kethni: (Matt/Mo)
[personal profile] kethni

Name: Blood Red – Part Three
Pairing: Matt/Mohinder
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Character Death, Violence, Cannibalism, Borderline Bestiality – kinda.
Note: boudecia7 asked for a Snow White and The Huntsman style story. I actually started this before either boudecia7 and I saw the movie so it’s more inspired by the tone than the specifics of the story.



Mohinder wakes at dawn, unable to sleep through the clamorous racket of the dwarves preparing for work.

‘Get up, Matt.’

Matt yawns widely, showing all his teeth, and licks Mohinder’s cheek.

‘That’s very sweet but you’re crushing me; also, I have a powerful need to make water.’

‘Poor Matt,’ Eden says archly. ‘There’s just no romance in your relationship.’

‘You’re extremely droll,’ Mohinder says, finally getting up to his feet as Matt lets him up.

‘It’s very cleverly done,’ she says.

‘What is?’

Eden smiles sweetly. ‘The spell to make him a wolf. It’s almost impossible to tell. Normally that kind of magic shatters an aura completely. His is almost intact, but it’s breaking apart slowly, which is… odd. Extremely odd, even.’

Mohinder looks at Matt, who is watching Eden warily, and then back at her.

‘It that was true, why would it be odd?’

‘Shape defines form. A human in the shape of a wolf will slowly lose his humanity.’ She raises an eyebrow. ‘A wolf in the shape of a human would gradually become more like a human. But destruction is easier than creation. For a wolf to become truly human…’ She smiles. ‘Aren’t you going to ask me?’

‘If it pleases you to tell,’ Mohinder says indifferently.

‘Two sacrifices must be made,’ she singsongs. ‘One of blood. The power of an enemy would be taken in the traditional way.’

‘By eating his heart?’ Mohinder asks distastefully.

‘Naturally.’

Mohinder reaches down to stroke Matt’s head. ‘And the other sacrifice?’

Eden smiles and shakes her head. ‘Oh, Mohinder, you already gave him that.’



Choices, choices. Sylar swings his leg idly as he regards his court. Last night one of the guards was caught having his way with one of the kitchen maids. Sylar had expected certain assaults among the court and staff, but not of that nature. How very quickly these creatures betray their natures and lower themselves to acting human. He’s tempted to let the maid bear children, just to see what spawn--babies, mice, beetles or something else entirely--result. Sylar taps his foot in the air. The heart of a new-born babe would give him years of life and power, but the village has no girls of marriageable age, not any more. Oh well, a couple of the maids will do for now. Beetles for fathers doesn’t seem quite correct. If only he hadn’t let the wolf run away.

Sylar stands up and saunters off to his private chambers. Behind him, bedlam breaks out as the court fight, screech, and claw to leave their seats and rush back to the violent passions and dark impulses that comprise their lives. Sylar smiles and wonders if that is human or animal behaviour.

‘Magic mirror on the wall, attend.’

Peter appears in the mirror, staring sullenly. ‘Yes?’

‘A little more civility in future.’

‘How may I serve oh master?’ Peter asks through gritted teeth.

‘Does my huntsman still live?’

‘I know not.’

Sylar narrows his eyes. ‘Why not?’

‘He is not within sight of a reflective surface.’

Sylar taps his foot. ‘When was he last?’

‘Yesterday.’

‘Was he alive then?’

‘Yes.’

‘Talking with you is akin to cutting the horn off a unicorn,’ Sylar says sourly. ‘Where was he last?’

Peter struggles visibly. ‘In… in Hallendor at the river Ceep as it flows through the Mizzen forest.’

‘Why are you attempting to hide his location from me?’ Sylar asks suspiciously.

‘Because… because… because the… the huntsman is… the huntsman is with Prince… Prince Mohinder.’

Sylar’s face darkens and outside the palace thunder crashes.

‘Do you mean that he’s with Prince Mohinder’s body or that the huntsman didn’t kill him?’

Peter fights desperately to prevent himself from answering. ‘H…h…’

‘Tell me!’

‘He wasn’t killed by the huntsman.’ The words spit from Peter’s mouth beyond his control. He covers his face as Sylar’s mouth twists.

‘Why not?’

‘They’re in love.’

‘In love?’ Sylar sniggers. ‘How revolting. Where is Mohinder?’

‘I don’t know,’ Peter says.

Sylar puts his hands on his hips. ‘He isn’t within sight either?’

‘No.’

‘Keep looking for them both, they must come within sight soon enough. But mind you make no interference in my schemes and plans, not by speech or silence, and not by action taken or action not taken.’ Sylar begins to stalk about the room, thinking hard. ‘I cannot cast a spell that will travel so far and I cannot carry magic with me into another kingdom. How am I to reach Mohinder?’

Peter grits his teeth but his words escape regardless. ‘Prepare potions and enchanted items here, then carry them with you.’

‘Good.’ Sylar rubs his hands together. ‘Is there anything else about Mohinder’s location that you haven’t told me?’

‘He was in dwarvish company. First in a hovel with seven dwarves and then later watching guard over a corpse, he and the huntsman prevented the desecration of the body.’

‘Dwarves,’ Sylar sneers, ‘dingy, warring creatures, scrabbling about in dirt and mud. Worse than all that, most are immune to magic and some of them can see its writing spelled large upon the object.’ Sylar suddenly stops in his wandering about the room. ‘Did Mohinder take the huntsman as a lover?’

‘Yes, in the forest.’

‘Tell me Mohinder took some other lover first!’

‘You bade me make no interference in your plans,’ Peter retorts.

‘Did he take some other lover first!’

No.

Sylar growls and bares his teeth. ‘Then I will end him before he ends me.’



Mohinder contemplates the pile of dishes then reaches down to scratch Matt’s neck.

‘I’m loathe to act the drudge less they attempt to make me so again,’ he says. ‘But the mess offends me and there are no utensils for our use. I suppose for our own benefit I must.’

Mohinder reaches for the well bucket but Matt seizes it by the handle and backs away.

‘This is no time for silly games.’

Matt throws the bucket aside and yips.

‘If you destroy that then we’ll have no way of fetching water!’ Mohinder’s face falls. ‘Water. I might be seen. One more way in which I am fortunate to have you by my side.’

Matt yips again.

‘Smugness is unbecoming,’ Mohinder says severely. ‘Now what am I to do? I can’t avoid water entirely. I know your kind disdain it but humans must bathe.’

Matt lies down and put his paws over his eyes.

‘The fact that you can’t see me makes no alteration to my ability to see you.’

Matt moves his paws and lets out a heavy sigh.

‘That sounded to nearly touch being human,’ Mohinder says wryly.

‘Drk! Drk!’ Matt barks.

Mohinder stares at him. ‘Are you… Can you…’ He sits down opposite Matt. ‘Perhaps my senses are deserting me.’

‘Drk wrr!’

‘I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.’ He pulls his knees up to his chest and rests his chin on his knees. ‘Drek? Drink?’

Matt trots over to the lamp. ‘Drk! Drk!’

‘That’s a lamp. That’s no use for anything, it’s not even dark.’

‘Drk! Drk!’

Dark! Mohinder finally realises. ‘I can use water as long as it’s dark.’

Matt throws himself into Mohinder’s arms and licks his face.

‘It’s a good job one of us is thinking clearly.’



The dwarves return at the end of the day tired and filthy.

‘Do you smell cooking?’ Adam asks.

‘If it isn’t simply for the prince and his wolf I would be surprised,’ Bob sniffs.

‘What reason have we given him for generosity of spirit?’ Adam replies.

Bennet shrugs. ‘He seems relatively good-natured for a human,’ he says cautiously.

‘It smells wonderful,’ Elle moans. ‘If there’s none for us I’ll eat him.’

‘I wish you fortune attempting that without the wolf eating you,’ Eden says serenely.

Ted opens the door of the hovel. ‘It’s lamb. Roasting.’

Trooping in the dwarves cast nervous glances at Matt who is lying by Mohinder’s slumbering form. Eden steps forward and addresses Matt directly.

‘We’re going to wash in the stream. We’d very much like to share what Mohinder has so expertly prepared. Do you think that’s alright?’

Matt nods his shaggy head, and turns to press his cold nose against Mohinder’s hand.

‘That dog nodded,’ Luke says. ‘Dogs don’t answer questions by nodding!’

‘How would you expect an animal to answer a question?’ Bob asks.

‘He’s a wolf,’ Bennet points out.

‘That makes a difference does it?’

‘It does to him,’ Eden says.



Mohinder is just stirring when Elle returns to the hovel.

‘Everyone is still washing,’ she says, crashing naked onto her bed and peeling up the covers to look for some clothes.

‘Do you have to do that?’ Mohinder says, quickly turning away. ‘Don’t look,’ he says to Matt, who lies down and covers his eyes with his paws.

‘I have to get dressed.’ Elle admires her hair in her forbidden mirror. As she swings it down to hide it away, Peter’s anguished reflection stares at the backs of Matt and Mohinder.

‘I suppose that’s one mercy.’

‘I don’t like getting washed,’ she announces. ‘I don’t see why I should have to. You can look around now.’ She waggles her feet. ‘Can we have some lamb then?’

‘Yes. It took ages to catch it. I’m definitely not a natural hunter.’

‘Your wolf is,’ she says. ‘Should’ve got him to do it.’

Mohinder puts out the plates. ‘I need to get used to killing. Come here and help me.’

‘No way!’

Matt makes a sound somewhere between growling and sniggering. Mohinder rolls his eyes.

‘Come here and help me with the food. I can’t do it alone and Matt has no hands.’

Elle rolls her eyes. ‘Last time I finish washing first,’ she grumbles.



Magic sizzles in the air as Sylar prepares his potions and enchantments. Mohinder has proved far more resourceful than he anticipated. Seducing the huntsman was a particularly cunning act and one that increases Sylar’s respect for his wayward stepson. It would be foolish for him to depend on only one form of trap when Mohinder has already proved able to slip the noose. So Sylar has in his art crafted three magical artefacts of differing natures: an enchanted necklace which will capture Mohinder alive, a chainmail shirt which will render him unconscious but risks death, and a shining apple that will surely kill him. These are the traps with which he means to catch Mohinder.

Peter’s face appears, reflected in a beaker.

‘I’ve found them.’

Sylar smiles.



‘Attacking the palace,’ Bob says, checking a strip of lamb, ‘will require an army.’

‘My army is myself and Matt. That will have to be enough.’

Bennet regards a roasted pear thoughtfully. ‘Queen Angela has an army.’

Mohinder shrugs and hands a rib down to Matt. ‘She has no reason to aid me.’

‘Sylar killed her son,’ Bennet says. ‘She’ll have her revenge on him.’

‘I’m not sure she will,’ Eden says, ‘as her veins are full of ice.’

‘Even people you don’t approve of might love their children.’

Mohinder interrupts the incipient argument. ‘Whether she wishes revenge or no, I am touched with the guilt of Peter’s death,’ he says. ‘Any revenge she may wish might well encompass my demise.’

‘Extremely unlikely,’ Bob decrees, ‘Angela is a cold woman with her passions harnessed in the traces. However much she grieves she will not antagonise the heir to another kingdom.’

‘I didn’t say I was the heir.’

‘You’re wearing clothes that could buy the mountain twice over,’ Elle says.

‘Naturally Prince Peter would not have risked his life for a commoner,’ Bennet says dryly. ‘I imagine he was seeking a marital alliance.’

Mohinder nods. ‘Yes,’ he says quietly.

‘What did your wolf have to say to that?’ Elle giggles.

‘I didn’t have the opportunity to ask him.’

Bob scratches his luxuriant beard with a finger. ‘We’ll follow you wherever you go but I believe that Bennet is correct; approaching Angela could get us the forces that we need.’

Eden shakes her head. ‘What if she captures him? He’s the legitimate heir. It isn’t safe for any other power to have him in its grasp.’

‘What do you suggest?’ Bennet asks.

‘I’ll go to Angela,’ she says. ‘If she agrees then well and good, but if not then nothing is lost.’

‘We will have lost you!’ Mohinder protests.

‘You’re sweet,’ Eden smiles, ‘yet I mean nothing to her. No ransom or reward would attend my capture and Queen Angela does not kill without purpose. The danger will be nothing to the danger you would face.’

‘You shouldn’t travel alone to see her,’ Bennet says. ‘Ted and Luke will accompany you.’

‘Do you think to be the patriarch now?’ Bob asks sharply.

‘If we are fighting Mohinder’s battle then surely we answer to his call,’ Eden says sweetly.

The dwarves look at Mohinder, who takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.

‘Eden’s scheme has much merit, yet,’ he says. ‘Any souls travelling with me must do so by their own volition.’

‘You’ll command no army by calling for volunteers,’ Bob scolds.

‘I have no desire for armies or wars,’ Mohinder says, shaking his head. ‘I do what I must but I take no pleasure in it, nor in death and destruction for, to, or about any purpose. Any man fights does so for his own reason and not mine. For self, friends, lovers, villages, revenge or glory, these are the reasons for fighting. Thus everyone fights for their own reason or does not fight.’ Mohinder shrugs. ‘I speak honestly. If they are forced to fight then the battle is lost.’

‘I’ll go with Eden,’ Luke decides. ‘The wolf worries me.’

‘I should think so,’ she says, ‘as he is like to eat you up if you look at Mohinder in a manner he dislikes. Lend an ear! I think I hear his stomach rumbling.’

Luke backs away with his eyes wide.

Mohinder rolls his eyes and flicks Eden’s nose with his finger before turning to Luke. ‘Have no fear; I’m sure he wouldn’t eat you. I think the clothing would catch in his teeth,’ he says. ‘He would probably just kill you.’

Bob sighs. ‘If you have quite finished tormenting Luke for the purpose of humour I believe that we should proceed in our councils.’

‘We need supplies,’ Bennet says. ‘Tomorrow some of us shall go hunting, others fishing, and other to market. Mohinder, I think your safety would be best assured by remaining here. There is no want for reflective surfaces in the world outside, and even the most dim-witted dwarf will know you for what you are.’

Mohinder plays with his knife, slicking strips of meat from the lamb. ‘Perhaps I can… pickle or salt some food. Matt has had no trouble finding game nearby.’

‘Good, and tomorrow we make ready for war.’



Leaving at this moment has a delicious irony, Sylar decides as he looks at the castle. From the outside it would seem impregnable, but the guards will only fight if ordered to and with the king unconscious, the prince missing, and the regent temporarily absconding, there will be no-one to do so. A dozen men could conquer the kingdom, but of course they won’t. Is isn’t honourable to attack without reason and no kingdom has such a reason.

Sylar climbs up on his horse and checks once more that his potions and enchanted items are safely stowed. By his calculation the journey should take a little over a night’s ride. He has a second horse in tow in case he is able to bring Mohinder back with him, as is his preference. He has skill enough in magic to replace Mohinder’s heart with another motivating force, allowing him to consume the prince’s power while being able to make what use he will of the still living body.

If not, then he’ll rip out Mohinder’s heart and eat it. Sylar’s nothing if not flexible.



‘Hey Prince!’ Elle whispers.

Mohinder opens his eyes in the darkness and sighs. ‘What is it?’

‘Come outside!’

Mohinder finds Matt’s head and pats it gently. ‘The night is barely worn, Elle, and we should all be abed.’

‘There’s no room in my bed for you,’ she giggles. ‘Come outside.’

Mohinder groans and covers his eyes. ‘We are trying to sleep.’

‘Come outside.’

‘No.’

‘Please!’

‘Why?’

Elle giggles in the darkness. ‘You are fairly handsome, Prince Mohinder. Am I not pleasing to you?’

Matt growls loudly and the sound makes Mohinder shiver; it is a sound to raise ancestral memories of hiding in terror from the stalking animal in the dark.

‘My heart is owned already.’

‘I don’t want your heart,’ she says, but her voice is wavering. ‘Does he have to make that sound?’

‘I’m sure he does exactly what he wishes when he wishes.’ Mohinder clears his throat. ‘There must be dwarf men. What of Luke?’

‘I can hardly boast of bedding Luke. I want to bed a human! No other dwarf female has,’ she says confidently.

‘Neither have you,’ Mohinder says, trying to soothe Matt. ‘Go outside alone or go to sleep, but please leave me alone.’

‘He’s just a wolf,’ she says huffily. ‘He’s not a person and he never will be.’ She thumps the door closed as she leaves.

‘You’re wrong,’ Mohinder says quietly.



There’s a kind of chaos as the dwarves organise themselves in the morning. They boil across the floor, squirming, shoving, and even jumping over each other. Mohinder hesitates to rise and risk loss of limb or life in stepping into the mass of them, but Matt jumps down easily into the fray. He takes the bucket in his jaw and trots out with it to the river.

Bennet climbs shoves his way to stand in front of Mohinder. ‘We are away to hunt, to market, and to fish, while you should remain in the cottage.’

‘I believe we stated this plan already and agreed upon it.’ Mohinder stands up and stretches. ‘Do you go now?’

‘Immediately. Any fowl or game or meat that you can prepare will be helpful.’

Matt pads back into the cottage carrying the bucket filled with water. He puts it down by the fireplace and yips.

‘I believe that marks your order to heat the water and bathe.’

‘I grew up with no other guardian and honestly cannot claim to have suffered from the lack. I need to turn out the lights or risk being sighted in some reflection.’

‘You don’t have parents?’ Elle demands. ‘That would account for your lack of manners.’

‘That is not appropriate when talking to a prince,’ Bishop scolds.

‘He’s not prince of here.’

Eden rolls her eyes. ‘A prince is a prince, Elle, and you’ll never lure one into bed like that.’ She smiles at the other dwarf. ‘Did you think nobody would hear you last night?’

Matt yips again.

‘I believe that marks the end of the conversation,’ Bishop says.



Mohinder opens the door to let Matt run out in search of game or poultry. He takes the water off the fire and turns off the lights while he washes. Once they begin the march to find allies all these precautions will flutter away. They can only hope that they will reach the castle before Sylar’s magic finds them.

Mohinder relights the candles before dressing. His stomach is vicious with anxiety, roiling, and boiling within him. He’s no soldier. Having spent so long with only Matt’s company he finds it difficult enough to deal with all of the dwarves. Having to cope with perhaps hundreds of men, to lead them, and to be responsible for their lives and deaths is perhaps more than he can conceive. Yet he is too stubborn to keep running. Too tenacious and too much in love not to do what he must for Matt.

Mohinder pauses as he neatens his hair and clothing. He knows that he’s young and has been little in the world. Sense tells him that hitching himself to Matt is rash and foolhardy when they have spent so little time together. Sense be damned. Sense doesn’t know what it is talking about.



Someone taps on the door.

Mohinder spins around and grabs the hatchet from the knife box nearby. He treads quietly over to the doorway and listens carefully.

‘Hello?’ quavers a voice and then they knock again. ‘Is there any soul at home?’

Mohinder opens the door a tiny crack and peers through. Outside is a tiny, wizened dwarf woman. She peers up at him through rheumy eyes and opens her mouth in a gap-toothed, gummy smile.

‘Good morning Old Mother,’ Mohinder says cautiously. ‘What is your business here?’

‘I sell trinkets kind Sir, will you not buy some of my wares? I have axe grease, and a trimmer for your beard, or soles for your boots.’

Mohinder puts the hatchet aside. ‘I’m afraid that I have no beard, nor axe, and I fear that the soles of my boots would be too large.’

She peers at him again as if looking up at him from a long distance. ‘A dwarf with no beard?’ She screws up her eyes. ‘What manner of creature are you?’

‘I had best let you on your way, Old Mother; for sure some other place with other people will want your wares.’

She points a hand at him and he notices that the fingers are notched and knotted as an old oak grown twisted and diseased. ‘Human! I have something for you, yes, yes. I have just the thing.’ She begins unpacking her small hand cart, throwing gewgaws, knickknacks, and oddments aside with abandon.

‘That isn’t necessary.’

‘Just the thing, I have entirely the thing for you, where does it hide? Where does the thing hide? Had it a long time, long time, few humans. Never see humans.’

Mohinder licks his lips and peers past her to see if anyone is near, anyone who might see him or hear her babbling. ‘There are no humans in the country.’

‘Here we are, here it is, knew it was here somewhere. A chain shirt for protection from wounding of all kinds.’ She grins as she holds up the rusting chain mail shirt with missing links and broken chains dangling from the hem.

Mohinder smiles weakly. ‘I have little funds…’

‘Try it on, try it on, and see how well it suits. Try, try, come along!’

‘I haven’t any money,’ Mohinder tries again as she chivvies him into pulling the chain shirt over his head.

‘Whatever you have. Little food? Little smile from his sweet face?’

Mohinder smiles weakly and straightens the dangling shirt. ‘Well, thank you. Do you mind if I take it off?’ He tries to take it off but body of the shirt sticks stubbornly. Mohinder yanks at the shirt, getting easy purchase but finding it impossible to pull up. The chain mail tightens around him making it hard to breathe and numbing his fingers.

‘Please…’ he gasps, falling to his knees as he scrabbles at the chain mail. ‘I can’t… I can’t…’

The crone smiles and from her cart takes out a knife. ‘Here dearie? Or shall we take you back home and cut it out there?’

Mohinder tries to gulp air as blackness crowds his vision.



In each creature called prey by some other there remains a memory of the predator passed down in the very bones and blood. To the dwarves nearest the hovel, the frenzy of howling speaks to ancient memory and sets them gripping their axes as they bolt back towards their home in a desperate and thoughtless panic.

Bursting through the grove of trees surrounding the hovel they find such a twisted, half-human creature limping away bloody and abused by wolfish jaws and claws that they are stopped for a moment by the sight. Then they, gathering their courage, slip past the dreadful apparition towards the hovel from where sounds of desperate violence issue.

Inside Mohinder is laying unmoving save for the jolts and judders that shake his body as Matt tears and claws at the chain mail.

‘He’s going to kill him!’ Elle wails.

‘It’s the mail.’ Bennet leaps forward and saws at the edge of the mail, tugging and pulling at the chain links, unravelling them from about Mohinder’s torso. ‘Help me! The mail is enchanted to force the air from his lungs.’

The mail squirms and fights behind their fingers but piece by piece, and link by link, they tear the chain apart. Matt puts back his head and howls as the last of the metal skitters across the floor and yet Mohinder remains breathless.

‘Give him your breath!’ Elle demands.

Matt howls again as Bennet leans over Mohinder and presses their mouths together.

Thunder rumbles in the heavens and then, with a great shake that shudders through his whole body, Mohinder breathes again.



‘This is good news,’ Bennet says, pouring hot wine into goblets.

Mohinder, huddled on the floor with Matt, looks up at him. ‘My nearly dying is good news to you?’

‘That Sylar’s power is so weak here that he can only slip in disguised and use trickery to attack you is indeed good news,’ the dwarf says languidly. ‘We had feared he could simply strike you down where you stood.’ He hands the goblet to Mohinder.

‘Now you don’t need to hide from mirrors!’ Elle says.

‘I’ve no desire to be suffocated by another piece of clothing,’ Mohinder says, taking a sip of the wine.

‘Now that we know that he evidently can only attack in person we need not be so anxious,’ Bennet chides. ‘Provided simple measures are put in place we can protect you.’

Matt whines piteously and pushes his face into Mohinder’s neck.

‘There was no reason to suspect Sylar would attack disguised in such a form,’ Eden says mildly. ‘He must have killed some traveller on his journey and adopted her form.’ She kneels down and puts a tentative hand on Matt’s haunch. ‘There’s no blame attached and none should be taken.’

‘Nobody blames him!’ Mohinder snaps.

‘He blames himself; look at him.’

Mohinder kisses the top of Matt’s head; unseen, Matt’s paw twitches. ‘I’m well now. This was a brief distraction only. It’s time we pressed on.’



Sylar drags himself into the thicker bushes and sprawls onto the ground. His leg is too badly injured for him to take to horse, and besides the damned animal took flight at the merest sight of the wolf. Cursed creature! So much for it having remnants of humanity; it went after Sylar as though it meant to rip out his throat and heart both. It took all his strength to cast it aside and struggle away.

What has the milky sop ever done to deserve such loyalty? From childhood he was a burden and nothing more. Sylar was the one who took the wolf, barely past a cub himself, and made him human. He gave the ungrateful creature intelligence and purpose, yet his repayment to Sylar, who should be his god as well as his regent, is treachery, plotting, and violence.

A snake eases through the brush, perhaps drawn by the scent of blood and wounded flesh. Sylar crushes it with a rock and smiles. That is the way to deal with the venomous. If he met some being like himself in other form he wouldn’t hesitate to strike. He was too kind to Mohinder, or else too greedy to make use of the boy, but now he knows better. Mohinder, the huntsman, and any else who block the way will be slaughtered outright. Sylar hisses in pain and tries to concentrate on his plans, on anything but the pain and the blood pooling from his body. The poison settling in his bones. He’ll heal and when he does he’ll make Mohinder and the huntsman pay.



They set forth in the early afternoon. Mohinder finds himself almost tripping over Matt, so close does the wolf stick to him. When they reaching the crossroads where Eden and the others are leaving to cross over into Angela’s country Mohinder feels a rush of fear for the dwarves.

‘There’s no dishonour in reconsidering a path before you are committed to it,’ he says to Eden.

‘We are committed,’ she says. ‘We should be at Queen Angela’s palace within two days. We’ll send word by rider one way or another.’

‘How can you travel so quickly?’

‘You’re lazy and slow,’ Luke says, wrinkling up his nose.

Eden cuffs the back of his head. ‘Luke means that we sleep less that you and travel faster on foot. Don’t worry, we’ll reach Angela quickly. Wait for word from us.’

‘We will,’ Bishop says flatly. ‘Now don’t tarry.’



At nightfall, under a blood-stained moon, Mohinder swims in the river dividing the forest . There’s a quietness with all the dwarves engaged in the heavy, concerted drinking for which they are well known: a quietness that Mohinder has missed since leaving the tower. The presence of so many people, the sound of so many voices, jars and jangles his nerves badly. All the same, he wishes Matt were in human shape: that he could hold and be held, comfort and be comforted. Nature stirs uneasily as any thought of lover’s intimacy while Matt is wolfish, no matter how innocent.

Matt is seated on the riverbank, keeping a steady watch. Nothing Mohinder does will entice him into the river although he loves splashing through puddles and small ponds they have passed. He blames himself for Sylar’s attack, though Mohinder has told him more than once that only his presence and attack on Sylar saved him.

‘Come for a swim!’

‘’Tect!’

Mohinder treads water and inclines his ear. ‘Tect?’

‘’Tect! Dnger!’

Mohinder swims to the riverbank and climbs out. ‘Is it very awful being a mix of wolf and man?’

Matt lets out a heavy breath and makes a move like a shrug.

‘Sylar’s a monster,’ Mohinder says quietly, ‘and I’m going to make him pay.’



Eden watches a lone magpie screaming overhead. Some would think a sole magpie a bad omen, but Eden has small faith in the easy lies of superstition. She is more concerned it might be some messenger of Sylar’s. If the man has power and a regard for his own life he would be wise to avoid another direct confrontation. Mohinder has already shown that he is no motherless chick vulnerable to any and all attacks.

Yet Sylar is human and, being human, difficult to anticipate in the fancies and passions that shape and drive him. Transforming the nature of living things is a baffling desire, but one which many human sorcerers indulge in with abandon. A simple murder would be surer if death is the motive. If revenge then there are more reliable torments safer to the sorcerer. As for making animals human, that is entirely inexplicable. Are humans so egotistical they wish to fill the world with their own kind and failing that with twisted approximations of their kind, still tormented by animal instincts and natures?

Madness.

‘I hear horses,’ Luke hisses.

‘I hate horses,’ Ted grumbles.

‘They wouldn’t stand on you if you wouldn’t sneak up on them,’ Eden says mildly. ‘They’re delicately natured animals and subject to extremes of temperament.’ She carefully edges around a bush and looks out into the road. ‘It looks as though an army is to be our welcome to this kingdom.’

Along the road march Nathan’s command clad in heavy armour and carrying full arms, while at the rear of the column are the siege weapons being pulled along at a slow and steady clip by teams of oxen.

‘What do we do now?’ Luke demands.

‘Talk to the prince.’

‘How do we know which one he is?’

Eden raises her eyebrows. ‘I suspect him to be the man in the ostentatious and clearly unused armour.’ She walks out into the road, ignoring the soldiers who skitter away in surprise at her sudden appearance.

She catches Nathan’s eye as his horse approaches. ‘Good morning.’

‘Good morning, you seem to have strayed over the border,’ he says, drawing his horse to a halt.

‘We come seeking Queen Angela.’

‘To what purpose?’

‘To whom am I speaking?’

Nathan smiles and half bows. ‘Prince Nathan, heir and oldest son of Queen Angela.’

Eden sets her shoulders. ‘We come to speak to Queen Angela about your brother, Prince Peter, and about the crown prince of Bharat.’

‘The regent of Bharat murdered my brother.’

‘He means to murder our ally, Prince Mohinder the crown prince of Bharat.’ Eden raises her eyebrows and makes a show of looking over the assembled force. ‘I see you mean to head toward the palace of Bharat. Is it your intention to invade?’

‘Is this how dwarves conduct diplomacy?’ Nathan laughs.

‘In some circumstances subtlety and delicacy are our watchwords, but a wise person knows when to apply a sharper scalpel.’

Nathan reaches down his hand to her. ‘We should discuss this further, will you ride with me?’



The magpie flies through the forest with silent intent. Wings brush bark and leaves, scattering insects and small animals, as it drifts onwards. Only humans can be misled by magic, and every creature in the trees sees the magpie for what it is: a bird possessed by Sylar’s evil intent sent out to spy. As Sylar’s horse stumbles through the forest under his unsteady guidance he curses the huntsman and Mohinder both, infuriated all the more by the inefficacy of his jinxes. Mohinder would be a fool to remain in the dwarf’s hovel and if he returns to the palace there’s a terrible risk that he’ll walk right in unopposed.

Though ridden by Sylar’s spell, the glint of some glimmering object, perhaps an axe, perhaps the buckle of a belt, calls to the thieving magpie which swiftly descends in search of something shiny. Descends and with a suddenness finds itself in sight of a party of dwarves.

Sylar sits up, hands clutching at the reins, and concentrates on seeing through the magpie’s eyes.

Dwarves, marching. Human, watching. Wolf… wolf… wolf… biting.

Sylar jolts as he is thrown back to himself and almost off his horse.

They’re marching towards the palace. Sylar’s mouth twists into a sardonic smile. Of course they’re marching to the palace, what else would the hellspawned, putrescent fates do to him but send the mewling boy back to the palace? To hell with the fates, they imprison the soft-minded fools who worship them. Sylar spat in their faces when he tricked, bribed, and killed his way up from villager to regent. No one defines his life but he himself.

So the prince means to attack the palace with a handful of dwarven miners, does he? Pathetic. No matter, Sylar still has two traps remaining and they will slow if they cannot stop, and it will be enough to postpone Mohinder’s arrival at the palace. On his own territory and with his objects of power he knows that he can defeat Mohinder’s band and many more besides. All he has to do is slow them down long enough for him to gain the palace.

He slows his horse and regards his remaining traps: the enchanted necklace which will capture Mohinder alive, and a shining apple that will surely kill him. Then he smiles.



Though almost within sight of the village, Mohinder and the others make their camp the best to wait for news from Eden and the others.

‘How long are we going to wait?’ Elle asks as Mohinder and Adam build a fire.

‘Until we hear from Eden.’

‘It’s unlikely to take a great deal of time,’ Bishop says. ‘Queen Angela is not known for equivocation.’

‘I hope so.’ Mohinder pushes the hair out of his face. ‘I dread the thought of anyone being harmed for my sake.’

‘Dear Boy, what manner of prince are you to care what happens to the minions?’ Adam laughs. ‘A thousand souls may die that a king may live! Is that not the way of it?’

‘Not for me.’ Mohinder lights the fire with a flint. ‘If I had been raised in the palace, perhaps, but I wasn’t.’ He catches Matt’s eye. ‘Being raised in the tower was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.’



The wolf can smell him on the breeze, Sylar is sure of it. He paces the perimeter of the camp like a creature possessed, trying to warn the fools of the encroaching danger, but they’re too stupid to see it.

When a mind is torn between human and wolf and trapped in human form the peasants call it “werewolf”, as if the viciousness and cruelty came from the animal and not the man. Wolves cannot conceive of the cruel impulses that plague mankind but they are also blind to the fettering of human ethics and morality. The werewolf has all the darkness of the human soul and none of the shackles of civilisation. A disappointment that the huntsman will never be this tormented and feared, for he had been human too long; had acknowledged the sanctimonious prince as his pack and his alpha too deeply to lash out wildly. Instead he accepts the chains of morality simply because Mohinder does. Worst of all, he is beginning to form words. Mohinder’s unconscious magic, the intense alchemy of love and lust, is forcing even those human traits that Sylar supressed to appear. It’s infuriating and alarming to think of Mohinder inadvertently reversing Sylar’s magic by the power of his pathetic, pubescent fantasies. How dare Mohinder challenge Sylar’s hard won magic? The gall of it burns in Sylar’s belly, but he knows that his vengeance will be soon and honey-sweet.



Elle sneaks unseen from the camp deeper into the wood and finds herself a little open place in which she can sit and primp into her little mirror. As she fusses with her hair and pouts she hears a rustle of leaves.

‘Who’s there?’ she demands, putting her hand to her axe.

A dark human, tall even for the race, and oh, so, handsome, emerges through the trees.

‘Good morning, fairest maid,’ he says, managing to bow low.

Elle giggles and drops her mirror to play with her hair. ‘Your leg is injured.’

‘I was attacked by a wild animal. Would you like to rub some ointment onto it for me?’

‘Rub your leg?’ she asks, batting her eyes. ‘I don’t even know your name.’

‘I beg your pardon. Do you need a formal introduction to aid a poor man in desperate need of a ministering angel?’

Elle stands up from the tree stump on which she is sat. ‘I’ve never known a human. You are human, aren’t you?’

‘Quite, I assure you.’

‘I’ve always wanted to bed a human. No other dwarf female of my circle has had one.’

‘Is that so?’

‘Especially such a tall and handsome human,’ she says, gazing up at him.

‘Help me sit, tend my leg, and I’ll see that you receive your reward,’ he promises.

Elle’s brow wrinkles. ‘I don’t “tend” wounds or anything else.’

A muscle jumps in his cheek. ‘Do this for me and I’ll give you this beautiful necklace.’

Elle eyes the necklace covetously.



Mohinder opens his eyes and looks up into Matt’s face and panting mouth.

‘One of these days you will surely crush my bones to dust.’ Mohinder props his head upon his arm. ‘I would kiss you, my once and future lover, but your nose is wet.’

Matt yips lightly and licks Mohinder’s cheek.

‘Thank you,’ Mohinder says gravely. ‘Now graciously move your weight that I may escape and flee to a place of privacy and so make water!’

Bennet clears his throat and moves into Mohinder eye line. ‘We have had a messenger from Eden; she is close by with Queen Angela’s army. She believes they will reach us shortly.’

‘So soon?’ Mohinder wriggles free from under Matt.

‘The crown prince insisted on bringing the army into Bharat to avenge Peter’s death. They were already a good way into the country before she met with them.’

‘Poor Peter,’ Mohinder says, standing. ‘I wonder if there is some way of freeing him from the mirror.’

‘Sylar’s magic keeps his soul in the mirror,’ Bennet says with a shrug. ‘When he dies Peter’s soul will ascend, provided that his powers are not passed on.’

‘What… what if they are passed on to another person? That can be done; Eden said it could.’

‘It can be done, though by no nice and delicate means. If the powers pass on then so does the slavery of Peter’s soul.’

‘But surely Sylar, or the person to whom the powers pass, could choose to free Peter?’

‘It’s not possible,’ Bennet says flatly.

‘What if the mirror was broken?’ Mohinder suggests.

Bennet shakes his head. ‘Then he’d be lost, neither in this realm nor the next.’

Matt puts back his head and howls.

‘I must make water,’ Mohinder mutters. ‘Excuse me, please.’



Elle giggles and strokes her fingers over the large ruby at the centre of the golden necklace as the man fastens the clasp at the back of her neck. ‘Why thank you, mysterious stranger. My father wouldn’t approve of such of extravagance. He doesn’t believe that dwarves should be interested in beauty.’

‘He needn’t know,’ the stranger says. He walks in front of Elle and smiles down at her. ‘Now for your reward.’

‘Isn’t this pretty thing my reward?’

‘Not yet.’

So quickly that the human eye could scarcely follow the movement, the necklace moves and expands. Gold tendrils emerge like spider’s legs, wrapping around Elle’s face, as the ruby pushes itself into Elle’s mouth, gagging her completely. More tendrils appear, moving down her body to fasten her arms against her sides, and then further still to pin her legs together. In a few moments she is captured in glistening golden threads, unable to move or speak.

The stranger takes her axe from her helpless fingers ignoring her muffled and desperate pleas.

‘Thank you, so much,’ he says.



Mohinder wades out of the water and shakes himself off, doglike.

‘It won’t be long now,’ he says, patting Matt. ‘Once Eden arrives with the army we’ll march on the palace. I had little training in the proper behaviour of a crown prince but surely marching on your own palace with a foreign army is the worst possible beginning?’

Matt licks Mohinder’s hand and then picks up the pile of clothes in his mouth and drops then at Mohinder’s feet.

‘Shut up and get dressed, is it?’ Mohinder smiles slightly. ‘If you were a gentleman then you wouldn’t be looking at my naked body.’

Matt merely cocks his head.



When Mohinder and Matt return to camp, Eden is just arriving with Nathan and his army. Mohinder and Matt both struggle in the sudden crowd of people: so many people, so many voices, and so many scents assail them that Mohinder has to lean against a tree while Matt covers his eyes with his paws.

‘Isn’t this exciting?’

Mohinder turns around. ‘Oh, hello Elle, you do sneak up on a person. Are you well?’

‘I’m excited to see so many handsome men,’ she says sweetly. ‘Here, Mohinder, I made you breakfast.’

‘When do you ever do domestic chores by free choice?’

Elle’s smile becomes a little more fixed. ‘I mean to become a new person. It’s only a little bread, cheese, and apple.’

Matt’s nose twitches as he catches a familiar and unwanted scent among the welter of new spoors. He climbs to his feet, sniffing at the air.

Mohinder picks up a piece of apple.

‘’Tect! ‘Tect!’

‘You damn cur!’ Elle growls, lunging for him.

Matt lets out a furious volley of growls and leaps for the plate.

The three of them, Matt, Mohinder, and Elle collapse into a heap struggling on the floor. After a moment Elle kicks and claws her way free and limps away as quickly as she can.

‘By the Gods! What possessed you to…’ Mohinder pushes fruitlessly at Matt’s still form. ‘Matt? Matt!’



Tears prick Eden’s eyes as she watches Mohinder rage and rant, swinging his short sword at anyone daring to come close.

‘Mohinder, please.’

‘Leave us alone!’

Eden spreads out her hands. ‘The food was cursed; I can see the mark of magic on the pieces of apple. In the struggle he must have swallowed some. Who gave it to you?’

‘Who gave it me? What does it matter now? You shall not take his body. I will find magic power and bring him back. No matter the cost. No matter the means. I will do it and none shall stop me,’ Mohinder snarls.

‘That’s dark magic,’ Nathan says. ‘Would you risk your soul for a wolf?’

‘I don’t know you.’

‘Nathan, crown prince of Latina. My brother is dead and gone, though his soul is trapped preventing him from his rest.’ Nathan steps a little closer. ‘I wouldn’t bring him back with black magic.’

‘Then you bore no love for him. Matt was my love and lover when in human shape. He’ll live again and be human again, no matter what I must do.’

‘Mohinder,’ Eden says, ‘if we can find the person responsible then perhaps we can reverse the spell. Who gave the food to you?’

‘Elle did. Does that help? Do you think her likely to be some monstrous poisoner or murderer?’ he mocks.

‘Elle?’ Bishop says weakly. ‘She wouldn’t.’

‘We need to find her and quickly,’ Bennet says.

‘Search for the girl,’ Nathan orders. ‘I’ll take… Matt, here, to those caves, where it will be cool and quiet. The cold air will slow things down for a while.’

Mohinder sheathes his sword. ‘I can do it.’

‘Not by yourself. I couldn’t do my brother the honour of death rituals. I’d be grateful if I can join you in Matt’s.’

‘We’re not burying him.’

‘As you like.’



Bishop and Luke crash through the forest calling Elle’s name while Bennet thoughtfully follows them. Elle’s boot prints are too light and indistinct to follow and she left little trace as she passed through the trees and bushes.

Eden follows the scent of magic with Ted treading at her heels.

‘Something there,’ Ted says.

Eden looks up, away from his pointing hand and sees the congregating birds: magpies and ravens in noisy profusion.

‘I fear for Elle,’ she says quietly, and they press on.



The princes lay Matt’s body on the cold stone floor.

‘I loved my brother,’ Nathan says.

Mohinder stares at him with rage-reddened eyes until Nathan is forced to look away.

‘I have no brother, mother, or father save the sack of flesh which Sylar keeps breathing. I have Matt. He is lover, father, brother, kin, and kith, and world, and I will fill all the kingdoms with blood if I must to bring him back.’

‘Is that what he’d want?’

‘You have no conception of what he would want! You have no conception of him or me. You parade around in your toy armour, invade my country, and you dare to compare your pain to mine? I see you, Prince Nathan, and I see your worth.’

‘I see you also,’ Nathan says mildly. ‘Grief grips you too tightly for thought or sense. I’m sorry for his death. I didn’t know him and I don’t know you, but I recognise devotion. Make your peace with him. Tell him everything you didn’t say while he lived. If you don’t, you will never forgive yourself for the lack of it. I’ll wait outside.’

Mohinder watches Nathan leave and then sits on the floor by Matt’s body. He buries his face in Matt’s fur and breathes deeply.



The chatter of the ravens and the magpies is deafening now. Eden pushes through the trees and sees a mass of golden threads for which the magpies and ravens are in a rapacious frenzy.

Eden and Ted frighten them up into the air and trees where they wait with sullen complaining caws.

‘It’s Elle.’ Eden kneels down by the other dwarf and brushes the hair from her forehead.

‘Dead?’

‘Oh yes,’ she says quietly. ‘He cut her heart.’

‘Mohinder?’

Eden struggles to close Elle’s eyes and then, when she has, stands up. ‘No, Sylar.’ She turns back to Ted. ‘He took her heart so he could sneak into the camp.’ She grips her axe tightly. ‘He could be there now. Stay here with her! I’ll warn the others!’

‘But…’

Eden sprints away through the trees, cursing every branch that strikes her face, and praying that she won’t be too late.


Nathan sits on the ground, takes a sip from his flask, and then silently salutes with it. Mohinder’s grief is extravagant, a burning fire that will consume him if he isn’t careful. Nathan’s grief is a slow, cold knife that cuts and numbs in equal measure. He doesn’t blame the boy; he’s in love, he’s young, and he’s raging at the world. Nathan has no natural mistrust of power and no compunction against seeking in many places, yet even he draws the line at the dark magic Mohinder would have to draw on to resurrect Matt. Oh, there are ridiculous rumours of lovers breaking spells and reversing curses, but those are stories one tells to children. As if the laws of nature would nod and wink for true love, whatever that is. Dark magic is Mohinder’s only way, to Nathan’s mind, and that way is not one that he would wish to see anyone take. Even his mother, no stranger to seeking power in ill-fated places, has avoided it. She knows, as well at Nathan does, that dark magic is like ink on paper: staining irrevocably and, unless checked, tainting everything.

Nathan takes another sip from his flask. The camp is a little way off but he can see some commotion with the dwarves running around and people shouting. He should perhaps go and see what the news is, but doesn’t want to leave Mohinder alone, particularly not in his state of mind.

‘Hello.’

Nathan looks over his shoulder and someone hits him very hard.



‘Where’s Mohinder?’ Eden demands, running into camp. ‘Where’s Prince Mohinder? He’s in danger.’

‘He’s probably talking to that Elle dwarf,’ says a solider. ‘You lot running around after her and she just wandered back on her own account.’

‘Where is she? It’s Sylar in disguise. He’s going to kill Mohinder!’

‘Mohinder’s up at the caves with Prince Nathan. He’s up…’ the solider points up to the caves.

Eden follows his gaze and begins to run.



‘I’m going to go now,’ Mohinder says, rubbing tears away as if catching a waterfall with a becket. ‘I’ll be back soon. I won’t let them… I’m going to make this right.’ He kisses Matt on the forehead before standing up.

‘How sweet.’

Mohinder turns around, his whole face curdled with rage and hate. ‘You’re not Elle.’

The glamour disguising the body fades, leaving Sylar’s form wearing his own clothing but still carrying Elle’s axe.

Mohinder leaps at him. Without a word. Without a sound. Leaps on Sylar with every ounce of strength that he possesses. Sylar staggers backwards under the assault. As they fall out through the cave entrance the axe jolts from Sylar’s hand and lands in the long grass.

Mohinder’s hands are locked around Sylar’s throat in grim determination. Sylar’s flailing fists and desperately kicking feet make no impression on Mohinder, not even when he slams his fist into the side of Mohinder’s head.

‘Enough!’ Eden grabs at Sylar, trying to pull him away. ‘Mohinder, we’ve got him. He’ll be tried. It’s over.’

‘Damn it!’ Nathan staggers to his feet and helps her as the rest of the dwarves and soldiers approach.

Mohinder releases Sylar suddenly, sending Sylar, Nathan, and Eden flying backwards.



Inside the cave, a convulsion overtakes Matt’s body. The fur ripples as the muscles shudder and stretch under the skin. The ears retract and move down the head, the nose flattens, and the back lengthens. Paws twitch and change into hands and feet. A pulse stammers in his throat, faintly at first and then more strongly. Matt’s eyelids twitch as he takes a shallow breath.



Mohinder grabs the axe and yanks Sylar onto his back. Sylar scrabbles desperately for a curse, a spell, anything to protect him from the axe Mohinder swings with compulsive intent.

The axe cuts through flesh and bone, silencing Sylar, as it cleaves his head from his body.

Luke and Ted stumble away to vomit into the bushes as Eden covers her mouth.

‘That’s enough,’ Nathan says. ‘Give us the axe, Mohinder.’

Mohinder shakes his head and raises it again. ‘I need his power to save Matt.’

‘You can’t! Damn it, if you do then Peter will be trapped…’

Mohinder brings down the axe, hacking at Sylar’s chest.

Nathan rushes forward and grabs Mohinder’s arm. ‘He’s dead Mohinder, and your lover is dead, and trying to gain Sylar’s power will do nothing but condemn Peter to…’

‘Peter is dead ,’ Mohinder spits, shoving Nathan away. He yanks Sylar’s heart from his chest. ‘His soul will wait.’

Behind him, Matt staggers from the cave. Eden starts to shout but Mohinder crams Sylar’s heart into his mouth before the words are formed.



Chandra’s funeral takes place by the lake with Mohinder’s coronation to take place the following day. As the barge floats away, flames licking at the wrapped corpse and up the sails, Mohinder turns away and addresses Nathan.

‘Thank you for coming.’

‘I want the mirror,’ Nathan growls.

Matt steps forward warningly. Mohinder puts his hand lightly on Matt’s shoulder.

‘I wouldn’t dream of keeping it. We are having it carefully wrapped and boxed for you.’

‘Be grateful that my mother wishes to avoid a war. If it was up to me--’

Matt narrows his eyes. ‘Take your magic mirror. Go home.’

‘Let’s all hope that your mother has a long and happy life,’ Mohinder says mildly. ‘Or that your blood cools.’

Nathan stalks away with his delegation, leaving Mohinder and Matt in the midst of the fawning court.

‘He shouldn’t threaten you.’

Mohinder slips his hand into Matt’s. ‘You’ll protect me, won’t you?’

‘Always.’

The End.

 


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kethni

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