contact.
“I learned from the best, my love.”
His glassy eyes are a miniature sky mottled by the shadows of passing clouds. He refuses to meet my gaze as I brush my fingers gently through his tangled hair.
“I don’t want to be crazy anymore,” I explain patiently, though I doubt my reasons matter much to him at the moment. “I don’t want to be so many people at once. They hurt, you know. They are incomplete and they ache, they mourn, they hate. And that hatred overwhelms me. You understand, don’t you?” He does not respond, only fights to draw in a steady breath. Watching his chest rise and fall unsteadily, his heartbeat a panicked flutter, I wonder how much time he has left. This must seem a very long night to him.
“You must understand, beloved – you made me like this. I am defective because of you. Incomplete because of you. I hurt because of you.” I caress the line of his jaw lovingly, where tears and blood have left a salty mess. “But I forgive you. I always forgive you. Maybe that’s part of the madness. I will never be free of you. I will never be free of this place. We are damned, you and I.”
His fingers twitch at his side, struggling to grasp the bloody blade on the floor. I cannot help but chuckle softly at his feeble attempt and pick up the knife in my own hand. Now he meets my gaze, and there is a beautiful fear in his eyes.
“Do you know why the Moon first rose up and murdered his lover the Sun, Tanim?”
The man in my arms shudders and does not speak.
“Everything is changed. We have become insignificant. Meaningless. Powerless. When did this happen? How could this happen? All the old gods are dead. All the monsters have been pierced with wooden stakes and silver bullets. Not even their ghosts remain now. They are all gone, all dust. Everything is finished. What more is there? This must be the end.”
He passes the empty glass from hand to hand restlessly.
“We were all that was left, you and I. We, monsters of a different sort. Heartless but human. Dark new gods for this modern world. We were kings in our own right, beautiful and terrible. We were all that was left but still not hardly enough, not ever enough, and now even you have left me. What am I to do? What have I left, now? I cannot continue this. I feel so old–”
Momentarily startled by the interruption, Tanim blinks from his reverie and glances to the far doorway. Leaning against the door frame, Jonathan crosses his arms and frowns.
“Who are you talking to?”
Tanim surveys the empty library, then shakes his head as if to chase away lingering ghosts.
Jonathan adjusts the tie of his dark suit and eyes Tanim dubiously.
“Well, are you coming? You’re one of the pallbearers, you know.”
Tanim nods slowly and feigns a properly apologetic smile, blank as it is within his distracted eyes.
“Yes. Of course. Just a moment, Jon. I’ll be right down.”
He waits for the other man to leave, then reaches over and fills his glass once again. He stares down into the alcohol, searching for an answer to his questions within the amber liquid. Finding none, and no comfort in a glass half full, he raises his glass to the empty room.
“Cheers, darling,” he mutters, and downs the drink.
They bathed my skin in milk and lavender, dressed my body in silver and silk. They placed the weight of a crown upon my head and the burden of wings upon my back. They made me a god. Their god.
How could I ever live up to such a thing? How could I ever be reason, purpose, the very world itself? They are so sickened by their own heartbeats that they must live by mine. They are so accustomed to silence that they hang on my every word. They name me Beloved. They brand me Only. They call me Master.
Tonight I do not want to be a god. Tonight I want only to be a man, fallible and mortal as I become. Make me neither angel nor devil, you that love me so. Do not rest your world on my shoulders or place your future in my trembling hands. I am tired; my words fail and my heart aches and I am sick, so sick. Can I not be granted a moment’s piece? Can I not rest on this one long, dark night?
Let me be. I am not your god.
He’s even more beautiful like this. It’s true. I kiss him once, gently. I close his dark eyes and brush a lock of hair from his face. Slowly I take my hands from his throat, where light bruises are already blossoming on his flesh. Dead. His trembling lips form one last word, and then he’s gone. He shudders and convulses, but slowly ceases struggling, and his hands over mine go limp. I tighten my grip and watch those stunning eyes go wide. He mouths something to me, unable to speak yet still wasting precious air. His are so dark, so empty, that I can lose myself in them if I’m not careful. Our eyes meet. His hands tug at my wrists, a half-hearted attempt to loosen my grip as he gasps for air. His body jerks beneath mine as he is wrenched from sleep, gasping for breath. I slip my fingers around his slender neck and squeeze. His eyelashes tremble and I wonder if he is dreaming of me. I kneel over him carefully. He has waited for this moment, as I have waited, for an eternity. For a moment I stand over him, watching the rise and fall of his chest as he sleeps. Silently I slide from beneath the warm sheets and dress. So beautiful. The moonlight dusts his pale skin in silver and shadow. I wake in the night and glance to him laying beside me, sleeping peacefully. He is the Beloved, the one I have been waiting for, and it is time. He came to me to die.
“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”
– – –
“Love me broughte (Love delivered me)
and love me wroughte (and love created me).
Love me fedde (Love sustained me)
and love me ledde (and love guided me)
and love me lette here (and love abandoned me here).
Love me slou (Love killed me)
and love me drou (and love dragged me)
and love me leyde on bere (and love laid me on the bier).
Love is my pes (Love is my peace)
for love I ches (and for love I chose)
to buyen dere (to redeem you at great cost).
No dred thee nought (So you should fear nothing),
I have thee sought (for I have looked for you)
bothen day and night (both day and night)
to haven thee (in order to be your haven);
well is me (I have done well),
I have thee wonnen in fight (for I have won you in battle).”
Soon the wings lay upon the ground and the sword was slick with golden blood. The Sun fell to his knees, then, sick with pain and blood loss, and did not move again.
In the morning the creator mother and lunar brother came together to bear the Sun to the place of his death. They wrapped him in a robe of black and placed a golden crown upon his fair head. They gathered him into their arms and bore his body reverently to the cross. There they lifted him up and, having removed the robe, pierced his wrists with sharp nails. From his wrists and the wounds on his back, where once his angelic wings had been, his golden blood flowed in shining rivers.
Thus finished, the Star mother placed a kiss upon the Sun’s right palm, and the Moon brother one upon his left. The darkness began to descend, then, a slowly consuming eclipse, and the mother looked to the heavens above.
“The Sun shall be turned into darkness,” she spoke, “and the Moon into blood.”
Grieving, she turned away and left her cherished son to face his death alone, the final sacrifice.
Now alone with his lover, the Moon stood before the crippled Sun and pulled from his robes an ornate silver dagger.
“Forgive me, my love,” the Moon said softly, then drove the serrated blade through the Sun’s chest. The Sun cried out in agony, betrayed as always by the one he loved, and the Moon’s hands became stained with his hot, bright blood. The Moon drew out the dagger, then, and turned his back to the Sun. He disappeared into the growing night.
Alone now and slowly dying, suspended on the cross, the Sun could not defend himself against the darkness that hungered so for his holy blood and body. The darkness crept upon him, touched him, entered him. It tainted his blessed flesh and poisoned his loving heart, his sacred soul. It defiled him; it violated him. It flooded his mind with madness and his heart with hate; it burned his skin and spilled his blood. The Sun refused to beg for mercy from this most vile of entities, though, refused to give in to the wickedness it filled him with; he would not give it that satisfaction. He called instead to his creator and his brother, to those that loved him so, but there was no answer to his pleading. No lord grated him clemency; no lover came to give him sweet relief. The darkness consumed him, tore at his heart and his soul and his mind. Death did not come to free him; the torture was unending.
“Why am I so forsaken?” the Sun howled to the heavens above as he broke. “Where is he that I love?” Still there was no answer.
In the Sun’s final moments, as he struggled for breath and the cruel darkness and agonizing pain became all he knew, the Moon returned. He came to the Sun and kissed him once upon each closed eye, where salty tears glistened, and once upon the lips, where coppery blood dripped down his skin.
“Do not fear death now, darling. You will awaken again,” the Moon whispered against his cheek. “And until that moment, I shall watch over you. I shall hold vigil for your body. Go now and find peace in your death. We will be reunited.”
The Sun shuddered.
“Beloved, into your hands I commit my spirit,” he answered breathlessly, and thus succumbed to his injuries and let death claim him.