The sea is restless today.
Icy waves lick relentlessly over impassive, mossy stones and as they are thrown around by the ever-shifting current, the small pebbles thrum a never changing rhythm.
Something akin to a heart beat.
But he doesn't listen to it any more, has closed his ears off against waves and wind, ravens and rain – the voices they carry only taunt his dwindling soul.
Thus he simply sits and waits.
What for, he only remembers in dreams, when warmth caresses his skin and a second pulse beats steadily against his own. He always wakes with a strange pressure behind his lids and somehow drops of the ever present sea-water around him seem to have found a way onto his cheeks. He deems this mildly peculiar, but doesn't dwell on it, for the thought quickly dissolves in the salty air that presses against his body.
The concept of tears has been lost on him long ago.
And besides: a lot of strange things occur on this island.
The sea is restless today.
And it has been restless the day before.
Two meaningless nights ago he'd woken to the sound of wood groaning and men screaming, and as he'd darted to the grey, forgotten shore, there'd been a ship in the gruesome grasp of the crashing waves that cut the forsaken land off from the world.
The waters seemed hungry that night, had stamped and screeched as they reached for the boat and the hopes and hearts it carried.
The planks moaned under the strain, splintered and burst, as wave upon wave licked at them, until suddenly a thunder bolt split the sky and the ship was gone.
A chorus of cries arose from the open waters; life-lights refusing to wane, hearts not yet willing to still, and thus the doomed ones yelled for help and swam; clung to lumber and prayed.
The voices faded one by one and in the morning the colourless, bled out beach had been littered with bloodied flotsam; some still shivering in the cold clasp of eternity, some even wandering around – but their eyes were already broken, flesh and limbs devoid of soul yet still struggling on. Where to? What for?
Questions like these soon cease to exist beneath the endless grey sky and the salt that starts nesting in their hair.
Another round of hollows to roam the decaying grounds that even the gods have forsaken.
Now, after two dull sunrises, almost all of the staggering, swaying creatures have ventured from the shivering shore, have disappeared in the all-encompassing mist, to carry on with a quest that might have never been theirs to begin with.
He doesn't mind them, and the blank-eyed figures don't spare him a second glance, for he is a part of the island; as trapped and lost and forgotten as they are, so they have no use for him.
As far as he knows, no one ever has.
Sometimes he likes to think, that he'd once had a quest of his own, a reason to draw breath, a small flame flickering in his chest.
Sometimes he dreams about a ship and a princess and then he almost remembers why he'd ended up here and if his existence ever had meaning.
Maybe whoever's heart beat was ghosting through his dreams might have given him purpose, but then again: what does it matter now?
He lets his eyes stray aimlessly over the sea, knees drawn to his chest, and simply looks out. What for he doesn't know, but an inner voice had called him here ever since the ship sank, and he'd learned quickly to listen to its orders – it had kept him alive so far.
But today as well, nothing unusual meets his tired eyes – only shells littering the shore.
Those of clamps and those of men; a washed up pot-pourri of all the things empty and cast away.
All those things useless and unwanted. Just like himself.
He shakes his head wearily, looks out at the ocean again, when he sees a small speck of colour being carried by the waves.
It's a deep, rich red; the colour of royalty, valour, blood and heart, and after a moment he can define it as the robes of a figure clinging to a log of wood, as it gets flung this way and that by the currents.
With bored eyes he watches the form getting thrown against the sharp, rough rocks that make up the shore-line, and for a second he thinks he can make out wet strands of deep black clinging to pale, pale skin, before the motionless form hits the beach hard.
As he'd expected, it doesn't move; robes floating in the shallow waters, but he's sure that soon enough it will start twitching in undeath.
And indeed, after watching it lie for half an hour, the stiff, battered limbs of the creature start stirring and it starts coughing violently, as it spits water and foam.
Something has him snap out of his bleak revery at the sound and before he knows it, he finds himself already running down the slick steps to the beach.
The hollow vessels never coughed. Why would they? They had no need for breath.
So this hooded, drenched and drowned form hacking miserably on the cold, uncaring shore was yet to die for the first time; was still drawing breath and it was fighting for its life with a vehemence that made something deep in his heart spark.
He staggers over mossy, salt-caked pebbles, even slips a few times and sharp shards break his skin, but he hurries on; suddenly afraid he'll find the figure lifeless and cold and his mind gone a bit further, but when he finally falls to his knees next to the wheezing thing, he can tell, that it is alive.
He reaches for a quivering shoulder and rolls the curious piece of flotsam on its back, thus revealing that it is a man in his twenties, who's gasping for air with wet, gurgling noises flowing over his blueish, panting lips, while wide, clouded eyes search for something familiar to cling to.
He stalls dead in his tracks when locking gaze with the other, for he remembers eyes of this specific colour – a deep, intriguing red – even if the where and when is lost in the nothingness veiling the realm of ceaselessly whispering salt.
But the silent contact only lasts a second, for the heavy, dark lids, fluttering like tiny, black birds, slide shut and the stranger's body goes limp; stuttering breath dying on his parted lips.
He'd seen a handful of nameless men and women whisper their last words into the stale, leaden air of the forgotten shore, some of them clinging to his hands, some of them refusing to let their eyes stray from his face until they finally broke and it had never meant anything to him.
He'd seen the light leave their eyes and heart beats still beneath his fingers, but by the time the first living thing from the outside-world had found its way onto the land beyond the veil of mist, he'd already been too far gone to bring himself to care.
But today every last little voice inside of his head and heart – they're many by now, and they've never agreed on anything – urges him to 'Not let this man die!'
It seems as if something hidden deep down his very core is humming and buzzing erraticly; the sensation alien in its vehemence after such a long plain time of nothingness- and it's only with delay that he can name the emotions welling up in his guts:
It's fear and concern, but also gratitude and... something too soft and warm to belong to a place like this.
The fear, however, is a thing he knows; a thing he recognizes and it's the only one he can actually do something about.
With firm hands he compresses the silent, unmoving chest again and again, until the stranger coughs up an enormous gush of water and opens his eyes once again.
He's blinking rapidly, a soft whine leaving his cracked lips, as he desperately tries to make out his surroundings; confused, frightened and dim, before his darting gaze finds the face hovering above him and the wine-red eyes lighten up in disbelieve while the forcefully restored breath is snatched away once again.
A trembling hand – weak, so incredibly weak, and yet oh so very determined – reaches out to cradle the other's cheek.
The motion is incredulous, almost as if he was certain that the bubble would burst and he'd find himself alone at the salt-covered shore, but the sudden warmth of skin on skin tells both of them that this was as real as anything could get, here in the realm of wraiths and waves.
The stranger still looks at his face; awestruck and unmoving, before he whispers hoarsely:
“Sting?” and his voice is as small and broken as his body; a raw, brittle sound that seems so insignificant as the wind attempts to scatter it in the endless skies.
And yet, the small negligible syllable that is almost drowned by the ceaseless pulse of the shoreline causes something in his heart of hearts to click back into place.
Meaningless and profane as it might be, the short, slurred noise is the stranger's unimaginably precious gift.
It is his name.
And with this realisation the grey veil of oblivion that had clouded his mind for god knows how long thins and rips – it doesn't lift, nor does it dissolve, but there are some holes where only white noise used to dwell and it conjures a handful of memories.
Memories of warm red eyes, an afternoon bathed in golden sun, a dragon made of the fairest light, a strange sensation of belonging and affection – and a name.
So he grabs the shivering, lifeless fingers as gently as he still can, before breathing a tuneless, choked:
The stranger's eyes glow like embers when the faintest of smiles grazes his features, the sight unsettling and wrong, what with the still ashen hue of his skin and the purplish, bloody lips, but Sting sees beyond it.
Takes in the open, overwhelming gentleness in his gaze and simply squeezes his hand, unable to speak, unable to feel or think or touch.
The man, however, only coughs:
“I finally found you!”
Before unconsciousness claims him and his head sinks limply against Sting's hands, soft puffs of air warming his palms.
And even though his flesh is bruised and beaten, the tiny, tired smile clings adamantly to his lips and something inside of Sting's chest comes back to life.