Cold tears of light. Dayell looked up to see each perfect, glittering teardrop falling from the sky, offering their chilly blessing to the midnight forest below.
“They’ll lap it up, the trees, the grass, and the hard, merciless earth,” he whispered. He tilted his head up to catch a glimpse of the one who wept. Not that there was any chance of that. Damian Ashelocke had traded what humanity he possessed for a place in the shadows, to be a sorcerer of shadows. “After all, there just shadows themselves. They’ll drink whatever life you have to offer them. Just like Christopher did.”
Dayell could feel the cold disapproval in the air, which nibbled at his skin. He looked down at his arms, his hands. A tiny bruise blossomed upon one of his wrists, spreading across his arm.
“I don’t know if you’ve bitten or kissed me,” he said, lowering his head. He wouldn’t admire Damian’s teary display, even if it was beautiful. “Perhaps you’re chastising me for being so judgmental of your Christopher, but I simply don’t see him the same way you do. He was never an innocent, he was an incubus. He lured people in and seduced them with a display of vulnerability.” He arched his neck slightly, so he could look not up at the sky, but at the branches of a tree. It reached out with shadowy, skeletal fingers, seeking lost dreamers as its prey. It couldn’t help itself. It hungered for something more. “If he was more than that, it was because you made him so, Damian Ashelocke.” There was power in naming the shadow sorcerer, even if he no longer had any use for that name.
It was remarkable and terrifying how quickly a name lost its power in the Shadow Forest.
“No,” he whispered, hugging himself. “I’m Dayell. Not Happily Ever After, not Christopher. Danyell put the pieces of me back together again. I’m whole.”
*Are you sure?* If Dayell listened, he could hear Damian’s low, sultry laugh, rustling through the leaves of the trees. *No one emerges from the Shadow Forest unscathed. Not even you, little Eye of Seraphix.*
“What did you call me?” Dayell demanded. Warmth blossomed in both of his cheeks, an unwelcome heat. He preferred the cold. In ice was power. In ice, he found his own strength, an armour he could raise between himself and anything the world might hurl at him. “I have a name, you know.”
*No, I don’t. You were clever enough to keep it from me, remember?* If Dayell looked closely at the trees, he’d see tiny, purple blossoms growing in the grooves of the trunks. The darkness covered them, overlooked them, but life was growing in the Shadow Forest. *However, you can hide what you are.*
“The Eye of Seraphix,” Dayell repeated. He hated the taste of the name “Seraphix” in his mouth. It crawled up his nose, invading his breath. It evoked images of an eye, winking suggestively, as it stared out of a wooden door. It dared him to open the door, once more. “You’re implying that this Seraphix needs me in order to see.” Dayell turned his head, so he was looking up at the delicate tears, falling from the sky. They were fewer in numbers. In spite of himself, he was happy to see that. “Without me, Seraphix must be blind. Or half blind.”
The leaves whistled and chuckled. Entire branches creaked and chortled at Dayell’s observation. *Perhaps you’re right,* Damian acknowledged. The foilage of a green bush bowed and swayed, almost respectfully to Dayell. *However, you’re still a part of Seraphix, even if you’re an essential part. Just a part.* Fronds trembled, only to grow still, as Damian’s amusement passed. *You’re incomplete without the rest of It.”
“All I need is Danyell,” Dayell said. He tried not to wince at his own words. This wasn’t quite true. All he had to do was to close his eyes to see Leiwell, pale and trembling, as the shadows drained all color from his bare skin. He wasn’t as willing to sacrifice his eldest brother as he’d thought he’d been, even if it was what Leiwell wished. He could feel a scowl creeping up over his face, twisting his lips, twisting his entire face into something ugly. Was this how Map felt, whenever she turned her back, trying not to see what foolish choices her boys were making? Helpless to do anything other than scowl?