Art by Samuel Pray, created using Daz, PS, and Filter Forge
Chosen, an Erien setting story
Wind rippled a path through the trees carrying the news. Branches creaked, adding their own voices to the grief brought by the announcement. The song of the forest changed, bird song stopped and then began again, changing from soft music to the sudden alert calls that brought every creature within hearing range to a sudden stop.
Pain wrapped itself around his heart and tightened into a band.
He scowled, uncertain at first why the band was there. He wasn’t human, wasn’t even mortal, so this shouldn’t happen to him. He looked, slowly, through the trees, listening to the bird calls but only animals and birds remained within range. If there were humans, elves, dwarves, or even dragons, they were well beyond his immediate hunting range.
A flicker of something touched the edge of his senses and he smiled. Dryads. Bound to their trees, beautiful and long lived, they were neither human nor elven kind, not truly of the Fae but something graceful, delicious and his choice when it came to bed mates. Elegant and eager bed mates, even if they tried to entrance him every single time. They knew, of course, that it wouldn’t work but they still tried.
The woman he’d chosen had reminded him of the dryads in some ways – had there been a touch of their blood in her veins? Odd, he hadn’t thought to ask when she’d still lived. Nor had he taken her to his bed. Oh, he’d been tempted and her stubborn defiance had intrigued him but he’d never taken more than a single kiss from her full lips.
She’d fought the kiss, growling at him even as her fists had clenched for a blow she would never land. He’d laughed, caught her hand and warned her not to offer such temptation his way again. She’d listened, she’d learned, and although she’d listened the temptation of her lips and her body had remained, even though he’d restrained himself.
Now he would never know what she would have done if he’d taken more than her lips.
Hazel eyes, flecked with hints of gold. A beautiful smile and a wild nature. Those things had all called to him when she’d first stumbled into his path. Human mixed with elf, a Fae nature with a natural grasp of the way of the hunt.
And now she was dead.
The band around his heart tightened a little more.
“How… strange.” Emotions? Regret? Pain? These were things that weren’t a part of his normal day, at least not like this. Yes, he would miss his chosen, but enough to grieve? To feel such emotions? No, that didn’t make sense to him. The woman, a human woman, had been the first to be called by him, the first one he had chosen as his own, to serve him and now…
Mortals died. He knew that, accepted that, that was a part of their nature. He’d marked her knowing that she would die, knowing that she would be gone before he knew it and yet it hurt. Her lips, he should have done more than take a single taste of her lips. At least then he’d have something to remember. He might even have sired a child on the human – others in the pantheon had done such.
Accept it and move on. She’s gone and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Isn’t that what mortals tried to do? He growled, shook his head, turned and walked deeper into the forest. This is where he belonged. Away from mortals and the problems they brought. One mortal, only one, at any given time would be allowed into his world and even that had been a mistake.
Yes, of course, he’d made a mistake in letting even one human know who he was. Breeding with a mortal would have made matters worse. The first step in splitting his personality like his parents had done before him.
His jaw tightened as he stalked through the trees, drawn by the distant sounds of the dryads at play.
The pantheon. If mortals ever understood what had happened, then chaos would run rampant across the realms of Erien. They didn’t know. Not a single suspicion flickered across their thoughts. He was certain of that because even his parents – the pantheon – didn’t suspect. How could they when…
A soft giggle carried through the trees, dismissing his thoughts of the pantheon – at least for the time being.
He stopped, lifting his gaze as he inhaled deeply. Not dryads – the sound was too childlike in nature. Interesting. He hadn’t heard them this close to his home in a long time. Yet there it was again, the undeniable sound of the sprites. Laughter, innocent and carefree, carried through the air to him, calling him away from the dryads. The sprites weren’t creatures that he would sate his sexual needs with – no, the idea of doing so sickened him. They were innocent, taking on the forms of children in near immortal bodies, but that same innocence offered a chance for his heart to heal.
The name had amused him the first time he’d heard it. Elven children – yes, those had been the ones to name the sprites. The name fit. The sprites giggled, a lot. Practical jokes, mostly harmless in nature, were a part of their lives. He’d watched them, enjoyed their play, and even been on the receiving end of one or two of their jokes.
The laughter spiked, a dozen voices joined as one as he drew closer to the source of the noise.
Movement caught his eyes. Green skinned, childlike forms, dressed in leaves, dirt and scraps of cloth, darted through the trees, tossing a ball of woven weeds back and forth. They darted, their movements random at first but the pattern appeared as he watched. A game of ball toss and laughter.
He lingered in the deepening shadows cast by the ancient trees. They didn’t see him. Couldn’t smell him. He didn’t move any closer to them, content – for now – to watch them play. Like this he could forget, could pretend that the band wasn’t there, he could think about other things instead of the loss of his chosen one.
Soon enough they drifted away, moving through the trees, content with their games and the band returned to press around his heart.
There were others he could reveal himself to. Ones he might be able to trust with his touch, his gift, but wouldn’t they also die? Mortals left this world all too soon and then what? More pain?
Pain, it’s part of the experience, isn’t it? Something the others turn their back on.
Is that why he’d chosen one to know him? To experience the pain, the joy, all of the emotions that were tied into mortal lives.
The pantheon had taken it too far. Each time one of their believers took a different path, they’d split, multiplied again, and what had started out as a god and goddess, his parents, had become – at last count – over a hundred gods and goddesses, each answering to a different call, a sect of dedicated worshippers, fulfilling their needs, hungers and prayers.
He’d watched it, seen the splits, the formation of new personalities, sects, beliefs and more.
They didn’t listen, not even when I told them what was happening. All they cared about was the power.
Power, yes, he’d sensed the power that groups of believers brought to the pantheon. But at what price? Sanity – he’d seen nothing but the occasional glimmer of that in the last millennium or two. The original personalities that he still knew as his parents were the most stable of the pantheon, but that wasn’t saying much.
His sister had come close to making the same mistake – except she’d split into three, each aware of the other, becoming the Three Fold Lady. Those sworn to her knew she was three in one, she understood she was three in one and she had claimed a family line to watch over, one line to focus on even though she listened to the needs of many. She’d found a path to walk, but the rest of the pantheon continued to grow and split as new voices reached out to them.
Did they feel the loss of each and every one of their worshippers, or was it different when they listened to the voices of the many instead of the one?
One. That’s all he needed, one chosen mortal to answer his need and to be his voice out in the world. His chosen, his one, was gone but where there had been one there would be another who would enter the forests to seek him out.
The Master of the Hunt lifted his head and smile, tasting the scents on the air. The grief would remain, but in time it would ease and become a part of him. Each new soul, new chosen one would add to it, teaching him a little more about the world beyond the forests, introducing him to new hunts, new prey but there would only ever be one.