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Full Moon Fireflies

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Jimin

Today was the day of the Hunt. Some Knights had journeyed near a hundred leagues to participate in the annual tradition. But of course, that was just for show. Everyone knew who would win. The favorite was Jimin’s older, taller brother, Chanyeol. The Crown Prince was a skilled hunter. His arrows were always accurate and deadly. Everyone loved him. Jimin, on the other hand, was the third child and a stranger in his own country.

But it wasn’t his fault that his own people regarded him as an outsider. No, it all began with Jimin’s grandmother, who was a mere commoner, and the daughter of a wheat farmer. His grandmother had gotten lost in the Sunwoods, returning from the dead five months later with a swollen belly and a fantastical story. She’d had met a Fairy King in the woods and had become pregnant by the touch of his hands. The villagers and even her own father hadn’t believed her until she'd given birth to a beautiful baby girl. Then everyone realized she’d had spoken the truth.

The baby girl had been like the Summer, with bright, piercing, green eyes and hair like the pink in a sunset. When she'd grown up, tales of her beauty spread far and wide, all the way up to Sword Forge, to the Castle on the hill. The Crown Prince of the time had heard the story by way of a kitchen maid. On a whim, the Prince had decided to take the day’s ride to the little village to see for himself.

The tales had been true. She had indeed been the most beautiful woman in the entirety of the Kingdom. He had found her in the field, brow slick with sweat as she brought in the Summer’s harvest. When she had looked up and had met his eyes, he’d fallen in love with her on the spot. The woman had not wanted to leave her home. But he had been the Crown Prince, so she could hardly refuse him.

But just as wildflowers die when they are made into potted plants, she too wilted away when he had brought her to the Castle. A commoner’s daughter had no place in the politics of regal and rigid men. She grew successively more ill with every child she bore the Prince (now King). In all, she gave him three children before she passed.

There was Chanyeol, who inherited his father's height and strength. He was the spitting image of the King. There was Jeonghwa, a soft-hearted girl, with just a touch of her mother’s beauty. She was bright and lively, and the people loved her. Then finally there was Jimin, whose visage was otherworldly. He stalked the halls with the gray-green eyes of a stranger.

“You’re going to be late if you keep moving so slowly, Firefly,” Euigeon said quickly, as he ushered the young Prince into his light, steel chainmail.

Euigeon was a stable hand, a mere nineteen years of age. He was Jimin’s best and only friend. So the Prince didn’t want the boy to get in trouble. He tried to comply as quickly as possible even though his heart wasn’t in it.

“My brother is going to take the Fox,” Jimin grumbled sullenly as Euigeon slung a quiver of arrows across his back, “He’s going to win, so what’s the point?”

“The point is that your father, the King, is going to chop off my hand if you’re not out there at noon,” Euigeon grunted as he helped Jimin onto his mare, Mushroom. The mare was her namesake, a dark brown-red with blotches of white, hardly a horse for a Knight much less a Prince. But Jimin had been adamant about her, passing over a strong Black Stallion. “And I happen to like my hands.”

“Whoa, girl,” Jimin said softly, gently patting the side of the mare’s face. The horse neighed playfully before quickening her pace to a jaunty trot. Euigeon led her out of the tents and into the open glory of midday.

The sun was bright and hot, beating down on the cool of the grass below. It smelled like lemon, honey and the sweat of a hundred eager men, ready to prove themselves. The trees dressed the horizon in various shades of green and red. There was only a small, visible blotch of White, where ghost Birch grew in a place where men dare not tread.

Jimin could see the horses lined up in the distance and the glint of golden armor that could only be his brother’s. Jimin felt small by comparison, in his silver chainmail and his cotton tunic. Where his brother had a regal presence, which made men tremble and say, ‘Ah, that is how a future King should be’, Jimin looked almost like a child. He drew patronizing smirks wherever he tread.

Before Jimin could ride off, the horn sounded to Euigeon’s dismay, “Hurry, Firefly. Before your father comes here and lops off my head.” The stable hand gave Mushroom a slap on the rear which sent the horse flying down into the line.

Jimin pulled back on her reins and eased her beside the last Knight in the tally, Sir Jeon Jungkook of the Twin Isles. He turned and bowed at Jimin as best he could on horseback.

“Your Highness.” Jungkook addressed him formally, though his mouth was playful as were his wide, round eyes.

“Sir Jungkook,” Jimin bristled stiffly at the way Jungkook looked at him. It made the Prince feel all the stranger, like something to be gawked at.

“If I should claim the Fox,” Jungkook began, “I will ask His Royal Majesty for your sister’s hand. We would be brothers.”

Jimin steadied Mushroom, feeling her nervousness in the presence around so many stallions. She whinnied and tried to step away from the group, her head turning away nervously. Jimin gently reassured her, running his hand through her mane.

“My brother is going to win,” Jimin replied, “I think you’ll have to figure out how to win over Jeonghwa another way.”

The horn blew a second time. Set

“You were missing during His Royal Majesty's speech,” Jungkook said cheerfully, changing the subject

“I doubt he noticed,” Jimin hissed scathingly, before quickly adding, “There are so many Knights this year.”

“He warned the men not to go in the Moonwoods,” Jungkook continued, “But I’m not afraid of such things. It’s just superstitious old wives tales.”

“They say men do not return from there,” Jimin answered, eyes forward not meeting the Knight’s intense gaze, “I think you should go.”

Before Jungkook could say anything more, the horn blew a third time. Go

There was a moment when nothing happened. The cool summer breeze gently caressed the earth, and the only sound was the bees dancing through the flowers. But then, with the rearing of the first horse, a thunderous cadence bellowed, and a storm of stallions charged through the field.

Jimin held his horse back. He knew he would not win, and he didn’t see the point of putting Mushroom through the blood bath. He trotted leisurely into the woods, enjoying the shaded sunlight through the canopy above. The Red Forest was much like the Sunwoods to the north, filled with silver and red maple and the occasional oak. It was a beautiful place for a morning walk.

“After this, we’ll have a feast of apples. What do ya say, girl,” Jimin said gently, giving his mare another gentle pat on the side. Mushroom clicked her teeth and Jimin could tell she was pleased with the turn of events.

They made their way south for another fifteen minutes. It was in the peace of the forest that Jimin heard the first rustling of prey. The Prince quickly drew his bow, steadying his horse with his leg.

“Quiet, girl,” Jimin whispered, his voice as light as the wind. Mushroom became as still as stone, her eyes unblinking.

It was a gray, long-eared rabbit, small game, and worth five points. Jimin briefly wondered if he should spare the creature. He would never win the Hunt, and its sacrifice would be in vain. But it would be to his father’s shame if he’d gotten nothing in the forest. It would be a confirmation of everything he feared, that he was worthless, and lucky to be born a King’s son. So he let his arrow fly.

The thing was impaled. Its final adornments were a green feather with silver stripes, Jimin’s colors.

“Let’s go, Mushroom,” Jimin urged the horse forward, as the forest turned solemn in the presence of the dead. From the corner of his eye, he could see a servant of the Forge pick up the carcass and loss it into a bag, before making a mark on a piece of yellow parchment.

Jimin rode further south toward the river, where more animals might be keeping the day’s heat at bay. Mushroom was quiet, careful of where she stepped like she knew it was important. It was then that Jimin saw an eight pointed stag quenching his thirst. He looked up suddenly, even though the Prince hadn’t made a sound. He stared right at Jimin, aware that he was there, then sensing no danger he looked back down at the water. The stag had a magnificent red coat, and eyes as present as a man’s.

Jimin wondered if the stag had to die for a mere game. And even though his body would fill the stocks, the Prince still felt guilty. Perhaps it was the stranger in him, his Fairy lineage that told him that mercy was the greatest honor. But Jimin didn’t have such luxuries. He let his arrow loose, and the Stag dropped.

It let out a heart-wrenching cry, looked at Jimin a final time as if to say, ‘I can’t believe this’, and keeled over. His blood turned the water scarlet. Fifteen points

“Nice shot,” a voice sounded behind him.

Jimin inhaled sharply before turning around. The Golden armor assaulted his vision and he knew at once who it was.

“Father won’t be disappointed,” Chanyeol smiled at him. It was deceivingly warm and bright, but held the edge of a knife.

“Thanks,” Jimin said curtly, “But I don’t care if he is or isn’t.”

Chanyeol laughed, “How many points do you have, Firefly?”

Firefly was Jimin’s nickname on account of how his eyes looked like in the dark. For the most part, people used it good naturedly. But when his brother said it, he used it like a dagger, to remind Jimin that he was an outsider.

“Twenty,” Jimin said through gritted teeth.

“Oh,” Chanyeol laughed, “I already have fifty, but it doesn’t matter. When I get the Fox, it’ll be a thousand.”

“There are a hundred Hunters in these woods,” Jimin spat, “If you want the Fox, I suggest you look for it.”

“Right you are,” Chanyeol winked at him before disappearing into the trees, leaving Jimin there all pink in the face.

“Arrogant bastard,” Jimin muttered under his breath before continuing on. He already knew he would lose. Why did Chanyeol feel the need to rub it in?

The Prince walked along the river, absentmindedly going west. Had he been more clear headed, he would have seen the line of white ghost trees come into view. It was the border between the realms of men and the realms beyond. Jimin would have walked straight across if not for Mushroom’s intervention.

“Whoa, girl,” Jimin cooed, “What’s wrong?”

Mushroom threw her head to the side. Jimin looked up and noticed the Paper Birch. It was not natural, it was a steady and visible line. Any man could tell that trees did not grow that way.

“Let’s go back,” Jimin huffed, his eyes wary and his skin crawling. He looked from the edge, and it seemed like an entirely different world beyond. His was a late summer and beyond was an eternal winter, “Come on, girl.”

Jimin turned around. Suddenly, a blur of white ran past him and straight into Moonwoods nearly knocking him off. If Mushroom had been any other horse, Jimin would have known the sweet taste of the earth. Two knights appeared in a moment later, rearing their horses at the boundary. The noticed Jimin standing there with hard eyes.

“Did you see it?” a younger knight said out of breath, “He says it was the fox but I think it was the Spirit.”

“I don’t know,” Jimin said, turning back to look at the trees, “But it’s lost now.”

“I am sorry, Your Highness,” the second knight bowed, “Forgive my brother, he does not know who you are.”

“He’s the Prince?” the younger Knight did a double take, “I thought that guy in the fancy gold suit was the Prince.”

Jimin suppressed a smirk.

“My apologies, Your Highness,” the older knight said quickly, “My brother does not know his place. He means no harm to you or the royal family.”

Jimin smiled at them, “What are your names?”

“I am Sir Kim Namjoon of the Peaks,” the older Knight lowered his head, “And that fool is my brother, Kim Taehyung.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, My Prince,” Taehyung lowered his head with a mischievous smirk.

“The Sword and The Shield,” Jimin had heard of them. They were more skilled than their demeanor gave away. They were well-trained swordsmen from the mountains in the west.

“You’ve heard of us? I am flattered, Your Highness.” Namjoon said, eyes hard and wary.

“You don’t have to worry about offending me,” Jimin said quickly, “To my face, they call me a Prince. But in their hearts, I am not the King’s son.”

Namjoon bit his lower lip, his face visibly nervous even through the block of his ornate helm.

“So it’s true,” Taehyung gasped, “They say you’re a Changeling, and that you’re a Fairy’s child.”

Namjoon hit his brother in the chest with his hand, trying to push him away.

“Yes,” Jimin answered, “They call me a Firefly because I can see in the dark.”

“Did you see, then?” Taehyung said excitedly, not an ounce of caution, “Was it the Fox?”

Jimin looked in the woods, “It was the Spirit that rises from the mist.”


 

 

 

Seokjin

A horn sounded from the distance, and the sun dipped behind the hills. The Hunt was over and every Knight was compelled to rejoin the ranks for the final tally. There would be a feast tonight where the wild game they’d caught during the day would make the meal. The King of Sword Forge would be pleased and he would grant the victor one request. Seokjin would ask for a boat so that he could sail across the seas to worlds unknown, if he won.

But it was a slim chance. The Crown Prince had the fastest horse in the Kingdom and the best bow a maker could offer. Seokjin had an old steed and a frayed bow, his adopted father's good luck charm. The Knight knew he was the better marksmen. But he could not beat the Prince’s gold.

But still, Seokjin dreamed of the victory.

“Jin,” Namjoon, his cousin called him into the ranks, with a two-fingered salute, “What took you so long? I was worried.”

Jin was one of the last to return from the Forest. He’d stayed out until the final moment, to raise his score. But it had been for nothing, the hour had add nothing to his worth. The only prize had been the cool night air, which took away the weariness of the sun. The air had been sweet and calming, flavored with wild fruit.

“I was enjoying the forest,” Jin replied, navigating his horse so that it stood next to Namjoon’s in the clearing, “They don’t have trees like those back at home.”

Namjoon, Jin and Taehyung lived on The Peaks, a red and gold mountain range, where the sun baked the earth, and thistles scarcely grew three feet. While people who lived on the mountain couldn’t deny its beauty, they knew it was a dangerous beauty that turned careless men into skulls. Rare was the sight of so much green, of tall trees that covered the sky.

“Have you had your fill?” Namjoon asked, eyes always cautious, “We return home tomorrow.”

Jin eyes reflected that same caution. He opted for silence and hoped his cousin would ask him nothing else, lest he have to lie. But thankfully Taehyung appeared, cutting into their conversation.

“You won’t believe who we met today. It was the Changeling Prince, your kinsmen,” Taehyung huffed, pulling on his reins and bringing his silver bronco to a standstill.

Namjoon hit Taehyung in the chest. Taehyung jerked back before receiving the brunt of the blow, like he’d gotten used it.

“I see,” Jin said curtly.

The Sword Forge loomed ahead of them, its black towers eating up the night sky. In the distance, there was the figure of a woman staring off into the forest. But it was gone just as quickly, and the window went dark. Jin suddenly felt wistful, wanting something that he could not even put a name to.

“Sorry, you know he means well, cousin,” Namjoon sighed.

Seokjin nodded, his lips pressed into a line. Taehyung did mean well. The young Knight saw the world in a different way than others did. To him, Fairies were a beautiful people, and he loved them from afar. But common folk regarded anything unknown as dangerous, and so Seokjin was well within that category.

Seokjin was the adopted son of Taehyung’s uncle, The Warden on the Mountain. The Warden had found Jin as a baby in the very forest they’d just hunted on, at the stroke of midnight. Originally, he’d intended to kill him. But when he’d looked upon Jin’s face, he realized he could not. Jin was as beautiful as the dawn, a child of the sky and the sea. That was why he’d lived.

“What does he look like?” Jin asked finally, shrugging off his own self consciousness.

“The Prince had glorious silver hair like spun silk,” Taehyung explained unnecessarily with his hands, “His eyes were dark green, like the beginnings of a storm. He said he could glow in the dark.”

“Stop exaggerating,” Namjoon complained, “The Prince was a man like any other.”

“He said he would catch the Spirit and win the Hunt,” Taehyung continued as though Namjoon hadn’t interrupted, “Oh, that reminds me. We saw the Pale Wolf.”

“You saw the Pale Wolf?” Jin laughed, amused and dubious, “He’s just a story. There is no Pale Wolf in the Moonwoods.”

“I swear it, cousin,” Taehyung continued animatedly, “He was a ghost, as quick as a river.”

Taehyung didn’t lie. The Knight always told what he thought was the truth. Jin knew this much. Of course, Taehyung was also nearly always wrong. But still, he was not a liar.

Finally, Jin turned to Namjoon to clarify, but the man looked away.

“It was white,” Namjoon said reluctantly, “but I think it was the fox.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t a rabbit?” Jin laughed, slapping Namjoon in the arm to his chagrin.

“Could be,” Namjoon sighed resignedly.

“I wonder where the Prince is now,” Jin looked among the ranks. Jimin was not among them. Even in the dusk, one could see the glow of his eyes.

“I am here,” a regal voice made itself known.

Jin, Namjoon and Taehyung all turned around.

The Crown Prince, Park Chanyeol was looking at them with a dangerous expression, as though they were made of worms.

“Did you see where my brother went?” he asked monotonously.

“No, Your Royal Highness,” Namjoon began, “He was riding along the edge the last we saw him.”

“You said he went after the Spirit?” Chanyeol had heard their tale, “Did he go into the Moonwoods?”

“We did not see him go in, Your Highness,” Taehyung answered respectfully, proving he was not a fool, “But he seemed very interested in catching the animal.”

Chanyeol thought about it for several seconds before sighing angrily, “Ah, fuck.”

The Crown Prince rode away quickly without so much as a good bye. He caught up with several guardsmen and began speaking to them in hushed tones. The Sun had already faded to give way to the starry sky. They would not be able to search for the Prince until daybreak. The King looked on, watching the trees turn black against the dying light. He was furious and his eyes glittered in the dark.

“I don’t know what he’s so worked up about,” Taehyung sighed.

“The Prince is missing,” Jin hissed, “And you two are the last to see him. You should be more worried.”

“The King hasn’t cut off anyone’s head in seven years,” Taehyung answered, “I think we’re fine.”

“What if he ends his streak on your neck?” Namjoon said sternly, the veins in his own neck popping out, “What will you say then?”

“I wouldn’t have a head,” Taehyung answered, eyebrow raised, “I couldn’t say anything at all.”

Namjoon groaned frustratedly.

“Should we go back and look for him?” Jin suggested.

“No, it’s too late. W’d get lost too,” Namjoon shook his head, “We should join the search in the morning.”

“Aw, what about the feast?,” Taehyung sighed, “Do you think he’ll cancel it?”

Jin frowned. He’d been looking forward to the spiced meats, and sweetened fruit, “We won’t die from one night of hard bread.”

“I’d rather get my head chopped off,” Taehyung joked bitterly.


 

 

 

Jungkook

The Firefly was missing. The news had spread quickly through the Forge, more potent than the most deadly disease. But no one said more than a whisper lest they upset the King. His Royal Majesty was speaking to his first born, face red, eyes bulging.

“-a damned fool. He can’t handle himself in the forest and makes a laughing stock of his family,” The King slammed his fist on the table causing the plates to hop up.

Jungkook was close enough to hear, being an honored guest at the royal table. The Knight wished that the din would wash over him, but he simply was too close. The Knights below were none the wiser, getting drunk on wine so dark it was purple. They feasted unbothered by the fact that Jimin was missing and no one cared.

“We’ll find him in the morning,” Chanyeol answered, offering a convenient way for the King to save face “It’s really that horse’s fault, so unreliable.”

The King mused on his words and he nodded, “Aye, no son of mine would get lost in the forest. It’s that mare. She needs to be put down.”

Jungkook was seated right next to Jeonghwa, the Princess. He wondered if she could hear the two of them. The Knight stole a few glances at her. She did not look at him, she seemed too preoccupied with her soup. She ate tiny spoonfuls and looked straight ahead.

Jungkook looked down at his own soup, pushing around the pieces of venison. He was slowly finding the whole meal revolting. Why should they be celebrating when Jimin was alone and hurt in the forest. Was there no love for him at all?

“You should eat,” Jeonghwa finally turned to him.

“I thought I was hungry, Your Highness,” Jungkook replied, “But my stomach bubbles like it’s full.”

“You’ll need your strength at daybreak,” Jeonghwa continued, “You must find my brother at all costs.”

“Every Knight will be scouring the forest for him,” Jungkook said softly, “Someone will find him.”

Jeonghwa shook her head, “You must promise me that you’ll find him. Just you.”

Jungkook looked at the Princess. Her eyes were wide and desperate. She gripped her spoon so tightly that her knuckles were white. Her whole body was trembling.

“I promise, Your Highness” Jungkook breathed out.

The Princess looked back to her soup, satisfied by his answer, “My brothers and I are all of the same make. But Jimin is the only one who can’t hide who he is. He is the only one that is cast out. That is why you must find him and bring him back, let him know that we need him here.”

Jungkook swallowed thickly. He could read the words behind her words. She believed that Jimin had run away of his own accord. But Jungkook begged to differ.

“He loves you,” Jungkook shook his head, “He’d never leave you.”

The Princess looked at him again and smiled, though it didn’t quite touch her eyes, “Tell him that I love him too, when you find him.”

Jungkook bowed his head, “Of course, my Lady.”

A trumpet blew and the chatter in the hall turned into absolute silence. The clattering of silverware, the laughter, the chewing, it was all swallowed up by the large gray stones. All that was left was the stare of a thousand expectant eyes.

“The final tally has been counted,” The King stood up, his voice booming through to the other side of the room, “The victor of the Hunt this year is the Crown Prince, my first born, Chanyeol.”

The hall erupted in applause as Chanyeol slowly stood up and bowed. He smiled graciously, his large round eyes were bright. But Jungkook could see that it was practiced, and the Prince had the charm of a snake.

“Thank you,” Chanyeol bowed again before turning to his father.

The King leaned back in his chair, gently swirling a cup of spiced apple cider in his hand. He looked up proudly at his son.

“Make any request of me,” The King said, his voice deep and proud, “And I will fulfill it.”

Jungkook narrowed his eyes. He knew the Prince would ask for nothing.

“I ask that you stay healthy, Father,” Chanyeol replied, “I ask the Gods to protect and bless you.”

Jungkook had to stop himself from scoffing. He’d asked for nothing and yet it was everything. The Knights in the hall clapped their hands, banged their cups against the table, stomped their feet on the ground. They loved the Crown Prince and Jimin was all but forgotten.

“How can he be so happy?” Jungkook muttered under his breath.

The Princess leaned toward him and lowered her voice to barely a whisper, “You must not let Chanyeol find him first. You’ve already given me your word.”

The Golden Knight was utterly startled by the Princess’ words. He turned to look at her only to find that she’d gotten up. Her figure shrank away until it disappeared behind an archway. He couldn’t fathom what her words meant. Perhaps it was too terrible to think about. Instead, Jungkook turned to his bowl and ate.

The feast couldn’t end soon enough. The young Knight thanked his guests and left with the crowd. He’d be sleeping in the towers tonight and joining the search party at first light.

“I wonder if he’ll be alright,” a familiar voice spoke at his ear.

Jungkook turned at once to find his cousin, Jung Hoseok, looking at him with eager eyes. The two had grown up together on the Twin Isles, the eyes of the ocean. They had spent many days on the shores looking at shells before their names turned them into rivals.

“His Highness will be fine,” Jungkook said with certainty, “I will make sure of it.”

“He’s become the fox,” Hoseok nodded, ‘Whoever finds him will win the King’s favor. The Hunt begins anew.”

“It is not a game, cousin,” Jungkook replied with hiss as he quickened his pace.

Hoseok followed him all the same.

“Of course it’s a game,” Hoseok said with a dark smile, “Those that think not live tragic lives.”

Jungkook stopped walking, turning abruptly. He looked at Hoseok angrily, swirls of steam coming off his clothing, “I’m going to find him and you will stay out of my way.”

Hoseok blinked a few times in shock, before his smile returned. He brushed past the Golden boy and sighed, “Absolutely tragic.”


 

 

 

Yoongi

There were many who believed that the Pale Wolf was a ghost that protected the Moonwoods. They said that he was a nameless God that killed all those would profane his domain. Some believed that he was the son of a man and she-wolf. He was a monstrous creature, neither human nor beast. Still some believed he was made by the fairies, to guard their homes from the eyes of nosy villagers. But none of that was true.

Min Yoongi had been born to a human mother and father. He’d been pale as milk, with eyes as blue as sapphires. His mother had believed him to be cursed, so she walked to the forest and left him there for the wolves.

When the moon rose, the wolves had came for him but they hadn’t harmed him. They’d seen the white shock of his hair, the bright blue of his eyes, and thought, ‘Ah, he is one of us.’ His wolf-mother had carried him in her jaws by the blanketful, into the Moonwoods. Yoongi hadn’t stirred nor cried. He’d slept as still as death. Under a full moon, the pack had prayed to the Wolf God and the baby become a cub, with shiny, ghost-white fur. His wolf-mother named him Yoongi which meant, ‘Shine’.

“The forest is packed with men,” Gongjun, his adopted sister said, disappearing against the trees. She was ash-gray with dark green eyes. She looked like oak bark when she stood completely still. “God, they stink. Just like you on the dark moon.”

Yoongi chose to stay a wolf almost all the time. Even though he could become a man if he wished. It was only on the new moon that the had no choice. On those nights, he’d hide away by himself in a small handbuilt cottage. His siblings had often tried to take a look at him, despite their mother’s stern warnings.

“Shut up,” Yoongi growled back, baring his large teeth, “You stink all the time, but I never complain.”

The gray wolf laughed and playfully tackled Yoongi to the ground, “They won’t be here for a while. Let’s head out to the river and see if there are any fish.”

“Mom said we have to be in the Moonwoods by noon,” Yoongi grumbled, “Let’s not take any chances.”

“That’s boring,” Gongjun complained, “I want fish.”

Before Yoongi could protest further, his sister ran toward the river. Yoongi tried to stop her several times. But, she knew him too well and she dodged his every attempt with an amused chuckle. Soon the Pale Wolf forgot that he was supposed to be stopping her. The green leaves turned into a blur as he raced her to the water. He won by a single hair’s breadth.

“Tie,” She huffed, her tongue falling out of her mouth, “It’s a tie.”

“I won and you know it,” Yoongi circled her playfully, “I’m the best. I’m the best at everything.”

Gongjun laughed before setting the next challenge, “Whoever catches the bigger fish, wins,”

Yoongi ran into the waters, placing his paws against the stone. He was the faster wolf and he would catch the bigger fish. It was hardly a competition.

Gongjun dipped her head in the water and pulled out a monster trout, “I wi-”

A black feathered arrow flew through the air and dashed against the rocks.

“Run,” Yoongi growled, “I’ll lead them away.”

Gongjun dropped the fish and made a beeline for the Moonwoods. Yoongi stayed in place, dodging a second arrow at the last moment.

“There!” a man called from the trees, “I see it. It’s the fox.”

Yoongi ran slower than necessary to keep the men on his tail. He could scale the side of a cliff in a matter of seconds. Instead, he hopped from hold to hold, looking back to make sure they were still chasing him.

“Hurry,” another man yelled, “He’s getting away, brother.”

Yoongi led them in circles, never losing sight of the white line of trees.

But finally, Gongjun’s howl sailed through the air. She’d made safety back through the boundary. Yoongi relaxed before he tensed again. He doubled his speed and made straight for cover. He was much faster than even the fastest horse. His paws were made for the roots and rocks, and hovered over them, never truly touching the ground.

“Oh my god, I saw it,” one of the men said, “It’s the Spirit.”

Yoongi realized that there was a third Knight right at the edge, baring his way. He seemed distracted, seeing him at the very last second. His horse tumbled backward and Yoongi flew through.

Bright blue eyes met with gray-green ones.

Then the wolf was safe within the white trees in the Moonwoods. He staggered to the ground utterly exhausted, collapsing in the moist ash dirt. He gasped desperately, the safe smell of Birch wood filling his lungs.

God, that was close. Never had he been so close to a man in his life. Yoongi promised himself that he would never listen to his sister again.

Gongjun howled in the distance again. Her voice was worried and desperate. Yoongi threw his snout into the air and howled back.

I’m safe

Reluctantly, Yoongi rolled back onto his feet, his fur dirtied by the rotting leaves. The Moonwoods was a cursed place. The Wolves shared the land with neighbors they rarely saw. Gongjun had seen one of them once. She said they had long silver hair and clothes spun from spider’s silk. Their neighbors did not like men, and the fact that Yoongi was allowed to stay attested to fact that he was not one.

“Fucking hunters,” Yoongi cursed, “Now I’m tired as fuck.”

The pale wolf shook himself off and blended right into the trees, disappearing behind the thick mist. He was silent, his paws landing soft as feathers on the ground. Yoongi slowly walked toward the caves, where Gongjun would surely be waiting. She howled again, as to say ‘where are you?’ Yoongi answered back with another howl to ease her worries.

Calm down. I’m on my way

The Pale Wolf walked a few more paces when his fur shuddered against his skin. He realized that he was being followed. He turned around and noticed a glint of silver in between the Paper Birch. He could see sharp green eyes stalking him from distant.

Was the archer a Fairy or a man? Yoongi couldn’t tell

“Ah fuck,” Yoongi lowered to the ground, coiling himself up like a spring. The mist covered the entirety of his body, as thick as sheep’s wool. But the green eyes remained on him.

The wolf watched the boy draw an arrow from his bow. The archer’s hands were steady and he scarcely took a breath. Fluid as the rain, he let the arrow fly.

Yoongi zigzagged forward, dodging the thing. The arrow buried itself into the dirt. It vibrated back and forth a few times before stilling. Then, it was silent once more.

The boy armed himself again. It was the last arrow in his quiver. He only had one more chance to bite the wolf. After that, it was certain death. Yet, he was calm as though he had million chances. His eyes were fearless and his breathing even.

Yoongi bared his teeth, hackles raised. He was close enough to the boy, that he could reach him in one more leap.

If you miss again, I will rip out your throat

The bowstring hummed and an arrow sang through the air.

Chapter Text

 

 

Jimin

Jimin knew that he was making a mistake even before he stepped into the white woods. The only question was how great a mistake it was. His skull was buzzing and he felt pinpricks against his fingertips. Danger was there, deep and old and hungry. Something in his body told him to stay away. It rose over his innards, above his stomach and filled his chest. The Prince could barely quell it down.

“Come on, girl.” Jimin clicked his teeth at Mushroom’s reluctance. She planted her feet at the edge. Though she could not look at him, somehow she still looked at him with wary, frustrated eyes.

Jimin gave the Mare a kick, just the faint tap of his heal. The Prince almost never had to urge her to anything. She did everything he wanted as though she could read his mind. The feel of his boot against her side startled her, causing her to stumble ever so slightly.

“Sorry, Mushroom,” Jimin whispered, gently running his hand through her mane. The Mare gave in, in the proudest manner that she could muster. But all the same, she gave in, accepting his soft words of regret. She stepped onto the lifeless ashy dirt, between the line of ghost Birch.

A frigid chill shot up Jimin’s spine. These woods felt ancient. The Paper Birch had wide, thick trunks with hand-like roots that twisted deep into the ground. The trees were all but bare, with leafless branches that tangled up into the sky. No golden light seeped through from above, only gloomy blues and faded grays. The shadows loomed over Jimin’s heart. The Prince reminded himself repeatedly of why he was there so he would not turn around.

If the Fox is worth one thousand, surely the Wolf is worth ten.

The longer he went forward, the thicker the mist became. The sea of smoke blanketed the floor, parting ever so slightly for Jimin when he moved and swallowing everything again the second he dared to stop. The Pale Wolf was gone, the woods protecting his tracks. Direction became like the spinning of a top, so that north became south and east married west. The swell of panic in Jimin rose so far as his neck. It seemed utterly hopeless.

But just as Jimin was about to turn back, he saw the hint of a tail, swirling the great cottons of vapor, not ten meters ahead of him. The Wolf turned around just as Jimin sighted him, as though it knew it had been spotted. It had eyes like lapis, rich-liquid blue with flecks of gold. They looked so human, expressive and present. Jimin swallowed thickly. It was clear that to him that the beast did not like being seen.

Jimin froze in place as the Pale Wolf laid its heavy gaze upon them. It did not run as an animal would have. It watched him. It watched him and watched him, steady as a stone. It watched him until he realized that he did not like being looked at either.

The Prince reached back into his quiver and drew his second to last arrow, the feathers slipping between his fingers. He had to make it count. The Wolf would not give him a second chance. It’d bolt into the trees and Jimin would never see it again. Jimin exhaled steadily. His arms were like iron, unwavering. His body was relaxed and mind sharp.

The first arrow sang a funeral dirge and buried itself into the graveyard dirt. The Pale Wolf moved as though it were not flesh. Its body blended into and became the mist. Jimin blinked and the Wolf had closed their distance by a half. He managed to draw a second arrow to his bow.

Jimin had stopped breathing altogether, afraid that the stirring of his breath would coax the Wolf to charge. But it didn’t charge. It stayed in place, barred its large teeth, and growled. Jimin couldn’t shake the feeling that it knew. The Wolf knew that he had one arrow left, and if he missed again-

Jimin did not want to think about what would happen if he missed again. He settled his mind on the fact that the Wolf was not like a Wolf at all. It neither ran nor charged. Instead, it waited for Jimin to take the shot. But then, the Prince realized that this was even more frightening than the notion of him missing. These thoughts ran through his head, clear and quick so that not even a single second passed.

Why does he not run?

The Wolf narrowed its eyes and lowered itself closer to the ground. Jimin couldn’t miss a second time. If the Wolf was merely a wolf, he’d lose his throat. If the Wolf was not a wolf, he’d lose much more. Jimin calmed himself down. Time slowed down to a crawl, and the Prince could see every detail with perfect clarity. Steam wafted off the Wolf’s mouth as he breathed out. Claws like daggers shot out from snow white paws. Wind swept along ghost fur. The silence was pin drop.

The Prince let his arrow fly.

The creature lunged at him. Mushroom reared onto her hind legs, protecting Jimin from the threat. The Prince tumbled to the ground safely. Having fallen from a horse many times when he was young, he automatically curled up into a ball.

There was a cry of desperate pain.

Jimin scrambled to his feet, breathing heavily. He looked for the Pale Wolf as though he were the entirety of the mist surrounding him. The beast could form jaws from anywhere and take Jimin’s throat out. The Prince danced in the mist, but nothing came at him. The silence was replaced with a sudden loud, pervasive ringing. Jimin felt both blind and deaf, even though both his eyes and ears were working perfectly. It was his mind, becoming senseless in the panic.

Jimin finally spotted the Wolf. It was a furry, bloody heap on the ground. As large as it seemed before, now it was just as small. It looked like a little pup, curled into itself. It was still as a glassy pond. The Prince took a timid step forward.

“I got him,” Jimin muttered in disbelief, reaching out with a shaky hand.

The Pale Wolf gasped back to life. Ribs nearly protruded through its skin, as it struggled to breathe. Jimin jumped three paces back, almost falling to the ground from surprise.

“Ah, fuck,” Jimin hissed, “It’s still alive.”

Jimin hoped it would die a painless death, an arrow to the heart. But Jimin could see that he’d only gotten the Wolf in the leg, the arrow going clean through. The Pale Wolf struggled onto it’s back and threw its head up. It howled clear and loud, calling in reinforcements. Jimin felt black water rising above his head. He could no longer breathe.

Its brethren were coming.

Jimin would have shot it again to end its misery, but he was out of arrows. Maybe there was a large rock or something he could use. But even as he thought it, he suddenly despised himself. Mushroom whinnied nervously, warning him of the impending danger. She blocked his path, lowering herself, begging him to get back on, so they could ride away. But it was too late. Jimin saw what he’d been afraid of ever since he stepped into the woods.

A wolf with fur of spun gold, as large as four grown men, parted the dense mist. It tread on the air and fixed its dangerous amber eyes upon Jimin, all three of them. Jimin swallowed as he counted the eyes again: one, two, three. It had a third eye right in the middle of its forehead.

The Pale Wolf whined, calling out to it. Immediately, the golden beast sailed through the air, almost flying. It landed right at the smaller wolf’s side. The golden beast growled and bared its teeth at the Prince. It was the Pale Wolf’s mother, an even fiercer beast.

Jimin backed away, trying to mount Mushroom. But again, it was too late. Three more wolves appeared, gray, black, and brown. They slowly surrounded Jimin, teeth as sharp as knives, fur raised in anger. The only thing keeping the Firefly alive was Mushroom. She kept trotting around Jimin, brandishing her fearsome hooves.

Jimin tried to shoo her away. None of this had been her fault. All of the blame landed squarely on the Prince’s shoulders. But even as Jimin tried to push her away to safety, she stood her ground defiantly. “Get out of here, girl,” Jimin hissed, “Go. I’ll be fine.”

But it was a lie, she already knew. Jimin would not be fine. His skin was ice. The Prince could see his life coming to an end. Old Wolf Gods of the Moonwood were not meant to be seen by men. He knew the price to pay for such a sight was death. He closed his eyes for what he thought was the final time.

Mushroom reared again angrily and protectively. A vicious snarl broke through the din, followed by a ferocious braying. Then, there was silence. Jimin expected to be afraid at his final moment. Instead, he felt nothing. Nothingness filled him up from head to toe until the hourglass ran still.

Jimin waited for a long time. But the bite never came.

The longer Jimin stood with his eyes shut, the longer nothing happened. The Prince’s heart was thudding loudly in his ears. His skin was tingling painfully. But still, the bite never came. Then a spark of hope filled the emptiness inside. Jimin tried to push it down. A worser death would be one where he thought he had a chance. But the moment ticked on and Jimin continued to live. So finally, he opened his eyes.

The Prince saw something else that he was not meant to see. It was impossible. It was unthinkable. It was like watching the moon rise during the day and the sun at night. And so terrible a weight began to press against Jimin’s chest that he could no longer breathe.

If he had a thousand years to describe what he saw, it would not be enough.

Where the Pale Wolf had been, there was now a man, naked as a newborn baby, with skin like cream. His side was slick with blood, all the way up to his ribs. Jimin wanted to throw up as he quickly glanced at the angry bleeding flesh that was now the man’s leg.

The golden wolf lowered herself to the ground, giving the pale man leverage. He grabbed onto her fur, taking two fistfuls. Then, with tremendous effort and a pained grunt, he pulled himself onto her back. He laid there like a dead man, unable to sit upright. The only sign that he lived was the slight expanding of his chest as he breathed.

Jimin jumped back when the man opened his mouth.

“Ah fuck,” the man whispered, straining to speak. “I’m sorry, mom”

Jimin tried to sort out his thoughts as he stood there numbly. The wolf was not a wolf but a man. The man was not a wolf but a man. He was a man. He’d changed from a wolf to a man. He, the prince, had shot a man. He’d shot an innocent man.

Jimin swallowed the bile in his throat. All the color drained from his face.

The golden wolf eyed Jimin darkly as if she were mulling something over. She looked desperate and angry… and desperate. She spoke in low growls, but Jimin didn’t understand. He felt panic fill his chest as she went on, and he still couldn’t understand. He didn’t speak wolf, surely someone must have realized. Then, she stopped speaking and looked at him, and he wished the ground would swallow him up.

‘I don’t know,’ he wanted to scream. ‘I don’t know anything at all.’

It was Mushroom who answered, with a submissive neigh and the bow of her head. She stepped forward, pushing the side of her body against Jimin’s hand. There was a tiny satchel there. Jimin quickly opened it. Inside there were bandages and a small jar of ointment, enough for a few cuts but not enough for an arrow wound.

“What am I supposed to do with these?” Jimin said softly.

Mushroom neighed but Jimin didn’t speak horse either. Jimin searched her eyes but found nothing. The ringing in his ears and the pain in the back of his eyes was ceaseless. Nothing was making sense and if he didn’t make sense of it soon, he’d turn into a corpse.

“Mom says that if I die, you die.” the pale man groaned weakly, as if he knew Jimin didn’t understand.

Jimin swallowed. He looked at the supplies again, a few strips of cloth and a useless jar of paste. He was as good as dead, they both were.


 

 

Taehyung

The sky turned from an inky black to a stormy gray. A sliver of sunlight appeared above the trees. But just as quick, it faded into the clouds. Taehyung refused to open his eyes as he breathed evenly. The scent of frost, crisp apples, and maple wood hung in the air. The Knight decided he was going to sleep soundly until a hand shook him awake.

“Let me sleep,” Taehyung pleaded loudly, shutting his eyes even tighter as he clung on the dregs of his dreams.

The hand quickly covered his mouth. The sound of a hiss filled his ears.

Taehyung’s eyes popped open as panic flooded his body. Namjoon, his older brother, stood above him broodingly. There was a warning in his eyes, a warning that warranted compliance. Taehyung nodded and Namjoon reluctantly let him go.

“They are meeting downstairs,” Namjoon said as quietly as a mouse, “Get up.”

Taehyung wanted to protest but he knew it was not an option. Last night at dinner, Namjoon had secured himself a spot on the search party, forcing Taehyung into it as well. It was necessary, Namjoon had insisted. The King’s future son in law, Sir Jeon Jungkook of the Twin Isles, had already been selected. If Namjoon and Taehyung were to have any of the King’s favor, they needed to snatch it now.

Namjoon and Taehyung were Knights of the Peaks, the clay mountains in the west. The Warden of the Mountain was their uncle, but in terms of power that meant shit. They were nothing but what they could take for themselves.

“See him there,” Namjoon had whispered during the feast, pointing ever so slightly to Jeon Jungkook, “He already sits at the table. He will inherit the Twin Isles from his father and the Princess from the King.”

“So?” Taehyung had said through a cupful of dark brown beer.

“The Twin Isles is bursting with gold. They are so plentiful that commoners have golden spoons, golden pots, even golden privies to sit their asses on,” Namjoon had muttered dejectedly.

“What good is that?” Taehyung had huffed, “I couldn’t even shit comfortably sitting on gold.”

To Taehyung’s relief, Namjoon had broken into a small smile. But to his dismay, Namjoon had uttered, “We’re joining that search party.”

So there they stood, at the edge of the Red Forest, listening to the gold-plated Crown Prince, Park Chanyeol. They each had a small piece of black bread, and a swig of ice-cold water to wash out the foul taste. Taehyung was not pleased.

Dark clouds seemed to be boiling as they rolled away from the forest. This was an omen, one that was not in their favor. Taehyung inhaled the scent of decay and something faintly like iron. The young Knight decided that it was a dreadful morning. The Prince was being a know-it-all prick and Namjoon was being Namjoon.  

“We’ll comb straight through,” Chanyeol explained. “At nightfall, we will meet here, whether we find him or not. The Moonwoods are forbidden, keep that in mind. Do not be fools. If not for my father, you would not be here at all. Do not make sour his election.”

Taehyung barely managed to stifle a yawn. Namjoon seemed to hone in on the minute action.

“His Majesty is speaking,” Namjoon hissed, ‘Pay attention.”

“No one else knows about this, and you will do well not to speak of it,” Chanyeol warned, “My brother’s only mistake is his soft heart for broken things. Had he not chosen that damned horse, it’d be dog meat by now.”

With that, Chanyeol lowered the visor on his helm. There was an intricate engraving on it that Taehyung didn't quite understand. It almost looked like a tiny map. It melded into the gold, but stood out whenever the Prince moved his head. The Knight finally figured out that the network of lines formed insect wings. He realized what the design was. It was a dragonfly.

The Crown Prince nodded at the five men that’d been selected, Jungkook, Namjoon, Hoseok, Euigeon, and of course Taehyung, himself. Then he turned into the Red Forest and disappeared into the foliage. The chosen few followed. The forest held no warmth nor light for them, like it had just yesterday.

Taehyung eased his silver horse, Silver, into the thicket. Many days did he lament over his horse’s name. His brother’s horse was called, Evening, for his dark black coat speckled with white. That was a glorious name for a horse. Taehyung wished he thought of it first, even though Evening wouldn’t have made sense for a silver stallion.

Worse still was Taehyung’s own nickname, the Sword. He hated it. He was the Sword currently at Sword Forge, who was good at wielding swords. It was terrible, downright lamentable. He was so jealous of everyone else’s nicknames. There was his cousin, Kim Seokjin, the Knight of the Forest. There was Sir Jung Hoseok, the Song of the Sunrise. Even the man they were looking for had a better nickname, Prince Jimin, the Firefly, the Light of the Dusk.

Taehyung thought further as Silver trotted on. He never wanted the name anyway. He never wanted to be a Knight. He’d wanted to a vagabond minstrel, or perhaps a poet. But his father wouldn’t hear of it. He’d told Taehyung, “You will pick up a sword or you will lay down your life.” Taehyung’s life was not his to lay down so he had to chose the sword. Thus he became The Sword. It was a dreadful, horrid name.

“Taehyung, focus,” Namjoon hissed, blocking Taehyung’s way.

Taehyung looked up and realized that he’d almost walked right into the Moon’s wood. The line of ghost trees was so bright that Taehyung’s eyes watered. And as his surroundings flooded back into his senses, he noticed something through the white. There were long bony fingers and the hint of spider-silk hair. The Sword blinked and it had vanished.

How had he even gotten there? How much time had passed? Why did he feel so cold?

“Sorry, I was thinking about names,” Taehyung huffed, pulling Silver’s reins back.

“Names?” Namjoon huffed, “You should be looking for his Highness. If not that, at least do not put yourself at harm.”

“Sorry, brother,” Taehyung sighed, feeling the chill pass.

Namjoon muttered to himself before pulling out a small loaf of sweet currant bread, sitting on a small white cloth. He handed it to Taehyung who accepted it with hungry eyes.

“Where’d you get this?” Taehyung gasped

“I flirted with an old scullery maid.” Namjoon scrunched his nose. “You best eat it quickly before I change my mind.”

Taehyung ate up half the bread in three large bites, before offering it back at his brother.

“Ah, thank you, thank you,” Taehyung groaned, “I’m so glad for your ability to charm old ladies.”

Namjoon shook his head, but a small smile graced his lips.

“You’ll need it to stay alert,” Namjoon pushed the bread back, “Eat up and let's go.”

“Thank you.” Taehyung didn’t protest as he finished the sweet, soft bread. His stomach sang both in appreciation and also in frustration. The bread had not been nearly enough to fill his stomach. The taste on his tongue made him ache for more.

Before the two could continue their conversation or lack of, a mournful howl pierced the night sky. Taehyung swallowed thickly. He felt a feeling that he could scarcely describe. Then he pushed it down with all his might. But still, he knew. There was danger coming for them, and he could see a black pyre being built in the far distant.

“Let’s see if he’s by the river,” Taehyung barely whispered.


 

 

Chanyeol

Chanyeol had good ears. They were big and they stuck out from the side of his head. It was to his chagrin when he was young. But now, it was to his every advantage. He could hear everything. He could hear the worms in the ground and birds in the air. He could hear the slow precession of ants as they carried currant breadcrumbs back to their homes under the grass.

Everything. He heard everything.

The night before, at the feast, he’d heard everything then too. He’d heard every conversation in the chaotic din, the stupid ones about fucking women, the crafty ones between two power-hungry brothers. Most importantly, he’d definitely heard the spiteful one his sister had with the love-sick Knight of the Isles. She said it, knowing full well that he could hear every syllable.

There was all this business about telling Jimin that she loved him and that he shouldn’t have run away. Then, she told Jungkook to find the Firefly first, and implied that Chanyeol wanted to harm Jimin in some way. It was absolute bullshit. Chanyeol loved Jimin. He loved Jimin more than anyone and he understood Jimin more than Jeonghwa ever did.

Chanyeol had confronted his sister after the feast, in the watchtower. She turned to him and dared to look at him angrily. She had cursed him and called him vile. She had blamed him for everything. Chanyeol had let her say her piece for a full five minutes and said just this in return.

“You don’t even remember her,” The Crown Prince had said, “Neither of you do. It is either a great fortune or an unspeakable tragedy. I am not sure.” The Princess slapped him across the face and stalked off, leaving him to his thoughts. After some lengthy mulling, he conceded that she had been right about two things.

First, it was Chanyeol’s fault that Jimin was gone. The Crown Prince had instantly regretted goading Jimin on, as soon as the words left his lips. It was his fault that Jimin risked everything to go into the Moon’s wood. Chanyeol loved Jimin, more than anything. But he also hated him, hated that he took their mother away, and hated how much he looked like her.

Second, Jimin really was the only one who couldn’t hide. His fairy heritage was a cloak he could never shed. Chanyeol was just as much a changeling, the stranger’s blood coursing through him. But the Crown Prince hid in plain sight, and all they ever saw of him was the mirror of his father.

Jeonghwa had been wrong about everything else. Chanyeol would be the first to find Jimin. He had something his siblings did not, and he made it a point to tell his sister to her face. He had known their mother. And their mother had taught him how to harness his power and use it to his advantage. He would use it now, to find Jimin. He would be the one.

These other Knights in the forest were just a hindrance. His father, the King, had insisted. Chanyeol had wanted to go alone, but the man would not allow it. “You’re my only son,” he had said,“You can not go alone.” Chanyeol had wanted to say, ‘You have two sons, father. Perhaps if you knew that, there would never have been a need for me to go at all.’ But he’d said nothing.

“Steady, boy.” Chanyeol’s stallion, Watcher, shuddered nervously. The horse could sense Chanyeol’s quiet fury. Or maybe he could feel the impending doom in front of them. Ghost Birch seemed to reach out and coax them in with a finger. They stood at the barrier between worlds.

Chanyeol let out a shaky breath. Then, he pulled the leather glove off his left hand. It was like he’d taken a cotton out his ears. Only it was his other ears. The Crown Prince pressed his hand against a silver maple tree. The bark was almost soft against his hand, the ridges gentle under his fingertips. He closed his eyes and exhaled. He could hear whispers pressing against his eardrums.

Chanyeol could speak to the trees.

He’s not here. He went through the barrier.

Chanyeol knew as much. Jimin was somewhere in the Moon’s Wood. He only prayed that his brother was not within an inch of his life. The Crown Prince swallowed, he took his hand away and the voices stilled. A cool breeze blew past and froze against his skin. The Prince shuddered. He’d have to touch the Paper Birch, the ghost trees, if he was to get the information he required.

But the ghost trees were not like the regular trees. They spoke with the voices of a thousand corpses. Chanyeol urged Watcher as close as he would go. The stallion was nervous, because the Prince was nervous.

“Easy, Watcher,” Chanyeol said softly, “I won’t bring you in. You can wait here for me.” Watcher steadied himself. He breathed out once, twice, thrice and then he was still and calm.

Chanyeol closed his eyes in trepidation. The ghost trees were like gravestones to the touch. They cooled his blood, lulling him into an eternal rest. They were hungry, eager to grow roots over his dead body. The Crown Prince exhaled a palpable mist which fanned out into the somber morning.

You’re looking for the Firefly? He’s inside the belly of a Wolf.

Chanyeol felt a heavy weight press against his chest. He could scarcely breathe. Had he been too late? Was Jimin dead?

Dead? He’s not dead. Not yet. Samjokgu watches him with her three eyes. She waits for dinner.

Chanyeol shuddered as he ripped his hand away. The sound of laughter filled his ears and made him dizzy. Watcher stepped back three paces as soon as he was done, neighing fearfully.

“Sorry, boy,” Chanyeol said through gritted teeth, “Wait here for me, yeah?”

Watcher nodded as Chanyeol dismounted, setting his boots on the crisp, decaying ground below. The Crown Prince put his glove back on, tugging it snugly over his fingers. The silence loomed over him again and the laughter died away. He sighed. He knew the trees were still speaking but as long as he couldn’t hear it, he feared not. With a last look at Watcher, Chanyeol turned around and disappeared into the white.

A lone howl pierced through the morning.


 

 

Yoongi

When Yoongi woke up, he didn’t bother to open his eyes. He felt the warm, soft fox pelt against his skin. It smelled like quince, redwood char, and something strongly herbal. It was pleasant and soothing. The wolf nuzzled against the fur and sighed contentedly.

Then came the pain. It wasn’t an outright pain, more like an itch. But steadily it grew and Yoongi realized he didn’t have the strength to move his limbs when he tried to reach for it. It was in his left leg. It felt like a fire was spreading across his skin. When he tried to move the leg, the pain grew so acute that he whimpered.

Yoongi opened his eyes. He was in his lonesome cottage, the one he built with his own hands for the times when he could not be a wolf. He realized that he wasn’t a wolf now as he looked at his own human arms. The confusion set in. It wasn’t the new moon for another six days. Why was he not a wolf right now? Where were his sister and brothers? But most of all, why did he hurt so much?

“You’re awake,” a voice called to him, high and soft.

There was a fire going. It filled the room with golden light and the pleasant smell of char. Yoongi was the only one in his family that liked the smell of burning wood. His sister had said ‘Burning wood means danger. It must be the man in you that finds it comforting.’ Yoongi wished it were not true, but even now, the smell set him at peace.

“What happened?” Yoongi asked the disembodied voice.

“I-It was an accident,” the voice answered shakily, “Well, not really. I-It was my f-fault. I shot you with an arrow.”

The memory came flooding back into his head. It hit him so forcefully that it damn near cracked his skull open. Yoongi remembered the silver-haired archer in the woods, his clear green eyes, and his godly shooting ability. Yoongi swallowed. Two questions came to the front of his mind. First, why was the archer still alive? His mother should have torn him to shreds. Secondly, why was he still alive? That arrow hit him in the thigh. He should have bled out and died.

Yoongi used all of his strength to tilt his head up. Immediately, he focused on the only other figure in the room. The archer had deep circles under his eyes. He looked guilty and tired. He was seated at the table, mixing herbs in a mortar.

“Mom didn’t kill you?,” Yoongi leaned back to look at the ceiling, “That’s a surprise.”

“She’ll kill me as soon as you’re all better,” the voice said, “And I’ll have deserved it.”

Yoongi wondered if the man was trying to talk his way out of death. Was he trying to garner pity? Yoongi thought it over. Something about the boy’s voice seemed genuine.

“I wonder if she’ll just swallow you whole,” Yoongi said aloud, “Is that what she said she’d do?”

The only sound was the pestle against the mortar.

“She said that if you die, then I’ll die,” the archer answered, “I’m not sure what she said other than that. I don’t understand wolf. She’s waiting outside. I should tell her you’re awake.”

“I can do that,” Yoongi swallowed through the pain.

He howled into the night.

I’m awake.

His mother immediately howled back.

I know, my son. I can hear you speaking with the changeling.

“What did she say?” the boy asked, voice full of fear.

“She said she can hear us talking,” Yoongi answered, “And that you’re a man with the stranger’s blood.”

The boy swallowed, loudly and nervously.

“Yes.” he answered an unspoken question.

“Maybe that’s why she didn’t kill you,” Yoongi mused. “The neighbors are touchy about their children.”

“I’m not theirs. The fairies can all go fuck themselves,” the boy spat, “I am a man.”

Yoongi laughed and it hurt. But still, he laughed.

“You can love them all you want, proclaim your undying faith,” Yoongi muttered in his low wolf’s voice, “But they will always see you as a throwback.”

The boy was silent for a long time. He just ground away at whatever medicinal paste he was making. Then, he walked over to where Yoongi was resting. Suddenly, the pale man’s smile died as the boy drew close. The wolf in him reared up in protest.

“If you’re a man,” Yoongi hissed, “do not touch me with your stinking hands. A man does not catch a wolf. The wolf is like the wind. How do you catch the wind?”

The boy frowned, “I have to. You’re running hot. There is already the smell of poison and corruption. This will draw it away.”

The boy gently lifted the covers so that Yoongi could see the damage. It was bad. It was swollen to near twice the size. It was wrapped up in cloth and covered in strange medicinal herbs. The longer he looked, the worse he felt. Until finally, all he could feel was the pain. The light touch of the boy’s fingers against the bandages was like claws digging into his flesh.

“Do not touch me,” Yoongi screamed, forcing himself upright. His mother growled viciously into the night upon hearing Yoongi’s cries.

The boy jumped back quickly, falling to the ground and spilling the medicine on himself. He looked frightened as he scrambled away into the corner. His eyes filled with salt water, and it fell down the sides of his face. Yoongi felt almost sorry for the boy before his anger returned.

“I told you not to,” Yoongi hissed, “It’s your own fault.”

The boy spoke thickly, “I have to save you. But there’s nothing here. No clean bandages, no medicine, nothing. You’ll die like this.”

“Then you will too.” Yoongi was strangely calm about their impending death. The boy, on the other hand, seemed terrified. All men feared death.

“You’ll die and I would have killed you,” the boy corrected him. The boy was not afraid to die. He was afraid of killing someone.

Yoongi cocked his head ever so slightly. Men were not afraid to kill. That was what made them men.

The sky was turning a mournful gray outside. Light slowly cast on the walls from the window. The high noon sun had finally broken through the darkness of the Moonwoods’ spell.

“What’s your name?” Yoongi asked.

The boy was still on the ground, covered in green mash. He hastily got up and tried to clean himself off with his hand. Tears fell heavy from his eyes and died on the wooden floor. Yoongi wondered why he didn’t answer. The silence stretched on until Yoongi wondered if the boy had heard him at all.

“Firefly,” the boy finally said. For a moment the boy had eyes that glowed brightly. They were like fireflies that danced in the night.

The pale man swallowed. Why did the boy’s name make something prickle in his chest?

Firefly?

“I’m Yoongi.”

“Alright,” the boy nodded, voice gentle, “You have to let me near you. I have to redress the bandages.”

The wolf in him thrashed in protest. It was so tangible that Yoongi could feel the beast clawing from inside his ribcage.

“No,” Yoongi hissed, “I don’t want you near me.”

You’re dangerous.

The boy sighed, “You’ll die.”

“Then I’ll die,” Yoongi hissed.

Quiet loomed over them as they stared at each other. Yoongi knew this well. They were two dogs who didn’t yet know their place with one another. One had to be stronger, and to know was to fight. The boy looked at Yoongi hard and that dangerous glow flashed in his eyes once more.  The wolf would rather die than be touched by the boy.

Angry barking filled the strained quiet, from outside. It was so loud that the panels of maple wood wall shook violently. It was his mother’s voice, followed by a chorus of snarling that could only be his siblings.

“Stay here,” the Firefly hissed urgently, “I’ll go see what’s happening.

The boy opened the door, ran out, and slammed the thing shut behind him. Yoongi willed himself to calm down. When his heart stopped pounding in his ears, he could finally make out the conversation.

“- have an infirmary, skilled hands that can bring men back from near dead,” a deep voice said, “Let my brother, Jimin, take your son to the castle. I will stay here as your hostage.”

Then, he heard his mother’s lowly, dangerous timber.

You do not love your own life. You will tell your brother not to come back for you, once he is safe. Do not take me as a fool. The Wolf Gods’ blood runs through me, and I am their last daughter.

“What can be done,” the deep voice asked, “Tell me and I will do it.”

You will take my son to your healers and the Firefly will remain here. You are sworn to him by the binding of your dead mother’s last wish. You will come back for him. I know it.

“Chanyeol,” Jimin said softly, “How do you know what she’s saying?”

“Another time,” Chanyeol answered hastily, with an edge to his voice, “when a wolf is not about to eat us.”

Wolves do not eat the strangers’ flesh. If you do not return in a fortnight, we will walk the Firefly to the cliffs and fling him off.

“The King of the Forest is our grandfather,” Chanyeol answered. “If you harm him-”

Wolves are not afraid of the forest.

“What is she saying?” Jimin asked meekly.

“I will take the Pale Wolf,” Chanyeol answered him, “You stay here. Don’t get in trouble. I’ll come back for you. Just stay alive.”

There was the sound of footsteps. The door creaked open and a tall figure silhouetted against the gloomy morning. After a pause, he stepped forward.

Yoongi swallowed as he focused in on the man. He was long and broad, and plated in golden armor. He held his helm at his side, so his face was visible. His hair was black and carelessly tousled. His eyes were dark and wide like the sea at night. His ears protruded straight out the sides of his head. His skin was fair and smooth and soft.

And he was glorious.

Yoongi knew who the man was. The wolf had once been a pup and the man had once been a boy. Yoongi’s heart hammered in his chest. His wolf whined and yielded.

Yoongi realized that he was afraid. But of what? He could not put a name to it.

“Can you walk at all?” Chanyeol asked, voice as deep as a cavern. “Or will I have to carry you?”

Yoongi swallowed as his wolf stirred inside him, “Carry me, Dragonfly.”

Chapter Text



Jimin

Chanyeol swaddled Yoongi in the fox pelt and carried him off. The pale man looked so helplessly tiny. The Crown Prince held him like a baby, with a single arm, making it look completely effortless. He mounted Mushroom, taking her reigns with his free hand. Then, he looked down at Yoongi and whispered something softly to him. Perhaps it was something encouraging, but Jimin got the feeling that it was something private.

The Pale Wolf clung to Chanyeol’s side, holding onto the white cape that’d fallen over his shoulder. Yoongi looked nothing like he had when Jimin tried to touch him. The Wolf seemed so calm and trusting. Jimin wondered what Chanyeol was saying to him. But before the Firefly could get any closer, Chanyeol looked up and addressed him.

“Stay alive, baby brother,” Chanyeol said sternly, “I will come back for you as soon as I can.”

“I’ll be fine. Just hurry, and take him to the Peder. I don’t know how much longer he has. There is already some corruption,” Jimin said quickly.

“You did well in dressing his wounds,” Chanyeol shifted slightly, holding the Wolf closer to him, “He’ll live.”

The golden wolf-mother looked at Chanyeol and said something that Jimin couldn’t understand. Her face was fraught with worry though, and the Firefly could take a guess. She was probably saying something threatening and loving in equal measure.

Chanyeol nodded and urged Mushroom back into the thicket. Then, they were gone, leaving Jimin with four hungry wolves. The boy felt a river of fear course through him. It rose to his neck and threatened to choke the life from him. Several moments passed before he realized that the terror was unwarranted. The wolves weren’t paying any attention to him as they talked amongst themselves.

The golden wolf was speaking calmly and evenly, while the small gray wolf barked angrily. She hopped around for a while, yelping dejectedly. Then, she started crying, setting into a furry heap on the ground. The brown wolf, who was a bit larger, sat next to her to comfort her. It was a long while until the golden wolf looked at Jimin.

When she did, the fear washed over him anew. Samjokgu stared at him with her third eye, while the other two were still on her children. Suddenly, the pressure became too great. Staying up all night had finally caught up with the Prince. He sank to the floor, landing on the palms. What little color remained, drained from his face. He could barely focus over the loud ringing in his ears. Then he heard it.

We’re leaving, Changeling. Get up.

Her third eye flitted away from him, quick as lightning, and back to her crying, despondent child.

Jimin blinked once, twice, and then a third time. What had just happened? He’d just heard a voice in his head that was not his own. Jimin feared for his own sanity. Was it not madmen who heard voices and saw strange things in the night?

Before Jimin could gather his thoughts, the golden she-wolf snarled at him. Fearing for his life, the Prince quickly scrambled up from the ground. Urgently, he dusted himself off. The Wolf looked at him hard. Then she turned into the woods. Her cubs followed and Jimin knew he had to as well. He wasn’t sure where they were going, or what step would be his last. But he was compelled to follow all the same.

“I’m so sorry,” Jimin said suddenly, surprising even himself. The wolves turned around and eyed him curiously. He felt the heat of their gazes on his face. “I’m sorry, that I hurt him. It was wrong. I knew it was wrong and I still did it. I know it doesn’t mean anything but I just want to-”

The third eye fell upon him again.

A man can not kill someone who is meant to live. A man can not save someone who is meant to die. This is the fate that turns and turns, which no man can control.

“How… how can I understand you?” Jimin barely whispered. He had tears in his eyes that threatened to spill. He was so tired that he could sleep a thousand days. And he smelled like medicinal herbs, which were still smeared down his front.

You don’t understand me. Not at all. Now come along, Firefly. The journey is long and the day so short.

She turned away, and Jimin went after her. He didn’t know how he walked, his legs felt like bricks as he trudged along. His muscles cried out in protest. His head was pounding. His fingers felt like wood when he flexed them, aching painfully. He could scarcely keep his eyes open.

Jimin barely registered that they were walking westward, deeper into the Moonwoods. The ghost trees grew thicker and more twisted, and the  mist became denser. The sky was a ceaseless, monotonous gray. It must have been midday, but the sun was hidden under a dark canopy of clouds. The silence became near deafening, as they tread. The smell of decaying wood was so strong that the Prince felt like gagging. But still, they moved ceaselessly forward.

They walked on for what seemed like forever, until Jimin’s body groaned like old unoiled hinges. His feet felt like bloody stumps. His fingers were turning into ice, and his ears were going numb. He didn’t have a fur coat, like the wolves, to protect him from the elements. He was still in his chainmail, and his dirty, green tunic. He had no gloves, no hood, nothing to keep him from freezing.

On and on they moved. Until suddenly, they halted. The golden wolf had stopped dead in her tracks. She looked at Jimin again. Her fur was raised defensively. She almost seemed afraid.

Run, hide, get out of here. I smell the Fox.

The three wolf-children scattered in all different directions. But, Jimin felt panic overtake him. He couldn’t run. He couldn’t even move. It was as if the roots of the trees had grown over his feet, keeping him in place.

Get out here, Changeling. Move!

Jimin finally felt his blood quicken. He turned around and tried to run but there was a figure in the mist that barred his way. The golden wolf growled in frustration. She leapt over and stood in front of him. She bared her fangs at the shadow in the smoke. She lowered her stance and extended her large golden claws.

Jimin’s heart was pounding so hard that he wondered if it was going to burst inside his chest. All the air had been pushed out from his lungs. His mind was at war with itself. It was just a fox, right? Why did they all run then? A little fox wouldn’t warrant such a response.

A woman, not a fox, appeared from the mist, wearing a heavy, long white fur cloak. She appeared to be in her early thirties, if not late twenties. She had sharp yellow eyes. Her hair was long and straight, and tied up into a high ponytail, which fanned down her back like ripples of water. She was beautiful, Jimin realized after his fear died down. She was the most beautiful woman Jimin had ever laid eyes on. She was utterly perfect. Her face was symmetric, and she had full, red lips.

The golden wolf looked at her angrily, wrinkling her nose. She growled at the woman.

Why are you here, you maggot-infested whore? Am I going have to rip off another tail?

The woman smiled, revealing a row of straight, white teeth, with incisors on the sharp side. Her skin looked like smooth silk. God, she was beautiful.

“Samjokgu, you seem tense,” the woman spoke, her voice soft and feminine, like lily petals, “Is that your man-pup? He’s shorter and tanner than I imagined. But, tasty nonetheless.”

“I’m not.” Jimin didn’t know why he was volunteering this information. He was a man possessed. “I’m Jimin, the Prince of Sword Forge.”

The woman’s eyes widened in delight, “Oh, a Prince. How honored I am to be in your presence, Your Highness.” She curtsied at him, fanning out her coat, which was made of white-fox pelts. “Say, I hear your mother has long since passed. Your father must be so lonely. I could be your mother. I’d be a good mo-”

Samjokgu started laughing, it was a mix of panting and barking. Her fur rolled along her body, as she gasped her air.

You? A good mother? That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. I’d be more inclined to believe you, if you stopped eating your own children

Jimin felt a chill shoot down his spine. He sobered up. The spell of her beauty wore off and he stepped back two paces. The woman followed his movements with her eyes, like a predator in the dark. She looked much more dangerous than she had just a moment ago.

“I had to punish them,” She said softly, “They were so naughty. But you’re not like that right, Jimin?”

Jimin cursed himself. He shouldn’t have given the woman his name. Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut? If only he’d run when Samjokgu had told him to. Jimin watched the woman unblinkingly. The second she was distracted, he’d try to make a break for it. Jimin tensed his muscles, digging his boots into the ground for better traction and take off.

His chance came a moment later. Samjokgu suddenly lunged at her. In the blink of an eye, the woman turned into a large white fox, with a flurry of tails sprouting from her backside. She met the wolf’s jaws with jaws of her own. Samjokgu tried to claw her eyes out, all the while viciously snarling. The fox did the same.

Jimin turned around and ran for it. The mist covered everything so that he couldn’t see. The ground turned into a net that constantly tangled on his feet. But Jimin ran on, falling only twice. Blood slowly trickled from his scraped up palms. He cursed, wondering if the blood made him easier to find. But he had no time to think, he had to keep running. His lungs were on fire but still, he went on. He was so zealous that he wasn’t even looking at where he was going.

A black shadow obscured his vision. Jimin stumbled backward, adding to the number of bruises that were already forming on his body. He felt no real pain though, not yet, not while adrenaline shot through his veins. Every nerve in his body was tingling.

Jimin sighed with relief. It wasn’t the Fox-woman, it was the gray-wolf from earlier. She barked at him, and to Jimin’s surprise, he could understand her.

“Let’s go!” she screamed, “We have to hide. There are some caverns nearby that lead to a network of tunnels underground. Foxes don’t like mazes. She won’t be able to find us.”

“Okay, let’s go,” Jimin said quickly, following after the gray wolf as if his life depended on it, because it did. His body was utterly worn out. He’d never run this much on this little sleep. His feet were no doubt completely covered in blisters. He had tiny, bleeding cuts everywhere. His head was pounding on his shoulders. The threat of death was the only thing urging him on.

Caverns appeared in through the mist. The brown and black wolves were waiting for them at the mouth. They’d looked worried right up until they saw the two arrive.

“Gongjun, that was so reckless,” the black wolf snarled, “Let the man die! What would mom say if you got hurt?”

“When a wolf makes a promise,” Gongjun said, “a wolf keeps that promise. We are no better than men if we break our words, Wangja”

“Let’s just get inside,” the brown wolf whined, “I’ll feel safer once we are inside.”

“Shut up, Byeongsa,” Wangja growled, “Mom left me in charge. I’ll get in trouble if she ends up dead. She’s always so fucking careless. It’s her fault that Yoongi got shot in the first place.”

“It’s not my fault,” Gongjun growled, ready to rip the other’s throat out.

“It is your fault, “ Wangja spat back, “You were the one who went to the river during the Hunt.”

“Let’s get inside,” Byeongsa keened nervously, “Come on, let’s not fight.”

“It’s not her fault. It’s my fault,” Jimin conceded, “I shot him. I’m so sorry. I-”

Byeongsa jumped back in surprise, “Y-You can understand us? Why have you been acting like-”

“I just started hearing you,” Jimin explained, “I don’t know what happened.”

The three wolves exchanged looks. Gongjun eyed him nervously, “Let’s just go.”

Jimin followed the wolves into the tunnels. The light died very quickly. But it was fine for Jimin. He could see in the dark and his eyes were like fireflies in the darkness. The wolves turned back to look at him. They had mirrored eyes too. It wasn’t like staring into the eyes of a stranger. It was like staring into the eyes of a long-lost kinsman. Before Jimin could even fathom the strange feeling, a look of horror flashed on Gongjun’s face.

“Behind you,” Gongjun whined pitifully.

Jimin turned around, quickly, He already knew what it was. But somehow, seeing her increased his dread ten-fold.

The Fox was there, half woman and half animal. Her face was warped in wild fury. Her tails were fanned out behind her, except the one that wasn’t. One was just a bleeding stump that flopped uselessly on her side. Her mouth was red tinged, as blood dripped down her chin, coating her neck and chest.

“Oh my,” the woman smiled, “what naughty children you’ve been.”




Hoseok

The Song of the Sunrise was feeling jilted. He’d prayed so earnestly to find the Changeling, but he’d turned up empty. The Crown Prince had found the fox during the Hunt, and he’d found this fox too.

“Jimin is safe,” Chanyeol had said, while giving them each a ruby encrusted medal, “Thank you for your help and fealty. Go home as heroes.”

Hoseok touched the medal that was still pinned to his chest. The valuable rubies felt like tin against his fingertips. The medal was a bribe, a consolation prize, and utterly worthless.

The Knight sighed into his honeyed chicken, more bone than meat. He and Jungkook were on their way home to the Twin Isles. They’d stopped at an inn to fuel up, and to rest their horses. Jungkook was all the way on the other side of the room, chatting up a barmaid. The young man was the picture of ease. He had nothing to worry about

Hoseok, on the other hand, had a lot to explain once he arrived home. Their servants would be arriving a day early without them, and without a word as to why. They’d been sworn to secrecy lest they harm the Crown in any way. Hoseok was going to have to get creative if he was to fool his father. That, or he could tell the truth. He hadn’t decided on what to do. Which would be more advantageous?

“Excuse me,” a woman tapped him on the shoulder.

Hoseok turned to her, beaming. He wasn’t feeling particularly happy at the moment, but she couldn’t tell with the way he was smiling.

“Yes,” Hoseok said softly.

The woman immediately turned a bright red. She couldn’t speak properly after that. Hoseok patiently waited for her to finish speaking while secretly wanting to wring her neck.

“A-are y-you, by ch-ch-chance, Sir Jung Hoseok?” she stuttered, eyes downcast, fumbling with her stained apron.

“Yes, I am. How can I help you?” Hoseok said sweetly, eyes soft.

Her face turned even redder, “Tis a great honor, Sir.” She curtsied while bowing her head.

Hoseok wondered when the woman last washed her curly brown hair. It looked like it had absorbed the entirety of the fried, greasy smell of the inn.

“That is quite a compliment,” Hoseok said, smile never faltering, “coming from a great beauty like yourself.”

The woman flourished under his flattery. She batted her eyelashes at him, giggling copiously. All the while, Hoseok wondered what god-awful sludge was stuck underneath her fingernails. But before he could think of anything, she’d excused herself to fetch him a pitcher of brown ale.

The ale had been less than adequate. Hoseok rode east with a parched throat and a queasy stomach. Jungkook seemed less affected by the poor fare. He rode on reasonably well and tried to break ahead more than once.

It was silent. Jungkook never spoke unless spoken too. The younger Knight hated Hoseok. He treated Hoseok like the poisonous, purple mushrooms that grew in the rainforests of their home. He couldn’t even in share the same air with the older.

The whole seven-day trip had been like that. They traveled a hundred leagues to the Gold shore like that. Hoseok would try to start a conversation. Jungkook would either ride away or shoot him down almost immediately. Hoseok had no one to talk to except a hawk that kept following them. Jungkook had said that it was probably not the same hawk. Hoseok begged to differ.

When they finally reached the Gold shore, Hoseok was actually glad. The Song boarded a ship to the Left Eye, while Jungkook parted for the Right Eye by one-man sail. Hoseok was relieved to see the young Knight go. At least now, he had someone who was willing to talk to him. The shiphands were more than happy to share the day’s gossip.

“Your father is in a state,” the Captain spoke, as they sailed over the calm indigo waters. “The servants returned yesterday. They wouldn’t tell him anything. You were missing. Your cousin was missing.”

Hoseok winced, “They didn’t know anything. They’d told him if they knew.”

“I thought as much,” the Captain struggled, looking to a quickly growing green blot in the distant. “Won’t bring their fingers back though.”

Hoseok decided then that it’d be better to tell his father the truth. He liked his own fingers. He had nice fingers. He couldn’t be called ‘Song of the Sunrise’ without his godly lyre playing abilities… and his fingers.

“Capricious old man,” Hoseok muttered under his breath.

Hoseok rested his elbows on the ship’s warped railing and looked out. The Left Eye was approaching rapidly, tall breadfruit trees grew on the horizon. The smell of salt and something unique to his home island filled his nostrils. Hoseok found that he couldn’t smile anymore. His cheeks were too tired to twist his lips that way.

“Will you come sail with us tomorrow, Sir?” the Captain asked, “We going far out, three days at least, fishing for tuna as big as three men.”

Hoseok laughed disdainfully, “Men like me don’t have the certainty of tomorrow. Leave without me if I’m not there at first light.”

The Captain laughed, breaking the tension that pressed on Hoseok’s shoulders. “No man has the certainty of tomorrow. So first light, yeah?’

“Yeah,” Hoseok agreed.

The large oak ship sailed into the port. Two envoys were already waiting for Hoseok. The Knight eyed them warily. One of them had a heavily bandaged hand. A spot of crimson peaked through where the pinky finger would have been.

Hoseok sighed and all but ignored them. They followed him back to the small castle on the pretense that they were escorting him. The Song felt the happiness drain from his chest. Emptiness was all that was left.

They escorted him to his father’s study, opening the door, pushing him inside and leaving without a word. A withered, hard man appeared behind a table laden with large, moldy tomes. The man looked up and laid his eyes - eye… just one eye on Hoseok. The man had only one working eye, pale blue. The other was unpainted glass, and milky white.

This was Jung Mul, Hoseok’s father, lord, and master.

Hoseok suspected that the man had once been handsome in a previous life when the toils of life had yet to destroy him from the inside, before the sea took away everything he ever loved. But what was left now, was just the washed out husk of a man.

“Close the fucking door,” the man spat.

Hoseok quickly closed the door before facing his father. The man got out of his chair and closed the distance between them in a few quick seconds. Mul stood so close that Hoseok could see the new stubble growing on his leathery face. His pale blue eye was like a lightning strike. It kept hitting Hoseok again and again.

Hoseok swallowed audibly, “The King kept us behind to search for the Prince.”

“The Crown Prince?” The Fishbone’s face darkened. His breath was foul, like day-old fish innards.

“No, the Changeling,” Hoseok corrected, “He got lost in the woods. The King selected five of us to find him.”

“And did you find him? ” his father had scarcely let him finish his sentence.

“No,” Hoseok wished so hard that he could have said yes.

Anger flashed over the man’s visage, even the glass eye seemed angry under his knitted brows, “Was it Jungkook? Did your cousin find him?”

Mul had said the name Jungkook as if it was disgusting. His face was marred even further by his pure hatred for the boy.

“The Crown Prince found him,” Hoseok said quickly, “He gave us each a medal for searching the wood, even though he did not.”

A pale blue eye scanned down to where the medal was pinned on Hoseok’s chest before flitting back up. His father’s anger had passed. Hoseok was flooded with relief. He almost sighed before he remembered where he was.

“What about the Princess?” The Fishbone asked.

The Song’s relief was short-lived. Pressure began to press against his chest again.

“I didn’t see her,” Hoseok said truthfully, “She kept to herself.”

His father suddenly took a hold of his left hand. He squeezed Hoseok’s fingers hard. He stared at the Knight unblinkingly. Hoseok had stopped breathing. His heart had stopped beating. His father looked at him as though he were peeling away the layers of his flesh, seeing right into his soul. Hoseok fought the urge to rip himself away and run. Finally, Jung Mul loosened his grip on Hoseok’s fingers. He pressed the Knight’s hand to his lips and kissed it.

“Why do you look so frightened? I wouldn’t dream of hurting these hands,” the Fishbone said, “The future son-in-law of the King must be flawless, hands included. Don’t you agree, son?”

“Yes,” Hoseok barely managed to whisper, “father”

Hoseok knew that comment wasn’t supposed to help him sleep at night. Jung Mul had made his intentions very clear. The Knight could keep his fingers, right up until the day Jungkook married Jeonghwa. Hoseok was pretty sure on that day, he’d set sail and he’d never return.




Namjoon

The cool, green grass of the plains had finally given way to familiar soft, red clay. Namjoon knew he was close to home now. The Peaks jutted out in the distant, a series of long, burgundy spires. Slowly, the air became drier and hotter. It was stifling for most animals. As they trekked on, rabbits and other small game seemed to vanish.

Joon, however, was a Knight of the Mountain. This was what he was used to, what he liked. The humidity of the forest hadn’t suited him at all. It clung to his skin like sour, wet fabric, causing an unscratchable itch in his pits. Joon took in deep lungfuls of the dry, clay-spiced air, and felt like he could finally breathe again. He was finally home.

Taehyung, on the other hand, had started sweating like a butcher’s day goat. He wiped his forehead with his palm, “Ugh, so hot.”

Namjoon didn’t feel the heat as much as his younger brother. He was made for the mountains, and no one could convince him otherwise. The terrain was not as inhospitable as outsiders claimed. It was not a desolate desert. The land was a soft clay, not a dry sand. If you dug deep enough into it, you could find water. If you dug even deeper, you’d dig yourself a well.

Water was abundant to those that knew where to look. Namjoon handed his waterskin to Taehyung, “Drink up. Don’t want you fainting.”

Taehyung took the thing and pulled the stopper out with his teeth. Then, he proceeded to drink half the contents before passing it back to Namjoon. As always, Namjoon shook his head.

“Drink. You need it,” Namjoon urged his little brother, “We still have two days before we start going up,”

The Great Clay Fortress was high up on the mountain, built right into the face. It was high enough that the ground grew frigid. The terrain had many such traps, quicksands, sudden rains, long stretches of no rain, and everything else.

The three of them were returning alone, just as they’d left. The Warden of the Mountain did not believe in grand processions. Grand procession made arrogant men. There were no servants to dress, watch after, or feed them. So, every problem that arose, solely lay on Namjoon’s shoulders. The Shield was getting a bit tired of his role.

Seokjin, Namjoon’s cousin, caught up from behind. He slowed his horse so that it kept pace with Evening. Jin had a smile plastered on his face, along with some sort of sticky purple juice dribbling down his chin.

“I picked some cactus pears,” Jin said, lifting a small white drawstring bag, “They’re very sweet.”

Namjoon looked at Jin and sighed, “If you die, uncle is going to kill me. Stop running off.”

Jin merely laughed, swatting the air with his hand. Namjoon swallowed and turned back to the road.

Officially, Joon had come on this trip out of duty. Taehyung had come because he’d never seen the Knights of the Twin Isles before. Joon had never seen them either. Before the Hunt, Joon had heard a rumor that Sir Jeon Jungkook of the Twin Isles was the most handsome man on the face of the earth. Joon was curious, so when he’d arrived at Sword Forge, he purposefully sought out the Golden boy. But, Jeon Jungkook had not been the most beautiful man in the world. Namjoon could attest to that. The title still belonged to Kim Seokjin.

“Tae,” Jin led his horse, Morning, a pale golden stallion with a long white mane, over to Taehyung’s side, “Do you want a pear?”

“What if they’re poison?” Namjoon grumbled.

“Well, that’d be bad,” Jin joked, “I already ate three of them.”

“Greedy,” Taehyung swallowed the heat and reached for the white bag.

Jin laughed again, drawing away teasingly, before tossing a pear at him. The two had an easy relationship. Late at night, when Namjoon could be honest with himself, he knew he was jealous of them. He’d never gotten along with his brother that way. He’d definitely never gotten on with his cousin like that either.

Namjoon decided that he wouldn’t think about it. There were already so many things to think about. He’d have to go back to Sword Forge as soon as he could. The next event was a month away. It was the Her Highness, Jeonghwa’s birthday. They’d probably host a tourney in her name. He had to be there. All that he’d earned was at stake. One wrong move, one noticed absence could cost him the King’s good graces.

“Joon.” Jin had made his way back to Evening’s side. Gently, he placed a hand on Joon’s shoulder. “You look worried. I’ve eaten a hundred cactus pears. I know pears. These aren’t poisonous.”

Namjoon eased Evening away so that Jin’s hand fell back to his side. Suddenly, Joon’s heart started hammer against his armor. Jin was his cousin, adopted yes, but family all the same. Joon had to swallow his feelings if he was to endure.

“I know, cousin,” Joon said, still looking at the sunset behind the red mountains, before riding forward.

They trotted along in silence for a long while. The heat began to die down, and the clay had started turning to ice.

“Let’s make camp for the night,” Taehyung suggested when the last glimmer of warm, yellow light faded behind the horizon.

The clay terrain was warm during the day, perfectly warm, according to Namjoon. But the night was frigid, the kind of cold that made icicles of limbs. Taehyung started gathering stones for a fire. Namjoon unpacked the maple wood that he’d gathered from the Red Forest. Jin placed sparks stones against a tuff of kindling.

The three of them made quick work of setting up a camp. To be honest, there was not much else to do but build a fire. They slept under the stars, on soft, travel-friendly animal pelts. Joon settled into his furs without complaint. The fire was warm and filled the air with the pleasant smell of maple char. Namjoon smiled to himself as he looked up at the stars. The sky glittered like it’d been crusted over in diamonds and amethysts. It was a peaceful night. Joon’s chest was filled with the pleasant hum of familiarity.

“Jin,” Namjoon called softly.

The Knight of the Forest turned over with a soft sigh. His eyes were glistening in the firelight. He looked at Joon with a strange forlorn longing. Jin seemed so impossibly soft, and suddenly a garland of white flowers suited the crown of his head more than a soldier's helm ever had. Joon cleared his throat and the moment passed. Jin smiled and the longing faded as if it had never been there.

“Yes? ” his cousin asked.

“Pass me one of those pears.” Joon reached out, his hand stretching the distance between them.

Jin laughed gently. “Sure, Joon.”  




Yoongi

Yoongi was warm and comfortable. He felt as though he’d slept for a week. His body was sore but in that stiff, pleasant, well-rested way. His eyes opened and a bright white light flooded his system. He groaned and immediately someone appeared above him.

“How are you?” the voice asked. The light behind turned him into a shadow. Yoongi could scarcely make out his features. He remained a dark, ominous blot.

Yoongi opened his mouth to speak, but realized that his throat was painfully arid. He felt as though he’d eat a pound of sand had nothing to wash it down with.

“Thirsty,” Yoongi managed to say. His voice came out in weak rasps, like the dry wind that blew over the desert.

The figure disappeared from his vision, letting the light pour in his eyes unhindered. Yoongi combatted the sting with copious blinking. Slowly his surroundings became more clear. The walls were a bright white as were the floors. The room smelled strongly of lemon and the blood of thousand dead men. His wolf whimpered inside his chest. There was so much death, even if the room seems spotless.

The man returned, helping Yoongi up, and feeding him water from a tin cup. Yoongi gulped down the water greedily. He didn’t turn away until he’d drained the entire thing. A satisfied feeling settled in his chest. He sighed contentedly, before the panic stirred him again.

“Where am I?” Yoongi asked, looking around. He must have seemed like a frightened, wild animal to the man. He turned his head every which way, but all seemed foreign and dangerous.

“You’re in the Basilicant. This is our royal healing ward.” the man said softly. He reached out and tried to pat Yoongi on the knee, to soothe him.

Yoongi snarled in protest and the man jumped back. He’d given Yoongi space, but he didn’t look afraid. He seemed wary, but curious about the Pale Wolf. His mouth was ever so slightly upturned as he rested his chin against his palm.

“You need not be afraid. I dressed your wounds and tended to you for quite a while. You’ve been asleep for three days,” the man said.

“Who are you?” Yoongi narrowed his eyes.

“I’m Minho,” the man answered, “I’m a healer.”

Yoongi looked at the man with suspicion. Minho was very young, almost a boy. He had an easy aura about him, paired with wide, innocent eyes. He looked nothing like a healer should. His hands weren’t calloused. His face wasn’t lined with worry. His eyes weren’t blackened from lack of sleep.

“I’ve sent someone for His Highness,” Minho said, “He should be here soon.”

“His Highness?” Yoongi spoke the title clumsily, his eyebrow raised.

“The Crown Prince,” Minho clarified, “Park Chanyeol. He was the one who brought you to me.”

Yoongi didn’t know any ‘Crown Prince’ but the name Chanyeol seemed familiar. He felt as though he’d heard it recently. The name made his chest feel all funny, ticklish even. He scratched at it with his hand, but the itch did not subside.

“Chanyeol?” Yoongi tilted his head. Suddenly he felt the room spin. He didn’t realize he’d fallen until he was already lying back down against the goose feather pillows.

“Are you alright?” the man checked his forehead with the back of his hand. “You’re a bit warm, still.”

Yoongi, or rather the wolf, did not like being touched. A vicious, dangerous growl ripped from the back of his throat, as he forced himself upright again. Minho jumped back more than a single pace this time. He had to avoid Yoongi’s snapping jaws.

“Don’t touch me,” Yoongi said threateningly. “Keep your filthy hands to yourself.”

“Sorry,” Minho said, arms raised defensively, “I’m sorry.”

A figure entered, heavy with armor, complete with a long, broadsword at his hip. He crossed the room and placed his hands on either side of the Yoongi’s shoulders. The wolf was ready to attack. It was so agitated, trapped in a cage. It wanted to kill the next thing that touched it. Yoongi bit down on the hand that dared to lay itself on him.

The Wolf stared angrily up at the armored man. Then, he saw who it was.

Big, dark eyes, complimented a delicate, smooth face. The ears… the ears were so playful, jutting out. Yoongi felt calmer despite his situation. He immediately let the man go. Yoongi’s bite had drawn two points of blood. He whined apologetically and licked at the wound. But the man stepped back, quickly pulling his appendage away.

“You bit me,” he said, looking at Yoongi quizzically.

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi looked up at him, eyes brimming with tears. “I was scared.”

There was a moment of silence while the man considered his words. He looked at his hand and then back at Yoongi.

“There’s no need to be afraid,” he said, “The Peder is taking good care of you. You’ll be home in no time.”

“Home,” Yoongi cocked his head, “When will we be going?”

You’ll be going home as soon as you’re all healed up,” he said.

“You won’t be coming with me, Dragonfly,” Yoongi couldn’t keep the disappointment from his voice.

Dragonfly inhaled sharply. “My name is Chanyeol. The only person who ever called me Dragonfly was-”

His face twisted up, almost imperceptibly, before he finished his sentence. Only Yoongi caught the pain his eyes.

“-my mother.”

“You’ll always be Dragonfly to me,” Yoongi said softly, “ My Dragonfly.”

Chanyeol swallowed hesitantly. “I saw your mother, the three-eyed wolf in the woods. She wants you back. She says that you are her son, the Spirit the Rises in the Mist. But when I saw you, I saw that you were a man. But now, I know that you are indeed a Spirit, one that needs to return to the forest.”

Yoongi mulled over his words, turning them in his mind. His Dragonfly thought that his knowledge was magic. But, it wasn’t

“I know you,” Yoongi said sternly, “You know me. We grew up together. But one day, there was a long line of weeping men all dressed in black. You went with them and you never returned. I waited for you. I waited a whole fortnight by the well.”

Chanyeol stumbled back, his eyes were full of confusion, “Your words frighten me, Spirit. Speak no more. I promise, nay, I swear on my life to bring you safely home.”

“It’s me,” Yoongi shook his head, “I’m not a Spirit. It’s me… Suga. That’s what you called me because you couldn't pronounce-”

Understanding dawned on the Dragonfly’s features.

“I couldn’t pronounce sugar. I was only five.” Chanyeol finished, his breath faint, “You’re the pup that I played with when I was young. But then my mother died, and I had to go to her funeral. I didn’t come back because-” he broke down into tears “b-because I was so sad. I got sick and was bedridden for three months. When I went back to the well, you were already gone.”

Yoongi had always wondered why the boy left. He’d always thought the boy had died, or worse. He’d abandoned him, and no longer loved him. But this explanation had pardoned everything. It healed the aching in his heart. Tears welled in the corners of his eyes.

His Dragonfly reached out and gently stroked his cheek, “I remember you, Suga.”



Chapter Text

 

 

Chanyeol

Remembering was painful, Chanyeol realized. It tore him on the inside, making pudding of his organs. He would give anything to forget. He would give anything just to be the Crown Prince and nothing more. But he knew in his heart, that he was more than just a man. He heard and saw things that mere men did not. He saw the magic in the turning of the seasons. He understood the old words that the trees whispered, which men had long forgotten. And right now, he could see the overwhelming beauty of the pale man in front of him.

Yoongi looked at him softly, taking his hand and weaving his fingers through. The wolf loved him, loved him now just as he had loved him when he was three. Chanyeol inhaled sharply, lungs forcefully expanding out of neglect. He'd been like a dead man until his air-starved body cried out in protest. The agony had been so great that he’d forgotten to breathe.

Yet, he remembered everything else with perfect clarity.

He remembered being lost in the woods as a tiny, helpless tyke. It had been the very first time he’d seen Suga, eyes glowing in the dark. He’d been so frightened. He thought the big bad wolf of bedtime legend was going to eat him up. Instead, the wolf pup had walked up to him and licked his ears. The wolf had snuggled beside him, calming him down, until he stopped crying. Then together, they’d found the way home.

“I thought you died,” Suga said softly, “I stopped eating for three days before mom started force feeding me.”

Chanyeol cursed his wretched heart. If only he could rip it out of his body to stop these accursed feelings. For the first time in his life, he wanted to run away. He wanted to cast off his crown and just stay with Suga forever. He envisioned himself with a wreath of wildflowers adorning his head. He would walk hand in hand forever with the pale man beside him.

But unfortunately, the wolf had been right the first time.

“I did die,” Chanyeol said solemnly, “The boy from the woods is dead. He died with his mother. I can’t go with you. I have a duty to my home and my people.”

The man blinked and blinked and blinked, but understanding did not touch his eyes. Confusion loomed on his brow as he tilted his head. His mouth was set in a pensive frown. Clearly, Suga had mistaken their childhood promises to be vows. Chanyeol chewed on the inside of his cheek. But, they had been vows, and he was lying to himself if he forsook them now.

“There are islands made of gold in the east,” Suga said, struggling over the words, voice threatening to break. “We would go together once we grew up. You swore it and so did I.”

“You have to go home,” Chanyeol said with finality. “Go home, Yoongi .”

That was what his wolf-mother had called him. Yoongi, that was his name, not Suga. But the Pale Wolf cringed and pulled away, as though his real name physically hurt him. He looked to the side with tears in his eyes. Then, he laid back down on the pillows and stared up at the ceiling. Chanyeol felt his pain. It felt like real, physical cuts in his skin.

“Even if I’m not your Suga anymore,” he said with his deep, sullen voice, “You will always be my Dragonfly.”

Chanyeol swallowed his guilt, “It’s been twenty ye-”

“Just go,” he hissed, closing his eyes, “I’m tired and wounded. I need my rest.”

Chanyeol wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by wounded. Did he mean the arrow wound on his thigh? Or did he mean the-

No, he was fooling himself again. It wasn’t the arrow. That was just the flesh and it would heal. Chanyeol knew exactly what Yoongi meant. The Crown Prince reached out to touch the man’s delicate face, only to retract it at the last second. Then, with a painful sob never making its way out of his mouth, Chanyeol stood up and left.

The Prince couldn’t breathe. It was like there was a noose wrapped around his neck. He rubbed his throat but felt nothing. Surely there was something there, trying to strangle him to death. Chanyeol ran down the winding stairs, through the hall, and out the doors of the annex. Great beams of sunlight were there to greet him outside. They blinded him and made tears fall from his eyes. It was the sun. That’s what it was. Or was it?

Chanyeol blinked the sting from his eyes, willing himself to adjust to the light. But, the tears kept falling and he could do nothing to stifle them. How could Yoongi do this? It had been twenty long years that he’d seen the man last. Any promises they’d made would surely be invalid now. They were just children. They’d just been musings about a world they didn’t even really know yet. Now Yoongi wanted to travel the world together? It was preposterous.

So why was he still crying?

“Is something wrong, Your Royal Highness?” a young female healer addressed him. She had concern in her eyes that reminded him of his mother. Why today of all days?

“Nothing that you can fix,” Chanyeol sighed, wiping his face, “This just the glare of the sun, my lady. Your charge is inside and waiting. The Peder is with him as well. You best go to him.”

The woman nodded and seemed relieved, “Thank you, Your Highness. I won’t keep you then.”

She left without another word, disappearing behind the heavy wooden door. But there were so many others around. The Castle was bustling, as usual, gossiping after the hunt, stocking up for the tourney yet to come. Chanyeol needed to be alone. He needed a moment to breathe.

Watcher was standing off to the side, eating tall stalks of grass and sweet, yellow dandelions. They were the last flowers of the Summer. Soon, Autumn would fall over the Forge, and dry stable hay would be the only choice. Watcher was eating away happily. He was carefree, acting like a wild horse. But as soon as he felt Chanyeol look at him, he stood at attention, like the soldier he was bred to be. He walked over to the Prince quickly, efficiently.

“Let's go to the Sunwoods, yeah?” Chanyeol said, clearing the grief from his voice, “Before it gets dark.”

Watcher neighed happily. There were wild apples there, colored orange blush and bright green. The horse loved apples, more than he loved flowers, equal to how much he loved Chanyeol, and almost as much as he loved Mushroom. He nodded his head in agreement, tapping his hoof excitedly.

Chanyeol quickly got on the saddle and led Watcher northward, toward the great Sun’s wood. The forest held in the Summer. It lingered there even when snow fell all elsewhere. With no true frost to curb the growth, the Sun’s wood was a wild place. There were many old animal gods that stalked the spaces between the trees. It was a two hundred leagues wide, and a thousand leagues deep. Men did not travel through it alone, if they went through it at all.

But Chanyeol loved the northern woods. He found the place peaceful and familiar. It was his own backyard, and he feared it not. He rode calmly, steadily, already knowing the way to his favorite place. There was a lake that was the color of lapis, flecked with gold and amber. Chanyeol liked to sit on the bank when he felt lonely.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” Chanyeol murmured, while gently stroking the side of Watcher’s face.

The lake eventually came into view. He climbed off Watcher and went off to the bank alone. His horse stayed behind to get at the fresh, blush apples. The waters were clear and crystalline.The ground was sturdy and dry, knit together with hearty blue grass. The trees were still dressed in pink apple blossoms.

Chanyeol picked up a stone. Yoongi’s face appeared in his mind, soft and vulnerable. The Prince swallowed and tossed the stone across the water. It skipped twice. He picked another cool, smooth stone. He thought of a small, white wolf happily yapping at him. The stone skipped four times. Then, Chanyeol found a large flat rock that had stripes of amber in it. He saw a lonely puppy waiting by a gravestone for a boy to return. Chanyeol threw the rock with a dry sob. The thing nearly cleared the breadth of the lake.

“Fuck,” he cursed, combing a hand through his hair. He was god damn frustrated with everything. Why the fuck was this happening?

Chanyeol slumped down to the grass. He rested his head against his folded knees. It wasn’t an easy feat since he was still heavily dressed in golden armor. It was absolutely suffocating. The Prince realized then that it was the metal that was choking him. He started stripping it off right there in the wilderness.

“Fuck it,” the prince cursed, tearing off his shoulder plates. He pulled hard, snapping the leather straps which held it all in place. They fell away from his body. “Fuck it all.”

He started tossing his precious golden armor into the water, throwing it as far as it would go. He threw everything away. Until finally, he was down to a light tunic and woolen pants. The only thing left was his sword, the sword of his father and his father before him, The Blacksmith. He lifted the thing, looking at it hatefully. He tensed his arm, ready to throw the accursed black sword away.

“Haven’t you tainted the waters enough?” a voice called out for the darkness.

Chanyeol realized that it had gotten dark. The sun had set during his outburst. The air was cool and still. The water was dark and strange and fathomless. Watcher had disappeared. The Prince wondered what could make something weighing nearly two tons vanish without a sound. For the first time in his life, he was afraid of being in the Sun’s Wood. He felt like a foreigner in a dangerous land.

“Who said that?” Chanyeol called out into the pitch.

No one answered, not at first. A momentary stillness settled, and Chanyeol thought the night would go on forever. But then there was a light, a flickering point of light that illuminated the murky deep. It was a firefly, small and lonely. But then, the light was joined by another, and another. Soon the darkness capsized in the golden ambiance of their hypnotic dance. And finally, Chanyeol could make out the stranger.

There was a man with silver hair that grew just past his shoulders. He was in a boat, that looked too long and thin to float in the water. But it floated just the same. The strange man with glowing eyes steered the thing to shore. Belatedly, Chanyeol realized the man did not have an oar, but the boat moved anyway.

“Your mother must have told you about me,” the man said as he turned to look at Chanyeol.

The stranger was young and delicate. He was definitely not a mortal. He had pointed ears, and bright, glowing green eyes. His face was so beautiful that it rivaled the moon. Not that Chanyeol could compare the two. The moon had disappeared from the sky.

Chanyeol asked, his voice wavering, “What did you do with my horse?”

“Watcher?” he smiled warmly, “He went home to that castle where he belongs.”

Chanyeol let out a sigh of relief. At least his horse was safe. He loved that horse, and the fact that Watcher was safe eased his rising panic just a little.

“Why did you send him away?” Chanyeol kept the conversation going. He felt like it delayed whatever disaster lurked in his future.

“He belongs there,” the man said simply, “and you belong here.”

Something that felt like fear only much worse ripped into his side. He could scarcely keep his innards in. Chanyeol wanted to run but there was nowhere to go. It was like the ground had crumbled beneath him. All that was left was the stranger and him, and the fireflies.

“Who are you?” Chanyeol asked, voice steadier than he felt.

“I’m your grandfather,” the man finally said, “You mother must have told you.”

His mother did tell him. His fairy grandfather was the King of the Forest. They called him the Spider, the Webweaver. The man had lived a thousand years and was as dangerous as a vast desert or the open sea. She’d told him that if he befell any trouble in the forest, he should use that name for protection. That was right after he’d gotten lost in the forest, and returned with Yoongi as a babe. His mother had been so worried, that she’d revealed this information to him.

“I thought you’d be all wrinkled,” Chanyeol said softly, “And that you’d have a long beard.”

The Spider laughed. His face was smooth and flawless. His eyes glittered charmingly as he chuckled. He was beautiful and familiar. Chanyeol realized the man looked like him. Yet as familiar as his face seemed, the Crown prince was turning with dread.

“Sometimes I do look like that,” he admitted, but to what, Chanyeol was unsure. “Come now, let’s go. Cry no more tears.”

“I’m going back to the castle,” Chanyeol stepped away fearfully, “Please, please let me.”

“Only the earth can cultivate wildflowers. A man cannot,” the Spider said, eyes opened wide like two cavernous pits.

“What?” Chanyeol said, trying to take a step back only to find that he couldn’t move his body.

“It was beautiful, golden, ornate.” he spoke sadly, “But it was spiked and barbed. She didn’t realize that it was a cage until it was too late.”

The old fairy lifted his arms toward the boy, gently as if coaxing a bird from a nest. His limbs were thin and willowy like the ghost trees surrounding them. His fingers were long and sharp suture needles.

“W-What are you doing?” Chanyeol stepped back, fearful of the hand reaching out for him.

“I’m setting you free.” he whispered.


 

 

Jimin

There she stood, eyes glowering at him, mouth twisting up in wicked delight. Crimson wolf-blood was smeared all down her front. It seemed that she’d had a belly full, so much that it rose up to her esophagus. But she was still hungry for blood, his blood.

‘She’s missing a tail,’ Jimin thought. The training in him forced him to gauge her weaknesses. Yes, she was missing a tail and was richer one bloody useless stump. But she was fine, hardly crippling over with pain. Jimin could tell if only by her jubilant laughter.

The Firefly felt trapped like he’d been pushed up against a wall, despite the fact that there were miles and miles of tunnels behind him. Jimin knew that running was no longer an option. Running meant that she would chase them, catching at least one of them. If it was him, then it was of no consequence. If it was Gongjun, the wolf that had just gone back for him, then it’d be a grievous loss.

“Run,” Jimin muttered under his breath, “I’ll keep her distracted.”

“I was about to say the same thing to you,” Gongjun growled.

“No, no,” the woman said softly, blinking tears of blood out of her eyes, “naughty children have to accept their punishment.”

Jimin noted the red tears crawling their way down her face. Her head must have suffered something heavy and blunt.

“There are four of us,” Jimin said confidently, more than he truly felt, “And you’re hurt, badly.”

“Not as badly as that vile she-wolf,” she coughed, “I wonder if she’ll die this time. Might be a long time before she’s reborn.”

Definitely not, Jimin decided suddenly, they couldn’t run with Samjokgu hurt somewhere in the Moonwoods.

“I’m giving you this one chance to turn around and leave,” Jimin said, using the mental warfare that his brother had taught him. Chanyeol’s deep voice rang in his head.

Half the war is in the mind, Jimin. If they think they’ve lost, then they have.

“I’m not going anywhere, Your Highness,” she snarled violently.

She was spitting out blood, not wolf-blood, Jimin noted. She was spitting out her own blood. Ever so slowly, the cogs started turning in Jimin’s head. He realized that there was a way out of this.

“You’re making a-” Jimin said calmly before he swiftly grabbed a handful of dirt and tossed it in her face. She screamed, closed her eyes, and stumbled backward from the surprise attack. Jimin took this opportunity to punch her in the head, hard. “-big mistake.”

She’d already had a concussion beforehand, Jimin knew. The punch merely added to what was already there. The woman fell on the ground turning back into a fox, with a pained whimper. Jimin kicked it in the head, once, twice, thrice. On the fourth kick, a heavy smoke spouted from her body and clouded Jimin’s vision. When it cleared, she was gone.

“It’s a fox trick,” Wangja said almost relieved, “She’s long gone, Firefly.”

Jimin cursed, “I wish I had my bow. I’d shot her right through the heart.”

“It’d be a waste,” Gongjun answered, “You can’t kill her. She’s the Fox God. She reincarnates.”

Her words failed to assuage his anger. Instead, his anger compacted until it turned into something hard and bitter.

Jimin frowned, “We should look for your mother, then.”

“I can smell mom,” Byeongsa sniffed the air, tail wagging “She’s nearby.”

Jimin followed the wolves out, toward the trees. After a minute, Jimin realized that he could actually see the trees. The mist that’d hindered him before, had all but faded. He could see the Moonwoods with perfect clarity. It hadn’t been as white as he’d previously perceived. The leaves on the ground were a soft orange, not an ashy gray. There were hints of silver in the tree bark. They weren’t ghostly white at all.

Jimin could see much farther than before. He could even see a hint of gold spun fur between the trees.

“Mom,” Gongjun broke into a run. Wangja and Byeongsa sped at her heels. Jimin tried to run as well, but the pain in his feet had suddenly chosen to return now that the danger had passed. The Prince hobbled along as quickly as he could.

The golden wolf was in poor shape. She’d lost an eye, and her fur had been completely ravaged. But she smiled as soon as she saw them.

“Mom, you’re alright,” Wangja cried happily.

Jimin’s eyebrow shot up. He’d hardly call that alright, “We need to sew her up. She’s hurt. I think there were some bandages left in the cottage.”

The golden wolf looked at him for a long while before she laughed.

I don’t need bandages. I’m a Wolf God. The blood of the earth runs through me.

“She’ll heal,” Gongjun explained patiently, nicely even, “Mom will heal within a night.”

“Oh,” Jimin said stupidly.

Samjokgu eyed Jimin curiously, noting how sweetly Gongjun was being to him.

I see you’ve bonded with my brood, Changeling.

“The Firefly saved us,” Wangja said, “He looks weak but he fights like a beast.”

The golden wolf eyed him again, the curiosity growing ever more present.

“She was already near dead when she found us,” Jimin said, eyes downcast, “You did most of the work.”

The mother-wolf was still for a moment before she nodded.

You saved them and you saved me too. She was hurt and she wanted to eat my children to replenish her strength.

“The Kitsune is a vile God,” Gongjun said softly, “She’s tricky. She eats the insides but saves the skin so she can wear them. She would have fooled mom by pretending to be one of us.”

You could have run. You’d have been free but you selflessly saved them. And so, I’ll set you free now.

“You’re letting me go?” Jimin sputtered, “But what about Yoongi?”

It’s fate that will reunite us. It has nothing to do with you.

Jimin wondered if he should go or stay. But before he could decide, the exhaustion of his ordeal finally caught up with him. He landed on the soft decay of the ground. Then blissful unawareness overtook him.

In the darkness, Jimin saw a pair of liquid blue eyes with flecks of gold in them. There was a black pyre being built and a flame so high that it licked the sky.


 

 

Seokjin

Jin didn’t know what it was to love a homeland. Namjoon, however, secretly wrote poetry about how much he loved the Peaks. Jin occasionally ‘borrowed’ the younger Knight’s poetry books, while he was sleeping or distracted. The Knight of the Forest was in love with Namjoon’s writing. The words were art, fluid and more beautiful than what Joon ever said out loud. It made Jin wonder what was going on in Joon’s head, frequently.

It was a frosty morning when the three of them finally made it to the Red Fortress. Namjoon looked extremely pleased to be back in the fold of their kinsmen. Taehyung just looked world-weary. They opened the heavy, iron doors. The fanfare greeted them, loud and regal. They blew the great welcoming horn and a long, low note echoed throughout the mountain. It wasn’t so much a sound as a vibration in Jin’s chest

Ahoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo-oooooooooooo

Ahooooooooooooooooooooo-ooooo

Jin smiled, trying to look happy. Yet, all he felt was apprehension. Every eye was on him. He was the Warden’s beloved son. He was going to inherit the mountain one day. His people expected a lot from him. They greeted him at the gates like a hero.

They blew the horn five times, each one representing an animal God. The drums started slowly at first but sped up with every step. There were people lined up on the sides, throwing white apricot flowers into the air. It was all for him, Jin knew. Namjoon and Taehyung were there too, but none of the welcome was for them.

Jin walked into the hall of the great Fortress as people clapped and cheered. The precession and music grew ever more fervent. Finally, the doors of the throne room opened

The Warden of the Mountain, Jin’s father, Kim Jisan, looked proud and happy. The handsome, old man sat on the throne made from bright, polished copper, encrusted with precious yellow amber and pale green opal. When Jin had marched halfway down the ornate red and gold carpet, the Warden simply stood up and ran toward him. His father threw his arms around him.

“Oh, my son,” he smiled, “I have counted every second that you’ve been gone. How has the road treated you?”

“I’ve been good, papa,” Jin gasped, being crushed by the hug, “The Hunt was fruitful this year. We brought home some cured venison for you.”

The Warden let him go and laughed, “You’re always thinking of me.”

The Warden turned to Namjoon and Taehyung next. His eyes became a tad more serious. “I trust you took care of my son on the road.”

Jin nodded, “Namjoon made sure I never hungered nor thirsted. He gave me his own plate, and protected me with his life.”

The Warden smiled, “You are a good man, nephew.”

“Thank you,” Namjoon bowed his head respectfully.

“Come now,” the Warden opened his arms, addressing just Jin again, “There are fresh clothes in your room. I’ve had the servants draw you a bath. We’ll have a feast tonight in your honor.”

Jin smiled, looking at Namjoon and Taehyung. “In our honor.”

“Yes, yes,” the Warden nodded with an absent-minded turn of his hand.

The feast was grand, exceedingly grand. Jin mused to himself. It was grander than the feast that was held at the Forge. His father had spared no expense to make Jin feel welcome. There was a whole honey-roasted goat in the center of the table. There were sweet apricot soups, hearty stews, fruit bread, imported candies, and a hundred other things.

Jin sat beside his father, who piled things onto his plate rapidly, “Eat! Eat! I don’t want you wasting away.”

Jin nodded, forcing a smile on his face. That was all his father ever wanted, for him to be content. But late at night when Jin was being honest with himself, he admitted most privately that he was not happy. As much as his father made him feel welcome, Jin could not shake the feeling that he wasn’t supposed to the next Warden. He felt out of place.

When they’d arrived to the Red Forest, the place where his father had found him. He realized that he loved the trees. The red and silver maples were glorious. Even with the Peaks being the only home he’d ever known, he was still not a man of the mountain. He was the Knight of the Forest.

Jin stole a glance toward the other end of the table. His adopted mother, the Lady of the Mountain, Kim Ara, was turned away from him. There was a certain seriousness in her that made Jin wary of her. She suddenly turned and looked at him, eyes flickering up. Jin quickly looked away.

It was no secret that Ara hated Jin. The only one who didn’t know was the Warden. Yes, it was true. The Lady hated him with every fiber of her being. She hated the fact that he, a foreigner, a stranger’s baby, had been given honor above her two daughters. There was little she could do. The Warden’s love protected Jin like unpierceable armor.

But Jin knew it all the same. She never hugged him. She never smiled at him. Her daughters, she’d dote on them day and night, often right in front of him. Every tiny, petty thing she could do, she did. Jin pretended that it didn’t hurt, but even as a man, her hatred cut him like a knife.

Her eyes flitted away, and she continued her conversation with Namjoon. The Shield was nodded intermittently and picking at his smoked grouse. The Lady liked Namjoon. If Jin was being honest again, everyone liked Namjoon. The Shield was dependable and thoughtful… and handsome. Joon was hard and strong, a true man of the Mountain. His place was as unquestionable as his valor.

“What’s wrong, my son?” the Warden had noticed Jin’s frown. Curing Jin’s unhappiness was the Warden’s first priority. “Is the food not good? Is it the ale? This goat is too dry isn’t it?”

Jin shook his head, “No, no, this goat is delicious.”

The Warden frowned, reached forward, and ruffled Jin’s hair, “What is wrong then? Tell me and I will make it right.”

“I’m merely tired,” Jin said. He was telling the truth. He was tired. But it was also a lie. Being tired was not what was making him frown.

“Go and rest,” Warden spoke quickly, “Don’t push yourself so hard.”

Jin nodded and excused himself. He left his own feast and it went on without him. Perhaps other things could go on without him. Perhaps he could travel back to the Red Forest, and things would be fine. The Knight shook his head; no that wasn’t possible. If he ever decided to run away, his father would send a thousand men to bring him back. Then, the Knight of the Forest would never see the forest again.

Jin walked the winding steps up to Namjoon’s room. The younger Knight’s room was adjacent to his. Jin wanted to ‘borrow’ one of Namjoon’s poetry books. He noticed a leather bag tossed haphazardly on the bed. It’d been the one Joon had used during their journey. Jin remembered that Joon spent time writing on the road.

The Knight couldn't help himself. It was the newest volume, completely untouched. Jin rummaged through the bag and found the small black book almost instantly. He carded through it and just as he hoped, there were fifteen pages filled with elegant cursive.

Jin took the book into his own room. He had one of the nicest rooms in the whole fortress. The windows were draped in long purple silk. The feather bed was large and comfortable. He even had a long, freestanding mirror, made of pure polished silver. The whole room still smelled of the lilac bath oil he’d used in the afternoon.

Jin changed into his bedclothes and threw himself on the bed. He propped himself up on the abundant amount of pillows. With a satisfied hum, he opened the book. He scanned the first page. It was about the fox hunt.

~*~

A horn blows in the distant

and in this distant not so distan t

In the coils of my mind

I hear the reason of why

Why am I here?

And why is there existence?

 

To set a thousand arrows high

To which the white fox flies

And the flower who draws a bow

It pains me greatly

that they'll never know

It was destined from the start

The arrow has struck my heart

 

~*~

 

Jin frowned. It was not about really about the fox hunt. It sounded like Namjoon was in love with someone. Could it be the princess, Jeonghwa? She was beautiful and she was there at the feast. The thought made Jin’s heart twist, but he didn’t understand why. Instead of dwelling on it, he simply flipped the page.

 

~*~

Under the canopy of stars

The flower belongs to someone else

I wish, I want, I pine

But never will it be mine-

 

Jeonghwa’s name meant flower. She was the flower in the poem. Everyone knew that the Princess was going to marry Sir Jeon Jungkook. The arrangements hadn’t been confirmed yet, but everyone knew all the same. Was this why Joon was always eager to prove himself? Was he really in love with the Princess?

A drop of water hit the page and mix with the ink. It crawled down the canvas and turned it all black. Jin realized that he was crying.

“Even though you cry so pretty,” Namjoon said, “It breaks my heart.”

Jin didn’t realize Namjoon had come in. He cursed the room and its well-oiled doors. The Knight of the Forest shot straight up and wiped his tears.

“I’m not crying,” Jin said, voice filled with unmistakable sorrow, “I got something in my eye.”

“Let me see,” Joon closed the distance, crawled onto the bed, and cupped Jin’s chin in his hands.

There was nothing in his eyes. Jin couldn’t even fake it. He just gave Joon a blood-shot look, steady and gloomy. Joon studied his face closely, holding his breath.

“There’s nothing in my eye,” Joon finally admitted, feeling the burn of Namjoon’s fingertips against his skin. His heart sped up and pumped spurts of heated blood to his cheeks.

Namjoon disengaged, and looked down, “Oh.”

Then he realized what Jin had in his possession.

“Y-You stole my book,” Namjoon said, grabbing the thing. His face suddenly turned bright red.

“I was just borrowing it,” Jin said defensively, his ears ringing.

Namjoon snatched the book away, “You went through my things. You had no right.”

“Why are you so mad?” Jin hissed, “Is it because you’re in love with the Princess and you don’t want anyone to find out.”

Namjoon scoffed, his eyebrows raised,  ‘I’m not in love with the Princess.”

Jin had known Namjoon for all his life. He could tell when the man was lying. But he wasn’t lying now.

“Then who is it?” Jin pressed, “Who’s this flower that you can’t have?”

Namjoon paled. He swallowed and looked at Jin with wide, sad eyes. “It’s not your business.”

“It is my business,” Jin said, tears falling again, “Who is she? She’s not good enough for you.”

Namjoon hopped off the bed, “You don’t even know who it is! How can you say that?”

Namjoon had never yelled at him before. Whoever she was, it was clear that Joon was deeply in love with her. Jin was hurt. He’d never been this hurt in his life. One time he’d fallen off a horse and broken seven of his fingers. But this was worse.

“I’m sorry,” Jin wiped at his tears, even as they continued to well up. Joon was right. He didn’t have a say in who the man loved. “I’m so sorry.”

Jin looked up, seeking absolution. Namjoon was looking at him softly, all traces of anger gone.

“It’s okay, Jin. I-I’ll tell you who it is-”

And behind Namjoon there was a great black shadow, holding a long, thin sword. Jin’s face twisted in horror. He felt ice frost over his skin. Joon saw his expression and quickly turned around.

But it was too late. The shadow leaned back and lunged forward. Joon stumbled to the side, which was what saved his life. The sword pierced his arm and turned into smoke. But the wound remained. Joon cried out in pain, clutching his shoulder. But, it did little to stop the river of blood.

Jin pressed his hands against the wound, but it kept bleeding right through his fingers.

“What do I do?” Jin cried, “I don’t know what-”

The shadow took a hold of Jin, wrapping its arm around his waist. Its grip felt like cool, moist fungus to the touch.

“Get off me,” Jin cried, reaching out for Joon.

Jin’s silver mirror started rippling as though it were made of water. The shadow pulled Jin through the glass. Joon looked on in horror, reaching out for him. But he faded away.

A great darkness fell over Jin’s eyes. He felt so cold and so tired. He heard someone call to him. But from where, he couldn’t tell. Then everything fell away.

It’s you. It’s always been you.


 

 

Yoongi

“Get up, hurry. We have to go now.”

Yoongi’s eyes popped open. He’d been having a sad dream that he couldn’t remember anymore. There was a hand on his shoulder, continuously shaking him. The pale moon revealed the person. It was the Peder, looking dreadfully afraid.

“Minho?” Yoongi said, his voice still heavy with sleep.

“The Crown Prince has gone missing,” Minho hissed, “He went into the Sunwoods and never came back. They’ve sent guards for you. Come on, get the fuck up.”

It was so jarring to hear the gentle, sweet man curse. Yoongi scrambled out of bed, only to remember he’d gotten shot in the leg and that wound was still healing.

“Ah, fuck,” Yoongi hissed.

“Rest on me, I’ll get you to the stables.” the Peder said urgently, “You’ll just have to endure. We don’t have any time. They’re coming.”

Minho braced Yoongi as the two of them walked down the stairs and through the back door of the annex. Yoongi could hear the voice of angry men all around. The wolf’s heart was bursting in his chest.

Chanyeol was missing. Chanyeol was gone. The Dragonfly… his Dragonfly.

The pain in his leg was excruciating when he put any weight on it but he ground his teeth and moved on. There was a light in the stables, someone was waiting for them.

But Chanyeol? What had happened to Chanyeol? It was all so confusing.

“Euigeon,” Minho hissed, “I have him. Hurry up, boy. The Knights won’t be stalled for long.”

A gorgeous boy with hair the color of straw appeared with a lantern in his hand. He looked at Yoongi with a mix of surprise and awe.

“This is the spirit?” He huffed, “I thought he was a wolf?”

“Who the fuck are you?” Yoongi growled.

“I’m staying here,” Minho explained, “I’ll divert anyone looking for you. Euigeon will bring you back to the forest. He’s a stable boy but he’s also apprenticing under me. He’ll be able to take care of you until you’re healed.”

Euigeon had strong arms, corded with muscle. He lifted Yoongi, who hissed at the contact. But before Yoongi could bite, Euigeon had already put him on Mushroom. The stable boy got on with a swing of his leg, pushing Yoongi forward on the saddle.

“How dare you touch me,” Yoongi snarled.

“We don’t have time,” Euigeon huffed, “We have to go.”

“Be safe,” Minho said, slapping Mushroom’s backside, “I’ll pray for you.”

Mushroom charged out of the stable and into the Red Forest. Yoongi howled in pain before pressing a hand over his own mouth. It felt like someone was repeatedly stabbing him in the leg with a dull knife. What was worse, he could feel a man pressed up behind him. The wolf in him felt utterly disgusted.

Worst of all, somewhere his Prince was lost: his Dragonfly, his beloved Dragonfly.

Yoongi could hear men in the distance, and the thunderous stampede of a hundred horses. He could hear the rapid snarls of trained attack dogs. Then there was the smell of iron and metal, that all ruined men bore.

“Go faster,” Yoongi cursed.

“She’s carrying the both of us,” Euigeon screamed into the wind, “This is as fast as she can go.”

“We just need to make it into the Moonwoods before they get us,” Yoongi commanded.

The line of white was like a barrier. Men did not cross. Even in the darkness, the pale ghost bark shown like a beacon.

“GO… GO… GO!” Yoongi urged Mushroom onward.

The shouts of angry men were getting closer. An arrow flew past Yoongi’s ear. The Pale Wolf felt an eerie sense that this had all happened before. The pain in his leg was growing ever more unbearable.

Then suddenly, they were safe in the shroud of Ghost Birch Trees. They ran on for a long while, and the sounds of men disappeared. Mushroom slowed to a trot, then she stopped altogether, breathing thick steam into the cool air.

“Which way to His Highness,” Euigeon asked, getting off Mushroom to her relief.

“His what?” Yoongi grumbled as he gingerly dismounted by himself.

“The Firefly, where’s the Firefly.” Euigeon nearly screamed.

Yoongi growled at him reflexively, causing the stable boy to jump back. Then he turned his nose upward and inhaled. He could smell his mother and siblings. They weren’t too far.

“Come on, help me walk,” Yoongi grumbled.

“I thought you didn’t like being touched,” Euigeon said as he took Yoongi’s arm.

“I’ll just have to wash until I’m raw,” Yoongi said hatefully, “Hopefully the smell will come off.”

“Fucking asshole,” Euigeon cursed.

The two walked for a mile. Mushroom trotted slowly behind them, utterly exhausted. She breathed deep and heavy the whole way. Yoongi noticed the Moonwoods seemed much clearer than usual. There was no mist at all, none, and the moonlight pierced through the canopy and hit the ground.

“That’s weird,” Yoongi said softly to himself.

“What’s weird?” Euigeon asked, his voice bitter and irritated.

Before Yoongi could answer, his mother and siblings appeared in the clearing. The four of them were sleeping, all cuddled against each other.

And there was the Firefly, the archer who’d ruined his leg. The Firefly was nestled in the heap, covered in a fur pelt, looking extremely comfortable. Yoongi didn’t know why but he’d thought his family wouldn’t treat the person who’d maimed him in such a nice manner.

“Mom?” Yoongi called.

The stable boy gasped. Most men did when they saw his mother for the first time. She was the Old Wolf God of legend.

Samjokgu opened one eye, two eyes, three eyes.

Son?

The rest of his siblings awoke, yawned, and stretched. Then, they realized he’d returned. They started barking excitedly, dancing around him. The Firefly was the last to wake. The boy nuzzled against his mother’s fur before his eyes fluttered open.

“What’s going on,” the boy said, rubbing his eyes.

Then he saw Yoongi standing there. “Oh, good. Where’s Chanyeol? Are we switching? Are you all better?”

Yoongi felt a mix of loathing and indignation, “I don’t know. I mean you were the one who almost killed me. Do I look all better?”

He saved your sister and brothers from that fox whore. Don’t pout my sweet child. The Firefly is our guest. Just because we’re treating him well doesn’t mean we don’t love you.

Yoongi eyed the fur pelt around the Firefly’s shoulders. It was a very fine pelt, one that could only have been made from a Kitsune’s tail. Yoongi would know. He had one just like it, which he’d foolishly left back the Forge.

“It’s fine,” the Firefly said, standing up, “You don’t have to defend me. I’m just glad that everything’s okay now.”

“Everything’s okay?” Yoongi said angrily, “My leg!”

His mother laughed good-naturedly. His siblings joined in.

“Jimin?” Euigeon cocked his head, looking at the Firefly.

Jimin shook the last dregs of sleep from his head and focused on the stable boy. Once he realized who it was, he charged at the man.

“Oh my god,” Jimin gushed, “Uh, you don’t know what I’ve been through.”

The two hugged each other, jubilantly, like children.

“Fuck,” the stable boy cursed, “I thought you were dead.”

“I almost was,” Jimin sighed, “Anyway… where’s my brother?”

Jimin looked at Euigeon. The stable boy looked nervously back at him. Jimin turned to Yoongi next.

“He’s gone.” Yoongi didn’t like the Firefly, but he also didn’t want to hurt him this badly. “He walked into the Sunwoods and didn’t come back.”

Jimin blinked once before his face turned dark. “I’ll bring him back.”

His voice was dangerously monotone.

“Wait,” Yoongi grabbed the boy’s shoulder, “I’m coming with you.”

Jimin looked utterly lost, his eyes were searching Yoongi’s face for answers. But the moment passed and the Firefly’s face hardened once more. He shrugged Yoongi’s hand away. “Your leg is still mending. You can’t possibly help me.”

Mushroom trotted to his side, “You’ll just get in the way.”

“I can track him,” Yoongi shouted, “I’m a wolf. I can find him by scent.”

The Dragonfly’s grandfather is the Spider. If he disappeared in the Sun’s wood. He is already caught in the web.

“Spider,” Jimin cocked his head.

“Who are you talking to?” Euigeon asked softly.

“Uh…” Jimin looked at Euigeon, “The wolves… I can understand them.”

“Oh,” Euigeon said, a pucker forming between his eyebrows.

“I’m going,” Yoongi said, adamantly. “I have to.”

“And why do you even care?” Jimin said scathingly, with narrow eyes that glowed in the dark.

“He saved my life!” Yoongi huffed, “And he’s also not a fucking worm like you.”

Jimin opened his mouth then he closed it. Then he sighed. Then opened his mouth again.

“Fuck you.” The words passed over the Firefly’s sinfully full lips, making the curse that much more rancid.

Yoongi couldn’t believe this brat was related to his Dragonfly. Jimin was utterly unreasonable and horribly rude. The Changeling was short too, not like his brother in the slightest. It was baffling.

“Look you dwarf,” Yoongi began. Jimin’s face turned red, so red that it was visible in the darkness. “I’m coming with you. You can’t stop me. Wherever you go, I’ll be there.”

Jimin closed his eyes and sighed loudly. Then, he pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose.

“Fine,” Jimin said, his voice resigned. “It’s a truce.”

The archer extended his hand, and Yoongi looked at it quizzically.

“What’s this?” the Pale Wolf sputtered.

“This is a handshake,” Jimin said exasperatedly, “It’s how men make truces. We’ll work together until we find my brother.”

Yoongi nodded. Men were strange. But he was willing to make the deal. He took Jimin’s hand and weaved his fingers through. The Firefly jerked his appendage back, looking at the wolf as though he were crazy. Yoongi surmised that he had done something wrong. But he couldn't figure out what. It was the Firefly that wanted to 'shake' hands.

“Nevermind,” Jimin sighed, face tinged pink, walking ahead, “Let’s just go.”

“Finally,” Yoongi grumbled, “something we agree on.”

A light peeked over the horizon. A sliver of bright, golden sun dispelled the darkness. The ghost forest had always been gloomy and dark. It was always winter, unchanging, and eternal. But somehow things were suddenly different. Yoongi marveled silently. This was the first sunrise he’d ever seen bloom over the Moonwood.

Jimin’s silhouette pressed against it. It was like the sun had risen because of him. Yoongi wondered why the boy looked so strange all of the sudden, so otherworldly. But before Yoongi could muse further, the Changeling looked back at him. The Pale Wolf's thoughts quieted down.

“Are you ready?” Jimin asked, the hazy morning glow alighting his face.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Yoongi

If Yoongi had ever been wrong, not saying that he had, he would never admit to it. Though this would be one of the closest times. The Pale Wolf was atop Mushroom, going as slowly as possible. Yet, every step was like a hot and sharp poker in his thigh. The Firefly watched him closely as if waiting for him to give up. Yoongi simply locked his jaw and bore with the searing pain. He was not turning back, no matter what days of hell laid out ahead.

“Let’s stop,” the Changeling sighed.

“Why?” Yoongi said, forehead sweaty with effort, “Are you tired, Firefly?”

The silver-haired boy clicked his teeth and rolled his eyes.

“Mushroom, stop.”

The mare became like stone, and Yoongi knew that she wouldn’t take one more step unless the Firefly asked her.

“The longer we take-,” Yoongi sputtered, before stopping. He couldn’t keep the tremor out of his voice. “Your brother is in danger. We can’t take breaks.”

“Charging in blindly would be foolish,” the Firefly said carefully almost calculatedly. “We’ll need our strength if we’re going to chance any rescue.”

“What if they’re hurting him?” Yoongi said softly, hands shaking. The Firefly looked at him, and in his eyes swam the same fear. The pain was real, tangible, and suffocating. But the silver-haired boy blinked, and the emotion ebbed away like the tide.

“Euigeon, help him dismount,” the boy said, ignoring Yoongi’s question.

The wolf in him flooded with dread. Yoongi wanted to fight but the stable boy was tall and strong, with muscles like thick cords of rope. The pale man snarled at him reflexively but Euigeon had already tossed him over his shoulder. A storm of icy panic swirled in the pit of his stomach. It screamed at him, danger, danger, danger, certain death. Until finally, the stable boy set him down on the ground.

“If you lay a hand on me again,” Yoongi spat, “I will bite that hand off.”

The Firefly shot him a curious look but said nothing. The stable boy frowned and dusted off indignantly.

Yoongi tossed himself on the grass to quell the fury of his wolf. His leg throbbed painfully. His head hurt, especially in the back of his eyes. The sun above was bright, unhindered, and boiling him to death. Worst of all, there was a pebble in his shoe, a shoe that he didn’t even want to wear. Yoongi was not a man. He didn’t like fucking shoes, or wearing some stranger’s clothes. So he laid there dejectedly, breathing heavily.

Then his anger subsided, as the sweet reprieve of rest overtook his senses. But even then, he’d never admit that the Firefly had been well-warranted in taking a break.

“We’ll need to go into town and get supplies,” the stable boy muttered, propped up against a large boulder, “We’re not going through the Sunwoods with half a day’s food.”

“I need arrows,” the Firefly answered, “And we’ll need more bandages as well.”

“We should leave him here,” the stable boy lowered his voice. “He can barely walk. He can’t really follow us.”

Yoongi shot straight up. His eyes were bright blue flames. The pain in his leg suddenly vanished. He could walk. He could walk on stubbornly and forever. Even as they rode away, he would follow them.

“We already shook on it. Breaking a promise is unbecoming of a Prince,” the Firefly sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Besides, we don’t even have a plan yet. What are we rushing to, save our own deaths?”

Yoongi eyed the Changeling. Something foreign swelled in the Pale Wolf’s chest, but he quelled it down. Then he slumped back onto the cool, sweet-smelling grass and sighed. But Yoongi could not keep his eyes upward toward the wide blue expanse of the fathomless sky. He turned his head and looked at the Firefly once more, wondering why the boy kept drawing his curiosity.

“The plan is to save him,” Euigeon continued, “and kill anyone that tries to stop us.”

“Then we’ll need a better plan,” the Changeling responded.

Euigeon considered this, eyes sparking intelligently as he processed the information. Ultimately, he stood up with a resigned sigh.

“We’ll need the supplies first. I’ll go into town by myself. You two stay here. You can’t get captured,” he said quickly.

The Firefly handed him the reins. “Stay safe. Don’t take any risks.”

The stable boy wrapped a dark cloth around his face, covering his mouth, and muffling his words. “It’s a bit too late for that.” He rode off into the hazy horizon. In the distant, a forgotten, white dandelion died in the breeze.

Now, the two of them were alone. Yoongi felt that same foreign feeling swell back up against his insides. It grew ever more present as the silver boy walked over and kneeled at his side.

“Here,” the Firefly said, holding a waterskin to Yoongi’s face, “Drink.”

“M’not thirsty,” Yoongi said defiantly, turning his head away. He was thirsty. But again, he’d never admit it. The Firefly set the waterskin down by his hand.

“Fine,” he said simply, before walking away. Yoongi heard the Firefly’s footsteps fade. When Yoongi felt safe, he turned over and laid his eyes on the Changeling again.

The Prince sat further away, shoes off. He wrapped his blistered feet in fresh bandages. Then, he did the same with his fingers. He checked the various bruises on his body, taking off his tunic and exposing his skin to the elements. He was more injured than he’d let on. His side was colored in purples and yellows. The column of his spin was sporadically splotched with angry blues and reds. He worked methodically without wincing, without a hiss of pain, covering what he could in a semi-transparent herbal salve.

Then he looked at Yoongi. The pale man flickered his eyes away, feeling caught for something he wasn’t even really doing.

The Wolf snatched the waterskin from the ground with a disdainful scoff and drank from it. But his reluctance died as he felt the cool water hit his tongue. The first drop was like rain in the arid desert. He almost sighed with relief when his belly was full. He’d been more thirsty than he thought.

The Firefly pulled his shirt back over his head. Then, he flopped onto the ground, resting on his arms. He closed his eyes and exhaled the tension from his body. The fruit flies danced along the grass to the symphony that he was humming. The sun blazed on above, burning through the night’s bad dreams.

“The Kitsune really hurt you good,” Yoongi said to his own surprise. The words had bubbled out of his mouth before he could stop them.

The Firefly didn’t respond right away. The silence of that followed the words made them heavier and darker. The Prince didn’t speak for so long that Yoongi thought he’d fallen asleep. But then, the boy opened his gray-green eyes and set them upon him.

“She was beautiful,” the boy said softly as if recollecting a fond memory, “the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. I would have speared her through the heart if she hadn’t vanished into smoke.” The Firefly flickered out, turning onto his side, facing away from Yoongi.

The earth became still, so not even the wind blew. Yoongi felt the silence envelope him like a second skin. The air choked him as though it were infused with sweet poison. The longer the silence went on, the more Yoongi suffocated. Until he had to speak again, despite the fact that the Firefly was already disengaged.

“You saved my younger brothers and sister,” Yoongi said, wondering if the boy was even listening. “The Kitsune wasn’t-”

“I saved myself,” the Firefly barely breathed, “I would have killed her just like I could have killed you.”

The Firefly had guillotined the conversation, however little there was anyway. Yoongi was left brimming with questions. How was the Firefly moving as hurt as he was? How did he manage to defeat the Kitsune at all? Did he really feel bad about shooting him in the leg? But at the time, Yoongi would have ripped out his throat if he’d missed. It was all fair game. Surely, the archer had forgiven himself.

But before Yoongi could ask anything, the Firefly had stolen the questions.

“How do you know my brother?” the Firefly queried. His back was still turned, so Yoongi couldn’t read his expression.

The pale man swallowed thickly. He didn’t know if he should answer. And even if he wanted to answer, there were no words that could properly sum up what his Dragonfly meant to him. He searched his head for something to say, and only one thing seemed truthful enough.

“He saved me,” Yoongi said.

The Firefly scoffed.

“You’re risking your life because he carried you a few miles to the Basilicant?” Jimin accused. “I’m not actually a fool despite what the situation clearly indicates.”

No, that was not what he’d meant by those words, nor could he add anything on, that wouldn’t detract from the meaning. Yoongi smiled almost involuntarily and was glad that the boy was facing away from him. He quickly settled back to an apathetic look without notice.

“When your brother was three, he got lost in the woods.” Yoongi explained, the words pouring out where they were previously dry, “I found him crying and scared. He was all dressed up in a bright blue cloak. He had those funny ears of his, point right out of his head. I thought it was so funny. So I cheered him up and brought him back to the Forge.”

The Firefly’s light came back on. He sat up, his back as straight as an arrow. He looked at Yoongi with wide eyes. He’d stopped breathing, just waiting for Yoongi to continue. But Yoongi was at a loss for words again, in the front of an avid audience. They stared at each other for a long while until the Firefly grew impatient.

“Then what happened?” the boy urged on. He was leaning forward, completely captivated.

Yoongi was not a man of words, which made sense, because he was not a man most of the time. It was infinitely impossible to describe the Summers of adventure, Springs of childhood whimsy, chasing butterflies, eating mud, rainy days under protective maple trees, and wild honey paid for with copious beestings.

“And he came back,” Yoongi continued slowly, “His mother would bring him and we’d play. We were pirates, soldiers, treasure hunters, minstrels, healers. We were best friends, nay, brothers.”

The Firefly watched him intently, hanging on his every word. It made Yoongi cringed internally. He was frustrated with himself, lacking the ability to do their bond justice.

“Look, I can’t really explain-” Yoongi began.

“You knew my mother,” the silver-haired boy cut him off, “What did she look like?”

Yoongi wanted to ask, ‘you don’t know how your own mother looks like?’ But he curbed his tongue and answered as best he could.

“My family goes on a pilgrimage to the Eastern shore every year.” Yoongi explained, “We always wait for the sun to set, when the sky blushes, to start the ceremony. Your mother was like that sunset on the sea. Her hair was sky pink and her eyes were dark green like the stormy waters. I’d never seen a woman that beautiful or ever since.”

The Firefly watched him with a deep wonderment, before catching himself and looking away. Embarrassment dusted across his cheeks as he cleared his throat.

“Chanyeol never talks about her,” the Firefly said softly, “No one does. When I came into this world, I took her life. This is the way that I live every day.”

“A man can not kill someone who is meant to live. A man can not-” Yoongi began.

“-save someone who is meant to die. This is the wheel of fate that turns and turns that no man can control.” the Firefly continued, “Your mother told me so, but I have not the luxury to believe in such things.”

The silver boy’s expression seemed disappointed and distinctly wistful. He looked out past Yoongi to a faraway place, where the sky touched the earth.

“You-” Yoongi began before a familiar scent hit the air. “Ah, fuck.”

The Firefly tensed up in alarm, drawing his oak bow. “What is it?”

“Put that away,” Yoongi groaned, “We have company.”

A gray wolf appeared on the horizon, her frame triumphant and foolhardy. Her tongue rolled out of her mouth as she sighted them. Her tail vibrated back and forth. Then, she yipped bright and clear, calling to them.

Yoongi could only feel a sense of deep foreboding, something one might feel before one took a plunge off an exceedingly high cliff over dangerously turbulent waters.

“Gongjun, you fucking idiot,” Yoongi hissed.


 

 

Taehyung

Namjoon looked like he was just sleeping. His breathing was even and his face was relaxed. But it wasn’t a normal slumber. Taehyung knew. Because if he tried to rouse his brother, nothing would happen. Not shaking, nor screaming, nor grievous inconsolable wailing had the slightest effect on Joon. He slept as still as a corpse did on his burial day.

So Taehyung sat by his bed, holding his hand as though it were made of the most delicate glass. His weeping was silent but relentless. He simply let his tears fall down his face without wiping them away. So black was his shroud that not even lost souls disturbed his peace.

“You have to wake up,” Tae pleaded to the sleeping man, whose chest rose and fell in the same gloomy cadence. “I can’t walk this world without you.”

“Sir Taehyung,” a young healer called from behind.

Taehyung didn’t turn to address her. He barely even registered that she was there.

“The Warden is requesting your presence.”

The young Knight was known for his easy nature. He smiled easily, laughed abundantly, and carried a child’s mirth in his spirit. But he was not himself right now. Taehyung turned around, spitting venom like a rattlesnake.

“My presence is needed here. It will not go anywhere else. No one can compel it otherwise.”

The healer jumped back, hand covering her chest as though Taehyung’s word’s physically hurt her. She bowed twice, stumbling back on her feet.

“I’m sorry, but I-” she squeaked like a frightened mouse, “I can not return without you. Please, Sir, have mercy on me.”

Taehyung set his red-rimmed eyes on his sleeping brother. He could only imagine Joon scolding him for being so callous. It was enough to shake him from his grief.

“Fine, take me to the Warden,” Taehyung sighed, shoulders hunched, lips downturned.

The healer nodded and led Tae to the throne room. The Warden was beside himself with sorrow. Seokjin, his beloved, precious son, was gone. Suddenly, Taehyung had a despicable thought. He saw the villain in himself, the darkness in his light. He loved Jin, loved his cousin with all his heart. But at that moment, no one mattered, no one except Namjoon.

Fuck the Warden. Fuck Jin. Fuck all of them.

“Taehyung,” the Warden spoke, voice hoarse and solemn, “You must go to the Moonwoods and rescue my son. I will send a hundred of my best men with you to lead the charge.”

“No.” The word left his lips like a curse, pitch as a moonless night on a battlefield full of slain husbands and sons.

“What did you say?” the Warden hissed, his voice as hard as the mountain upon which he sat. His eyes were aglow with crazed fury, as he stood up from his throne.

“He said no,” a voice familiar sounded behind Taehyung. The young Knight spun on his heel as fresh tears poured down his face.

A man with shoulder length, braided hair and twinkling eyes leaned against the door frame. Everything about him oozed a thirst for adventure and a rebellious spirit. An ornate, inky bo staff was diagonally strung across his back. His armor was soot-colored and studded with steel, his boots heavy and gilded. He looked wild and carefree, with a thick sheet of mud about all his earthly wares. It was Kim Beom, the Tide of the Earth, the Wind on the Mount.

“Papa,” Taehyung called. The young Knight ran and embraced his father, crying helplessly, “Joonie… he’s hurt. He won’t wake up. I’m so s-scared that-”

A woman appeared next, in a fashionable silver and blue hanbok. She wore a garland of apricot flowers in her hair. At a glance, she seemed quite small and delicate, but upon closer inspection, she looked tempered and spry. The woman donned a pair of curved daggers, one on each hip. Her eyes were sharp and intelligent. She had a deep dimple on one side of her face, just like Joon.

“Mama,” Taehyung shifted over, hugging his mother who returned his embrace enthusiastically. “What are we going to do? I can’t live without-”

“Hush,” the woman said softly, “It’s okay, baby. It’s going to be okay.”

“How exactly is it going to be okay, Chunhwa?” the Warden addressed her, “Your son is a goddamn trait-”

“Watch your mouth, brother.”  The Wind’s voice boomed, loud and formidable, “It’d be dangerous to say such incendiary remarks. My son is simply grieving.”

“They took him back, Beom,” the Warden hissed, face white and sweaty, “If your son does not go, then I will go myself. You can watch the mountain, yes? I must find my son.”

“You swore that the tremendous burden would never come to me,” Beom hissed, stepping forward and tracking mud onto the red carpet. “You can not leave the mountain or it will crumble to dust. If Jin is gone, then the Shadow Glass must have taken him back. You can not win, not you, not a hundred men.”

“Do not speak of her, that vile witch who would abandon a poor helpless child,” Jisan cursed, “Jin is my son. He is mine.”

The two brothers looked at each other, sizing each other up, like two dogs in the pit.

“I must speak with my oldest,” Beom suddenly said, “But rest assured, I will not let Jin come to any harm. Go rest, my brother. Demand nothing more of my son.”

Jisan looked livid, his eyes bulged out of his head, but eventually, he turned away, “Go and see your son before he dies.”

Beom nodded, mouth set in a thin line. Then, he turned back to Taehyung. He pressed his hand against the boy’s cheek. “Lead the way.”

Taehyung dashed out of the throne room, through the clay path, and up to the healing ward. His father and mother followed close behind, half covered in the shade of the night. Namjoon appeared through the door, still sleeping, looking so small and weak.

There was a healer in the shadow cast, sweeping up. She straightened as soon as she saw them, ‘My Lord, my Lad-”

“Please leave us,” Beom requested with a half-hearted smile, “I’ll like to speak with my son alone.”

“Of course, my Lord,” the healer bowed and stumbled away.

“Close the door, Taetae,” Beom said quickly. Taehyung did as he was asked. He felt the urgency of his father’s voice as though it were a blade at his neck.

His mother started cutting into the bandages on Joon’s shoulder, revealing a blackened, puss-filled wound.

“It’s Dark Fairy poison,” Chunhwa said, examining the foul ooze. “We got here just in time.”

His father pulled something that looked like liquid gold in a bottle out of his shirt. He uncorked it and poured the contents on the aperture. Joon’s skin started bubbling and hissing. It was horrific to witness. Taehyung felt all the power drain from his body as he watched the person he loved most in the world suffer.

And he couldn’t do a damn thing.

“Hold him down,” Beom said urgently, grabbing Namjoon’s left arm and pressing it firmly against the bed. His mother quickly did the same with Joon’s right arm.

Namjoon screamed, twisting his head, the veins in his neck popping out. He cried out like a child, whimpering defeatedly, and grumbling soft, unintelligible prayers. Each sound was like an arrow piercing Taehyung’s body. The younger Knight cried, run-off coating his face.

“W-What’s happening to him?” Taehyung wailed, his accursed heart twisting in his chest.

“Sometimes the cure is more painful than the poison,” his mother answered, her bottom lip bleeding from how hard she was chewing on it.

Finally, when Taehyung would rather die than hear the screams, Joon’s voice quieted down. His body slackened and he was like a corpse once more, unaware of the pain that he’d gone through. The wound on his shoulder had turned red, the black ooze completely eradicated.

“Alright, honey,” Beom whispered to his wife, “Let’s patch him up.”

Carefully, as though they were handling spun silk, they wrapped Joon’s shoulder up again. The Knight slept through, not a prickle of pain on his features. Taehyung watched him through blurry eyes.

“Let him rest,” Chunwa said, once they were finished.

The three turned to the door when Namjoon’s eyes fluttered open. Taehyung was the first back to his side, taking his hand.

“Ji-” Joon croaked out weakly.

“Yes?” Taehyung whispered, “Brother? What is it?”

“Jin…” he cried softly before his eyes shut again.  

It was then that Knighthood stopped mean a fucking thing to Taehyung. His uncle, the Warden of the Mountain, could go eat a fucking mountain of turds for all he cared. But yes, he would do what his fucking uncle wanted. Only, it would be for his brother.

Taehyung expression hardened into stone. “I will bring him back to you, Joonie. I swear it.”


 

 

Jungkook

Jungkook soaked his troubles away in a large stone tub. The water was warm, perfumed with expensive oils, and decorated with red ginger flowers. The boy sighed, and combed his wet hair back with his fingers. He closed his tired eyes. But somehow he couldn’t relax. Something nameless had been bothering him for the last two days since his return. But he couldn’t figure out what it was. Perhaps traveling with Hoseok had put him on edge. And yet, even as he placed that reasoning on the pedestal, it felt entirely foreign of the truth.

Before the Knight could settle his thoughts, his father’s ward, Kim Yugyeom came bursting into the room. He stumbled on his own feet and fell to his knees. Then, he scrambled up, untwisting himself from the rug before falling forward again. It was painful to watch.

The boy was tall with messy, black hair, and dark, inky eyes. He had light, porcelain skin and a small, delicate jawline. His body was muscular and beautifully formed. People could have easily seen how handsome he was, if only he wasn’t falling over himself all the time. Jungkook sighed, shaking his head ever so slightly at the male’s wasted potential.

“There’s an urgent letter from Sword Forge, Sir,” Yugyeom spurted desperately, “Your father is asking for you.”

A fierce desperation surged over the Knight’s spirit. Jungkook stood up so forcefully that water brimmed over the sides of the tub and bled into the wooden floor. The ward looked at his nakedness, blinked twenty times in rapid succession, flushed bright pink, and turned around.

“I’ll tell him that you’re coming.” Yugyeom rushed out of the room, hitting his elbow on the frame, but not stopping to ruminate over it.

“It’s not like you don’t have one,” Jungkook called after him. The Knight laughed to himself before he stepped out of his bath and dressed. But whatever interlude that’d lifted the seriousness of the situation returned vengefully.

A letter from Sword Forge was like a millstone. Jungkook was pinned under it. He could either lift it or it would grind him to dust. He hurried out of the room, not bothering to comb or dry his hair.

The Knight exploded into the council room where his father was in the seat of honor. It was Jeon Donghae, Warden of the Sea, the Gold-Winged Seabird. His face was clean shaven. His hair was clipped neat and short. He had just a dust of silver at the sides, which made him all the more distinguished. He was nearing his fifties, though he looked half his age, and more like Jungkook’s older brother. Except for the eyes, the man had old, world-weary eyes.

His face was stern, as foreboding as the Red Moon over a dark ocean.

Yugyeom pulled out a chair for Jungkook, bowing his head quietly. The Knight spared the boy not a single glance, before sitting down.

“What is the news, father?” Jungkook asked.

“It is a letter from her Royal Majesty, Princess Jeonghwa.” Donghae said, handing a strip of yellow paper to his son, “I don’t understand it, but maybe you will.”

Remember what you promised me.

Jungkook understood it. Of course, he would. The letter was meant for him. Jungkook had promised that he’d find Jimin first, before the Crown Prince. But to his dismay, he’d been shown up and sent away.

But now, as he read the words, a single thought popped into his mind. He’d never actually seen Jimin recovered. There was no proof except the Crown Prince’s account. ‘ Oh’, Jungkook thought numbly. That was what had been bothering him all along.

Jungkook crushed the paper in his hands. Rage burned through the surface of his skin, charring it, splitting it open, so that his blood poured out onto the table. He clenched his teeth so hard that it hurt. He’d been a fool, a fucking fool of the fucking highest caliber.

The Crown Prince had lied.

Jimin was still in danger. He was lost and hurt. No one had come for him. No one had saved him from his misery.

“The Princess needs me,” Jungkook said firmly, “I must go to her.”

“I’ll send you with the best swordsmen,” Donghae said quickly. “And anything else you need.”

“No,” Jungkook replied without waiting for a single breath of silence. “I will go alone, and no one can know.”

His father looked at him with wide, curious eyes. Then his expression darkened into something unreadable. He rested his hand under his chin and scarcely took a breath. Jungkook returned his father’s hard stare with one of equal resolve. Finally, the Warden cleared his throat and nodded.

“Go well,” Donghae finally said, “and come back.”


 

 

Jimin

Jimin wrapped himself in his hard-won fox fur and sighed contentedly. Gongjun was snuggled into his side. Euigeon kept watch, poking at a small redwood fire. It was hardly enough to keep the cold away, just enough to keep them from freezing. The stable boy clutched his favorite bear pelt closer. Drunkenly, he’d claimed to have killed the bear with his own two hands. Jimin wasn’t sure what to believe. His best friend did have a bear-shaped claw mark on his belly. But it could have also been a very angry rake.

The fire crackled and filled the air with the pleasant smell of redwood char. Everyone was warm and wrapped up nicely. Everyone except Yoongi, who refused to be happy. The man was shivering against the damp grass. He crossed his arms over his chest, digging his hands into his armpits. But it was not enough. He’d soon freeze in his thin cotton tunic.

“Why don’t you just turn into a wolf,” Jimin asked the man.

“I’m injured,” Yoongi answered as though it were sufficient. He looked so ghostly in the dim fire, like he’d already turned into ice.

“He can’t anyway,” Gongjun added, “It’s a dark moon tonight.”

“Shut up, you worm-dog,” Yoongi snapped. Gongjun laughed before laying her head back on Jimin’s arm.

“Then you should at least come over here with us,” Jimin said. There was plenty of fox pelt for the both of them.

“M’ fine,” Yoongi barely managed to say through gritted teeth.

“He won’t,” Gongjun said, one eye open, smile ever present. “He hates men, finds them all repulsive, even cute, pretty ones like you.”

Jimin wanted to say, ‘Hey, I’m not pretty. I’m manly.’ But the Prince already knew that he was pretty. He’d come to terms with how fucking cute he was a long time ago. Also, being pretty had nothing to do with how fast he could drop another man with a spin kick.

“Yoongi,” Jimin called out sternly, “Get in here. You won’t be of any use to anyone if your limbs fucking freeze off.”

The pale man turned around, actually pouting. Then he got up, sauntered over, and pressed his back against Jimin’s, pulling the fox pelt over himself. Jimin almost wanted to tear the pelt away and scream, ‘freeze for all I care. I couldn’t give two shits.’ Instead, the Prince closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep.

Only he couldn’t. He could feel Yoongi against him. The wolf was cold as death. It made Jimin furious for some reason.

“God, how have you survived this long?” Jimin hissed. “Were you really just going to let yourself freeze to death?”

“I was doing just fine, right up until the point where you shot me in the leg.” Yoongi retorted petulantly.

Jimin scoffed, “I can see why you and my brother are friends. You both have this air of chivalrous, well-mannered, assholery about you.”

Yoongi laughed. It was the first time that Jimin had ever heard it. The noise was deep but bright, low yet full of mirth, “Ah yes, that was what drew me to him in the first place.”

Jimin could hear the fondness in the Pale Wolf’s voice. Yoongi’s spoke of Chanyeol with an unmistakable reverence. His tone would grow soft and warm. Jimin concluded, undoubtedly, that Yoongi loved his brother.

“We’re going to find him, you know,” Jimin said, feeling a weight tug at his chest. It was like a hook snagged on his lungs.

“I want to be the one that finds him,” Yoongi said after a long while, growing serious. “I want it to be me.”

Jimin felt the sudden urge to turn around and peer over the pale man’s shoulder. He wondered what expression the wolf was wearing, even though he already had a good idea.

“I used to look up at the stars,” Yoongi whispered, “and wonder if he was looking up at them too. I would wish for him to know my heart, that I was waiting for him.”

Jimin remembered when Chanyeol used to perch himself on the stone railing of the widow’s watch outside the crow’s tower. The Crown Prince would look up at the sky, swinging his feet like a child. Jimin had always wondered why his brother had done such a dangerous thing, chancing a thousand-foot fall. But now as he pulled the memories back from the coils of his mind, he saw the lonely expression on his brother’s face.

“He never talked about you,” Jimin murmured, “But then again, he never talked about our mother either. Maybe it just hurt too much.”

The Wolf quieted down, breathing in evenly. Flames danced along the gray stones. The char smell was so pleasant and familiar. Jimin had nearly fallen asleep when Yoongi spoke again.

“Just because I’m under this blanket, doesn’t mean I like you or anything,” Yoongi suddenly said. “I just want to make that clear.”

Jimin flushed. For the record, he was not thinking about Yoongi liking him at all. The accusation was jarring on his system, so much, that he shook with anger.

“F-fuck you,” Jimin sputtered, lacking any trace of venom. His voice was more of an embarrassed shock, which almost sounded like a confirmation rather than a disproof.

Yoongi laughed, and Jimin could feel the man’s back against his own, vibrating with delight.

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Yoongi continued, “You’re not my type.”

“So what is your type?” Jimin hissed, “Tall, strong, and stupid.”

Jimin usually didn’t refer to his brother with such hateful, but accurate, details. But, the Prince was feeling affronted. Again, he’d done nothing to warrant such an attack. The boy’s chest was heavy with honor.

“My type?” Yoongi hummed, “I like big, fat ones. I like them with round thighs and juicy rears, and big wooly coats. You know what I mean, with those fluffy white tails.”

Gongjun started giggling, reminding them both that she was there. It took a moment more before Jimin realized that Yoongi was describing a sheep. The Prince could feel his cheeks burn with the ridicule. 

“Fuck you,” the Prince said again. He almost wished he’d just let Yoongi turn into an ice block. 

“For a prim and proper Princeling, you sure have a mouth on you,” Yoongi snorted.

“Go to sleep,” Jimin sighed, pleading with the man, feeling tired to his very soul. “I have to be the lookout in three hours and I need some fucking rest.”

For a moment, everything was still. Then, Yoongi sighed and wriggled in closer, pressing his back more snugly against Jimin’s.

“Good night, Jimin,” the pale man yawned before falling silent.

The Prince felt the sweetness of respite wash over him.

“Good night,” Jimin replied hazily as sleep overtook him. Fatigue pulled down his eyelids, and the world faded away.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Chanyeol

The Fairy Kingdom was not as sparse as men believed. The Crown Prince had always imagined that fairies lived in mud huts with straw floors. Thus, when his grandfather had ‘taken’ him deep into the Sunwoods, to the Morning Keep, he’d admittedly been surprised. The Morning Keep was the grandest castle that Chanyeol had ever seen. It made Sword Forge look like two wooden planks, leaning against each other. The Keep had great swirling towers made of glittering gold. There was no clearing on which the thing was built. It twisted around the tall redwoods, using them as support pillars. The trees and the fortress were indistinguishable from each other.

Then, there were the actual Fairy people. Chanyeol’s previous notions were misconstrued in every respect. He’d thought the Fairy people were wild, half-nude sun-children. He’d believed that they frolicked in the fields, wearing floral garlands and that they sang and danced, with not a worry in all the world.

He was dead wrong.

The Fairy people were skilled soldiers, fierce, golden-clad warriors. They rode on legendary horses with diamond weaved manes. They were a tall, proud, and strong people. They were architects, intellects, and healers. The more the Prince saw them, the more he saw himself in them.

“I don’t belong here,” Chanyeol hissed angrily. Though in his heart, he felt a dangerous conflict brewing. “I want to go home.”

Chanyeol was invited inside the Keep. He had his very own room, or prison if he was being specific. The walls were half tree bark and half glittering metal. The furniture was polished, beautifully carved, and imbued with a child’s madness. There were various shelves on the wall, lined with thin, colored glass. The floor was wooden, cut into an exceedingly large tree trunk, so that one could see the many rings of its life. It was a strange and beautiful place. Yet, hidden iron bars laid heavy in the foundation, thick with injustice.

His grandfather sat at a table, dressed in burnished, golden chainmail. He had a long white cape draped across his square shoulders. The old, yet young man reached forward and gently stroked Chanyeol behind his ear. The Crown Prince became like stone, too shocked to move.

“I can read your heart,” the Spider said softly. “You’re not sure where your home is, Dragonfly.”

Chanyeol swatted the man’s hand away, spurning his own secret name.

“Don’t call me that,” the Prince hissed. “My name is Chanyeol.”

The Spider pursed his lips. His eyes were great pools of dark water. His beauty was timeless and immortal. And yet, there was something helpless about the way he looked at Chanyeol.

“Give me a chance. Listen to my words,” the Spider said, reaching out but not touching. “Then I will take you home, where ever you say your home is afterward.”

Chanyeol didn’t trust himself to speak. He simply nodded.

“First tell me, how many different forests are there surrounding Sword Forge?” the Spider asked, settling back in his chair.

“There are three,” Chanyeol said slowly, “The Sunwoods above, the Redwoods below, and the Moonwoods even further down.”

“Good,” the Spider nodded, “And how big are they?”

“The Red Forest is five leagues deep. The Moon’s Wood is about four hundred. I don’t know about the Sunwoods. There aren’t any complete maps-”

“The Sun’s wood is a thousand leagues long.” the Spider divulged, “Now tell me, how big is Sword Forge.”

“I don’t see what size has to do with-” Chanyeol began, his brows furrowed in confusion. The tips of his ears flushed.

“Just tell me,” the Spider urged.

“The Kingdom is twenty leagues long and two hundred wide,” Chanyeol answered.

To this, the old man nodded. He seemed pleased with Chanyeol’s words. The Prince, however, was affronted by what his grandfather was insinuating.

“The realm of men is but a thin strip of land separating two vast, and ancient people.” the Spider nodded, “Before men, the Sun’s and Moon’s wood were joined. It was men who made the Gap.”

“So what?” Chanyeol hissed, “We cut down some trees and now you want to kill us all.”

“No, no,” the Spider said desperately, as though Chanyeol’s assumption physically hurt him. Then, he closed his eyes in frustration, “I love men. They’re so-”

The old creature stopped talking and pressed his hand against his face. It was as if he couldn’t find the word, or maybe the word was too painful to say.

“-beautiful,” he continued. “I was alone for a long time, exceedingly long, nine hundred and sixty years of solitude. Fairies are immortal, as you must know. When we marry, it is for life. I was just a Prince, like you, when I met your grandmother. She was lost in the woods, with an injured ankle-”

Chanyeol eyed the man curiously. The Spider’s voice was filled with a deep, injurious cadence. The Prince heard the breeze outside gently caress the leaves, blowing one leaf wayward so that it’d be lost forever. For reasons unknown, Chanyeol suddenly thought of Yoongi.

His grandfather sighed, dropping his hand back on the table, and opening his bright green eyes again, “That’s another story. Not this one. This one is about your other neighbors. Tell me, do you know about the Fairies in the south?”

“Yes, I know about the Strangers that live in the Moon’s wood. The trees talk about them sometimes,” Chanyeol admitted, “Are they not your people too? Why do you ask?”

“You can talk to trees?” the Spider inquired, his face lit with curiosity.

Chanyeol had never said that out loud before. He’d kept his hearing abilities to himself. Even now, he could hear his grandfather’s heart beating rapidly in his chest. He could hear soft music all around. The old tree on which they perched sang a somber, long forgotten song.

“Nevermind,” the Spider shook his head, “Again, another time.”

Chanyeol saw his confusion. There was a question on his tongue. What did the trees say when men cut them down? The Prince had been so flippant about clearing the forest before. But now, as the query brewed under the surface, he felt more uncomfortable. The answer was simple. The tree would stop singing.

“The Fairies that live in the Moon’s wood are not my kinsmen, at least not anymore,” his grandfather said sadly, “They do not feel the same about men as I. They are preparing for war.”

“With us?” Chanyeol gasped, “But we’ve done nothing to them. Few men have ever ventured into the Moon’s wood.”

“No, not with Sword Forge,” the Spider dismissed, “with my people. But it means the same thing. Men live in the Gap. They will not survive the war. Look at us, a vast and powerful dominion. Moon Fairies are the same, only without any mercy for your beloved foster home.”

“Sword Forge is my real home,” Chanyeol spat, “This place isn’t.”

The Spider took Chanyeol’s face in his hands. The old man’s panic was tangible and felt cold against the Prince’s skin.

“I can’t bear to lose you,” the Spider sighed, “You’re the last of my line, my precious grandson.”

“And I suppose that Jimin and Jeonghwa are nothing then,” Chanyeol twisted his face away, “You’re despicable. God, you’re so much like father. Why is the burden always on me?”

“Jimin,” the Spider leaned back, “Jeonghwa? Who?”

Heat boiled inside Chanyeol’s chest. His siblings hated him for this very reason. He overshadowed them without meaning to. All his good intentions meant nothing to them.

“Jimin? My younger brother, your other grandson! Jeonghwa, your granddaughter!” Chanyeol stood up forcefully, pointing and yelling.

It took the old man several moments to process the information. Chanyeol glared at him, chest heaving.

“Honey Bee had other children?” the Fairy whispered, a tremendous hope dawning on his face, “I never knew. She stopped meeting with me after you were born. I never saw her again. It was the walls. I tried to tell her. She needed to be with us, with the great song of the earth.”

Honey Bee?

All royal Fairies were named after insects. Insects cultivated the earth, and so did they. His mother had told him that once. But she had also told him that Fairies were a wild, naked people. The Prince didn’t know what was a lie and what was the truth. In any case, she’d never told him her Fairy name. Honey Bee, it somehow fit her perfectly.

Chanyeol thought of his mother and suddenly his anger turned into heartache.

“Jimin is the youngest. My mother called him Firefly.” Chanyeol said, looking at the wall as though it were incredibly interesting. “Jeonghwa is the middle child. She’s called Ladybug.”

“Where are they?” the Spider could barely contain his joy. He moved about the room, pacing away his extra energy.

The Prince remembered that there was someone waiting for him.

Chanyeol swallowed. “I need to get back.”

“Please, I didn’t know they existed,” the Spider pleaded, “I’m not a callous man. I will love them too, like I love you. Bring them to me. I won’t harm them. And if they want to return to the Sword, I will let them go. But please-”

“Jimin is in the Moon’s wood right now,” Chanyeol sputtered, “Samjokgu is holding him prisoner. I have to go and save him.”

The Fairy’s face blanched. His eyes became like bottomless pits once again, “The three-eyed beast would not harm a child of mine. I am the King of the Fo-”

“She told me,” Chanyeol hissed, “a wolf is not afraid of the Forest.”

Chanyeol stood in the Spider’s presence. He grew older with every passing second. His power and fury were frightening. In an instant, the familiarity that they’d cultivated vanished into smoke.

“I’ll get him back,” the Spider spoke finally, voice monotone, “You will stay here.”

“You promised I could go home after you said your peace,” Chanyeol furrowed his brow.

“Circumstance makes fools of us all,” the Spider replied.

Chanyeol reached for the door, but the Spider was already on the other side. The thing slammed shut. The Prince pulled at the beautiful handle but it wouldn’t budge. His panic grew until it began to suffocate him. His skin felt like fire. He needed to go. He wanted to be free.

“Let me out, please.” Chanyeol slid against the locked thing, slamming his fists upon it.

The Dragonfly was hopelessly trapped.


 

 

Hoseok

Red Moon .

All sailors, be it merchants, treasure hunters, or pirates absolutely dreaded those two words. Despite its name, it had nothing to do with the moon in the sky, or how particularly red it was. The Red Moon was a meridian, a longitudinal line in the sea. It was an imaginary thing, just a mark on a map, and yet as real as a rope that’d been tied into a noose. Only the most fearless, or stupid sailors dared to venture across. Primordial creatures swam in the dark, almost black, waters of its breast.

It was the only place with tuna so big that it took two men to carry.

They sailed on the Hope of the Sea. That was the name of their ship. The Hope was a marvelous craft, made from oak harvested in the early Spring. It was built fast, yet sturdy. The prow of the ship was adorned with a beautiful figurehead; a winged seraph with blue lapis eyes, and soft waves of hair. She glided on the peaceful water.

There was not a cloud in the sky. All was well.

Yet, Hoseok couldn’t shake the ominous feeling that their venture was ill-advised. There was no reason for his alarm. Nothing had happened when they passed the Red Moon meridian. The sea was calm. The winds were gentle. But the feeling continued to prickle at the base of his skull. Maybe it was just the company. The crew was a hapless lot, with permanently dirty fingernails, and grubby skin. Hoseok would cringe when one got too close.

It was dawn. Salt spray perfumed the air. A yolk appeared in the distant and lit the sky on fire. The sea glimmered underneath like it was made from a thousand-thousand precious obsidian gems. In the horizon, there was a small jut, where a volcano belched out great columns of charred smoke.

“Every sunrise feels like the first sunrise,” Jinki said to himself.

The Captain scanned the slowly lightening horizon with his spyglass. Hoseok stole a glance in his direction. Unlike the ragged crewmen, who had blackened teeth from chewing bitter herbs and missing fingers from displeasing his father, the Captain was wholly made, and absolutely stunning.

“Oh look, the Drunk is sick today,” Captain Jinki observed.

The Drunk was the name of the volcano, on the account all the throwing up it did.

“We’re getting too close to the Blind Fold,” Hoseok said, “We should turn the ship back.”

“No,” Jinki shook his head, putting an eye to his spyglass again. He scanned the water, lip curling upward. “I’ve been closer.”

Then, Hoseok saw it. A light winked at him in the water and disappeared. Then, a tail waved at the ship before succumbing to the inky sea. Hoseok could scarcely contain his excitement. The bounty of the ocean was upon them. All they had to do was open their arms.

“Ah.” The Captain had seen it as well. “Drop the nets.”

The crew pulled open the harness, freeing the coiled webs. It billowed out in the water, carried by the drift. It had only been a few moments, but Jinki’s instincts had proven to be worthy of a sea Captain. Hoseok felt the ship groan and tilt from the weight of the snag. The force was sudden, causing the Knight to stumble against the rail.

“Pull ‘er up,” Jinki yelled, “Caught us a bar of silver.”

The ship twisted, creaked, and moaned as though it were a living thing. Hoseok reeled the net in with the other crew hands. The Knight could see that they hadn’t just caught one bar of silver. There were twenty or so, glimmering and beautiful. A toothless old man pulled a lever. The fish disappeared through a trapdoor, and into the empty hull.

It was a brilliant morning. The smell of fresh tuna put Hoseok’s mind at ease. They sailed further out past the meridian. Belatedly, the Knight realized that had never been out this far from the Twins. For some reason that made him glad. He almost wanted to keep sailing and never turn back.

The caught four more schools, each larger than the last.

Before long, the sun beamed overhead, signaling a much needed respite below deck. Hoseok took cover in the shade of the Captain's quarters. Jinki’s room was well stocked with books, maps, and various sailing apparatuses. The centerpiece of the room was a large rectangular table with a map etched right into it.

Hoseok sat down, and rolled his head, stretching the stiffness from his neck and shoulders. Only when he’d taken a breath did he finally feel the fatigue in his body. Jinki poured him a helping of dark red wine. Then, the Captain sat down too, with a heavy, satisfied sigh.

“So, you wanna run away?” Jinki said, his left eye twinkling with mischief.

Hoseok swallowed, meeting the Captain’s gaze. There was something oddly sensual about the man’s sentiment. The words were not what he’d really meant to say, there was something else underneath. The Knight remained silent, studying the Captain carefully.

Jinki looked nothing like a Captain should. He didn’t have any tattoos or a great, long beard. The man had skin as smooth as glass. His face was clean shaven, and his hair was neat. He had all of his appendages, no wooden legs or hook hands. If Hoseok didn’t know Jinki, he’d mistaken him for a nobleman.

Yet there was something distinctly wild about Jinki too. He was the King’s servant and yet, he also served himself. He was the Warden’s confidant and yet, he was as free as the wind.

“Where would we go?” Hoseok half-joked.

Jinki’s eyes lit up. “Ah, there it is. I see your heart and it loves it adventure.”

Hoseok laughed, feeling more at ease with the Captain than with most anyone else. “I’m not exactly someone you could trust on your ship.”

Hoseok wasn’t blind to his reputation. People saw him as an extension of his father. He was the devil’s child. He was the snake in the grass.

But then, why? Why did Jinki look at him like he was the clear and obvious choice?

“Would you burn it down on a whim?” Jinki asked playfully. “That’s exactly the kind of fire I need.”

The Knight’s heart thudded in his chest. It was odd. He’d never felt whatever this feeling was. He couldn’t even put a name to it. But then, the Captain turned his head away and the moment passed.

“The ship’s half full of small fry,” Jinki sighed, taking a gulp of the wine. “I hope we catching something worthwhile.”

“Small?” Hoseok cocked his head, before sipping his portion timidly. It was sweet and fruity with a hint of wild apple.

The tuna they’d caught had all been at least two feet long. They were big fish, and they’d feed the Isles well.

“We’re at the edge of the world,” Jinki flashed the younger man a smile. “All sorts of wild beasts live in these waters, big as full grown men.”

It was as if the Captain's words had become ink in the pages of destiny. The boat keened, rocking violently. It was followed by the sound of wood splitting.

Jinki shot out from his seat. “Ah fuck,” he shouted, bolting up the stairs. Hoseok chased after him.

Water flooded the deck. The sky above was rolling with dark clouds. It was raining hard all of a sudden, when it had been nothing but clear skies all day. Where had this storm come from?

Then, as Hoseok stood there confused, water falling on him relentlessly, he saw a gigantic, rainbow fish rise from the ink. It jumped from the water, twisted in the air, arched over ship, and disappeared back in the murky unknown. It was the size of the ship, maybe even bigger.

“It’s Her ,” Jinki bellowed, “Pull us back. We’ve gone too far.”

“Lower the sails before we tip,” Hoseok ordered. The Hope was swaying from side to side, gaining unwanted momentum.

The crew was frantic, and the rain acted like a blindfold. One couldn’t see two feet ahead. It was chaotic misery. Hobi tried to move but the wind beat against him, holding him back.

The gigantic beast breached the water again. It was so close that Hoseok could see the glimmer of its scales. Then, all he could see was a tall, solid sheet of black water. Instinctively, though it made not a crumb of difference, Hoseok filled his lungs with air. Then, the sea fell down upon them like the striking of a hammer on an anvil.

The Hope splintered and capsized.


 

 

Euigeon

The stable boy liked it better when the Pale Wolf and Jimin weren’t speaking to each other. Now they wouldn’t stop bickering with one another. He missed the silence... a lot .

“God, I think you gave me fleas,” Jimin hissed, scratching his head, “Or maybe just looking at you is giving me a rash.”

“Look the other way then,” the Wolf gagged, “Your face makes me want to puke.”

The group was getting close to the edge of the Sunwoods. Euigeon could see the subtle shift in the grass. It was turning blue, growing longer and denser. The stable boy peered far into the distance, where the stalks grew waist deep. This would be their last night in the dominion of men.

They were on the edge of the Forest when the sun dipped below the earth. The three of them settled on a bare patch of land. Gongjun had gone off to hunt, since human food didn’t suit her palate. Or that was what Euigeon surmised. He didn’t actually understand what she was saying unlike the other two males in the group.

“I hope she brings something big back,” the Pale Wolf grumbled, sitting on a half rotten log.

“Or you could eat this honey bread,” Jimin huffed as he held out a big chunk of it in the air.

“Bread is for men,” the Wolf growled, “I’m not a man. I need meat, straight from the bone.”

“I would say that eating raw meat is bad for you,” Jimin muttered under his breath, “But I kinda wanna see you die from stomach sickness.”

Euigeon further cleaned the clearing, built a fire, started roasting potatoes against the embers, and even set up all the furs. Jimin and the Wolf continued to argue without doing a lick of work. Finally, the stable boy had enough.

“Okay, what’s going on between you two?” Euigeon shouted. They both turned to him with startled eyes like they’d forgotten he was there. “I thought we had a truce. Are we going to argue the whole fucking way? Maybe we should come up with an actual plan for when we enter this god forsaken forest. There’s a fucking idea.”

“I thought the plan was to rescue him and kill whoever crossed our path.”  The Wolf mocked him.

Oh, the insufferable bastard.

“I killed a bear once,” Euigeon said, face as solemn as a gravestone, brandishing his left hand. “I used this to rip out his throat.”

The Pale Wolf’s eyes focused in, “What’s that on your arm?”

Euigeon realized that he had made a terrible mistake. He quickly retracted his appendage, trying to cover the mark up. But the wolf made a grab for his wrist, holding it in place. He pulled the boy’s sleeve to his elbow.

There it was, right under the crease. There was the birthmark in the shape of a feather, light red in the firelight. It was a feathered quill, the Chaotic Pen. It was the symbol of Euigeon’s people and his great tragedy. The Wolf looked at the mark then up at his face, then back to the mark again. Pure, shocked awe pass through his visage.

“I thought you guys were all dead,” the Pale Wolf said, voice filled with soft wonderment.

“What are you talking about?” Jimin eyed their exchange seriously. He pushed against the Wolf’s grip, setting it loose. Euigeon pulled his arm back as though it’d been held over an open flame.

“He’s a Dream Druid. He worships the Dream God.” the Wolf answered, with a certain reverence.

The words sent icy shivers down Euigeon’s spine. He’d wished that his past would never again see the light of day. And now, the Spirit was talking about it, laying him bare for torture.

“I’m not,” Euigeon spoke, failing to keep the loss out of his voice, “My parents were and they started to teach me. But then the Awakening happened so I never learned.”

Euigeon’s eyes played back and forth between Jimin and the Pale Wolf. Neither man said anything. The Wolf was nodding, lips pressed together, eyes apologetic. Then, he glanced over at Jimin, who looked confused.

“You expect too much from him,” the Pale Wolf huffed, looking at the Prince with amused eyes. “The Firefly is much too sheltered to know about the Awakening.”

“Fuck you,” Jimin huffed.

The Prince folded his arms defensively and cast his eyes downward. The stable boy had known Jimin for twelve long years. He knew all the Prince’s tells. Right now, Jimin had no idea what the Awakening was.

“Around the time when I was seven,” Euigeon explained, “A lot of Druids, my mom and dad included, fell asleep. They just never woke up. Everyone who survived calls it the Awakening.”

“The Awakening? But, they all fell asleep,” Jimin tilted his head. “That doesn’t make sense.”

The Pale Wolf scoffed and offered no clarification. But the way he looked at Euigeon, like someone to be pitied, told of his knowledge,

“We believe that this is the Dream. When you die, you finally wake up,” Euigeon tried to explain.

“So-” Jimin’s eyes were still dark and stormy.

“They all died from the Sleeping Curse, Firefly,” the Pale Wolf said impatiently, “You’re dumber than you look, which is really saying something.”

Jimin sputtered hatefully. He stared daggers at the Wolf. But the Wolf had already turned away. He looked at Euigeon again, with his molten lapis eyes. The Spirit’s gaze was like the end of an arrow, pinning the stable boy to the spot.

“I’m sorry about your parents,” he said, running a hand through his white-blond locks. “It must have been hard.”

It was hard. But Euigeon was not ready to share his pain with a stranger.

Euigeon shrugged, “I barely remember them. They slept a lot. Besides, I have the Peder now. He lov- He takes care of me.”

The Pale Wolf cocked his head curiously. His study was so intense that Euigeon felt it would never pass. But then, the Spirit shrugged and peered into the flames instead. He picked up a potato, blew on it and began peeling it.

Fireflies appeared in the grass, blinking in the dark. Or maybe it was just the Prince’s eyes.

“I’m sorry about your parents too,” Jimin patted the stable boy’s shoulder. “I always knew that… but you never talked about-” He was understandably flustered.

The Spirit inhaled sharply. Those blue gems were glittering in the light. He quickly began eating his potato, breathing hastily on it when he’d taken a bite too soon. Then he swallowed with a certain frustration.

“You could ask the Dream God for help.” The Wolf said, beating his chest to aid in digestion.

Euigeon felt the drum in his body, the one that beat on endlessly. He’d never go back. It was too high a price. The stable boy could barely keep from succumbing to his terror.

“It’s dangerous.” Euigeon pulled his sleeve down, covering the mark “I’m not a Druid. I could die.”

The Spirit opened his mouth. But, before they could continue their conversation, a panicked howl filled the stillness of the air. All the fireflies flickered out. The Spirit was the first to stand. He dropped his potato to the ground, half eaten.

“It’s Gongjun. She’s in trouble,” he snarled. The pale man kicked off his boots and pulled away his clothing.

“W-What are you doing?” Jimin said, eyes round and cheeks flushed. The Prince turned his head to the side, discomfited.

The Spirit didn’t answer. He stripped down to his skin. All that was left were the bandages on his leg. Then he looked at the sky. The very beginnings of a moon, the tiniest sliver appeared in the heavens.

“God, I hope this works,” the Spirit said to no one in particular.

Then he turned. And no, there was no way to describe how he became an actual, ghost-white wolf. It was as mysterious as the tides, as day and night, as the waxing of the moon in the sky. It happened before Euigeon’s very eyes. Yet the stable boy could not describe it.

Yoongi was a man. Then he was not a man.

But it was still him. Euigeon could see the arrow wound, where the bandages fell away from his leg. There was a mark there, but somehow when he ‘turned’ his skin had mended over so that it sealed cleaner. Or maybe the fur had covered it.

Euigeon realized that even when the Pale Wolf took that shape of a man, he wasn’t one. Yoongi had never been a man. He’d always been the Wolf.

The Spirit that Rises in the Mist

The Spirit looked at the stable boy fleetingly. The change had turned the beast's eyes into blue ice, no longer dark and liquid. Instead, they were bright, piercing, and haunting. Then, the Wolf darted away like a gust of wind. His feet didn’t touch the ground as he cut through the grass.

Euigeon stood there dumbly. His heartbeat pounded in his ears so hard that he grew deaf. Jimin screamed something at him, but he heard not a single syllable. Then, the Prince took after the Spirit, slinging a quiver over his back, grabbing his bow to face the danger.

The stable boy waited for a long time, pulling Mushroom to his side, to guard her against stray fire. Only, there was no fire, no noise, nor any hint of a battle. Euigeon hoped it was nothing, that his companions would return soon.

But, they did not come back.

Instead, a hundred eyes appeared in the tall grass, all looking at him. He turned every which way, searching for an escape route. But he was completely surrounded. Finally one of the eyes stepped into the light. It was a tall man in a gray tunic. Red painted his face, under his eyes.

Euigeon saw how fucked he was as he swallowed his growing dread. They were Savages, fanatical worshipers of The Savage Creed. They were a wild folk that paid homage to the five great predatorial Animal Gods: the Harpy, Wolf, Bear, Fox, and Spider. But that was not why Euigeon was afraid.

The Savages were cannibals.


 

 

Seokjin

Jin desperately reached out when the shadow creature pulled him into the mirror. The silver felt cold on his skin. He was drowning. He tried to breathe but there was no air inside the mirror. He clawed at his throat, heart pumping fast, squandering the already limited supply in his blood. Blackness ate at his vision while he struggled against an arm around his waist, the arm that was made from a thousand wriggling worms.

He shouted but no sound came out. There was no air, no space, nothing but silver liquid that turned his lungs into flames. Then finally, Jin stumbled forward with tears in his eyes, onto ash gray dirt. He was somewhere again, somewhere with soil and air, and a pull that kept you on the ground.

He gasped, filling his lungs with life-giving elixir. Then, he puked up his dinner, the roasted goat, the sweetbread, and the imported candies. He wiped his mouth, still hunched on all fours. He was scared to look up at the shadow looming above. He knew it was still there.

It waited for him patiently.

The Knight of the Forest closed his eyes and wished that he were home. He wished as earnestly as a man on his deathbed.

“You are home,” a soft, delicate voice sang.

The Knight wondered what dignity he could keep if he crawled away like a dog.

“Stand up and look at me,” the voice said, sterner than before. Jin knew that it was not a request. It was a demand.

Slowly, Jin stood to his feet and looked at the shadow. But it was no longer a shadow.

There, stood a woman almost as tall as him, with skin as white as cream. She had long silver hair and limbs that were tapered and willowy. She wore a thin gold dress that cascaded loosely down her body like water. On her head was the most elaborate, golden crown, like the twisted branches of a young tree. She was perhaps the most beautiful woman Jin had ever seen, and definitely the most dangerous.  

“Who are you?” Jin asked,

“I am a Shadow,” the woman answered, “but it matters not. Who are you?”

“I-” Jin felt trepidation dripping from his pores. Yet, he kept his gaze steady. “I am the son of the Warden of the Mountain, Knight of the Forest, Sir Kim Seokjin. ”

No sooner had he finished his title did the woman say, “No, you are not.”

She’d said it without an ounce of doubt.

“Then what am I?” Jin asked, keeping his eyes on her, even as the intensity of her stare melted away his sanity.

“You,” she paused and smiled, “are a shadow.”

Jin couldn’t keep up with his own emotions. They came in thick and heavy. He was angry and scared and lost and indignant.

“Where am I?” Jin stepped back, trying to break her spell to no avail. “Why did you bring me here?”

“You know where you are,” the woman said, eyes almost filled with awe, only sharper. “You know why you are here.”

Jin looked at her, wondering if their contest was over. It was. He turned away and glanced around. Ghost white trees surrounded the two of them. The stood in the gloomy mist of the Moonwoods. It’d taken him several days to journey back to the Peaks, and now with the passing of a few seconds, he’d returned as if he’d never left.

The woman reached out and cupped his face, ever-so-gently. Her eyes were soft golden, and she regarded him wistfully. Why did she bring him here? Did he know the answer, like she’d insisted? He searched inside himself.

He knew. He knew who she was, where he was, and why she had brought him here. All that was left was one final question.

“Why-” Jin whispered, unable to keep the hurt from his voice, “Why did you leave me in the first place?”

“My boy, my Lacewing,” she cooed, “I didn’t want to leave you. But you were so beautiful, too beautiful to rot away in this accursed hell. I wanted better for you.”

“Lacewing?” Jin cocked his head, trying to step away, but finding that his body had gone rigid.

“That is your name,” the woman answered, “the one I gave you, when I gave birth to you.”

So there was the verbal confirmation of what Jin already knew. This woman was his birth mother, the one that had abandoned him as an infant. The Knight had always been furious about that, and it bubbled to the surface.

“My name is Jin,” he said adamantly. His skin turned pink with anger. He broke her hold on him. Then, he turned his back on her.

The woman sighed, “I had nothing else to give you. That is why I gave you away.”

“How am I to believe this?” Jin hissed, looking at the spaces between the trees. “I look nothing like you. And I am a man, not a Fairy.”

This was true. Jin looked like man. He did not have her pointed ears, nor strands of moonlight in his hair. He was mortal. He aged, and he bled. All that he had that hinted at his true lineage was his undeniable beauty.

“I thought it’d be better for you to live in the sun,” his mother answered, “so I took away your magic. But I’m telling the truth. You are my son, my only son.”

“Then why now, why not just let me be?” Jin spat, turning on his heel and pointing at her. “I was happy as the Warden’s son. I don’t need you telling me that I have the Stranger’s blood in me. Do you hear me? I liked it how it was.”

The woman was hurt. It washed over the whole of her face.

“Then why did I find you crying?” she asked, eyes brimming with tears.

Had he been crying? Jin thought it over for a few seconds. Then he remembered Joon, his tall body crumpled on the ground as he clutched his red-slick shoulder.

“Joon,” Jin screamed. The woman’s eyes widened with surprise at his outburst. “You put him on the sword. I have to go back. He needs me.”

“No, he doesn’t,” she said quickly, “I need you. I am your family. I am your mother. They are the strangers.”

“You left me,” Jin yelled. His eyes were wild with fury, the pain that only an abandoned child could express.

“I had nothing to give you then,” she cried, before gathering herself. Then, she spoke as calm as the night. “But now, I will draw my sword against my foul, loathsome brother. I will win you a glorious, unified Kingdom. The world will be yours, the Moonwoods and the Sunwoods, and everything in between. I will lay it at your feet.”

She pulled a vial from her sleeve. It was filled with liquid silver, glittering in the dark.

“This is what I took from you to make you mortal,” she explained, “If you drink it, you will become a Fairy again.”

Despite himself, Jin took the bottle from her. It felt warm to the touch and glowed even brighter under his care. It was undeniably his. His soul cried out for it.

What would he do? Was he a man of the mountain? Or was he a fairy of the forest? Did he want to go back to the Peaks? Or did he want to stay here where his heart sang in completely protest to his mind? And what about Joon? Why did it ache when he thought of the Shield? Joon was in love with someone, and soon he’d run off with her. That would leave Jin all alone. Or maybe Joon was already dead. And that possibility was so agonizing that Jin couldn’t breathe.

So many thoughts swirled in his mind.

The bottle shook in Jin’s hands as he peered at it.

“Will you drink?” she asked.

Chapter Text

 

 

Taehyung

When Taehyung had first seen the Red Forest, he was in utter awe. The place was like out of the pages of his childhood bedtime stories. It’d been full of woodland creatures basking in warm, soft light. He remembered standing on the hilltop, looking down below at the vast and endless canopy of scarlets, ambers, golds, and greens. He’d felt so small then, a tiny drop of dust in the great painting of the Earth.

But Taehyung no longer had time to think about his place in the universe. His brother was bedridden, calling out for the only person that could ease his pain. Taehyung would deliver. His vision of the grand scheme faded away to colorless ash, scattering in the wind.

“Son?” Beom cocked his head. “You’ll hurt your eyes if you keep looking at the flames.”

Taehyung shifted his eyes to the trees. Tears streamed down his face from staring at the light, or so he told himself. They were settled in the Red Forest. It was dark and damp, except for a circle of protection around the campfire. Crickets chirped a funerary dirge. It was a lonely time where the dead walked in the shadows.

“Do you think he’ll wake up?” Taehyung asked the man who was gently prodding the embers.

“He’ll wake up,” Beom said rather vacantly, as he methodically moved the dead coals away from the base.

His father seemed so young in the firelight, twenty years shed from his visage, like a young boy with old eyes. Or maybe he seemed older, like polished obsidian glass formed in the belly of a volcano one thousand years ago. Taehyung couldn’t decide.

“What was that stuff you gave him?” Taehyung gathered the courage to finally ask. They’d been on the road for nearly seven days, all of which the Knight had failed to bring it up, though it laid on his brain like an iron brand.

“The elixir in that bottle could’ve brought a man back from the dead,” Beom answered, “I was saving it for such a time, and I guess fate forced my hand.”

“Where did you get it?” Taehyung pressed. Blood pumped in Taehyung's eardrums. He tried to steady himself but it was useless.

Beom’s expression tensed as he scanned the trees. His jaw clenched down. 

“Not here,” Beom said finally, “That is a story for another time. Right now we need to discuss the plan.”

Taehyung nodded, trying to hold a serious face over his curiosity. The older man flashed him a wry smile before pulling out a yellowing map with ruined edges. He laid it out on his lap and Taehyung scooted over for a look.

“When I was a younger man, I made many expeditions into the Moonwoods,” Beom sighed, “And I did glimpse upon our destination, the Evening Keep.”

“Is that where they took Jin,” Taehyung whispered, feeling like there were a million hungry eyes on them. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

Beom nodded. “Too many fortune seekers in the Fortress and on the road. A thousand men would go into this forest to save your cousin. A thousand graves, they would become.”

“What kind of enemy could lay waste to so many,” Taehyung asked. In his head, he could see the Pyre again, a high inferno against a thick, black sky. He hurriedly pushed the image away.

“Men are forbidden to meddle in the realms of the Stranger.” Beom stated, “But I lacked the caution when I was your age. I risked my life for what I'm about to tell you.”

Taehyung nodded, holding his breath. He knew his father was an adventurer. But the man had never shared his knowledge before. ‘Too dangerous,’ he’d always said.

“The Fairies are segmented into two factions,” Beom explained. Taehyung inhaled sharply. The Knight’s chest started hammering. It was the way he’d said it, assuredly as the dawn. His father knew things about the Fairies, intimate things, not just superstitious nonsense, real facts.

“There are Sun Fairies that live in the Morning Keep in the north.” Beom picked up a stick and drew a line in the dirt, pressing a dot above it. “There are Moon Fairies that live in the Evening Keep in the south.” The man pressed another dot below the line.

“So the Moon Fairies have Jin?” Taehyung asked. His father nodded and sighed. The man closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. Then he took a deep breath before looking up. He locked eyes with Taehyung, whole body tense.

“Jin is a Moon Fairy,” Beom explained. Taehyung gasped. The beginnings of a protest formed in his throat. “Never repeat what I’ve said. Jisan will kill you, nephew or not. He will pay to have your throat slit.”

Taehyung felt his protests die.

“Your uncle made a deal with the Moon Fairy Queen,” Beom whispered, “Jin is really her son.”

“Oh my god,” Taehyung couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He always knew Jin was part stranger. He was too beautiful not to be. But he’d only thought Jin was maybe a quarter, like the Changeling Prince. Jin was a complete stranger, the son of some dark Queen.

“The Fairy Queen, the Shadow, the Glass Widow,” Beom continued, drawing a bulbous insect in the dirt, “She rules the south.”

The man flicked the stick upward into the Sunwoods and drew another bug in the dirt. “Her brother is the King of the Forest. He rules the north. They call him the Webweaver, the Great Spider.”

Taehyung swallowed. His horse, Silver, seemed to be listening to the story. It was making the Knight uncomfortable. Even his father’s horse, Daydream, was standing still like a statue, ears pointing forward.

“This is dangerous,” Taehyung licked his dry lips, “What if someone hears you?”

“No one else is-” Beom began, smiling widely.

A man stumbled into the clearing, disturbing the peace. He tripped forward onto his knees before dusting himself off. It took him two seconds before he realized that he'd lumbered onto company. From the ground, he looked at the two with a wide, alarmed expression.

Swiftly, Beom stood up and drew his bo staff, pressing it against the stranger’s forehead.

“Who the fuck are you?” Beom said coldly, his voice was ice shards.

Taehyung recognized the uninvited guest. He had gigantic eyes and very pronounced front teeth. “That’s Sir Jeon Jungkook of the Twin Isles, father.”

His father leaned over and whispered into his son's ear, “Are you sure?”

Jungkook had twigs in his hair, and his armor was all tarnished.

“It’s me,” Jungkook said gruffly, standing up “Please, my horse got spooked and threw me. I’ve been lost for a whole day. I’m so hungry and I think I injured my hand.”

“Is this what passes for a Knight these days?” Beom said scanning the man up and down dubiously. He eventually lowered his weapon.

“What are you doing here?” Taehyung asked, motioning the Golden Boy toward the fire. Jungkook graciously took a seat next to Taehyung, with a heavy sigh.

“It’s the Prince, Jimin. He’s still lost," the young Knight said, “He’s somewhere in these woods. I got word from the Princess. There must have been a mistake. Is that why you’re here?”

“N-” Taehyung began.

“Yes,” Beom cut him off, “The Princess asked us to keep it to ourselves, but since you are on the same mission, we should join forces.”

“Who are you?” Jungkook asked, eyeing the half completed drawing in the dirt, which Beom had already destroyed most of with his foot. “Sir Taehyung, I didn’t know you had another brother.”

To this Beom smiled, maybe even flushed. It was hard to tell in the firelight.

“This is my father, Kim Beom of the Peaks,” Taehyung introduced him with a dismissive wave of his hand

Jungkook’s eyes widened with awe, as he breathed out, “The Tide of the Earth? The Wind on the Mount?”

His father was definitely blushing now. “Oh, I like this guy. He knows his stuff.”

“You are a legend. It is a great honor, Sir!” Jungkook’s face filled with childlike wonderment.

“I’m not a Knight,” Beom smiled, “You need not call me Sir.”

Knight or not, Jungkook's elation didn't waver at all. He spewed out a bombardment of questions and flattery.

“Oh, is it true that you once caught a twenty-foot fish, and gave it to my father for his 21st birthday?” Jungkook gushed.

“Yes.” Beom’s eyes glittered with the light of the past, “The easy part was catching the thing. The hard part was figuring out how to cook it.” Jungkook laughed, showcasing his large front teeth.

Taehyung had heard his father’s fish story a hundred times. He was not interested in hearing it again. Besides, Jungkook already had a father. Why did Taehyung have to share his?

“He caught the fish and cooked it. When they opened it up, they found its stomach was filled with lapis and amber. That’s what they used to trim your father’s throne.” Taehyung groaned.

Jungkook smiled widely. Even with that poor telling, he was still in awe.

“Oh,” Beom hissed, “You ruined it. How can a son of mine be such a bad storyteller? Where’s the suspense? The drama?”

“Father.” Taehyung sighed, not willing to share even a crumb of suspense with the bucktoothed Knight. “We should take a look at his hand and make sure the injury is not too severe.”

Jungkook stretched his arm out. Taehyung immediately took his palm and inspected it. The flesh was bruised but the bone was not maligned.

“It looks okay. We should wrap it up.” Taehyung said as he held the wrist gingerly to his studying eyes.

Beom stood up and started searching the saddlebags for bandages. “How is your father, good old Salt Brine?”

“He hates that name,” Jungkook said quickly, “You know my father? He’s never mentioned it.”

“Jeon Donghae? Of course, I know your father,” Beom said as he pulled out a roll of white linen cloth. “We used to explore lands past the Red Moon together. One time, we found a chest filled with silver coins. It was sunken treasure, genuine pirate’s booty.”

Taehyung shuddered at his father’s mention of booty. “Papa!”

Beom laughed, his voice booming. Still shaking from delight, he handed Taehyung the bandages.

“My father doesn’t act like an adventurer,” Jungkook sighed as Taehyung started wrapping his wrist. “He’s a serious man with high expectations.”

“That was a long time ago, before he had children,” Beom admitted, “Your father had to take over the Isles from his father. It made him a man. But wanderers, treasure hunters, and fortune seekers all have the hearts of children.”

“It would have been nice to meet my father when he was young.” Jungkook mused, eyes sad.

Taehyung finished wrapping up the younger Knight’s hand, cutting the excess with a small ruby adorned dagger. “We should get some sleep. We have a lot of searching to do in the morning.”

“Say, you and Taehyung are nearly the same age. You should go traveling together. There are so many islands on the Eastern sea without so much as a man’s footprint on it.”

Taehyung had dreamed about going on adventures for a long time. But it wasn’t with some stranger. It had always been with Namjoon. It was offensive even to suggest.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Taehyung spat, “I don’t even know him.”

“Donghae and I were like brothers,” Beom shook his head, “You’re practically like cousins.”

Taehyung looked at the Jungkook, who had dirt on his face, leaves in his hair, and those protruding front teeth.

“I already have a cousin,” Taehyung replied acidly.

Jin, remember?

“Ah yes, the Knight of the Forest,” Jungkook piped up, “You know the common folk always debate over which of us is more handsome.”

“Oh,” Taehyung said, feigning disappointment, “I think you’d lose, just by the skin of your teeth.”

Beom mused, “Hard to say really. Who’s to know what he’ll grow to be?”

Taehyung sighed while his father laughed again wholeheartedly.


 

 

Chanyeol

A fathomless sea of darkness shifted beneath him. The Crown Prince didn’t like being a captive. He didn’t intend on staying that way. He climbed out the window, onto a thick tree limb, perilously high. There was no way to see the drop, or where the next foothold was. No one could have made this madman’s climb down, especially not laden with armor and a broadsword.

No one except Chanyeol.

The Prince’s hands were bare and pressed against the bark, as he sidestepped along the trunk. The tree spoke to him, leading him down. Chanyeol had already twice hopped into complete shadow, only to find a tree limb as his footfall. He escaped by faith. Slowly he descended, agiler than he’d ever been before, urged on by the threat of imprisonment.

His fingers felt raw from the tree rinds when his boots finally touched the blessed ground, returning to him all that was sweet and free. The Crown Prince wanted to fall on his knees and kiss the earth. If only he had the time, or the safety to do such a thing. But there was not a moment’s peace to be had. Chanyeol quickly scurried along the leaves, finding the stables which he’d spied from his chambers. There, the Fairy horses slept. Thankfully it was empty of people, as Sun Fairies rarely stayed up late.

Chanyeol pressed against the door gently, careful not make a sound. His life depended on it. Once he closed the thing behind him, he allowed himself a breath. His eyes adjusted to the dimness. There was just one light in the place, a lantern filled with fireflies.

Chanyeol needed to steal a horse. Only, the horses didn’t like the idea of being stolen. A brown mare with a glittering mane rushed at the stall door, causing the Prince to recoil. Every horse was the same, angry and frightened at his presence.

“What was that?”

The Crown Prince, thankful for his hearing, picked up the voices nearby. He ran out the back door, quietly as he could, into a small open field. The voices were closing in on his location. The clearing offered little cover. There was nowhere left to run.

The Prince was horseless and hopeless. He could feel the panic building in his chest as he cried useless tears. The terrible weight of imminent capture tore up his insides. All was lost until the saw him in the field.

There was a beautiful white stallion standing there, grazing in the starlight. Even at first glance, the Prince could see that he was not a normal Fairy horse. He was gloriously made, handsome and strong. His mane was like molten silver, speckled with diamonds. His eyes were intelligent as he caught sight of Chanyeol. His caution was steady and calculated. He must have been the stud, given free range of the earth.

“Please, please,” He pleaded, “Don’t be afraid. I’m a prisoner. But, I didn’t do anything wrong. Please.

The animal watched Chanyeol carefully as if giving his pleas consideration.

Chanyeol closed his eyes, speaking softly, “I am a wildflower of the earth. I will die in confinement. I’m begging you. I have to flee.”

The animal calmed down, irises glazed over with sympathy. He moved forward, meeting Chanyeol’s quivering hand. The Prince realized he could hear the animal, just like how he could hear the trees. It wasn’t so many words as a mix of emotions, trust, fear, pity, and finally sympathy.

Then with a gentle braying, he told the Prince his name.

Free Wind

The beast allowed Chanyeol to mount him. Then the animal took off south, running so fast that the world fell away like a blur. Free Wind’s feet barely touched the ground. He glided across the forest floor like it was water, and he was a sail in the night. Chanyeol didn’t even feel the jostle, the rhythmic beat that normally came with horseback riding. It was like more like flying.

They’d rode for two hours, until daybreak when a blush orange sun rose above the trees. It was a glorious morning. Chanyeol was free. He never knew anything could be so sweet. It filled him up inside, swelling against his chest, until a smile formed on his lips. The color of the sunrise seemed so bright and welcoming. It flowed in perfect harmony with sweet birds’ trilling. Hazy clouds of morning mist softened the soft golden beams streaming through the trees.

Free Wind slowed to a trot, signaling his limit. The horse was breathing thick, white steam into the crisp morning air.

“I can go on my own from here.” Chanyeol got off the horse, giving him a gentle pat on the flank. “Thank you. I won’t forget your kindness.”

The Crown Prince started southward, his muscles just a touch stiff, nothing compared to actual horseback riding. He turned to wave the stallion farewell only to find that the horse had followed him, and was not even two feet away.

“You can go home,” Chanyeol said, “I can make it back by myself. I don’t look it, but I’m quite the survivor.”

“He can’t leave you.” a voice called from the distance.

Chanyeol spun on his heel, drawing his sword. Free Wind reared protectively.

“Easy, boy,” the Spider appeared from the cover of the trees. How he’d come here, Chanyeol could only guess.

The hopelessness returned to the Prince’s stomach. His whole body ached like he’d been carrying heavy iron chains around his neck and arms. And even though he was perfectly still, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was sinking into the ground. The horse must have sensed his despair, as it trotted in circles around him agitatedly.

“Shhh, it’s okay,” Chanyeol cooed. Free Wind stopped by his side, shielding him from his grandfather.

“Free Wind is not a mortal horse.” the Spider continued, unfazed by the tension, “He’s an Animal God, the patron of prisoners. He has never let anyone ride him before. And I suspect that he will never let anyone ride him ever again, except you.”

Chanyeol turned to the side to study the beast. Only, he was a beast no longer. Before his eyes, the stallion had transformed into a man, clothed in a long white, hooded robe. Shiny ash-white locks framed his delicate, small face. He had large round eyes and a breathtaking innocence about him. He was shorter than Chanyeol by a head, and yet in his own way, he drew all attention to him. He was like a lily against a sea of dandelions.

“Oh, you show yourself at last,” the Spider noted, “I have not seen your mortal form in so long Free Wind. It’s dangerous, you could be killed.”

The man blinked slowly before speaking. “Don’t call me by my true name, Spider. A man who keeps another’s freedom does not have the right to say my name. I will not answer your prayers when you are taken captive, not even if you call me a thousand times.”

“He is my grandson,” the Spider said slowly, “He belongs with me. He is not a-”

“Please,” Chanyeol pleaded, “Don’t let him take me. He’s lying. He’s locked me up for nearly a fortnight. I just want to go home.”

Free Wind looked at Chanyeol softly, reaching out and touching the side of the Prince’s face. “I know... I know you, my Prince. This is not the first nor the hundredth time you’ve prayed to me to set you free.”

“He is mine, Free-” the Spider began.

“Do not speak my name, old man,” Free Wind warned again.

“What shall I call you then?” the Spider mused, “What was your name when you took mortal form last? What was it?”

“Kyungsoo,” Free Wind answered, tilting his head in amusement. “But you will not be calling me that either.”

Bright… blooming… radiant.

Chanyeol swallowed, utterly taken by the man’s soft perfection. The name was fitting.

“Don’t let him take me, Kyungsoo.” Chanyeol pleaded, eyes wet with fear.

Free Wind nodded ever so slightly, before facing the old, young man again. The Horse God’s eyes turned bright amber as a disdainful smirk formed on his mouth.

“He is my grandson,” the Spider repeated, “You’re making a fatal mistake.”

Chanyeol’s grandfather started to change, growing dark, sticky hairs on his face and hands.

Then, he opened his eyes, all eight of them.


 

 

Jimin

The Firefly sped through the grass, footfalls as light as feathers. He could see Yoongi in front of him, a blur of pale white against the dark stalks. Jimin was strangely calm despite the situation. There was work to be done, wheat to be cut, and arrows to be buried into beating hearts. There was no time to panic, not while one of his own was in danger.

Jimin entered the clearing a fraction after Yoongi. Gongjun was there growling, back turned, hackles raised. There were two red-painted Savages armed with spears facing her. She was fending them both off, guarding a small deer carcass.

“Move and die,” Jimin aimed an arrow at one of them. The Prince’s voice was like shards of glass.

The two men looked up alarmed. They became still as the wind blew around them in a flurry. Their mouths were slack with confusion.

Jimin narrowed his eyes, ready to let his deathwish fly. He was already aiming.

The men stepped back, straightening out their spears, so that it no longer threatened anyone. “Wait, don’t shoot. We didn’t know this wolf belonged to anyone. We’re just trying to provide for our family.”

Jimin blinked slowly, confused. These Savages, fanatics of a blood-based religion, were so much more civilized than he expected. They spoke clearly and eloquently. Yet, somehow, that seemed even more dangerous to the Firefly. Was it a trap?

“I am the Prince of Sword Forge, the Light of the Dusk, Park Jimin. I will drop you where you stand.” Jimin’s eyes were two glowing pools. He didn’t drop his bow even when the men lowered their spears to the ground.

“Firefly,” Yoongi growled, a worried timbre in his voice. “It’s okay. They’re surrendering. It’s okay.”

Jimin looked at Yoongi. The wolf looked back with his bright ice colored ice, cautious yet reassuring. Sanity returned to Jimin’s senses and he lowered his bow.

“Gongjun, are you alright?” Jimin asked, voice still strained.

“I’m okay,” Gongjun barked, “These men were trying to take my deer. But it’s my deer. Mine!”

Yoongi chuckled, “Glutton.”

The two Savages watched Jimin apprehensively, “Y-You can understand them.”

“I can,” Jimin nodded. “These two are the children of the Wolf God, whom you worship.”

“You don’t know much about us,” one of the men laughed wryly, “No doubt royal propaganda. We worship the five Animal Gods. But they are spirits, not flesh and blood.”

“Yoongi?” Jimin said, eyes conveying his request.

Yoongi huffed, “No way. I just managed to get comfortable. I’m not going back.”

“You’re still injured, big brother,” Gongjun yipped, “You’ll hurt yourself like this.”

Consideration flashed through Yoongi’s brilliant eyes and he whined, “Fine.”

Then he became a man, like one made from clay given life. No matter how many times Jimin watched him transform, it still hit him hard. The two Savages screamed and stumbled backward in fear.

“Oh fuck, he wasn’t lying, Xiumin.” the taller one called to the shorter.

The one called Xiumin had already scrambled onto his knees, kowtowing to Yoongi, whole body shivering, “Pale Wolf, I pray you spare us. Hurry up, Chen. Get on your knees.”

The other Savage quickly lowered himself to the ground, bowing to Yoongi, “Please pass over us.”

Jimin watched Yoongi carefully. The Pale man was smiling ever so slightly, his eyes pleased. He was loving this.

“Ugg, you arrogant ass,” Jimin said scathingly.

The smile on Yoongi’s lips didn't wane. “I just feel under appreciated sometimes. You take me for granted, Firefly. It’s nice to see fresh reactions. It puts things in pers-”

“Put on some fucking clothes, Yoongi” Jimin shouted, pointing his finger at the pale man.

Yoongi looked down. He was naked as a newborn baby. His leg was bleeding ever so slightly, his bandages had been trampled on in the chase. He shrugged rather shamelessly.

“Eh,” he said, tone amused.

“If you need clothes,” Chen spoke up, “Our camp is nearby. Anything we have is yours. You are welcome to it, Spirit.”

“Uggg, I can actually feel his arrogance growing,” Gongjun whined distastefully, before clamping down on the deer carcass. Her next words were muffled as she dragged the thing. “Res go, Chimin. I’m ‘ungry.”

The three of them followed the Savages to their nearby camp. Jimin counted around fifty. Most were asleep in various shades of fur. Some were gathered by a lower campfire, no flames, just cinders.

“Who’s this?” an old woman asked, standing up, eyeing them shrewdly

“This is the Pale Wolf, grandma,” Chen pointed at Yoongi, before turning to Jimin, “And this is the Firefly.”

The old woman looked at them before standing up, “Yea, I’m too old for this shit. Take care of our guests, boy. I’m going to bed. Get some clothes on the naked one.”

“Good night, grandma,” Chen bowed respectfully as the woman disappeared behind a tent flap.

“Well, she was nice,” Yoongi smiled. Chen laughed, before handing Yoongi a brown tunic, and a red-fox pelt.

Yoongi gladly accepted them, “Thank you.”

Jimin felt something twist in his side. So the Wolf did know how to express gratitude. Somehow that made things worse. The Prince suddenly wished he’d listened to his best fri-

“Oh,” Jimin suddenly shouted, “Euigeon is still waiting for us.”

“We’ll send a group to retrieve him,” Chen called a group of men. They were chewing bitter herbs and looking at them warily. Chen directed them in his native tongue. They nodded and left.

Five minutes later, they returned with a scared-white Euigeon. The stable boy’s face flooded with relief when he saw Jimin unharmed. Mushroom also appeared from the dark, looking well pleased with the turn of events

“Oh, you’re not dead,” Euigeon cried happily, “I thought they ate you and that they were gonna eat me too.”

Chen sighed, sitting by the embers, “That’s just more of that propaganda. We don’t eat people. In fact, some of us don't even fucking eat meat.”

“Not me though,” Xiumin said, looking at Gongjun’s deer.

“M’not sharing,” Gongjun answered, gnawing on a raw deer leg. “’Sept Jimin.”

Jimin shot her a disapproving glance. That was all it took. Gongjun whined, her tail tucked in between her legs. She relinquished her catch, sans one leg.

“Fine,” she pushed it at Jimin, eyes wide. “Take it, Jimin.”

Jimin laughed, “Thank you, Gongjun.”

The Prince playfully scratched her on the head, to her excitement. To this, Yoongi raised one eyebrow.

“I’m starting to think that you came for the Firefly, Gongjun,” Yoongi said slowly, “and not me.”

Gongjun barked, tail wagging, “Of course, I did. Who fucking cares about you!”

“I’m your big brother!” Yoongi yelled at her before shooting Jimin a hateful look. “He’s just some stupid, pretty boy.”

Jimin felt his ears flush. He glared at Yoongi, his stranger’s eyes rippling with an ominous light. “Arggg, you’re impossible, Yoongi. I hope you get fleas.”

Yoongi stared at Jimin, eyes wide. The silence suddenly enveloped them, and the Prince swallowed thickly, afraid that he’d somehow gone too far. But then the wolf just growled at him before turning around and walking away. Yoongi angrily sat down twenty feet from everyone else, sputtering. He started bandaging his leg up again, muttering half-coherent sentences, “...like him… I can’t believe… he shot your brother… over me.... I hope he gets fleas... speak to me like that.”

Xiumin and Chen cut the deer up and tied the flanks to a large wooden stick. Then they pitched it above the flames. They were excessively thankful for it. In the end, Gongjun was fine with sharing the spoils. She was full on the gratitude.

“We’ll need more redwood,” Jimin noted the fire, “It’s not going to cook like that.”

“We can’t,” Chen sighed, “High flames increases our visibility. The King’s dogs are always scouting for us.”

“I’m the Prince,” Jimin said, “They won’t harm us.”

“Our heads are worth a silver coin each,” Xiumin said, “Prince or not, they’ll want the money.”

Jimin eyed them curiously, “My father told me that you guys were wild, bloodthirsty cannibals. You’re nothing like that at all.”

“Your father just wants to clear the Gap,” Chen grumbled, “We have nothing against you Changeling. It’s not your fault. We just hope your brother succeeds him soon.”

The King of Sword Forge was still young and strong, and apparently, he was land hungry.

“Not likely, he’s enjoying his good health. The Peder keeps him young.” Jimin announced.

Chen sighed, “Your brother is advocating our cause, but he keeps getting blocked by your father’s council. At this rate, we’ll be driven to the mountains.”

Jimin knew nothing of royal politics. He was the forgotten Prince. They never invited him into any council meetings. He was a stranger in his own house.

For a long while, they just sat and waited for the meat to cook. When it was ready to eat, Jimin was nearly starved. His belly rumbled loudly enough for them to hear. The men didn’t mention it even if they noticed. But they did give him the first cut, plated on a large thick leaf.

“Here you go, Your Highness,” Chen said. Jimin took the venison.

“Thank you,” Jimin bowed gratefully, “Don’t call me Your Highness. I’ve done nothing to earn it. But I promise, when I return to the forge, I will champion your plight.”

Xiumin smiled at him, before looking to his own serving.

The Prince turned over to Yoongi, to see if the wolf was still fuming. He wasn’t. The pale man was gazing up at the stars, eyes full of soft longing. He rested on his palms, leaning his head back, his blue eyes drinking in the starlight. It was obvious that he was thinking of home.

“Hey, fleabag,” Jimin called. Yoongi frowned and tossed his face sideward. “Hungry? Stop being a baby and come over here.”

The Prince held out a chunk of cooked venison, wrapped in a spare large leaf. Yoongi was mumbling as he walked over. Then, he took the food with a disdainful grunt. He sat down as dramatically as possible.

“-thinks he so great,” Jimin thought he heard Yoongi say. The Wolf shuffled way, shielding his food with his arm as though it hadn’t been given to him. Jimin sighed and wondered if this budding headache would go away if Yoongi did.

But despite how annoying Jimin found Yoongi, the Savages were in total awe.

“It’s like seeing someone from a dream,” Chen sighed, looking at the pale man, “Why are you not in the Moon’s wood where you belong. Why have you come to us as a man and not a wolf? What omen is this?”

Yoongi took a bite of his portion, chewed, and swallowed. Then he looked at Chen, his lapis eyes threatening to spill over. “I am not a wolf or a man. I just don’t belong. Even as I arrive, I am departing.”

Gongjun looked at Yoongi sadly but she didn’t say anything. Then she laid her head down, watching the glowing char at the base of the fire.

Jimin swallowed, feeling something odd well up in his chest. He knew what it was like not to belong. For a moment, he understood the wolf’s pain because it was exactly like his own. The Prince wished he could help, say something to ease Yoongi’s turmoil.

“Yoongi-” the Prince began.

“Just go to sleep, Jimin,” Yoongi whispered, “I’ll keep the first watch.”

Jimin bit his lower lip, wondering if he could voice his thoughts. But he felt his courage die. The pale man looked so vulnerable, like fragile glass. One wrong word could break him. So the Prince held his words.

“Good night, Yoongi,” Jimin simply said before turning away.

The thin crescent moon was like a giant eye against the stars. It wept for the wolf.


 

 

Namjoon

The Knight sat against an old gnarled tree. It’s twisted roots dug into the rotted gray earth. The smell was sickeningly sweet and stomach turning. It was like currant pie with too much sugared-filling. The man groaned, trying to get up, only to find that his limbs had no power.

Namjoon’s body felt exceedingly slow and heavy, as did the air, and every passing moment. It felt thick on his skin like a cloak.

“Where am I?” the Knight called out.

The sky was white like paper. There were no clouds, nor a sky on which the clouds lived. It was a blank canvas as far as Namjoon could see. So disturbed he was by this sight, he didn’t notice that he’d company.

“Fate has done to you as it does to all pining lovers,” a floating eye said, “It put you on the sword.”

Namjoon didn’t wonder why the eye was floating there, no head attached to it, or lids to close upon it. It was permanently open, with a large rainbow colored iris, and a wide black pupil. It looked at Namjoon, really looked at him. Until Namjoon felt he’d never been properly looked at before.

“Who are you?” Joon asked casually in his state of utter immobility. In fact, the only thing he could move was his mouth and head.

“You must have been very close to waking up,” the unblinking eye said, “to end up here.”

“Why am I here?” Namjoon cocked his head, which felt muddled.

“I am someone who is dreaming,” the eye answered. “A dreamer, if you will.”

Slowly, feeling returned to Namjoon’s arms, from his fingers tingling up to his shoulders.

“Why can’t I move?,” Namjoon lifted his arm ever so slightly, only to have flop back down again.

“Many people seek me,” the eye said, “And when they have, they wake up.”

Namjoon’s mind returned then, the fuzz clearing away. The eye was answering him, only his answers were somehow delayed one question.

Where am I?

You must have been very close to waking up to end up here.

Who are you?

I am someone who is dreaming. A dreamer if you will.

Why am I here?

Many people seek me. And when they have, they wake up.

The eye watched him with a heavy all-knowing gaze.

Namjoon remembered the first thing the eye said to him. Fate had done to you as it does to all pinning lovers. It put you on the sword. The Knight thought back. What had been his very first question, the one he never said out loud?

Why doesn’t he love me?

Namjoon gasped as his eyes fluttered open, his real eyes. His mother was hovering above him, sleeping upright with his hand in hers. Her face was tear streaked and worry puckered her brow.

It was bright in the room. The sun blazed through the window, casting a clay orange light on the walls. They were in the Fortress healing ward. Namjoon could tell by the smell of various medicinal herbs.

“Mom?” Namjoon called. It hurt to talk. His throat had gone rigid from disuse. How long had he been out?

Namjoon’s mother awoke with a jolt. “Joonie? Oh my god, you’re awake.”

The woman quickly poured him a glass of water. The Knight thankfully took it. His limbs felt tingly, weak from sleep. He was shaking as he brought it to his lips. His mother had to help him keep it steady.

“Easy, son,” She cooed, “You’re alright.”

Her voice sounded so strange. It was as if someone was singing over her. Only when Namjoon tried to focus on the secondary sound, it vanished.

“How long was I asleep?” Namjoon asked, after returning the cup. His voice was hoarse and raw. His shoulder was heavily bandaged but it didn’t ache too badly. His back was a bit stiff too. The only thing that hurt at all was his throat. It felt like he’d been screaming a week straight.

“You’ve been out for five days.,” his mother said, her voice filled with relief even as it became thick with tears, “I was scared that you’d never w-wake.”

“How long have you been awake?” Namjoon asked, accusingly. He noted the dark circles under her eyes.

She didn’t need to answer. Namjoon already knew it was more or less, five days. A fondness for the woman welled up in the Knight’s chest. The woman was an enigma. She was a loving, caring mother. Yet, she was also a fierce sword-wielding warrior. Joon mused as he smiled at her. Perhaps that strength required for both was one in the same.

“Where’s papa?” Joon asked, looking around, “and Taehyung?”

The woman bit her lip. “They’re not here. But they’re together.”

“Okay?” Joon cocked his head. The woman sighed as inner turmoil stilled her tongue.

“I’m fine mom, so just tell me what’s got you all twisted up.”

“Joonie, I just want you to keep calm okay,” she cooed, combing her fingers through his hair. He eyes were fearful and hesitant.

“I’m okay, mom,” Namjoon clarified, “In fact, I feel great.”

She smiled, though there was a strange sadness to it. The woman got up, walked over to the dresser, and picked up a hand mirror.

“Promise me you’ll try to stay calm,” She said again. Faintly, though Namjoon didn’t know what, he realized something was wrong. If only he could figure out what the mirror had to do with it.

Jin? Jin had gone through a mirror? Was that it?

Suddenly Namjoon’s heart started beating fast. “Is it about Jin? Where is he? Have you guys found him? Is he hurt?”

“He’s fine. The person that took him would never hurt him,” his mother replied, completely sure. “This is not about Jin.”

Namjoon was still confused about the mirror until his mother pointed it at him. He looked at his reflection in the glass. Immediately her worries became clear.

Namjoon gasped, covering his mouth. The stranger in the mirror did the same. His hair had turned from black to rose gold. His brown eyes were now a bright, sharp blue. He looked like one of them.

“W-What’s happened to me?”

“You were going to die. It was Fairy magic that brought you back,” Chunhwa explained, “You have some of the stranger’s power in you now. It was the only way.”

Namjoon continued to look into the mirror, only to find someone else staring back at him. He couldn’t breathe, there was no air in the room. His heart raged against his lungs, fighting for space in his chest, which felt as if it was constricted by iron chains.

“Wha… oh, how?… what?” Namjoon was screaming even though the words came out soft. The room was swirling around him.

“Joonie?” His mother’s voice sounded so far away. Joon registered that he was looking up at the ceiling all of a sudden.

Then, blackness filled his vision and he was gone, floating in the dark sea of the unknown.

Chapter Text

 

 

Hoseok

Sand, that was the first thing Hoseok noticed. There was a spoonful of salt flavored sand in his mouth. The second thing he noticed was how not dead he was. The Song of the Sunrise sputtered to life, coughing as someone above him pressed down on his chest rhythmically. Bright streams of light burning into his eyes, bleaching his vision. He gasped, savoring the painful relief that only the living felt.

“Ah, fuck,” Jinki cursed, running a hand through his ocean drenched locks, “You’re fucking okay. Thank God. You were dead. Your skin was so blue… ah, fuck.”

Hoseok sat up and turned to the side. He vomited up salty bile. His throat burned; his lungs felt completely lacerated inside his chest cavity. He was surprised that he wasn’t throwing up blood. Faintly, he registered a hand gently rubbing his back, helping him clear his pipes.

“Easy, Hoseok,” the Captain said softly. “Breathe! You’re gonna be fine.”

“I was dead,” Hoseok gasped, the back of his throat filled with a thousand needles. He was shaking, his whole body, uncontrollably and violently.

“Easy, baby,” Jinki sighed soothingly.

Hoseok couldn’t calm down. He tried, really tried, but his body wouldn’t comply. He wasn’t sure if his heart was beating too quickly, or too slowly, but it definitely wasn’t right. And he was so cold, his fingers were ice. When he peered down at them, he noticed they were pruned and purple.

“Oh fuck,” Hoseok heaved, trying to get air into his lungs. He was starving for it. But somehow he couldn’t even manage that. It was like he’d never learned how to breathe.

“Shhh,” Jinki continued, tone strained, “Relax, you’re okay.”

The Captain’s voice fluctuated from being deafening to whisper quiet. Hoseok couldn’t fathom why. The Knight was too busy trying to live. It was hard. His eyes were already giving up, showing him black where it should have been white.

“Hoseok,” The Captain called, sounding farther away than ever.

An eye watched him from the distant.

When Hoseok next came to, he was lying down, feeling uncomfortably warm on one side of his body. He was near a bonfire, that was only heating his left half. His right hand was numb from the cold.

“C-Captain,” Hoseok called out weakly. The Knight felt terrible, like he was made of clumped up wet rags, drying unevenly by a flame.

“Hoseok,” the Captain appeared above him, half lit by flickering firelight, “I thought you were…, thank God you’re alive.”

Hoseok’s brain switched on, at least the self-preservation part. He was thirsty. The heat in his mouth had baked his tongue until it became a burnt up husk. “W-Water.”

As soon as he made the request. He felt the opening of a waterskin against his lips. The Captain helped him upright. Hoseok steadily drank the water, inhaling its life-giving properties.

“Ah, thank you,” Hoseok gasped, finally turning away, “W-What happened?”

Hoseok started noticing their surroundings. They were on a beach. It was night. There was sand on his body, in the most uncomfortable places imaginable. Jinki was there, unspeakable sorrow on his face. It was only him. The rest of the crew could have been gathering supplies out of the immediate view. But Hoseok knew better.

The rest of them were dead.

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok whispered. His whole body ached, throbbed dully but persistently. Yet it was nothing compared to the pain he felt for the Captain. The man appeared utterly despondent as he sat by the fire.

“You’re the one who almost died because of me,” Jinki laughed dryly, “Why are you apologizing?”

“The crew,” Hoseok whispered, fearing to raise his voice too loud. Even though the Captain tried to hide it, Hoseok could see how devastated he was. Sorrow shimmered in his eyes.

Jinki sighed, glaring out to the blackness that was flowing and ebbing against the shore.

“The sea gives and takes away,” the Captain said wistfully. “Yesterday it offered me all the spoils. Today it took almost everything I care about away.”

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok repeated, reaching out but falling short.

“Don’t be,” Jinki said, voice suddenly strong, “You have nothing to be sorry for. You lived. You’re here. You’re alive. I’m fucking thankful for it.”

Hoseok was at a loss for words. The Captain cried silently, tears falling down the sides of face. The Knight was quiet for a long while, watching the sea, and warming his fingertips near the fire. He had not the strength to think about the next day or even the next hour. All he could focus on was surviving the minute. The minute was already impossible enough.

“Where are we?” Hoseok finally managed to break the silence, his voice only half thick with sorrow. He forcefully cleared his throat and immediately regretted it. He almost threw up the water he’d drank. His insides were still ruined, burning from all the ocean he’d inhaled.

“You okay?” Jinki kept him upright with a strong hand against his chest. “Breathe, baby. Don’t die on me.”

Hoseok eventually regained his bearings, almost retching out twice, but managing not to humiliate himself. “I’m okay.” His voice wavered unconvincingly. He was freezing again, shivering, though it had nothing to do with temperature. The cold was on the inside radiating outward. What could a campfire do to melt the ice shards inside a man’s chest?

Jinki pulled a fur pelt from the sand, “I managed to salvage some things. This should keep you warm for the night.” He draped the thing around Hoseok’s shoulders. “I think it’s dry enough.”

The thing smelled heavily of salt but it did the trick. Hoseok nodded his head, “Thank you.”

“We can scavenge more in the morning,” Jinki sighed, “It’s too dark now.”

Hoseok could see the wreckage in the distant. The Hope was several pieces of splintered driftwood now. The sea had washed everything away. There was no way home. They’d likely die on this tiny island in the middle of nowhere.

Calm down… calm… survive the moment.

Jinki scooted closer to him rubbing circles into his back. Hoseok could feel it through the fur.

“It’ll be okay,” the Captain whispered on repeat.

“Thanks,” Hoseok finally said. “Thanks for saving me.”

The Captain was silent for a moment, before he snorted oddly. A smile played on his mouth as though he had a secret to tell.

“You know I imagined kissing you before,” Jinki smiled, “But it hadn’t occurred to me that it’d be in order to save your life.”

Hoseok turned scarlet. It hadn’t occurred to the Knight either, exactly how the man had saved his life. The Captain would have had to breath into his lungs to force out the water in some way. They must have locked lips then.

And the Captain had beautiful lips.

Hoseok wanted to throw himself back into the sea to escape the embarrassment. But the Captain just regarded him softly. If the older man noticed how red the Knight’s face had gotten, he didn’t mention it.

“Let’s gets some rest,” Jinki finally said, “We have a long journey tomorrow if we’re getting off this fucking island.”

That was strangely confident. The Knight glanced over at the Captian curiously.

“It almost sounds like you know how to get… Have you been here before?” Hoseok said slowly.

“Yes,” Jinki answered with an exasperated sigh, “and there’s only one way outta here. Remember that fucking fish. Well, that fucking thing isn’t always a fish. We’ll need to steal a scale from her to get off this rock. It’s gonna be fucking hard as hell.”

There were several things Hoseok didn’t understand in that sentence and only one thing he did. The Knight frowned at first, then for some reason his heart welled up and he smiled, “Well now, that sounds like a fucking adventure.”


 

Chanyeol

The Animal God turned back into a stallion. One moment he was man. The next, he was Free Wind, a four-thousand-pound beast. And yet as ferocious as he was, he was not the most dangerous thing there. Not even close.

There it was, nearly thrice the horse’s size.

Eight eyes. Four in the center, two tiny ones above and two below. All of them were blood red and aimed at Kyungsoo. The Spider was bright silver, fangs dripping with thick purple poison. He rose up and slammed into the ground, lacerating the dirt with two razor sharp talons. Free Wind dived onto his side desperate to escape. The horse scrambled up, not a moment to breathe. Without a firm foothold, Free Wind had to lunge forward onto his knees to dodge a well-timed bite.

“Ah fuck,” Chanyeol cursed, fear coursing through his blood, freezing him to place. The Spider was fast. Its eight limbs danced in a complicated blur, always to its advantage. The thing screeched, spraying out its poison. The sound was so awful, Chanyeol fell on his knees and covered his ears. It sounded like death.

Then everything slowed, so that Chanyeol could hear each individual beat of his heart. With perfect clarity, he saw Free Wind take a fell step right into the line of fire. The Spider capitalized on the mistake, darting forward, clamping down on the horse’s flank, and tearing a huge fleshy chunk off.

Free Wind cried out. The sound shredded Chanyeol’s heart. It moved him to action. The Prince drew his broadsword, flitting to the side to avoid a stray insect leg. Then he swung with all his might, slicing off one of the beast’s fangs. Another deafening screech rang out, nearly destroying the Prince’s eardrums.

Purple liquid spewed from the cut, landing on Chanyeol’s forearm. The pain was excruciating, and he bit his lip to muffle a curdling scream. The Prince dropped his sword and landed backward, nursing his arm. But even as his fingers touched the wound, they too caught fire.

“Ah, shit,” Chanyeol cried.

The Spider rose up again, completely deranged, dripping venom everywhere. It thrashed violently, cutting deep gouges in the trees unlucky enough to be in the way. Free Wind, bleeding heavily from his side, charged toward him. Each gallop was like a thunder. The horse headbutted into the Spider, smashing it to the ground.

Chanyeol heard a sickening crunch, as the Spider’s carapace gave way. More thick purple goop oozed from it’s middle. It twitched sporadically, losing control over its legs. It stumbled backward, hitting the trees so hard that they tilted over with splintering cracks. The insect staggered way, disappearing into the foliage, all the while screaming.

“You fucking horse cunt,” the Spider hissed in a half-human-half-beast voice as he receded. “I’m gonna rip you in fucking half and eat your insides. He is mine… mine… mine.

Silence blanketed the forest once more. It took a moment before the Prince realized that the thing had retreated. First, his body flooded with relief. Then came the pain. The venom’s burn suddenly increased tenfold as it ate through his skin. Chanyeol hunched over in pain, curling into the ground, his entire body convulsing. He cried out in agony.

“Easy,” Kyungsoo said. He was a man again, clutching his wounded side with one hand, “Easy, my Prince.”

Chanyeol’s cries became desperate whimpers.

Help me, someone, anyone.

“It’s alright,” Kyungsoo cooed, “He’s gone. I’ve got you.”

The Animal God gently pulled Chanyeol’s affected arm toward his chest. He placed his bare hands upon the thing. The wound seared against Kyungsoo’s flesh as he grit his teeth. Chanyeol had no idea what the horse was doing but, it was working. Slowly, the Prince could feel the torture subside. The searing turned into an itch.

His body flooded with sweet relief. “Ah, thank you,” Chanyeol groaned weakly, “Fuck…. I-I… thank you.”

“You’re gonna be okay,” Kyungsoo said with a strained voice, “I drew out most of the toxin.”

When Kyungsoo pulled his hands away, his palms were a bright raw red.

Chanyeol slowly sat up. His body felt like a heavy sack of potatoes, utterly uncooperative. Kyungsoo had to help him, bracing the Prince against a tree. Chanyeol closed his eyes, trying to control his breathing. He did what his mother had told him too in times like these. He counted backward from ten in his head.

Ten, nine, eight...

“Thank you,” Chanyeol repeated brokenly, “for saving me.”

An involuntary sob escaped his lips. Even as he tried to stifle it, more poured out. The emotional strain of his ordeal crushed him into dust.

“W-what is he?” Chanyeol managed to say between tears. “T-That was my grandfather. W-What d-does that m-make me?”

...seven, six, five...

Chanyeol peered up helplessly at the man. He wished the stranger could tell him it was all lies. The Spider wasn’t his grandfather, and he wasn’t the son of a monster. This was all just a mistake.

“He is your grandfather. I’m sorry, it’s true. But, he wasn’t always like that. There was a time we were friends.” Kyungsoo said before, clutching his side, wincing in pain.

Chanyeol clamored up. His body groaned in protest, sending shocks to his joints. The Prince eyed the seeping wound slashed across Kyungsoo’s cloak. “You’re hurt.”

... four, three, two...

“It’s bad,” Kyungsoo admitted, “But I’m an Animal God. I can’t die.”

“But what about you?” Chanyeol protested.

“Forget about me. We have to go,” Kyungsoo helped Chanyeol to his feet, “We’ll be safe once we’re out of the forest.”

Chanyeol nodded silently. Kyungsoo stepped back, took a deep breath, and turned into a horse once more. It’d happened in the blink of an eye. Sparks of light surrounded his body and became flesh.

Yet the injury remained. His flank continued bleeding as it tried to stitch itself shut. It was positively grotesque.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Chanyeol asked. “I can walk.”

Get on. We don’t have time. I’ll live.

“But-”

Hurry, save your chivalry for when the danger has passed.

With a sigh, the Crown Prince swung onto Free Wind. Without hesitation, the horse flew, going southward as though he wasn’t suffering terribly. Chanyeol was worried, his brain going haywire between how much trouble they were in and how much he wanted Kyungsoo to stop and recover.

I’ll be fine. You’re the one who’s in trouble.

The Prince disagreed. He might have been the mortal one, but Free Wind was the one whose guts were leaking. Chanyeol couldn’t fathom why the Horse God was helping. It benefited him none.

“Thank you,” Chanyeol said thickly, “I’m nothing to you and yet you selflessly-”

I’ve heard your prayers since you were a child. I know you.

“You’re hurt,” Chanyeol continued, vision going blurry, “because of me.”

No, that was your grandfather. He’s not in his right mind anymore. Fear does terrible things to even the greatest of us.

“Fear?” the Prince asked, a dubious tone to his voice.

There is a reason why your grandfather wanted to keep you locked up.

There was a pause, a long one. Free Wind had suddenly gone silent, sitting on his words.

“Tell me,” Chanyeol urged. The Horse God stilled his tongue a moment longer before braying defeatedly.

Do you remember the Awakening twelve years ago? It changed everything on this side of the Gap.

It took a minute for Chanyeol to recall what the Awakening was. He was only a teenager when the refugees came. It had been an epidemic, a whole culture wiped out in a fortnight. The only survivors were the orphans. Their parents had all died.  

“Dream Druids?” Chanyeol cocked his head, “What do they have to do with this?”

What do you know about them?

“They kept to themselves. No one knows anything about them, except that they worship the Dream God. And the children that survived were so traumatized, they don’t remember anything.” Chanyeol explained.

The Awakening was how the Dream God reaped his followers in order to save them from what’s coming.

Chanyeol felt a different kind of fear stir in his body. It was not a fear for his own life. It was a Prince’s fear for his people.

“What’s coming?”

War. The War of Days. The War that ends all wars.

The War of Days was a common theme running through multiple religions. The Savage Creed believed that the Wolf God would devour the earth, once the War had made corpus of everyone. The Blessed trusted that their God would champion a Knight during the War to save them. The Iron Faith placed their confidence in the Crown, believing that the King would protect them through the War.

“So that’s why the Spider wanted to keep me locked up.” Chanyeol said, “He wanted to keep me safe.

Free Wind brayed dryly.

No, my Prince. That is not why he wants you. That coward is protecting himself. The Dream God had a prophecy before the Awakening. It was about a Peace Bringer, a child of two worlds who would rise up during this War of Days. The prophecy stated that the child would bring down a false King. The child could be anyone but I believe it’s you.

That information was new. None of the religions had any predictions even remotely close to that. Chanyeol wanted to question it. But, Free Wind had no reason to lie.

The Prince took a deep breath, his blood vessels so strained that they might burst.

Ten, nine, eight…

           … seven, six, five…

                                 ... four, three, two…

                                                               One.


 

 

Seokjin

“No,” Jin whispered. He stared at the woman blankly. His eyes were cold, absolutely freezing. “You think you can come back after twenty-five years? Fuck you. Never show your face to me again.”

Jin hurled the bottle toward the ghost trees. It curved in a high arc, moving in slow motion. Then the Queen’s hand extended far past where it should've been able to, elongating to thrice the length, to keep the vial from smashing against a paper birch. Then she pulled her arm back. It sounded like leather rubbing against leather, followed by the wet noise of something popping back into place. It was the most unnatural sound in the world.

“Let’s see what you think tomorrow,” the woman said coldly.

The woman regarded Jin with disgust, all maternal fondness disappearing. Her face conveyed only one thing, ‘You’re not my son unless you drink. Until then, you’re a prisoner.’ The woman left. She turned into a shadow and the cast of the trees drank her in.

Jin was left alone, standing in the Moonwoods, with no idea how to get out. The skies were completely starless, as though someone had filled them in one by one, so that all that was left was a lonely moon. Even if the stars were out, Jin had not the knowledge to navigate them. That had always been Joon’s job. So any direction was just as good as the next.

Jin trudged forward like a dead man to the guillotine, when his foot caught on something. The Knight cast a downward glance. A soft leather book laid by his feet. It was Namjoon’s poetry diary. Somehow it’d gotten sucked into the mirror as well. The Knight quickly picked the thing up, dusted it off, and held it to his chest. It was the most precious thing in the world.

The book's appearance stirred deep inside the Knight’s soul. He wept. He couldn’t keep it down, not that he even tried. What if Joon was dead now? What if that sword had killed him and all that was left of him was this book?

Jin’s blood boiled in his skin. His eyes were fire. He wanted to punch something so bad. It was all her fault. That fucking woman had destroyed his cousin, his sweet, wonderful cousin.

Jin sank into the rotted ground, refusing to move, clutching the book in his white-knuckled hands. “I’ll fucking kill her. I promise, Joonie.”

When Jin awoke from the forest floor. It was dawn, or maybe noon. It was hard to tell time in the Moonwoods, where there seemed to be an eternal gloom. The Knight was hungry and thirsty. But there was nothing in this forest, no apples or wild berries. The floor was covered in rot and questionable gray mushrooms. At the end of the day, Jin was starved.

But that was nothing compared to how lonely it was spending an entire day in one’s own company. Jin felt his sanity slipping.

That night, the woman returned, holding the bottle to his face. “Drink.”

“Go fuck yourself.”

Jin’s survival skills were subpar at best. He didn’t know anything about the forest, despite feeling so at home in it. He’d lived in the mountain all his life. At some point, though he didn’t know when, he stumbled onto some poisonous weeds, which left his hands itchy and covered in splotches.

Suddenly, Jin vividly recalled the time Joon had given him a plant guide for his birthday. The older had called the thing useless and impractical. Now as he scratched his fingers raw, he was ready to admit his mistake. Maybe he should have read it after all.

Jin sighed. All he thought about was Joon these days.

When the woman appeared to him again, Jin tried ignoring her, only to have his rage boil over.

“Drink.”

“You don’t you drink it, you fucking bitch.”

The next day Jin managed to find a river, so he didn’t die of thirst. He spent the day trying to catch a fish so he wouldn’t starve. He managed a small trout, which he devoured eyes and all. So many times, he just wanted to give up. The only thing that kept him strong was Namjoon’s poetry book, which he kept hidden inside his shirt.

“Drink.”

“You can shove that bottle up your asshole.”

The following morning was a little easier. Jin followed the river, going upstream. He convinced himself that upstream was probably north. He walked for most of the day, only stopping to rest once he was dead tired. He curled up in the grass and read the book as though it were food and water. He’d already read the book twenty times over at this point. But didn’t matter.

 

Seamlessly the grass becomes clay

Salt formed from the foam

Wherever I may go

Wherever I may stay

I need look upon it

And I know that I am home.

 

A rustling in the trees put Jin on high alert. There was still fading daylight in the sky. The woman wouldn’t visit him yet, with her unrelenting question. It must have been something else. Quickly Jin scrambled up, heart beating in his throat. He ran toward the bushes, hoping that they would cover him. From there he watched the other side of the bank.

A brown wolf with amber eyes appeared. It started drinking water. A slightly larger black wolf appeared by its side. The black wolf seemed more cautious, peeking over at Jin’s direction every so often. Jin felt his blood freeze every time, only to relax when the black wolf’s gaze flitted away.

Jin realized a moment later that his relief was premature. A huge golden wolf appeared next, it’s fur shining like rays of the sun. When the beast looked in his direction, he could see that it had three eyes.

The Knight couldn’t form any coherent thoughts, just something along the lines of ‘Oh fuck, Wolf God.’ Jin tried to quietly step back, get away before he was noticed. He wasn’t able to move a fraction and the golden wolf’s third eye was already on him.

Jin stepped out for the branches. There were no other options, running least of all. He had his hands up in the air, in peace.

“I mean you no harm,” Jin announced, his skin so alive that it stung.

The three wolves looked at him from across the narrow, shallow river. They leered at him curiously. The brown wolf was the first to break eye contact. He looked to the golden wolf for direction.

“Please, mercy,” Jin whispered, “I’m just a wanderer trying to find my way home.”

“You are home,” a voice called from behind him, “If only you’d realize it.”

Jin jumped back. The woman had appeared again. For some reason, it made the tension in the air double in strength.

“Fuck,” Jin hissed, shuffling back.

The golden wolf’s curious expression turned to pure rage. The woman glared at the wolf.

“Don’t forget that you’re here because I allow it, bitch,” the Queen said coldly.

The golden wolf answered, though Jin didn’t understand it.

The Queen laughed dryly, “If you’re not afraid of the forest, then you’re a fool.”

The golden wolf’s eyes flickered over to Jin.

“Don’t look at him,” the Queen hissed, “He’s not your business.”

The wolf spoke again and Jin swore he could almost hear it this time. But even if he couldn’t, the lowered stance the wolf took made it clear enough.

Fight me.

“This is the wild,” the woman spat, “One wrong move and all is lost. You’ve been the bane of my existence ever since the Thaw. I should have killed you then.”

The three-eyed wolf jumped into the air, pouncing on the woman. Only, she wasn’t a woman anymore. Extra limbs exploded out of her body, as she roared in anguish. Thick black and red hair grew over her body as she boated up. She turned a terrifying spider.

Jin wanted to run. But there was nowhere to run. Because he just wanted to run from himself, and that was impossible.

“Help me,” Jin spoke to Joon even though he wasn’t there.

He was pathetic. He was useless without Joon there to protect him. For a second, Jin hated himself. He was a Knight too right? Couldn’t he do something for his own fucking self?

The wolf buried its jaws into the Spider, ripping out her guts and discarding it with a flick. The goop landed right in front of Jin to his disgust. The Spider scratched at the ground, trying to get a better position. When it did, it sank its fangs into the Wolf’s front leg. The wolf howled in agony.

Who would win? What did it matter?

If he died now, he would never be able to see Joon again. Jin had no armor on, all he had was a small knife that was used to peel fruit. That, and his foolish bravery. If there was a chance that Joon was alive, he had to take it. Even if Joon was dead, Jin still had to survive. If only to keep his memory.

Jin charged forward into the fray, fruit knife in hand.


 

 

Jimin

The group trudged through the Sun’s woods. Xiumin and Chen had elected to be their guides. They set a leisurely pace for Yoongi’s sake. The Pale wolf walked with a limp. He was mostly healed but not quite. Every so often he had to take a break. He couldn’t go horseback because they’d left Mushroom with the Savages. She would not enter the forest. Not even Jimin could convince her.

“The taxes were so bad that my grandma decided to try our luck in the wild. We’ve been Savages ever since.” Chen explained.

“And now the King’s trying to wipe us out. I mean we tend the land ourselves. Why do we have to pay coin to the Crown? The fucking ass hasn’t done anything for us. We don’t even live in the Forge. We protect our own livestock.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi nodded, “I tried going civilized when I was younger. Didn’t even last half a year. The soldiers kept skimming off a cut, and raising the number. The masonry I apprenticed under had to close his doors.”

“That’s a fucking shame,” Xiumin shook his head. “It’s even worse for foreigners. People from the southern cities can't even eat food from their hand before the Crown takes a bite.”

Jimin didn’t realize how corrupt the Crown was. Had his father really erected such heavy iron chains for the common people? Why didn’t he know about this?

“I was just learning how to make glass,” Yoongi sighed, “Now I’ll never know how to get the bubbles out. You should see the windows I made for my cabin, fucking disaster.”

Xiumin tried to place his hand on Yoongi’s shoulder, to offer his condolences. But wolf flitted away, eyes alarmed. The Savage pulled his appendage back. “Sorry, I forget that you’re a wild animal. In the daylight, you seem a normal man.”

“Ah, it’s alright,” Yoongi sighed, “Got nothing to do with you. Just don’t like being touched. A few years back, I got caught in a snare during a full moon. The hunters nearly skinned me alive before my mom charged in.”

“Why didn’t you just turn back to a man?” Chen required, “Scare ‘em off.”

“I couldn’t,” Yoongi recalled, voice thickening, “I can’t turn into a man on a full moon. I must be the wolf.”

“Even when you are a man, you are the wolf,” Xiumin said softly.

Yoongi laughed, bright and easy. For some reason, it had Jimin’s heart beating fast. Why was Yoongi so nice to these Savages when he couldn’t be less civil to Jimin. What was worse, the wolf was sharing intimate pieces of his life with them. And they returned his openness generously.

“I see you are capable of making friends,” Jimin hissed sourly, “I was beginning to think you were an irreproachable asshole.”

Yoongi turned back and studied Jimin. For a moment, the wolf’s eyes were blank like he’d forgotten all about the Prince’s existence. Then they narrowed.

“I have friends, Firefly,” Yoongi growled, “I just don’t want to be your friend.”

Jimin scoffed indignantly, “I-I don’t want t-to be your friend either.”

Yoongi laughed. Then he started mocking Jimin. “I’m a Prince with perfect silver hair. But my life is terrible, even though I have everything I want. There’s this big, mean wolf who doesn’t want to be my best friend.”

“I don’t talk like that,” Jimin said in a high pitch voice, which only aided to discredit him.

Gongjun barked at Yoongi, “Leave him alone, you bully.”

Yoongi sputtered indignantly before stalking off. He muttered under his breath, “... why him?... I took care of you since you were born… not fair… stupid pretty boy...”

It was high noon when the group decided to stop. It was getting dangerously warm, and bodies were dropping. Gongjun slumped onto the ground with a groan.

“You see, I don’t have the option of taking off this fabulous fur coat.” the gray wolf sighed into the dirt.

“Don’t complain, baby sister,” Yoongi sighed. “I wish I could be a wolf right now. This walking upright shit is fucking tiring.”

“It’s odd seeing you as a man,” Gongjun replied, “I know it’s you in there, but at the same time there’s this grouchy pale fellow too.”

“I hate this,” Yoongi sighed. “I feel all weird. I just want to sniff things but I can’t.”

“It’s nice smelling things,” Gongjun commented.

The pale man sat against a tree. Chen, Euigeon, and Xiumin were chatting quietly while they stuffed venison into black bread for makeshift meat rolls. It was then that Jimin couldn’t take it anymore.

“Is there a reason you hate me?” Jimin suddenly spat. “I thought you were a fucking jerk, now I realize it’s just to me.”

Yoongi flushed, his blue eyes shaking. “How about the fact that you shot me in the leg?”

“I apologized for that. It was an accident,” Jimin said indignantly, “Get over it.”

“How can I? I have this fucking old man limp now.”

“Why are you like this? I’ve been nothing but nice.”

“Nice? Is that what you call nice? And not everyone has to fucking like you, Firefly. Life’s not perfect, not even yours.”

At this point, Chen, Euigeon, and Xiumin left for firewood. It was sweltering out, no one actually needed firewood. But all the same, the three men were gone. Gongjun followed them, in case they needed erm… help.

“My life’s not perfect. My life is a fucking shit hole.”

“Oh, I’m a Prince and I live in a castle. I never go hungry or thirsty. But my life is a shit hole.” Yoongi mocked him, forcing his voice to go high.

“I’m no one’s Prince,” Jimin quietly admitted, “I don’t belong there even if no one says it out loud. I can’t even hide it like Chanyeol and Jeonghwa. They see me and they know that I’m not one of them.”

Yoongi stared at him blank-faced, frowning slightly.

Jimin sighed and got up, turning toward the trees, “Fuck this.”

“Wait,” Yoongi called. Jimin stopped in his tracks. He was boiling with anger. If he heard one more insult from the wolf’s mouth he would-

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi whispered. The Prince had to think about it for several seconds before he realized that the wolf had actually said it.

“What?” Jimin turned around, eyes wide with confusion.

“Don’t make me say it again,” Yoongi’s face was speckled with bright pink. “I was - I was joking around, Jimin. It’s funny when you get angry.”

“What?” Jimin repeated in disbelief. The wolf found it amusing when he got angry? Forgive him if he was being irrational, but that just made him angrier. Jimin was about to go off when Yoongi continued.

“And I have this thing with hunters,” Yoongi looked way, “Whenever you pick up that bow, you’re not yourself anymore. It scares the fuck out me.”

Then the man turned back and looked at him apologetically. In that instant, Jimin didn’t see the Pale Wolf, dangerous, rebellious, spirit of the mist. It was simply Yoongi, wringing his hands, vulnerable and soft. This was the kind of man that didn’t forget about a person for twenty years. This was a man who would risk his life for a childhood friend. Jimin’s heart thudded heavy in his chest, though he knew not why.

“It’s okay,” Jimin sighed, “I’m just tired. I know it wasn’t part of the deal. I didn’t say we had to be friends in order to save my brother. I only thought it’d be easier.”

Yoongi laughed, flashing a gummy smile before looking away, “You’re so naive, Firefly. Friendship isn’t easy. It’s one of the hardest things in the world.”

The same unidentifiable feeling swelled against Jimin’s chest once more. The Prince wanted to look away from Yoongi, but he had not the power to do so. The wolf’s liquid lapis blue eyes pinned him where he stood. Suddenly, the world shrank down to the two of them.

“Yoon-” Jimin began.

Yoongi unexpectedly moved past Jimin, sniffing the air, his face bright with alarm. “Dragonfly?” The pale man took off for the trees, his previous limp suddenly vanishing. Jimin needed a moment to process before he chased after Yoongi.

Dragonfly? That’s Chanyeol, right?

Jimin couldn’t keep up with Yoongi, even though the man was injured. The Pale Wolf flew through the trees like they weren’t there. Jimin, on the other hand, kept getting caught by the roots. Every time Jimin lurched forward, partially losing his balance, he whimpered with panic.

The Prince was frantic. His older brother was near. The condition they would find him in was yet to be discovered. An image of Chanyeol lying in a pool of his own blood kept appearing in Jimin’s mind.

Please be okay.

Yoongi had disappeared into the foliage, pulling further ahead. Losing sight of the wolf made Jimin’s whole body tense up. But the Prince was already at his limit, running so hard his lungs were ready to burst. His legs were already groaning in protest. Jimin’s body was about to collapse from the strain.

How was Yoongi going so much faster?

Then Chanyeol appeared in the clearing, clad in light chainmail, and mostly alive. The relief that Jimin felt was so exquisite that he nearly cried out. His brother was okay.

Yoongi was already there with his arms tight around Chanyeol. The pale man was smiling and sobbing at the same time.

“S-Suga?” Chanyeol hissed in disbelief. “What are you doing here?”

“I was so worried,” Yoongi replied in his thick voice, “I kept thinking you were cold and lost… or dead. I’m so happy you’re alive. I-I came for you. I came for you this time.”

“It’s okay, Suga,” Chanyeol cooed, rubbing the man’s back, “Stop crying.”

Then Chanyeol caught sight of Jimin.

“Brother?” Chanyeol pushed Yoongi aside, even as the man tried to cling onto him, “What are you doing here?”

“We came to rescue you,” Jimin said monotonously.

Several conflicted emotions flickered through the older’s eyes. He settled on rage.

“You have to get out of here,” Chanyeol almost yelled, “I can’t believe you were so stupid. We have to go. Now.”

“We came for you,” Jimin snapped back, “How is that stupid?”

Chanyeol turned to Yoongi. The pale man was still teary-eyed. The wolf was so utterly lost, it made Jimin want to cry too.

“How dare you, Yoongi?” Chanyeol hissed at him, “You brought my brother here. Why didn’t you tell him to stay behind?”

Jimin was assaulted with the various memories of Yoongi staring up at the sky, all the soft words he’d said about Chanyeol, and every smile he’d formed when thinking about the asshole. The wolf didn’t deserve this.

Yoongi sighed dejectedly, “I’m sorry, Dragonfly.” His voice was so small.

Chanyeol scoffed, turning away, and hopping on the stallion. He held out his hand for Jimin, “Come on, we have to go. You’re in danger.”

Jimin shifted his gaze between Chanyeol and Yoongi.

Yoongi was hurt, more hurt than Jimin had ever seen him. That was saying something since Jimin had once seen Yoongi with a fresh bleeding arrow wound. Yoongi’s eyes were unfocused as he hiccuped through his tears.

It was cruel. It was so cruel what Chanyeol had done. His brother just stood there disdainfully, no idea how much damage he left in his wake. Jimin couldn’t name this thing twisting in his heart. But he wanted nothing to do with Chanyeol. He slapped the man’s hand away. The Crown Prince raised his eyebrow in surprise.

Yoongi stared mutely at Jimin, irises rippling with terror. He was an abandoned child, a small boat lost at sea, unwanted and overwhelmed. It was so wrong. What did Yoongi do to deserve this? Why did he have to be born to this? The person that Yoongi loved most in the world, had just carelessly destroyed him. But, why? Simply because Yoongi couldn't be fit into an acceptable category. It was criminal.

Everything Jimin felt boiled over. He didn't know what it was until now, condensed by his fury. He'd felt it before when Yoongi talked about his childhood with his brother. Then again, when he watched the wolf look up at the stars wistfully. When Yoongi had told him how he didn't belong, since he was neither a man nor wolf, Jimin had nearly realized it then.

It was the feeling of looking at one's self in another. It was like looking into a mirror.

Jimin didn’t even realize when he’d started crying. He just rushed forward, not completely in control of himself. He threw his arms around Yoongi and pulled him into an embrace, burying his face in the crook of the man’s neck. Yoongi’s words rang in his head.

You’re so naive, Firefly. Friendship isn’t easy. It’s one of the hardest things in the world.

 

Chapter Text

 

Chanyeol

Destiny was not kind. Chanyeol could, at that very moment, taste his own bitter future on his tongue. There would be suffering, turmoil, high black flames, anguished cries, and battles that would nearly cost him his life. But there would be no love, not one single drop. That was his straw, his lot, the red string that had been picked for him, and he could not off course it. It was only what could be described as cosmic alignment, his pitiful destiny.  

Chanyeol could hear Yoongi’s erratic heartbeat slow down and steady itself. Jimin cradled the wolf’s head against his shoulder. The Crown Prince expected Yoongi to push Jimin away. But he didn’t. He let the boy hold him, with eyes closed, breathing softly. And Chanyeol could see their destiny too. It made the Crown Prince Jealous. Their strings were tied together.

“We have to go,” Chanyeol hissed in vain.

There was no time. A thousand Fairies could be behind the line of the horizon. They couldn’t afford to waste even one precious second.

“Will you fucking get on, Jimin,” Chanyeol cursed. Jimin made not a movement toward him. Instead, he stayed locked with the wolf in a soft embrace.

Free Wind whinnied indignantly, throwing his head. He exhaled clouds of steam from his nostrils as if he was bubbling inside with anger.

No way. Only you. I won’t let him.

“He’s my brother,” Chanyeol whispered urgently, “I was a fool. I told the Spider about Jimin and Jeonghwa. He’ll come after them now. I-”

There was a rustling in the trees. Chanyeol drew his broadsword in one fluid motion, his chest filling with thick, black dread. The Crown Prince was ready to fight for his life though his foe was much more powerful than he. He was a wispy cloud, and his enemy was the glorious sun, threatening to destroy him.

But it was not the enemy. Eugeom, the stable hand, appeared behind a tree, before stopping short of the blade pointed in his face. The boy’s face lit up in fearful shock. He threw his hands up in defense.

“Your Highness?” The man piped up, eyes crossed on the sword, “Uh, I don’t know if you remember me, but-”

Chanyeol lowered his weapon, “How many of you are out here? We all need to leave. Now!”

The question answered itself, when a gray wolf and two savages toppled from the leaves.

“Who are you?” Chanyeol hissed, his agitation flaming against his skin, turning it red.

The wolf completely ignored Chanyeol, instead focusing on Jimin and Yoongi, who were still holding each other.

“Hey, stop that,” the wolf yipped, before tugging at Jimin’s pant leg with her snout, “Stop hugging. Why are you hugging? Stop it!”

Her protests seemed to rouse the two. They promptly jumped apart. Jimin’s face was bright with embarrassment. Yoongi’s was even more so.

“You can’t touch people without an affirmation, Firefly,” Yoongi barked, shuddering, “Ugh, my skin is crawling now.”

To that, Jimin’s eyes were filled with indignation, flush deepening to scarlet, “I was trying to move you out of the way, don’t flatter your-”

“No,” Gongjun protested, still hopping, yelling at Yoongi, “Stay away from him. Why do you always have to steal my things? You suck. I hate you.”

In the chaos, Free Wind spoke, voice loud and demanding. Those that understood gave the horse their attention.

We need to go now. The Spider spins a web around your neck like a noose. You’ll be dead before you realized that you couldn’t breathe.

“Then, let's go,” Yoongi said sharply before turning around and walking southward.

Gongjun followed him, complaining, “You suck. You suck. You fucking suck. Why do you have to do this to me?”

Yoongi grumbled something that sounded like, ‘taken advantage of.’

Jimin followed, walking side by side with Free Wind. He was still red, though he pretended that he was perfectly fine.

“What do you mean by Spider?” Jimin asked softly as they made their way back.

“Our grandfather,” Chanyeol answered, eyes forward, “I met him and he’s fucking crazy.”

Jimin’s eyes widened with swirls of fear. His complexion paled until his skin turned ash colored.

“What do you mean?” Jimin said cautiously.

“He’s dangerous. He kept me locked up.” Chanyeol explained, “He made me… I told him about you and Jeonghwa. It’s bad. It’s really bad.”

Jimin swallowed, “We’ll get out of this.”

“That’s not all,” Chanyeol said through a clenched jaw, “The War of Days is approaching.”

The End of Times

They walked on for six hours. The sun hung low in the sky, and the heat turned into frost. The trees began to thin, and they knew they were near the boundary. Yoongi led the way, refusing to look back or talk, especially not with Jimin or Chanyeol. The wolf pretended that the pair did not exist.

“Should we stop for the night?” Jimin asked.

“No, we have to keep going,” Chanyeol said sternly. “We can’t risk it.”

Free Wind spoke up.

We only need to get to the Gap. The Spider cannot cross the barrier, nor can any of his warriors.

“Why not?” Jimin cocked his head.

Because then, he could get to his sister. The Gap separates the two, so that they do not kill each other. The Gap is all that prevents the War.

“I don’t understand,” Jimin admitted, footfalls like air on the ground.

Yoongi turned around, his lapis eyes glowing faintly in the dusk. He looked at Jimin curiously. Jimin looked back at him, his firefly eyes shimmering in the dimness. Chanyeol swallowed, feeling something swell in his chest. They knew not their fortune yet, even as they stared each other down, each was a reflection of the other through the glass.

“I thought as much, Firefly,” Yoongi jested though his voice was dry. “You don’t even know about the Gap Magic. What have you been doing all your life?”

Jimin blushed and frowned, “It was a simple question.”

“There is a barrier in the north and the south,” Yoongi explained smugly, “It’s spelled so that Fairies cannot cross through. Before the Gap, there was utter chaos. Moon Fairies and Sun Faires killed each other by the thousands. Until finally, the Animal Gods decided they had enough”

Free Wind nodded.

We had never before taken a side. But we aligned ourselves with men around three hundred years ago. Together, we razed the forest and created the Gap.

“So what’s the trouble now. The Gap has held for so long-” Jimin asked.

There was peace until the old Sun King died. Your grandfather took over. Before he was a Prince, no power, only ambition. Now he wants everything and-

Freewind paused for a moment, head stretching out. Everyone stilled as well. Suddenly, the tension was thick as soup. Then, Chanyeol heard it. In the far distant, there was the sound of thunder. It was one thousand Fairy soldiers coming their way.

Run.

Chanyeol grabbed onto the stallion’s neck as the beast sped up, the trees becoming a blur. Jimin, Yoongi, and the rest disappeared behind the thick foliage.

“We can’t leave them behind.” Chanyeol pleaded.

Free Wind didn’t answer. His intention was clear. He would only save one, and it wasn’t any of them.

“Please,” Chanyeol cried.

The trees flew past them, and their limbs were like claws reaching out in the dark. The wind roared past the Crown Princes ears, but he could still hear the soldiers. They were getting closer

“Fuck, please,” Chanyeol begged, only to be ignored.

Free Wind burst back into the grassy plains that was the Gap, leaving the forest in his wake. Immediately, the horse ground to a stop, turned around and waited.

“We have to go back,” the Prince tried to get off of him, but Free Wind would not allow it.

No. If they make it then they make it. You’re safe and that’s what matters.

Chanyeol died a thousand deaths as the moments passed.

The first to make it out was the gray wolf, Gongjun. She collapsed on the ground beside them, chest expanding visibly as she tried to fight off asphyxiation. “Fuck”

The savages made it out next, stumbling onto their knees with relief. The kissed the grass and cried at their fortune. Chanyeol waited, chewing on his lip until it bled. Yoongi and Jimin were still in there. What if they got them? How could Chanyeol ever go home without his little brother?

“Please,” the Crown Prince closed his eyes and prayed. The line of Fairy defense was growing ever louder. The ground was shaking and it sounded like there was a storm rumbling in the sky.

Euigeon erupted out into the night, sweating and heaving.

Gongjun started whimpering, “Where’s my brother?”

No one answered since the Savages and Euigeon could not understand her.

“Where’s Jimin?” Chanyeol hissed.

“They.. .they were right beside me,” Euigeon looked around with concern, realizing that Jimin and Yoongi were still in there. “Ah fuck.”

The sound of the approaching cavalry was tangible. Chanyeol could wait no longer. Swiftly, before Free Wind could react, he jumped onto the grass and headed back toward the line.

No, stop!

Then, when all hope was lost. Yoongi appeared as a Ghost Wolf, resplendent in the moonlight. Jimin was on his back, firing arrows behind toward the abyss. The Pale Wolf tumbled forward, and Jimin rolled off of him. They both landed face up in the grass, breathing heavily.

“You saved me,” Jimin turned to the wolf, still gasping.

“Had to,” Yoongi answered, equally winded, “We shook on it.”

Not a moment after, the line of Fairies appeared at the forefront, bows in hand, firing in their direction. But it was for nothing. Even as Chanyeol stumbled back, an arrow aimed at him, the thing turned into glittering dust as it passed the barrier.

Chanyeol was face to face with them, golden clad warriors that were like his brothers. And yet, they were as foreign as the sea was to the desert. They eyed him hatefully before retreating back into their prison, a thousand glowing eyes in the darkness.

Chanyeol could hear one thing above the rest, the voice of a Spider.

You are mine


 

 

Taehyung

It was boiling sun on the other side of the boundary. But that was already a distant memory across the threshold. The Moonwood was cold, frost covered ashen dirt, and ghost trees made from corpse limbs. It was midday on the outside, yet somehow, here it was nearly night. Taehyung was anxious from the tips of his fingers to the ends of his toes.

But he was the only one filled with impending dread. His father and Jungkook were chatting cheerfully. It made Taehyung uneasy or possibly jealous. But whatever it was, he certainly didn’t want the Knight of the Isles here more than he had to be.

Maybe they could split up and Jungkook could get lost and die. As soon as Taeh thought it, he frowned. That was a bit too morbid. He didn’t really want it. The Sword just really needed to find his cousin and Jungkook’s presence was not helping. The Knight was distracting, with his charming smile, and easy attitude. That was not what they needed right now. They needed to focus.

“Taehyung,” his father called him forward.

“Yes, Papa?”

Beom turned back to Jungkook, “Both my sons are excellent trackers. My wife thinks Joonie is the better, but I have to give it to Tae,”

Jungkook nodded with wide eyes. Taehyung stepped in front of them and scanned the area. There must have been something that his father wanted to see and he saw it right away. There was a group of leaves that’d been eaten away.

“This?” Taehyung frowned, his chest started pooling with alarm. “Who could have done something like this?”

Jungkook eyed the leaves as well. “A deer?”

Taehyung shook his head, “It doesn’t look right. It almost looks like someone sprayed acid on it. But why-”

“It’s poison,” Beom grit his teeth. “We’re close. This looks fresh.”

“Poison?” Jungkook cocked his head. “What the hell?”

“We weren’t sure we could trust you before,” Beom continued, walking through the bush, before adding a quiet,“Watch out for more burn marks.”

“Trust me?” Jungkook followed.

“We’re not looking for Jimin,” Beom sighed, “If the Changeling Prince really is here, then he’s probably dead by now.”

Jungkook’s demeanor changed. His easy smile turned grave, “He’s dead?”

“He’s not here,” Beom clarified, “My guess is that the Samjokgu has him holed up on the boundary.”

Jungkook looked perplexed.

“Sam-who?” Taehyung cocked his head, sharing the younger Knight’s confusion.

“The Wolf God, she’s tasked with managing the border so that humans don’t come through.” Beom smiled, “Ah, she scared the ghost out of me when I was-”

There it was, crisp and clear. A violent snarl that broke through the quiet. The trees seemed to eat up the sound, craving the desperate nature of it.

“Let’s go,” Beom shouted. The three made a beeline for the noise. The trees seemed to know and tried to snag them to slow them down. Taehyung felt like an insect thrashing in a spider’s-

“S-Sp,” Jungkook reached the clearing first, comprised of a thin river, and a muddy bank, “Spi-Spi-”

Taehyung’s head popped out of the leaves, “What’s wrong, Spit it ou-”

Then, Taehyung noticed the source of Jungkook’s distress.

There was a great spider as big as a house, covered in thick black and red fur.

What the fuck?

Jin was there, latched onto its back, stabbing it with a small, dull knife.

But that wasn’t all.

There was a wolf too, three times the size of a horse, with golden spun fur and three eyes. The wolf and the spider were having a cataclysmic battle, fangs dripping with purple poison, claws with blood. They tore at each other viciously, eviscerating flesh with sickeningly wet noises.

“What-” Taehyung gasped.

“Draw your sword,” Beom commanded the two of them before pulling his bo staff into an offensive position.

“W-What is this?” Jungkook asked helplessly. Taehyung wanted to answer but he had no fucking clue. Half of him believed that he’d suddenly gone crazy. The other half wanted to run.

“No time. We have to save Jin,” Beom hissed, darting forward. He parried a spider limb with the spin of his staff, before unleashing a furious series of jabs at the spider’s body.

The spider reared, throwing Jin off of him. The Knight of the Forest, slammed his knife into the beast, cutting it down its back. Purple oozed from its body. The liquid burned through Jin’s clothes.

Oh god.

The pain, how could he bear it? His skin looked like it was melting off.

“Jin,” Taehyung cried, catching the fallen Knight. The residue toxin was already starting to eat through Tae’s leather and armor. The Sword wanted to throw up from the sight of Jin’s half dissolved face.

The Knight of the Forest had had no protection.

“Ah fuck,” Taehyung pleaded, “Stay with me. You can’t die like this.”

There was no one to help. Beom was currently destroying the spider with rapid attacks. He was one small speck compared to the terrible arachnid. He couldn’t afford to leave the battle and help Jin. Jungkook had also joined in on the assault, hacking at the spider’s legs. Even if he was free, he couldn’t help either.

“Don’t let any of its blood touch you,” Beom shouted, “It’s fatal.”

Its fatal

Jin was covered in it. How long would he last?

“What do I do?” Taehyung wept. “Cousin? I’m so sorry.”

Jin was struggling to speak, eyes wide with urgency. His lips were partially fused together. What cruel agony was this?

Taehyung had to look away. He watched the monster. The spider realized how outnumbered it was. It paused for a single moment. Taehyung could swear that it was looking at Jin.

Then the spider was gone, replaced by a shadow.

“Ah,” Beom cried, “She’s using the mooncast to throw her influence. Stand back, Jungkook”

Mooncast?

The shadow looked almost like a woman. Taehyung watched it, as it threw something silver at him. The glowing thing sailed through the air and landed at the Sword’s feet. Then she vanished without a trace.

“Does she know anything about the Prince? Don’t let her get away” Jungkook yelled in the chaos.

The Golden wolf answered as it drooled copious amounts of blood. Beom listened to her and translated.

“Jimin’s not here,” Beom said after a few seconds, “He went north to the Sunwoods.”

Taehyung would barely hear them. He was too busy, holding Jin in his arms. “W-We were too late.”

“I-Is Joon alive?” Jin asked between strained breaths, finally able to speak.

“Yes, he’s okay,” Taehyung lied. He didn’t really know if Namjoon was okay. When they left, Joon was still asleep. He could be dead now or still sleeping or anything in between.

Taehyung looked at the glowing thing. With his free arm, he reached out and grabbed it. It was a vial of shimmering liquid, like the golden elixir that his father gave to Namjoon. The only difference was that it was silver.

The elixir in that bottle could’ve brought a man back from the dead.

“Jin, listen to me,” Taehyung gasped, holding the thing tight, “I think this can save your life. But I know not the circumstances.”

Jin looked at the bottle and cried. “I do and I ‘cept them. I-I have to see him again. Give it here. I’ll drink this c-cup.”

Taehyung uncorked it and fed Jin the contents with a shaky hand. He didn’t have to wait for it to work. The effects were instantaneous. Jin changed before his eyes.

Once the light died down, Taehyung was able to see what Jin had become.

“Oh my god,” Taehyung gasped, “Y-You’re beautiful.”


 

 

Namjoon

He refused to see anyone, not even his own mother. Namjoon was conflicted. A part of him wanted to go search for Jin. But there was another part of him that could not leave his room. The Knight looked so different now. What would people think when they saw his rose-golden hair and blue eyes. They would shun him.

Besides, there was something else in him that simply told him that Jin was perfectly safe. The feeling was so strong that it overwhelmed his concern. He could not rationalize it as he’d done before. He simply knew with nothing to go on. Namjoon wished it wasn’t the magic in his blood but again, but he knew it was.

Whatever gave him life was doing strange and frightening things to him.

But most terrifying of all, Namjoon had found something on his body. The stab wound on his shoulder had scarred over-

No, it wasn’t a scar.

That would be fooling himself. It was the mark of a feather, a quill.

The Chaotic Pen

“What am I?” Joon asked the emptiness, as he laid in his bed, refusing to move.

Joon was, again, all alone in his room. So why? Why was he afraid that someone might answer? He could feel eyes watching him in the complete stillness. It made him almost want to shout out, ‘who’s there?’.

But before he could, the door creaked open, and the feeling washed away.

“You have to eat something,” his mother entered, holding a tray of food. Namjoon looked at it disdainfully.

“Leave.” Namjoon demanded, voice monotone.

“How bad are the dreams getting?” his mother asked, ignoring his command.

Namjoon swallowed. So, she knew about the dreams. The Knight decided that silence was the best option.

“I saw it,” she whispered sorrowfully, “when you were sleeping, I was the one who dressed your wound. I know what’s on your shoulder.”

The will of the universe is chaos and I am its agent

Silence, Namjoon tried to convince himself. If he didn’t speak, maybe she’d leave. But, his resolved melted as he watched her. The woman’s face had sunken in with worry.

“I’m sorry, Joonie,” she continued, pouring him a glass of cactus pear juice. “I made a choice. It might have been the wrong one, not the one you wanted. For that, I offer my apology. But don't misunderstand, I’m not sorry that you’re alive. I don’t regret that, not one increm”

Namjoon tried his hardest to hold his tongue, but he crumbled at her words.

“I saw him in my dreams,” Namjoon sighed, “like from the religious tomes you gave me. I met the Dream God.”

The woman paused briefly before carrying the tray over. She wasn’t surprised in the slightest. She already knew. “Eat, please.”

Namjoon was hungry. His fast had lasted two days already. He timidly picked up the glass and sipped it. The juice was sweeter than honey, seasoned by his starvation. Joon took a bite of bread and chewed. It was delicious, the finest bread he’d ever eaten.

“We can deal with this,” she was visibly relieved, watching him eat, “You can learn to shut the Dream God out.”

“You think he wants to take me like he did with his followers?” Namjoon took a small bite of grouse. The fat melted on his tongue.

“I won’t let him take you,” she said adamantly, “I promise you. We’ll figure it out.”

Joon felt something flood in his veins. He could hear faint singing in the wind. Muted orange lights turned pink and blue. He was merely a conduit for something greater. But with tremendous effort, he forced it out, and his vision returned to normal.

“Are you hurt?” his mother said, voice laced with fear.

“Tired,” Namjoon sighed, “and afraid to sleep.”

The woman nodded and stepped back, moving around the room, gathering things.

“Your uncle is inconsolable,” she said, folding clothes into piles, “Your aunt has taken up some of his duties. I think the mountain will hold for now.”

“The mountain will always hold,” Namjoon said, repeating Peaks propaganda.

“It needs only to hold a little longer,” she nodded as she tossed several items into a bag.

“What-” Namjoon realized that his mother was packing. She had been all along. “Where are you going?”

“It’s where are we going?” his mother corrected, “We’re going to visit the last of the Dream Druids and see what can be done.”

“They’re all dead.”

“Not the children. And they are children no longer. We will seek out their guidance,” she said.

“But-but the refugees ended up all over the place. The Crown rehoused them anon.” Namjoon stuttered

“They have since forsaken the Crown and have decided to live in the wild as-” the woman explained

“Savages? We’re going to see them? But they’re cannibals.” Namjoon choked

“They’re not.” the woman replied curtly

“And how do you know that?” Namjoon asked dubiously.

“I was born in the wild. When your father came, dirt in his hair, bright look in his eye, I thought he was one of us. But he turned out to be brother to the Warden. I loved him anyway. So I went with him.” she said wistfully

“Y-You were a Savage. A-Are you also a Druid?” Namjoon asked, unable to cope with the fact that his mother had such a strange past.

The woman laughed.

“Not all Savages are Druids. Not all Druids are Savages. But the ones that are, will be the most helpful to us.”

Namjoon climbed out of the bed, for the first time in days. He found his legs to be weak from disuse. But he grit through it.

“What are you doing?” his mother paused with alarm.

“I’m helping you pack,” Namjoon stated.


 

 

Yoongi

It had been life or death. That’s what he told himself. Otherwise, Yoongi would have never let Jimin ride him. At the time, all he could think was how the Changeling was falling behind, the Fairies getting closer every second. In that sheer panic, Yoongi had run through Jimin’s legs, hoisting him up, and jetting them both to safety.

The group was making it back to the Savage camp. Jimin had not looked at him since the incident, no scathing remarks, no rolling eyes. Chanyeol was preoccupied with Chen and Xiumin, describing the steps he was taking to ensure their right to the Gap. Kyungsoo remained in horse form, trotting quietly behind the Crown Prince. Yoongi stayed an animal as well, if only to avoid the awkwardness of being a man.

Gongjun was pouting. Earlier in the night, the wolf had burst into to tears. She’d screamed at Yoongi, “Why didn’t I save him? Why did you save him? Now he’s gonna fall in love with you instead of me.” Yoongi had assured her that no one was falling in love with anyone else. She had since piped down into a whimper.

They made it back to the Savages by midnight, when the waxing quarter moon was high in the sky. They were exhausted by the time they arrived Gongjun slumped into the grass, quietly muttering to herself.

“Ah, it’s so cold,” Gongjun complained, “It’s only autumn.”

It wasn’t autumn yet.

“It’s the last day of summer,” Yoongi corrected.

“Whatever, it’s fucking cold!,” Gongjun whined, eyeing Jimin. “If only I could get some extra body heat.”

Yoongi laughed, “You know he’s a man right. Besides, you’re only nine.”

“Age is a number,” Gongjun argued.

“What about his lack of fur and paws?” Yoongi asked.

“Maybe we can go to the Shrine and the Old Wolf Gods will change him,” Gongjun said, tail wagging hopefully, “like mom had you turned into when you were a baby.”

“She had to. There was no choice,” Yoongi said, annoyed that she’d talk about things before her time, “The Firefly has his own life to live. He’d do well to chose it.”

Gongjun sighed, and walked away, “... doesn’t understand...true love…”

Yoongi looked at the prince again, wondering if he was still ignoring him. Jimin settled by the embers, warming his fingertips. Then finally after what seemed like forever, the Firefly lit on him.

Yoongi moved as if possessed, walking over sitting by him. The only thing keeping him sane was that he didn’t have to look at Jimin as a man. He was almost afraid to transform now. He didn’t understand why. But he felt if he turned back into a man, he’d be somehow compelled to stay a man forever.

“What are you going to do now?” Jimin asked softly, “Where will you go?”

“I need to warn mom about the War,” Yoongi sighed. “We’ll gather the whole pack and reinforce the line.”

“What about my brother?” Jimin barely whispered.

Chanyeol was in the distant, grooming the Horse God. But Yoongi noticed the Crown Prince turn his head ever so slightly. He could hear every word. Yoongi was one of the few that knew about his ability.

“He forgot about me a long time ago,” Yoongi answered. The wolf could see Chanyeol flinch.

“You came all this way for him,” Jimin huffed, “It isn’t fair. You came even though you only had one working leg. He should know.”

Chanyeol did know.

“He doesn’t want me around,” Yoongi sighed, “I knew before we left, but I came anyway.”

Jimin carded a hand through his hair in frustration, “It irks you not?”

Yoongi shrugged, “I saved him because I love him, not because I expect anything from him.”

Chanyeol flushed bright red. Jimin was about to respond when the Crown Prince stalked over, eyes livid.

“Why?” Chanyeol hissed. “I was just a kid and so were you. You can’t just hold me to it. What're two years compared to twenty?”

Jimin stood between them, wide eyes flickering back and forth.

“I had no home before you,” Yoongi said adamantly, “I’ve had no home since. No matter how hard someone tries to forget, they always know where their home is.”

The air suddenly felt charged, lightning shooting between the heavens and the earth.

Chanyeol started crying, “She was everything to me and she died. I died too. Now every time I look at you all I can think of is her.”

Yoongi had really liked Chanyeol’s mother. She was kind and accepting. He’d had last seen her when she was still pregnant with Jimin. The whole world had loved her. But Chanyeol loved her the most.

“I promise,” Yoongi shuddered, voice wavering, “You’ll never see me again. I won’t come back.”

They had little sleep that night, just a few hours before the sun started rising. As cold as it had been during the night. It was colder now. Yoongi had turned back into a man while he slept, unable to keep his animal form. But when he awoke, he wasn’t naked. Someone had draped a blanket over him during the night.

“Breakfast?” Jimin was sitting up, opposite him. The Firefly had a bit of black bread stuffed with spiced lamb in his outstretched hand. It was a peace offering, a good parting gift.

“Thank you,” Yoongi nodded, before taking the thing.

Jimin blinked a few times, looking at Yoongi oddly.

“What is it?” the pale man grumbled, taking a bite out of the bread.

“You’ve never thanked me before,” Jimin commented, with a small smile.

“Well you never thanked me for saving your-” Yoongi began, a frown forming on his face.

“Thank you, Yoongi,” Jimin cut him off, “Thank you for saving me.”

Yoongi felt his face heating up. He’d just woken up but his heart was beating like he’d run ten miles, “You’re not gonna cry are you?”

Jimin scoffed, but his smile remained, “Fuck you.”

The Prince walked off, preparing Mushroom for the ride home. Yoongi sighed. He wished he could have slept a little more. The frost of the day was already making him melancholy. The blue-green grass of the plains had turned ashen with iced dew. Just a moment more of peaceful oblivion would have been nice.

But it was not to be had. Free Wind galloped up to him. Yoongi eyed the Horse God cautiously. The stallion was one of the Gods of the Gap. He kept the northern border just like Yoongi’s adopted mother kept the southern.

You prayed to me last night in your sleep

Yoongi recalled that the horse was the patron of prisoners and captives. The Animal God heard the prayers of those who felt trapped. But Yoongi had no such feelings.

“I have no use of riddles,” Yoongi said, “If you have something to say then say it.”

I know of a way that you can be a man or a wolf. You would be free of your curse. But it’d be everlasting. You’d have to pick one.

Yoongi wanted to tell the stallion to go fuck himself. Instead, he said, “How?”

Most have only one life. But you have two. If you kill the wolf, the man will live. If you kill the man, the wolf will live. Never again would you have to live in between.

“So I have to kill myself?” Yoongi hissed, ‘I may look like a fool-”

You were made during a full moon and so on a full moon, you can be unmade. Ask your mother and she will tell you the same.

“We have a long journey,” Jimin had appeared by his side again, “You should probably fuel up on some grass, horse.”

Free Wind picked his head up and trotted away indignantly. Once he was gone, Jimin turned back to Yoongi, handing him some clothing. “Get dressed, we’re moving out soon.” The Firefly walked a small distance away before sighing and looking back, “And don’t listen to him. You are what you are. Don’t give up your wolf for someone as ass-headed as my brother.” Then he was gone before Yoongi could respond.

They spent the morning going south. The sun didn’t peek through the heavy cloud cover. Before they realized, they were already at the crossroads. Yoongi had never felt so conflicted. Gongjun was headed south and Jimin was headed east. Wherever he chose to go, he’d be torn asunder. Yoongi could not bring himself to speak, so he nodded wordlessly and walked way.

“What, no goodbye?” Jimin said blackly, staying behind a moment. “Well good riddance. You were a pain in my ass the whole way here and back. I’m glad. I hope I never see-”

Yoongi turned around. Jimin started crying, silent tears, uselessly falling down his face. He wiped at them, frustrated with himself. He tried keeping the sobs inside but they escaped.

Yoongi still found Jimin to be an annoying nag. But the pale man knew that he’d also taken care of him. Jimin had coaxed him to eat, to rest, and to keep warm. Perhaps the Prince wasn’t the most polite person, but he was kind just like his mother. And now as they parted, he was the only one who wept because of it.

No, he was not the only one.

Yoongi felt wetness trail down his face but he smiled. He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the Firefly. “I’ll miss you, Jimin.”

“Goodbye, Yoongi,” Jimin whispered.

Then they parted, the wolves and the men. Yoongi followed behind his little sister as they made it southward. Jimin’s back receded away, shrinking into a dot. The pale man shrugged off his borrowed clothing and turned into back into a wolf.

“Race you,” Gongjun laughed, already forgetting her crush on the prince.

A prickle of coldness touched the tip of Yoongi’s black nose. He looked up. It was still Summer, but in name only. The rolling clouds in the heavens brought the turn of the season. It started snowing.

Chapter Text

 

 

Yoongi

The Red Forest gave way to the ghost wood of home. The familiar smell of sweet, icy rot filled Yoongi’s nostrils, setting him at peace. Tiny flakes of white covered the ground. Whatever crept along the forest floor dug deep into the earth and slept, awaiting resurrection. All was quiet. Even the air stilled; the crypt closed.

Faintly, the aroma of thunder, rainwater, and decaying pomegranates carried on the wind. Yoongi knew that smell anywhere. It was his mother and younger brothers. His heart called out to them, to his family, to the only place he even remotely belonged to in a world weary of him. The Pale Wolf raced toward it, tongue hanging out of the side of his snout. His heart beat in his chest so hard, he was afraid it might burst.

Golden spun fur appeared in between the moonlit trees. Three amber eyes fell on him. He was home.

“Mom,” Yoongi barked cheerfully before he caught the foreign scents closer in.

He slowed to a trot, spotting four humans sitting around a small fire. His fur stood up straight from fear. All peace left his body. What were men doing in the white forest?.

It’s okay, son. They won’t hurt you. Come and give me a hug.

Gongjun sniffed the air and yipped happily, “It’s Beom. Come on, let's go.”

‘Beom? Kim Beom? The Wind on the Mount?’ Yoongi wondered.

Beom was one of the very few humans that Yoongi actually liked. The man was more wild and free than any animal. The Pale Wolf sniffed out his scent. It was there prominently, hanging like a welcome wreath in the night. But the other three scents made Yoongi’s stomach rumble with acid. They weren’t safe. His wolf was adamant about that.

But Gongjun didn’t seem to feel it. She ran ahead, without caution, through the foliage. She was greeted with laughter.

“Ah, princess,” Beom’s deep, loud voice boomed. “Good to see you.”

Yoongi scowled at the clearing, peeking from the bushes before revealing himself. He appeared only half corporeal, his white fur blending in with the paper birch. His lapis eyes glimmered an eerie soul blue.

“Oh,” one of the men said, standing upon seeing him, “It’s the Spirit!”

The Pale Wolf growled. He’d recognized this particular man. He was sure the man had once shot at him.

“Yoongi,” Beom called, the wolf turned his attention to him.  The wild man watched him warily, arms splayed out protectively, “This is my son, Taehyung.”

“He put a bow on me,” Yoongi snarled, “I remember.”

“What’s he saying?” Taehyung cocked his head. “Is he slandering me?”

“He’s saying that you shot at him,” Beom shouted, stepping completely in front of the boy, becoming a human shield.

There was a moment of pensive silence. Then the young man’s face lit up with remembrance.

“Oh, he’s right,” Taehyung gasped, “Tell him I’m sorry. It was during the hunt. I didn’t know he was your friend.”

Yoongi narrowed his eyes. What a repulsively meager apology.

“He understands you, son,” Beom ushered the boy further back. “It’s just the matter of whether he’ll let it go or not.”

The mountain man was tense, lowering his center to increase his leverage. Yoongi felt waves of fury tingle against his skin. How could he forgive someone for shooting at him, well, anyone who wasn’t Jimin?

“Turn back into a man,” Beom pleaded, “Let’s discuss this before we act. Let us not taste the bitterness of regret.”

Yoongi mulled it over for a second. All he could think was what could have happened back then, if Jimin had missed. The wolf would have killed him, and then…

“Oh my god,” Taehyung gasped.

Yoongi willed himself to turn. Only he, the bearer of his curse, could even begin to explain the transition. It was like walking through a door and find yourself on the other side.

“You can start by giving me some clothes,” Yoongi said gruffly, standing tall and proud.

Taehyung took off his own hooded cloak and handed it over, “H-here.”

The Wolf threw it over himself, covering his nakedness. Then he sat down by the fire. His skin was aglow by the flames. Even as a man, he seemed not like a man at all.

“Okay, let’s talk,” Yoongi grumbled.

“Ah, good,” Beom smiled, settling across from him. “I was wondering where you were.”

Yoongi peeked at the other two men that sat with Beom and his son. One was clothed in silver and gold, with a handsome face and large front teeth. The other was cloaked from head to toe, only his bright golden eyes were visible. He seemed the most dangerous of all.

“You’ve never brought people here before,” Yoongi commented.

“This is my nephew, Kim Seokjin” Beom waved a hand over the hooded stranger, then he pointed at the other one, “and this is a vamped supporter of mine, Jeon Jungkook.”

“I find that easy enough to believe,” Yoongi nodded with a playful smirk.

“Flatterer,” Beom accused, though it lacked any aggression.

Yoongi’s mother strolled over, rubbing her fur across his back. The pale man reached upward, petting her gently. His siblings curled around him protectively. He’d been born a man, but raised a wolf. That was his destiny, as unchanging as the turn of the season.

“What are you all doing here?” Yoongi asked. “Having some sort of family bonding trip?”

“We were on a rescue mission, looking for my nephew. As you can see, he is alive and well.” Beom sighed as Seokjin nodded ever so slightly, “Now, we’re headed north to the Dream Druids. I have a feeling that’s where my wife is, most likely with my oldest.”

“Why would you say that?” Yoongi asked politely.

“A feather showed up on my older son’s shoulder,” Beom explained. “If he’s awake, that’s where she’d take him.”

Yoongi inhaled sharply. Beom’s son had been marked by the Dream God, dangerous at best, deadly at worst. Before Yoongi could offer his condolences, one of the Knights interrupted him.

“Speak for yourself,” the one called Jeon Jungkook piped up, “I still have to look for the Prince. Do you know where Jimin is? Your mother said you did.”

He left with you but I see, he hasn’t returned with you.

Something odd twisted in Yoongi’s heart. Jimin was gone and it made the wolf feel strange. It was like he was missing a tooth, or had chipped a claw. It was the feeling one felt when one wasn’t completely… whole.

“He went back to Sword Forge,” Yoongi sighed, “He’s probably already there by now.”

“Are you sure?” Jungkook whispered, eyes wide.

“Definitely,” Yoongi nodded, “He set eastward this afternoon. He’ll be home by now.”

“Then mission accomplished,” Taehyung said cheerfully, smiling at the bunny toothed Knight.

“I-I’ll have to go to the Forge to confirm it,” Jungkook finally said after swallowing his shock, “I need to see him with my own eyes.”

Yoongi felt a strange nervousness bubbling inside. Why did the stranger’s words affect him so? What did it matter who laid their eyes on Park Jimin? Why did Yoongi want to rip this man’s eyes out before he could ever look at the Firefly ever again? Strange, indeed.

“What business do you have with him?” Yoongi asked. The ice in his voice could physically cut through skin.

“Nothing, I guess,” Jungkook shrugged, “Only a promise I made to his sister, that I would find him.”

Somehow that made Yoongi feel a tad easier. It had nothing to do with Jimin, not really. It was the sister.

“We both failed her,” Taehyung frowned, “Perhaps we should go with you.”

“You could,” Beom noted, “But the Druids move in the winter, and we won’t find them if we don’t act now.”

Taehyung nodded begrudgingly. “I guess.”

Yoongi suspected there was a long story but he wasn’t interested enough to ask.

“Sounds like fun,” Yoongi commented.

“Yup,” Beom nodded.

The four men set north at daybreak. Yoongi watched them go. The Pale Wolf told them nothing of the War of Days. In his mind, it could still be prevented so there was no reason to cause a stir in the realm of men. When they were gone, Yoongi turned back into his true form, forsaking fingers for claws.

You’ve been waiting to tell me something

Yoongi looked at his mother. He’d been waiting to ask her several things. He started with the simplest first.

“What do you know about the War of Days?” Yoongi whispered softly as the pack made it westward, patrolling as usual.

Why do you ask?

“I met Free Wind on the northern border,” Yoongi explained, pressing paw prints into the snow, “He says the War of Days is coming.”

It is not our War, Yoongi. When the Moon and Sun Fairies breach the barrier, you and I will cross the sea and wait it out.

Yoongi thought of Jimin, one tiny person, one little bow, facing a thousand helmed enemies. The Pale Wolf shuddered.

“But what about everyone else,” Yoongi asked, “Shouldn’t we protect them? Isn’t that our duty.”

I lost my whole family helping men make the Gap. I shan't lose it a second time, not for anything.

Yoongi thought long and hard before asking the second question. In truth, he didn’t really want to know the answer. Yet it plagued his mind and ate away at his sleep so that he laid awake at night, looking at the starless sky.

“Free Wind told me that my curse could be broken,” Yoongi said, “That I could live either as a man or a wolf forever.”

The three-eyed wolf looked at him for a long time, a torrent of emotions passed through her features before becoming unreadable.

Yes, it's true. But what would you choose?

“I’d be a wolf of course,” Yoongi said without hesitation.

But even as he said it, he felt it was wrong. Fireflies danced in his vision though there really weren’t any in the dead of the frost.

Would you really?

Or would you leave me forever?


 

 

Hoseok

He hadn’t realized it in the night, but when the dewy yolk of the sun rose over the horizon, he could see it. The sand on the beach was a soft candy pink, and the trees in the dense forest behind them were swelled to the brim with colorful wildflowers. It was colorful, even more so than the tropics of the Isles. It was so much so that it was unnatural.

The only thing that seemed even remotely real was the soggy wreckage of the Hope. It laid bottom up upon the shore, half of it lost in the ocean. The thing was a dark brown, stark against the blush colored bay.

“What kind of place is this?” Hoseok asked as he and the Captain made their way towards the ship.

“Before I answer that,” Jinki kept his eyes forward, “What do you know about the Animal Gods?”

“Nothing,” Hoseok sputtered, “I didn’t even know they existed.”

“Well, they do,” the Captain said easily, picking up a piece of driftwood before tossing it aside, “and the ones in the sea are the far older than the ones on the land. The Animal God we are facing is really old. She made this island and there is only one way off.”

“If you knew,” Hoseok pocketed an empty canteen, not that there was any fresh water, but just in case, “Why did you go so far past the Red Moon?”

The Captain sighed, “She’s never come that close inland. I was sure… I was sure that we were safe. Something must be compelling her toward the Isles. It makes no sense.”

Jinki looked so lost for a moment. Hoseok’s heart hurt for him.

“S-So what’s the plan now?” the Knight asked.

“We wait till she comes back to the island. She spends the winter holed up in the volcano because the water gets too cold for her liking.”

Jinki pointed to a tall swirled pink and white thing. It was the Drunk, which was still belching out black smoke. Hoseok had never seen it this close.

Hoseok clicked his teeth. “Then we’ll be stuck here for weeks.”

“I was marooned here for six full moons last time,” Jinki tried joking, “consider yourself lucky.”

“Well, I am alive,” Hoseok reminded himself.

“That’s the spirit.” Jinki smiled, patting the man on the back.

They’d managed to situate themselves quite nicely in a day and a half, locating a food source of trout and graylings, a river’s supply of freshwater, and an empty cave to sleep in. The two scavenged quite a bit off the ship, ensuring their survival. Never were the Captain’s skills more evident. It was like he was made to live in the wild, more brown bear than a man. Hoseok actually found that he preferred this life to the one on the Isles, in the watchful left eye of his father.

Then one day, not two weeks into their castaway, when Hoseok was fishing in the river, the Captain ran out from the trees, out of breath. The Knight knew that his peace was over.

“She’s back,” he huffed, hands braced on his knees.

The man led Hoseok to the beach, where the low tide had yet to wash away the tracks. There was something large and heavy dragging on the sand, which trailed inland for twenty meters. Then the line morphed into dainty little footsteps, like that of a child’s.

“She’s probably making her way up the Drunk,” Jinki looked up at the pink thing, “If we catch’er beforehand, it’ll be better for us. She’s much less dangerous in her girl form.”

“What should I do?” Hoseok asked as they walked toward the mountain.

“We need to steal one of her scales. I’ll distract her while you hide. Then when you see an opportunity, grab one.” Jinki said, “After that run for it. We’ll meet at the shore by the ship.”

Hoseok nodded, his skin on fire from the pressure.

The two of them hiked up the mountain. It was gently sloped, with a pristine pathway. Which again, told of how unnatural the island was. They stayed off the main road, hiding in the trees to maintain an element of surprise.

“Hoseok, whatever happens,” Jinki sighed, “I’m still me and you’re still you. I hope that we can still be friends-”

Before Hoseok could even fathom what he meant, the sound of footsteps echoed from the distant. The two of them stilled instantly. Hoseok hadn’t seen so much as a bird on the island, or any land animal, so he knew it was not one. It must have been the monster that they were after.

From over the Captain’s shoulder, Hoseok could see a little girl, wearing a bright pink dress, and tan woven sandals. Her long iridescent white hair was tied up into messy braided twintails. Her eyes were a bright sea blue. The problem was that she didn’t have any scales. What scales were Hoseok supposed to steal?

“You think you can hide from me?” the girl called, her voice strangely mature, not at all matching her appearance.

Jinki pressed a hand to Hoseok’s mouth, signaling for him to be quiet before he stepped into the clearing.

“Hello,” Jinki muttered.

The girl’s expression did not change.

“I figured it was you,” the girl said steadily, “I saw your little toy ship on the beach.”

“Why did you do it?” the Captain’s voice was a barely contained rage.

“You wouldn’t come home otherwise,” the girl replied.

Home? What the fuck was she talking about?

“What the fuck?” Jinki hissed, “You never cared before!”

“Don’t talk you me like that,” the girl spat, “I’m still your mother!”

“There were people on that boat,” Jinki nearly screamed, “You killed them all.”

The girl hummed. “There’s too much mortal in you. I wished you more like me. People and ships, you are just like your father.”

“I’m glad I’m not like you,” the Captain said, taking a small step to the left.

Hoseok had a clear shot of the girl now. Only again, she had no scales.

“You’re the only krill I have left,” the Fish God murmured, “You have to stay. It’s the End of Times, the War of Days.”

“I’m leaving,” Jinki frowned, “the only reason I stayed was so that I could tell you off. Leave me alone, forever. I want nothing to do with you.”

The girl was visibly upset, and before Hoseok’s eyes, her dress started changing, from pink cloth to glimmer scales. She couldn’t maintain the facade when she was perturbed.

“How dare you?” the girl seemed to grow taller and older by the second, “I am your mother!”

“Fuck you!” the Captain shouted at the top of his lungs.

The girl screeched. Hoseok shivered with fear, his hair standing on end. At that moment, he knew it was time to dash into the path and steal a scale. But he was so afraid. He’d never believed in storytime monsters. And now, he’d realized he been in the company of one all along. The second nearly ticked by, before Hoseok ran forward.

The woman spotted Hoseok too late, her arm, now a long spiked fin came crashing down on him. But the Knight had already ripped a scale off her dress and dodged the blow.

“Run!,” was Jinki’s last word.

Hoseok turned and ran for the beach. He didn’t look back. He only heard the trees snapping in half, the loud high-pitched screams, and the wet noise that could only be tearing flesh.

Fuck, fuck, fuck!


 

 

Namjoon

Two mice scurried in the dark, under a full, cold moon. They moved with certainty, the endpoint of the maze clear in mind.

Namjoon’s mother was a brilliant tracker. She could see movement in the grass and footsteps where others could not. She pushed the blue-green stalks aside gently, stepping forward, nose upward. It was like she could find the Druids by scent, wild and wolf-blooded.

“Mom?” Namjoon asked, fixing the scarf over his mouth, “What are you doing?”

“I smell char. Someone built a fire here not too long ago.” the woman announced, working a pinch of ashy dirt through her fingertips.

Namjoon imagined his mother smearing her face with it. Then she’d trudge on, wearing the war paint of her people. Her Savage origins were never so apparent as she moved around like a mountain lion looking for a little goat. Her eyes were keen and dangerous.

Yet, despite her senses, it was Joon who noticed first.

They were not alone.

“Show yourselves,” Joon straightened up, drawing his sword, ready to swing it should the moment present itself.

“Joon,” his mother smiled, “there is no one here.”

The Knight didn’t lower his steel. He knew he was right even if every one of his senses currently told him he was mistaken. The air was thick with tension, and his mother’s smile faded. He was right; she must have realized. Someone was watching them

“Put your weapon down. You need only your shield.” a voice called out from nowhere.

The way the voice said ‘shield’ had the hairs on Namjoon’s neck standing on end. The Shield was his nickname, given to him by the common folk. It suited him since he was so slow to action, but quick to defend. He was pragmatic and calculated.

And yet, Namjoon lowered his weapon despite everything, everything that made him, him.

A man appeared in the moonlight, the palm of his hand facing them peacefully. He moved carefully, keeping eye contact with the Knight. Then Namjoon understood why the Savage had led with his hand. Where his lifelines should have been, there was a bright pinkish feather birthmark. It was the Chaotic Pen which meant the man was a Dream Druid.

“I knew you would come,” the man said, “My name is Baekhyun and I’m here to guide you back to the camp.”

“Took you long enough,” Chunhwa snorted, “We’ve been out here for days.”

“Shadows were about,” Baekhyun answered, “They loomed over me and made me blind.”

“Ah, you Druids are so dramatic,” the woman responded.

Baekhyun looked over at Namjoon, “How are you holding up? You look tired.”

The only visible part of Joon’s body was his eyes. He must have had very dark circles for them to be visible in the night, where the only light source was the moon and stars.

“Afraid to sleep,” Namjoon admitted to the stranger. “Weird… vivid dreams.”

“Ah,” Baekhyun exclaimed knowingly, “We can help you with that.”

“What can you do to block out the Dream God?” Chunhwa tried to ask casually though it lacked even a smidgen of it.

“Why?” Baekhyun stopped in his tracks, “H-Have you spoken to the Dream God?”

Namjoon froze for a moment under the intensity of the other’s stare. He couldn’t be much older than Joon himself, so then why did the Knight feel so uneasy, like he was talking to an old man. There was something strange about him, that made Joon’s stomach bubble uncomfortably.

“I have,” Joon finally said, pulling the words reluctantly from his belly.

“What’d he say?” Baekhyun asked.

“Nothing,” Joon shrugged, “He just… answered my questions.”

The Dream Druid visibly swallowed, “What did you ask him?”

“I asked him what he was and he told me that he was dreaming, a dreamer,” Namjoon said, recalling the rainbow iris with perfect clarity.

“Frightening,” Baekhyun said after an extended silence, as the three walked along the grassy floor. “He say anything else?”

“He told me that fate puts lovers on the sword,” Namjoon continued.

“Isn’t that your brother’s nickname?” Baekhyun asked as he paused a step. “Do they not call Kim Taehyung the Sword of the Mountain?”

Namjoon swallowed. They did. Is that what the Dream Druid meant by putting lovers on the sword? Or specifically his lover on the sword? Was Jin with Taehyung right now? Was the person he loved with the Sword?

Even as he thought it, he knew it was true. And the realization chilled him to the bone.

“It is,” Namjoon answered, ignoring his own delay in answering.

“How strange. Maybe your brother has met his one true love then,” Baekhyun mused, “The Dream God is not frivolous with words. His answers always hold true.”

“Maybe,” Joon answered, “I’m not sure.”

Baekhyun nodded, “You will soon enough, Shield. We’ll teach you how to deal with your new gift. You’ll be back to sleeping in two days time.”

“I still sleep,” Namjoon corrected. Even if it is very little.

The Druid led them through the plains until the moon set on the horizon, and the sun rose over the grass. In the pale morning light, Namjoon saw a small settlement of tents. Each had an emblem of a feathered quill on it. The sigil made the Knight burn with dread, or maybe just extremely nauseous.

“Joonie,” his mother called soothingly, rubbing large circles into his back, “Are you okay?”

The remnants of an old dead creed had suddenly come back from the Great Divide. Now Joon was to learn the dream magic which had killed them in the first place. The Knight wanted to turn tail and run, but no man could run from fate. His fate placed him here and now, at the mercy of sanity.

Baekhyun excused himself briefly, and brought back a man who wore a large antelope skull as a helm. Namjoon was admittedly frightened, as any normal man would be. The skull man was painted in streaks of white and red. His face was strangely regal for his wild origin. He had eyes as perceptive as a hawk’s.

He was a King, a Savage King.

“I am Suho, the last Dream Guardian,” the King addressed Joon. The Knight bowed his head. “I can teach you to control your dreams so that they do not lead you. Instead, you will lead them.”

Namjoon nodded eagerly, “I want to learn how to shut out the Dream God. I feel as though... I am going insane.”

“It can be done,” Suho nodded, “though most of us seek him rather than flee him.”

Namjoon shook his head, “I need to flee from him. I must.”

Suho sighed, “The first thing you will need is a totem.”

Namjoon listened intently, not trusting himself to speak.

“We will give you the seeker’s tea,” Suho said softly, “You will dream of a bird who will give you a feather. That feather will be your totem. Whenever you see it, you will know that you are dreaming.”

Namjoon swallowed. It was getting so hard to tell dreams from reality already. A totem was just what he needed.

“Give me the tea,” Namjoon agreed.

Suho smiled, “The tea is very hard to make. But that means nothing for its taste. Drink it fast lest you retch it up.”

“How long will I have to-” Namjoon asked.

“We knew you would be here,” Suho said wryly, as he offered Joon a waterskin, “I had this brewed very early this morning. Drink it all, and I will see you when you wake.”

Namjoon accepted the skin. As soon as he uncorked it, a foul herbal smell filled the air. The Knight did what he could to stop from gagging. Then he swallowed the yellowish liquid, ignoring the protest of his tongue, to the very last drop.

“Sorry,” Suho muttered.

When Namjoon replied with, “It’s fine.” he realized that no one was there. Everyone had disappeared.

“I’m dreaming aren’t I?” Joon looked around. The grass had melted away, giving way to familiar, soft red clay. He was and wasn’t home.

Not long. He will return to you.

Namjoon looked to where the voice came from. The Eye was there, floating and lidless.

“I’m here for my totem,” Namjoon dared not any more questions. He was too frightened of the answers.

You’re wide awake. I’m the one that’s dreaming… always and forever.

Namjoon decided he wouldn’t talk at all anymore. Maybe if he ignored the eye, it would no longer look at him.

What totem do you seek? Does it seek you?

Namjoon decided that he really wanted to wake up. He slapped himself but felt no pain. Okay, so that didn’t work. Maybe he just needed to die somehow. When you died in dreams-

You wake up.

“Stop,” Namjoon shouted, “Please… please just let me have a totem.”

The Eye turned upward, his black pupil focusing on something in the paper white sky. Namjoon didn’t see it at first since it blended in with the background. But motion finally gave it away.

It was a dove, descending from the heavens, landing on Namjoon’s shoulder. A white feather fell from its plumage and onto Namjoon’s hand. The feather glimmered every color when the light hit it.

A totem from the wings of a dove, a symbol of peace.

How befitting

Namjoon gasped awake, hands clasping at nothing. He felt suffocated, like he hadn’t a spoonful of air in his lungs. He inhaled deeply several times before he managed to speak.

“I got it,” the Knight croaked, realizing that he was laying down and that it was no longer dawn. It was midnight.

“H-How long was I out?” Joon asked.

Instead of his mother or even Suho, there was a man above him. He was covered from head to toe. Only his bright eyes showed.

“Two days,” the man answered, “That’s what they said at least.”

The man seemed familiar, though Joon was sure he’d never seen that golden eye color before.

Who are you?

“How are you feeling?” the man asked, handing Joon a waterskin. The Knight realized he’d been thirsty upon seeing it.

“Thanks, Jin” Joon said, turning away to take a drink, pulling his mouth covering down.

Then he realized who the man was. He’d subconsciously said it himself, which made the water spew out from his mouth.

“J-Jin?” Namjoon coughed, “It’s you isn’t it?”

The man with strange golden eyes looked at him hard, “Yes, it’s me.”

The day when Jin disappeared into the mirror seemed like a thousand years ago. Now they were here, strange forces tainting their humanity. Yet their souls were the same. Joon had never gotten to tell Jin who he loved. He had that chance now.

Namjoon pulled the hood from his face and the scarf from his mouth. Jin was still covered in darkness, but his eyes looked surprised. Joon’s hair was rose golden now; his eyes were bright blue. The younger knight wondered if Jin still thought of him the same, even though he looked so different.

“It was you,” Joon suddenly said.

“Me?” Jin cocked his head, “What are you talking about?”

“When you asked me who I was in love with… the person I wrote about.” Joon clarified, “It was you.”

There was a moment of soft quiet, and Joon wanted to remember this moment before Jin ultimately turned away in disgust.

But the man didn’t turn away.

Jin pulled away his scarf too and lowered his hood. It became clear why he’d hidden himself. His face was glowing in the darkness, and his hair was bright strands of sunlight. He’d been changed, changed by the mirror. He was glorious.

He was beautiful.

But he had always been beautiful.

And Joon realized that his feelings hadn’t changed, not with time, or distance, or the great turning of destiny. No, his feelings for Jin had remained exactly the same.

“I love you,” Joon continued, “I always have. It’s always been you.”

Water pooled in the beautiful man’s eyes, and his words came out in sobs.  “I’ve always loved you too, Joon.”


 

 

Chanyeol

Dark Towers of the Forge appeared in the distant against the sunset. All around them, a thin flurry of white flakes fell from the heavens. A light snow padded the ground, refusing to melt away. The day was over. Summer was already a fleeting dream.

They were home at last.

Freewind and Mushroom had run ahead to the stables for a fresh drink of water. The stable boy, Euigeon, had gone with the horses so that he could tend to them. This left Chanyeol alone with Jimin.

The Crown Prince couldn’t remember the last time he was alone with his little brother, truly alone. Though Jimin didn’t seem to notice their isolation. The Firefly walked on, eyes downcast, in deep thought. Chanyeol had never seen Jimin quite this sullen.

“What’s on your mind, little brother?” Chanyeol asked, his voice a low hum barely above the patter of snowfall.

Jimin looked up, his eyes already glowing in the fading light. “He would have come with us if you only asked him too.”

Ah, so that was it.

“Why would I be so cruel?” Chanyeol scoffed. “Suga belongs with his family.”

Jimin looked southward toward the Red Forest wistfully. He licked his lower lip before carding a hand through his hair. “No, he doesn’t.”

“He doesn’t belong with his family?” Chanyeol’s voice took on an abrasive tone, no matter how hard he tried to stop it.

Jimin frowned, turning back to look at the older. The Firefly’s glowing eyes could melt steel with their heat.

“He’s not a wolf,” the silver-haired boy proclaimed. “He doesn’t belong in the wild with them.”

Chanyeol tried to suspend his disbelief. He really did. But all he could hear was Jimin’s annoying, high voice, spouting off about some magical world where things were sweet and ideal.

“If you care so much,” Chanyeol hissed, “Why didn’t you ask him to come with us?”

To this, Jimin’s anger melted away. His skin flushed and he looked down. He walked onward, breaking his eye contact.

“He wouldn’t stay for me. Why would he?” the younger Prince muttered under his breath.

The two plodded on in heavy silence as the fiery sunset became a muted, somber blue. Jimin was seething inside, or maybe he was just sad. Chanyeol couldn’t tell. The older could only see the way the younger’s shoulders slumped, and the leaden footsteps he took.

Chanyeol wanted to make his case, but there was no judge, no trial, no witnesses. Although with the way Jimin was acting, the Crown Prince couldn’t really be sure.

“Stop being such a child for once,” Chanyeol couldn’t help himself from saying.

Jimin stopped dead in his tracks, “And maybe you can stop being Crown Prince, Park Chanyeol, for one second. I need to talk to my brother right now, not the pompous Kingling.”

Chanyeol was furious and hurt. Why did Jimin have to look so much like their mother? He was her spitting image, the eyes, the mouth, even the way he didn’t breathe when he was angry. It was a blade that cut the Dragonfly’s wings off.

“I can never stop being the Crown Prince,” Chanyeol shouted, his deep voice carrying far, “That’s the problem. Here you are, working your stupid mouth off. And you don’t know anything. I have to be King one day. I can’t just run away and be with Yoongi. But if you wanted to leave tomorrow and go find him, you could. No one would even miss you.”

Chanyeol regretted it. The words. He regretted the words as soon as they passed his lips. How could he say such a thing? What possessed him?

Jimin’s eyes watered. The Changeling was wounded, bleeding from an incurable spot. He held back a sob as his whole body shook.

“Y-you managed to completely misunderstand me,” Jimin said, voice quivering. “I don’t want to go find Yoongi. Why would I? He doesn’t mean anything to m-me. He loves you. You’re the o-one who-”

Before they could continue, there was a rustling in the leaves. Chanyeol snapped his head at once. It was very rare for anyone to sneak up on him. His hearing could detect footsteps for leagues.

“Show yourself,” Chanyeol commanded, drawing his weapon.

Jimin did the same, arming his bow.

A figure appeared from behind a dense cluster of bushes. It was Jeonghwa, the middle sister. She had twigs in her hair and dirt on her face.

“Ah thank god, you guys are finally back,” the girl exclaimed, “Father has gone crazy. I had to escape the Castle.”

The girl looked like she’d been living in the wild for several years. Her hands were covered in angry red splotches.

“What happened to you?” Jimin rushed to her side, examining her palms.

“I think I touched something poisonous,” the girl said, looking around.

“What about our father?” Chanyeol pressed, “What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s accused several people of kidnapping you.” Jeonghwa hissed, “He’s executing people left and right. The Peder had to smuggle me out of the castle for my own safety”

“Where’s the Peder now?” Chanyeol asked.

“He went back to see if he could get his followers out too,” Jeonghwa explained, “But that was nearly two days ago. He told me to head west and try to find a Savage camp. Can you imagine? Me sheltering with cannibals.”

“Savages aren’t cannibals. That’s just propaganda. They’re good people,” Jimin said dismissively. Chanyeol nodded in agreement.

“Where have you two been anyway?” Jeonghwa asked after several rounds of fruitless blinking.

“It’s a long story,” Chanyeol said, “Let's go home first. It’ll set father’s mind at ease once he sees we are alive and well.”

The three of them made it back eastward, arriving at the Forge near midnight. The guards at the west gate were stunned to see three royal children walking around, looking like dirty commoners. They nearly knocked their helms together before, getting on their knees.

“Take us to the Castle,” Chanyeol spat, “We need to see our father at once.”

“Of course, Your Highness,” one of the guards answered. The other called for a wagon, latching his own horse onto it.

“Does either of you have any ointment?” Jimin asked, “My sister accidentally touched poisoned oak.”

One of the soldiers pulled a small skin of something from his belt. “It’s from the Peder, just in case, Your Highness”

“Thank you,” Jimin accepted the ointment, before entering the wagon.

The three of them road inward, through the stone paved streets. Jimin gently treated his older sister’s hands. The silence between them was tangible, like a noose around their necks.

“Why did you run away, Jimin?” Jeonghwa asked, “You didn’t have to do-”

“He didn’t run away,” Chanyeol said gruffly, “It’s hard to explain. We’ll tell you later.”

“Tell me now,” Jeonghwa’s voice was cooler when she addressed her elder brother. Her eyes hardened to ice.

“I accidentally shot a person during the hunt,” Jimin said, eyes steady, “ so I had to stay with him until he got better.”

Chanyeol bit his lower lip. That was the truth and yet it wasn’t. There was a whole part about their grandfather being a blood-hungry spider that he’d left out. And what about the War of Days?

“Is he okay?” Jeonghwa seemed pacified by his answer.

“He’s alive,” Jimin answered curtly, eyes flashing almost imperceptibly.

“That’s good,” the Princess said resignedly.

Chanyeol wanted to speak up. But he just couldn’t. To voice the unfiltered truth would make it seem almost too real. His grandfather had kidnapped and imprisoned him for a fortnight. The War of Days was upon them. The human realm was facing obliteration and they were mere casualties, not even players on the board. How could things get any worse?

The wagon jerked to a stop. The siblings filed out into the Castle gatehouse. On foot, they made their way to the entrance. There were fewer guards than Chanyeol remembered. Had his father really executed them all? The King had always been rash with his words, but his actions were calculated and steady.

This was strange.

The three made it to the throne room. The place was filled with jewels, gold coins spilled out onto lavish carpets. Why was it here? Why would the King bring this all up from the treasury?

“Father,” Jeonghwa bowed, “Chanyeol and Jimin are home.”

The King sat upon the throne, regarding them leisurely as though their arrival affected him none.

“Ah, all my children are finally home,” he said, voice not really his own, “how wonderful.”

Jimin stopped walking toward the throne. He drew his bow and aimed it at the King, his father. Before Chanyeol could wonder at the action, his ears picked up something strange. The King had… six different heartbeats.

Chanyeol’s own heart sank.

“That’s not our father,” Jimin whispered, eyes watering, “Our father is dead. She is wearing his skin. It’s the Fox God.”

“What are you talking about?” Jeonghwa’s voice was shrill with alarm.

The King was dead. Chanyeol felt several powerful emotions all at once. First, he was angry with himself for not protecting his father. Then he was inconsolably grieved that he was gone. Finally, he felt the weight of a hundred thousand bricks on his shoulders. All of these feelings threatened to destroy him where he stood, and he had not even taken a single breath since the revelation.

He was no longer a Prince. Park Chanyeol was, as of that moment, the King of Sword Forge, of the gap, of all free men.

Jimin shot an arrow directly at the imposter. A white tail formed from behind the Fox God and batted the thing uselessly away. Five more tails appeared in the blink of an eye. Every second the thing looked less and less human, its skin melting off.

“There will be no place for you to run or hide.” Jimin said softly, voice frightfully even. “You will stop to rest, and I will be there at your heels. I will make you suffer. I will make you wish you were dead.”

“Jimin,” Chanyeol called to his brother, but it felt like the boy was a thousand leagues away, and not two feet from him.

Jimin didn’t answer. Instead, his eyes started glowing in the light, a bright, bright green. His skin too, it started turning into sparks of light. Chanyeol had to cover his face, lest the shine burned through his retinas.

What was this? What was he?

When the glow settled, the young prince had changed. He had shimmering, transparent wings adorning his back. Chanyeol could only describe Jimin’s transformation in one way. The Changeling was now, more than ever, his namesake.

The Light of the Dusk, the Firefly.

Chapter Text

 

 

Yoongi

The southern border was the Wolf God’s responsibility. She’d told them many times. She had sworn an oath to defend the Gap. She’d shared a sacred pact with the Horse in the North, the Fish in the East, and the Bird in the West. That was why their family patrolled the line, east to west then west to east, back and forth like the tide. It was days stacked upon days of keeping the barrier. They drove the strangers away from one end, and men from the other, their neighbors on each side hating their guts. The only day they rested was the annual hunt when it became too dangerous to patrol. But then after, it was back on.

Ceaselessly, the seasons turned from one to the next, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter again. It never ended. Not now as the great flurries of snowflakes drifted down from the dark blue sky, not ever. They maintained. They endured

So, it was alarming that they were going to run. What about the rest of their pack, the other wolves on the border. Would they run too? Was it not Samjokgu’s duty as the last daughter to defend the peace?

The whole thing smelled of cowardice. It didn’t sit well with the Pale Wolf.

“Just because some horse says so, doesn’t mean it’s going to really happen” Yoongi protested. “We could prevent this War, save everyone. We can’t give-”

You’ve spent your life on this border. You’ve earned this. We’ve earned this. We’re leaving.

“It means nothing,” Yoongi barked, “If we go, it’s like we were never here. They’ll get wiped out. You know it.”

His mother looked at him, all three of her eyes tear-filled. She was so lost and lonely. She looked at him as though she were afraid he would vanish, disappear if she dared to blink. Eventually, she turned away from him. Perhaps she was too proud to shed tears.

You’re already in love with him. I should have never let you go. With a heart like that, who wouldn’t love him?

“W-Who?” Yoongi flushed pink, “I’m not in love. What are you talking about?”

His mother looked at him again incredulously, as though she could smell the falsehood. She regarded him warily before she spoke. She rolled her shoulders, her stance almost accusatory.

Not yet, but soon. You’re already-

“I don’t love him! I just owe him,” Yoongi barked, knowing exactly who she was talking about, unable to lie to himself any longer, “He’s staying. He’s fighting. He’s-”

I lost everyone, my firstborn son, the love of my life, everyone. I was just like you, a pure heart. I stood for something once. Even after, I watched the barrier, because that’s what my words cost me. But… but then you came to me, with his white fur, his blue eyes. I knew that they gave you back to me, my son.

Yoongi swallowed hard, unable to speak lest a sob escape his throat. His mother believed that he was the reincarnation of her son. His wolf was her wolf. But Yoongi always felt he was his own person. He would always be thankful to her for saving him, wanting him when no one else had. But he wasn’t some great Wolf God. He wasn’t the Spirit or the Pale Wolf. He was simply Yoongi. And he wanted to be free.

But he also loved her.

“I-” Yoongi couldn’t put it into words, the many faces of his feelings. His tongue stilled under the weight that it bore. He was afraid to speak because she was suddenly made of glass. Any words at all would destroy her.

But it turned out, he didn’t even need to say anything.

The Wolf God cried openly, strong but weak, the heart of a mother. She bowed her head and cried pitifully. His three younger siblings snarled at him, running to her side at once.

“Stop it,” Gongjun growled, ‘You’re making her cry.”

“We’re leaving and that’s it. Stop arguing!” Wangja barked.

“Tell her that you’re sorry,” Byeongsa whined.

They continued yipping at him, voices blending together, chastising him for making their mother weep. He watched on helplessly, torn between two shifting masses of land, always faulting against each other. He didn’t know which way to go, always at the threat of death.

I won’t force you to go with us. It must be your choice. Are you a wolf or a man?

His family looked back at him, the only family he’d ever known. When his brothers and sister were born, he’d been the first to cradle them in his arms, even before the golden wolf had gotten to them. He’d convinced himself that he was needed there and that he belonged.

So then why?

“What’s taking so long?” Gongjun barked, “Say you’re sorry.”

Gongjun was so small when she was born. She fit inside the span of his two hands. She was so helpless and tiny when he’d first set eyes on her. Now she was a full grown wolf, a young immortal that might one day be the last daughter. It didn’t have to be Yoongi.

But you know it is.

“I’ll come with you,” Yoongi said finally, a lump lodged in his throat, refusing to budge, “I’ll be the wolf, and kill the man. But-”

He just needed to see him one more time, to tell him that they weren’t going to be around to defend the Gap. Jimin was probably planning for the War of Days, counting on Yoongi’s attendance. If Yoongi and his family were going to flee, Jimin deserved to know. That was the very least that he owed the Firefly.

“No,” Gongjun cried, running toward him as if physically grabbing him would make him stay, “You’re not leaving.”

Yoongi parried her jaws, “I have to. Jimin thinks that we’re gonna be here, but if we’re leaving. He needs to know.”

Gongjun stop.

The gray wolf stilled at her mother’s call. After a pitiful whine, she reluctantly returned to her side.

Go and find him. Make your peace. We’ll wait for you at the Eastern Seashore. If you’re not there by the full moon. We’ll leave without you.

The full moon was in fourteen days. Yoongi knew. That was more than enough time to go to the Forge and make his way back. They wouldn’t even have to wait half a fortnight.

“Okay,” Yoongi nodded, bowing, digging his snout into the ground, “I’ll be back.”

Samjokgu whined as though she didn’t believe him. She kissed the top of his head, pressing the tip of her nose gently there. Her large teardrops stained his fur, baptizing him, absolving him.

Goodbye, son.

Yoongi wanted to stay, convince her of how wrong she was. He would come back. He just had to go tell him. That was all. Then he’d return as soon as the warning left his mouth. He was definitely coming back.

Goodbye, mom.



 

Seokjin

Joon loved him and he loved Joon. The revelation set his whole heart alight. He’d never been so happy in his life, even in this stranger’s land, with a stranger’s face. But it mattered not. Joon loved him, had always loved him, and would never stop loving him. Upon this realization, Jin had promised himself, that he would do everything to protect their newly sprouting relationship.

But it was hard.

Joon was undergoing painful dream magic training. If there was one place Jin couldn’t protect the younger, it was when the man was sleeping. The scary thing was that Joon was spent a huge portion of the time sleeping now. Even now at high noon, the Shield slept.

Jin and Suho watched him, holed up in the big tent. Suho might have been the one training him. But Jin wasn’t going to let up his vigil, not for anyone.

“Is this normal?” Jin asked, pulling his mask higher up the bridge of his nose.

“He’s recovered a totem. It won’t be long before he’s able to block out the Dream God, or do anything really.” Suho answered, sipping tea carefully from a hot mug.

“Do other people come to you?” Jin ignored his own tea, not that could lower the vale to drink even if he wanted to. “Do others get marked too?”

“Very rarely,” Suho commented, meeting with the Knight’s eyes. The Dream Guardian was curious and he couldn’t hide it.

Jin had hidden just about every inch of himself away, but the skin around his golden, amber eyes glowed. Even under the thick sheets of black, his otherness could not be ignored.

“Are you really the Knight of the Forest?” Suho asked, looking away.

“Not anymore,” Jin said automatically, “I’m not sure I ever was, not really.”

“I’ve heard your uncle and cousin speaking about you,” Suho said guarded, as if ready to dive if Jin decided to throw a drink in his face. “Is the Shadow Glass really your mother?”

Jin’s skin crawled whenever he thought of her. He had an absolute answer to that question.

“She gave birth to me,” Jin admitted, “But I have no mother.”

Suho grimaced as if that particular mouthful of tea had been sour, “You know what this means?”

“That I am at least half crazy,” Jin spat, “And I should take care of my mind in my old age?”

Suho smiled but it didn’t touch his eyes, “You’re the only Fairy that can breach the barrier.”

“What barrier?” Jin cocked his head.

“The Gap is Magic. The Fairies can’t cross over. Except you.” Suho huffed.

Jin shook his head, “No that beast, the Shadow Glass, she came to my bedroom to kidnap me. That’s a hundred leagues from the boundary.”

Suho carefully considered this, “She must have used Moon Cast throw her shadow.”

“What’s moon cast?” Jin followed the logical order of the conversation.

Before the Guardian could answer, Beom entered the tent, and sat down beside them, “Why aren’t you drinking your tea, Jin?”

Wasn’t it obvious?

“I can’t” Jin eyed the man.

Beom stared at him hard, “The world won’t forgive you for being who you are. But you can at least forgive yourself.”

It suddenly felt like a thousand degrees. It was insanely stifling, all the clothes he wore, even if it was appropriate in this icy Winter. Joon was the only one he felt safe with being fully uncovered. But he knew he couldn’t go through life hiding from everyone.

Jin lowered his mask and his hood as well. Suho tried to suppress his utter shock but he failed. Beom was only marginally more successful. He was glorious and dangerous.

“Oh, fuck,” Suho whispered.

Jin took a small sip of his tea. It was minty and sweet but had cooled from neglect. He must have made a face because the Dream Guardian reached for the cup.

“L-let me warm that up for you,” Suho said, his eyes remained squarely on Jin’s face.

Jin handed the man his tea. Suho ladled hot water from the cauldron into it, almost burning his own fingers. Jin’s overwhelming beauty had suddenly made the Savage King excessively clumsy. He shakily handed the thing back to the Knight.

It was warmer, and Jin drank it eagerly. Physically it made him feel better, but mentally, Jin was still fixated on Joon. Just when would the Shield wake up?

As if on cue, Joon grumbled underneath the furs.

“‘Bout time,” Beom smiled, running his hand through his son’s hair.

Joon’s eyes fluttered open and he grumbled, “Ugh, that sucked.”

Jin carefully helped Joon upright, “What happened?”

Before Joon answered, he checked his pockets and looked around. “Ah, I’m finally awake.”

Jin bit his lip from worry. The young Knight really couldn’t tell he was awake, not without checking the presence of his totem. It was heartbreaking. Just how long would Joon’s sanity hold until everything burned up into ashes.

“Hold on, I’ll get your brother,” Beom disappeared behind the flap, only to reappear a moment later with Taehyung in tow. Taehyung’s mother, Jin’s aunt appeared behind them too. It was getting crowded in the big tent

“Ah, the Kim family all together again,” Taehyung brimmed, before turning to Jin, “Well, except your dad and mom and sisters, but whatever.”

“They must be worried,” Jin muttered, missing only one of the mentioned. His father must have been utterly despondent at this point.

“Ah but not for long. We sent a falcon back to the Mountain. He’ll know you’re safe and sound.” his aunt greeted him, “I see you’re out of your mask, Seokjin. That’s progress.”

Jin flushed at her smile. She was the only one unaffected by his appearance.

Beom grumbled something in her ear which made her turn pink. She smiled and playfully hit her husband on the shoulder.

Suho was the outsider in the tent so he excused himself almost immediately. They saluted him with a fist to the chest, the way the Savages did to say hello and goodbye. The Guardian’s eyes lingered on Chunghwa before he vanished.

“How are you feeling, Joonie?” the woman asked, sitting down.

“I can almost control it,” Joon answered, picking up a random cup and drinking from it, “Ah, that’s good. ‘s thirsty.”

It was Jin’s tea but he felt no possession over it, happy to give anything to younger.

“Almost?” Beom cocked his head.

“I can go wherever and block the Dream God when he visits me. B-but I keep seeing this fire, a black fire… and someone being burned on it. It keeps coming up.”

Taehyung swallowed audibly, “R-Really? That’s so weird.”

Joon’s eyebrows were knit together and Joon had to physically stop himself from smoothing it out with his fingertips.

“Do you know who it is?” Chunghwa asked softly, refilling Joon’s drink.

“I can’t see his face,” Joon said, “But I-I’m sure I’ve never heard that voice before.”

“The screams,” Taehyung whispered before he covered his mouth.

“Yes,” Joon nodded

Beom and Chunghwa exchanged a look, “It’s just a dream. It might mean nothing. Why don’t you come out for breakfast when you’re ready?”

With that, they left, taking Taehyung with them. “But I just got here!”

This left Joon and Jin alone in the big tent. The elder couldn’t help but feel that it was almost purposeful.

“Ah… so, how are you?” Joon looked at his cup with a deep probing interest.

Joon’s new bright blue eyes were almost too easy to get used to. They had a depth to them, and Jin could look clear into his soul. And right now, all he could see was a quiet awe. The change in his hair was also not exactly unpleasant. The rose-golden color brought out the gold of his skin.

Jin fumbled around with his clothes before pulling out a small leather book from his inner pocket.

“For a second there,” Joon flushed, “I thought you were taking your- ah nevermind.”

Jin felt heat rise to his cheeks as well, “It’s the book. I kept it.”

It was the poetry book that had kept him alive during his isolation. He’d -ahem- forgotten to return it to Joon for the last week.

“Keep it,” Joon sighed, “You’re the one who inspired it.”

Jin had read the book a thousand times. He never realized once that it was about him. Joon had written about his home, a deep unresolved yearning, a great love for all the ages. And.. it had all been about him.

“I-I” Jin couldn’t seem to swallow his awkwardness, “Thanks.”

Joon didn’t answer for a long while, long enough that Jin dared to steal a glance. Joon was smiling ever so slightly into his cup.

“Wow,” Joon finally huffed, “This is really… something.”

“Yea,” Jin looked down.

“It’s so difficult for me just not to kiss your right now,” Joon said. Jin's eyes flickered up again. The younger’s face had turned deep pink. He chewed on his lower lip like it was delicious.

“I- y-you can if you want to,” Jin managed to say, leaning forward.

Joon reached over, placing his hand on the side of Jin’s neck, his calloused thumb tracing heated trails on the delicate skin. “I’m afraid to. What if they try to separate-”

“Don’t be afraid,” Jin uttered. “No one is going to separate us.”

Well actually, Jin was afraid too. In fact, if his heart was any indicator, he was downright terrified. But no force on earth, not even his embarrassment, could move him now. Joon closed the distance between them, gently pressing his lips against the older's.

Immediately the taste of sweet mint tingled against his tongue. Joon was soft, gentle, holding back, even the pressure of his fingers was so utterly feather-light on his neck. Jin felt the world evaporate, his hesitancy along with it. He shuffled forward desperately, trying to get as close as possible.

Jin tugged at his clothes, trying to convey his urgency. He wanted him, so badly, and as close as they were, sharing the same air, it wasn’t close enough. It was only the first time and Jin felt already, powerfully addicted to it.

It was so warm, and the air was so light, Jin couldn’t get enough oxygen in his lungs. But still, he couldn’t stop, his body was so hungry, for something he needed more than air. It was Joon who turned away first, breathing shakily, eyes blown wide when he finally opened them.

The silence was dangerous, and it stretched. Jin’s mind was wild with thoughts, weighing how much he wanted this now, and how much they should stop. Joon was still his cousin if in name only. But his skin felt every touch like electricity ghosting over it. He felt so raw, and hungry, and hot. He pressed his forehead against Joon’s breathing deep and heavy.

“K-Kiss me again,” Jin huffed, skin on fire.

Joon blinked once, twice and then he grabbed a fistful of Jin’s hair and pulled him close again, pressing a searing kiss against Jin’s mouth. The older’s eyes fluttered shut as a flame bloomed in his body, eating up all his common sense. He wiggled closer, frustrated that any space had managed to come between them. His hands roamed freely, tracing the hard, strong lines of Joon’s body.

And he just wanted more.

He wanted all of it.

It felt so fucking good.

Joon seemed to sense it, pressing him down into the ground with a gentle push, letting his weight sink into Jin’s skin. The sensation was too much, and all Jin wanted to do was wiggle underneath him, savoring the skin against skin feeling. Joon kissed him with fervor, with pure liquid fire, and sweet honey.

Jin was losing his mind, his fingers dipping under Joon’s shirt, unable to stop himself.

“More,” the newly-minted Fairy croaked, his voice thick with need.

Then suddenly the tent flap opened, and a very surprised Dream Guardian appeared. He looked at them wide-eyed until they reluctantly pried themselves apart.

“I-I” Suho pointed at his cup that was sitting innocuously by the fire. “I was just getting my cup… for breakfast.”

It hadn’t been even a single day, and they’d already been caught.

Ah, fuck.



 

Hoseok

Hoseok ran until he felt his lungs were about to burst into flames. He tripped several times, as fear flooded over him, cursing along the way. No matter how far he ran, the noises seemed to follow him. It was the sound of his own destruction. It was uprooted trees and terrible screams.

The Song of the Sunrise ran the entirety, down to the shore that way, lungs burning, not sure if what he heard was real or in his imagination. Only when he reached the pink sandy beach did he dare to turn back.

He found that he was completely alone.

“Hoseok, you fucking idiot,” the Knight couldn’t help but talk to himself, “You trusted him. Why did you trust him?”

Hoseok’s father warned him about trusting people. In this world, one could only rely on one’s self. Everyone else was the enemy. The old man had trusted someone else to save his wife, Hoseok’s mother, when their ship capsized in the sea. Now she was dead.

His father had chosen to save him. That was why Hoseok was still alive.

For now.

The Knight scanned the beach again. He was still alone, clutching a stupid scale, with absolutely no fucking idea of what to do. He hated everything, everyone, the sun, the sand, the ocean, Jinki for lying to him, but most of himself. He couldn’t be counted on to do anything, not even protect himself. He was a sorry excuse for a Knight and an even sorrier excuse for a man.

“Fuck,” Hoseok screamed, “Fuck this.”

The Knight sank to the ground, bowing his head, giving into the quiet. Hoseok didn’t know how long he waited, how long he cried silent, frustrated tears. Why did he decide to go with the Captain? It was so stupid of him.

And fuck, it was so quiet.

Why was it so quiet?

Was it over?

Then finally after a long time, Jinki came running from the trees with a bloody brow. The noise roused the Knight from his thoughts. The Captain stopped in front of him, skidding to a halt. Jinki looked at him, apologetically. The Knight looked back at him as though he made of were worms.

“The scale, do you have it?” Jinki gasped, clutching his side.

Hoseok nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

“If you eat it, you’ll be able to escape,” Jinki said quickly still checking the line of trees behind him, “But it will turn you into a fish whenever you are in the sea. That is the price of escape. Do you accept?”

“Don’t pretend there’s actually a choice.” Hoseok spat blackly. He wanted to be angry. Yet, he was relieved that the Captain was alive. He wanted to turn the man away but he felt more inclined to hold him in his arms. It was a torrent of feelings, swirling up in the sea.

Hoseok pushed the scale into his mouth and found that it dissolved without even having to be chewed. After a moment, a wave of ice rolled through from the top of his head all the way down to the bottoms of his feet. He hadn’t changed, not physically, not yet, but he knew he was different now. Something of the other world had tainted him.

“Alright,” Jinki sighed, “Let’s go.”

The Captain shucked off his pants, not bothering with chastity and dove into the sea. Before Hoseok’s unbelieving eyes, the Captain’s legs turned into a large fishtail. It was a storybook legend, so unfathomable that Hoseok could scarcely breathe. His heart beat in his ears like a drum.

Shit, he’s a merman.

Before Hoseok had even dipped a single toe into the sea, he knew now that he was one too. He quickly de-clothed, not embarrassed by his state of undress because, well fuck it, he was made like a young god. Then in one fluid motion, he entered into the sea.

It was more natural than he expected. It was like he had always had a tail. Of course, even as a man, he loved the ocean. Now it felt like his home, a thousand leagues of friendly territory. Jinki swam out and Hoseok followed. His instinct took over fairly quickly and he realized how to move his tail to get the maximum distance.

“Okay, dip under, you can breathe, I promise,” Jinki instructed, his bleeding brow already beginning to stitch over.

The ocean is healing him.

“How can I trust you?” Hoseok took in a lungful of air as though it were his last, “You-”

“Would you have even believed me?” Jinki cried, “I’m the son of a monster just like you’re the son of Jung Mul.”

They were both the sons of monsters. That’s what Jinki was implying. Hoseok wanted to disagree but he found that he couldn’t. Because it was true.

“But that is just the circumstance,” Jinki continued, “We’re more than that. We can be anything we want. We can be free. And if you want to leave and go back on the land, it’s fine. The tail will disappear… and you’ll never see me again.”

Hoseok didn’t speak. He couldn’t. Instead, he dipped under the water, and against everything he knew, he took a breath.

The taste of the sea filled his lungs and he found that it was just as satisfying as breathing. He could see clearly for miles under the water, little flecks of dust caught the light and reflected, like a thousand tiny stars. There was another world here.

Bright colored fish swam around great porous rocks, pink, red and purple. It was the most beautiful vision that Hoseok had ever seen. He never knew there were so many fish living in harmony underneath the surface.

‘What is this?’ He wanted to say, only to find that he couldn’t speak. His words turned into useless bubbles in the salt water.

Jinki had dived underneath as well, his face so soft in the diffused light of the sea. He pointed upward, signaling that they should go back up. Only… Hoseok almost didn’t want to. He did anyway, pushing the water with his tail until his head hit the air.

“That was amazing,” the Knight exclaimed, not bothering to wipe the sea from his eyes, it bothered him none.

“You can’t speak under the water, but there is a way to communicate.” Jinki said quickly, still eyeing the shore, “You sing, as loud as you can. It will carry. For now, we need to get as far from this island as possible.”

The Fish Goddess was still on the island and from the sound of Jinki’s voice. She was coming for them as soon as she could.

Hoseok nodded, “Take me back to the Twins then.”

Jinki looked at him for a moment before he nodded. The Captain almost looked disappointed, “Follow me close and if you need to call me… remember don’t speak, sing.”

The Captain disappeared under the water and Hoseok followed. The Knight wasn’t sure how far they swam, but the colorful fish disappeared, and the ocean turned into a large inky abyss. They were nearing the Red Moon Meridian, the water dictated as much.

Hoseok couldn’t see one foot in front of him, and yet he had no trouble following the Captain. He could feel the sea against his skin and he could locate Jinki by the change in pressure alone. It was like having a strange sense completely out of his body. It was inexplicable.

He followed the Captain so closely that he almost collided with the man when he stopped. Then he heard it, the song of the sea, high pitched. It was so beautiful it would have made him cry if he wasn’t already submerged in salt water. That was the signal. The Captain wanted to go up to the surface, and Hoseok almost wanted to never go back up.

But he did anyway.

“What’s wrong,” Hoseok asked, carding a hand through his wet hair.

“It’s dark. We can stop for the night.” Jinki said, “There’s an underground cave if you want to stay in the water… or there’s an island nearby.”

Hoseok wasn’t tired. in fact, he was far from it. He could swim forever. It was like the ocean was washing the stink of captivity from him. Now that he was free, he had energy for days.

“I’m not tired,” Hoseok announced.

A small smile played on Jinki’s lips, “It’s your first day as a merman, you should take it easy.”

Hoseok flipped, jumped out of the water, and did a full circle in the sky before hitting the sea again. “I’m really really not weary at all though.”

“You need some sleep,” Jinki sighed. “We can’t swim without stopping like this. There are many dangerous things in the sea… especially at night.”

Hoseok furrowed his brow. “Let's go for the cave then.”

Jinki smiled wide, “I was hoping you’d say that.”



 

Jimin

The Firefly blamed himself. He could have made it so that the Fox never came back, at least not for a few hundred years when it would not have matter anymore. He could have killed her the first time and killed her good. But now it was too late. His father, whom he despised, and also loved fiercely, was gone. And it was before he could ever prove himself, before he could show the old man just how much he worthy he was.

It made the fury burn in his heart and spread outward into his skin. It permeated every inch, until he was more fury than man. And that’s when he realized the fury wasn’t an imaginary force. It was tangible. It was real.

Light diffused across his skin, turning it the color of pearls. His body felt like a furnace. It burned inside him, until he was no longer water, only fire. Never was he more a son of the Forge, and never was he less. Everything he’d suppressed, every strange thing about himself, had flooded to the surface. He’d been more himself in this single moment than he’d ever been in his entire life.

“Jimin?” his brother called out to him, but it sounded so far away.

He’d changed.

His fingers and toes were all accounted for. He still had his arms and legs, a head on his shoulders. But there were new things, the feeling of new limbs, two to be precise. He could feel the extension past his shoulder blades. The things would catch the wind when he moved them.

Wings

“Oh my, oh my,” the Fox called, her voice a high scratch distortion of his father’s, “what a pretty little morsel.”

“Shut your mouth,” Jimin whispered so softly. Yet, his voice cut the air like a sword.

Jimin saw nothing else except the Fox God. He imagined one hundred scenarios where he would destroy her, tear her limb from limb, push a sword into her gut, take off her head. The images became so gruesome that he had to close his eyes.

“What a naughty-” the Fox began still in the guise. How dare she? Why was fate so cruel that it would bestow power to someone so despicable?

“Shut. Your. Mouth.” Jimin repeated, his voice not an increm louder. Though this time he enunciated every word, showcasing their absolute importance. He was a barely contained rage.

“And what will you do if I don’t?” the skin started to melt away, fur trading for skin, until what remained of Jimin’s father, was flesh colored sludge on the floor. Insult upon insult, she laid her own gravestones.

Then Jimin noticed it. She only had seven tails and two healed over stumps, which hung dead at her sides.

She can’t grow back her tails

“Today, I will claim one of your tails,” Jimin announced as though it were a fact.

The Fox’s face twisted into anger. The Changeling had clearly hit a soft spot. Something about losing her tails was important. That’s why Samjokgu had torn one off.

“Then you’ll run, and when you think you’re safe, holed up and sleeping, I will be there, and I will hack of another one. Then you’ll flee far, thinking that I won’t possibly be able to follow you. But then, I’ll be there again, and I’ll take another one from you. You’ll sail to a little unknown island, and think you can rest, knowing that I can’t possibly search every tiny clot of dirt on the sea for you. But I will and I’ll slice off one more. When you’re down to your last, hiding from me, with a thousand hired swords and arrows, behind a great impenetrable castle. You’ll think that I certainly won’t survive. But I will-” Jimin savored the look on the woman’s face, how the fear shimmered when her confidence gave way.

“-and you won’t,” the Prince ending his speech.

“Come at me, boy,” the fully formed Fox God goaded. “I wonder what you taste like.”

There was a flicker, like a firefly. Except it was the entirety of his skin. He flickered, rushing onward in a streak of lightning. The Fox God spoke big words, but the movement terrified her. She swung out her tails in front of her protectively, hiding behind them.

She was on the defense. She was already losing

Jimin’s fingers had fused into serrated daggers. He swung his arm, slicing the air at first. But then, he caught the Fox’s tail. A splatter of blood hit the ground as a huge wound belched out dark red blood. Again and again, Jimin came at her furiously. He was a storm of attacks, cutting her flesh. And she, for all her talk, could not block a single blow.

Jimin was too fast, absolutely relentless.

The Fox screeched in pain, hopping backward to avoid Jimin’s nails. Every interaction made her warier. She moved around the room, her body scattering coin stacks to the floor. She was avoiding him. Her animal seemed to be overpowering her.

Jimin was dangerous. They both knew.

The Fox made the most brilliant choice then, turning her attention to the only way out.

Jimin realized a moment too late. Chanyeol was too far to block the blow. Jimin was the only one who had any chance. The Fox had changed her target to the weakest link. Jeonghwa didn’t have a sword or a bow, though she was fairly good with both. She was unarmed and the Fox God realized the Princess was her victory from defeat.

“Run,” Jimin screamed. But Jeonghwa didn’t. She was too frightened, her eye fixed on the tail descending upon her.

Jimin fluttered his wings, taking flight, sailing toward her. He could make it. He had to make it.

He did make it.

The Firefly pushed Jeonghwa out of the way at the very last second. She stumbled away in slow motion, a look of horror on her face. Jimin heard more than felt the tail puncture his left shoulder. There was a crunch followed by the wet noise of severance, as it pushed all the way through. Then the pain, it was so immense that Jimin crumpled to the floor.

He did make it. And yet, he didn’t make it.

“Jimin!,” Jeonghwa cried, “Ah fuck.”

Jimin’s vision started fading. The Fox was retreating, finding a moment of respite. She cried out in agony, one of her tails coated in his blood. But it wasn’t a victory.

His blood, it burned through her skin. It was poisonous to her, eating the offending tail away until it was nothing. Jimin, despite everything, smiled. He marked a counter in his mind. She had six tails left now.

Jimin pressed a hand on his shoulder, finding it was more carnage than limb. The Fox had torn a hole into him the size of an orange. He was leaking, great pools of purple-red blood. Was that what he was made of on the inside?

How curious?

His wings twitched uselessly. He couldn’t breathe. Everything hurt so bad.

“Brother,” Chanyeol was hovering above him, “H-How do I-I save you?”

Jimin shook his head. Why now? Why him out everyone? Why did Jimin think of him?

Yoongi

“You’ll take care of him?” Jimin struggled through a mouthful of blood, “He’s coming back. I know it. Promise?”

Chanyeol didn’t hesitate, “I promise. I swear it.”

Then the black filled up the Firefly’s vision. For a long time, a very long time Jimin felt nothing. He felt neither hot nor cold. There was absolutely nothing, not even the pull of the earth to keep him stationed on the ground. He was floating in utter nothingness.

It felt like forever, that nothing happened.

Then in the darkness, an eye opened up.

A rainbow eye, illuminated by a pyre with great black flames.

It was the Dream God.

And he was looking right at the Firefly.

Hello…. I’ve been watching you since the beginning. Now you can see me too.

Chapter Text


 

Euigeon

As horses went, the Horse God, Kyungsoo or Freewind was it, was a magnificent horse, like none other. He was the kind of horse that a stable boy could only dream about, the perfect mix of strength and agility, with a glittering diamond coat. It was almost criminal, watching the Horse God eat the same hay, and drink from the same trough as the other animals.

But he did, he shared the bins with Mushroom and Watcher, and the other horses. They made only the minimal room for him, as though he were a common stallion.

“Where did you find that one?” a voice sounded from behind Euigeon, “He doesn’t belong here.”

The stable boy turned faster than his grace allowed and he tripped forward into the arms of his adoptive father. It was Choi Minho, the Blessed Peder, the leader of an entire faith, the greatest healer of the age, and the person Euigeon loved most in the world.

“We found the Firefly, but then his Highness, the Crown Prince, went missing,” Euigeon babbled, “So then we went all way to the Sunwoods, and there were Fairies and a big spider, and there was a wolf, and two Savages. There’s a war coming, and we met this Horse. But he’s not a horse, he’s the Horse God. His name is Free Wind.”

From the corner of the stable boy’s vision, he could see Watcher casually walk over to Mushroom. The mare whinnied and stepped away. The colt’s unrequited love was almost humorous if not for the circumstance.

“Slow down, son,” the Peder said softly, pulling the young man into a hug. “You’re speaking in tongues, boy.”

Another stable hand walked in at that moment, Ong Seong Wu, a strong, young man from Sorrow’s Point, the southernmost tip of the world. He’d only arrived at the Forge six months prior to learn the trade. The man was carrying two heavy buckets filled with water. He looked pleased to see Euigeon.

“Ah, you’re back,” the boy regarded him, “How was your trip?”

Euigeon did a devil’s turn away, quick as a river, and wiped the tears that had formed in his eyes, “It was fine, good even.”

“Are you alright?” Seong Wu said uncertainly, voice laced with concern.

Nothing was all right. And the moment defined Euigeon’s feelings exactly. Right then, Free Wind decided to take his human form, turning into the snowy-haired man with big bright eyes, and a long white robe.

“You’d think the hay would be better for the Prince’s Horses,” Kyungsoo muttered, “I’m disappointed.”

Seong Wu nearly toppled over from the starburst transformation. His beautiful, brown eyes turned wide with shock, and his mouth went slack. The pales of water he’d been holding collided with the ground, and water sloshed over the mucked floor.

“What kind of stable is this?” the man muttered as if it were the place’s fault and not the inhabitants, which almost made Euigeon smile.

“The kind with meager lodgings,” the Horse God frowned.

The Peder seemed oddly unaffected by the appearance of the Horse God. At least not in an expected way. He didn’t gasp in shock or clutch his chest in disbelief. Instead, his eyes glazed over with steel, and his jaw set hard.

“And to his doom, he rides south,” the Peder said. Euigeon tensed in confusion. He knew that look, but what warranted it, he did not.

“The horseman is the first of six signs,” Kyungsoo answered as if reciting the next line to an unknown poem.

“Not yet will it be the War of Days. Only the kindling to the dark pyre.” the Peder continued, eyes growing ever wider, losing all warmth.

“Then the choosing of the sacrifice. That is the second of six signs,” the two said simultaneously. It was quickly followed by the Peder’s singular, stern voice, “You shouldn’t be here.”

They know each other.

Euigeon betrayed his surprise with a soft gasp, barely audible. The cool, undeniable fact that you could know someone for twelve years, think of him as a father, and still not really know him at all hit him painfully. It was like drowning in an icy river in the heart of winter. The chill seeped into the marrow of the bones.

Then death.

“It was unavoidable,” Kyungsoo whispered, running his hand through his ash-white hair.

“You herald the Great War,” the Peder spat blackly, his gentle nature succumbing to a foreign flame. “And you still came south, you fool.”

His sweet, gentle teacher was suddenly someone else. Minho turned into a ferocious, calculated creature, on par with an Animal God. It was unnerving. It was terrifying.

“I had to save the Peace Bringer,” Kyungsoo explained himself, unmoved by the pressure rolling off the Peder’s skin.

“What Peace Bringer?” Minho hissed.

“The Crown Prince,” the Horse God clarified.

“Think for yourself once, what the fuck is this prophecy anyway? The shackles to our chains. He is like naming a war hammer a tool for building,” the Peder said quickly, “Chanyeol is blunt, impulsive, dangerously self-righteous.”

To speak ill of the Crown so openly, so confidently, never before had he done this. It was jarring. A shaky inhale vibrated in Euigeon’s chest, and it must have been audible because his adoptive father looked at him again. And the peace in the Peder’s eyes returned as if he’d suddenly remembered that his student was there.

“Forgive me,” was the first thing Minho said. His shoulders slacked with worry. He was the healer once again, but now we wore it like a blanket, clinging to it for comfort. “I can only try to be a better man, even if I am not a good man to begin with.”

Minho was the best man that Euigeon ever knew. The Peder had taken in an orphan who bore the stigma of the Awakening’s plague and hid his lineage to save his life. He’d risked everything to save a random child.

“I-” before Euigeon could voice his heart, the Horse God looked up, eyes wide, sniffing the air.

“Blood,” he whispered before turning back into a glittering stallion. He charged out of the stables and toward the castle.

It took Minho a split second before he hopped on Watcher and thundered after. And before Euigeon snatched Mushroom, who allowed him atop reluctantly, the Dream Child knew in his gut that it had to do with Jimin. In the half hour that they’d separated, so that Euigeon could water the horses, something had happened to the Firefly.

Only Jimin could get himself into a life or death situation in half an hour. As Euigeon arrived at the gatehouse, the visions only grew stronger. Finally, he arrived. With a swing of his leg, he made for the throne room. He turned the corner and burst in, hands curled into fists. But it was not a fist fight. The stable boy had been ill-prepared.

So many things were happening at once. There was a giant white Fox, bleeding and scrambling for the high windows, one of her tails was melting over her body as though it’d been doused in acid. Kyungsoo had turned into a Horse and was driving the Fox back, trying to keep her locked down, while the Peder….The Peder didn’t look like himself, his skin was glowing and - how was this happening? - he was clawing great red streaks into the Fox’s flesh. The Crown Prince was hunched over Jimin, who was lying lifelessly on the ground. But Chanyeol wasn’t touching him, taking special care to avoid his blood. Jimin’s blood was smoking through the floor, eating it up.

The Firefly was bleeding to death, suffering from every wheezing breath.

“Save him,” Jeonghwa, who was slumped on the floor, pleaded, “Please, someone help him.”

And all the chaos was nothing compared to final thing that Euigeon noticed. The mark on his arm was burning, the feather birthmark right above the bend of his arm. It seared as if held upon an open flame. He curled in on himself.

I see you. I see you. I see you-

Euigeon saw him there, the Dream God, in the middle of the room, looking at everyone and no one, before vanishing into mist. The God who took everything from him had come to visit him again. Who would he lose this time?

Fuck.


 

 

 

Jungkook

The journey north to Sword Forge was lonely with a side of blistering cold. Jungkook never knew something as beautiful as snowfall could be so deadly. Perhaps the only other thing that could compare was the beautiful and deadly Park Jimin. The only thing was his location, it continually eluded the young Knight.

Jimin seemed to transport himself to the opposite side of the world just when Jungkook was nearing. He hadn’t seen the Prince with his two physical eyes since the Hunt. And That event had already been a disaster in its own right. Jimin had basically told the younger to get lost in the woods and never come back.

It was… ironic.

The Knight arrived at the Forge at daybreak, the gatehouse was barely manned which was odd. There were only two soldiers there, dressed in black armor.

“What is your business here?” the man asked, bristling at his presence.

“I’m here to see the Princess and Prince,” Jungkook stated, “It is I, sir Jeon Jungkook of the Twin Isles.”

There were no pleasantries exchanged. Instead, the men looked at him suspiciously

“Give me your hand,” one of the guards asked.

Jungkook unsteadily gave the man his right hand, placing the back face down against the older’s palm. The soldier pulled a strange coin from his pocket and pressed it against Jungkook’s flesh. Then he waited but nothing happened.

“He’s not the Fox,” one guard whispered.

“Can’t be too sure,” the other guard answered, putting the coin away. “You may pass, but be careful.”

When Jungkook arrived at the Castle, he found Chanyeol sitting on the throne. The Crown Prince was reading a scroll, addressing a small council of advisors. What was going on?

“Your Highness,” Jungkook called to the man, who looked up at him.

The Prince was not surprised to see him. Chanyeol had somehow already been informed of Jungkook’s arrival? But how?

“Jeonghwa is not well,” Chanyeol answered curtly, “She’s not in a position to meet with you.”

“What about your brother?” Jungkook’s voice was steady despite the dark feelings brewing in his belly.

“He’s been injured as well. The Peder is caring for them both.” Chanyeol said passively, “If that is all, please rest her for the day and go home tomorrow-”

“I need to see them,” Jungkook insisted, “with my own eyes.”

The councilmen looked him. A short, balding elder regarded Jungkook as though he were made of worms, “Don’t speak to His Majesty, your King, in that manner, boy.”

What?

“I beg your pardon,” Jungkook cocked his head.

“You should be begging,” another man spat.

Chanyeol sighed, waving his hand to silence his advisors, “My Father has died. I am the King now.”

Jungkook swallowed. He realized that everyone was wearing black. It made sense. Although to be fair, in the Isles, people wore white to remember the dead. Black didn’t have any particular meaning to the island folk. Most people didn’t wear it because of how hot and humid the climate was.

“The King is dead,” Jungkook whispered, “How?”

“The Fox God killed him,” Chanyeol answered, “She nearly killed my brother too before she escaped.”

“Escaped?” Jungkook had fully processed the previous sentence. He was overwhelmed. His fingers were sweating. His eyes were firing off painfully. There was a dull ache in at the base of his skull. This whole situation seemed just so bizarre

“Yes,” Chanyeol answered curtly.

“But I-I still need to see Jimin,” Jungkook huffed.

“You will address the King as His Majesty, boy,” the balding advisor said dully, though his eyes were livid. “You will not call the Prince by his first name like that. You have not the place.”

Chanyeol looked at him, his eyes a challenge.

“I would like to see the Prince, Your Majesty,” Jungkook bowed his head. It was only for show. He felt no allegiance to the new King. Chanyeol’s long, lanky body sitting on the throne just made the Knight’s skin crawl.

“...very well,” Chanyeol beckoned a servant into the throne room, “See them and leave. I will pardon you just this once on behalf of your father. Never speak to me in that way again. I am not yours to command.”

Jungkook nodded, heat rising to his cheeks, a bitterness filling up his mouth. But, he kept silent and followed the servant to the Basilicant. The walk was quiet, eerily so. No one spoke much, quietly doing their work. Finally, it sank it. The King was dead. Chanyeol was the King now. Jimin was hurt too.

This was all a Fox’s doing.

Jungkook had only just met the Wolf God. He was also pretty sure he’d fought a Spider God. But really, he hadn’t even fully started to believe in it. Yet, they were here, appearing from obscurity after hundreds of years behind the veil of superstition. Animal Gods were real. An Animal God had almost killed Jimin.

“Son?” a gentle-looking man called.

Before Jungkook could answer, the servant spoke for both of them. “His Majesty, the King, has instructed me to bring this Knight, Sir Jeon Jungkook of the Twin Isles, to see the Prince.”

The man nodded once, looking at Jungkook, “I am the Peder. I can bring you the rest of the way.” then he turned back to the servant girl, “You are dismissed.”

The girl bowed, “Thank you.”

“I am blessed by your presence,” Jungkook regarded the Peder. Personally, the Knight was not a follower of the Blessed Faith. But he still respected the Peder as a man.

The Peder nodded and brought Jungkook up more stairs, up and up. Finally they reached a door with a clear glass panel, the clearest he’d ever seen. It was like looking through a still, clean pond.

On the other side, Jimin was there. Several people were around him, burning medicine against a still bleeding wound on his right shoulder. The Firefly looked grave as death. He looked so impossibly small, eyes closed, upon his last bed. He appeared already a corpse.

“How is he?” Jungkook choked, eyes stinging.

“We are doing all we can,” the Peder sighed. “His wound is being managed. But the mind is not there.”

Jungkook ignored the sudden stab at his chest, the squeezing of his heart, the sinking of his belly.

“Where is the Princess?” the Knight asked, gaze still fixed on the glass.

“I will bring you to her,” the Peder carefully placed a hand on Jungkook’s shoulder and led him. “She’ll want to see you. She’s been asking about you.”

The Peder walked down the spiral and arrived at a more ornate door. He knocked twice before he heard a voice of confirmation.

“Who is it?,” Jeonghwa asked from the inside.

“I have Sir Jungkook of the Twin Isles with me, Your Highness” the Peder announced.

“Bring him in,” the Princess said after a long pause.

The Peder pushed the door open, and ushered Jungkook through. Jeonghwa was sitting in bed, eyes vacant.The Princess’ arm was in a sling, but otherwise she was unharmed. There were four guards by her side, standing at attention. They looked straight ahead almost like wooden, toy soldiers.

“Give me your hands,” the Princess requested. The Peder did at once.

Jeonghwa, with her working arm, pressed a strange coin against the Peder’s palm. She was testing him. She was making sure the man wasn’t the Fox. Jungkook let her do the same to him, feeling the cool metal on his skin.

“What is that thing?” Jungkook asked before adding, “Your Highness.”

“They’re Blessed Coins,” Jeonghwa muttered, “They will burn against the Fox’s skin. We can’t be too careful.”

“I-I think I will need one as well,” Jungkook swallowed, asking no one in particular.

The Peder fished something from his pocket and handed it to the Knight, “Of course, be safe, my child.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” Jeonghwa said softly, “I need you to do something for me.”

“Anything,” Jungkook responded.

“Kill the Fox for me,” the Princess uttered.

The Knight fell to one knee. He was already planning to do just that. “I will, Your Highness. I swear on my honor.”

“Swear on your life,” Jeonghwa’s voice was grief-ridden.

“I swear on my life.”


 

 

Yoongi

It was decided. This was his destiny. He’d kill the human and let the wolf take over. He was much more himself as an animal anyway. If it wasn’t his fate to be one, why did his real parents abandon him all those years ago? It was always meant to be.

So why did it matter if Jimin knew or not? Yet even as Yoongi reasoned with himself, running in the skin-rupturing cold, he couldn’t talk himself out of it. He felt duty-bound to warn Jimin so the Prince could arm himself accordingly. But-

But that wasn’t all of it, not the entire reason. There was more, but it seemed to evade Yoongi’s sight as he tried to look at it. Instead, he only felt that it was imperative that he talk to Jimin one last time, man to man, if only to say goodbye. But-

But saying goodbye seemed so fucking painful. It only made the wolf wish that Jimin had never shot him in the leg in the first place, or met him at all. Then the agony of this goodbye- well - he would have never had to feel it. But-

But then he would have never met Jimin.

The dark, somber towers of the Forge appeared in the blue-gray horizon. The sun was setting, not that it had actually pierced the thick canopy of storm clouds all day. And no matter how Yoongi tried to shake the feeling off, a funerary dirge lingered. When he finally arrived at the castle on the hill, he hid against the snow.

He knew he’d be shot down immediately if he was seen. His large wolf form was more than threatening, his bright lapis eyes made him the harbinger of death. He knew he’d have to be stealthy if he was going to see Jimin at all. Also, he’d have to steal some clothes unless he wanted to get there naked.

Then he saw it.

A group of people, wearing black clothing, were marching in a line. The last time he’d seen this Chanyeol’s mother had died and he didn’t see the boy again for twenty years. And now against logical thought, he feared the dead one was Jimin. But why Jimin out of all people? Still, he couldn’t convince himself otherwise despite how ridiculous it was.

Yoongi bolted through the gatehouse.

“Ah,” a guard screamed, not even ready to draw his sword, “The Spirit.”

The Pale Wolf darted past him, running toward Jimin’s scent which led him past the castle and into the Basilicant. When the men realized he was there, they shot arrows at him, but they were slow, useless. All of Yoongi’s previous caution flew away with the wind. It seemed that no one except Jimin could have ever hit Yoongi anyway.

“It’s a wolf,” a voice shouted, “Get it.”

Yoongi almost smiled to himself as he burst through the doors. Healers toppled over themselves to get away from him. Behind there were a hundred soldiers that could never hurt him, they lacked all skill.

And there was the Dragonfly standing upright, looking utterly confused at his arrival. But his voice carried and he stopped all the chaos with one thunderous breath.

“Lower your weapons.” Chanyeol shouted, eyes blazing with fire “Halt in the name of your King.”

Everyone stopped, all the soldiers, all the healers, everyone. They scarcely took a breath. The only one unaffected was Yoongi. He took this opportunity to change back into a man. His fur falling away from his body, his cream skin once again on top. He rose to his legs, half a ghost from how pale he was.

“Oh, my-” an old healer with gray hair covered her mouth.

“Get me some clothes,” Yoongi said with a frown. Chanyeol nodded to one of the men at the door and he ran off in search.

“What are you doing here, Suga?” Chanyeol addressed him.

For the first time, it felt wrong. He’d never flinched at the pet name before. But now he felt it wasn’t appropriate anymore. He wasn’t Suga anymore and Chanyeol… no longer his Dragonfly. But he knew not when this change occurred.

“W-What do you mean, the name of your King?” Yoongi asked, looking at the bright golden crown on Chanyeol’s head. It was not the ornament of a Prince.

“My father is dead,” Chanyeol whispered, “I am the King. Now, what are you doing here?”

“I’m here to talk to you about the War,” Yoongi said unabashed by his state. Though one of the women had already swooned at his nakedness. He ignored it. “Where’s the Firefly?”

“He’s-” Chanyeol frowned, “Let me take you to him.”

A speckle of dread formed in Yoongi’s belly. He wanted to force it away but it remained. A soldier offered him a black tunic. The anxious feeling increased tenfold as he struggled into it. It was too tight. Or maybe it was the pressure in his chest, constricting his breathing.

Chanyeol led the way up the spiral stairs, up and up. Yoongi felt light headed. His ears were ringing all of the sudden. His mind prickled with confusion. But he didn’t speak, he feared to ask. The Crown Prin-nay- the King opened a small red door with a golden knob.

The room was warm, really warm, every inch was lit by candles. As soon as Yoongi walked in he felt sweat forming on the back of his neck. There was a small bed, more blanket than anything else. Jimin lay at the center of it.

He was dead.

“How did this happen?” Yoongi whispered, sinking to his knees. All the air left the room and the pale man struggled to breathe.

Chanyeol whispered. “It was the Fox. The foul beast did this to him.”

“You were supposed to protect him,” Yoongi said, sobs escaping, “I-I was supposed to p-pr”

“It’s too late to do anything now,” Chanyeol said bitterly, “We should go.”

Yoongi didn’t refuse aloud. He simply walked over to Jimin and held his hand. It was cold as ice. But that made no sense. The dead always assumed the warmth or coolness of the surroundings. The room was warm but Jimin was cold.

“What’s wrong with him?” Yoongi asked, almost hopeful.

“He has the sleeping sickness,” Chanyeol replied.

He wasn’t dead. Not yet at least.

“They why are you all wearing black,” Yoongi hissed, “God, I thought-” the man wiped his tears away, “I thought he was-”

‘Oh right,’ Yoongi thought blankly, ‘the King was dead.’

“No one has ever survived the sleeping sickness,” Chanyeol began, “My brother is as good as-”

“If you finish that sentence,” Yoongi growled, “I will rip out your throat. Don’t test me.”

Chanyeol fell silent. He loomed over them. Yoongi ignored him, holding Jimin’s cool hand against his cheek. He recalled one conversation he had with the boy. Jimin had shouted, ‘I don’t want to be your friend.’ In reply to Yoongi’s, ‘I have friends, Firefly. I just don’t want to be your friend.’

Why was he thinking of this now?

Despite all his talk, Yoongi didn’t actually have that many friends. There was Suran, the Red Wolf, his cousin. But she lived in the southern tip of the Moonwood, and Yoongi only saw her once a year when the family met up to pray to Wolf Gods of old. There was the stone mason that lived in Sorrow’s Point, whom he trained under for a year. He still visited him once in a while.

And that was it.

Yoongi’s heart clenched painfully.

Not that was not it.

There was also Jimin, a boy who’d tried to kill him but ended up saving his life. Yoongi had saved Jimin’s life too. If only there was a way to save him again. The wolf racked his mind for answers but came up empty. He should have never left in the first place.

The small room grew more crowded. Yet the loneliness remained. The Peder walked in, and the stable boy as well. Yoongi only briefly glanced at them before turning back to Jimin. They were only bystanders to the tragedy. They couldn’t possibly understand what Yoongi had lost. He didn’t understand it much either.

“We’re keeping him warm,” Minho whispered, “It delays the sleeping sickness. He might last a few more-”

“Shut. Your. Mouth,” Yoongi enunciated every word. It almost seemed as though he’d screamed it at them with the reaction they gave. Their faces turned grave white. Their lips were pressed into thin lines.

“No one’s ever come back from sleeping sickness. I watched my own parents di-” Euigeon started.

“Get out,” Yoongi simply said, “if you’ve already given up.”

The Pale Wolf expected each of them to file out. That was what they should have done with the words they were spouting. How dare they stay?

“Yoongi-” Chanyeol’s voice was soft, filled with understanding but it held the edge of a knife.

“I said,” Yoongi repeated slowly, “Get out.”

So many sad faces, so many tears, dark expressions by candlelight. It wasn’t good for the Firefly. He needed someone to hope for his return, welcome it. Not this. He just needed-

“Yoongi,” a whisper from Jimin’s lips, so soft that the Pale Wolf almost questioned it. The room’s noise fell to nothing, complete and utter silence. Chanyeol blinked in surprise, holding his breath.

Jimin spoke again, eyes still shut, just barely audible, “My Wolf.”

Yoongi felt strangely numb all over, an “Oh” escaped his mouth. How right that ‘My Wolf’ had felt. And how strongly Yoongi wanted to reply, ‘My Firefly.’


 

 

Jimin

Jimin awoke gasping, face tear-streaked, nervously checking his right shoulder only to find that the gaping injury was not there. His body was completely whole, at least that was what it appeared to be. But appearances had always been deceptive for Jimin.

The Prince sat up against a wall. He was still in the throne room, only he wasn’t. The usually dark stones were blindingly white. In fact, the whole place was stark and colorless. He realized after a moment of fuzziness that there was no ceiling to the room. When he looked up, he could see the sky.

But it was no ordinary sky. It was a bright, blank canvas. Little dabs of whiteness fell from the heavens. It wasn’t snow, not harmless flakes of frozen water. Wherever the whiteness fell, it erased. Tiny pieces of doom drifted from the sky. The walls started disappearing, and so did the floor. When the dots landed on him, he started to vanish too. And when he was completely covered, he knew he would wake up.

But that was not his main concern. There was something pressing at the base of his skull, the pressure from being watched. He was not alone

The rainbow eye looked at him, great swirls of hypnotic color danced in its iris. It had no mouth, or teeth, or anything to speak with and yet, it spoke. Jimin had never seen him before but something resonated inside. This rainbow eye was the Dream God.

Hello…. I’ve been watching you since the beginning. Now you can see me too.

Jimin realized before he responded that he was compelled to his next words, as if destiny would disallow anything else, to ask the question, the question that had already been answered.

“Who are you?” Jimin asked even though the eye had already told him. Yet, it was impossible to say anything else.

The weaving of destiny, I have woven a thousand years. Unchanging and unyielding. You can not fall away from it. It moves you.

And again Jimin knew he had to ask the question to this answer without deviation. He imagined asking something different, destroying the web by uttering the wrong words. But he couldn’t.

“Why can’t I speak?,” Jimin hissed, “Why must I ask only the lines that are given to me?”

You’re not the one who’s in danger of waking up… the Pale Wolf is.

“Am I dead?” Jimin asked almost too easily before he processed what the Dream God had said.

He can live. To string a new thread will be hard. Your life is already set, one that is filled with prosperity, but should you tie your fates together, sweet will turn to bitter.

Jimin shuddered, more flakes covered him. His legs had already vanished. “How can I save him, Yoongi, my Wolf?” Jimin flushed. Yoongi wasn’t his wolf. He was just a wolf. “I mean the Pale Wolf.”

The axis of this Dreamworld was shifting, almost crumbling in on itself. He felt things moving just out of sight, great dark shadows. A flame, a great pyre and Yoongi burning upon it. But it vanished. Destiny frayed at the edges, and the Dream God threaded something new through it.

Will you do it?

“Yes,” Jimin huffed.

The rainbow eye blinked once and turned into a glimmering rainbow spider. It shot a web which latched itself onto Jimin’s wrist. A long silver sewing needle appeared in the distance, its eye smaller than the breadth of a hair. The Dream God pulled the string through, and Jimin along with it. It was impossible, utterly impossible. And yet, Jimin was almost all whited out, nearly disappearing. And so he passed through.

It is done. I have bound your fates together. How she weeps.

White blots fell from the sky and covered Jimin completely. He vibrated violently, the foreign feeling of nothingness washed over the whole of his body.

Then he woke up.

Jimin gasped, shooting upright, shouting incoherently. He swatted at imaginary things crawling all over him. He was disappearing, he was- he was- he was fine. His limbs and body were intact, none of it vanished.

Vivid light streamed through the windows, bright blush pink. Jimin knew he was awake again, back in the real world, just by how colorful everything was. Also, there was the pain, dull but heavy, on his shoulder. He was alive, every labored breath told him so.

It was warm, uncomfortably so. The room he was in was filled with candles, candles that had half burned out. How long had he been here? Who could even answer him?

Jimin looked around and realized he was not alone.

Yoongi was there too, looking at him with tear-filled eyes. Great sorrow filled his face, loss, and recovery. It just made Jimin wonder, ‘Who’d died?’

“Yoongi?” Jimin called confused.

“Ji- How are you feeling?” the pale man dressed in a soft black tunic asked, the lapis of his irises swirling with sorrow, and an inexplicable hope. He was cradling someone’s hand against his cheek, Jimin realized from the warmth that it was his hand.

Strange.

Jimin scrunched his face in perplexity. Was he still dreaming? What in the world was Yoongi doing here? Where were they anyway? And why was Yoongi looking at him like that… like he was utterly devoted to him?

“Where am I?” Jimin asked softly.

“You’re in the Basilliciant,” Yoongi explained slowly, “The Fox got you really good this time. You almost died.”

Well, that explained that but what about-

“What are you doing here?” Jimin cocked his head. Yoongi should have been gathering wolves to defend the southern line right about now. He was definitely not supposed to be here. Not here, not looking at Jimin like that.

“I came- I came,” Yoongi began, only to pause. The wolf cast his eyes down. He looked almost embarrassed. He dropped Jimin’s hand and the strange look on his face receded. His natural cool expression returned. It made Jimin feel lost. He’d never wanted anything more than to be looked at like that.

Everyone looked at Jimin like he didn’t belong, like he was some pitiful creature. They whispered behind his back. They snickered about his strangeness. But then, Yoongi looked at him, looked at him like he accepted him, like he understood, like-

But it was gone now, his blue eyes had already sealed over.

“I came to say goodbye,” he whispered apologetically.

“Haven’t you said goodbye too much already,” Jimin whispered, not understanding the magic between them, raising his hand, placing it back against Yoongi’s cheek.

Yoongi blinked and a single tear rolled down his face, dying against Jimin’s thumb. The pale man hummed, nodding ever so slightly.

“This will be the last time,” Yoongi murmured.

“Why?” Jimin asked, dropping his hand, though he still wanted to reach out.

“I’m- I’m going to go through with it,” the Pale man’s voice was low, rough, almost as though he’d been crying. “I’m going to be a wolf and let go of this form. My family is sailing across the sea. We’re leaving. We won’t stay here for the War. But I can stay for a little… until you get better.”

“I’m fine,” Jimin said, “If you want to leave, you can.”

Yoongi blinked several times before the surprise on his face turned into anger, “Look, I didn’t have to come back at all. I wanted to warn you. The wolves are leaving. You’re gonna need to reinforce the line yourself.”

Jimin swallowed, expecting an argument to arise from his throat but somewhere along the way, it died. Instead, he said this, tears falling uselessly down his face, “You don’t have to be only a man or only a wolf. You don’t have to be what other people want you to be. You can be you, you can be the Yoongi as you are now. If-If you just need one person to accept you like this… It can be me. I-I already accept you.”

Two red strings tied together.

A thousand emotions flickered through Yoongi’s face. The anger faded away and that look returned. Yoongi stared at Jimin again with that vulnerable expression. It was a mix of awe, disbelief, confusion, sadness, and hope. The air was suddenly thick, the pressure tangible against Jimin’s skin. It was so warm suddenly, a hot day in the middle of the summer. And it had nothing to do with the candles in the room.

But then, Yoongi suddenly turned away, a sob-scoff escaping from his mouth. He nervously carded a hand through his white locks. His side profile was sharp, his jawline could cut glass. The shape of his eyes was so filled to the brim with an intensity that Jimin shuddered.

“Remember when I told you friendship is the hardest thing in the world?” Yoongi asked, still looking away.

“Yes,” Jimin answered, not blinking, leaning forward, refusing to let up.

“This is harder.” Yoongi admitted, “This is the hardest thing in the world, letting go.”

Jimin remained silent as the world turned around them. He wanted to say something but he didn’t. He watched Yoongi turn around and leave. It was everything Jimin had wanted, leaving him. But still, the Firefly remained mute.

Don’t let go.

The Prince felt so utterly helpless, reaching out and grasping nothing. He wanted to scream. He wanted to shout. He wanted to cry. Jimin, against the pain, tried to get up. But his body lacked the strength. His shoulder sent violent waves of agony into the rest of him, rendering him useless.

All was lost.

All was lost.

But then, Yoongi turned around, unable to step through the doorway, unable to walk away forever. No, he turned back around to face Jimin. The pale man closed the distance between them, throwing his arms around the Firefly, holding him gently, careful to avoid his injured shoulder.

“It’s hard, it’s too hard,” Yoongi whispered, pressing his face against the Prince’s chest, “And I can’t do it. I can’t let go.”

“I don’t want you to,” Jimin repeated like a prayer.

“We can face this together,” Yoongi answered, “We can win this War together… as brothers.”

Brothers?

“What?” Jimin sputtered against the pale man’s embrace.

“We can watch out for each other,” Yoongi parted, looking at him hopefully, “From this day forward, Jimin, you’re my brother.”

The Firefly felt something sink inside, but he ignored it. Brother wasn’t really the word he was looking for. It seemed so wrong. But again he looked over it. He was glad that Yoongi was staying, the sweet outweighing the bitter. He could bear it for now.

“Brothers,” Jimin agreed, smiling and returning Yoongi’s embrace.

Chapter Text



Yoongi

Jimin’s right eye had turned rainbow. The iris was every color in a perfect piece of glass. It was like the glimmer off the skin of a soap bubble. No one bothered to look close enough to notice. It wasn’t too stark a contrast to Jimin’s remaining bright green-gray eye. Or maybe no one really looked at Jimin at all… except Yoongi.

The Firefly didn’t care about the change, shrugging it off when he glanced at it in the mirror. Instead, he was preoccupied with the new mark on his shoulder. It was as Yoongi had suspected before Jimin cut the bandages for the reveal. The Prince was marked with the Chaotic Pen now. A blush colored feather adorned the skin just right of his collarbone.

“This is a problem,” Jimin frowned, staring at his naked upper half reflected in the silver.

Yoongi swallowed, sitting in the corner, unable to stop the rapid beating of his heart. It made no sense. He’d seen Jimin shirtless before. Why did it make him feel so warm now, like he shouldn’t be in the room?

“The stable boy has a mark too,” Yoongi commented, finally settling his gaze to the opposite wall, the only safe place to look.

“He was born with it.” Jimin’s voice was dripping with self-preservative concern. “Mine is a bad omen.”

Yoongi wanted to leave and come back when Jimin was under twenty layers of clothing. Why did the Firefly feel the need to strip in front of him, just to ‘show him the mark.’ It wasn’t like Yoongi couldn’t just take Jimin at his word. There was no need to see the actual thing. In fact, Beom-

“Oh,” Yoongi’s head cleared a little, “I remember Beom’s son. He was marked too; the Shadow Glass got him in the shoulder. So they went north to see the Dream Druids.”

“Beom’s son? Who’s Beom?” Jimin finally shrugged on a tunic with little difficulty as he’d unnaturally healed in a few days. That and the rainbow eye made Yoongi so anxious for Jimin’s safety.

Jimin absentmindedly ran his fingers over his shoulder blade, bending his entire arm, the muscle bulging there. The Firefly frowned as if he were missing something that was supposed to be where the bone protruded. But there was nothing there but soft, light tan skin.

“Kim Beom,” Yoongi clarified, “The Wind on the Mount, uh... the Tide of the Earth. He’s the Warden’s brother and his son was marked.”

“Really,” Jimin turned around surprised, dropping his appendage. “You know Kim Beom? And which son? The Sword or the Shield?”

“You’d be surprised, Firefly,” Yoongi’s eyes twinkled in the light, “I know a lot of people of import.”

Jimin smiled, a good-natured snort escaped his nose. “And you mentioned Dream Druids too? Meet them as well?” That smile could set a man aflame. Yoongi had to physically grip the side of a table to keep himself steady. Why?

Calm down.

The pale man shrugged, “No, but I’m a wolf. I can track the druids with this.” He pointed to his slender nose.

Jimin continued to beam, painfully radiant. The heat in the room was stifling. Yoongi couldn’t breathe. He had called Jimin his brother. Perhaps that camaraderie made it uncomfortable to be in the same room, almost too close together. Maybe that was it. They were brothers, right?

“Which brother?” Jimin asked. Yoongi’s stomach flopped out of his body and fell to the ground. Could Jimin read his mind? Was that what his new rainbow eye bestowed on him, the power?

“Hmm,” Yoongi managed to grumble, swallowing his rising fear.

“Which brother has the mark, Sir Taehyung or Sir Namjoon?” Jimin clarified.

Yoongi barely managed to hold in a sigh of relief.

“The elder, I think,” the wolf said. Fuck, It was so fucking hot in the room and Yoongi’s mouth felt dry as the desert. His thirst made the back of his throat burn. But he was sweaty too, which was strange. Tiny beads of moisture were dotted along his hairline.

“I think we should go,” Jimin said after a moment of thought, “It might be our best chance at understanding this Dream God.”

“We can learn more about the War… and you’re grand- I mean, the King of the Forest as well.” Yoongi suggested.

Jimin seemed to blink slowly, which Yoongi knew was not possible. But he moved at a snail’s pace anyway, or maybe Yoongi was just watching him too intensely for any reaction.

“Dream Druids are truth seekers, yes? They can help us.” Jimin said finally.

“Besides they sleep a lot, and that really appeals to me,” Yoongi said, a half-hearted attempt to lighten the situation.

Jimin flashed the man a shy grin and a look that he didn’t quite understand. It was a mix of wistful and anxious but it receded quickly, making the wolf wonder if he’d just imagined it.

Then, again, it was unbearably hot.

“Yes,” Jimin announced, the air passing over his plush, full lips, “We’ll go. I’ll need a few days to arrange everything, horses, and provisions.”

“Good,” Yoongi nodded, leaving without another word lest he burst into flame in the room.

“Where-” Jimin called to him, his voice already fading.

Yoongi ran down the spire of the Basilicant faster than necessary, sprinting all the way outside, until the bitter, cold, winter air hit his cheeks.

He welcomed it.

What was wrong with him?

He almost ran into the Crown Prin- the King before he looked up, stopping just short of colliding with the tall man’s chest.

“Suga?” Chanyeol cocked his head. It took a minute for the King to regain his bearings. Then the monarch’s eyes flickered upward toward Jimin’s room “How is he?”

“The Firefly?” Yoongi muttered, eyes wide, face flushed, “He’s fine.”

“You were right by the way,” the Dragonfly admitted openly, “He woke up just like you said he would.”

“Yea,” Yoongi grumbled, wishing to run past the man, “I knew he’d make it. He’s stubborn.”

Chanyeol laughed, his teeth sparkling white, his eyes swirling with warmth, “I’m glad you came back, Suga.”

Something strong rebelled inside Yoongi, only growing stronger whenever Chanyeol called him that. He wasn’t Suga anymore. He hadn’t been for a long time.

“Don’t,” Yoongi said, ice shards embedded in his request.

“Don’t?” the King looked genuinely confused.

“Don’t call me Suga anymore,” Yoongi didn’t bother to continue the conversation, flitting past the man. But the King quickly caught his arm and pulled the pale man to face him.

“Yoongi-” Chanyeol’s voice was soft. His tongue was forming an apology, something to make up for the callousness of the previous weeks. And the Yoongi of before would have fallen for those sweet words. But now, Yoongi felt strangely apathetic to it.

“I have somewhere to be,” Yoongi said, retracting his arm almost too harshly, “I have not the time for pleasantries.”

Chanyeol looked surprised and something else, confused maybe, “Of course, I’ll speak with you later.”

“If you must,” Yoongi said with his back. He didn’t mean to be that cold. He just had to leave now. He needed a few miles between him and Jimin. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts.

Before he could stop himself, he stripped off his clothing, not sorry that they’d be lost in the wind. He was naked for a few seconds, in full view of three surprised peasants and probably the King too if he was still looking, before turning into the Pale Wolf.

But Yoongi couldn’t even make himself care. He ran through the Forge. People were startled but endured his presence as it had been King sanctioned. He made it out of the gatehouse in a mere fifteen minutes. Then he was in the wild plains in less than an hour.

Yoongi was tempted to run further but then the pull of the Firefly stilled him. It was as if there was an invisible thread connecting the two of them. The wolf couldn’t go beyond it even if he wanted to. Jimin was his brother now. The thought of protecting the Prince filled Yoongi with a strong sense of duty.

He stood there for a long time, on the crossroad.

In the lonely silence of the wilderness, the wolf could finally be alone with his thoughts. He’d given up his mother, sister, and two younger brothers so that he could stay with Jimin. He’d willingly set his family aside and adopted Jimin as his brother. Those feelings which seemed so clear and strong when he saw Jimin sick, injured, alone, and when the Prince had first awoken, felt muddled now.

There was something growing in Yoongi that made him feel achy all over when Jimin was near. Yoongi tried to ignore it as he looked far into the horizon. He swore he could see the line of ghost trees in the distant, his home for the last twenty years. If he ran now, he could still catch up with his mother on the shore. He could go and never look back.

But no, he couldn’t leave.

Jimin was here, with that soft looked in his eyes, a smile that played on his face. A… brother, someone who actually accepted Yoongi, who didn’t want him to change, not into a man, or into a wolf. The Firefly already wanted Yoongi as he was. Jimin was the only one.

Yoongi looked away from the line and turned back to the Forge, dark towers, gray-white sky. He would never see his mother or siblings again. But he wasn’t sad. They would be safe on the islands past the Red Meridian. The choice was made. Jimin was his family now, his home.


 

 

Jinki

After days on end in the sea, Jinki was able to coax Hoseok back on land. They beached on the small islands around the eyes. Hoseok’s tail, golden orange, sparkling as though it were encrusted with a thousand amber gems, melted away as he touched the shore. Then he became a legged man once again, a naked, legged man.

The Captain stepped onto the shore as well, his iridescent white scales glimmering off, and two steady feet replacing them. He felt foreign to the land despite being away from it for such a short time. Walking felt so fucking odd, like swimming against a strong, alternating current.

Jinki looked ahead at Hoseok, who had a glorious ass by the way. The Knight was also struggling on his legs.

“We should probably find some clothes,” Hoseok muttered.

“Yeah,” Jinki agreed. Find some clothes for that glorious ass, baby.

The Captain flushed at his own uncontrollable thought. It’d formed from nowhere and now refused to disappear from his brain. Also, the amazing light of the wondrous sun was hitting Hoseok’s flawless, toned, strong, hard body.

It was torturous.

Then he noticed something on Hoseok’s lower back.

“What’s that?” the Captain asked, thankful for the distraction from Hoseok’s beautiful, strong a-

So much for that distraction.

Hoseok turned his head backward, unabashed by his own nakedness, “What’s what?”

“You have a mark on your back,” Jinki commented, looking up at the sky.

“I’ve had it since birth,” Hoseok replied.

“It looks kind of like a-” Jinki began only to interrupted by a gasp.

“Clothes,” Hosek shouted, pointing to the left.

In the distant, there was a small wooden hut by the ocean, and beside it, there were several lines of clothing hanging by clasps. Hoseok ran for it and Jinki followed, sweating profusely for some reason.

“Let’s steal some,” the Knight exclaimed already pulling some pants off and putting them on, which was a relief actually. Or maybe not.

“Actually, we don’t have to,” Jinki said as he found some cotton pants and shucked them over his legs.

A familiar face appeared from inside the hut, a full smile, and sparkling brown eyes. It was Jinki’s younger half-brother, a full-fledged human, and one of the best people in the world.

“Taemin, have you been waiting for me here?” Jinki addressed the young man.

“I’ve been here for six days, ever since I heard your ship capsized. What-,” Taemin said before he noticed Hosek there. His wide smile shrunk noticeably.

“This is Jung Hoseok,” Jinki introduced the man as he put on a shirt, “It’s a long story.”

“You brought the son of the Jung Mul here,” the man’s pitch jumped an octave. “Have you gone crazy?”

“He’s not like that,” Jinki hissed, “He’s good people, a bar of silver in the ocean.”

“How-how did you bring him here?” Taemin’s expression changed not a fraction, a pucker remained between his eyebrows.

“Hey-” Jinki began.

“It’s fine,” Hoseok stepped up, “Only a fool would trust the son of Jung Mul. I am the cannon on the board, and when I jump, I destroy.”

Jinki watched the Song of the Sunrise carefully. The smile plastered on Hoseok’s face was false, hiding the inner storm. The Captain swallowed audibly. Hoseok was two people. There was him, the person who was free, born for the ocean, and there was Jung Mul’s son. One would destroy the other one day. Then the dichotomy would cease. Jinki only hoped the Hoseok he cared about was the one who would survive.

“What did you do with my brother,” Taemin hissed, “Did you trick him into saving you?”

“No,” Jinki flitted between the two of them, “I saved him of my own volition. He died in the sea and he came back. He belongs to the ocean now.”

“Just like he says, you are a fool,” the soft man spat, “We should just drown him and be done-”

“Mermaids can’t drown,” Hoseok said with that same sweet-dangerous smile.

“You- You gave him a scale?” Taemin looked ready to rip his hair out, “Unbelievable.”

“That she-beast sank my ship and left me stranded on the drunken island.” Jinki frowned, “It was the only way off.”

Taemin’s complexion paled, “Why? She’s never cared before.”

“War of Days shit, how should I know?” Jinki sighed angrily, “The point is that Hoseok is my responsibility now. We’re not turning him away, not until he can survive in the sea on his own. And even then, he’s welcome to say. Do you understand?”

“Fine,” Taemin grumbled, sitting down in the sand.

Jinki turned to Hoseok to apologize, only to find that the man was crying. The Knight quickly wiped his tears away when he realized Jinki was watching.

“Thanks,” the Knight said quickly before settling down in the sand as well.

That was the look, full of hope, that was the other Hoseok, the one that belonged to the sea. That was the Hoseok that Jinki wanted him to be all the time.

Eventually, the three of them started a fire as the sun slowly sank into the orange sky. Hoseok worked quietly and diligently. He avoided the Captain’s eyes as often as he could and when he couldn’t, he would quickly look away with flushed cheeks.

It was endearing.

It was nearly time for bed, when the three were cooking fish above the flames, that Jinki recalled Hoseok’s birthmark.

“It looks like a feather,” the Captain said suddenly, completely off course from their conversation about trading on the Twin Isles.

“The supply to coin ratio looks like a feather?” Taemin cocked his head in confusion.

“No… the birthmark,” Jinki exclaimed, “I thought maybe it was a fish or something but it was just too wavy. It’s a feather.”

Hoseok laughed, “My birthmark? Yea I was born with it. I think it looks more like a crab shell though.”

Taemin, who was previously dosing off, was now completely present. It made Jinki more nervous.

The Captain, being the son of an ancient sea beast, knew that a feather mark was the Chaotic Pen, the mark of the Dark God, the Sleeper in the Shadows. But it was a clamshell, right? Or maybe nothing at all.

“Show me,” Taemin whispered, voice uncharacteristically deep, eyes wide and reflective.

Hoseok turned around, still seated, he lifted his shirt up, showcasing the mark on his back.

It was a feather laid out on its side, but a feather all the same.

“Fuck,” Jinki hissed under his breath.

“What?” Hoseok turned around, dropping his clothing. He wore a pensive frown on his face.

The Knight was marked, in the flicker of the firelight. But how?

“Did you ever get attacked by a bear or a large fox or something like that when you were little?” Taemin asked tactlessly.

“What’s going on?” Hoseok said, voice laden with worry.

“Nothing, my brother is just being superstitious,” Jinki bit his lip.

Hosek paused for a long moment, scratching his handsome chin, “No… no animals… does this mark have to do with animal attacks? Bad luck?”

“Yes,” Taemin answered monotonously. “What about times when you nearly died, anything like that?.”

Animal Gods were the only means that the Dreamer selected conduits. Healed over injuries, nearly dying, people who’d seen the gate, glanced over to the other side.

“Well, when I was one,” Hoseok frowned, “I was on a ship that capsized. But my father saved me. I mean you must know. It’s pretty well known in the Eyes. That’s how my mother died and how my father lost his right eye. And now that I think about it, just recently, I nearly drowned again. What kind of mark is this?”

It hit Jinki hard, like a war hammer to the chest. Every one knew how Hoseok’s mother, Jung Mul’s wife had died. She’d drowned when the Silver Lady had sunk in the ocean, twenty odd years ago.

“Have you ever seen a rainbow eye before in your dreams?” Taemin shot, again lacking any finesse.

Someone closed the eye

Hoseok looked terrified then, “How.. how do you know about that? I used to have nightmares when I was a child, but my father took me to doctor and I haven’t dreamt since.

"Strange," Taemin breathed

Hoseok must have gotten the feather mark… when Jinki’s mother, the Fish God, nearly killed him. The she-beast must have attacked that ship, destroying Hoseok’s life, taking away from him something that could never be replaced, and marking him in the process.

Jinki’s mother had killed Hoseok’s mother.

“What’s wrong?” the Knight looked at them both, utterly confused.

“Nothing,” the two answered back.

Fuck.


 

 

Namjoon

The Dream Druids woke up with the sun. Namjoon’s training required him to do so as well, which he wouldn’t have minded if not for the reason. The Druids sat on the hill, on little mats atop the snowdrift, to meditate. It was cold and it was useless, and Namjoon was sure the more sensitive parts of his body were about to freeze off.

“The five afflictions that hinder spiritual freedom,” Suho’s voice carried against the howl of the wind, “are spiritual ignorance, ego, attachment to desires and passions, hatred, and the fear of death.”

What… the… fuck

Namjoon dared to open one eye, even though the Guardian had told him to close them several times prior. The young Knight peeked over at Jin, who was beside him. Jin was completely unaffected by the cold, face the picture of ease. He was a star pupil, understanding instinctively the Savage King’s teachings.

“Namjoon,” Suho called out, eyes still closed, “Keep your eyes shut please.”

“But, how can you tell?” Namjoon protested, “You’re not even look-”

“Namjoon!” the wild man hissed.

Joon promptly shut his eyes with a roll.

“Don’t roll your eyes,” the instructor said just as soon as he’d done it.

He… wasn’t… even… looking

The Shield was emotional, constantly checking his pockets for the sensation of a dove’s feather, making sure that he was still awake when he lacked the feeling of it. As if the lungfuls of snow laced air weren’t enough to tell him that he was completely conscious and not in one bit of any sort of meditative state.

And also, his left leg was falling asleep from the strange cross-legged position they were all being forced to take.

And did he mention just how cold he was?

The feeling of warm fingers snaked across the back of his hand. Namjoon nearly yelped in surprise before he realized what had happened. Jin had decided to hold his hand, weaving his fingers through. Everything fell away except that singular point of contact.

Jin’s hand was calloused but warm, and the fact that he was doing it to set Namjoon at ease… well, it set Namjoon at ease. The initial spike in his heart rate subsided. And how utterly bold of the elder Knight to do so when the Guardian had caught the two in the throes of a kiss earlier that week.

‘I fell,’ had been Jin’s explanation.

Joon quickly added that Jin had fainted and that he was simply trying to revive him by pushing air into his lungs. The Dream Guardian hadn’t said much else, leaving as soon as he retrieved his cup. But that had been too close already.

Joon tried to pull his hand away, but Jin’s only tightened his grip. Which to be perfectly truthful made the younger all giddy inside. Joon’s heart swelled in his chest, pumping his blood full of sweetness. And Joon suddenly recalled a spring day when he was only fourteen years old. Jin had been fifteen at the time. Jin had run away from training, hiding in a cave in the Peaks. Joon had tracked Jin there, the elder’s footsteps had been heavy on the red clay. Jin sat there, knees folded up, crying salt water. His tears had made flowers grow and bloom from the barren ground. It’d been then that Joon realized that he’d do anything to protect Jin. It’d been that spring day that Joon realized he loved the older.

In that moment of perfect contentedness, as Joon meditated on the most important event of his life, something happened. He was still awake but he felt the softness of his feather totem. Then as lightning struck the earth. Joon’s consciousness hopped out of his body. But just as quick the energy was conducted into the nearest conduit.

He’d jumped right into Jin’s mind. He could hear Jin’s inner voice like it was his own, mingled with strange floral images and feelings. It took a moment for Joon to realize that these were Jin’s thoughts, not exactly words, nor images, nor feelings, or just the ghosts of intention but a mix of all.

I hope he’s okay. At least he’s not fidgeting anymore. My sweet- images of blooming lilies-

Joon jumped out and into the next mind, one of the savages, before Jin’s thoughts reached fruition

I wonder if we’ll be able to catch any game today. Will these mountain men be of any help? The tall one looks pretty good with a sword.

Then Joon felt himself shoot far to the south, but not too far, maybe a few miles away. The next mind flooded his senses. Images of scenery were vivid, white, and almost primal. The feeling of frustration filled his body. His teeth felt so large in his mouth? Was he a man or a bunny?

Just where the fuck is the Fox? The tracks go cold here? Come on, Jungkook… you can’t fail the princess or Jimin, definitely not Jimin. What would your father think of you? Can't even complete one-

Joon gasped as if he’d drowned. His eyes shot open and he stood up straight and rigid like a stone statue. He was back in his own body again, the feeling of the feather gone. He was awake. Jin was staring at him, utterly confused.

Then Joon and Suho said the same thing at the same time, “A rabbit chases the Fox.”

The Dream Guardian looked at Joon with a smidgen of pride, “You’re picking this up faster than I thought you would.”

Joon replied with an indignant huff, “Maybe I’m so slow because we are sitting out in the open in freezing weather. Forgive me if I’m concerned about my nipples. I don’t want them to fall off, you know.”

“Joon,” Jin turned red, and hit Namjoon in the chest, “You forget yourself.”

“What?” Joon frowned, “That guy was thinking about hunting. They aren’t even serious about mediating.”

The savage that Joon had pointed out had a straight face, not revealing himself one bit. He looked around as if Joon must have been talking about another man.

“Easy, Peace Bring-” Suho said with a smile before covering his mouth.

“What?” Namjoon cocked his head. What had Suho just called him?

“Him?” one of the Savages blinked carefully, “He’s the Peace Bringer? Are you sure?”

“I had a dream,” Suho said finally after a full minute of silence, “The Dream God told me that a marked man would come here, and that man would be the Peace Bringer.”

“What… Peace Bringer?” Joon managed to say.

Beom stood up from his spot in the mediation group. He was absolutely beaming, “My son is the Peace Bringer. My son, everyone!”

“Papa-” Joon flushed, utterly confused.

“Your destiny is to save all mankind and rule it,” Beom’s eyes filled with fierce tears, “I’ve never been so happy.”

It was then that Sir Jeon Jungkook arrived from the horizon, helm in hand. He looked at them all, confused, questioning why were they all out there in the wilderness in the middle of winter.

Beom spied the Knight from afar and cried even more, “Ah auspicious day, there’s my future son in law. This is ten times better than the fish story.”

Taehyung stood up as well now. He’d been so deep in meditation that he’d almost fallen asleep, “What?”

“Look over there, It’s Jungkook,” Beom shouted in his loud booming voice.

Namjoon groaned internally. Why the fuck was his father so strange sometimes?

“Uhh…” Joon stared dumbly at the snow. Jin stepped over and intertwined their fingers together again.

“It’s okay, Joon,” Jin whispered, “Whatever this is about, I’ll be with you.”

Joon swallowed his dread and closed his eyes. He pressed his forehead against Jin’s. It grounded him to the chaos around him.

I’m so afraid that I’m sleeping. When I wake up, I’ll find out that you never existed. And I’ll realize that you were just too perfect to be real, that it was all… a dream




Jimin

They were leaving. How long the road and how hard, it was seemed to stretch out far into the horizon, never-ending. Jimin slowly rose from the bed, shoulder throbbing despite the wound being healed, only the feather remaining. It was still dark outside, and the solemness out of the inky sky seeped into the the thick stone walls, which not even a raging fire could keep at bay. But the embers had died down already, and all that was left was ash.

The Prince’s eyes were still closed when he tried to move his feet. He felt a heavy, warm weight against it. Jimin blinked the crust away. A large white heap slept atop.

“Yoongi?” Jimin said, voice still heavy with sleep. The furry thing’s ears twitched toward him. Then he lifted his head and turned his great blue lapis eyes to Jimin. “Why didn’t you sleep in your own room?”

Yoongi was stationed in the guest room downstairs just the night before. But he’d been frowning the whole time, not that he wasn’t nearly always sort of frowning. He’d complained about the guest rooms despite how fine they were. Also the fact that he’d slept out in the wild almost every day of his life. There was no way that he found the rooms to be as chilly and drafty as he claimed. Jimin was about to call him out on it right at that moment.

“No,” Yoongi barked, “What if something happens to you when I’m not watching?”

Jimin flushed pink, “What’s going to happen? I’m in a fucking castle.There are thousands of guards.”

Yoongi hopped off the bed, his feet silently touching the wooden floor, more ghost than corporeal.

“I’m going to take a bath.” Yoongi yipped, “Try not to die while I’m gone.”

“Th-that’s ridiculous,” Jimin shouted but the wolf was already gone. Yoongi was so strange these days, running away for no reason, and appearing again unwarranted. Now they were to be partners... in travel... travel partners.

“Damn,” Jimin hissed, “Get a hold of yourself.”

The Prince pulled his leaden body from the comfort of his bed. Today was the very last day he’d be a simple man, leading a luxurious life. He had shouldered a weight and he would carry it. The morning was silent, no more tweeting of birds in the dead of winter.

“You light a candle just to swallow up the flames.” a voice sounded.

Jimin looked up. It was Euigeon, carrying a heavy set of armor in his arms, with a silver helm resting on top. The helm was like nothing Jimin had ever seen before, golden trim on the silver, and two long peacock feathers vibrating like insect antenna on it.

“What?” Jimin cocked his head. Flames? Candle?

“Sorry,” his best friend flushed, “I didn’t get much sleep. I had strange dreams… sorry.”

“Don’t tell me that you’re worried too?” Jimin rubbed his eyes.

“Of course I am, you and that wolf,” Euigeon bit his lip, “What if you guys end up killing each other?”

“It’d be boring to repeat the past so many times,” Jimin jested. The stable boy didn’t smile. “What do you have there?”

“Your brother had these made for you. It’s the finest armor I’ve ever seen.” Euigeon commented, setting the metal on a long table. “I’ll help you into it.”

Jimin nodded, unable to quell the rising tension in his stomach. There was a painful knot there, filling him with poisonous dread. The hairs on his neck stood straight like needles. He suddenly lost all power to speak.

Euigeon had done as he did before when they hadn’t known about coming wars or the great magic just beyond the thin veil that was the Gap. The younger tried to smile as he adjusted the leather straps, putting the silver plates into place. But it was a clear farce.

His best friend fitted the helm onto his head, “Who’s gonna help you in and out of your armor once you go? Maybe I should come along.”

Jimin had the violently vivid image of Yoongi helping him out of the armor with his long, pale, nimble fingers.

Oh god

“You can’t come along,” Jimin said quickly, ‘It’s too dangerous.”

Euigeon cocked an eyebrow at him before turning away, “Just the two of you. No guards, no protection, what if he turns into a wild animal… like when the dogs turn crazy, foaming at the mouth. Who will save you?”

“Yoongi isn't like that.” Jimin pinked at the thought.

Euigeon sighed loudly, “I can escort you to the camp. I’m still the son of a Druid. They’ll trust me over you.”

“I’ll take my chances,” Jimin grumbled feeling oddly unhindered by the plates “Besides, you just reunited with the Peder.”

Something akin to worry flashed through the stable hand’s features before he spoke, “You need me.”

“It’ll be fine,” Jimin smiled assuredly, patting the boy's shoulder and realizing he was able to. “Hey, where’s the back plate?”

“There is no backplate,” Euigeon said quickly, “so there’s space for the wings.”

“Wings?” Jimin cocked his head.

Then he remembered. He had wings. They weren’t there now but they were somewhere. They were just on the other side of a door. All he had to do was open it and cross the threshold. A torrent of memories hit Jimin at once, how he transformed and flew. He had soared, zipped around at dangerous speeds, while his skin burned brightly. He remembered.

And there was a door.

“Whoa,” Euigeon took a step back.

Jimin’s skin felt warm like he was in front of a roaring fire. His other self stared at him, rainbow eyed, smiling, silvery-almost white hair, with two large glittering gossamer wings that could lift a grown man to the heavens.

And the Prince reached for it.

“J-Jimin,” Euigeon’s voice seemed so far away.

Bright firefly wings grew from his shoulder blades, slithering past the fault in the chainmail, which had been purposefully made like that. They were so bright that it seemed like the sun was now rising. But not yet.

“God,” the stable hand gasped.

Jimin turned his head back to look at them. There were no colors to describe them, and yet they were clear too, but also not. They glittered and glistened without any sunlight. And Jimin knew with one flap he could fly but he tried not, in the suddenly too cramped room.

Jimin looked back at his friend. Euigeon’s eyes betrayed his fear. His friend of twenty years suddenly looked at Jimin like all the others, reminding the Prince of his otherness.

Not you too.

Jimin reached out, ‘ I’m still me”. But the stable boy flinched backward, pushing himself against the wall as far as possible from Jimin. The Prince felt a salty tear roll down his face. Why?

Then at that precise moment, Yoongi appear, wet hair, fresh from a bath, in his human form. His blue eyes were wide with wonderment. Jimin almost cried, cringing. What if Yoongi had the same reaction? Why… why was he so fucking different? Why couldn't he just be-

“Firefly?” Yoongi voiced, not a hint of disgust in his voice. His face was unafraid. Not even a little. In fact, Yoongi looked utterly amazed. “God, you’re beautiful.”

What?

Yoongi didn’t look away. He stood by what he had said, wholeheartedly, completely. Then with a shaky hand, he reached out to the Firefly. Jimin stood there, eyes brimming with tears. He felt so confused? God, what was this feeling?

The Pale Wolf ran a hand across Jimin’s wings, feeling the smoothness of them. The sensation traveled straight down Jimin’s spine, making him shiver.

“Maybe they can make some sort of harness,” Yoongi exclaimed, “And then you can just fly us both to the Druids.”

What… the … fuck?

It took Jimin several moments to process Yoongi’s words. Not only was the man fine with Jimin’s strangeness. He embraced it. He trusted it. He was ready to let Jimin carry them both. Yoongi looked at Jimin, not one increm different than before. He was already pressing against his wing with just a little more pressure, testing the strength.

Again the odd feeling of it ghosted lighting against Jimin’s skin. The Prince inhaled sharply, wish he could hold onto something to ground himself.

Oh

Then all the feelings he felt for Yoongi finally settled, and his confusion dissipated all at once. He realized that he liked the pale man, not like a brother or a friend. He liked Yoongi as a man, as someone he could potentially love.

Jimin felt a sweet relief as he was finally able to identify the feeling that had been bothering him for so long, longer than he could admit. But then the relief died. Yoongi still thought of him as a little brother, fondly and protectively but so short of what Jimin wanted from him.

Fuck? Why, him?

“Jimin,” Yoongi called to him, still smiling, “Why are you crying?”

“I have fucking wings,” Jimin shouted, “Aren’t you scared?”

“I can turn into a fucking wolf,” Yoongi replied, smile growing smug, “Besides, Chanyeol told me about the wings already. Now, are you gonna fly us there or do we still have to go on horseback?”

Jimin blinked once, twice, thrice, in disbelief. Yoongi really wasn’t afraid. Not at all like Euigeon who’d fled the room unnoticed. The pale man was already joking around. Jimin felt unlike himself, a boldness come forth spurned on by Yoongi’s indifference.

“Fuck it,” Jimin smiled, resting his hand in his chin thoughtfully, “Let’s fly.”

Chapter Text

 

Jeonghan

It had been singularly tiresome, existing that was, for one Jeonghan. And no, he didn’t actually go by his given name anymore, foul loathsome, common thing that it was. He felt too great for such a name anymore, and as such, he despised the thing. He was the King, the King of the Forest, over the entire Sunwoods, all Sun Fairies. And he was a prisoner.

But not for much longer.

It was the End of Days, a merciful apothecary’s panacea for all the ills of this cess filled world. It would wipe the chaos that was creation. What began as a song would die as a dirge. But the King of the Forest would stubbornly endure. Jeonghan’s only reason for living was spite, to be a thorn in his maker’s side. But it was a powerful reason all the same.

Fuck the prophecy and fuck his maker.

“Your Exalted Highness?” a servant greeted him, bowing low, eyes on the floor.

“What is it?” the Spider asked, folding his long fingers together, and resting his chin atop.

“Your sister’s pet left this for us at the edge,” the servant presented him with a roll of parchment.

“A letter is it? Well,” the Spider said softly, “read it.”

The Fairy’s eyes filled with fear, “Of course, Your E-Exalted Highness.” He began to read it, hands shaking. His voice faded away and all the Spider could hear was hers.

Dearest Brother,

I wish I could say, I hope this letter finds you in good health. But our lives play out in symmetry as our hated father has already spun. I was greatly injured by that rabid She-Wolf. So I know you must be harmed as well. Who was it? The Horse perhaps. How Poetic.

Our long-awaited meeting approaches. I wonder if it is you who will kill me or I you. But however sweet and rewarding that would feel, I only wish I could kill him. There was a time when you did not rule the North, and I the South. There was no North, no South, and men between us. There was only one Kingdom and we were happy then.

But as all dreams must come to an end, so must this one as well. I know he loves that boy-cub, the Pale Wolf, and I intend to make him the sacrifice. But if I should fail, then come the third of signs, you must find a half-child to burn.

I have lived long enough.

With Love,

Your Sister

The Fairy was done and he looked up with tense terror alight on his face.

“Get out,” the Spider said, so quiet it was barely a whisper. “Burn that letter and tell no one what you have read, or you find yourself without a tongue.”

“Of course, Your H-Highness,” the Fairy sputtered.

“Exalted,” the King corrected.

“Your E-Exalted H-Highness,” he repeated.

“Why are you still here?” the Spider hissed.

The servant bowed once more before scurrying away. The Forest King watched him go with apathetic eyes, as he sat upon his throne of thorns, vines that tangled together cutting into its own flesh. But he felt nothing.

The soldiers were already bred, one thousand-thousand of the finest sentries, bowmen, swords, and spears. But there were unforeseen provisions to be made, three to be exact. When the cure washed over the land, the Spider want to keep the three alive. They were, after all, his brood, the living replications of his power and blood.

“Dragonfly, Firefly, and Ladybug.” the Forest King spun the words over his tongue. He needed them cradled to his breast, under his protection. And if one of them was destined to be his executioner, he needed to fray the thread of that destiny. But how to get them here?

There was only one way: Blood Magic.

And there was only one person who could do it. Unfortunately, as powerful as he was, it wasn’t him. Only the Skull Moth, Woozi, could do the necessary cast. The Spider felt it was a shame because that bloated, rotting insect was already dangerously arrogant.

But there was no way the Spider would let his brood befall any harm. It was a must, as taxing as it would be. The Spider rose from his seat, gliding upon the floor, long silver robe cascading down like a waterfall.

There was a mirror in the corner, standing tall. The glass turned liquid at his touch, becoming a portal for the Spider King. He walked through, space, dark space, the wall, then space again. Gold adorned trees, great spires of the Sunwoods gave way to dark, miserable iron chambers.

The King had arrived in a single step. The warm air turned frosty, and he was only half a man, cast in shadow.

“You’re predictable, Jeonghan,” the Skull Moth greeted him, “I really shouldn’t help you.”

The Mirror trick was not without its limitations. The Spider could not even speak. He couldn’t even scold the Moth God for calling him by his common name. Instead, the King, raised his hand, three fingers up, thumb, pointer, and middle.

“It will cost you,” the Moth replied, smirking ever so slightly, his sharp face lit by glowing poison bubbling in a thick cauldron. “The Sleeper does not like when others weave threads in his tapestry.”

The Spider could only convey his disgust by spilling three purses worth of gold on the floor. Coins scattered on the ground like raindrops in a storm. The Moth ignored them. He kept his eyes on the shadow in the room.

“I will need their blood,” Woozi whispered.

The Spider pointed at himself.

“They are your brood, your hatchlings?” the Moth’s monotone gated, and an increm of surprise leaked through. “You must be desperate.”

The Spider extended his hand, and the Moth took a small knife to it. He cut into the shadowy flesh, and it bled a dark purple. Woozi collected the dripping into a thin glass vial. Then the Blood Magician produced a wooden flute from his robes. Muttering incantations under his breath, he combined the two. The flute turned a dark, inky orchid color.

“Two warnings, Jeonghan,” Woozi said, extending the instrument to the King, “that every Pied Piper must obey. Blood Magic yields to the Spirit. It is the nature of all living things.”

Everything was made in pairs.

The flute would give the King control over his grandchildren, with only a very small spell break. There was Spirit Magic, and it was not something that could be manipulated. Not even the Skull Moth had such skill. It was a Magic that was already set in place.

Everything was made in pairs

But the chances of his grandchildren finding their other halves, or their other halves finding them was preposterous. The Spider would have laughed if the suncast would have let him. But he couldn’t so he nodded instead.

The Moth handed him the pipe, and the black shadows immediately enveloped the thing. They slithered around it, almost like living snakes, thick black coils of rope, before receding back into the shadowy mass that was the main body.

The Spider stepped through the glass, pressing his fingers into the various holes.

A long, solemn note filled the air.


 

Namjoon

“Jungkook, I didn’t expect to see you again so soon,” Beom shouted, the feathers in his hair blowing in the wind, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“I’m tracking a fox,” the Knight replied, face the epitome of seriousness. He had no time to make niceties. “I need everyone to line up.”

The Dream Guardian got up from his mat, dusting off the snow from his legs. No one else made a move to line up. “The Dream Druids do not follow anyone’s commands save for the Dream God.”

“I’ve been tracking the Fox God’s trail for two days,” Jungkook hissed, “It ends here. That means she’s probably killed one of you and is wearing your skin. One of you… one of you is the Fox God and I will find out who.”

The Knight didn’t look like he was lying. Namjoon surmised that right away, having been in his head not a moment ago. If there really was a creature that could kill and wear the skin of its victim, that could be very problematic.

“Exactly how do you know you’ve been tracking this Fox God,” Namjoon frowned, “What if it’s some other wild beast.”

Jungkook produced a coin from his pocket, “I’ve been tracking it with this. The coin detects the Fox, even the tracks. It burned up in the snow, where the paw prints were. But the prints end where your tracks begin.”

Suho blinked a few times, frowning pensively before he shouted, “Line up.”

All of the tribe lined up at once, no hesitation.

“I thought they only obeyed the Dream God,” Namjoon muttered.

“I am the Dream God’s conduit,” Suho answered, before lowering his voice, “As are you.”

Systematically, Jungkook tested everyone in the village, no one was left unchecked. He checked Namjoon’s family as well, Taehyung, Jin, Chunghwa, and Beom. Finally. all that remained was Suho, the Dream Guardian himself. Everyone eyed him suspiciously.

“Give me your hand,” Jungkook had one hand on his sword already.

“Peace,” Suho sighed, extending his palm. The Knight was tense, jaw clenched, ready to strike. Jungkook was convinced that the Dream Druid had to be the Fox God.

But the coin was just a coin in his hand, no burning of any sort. Upon seeing this, the Knight sighed.

“She’s gone,” Jungkook slumped, “Damn it.”

“You look tired my child,” Suho commented, “Even if you’d found her now, she’d probably kill you.”

Jungkook shook his head, “She’s been injured. Lost one of her tails to our Prince Jimin in battle. This is the best time to strike, before she heals.”

Suho’s face blanched, “She’s lost a tail? Fuck! That means… she has six left.”

Did this Fox God have more than one tail? If so, why did having six tails left make the Dream Druid so nervous?

Namjoon’s curiosity peaked. That was an odd response. “So what if she has six tails left?”

“I don’t know how many fucking tails she has,” Jungkook answered, “I have to catch her. Get out of my way.”

“I can’t let you do that,” Suho announced, grim as death “You look like you can’t even lift a sword. You need rest. To let you go would be sending you to your grave.”

Jungkook pulled out his golden sword, and aimed it at the Dream Guardian, “Get out of my fucking-”

Suho’s eyes went white, and a moment later Jungkook collapsed on the ground. “Sorry, it’s for your own good, boy.”

“What did you do to him?” Namjoon jolted back, heart hammering rapidly in his chest.

“It’s what you just did,” Suho said, alluding to the strange lightning jumps that Namjoon had just experienced, “Only a little more potent.”

“That’s cheating,” Namjoon managed to say after a long pause where he couldn’t gather his thoughts at all. He had barely recovered from that out of body feeling. He wanted to puke his guts out, then wash the inside of his body. If that was possible. He felt so foreign, bones too large for his body.

Two Savages carried Jungkook’s slack body into a tent. Namjoon almost felt sorry for the boy, if not for the dark circles under his eyes. Suho was right. If Jungkook had really found the Fox in his state, he’d been killed. As further proof, Jungkook remained asleep throughout the day, and well into the night.

By the firelight, Namjoon finally felt safe to ask Suho about the power, the power to jump minds.

“Exactly how does it work?” Namjoon asked pensively.

Jin had fallen asleep, and Taehyung as well. Only the two of them kept watch, faces illuminated by bright amber light.

“As disciples of the Dream God,” Suho began, “Our consciousness can be separated from our bodies. We are free to travel a great many leagues at our leisure.”

“I don’t understand why you chose to follow the Dream God,” Namjoon said, biting his lip, “What about the Great Awakening, the guy basically killed your parents, all of your parents.”

Suho’s eyes hardened into diamonds. “The Dream God saved them, preserving their minds forever in the other world.”

“He left you without parents, to fend for yourself in a world that’s ready to eat you up,” Namjoon corrected.

“I’m alive,” Suho shrugged, “To live is to suffer and that isn’t the Dream God’s doing.”

“What did you mean about the tails?” Namjoon said directly, ignoring the Guardian’s attempt to defend his God.

Suho grew quiet for a long time, poking at the fire, adding another log when it started to die out. The smell of char spiced the air, and drove away the cold. Then when Namjoon wondered if Suho ever planned to answer, he finally spoke.

“The Dream God’s prophecy about the War,” Suho began, “It entails a great many things, including the Fox.”

Namjoon’s breathing hitched, and that strange foreign feeling pressed against his skin again. His eyes flickered away from the fire, to where the horses were grazing, where Evening and Morning were standing side by side.

“Are you going to tell me?” Namjoon asked, “Or are you going to do some guru cryptic bullshit?”

Suho smiled, “The Dream God’s prophecy is known to a great many. He told all of his followers, and the Animal Gods as well. But the Dream God told me something privately as well. My whole place in his grand tapestry.”

“So you are going to do some cryptic bullshit,” Namjoon cussed, “Should’ve just said so.”

Suho jabbed at the flames of the campfire, and a huge explosion of smoke columned into the sky. Namjoon jumped back in alarm.

Images of things he didn’t understand flickered in his mind, disjointed but vivid. He saw himself, but it was not himself. In the mirror braced against inky nothingness, a blonde version of himself, with two sharp teeth jutting out of his mouth and bright purple eyes looked back. Then before he could even begin to contemplate the meaning of such a thing, the image shifted. Jin was standing on a cliff, the roar of the sea heard but not seen. But this was not his Jin, this was an entirely different Jin, holding a glowing pink orb in his hands, stars swirling inside it. In the span of one eye blink that faded as well, giving way to an arrow, one that flew towards him, and Taehyung was there, only it was not Taehyung. This incarnation of his brother had large black wings like a crow and whiteless eyes like a monster.

Then in a rainbow burst of light. It all faded, and the world became smoke rising from the campfire again. In the vapors, he saw figures, a shadow, a dagger, a pyre, a black spider, a horse, two fireflies dancing in the dark, and a bleeding, red moon.

Then the Guardian told Namjoon the prophecy, reciting it with whitened eyes. His voice was layered with something not quite human. It set the hair on Joon’s nape on end.

Behold, my children, my great creations

The tapestry of this world, I weave.

The tally has been struck, and the number is six.

There will be six tales in this story

A Fox Hunt

A Choosing

A Moon Fire

A Flood

A Reaping

A War

And to his doom, he rides south

The horsemen is the first of six signs

Not yet will it be the War of Days

Only the kindling to the dark pyre

Then the choosing of the sacrifice

That is second of six signs

Then on the day of creation

The moon will set itself on fire

The smoke will burn black against the starlight

That is the third of six signs

Salt will rain down on the earth

But not yet will the time come

Only the tears of estrangement

That is the fourth of six signs

The pain of the land will cry out

And I will reap the fruit of my following

Save those who remember me

That is the fifth of six signs

The Gap will close

White frost will cover all

And the many will starve

That is the sixth sign

Then it will be the War of Days

The War of Wars

The Day of Days

The Whole Earth will be a Graveyard

Then the Peace Bringer, the bearer of my will, shall rise up.

He will be called a Child of Two Worlds

He will pick up a Sword and Shield

The False King he will bring down.

The world will lay at the Bringer’s feet.

And there will be peace.

Namjoon couldn’t breathe. He was choking on the volatile fumes, tears streaming down his face. What the fuck was this? What the fuck was all of this?

Suho’s body started shaking violently, the last leaf of the fall blowing in the wind. The Guardian’s voice changed, growing softer, different from before. This was not the sound of a prophecy, more like a promise between a fledgling and a master.

I have made provisions for you

A marked man will come in the winter

He will be the Peace Bringer

And you will be his Guide

His other half will be the Child of an Animal God

And so he will be called a Child of Two Worlds

When the War comes, you and yours will be saved

This is the testament of my love for you.

My Guardian.

Suho’s eyes turned back to normal.  The man keeled over and threw up onto the ground. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he whispered, clutching his stomach.

“What the fuck just happened?” Namjoon said as he gently patted on the man’s back.

“The Dream God speaks through me,” Suho wiped his mouth, the back of his hand coming away scarlet to Namjoon’s horror, “Every time he does, I wake up a little more.”

“He’s killing you,” Namjoon gasped, “This is the guy you’re choosing to worship.”

“There was never a choice,” Suho shot back, straightening up slowly.

“Of course there is,” Namjoon shouted, chest heaving from the anguish.

“Then who would train you,” Suho shot back, “Who would save the world.”

Save the fucking world? Was that what the Dream Druid thought Namjoon was going to do? The Knight, as smart as he was, was just one man. The burden of saving the realm was just too heavy.

Suho’s breathing gradually gained back its rhythm. Finally, when the quiet settled against the evening again, the Guardian spoke more softly “What did you see in the fire?”

Namjoon was still angry but he knew his argument would go unheeded so he simply told the man what he saw in a begrudging, monotonous voice, “There was a fire, a horse, a spider, some shadowy shit, a moon… a… a…”

A horse?

Namjoon swallowed, hoping what he was thinking was not the truth. Slowly the man stood up, disappearing into Jungkook’s tent, reappearing a moment later with the Fox Coin in his hand. His face was slick with sweat.

Morning?

Evening?

“Namjoon, what are you doing?” Suho asked, voice tight and high.

The Knight didn’t answer him, walking toward the two horses, one was Jin’s and the other was his. Morning and Evening, one pale and golden, the other a speckled midnight. They’d been born brothers, and Namjoon seen the two grow up.

Morning continued grazing on the hay pile that lay atop the slow drift. But Evening looked up, eyes shining with alarm.

No…. please… no

Namjoon, quickly as he could, pressed the coin against Evening’s flank.

Nothing happened… at first.

Then the smell of singed flesh filled the air. Evening reared aggressively and Namjoon was tossed into the frost. A moment later, the horse’s flesh melted off, and white fur showed through where the gaps were.

Namjoon froze with shock, eyes wide with panic. His horse was dead. The thing growing inside had killed his beloved pet.

And now, it was probably going to kill him too.


 

Kyungsoo

Chanyeol was the King.

There hadn’t been an unmarried King since the very first man King, when the Gap was first created. So everyone assumed, royal and common, that Chanyeol was going to find a wife, a queen, someone gentle and kind, to rule alongside him.

And to Kyungsoo’s disappointment, the people were right. Chanyeol was hosting a ball to find himself a queen. The celebration would also send off Jimin and the man-wolf, on their supposed royal journey throughout the land. But Kyungsoo knew the two had other plans, to seek out the last of the Dream Druids and ask for help.

That was good too, because Chanyeol would need the information that Jimin brought back to them. The King was the Peace Bringer, the true King, to bring down his grandfather, the False one. Kyungsoo was sure of it. Chanyeol had all the makings of a great leader. He was fair and just, in praise and in punishment.

That was probably why Kyungsoo was so disappointed. He knew that he was in love with the boy, loyal, devoted, fervent almost. Being older than most other beings in existence allowed Kyungsoo to see filaments of twin souls, the pairs that other people could not see.

Chanyeol was his, his other half, tied together by the soul magic that existed since the song of the creation.

The ball was a meager thing in terms of royal celebrations. The hall was lined with red rose bouquets. The tables were laden with delicacies. But overall, it lacked the coin. Perhaps it was because the King was not so eager to find a wife, despite his advisors' strong urgings. But more likely, it was because it was still so close to the death of the old King, and it seemed almost too soon to host a feast such as this.

“You look handsome tonight,” a deep voice sounded behind the Horse God.

Kyungsoo was dressed in white and gold, a dusting of metallic glimmer on his eyelids. But it was subtle, and the ladies that’d arrived that night had outdone him in color and style. The Horse God turned around, shaking his head slightly.

“Not really,” the man said softly. “There are far brighter stars in the sky than I.”

Chanyeol laughed, “I don’t think so, Freewind.”

Kyungsoo’s ancient heart skipped a beat. It was a rare thing. The organ had always been steady, beating in rhythm, year after year, century after century. It never really gave pause, but it paused now, for the man in front of him. The Horse God finally looked up, realizing his eyes were planted on the floor.

Chanyeol was a vision, dressed in glimmering black, respectful to his father’s recent death, yet still perfect in its reservation. The Royal Crown sat atop his head, encrusted in obsidian and rubies, the image of a sword in the center. But the Dragonfly had made changes to the crown to suit him, adding wing etchings to the side. He was glorious to behold

“I thank you for the compliment,” Kyungsoo smiled, “But the celebration awaits its King. You should go.”

“I’ll stay with you a while longer,” Chanyeol said quickly, from the balcony overlooking the dance floor. The two were still hidden in the shadows. “Let my brother be the center for once. He looks happy tonight.”

“They’re leaving first light tomorrow yes?” Kyungsoo looked below, from his place of concealment.

Jimin and the man-wolf were both dressed spectacularly. The Prince looked ill at ease though, and the wolf the same. It was only when they were left alone that they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

“I wonder what they’re saying?” the Horse added.

“Suga- I mean - Yoongi is saying how he hates feasts,” Chanyeol mumbled, “My brother is telling him to eat more because they won't have much when they set out tomorrow.”

“I heard you had armor made for him,” Kyungsoo added, not skipping a beat. The Horse God had since learned of Chanyeol’s extraordinary hearing ability. All Fairies had something special about them, weaved in their making. The Stranger’s called it the Maker’s Gift.

“He’ll need it,” Chanyeol said passively, “If he’s to survive.”

The King wore a strangely reactive frown at the mention of the armor.

“I saw it. There’s no backplate,” Kyungsoo pressed, curiosity spiking.

“It’s for his wings,” Chanyeol explained, “There's a fault in the chainmail for them as well.”

“Wings,” Kyungsoo continued evenly, “Interesting.”

Was that the Changeling Prince’s gift?

“I’ve had my wings since I was a child,” Chanyeol continued, “He’s only just begun his discovery. It’s good that he’s leaving. He needs to find his power for himself.”

So it wasn’t the wings.

Kyungsoo agreed because Jimin would take that man-wolf with him, the only other person who had a soul tie to Chanyeol, his only rival. The Horse shook his head. There was nothing to be jealous over anymore. Jimin and the man-wolf had a tie of their own, rainbow threaded, the Dream God’s doing.

And it was new.

For reasons unknown, he had spun a new thread in a thousand thousand-year-old loom.

“So how come you haven’t used them?” Kyungsoo asked curiously. “The Wings?”

“I haven’t used them since I was four,” Chanyeol said acidly, “You’ll probably never seen them-”

Was that a challenge?

“-I’m the King now. A people will not follow someone they think is different, someone with Stranger’s blood running through their veins.”

That was heartbreaking.

“But you can’t change something like that,” Kyungsoo said as he laid his hand on the taller man’s chest, “It’s a part of you.”

“The duty I owe my people,” Chanyeol answered, eyes close, “To the men of the Gap, that is a part of me as well.”

“And who will you chose to share that duty,” Kyungsoo whispered, searching the man’s eyes for any hint of return, “It seems a great honor to one of these lucky ladies.”

Chanyeol looked away, something uncertain flickering in his eyes. “One of these hapless, beautiful fools, I suppose. I’m already so sorry to whomever I pick.”

The King disappeared down the staircase, where trumpets announced his arrival. The crowd stopped dancing mid-step, and turned to the door. Kyungsoo watched from above as the King entered the hall, sparkling in the candlelight. The Horse God would follow him forever, even if it was just his shadow.

The night passed quickly after that. Kyungsoo had not joined the party at all. He turned into his animal form and took to the stables instead. When he awoke in the morning, the Firefly and the Wolf were already gone, and Kyungsoo hadn’t seen who Chanyeol had chosen for a bride.

In fact, for the next two days, Kyungsoo had avoided the Forge altogether. He was just too hurt to face the King. The Horse God went far into the wild to be by himself. But he found he could not bear being apart from Chanyeol. So he went back. The thread pulling them together, forever and always, through every incarnation.

But when he returned, he found the whole place in disarray. People were running around hurriedly, in sheer panic, or weeping in the streets. Kyungsoo decided to go to the Basilicant, seek out Minho, and find out what had happened. When the Peder caught sight of him the castle he screamed at the man.

“Where have you been?” Minho shouted. “Did you take him?”

“What’s happening?” Kyungsoo shook himself out of his stupor.

“The King and the Princess have disappeared,” Minho gasped in horror, “You shouldn’t have come here. You brought on the prophecy.”

There was no part in the prophecy of a King and Princess disappearing. What the fuck was Minho going on about?

“Years among these men have muddled your brain,” Kyungsoo spat, “There’s nothing-”

“They are the kindling to the dark pyre,” Minho argued, “The dark pyre is Sword Forge and they are the royal family.”

“You’re fucking kidding me,” Kyungsoo cursed, “That’s the most preposterous interpretation I’ve ever heard.”

“Fuck you,” Minho lunged at him, nails turning into razors.

Kyungsoo gracefully sidestepped, “Watch it, you’re no match for me, halfling.”

Minho landed on the floor hissing foul profanity unbecoming of the Peder, head of the blessed faith, a man of peace. “So what do we do know, Kyungsoo? The King and Princess are gone. The Kingdom will fall without someone to hold it.”

“We find them,” Kyungsoo replied, looking at the thread connecting him to his other half.

Wait for me


 

Yoongi

No, they didn’t fly there. It took all of three seconds for them to realize that Yoongi had a fear of heights. So the two went on horseback, traveling westward to where the Druids supposedly were. Or at least that was what Beom had told Yoongi the week before.

Jimin was dressed in full armor, atop Mushroom who did not like the extra weight. Yoongi was covered in soft leathers and furs, and he was light to begin with. His horse, Frostbite, seemed unburdened by him. The grey-white speckled stallion was given his namesake for his poor temperament. But he and Yoongi seemed to get along spectacularly.

Jimin joked that it was because they were both grumpy old-timers.

“That’s no way to talk to a sweet horse like him,” Yoongi chided him, which caused him to smile.

And suddenly there was a strange ache in his chest that would not go away.

“My apologies,” Jimin said softly, “How rude of me.”

Whatever Yoongi wanted to say died in his throat. He only managed to mutter, “R-right.”

They traveled westward the entire day until Jimin looked like he might get crushed under the weight of his own armor. Finally, Yoongi piped up and the two stopped off the side of the road. Tonight was the full moon, and the Pale Wolf could not take the shape of a man. So after Yoongi helped Jimin out of his armor, fidgeting as he was, the pale man nearly instantly took the shape of a Wolf.

“Yoongi?” Jimin looked back only to see blue lapis eyes and a tuft of ghost-white fur.

“Sorry,” Yoongi barked, “The full Moon is out tonight. I won’t be able to help with dinner.”

Jimin snorted, “A convenient excuse.”

“I could go catch us a rabbit if you want,” Yoongi’s ears perked up at the thought of a chase.

“Something to cut this black bread would be nice,” Jimin commented.

Yoongi thought it over, heart jolting at the thought of running wild and free, but then he’d have to leave Jimin all alone, “I was only joking. I can’t leave you here to fend for yourself. I’d worry.”

“R-Right,” Jimin muttered before feeding Yoongi some bread scraps.

Since he had no hands, he accepted them with his snout, “Thanks, Firefly.”

The bread was bitter and otherwise tasteless but it filled the stomach. The two didn’t go hungry or cold. Jimin had done all the work and Yoongi was secretly grateful. The Prince had built a fire and set up a tent all by himself. Yoongi was basically a giant, useless pet in his current form. But the Prince didn’t complain, and the two settled down easily when it came time for rest.

“I’ll keep watch,” Yoongi laid his head on top of Jimin’s stomach, “You sleep.”

Jimin laughed bright and colorful, and again Yoongi’s heart squeezed painfully. What was wrong with him?

“I thought I’d feel homesick,” Jimin murmured, “But I don’t at all.”

“It’s only been a day,” Yoongi reminded the Prince.

“What about you?” Jimin asked softly, “Do you miss your mother and siblings?”

The Pale Wolf didn’t and he knew why. Jimin was his home now. His wolf instincts told him so.

“I’m sure they’re fine,” Yoongi yipped softly.

“I never asked you,” Jimin continued, “But how come they don’t have a father, your siblings I mean? Did he go somewhere?”

“They have fathers,” Yoongi yawned, “Wormy bastards.”

“Hmm?” Jimin’s voice shot up high. He was clearly interested.

“My siblings are all adopted, just like me,” Yoongi explained, “Mother has a soft spot for orphans.”

“So no father?” Jimin said sleepily, “Must be hard being alone.”

“She wasn’t always alone,” Yoongi continued, “She had another family once, a mate, and son. Her husband had fur like the night sky, and her son was pale white like me. But they died during the making of the Gap .”

“And she never found anyone else?” Jimin sighed, looking up at the stars.

“No, wolves mate for life,” Yoongi answered, “There’s only one person for us.”

“Like… like my brother is for you.” Jimin said shakily.

Yoongi turned his head. The Prince was looking at him seriously, eyes glowing in the dark, one green, one rainbow.

“What?” Yoongi asked. The wolf, despite his superior hearing, was sure he misheard the Prince.

“You love my brother. He’s your mate.” Jimin said though it sounded like he was asking.

Yoongi laughed, not meaning to, but it happened all the same, “No! I don’t feel that way about him.”

Jimin looked utterly shocked by that news. He recovered quickly, Yoongi gave him credit for that. Then the Prince suddenly looked - well - he looked happy.

“Then,” Jimin began slowly, “Have you ever felt like that for anyone?”

“No,” Yoongi said, certain that he was telling the truth. But then why was his wolf telling him that it was a lie.

“Oh,” Jimin’s eyes flickered back up to the sky, “That’s interesting.”

Yoongi’s heart was beating against his ribs. What the fuck?

“What about you?” Yoongi asked, “You have a girl back at home?”

“No,” Jimin said after a long, tense, painful moment, “Princes don’t get to fall in love. We marry whoever is politically the most advantageous.”

Why did that hurt so badly?

“That sounds awful,” Yoongi barked.

Jimin didn’t speak for a long time after that, so long that Yoongi thought he’d fallen asleep.

“The stars look beautiful tonight,” Jimin spoke again, his voice heavy with weariness.

Yoongi looked up at the dusting of gems in the sky. It really was breathtaking. The Wolf, the Bear, and the Owl were all out tonight, points of light in the heavens.

“Go to sleep, Firefly,” Yoongi cooed

“The Wolf is out tonight,” Jimin commented. “See those blue stars side by side. Those are its eyes.”

Yoongi knew about the constellations. The Blue Eyed wolf, the first Wolf God, and supposedly Yoongi’s curse maker.

“You should close your eyes, Jimin” Yoongi urged.

“And there’s the Owl” Jimin muttered sleepily.

“Yea, I see it,” Yoongi replied, giving up on trying to coax the boy to rest. He’d try a different approach.

“You see that ring over there?” Yoongi pointed with his snout. “The Bear?”

“Yes,” Jimin smiled lazily, “A fearsome beast.”

“Only when guarding a meal,” Yoongi laughed, “Most of the time, the bear is pretty tame, almost like a cow really.”

Jimin laughed softly, nearly musical in timbre. “A cow?”

Yoongi felt all warm inside, despite the snow all around them. “I see the Bear God once a year when he comes up to visit my family. He’s the nicest animal you’d ever meet. He wouldn’t harm a fly.”

“What about bees?” Jimin jested, his hand now absentmindedly scratching Yoongi’s ears.

The Wolf noticed. Of course, he did. But he wasn’t sure if he should move or not, so he let the Prince pet him like a dog. It was unbecoming of a Wolf God’s son, he knew. But for reason unknown, he could not summon the will to tell Jimin to stop.

“He hates bees and bees hate him,” Yoongi admitted, the pleasant feeling of Jimin’s fingertips tingling against his scalp, “The Bear is a honey mongrel. I was covered head to toe in stings once because of him.”

“Must have itched like-” Jimin began

A flute cut off the Prince’s words. A piercing note ate up the silence in the night. Yoongi had no idea where it was coming from. He sat up in alert.

A great wind blew up the snow so that it swirled in the air.

Then suddenly, Jimin got up, pushing Yoongi off of him.

“Jimin?” Yoongi barked, alarmed.

The Prince didn’t answer; he just started walking away.

“Jimin?” Yoongi followed, cutting off the Prince’s path, “Where are you going? You have to take a piss or-”

Jimin’s eyes were red, completely red. He was crying blood tears. Scarlet was pouring out of his nose and the corners of his mouth as well. He walked on, ignoring Yoongi’s increasingly loud barks. The Wolf even tried to stop him by pulling on his clothes. But Jimin walked on anyway, swiping at Yoongi if he got too close.

What the fuck is this? Why was he bleeding from his face like that?

Then it dawned on Yoongi that Jimin was possessed. This could be one thing only.

Blood Magic

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Taehyung

Taehyung was out of the tent before he heard the scream. He’d already seen it, blood mist in the air, a full moon in a solemn sky, scarlet scattered upon the snow. But why? His older brother had just escaped death, the mark of the Shadow Glass still fresh on his shoulder. Taehyung had already tasted what the prospective loss of his brother would be like. He never wanted that bitterness in his mouth again.

But when Taehyung saw the horses in the distance, he realized that it hadn’t happened yet. The blood rain was still only a possible outcome, and the coin moon was still scar side down. Namjoon had only just begun walking toward Evening. Taehyung had time to get there so he ran for it, making the mad dash towards them.

The sound of burning flesh filled the air with its pungent odor, only to serve as a motivator for Taehyung to quicken his pace. He ran so fast that his feet scarcely made prints in the snow. He was a phantom in the dark, a shadow in the night. He had only one thought in his panic addled mind.

Please let him live

Taehyung could see the horse now, Evening, or what was left of him. Skin smoked, and a rotted, fetid smell plumed from the carcass. Inside was a quickly expanding white, six-tailed Fox. The Sword counted once more time. Yes, it was six tails along with two healed over stumps, and one thing that looked liked it been eaten by fire and maggots.

The beast was advancing on Namjoon, one of her tails aimed for his head. The man’s eyes were frozen in horror, as he fumbled for his sword. But this was...happening so slowly.

How… how was Taehyung processing everything so fast? Only a split second had passed.

Then Taehyung realized that it wasn’t so much as his mind working faster. The surroundings had slowed down. Time had come chugging to a standstill. Namjoon’s face stayed frozen in horror, as was his second death, still aimed at his face. But- but unfathomably - Taehyung was free to move in this still-life painting.

And, there was someone else there too, someone who hadn’t been there just a moment ago. He stood off to the side observing the attack passively, glowing rainbow thread shooting out from the ends of his fingertips. Just as Taehyung noticed him, he noticed Taehyung as well. His head shot up inhumanly fast, and his face was so terrifyingly flawless that it made Taehyung’s stomach squeeze nervously.

“Who are you?” Taehyung asked, drawing his sword.

“You-,” the man said before pausing for a long, long time.

The stranger’s eyes were iridescent, rainbow-colored, like the skin of soap bubbles.

And so Taehyung rephrased his question in the silence, “What are you?”

The man swallowed audibly before exhaling plumes of water vapor. “You can see me. And you asked me two questions in a row. What are you?”

“I don’t know,” Taehyung said shakily.

“I am a Dreamer,” the man replied, hands still raised in front of him, threads of silk still attached to his fingers, and weaving into the fabric of the earth.

“You’re the Dream God,” Taehyung said pointedly. “What… what are you going to do with Namjoon? Are you going to kill him?”

“I was,” the Dream God answered, “I am.”

“Why?” Taehyung asked as his hand automatically grabbed the hilt of his sword.

The Dream God looked at Taehyung, unperturbed by his existence before he asked, “What hero has two stories? What story has two heroes?”

Taehyung felt all the air from his lungs evaporate. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think straight. He only saw that had to save Namjoon’s life, so the Sword lifted his sword and cut the strange rainbow thread.

And the thread was cut.

In an instant, the Dream God disappeared. The scene started moving again, slowly but the pace quickening. There was a tail aimed at Namjoon’s eyes. But suddenly as if a person had pushed the limb, it darted to the left, hitting the ground instead.

Taehyung looked at Namjoon, whose eyes had gone pure white. The Fox was… it was being controlled, just as Suho had done with Jungkook. Now Namjoon was doing the same to the Fox. He was holding her still, as she struggled against her own body like the skin was an iron prison.

Now, she was the prey.

Taehyung lifted his sword again, swinging it high above his head, before casting all judgment down on one of her healthy tails.

And the tail was cut.

Both Namjoon and the Fox screamed in agony, one voice, and one injury. Blood mist sprayed into the air, and scarlet raindrops fell onto the fresh snowfall. Taehyung’s vision had happened and yet it hadn’t happened. Disappearing threads closed themselves upon a new line of possibilities.

But whatever the consequence, Namjoon was alive.

The older Knight’s eyes turned back to normal as he groaned in the snow, “My tail. You cut my tail.”

The Fox was not quite as docile. She thrashed backward in retreat, remaining five tails swinging wildly about. Her blood was spilling out of her body at a dangerous rate as she cursed low and foul. Then she disappeared behind into the mountains of snow, and the darkness snaked across her body until she was no more.

As much as Taehyung wanted to follow and finish the job, Namjoon was crying in a curled up ball, and it was too dark to see anything anyway.

“Hyung,” the Sword took a knee, placing a soothing hand on Namjoon’s forehead, “You don’t have a tail. You’re okay.”

Namjoon’s eyes were shut tight as he continued to gasp in pain. Suho, who’d been in the background, stepped forward, finally recovering from the shock, “It’ll take him a moment. That wound feels very real to him even though it’s not.”

Taehyung breathed a sigh of relief, watching Namjoon relax. Finally, the elder opened his eyes, his face all sweaty from the ordeal. Slowly Joon sat up and dusted the snow from his body with shaky hands.

“Thank you brother,” Namjoon whispered, his voice like gravel, “You saved my life.”

“Indeed, he did,” Suho said softly, eyes blank.

That’s when Taehyung knew. Suho had seen the Dream God as well. He’d seen everything that had happened. And it terrified the Sword, not the seeing, but the reaction the Dream Guardian now had.

He was… disappointed.

Before any more words could be exchanged, a well-rested Jungkook appeared from his tent, rubbing his eyes. The knight stumbled in the distant, before he caught sight of them. Then slowly the boy walked over, as they watched him almost mesmerized.

“W-Where am I?” Jungkook asked, clearly still confused. “I-I have to find the Fox.”

Taehyung could see something again. That danger that Namjoon had been in had shifted over to a proxy. Someone’s blood had to be spilt and now that person was Jungkook. There would be a corpse lying against a bed of lilies, and a sun crossed against the moon in the sky. But again, alterations could be made.

“She is dead,” Taehyung blurted out, “Body wasted away into shadows. But we did manage one keepsake.”

Taehyung picked up the Fox tail pelt from the ground, one end still oozing blood. “Here, you can take it back to the Castle as proof.”

Jungkook was still recovering from the long sleep he’d had. He blinked several times, more than several. The silence stretched on until everyone started getting uncomfortable. But finally, the young Knight from the Isles gained his bearings.

“Who did this?” Jungkook’s voice was level, toneless, downright emotionless. It was so tense that no one wanted to confess.

“We did,” Namjoon spoke up, “I held the beast and Taehyung cut the tail off.”

The Sword and The Shield

Jungkook’s response was more blinking, his large, round eyes swimming with confusion, clarity then confusion again. When he finally moved, it was to accept the tail into his arms. Taehyung carefully passed the thing over.

“I owe you,” Jungkook said solemnly, “a debt I can never replay. But I will try, all the days that I live, I will try.”

Taehyung sighed, feeling this Knight was too serious for his young years. But the elder nodded anyway, “I pray you a long life then.”

In Taehyung mind, the vision still swam the same, despite the intervention. Namjoon’s spare was Jungkook’s demise. The moon of his death was near, when it crossed over the sun, at Winter’s end. There would be the yearly solstice eclipse welcoming the Spring. It was in a mere four months.


 

 

Euigeon

The stable boy had not even had a full week of rest. By rest, he didn’t actually mean rest. He just meant that things had been normal, as normal as things were for the child of a fell, endangered tribe.

But things were now surprisingly good. Chanyeol, as King, had quelled the growing stigma for Savages and surviving Dream Druids. Savages had even been at the castle, and Dream Druids were finally declaring their origin.

Euigeon was free to practice his Druid mediation openly. He lay his mat on the snow outside, sat cross-legged upon it, and closed his eyes. But it took him longer than usual to get into Yana, the enlightened state. The stableboy attributed this to the near limb-freezing weather. But more likely it was because the King had vanished.

Why did that bother him that much? I mean it did bother him as a concerned citizen of Sword Forge. But all of the sudden, it bothered him even more. Chanyeol had done something good, for a change, for people seen as outsiders. He’d been more capable than Euigeon gave him credit for.

“Damn it,” Euigeon sighed, “Focus.”

Dream Druids practiced two mental states. At least, that’s what Euigeon’s parents had taught him before they were claimed in the Great Awakening. There was Yana, the enlightened state, a complete loss of one’s self. But to get there, a person must first enter Rana, the focused state, where a person must shut everything else out, until their awareness was confined to what was inside their own body. The practice of Rana and Yana was called finding and losing one’s self.

Euigeon took a deep, steady breath. The coldness of the world melted away, and so did the heaviness of the furs he’d been wearing. He took a longer breath now, feeling the knot between his shoulders untie. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow all fell away. Whatever worries Euigeon had disappeared.

Then there was a singular point of light, his light. And, since all things were made in pairs, there was also the other light, connected to his by a thin glowing filament. But- but something was new about the light now, and the connection. It’d grown… stronger? Euigeon took another steady breath. Perhaps he had - the Stable Boy gently tried to calm his own excitement - met his other half recently.

Euigeon didn’t want to break his newfound Rana so he moved on from that revelation, promising to revisit later when he had more time. He needed to get into Yana and connect with all the other Druids currently in the state. It was the only way to truly recharge for their people, to be of a singular mind, and to beat a singular heart.

The stable boy slowly began to forget himself, lose his ambitions, his thoughts, his feelings. Lights from all others appeared, some bright, some gloomy. They were as varied as the stars in the sky. These were all the men of the gap, going about their day to day, surviving, some thriving, some starving.

Euigeon hummed, sorting out his people among the many, and the lights narrowed down the low hundreds. The next breath he took was in perfect synchronization with his people. He felt his heart pause a second before restarting to the rhythm of the few, far to the west, at least fifty leagues. But there were others too, points of light in the southern tip at Sorrow’s Point, and some to east on the Twin Isles.

The day was beginning, and Euigeon lamented that he’d be one of the first to leave the collective. He had stable duties to attend to. Points of light on the map flickered out before his own. At least he wasn’t the very first to go. The stable boy moved his fingers, then his toes, and slowly his sense of the world and his own body came back to him.

Then he was awake once more, eyes flickering open, recharged and filled with a sense of belonging. It took him a full minute to realize that someone was watching him. He was not alone. There was a man sitting in the snow, looking at him, head resting on his chin.

It was Choi Minho.

“Father?” Euigeon called, voice soft. He immediately regretted it. It was only in his own heart that he thought of Minho as his father. He flushed bright pink, “Peder - I mean - sorry. What are you doing out here in the field?”

“I came to ask for your help, son,” Minho answered. The Peder called everyone son or child, even those that were not part of the Blessed Faith, like Euigeon. But for reasons, Euigeon’s heart still twisted at the sound of it.

“My help?” Euigeon cocked his head.

“The King is gone and the Princess too, as you well know,” Minho reminded him, “The Horse and I are setting out to search for them. I want you to come with me, and be our tracker. You can use Dream magic to find them, yes?”

Euigeon was a novice. His training had been cut short, and he’d only learned how to connect with his own people. But that was all he needed back at the tender age of seven. All the things his parents could do were unnecessary for a child. But Euigeon was desperate to stay by Minho’s side and to do what the man asked. He was eager to forget the glimmer of the other man his adoptive father had once been.

“I can try,” Euigeon stood up from the snow, shaking himself clean.

“Thank you, my child,” Minho replied, rising as well.

They set off later that day, taking two horses from the stables. Euigeon was perched on Apple, a chestnut-colored Mare. Minho rode atop Promise, the Princess’ horse, a young, grey speckled filly. The Horse God didn’t need a horse since… well, he was already a horse.

They walked northward via Euigeon’s instructions. There was a lot of show he had to put on, meditating, eyes closed. He thought he might have felt the King’s presence there. He was not sure. But something told him that it was so. If he was to prove himself worthy of the Peder’s trust, he would have first trust himself. The Horse God nodded, checking something internally, perhaps a magic compass of his own, and agreed.

Morning grew into a late afternoon. Euigeon’s nose had turned a bright, aggravated red from the wind bite. Even with all the layers of fur, his skin was already starting to feel raw from exposure. He wasn’t sure how much longer he would last, strong as he was.

“The boy won’t last much more,” Minho called to Freewind, “We need to stop.”

The Horse God turned to them, eyes shining with a singular determination. He’d said something that Euigeon couldn’t hear. Only, Minho seemed to understand. The Peder’s eyes hardened perceptibly.

“Watch your mouth,” Minho’s voice was again like a stranger’s, “That is my son you are talking about.”

Euigeon’s chest beat wildly. What had the Horse said? Who was his son? The Peder didn’t have another son to the stable boy’s knowledge. The way he’d said it. It didn’t seem like he was referring to Euigeon in the general sense, a son of the faith. He was talking about him like he was his true son, of his blood. It brought tears to Euigeon’s eyes.

“I can keep going,” the boy shouted into the wind, “I’m strong for my age.”

“You’re freezing to death,” Minho shook his head, “We should start a fire so you can get warm.”

A fire sounded nice. Maybe they could find a cave to rest in, or a they could build a shelter from the surroundings. They could heat up some black soup-

So strong was the ping of light that Euigeon lost his train of thought. A ripple of heat ran through him, and he could feel the King was close. It was powerful. Like nothing he’d felt before, in all his self-study of Dream Magic, and his own forgotten lineage. He didn’t bother to alert the Horse God or his adoptive father. He suddenly urged Apple into a gallop, charging westward.

“Where-” Minho’s voice was blown away by the wind.

Euigeon galloped on, breathing out heavy, misty air. He galloped on for what seemed like hours, when only a few minutes had passed. It came to a point when he started doubting himself. What if his power was nothing more than a stomach cramp.

But then he saw a dark, armored figure walking in the snow. It was the Dragon Fly’s armor sans the helm. It was the King.

“Your Majesty,” Euigeon screamed into the wind, that seemed more unnatural by the second.

The King didn’t turn around. He kept moving forward, carrying the storm with him. Euigeon looked behind, Minho and Free Wind were coming up. The stable boy hopped off his horse, coming into range of the King.

He ran in front, “Your Majesty. What are you-”

The King had dried blood caking his nose, eyes and mouth. It was a horrid sight which made the stable boy panic.

“My King,” Kyungsoo had arrived on the scene, a man cloaked in white once more.

“Something’s happened to him,” Euigeon held the King, even as the King tried to push forward to some unseen destination, “I think he’s been cursed or spelled or possessed.”

Kyungsoo, and the Peder, who’d also arrived, pulled the King to a standstill. His Majesty tried to draw his sword, but Minho stopped him.

“Hold him still,” Kyungsoo demanded, “I have to break this curse. It’s Blood Magic.”

Euigeon held onto Chanyeol’s arm, even as the man wildly twisted in his grip. “Hurry.”

The stable boy wondered what magic he would use to perform the spell break. Did he need to set up a table and brew a potion? Or maybe he would use his Animal power to heal the man of his affliction. It was none of those things, as Euigeon came to see.

Kyungsoo stood on his toes, for he was a short man, and pressed his mouth against the King’s. The Horse God grabbed the man’s hair, deepening the touch. The stable boy watched, embarrassed, horrified, yet fascinated by the passion and fever. The King went slack in the hold as Kyungsoo stepped back.

“Let him go,” the Horse God demanded. Euigeon and the Peder let the King loose, so that the man hovered precariously on his own feet in a daze. The storm raged all around them, blurring everything.

Had it worked?

The King took hold of his sword in a swung it viciously. Kyungsoo had only a moment to tumble backward to safely. The King was still possessed. It hadn’t worked.

“But… he’s my other,” Kyungsoo said to himself as he crawled away, giving the King his space, “It’s soul magic. There is no way-”

The King started trudging forward again, following a song that no one else could hear. That’s when Euigeon felt the power flow through him again. It was even stronger this time, a wave of heat rising from his feet and crowning at the top of his head.

Then he could see it. He could see it without having to find his Rana. There was a string of light connecting him, a lowly stable boy, to the King of Sword Forge, of all free men, and the Gap. Chanyeol was his other half.

“Me?” Euigeon whispered to himself, tone laced with incredulity. “But how. It’s not possible.”

His soul screamed at him. There was no time to waste. He had to do what must be done, even if the circumstance was less than ideal. Euigeon had imagined his first time to be a lot more tender than this, with someone of his own social standing. But wants were not a priority in destiny.

Euigeon rushed forward, grabbing the King, using his strength to steady them both. Then he lunged upward pressing his lips against Chanyeol’s. The King was cold as ice, lips hard and unyielding. The stable boy threw his arms around the man, clinging to him for life. Furious swirls of heat battled inside Euigeon’s body. A ripple of pleasure, so foreign, went down his spine.

Chanyeol’s lips started moving against his own. The King’s hands carded roughly into the stable boy’s hair. He groaned to life, breathing erratically as though taken a gasp of air after drowning.

The stormed abruptly ended. The howl of the wind turned into a deafening silence.

The King collapsed into the snow, “W-whats going on?”. His voice was deep and hoarse.

It had worked. Euigeon had broken the spell.

“How… how?” the stable boy found that was all he could say, as he gently cradled the King’s head in his lap.

He’d known the King since he was a child. It was impossible. How could this be? He’d never felt anything for the King. He was just a noble that the boy worked for. But then how was it that he was now the King’s other half.

It was the Horse God who answered. Euigeon peered up at him with startled eyes.

“There is a thread that wasn’t there before,” The Horse God whispered under his breath, looking down at Euigeon with dangerous eyes, “Destiny has been changed and you have stolen what was mine.”

The stable boy swallowed.

Destiny? Changed? Stolen?

Suddenly, Euigeon wished he hadn’t come after all.


 

 

Hoseok

Hoseok never went home. He’d forsaken the land for the most part and lived as an animal did in the sea. It was terrifying and wonderful in equal measure. The man thrived in the ocean, feeding on a mix of seaweeds, crustaceans, and fish. He also loved how it looked underwater near the barrier islands.

But they needed to get back on land now, as Jinki explained it. They needed to spend some time above water or, they could never go back again. They would turn into fish completely. There was a warning that it was happening. When you started growing scales on the upper half of your body, it was time to move back.

Hoseok had sprouted scales on his forearm, so the Captain maneuvered them to Pearl Island, a tiny speck of land on the barrier. The natives were a simple folk, and specialized in the trade of saltwater pearls. Which was good because, Hoseok, Jinki, and Taemin had managed to gather quite of a lot of pearls in their travels.

“I’ll give you fourteen gold pieces for this,” the jeweler offered.

“That’s it,” Jinki cocked his head, “It’s worth thrice as much.”

They had a large potato sacks worth of pearls. It was worth five times as much. Hoseok narrowed his eyes. He wasn’t about to be swindled by a commoner.

“Do you know who I am?” Hoseok hissed.

It took the Song of the Sunrise a moment to curb his tongue. He couldn’t reveal himself. His father would come for him at once, if he knew where he was.

“Who?” the old man asked, lifting his weathered face.

“I- I am a professional appraiser of fine stones and gems,” Hoseok lied smoothly, “This is worth a hundred gold pieces.”

“Ay,” the man nodded with a sigh, “I would have agreed with you about two months ago.”

“What happened two months ago?” Hoseok cocked his head.

“Jung Mul’s son never returned from the sea. Now he’s gone too.” the man grumbled, “That old man did a lot for this Twin’s and now we’re in a decline.”

“W-what happened to Jung Mul?” Hoseok’s eyes widened. “Is he-”

“He took off eastward on a ship,” the man explained as though it were old news, “The Warden of the Sea is watching over both Eyes now. It’s too much even for a great man like him.”

“Thirty,” Hoseok managed to say, “Thirty gold pieces.”

The man scoffed, “Fifteen.”

“Twenty-Five.”

“Eighteen.”

“Twenty and this my final offer,” Hoseok frowned, eyes like daggers.

The man frowned, and looked over the pearls again, “They’re really nice. You must have gone pretty far. Alright, twenty. But only because I like the look of ya.”

The men traded the pearls for the coin, and then the coin for lodgings, food, and clothing. They still had plenty left over. The inn they chose was surprisingly comfy, with complimentary breakfast and dinner. They stayed on the second floor, in a three-bed corner room with two windows, one to the east and the other to the north. The whole of it was decorated with colored glass, wooden carvings, and oil paintings.

Taemin and Hoseok were left to their own devices inside, while the Captain paid the innkeeper downstairs. It was a bit awkward, to say the least.

“How long do we stay?” Hoseok asked.

“A week at most,” Taemin replied, “Just until the scales fall off.”

Hoseok could still feel them underneath the sleeves of his newly bought shirt. The thought of them falling off seemed a painful affair.

“Well we have the coin thanks to Hoseok,” Taemin smiled, “A whole six extra pieces. You can really barter like an old maid.”

“Thanks, I guess,” Hoseok tossed himself on one of the beds. It was comfortable but it wasn’t the same as being in the Sea, the water holding your body up. No matter how Hoseok turned, his body felt iron weighted. The merman was glad that their stay was short-lived, a week at most.

“I’m sorry about before,” Taemin said, “You know, what I said before. About how you’re-”

“-a snake,” Hoseok offered.

“-not trustworthy,” Taemin continued, voice warier, “But I was wrong. Jinki was right. You were born for the Sea, and the Sea for you.”

“All that praise for a few gold coins?” Hoseok said, eyes fluttering shut. The bed was growing more comfortable with each passing moment.

“No,” Taemin continued, “I beg your forgiveness. I saw only that you were the son of a monster. But so is my brother, and he is not one himself. Neither are you.”

Taemin was Jinki’s half-brother. They shared the same mortal father but had different mothers. The young man was fully mortal, but he too had ingested a Fish God scale, under very similar circumstances a few years ago. He’d told Hoseok begrudgingly when the first legs - er-  tails of their journey had begun.

“It’s good to know what you think of me,” Hoseok said finally.

“I-I wonder how you think of me,” Taemin’s face was suddenly flushed. Hoseok could see it from the corner of his eye, even though he pretended to be disinterested. “I was an ass. I know. I want to tell you something, and maybe this will make you understand.”

Hoseok prayed, though to whom remained unknown, that he wasn’t about to be on the receiving end of a confession.

“Remember a few years back, when your father exiled Creed Keepers from the Twins,” Taemin asked, voice soft, “My whole family was uprooted. We had travel all the way to Sorrow’s Point. The journey was so taxing that my grandmother passed away at Sea. We couldn’t even bury her. She had a pirates funeral.”

Creed Keepers practiced the same religion as the Savage's, which was strangely called the Savage Creed. The only difference was that Creed Keeper’s lived in cities and towns, not like their wild brethren. But most everything else was the same. They worshiped the five animal gods: The Harpy, the Wolf, the Bear, the Fox, and the Spider. They shared the same holidays, especially the most important one, the Red Night, where they sacrificed a whole lamb to the Gods.

“My father is of the Iron Faith,” Hoseok whispered evenly though his heart beat wildly in his chest, and he could scarcely breathe. “He wanted to show the King how much he supported the Crown.”

“Your father only believes in himself,” Taemin said bitterly, “I’m glad that Donghae is the Warden of the Sea. At least he respects the title.”

“It’s not that he hates the ocean,” Hoseok answered, “The ocean killed-”

“Let’s gets some rest,” Jinki entered the room, fresh from haggling with the innkeeper no doubt.

Hoseok didn’t bother to open his eyes. He laid still, hearing the bed to the right of him groan when Jinki’s body fell on top of it. The man sighed softly.

“I feel like a trespasser on land,” Jinki said, voice muffled by his pillow. “I don’t know how I went all those years like that.”

Jinki and Taemin continued chatting for a bit, voices gradually grown softer and slower. Hoseok fell asleep to the cadence of it, feeling safe and warm. As Hoseok closed his eyes, one of the scales on his arm fell off and turned into glimmering dust.

When Hoseok awoke, it was dark. A full moon was out. Its light was sickly pale and cast through a tall, milk-glass window. Immediately, the man knew something was wrong. It was quiet, too quiet. But that wasn’t the strangest thing. Hoseok just felt like he was being watched. The feeling pressed into his skin, making it crawl.

“Captain,” Hoseok called out, eyes still closed, then more privately, “Jinki?”

No answer.

Hoseok sat up, mind groggily. He rubbed his eyes with the flesh of his palms and shook his head from side to side. But still, he felt like someone was watching him. Timidly, almost afraid, the Knight looked up into the darkness.

And the darkness looked back at him.

One eye looked at him, dark and glittering. The other eye was unpainted glass, a false place keeper. A weathered face belonging to a wild-looking bearded man. It took a moment to realize who the man was. It took another moment to realized how much danger he was in.

“Don’t,” Jung Mul simply said, as if he could read his son’s thoughts.

“How did you find me?” Hoseok asked, eyes filled with terror.

His father held a blood-red compass in his hands. He didn’t answer as he looked Hoseok up and down with distaste. The Knight was not at his finest, definitely not King’s kin material at the moment. No Princess in her right mind would choose him now, with his worsted garments, and messy hair.

But Hoseok didn’t care.

The Knight looked to the right. The Captain and his brother would both tied up, held by rough, greasy mercenaries, and black knights. They had knives to their throats, pressed up so close that a hair's more of pressure would slit their throats.

“I thought you could use the rest,” Jung Mul continued, motioning his free hand so the men would lower their knives. “So I kept them quiet for you, son.”

“How-” Hoseok swallowed audibly, “-considerate of you.”

As soon as Jinki could speak, he did. Though it was foolish to do so.

“Blood Magic, that’s how he found you,” Jinki said silently, “The Skull Moth’s charms are double-edged. Only the truly foolish or desperate-”

Jung Mul turned and kicked the Captain hard in the gut, sending him flying back several feet, along with the men holding him in place. The lot of them fell to the ground with a deafening crack.

“Stop this,” Hoseok yelled, “Must you always go through life playing the villain?”

Jung Mul stared at Hoseok with his good eye, “Villains? This isn’t a story, boy. History makes heroes out of victors. Who will say my gain is ill won when I have all the power?”

“You’re fucking crazy, you old man,” Hoseok spat, coming to terms with his destiny.

There must have been a reply. But Hoseok never heard it. Abruptly, all light faded out.


 

 

Yoongi

“Wake up,” Yoongi pleaded, ripping the sleeves of Jimin’s shirt off, while trying to stop him from moving. He instantly regretted it. Jimin needed every fiber of clothing he had on. The temperature was dangerously frigid.

After that Yoongi stopped biting at Jimin’s clothing, going for a verbal approach. But it was useless. Jimin plugged onward in the blizzard, skin turning blue from the ice. Or maybe it was just Yoongi’s panicked imagination.

What the fuck was happening?

It wouldn’t be sunrise for one hour. Yoongi was cursed to remain a wolf. How fucking unlucky was this? If he were a man, he could at least hold Jimin in his arms. To keep him from running away… of course.

“Please, Firefly,” Yoongi barked, trying to barre the Prince’s way with his body, “Wake up!”

It was agony, torture, the worst pain Yoongi had ever felt. And this was coming from a wolf who’d once gotten shot in the leg, and another time had a foot caught in a snare. He’d gone through his fair share of physical pain. But having Jimin like this, unresponsive, dead to the world, was shredding Yoongi’s heart into tiny, bleeding pieces.

“Jimin,” Yoongi barked against the howling winds, “I need you.”

What was he even saying? He was just spewing anything at this point, anything to make Jimin stay. They’d been walking for hours in the darkness, all night. Wolves lived in packs for a reason. Lone wolves died. If Jimin was to be lost to the cold, Yoongi would probably die a dog’s death. Jimin was his home. His wolf told him so. And now it was repeating it to him without reason.

“Please,” Yoongi was so desperate, “Don’t leave me here. I-”

How did he feel about Jimin? There had to be a word for this aching feeling inside his chest that never waned but sometimes flared in intensity. It was a feeling that made Yoongi sneak into Jimin’s room late at night when they were still staying at the Castle. It was just to check up on him, to make sure he was sleeping soundly, that monsters didn’t snatch him away.

This was crazy.

Why was the word so hard? Was it fondness? Did he like Jimin? Yoongi thought about saying, ‘I am fond you.’ but he found a bitter taste in his mouth. It was a lie, a loathsome lie. He was so distraught, his nerves stretched tight in his skin. Jimin was walking away, dried blood crusted over his face, eyes as white as the storm around it. What if Jimin died like this?

“I love you, Firefly,” Yoongi barked.

Jimin stopped walking, his limbs moving oddly as he fought with himself. But ultimately the lull in the storm passed and the Firefly started walking forward again. But it had worked, just for a single moment. It had worked against Blood Magic.

Yoongi gasped, as much as a wolf could gasp. His mother had told him that there was only one magic in the world more powerful than Blood Magic. It was Soul Magic, the magic between people that were created at the same time. This could only mean one thing - and now that Yoongi had realized it - it’d been so obvious since the very beginning. The Pale Wolf had forgiven the Firefly for shooting him in the leg, for crying out loud. How had he just realized?

Jimin was his other half, his twin light, his mate.

“Jimin, please, I-” Yoongi wished he was a man right now, harder than he’d ever before, “I love you.”

The Prince paused again, stumbling mid-step before pressing forward. His Jimin could hear him. There was hope. Yoongi begged for the sun to rise faster. He only needed to be a man to perform this spell break

The sky began to lighten. At first, Yoongi was relieved. But that was before he saw something in the distant. There was a line of trees forming on the horizon. They’d walked all night, right back to the Sunwoods. But worse than the appearance of the dangerous forest, was a man standing between the red oaks.

He was playing the flute. He was the one who’d cursed Jimin.

If his Prince was to reach the trees, Yoongi would not be able to get him back. That was the King of the Forest, the Spider, the Webweaver. The Pale Wolf was no match for him. The tall, silver-haired man looked at them with curiosity. He’d clearly not been expecting Jimin to arrive with company.

“Jimin, please wake up!” Yoongi growled viciously. “Wake up! Wake up! Fuck! Fuck this! You have to fucking fight this!”

Jimin was so close. The Spider was already reaching out with his eyes. The Firefly would be lost forever. Just ten paces left.

But then a sliver, the tiniest bit of sun appeared in the west.

Instant, Yoongi felt the door unlock and he was able to step through again. He only had a moment to test his fingers before he ran forward and grabbed Jimin. The boy stopped short, a mere body length from the trees.

Yoongi spun him around and pressed his lips against Jimin’s. There was no time to be embarrassed, nor was it really a kiss. It wasn’t the kind of kiss with two participants, shyly looking at each other. No, there would be time for that later. This was a spell break. There was no heat nor any inkling of romance.

Jimin’s whole body felt cold as ice. Yoongi could scarcely feel relieved that he’d gotten to the Prince in time. He was so, so cold.

Yoongi felt the Prince go slack in his arms, his eyes fluttering shut. The storm died down, leaving the Spider to look on in distaste. His flute had burst into flames in his hand. He held it for longer than normal before dropping the thing to the ground.

“One is better than nothing,” the Spider hissed disdainfully before vanishing into the darkness.

Yoongi wanted to break his kiss and tell the old man to fuck himself. But there were priorities to things.

How long was he supposed to kiss him for?

Jimin’s breathing suddenly spiked, and he turned warm. He raised his arms and pulled Yoongi closer by the shoulders, since the wolf wasn’t actually wearing any clothes he could levy on.

Oh right, he was naked. That was a thing.

A strange heat flushed inside the pale man. He wished he had something to cover himself with, which was such a strange thought for a man who spent most of his life naked and wild. He wasn’t really naked thought, he usually had a fur that covered-

Jimin’s head turned slightly, deepening the kiss. The Prince weaved his fingers through Yoongi’s white blond locks. For a moment, the Wolf lost all thought. His Jimin was back. He was alive and in his arms. Yoongi’s heartbeat rapidly inside his chest. His mind rushed quick as a river. He thought about what he’d almost lost, and what was now his. The wolf in him shivered with happiness. It’d been trying to tell him all along. It felt so right.

His Jimin… his mate

Finally, they parted. Jimin looked at him softly, smiling lightly. He blinked several times, love playing on his expression.

But then the warmth flickered away. His eyes turned cold, and it sent a chill down Yoongi’s spine.

What?

“Where am I?” Jimin frowned, pushing him away, “What the fuck? Why are you naked?

“You were cursed, Firefly,” Yoongi explained dolefully “I had to save you by…” - Yoongi knew he’d flushed with embarrassment, but he tried to move on as best he could, “-kissing you.”

Something was wrong with the way Jimin had spoken to him. It was weaved into the words, harsh and dangerous.

“How dare you?” Jimin wiped at the blood on his face. His bright eyes were filled with disgust, “-address your Prince like that. You should call me, Your Highness.”

“Jimin?” Yoongi cocked his head, an urgent panic washing over the whole of his body anew. The Pale Wolf said his next words very slowly, “Do you know who I am?”

“Should I?” Jimin replied, voice now bordering on spiteful.

Yoongi blinked a tear from his eye. The Prince didn’t know who he was. It must have been a side effect of the Blood Magic.

The person looking at him now was not his Firefly. This was the Prince of Sword Forge, Park Jimin. It was the Prince who would shoot him without hesitation. And this was bad for several reasons. First, Yoongi was in love with the boy. He’d probably been in love for longer than he realized. Second, Jimin had pulled a dagger out, hidden inside his clothing. The Prince was pointing it right at Yoongi.

Suddenly, the healed-over arrow wound on Yoongi’s leg ached painfully.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

 

 

Chanyeol

The King watched the stable boy as he tended to the horses, Apple and Promise. He’d never learned the mares' names until now. He never cared to. But Euigeon loved horses. He was fascinated by them. He told the King about their likes and personalities. And the King remembered it, because now, he was fascinated with the stable boy.

“It’s unnatural,” Kyungsoo said, with narrow, suspicious eyes pointed at the boy. “Who else would the Dream God replace me with but one of his own people. He’s a Druid. He can’t be trusted.”

Chanyeol wanted to ask Kyungsoo about his feelings on the Dream God. He seemed to love him one second and hate him the next. Ultimately, the King decided against it. It seemed too personal a thing to ask. Instead, he opted for Euigeon’s defense.

“He saved my life,” Chanyeol answered, unable to quell the growing fondness he had for the boy.

“To gain your trust,” Kyungsoo spat, running a hand through his ash-white hair, “I can’t even hate him. He’s so good with them, the horses.”

“Don’t be jealous,” Chanyeol answered, still looking at the boy, “He is common born. It’s not as though I’m going to make him the King’s Consort.”

“You’re only saying that to pacify me,” Kyungsoo replied, “He’s the perfect choice, a common boy who’s a Druid from the south. You’ll win the love of the outcasts, and steal support from your bastard half-brother.”

The King shoulders stiffened. Only the Horse God could be so bold as to openly discuss the bastard, currently exiled to Sorrow’s point. Chanyeol didn’t need to think about that rat’s mutiny yet. There would be time to dole out that justice in the future.

“I only need Euigeon to help us,” Chanyeol said softly.

“Don’t,” Kyungsoo huffed.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t pretend like this is for the greater good,” Kyungsoo frowned, “Just send me away already. You know I’ll still do as you ask without fail. Why? Because love makes me weak.”

“Someone needs to watch over Sword Forge in my wake,” Chanyeol insisted, “You and the Peder will have to hold the Castle.”

“That will leave you alone with the stable boy,” Kyungsoo turned his back and walked away, “How convenient.”

“Jeonghwa is still out here,” Chanyeol called, the wind blowing away his voice, “She is my sister. I need to find her. Euigeon is just a tracker.”

It was a lie. But it made the King feel better. He was a man that believed in making his own destiny. Even if it was a belief based upon falsity.

The Peder and Free Wind took toward the Forge. Both of them were reluctant. Minho did not want to part with his adoptive son. Free Wind was the same with the King. But they left because there was a duty to attend to. There was still the Gap, and it needed to be looked after.

“So what’s the plan, Your Highness,” Euigeon asked, as they packed the camp into the horse’s saddles.

“You’ll find my sister,” Chanyeol answered, less like a command and more like a request, “just as you found me.”

“I’m not sure I can,” Euigeon sighed, “I only found you because- well, it’s not the same. But, uhm, I have an idea too.”

“If you had an idea,” Chanyeol smiled, “Why did you ask me for one?”

Euigeon blinked slowly, a beautiful flush on his face, “Just like to hear all sides before considering things. I-I think we should go seek out the Dream Druids. I can find them with my power, like my parents taught me. The Firefly and the Wolf will be there and they can help you find Her Majesty. My people will offer their help as well.”

That was a good plan. That was a really good plan.

“It’s a fine course of action, I must say,” Chanyeol nodded, “Lead the way.”

“I-I’ll need a moment,” Euigeon looked at the void past Chanyeol’s shoulder, “to find them.”

The King stepped back a pace, and gave the stable boy more room to maneuver. But for reasons, it almost hurt him to do so. The King wanted to stand as close to Euigeon as standard courtesy allowed. But he could not, and it pained him.

Euigeon sat down in the snow, crossing his legs. He closed his eyes and started to breath in a deep, rhythmic fashion. Chanyeol watched with wide eyes. Suddenly, the air grew thick with tension. The King’s fingertips tingled with anticipation.

Nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen. But Chanyeol found a wealth of patience when it regarded the boy in front of him. The King simply sat down and waited.

The Dragonfly was surprised when he felt a wave of heat wash over himself, his core singing, vibrating.

“That’s just us,” Euigeon whispered. “our connection. I’ll need a moment more to find them.”

Chanyeol wanted to say something encouraging, but he feared he’d break the man’s concentration. Instead, he just marveled at the hum that grew in his chest. It filled him with a sense of belonging.

“That’s everyone,” the stable boy continued, his voice as calming as ocean waves softly caressing the shore. “Every man, woman, and child.”

The sense of belonging refined itself. Suddenly there was a pause, a cosmic pause. Chanyeol could hear their heartbeats, his and the boy’s. They were beating to one drum. And there was this pull westward, a very specific pull. Maybe ten leagues west and two leagues north.

“I have them,” Euigeon whispered. His breathing gradually speed up. He wiggled his fingers, moved his head from side to side and opened his eyes.

“Alright, let’s head out,” Chanyeol stood up and dusted himself off

Euigeon made a motion to get on Apple, the lesser of the two mares, so that Chanyeol could have Promise, the strong, young filly.

“Wait,” Chanyeol said as he grabbed onto Apple’s reigns, “Promise hates me.”

“The horse?” Euigeon cocked his head, smiling ever so slightly, before adding a quick, “Your Highness.”

It felt so strange for Chanyeol to hear his royal address

“Yes, Promise is my sister’s horse,” The King said evenly, “They both hate me.”

Euigeon looked on in disbelief, “Promise is so gentle, your Highness. She’s a far nicer-”

“You don’t have to call me Your Highness,” Chanyeol said quickly, bristling under his own title. “You don’t call Jimin, Your Highness.”

“Well,” Euigeon flushed, “He’s my best friend.”

The King felt an admittedly unjustified wave of jealousy for Jimin, again. The Firefly would always be free to do as he pleased. Simply because of the way he looked, no one expected things from him. Chanyeol on other hand could never be best friends with a stable hand. It was unbecoming.

“If you want to,” Chanyeol sighed, as he mounted Apple, leaving Promise for Euigeon, “you can call me Dragonfly.”

The stable boy flushed before stuttering, ‘I’ll consider it, Y-Your Highness.”

The two rode westward. The day was warmer than expected, the sun shining brightly above. They covered their faces to guard against exposure. It was a bit too quiet for the King’s taste, although to be truthful, things were never perfectly quiet. Still, conversation would be a nice distraction from animal heartbeats in the snow, and bird calls in the far distant. The King could hear for leagues without stone walls to hinder him.

“So,” Euigeon was the first to break the relative stillness, “You said your sister hated you. Is there a partic- Well I don’t mean to pry. Don’t answer if you- the weather is very nice today.”

They walked for an entire league in silence. Chanyeol thought about his answer long and hard. The stable boy grew very quiet. It wasn’t until the King was ready to answer that he realized that the boy was embarrassed and stewing pensively.

“I’m sorry if-” Euigeon said softly.

“Don’t worry about offending me,” Chanyeol cut him off, “I’m just thinking about how to explain it to you. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

“I did, but he died during the Awakening,” the stable boy shook his head, already looking much improved for some reason.

Chanyeol’s heart twisted in his chest. He wished he’d asked in a less callous manner. But it was already too late.

“I’m sorry,” the King said softly. “I didn’t mean-”

“It’s okay, Dragonfly,” the stable boy chose that moment to test the new nickname, “You don’t have to worry about offending me either. I was an orphan at seven; I’ve already heard and seen much worse.”

An odd thrill shot down Chanyeol’s spine, and an ache settled in his chest, but it was a good kind of pain. The stable boy had called him Dragonfly and had decided to share his story, his pain with the King. It was more than he could have dared to ask for.

“What should I call you?” Chanyeol’s deep voice had taken an unintended breathy quality.

“You’ve been calling me stable boy for the last ten or so years,” Euigeon laughed, “stable boy, go get this. Stable boy, I need my saddle polished. Fetch me that pitcher, stable boy.”

The King remembered those instances. He’d never noticed Euigeon before, and now that all of those moments came back in the most embarrassing and vivid way. He’d treated the stable boy harsh, more so than the others just because he was Jimin’s best friend. Now that he saw things as a man. He’d been so jealous of their friendship.

Chanyeol had none. He’d had no friends as a boy, only subjects.

“I was entitled,” Chanyeol said softly. Euigeon’s smiled faded, as shock began taking over. “I’m still entitled. And I’m proud, and quick to anger. I’ve tried to work against my shortcomings. Now that I am King, those I used to think I was above, are now my people, whom I need to protect.”

“You’re doing a fine job,” Euigeon answered, looking downward.

“My sister hates me because I can hide,” Chanyeol continued, “I was given everything because I was my father’s mirror. But it wasn’t always like that. I used to be a good brother. She doesn’t remember our mother, but she remembers how I used to be.”

The stable boy nodded but offered no words. Yet that look was enough, soft and earnest.

“But it was so hard to teach her about our Fairy magic,” Chanyeol sighed, “Mother died when I was only five. I merely learned the basics. But she accuses me of rejecting my blood, hiding from who I am. But worser is that she is right. I am hiding.”

A flicker of shame passed through the stable boy’s eyes, “I understand the need to hide. I was so frightened when Jimin showed me his wings. I’ve known him for so long and still, I ran.”

“I wonder what you’d do,” Chanyeol mused without judgment, “If I showed you my wings.”

Euigeon didn’t answer. He only turned so red that he resembled a summer tomato. It made the King laugh. He laughed until his sides hurt and tears streamed down his face. Then after he’d finished laughing, he thought to himself, ‘Ah, it has been a long time since I’ve laughed like that.’

If this was the doing of the Dream God, then Chanyeol was glad for it. He was happy. He’d thought there would be no one for him, that his red thread was untied at the end. But here was this gift, a peace offering. He’d been alone forever and now he was paired.

And he knew to whom he owed.


 

 

Mul

Jung Mul watched his son for a long time as he slept, gently carding a hand through his hair. It was soft and pleasant. Earlier that day, he’d washed the whole of his body and head, careful to avoid the purple bruise on the left side of his face.

Besides that, there was only one other blemish on his body. The boy had a strange scaly rash on his arms. Jung Mul was glad he got there when he did. Hoseok needed to see a doctor. The boy didn’t know how to look after himself. Mul would take good care of him once they were home. But to be honest, he was a bit worried.

Hoseok hadn’t woken since the night before. Jung Mul was disappointed with himself. He hadn’t meant to raise a hand to his son, but red flashed in his eyes and it was already done. Before he came to his senses, his son was already lying on the floor, eyes blank, all limp.

The old man contemplated what he was going to do next. Hoseok was not going to be happy when he woke up. They were already halfway back to the Eyes. His son, for all his beauty and talent, lacked ambition. He wouldn’t like having to bear the weight of the Jung name again and to work to have that name rise to prominence. Also, that slime of Captain and his associate were dead. Hoseok would probably miss them, and not be too pleased with Mul’s hand in killing them. But it had been a necessary evil.

Jung Mul sighed, getting up from his chair. He walked out of the room, and gently closed the door behind him as to not disturb Hoseok’s rest. Then he walked onto the deck. There were various men, going about their usual business. The sea was calm, too calm, and the winds were a touch too gentle for the speed Mul needed.

“How long until we reach the Left Eye?” Jung Mul asked, with a frown, “I am a man with urgent affairs that need to be set in order. Do you understand?”

“But how can I make the winds-” the Captain answered, but his courage faltered halfway as expected. “I’ll see what I can do sir.”

“Good man,” Jung Mul nodded, fixing his one good eye on the Captain before casting it upon the sea.

They would be home soon, and this hiccup would be long forgotten. Jung Mul closed his eyes and took a calming breath. He imagined his life in the near future. Hoseok would marry the Princess. Then he’d become the King, after Mul did away with Chanyeol and Jimin of course. Then Jung Mul would the father of the King. All the glory would come to the Jung name, as it had been in days long past before the Parks stole their throne, before the forging of the Gap.

The rattling of a door gave a pause to Jung Mul’s thoughts. He turned to the sound. Hoseok had awoken, eyes a little red, hair a mess, hand cradling the bruised side of his head.

“Son, you’re awake,” Jung Mul smiled, as much as his ruined face allowed. “We are almost home.”

Hoseok was despondent as expected. He had tears in his beautiful eyes, as he spoke, “Why did you do this? Can’t you just let me go?”

“I’m not holding you prisoner,” Jung Mul said after a dispassioned moment, “You can leave if you want. You can live on this ship or die in the sea. I’m a reasonable man. I only want the best for you.”

Strangely, Hoseok contemplated the offer, cogs turning in his head. Jung Mul had been bluffing but he kept his face impassive. What had happened to his son in all this time? He had such a wild look in his eyes.

“Where?” Hoseok asked, looking around, wiping his tears, “Where are Jinki and Taemin?”

“Those criminals?” Jung Mul sneered, “That’s all you care about. Do you know much I went through looking for you?”

“Where are they?” Hoseok’s beautiful face was marred by anger, ‘Where the fuck are they, old man?”

“Why must you test me,” Jung Mul said, “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“What did you do with them?” Hoseok cried, “They were innocent. Jinki saved me. He saved my life.”

Jung Mul sighed, “I wished he’d told me that. But he was too proud, I guess. That’s his fault. They’re both dead now. No point in this groveling, son. It’s unbecoming of you.”

“Why?” Hoseok sank to his feet, “Why would you? How?”

The old man sighed, “Well, it wasn’t me, not really. I just threw them into the sea. This is my ship after all. The sea is the one that killed them.”

Hoseok looked at him, his tears drying. “You killed them by throwing them into the sea.”

“Well, I did push them off the rails. But, again, it was the sea that killed them,” Jung Mul clarified.

“I see,” Hoseok nodded, voice suddenly level. Something was wrong. His son had recovered from the devastation too quickly.

“Son?” Jung Mul cocked his head.

“I’m not your son,” Hoseok said acidly, before running toward the rails and hurling himself over.

What?

Jung Mul blinked in disbelief, as Hoseok breached the water, flipped in the air, a fishtail encrusted with amber. Then he disappeared underneath the black water again. What had happened to his legs? Why? How?

“Did you see that?” Jung Mul finally said, shivering.

“Should we cast a net?” the Captain answered.

“Did you see that? The tail?” Jung Mul screamed, pulling the Captain close by a fistful of his shirt.

“Yes,” the Captain replied fearfully, “He had a fish’s tail like a merman. He was a child of the sea. I saw it.”

Jung Mul had seen this before. He’d always thought it was a hallucination, a combination of the storm all around. He’d seen this twenty odd years ago, when his ship had capsized in the sea. There’d been a monster fish, pale white, that brought on the storm. He’d seen his wife, the love of his life, dip under the water.

No, she’d died. That’s what he’d told himself. He’d been grief-stricken. That was the only explanation.

But then, his wife had resurfaced, a bright orange tail in place of her legs. It was the mirror of what had happened now.

So, if this wasn’t a hallucination then, Jung Eun Chae, Hoseok’s mother, could still be alive.

“What are your orders?” the Captain asked uncertainly.

Jung Mul pulled the compass from his pocket, the one he had the Skull Moth make. No matter where Hoseok went, he could follow. But that was not what was on his mind now. If Eun Chae was still alive, Jung Mul would find her. No matter where she was hiding, think she’d escaped him, he would find her.

But he would need a new compass.

“Change course,” Jung Mul whispered, eyes as cold as ice.


 

 

Jimin

It’d been his first kiss, and it’d been stolen by the pale, naked stranger in front of him. Jimin raised a knife between them, a protective barrier against anything else the pale man might steal from him.

“Jimin?” the man stepped back a pace, “Listen to me. You know me.”

Where were they? Why did his head feel like someone had smashed a rock against it? Maybe this stranger had attacked him?

“Stay back,” Jimin screamed, jabbing the knife into the air, to prove how serious he was.

“You’re not going to hurt me,” the man shook his head, scratching at an angry scar on his leg.

“Why not?” Jimin huffed.

“Your greatest fear is killing a man that’s innocent,” the naked man answered, “even more than dying.”

How could he know something like that? That was his innermost fear.

“How do you I know you’re innocent?” Jimin answered, pointing with the blade.

“Okay, that’s fair,” the man nodded, “I’m not really innocent. But I don’t deserve a knife in the gut.”

“I’m leaving, and if you follow me,” Jimin hissed, “I’ll kill you.”

The man’s look grew concerned, “You’ve been walking in the cold all night. You’ll die out here by yourself. Let me take you back to camp. We can find a nice cave to rest up in for a few days. Come on, Firefly.”

This familiarity, it seemed so genuine. The man looked concerned for him, something he’d never really witnessed in another before.

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Jimin said, even as he lowered his weapon.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” the man asked softly, inching closer.

“I-I…” Jimin hesitated, before the memory of a wolf in the mist bloomed in his mind, “Today’s the Hunt. I went into the Moonwoods to catch the Pale Wolf.”

The man sighed and ran a hand through his gorgeous white-blond locks, “That’s really far back… half a year ago. That was in the Summer, and now it’s the Winter.”

Jimin looked around. That was true enough.

“What happened?” Jimin asked, eyes flickering with hopelessness, “How much have I forgotten?”

“You’re not well, Firefly,” the man said, “I’ll tell you everything once you’re safe and warm. But, you’re gonna be frightened in a minute. I just want you to remember that I’m your friend, and that I love you.”

No one had ever said such a thing to the Prince. He could tell that the man was telling the truth. His bright blue eyes were focused in earnest. Why did it hurt so much inside? Jimin could scarcely keep the sobs inward.

“I’m the Pale Wolf. You followed me that day and nearly killed me,” the man continued, “But we have reconciled our differences. You’ve saved my life and I’ve saved yours. We’re like brothers.”

This naked man was utterly insane.

“Just remember that I’m your friend, Firefly” were his last words.

Then the impossible happened, only Jimin wasn’t as surprised as he expected himself to be. The man turned into a ghost white wolf, with the same brilliant blue eyes. He looked at Jimin, body as still as a statue. It was the man. The eyes were just too calm to be an animal’s.

“Fuck,” Jimin cursed, “What are you?”

The wolf slowly walked over to him, brushing his mane against Jimin’s fingertips. He whelped as if speaking but Jimin didn’t understand. It was only after he pressed his flank against Jimin’s leg that he finally realized what the Pale Wolf wanted.

“I’m not going to ride you,” Jimin huffed, fur so warm against his frozen fingers, “I don't remember you.”

The wolf sent a confused look his way. Jimin flushed bright pink, as that look turned amused. Then the animal jolted against him, causing him to fall forward onto the beast’s back. Then the animal shifted downward, causing Jimin to slot into a riding position.

He growled something at Jimin, probably, ‘Hold on tight’. So he did, he grabbed two fistfuls of the wolf’s fur, causing the beast to hum in a strangely contented manner. Then without warning, he took off, and the world fell away.

It was nothing like horse riding, which was jarring on the bones. The wolf’s feet didn’t touch the ground. It was like he was gliding on the snow, faster than any horse could be. They rode on like this for a while, warmth from his coat permeating into Jimin’s skin.

Only then did the Prince realize just how cold he was.

Just like the man had described, a camp came into view. Mushroom was there, along with the old, grumpy stallion, Frostbite. The man hadn’t lied. Even if this was a trick, how could he produce Mushroom? The mare was extremely loyal to Jimin, and would never run off with a stranger.

Once they were still, Jimin slowly unmounted, tumbling into the snow. His limbs were weaker than he thought. He ached all over.

The wolf turned into a man again, flawless skin and those hypnotic eyes. He picked up the fur that laid against the embers of a dead fire. He wrapped Jimin up in it, before hoisting him onto Mushroom.

“I know you’re tired, but we can’t stay here,” the man shouted, as he pulled some clothes over his nakedness. “There’s a cave a few leagues that way. We’ll rest there until you are well again.

Jimin nodded, his head drooping despite himself. He heard the strange man sigh before hopping on Mushroom as well. The Horse whinnied in protest.

“Sorry, girl,” he cooed, “He’ll fall otherwise. It’s only for a few leagues.”

Jimin tried to stay awake. But he was in pain, and he was so tired. He closed his eyes for just a moment.

When he opened them again, he realized he’d fallen asleep for at least a few hours. He wasn’t on Mushroom anymore. In fact, he was lying down, all bundled up.

“Wolf?” Jimin called, his voice filled with gravel.

Immediately, a face appeared in his vision, warm blue eyes, and a charming, coy smile, “Ah, you’re awake. I made soup.”

Jimin was starved. He tried to get up but his limbs wouldn’t cooperate. The wolf had to sit him upright. They were in that cave now and there was a fire by the mouth of it, warming the inside.

The man leaned Jimin against the wall, crystalline obsidian, propping him up carefully. And for reasons, the Prince felt embarrassed by his state of helplessness.

“There you go, Firefly,” the pale man said softly, “Easy now.”

The wolf walked over to the fire. There was a pot hanging from a makeshift bar atop it. The man ladled some soup into a bowl and carried it over. He blew on it, cooling it down, and displacing the rising plume of steam. Then he sighed.

“No spoons I’m afraid,” he admitted regretfully, “I hope this is okay, not too poor a meal for a Prince.”

“You’d be surprised,” Jimin answered. He was starving at this point. The man tipped the bowl into his mouth, and he swallowed some of the broth.

It was delicious, chunks of well-cooked meat in it, and even some vegetables.

“Where did you get this?” Jimin asked, once he could talk again.

“I made it,” the man smiled, “Caught a rabbit, dug the earth for some wild potatoes. It’ll make you feel better.”

Jimin nodded, “It’s really good.”

The pale man flushed, before feeding more of the soup to him.

“I hope you get your memory back soon, Firefly,” he laughed, “You’d be much too proud to compliment me like this normally. I’ll remind you of this moment when you are well again.”

“What if I don’t remember?” Jimin asked, “What if I never remember?”

The wolf’s smile turned pensive, “I’ll tell you everything. I’ll make you remember.”

He seemed so distraught over the fact that Jimin might never recall their history. This was not the look of a friend losing a friend. This was the look of-

“Are we lovers?” Jimin asked.

The man nearly dropped the bowl. He only managed to save it from total destruction at the last moment. He turned bright red. He sputtered over his next words.

“No,” he shook his head, “Well, I don’t know. We could be. But we’re just friends. I even called you my brother once.”

“So,-” Jimin realized he didn’t even know the man’s name. “What’s your name?”

The man laughed nervously, “It’s Yoongi. But you can keep calling me Wolf. I call you Firefly most of the time.”

Jimin let only a handful of people address him as such. Was this Yoongi part of that selective group? But if that was true, why had he said that they were only friends? It seemed a lie.

“If we’re not lovers,” Jimin frowned, “Then why do you keep looking at me like that?”

Yoongi held his gaze, unfaltering. “I’m just scared that something bad will happen to you, and I won’t be able to save you. I’m afraid to look away and find you’re gone.”

Jimin’s heart thudded in his chest. He was lying, it was clear. Yoongi was in love with him. And the Prince could see why he’d love someone back like this.

“Was it love at first sight?” Jimin tilted his head.

The man’s eyes were wary as he considered the question. Then he sighed. Then he laughed, holding his side as he wheezed with mirth.

Yoongi struggled to say, “No, we hated each other at first. You shot an arrow clean through my leg remember-”

He paused, realizing that Jimin couldn’t. Yoongi lifted the pant of his leg up to his thigh, to showcase the wound there. His flesh was otherwise perfect around a gnarled, pit-filled wound. Jimin had noticed before, even in his delirium. It was much more pronounced now.

“I did this to you?” Jimin felt so sorry. He reached out and touched the thing. He could feel a tremor run through his fingertips. The wolf shivered against his touch, his eyes looking so hungry all of a sudden.

“You didn’t know what I was then,” Yoongi said softly, “I’ve already forgiven you. That’s the past.”

Jimin let his hand trail upward so that it pressed against the man’s waist. The man shuddered again, more violently this time. But finally, the pale man broke the touch, stepping back a few paces.

“How are you like this?” Yoongi sighed, “You were never so forward before. And now, you don’t even remember me?”

“I don’t,” the Prince admitted, “But, I believe you. No one’s ever looked at me like you do. It makes me feel like I belong, like I’m not some outsider. Even if I never said it, wherever we were in this, I’m sure I must have been in love with you.”

The man exhaled shakily, the black in the center of his irises blown wide. “Can I?”

He gestured towards the empty space beside the Prince. Jimin nodded, pulling open the furs so that Yoongi could slip in. The man hesitated for a moment before wiggling into the space against Jimin’s side.

Yoongi was warm, really warm. Or maybe he was still cold.

“You were out there all night,” Yoongi sighed, “You’re still frozen”

He pressed himself closer until his warmth bled into Jimin’s skin.

“What was I doing out there all night in the cold,” Jimin asked, his eyes closing from the comfort.

“You were cursed, you just kept walking, and walking,” the wolf explained, “Nothing I did could stop you. It was Blood Magic, nearly the strongest kind.”

“Only one kind stronger,” Jimin mused. He’d read about such fairy tales in his mother’s old journals. “Soul Magic.”

“You know about Soul Magic?” Yoongi asked, seriously.

Jimin’s smile faltered, “Is it not just pretend?”

Yoongi sighed, “There’s much you don’t remember. All those children tales, they have a lot of truth to them.”

“So,” Jimin’s head dropped onto Yoongi’s shoulder, “Soul Magic? It’s real. People are made in pairs and such?”

“Yes,” Yoongi answered, “And that’s how I broke the Blood spell. I kissed you. It worked because we’re a pair. You’re my other half.”

Jimin’s eyes shot open, “What?”

Yoongi flushed, not looking at him, instead fixated on the floor. His whole body was fidgeting nervously, “You’re my mate, Firefly.”

Jimin remembered when he was five years old, and Chanyeol had told him that he’d once had a mother. That night, the Prince had wished hard to know what his mother was like. He’d never wanted anything more.

But now a beautiful, caring man, blush fire on his cheeks, had just confessed his undying love, and the fact that they were mates. The Firefly had never felt so utterly desperate. Jimin realized there was something he wanted more.

He wanted more than anything to remember.

“Thank you for saving me,” the Prince said softly, eyelids closing shut, “My wolf.”

“Of course, My Firefly,” Yoongi whispered.


 

 

Beom

“You will have a son, and he will be the Sword. He'll live by it or die on it.”

Beom awoke with a start, his wife still pressed warmly to his side. She reacted quickly, already a dagger in her hands, pointed at the air. But there was no danger, just cool swirls of inky air laced with water crystals.

“Bad dream?” the woman lowered her weapon, sweeping her fingertips across his temple and into his braided hair.

“Nothing, just old memories,” the man breathed heavily, panic still evident in his voice, “Go back to sleep, my wildflower.”

The woman laughed, sheathing her blade against her hip, “Pet names are for the young, not two old waterskins like us.”

“You make me young,” Beom replied smoothly before pressing a kiss into the woman’s hair. It smelled like lavender oil, and something distinctly pungent, but not unpleasant.

“Get off me, you old fool,” the woman pushed him away, still giggling “I’m going to get breakfast started. You go check on the boys.”

“They’re fine,” the man sighed, old bones creaking at the joints. He felt ten years older than his age. “These things happen, especially to people like us.”

His wife fixed him with a sharp glare, so he added, “But of course, I’ll check anyway.”

“So dependable,” the woman smiled at him, drawing closer until her lips were at his ear, “Wind on the Mount, Tide of the Earth, my-”

Beom flushed a bright red, “I-I thought we were too old for pet names.”

“Oh, I forgot,” the woman whispered, breathing hot air on his face, “How indecent of me.”

With that, she was gone, disappearing behind the flap of the tent. Beom laid back down on the furs and groaned. That woman was both the life and death of him. After a minute of intense debate, he got up, put on another layer of clothing, and stepped outside.

The sun was peeking on the horizon, glowing a bright kissed orange. There were tents speckling the ground from here to the hill. All around, icy swirls of air blew, a tempest in the waiting. Destiny paused, a grain of sand too large to pass the crosspoint of an hourglass.

Beom opened the tent to where all the Kim men were staying, and the Jeon Knight from the Isles. The Tide of the Earth could see glowing filaments all around them, intertwined. Their physical bodies had done the same, as if guided by the force. Sometime during the night Jin and Joon had gotten all tangled up together. Jin’s head now laid against Joon’s chest, rising and falling peacefully. Jungkook and Taehyung were huddled together, arms wrapped around each other, the picture of ease.

“Ahem,” Beom cleared his throat loudly. His children were so dead to the world that the noise had not roused them.

It’d been a tiring few days. First, there was the Fox, a she-beast, who’d attacked them in the middle of the night. They were still on watch, checking with the coin daily, man and animal. They now had one her tails, which they’d turned into a large pelt. Beom couldn’t even begin to explain why having one of the she-beast’s lives meant. But that was not all, both his sons were now on the board, limbs hanging by strings.

Which led Beom to the most concerning thing of all. Taehyung had inherited his power. He’d witnessed it that night, when his son cut the threats of fate, saving his older brother’s life. It was something Beom couldn’t do, and so he concluded, Taehyung was more powerful than he. Maybe he was powerful enough to finally cut the chains the Dream God held on them all.

“Ah, I sure hope the meat doesn’t run out,” Beom casually said, “I heard they’re roasting a whole wild boar this morning.”

Namjoon, predictably, was the first to stir, “Boar?”

The Shield turned over in Jin’s arms, not awake enough to feel embarrassed. He shook the older, jostling him softly, “Wake up, breakfast.”

Beom smiled, before clearing his throat again.

Jungkook and Taehyung groaned, moving like snails. But once they’d realized that they’d been holding each other all night, they flew apart, with apple-red faces. Their peaceful expressions turned accusatory.

“How dare you?” Jungkook sputtered, “I was helpless and unconscious. Have you no honor?”

“I distinctly remember telling you not to touch me,” Taehyung yelled back, “Even after we'd slain the Fox for you. How dare you accuse me?”

Beom snorted, his face completely bemused, “Is there a problem here? Something the Dream Guardian needs to address in a hearing?”

Taehyung and Jungkook both looked mortified, before saying various versions of the following, talking over one another. “No, it’s fine. Everything is fine.”

The boys all got dressed and scrambled out of the tent for breakfast. Ah, to be young and in love again. Beom followed them out, feeling a hum of warmth pass through him. It would be a long day. He would need his strength.

Beom hadn’t really expected there to be a boar. He’d only said it to get the boys out and walking. But in fact, the Savages had caught a boar, still fat from the Summer. It’d been roasting on the spit for half the night, and was ready to eat.

With their bellies full, meditation was not nearly as arduous. But of course, it didn’t work for Beom or Taehyung for that matter. His son was probably just sleeping, upright and with his legs crossed. No, those that inherited the power did not get to be part of the collected. They could never master Rana or Yana.

So instead, while the others went about their daily peace, Beom quietly pulled Taehyung away. The boy was now a man. It was time that he knew his destiny. Beom led Taehyung past the hill so they could talk in private.

“Papa?” Taehyung tilted his head, “You seem worried.”

“I am son,” Beom nodded.

They both sat in the snow, looking out into the distant.

“Is this about brother?” Taehyung sighed, “Are you worried about his being the Peace Bringer.”

“No,” Beom shook his head, “This is about how you met the Dream God two nights ago, how you cut his threads, and saved your brother.”

Taehyung looked surprised. To most, this expression was blank, but as his father, Beom knew the man was shocked. He gave his son a moment to recover.

“But now, Jungkook is in trouble,” Taehyung sighed defeatedly, “Their fates have changed because of me.”

“You saved your brother’s life,” Beom repeated, “It is a good thing you did.”

‘I-” Taehyung’s face was conflicted, again to outsiders this expression was blank.

“Remember when you were young, and you asked me not to force you to be a knight,” Beom said softly, “You were just six when I sent you away to squire in the south. You cried, you begged, you pleaded with me. Do you remember what I told you?”

Taehyung nodded, swallowing audibly, “It was the only time you’d ever looked so serious. You told me that I would pick up the sword or lay down my life.”

“It was more than that,” Beom smiled bitterly, “You a good son, and you remember me too well, paint me with too good a light. I told you that no son of mine would be a bard, or I’d cut out his tongue.”

“I-I remember,” Taehyung admitted.

“It was the worse thing I ever did,” Beom sighed, “I lived my life as a free man but I stole that away from you. You never wanted to know the ways of a sword. Now you are named for it.”

“I’m not angry with you-” Taehyung began.

“You should be,” Beom reached out and patted Taehyung on the back, “I am with myself. You see, when I was young, I had a dream. I would have a son who would change destiny. I knew that you would save your brother this day, and so I forced this destiny upon you.”

“You knew?” Taehyung looked at him with curious eyes.

“I have the power that you have,” Beom said with distaste, “We are the swords, the knives, scissors, and daggers. We cut the strings. We are conduits to the chaos, just like the pen. Only our purpose is to destroy.”

“I don’t understand,” Taehyung said after a long while.

“I have waited a long time for this,” Beom answered, “Together, you and I will kill the real villain. We will cut the thread of the beginning. We will destroy the Dream God and set all men free.”

“Can I be a bard afterward?” Taehyung asked after a moment.

“Afterward, all men will be free to do as they please,” Beom answered.

Chapter Text




Shi Han

Shi Han was the older one, made first, way before her younger brother. She’d been led, nay groomed to believe her place in life. She was supposed to be the Queen. She was destined to rule over all Fairies, not Jeonghan. Why was he fit to be King? He was the younger, and had the temperament of a child.

That cursed flute bit, going to the Skull Moth for help, using Blood Magic on his own grandchildren. That was a tantrum. The Shadow Glass would never be so crass. She would never use such a thing on her only living progeny. Even if he was slipping away from her, there would always be another way.

“Master?” a weak voice sounded in the darkness.

The Shadow Glass was roused from her musings. Her pet was calling to her. “What is it, poor thing?”

“Thirsty,” the Fox rasped out, writhing on the bed.

Shadow poured the Fox a glass of water from a smooth stone pitcher. She walked the thing over and gently fed it to her pet. She gulped down the water greedily, sighing once it was drained.

“I sent you off with eight and you come back with five,” Shadow cooed, “What happened?”

“First that wretched She-Wolf bit one of them off, using those rabid jaws,” the Fox cried. “I was only playing but she thought me serious.”

“The wretch,” Shadow said sympathetically.

“Then, the Firefly, he got in the way of my tail and his acid blood burned through it.” the Fox whined.

“Clumsy oaf,” Shadow answered, gently running her hands through the Fox’s hair.

“And t-then-” the Fox paused, her voice growing soft and meek, “I think he was a Sword. He cut off my tail, and all the strings too.”

“A Sword?” there was a hard lilt to the Shadow’s tone.

“A Sword,” the Fox confirmed, “I saw frayed threads. I’m sure of it.”

“This changes things,” Shadow admitted, clenching her jaw.

If there was a True Sword in their midst, able to change fates, avert prophecies, that would be bad. Shi Han’s life came to this fine point, whittled by the long centuries of her existence. She would have her revenge and her throne.

“What did this Sword look like?” Shadow asked, threading a curved suture needle.

“Beautiful,” the Fox admitted after a long moment, “Dark and Wild.”

There was no doubt in Shadow’s mind. This was Beom son, the progeny of his power. Only this child must have been stronger, able to cut her maker’s strings. This was bad.

Jin could wait. He would be by her side soon enough.

“We’ll find another way for you to bring Jin back to me,” Shadow said passively, “With his horse slain.”

The Fox turned pink before she whispered, “I think… I think I ate the wrong horse.”

“What color?” Shadow asked, her voice suddenly clipped, “Morning, the white one?”

The Fox frowned, “I was already so hurt. I took the black horse.”

“Useless fool,” Shadow spat, “The wrong horse. It’s a bad omen. This is the Evening Keep, and you slay the Evening horse.”

“I’m sorry,” the animal cried, “I’m sorry, Master. But I-I killed the old King of the Forge as you asked. Now the Dragonfly sits upon it.”

Then the prophecy was already coming to pass. At that news, Shadow’s temper cooled.

“I have a new task for you,” Shadow said, a frown marring her perfect face, “The Sword must be dulled. We can not have him ruining everything.”

“I won’t fail you, again,” the Fox said, wiping her eyes.

“It would be the last time,” Shadow nodded. The Fox didn’t answer. She simply whined submissively.

Shadow threaded the Fox’s wounds shut, smiling at the animal’s weak signs of pain. The string was made from her own Spider’s silk and would seal the ends. Her fingers moved deftly, closing two of the tails into clean stumps. The last was the only one that proved difficult.

It was the one that the Firefly had seen to. The end was coated with corruption and smelled of putrid rot.

“I’ll have to cut above this before I can seal it up. It will hurt,” the Shadow said evenly, “a lot”

She pulled out a soft strap of leather from the bedside drawer, handing it to the Fox to bite down on. The animal took it gratefully, settling the thing between her sharp rows of teeth.

“I want you to think about how I’ve helped you now,” the Shadow said softly, “If you ever fail me again.”

The Shadow used a skinning knife to cut away the ruined flesh. She was deliberately slow, savoring every sound. The Fox moaned, pleaded, cried, and begged. The Shadow ate it up as if it were actual food, her pain. But unlike food, it only made her hungrier.

The Fox fainted from the agony. The Shadow wondered if she should wake the animal up, before closing the wound. But ultimately, she decided against it. There would always be more pain in the future. She didn’t need to spoil her appetite right away. The Shadow finished in silence. She left the Fox to her nightmarish slumber, exiting the room as if walking on smoke.

She would have to deal with this Sword before recovering her son. The Shadow should have seen to this before, a fledgling was easier to handle than a full grown condor with a ten-foot wingspan. But he was still young, not quite as young as Beom when she sealed his power, but young enough.

This would require silence and concentration. The Shadow moved down, down, down, to the bowels of the Evening Keep. She sat upon the cold cellar floor, where frost covered the black walls in thin, transparent sheets.

She sat there until her whole body felt like ice, screaming in protest. She meditated, focusing the power of her body into her fingertips. There was a sudden burst of energy, the will to live from all beings, at the moment before death. There, the Shadow hovered. Life and Death.

Her fingers had all iced over from the lack of movement. Then she drew the line, a black string of thread forming between her two index fingers. The thread of misfortune, of sealing, of destruction. She tied the black, glowing string into a bow.

The string wrapped around itself a thousand times, twisting, bubbling as if liquid, then a vial of black magic formed from the chaos. It was this poison that would dull the Sword. It was so close to the War of Days. She would not let it delay again.

No, there would be no second Beom to shut down the prophecy. Not again.

“This will be the last time,” the Shadow said to herself.




 

Chanyeol

“They’re close,” Euigeon repeated sheepishly, “I can feel them. We should already be there.”

They’d been walking around for a half hour. Chanyeol rushed the young stableboy not one tiny increm. It was not in his heart, “Worry not, we’ll find them.”

The wind was howling, ruining Chanyeol’s hearing. The King would have to use his power but, he almost didn’t want to find the Druids. What if they cut the ties between them? Was loving someone just the random forming and cutting of a string? It seemed so wrong.

“I can help,” the King said softly, “You won’t tell anyone though, yes?”

“That you’re helpful?” Euigeon smiled, stunning- just stunning. “I’m sure that the people already know.”

“I-I have a power,” Chanyeol stumbled over his words, face pinkening but not from the cold, “I can find them but- you won’t tell anyone.”

Euigeon nodded his head enthusiastically, “I won’t. I promise, Dragonfly.”

That name made the King’s stomach flip, his heart hammering in his chest. He’d never shown anyone his power, not like this. It was so intimate, a part of himself that he kept hidden from the judgment of his people.

Chanyeol removed his gloves. Immediately, his hearing intensified ten-fold. The King hopped off of Apple and pressed his hand against the nearest tree. It was a tiny thing, one side of it worn away by the wind.

Euigeon watched him with wide, fascinated eyes.The stable boy ceased to breathe, so enthralled by the simple act. The magic hadn’t even-

“I can feel it,” Euigeon whispered, “I can hear it, the song. I can hear it through-”

The boy paused, embarrassed by his own words, but upon focusing his eyes “-our bond.”

Underneath his fingertips, the old song of the trees pressed against his eardrums. Chanyeol could hear it, innocent and soft.

“I’m looking for the Druids,” Chanyeol asked softly, “Where are they?”

Two hunters this way, and a ravenous six point.

“Which way?” Euigeon cocked his head.

Where the sun rises.

“West,” Euigeon and Chanyeol said simultaneously.

The King quickly gloved his hands, and mounted Apple again, “Let’s go.”

“That was amazing,” Euigeon said softly, “Can you hear animals too?”

“I can,” Chanyeol answered, unable to keep his face even, his lip quirked upward on its own. “That’s how I know that Promise hates me. That and the fact that she threw me twice.”

“Twice,” Euigeon smiled, eyes crinkling up with delight, and Chanyeol returned it, heart melting in his chest.

“You look so nice like that,” Euigeon said, before growing shy from his own words, “I mean you always look nice, but the smile, it’s-”

“Thank you,” Chanyeol cleared his throat, his whole body threatening to go limp. His backbone felt like it was made from warm, sweet custard.

They trotted on in silence, for another half hour, when the first bits of dark brown contrasted the wet, compact, white snow. They’d found the camp. Two people were already on their way to greet them.

There was a man with an animal skull on his head, lines of black on his cheeks, and a heavy, beautiful string of deer pelts around his shoulders. Beside him, there was a lesser adorned man, wearing a red-dyed leather vest over his furs. They seemed almost unaffected by the cold, their clothing a mere nod to the weather.

“Announcing the King of the Gap, of Sword Forge, and all Men,” Euigeon shouted in the name of diplomacy, “His Royal Highness, Park Chanyeol.”

“We do not honor such titles, my boy,” the more important of the two looked, “I am Suho, the last Dream Guardian of the last Dream Druid tribe.”

Euigeon dismounted from Promise, “I am Kang Euigeon, the only survivor of the Dark Horse Tribe of the Great North.”

“There are no survivors of the Dark Horse Tribe,” Suho answered, but his face was grave, as though he already believed him.

“I never wanted to come back here,” Euigeon said sternly, voice drowned by the furious winds, “But I must protect those I love.”

The stable boy stretched out his arm, rolling up his sleeve. There was a mark on his forearm, below the crease of his elbow, a blush color. It was the shape of a feather, a sharp-tipped writing quill.  

The Dream Guardian took the boy’s arms into his hands, pressing two thumbs into the mark. Both of their eyes went white, glowing with power. Euigeon looked almost blind this way.

Images played in Chanyeol’s mind, memories, terrible and dark, but not his. These were Euigeon’s memories, and he felt their ripple in the string that tied the two of them together.

There was a crying child, wearing a floral crown, trying to wake his parents. But no matter how hard he shook them, they remained in slumber, wasting away into skeletons. Then the boy found himself in the south, a little thing, wiping tables, from the early morning to late in the evening for room and board. His fingers ached, bleeding with splinters. So many nights, he cried himself to sleep.

Then finally, the Peder arrived to their little tavern, took an interest in the boy, and bought him off the keeper. They traveled all the way to Sword Forge. But the boy was scared, terrified of his new master, of the unknown. The Peder let him sleep in the stable with the horses. The boy loved the horses, the remnant of his wild past, of his true lineage.  

When the call came, the boy did not return to his home. Because the Peder had won his heart by then. He would never go home.

Chanyeol gasped when the vision cleared, and the snow appeared in his vision again. Euigeon jerked his hand away, cursing, “This is why I don’t come back. This magic, this is what killed our parents. But you use it so freely, worship that Dream God, who destroyed our lives.”

“That was a cruel thing you did,” Chanyeol spoke in low tones, “He is who he says he is.”

Suho looked from Euigeon to the King, “You saw it too. How? Are you-”

“Yes, I am,” Chanyeol said simply. He was his other half, plain and simple.

Euigeon’s face turned red, his eyes shining with tears, eyeing Suho hatefully “How dare you? He saw-”

Chanyeol pulled the stable boy into his embrace, soft furs and emblemed leathers. He buried his face in the crook of the Euigeon’s neck. He inhaled the heady scent, rocking the boy who’d gone slack in his arms.

“It changes nothing,” Chanyeol said softly, “If only to make me a better man, to know your pain, and love you more for it.”

“It’s just the ties,” Euigeon mumbled against him, not making any move to break away, “It’s not really you.”

“What are you talking about?” Suho shot him a strange look.

Euigeon broke away from Chanyeol’s chest, “The string is new. The King was not my other half before. I think the Dream God did this. I don’t know why.”

Suho understood just a little too quick. “How long?”

Chanyeol stepped forward, “A few days.”

Again, the Dream Guardian was too quick on the uptake, “Come with us.”

The two Druids led them through the camp. Chanyeol heard every whisper, every speculation.

“Isn’t that the Crown Prince?”

“It’s him. I’m sure of it.”

“Where is my brother?” Chanyeol asked as they walked, “I need to speak with him.”

“Your brother?” Suho tilted his head, “He’s not here.”

Jimin had left a day before him. If he wasn’t here, something bad must have happened. That meant that Jeonghwa and Jimin were both lost, possibly to the same spell. This was fucking bad.

“Fuck,” Chanyeol hissed.

“We can search for them,” Suho said quickly, “We’ll gather everyone in the evening, and find them with the collective Yana.”

Suho led them to a large tent, he held back the flap, ushering the King through.

“Baekhyun,” Suho addressed his second in command, “Can you watch them? I need to discuss something with the- with Euigeon.”

The second Druid nodded, eyeing Chanyeol and Euigeon curiously.

Chanyeol automatically held Euigeon’s sleeve, but let it go after a moment of consideration. “If you need my help, call my name.”

“Okay,” Euigeon nodded, eyes downcast. He left with the Dream Guardian, with a lingering gaze.

Chanyeol scanned the tent. There were several people in it, familiar faces, but not too familiar. It took a moment for the King to locate them from his memory. There was Kim Taehyung, the Sword of the Mountain. There was Kim Beom, the Tide of the Earth. There was Kim Chunhwa, the Clay Flower. There was also, surprisingly, Jeon Jungkook, the Golden Boy of the Twin Isles. There were additionally two hooded men, sitting close to one another.

“It is good to see the men of the Mountain again,” the King acknowledged the Kims, before turning to Jungkook, “And the boy of the sea.”

They all bowed, except Jungkook, who scrambled to his feet, pulling a white pelt from under him, offering it up, “My King, I have slain the Fox. I have avenged your brother, Your Highness.”

“My brother and sister are both gone,” Chanyeol admitted, not moving from his spot to accept the thing, the danger against the three of them never ceasing, “It was Blood Magic. I am looking for them now.”

Beom turned to one of the masked men, “Namjoon, can you try right now?”

Chanyeol’s interest piqued, “I don’t remember Kim Namjoon, Shield of the Mountain, having bright blue eyes.”

The masked Namjoon exchanged looks with the other covered man. They both revealed themselves hesitantly.

The first man had the face of Kim Namjoon, only colored with bright blue eyes and rose golden hair. The second man was - he must have been - Kim Seokjin, the Knight of the Forest, but he was changed. He was-

They both covered themselves again.

“What magic is this?” Chanyeol managed, taking a seat since his legs were already giving way.

“They’ve both taken Fairy’s magic into their making,” Beom said dismissively, “It is the same magic that runs through you, Your Majesty.”

This was- could be exactly what the King needed, “You said he could do something, find my brother and sister?”

Namjoon nodded, surprised by the King’s reaction, “I’ll try.”

The man’s eyes went white, just like the Dream Druids. He stayed that way for a long while, the fingers of his right hand rubbing together as if checking for something. When he came too, he was winded. Kim Seokjin kept his cousin supported as he spoke.

“Your brother is close by, on his way here,” Namjoon said with a labored wheeze, “Your sister is far away, far, far, far north, in a place where there are trees dressed in gold, Your Highness.”

The Morning Keep, Chanyeol had been imprisoned there once. It became clear who’d used the Blood Magic on them. It’d been him all along. He’d never let go. The Spider, he’d told Chanyeol himself.

You are mine.

“I know where she is,” Chanyeol announced, “I should have known all along.”

Beom eyed him curiously, questions seemed to swirl in his mind, “If you are here? Who is holding the Forge?”

“The Peder is,” Chanyeol answered, “and my trusted advisor, Kyungsoo. I will forgive this slight since you have aided me. You will address me as Your Majesty.”

Beom scoffed, “The Horse God is not to be trusted, Your Majesty. And the Peder, he is even worse.”

The Peder was a man of peace. He was loyal to a fault and gentle beyond his years.

“How dare speak ill of the Peder,” Chanyeol’s voice was the edge of a knife, “How dare you speak ill of Kyungsoo?”

“What do you know of the Peder,” Beom replied, “He comes from nowhere. His past is nothing. Yet, he holds such great power in his hands, the faith of many people. Does that not cause you any concern?”

“Forgive my father,” Sir Namjoon spoke up, pushing the older man behind him, “He is not a knight, mind you. He has an itch for petty things, Your Majesty.”

This would be a battle for another time.

“You have helped your Crown, Kim Namjoon,” Chanyeol stood, “I won’t forget that. If you’d excuse me.”

Chanyeol felt a strange urgency to get back to Euigeon. He trudged through the snow, to where his heart led him. He saw Suho and Euigeon in a particularly dense patch of trees.

“Where have you been all this time?” Suho whispered, “We searched for you in Yana, for your light. But there was nothing.”

Chanyeol hid. He was not proud of it but he hid. This seemed a private thing. He pressed himself against a tree, quiet on his feet, unheard by the two.

“The light on the hill does not see the one in the sea,” Euigeon answered simply.

“You’re our Crown Prince,” Suho continued, “You can not go back. Your people need you.”

“I won’t stay,” Euigeon said, “As soon as you locate the Firefly and the Princess, I’m leaving with the King to search for them.”

“Your place is here,” Suho whispered.

“I know my place,” Euigeon replied coldly, “Just leave me. Be gone and vex me no more.”

Suho paused a moment before shuffling away. Euigeon stood there in the silence for a long while. His breathing was the only marker that he was still there. Chanyeol grew stiff from standing against the tree.

“I know you’re there, Dragonfly,” Euigeon called in the darkness.

Damn




 

Yoongi

Jimin slept so peacefully that it almost hurt Yoongi to wake him up. His small frame disappeared against the heavy layers of furs. There was a moment where the Wolf in him wanted to stay here forever, build a nest, and live out their days like this. But it was not their destiny.

“Firefly?” Yoongi called, softly carding a hand through the boy’s silver fringe.

Jimin’s bright eyes fluttered awake, one green and the other an unsettling rainbow. He looked confused for a moment, sleep heavy on his features. Then he recognized Yoongi, and a joyful, warm smile bloomed on his lips.

Maybe they should just stay here forever.

“We’re packing today,” Jimin sat up, stretching his body, his bones cracking at the joints.

“We are,” Yoongi answered through a locked jaw.

“What’s wrong?” Jimin cocked his head, reaching his hand out.

Yoongi placed his cheek against the Firefly’s palm, letting the heat bleed through. Jimin was well again, warm and bright-eyed. There was no more delaying their journey.

“I don’t want to leave,” Yoongi admitted, “I feel so safe here, just the two of us.”

Jimin softly caressed the pale man’s cheek with his thumb, “I know. But, we can’t. If there is a War coming, I want to be ready. So I can protect my people and… you.”

“I don’t need protecting, Firefly,” Yoongi smiled, flashing his gums.

“I’m not sure how it was before,” Jimin shook his head, “But I can see that you do need it. You’re gentle on the inside. So I will protect you.”

Yoongi wanted to kiss Jimin, press his mouth against the Prince’s. But Jimin turned away, flushing.

“I can’t,” Jimin whispered, “I’m sorry. I feel it but I don’t remember. It just seems a cheap thing, a falsehood that I can’t hold you to. Do you understand?”

Yoongi understood. Well, his mind did. His heart was a different beast.

“I know,” Yoongi moved away, red-faced. The Wolf busied himself with packing up camp.

Mushroom and Frostbite both seemed ready to move on. They’d been restless the entire three days. Yoongi rolled the furs and tied them to Frostbite’s saddles. He didn’t appreciate it. He was already carrying the Firefly armor which Jimin refused to wear.

It had no backplate and was utterly useless in Jimin’s eyes. Yoongi told him that he had wings, which caused the Prince to laugh. He’d forgotten about his own wings. That was reason enough to go. Perhaps the Dream Druids could help Jimin recall the many months he’d lost.

Two set off on into the mild winter morning, a slow pace. Frostbite walked of his own volition, with no one to guide his reigns. Yoongi turned into the Pale Wolf, half smoke, with bright blue eyes. It was still easier this way. His sense of smell was better as a wolf. He could track for miles.

Besides Jimin, the sweet and the bitter, he could also detect humans far off to the northwest. Human,s as a group, smelled like cut wood and animal blood. They walked for hours, the scent growing stronger with every league.

“They’re close,” Yoongi barked.

“I-I don’t know what you’re saying?” Jimin sighed, “Are you hungry, boy?”

Oh right, Jimin had forgotten that too.

It was then that Yoongi caught a familiar scent on the wind. The Wolf burst forward, turning once to make sure that Jimin was following. He was, but Mushroom was simply not as fast. Yoongi banked hard in the snow when the wind changed directions.

He could hear a conversation, two people in the distant, yelling, deep voices. But, what was he even doing out here?

“Dragonfly!,” Yoongi barked.

The conversation paused.

“Yoongi!,” Chanyeol called out.

Yoongi ran until his lungs were on fire. Finally, two men came into view, the Dragonfly and the stable boy. He’d thought that Chanyeol was in danger, captured by his Grandfather. The Spider had said, ‘One is better than none.’ Yoongi’d been so worried that ‘one’ was Chanyeol.

The Wolf tackled the King to the ground, tail wagging from left to right.

“What are you doing here?” Yoongi yipped, “How did you get here before us? Jimin was- something happened to him. It was-”

“It was Blood Magic,” Chanyeol pressed his hand against Yoongi’s flank, running it with the fur, “Where’s Jimin? Did my Grandfather get him?”

“He’s fine,” Yoongi barked, confused as to why Chanyeol already knew, “He’s okay. But- well, you’ll see.”

Jimin thundered over the horizon, coming to a standstill as he spied Yoongi and his brother. He trotted the rest of the way, a wary look in his eye. He hopped off the mare and walked over to them. Before Yoongi could react, Jimin grabbed him, gently yanking him off of Chanyeol by his fur.

“I swear, brother,” Jimin said evenly, “I will punch you in the throat. We are not children anymore, and you will not take what I love from me.”

Yoongi whined submissively, his fur still caught in Jimin’s tiny fist. It didn’t hurt so much as it- Well, it really didn’t fucking hurt. But that was bad because, as a wolf, he couldn't really hide if he was excited.

Chanyeol stood up from the ground, caution in every movement, “What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s forgotten everything since the Hunt,” Yoongi answered, “He’s back to detesting you. I mean, I’m not sure if he ever stopped.”

“Yoongi, I don’t know what you’re saying,” Jimin hissed, “Turn back into a man.”

“Right now?” Chanyeol flushed pink, clearly just as horrified at the prospect, “He said that you don’t remember anything and that you hate me.”

Jimin’s expression was defiantly pensive, “Alright, well, are you going to help me or are you gonna keep looking at me with that stupid, arrogant face.”

Chanyeol scoffed. He smiled but the gesture was poisonous.

“Y-You don’t remember anything,” Euigeon spoke up.

Jimin cocked his head, confusion growing on his face, “What are you doing here?”

He let Yoongi go and gave his best friend a hearty hug. It took the longer part of an hour for Euigeon and Chanyeol to explain their situation, and for Jimin to respond.

They moved to the big tent which housed the Dream Guardian, who smelled like Summer flowers, which was eerily odd being that it was Winter. The Kim Family had also made it there, Beom sending bemused glances over at Yoongi every so often, who’d already changed back at that point.

By the time that everyone was caught up, they were even more confused than before. But one thing was clear. Someone was playing them like puppets on a string.

“How shall we rescue my sister?” Jimin rubbed his chin.

“What about your memory?” Yoongi flagged the Prince. “You’re gonna need it if you’re doing this Dream training.”

“If your sister is with the Spider in the North,” Beom answered, “There are ways that she can be recovered. The Webweaver is not as strong as he thinks. He has two weaknesses, his sister’s Mooncast and full moons. Imagine spelling him with a Mooncast on a full moon. It’d probably kill him.”

“Only Moon Faires can spell Mooncast,” Jimin said, “Do you know of any Moon Fairies?”

Beom rubbed his temples exasperatedly, “So many things have happened. I forgot that piece.”

Kim Seokjin, the dangerous one with piercing golden eyes, uncovered his face. He was glowing, breathtakingly beautiful, “I’m the Shadow Glass’ son.”

Fuck… just fuck.

“I guess, I can learn,” Seokjin said after a moment of tension-filled silence. The boy quickly covered himself back up. “I want to help.”

They formed a plan, a trick, to cut the threads of a Spider’s web. Once it was set, there was only one question remaining of everyone’s mind. The King was the one to voice it, just a second before Yoongi.

“So if Jimin and Sir Namjoon are both marked, and they both fit the description, ” Chanyeol said slowly, seemingly relieved that he was in fact, not the Peace Bringer himself, “Who’s the Peace Bringer?”

Suho’s eyes flickered between the two, mouth twisted in a frown, “I have known the Dream God all my life. So I do not say this lightly.”

Yoongi leaned forward, heart beating fast. He prayed, ‘Please let it not be Jimin’. They could go back to the cave one day, live a life of peace and-

“I-I think they both are,” Suho finished.




Jeonghwa

Jeonghwa awoke in a soft, luxurious bed, just like the one she’d fallen asleep on. Today was the day of the Hunt. She needed to get ready. When she opened her eyes, that’s when everything changed. She realized, she was not in her bed or in her room.

Bright, golden light cast through a colored-glass window. Two of the four walls looked to be made by the continuous bark of a large tree, the other two were gold, pure gold. The floors were wood, a single slab, with age lines swirling under feet. Cups lined the walls, and books, and beautiful wooden figurines-

She was not alone.

There was a man watching her, with bright green eyes and long silver hair- No, it was not a man. He was too beautiful to be a man.

“Hello, there,” the Fairy leaned back, “Did you sleep well, Ladybug?”

No one had called her Ladybug in well over twenty years. The last time was Chanyeol, when he was a mere six years old, and still a good brother. But things were changed now.

“Who are you?” Jeonghwa scrambled to the farthest corner of the bed, “How do you know my name?”

“Your brother told me about you,” the man sighed, eyes suddenly wistful, “Dragonfly.”

“Well, it’s not Ladybug anymore,” Jeonghwa frowned, “It’s Jeonghwa, and you will address me as Your Highness.”

“Honey Bee- Your mother named you after me,” the man cocked his head, “My name is Jeonghan, but just call me- I am your grandfather, and you do not need to go by titles with me.”

“G-Grandfather,” Jeonghwa seemed less afraid, “You? You’re the King of the Forest?”

“Ah, so Dragonfly told you about me?” her Grandfather tilted his head, smiling sweetly.

“No,” Jeonghwa answered, “I learned nothing from him. He stopped trying to teach me a long time ago. I read my mother’s journals. They were filled with histories of the Fairies.”

“Ah, I see,” her Grandfather kept his distance, sitting in the chair in the other corner. “She used her power. I’d like to see those one day.”

“Her power?” Jeonghwa scooted forward.

“Your mother could see into the past,” the man explained, “It was her Fairy’s power. You have one too. Just like your brother’s hearing.”

“I don’t think I have one,” Jeonghwa got out of the bed, holding the sheets around her, “I’m not sure.”

“Are you cold, Ladybug?” the man said gently. He walked over to a dresser and pulled out an exceedingly long, heavy, golden robe. He handed it to Jeonghwa and went back to his seat on the far side of the room, “All Royal Fairies have a special power. It is in our making.”

“Oh,” Jeonghwa covered her mouth, “I read about it in my mother’s journal. Your father was the Dream Weaver, his power is-”

“I-I do not like talking about my father,” her Grandfather frowned, “You must think so ill of me. I hate my father. He is not a good man.”

Jeonghwa did not like her own father that much either. She understood that feeling.

“No, I-I don’t think badly of you,” Jeonghwa said gently, “Our parentage does not become us.”

“Yes, I know,” her Grandfather laughed bitterly, “Sweet girl.”

“Wh-Why did you bring me here?” Jeonghwa asked, “I have somewhere to be today. It’s the annual Hunt. I must go see the Knights off.”

The man paused for a moment, a look of confusion crossed his features but it vanished, “I-I wanted to save you. I thought maybe you were not happy at that iron castle, so I brought you here. But I can bring you back. I’ll just get a horse for you.”

The man got up and turned to leave.

“Wait,” Jeonghwa shouted, “I-I’m not happy there. It’s miserable. Nobody cares about me. I’m just a thing to marry off, for someone’s political gain. I mean nothing.”

“Then,” the man’s voice was hopeful, joyful, “Will you stay here with me? I will teach you how to find your power?”

“What about my brothers?” Jeonghwa asked.

“I’ve met Dragonfly before,” her grandfather nodded, “But he didn’t like it here. I told him that it was dangerous to leave but he left anyway.”

Jeonghwa didn’t remember a time that Chanyeol was gone. Maybe it was something magical, or perhaps it had happened during his Princely travels.

“Dangerous?” Jeonghwa cocked her head.

“There’s a war coming,” the beautiful man nodded, “The War of Days. I wanted your brothers to be here. I’d give anything to protect them. But they are free to do as they wish.”

“But Jimin,” Jeonghwa frowned, “I-I want to try to convince him? Can you bring me to him?”

“I can’t….” the man answered defeatedly, “I cannot leave the Sunwoods. But I can lend you my horse. Only-”

A pained expression crossed his face. It made Jeonghwa cry inwardly for him.

“I’m so lonely here,” the man said softly, tears falling from his face, “I’m afraid to let you go. What if something happens to you? I don’t think I could bear such a thing.”

Jeonghwa was moved. She crossed the distance and hugged her grandfather, “I’ll stay. Don’t cry. I won’t leave you here.”

“I never thought I’d fall in love with a mortal,” the man choked, holding Jeonghwa, “It’s been so painful watching all my children die like this. I just want you all safe. I want you to live.”

“I’ll stay,” Jeonghwa repeated like a prayer, gently patting the man’s back.

“I will teach you everything I know,” the man whispered back, “And you will live forever, I promise.”

Jeonghwa parted from the man, “I wish we would have found you sooner, me and Jimin. He’s been even lonelier than I. He looks just like you, same hair and eyes. Our people hate him.”

“I tried to get him here,” her grandfather replied, “But my magic was not strong enough. Perhaps you could write him a letter? He can make it here on his own. I’ll even draw him a map, so he can find the Sun’s Keep.”

“That’s a good idea,” Jeonghwa chirped.

Her stomach rumbled, cutting off her thoughts. Her grandfather laughed, “Ah, you must be hungry. Let’s get some breakfast first, sweet girl.”

The man led her down the twisting steps. There was a large room, with a long table, filled with savory-smelling breads, and whole roasted birds. It was mouthwatering just to look at it.

A tall, beautiful elf bowed when he sighted them, “Your Exalted Highness.” He turned to Jeonghwa, “Your Majesty.”

He seated and served them. Jeonghwa was starving. Every bite was delicious. The fruit was the sweetest she’d ever tasted, the ale, the most satisfying. The servant poured something glittering and golden into her grandfather’s goblet.

“What’s that?” Jeonghwa asked.

“Ah, it’s Fairy wine,” her grandfather smiled, “It’s very good. But- it might change the color of your hair and eyes. You are mortal, so-”

“Really,” Jeonghwa exclaimed, picking the cup up and inspecting the liquid further, “Mother’s hair was pink, a soft pink. If I drink this, will my hair turn pink? Or silver like Jimin’s?”

“Do you not mind?” her grandfather laughed, “Pink hair is not for everyone. Silver is also quite a change, I often wonder if I should dye my hair black.”

Her grandfather’s hair was stunning as it was.

“No, no, perish the thought,” Jeonghwa chided, “Your hair is beautiful as it is.”

“Well if you don’t mind,” the man smiled, “You’re welcome to try.”

Jeonghwa swirled the glittering liquid in the cup and smiled. She tipped it into her mouth and drained the thing.



Chapter Text

 

 

Hoseok

Hoseok swam away as fast as he could. It took him the larger half of an hour to convince himself that he wasn’t being followed. He didn’t know where he was exactly, but the dark, inky waters told him that he was somewhere near the Twin Isles. It was the last place he wanted to be.

His heart beat against his chest, pounding against his rib cage. He was alone, with no one to help him, and nowhere to go. He didn’t feel free. He was no one, faceless. It was so terrifying that Hoseok wept, and the sea washed it away. There was no one in the world that cared about him.

Jinki and Taemin would probably want nothing to do with him now. Not after everything they’d gone through. His father had ruined his only chance at connecting with someone else. All was lost.

In the darkness Hoseok heard the song, carrying on the water. As soon as he dipped his head under the sea, softy notes caressed his body. He heard singing. That’s when he remembered Jinki’s words. If he wanted to communicate over the distance of the ocean, all he had to do was sing. His song would carry.

Someone was trying to speak with him. Someone out there wanted to know where he was. Even if it wasn’t meant for him, Hoseok would be glad for the company, another mermaid, or merman. But secretly, Hoseok hoped, it’d be Jinki and Taemin, wishing to find him.

It was barely anything and yet it was enough. He could live with just that.

With a flick of his tail he set off in the direction of the singing.  At the setting of the sun, Hoseok realized he was going west of south.

The further he swam, the more the singing intensified. In the water Hoseok could see a light, adorning the ocean floor. When he’d reached the bedrock, he saw a glowing city, illuminated by mermaid tails, and other luminous creatures.

Hoseok found that he couldn’t swim directly into the city from above. There was something stopping him. He couldn’t see it, but it was there, like the clearest glass. The merman swam around looking for an entrance way.

He found two guards set by a pair of stone gates, eyeing him warily.

“Who are ya?” the first one said, “I’ve never seen you before.”

Hoseok tried to speak only, nothing he said came out correct. It just sounded like gurgles. Then he tried to sing. It worked but the tone carried no meaning.

“What the fuck,” the second guard scratched his head, “What’s wrong with him.”

“I don’t think he he’s been spelled yet,” the first guard looked at him warily.

“I’ll do it,” the second guard raised his hand.

He pressed his two finger tips against Hoseok’s neck, and whispered something. A moment later, a searing heat pressed against his adam’s apple.

“I-I’m a new mermaid,” Hoseok explained, finally being understood, “I ate the scale of a Fish God to escape from the Drunken Island. My name’s-”

“We’ll you can’t come in here,” Guard two said, circling around him, “You’re cursed.”

Hoseok did feel like he was cursed,  but that was probably not what they meant.

“Cursed?”

“On ya’h back,” the first man pointed, “Be the Chaotic Mark!”

“I’ve had this since I was a baby,” Hoseok turned his head to get a better look at it. “What’s a Chaotic Mark?”

“It be the Dream God’s call, the Chaotic Pen,” the man folded his arm, “He wants ya. Marked ya off.”

Hoseok was extremely worried now. He always thought that the mark was shaped like a clam shell.

“What do I do?” Hoseok asked.

The two of them shrugged, “Dunno.”

“Ummm, I’m looking for two people,” Hoseok asked, “Jinki and Taemin. A ship Captain and his little brother. Have they been here?”

“Never heard of them.” the first guard narrowed his eye suspiciously, “Who exactly are ya, boy?”

“Jung Hoseok,” he answered.

“Jung Hoseok,” the second guard gasped, “Son of Jung Mul.”

“Look, I’m not like my father,” Hoseok raised his hands in defense, “I despise the man.”

“W-Wait here,” the second guard said, worried all of sudden that Hoseok might vanish, “Wait here!”

Hoseok felt anxious. He wanted to run. What was with that sudden exit?

“What’s going on?” he asked the guard that remained.

“Ya mum!” the guard huffed, “She’s here. Talks about ya all the time!”

“My mother is dead,” Hoseok shook his head.

“No, she’s alive,” the guard shook his head, “I saw her just yesterday.”

Hoseok waited for a while, growing more hopeful and nervous with each minute.

“When I was a baby, she drowned in the sea?” Hoseok bit his lip nervously.

“She ate a Fish God scale just like ya,” the guard explained, “Always wanted to see ya, always wanted. But she’s afraid of that man. Ya’h dad.”

Hoseok ran a hand through his hair, which immediately started floating like tendrils again afterward. He was going to meet his mother. He wished he looked nicer.

A moment later, the guard returned. There was a beautiful woman following him, and a whole procession of soldiers. The woman, his mother, was completely adorned in jewels from the crown of her head to the tip of her bright orange tail.

She looked exactly like him. It was as if he were looking into a mirror.

“Hoseok?” the woman studied him with wide wanting eyes, just happy to look at him. “Is it you?”

“I’m Jung Hoseok,” he confirmed.

The woman reached out for him but lost her nerve at the last moment, letting her hand fall. “I’m so sorry, I never came back for you. I wanted to. But the pain. I am a coward. I know it.”

“It’s okay,” Hoseok cried, “I thought you were dead. I’m not sure how to feel right now.”

“My name is Eun Chae. I’m- I’m your mother,” the woman said, eyes red, voice breaking.

“I know,” Hoseok felt frozen to the spot.

“Oh ya moss stones,” the guard cursed, “Hug each other already.”

Hoseok threw his arms around the woman. She was so small in his embrace. Her whole body was shaking as she cried, “I missed you so much, my baby, my little baby boy.”

One of the guards cried, but one couldn’t be sure because they were in the sea. “Oh, I love happy endings.”

“But what about the curse, Mi’lady?” the other guard exclaimed.

The woman took a long while to pull herself together, laughing, crying. When she finally managed to die it down to an occasional sniffle, she addressed the guard, “What curse?”

“I’m marked by a - Dream God?” Hoseok said. The guard confirmed with a nod.

The Knight pointed at the thing on his back. The woman studied it with shrewd eyes, “It’s a birthmark. It’s not the Dream God’s mark. He’s had it since he was born.”

“Ya sure, Mi’lady?” the guard asked.

“I am,” she replied quickly, “Come, son. Let’s get inside. There’s so much to talk about.”

Hoseok took his mother’s hand. Together they swam through the gate.

Hoseok had been a liar all his life. He could tell when another person was lying to him. His own mother was lying to protect him. He was cursed, he’d find out to what extent.


 

 

Jimin

“How’s it work?” Jimin asked, eyeing the brew suspiciously. It was called the Seeker’s tea. It was apparently the first step to his Druid training.

Upon the revelation that he was one of the Peace Bringers, the Dream Guardian ordered the drink to be made. It smelled absolutely foul. Yoongi couldn’t stand being within ten feet of the bubbling cauldron.

“This will make you fall asleep,” The Dream Guardian said, “Help you find your totem. It’ll be some type of bird feather.”

“Mine is a dove’s feather,” Namjoon piped up, “I think yours might be one too.”

“Why?” Jimin tilted his head.

“Doves are the symbol of peace, Your Highness,” Joon answered, “At least that’s my logic.”

Yoongi was standing in the distance, looking like very lost.

“Why doesn’t he just come over here,” Chanyeol grumbled.

“It’s the smell,” Jimin smiled fondly, “Isn’t that funny? He’s afraid of a pot of water.”

“Your memories are also locked inside your mind,” the Dream Guardian moved on, “The Seeker’s dream should set you straight.”

“Hopefully,” Jimin bit his lip. He wanted to truly remember Yoongi. The Wolf was so much more in love with him. It wasn’t fair. The way he looked at Jimin with those eyes. They held a history. There was warmth there.

Jimin took his cup of tea and walked over to Yoongi. The Wolf started holding his nose as the Prince approached. His voice came out all muffled,

“Ugg, I can’t. Stay over there,” Yoongi complained.

Jimin laughed, “I just wanted to say that I’ll be back. Wait for me.”

Yoongi looked at the boy with something swirling in his blue eyes. He smiled, then he pulled the Prince in for a crushing hug.

“I’m afraid that when you remember everything,” Yoongi whispered, “You won’t feel the same way anymore. It was easier this time. Because I already knew that I- I loved you.”

A confession, here and now, it both gave Jimin the strength to go on and unnerved him at the same time.

“I don’t remember, but I have the faith,” Jimin smiled, “Even if I didn’t love you before, I love you now. And-”

Jimin kissed Yoongi on the cheek, “I know you’d be able to make me fall for you again.”

The Prince drank the foul liquid in a single gulp. In the next eye blink, everything faded away.

Everything became a blank canvas. The sky was like paper, and so was the ground the Jimin stood on.

“I’m looking for my totem,” Jimin shouted. His voice carried over the distance.

There was no answer for an unknowable time.

What totem do you seek? Does it seek you?

“Hurry, I want to see Yoongi again,” Jimin hisses, “I don’t have time for this.”

You’re wide awake. I’m the one that’s dreaming… always and forever.

Jimin’s body goes rigid. Namjoon warned him that the Dream God could appear.

“I know I’m dreaming,” Jimin’s voice was hard.

There’s nothing for miles, no eye, nothing. There’s just a voice in his head.

Not long. He will return to you.

Jimin has no idea what the Dream God is saying. He just needs his totem. What if he doesn’t find his totem, what will happen to him?

You wake up.

“If I am the Peace Bringer,” Jimin said through a clenched jaw, “Give me my totem or set me free.”

A bright red splotch appeared in the distance growing larger and larger. It wasn’t a dove’s feather, like Joon had said. This was the red feather of cardinal. It was the bird of war.

How fitting

Jimin woke up in a gasp, clutching a red feather in his hand. He’d been resting in a tent. It was oddly warm for winter.

Suho had said the feather would be a symbol of the Dream state. If he still had the feather with him-

“I’m still dreaming,” Jimin huffed.

The Prince looked around. He was back at the day of the Hunt. This was his last real memory. There was the smell of lemon still in the air.

Jimin got up and rushed outside, only to find that he was already in the middle of the Moonwoods, jumping through the events.

He remembered.

There he was, another him, clad in green, an arrow drawn and aimed. There was Yoongi too, looking tense, ready for the bite.

“I shot him in the leg,” Jimin huffed.

I weaved your destinies together like you asked. This was the day. I will give you this one chance to change your fate, to change your feather.

Jimin didn’t understand. But suddenly the memory flooded into his mind. He’d met the God before. He remembered striking a deal with him.

He can live. To string a new thread will be hard. Your life is already set, one that is filled with prosperity, but should you tie your fates together, sweet will turn to bitter.

“I remember,” Jimin said, “Save him.”

Save him

Jimin didn’t understand the meaning until he saw the last arrow fly in slow motion. It wasn’t aimed for his leg. It was going to hit him right in the heart.

“B-But that’s not what happened,” Jimin protested.

The arrow still kept going, until Jimin reached forward and flicked it off course. It moved. He moved it. A moment later it hit Yoongi in the leg, just as before.

“What-”

Jimin gasped awake, clutching at nothing. The feather in his hand was gone. He was awake.

“Firefly,” Yoongi was holding his hand, looking much more tired than when he’d seen him last.

How long had it been? Surely not more than a few hours?

“Yoongi?” Jimin said weakly. His whole body felt strange, tingly. As he tried to move it, it felt too heavy to move.

“You’ve been asleep for two days,” Yoongi cried, “I was so worried.”

“I-I remember,” Jimin smiled, using all his strength to sit up.

“You remember?” Yoongi cocked his head, “Everything? All the fighting?”

Jimin laughed, “Yes. I’m sorry I called you a fleabag so many times.”

Yoongi looked dead serious, “Do- Do you still feel the same about me?”

“You mean,” Jimin beamed, “Do I still love you?”

“Do you?” Yoongi looked so worried.

“Yes, stupid,” Jimin answered. He laughed bright and high, “I love you.”

Yoongi grabbed Jimin’s face and pressed a passionate kiss on his lips.

It was as if the entire world stilled.


 

 

Yoongi

It was as if the entire world stilled.

Jimin kissed him urgently, pulling on his shirt for leverage. Yoongi had to control his baser instincts and push the Prince away.

“You need to eat and drink something,” the Wolf growled, “Hold on. I’ll get you some food.”

Yoongi went outside, thankful for the cold, trotted over to the main tent, grabbed a bowl of stew and a mug of tea.

“He’s awake,” Yoongi’s tone was cutting.

Chanyeol opened his mouth.

“Don’t bother us,” Yoongi spat, “I’m just warning you now. I’m a wolf first and a man second.”

“Take some bread too,” the Dragonfly said finally, balancing a loaf in Yoongi’s angled arms.

“Thanks,” the pale man grumbled before making his way back.

Jimin was in a state of undress when Yoongi returned. The pale man flushed bright pink at the sight.

“What are you doing?” Yoongi averted his eyes to the ground.

“I’m changing,” Jimin sighed, “I wish to bathe first, but it’s too cold.”

Yoongi set the food down on a long wooden plank that served as a table. “Wait here.”

“Where are you-”

The wolf walked over to the campfire and took one off the kettles off the thing, using a piece of cloth to handle the sides.

“Hey, where are you going with my hot wa-”

Yoongi jogged back over to Jimin’s tent. He was still partially undressed, now drinking the soup and eating the bread. It relieved Yoongi to no end, watching Jimin finish his meal.

“How are you feeling?” Yoongi asked as he poured the stolen water into a basin.

“My head still hurts,” Jimin smiled, “But… I remember that time we looked up at the stars together. So it’s worth it I guess.”

Yoongi returned Jimin’s soft expression, flashing his gums. He shook himself from the stupor after a moment, “You said you wanted to bathe. I brought you some hot water. It’s not really a Prince’s-”

“It’s fine,” Jimin walked over and held Yoongi in his arms, his chest bare, “Thank you for taking care of me all this time, even when I didn’t remember.”

Yoongi returned the hug, pressing his nose into the column of Jimin’s neck, “I was so worried, waiting for you to wake up. I yelled at everyone in the camp. I don’t think anyone wants to be near me anymore.”

Jimin laughed, kissing Yoongi’s shoulder. “I do.”

“I should go and let you clean up,” the wolf’s face was a warm blush pink.

“Actually,” Jimin sighed, “You might have to help me, like when I was sick. I feel weak.”

Yoongi remembered how things had gone down when they were stuck in the cave. Jimin had been gravely sick. Yoongi had had to take care of him, in plenty of intimate ways. But it was different then. Jimin didn’t remember him. And Yoongi was polite enough close his eyes.

“You can look this time,” Jimin whispered in his ear.

Yoongi felt warm despite the cold. Before he could say anything, Jimin stripped down completely before his eyes.

Yoongi looked. He looked as much as his eyes let him. He looked, trying to get his fill, and realized he could never get full.

Jimin’s body was perfect, or maybe the man was perfect and the body just followed. He was hard and soft in all the right places, strong and flexible-

“You’re staring,” Jimin laughed, “My wolf.”

Yoongi’s head was buzzing as he rinsed the cloth in the hot water. “Y-You should sit down. It’ll be easier that way.”

Jimin sat atop a large the mound of furs that made his bed, “Okay.”

Yoongi started with Jimin’s arms first. The arms were easy, something that gave Yoongi a focus point that was away from the-

Jimin pressed a quick kiss to Yoongi’s jawline.

“Jimin?” the pale man huffed.

“Keep going,” Jimin cooed, voice thick.

Yoongi rinsed out the cloth and washed Jimin’s back, and his chest from behind. These were fairly easy points too. Looking at Jimin’s back meant that he didn’t have to look at Jimin’s front.

“That feels good,” Jimin sighed. Yoongi growled at that, unable to stop himself.

Yoongi circled around to the front and worked on Jimin’s legs, rinsing the cloth out a final time. Jimin had nice, strong legs, fat, supple thighs. His skin was so smooth-

Then, Yoongi saw it. It was a lot bigger than he expected. The Prince was hard and wanting and looking at him intensely for a reaction.

“Can I?” Yoongi asks, cloth clutched tight in a fist.

“Yes,” Jimin cocks his head.

Yoongi pressed the cloth against the hardness. Jimin tossed his head back with a sharp intake, his eyes half closed. “Ah.” The Wolf squared his shoulders, feeling a bit more daring. He moved the cloth downward, rubbing quick circles against Jimin’s entrance.

“Fuck,” he hissed, “Yes.”

Yoongi abandoned the cloth, tossing it away. His hands were roaming Jimin’s flanks. The wolf wanted to worship every inch of this body. He wanted to see Jimin come undone underneath him. The pale man lowered himself down and claimed the Prince’s mouth again.

“I want you,” Jimin said, voice high and breathless, “Be with me. Be with me. Hurry.”

Yoongi quickly shrugged off his clothing. He wanted to be close to this man, his Firefly. He wanted to make him feel good and quick. “I love you.”

“I-I love you too,” Jimin huffed, “Hurry, please.”

Yoongi ground against Jimin, not sure what he was doing. He had never been with anyone before. He’d spent most of his life as a wolf. He barely knew anything and what little he did know seemed like it’d hurt the Prince.

“I-I,” Yoongi swallowed his embarrassment, “I’ve never- before.”

Jimin blinked a few times before he flushed, “M-Me too. I haven’t either.”

“I’m not sure how,” Yoongi frowned, still running his heated fingertips up and down Jimin’s body.

‘Go slow,” Jimin finally said as if fighting himself. He put two of Yoongi’s fingers into his mouth, coating them with saliva. Yoongi almost came undone from that alone. The Prince guided his fingers downward until they caught on his entrance.

It was so intimate. Jimin had such trust in his eyes, as he sat back, opening himself up, “Slowly.”

Yoongi rubbed a single finger against it, just feeling for the give. It earned him a moan. “Yes, just like that.”

“You’ll tell me if-if I’m hurting you?” Yoongi asked, voice soft. Jimin nodded, his whole body a soft pink. His eyes were filled with a loving awe. Yoongi felt so unworthy of it.

“I-I can’t wait anymore,” Jimin huffed, “Please.”

Yoongi slotted his finger inside, feeling the Prince tense around. It was a tight fit. Fuck, it felt so warm. “Ah-”

It was too dry, not enough to let him through. Yoongi slowly pulled his finger out. He needed a little more- The Wolf pressed his tongue against the ring of muscle, gently working it over. A mix of curses and praises fell from Jimin’s lips, “Y-You said you never did this before.”

Yoongi could barely fight it. Something was taking over. It was instinct, primal and raw, and hungry. Jimin was something special to him, his other half.

He was his mate.

Yoongi’s body shuddered. He didn’t know what he wanted but he just wanted all of it. He wanted Jimin to be his, somehow, somehow. His head swirled with wild thoughts, as he took Jimin’s sizable length into his mouth.

More whines, pleas, that made Yoongi’s blood boil in desperate heat. But he wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more noises.

“Ah, so good,” Jimin groaned, “Oh please, I want you.”

He tasted so good. Yoongi’s imagination paled in comparison. Whatever he thought Jimin tasted like before, it was lost to him now in face of the real thing. His soft body felt so right pressed against his, heaving, needing him. The wolf wasn’t exactly sure what he wanted to do yet. But it was getting clearer in his mind.

He needed to be closer

“Wait, I can’t,” Jimin begged, “Please, not without you.”

Yoongi continued his ministrations, confused by himself. He just had to. He needed to hear Jimin come undone, writhing against his mouth. He felt Jimin go rigid, cry out, and burst of wetness hit the back of his throat. When the wolf finally let him go, Jimin’s eyes were glittering, “I-I… I want-”

The Prince was hazy, forehead sweaty from exertion, eyes glazed over. He looked so pretty like that. But Yoongi wasn’t satisfied, he wanted more. His wolf squirmed inside desperate for something. He peppered kisses on Jimin’s chest, his neck, his jawline.

“Ah fuck,” Jimin keened, “I’m sorry, I-I-I-” The Prince was incoherent, lost in his pleasure. Yoongi loved that. He wanted to see Jimin like that. He wanted to keep it going, work Jimin over until he was a complete mess.

Yoongi was burning up with heat. The time was near, for what, he wasn’t sure. But it felt like two large things colliding in his mind. It was something important, something loud, something utterly necessary. Jimin wrapped his legs around Yoongi’s torso. He was tired, Yoongi could tell, but he was still ready to please, eager even. It made Yoongi feel famished, completely ravenous.

The Wolf lined himself up, and slowly filled Jimin up with a languid easing of his hips, “Ah, fuck, yes.”

“Such a good boy, taking me in so well,” Yoongi growled. Jimin replied with a needy whimper.

Yoongi rocked against him slowly. He wanted to build Jimin back up again, and see him come apart one more time. The heat, the exquisite pleasure of being inside him, it all swirled in his mind, making him wild. “You’re so warm, Jimin. Y-You feel so good.”

Yoongi set the pace, slow and deep, and when he hit something inside Jimin, the boy twisted, pushing back with his hips, “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

“You’re okay?” Yoongi could barely form words. The sight of Jimin like this, the way he was clenching all around him. It felt so right, so good. The moment was coming, waves of pleasure crashing against his body. So much satisfaction radiated from their connection. It spread to every part of his body, right to his fingertips.

Jimin moved with him, one body. He felt so slick and soft, and Yoongi was losing to the feeling of the rocking, to how Jimin was whining and calling his name. His body was alight, a hot coil forming in his belly, an agonizing sweetness diffusing from it.

“Oh, I’m close,” Jimin huffed, eyes closed, fingers and toes curled, digging his nails into Yoongi’s back.

It was so perfect like this. He quickened his pace, chasing after his own release. With a whine and a whimper, a great burst of light ate up his vision. He collapsed atop the Prince, teeth locking onto the Firefly’s shoulder.

Jimin shuddered violently underneath him, legs wrapping tight around him, deepening their connection. Yoongi belatedly realized that he could taste blood, coming off the exquisite high. His head was swimming.

“You-you bit me,” Jimin said, pressing his hand on his shoulder.

It took awhile for Yoongi to process what the Prince had said. When he realized what he’d done, he pulled away confused, “I’m sorry, I don’t know why. I- I’m so sorry. You’re hurt.”

Yoongi contemplated running over for some bandages, and clean water, but it felt wrong. He was supposed to do something else. His wolf was telling him so. He pressed his tongue against the wound and lapped at it. It wasn’t as deep as he thought, a superficial thing.

“Yoong-” Jimin questioned before the Wolf licked a fat stripe on his shoulder, “FUCK!”

“Sorry,” Yoongi pulled away, alarmed.

Jimin quickly reached out, urging him back. The Prince shook his head rapidly, “Do it again.”

Yoongi quizzically lapped at the bite mark one more time. Jimin’s eyes closed shut, and his back arched, “W-What is this? What did you do to me? This feels- you have no idea.”

The wolf licked it until it was clean. The clotted mark that looked exactly like what it was, two lines of teeth, a bite.

Yoongi’s head felt light. His whole body was blissfully numb as he wrapped his arms around Jimin, wiggling close, cozy in the mound of furs. “I don’t know why I did that.”

Jimin laughed, “That was amazing. I’d go again if I wasn't so tired.”

“I mean the bite. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Yoongi specified, feeling sleep take him as well.

“Maybe it’s the wolf in you,” Jimin shrugged, “It didn’t hurt. It felt- I can’t really explain it - it was really nice.”

Yoongi hummed, “Let’s get some rest Firefly.”

“Yes,” Jimin agreed, “Sleep well, my Wolf.”


 

 

Namjoon

“Ugg, I can hear them going at it,” Namjoon said as he drank his soup, which tasted salty and bitter, “Wild animals. It’s still light out.”

“Let them be happy,” Jin sighed, running a hand through the younger’s hair, “There’s so little of it to be had these days.”

The warmth of Jin’s hand on his scalp sent tingles down his spine. Despite his mood, he smiled shyly, “Jimin needs to report in. What of his totem? What of his training?”

The noises in the wind died down. They were probably done now. Namjoon shuddered, he didn’t want to think about it anymore. He was willing to let them sleep it off for an hour before bothering them.

Although he suddenly recalled what the wolf had threatened. ‘I am a wolf first and a man second?’

What was he going to do? Rip his throat out? It would only serve his point.

Joon was far ahead in training. Jimin had yet to begin. After the first few weeks of nothing, Joon had come into his own. Now he could hop consciousnesses for miles, and control it. It was an unfair advantage of course. He knew what everyone was thinking most of the time. Except for the Dream Guardian and a select few druids who could block him out.

And also his family, father, mother, and brother. The Guardian had told him it was due to a blood thing. Namjoon could care less. He was only interested in the man in front of him.

Jin was thinking about him, how to soothe him, how to care for him. Joon didn’t even have to hop in anymore. It was always the same, Jin’s natural disposition. The older was worried. He wanted to make sure Joon was safe and happy.

“How are you?” Jin sighed, cradling Joon’s cheek in his hand.

“I’m fine-”

Without warning, Joon jumped, his consciousness like lightning, hovering to find the next conduit. He sailed far, further than he ever did before, east and then north.

“-Don’t worry, Ladybug,” he said, “You will learn. Magic is not an easy thing to wield. It will take-”

There was a sudden pause in their conversation.

“Someone is spying on me,” he hissed.

Namjoon jumped from that mind to the next. He traveled hundreds of leagues south. He felt himself go somewhere dark and wet. Somewhere cold.

“- you will make sure the Sword drinks this,” a woman hissed. “Or I will put you in the fire mys-”

“WHO IS WATCHING ME!!!”

Joon was frightened, never had he jumped like this, so far and so fast. What was worse, the people he watched, knew he was watching. He wanted it to stop. But still, he continued on as if someone else were controlling it all. Maybe someone else was.

He had to focus, to stop it.

He felt his consciousness hover above for a moment as he fought it. He wanted to return home, to his body. But the pull was relentless, moving against his will.

He felt himself plunge into the dark depths of the sea, far down to where the fish had white eyes and glowing veins. Where was he? Who could possibly live here?

“He was a monster, a beautiful monster. I was the only one who saw him for what he was. When I did, he almost killed me,” a woman said.

Namjoon could feel something else where his legs should have been, something singular that pushed the water with ease. A tail?

“What if he finds you?” a man asked

He looked startlingly like the Song of the Sunrise, Jung Hoseok. Only, this man had a tail.

“How is he going to find me?” the woman laughed, “Is he going to grow a tail and swim down here?”

“Well,” the Knight-look-alike considered, “That’s what I did.”

“My son,” the woman hummed, “That was destiny.”

Namjoon jumped again, floating up the deep of the water. He soared into the sky, and this time, he managed to close in on his physical location. But not quite. He overshot a little and entered the strangest mind yet.

Firstly, everything looked odd, colored blue and green, and dull.

“How near are we, Gongjun?” someone barked.

Namjoon had seen these three dogs before. These were Yoongi’s brothers and sister. There was a gray wolf there, sniffing the snow. That was the Pale wolf’s litter sister. What were they doing a half league from the Druid camp?

“I can smell him. He’s close. Just a little bit further.”

“I’m scared, what if they shoot at us. Humans are bad,” a brown wolf, smaller than the other two, whined.

“Stop it, Byeongsa,” Gongjun barked, “Brother needs us. We should have never separated.”

Joon skipped back into his mind with a deep gasp. He clawed at the air before cursing, “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

“Joon, what happened, you just passed out,” Jin asked, holding him close, eyes tear-streaked, “I was so frightened!”

“I-I just have to,” Joon shot up from the ground, “I have to tell him.”

Despite Joon’s previous distaste. He ran over too Yoongi’s tent to wake the wolf up. The man was naked with the Firefly curled around him. Namjoon noted that the Prince had an ass sculpted by the-

“Look away,” Yoongi grumbled, eyes still closed, “Don’t make me kill you, Knight. I don’t want Beom to hunt me down for slaying his son.”

Namjoon looked away, “I have something to tell you. Can you come outside?”

“No,” Yoongi answered.

“Your brothers and sister are on their way,” Namjoon spat, annoyed. “I saw it with my mind.”

Yoongi burst from the bed, no longer a man. Instead, he was the wolf of legend again. He was ghost white. And those eyes, bright lapis blue, could steal a man’s soul.

Jimin stirred from his sleep, “What the hell?”

Yoongi bolted from the tent and ran outside. He paused to take a long whiff of the air. Then he disappeared into the distant.

Jimin sat up, rubbing his eyes, naked and beautiful, “He took that well.”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Euigeon

He had no intention of ever wearing the Crown, never. He would always be the Prince, unfit to rule, not really a Druid in his tribe’s eyes. He was okay with that. When Chanyeol asked him why he was not the King even if there was no one else alive that could rule, Euigeon calmly told him the tradition of his ‘people’.

A true Druid King was a master of Dream magic, something Euigeon was not. To become a master, there was painful and dangerous training, which the stable boy declined. They discussed this all through the winter without fail, even as Jimin and Namjoon completed this training.

It was now early spring. Euigeon and the King were on a walk, having the same talk again when they happened upon Yoongi’s three siblings, who were on guard. The five of them got into a heated discussion over Euigeon’s lineage.

The gray wolf, Gongjun, barked at him. Euigeon sighed as Chanyeol played interpreter.

“Wolves have magic too, just like Dream druids,” Chanyeol repeated her words, “But wolves need to stay connected to that magic. Once a year they go on a pilgrimage to the sea and make an offering to their Old Gods. Just like you are connected to your Dream magic.”

“I have no interest in being King,” Euigeon answered.

The black wolf, Wangja, spoke next, cocking his head curiously.

“You ignore your birthright. But you were born to be a King,” Chanyeol spoke, “Just like our brother-” The King doubled over the translation with hesitation, “-like our brother, Yoongi. One day, he’ll inherit our mother’s place, even if he thinks himself a man.”

Chanyeol frowned as he turned to Wangja.

“My brother is in love with Yoongi,” the King said, “It is my intention that Yoongi becomes the Prince’s consort one day. The Peder will hear their holy vows and join them in the Basilicant. Yoongi will never take a place among the Wolf Gods.”

Euigeon sighed. Chanyeol had stopped translating, so he had no idea what Wangja was saying, save for the King’s reaction to it.

“Of course there’s a choice and you are making a fool’s bet, if you don’t think Yoongi will choose my brother,” Chanyeol spat.

Gongjun jumped between the two of them, whining, tail tucked between her legs. The moment was tense. Euigeon’s heart started pounding against his ribs. What if Wangja attacked the King right now? Chanyeol’s sword looked dangerous, even sheathed against his body. The black wolf bared his fangs.

Yoongi appeared then, a frown adorning his mouth. “Wangja, stand down. We do not settle our affairs as men do.”

Wangja immediately bowed his head, growling something. He seemed defeated but then why did he look so smug.

Yoongi’s siblings walked off, circling the camp again, more security work.

“I’m sorry, Dragonfly,” Yoongi huffed, “I mean, Your Majesty.”

Euigeon shivered. He’d forgotten Yoongi and the King’s past. They shared one, but the exact details were unknown to the stablehand. It never bothered him before. But now, it set his mind afire.

“What are your exact intentions with my brother?” Chanyeol narrowed his eyes.

“Just as you said,” Yoongi answered “The vows and the Peder. But I will also take Jimin to the sacred tree and ask the Old Wolf Gods for their blessing.”

“But where will you go?” Chanyeol seemed only mildly pacified by that answer, “What will you do after?”

“Jimin is not the King,” Yoongi shrugged, “We are not bound to the Forge. I will go where he does.”

“A Prince has duties to the Forge as well,” Chanyeol was quick to reply with, “Jimin will go where I command.”

Laughter sounded behind the King and he looked oddly startled. “Jimin, I-I didn’t hear you arrive.”

The Prince shot the King a quizzical look. Euigeon frowned. The King’s hearing was his Fairy’s gift. It was concerning that the King could miss someone walking up to them. Perhaps he should ask the King later, in private.

“You do not command me, brother,” Jimin said, his rainbow eye glimmering dangerously, “After the War, Yoongi and I will travel this world together.”

“What of the Forge? What of me?” Chanyeol hissed. “Are you really planning to leave after we rescue Jeonghwa?”

“I can help the Crown in my own way. I’ll go south and deal with him ,” Jimin said softly. “And you will stay there and rule on that barbed throne.”

Euigeon flushed. They were talking about him, the bastard son of the late King. The stable boy felt it inappropriate to listen.

“I need to go feed the horses,” the Stableboy excused himself. “I-I will return later, Your Highnesses”

To Euigeon’s relief, they let him go without another word. To his dismay, the Pale Wolf had followed along, also eager to escape.

“If you’re going to bother me, at least you could help with the-” Euigeon turned around. Yoongi was already carrying a hay bale over to the horses.

“You don’t like me,” Yoongi noted, placing the hay in the trough between the mares Promise, Apple, and Mushroom. “And that’s fair.”

“I don’t know you enough not to like you,” Euigeon lied, as he placed a second hay bale between the stallions, Frostbite, Morning, and the newly escaped Watcher.

The horse had appeared sometime during the winter, having jumped the Forge stables. At first, everyone thought he’d come for the King, as his loyal horse, but everyone soon realized it was for Mushroom. Watcher’s story of unrequited love continued. Mushroom didn’t like him at all, and that’s why they now had to separate the mares and the stallions into different sections.

“There are many things that I don’t understand of the human world,” Yoongi sighed, “Like handshakes, just learned about them, and they’re fucking stupid. Why would I want to touch another person’s hand? I don’t know where that hand has been.”

Euigeon smiled despite himself.

“But I do know a thing or two about love,” Yoongi continued, “Love is not only for humans. Wolves love too, and in a fiercer, more protective way I might add. So I can tell you with certainty that the King loves you, more than he ever has loved me.”

Euigeon frowned. Everything the wolf said was true and yet-

“The King’s love for me is a falsity. Both of our destinies were changed by the Dream God. I was tied to the King and you to the Prince. There was a time you hated Firefly, but now you fall in line to the irresistible power.”

“Jimin told me about the dream, the deal with the Dream God to save my life,” Yoongi said as he filled the water in the adjacent trough. The mares immediately went for it. They must have been thirsty. “I was already in love with him before. Whatever my destiny was before, death most likely, I have been given a second chance.”

“You’re very well spoken for a wolf,” Euigeon frowned.

Yoongi laughed, “I’ve spent time with humans before. I even tried apprenticing as a mason once, down at Sorrow’s Point.”

Euigeon filled the other trough with water. The Stallions didn’t seem interested. “I wonder if we have ever crossed paths.”

“I doubt it,” Yoongi shook his head, “I’m good with smells and face. I never saw you in the south, but I-” Yoongi smiled mischievously, “-have seen the King’s bastard before.”

“It’s a death sentence to even mention his name in the north,” Euigeon said, hair on end, jaw clenched.

“He looks like what you’d imagine a King to be,” Yoongi continued, blue eyes suddenly hazing over. “I almost punched him in the face once. He was an entitled, royal bastard.”

Euigeon’s curiosity was peaked. In his time at Sorrow’s point, he’d never seen the Bastard. He spent all his time locked away as a slave boy, in a filthy tavern. But he’d heard plenty of gossip.

“We shouldn’t be talking about this,” Euigeon bit his lip, “The King has-”

“He has that Fairy’s hearing,” Yoongi said, reading his mind.

“You know about that?” Euigeon tilted his head.

“The Dragonfly’s power doesn’t work on this day,” Yoongi smiled, “I figured it out back when we were pups.”

“What’s today?” Euigeon frowned.

“It’s the Day of White,” Yoongi continued, “One week before the solstice. This is the day the barrier was formed three hundred odd years ago. It’s the echo of that magic. Gongjun and I used to look for Fairies this day in the Moonwoods. Since they were defenseless. Never found one though.”

Euigeon scratched his chin, “I feel this is useful information.”

Yoongi smiled, “Do you still hate me, stable boy?”

“Yes,” Euigeon answered with a grin, “But admittedly less.”




 

Jeonghwa

The Princess still hadn’t gotten used to her pink hair. Every morning, when she woke up, she was still shocked by the sight of it. She wished she hadn’t been so hasty with that Fairy wine. But it was too late. The hair wasn’t the only thing either. Her other senses had changed, eyesight and hearing both became more sensitive.

The world of magic had opened her horizons. Jeonghwa realized she’d seen so little of the world in her little castle. ‘A Gilded Cage,’ was what her grandfather called it. She saw how right he was. She’d spent three months under his tutelage, and seem the grandness of the world. There was so much to discover.

The first thing he taught her was-

“Ladybug?” a voice called from downstairs.

“I’m awake,” Jeonghwa answered, “I’m coming down.”

Her Grandfather had breakfast ready as usual. Today he seemed a bit different. He looked older, especially around the eyes.

“Have you heard anything from Jimin?” Jeonghwa started every day like this.

Jeonghan shook his head and frowned, “I don’t think he liked your letter. I’m not sure what they’re going to do when they get here.”

“We’ll just have to explain the situation,” the Princess said with a stern look before taking a bite of bread, “Honestly, my brothers are both imbeciles.”

“They’re just confused,” her grandfather said softly, “I hope one day they see the truth.”

Jeonghwa nodded fiercely.

“Have you been practicing your Fairy’s gift?” her grandfather shook his head and clasped his hands together.

“I tried this morning but it stopped working,” Jeonghwa frowned.

“Ah,” the man smiled, “I forgot to tell you that today is The Day of White. Fairy powers do not work on this day.”

“Why not?” Jeonghwa cocked her head.

“It has to do with the Barrier magic that traps us in the Sunwoods. I’ve never quite figured out what about it though.”

“Those horrible Animal Gods did this to you,” Jeonghwa said, pressing a hand to her heart, “It’s terrible.”

“The time is near, just six days,” her grandfather continued, “It will be our chance to break the barrier on the solstice.”

“I feel sorry for the creature sacrifice,” Jeonghwa sighed. “Even if it’s half animal. It’s still part human. I hope it doesn’t feel too much pain.”

“The Pale Wolf is the son of the Animal God who sealed me in this prison,” her grandfather replied with a frown. “I assure you, he is a monster. He has no humanity in him.”

“Are you sure I can’t come with you?” Jeonghwa pleaded. Her head started swirling, an aftereffect of her memory loss. She still hadn’t recovered anything since the day of the Hunt. But the headaches were slowly getting better. That was a good, she supposed.

“No, when the barrier is down, things might get dangerous,” her grandfather said, “The Animal Gods will surely rise up, and my sister might try something as well.”

Jeonghwa nodded knowingly, “She has no right your Crown. That’s why she was banished to the Moonwood, right?”

Her grandfather had told her of the story of the Queen’s horrible reign and his heroic victory against her.

“She is still your great aunt,” the man said. He was so kind, too kind really. “I hope one day we will reconcile. In the meantime, you must hide.”

“But my power can protect us both, I can-” Jeonghwa began.

“I can’t risk it,” the man cut her off, “You are my heir. I can not have you hurt.”

Jeonghwa’s heart softened, “I could convince my brothers. It doesn’t have to be a fight.”

“The Pale Wolf has turned them against me with its magic,” her grandfather said. “They will be here soon to try to kill me. I will try to stop them and get the wolf. But you can’t be put in harm’s way. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Jeonghwa muttered defeatedly.

“Good,” her grandfather’s smile returned, “now finish your breakfast.”




 

Jimin

“This is your last day with us. It is befitting that it is the Day of White: the time of peace.” the Dream Guardian said, walking across the line, carrying a bowl with lamb’s blood on it. He smeared the stuff across each of their foreheads as he walked by. There was a total of four new Druid Masters, a member of the tribe, Kim Seokjin, Kim Namjoon, and of course, Park Jimin. They’d all managed to complete the training.

They could now hop consciousnesses, far and wide. They were ready, ready to rescue Jeonghwa from the clutches of the Spider King.

“It will soon be the Day of Red,” Suho continued, “I know the War is upon us all. If you can, you must stop the Spider from breaking the barrier. The Druids of the south will deal with the Shadow Glass.”

Jimin nodded, eyes shining with resolution. He would rescue Jeonghwa and kill the Spider. He and Yoongi, together were unstoppable, even if he wasn’t the Peace Bringer.

Your feather is red, and that is a sign. I fear it. But the Dream God brought you to me for a reason. So I will train you. Maybe you will end up saving us. Who really knows anything.

The sun was setting on their last day. When it rose again, the seven of them would set off to the Sunwoods. The Prince looked at these men, some he knew since he was young, some he’d grown fond of, and the one he would give his life for.

There were Chanyeol and Euigeon who were currently packing.

There was Sir Jeon Jungkook of the Twin Isles, who was loyal to a fault. There were the cousins Kim Seokjin and Kim Namjoon, who were dangerously powerful Druids now, and the best of friends.

And finally, there was Yoongi, who was currently looking at him softly.

“Are you alright, Firefly?” the Pale Wolf tilted his head. “Do I need to teach your brother a lesson?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Jimin sighed, “He’s a whole head taller than you.”

Yoongi reddened, suddenly holding onto Jimin’s shoulder. It was not the shoulder with the mark on it, it was the one with a bite on it… which was bad.

Every time Yoongi touched it- even through the fabric of his clothing, a flicker of heat swept through his belly. Jimin must have made a face because the pale man abruptly let him go.

“Sorry,” Yoongi apologized with flushed cheeks, “I forgot.”

Jimin took a deep breath to steady himself. But it didn’t work. Instead, he grabbed Yoongi by the collar and kissed him. The wolf responded with a low grown before running his hands through the Prince’s hair. Yoongi’s lips were addictive, making Jimin’s head swirl with pleasure.

“Uggg, in public,” Namjoon called from the distant, “What are you? Animals?”

Jimin jumped away from Yoongi, flushed and wide-eyed. Yoongi seemed unaffected, “I am an animal. Do you want to see just how much? Well, just keep looking then.”

“Yoongi!” Jimin hissed. It only served to widen the wolf’s smug smile.

Namjoon looked away, “I’m sorry, Your Highness. I’ll be leaving.”

The Knight walked a few paces away carrying two heavy leather satchels with him.

“What did you and my brother talk about before I came?” Jimin continued with their conversation before they were so rudely interrupted by their own libidos.

“He asked what my intention was towards you,” Yoongi stated.

“And what is that intention?” Jimin joked, although not really.

“Become the Prince’s consort-” Yoongi listed off casually.

Jimin nearly choked on his own spit.

“-take you to see the holy tree, and be joined by the Wolf Gods. I mean we’re already tied together by soul magic. Whatever we do is just dressing, like the framing on the outsides of a piece of fine clear glass.” Yoongi stated.

Jimin smiled and kissed Yoongi again, taking the wolf by surprise. The pale man hadn’t quite finished his speech, so he muffled the last words against the Prince’s lips. After a moment, Jimin pulled back to gauge the man’s reaction.

“I love you,” Yoongi whispered, eyes soft. “And we’ll win this War. I know it, even if you’re not the Peace Bringer.”

“You’re not afraid of me,” Jimin looked at Yoongi hard, “Even though my Dream Totem is red.”

“I could never be afraid of you,” Yoongi smiled, “You saved me.”

The wolf looked at him tenderly before something behind Jimin caught his attention. The Prince turned to see what Yoongi was staring at. It was Byeongsa, Gongjun, and Wangja.

“I should go say goodbye.” Yoongi frowned.

“You’re worried,” Jimin stated quickly.

“They’re capable but so young. Gongjun is only nine- no she’s ten now. I missed her birthday,” Yoongi mused, “I only wish I could spare them this War.”

“I do too,” Jimin said cupping Yoongi’s cheek in his hands, “But all of us must rise and defend the Gap. Just like in the past.”

Yoongi closed his eyes and nodded, “If we’d met in another life, I would have wanted to live it peacefully.”

Jimin smiled and almost kissed the man again, but he refrained. Yoongi gave Jimin a final smile before setting off to see to his younger siblings. Jimin watched from there, Yoongi fell to his knees and hugged them. Then they tumbled into a pile atop each other.

The Prince busied himself with more packing. He put rations into Mushroom’s saddles, hard breads, and potatoes. The mare tossed her head agitatedly every time Watcher even looked at her. Jimin just smiled.

“Is he really that awful?” Jimin chided.

Mushroom nodded aggressively, which only caused the Prince to laugh more. Jimin was distracted when Sir Kim Taehyung appeared. The Knight was an odd one, and had opted out of going to the Sunwoods. He was going with his father to rally more support for the War.

“You should be careful,” Taehyung said outrightly, before adding, “Your Highness.”

“That sounds almost like a threat,” Jimin frowned, knowing it wasn’t.

“I didn’t pass that dream master training,” Taehyung answered, “I don’t have those powers. But I do have some powers. I see something dangerous in the future, something dark, a fire with large black flames.”

That didn’t make any sense.

“The pyre,” Jimin corrected, “the funeral wood is laid out in planks. It’s a funeral.”

“Yes,” Taehyung confirmed, “You’re right. I see it. Sir Jeon Jungkook is in the most danger. You will protect him, won’t you? I think I may have doomed him.”

Jimin felt a buzzing in his skull. His right eye suddenly stung. He started blinking rapidly as tears strained out of it.

“Something wrong?” Taehyung asked, “Your eye?”

Yoongi returned from his goodbyes. “What’s wrong?”

Jimin saw Yoongi through a fog of tears, “Nothing, just my right eye hurts.”

“The rainbow one?” Yoongi focused in on it.

What does he mean by the rainbow one?

“What are you talking about,” Jimin blinked out more tears, “My eyes are green.”

The pale man looked confused, “They used to be. The left one still is. But the right one. It’s not anymore. It turned rainbow.”

Taehyung looked at the eye in question, “What are you talking about? It’s green, I mean it’s really red, but the iris is green.”

Jimin blinked a few more times, as Yoongi observed his face, “No. It’s not. It’s not green.”

More people appeared, Chanyeol and Euigeon, Namjoon and Seokjin, and even the apparently doomed Jeon Jungkook.

“What’s going on?” Chanyeol asked.

“What color is my right eye?” Jimin asked, keeping his eye open, despite the sting.

“It’s green,” Chanyeol answered, “What’s this about?”

Yoongi looked even more perplexed. He called his siblings over and they told him the same thing. The Pale Wolf shook it off and decided to ask the Dream Guardian. He didn’t understand it either.

“It’s green.”

When they settled to sleep that night, Jimin cuddled in with Yoongi, warm in the many fur and leather layers. But the pale man stared up at the tent tarp, eyes open and confused.

“I swear it,” he huffed. “Your right eye is rainbow, a little green yes, but there’s red in there, and yellow, and blue.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Jimin grumbled, “Maybe it’s only something you can see.”

“What if it’s something the Dream God has done to you,” Yoongi said, worry puckering his brow. “If something happened to you, I wouldn’t be able to bear it.”

Jimin felt his face heat up as he wiggled into Yoongi’s side. “I feel fine. I think it was just a speck of dust. My eye is alright.”

Yoongi turned over and kissed Jimin’s cheek, ever so softly, “I just want to protect you.”

Jimin laughed, pulling the wolf closer, “You protect me just fine. You keep me warm at night.”

The pale man’s eyes went gentle at that and an easy smile graced his lips.

“I do a good job. You should really be giving me wages.” Yoongi joked.

Jimin pressed his lips against Yoongi’s, warm, soft, and inviting. Then he nuzzled his face against the man’s neck and shut his eyes.

All would be right in the morning.




 

Taehyung

Everyone was gone by the time Taehyung and his father were ready to leave. The Prince, the King, and the rest of their company had set off to rescue the Princess and stop the War. Taehyung wondered if he’d ever see his brother again.

He’d hugged Namjoon so tightly, telling him that he was thankful for every morsel of stolen bread, every extra drink of water at the older’s expense. Namjoon promised that they would see each other when the War was over. But that seemed like a very long time.

“You’ll be a good boy,” his mother hugged him tightly. She let him go after a moment a turned to Beom, her expression turning stern, “And you’ll watch after him. Don’t fool around, old man.”

“Of course I will,” Beom smiled lazily. He grabbed her by the waist and planted a kiss on her cheek.

“Get off me you, old fool,” the woman laughed. “I’ll see you a week.”

“A week is a year for lovers,” Beom hummed.

“For young lovers maybe,” she replied.

Taehyung averted his eyes. His parents were young lovers, for the last twenty years, their love never aged. The Knight would have hoped their flaunting would have stopped now that they were old. But unfortunately, they had young souls, partners in adventure.

“You’ll have this soon enough, son. That Knight from the twin Isles. He’s your destiny.”

“You make me young,” Beom said. It’s what he always said. And it was quite the saying because he looked twenty years younger than his age most days.

“We are young lovers,” he held on to her, unable to let go. It was her that finally batted his hands away and set off.

This left Taehyung and Beom to head to the mountains for his training. It was ‘Sword’ training, his father called it. The Knight knew it had nothing to do with actual swords. It had to do with his namesake and his power.

The two of them walked far east into the mountains, not stopping at home, not even to assure the Warden of their return. They had not the time. Beom led Taehyung to the end of the world, to top of the Peaks, where a man was close enough to touch the sky.

“This is where your training begins,” Beom said. “My father took me here as a boy. It was the first time he’d given me anything over my brother. I’d known nothing firsthand, not clothes, nor weapons, not food, being second-born. But that is precisely why you’re here.”

“Because I’m second born?” Taehyung cocked his head.

“The power of the Sword always passes to the second born,” Beom explained. “The first thing you will learn is how to spot the threads.”

“The threads,” Taehyung asked.

Was the thin mountain air affecting his father’s mind? It couldn’t be. His father was an explorer. He was made of stronger stuff than regular men.

“The threads of fate,” Beom continued. “They connect us all to our destiny. We can never falter. Or I should say, they can never falter. We, the Swords, the Cut Glass, the Knives, we can choose our own path. You will need to see these threads so that you can cut them.”

Taehyung was barely following, “I don’t understand? Does not a man make his own destiny.”

“You know he does not,” Beom frowned, “You see the future. It’s always set. All of us. I know my fate too, the great agony of it. It’s all been planned. It’s all been weaved before we were born.”

“I see,” the Knight whispered.

Beom walked backward. They were close to the edge a cliff. His father walked so far back, his heels were hanging off the line. He could slip and plummet a hundred feet.

“W-What are you doing?” Taehyung gasped.

“It’s not my time to die, yet” Beom laughed. “I’m safe for a least a few more hours.”

Taehyung pulled his father back from the edge, “That’s dangerous, papa.”

“But necessary,” Boem shouted. “Do you feel it, son? The blood pumping in your veins?”

The Knight’s heart was thudding hard in his chest. His father was acting strange, unlike himself. He’d always been wild. But now, there was something unhinged about the man. Taehyung didn’t understand what was happening.

“Do you see it?” Beom urged, “The threads?”

At first, Taehyung saw nothing. But as his eyes focused on the air, he could see thin, glowing filaments of light attached to everything. He saw one right at the center of his chest, glowing a bright, soft purple.

“I see it,” Taehyung said.

“Really?” Beom smiled.

“My thread,” Taehyung continued, “is a flour purple.”

“Good,” Beom nodded. “You’re doing better than I ever did. You’re the strongest of us. It gives me hope.”

“Papa?” Taehyung frowned.

“What is it, son?” the man’s smile waned.

“You’re not acting like yourself,” the Knight voiced his fears.

“Few do in times of danger,” Beom said, “This is the End of Days. There’s no time to relax. You have too much to learn and only a small of amount of time to learn it.”

“Why did we have to come here?” Taehyung asked, “Couldn’t you have taught me back at camp?”

Beom shook his head, “It is part of our lineage. Our power is greatest here, at the edge of the paper. No more questions, son. I will teach you the next thing. You must cut your own thread, and free yourself from the Dream God’s loom.”

Taehyung looked at the vibrant glowing thread. It seemed like the chord an infant was born with, vital and necessary. His father seemed almost clairvoyant as he looked at Taehyung, “A baby’s cord must also be cut before he can grow up and be a man. So you must cut your own thread, and free yourself.”

The Knight saw that his father’s thread was not there. There was nothing flowing from his chest, connecting him to anything. The man was free. He was acting so strange. It was scaring the Knight so badly. He aimed a knife at his thread.

“I’m scared,” Taehyung’s voice wavered. “What if I change the future again?”

“The Dream’s God future is destruction,” Beom spat. “He’s a capricious God. He has no love for his creations. You want to change that destiny, making something that’s fair, and not agony.”

“Father?” Taehyung cocked his head.

“Cut your thread,” Beom said, “Join me as a free man, while the day is still here.”

Taehyung saw the pain in the man’s eyes. Something was wrong. They were at the world’s edge, looking at the end. The Knight severed the thread grounding him to destiny.

There was silence for a moment.

Then there was something that sounded like thunder, blasting in Taehyung’s ears. The Knight fell to the ground, feeling something new wash over him.

“Yes, son,” Beom shouted. “You’re free!”

Fire spread across his skin, burning off a husk that’d been his cage.

“Fuck,” Taehyung gasped, “I’m free.”

Then before he could even begin to enjoy the power flowing through his blood, he saw it.

“You’re going to die,” the Knight said, assuredly as the next dawn.

Beom became somber at the mention of it, “Yes.”

“Why? Why didn’t you tell mother?” Taehyung shouted. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Taehyung could see his father’s end very clearly in his mind. There was a sunset, a vial of poison, and a fox.

They only had a few hours. There was no changing it. It was as immovable as the stars in the sky.

“Can anything be done?” Taehyung eyes watered.

“You know there can’t be,” Beom said, opening his arms. The Knight fell into his father’s embrace.

“I want to change it,” Taehyung said deftly. “That’s what being a Sword is all about, changing destiny.”

Beom considered this for a moment, “I think it’ll be your final lesson from me then. You will see what can be changed and what can’t”

“I’m going to set a trap for the fox,” Taehyung whispered looking around. “She won’t kill you. I’ll save you.”

Beom hummed calmly, “I’m ready to die. I’m not afraid.”

The Knight moved quickly, setting rope snares in the dust. The fox would be here at sundown. Taehyung worked quietly, tears softly rolling down his eyes. Destiny wasn’t changing. It seemed this was the day no matter how he tried to avoid it. Only, it was more painful because he could see it.

“Son?” Beom called.

“No,” Taehyung shouted, “You’re still here. Maybe you could just run? Would that save you?”

“And leave you alone with the beast,” Beom laughed. “There’s only so much you could change, all the powers of the earth would not bid me from your side.”

“Chivalry is for those who still have time,” Taehyung hissed. “Just run. Run and live. We could both run!”

“Someone must die at this crosspoint,” Beom said, “It should be an old man and not the only hope for-”

Taehyung heard a rustling in the distant. The sun was settling down, bright orange in the sky.

“The time approaches,” Beom said, face grave. “I love you, my son.”

The Fox appeared at the line, gracefully stepping over the snares Taehyung had set, “Two little morsels for me to eat. Master says I shouldn’t kill you though. But I’m so hungry… and angry.”

“I will gut you,” Taehyung said, lifting his sword, “I will slice off another of your tails.”

“I’m supposed to get you to drink this,” the Fox continued. “I’m going to shove it down your throat after you’re a cold dead corpse. Master will be pleased.”

Beom pulled out his staff, spinning it in his palms. The two men circled the beast as she bared her razor-sharp teeth at them, mouth drooling with wicked delight.

Drums played in Taehyung’s mind, or maybe it was just his heart pounding in his ears.

“Die!” the Fox shouted, raising one of its tails. It struck hard and deft, but Taehyung shifted to the side, slicing it with a sword, giving the thing a deep cut.

The miserable beast howled with pain.  

Beom beat her side with the point of his staff, quick, decisive jabs. The beast curled to the side, tails swinging wildly.

They looked to be winning. Taehyung felt a spark of hope.

But then, the Knight, in his focus, lost sight of one of his own snares. He felt a rope tug and dig into his ankle. The biting pain forced Taehyung to his knees. The Fox saw an opening, raining all her tails down at his chest. Taehyung screwed his eyes shut, waiting for the moment. He was going to die.

But it never came. When he opened his eyes, he saw his father hovering above him, a tail clean through his stomach.

“Papa,” Taehyung shouted.

“It was destiny,” Beom grunted.

The knight sliced through his rope snare, and circled around his father. From there, Taehyung lifted his sword and sliced through the tail that had impaled Beom. The thing sizzled off, billowing clouds of gray steam. The she-beast screamed and stumbled back.

Taehyung went after her, slashing at her with all the fury he could muster, drawing blood with every stroke. The beast reached the edge of the cliff.

“We must all serve our masters,” she screamed. “Your master is Death.”

With a final, vicious strike, Taehyung pushed the Animal God over the edge. Her body dashed against the rocks below. For a moment, her body laid bleeding and still. Then the shadows took her again.

Taehyung dropped his weapon. It was too heavy for him suddenly, now that all he had left was grief to fuel him. The Knight turned back to his father, falling to his knees and clutching his hand.

He was fading quickly.

“If only we had more time,” Tae gasped, crying openly now.

“I’ve had enough time,” Beom hummed, “But you’re training isn’t complete. You must keep going on without me, moving lines, cutting strings. It may come down to you.”

“I promise, papa,” Taehyung croaked, “I’ll set this world free.”

“I’m happy,” Beom smiled, “just having you as my son.”

Chapter Text

 

 

Yoongi

The Sunwoods didn’t look anything like when he’d first tread across its breadth. There was no golden sunlight streaming in through the sturdy and tall oak trees. There was no honey or fruit spicing the air with their fragrance. Instead, there was a rotting, cool, mossy odor, much like the Moonwood of home.

There was no explanation for it. It was already Spring, and the Sunwoods were supposed to be an everlasting Summer. And yet here were the cobwebs of gloom. Something was amiss. They all knew yet no one uttered a word to breathe reality into their suspicions.

Namjoon whispered, touching as close to the truth as he dared, “That’s creeping moss over there. And that’s deadly night growing on the trees.”

They marched northward, slowed by the muddy texture of the ground. Had it rained here? Yoongi was sure it hadn’t. But then, why was sludge coating the ground?

“Deadly night?” Jungkook cocked his head, eyes swimming with fear.

“Don’t worry, it won’t kill you,” Namjoon laughed dryly, “unless you’re a tree.”

“How comforting,” the knight of the twin isles replied, carefully avoid the infected trees.

Namjoon continued to navigate, a look of confident assurance on his features. It’d become almost beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the Peace Bringer. Though, Yoongi still had his reservations. Jimin’s red totem didn’t disqualify him, at least not in the wolf’s eyes.

“We have to make it to this Sunkeep soon,” Namjoon sighed. “Soon.”

The Mountain Knight repeated himself a lot. That was the fifth time he’d said it that day. Perhaps he was trying to assure himself. But there was something odd about the way he said it. Yoongi wasn’t exactly sure.

“What is it, my love?” Jimin took ahold of his hand. He locked his eyes (one still a disturbing rainbow) with the wolf’s guarded gaze.

“Just worried,” Yoongi said, giving the Firefly’s hand a squeeze.

Jimin cast him a meaningful glance before leaning in and kissing him on the cheek.

“Pay attention,” Namjoon yelled immediately, unnerved by their display. “I’m going to go over the prophecy one more time. I have things I want to discuss.”

The group marched on as Namjoon listed out his various theories.

Then the choosing of the sacrifice

That is second of six signs

Then on the day of creation

The moon will set itself on fire

The smoke will burn black against the starlight

That is the third of six signs

Salt will rain down on the earth

“The day of creation,” Namjoon said, looking more convinced by the second, “Is the time that the gap was created, the Day of Red, and that’s in three days. The moon will set itself on fire, well, that’s the equinox eclipse. This smoke and burning, that’s the sacrifice. They’re probably gutting a goat or something.”

Okay, Yoongi conceded internally. That made a fair amount of sense.

“What about salt raining on the earth?” Jin asked, scratching his chin.

“Volcano,” Namjoon nodded, eyes bright, a grin on his face. “Sometimes they spew out salt char.”

“There’s no fucking volcanos here,” Yoongi grumbled.

“Okay, I’m still working on it,” Namjoon sighed. “I’m not sure what salt has to do with anything.”

“There are volcanoes on the isles,” Jungkook offered.

“Too far from here to make any sense,” Yoongi said with furrowed brows.

Namjoon sighed again, this time louder, “I’m working on it, okay. S’not easy being the Peace Bringer.”

When Namjoon had his back turned, Jimin leaned into Yoongi’s space again, causing the older to flush.

“He’s grumpy,” Jimin whispered before sneaking another kiss on the cheek. Yoongi felt his heart drum inside his chest, but he didn’t move away. He answered his Firefly with a content grunt.

A darkness settled on the land, and the seven of them had to make camp for the night. They couldn’t find a clearing so they had to make one, cutting out the decaying vegetation, using straw on the mud, making it comfortable. It was hard work, but soon enough, they were laying under the stars.

The Wolf was out tonight, and the Bear too.

The King took the first watch, hands pressed against the slimy trees, just listening. He watched over the stable boy more than he did into the night. Yoongi knew that look. That was how the wolf looked at Jimin, fiercely protective, mingled with a sweet fondness.

“What’s wrong?” Euigeon asked. Yoongi was close enough to the two to hear.

“The trees are so sick,” Chanyeol whispered, eyes looking into the distant. Though it’s more likely he’s using his Fairy’s gift of hearing to detect intruders. “They sing a funerary dirge.”

“How fitting,” Euigeon responded.

“Listen,” Chanyeol whispered, too low for anyone but the man with wolf ears. “Promise me that you’ll be careful. If your life is in danger, you’ll run.”

“What? I can’t do that. Leave you and the Firefly here. That’s-” Euigeon hissed.

“Please,” Chanyeol asked, eyes glittering from the distant. Ah, so clearly could Yoongi see it now. Euigeon would the King’s Consort one day, a stable boy from a strange land, elevated to the King’s right hand. What prosperity lay in the future for Sword Forge?

“I-I’ll try to,” Euigeon conceded.

Thinking no one was looking, the King leaned down and pressed a kiss to the boy’s forehead, before he whispered low, “I love you.”

Jimin took ahold of Yoongi’s hand in the dark, and the wolf almost jumped at the action. He hadn’t been paying attention his own surroundings. The two were lying side by side, not really touching since it was too warm for that.

“Go to sleep, Yoongi. There’s no use worrying about everything.”

Fretting and worrying and wanting did nothing, Jimin was right. He desperately needed to protect the Prince from the reality about to swallow them up. But he couldn’t. It was never his cross to bear.

“I can’t sleep,” Yoongi grumbled.

Jimin gave his hand a squeeze. Stars glittered in the sky, paying witness to their love. Perhaps it would be enough, just enough.

For the first time, in a very long time, Yoongi shut his eyes and prayed to the Wolf God, the one in the sky who’d cursed him. He prayed for Jimin’s safety, for his mate to live. And he hoped the fickle God who’d made him a beast, would be the one who’d bless Jimin.

But the praying didn’t lessen the edge. Something was wrong. Where were the sentries? Where were all the fairies? Surely they would have bumped into some by now. Maybe they were afraid. Dream Masters were a frightening thing, and they had three.

“Stop,” Jimin whispered.

“Stop what?” Yoongi asked.

“Stop worrying,” Jimin clarified.

“How do you know I’m worrying?” Yoongi asked, genuinely curious.

“You have a pucker right between your eyebrow,” Jimin laughed, smoothing the indicated spot with his finger.

Yoongi snuggled closer to Jimin, grumbling something happily. Jimin responded with a soft chuckle, muffled by the back of his hand.

“Good night, my Wolf,” Jimin chirped.

“Good night, my Prince,” Yoongi replied, eyes sliding shut.


 

 

???

He was in the in-between, neither in reality nor above it, over the surface, looking down. Things were going according to plan. But now he needed a body, something tangible so that he could walk in reality. The tapestry that had been finished on the loom, he hung at the seams.

It was nearly time for the party. The meal had been selected, ready to be cooked through. Or that was the case before he changed it all. You see, he had a soft spot for the Ghost Pup. He’d been the one who’d made him in the first place. That’s why he swapped out the offering.

The Ghost Pup was his white, stargazer lily. He had plucked a light from the heaven to make him. He was too perfectly made to be eaten, the fools. His natural brood, none were even close to perfect, and they were so resentful. The ones he made, when he’d last had a body, they hated him, even as they played the game, and followed the lines of destiny.

Ah, he needed to focus. He needed a body, and where would he place the body. Would he go to the Night Sword, who was ready to kill him, and who was grieving the loss of the Day Sword? Would he visit the sea, where the Song of the Sunrise had been isolated from the game? Or would he go to the heart of destiny and see his Ghost Pup and have the Pup see him. That could be fun. But the children could notice, newly minted, and three of them. It’d be taking a chance to go there.

He could go see the Free Horse or the Shackled Dove. But that posed quite the challenge. They’d likely try to kill him. Or at least they’d invite him to tea, and lecture him for hours on the trouble he’d caused by breathing life into nothingness. Those two sniveling, whining fools. How did they manage to place themselves upon the King’s Crown?

Maybe he’d see either the boy or the girl then. They knew their place. Who would it be? The girl? The Boy? A coin flip?

The girl.

He felt a sinking, vortex, suck him into the tapestry. He shrank and grew. First, the bones came, then the flesh grew over the bones. Then the blood flowed through the vessels, giving him life. He took a gasp of air.

He lived. He was so unused to the sensation of walking. He’d been flying for so long. He stumbled in the hallway, shoulders crashing against the stone. He fell to his knees. He heard voices echoing in the cavernous darkness.

“Guards.”

He hadn’t used ears for so long, so devoid of sounds. At first, he couldn’t decipher the meaning of the word.

“Oh dear god, it’s you.”

He tested his voice. It was smooth, almost musical. “It’s me. How are you, Shi Han?”

She frowned, eyes turning tar black, “I don’t go by that anymore. It’s Shadow now.”

“Don’t be a fool,” he said, “No one names themselves.”

“I did,” Shi Han hissed, “And you will do well to call me that, scoundrel.”

“I am still your-” the man replied, smiling.

“You are scum,” Shi Han insisted. “You are filth.”

The man checked himself in the mirror. He’d done well this time. He looked flawless, which high cheekbones and charming brown eyes. “What are you still doing here?”

Shi Han frowned, “I’m stuck and you know it. I have no sacrifice and everything is left to my loathsome brother.”

“Are you two still fighting?” the man cocked his head. He got up and checked the long, high and thin slit of a window. Pale light shined through, and outside, a hundred thousand soldiers were readying for the clash of the century (three centuries).

“I was supposed to rule,” Shi Han said, eyes dark. She flexed her unnaturally long limbs, reaching up to the shelf for her obsidian crown.

“You still have that?” he asked. “What about the sword? I didn’t realize you were so sentimental.”

“Sentiment has nothing to do with,” Shi Han spat, pulling the specified dark-glass sword from her side. “These are simply the most powerful items in existence. If there were anything else, I’d be using that instead, and I’d have these destroyed.”

“You were always a soft girl,” he responded. She snarled at that.

“I’m not soft. I am the Queen that was meant to be,” she hissed. “You denied me my birthright. Why should I not slay you where you stand?”

“You know better than that,” the man replied threateningly.

He could see the wheel turning in the girl’s mind. Eventually, she turned around, fire receding from her eyes. “Why have you returned. It’s nearly the end.”

“I am the end and the beginning,” the man replied. “All begins and ends with me.”

“Bastard,” the girl hissed.

“You’re still so angry with me,” he noted.

“I hate you,” she confirmed. “You are the bane of my existence.”

“I am existence. To exist is to suffer.”

“Why did you place me in this world, where every breath is agony?”

“I’ve placed you in ever world. You just don’t remember.”

“Tell me at least,” the girl sighed, taking a seat. “Will I finally be free this time? Will Jeonghan break the barrier?”

The boy?

“Yes,” he answered.

The girl looked relieved.

“But not in the way you think,” he added with a smile.

“Of course,” she sighed. “Of course you would say that? What now, hmmm, will I only be able to cross in my true form? The giant, hideous spider that you mad me? Hmm is that it?”

“No,” the man shook his head.

The girl sighed, running a hand through her hair. “Why are you here?”

He stood, dusting himself off before he deposited himself in a chair.

“Isn’t it obvious?” He asked, “Give me a name.”


 

 

 

Hoseok

Something was wrong, the merpeople knew. The ocean was storming, warmer than it should be. Hoseok’s mother was planning to migrate with her people. Hoseok would follow. They leaving tomorrow. The Song of the Sunrise had never been so happy. He’d found his mother and every day he found out how much he was like her. They both liked music. She was an excellent singer, and he was could play many instruments. But the horn didn’t sound nearly as good underwater.

“We’re leaving tomorrow,” she said, chuckling at his struggles. “Are you sure you want to come with me? If you don’t leave the water soon, you  never be able to leave again.”

Hoseok knew all the rules. He had a few more days left, the scales hadn’t started coming in again.

“You can’t leave the water anymore,” Hoseok said. “You can never have legs again. Do you miss them?”

The woman looked pale, colored by the blue hue of the sea. “No. The only thing I regret was not being able to come back for you. But I was too afraid, and when I finally thought I could, I realized I couldn’t leave the sea.”

She looked so sad all of a sudden.

“I don’t blame you,” Hoseok huffed. “And I want to go with you.”

The woman stifled a sob, composing herself. Then she smiled and hugged him. “There are many mermaid cities between here and sorrow’s point. You won’t be bored. I promise. They have horns made for the-”

A guard burst in, as well as a man could with a tail, “Mi’lady.”

“What is it?” Eun Chae asked. “Why have you disturbed us like this?”

“Two mermen are looking for ya son,” the guard wheezed, probably having swum here as fast his tail would let him. “Jin-key and uh Tea-min?”

Hoseok’s heart started pumping. He hadn’t seen the captain or his brother in months. They were here now, right when he was about to leave. It was fate. The Knight was sure.

“Take me to them,” Hoseok said excitedly.

“Right this w-way, mi’lord.” he huffed, leading Hoseok to the gates.

“They couldn’t speak. We had to spell them. I think they were surprised to find other merpeople he-”

“Hoseok!” Jinki shouted upon seeing him. They swam towards each other and collided in a tight hug. “God, I missed you.”

“H-How did you find me?” Hoseok cried.

“Uh, we couldn’t at first,” Taemin explained, “So we doubled back to your father’s boat. He went really far south.”

“And we stole this,” Jinki said, breaking away, and pulling out a compass from a leather satchel. “Your father commissioned a flute from the skull moth as well, dunno who for. But we stole that too.”

Hoseok knew. “He knows my mother is alive. You probably saved her life.”

“Your mother?” Jinki gasped, “S-She’s alive? So she didn’t die that day?”

Jinki looked so relieved, damn near overjoyed. Hoseok was touched that the Captain cared this much for him.

“Have you been down here all this time,” Taemin asked, suddenly checking his arms. “You know the time is near. If you don’t leave the water-”

“I-I don’t plan to leave. I want to stay with my mother,” Hoseok explained.

Speaking of the woman, she appeared in the distance, swimming towards them.

“Well,” Taemin noted, “She’s gorgeous.”

“That’s my mother,” Hoseok said, hitting Taemin in the arm, causing the man to laugh.

“T’was only joking,” Taemin said. Hoseok didn’t know if he should be offended or not. He hit Taemin again for good measure.

Jimin and Taemin both bowed to her at her arrival, “My lady of the Sea.”

“Onew?” Eun Chae cocked her head, her confusion dissipating.

Jinki frowned. “Hmmm? How do you know my nickname? No one has called me that since-”

“Ah, you don’t remember me?” She smiled at him, patting his head. “I used to buy fish from you at the market. You haven’t aged a day.”

“I’m not really a man as you can see,” Jinki explained. “My mother is the Fish God.”

Upon hearing this Eun Chae hugged him. “I owe mother so much.”

“W-What?”

“She was the one who gave me her scale. She saved my life.”

This was news to Hoseok as well.

“She’s changed,” Jinki sighed uncomfortably. “I thought… I thought maybe it was she who destroyed your boat.”

What?

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t tell you Hoseok,” Jinki continued, breaking the embrace so that he could hold Hoseok’s hand. “I was so afraid you’d hate me. I thought my mother had killed you-”

Hoseok thought it over. Jinki had risked his life for that compass. He’d saved Hoseok so many times.

“There’s nothing to forgive,” Hoseok said, and before he could stop himself, he pressed his lips to the Captain’s mouth.

Taemin giggled into his palm. “Well, what’s all this then?”

“I want you both to come with me. Our people are going south.” Hoseok said, breaking the contact.

Jinki looked flustered, cheeks red even in the blue of the water. “I-I can't.”

Huh?

“Your uncle has called all ship captains to arms. The barrier might break, and fairies might destroy all men. You father has been branded a traitor. And your cousin, Jungkook, plans to go to the Sunwoods to stop it.”

What? Jungkook? Was he in trouble?

“How do you know all this?” Hoseok asked, uncertainly.

“We stayed on the twins for a while,” Taemin explained. “We thought you might return. Gossip travels fast at the ports. But when we realized you weren’t returning we decided to rob your father of his compass.”

“You’ve seen Mul?” Eun Chae spat. “How is that wretched man?”

“He’s a shell,”  Jinki said. “He’s no great sea captain. You should be careful Mi’lady. He’s probably on his way to the Skull Moth again.”

Jinki hands Eun Chae the flute. “This was probably meant for you. We couldn’t figure out what the blood magic was for.”

Hoseok tried to process all of this. But all he could think was that Jungkook was in danger. And a big part of him loved his cousin.

“I-I have to go back,” Hoseok said in the din.

“What?” his mother whispered.

“I’m so sorry,” Hoseok cried, tears blending into the salt water, “But I have to go back.”


 

 

Jimin

The Firefly had the last two hours before daybreak as his slotted watch. Yoongi slept peacefully at his feet. Jimin used his Druid power to scan the area. It was empty. There was not a soul except the six of them. But that was impossible. Fairies couldn’t leave the Sunwoods. They had to be here. The Sun’s Keep was only a day and a half away now.

Where were the golden clad warriors that had chased them out the first time? This was a trap. They already knew. But they’d prepared for a fight, not for a game of find.

Now that no one was watching, Jimin allowed himself to worry. So much had happened in the last nine months. He’d found the love of his life. He’d learned about his Fairy heritage. He’d discovered his Fairy’s gift. (Which he’d yet to disclose to anyone, not even Yoongi, the aforementioned love of his life) He’d found so many wonderful friends. He’d gained so much knowledge and skill. And he’d lost his kind-hearted sister.

At the forefront of his worries, besides Yoongi’s safety, was Sir Jungkook of the Twin Isles. The strange, enematic Sword of the Mountain had warned him. He’d said that Jungkook was in danger. There was the looming Dark Pyre with black flames that they’d seen in their collective dreams.

There was a sacrifice. Namjoon was right about that. But Jimin had his own theories on what the sacrifice was. He suspected that Jungkook might be the one, a replacement. Jimin remembered the deal he’d made with the Dream God to take Yoongi off the Pyre. So why did they march forward now? If Jungkook was to be the sacrifice, wouldn’t it make sense to leave him behind? No, it wouldn’t. The answer was simple.

If they couldn’t use Jungkook, then his foul grandfather would probably use the only other viable source, and that’d be Jeonghwa, Jimin’s beloved sister.

“Jimin?” a voice called, heavy and deep.

Yoongi had stirred from his sleep. His forehead was beaded with sweat. He seemed too bundled in his furs for Jimin to remove them though. The Prince’s heart filled with a sweet fondness.

“What is it, love?” Jimin asked, daring to plant a kiss on his forehead.

He was warm, much warmer than Jimin had anticipated.

“What’s wrong?” Jimin pulled the covers away. He was burning. His skin was like fire. How had Jimin failed to notice?

“I-I-why did you do that- I’m freezing,” Yoongi groaned. “H-Hurts. Everything hurts.”

This was not natural. Yoongi was fine just a few moments ago.

Jimin shouted, “Get up! Everyone get up!”

People started coming to life. “Jimin? Your watch only started. What’s wrong?” Jin, who’d last kept vigil, asked.

“Yoongi, he’s sick- he’s-” Jimin suddenly doubled over in pain. All of a sudden, he felt so cold.

What’s happening?

“I-I don’t don’t feel good,” the Firefly gasped. “Yoongi too. Something's wrong.”

Jin tried to rouse Namjoon, only to find him in a similar condition. “Joon? Joon? Wake up!”

Euigeon woke up from the noise and tried to rouse Chanyeol. “Dragonfly? Wake up.”

Chanyeol was sick too. He slowly arose, shivering violently. “W-What’s happening to us?”

Seokjin’s eyes flickered white for a moment. “I-I don’t know. I don’t sense any Fairies.”

Only about half of them were sick: Jimin, Yoongi, Namjoon, and Chanyeol. But Jin, Euigeon, and Jungkook were fine. What was the difference? Then Jimin realized. Half was the key.

“It’s only affecting us,” Jimin realized, dry retching. “Because we’re changelings. We’re half made.”

“That’s very good,” a voice hissed in the gloomy dawn. “You figured that out very fast, my Firefly.”

Every able man drew his sword.

It was the Spider King, Jimin’s grandfather, looking at them with hollow green eyes.

“What did you do to us?” Chanyeol groaned, leaning heavily on his sword.

“It turns out I didn’t need to use the flute at all,” the Spider King laughed. “You’re here anyway, I’m taking you all. But for now, I just need the sacrifice.”

Jungkook? Oh no!

Jimin had promised to keep Jungkook safe. What was he-

The Spider King walked right passed the Knight of the Isles and towards them, Yoongi and Jimin. No, but the deal. Why was he looking at the wolf like that?

“Stand down, boy,” the King of the Forest hissed. “I don’t want you hurt you. But I will.”

“Your just a man. You should have brought reinforcements,” Jimin spat, holding up his sword as high as he could.

“I don’t need soldiers. I’m enough. I’ll kill all your friends if you don't let me take this wretched pup,” the old man said.

“W-Where are they?” Chanyeol groaned, trying to get to his feet, and ready himself for a fight.

“I sent them to the line. The day of Red is coming. I want them ready to charge the enemy.” the Fairy King said.

“You’re not taking Yoongi anywhere,” Jimin said. God, how was he going to protect Yoongi? His body felt like ice.

“You should have studied your mother’s books more,” the Spider said, “All changelings, children of two worlds, are banned from the Sunwoods nearing the Day of Red.”

“W-what?” Jimin whimpered.

“You see, the sacrifice has to be a Changeling,” the Spider explained. “But this is a magic loophole. You came early. So the magic hasn’t stopped you until it was too late.”

“You’re sick,” Jimin managed.

“The funny thing is,” the old man laughed. “Ladybug isn’t even here. I sent her out of the forest, to keep her safe from the Sunwood’s poison.”

“You fucking asshole,” Yoongi growled, changing into a wolf, hackles raised. His voice was low, like gravel. “I will send you to hell.”

“You can try,” the old man said, eyes multiplying until there were eight. Arachnid limbs exploded from his body, coated in acidic purple liquid.

This was a fight to the death, Jimin could see the crossroads. He had to kill his grandfather now, or, his grandfather would take Yoongi from him. Weak with pain, Jimin dropped his sword and drew his arrow. He used his Fairy’s gift.

Perfect shot.

The arrow embedded itself right into the spider’s carapace, where a heart would be.

“No, Firefly,” Namjoon shouted, looking positively green, “A Spider’s heart is in the lower part of its body. It’s where that purple streak is. It’s not like a man’s.”

Jimin took aim again, feeling dizzy. He’d used too much magic already. He didn’t have another perfect shot in him. But he had to destroy this horrid man, who was also his family. There was no other way.

Jin was the ablest among them, being by birth a Fairy. He managed to strike the Spider right in his eye. The beast screeched and fell back. Smoke plumed from the injury, as the flesh slowly knit itself shut

“You’re good,” he hissed, voice like a thousand wasps. “You must be Seokjin, my sister’s son, and my nephew.”

Yes, this made Jin Chanyeol and Jimin’s uncle. But they didn’t care for their Fairy lineage and didn’t adopt such bloodlines.

“I’m going to eat you, piece by piece,” the Spider King said.

“Come on, old man,” Jin said, standing in front of Namjoon protectively.

Chanyeol was doing the same for Euigeon, even though the boy was in perfect health. Jimin could have sworn his brother muttered, ‘run’ underneath his breath. But the Firefly was too sick to be sure.

Namjoon’s eyes went white.

“Dream Magic doesn’t work on me,” the Spider laughed. “I was made by the Dream God.”

Jin and Jungkook slashed furiously. But all was lost.

So much going on, so many limbs, so many swords.

Jimin took a steady breath. He needed to shoot this beast now-

But, it was too late. Jimin’s hesitation had cost him everything. The spider jumped in the air, landing right next to Yoongi, catching the wolf in his jaws.

There was an audible crunch, followed by a pained whimper. Yoongi passed out from the pain. No! Jimin took aim. The Spider was already running, having sustained heavy injuries from the battle.

Jimin took his shot. The arrow sang through the air, aimed at the Spider’s heart. But then at the last moment, as if tugged by an invisible force, it moved to the left, hitting the Spider’s leg and severing it. The thing detached and fizzed on the ground.

This had happened before. Jimin had almost killed Yoongi this way, an arrow at his heart that had only hit his leg. But why?

Yoongi disappeared into the trees. Jimin fell to the ground, all energy spent. With a final cry, “Yoongi!”, his consciousness ebbed away.

“My Wolf.”

Chapter Text



Namjoon

The searing pain in his gut was so intense it blurred his sight. How could this be? They’d failed. The Knight’s vision was dimming but he could see the Firefly to the left.

The Prince was crying despondently, separated from his wolf. He was too weak to move otherwise. The task of caretaking was left to Jin, Euigeon, and Jungkook. They did the best they could, feeding the indisposed clean food and water. Slowly Namjoon felt his strength return. He suspected that the barrier magic was weakening, now that it neared the Day of Red.

Some time passed, Namjoon wasn’t sure how much. His position had changed. Someone had moved him. He was buried in furs and Jin was hovering above him. The burning in his stomach was not as terrible as before. Had he fallen asleep?

“How are you?” Jin asked, dabbing a cool cloth to Namjoon’s forehead.

“I’m alive,” Namjoon managed, voice hoarse. His mouth tasted of something acrid, coating the back of his throat. Before he could even mull over it, Jin pressed the mouth of a waterskin to his lips. But it wasn’t water, it was something a little more ashen to the taste.

“Drink,” the Knight of the Forest said softly. “It has mint and char in it. I found the recipe in your botany text.”

“I told you that text would come in handy,” Namjoon managed.

Jin forced a dry laugh. He watched the Prince and King from the corner of his eye. They whispered to each other in their ridden state. “I guess that’s all we could hope for.”

“We walked right into his trap,” Joon said weakly.

“We knew it was a trap,” Jin clicked his teeth. “But there was no more time and the Princess was in danger. We did what we could.”

“Now the Wolf is gone,” Joon said. “It’s all my fault.”

“I thought you didn’t like him and his lude displays,” Jin smiled sadly, playing with Joon’s hair.

Even with the barrier magic sickness clouding Namjoon’s mind, it still felt nice. Jin’s touch, his words, and everything about the man, always offered comfort.

“I didn’t hate him,” Joon said, eyelids refusing to stay open. “But what can we do now?”

“Sleep, there’s nothing you can do yet,” Jin said. “I’ll wake you when it’s time, love.”

Jin’s voice melted away, and canopies of bright green filled his vision. Golden light filtered through the leaves, and a gentle breeze caressed his face.

He wasn’t himself. He wasn’t even a man anymore, Joon realized. He tried to blink them out, but specks of a color he had no name for blurred the edges of his vision. He looked at himself. He paws instead of arms and legs, and he stood low to the ground.

Namjoon knew he was dreaming, but this was no ordinary one. The colors were all too vivid. His totem was locked in his jaw, to keep reality from bleeding through, the feather of a dove. Where was he?

“What is this?” Namjoon barked.

There was a man standing there, whose face was so terrifyingly flawless it made the Knight’s stomach twist. “Hello, Peace Bringer.”

“We failed,” Namjoon answered. “I failed. The barrier will come down, and all hell will rain on to the Gap.”

“You’re right. The magic wasn’t meant to last,” the man said. He held something in his hands, a rainbow glass bead. Namjoon didn’t know why, but the sight of it gave him chills. He’d seen that thing before. “This is not the day of your victory.”

“It’s never the day of victory,” Namjoon said lowering his snout to the ground, placing his feather on the moisten, rotten dirt.

“Truly,” the man agreed. “Yet a man is made better by the struggle, and steel is only durable if it is tempered.”

“Why did you make me the Peace Bringer?” Namjoon asked. “I’m just a simple man.”

The man frowned. “I wasn’t the one. That was the Sword. You’ve fallen upon it, to walk among the living as someone who should be dead.”

Namjoon used his Dream Master power to try cast the God away. His image wavered as though he were made of water. “Do not shut me out.”

The Shield only forced it harder, expelled the Dream God from his mind. He used every ounce of mental strength.

“The day is at hand and death is near, you fool,” the man whispered, voice buzzing, not fully there. “Your father-”

The man vanished, leaving Namjoon to his own devices. What appeared before him next were three animals, a Wolf like himself, a Bear, and a Harpy. He didn’t recognize two, but the three-eyed canine was none other than Yoongi’s mother, Samjokgu. She looked at him, half amused, half concerned.

What are you doing here, Son of the Wind?

She could see who he was, even in disguise. It was the third eye. Somehow, she knew.

“Your son is in danger. He’s been captured by the King of the Forest.” Namjoon said.

The she-beast’s eyes froze to ice. Her voice became daggers.

He is still with me, sleeping beside me. Tell me what day is it, when you are.

It took Namjoon a moment to realize, that wherever they were, time was not working here. While the Knight was nearing the time of the end, the Wolf was not. He was speaking to her from the future, at least that’s what it would look like to her.

“It is almost the Day of Red, and we are close to Sun’s Keep. But I fear we won’t make it. Your son will be the sacrifice to break the barrier magic.”

The Bear looked at Joon. He was at least three times as big as a normal brown bear.

We still have time then. I am in the deep slumber of winter, Peace Bringer. But when the sun shines again, I will follow the red sky to your aid.

“I thank you,” Namjoon bowed, lowering his snout to the ground.

Finally, the Harpy looked at him. He’d learned that this bird was the among the greatest of Animal Gods, at least to the Savages. He had shimmering silver feathers and great big, yellow eyes. He reminded Namjoon of someone, but the memory eluded him. The bird spread its magnificent feathers and spoke.

When the time comes, I will carry you.





Yoongi

The Pale Wolf awoke with a jagged, labored gasp. Where was he? He didn’t know, somewhere dark and cold, that smelled like dead man’s bones. He tried to move, only to find that he was bound, thick ropes digging into wrists. He was slumped over a stone floor that felt like ice on his skin.

Every time he took a breath, it hurt. It was like he had nails in his body, and every movement made them dig deeper into his tender flesh.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a voice in the darkness whispered, adorned with two dead, green eyes.

Do what? Breathe?

“Yes, breathe, stop doing it,” the voice hummed, reading his mind “Your rib is cracked. And I don’t want you to die, not yet anyway.”

Yoongi swallowed his rising fear. He forced himself into a sitting position, ignoring the tremendous pain in his side. The King of the Forest was before him, silvery hair flowing past his shoulders. The metallic color was the same as Jimin’s and yet, it chilled the wolf to the bone. How could this man, horrific and cruel, be the grandfather of Yoongi’s beautiful mate?

It was like making the finest, clearest glass from peasant’s sand.

“If I don’t breathe, I’ll die,” Yoongi grumbled, wincing at how agonizing it was to even talk. Everything hurt. Just living was pure torture.

“Really?” the old man clicked his teeth. Damn, of course, someone such as this didn’t understand the nuances of mortal life, the necessity of breathing being one of them. “I guess I should help you then.”

Before Yoongi could even ask what he meant, the man pressed his fingertips against the offending rib. The wolf screamed out as a searing pain sliced through his skin. Tears rolled down his eyes as he strained against his binds.

“You’re sick,” Yoongi hissed when the man stepped away.

“Only a small portion of the pain you’ve caused me,” the man answered. “You should be able to breathe properly now, vile vermin that you are.”

What?

Yoongi took in a lungful of air unhindered. He realized that the King of the Forest had healed his rib. But why? What was the point?

“How did you do that?” Yoongi asked, but he really meant was, ‘Why did you do that?’

“I stitched your bones together,” the King said casually. “It’s no feat for me. I can’t have you dying until the Day of Red. You see, you are to be the offering. You must live until then.”

No, Yoongi could tell it was a lie. There was something suddenly softer about the man.

“Why me?” Yoongi asked. “Why are you doing this?”

“Weren’t you listening?” the man hissed. “You’ve slighted me, stolen what was mine.”

“How can that be? I don’t even know you,” Yoongi answered, refusing to look down, though it made his blood stop in his veins to stare at the man.

“The supply was in scarcity and you took all of it for yourself,” he replied. “Why does he love you? You’re nothing.”

What? Love? Who?

“Jimin?” Yoongi asked, brow crinkling in confusion. “I don’t know. I don’t know why he loves me.”

The man huffed. Clearly, that hadn’t been the person he’d been referring to. But who else could he mean?

“I don’t care what my mutant offspring love,” the man hissed. “Why does he love you? You’re nothing, just a dog set for the gallows.”

Yoongi wasn’t sure who else loved him, but he was offended. “I’m a Wolf, not a dog.”

“What difference is that?” the man laughed, expression dangerously jubilant. Yoongi scoffed, feigning the bravery he didn’t feel.

“Wolves live in packs,” Yoongi answered, eyes glinting. The old man stared silently at him, before he burst out laughing.

“A hundred wolves could come for me and they would all perish,” the man answered. “I am death, and death fears nothing.”

“You’re insane,” Yoongi simply said. “If you’re so certain of your power, why have you tied me up? Are you afraid I’ll escape?”

At the question, Yoongi found his ties loosen and fall away. “Hardly.”

Yoongi rubbed his wrists and stood up. He’d bluffed his way out of his binds, but escaping seemed a far-off thing. One could still hope though.

“Jimin will come for me,” the Wolf all but barked.

“Let him come. Let them all come,” the old man said, sparking with intent. “Let them witness my glory. The whole dominion will be mine.”

“They have this saying,” Yoongi said. “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I wouldn’t start building my throne just yet.”

The old man stared at him in disbelief. Then something happened.

Yoongi didn’t even realize he’d been hit until he was already on the floor, covering his face. He could feel the blood starting to pool under the cheek where he was struck. The Spider loomed above him.

“You only have a few more hours,” the man said. “Must you make harder your own existence.”

There was that look in his eyes, the ghost of conflict.

Yoongi would die before he became the sacrifice. If it boiled down to it, he’d take his own life before he was killed on some dark alter. So yes, he had to make his own existence harder. The Wolf closed his eyes and said a silent goodbye to his Firefly.

But it’d be for not since his consciousness ebbed away.


 




Chanyeol

The King awoke in the darkness, a cool towel on his forehead. Sir Jungkook, Sir Seokjin, and his beloved Euigeon were sitting around a fire, poking at it, cooking apples atop it. The Changelings were doing better and Chanyeol was recovering the quickest. Whatever magic made them sick was losing its hold.

That was good. They needed to get well and rescue Yoongi before the Day of Red. Chanyeol willed his head to move to the side. His little brother was fast asleep, the magic affecting him the worst, that or the fact that the love of his life had been torn from him.

The King wasn’t entirely unaffected. He loved Yoongi too. They’d spend their childhood together, chasing rabbits, and stealing honey. Chanyeol thought of the wolf as a brother. It was especially so whenever Yoongi took on his animal form. To think that the Wolf was hurt somewhere, facing his own death, it made the King’s heart ache.

The day was gloomy, gray cast over. The mood was dolefully somber.

Namjoon, the Peace Bringer, was indisposed, sleeping off the magic effects. The man looked pale with sunken eyes, possibly doing worse than Jimin, now that Chanyeol had a good look at him. He wasn’t a true Changeling, the King had learned. He was fully a man. The fairy blood in his veins was stolen by one Kim Beom, Tide of the Earth, Wind on the Mount. It gave Namjoon the look, rosen hair and striking blue eyes. But in the King’s mind, he wasn’t a true Changeling.

Those were the mysteries of the womb, which created creatures like him and his siblings.

Chanyeol struggled into a sitting position. “How much timed do we have left?”

The Knight of the Forest, Kim Seokjin offered him an apple, but he refused. Jin was a Fairy, with eyes like a man, present, and mortal. Chanyeol would never admit it, but he was afraid of him.

“We have half a day,” Jin answered sullenly. “How will we make it to the Sun’s Keep in time?”

“My brother and I will fly,” Chanyeol replied. “You all will make it on foot. Try to get there as soon as you can. We leave at daybreak.”

Chanyeol wondered if Jin knew how to fly. He should have been able too, child of the Shadow Glass, a royal Fairy even if disgraced. But where were his wings? The King shook his head. Those were questions for less dire times.

Daybreak was nearing. The sky was already lightening to a dull blue. All around, Chanyeol could hear the tree singing. It was a funeral dirge. They all marched to the cadence of it.

“How are you?” Euigeon approached him, palm against his forehead, feeling for the temperature. “You’re still a little warm.”

The stable boy had a healer's touch, personally trained by the Peder. But it was more than that, the King found comfort in him, just his existence. “I’m all better now that you’re here.”

Euigeon flushed before hitting him on the shoulder gently. “We’re at war. There’s no time for sweet nothings. I’ll get you armor ready.”

Chanyeol leaned forward, caught the man by the waist and pulled him close, resting his chin in the crook of the younger’s neck. “But there will be time someday if you’ll have me.”

“You’re a fool if you think it’s a question,” Euigeon hummed. “I can’t wait for that day.”.

Before the two lovers could talk more, Jimin roused from his slumber, gasping, crying. He shot up straight and screamed, “Yoongi.” Chanyeol’s mind went back to a time when Jimin was young. The Firefly used to have nightmares as a child. The King remembered soothing him then, before duty locked up the love in his heart. Jimin never looked so lost, or so lonely.

“It was only a dream, brother,” Chanyeol whispered, giving Jimin’s damn hair a tousle, sending Euigeon off.

Jimin’s eyes glowed dimly, as the panic slowly drained from them. He took a shaky breath. Then he took a steady one. “We should get ready.”

Chanyeol shook the last of his headache. It was the day of reckoning. They had until nightfall before the solstice. The sun rose, coloring the sky a blood red. The King wasn’t sure they would make it in time, even by flight, but they had to try. The rest were lost, sick, and traveling on foot. They’d arrive after, the King knew. They’d only see the victory, if not, they’d probably not live long enough to realize their own defeat.

Sir Seokjin roused the Peace Bringer from his slumber. Namjoon awoke, taking a breath like a newborn baby would his first.

“What is it, Joon?” Seokjin asked, helping the man to stand.

“A dream,” the Rosen Knight managed. “I saw a wolf, a bear, and a harpy. I think they’re coming.”

Animal Gods?

Chanyeol didn’t hear anything approaching, nothing for miles.

“You’re not well,” the King stated. “Perhaps it’ll be better if you stay here. I don’t think you’ll be able to make it anyway.”

Namjoon looked so sunken; it was alarming. “I’m sure, Your Highness. Please trust me.”

The King heard silence all around. No one was coming. Jimin flashed the Peace Bringer a concerned look before turning to Chanyeol. “We have not the time. We have to go.”

Chanyeol nodded. The two prepared, shoulding their armor, the Dragonfly, and the Firefly. Jimin looked ready to lead an army to battle, silver helm with two feathers shooting from the top. But there was no army. It’d be just the two of them against the Spider. The only thing to their advantage was that they didn’t have to defeat him.They only had to stall him long enough for the moment to pass. Once the moon set, the Day of Red would be over, and the boundary between worlds would remain intact.

Jimin eyes started glowing as he flexed his shoulders, two gossamer wings bloomed from his back. He fluttered them, testing the strength. Then the Prince turned to Chanyeol, eyeing him curiously. The King hadn’t shown his wings to anyone before.

This was no time to be bashful.

Chanyeol closed his eyes and focused, feeling that more people were starting to watch him. It wasn’t every day the King sprouted wings. It didn’t make him any less of a ruler, did it?

He heard Jimin softly chuckle before covering his mouth. Chanyeol sighed. It was to be expected. While the Prince had clear wings with a sort of rainbow glimmer about them, the King did not. His wings were opaque and colored a bright, orchid pink. There were swirls of gold in them too, but-

“Well,” Jimin couldn’t help but smile. A part of Chanyeol was glad to see Jimin’s mood lighten, even if it was at his own expense. “That explains a lot.”

“Shut up, Jimin,” Chanyeol grumbled.

The Firefly stifled something that almost sounded like a laugh, which set the King’s heart at ease. “Let’s fly, brother.”

Before the two could take off, Namjoon grabbed the King’s arm. “Just wait, I know help is on the way.”

Chanyeol wanted to believe Namjoon, but time was of the essence. They needed to get to Yoongi before the eclipse started. “I’m sorry, but we can’t wait.”

“Just trust me,” Namjoon said.

The King searched the Peace Bringer’s eyes. The man was convinced that someone was coming to their aid. But more than that, something stirred inside the King, something that told him to have faith. Jimin flapped his wings impatiently.

“Maybe we should wait,” Chanyeol finally said to the Knight’s relief.

“Wait?” Jimin huffed. “We can’t wait. Yoongi is in danger.”

“I have a feeling,” the King said. “What if he’s speaking the truth.”

“He’s delirious,” Jimin hissed. “We need to go now. You may not love Yoongi, but I do. I’ll go without you.”

Jimin tried to take off but, Chanyeol held him back. “Just wait.”

Before Jimin could twist away, Chanyeol finally heard something. It was coming from the air.

Something black soared above, disappearing into the clouds before diving at them. It caught the light of the day, with great silver wings. A harpy, only big enough to hold three men, landed in front of them. There were two people sitting on top of it. One a beautiful, golden woman, and the other a hairy, bearded man.

“Who are you?” Chanyeol asked, brows furrowed, heart drumming.

The man jumped to the ground, and somewhere in the middle of his fall, he’d changed into a magnificent, brown bear. The golden woman hopped off the bird, and no sooner had she done it, did she turn into a familiar looking wolf.

“Samjokgu?” the King gasped.

In the world-weary flesh. Where is my son?

“He’s already been captured,” Namjoon said.

Help had come just as Joon had said. The Animal Gods of old had appeared to aid them. These were the stories of legend.

Then we have not a second to waste. Get on, Peace Bringer.

Namjoon made a motion towards the three-eyed beast, only to be stopped. It was the Silver Harpy, the God of all Birds. He stared at Namjoon.

I will be the one to carry you.

With that, they took flight. Chanyeol, Jimin, and Namjoon to the skies. Euigeon, Jungkook, and Seokjin below, carried by the beasts of the land. They sped along the ground as Chanyeol watched overhead.

The King looked at the stable boy, how his hair blew carelessly in the wind. When all of this was over, the two would spend a year in respite, that was a promise he made to himself. The King would know victory and love.

The Gods were on their side.





Jimin

Shadows ghosted along the forest floor. Euigeon was riding atop Samjokgu. Namjoon and Seokjin were both on the Bear. Jimin remembered, at that moment, when he and Yoongi had once looked up at the stars. The Wolf had told him about this Bear under that night sky, how he was gentle and sweet-natured, except when his food stock was threatened. It’d made Jimin laugh then, but now it made him want to cry.

Chanyeol was flying ahead, rose-colored wings oddly appropriate for him. He was a better flier than Jimin could ever hope to be. He glided along the currents of the wind and they carried him. Jimin had to fight every gust, every turbulent swirl, and pocket. His brother noticed his struggle and flew in close.

“It’s because you’re fighting it,” Chanyeol said, wings flapping to some unknown rhythm which made him perfectly steady in the sky.

“If I don’t push forward, then the wind will pull me back,” Jimin said frustratedly.

Chanyeol just clicked his teeth. Were they really going to rekindle their rivalry? Jimin was ready to throw insults if that was the case.

“It’s not the wings that keep you up,” Chanyeol said. He flew above Jimin, grabbed his wings and stilled them. For a moment, the Prince thought he was going to fall out of the sky. He panicked and thrashed in Chanyeol’s grip.

“Calm down,” the King hummed, steadying Jimin with an arm to the waist. “Just trust me.”

Jimin clenched his jaw but gave the King an affirming nod. Chanyeol let him go, betraying that trust. Jimin expected to fall, tumble to the ground most unceremoniously, but he hovered as if by magic.

It was magic.

“You’ll stay in the air, whether or not you use your wings. It’s because they pull you up, and counter your weight.” Chanyeol explained. “You only need to use them for direction.”

The King pulled Jimin forward, showing him the tiny nuances of flight, how his wings dipped to push the air back. The Prince did the same and he realized his mistakes at once. He never knew his brother could be such a good teacher.

“Good, good,” Chanyeol hummed. “That’s right, you got it, baby brother.” The King flushed and cleared his throat, before rectifying his mistake, “uh, Jimin.”

“Thanks,” Jimin replied, hoping the awkwardness would dissipate.

Chanyeol merely nodded and took the lead again. “Let’s catch up before we lose them.”

It was much easier now, flowing with the air. He found that he could surpass the Wolf and Bear on the ground. He could probably even catch the Harpy, who was far ahead, with Namjoon. But that was no longer a need.

They were there.

Suddenly, the Firefly was a Fury, like the tales in his mother’s storybooks. He glowed so brightly, it hurt the eyes just to look at him. Jimin didn’t know if Yoongi was still alive, but the moon had yet to make an appearance in the sky, and so he had hope. The spires of the Sun’s keep appeared on the horizon, dark, ominous spikes that pierced the bleeding sky. The Day of Red was finally upon them, the final hour.

Jimin dived, meeting the group on the ground. Namjoon was already there, hair unkempt, surveying the area. He beelined for something, and everyone followed. Jimin used his Dream Master’s ability to hop minds, and he realized they were going right for Yoongi. The Wolf was alive, tied to something, ropes digging into his wrists.

The Fireflies powers were returning at just the right time. They had hope. They could save the Wolf, and stop this night from coming to fruition. They trekked down the slope of a hill, and what Jimin saw in his mind, became reality.

Yoongi was there, tied to a log that grounded him to the dark pyre. It was like in his nightmares, only the thing different was that it wasn’t on fire on yet. The moon was not out, still hidden by the last rays of the sun.

“Just in time,” a silver man said, with cold, dead eyes. The King of the Night, of the Forest, and of Destruction.

Samjokgu growled, hackles raised. She looked furious.

Let my baby go. I will not ask again, Jeonghan.

The old-young man laughed, eyes glittering with delight. “Wild beast do not command Kings.”

You’re not a King. You’re not my King.

“I will kill you before the night is done,” Jeonghan spat, face filled with hatred. “Vile scum. I’ve had enough of this entrapment. I will come for your blood. But first, I will set this night on fire.”

Jeonghan’s eyes turned red, then they multiplied on his face. His body grew out thick black hairs. He stretched and bloated, in what could only be described as painfully. Then he was upon then, traversing the ground on seven legs, one gone since Jimin had blasted it off.

Samjokgu charged, a gelded spirit, so fast she didn’t touch the ground. She collided with the Spider, and Jimin swore that lightning struck. So furious was their battle, teeth, and fangs, drawing blood in buckets. The Wolf had the upper hand, spitting out a huge chunk of carapace, his purple blood burning and smoking on the ridges of her jaws. But she didn’t care.

Jimin flew forward toward the pyre. Yoongi was alert, not at all harmed, unlike the Prince had expected. He was as in good of health as one could be, facing death. His mouth was gagged, but he continued to mumble through it.

Jimin tore the thing away, before working on the ropes. Yoongi took a lung full of fresh air before shouting, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Jimin hissed. “But this is not the time for that.”

“You came for me,” Yoongi groaned, voice hoarse. “I knew you would, even when he had the dagger to my throat. I knew you would save me.”

“The moon’s not even out yet,” Jimin said quickly.

But the night proved him wrong, no sooner had he said it, did the faint outline of the thing appear in the sky, bright red, like a closed eye, weeping crimson.

Jimin quickly hoisted Yoongi over his shoulder in the most embarrassing way. Then he took off, flying high into the sky, to get the wolf as far from the pyre as he could. Yoongi screamed, turned even paler and clung to Jimin tight. It took a moment for the Firefly to remember Yoongi’s fear of heights. The Wolf struggled so hard that Jimin almost dropped him. He caught Yoongi by the waist and held him close.

“Why would you do that?” Yoongi shouted, wrapping his legs around Jimin’s torso for extra security, even though it impeded the Prince’s flying ability.

Jimin chuckled and ran a hand through the wolf’s white-blonde locks, before he kissed him fiercely. The Firefly set him to the ground, and Yoongi fell on his butt from the sheer passion of his rescue.

“You’re welcome,” Jimin hummed. “Stay hidden, my wolf.”

Before Yoongi could answer, Jimin flew off back to the battle. It raged on in ferocity. Jeonghan was missing another limb. Samjokgu was lying on the ground further away from the battle, she was wheezing, dark red blood mixing and burning with the purple ooze that laid near her mouth.

Jimin landed beside her. “Are you alright?’

Samjokgu’s third eye flitted to him.

Leave me. I’m so far from home.

Jimin tried to clean the acid from her fur, but he only managed to take patches of it away.

Go help the Dragonfly. I will yet live Changeling, before you make me bald.

Chanyeol was fighting their grandfather. The King was on the ground, a huge tear in his left wing, so he was unable to fly. Jimin joined the fray. The Bear was attacking the Spider from behind, the hawk launched claws from the skies. Jungkook, Euigeon, and Namjoon were occupying the arachnid’s legs.

They were winning.

Jimin dared to hope as he took to the air.

Then, it all went wrong.

Suddenly, everything stilled. Jimin felt his entire body go rigid as he slammed hard into the ground. He had a perfect view of the scene. Everyone had dropped, no longer in control of their bodies. Everyone but the Spider, who moved freely. He stumbled about, taking a moment to realize that the battle was over.

But how?

The Spider turned back into a man, face caked in blood. He laughed. “I see your sister has come through for me.”

Jeonghwa?

What did she have to do with this?

“Her fairy’s gift is puppetry. She has you all bound with strings,” Jeonghan gloated.

No! Not now! Not when they were about to win.

Jeonghan looked at the pyre and frowned. “It looks like the pup has escaped. No matter, there are plenty of choices.”

The Spider looked around and spotted Chanyeol first. He was simply the one closest to him.

No! No, please…

Jeonghan picked Chanyeol up by his hair and dragged him to the pyre. His body was limp but his eyes were shining with fear. Jimin cried silently.

Pick someone else. Pick me instead .

The Spider slammed Chanyeol’s body on the sacrificial altar. He pulled out a dagger.

“This half sacrifice, I give you. Let the blood flow, let the door open,” Jeonghan hissed, voice like a snake’s.

Jimin couldn’t close his eyes. They were frozen in an open position. He saw the dagger plunge deep into Chanyeol’s chest. It was like his own chest had been ripped open. Jimin couldn’t move, not a muscle, though every sinew of his make ached. His brother died right in front of him, the light dimming from his warm, brown eyes.

It had to be a nightmare. But why wasn’t Jimin waking up?

The King made a strangled noise and his head turned to the side, limbs splaying out. His blood pooled at the base of the pyre. As soon as Jeonghan wiped his hands and stepped off the thing, it went a light. High yellow flames eating the wood and his brother’s body. They flickered up into the night, where a crimson moon burned in the sky.

The shadow of the earth moved across its face, marking the beginning of the season.

It was done. They’d lost. The barrier was broken.

Jimin wept, though his body remained completely still, still bound by invisible ties.

The Forest King's looked to the Prince, and he smiled darkly. “Free at last.”



Chapter Text



 

Yoongi

The wolf stood there for a moment, contemplating his safety. Then he ran back into the thicket, using his nose to guide him. It smelled like redwood char, one of Yoongi’s favorite scents. But something about that made the Pale Wolf’s stomach uneasy.

When he arrived at the clearing, everyone was on the floor, wide-eyed and paralyzed. It was some sort of magic. The only one free from the confines was the Spider King. He was closing in on Jimin, about to-

Yoongi charged, changing from a man to the wolf mid-leap. He let the animal inside take over, silver-white fur sprouted on his skin, a mouth for a muzzle, sharp claws for fingernails. Only his bright, lapis blue eyes remained. They glowed in the darkness predatorily.

With a phantom’s growl, he leaped onto Jeonghan before he could end the Prince’s life. His jaws dug into the searing, acidic flesh, hurting them both. The Dark King screamed, punching Yoongi in the skull, trying to loosen his hold. But Yoongi held steadfastly, eyes streaming with a burning pain.

“Let me go, you infested little beast,” the man hissed.

Yoongi bit down harder, letting the Fairy’s blood sizzle in his mouth. The King managed to fling him off, but not without a huge chunk of muscle come along with it. Jeonghan screamed in agony, stumbling back.

The Wolf spit out the flesh that not even the dogs would eat.

“You think you can challenge me,” the man stumbled about. Yoongi noticed that his left hand was missing two fingers, one a stump and the other a fresh wound. He was injured, bleeding from a thousand cuts.  Normally, Yoongi would have no chance, but the King in his current state, it was a coin toss.

High yellow flames at up the sky, and there was something burning upon it, but it was so blackened that Yoongi didn’t know what. He was only glad it wasn’t Jimin on that pyre. A red moon cried crimson tears in the sky, and Yoongi was glad it wasn’t for Jimin. Thoughts like these steadied him. Jimin was alive. He had survived.

“I will flay you alive, dog,” the man belched, coughing up his own poisonous blood.

Yoongi’s stomach, throat, tongue, the corners of his mouth, they all burned. But he, as a wild animal, just instinctively knew he had the upper hand. He wondered if the King of the Night knew the same, with how he cautiously circled around, looking for weak points, not charging in.

“The seal magic is broken,” the ancient man hissed. His eyes were so sunken in that his head was more a skull than a face. Such dark energy radiated from him, but it was flickering in intensity. He was failing.

“I’m free now. I’m going to claim the entire world, cross the seas, and plant my flag there.”

“Unless you die right now,” Yoongi responded, providing the counter momentum, moving in the opposite direction as the King. “Then you won’t be able to do any of that.”

“You think you’re going to kill me,” the King laughed. “I have lived a thousand of your wretched lifetimes.”

“Then how are you still a fool,” Yoongi barked, lowering himself to the ground. “A selfish, bloated, fool.”

The man’s features twisted with anger until he no longer looked like a man. He attacked first, a quick and vicious swipe of his arm, turned serrated claw at the end. Yoongi jumped back, dodging the thing, heart pounding hard in his ears.

Then the dance began anew. They balanced each other again, mirrored movements, waiting and watching.

It started to rain, a drizzle, more a mist really, nothing strong enough to clear the gray bits of ash from the air.

“It’s beginning,” the man spoke, fingertips becoming reverent receiving points to the drops of water. “Salt will rain down on the earth.”

There was a smell to it, the rain.

Saltwater.

It was raining salt water. Yoongi couldn’t worry about it now, how this would poison the earth, how things wouldn’t grow again, and how the face of the land would turn a barren accursed gray. He had to focus on the things he could control. Jimin was alive and Yoongi was keeping him that way.

Yoongi pushed hard into the ground and lept into the air, aimed for the man’s throat, tearing it out. The rancid flesh ate up his mouth before he tossed it away.

The King should have been dead, but he wasn’t. He was unaffected. His throat hemorrhaging out blood, seemed harmless to him. He used Yoongi’s surprise against him, lacerating the wolf’s side. Yoongi cried out, leaping away before the man could dig in.

There was a moment of thick tension.

Yoongi watched the King, hackles raised, ready for another trade of blows. He was ready to die to protect Jimin. “Damn,” the old man hissed. Upon seeing that his determination was outmatched, Jeonghan retreated.

Yoongi would’ve gone after him, if not for the crippling pain in his gut, and the fact that Jimin needed him. The Wolf gently pulled him to sitting. The Prince was weeping inconsolably.

“What’s wrong, where does it hurt?” Yoongi asked.

Jimin’s body was strangely rigid as if it was somehow wrapped in thick, invisible rope.

“Ch-Chanyeol,” was all the Prince managed to say.

“What?” Yoongi asked, stomach sinking.

“He’s-” Jimin couldn’t finish speaking. He broke down in tears, sobs rolling through his body.

Yoongi looked at the charred body. The wolf felt sick. He turned his head and vomited right into the grass. He tried to breathe, but it came out as a wretched cry. Yoongi couldn’t get any air into his lungs, his mind racing.

He stared at the charred body on the pyre and tried to see the boy he’d once found in the woods, the little, lost boy in a bright blue cloak, but he couldn’t. He’d been crying when Yoongi found him, scared, nose running. Yoongi had been a pup at the time, wary of humans. But there was something so harmless about Chanyeol. He had these ridiculous ears.

They were so funny, too big for his head.

“Oh,” Yoongi couldn’t stifle the cries that tore their way out of his body, the dirge for the great Dragonfly King, and a lost, little boy.

There were the summers they’d spent together. They stole so much honey from the Bear God, who laid unmoving in the grass right now.

Yoongi’s mother wasn’t doing much better, breathing raggedly, her third eye upon him.

“Mom.” Yoongi set Jimin down, gently as possible, before he crawled over to her side. “No, it’s all gone wrong.”

It begins. Let your pain go and then be after him.

“I can’t,” Yoongi whimpered. “He’s gone.”

A man can not kill someone who is meant to live. A man can not save someone who is meant to die. This is the fate that turns and turns, which no man can control.

The emotions welled up hard and fast.

“No,” the wolf hissed, tears streaming down his face, which mingled with the salt water still raining down on them.

The fire burned inside. His wolf understood the sorrow and the loss.

Yoongi looked at the moon and howled, setting his torment free, the final note, then the night fell into a somber silence.





 

Hoseok

Hoseok, Jinki, and Taemin headed for the shore, beating the storm clouds that followed them in the sky. Something was wrong. Hoseok could feel it. They made their way onto land, to the harbor of the Right Eye. They didn’t even have to hide, or scurry, and change back unseen.

There was no one there. The dock was abandoned. How could this be? It was mid-spring, glorious fishing season. The place should have been completely packed with fishermen, mongers, and suggestable women. Children should have been selling bread and water, running up and down the planks, trying to make a few coppers.

It was a graveyard, easy to steal clothing right off the drying line, which they did. People had left in droves, leaving their belongings. Something happened here. As they filed down ranks, it began to rain, but something was off about it.

Jinki licked the water droplets on the back of his hand. “This is saltwater, a curse. We should get out of here.”

Hoseok was going to protests but he saw the Warden’s ship still docked along the peer, dark wood with golden trim. Jeon Donghae, Hoseok’s uncle, Jungkook’s father, Warden of the sea would be on that ship.

They neared it in silence, Taemin wearing a pensive frown.

“What’s wrong?” Hoseok asked, giving the man a gentle pat on the shoulder.

“Nothing. I’m just afraid of the Warden. He puts outlaws and deserters like us into prison,” Taemin said, which was completely true.

“He’s a reasonable man,” Hoseok said. “He’ll listen to me. He’s not like my father at all.”

As they turned the corner, the ship’s deck became visible, and the man standing on it as well. It was the Old Salt Brine himself, Jeon Donghae. As Hoseok saw him, he saw Hoseok. He’d never seen his uncle more shocked than that.

The plank was still set on the dock, so the three men boarded the ship, a small vessel, just enough for the Warden and his guards. Except, it was just the Warden and no one else.

“Hoseok?” the man whispered, eyes wide as if he were seeing a spirit.

“It’s me, uncle,” Hoseok answered. “Where is everyone?”

The Warden lunged for Hoseok, hugging him hard. “I thought you were dead. God, Mul kept telling me you were alive, that you’d turned into a fish. The man has gone half-mad, looking for you, and he’d been half-mad, to begin with.”

Hoseok didn’t expect such a warm greeting. Donghae was a reasonable man, but certainly, at least in the Knight’s experience, not an affectionate one.

“Where is everyone, uncle?” Hoseok said, muffled by the crushing embrace.

“All gone, I sent every man, woman, and child inland,” Donghae replied thickly. Was he crying? “There’s a storm coming.”

“It’s already here,” Jinki interrupted.

Donghae’s eyes flickered upward. “Captain? You look-”

Jinki scratched at his unkempt beard. “I know how I look, sir.”

“What are you doing here then?” Hoseok asked. “Why haven’t you set sail?”

“I was going to,” Donghae replied. The man was crying, unabashedly, tears apparent even in the rain. “I just thought I should wait, maybe it was providence.”

“We should go now, sir,” Jinki pressed. “The storm is at our backs.”

“You’re right. We’ll go inland and foot the rest,” Donghae said, pulling up the plank.

“Drop the sails,” Jinki ordered his little brother, who suddenly became an adept sea hand. A skill Hoseok didn’t know the man had.

The ship glided across the black waters eastward to the Golden Bay. They’d be there by tomorrow if the winds were good.

Donghae pulled Hoseok below deck, letting the Captain navigate the boat in peace.

They sat in the Warden’s quarters, an exceedingly refined area, wine bottles completely secured in little holders along the walls, in case of turbulent seas. Everything was trimmed with gold, tables, chairs, even the writing quills, gilded and tipped.

Upon looking closer, the Warden didn’t match the room. He looked less than his usual regal self. His face was shaved, his hair slicked back, but his eyes were tired. The man busied himself with pouring two cups of wine, giving one of them to Hoseok. His hand was shaking ever so slightly.

Something was wrong with him.

“I heard that Jungkook was in danger,” Hoseok guessed.

Donghae nodded, paused for a moment, and then took a sip of his wine. “He went to the Forge to assist the Princes. The last letter I got was two days ago from the Mountain Warden’s sister in law, noting that Jungkook was headed into the Sunwoods.”

So that wasn’t it. Jungkook was alive, perhaps not in the ideal situation, but breathing.

“We should go after him, make sure he’s fine,” Hoseok suggested.

“I’ve let Kook roam this earth of his free will because I saw what happened to you. It was cruel what my brother did,” Donghae said. “He all but chained your neck to his hand. I should have stopped him.”

Why was he saying this now? After all these years.

“It’s fine,” Hoseok said quickly, draining his wine.

“It’s not.” The Warden shook his head. “That’s probably why you ran away.”

“I didn’t run,” Hoseok corrected him.

The Warden searched his eyes and relented. “Where have you been all this time?”

Hoseok sighed, wondering if the man would even believe him. He decided to tell the Warden the truth, the complete truth, mermaids and all. They’d drained three bottles of wine together, forgoing sleep for stories. Hoseok told him everything.

“So, your mother’s alive,” the Warden asked.

“She is,” Hoseok confirmed, “but she can never come back. She’s stayed too long in the sea. The magic binds her to the waters forever.”

The Warden sheds more drunken tears, not at all like the man that others talk about, the King of the Sea in hushed whispers.

“I have something to tell you, Hoseok,” Donghae said, eyes red from lack of sleep. “It’s hard to explain. I hope- I’m so sorry.”

“Uncle, you’re worrying me,” Hoseok managed. “Whatever it is, I forgive you.”

“I’m your father,” Donghae sighed. “I promised your mother that I’d never tell you.”

Hoseok blanched, feeling the night catch up with him. “You-You’re what?”

“I’m your father,” Donghae repeated, shoulders slumping with relief.

Before Hoseok could respond, Jinki burst in without knocking, soaked through. “We need help.”

Donghae spared Hoseok a longing glance before heading up. The Knight followed after. It was raining hard, one of the sails had partially ripped off its rungs. It flapped uselessly in the downpour.

“Lower the-” Taemin shouted, hand at the wheel. The rest of his words were blasted away by the furious, screaming winds.

It wasn’t that bad just a few moments ago. Where did this storm come from?

“Lower the sails,” Donghae shouted, voice booming. “Hurry, before she sinks.”

The wind rocked the ship back and forth. They were going to capsize.

For three of them, it’d be fine. Mermaids didn’t drown. But the same could not be said for the Warden. He’d be sacrificed to the sea.

Hoseok pulled the lever twisting it counterclockwise. The thing was jammed, the wind blowing at it too hard. Donghae clasped his hands over Hoseok’s and the two together managed to move it.

“Keep turning,” Donghae yelled against the howling wind.

The ship lurched to the left suddenly. Taemin flew off the wheel and hit the railing of the ship. But Donghae faired worse. He was launched into the sea.

“No,” Hoseok shouted, reaching out, eyes wide in horror.

God, no, not his father. He’d just found out. He didn’t even have a chance to forgive him.

Jinki shouted something at Hoseok, before diving into the black. Hoseok swallowed back his panic. He used every ounce of strength, every lash he’d gotten, all the pain he’d gone through, and he turned the crank.

Please.

The sail closed, stopping the brunt of the ships rocking. Hoseok ran toward the rail and watched the water for them, heavy rain blinding him.

Please.

Hoseok grabbed a rope that was tied to the mast, he’d need to toss it to them. But where were they? God, how long had it been?

Please.

Jinki surfaced first. Hoseok felt a burst of relief. Then Donghae followed after, pale as death. The Knight threw them the rope and braced for the pull. Hoseok hauled them both onto the deck. The Captain collapsed on the planks in exhaustion, waterlogged but breathing.

“Thank you,” Hoseok cried, “Thank you!”

Taemin pushed the Knight away, before sealing his lips on the Warden’s, pressing on his chest once, twice, thrice. The heavens cried, and for a long time, nothing happened. Hoseok prayed, begged, pleaded. He didn’t even know to who.

Then Donghae gasped a newborn infant’s breath, eyes red. He coughed out the sea water, wheezing violently.

“Help me carry him,” Jinki shouted. “We need to get inside.”

Hoseok took hold of the Warden’s legs and carried him to the shelter below the deck. The water rocked the ship, but the storm was dying down. The Knight busied himself with getting everyone dry and warm. Jinki had a gash on his head which he tended to.

The Knight had trouble meeting the Captain’s eyes, as he dressed the thing. He didn’t know why.

When the storm ended, the two decided to go back up to survey the damage.

“I’ll stay with the Warden,” Taemin volunteered. “I’ll let you know when he wakes up.”

“Good man,” Hoseok managed.

The storm was over. The skies were a cloudless blue as if it had never happened. The ship was mostly intact. They’d need to do some repairs though. Hoseok peered out over the calm waters, feeling his heart flutter. He still couldn’t meet the Captain’s eyes.

They were far inland. The bay was completely flooded. Hoseok saw the tops of stone buildings in the water. This was a disaster.

And yet, they’d lived. Hoseok was happy, relieved, and-

“Hoseok?” Jinki called. “Look at me.”

The Knight timidly met the Captain’s eyes. Oh, there it was. The image of the man, and blue sky in the backdrop. Still a bit waterlogged, with dark circles under his eyes, he never looked so beautiful.

“I love you,” Hoseok said, words gushing out inadvertently.

Jinki blinked a few times before his mouth bloomed into a smile. “I love you, too.”

The Captain hugged him fiercely, squeezing the air of his lungs. Hoseok turned his head, pressing his lips against the man’s, grabbing at his hair, taking fistfuls. They inhaled each other’s air. Hoseok’s heart hammered fiercely in his chest, but he ultimately broke their kiss, too out of breath to continue. The Captain held him close, unable to let go.

“Where to now? The whole place is flooded.” Jinki whispered.

“We need to find my brother,” Hoseok answered.





 

 

Jeonghwa

Jeonghwa stood in the tower of the Sun’s Keep. She hadn’t gone with the soldiers like her grandfather had asked. She knew that he would need her, so she hid, dressing up a Fairy woman to be her double. Using her ties to bind the girl to the carriage, so she couldn’t speak out of turn.

She watched from the tower, the fight going on below. Her Grandfather was losing. It was ten to one. How was that fair? Jeonghwa watched the animals tear him apart by the mouthful. Chanyeol and Jimin were under the Pale wolf’s spell. They didn’t know any better.

Jeonghwa had to help. She let her strings go, binding up everyone there. She felt their bodies, like real weights under fingertips: ten bodies, ten fingers. They all fell to the ground.

“Run, run,” Jeonghwa hissed, knowing he couldn’t hear her.

Her grandfather turned back into a man, bleeding from many points, but he was alive. Of course, the sacrifice had been foiled. He’d have to stay a prisoner in the Sunwoods for another year. They’d have to find the Wolf next time, but that was fine. He was alive.

But, he wasn’t running.

“What’s he doing?” Jeonghwa said, eyes wide.

The man grabbed Chanyeol by his hair and dragged him towards the pyre.

What?

What was this?

Jeonghwa hurriedly tried to loosen her ties but she couldn’t. She was too panicked. She needed a focused mind to-

No!

Jeonghan raised a dagger above her brother’s chest.

“No,” the Princess screamed, unable to undo her magic.

Why? Why couldn’t they just wait another year? Why-

Chanyeol convulsed under the blade then he went still.

The Princess turned away from the scene, feeling the heaviness in her fingers. One of those weights was dead now, belonging to her brother, the King.

It was her fault. She’d- no it was her Grandfather. Jeonghan had killed him. But why?

Her vision blurred with tears. She couldn’t breathe, and still, the weight hung dead on her fingertips. She wrung her hands, trying to free the strings, but she couldn’t.

“What’s wrong, my child?” a voice like a snake’s spoke in the darkness.

Jeonghwa dried her tears and shuffled backward, falling flat on her backside. “Who’s there?”

“My name is Leeteuk.”

Someone stepped forward from the shadows, with strange rainbow eyes and a face so beautiful it was terrifying.

“Who are you?” Jeonghwa asked brokenly.

“It doesn’t matter who I am. Why do you cry?” Leeteuk asked, strangely fascinated.

“I can’t stop,” the Princess cried. “My brother is dead. And I-”

The man looked at her hands. “You have my power. More than my own son ever did.”

What was he saying? Did he know about her Fairy’s Gift?

“Help me,” Jeonghwa managed, voice thick with sorrow.

In the distant, she heard a lonely, somber howl.

“Please,” she begged.

The man took hold of her hands, brushing the pads of her fingers. The magic of her binds fell away, setting her fingers free.

“Thank you,” she sniffled.

“It’s no problem, Miss,” the man said softly.

“Are you one of my grandfather’s soldiers?” Jeonghwa asked, wiping her tears.

“No,” Leeteuk answered, eyes growing wider. “I only serve myself as do you now.”

“I don’t understand,” the Princess said hoarsely.

“The food is ready. I must go eat,” the man replied, stepping backward and disappearing into the wall.

Had it been a hallucination? Jeonghwa shook her head. She needed to go down there and make sure Jimin was alright. There was no time to ponder.

Unsteadily, she rose to her feet, her body laden with grief. Jimin was her only family now. She needed to get to him. She marched down the spire as fast as her wobbly legs could take her. Then she ghosted across the tall, dark grass towards the flames.

She came into the clearing, where everyone was paying homage to the fallen King. It was Jungkook who saw her first.

“Princess!” the Knight shouted, alerting everyone else.

“Where’s my brother?” Jeonghwa demanded. Jimin wasn’t among the ranks.

“He’s gone. He went after the Spider King, Your Highness,” Jungkook answered.

A large golden wolf with three eyes approached them, her side was all torn up but healing rapidly. She spoke but not with her mouth. It was like the voice sounded in the Princess’ mind.

You killed your own brother.

“It was an accident,” Jeonghwa cried. “I was tricked.”

Jungkook held her, a position that’d be unbecoming for a Princess, though neither of them cared. “I’m so sorry.”

“Hush, it’s okay,” Jungkook cooed. “You’re alright now, Your Highness. You’re safe.”

The Princess cried harder. “I loved him. I did. He was always mean to me but I still loved him. Now he’s gone. He was a lousy brother but he was a good King.”

Someone fell to the floor and wept drawing the Princess’ attention. It was the stable boy, Jimin’s best friend. What was he doing here?

“God, no,” the boy cried, clawing at himself. Two Knights, colored in strange golden light, consoled the poor boy.

“I’m so sorry, Euigeon,” one of the Knights said, the one with piercing blue eyes and golden hair.

“I can’t go on,” Euigeon cried, burying his face in the ground, sobs wracking his body.

The other Knight- it was Kim Seokjin, Jeonghwa realized - but he’d changed, as though he’d drunk Fairy wine.The man pulled Euigeon up, holding him gently. “Shhh, it’s alright.”

Euigeon tore himself from the Knight's grasp and rushed at the Princess. “You killed him, you bitch.”

Jungkook stopped him, holding him back by the shoulders. “Calm down, man. It wasn’t her fault!”

“He’s dead,” he screamed. “He’s dead!”

Then the stable boy sank to his knees again. “He told me we’d travel, once this was over, that’d he’d always love me. What-” His words slurred unintelligibly as he cried into his hands.

Jungkook explained the situation to the Princess as best he could, choking up a few times.

God, she’d been a fool. All of this misery was on her hands, staining them red.

The Princess watched the pyre die down, her brother’s ashen body turning to dust upon it, as salt water rained from the heavens.

Jeonghwa fell to her knees as well. “I promise to avenge you, Chanyeol. I promise. I’ll rule well, and remember you always.”

Some of the Knights exchanged uncomfortable looks. But the Son of the Golden Isles stepped forward.

Jungkook gave her shoulder a squeeze. “The King is Dead. Long live the Queen.”





 

 

Jimin

Jimin laid in the grass, unable to move, something unseeable constricting his body. Then suddenly he was free, the invisible binds meltings away from his body. He gasped for air as he convulsed. Yoongi was by his side before he could call out, holding him, rocking him soothingly.

“It’s okay, Jimin,” Yoongi hummed. “You’re okay.”

“No, I’m not,” Jimin whispered tearfully.

“We-we have to get him,” Yoongi replied. “We can’t let him get away with this.”

“You-You’re hurt,” Jimin managed, overcoming his grief. His Wolf needed him. “We-We can’t go anywhere.”

“I’ll live,” Yoongi said dully.

The wolf was in no condition to chase after Jeonghan, ravaged side bleeding heavily.

“No,” Jimin said. “I-I have to go on my own.”

Yoongi shook his head. “I’d let this whole world come to ruin before I’d let you go, Firefly.”

The Harpy God glided over to them, wings like steel plates, glinting even in the darkness.

Lover’s talk irks me so

Yoongi bowed his head. “I’m sorry.”

What to do? I stake my claims and see the path split.

Jimin shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

You’re as pinnacle to this as the Peace Bringer. Who are you? Why does destiny choose you?

“I don’t know,” Jimin responded, heart pounding hard.

Every coin has two faces. If the Shield is the Peace Binger, then you must be the War Bringer.

“War Bringer?” Jimin repeated.

This is your time. The War of Days is upon us. You will slay the Spider King. I see it now as clear as day.

Before Jimin could move away, the Harpy pressed the tips of its wings on him and Yoongi, giving them life. Jimin felt all his wounds sew themselves shut. He saw the same was happening with Yoongi. The power came from one of the Harpy’s feathers, which turned a dull gray, falling out of his plumage.

The debt is paid. Go, chase after him, Firefly. Save us.

Yoongi flexed his claws and shook the wetness clinging to his fur. “Ready, my love?”

Jimin nodded, placing his tarnished helm back on his head. “Let’s go.”

He hopped onto Yoongi’s back, and the two of them flew into the line of trees as one. Yoongi ran so fast that his feet didn’t touch the ground. He was the mist itself, a streak of white in the darkness.

They followed the line of destruction, where Jeonghan’s acidic blood corroded the foliage. The King was moving quickly through the thicket

At daybreak, they stopped for a brief respite.

“We’re closing in,” Yoongi huffed, folding onto the ground. Jimin gave him the bigger share of water since he’d done all the work.

“I know,” Jimin said, wiping the sweat from his brow.

“A-Are you alright?” Yoongi whispered suddenly, lapis eyes swirling with concern.

Jimin couldn’t think about it right now. Neither of them could. It’d compromise them to the task at hand. All the Prince could focus on was the fight.

“Can you keep going?” Jimin asked. “Or should fly the rest of the way?”

Yoongi shook his head. “No, I can keep moving. We’re close. I can smell him, his rotting, sour stench.”

Jimin mounted him again. With a soft tug, they ran furiously onward for what felt like centuries. Then finally, they spotted the first splotch of dark purple. The blood hadn’t settled yet. That was how close they were. Battle filled the air, and the war drums beat again.

It’d always been leading to this moment.

Suddenly Yoongi stopped mid-step, whole body going rigid. Jimin was flung to the ground from the loss of momentum.

“Yoongi?” What-” Jimin began, only to realize what had happened. Yoongi was caught in a gigantic spider web, thick lines of near-invisible black string tugging at his fur.

“Behind you,” the wolf growled, thrashing against the web.

Jimin barely managed to dodge the blow, a serrated claw falling on him like a guillotine blade. The Prince drew his bow, flitting to the side, dodging another strike. His grandfather tore up the earth trying to kill him. But Jimin was quick on his feet.

“Dirty, vile child,” the Spider King spat. “How you vex me.”

“You killed my brother,” Jimin spat, “Your grandson.”

“You’re trying to destroy me,” the beast hissed. “I can’t let that happen.”

Jimin drew his bow, calling on his power, but something whizzed through the air right by his ear.

“The cavalry arrives,” the King of the Forest. “You’re done for.”

A line of golden Fairy sentries appeared behind the trees, aimed for Jimin. The Firefly took flight, wings unfolding. With a flick, he shot up into the sky. The arrows fell short of him. Jimin used what he learned from Chanyeol to move in the air. He was too fast for them.

“Get him.” the King spat. “Kill him.”

He had only a handful of arrows. He couldn't worry about the sentries. He needed to focus on the King. Even though he was a big target, the purple stripe along his bloated backside was not. That’s where the Prince had to hit.

Jimin aimed, but the moment he stopped moving the arrows came too close for comfort. So instead, the Prince decided to skid along the trees for cover. It proved effective.

With his heart beating furiously, he drew his first arrow, aimed, and fired. It was headed straight for the King, a perfect shot. Only at the last second, a Fairy soldier threw herself in front of it, taking the bolt to the chest.

“Fuck,” Jimin hissed, flying around in a spiral, avoiding more arrows. From the corner of his eye, he saw Yoongi wretch himself free, tearing out patches of his fur. The wolf pounced on one of the archers, ripping his throat out, dark crimson staining his muzzle.

“Kill them both,” the King said, surrounding himself with his sentries, using them as shields.

Jimin lit up bright, blindingly bright, urged on by his fury and the love of his now lost brother.

“Why didn’t you chose me? Chanyeol was a good King. He was a good man. How could you?” Jimin shouted, aiming again, arrow finding another Fairy willing to die for the Spider.

The Spider King smiled, brandishing his fangs and claws. “Because he was the closest one.”

Jimin felt anger and sorrow. A darkness bloomed in his heart. His arrows turned black as he held them. He took aim and fired. The arrow tore through the Fairies like they were stalks of grass ready to be reaped, splitting them in two. So many bodies fell.

What the fuck?

“Stop him,” the King screamed.

Jimin had only three arrows left. He felt the dark power consume him, ridden with grief, spurred on by vengeance. He let another arrow fly, and bodies littered the ground like raindrops.

“You will never see your freedom. I will slay you where you stand,” Jimin said, voice low and deep, filled with anguish. A ghost danced outside of his vision, blue eyes fraught with worry.

“Come at me, boy,” the King goaded him, all eight eyes trained on him. Jimin took his next shot-

But one of the sentries managed to hit Jimin with a bolt, punching a fist-sized hole into his left wing. The Prince tumbled to the ground, flapping furiously but losing height. More arrows came his way, Jimin dove right, avoiding the brunt of them, but one of the arrows hit him in the leg, between his armor. Pain shoot through his body.

“Ah fuck,” Jimin hissed, slamming hard into the ground.

“KILL HIM,” the King spat.

Jimin could see an arrow coming right for him. Yoongi jumped in the way, swatting the thing out of the air. “Hurry, Firefly.”

With every movement laced with agonizing pain, Jimin drew his second to last arrow. He aimed it briefly and fired.

The King flinched backward. The bolt hit him right in the eyes, taking several of them out. The King screamed, thrashing, blinded, his legs impaling his own soldiers.

Jimin hurt so much, his leg pounding where the arrow was impaled. He needed to focus now, all of his power. He had one more chance to kill this wretched beast.

It was then that everything went still. The Spider King stopped moving, and so did all the Fairies guarding him. What?

Jimin spotted Jeonghwa in the trees, just her eyes, which seemed to glint rainbow. She was atop the Harpy.

“Take the shot, Jimin,” she screamed. “I can’t hold him much longer.”

The Spider jolted to the left before stilling again.

“Hurry!”

Jimin felt his Fairy’s gift coursing through him. He aimed, took a breath. Then, he let the final arrow fly. The thing sailed through the air, moving in slow motion, flying in the night for what seemed like forever.

Then it struck the Spider, right in his heart. A dying, screeching cry burned through the air so harsh that Jimin had to cover his ears. The beast swayed left then right then left again before falling to the ground in a thunderous quake.

“Why?” the Spider hissed. “Why, Ladybug?”

Then the beast rattled, hissed and curled in on itself, legs twitching. He was dead. That was all that mattered. Jimin saw black eating at his vision.

Yoongi turned back into a man, catching the Prince before he fell.

“Stay with me, Jimin,” Yoongi said. “Stay with me.”

Then it all went dark. Whispers of death filled his ears.

Jimin felt like he was floating, reaching for something. It caught a hold of his hand, pulling him close.

“You are the King now. Carry me with you. I’ll be by your side always.”

…...

…...

The Prince’s eyes popped open, and glorious sunlight seared his eyes.

“Jimin? You’re awake?” a hopeful voice danced above him.

A pair of strong hands pulled him to sitting, leaning him against a tree.

“Where are we?” Jimin hummed.

“Is he awake?” another voice spoke, this one deeper.

“Just let me talk to him first,” the first voice hissed. “Go away, Namjoon.”

“Water,” Jimin rasped.

He felt the mouth of a waterskin against his lip. He drank as much as he could, which was actually very little.

“How do you feel?” the voice asked. Jimin focused, blinking the tears out of his eyes. It was Yoongi, looking soft and helpless with worry in the sunlight.

“How long have I been asleep?” Jimin asked.

“A few days. The Fairies did their magic to heal your leg. We couldn’t move you, so we waited.” Yoongi said, hand cupping Jimin’s face. “I missed you, Firefly.”

Jimin looked around. Everyone was there, making camp, eyeing him warily.

“We-We won?” Jimin managed.

Yoongi nodded, “The Spider King is dead.”

“What about the war?”

“Without their King, the Sun Fairies have fallen back. They were the ones that healed you. They said they were sorry, and they were only following orders.”

Jimin looked around again, trying to absorb the information. “Where’s my sister?”

“She went with them,” Yoongi said, thumb caressing the Prince’s cheek.

“Oh,” Jimin huffed. “We did it.”

“Yes, we won. The War of Days isn’t coming… at least not soon.” Yoongi said.

“Hmmm?”

“The barrier is broken. The Fairies can cross the border now. I’m not sure what the Shadow Glass will do.”

Jimin sighed. “We’ll find out.”

“But for now, rest,” Yoongi said, wrapping his arms gently around Jimin. “We’ve won.”

The sunlight hit the forest floor in all its glory. The trees were alive and strong, all the sickness seemingly purged from the roots.

“Something happened to me,” Jimin recalled. “It took over.”

“I saw,” Yoongi whispered. “Your eyes turned black, and so did your arrows. You were terrifying.”

“Are you scared of me?” Jimin asked, heart aching.

“Never,” Yoongi replied. “I love you, all of you. Whatever you did, you saved us.”

Jimin whispered, “Chanyeol is dead. My brother is dead.”

“I know,” Yoongi said. “We’ll mourn him when the time comes. We have his ashes at least.”

“Thank you,” Jimin croaked. Yoongi softly wiped the tears from the Prince’s eyes.

“What do we do now?” Yoongi said. “You’re the King now.”

The realization hit Jimin hard. He hadn’t even thought about that. The words reminded him of the dream he had.

“I’m not fit to be a King,” Jimin murmured.

“I think you are. You understand the pain of others. You’re kind. You’d be a magnificent King,” Yoongi said.

“You only say that because you love me,” Jimin smiled.

“I do love you, but that is not why I say it,” Yoongi replied with a soft grin.

Never did the wolf look so beautiful.

Jimin turned his head and gently pressed a kiss to Yoongi’s lips. Even after all this time, it made the Firefly’s heart flutter.

“We’ll rebuild, together,” Jimin whispered. “I promise.”

Yoongi took Jimin’s hand into his, slotting their fingers together. It made Jimin feel hopeful and safe.

“The King is Dead,” Yoongi said softly. “Long live the King.”



Chapter Text

The Day of the Hunt was upon Sword Forge again. So much had happened in the span of a year. The fortress had survived two Kings, a flood, and a food shortage. But with the Crowning of the new King, Park Jimin, all became well.

As well as it could be.

Kim Taehyung was still missing, not dead since he sent a raven to his brother every so often. The same could not be said about Kim Beom. When Namjoon had received the news, he’d been with his mother at the time, they both cried, curled up and cried. Then, they dyed all their clothes black, out of respect. Seokjin had been Namjoon’s pillar of support, consoling him for many dark days. But eventually the tears ran dry and the healing began.

Hoseok managed to find Jungkook, with his band of trusty merman in tow, and Jungkook’s father, Jeon Donghae. The news about being brothers made Jungkook wary at first, but after Hoseok told Jungkook his story, the two of them reconciled.

Jimin held a funeral for Chanyeol, a great many people came from all over: commoners, southerners, Druids, even Savages. They all came to bid the King farewell.

That same week, Jimin and Yoongi made their vows, and the Wolf became the official King’s Consort. There was a ring and everything. It was an amazing affair. Animal Gods of all shapes and sizes came to witness, along with the people. The ceremony was held outside to the bloom of a thousand pink roses. Mushroom and Watcher also attended. They’d managed to reconcile their differences. Mushroom helped Watcher get over the King’s death, and now… the mare was pregnant.

At the Consort Ceremony, Yoongi cried and thanked Jimin for accepting him for who he was, half a man, half a wolf, but also entirely himself. Jimin did the same, thanking him, telling him that there was no one who he loved more in all the world.

Yes, it a was happy ending, and the Annual Hunt was the capstone to the year. The winner of it was one Kim Seokjin, who requested a boat to sail the seas and find his fortune. Jimin, being the King, and his good friend, granted said request. Namjoon and Jin took sail the very next day in search of Taehyung, who was somewhere on the face of the earth. That much they knew.

Yes, this was the good news.

But there was also some bad news.

Jeonghwa, Jimin’s sister thought she was supposed to be queen, but the throne deflected to Jimin instead. She was actually elected to be the new Queen of the Forest, of the Night, and of all Fairies. Jimin, as forgiving as he was, still harbored a pin of anger towards her for playing a part in Chanyeol’s death. Jeonghwa at the same time felt cheated of the Forge throne. Jimin knew this would not end well. But for the time being, Jeonghwa was still growing into her role.

There was also the matter of Jimin’s bastard brother, who lived in the south and spent his days rallying support. Park Hyungsik, the man was gaining favor, simply by being completely human. There were a great many that wanted to see him on the throne.

But that was not all, the Shadow Glass had yet to make a move. Perhaps she was still biding her time, waiting for a better moment to strike. Or maybe she’d given up since Jeonghan was already dead. It could have been anything.

Finally, there was the fact that Jimin was the War Bringer, who had a red feather as his dream totem. He was frightened of himself and of his power. He’d gotten a taste of it on the night he killed the Spider King. There was a darkness inside of him. How strong it was, he didn’t know.

Problems aside, there was peace and prosperity, one that Sword Forge had never known. The land flowed with milk and honey. Jimin was praised and accepted as the King save for the bastard supporters. He’d never been happier. Thought it had nothing to do with the Kinghood and everything to do with Yoongi.

Their love was a passionate one, physical and raw. But it was also profound in a spiritual sense. They knew each other, like neighboring stars, or trees that grew beside one another. There was a lot of trials to come, but their love made them strong. They knew that no matter what destiny had in store for them that they’d endure.

So one night, when the moon was full, and fireflies danced in the night sky, Jimin made a promise to Yoongi, who was in wolf form since that was the nature of his curse. Jimin would fight whatever this power inside him was. He’d fight with all his strength and conquer it. Yoongi made a promise too. The Wolf swore to protect, love him, and give him the strength he needed.

The sun rose on their conversation and Yoongi became a man again. Jimin knew then, that whatever darkness there may be in the world, the sun would always rise again. Chanyeol might have been gone, but his sacrifice, his legacy lived on every day.

Jimin might have lost so much, but also still had so much.

With the beginnings of the morning coming along, the King and his Consort got ready to lead the day, hand-in-hand. Their love would always endure, always.