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Darkness Divine, Page 2

P. C. Cast

  It is your choice, daughter, whether you aid him or not.

  “But he’s a Fomorian!” Aine said.

  Epona didn’t respond, and Aine could feel that the Goddess’s presence had left her. At the sound of her voice the creature’s head snapped up. With eyes glassy with shock and pain he stared at her.

  “Are you a goddess or a spirit?”

  His voice was a surprise. It was deep and beautiful, almost musical in quality. And he sounded frightened.

  “I’m neither,” she replied. Then she pressed her lips together, thinking that it was madness that she was speaking to him, to it, instead of running screaming for the warriors.

  “You look like a goddess,” he said.

  Then he smiled and even as Aine cringed back from his fangs that glistened in the dying light, she felt drawn to the unexpected gentleness in his eyes that so perfectly matched his expressive voice.

  “You’re a Fomorian,” Aine said, as if to remind herself.

  “And you’re a goddess.”

  “Fomorians are demons!” she blurted. “What could you know about goddesses?”

  “Some of us know of Epona. Some of us…” he trailed off, sucking in his breath as a spasm of pain shot through him.

  Responding automatically to his pain, Aine was halfway down the gully before she realized she’d moved. The Fomorian had closed his eyes to ride out the wave of agony. His forehead was pressed to the ground and he was breathing in shallow, panting gasps. Just like any man in terrible pain, she thought.

  Then his wings, which had been tucked along his back rustled in restless agitation and she stumbled to a halt mere feet from him, eyes riveted on those dark pinions. They weren’t made of feathers, but seemed to be a soft membrane, lighter on bottom than top. They were huge, and they proved what he was—what he must be. A demon.

  This was what killed Maev! The knowledge rushed through her mind and she stumbled back.

  “My name is Tegan.”

  At the sound of his voice she stopped. His eyes were open again, and even though his face was shadowed by pain he tried to smile at her once more.

  “What is your name, goddess?”

  “Don’t call me that,” she snapped.

  “I meant no disrespect. I only—”

  “You killed Maev!” she interrupted.


  “I have killed no one,” he insisted. Making an involuntary beseeching gesture, his arm lifted and Aine saw the short sword sheathed at his waist.

  “I don’t believe you. How could I? You’re a Fomorian. A demon. My enemy.” Aine’s stomach knotted as she looked frantically around. “Where are the rest of your people?”

  “It’s only me. I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t have sneaked through, but I wanted to see it.”


  “Partholon,” Tegan spoke the word like a prayer.

  “But there are more of you?”

  “Of course. In the Wastelands.”

  Aine started backing away again. “I have to warn the Guardian Warriors. Your people have to be stopped.”

  “But it’s only me who is here,” he said.

  “No…you killed Maev.” Then the Huntress’s words lifted from her memory. The warriors know! They all know. What was happening? How could the Guardian Warriors know about the Fomorians? Then all of Partholon should know. Maev was dying. She’d been almost incoherent. Or things had been happening so quickly maybe Aine had misunderstood. Shaking her head she spoke more to herself than the fallen demon, “It doesn’t matter. I have to tell them.”

  “Please don’t leave me.” Even though she was well beyond his touch, he reached out for her and then moaned, crumpling to the ground again.

  It is your choice, daughter, whether you aid him or not. As if battling against Maev’s warning, Epona’s voice filled her mind. The Goddess had led her to this creature. Surely she had brought her to him so that Aine would return to the castle and tell the men. But then why had Epona said that there was one near who needed her? When she’d followed the moans Aine had had no doubt that she was supposed to help whoever had been injured.

  All right. Couldn’t she do both? She could dress his wounds and then go to the castle and warn them that Fomorians were near. Aine glanced down at Tegan’s trapped leg. He might be injured so badly that he’d still be here when she brought the warriors back. Was there rope in the cart? Perhaps she could tie him up.

  She drew a deep breath and looked from his wound to his eyes. “How do I know you won’t try to kill me if I help you?”

  “I’m not a killer,” was his instant response.

  “You’re a demon,” she said.

  He frowned. “Is it because I have wings that you keep calling me that?”

  “It’s because your people betrayed the good faith of my people and tried to slaughter them that I call you that.”

  “How long ago?” he asked quietly.


  “How long ago was the war between our people?”

  Aine moved her shoulders restlessly. “It’s talked about in our legends. The bards sing songs about how demonic and hideous your people are.” She closed her mouth, then all too aware that even though the winged man trapped so painfully on the ground in front of her might be a demon, he definitely wasn’t hideous.

  “Three hundred and twenty-five full passes of all four seasons have gone by since my people fought yours,” he said. Tegan paused to grimace in pain. After several short, panting breaths he continued. “So it is for something that happened between people long dead that you hate me.”

  “I don’t hate you,” Aine said automatically.

  “Then help me. Please, goddess,” he said.


  “Stop calling me a goddess,” Aine said, beginning to walk slowly towards him.

  “I don’t know what else to call you,” Tegan said.

  “Aine. I’m a Healer,” she said briskly, kneeling beside his bloody leg.

  His sudden laugh surprised her. What especially surprised her was that the infectious sound of it caught her attention more than a second glimpse of his fangs.

  “A Healer! And I believed all luck had deserted me.”

  She frowned at him, thinking that luck was certainly a relative thing, and then fell into her normal pattern of distracting her patient through conversation. “How did this happen?”

  “I was foolish.” He paused sucking in his breath as she began her examination. Through gritted teeth he continued. “I know better than to step into a gully filled with leaves. My attention was elsewhere and I made a mistake.”

  “Your attention was on what?” Aine was intrigued by Tegan’s physiology. His leg appeared human, but it ended in a taloned foot that reminded her of the old stories she’d read about Partholon’s long extinct dragons.

  “My attention was on this.” Tegan gestured weakly at the pine forest surrounding them. “It’s so green and alive. Everything here is so much more beautiful than the Wastelands.” His eyes met hers. “Everything…”

  Clearing her throat, she broke eye contact with him and continued her assessment. The trap had closed just above his left ankle. There was a lot of blood on it and in the leaves, but the bleeding appeared to have stopped. The odd-looking foot was already swelling, though, and his skin… she glanced up his body. His skin was paler than a human man’s, but it seemed to glow faintly, as if it had been lit from within by a moon-colored light. His body was very man-like. He was tall and muscular and well-formed. His hair was so silver blonde that it reminded her of the moon, too. His eyes were slightly slanted and an unusual light amber color. He was, she realized, exotic and odd-looking, but not an unattractive man. Aine shook herself mentally. Men didn’t have down-lined wings that tucked against their bodies.

  “I need to open this trap, but I’m worried about the bleeding that might happen once your leg is free.”

  He nodded. “I understand.”

  “I need something to…” she paused, consid
ering. “The leather tie that holds your hair. I need it.”

  Tegan started to reach back, but the movement made him stiffen with pain.

  “I’ll get it.” Businesslike, Aine moved to his head. Forcing herself not to hesitate, she untied the thong. His silver hair was long and felt like silk against her fingers. She could see that his ears were surprisingly small for such a large being, and slightly pointed, as if the fairy people had touched him there.

  By the Goddess! Fairy people? This creature is a demon, not a harmless sprite.

  She moved back to his leg, glancing up but not meeting his eyes. “I’m going to tie a tourniquet above the wound, but hopefully you haven’t severed a major blood vessel.”

  “It can’t hurt much more than it does now.” Tegan tried to smile again, but only succeeded in a small grimace.

  “You’re wrong about that,” Aine said grimly, tying the tourniquet in place. Then she did meet his gaze. “Ready?”

  He dug his fingers into the ground and Aine thought she caught the flash of more talons. Then he nodded. “Ready.”

  Aine positioned her hands on the trap, drew a deep breath, and forced apart its fang-like jaws. Tegan screamed, but she hardly heard him. As if a dam had broken, his leg was spurting the scarlet of a severed artery.

  She grabbed a small piece of wood, twisting it into the tourniquet to attempt to slow the flow, but it made little difference.

  “It must be cauterized. That’s the only way,” Aine murmured to herself, wishing frantically that she was in her well-stocked surgery with a variety of metal irons already heated and awaiting her use. Her gaze lifted unerringly to the short sword sheathed at his waist. Aine ignored his wing, which fluttered weakly as she leaned over him and pulled the sword free. “I’ll be right back.”

  Tegan nodded, although he didn’t speak or open his eyes.

  Aine ran back to the hotly burning pyre. Shielding herself against the blaze with the edge of her cloak, she thrust the sword into the fire and then stepped back.

  “Hurry…hurry…” she whispered, as if the flames could hear her.


  Aine wrapped a piece of her cloak around the hilt of the glowing sword and pulled it free from the flaming pyre. Then she sprinted into the woods. Thankfully, Tegan wasn’t far away. It was almost fully dark and Aine would have hated to have to search for him in the thickness of the forest.

  Goddess, there was so much blood! Tegan was lying perfectly still in a growing pool of scarlet. She called his name, but he made no response. She dropped to her knees beside him and felt quickly with her fingers. He didn’t respond to her touch. Taking a deep breath, she pressed the hot blade of the sword flat against the severed blood vessel. Tegan’s body jerked in automatic response, although he didn’t regain consciousness. The smell of burnt flesh was nauseating, but when she pulled the sword away the fountain of blood had dried and blackened.

  Aine looked up at Tegan’s face. He was so still. She might have been too late. It took so little time to lose a life-threatening amount of blood when a major vessel was severed. Then shock set it. Often that killed as easily as blood loss.

  Shivering, Aine took off her cloak and covered him with it. Tegan was wearing a worn linen shirt and patched leather breeches—no coat or cloak. Did Fomorians feel the cold as humans do? She knew so little about them. Aine bent to rest her fingers against the side of his throat, feeling for the pulse that should throb there. She had to press hard before she found a slight flutter. He might be dying, and there was little more she could do to help him.

  Perhaps I shouldn’t have helped him at all. Epona had led her to him and given her a choice, and then the goddess had left. Had this all been a test, and had Aine’s choice made her fail it?

  Aine was pulling her hand from Tegan’s neck when his eyes opened.

  They glowed a terrible golden color. With a movement so fast that it blurred, he grabbed Aine’s wrist. She tried to twist away from him, but his other hand shot out and a vise-like grip closed behind her neck.

  “Stop! Let me go!” Aine choked and struggled against him, but he was amazingly strong.


  His deep, musical voice made the word a seductive hiss as he pulled her down to him. His lips touched the place where her neck sloped into shoulder before his teeth claimed her, and she shivered, only this time not from cold. His touch was a delicious poison, seeping cloyingly into her body. Then his teeth broke open her skin and she moaned. There was no pain. Only dark pleasure coursed into her body as Tegan sucked the blood from her. His lips and tongue teased her skin as his hands gentled on her, caressing where they had been bruising.

  “No… oh Goddess no…” Aine whispered, even as her own arms wrapped tightly around his broad shoulder and she pressed herself more firmly against his hard body.

  As Aine’s vision began to gray, Tegan shifted, so that he was on top of her. Her last sight was of his massive wings rippling and then spreading erect over them as if he were a mighty bird of prey.


  Tegan came back to himself locked to Aine’s body, drinking her lifeblood.

  “No!” he cried, releasing her instantly and scrambling back. The pain in his leg jolted through him, but he gave it little notice. How much had he taken from her?

  In control again, he dragged himself to her, touching her face and neck, calling her name. “Aine! Aine you must awaken.”

  But he knew she wouldn’t. She couldn’t. He’d almost drained her. Already the healthy flush had faded from her cheeks. He could feel her heartbeat getting weaker by the moment.

  “You can’t die. I can’t bear it if I killed you.”

  Later he told himself he’d had no choice. That wasn’t the entire truth. Yes, what he did next he’d had to do to save her. But he’d only had to save her because he hadn’t sent her away or warned her about him. He’d foolishly thought he could control the urge to taste her. Instead, he had been wounded too deeply and the instinct to take that which would heal him had been too great. Tegan had known it, even if he hadn’t admitted it to himself. Or to her.

  Tegan searched around in the leaves until he found his short sword. Then he ripped his shirt and with one quick slash, opened the skin over his left breast. Gently, he lifted Aine’s unresisting body and pressed her slack lips to the bleeding cut.

  “Drink, Aine. Save yourself.”

  At first blood trickled from her mouth, but as some of it washed down her throat, Aine swallowed. The change within her was instantaneous. Her eyes remained closed, but her arms lifted, encircling his torso so that she could press her lips more firmly against him.

  Tegan groaned in pleasure as her arms brushed the sensitive underside of his pulsing wings, and her tongue flicked across his skin. He’d known that the exchange of blood was an intensely erotic experience, something shared only by a mated couple because of the side effects of such intimacy, but he had no mate, nor had he ever expected to. As Aine drank from him, Tegan thought how inaccurate the dispassionate descriptions the elders had given for bloodlust had been.

  Then Aine’s eyes opened. With a terrible cry she lurched away from him. She was scrubbing the sleeve of her dress back and forth across her mouth, her eyes wide with disgust and horror.

  “Aine, wait. Let me explain.” He spoke softly, as if she was a frightened fawn.

  “There’s nothing to explain.” She got shakily to her feet. He made no move to stop her as she grabbed the sword from where he’d dropped it, holding it defensively in front of her, and backing away from him. “I tried to help you. You tried to kill me. That’s obvious.”

  “I’m sorry. I thought I could control myself, but I was dying.”

  “So you tried to kill me to save yourself?”

  “It’s true that I needed your blood to save myself, but I would never have killed you.” He passed a hand over his face. “That’s why you had to drink from me. You saved me, little Healer, and in return I restored you.”

Restored me? You used me!” Aine whirled around and started to run up the side of the gully.

  “Don’t go, Aine—” Tegan tried to stand, but his leg gave way and he crumpled to the ground.

  At the same instant Aine cried out and fell to the ground, too.

  Deathly pale, she stared wide-eyed at him. “I feel your pain. What have you done to me?”


  “We’ve shared blood,” Tegan said.

  “I know that, and while it’s disgusting it doesn’t make this understandable.” Aine pointed to her ankle where the pain that had spiked through it was fading, but still entirely too real to have been a hysterical hallucination.

  Tegan looked away from her, sighed, and then reluctantly met her gaze. “The sharing of blood is part of how my people mate. It binds us together.”

  “That is not possible.”

  “Listen with your heart and you will know the truth.”

  “Listen with my heart? That’s ridiculous.” But even as she spoke Tegan’s eyes seemed to trap her. Aine felt pulled within their amber depths. Before she realized what she was doing, she’d taken a couple steps towards him. She came to herself suddenly and stopped so abruptly it was as if she’d slammed into a glass wall. “This can’t happen.”

  Tegan cocked his head to the side, and gave her a sad, slight smile. “Do you find me so repulsive?” He hurried on. “I thought you a goddess when I first saw you.”

  “You’re a demon. If there’s a bond between us it’s an evil spell you’ve placed on me.”

  Tegan sighed, shifting uncomfortably. “I’m too tired to place a spell on you. Evil or otherwise.”

  Her eyes narrowed. “So you admit you worship a dark god.”

  Aine thought she saw something flicker in his amber eyes.

  “I do not worship darkness.”

  “Why should I believe you? You did just try to kill me.”

  “I did not try to kill you. I’m sorry I drank from you uninvited, but my intention wasn’t to harm you—it was to save myself.”