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Chapter 31.2 - Runes

Ashlyn and Damien turned, meeting the elf's angry glare. It was startling the way Kallus had appeared from within the line of trees. He blended all too well amongst the forest, only his aquamarine eyes stood out, filled with bitterness.

"You followed us?" Damien winced.

"I followed you," Kallus pointed. "Come away from the girl or I shall make you."

"And what do you plan to do, Kallus? You've already won. I was just...saying goodbye."

Kallus stepped forward. "I tire of your lies, your disrespect. You cannot see it now, but I am trying to protect you."

"Protect me?" Damien scoffed. "Right. By sending her away."

Ashlyn swept her arm across his chest as if to shield him. Her body became frigid as she squared herself to Kallus.

"Why go to such extreme measures?" she asked. "I mean him no harm."

“Let us not pretend you are innocent in this, Ashlyn. I want you to go quietly, I want you to give up your hold on Damien. He will never belong to you.”

“I have done nothing to Damien,” she said, but Kallus only cackled at the thought.

“What a perfect world it would be if that were true! In time you will understand how much power you hold over mortals. For now, I ask you to let go of your selfish desires and leave him be."

"It's not selfish to care about someone."

"No, but you both are going down a dangerous path. I cannot permit it."

Damien paced forward, clenching his fist. "Stay away from us, Kallus. We want nothing to do with you."

"Open your eyes, boy. Can you not see what she is doing to you?"

"I said leave!" he spat, allowing his anger to sweep over him.

"Trust me, Damien, you will thank me for this one day."

“I will never thank you for this! You told me not to feel, not to care. Not to be anything."

"That is not true--"

"Shut up!" he growled. "I will never allow you to tell me how to feel again. I cannot be your perfect son, I cannot stand here and let you take the one thing I care about!" He came closer, taunting Kallus to make the first strike, but Kallus was ever calm and level-headed.

“Do not force my hand,” he warned, “for you will lose.”

Damien refused to temper his fury and came rushing at Kallus, gripping him by the throat.

Kallus was all-too ready for it. He clamped Damien’s wrist with both hands and closed his eyes, concentrating. The air shifted and spun around them, forming tiny glowing sparks.

“No!” Ashlyn screamed, her feet lurching her toward them. But she did not intervene in time. The rune was already taking shape on Damien’s skin, burning like hot metal.

Damien was unfamiliar with the effect, but when he felt the pain of an elvish rune being etched onto him for the first time, he crumbled and broke his own grip.

Kallus lifted the boy’s fingers from around his throat as Damien sank to the ground. The dark veins under his skin swelled, almost to the point of bursting. It was as Ashlyn feared: the rune did not seal itself as it would a regular human. It turned dark and corrupted by Damien’s unnatural gift, leaving his body weak and the color of his face drained. He collapsed forward, writhing on the ground.

Ashlyn went to him, doing what she could to ease the pain, but Kallus alotted her no time before seizing her by the wrist as well. “Please!” she whimpered as Kallus yanked her toward him. “This is not fair!"

“Fair?” Kallus scoffed, causing the glowing sparks to form around him once again. "With you, Ashlyn, nothing is fair."

Ashlyn’s eyes grew a bright white and her fingers sparked. With a cry, she pushed against Kallus, her hands searing into his chest. Kallus grunted through her efforts, but he did not waver. After drawing in a few sharp breaths, a rune finally formed on Ashlyn’s wrist, cutting her power off and quenching the light from her eyes.

She did not collapse as Damien had, but she felt the rune’s magic draining her, turning her mortal and...useless. Glancing down, she saw Damien laying near her feet, unmoving.

“Come,” Kallus spoke after a moment, pulling Ashlyn into step with him. Though Ashlyn resisted, she did not have the strength to fight him off entirely. Her feet dragged along the underbrush as they moved.


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