Written by Five
This work was last updated February 13, 2017
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A series of snapshots from "Crown of Thorns" which is also part of my Leecher/Bleeder universe.
Their kingdom was built from nothing, woven from shadows, twisted from sunbeams. Those given the magic rose to be emperors and kings and saints. The gods that men would hold in their hearts for millennia to come were but children in this world.
There would always be something in them broken beyond repair, but they had each other. Brothers and sisters, they claimed themselves because no one else would. Faith held them together, the love for something greater than themselves.
Every Leecher knew that it never truly leaves, the metallic tang of blood on their tongue, warm, sliding down dusty throats. Better than they knew themselves, they knew that strange shade of grey (pale, bleached of human colour and life) their Bleeder’s eyes would turn before elemental power crawled into their irises.
When it was over, they still felt the wracking pangs of starvation, only ever dulled, never fully quenched. A horrible aching in a stomach that felt an emptiness centuries old, devoid of hunger yet somehow still constantly plagued by it.
What they didn’t know was the Bleeders felt it too, the call of another world, the promise of another chance. It was quiet some nights, louder others, and it never went away. Some learned to ignore it, others went mad. It was impossible to tune out, especially when it was their own voice, saying such beautiful things.
When they fought, that power was warm in their veins, filling them with an insatiable need that would consume cities, oceans, worlds, and still clamour for more. The Bleeders knew, one and all, that one day they too, would be devoured.
What they didn’t know was that they would offer themselves to it willingly.
For them, it was not about becoming a better person, it was embracing what they were. So they were monsters, so they were witches. They couldn’t change their nature, only come to terms with it. Some took it as a free pass to do awful things, but some were able to find peace. And that was enough.
“Is this what it feels like to be warm?” She was a painting in ice and sunlight, standing on the mountain peak. She was enraptured by the sight of her own hand, holding it up to the skies like the midday sun could illuminate it.
He didn’t see the blood until she was already falling.
Light scattered like broken glass, a thousand glittering jewels, and her robes were a whisper on the breeze, dragging her down to the ocean below. He ran for her, flying over the snow as the rest of the regiment staggered through the drifts.
There wasn’t even a trace she was ever there, no splash in the dark waters below, no hint of blue and gold hovering just below the waves, no drop of blooming red on white – proof that Leechers too, could bleed. The world went on as if he had not just lost his own.
He never knew she was cold. He would have set the world on fire to keep her warm. Perhaps that’s why she never told him. She knew the sway she held over him, that he would have let her rip him apart if he thought she could find solace in his blood, use the pieces to put herself back together.
He didn’t age, not anymore. The days passed, the windmills of his childhood home turned, a little slower each day, wood rotting, stone crumbling. Still, he lingered, watching villagers die around him. Eventually they drove him away with the fire he could once command, and he was wandering again, roving the Western lands.
He wanted to see proof she existed, that she was more than a ghost he haunted, more than just a monster that he hungered for.
He was old, though he didn’t look it. He was tired, though his body was young. It was in his bones, in the dull cast of his eyes. He didn’t know what he wanted anymore, if even having her back would be enough. He didn’t want to die, but he didn’t want to live. It wasn’t morbidity or depression, it was weariness, one not cured by any amount of sleep.
Humans were not created to live forever. They were made to die. Some reached that point faster than others.
The Leechers, the Bleeders, they had all tasted another world, all become something a bit more, a bit less than human. Their lives grew longer, unnaturally extended, but in the end their flesh was still mortal, and they died, willingly or not.
He did not know if he could die, having given himself wholly to his own fire. This body wasn’t his anymore, though it was the one he was born with. It wasn’t his until he got rid of the ghosts.
He was afraid to try, because what if he couldn't? But more terrifying, what if he could?