"Who dares come before me?" The voice echoed around the darkened hall and the young girl shivered noticeably. It wasn't that she was cold, of course, but that she was frightened.
"It is I, Allyrra Lynne, that stands here before you, Great Master Arukis, King of the Between, Lord of the Ever After, Judge of the Weak, God of Death." The girl spoke strongly, as I had cautioned her she must. Arukis does not suffer meekness.
"Who brings this pitiful child before me?" Arukis stood, his dark shape foreboding in the flickering light of the torches. More than eight feet tall, with horns at least four feet wide, the Bull God was the stuff of nightmares for many children. But not for me.
"I do. I, Sarakin, Prince of the Fallen Realm, Protector of the Young, Demi-God of the Life Hereafter, bring this child before you, oh Great and Beloved Arukis." I stepped forward, my body prepared to shield the young girl, my tail flicking warningly from side to side.
"How come you to be here, Allyrra Lynne? How do you stand before me?" Arukis stepped fully into the light and revealed himself. His chest was criss-crossed with scars, his tail ragged looking where it hung, his legs clad in white shorts spattered with small amounts of blood, his arms muscular and bulging but flexing as though he were uncomfortable or tired and his fur dotted and flecked with grey, making him appear older. His eyes looked drawn and slightly bloodshot if one looked closely enough. But the child was not tall enough to see and was patently terrified as she shook where she stood, taking a deep breath.
"I...I was cold, Lord Arukis, so very very cold. And then...and then I was nothing." Her voice rang clear as she explained how she had died; a child of the street on a winters night. The story was all too common and yet too few people had heard it. I expected her to stop now but was pleasantly surprised when she continued. "I come before you to beg another chance from you, another life."
"You dare to ask another chance? I have given you a life. You have squandered what time you had. Will you fight for the right to another life, a second chance?" His voice rumbled and the whole room shook as Arukis took a deep breath in.
"I shall fight in her stead. This is why I have come." I spoke loud and clear, as if I was interrupting the young girl, stepping in front of her so I was between them; this young frightened girl, no more than 7 years old, and this Bull God, ancient and eternal. The girl stepped back and retreated softly into the shadows, her footsteps making no sound on the stone floor. I swished my tail menacingly and exposed my claws, tapping them lightly on the floor as I bared my teeth and growled low.
"Let it be done." His voice echoed as he lunged at me, his cloven hoof hitting me straight across the muzzle as he attacked first. I growled softly, striking out and swiping across his nose, fresh red welts appearing on the soft skin.
He moved back, pawing the ground and charged at me, his great horns directed at my chest. I sidestepped his charge and swiped out, striking his hind quarters with my claws and turning him so that I remained his focus and not the child in the shadows. His horn jabbed my side and I yelped before leaning down to bite his neck, sinking my teeth in deep.
Arukis bellowed, twisting and turning beneath me, attempting to pull his skin out of my powerful jaws by force. I held on, digging my claws into his back, my body like a ragdoll as he started spinning around and pawing at the ground, desperately trying to buck me off. My hind legs wrapped around him as he started to tire, pulling him sideways to land on the ground, his great horn cracking as it landed on the ground first. I pinned him underneath me as he bellowed, screaming at the sky.
I pulled his neck back against my chest, my teeth still embedded in the skin. The struggling stopped, he slumped against the ground and I released him.
"Do you concede Arukis? Will you grant the child another chance?" I injected as much venom and hatred into my low growl as I could.
"I am defeated. Release me and I shall give the child what she asks." His voice was soft and pitiful but still echoed against the stone walls in a way that somehow made it seem both pathetic and a command at once. I stood slowly, claws still drawn as if this could be a trick. The deep gouge in my side from his horn stang as I stood, a small trickle of blood running towards my hip. The metallic tang of blood in my mouth reminded me that Arukis was hurt worse than I and I stepped towards my charge, offering a paw with my claws now sheathed as she stood once again before the throne of the King of the Underworld.
"Allyrra Lynne, your champion has defeated me." His breath wheezed and gasped as he struggled to his feet, looking unsteady. Blood matted his fur from his neck wound and a large gash across his hindquarters showed where I also had managed to rip his shorts. Across his nose he had a small selection of cuts and several welts spread across his chest. "You wish for another chance? You understand that you will change and only your deepest subconscious will remember your first life?" His words were strong even as he swayed on his feet.
"I understand Lord Arukis." Her voice was quiet as she walked out of the shadows towards him, no longer scared for she knew I would protect her. She reached out towards him, her fingers trembling a little and touched his hoof, a simple sign of compassion from one so young. I noticed a small smile that touched his eyes more than his mouth and then in an instant it was gone.
He stood fully, swaying slightly on his feet, and then slammed his front hooves down, standing as a Bull would. He shook his head from side to side, lopsided with his damaged horn, and pounded his rear hooves on the ground three times. A pale blue light hovered behind him, above his left flank and then rushed between his horns, hitting the child square between its eyes. The light expanded, shining and shimmering, burning bright as the child disappeared to be reborn, the words 'thank you' echoing around the room.
"Seriously Sare? Seriously? Jeez what the hell man?" Arukis stood upright, pouting slightly as he walked to retrieve his horn.
"What are you sulking about Aru? The horn or your butt?" I laughed softly, licking the back of my hand, glad of the antiseptic and analgesic properties of Tiger saliva for not the first time. The cuts and scratches stang slightly but I knew it was nothing compared to the deep gouge on my side.
"The butt. The horn I can fix but I'm not going to be able to sit for a week. Damn man..." Aru turned and glared at me, attempting to appear stern as he calmly re-grew his horn. Being the King of the Underworld has its perks.
"You deserved it. Almost pushed my heart out with your horn you little snot!" I reached round and gently started to lick the gouge, the metallic taint of blood stronger on my lips.
"Well if you weren't so dramatic as to have a silly little clockwork heart..." Aru's voice teased as I growled mock-angrily.
Perhaps I had been dramatic. It had felt sensible at the time. My thoughts intruded and my forehead puckered as I over-thought everything, as I always did. Her face, Kilaan's face, crossed my mind fleetingly. She was so beautiful. And it hurt so much. What was I supposed to do?
"You're brooding again Sare. Stop it now." Aru's soft voice intruded on my thoughts and I shook my head to clear it.
"Heal this would you?" My voice was roughened with emotion as I gestured to the deep welt. I watched his shoulders drop as he sighed, walking towards me to do as I asked. He placed his hoof on my side, looking at me unblinking, his eyes sad as he exhaled slowly, a soft white glow around his hoof pulsing as he healed me.
Neither of us spoke as my wound closed. Neither of us mentioned the fact that when he touched my skin, his hoof softened and became almost human. We never do. We never have.
"Turn around." My voice nearly broke as I broke the silence between us. He stepped away, turning so i could properly see the three scratches that started halfway up his back and slashed down across his buttocks. I pursed my lips and whistled. "Jeez Aru, I didn't - I didn't realise."
We never apologise for what happens in our fights. They're orchestrated the way they are so that it is semi-safe for us. My tapping claws tell him exactly how it needs to work. We never apologise.
"I'm sorry." I whispered the words, the first time I had ever said them to him, and knelt behind him, gently grooming him with my tongue. He stiffened slightly as my tongue touched his skin and I wasn't sure if it was the pain of the wound or the pain of the words that caused it. My tongue stroked gently as I cleaned the wound on his back, silence between us heavy and getting more uncomfortable as I moved lower.
"You can stop. It will heal." His voice was soft and still broke the silence harshly. I wanted to make him more comfortable. I didn't have the words to say to him so I just let my mind relax and continued to lick and clean him, pretending to ignore the soft sigh he gave as I chose not to stop.
I'm a tiger. Kilaan was a White tiger. When we first met, everyone expect us to bind. Soul twins and heart bound. She, a demi-Goddess of New Life, me a demi-God of Youthful Death. It was just expected that we would bind and become a God of Rebirth. Everyone expected it. No one expected her to fall in love with Jakathnauri, the trickster demi-God. No one, least of all me.
Aru hissed in a breath as my tongue dipped lower, cleansing over his lower flank and I smiled to myself, hands gently holding his hips as I continued my ministrations, intent on cleaning every scratch and scrape I had caused. The one on his neck was next.
She had run away. Taken Jak and run, had the ceremony performed in secret. Aru had heard the news and told me. It was he who had stood by me as I poured out all my pain, all my hurt. He who had held me as I had roared my pain to the Heavens. He who had watched with horror as I tore out my heart, bearing my flesh, begging for death. It was Aru who had put my body in stasis until this clockwork heart could be fitted. Aru who had healed my scars. Aru who had always been there for me, would always be there for me.
I cleansed the last of the gash that had so angered him and stood up, my hands still light and gentle on his hips. I leaned forward, licking over his neck to the two puncture marks my teeth had left. I licked lightly, dipping my tongue into the deep grooves to ensure they were clean. Aru sucked in a deep breath that had little to do with pain. I stopped, my breathing shallow as I looked at the back of his neck.
"I think - I think you got it all." His words stumbled and he pulled away. My hands left his waist and felt clumsy and bulky as I felt them return to paws. My eyes widened as I watched his tail regrow.
"Aru? Are you ok?" I reached out to touch him again but he pulled away before my paw landed on his shoulder.
"Of course. Why wouldn't I be?" His voice sounded unnaturally cheerful as he turned to face me, a big false grin plastered on his face. A grin that didn't even touch his eyes. A grin that hid a wealth of hurt and unspoken words.
"When?" My voice was harsh and I saw the pain etched in his eyes, like he had been slapped. "When did you first...?" I trailed off not sure what to say, how to explain the pull.
"When did I ever not?" His voice was heavy and he closed his eyes, breathing in deeply and then slowly breathing out before he opened his eyes again. "Watch." He spoke slowly, reaching a hoof out towards me, placing it into my paw. I watched silently as the man I had known nearly all my life began to change.
The hair on his body lightened, getting thinner and less obvious. He visibly shrank by a few inches so that we were the same height. His face receded and his eyes changed from dark brown to a golden brown colour. Though his horns remained, the man that stood before me was vastly different. And yet...still the same.
He smiled sadly and shrugged, ready to pull away. I held his hand, which was now very definitely a hand and not a hoof, and finally let myself relax completely around him. I closed my eyes and felt my skin tingle as the fur diminished. My paws shrank and softened, my muzzle drew back, my teeth shrank and dulled. I smiled properly and then opened my eyes, looking at the man in front of me as I shrank to be just under two inches shorter than him. It felt funny to admit that I had always liked the fact that he was taller than me. His mouth had dropped open and his eyes shone with unshed tears.
"Close your mouth boy, you'll catch flies. And goodness knows there are enough of them around here thanks to the stink..." I had always teased him about his animal form. It seemed only right to do it now. His mouth snapped shut and he gave me the cutest nervous smile I had ever seen.
I leaned forward, wondering how things would change if I just kissed him. Our lips brushed and I knew. Nothing would change. It had always been like this. We had just always been too scared to believe that it would be like this for us.
But love is love. And for us...love is perfect. Soul Twins and Heart Bound with this man. Yeah, I think I can live with that...
Legacy Name: Sare
The Marsh Tigrean
Age: 6 years, 3 weeks, 4 days
Born: April 12th, 2015
Adopted: 2 years, 9 months, 4 weeks ago
Adopted: July 10th, 2018
- Level: 1
- Strength: 10
- Defense: 10
- Speed: 10
- Health: 10
- HP: 10/10
- Intelligence: 1
- Books Read: 1
- Food Eaten: 0
- Job: Unemployed