Chapter 1: Everyday a Little Death
It was a rainy morning when Greg woke up. Outside, heavy rain pelted over the neighborhood and fog covered all view of the street below. He sat upon his bed and yawned, exhausted. Time for work, I guess...
That's right. After the city recovered from the damage the Fallen Stars had left, Greg found himself a job in a small store in the new Tarabiscoville's Mall. Not that he liked it, and the payment wasn't the best, but it wasn't the worst; it worked for him. He stood up and begrudgingly walked over to his desk, where his clothes were sitting.
As he changed shirts, he looked at the empty terrarium beside his desk; he missed having Lionel waiting for a treat in there. The lizard sadly passed away a month ago and Greg still felt it as if someone really important from his family died... and that's right, Lionel was someone important, and also from his family.
When he was done changing, he grabbed his cellphone and headed downstairs to the kitchen. When he walked through the hallway, right before entering the kitchen he spotted his mother sleeping on the living room’s couch. He smiled. She probably just arrived.
He opened the fridge and served orange juice in a cup and grabbed two slices of mango he left last night. He wondered, with a piece of mango on his mouth, if this was a proper breakfast. He shrugged. It'll do.
He gulped the last of his juice and before leaving, he put a blanket over his mother. She tiredly opened her eyes. "Already leaving...?"
"I'm stopping at Connor's first," He told her.
Lina smiled. "Look at you, all so grown up..." She yawned. "You remind me of your father..." She managed to say before falling asleep again.
Greg smiled. The mention of his father didn't hurt anymore, in fact, it made his whole day better... He trotted out of the house with an umbrella over his head and headed over to Connor's. He stopped in the door and from his pocket, he grabbed a spare key that Katrina gave him just in case and used it to open the door.
"Hello?" He called. When no one answered, he guessed that Katrina already left for work and then headed upstairs to Connor's room. He slowly opened the door and peeked inside, only catching glimpse of Connor's hair and Titina looking at him curiously. He took a deep breath and quietly entered inside. "Connor?" He quietly called. The only response he got was a groan and he smiled. "Are you going to work?"
Connor revolved in the sheets and annoyed, said. "Not like I have any other option, now do I?"
"You can always call in sick," Greg suggested. He didn't like it when Connor went to work not feeling alright.
Connor sat up, dark bags under his eyes and his blue eyes dull. He scoffed. "As if they understand," He stood up and started taking his clothes off, an increasing loss of his weight noticeable on his ribs, especially.
"They could if you explain...?" Greg said.
When Connor put on his work's shirt, he looked at Greg annoyed. "They won't understand," He turned around as he started putting on pants. "No one ever does..."
Greg walked over to him and hugged him. "I do," Connor muttered something and then pushed Greg aside. "What was that?" Greg asked anxiously. Was he not understanding enough?
"Nothing, Greg. Nothing..." Connor only said as he exited the room.
Greg only watched him leave with an emptiness in his chest; he wanted to understand Connor, but he could not reach the point he wanted. Connor had gone through something Greg will never understand until his own day finally comes. He sighed. Maybe I can just leave him be? Titina mewed at him and he bent over to pick her up. That's a stupid idea, Greg. Cutting off completely could be worst...
He petted the molly cat on his way downstairs and sat her down once he entered the kitchen. He started preparing breakfast for Connor until Titina jumped onto the table and started snitching away Connor's peach slices. "Titina, shush," Greg pushed her away but the molly cat only kept insisting. "Titina!" Greg yelled angrily.
He was surprised when Connor picked her up and let her have her own peach slice. He looked over at Greg. "She's used to having one piece of whatever I'm eating," Greg only stared how Connor looked at his hand full of fur. "And yelling only stresses her," He told him.
Greg's lips were partly opened but he closed them and looked away. I should know that by now , He snapped at himself. He arched an eyebrow when Titina walked past him and then arms surrounded him. Greg smiled when he felt Connor's cheek against the top of his head.
"Sorry," Connor apologized quietly. "I just don't know how to control myself anymore,"
"It's okay," Greg said, but he wasn't sure Connor totally believed him. He looked at his watch and noticed it was getting late, but he brushed it off. Nothing is more important than Connor right now, "Let's finish breakfast okay?" Connor nodded and let go of him.
10 minutes later, they both were heading out of the door when Connor stopped right when Greg opened his umbrella under the rain. Greg looked confused at him for a moment and then remembered. Crap...
Before he could say anything, Connor looked upset. "You didn't tell me it was raining," He frowned annoyed.
"I- Well- I forgot, sorry..." Was all Greg could say.
"You forgot?" Connor snapped. He cursed under his breath and went back inside, shutting the door closed. Greg sighed. Is there anything else I can screw up today? He was about to leave when Connor opened the door again, using a long blue raincoat and an umbrella, yet his expression was the same.
"You are still going?" Greg asked surprised. Connor walked hesitantly ahead of him without saying a word and Greg reluctantly followed; he didn't want to upset Connor again. A few blocks away already, Greg walked side by side silently with Connor, who's stood on edge with every roaring thunder. Connor broke the silence by asking: "Have you checked on the Petit Masks already?"
Greg worked carefully around his answer. "I didn't," When Connor cast him a look, he quickly said. "B-But Amaya did! I was asked to do an extra shift so I asked her if she could check on them. They are staying with Riley..."
Connor looked ahead thoughtfully for a few minutes before frowning and closing his eyes. "Take them to Federico's tonight, I don't want them at Riley's. My shift ends late tonight so I won't be able to,"
Greg carefully asked. "Is it because of his family you don't want them there...?" Though he pretty much knew Connor's answer.
"No." Connor simply said. Minutes went by and before reaching the Tarabiscoville's Cinéma, Connor said. "I don't want them near a junky,"
"Connor, it- it was only one time," Greg said unsure.
"Not even you believe that," Connor said. He closed the umbrella when he stepped under the roof of the place. "See you tonight?"
"See you tonight," Greg replied defeated, kissing Connor tenderly. He watched Connor walk inside tiredly -or annoyed, Greg wasn't sure- and sighed. Connor was right... he didn't believe what he said one bit, but he didn't want to pest on Riley as he did with Connor half a year ago. He was trying to change and trash-talking Riley was... the opposite of changing, it was going one step back.
He looked at his watch and realized it was really late. "Crap, crap, crap," He trotted his way down the street and turned on the corner, bumping into someone. "Sorry!" He watched into the fierce pink eyes of Federico. "Oh, I- I didn't know it was you,"
Federico only stepped aside to let him pass. "Maybe you should look where you are going," Federico spat.
When the other walked away, Greg grunted. "Geez, I said sorry," He hurried once again towards the end of the street and checking the sideways, he crossed quickly, gaining an angry yell from a passing car he didn't see due to the fog. "Sorry!" He yelled back.
He pushed two huge crystal doors open and walked between a swarm of people laughing and enjoying their time in the mall. "Excuse me- Oh, sorry! Excuse me-" He said as he pushed people aside.
He caught glimpse of two girls giving away colorful brochures, one of them blonde with violet eyes and the other Asian with short hair and dark brown eyes. The two girls eyed him. "You better hurry, Greg," The Asian said. "Mr. Tatcher is already mad that Derryl and Umo skipped today,"
"I'm here already, Mulan, aren't I?" He said as he walked inside.
He caught eye of Merida, the cashier, talking to his boss Mr. Tatcher. She grimaced at him and Greg took a deep breath; he knew what was coming. When Mr. Tatcher noticed him, Greg thought he saw a fire in his eyes. "Well, there you are! Do you people think you can show up or skip work whenever you want?"
Greg stood in the middle of the toy's store with his lips on a straight line. "No, sir."
"I could expect that from Derryl, but from you and Umo, Greg?" The middle-aged man put his hands over his face and stood tall before Greg. "I expect this to never happen again, understood?"
"Yes, sir." Greg nodded.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Go change!"
Greg hurried to the back of the store and on his way, he stopped beside the ginger cashier. "What's today's costume?"
Merida handed him stuffed horse ears. "Same as yesterday's,"
"For fuck's sake..." Greg complained and continued his way. Can this day get any worse ?
Greg stood beside Mulan and the blonde girl, Berta, giving away brochures and coupons for people passing by. Berta giggled as she looked at him. Greg looked at her. "What's so funny?"
"I don't know," She said, her hand over her lips. "Maybe the fact that you are a colorful unicorn with the expression of a walking dead," Both Berta and Mulan laughed and Greg rolled his eyes.
"Well, if you knew how my day started you wouldn't be laughing,"
"Chill, dude, I'm just trying to light up your mood," Berta said smiling.
"It's not really helping," Greg said. Way ahead, in the hallway, he watched two other teenagers trot their way to them, one of them red-haired and the other black-haired. Greg smiled and shook his head. "Well, look who decided to show up."
The red-haired boy stopped breathlessly in front of Greg. He needed a few moments to catch his air and then looked at Greg anxiously. "Is Mr. Tatcher here?"
"He left when I was arriving, Umo," Greg answered. He turned to look at the black-haired boy with amber eyes. "So, what's the reason behind all of this, Derryl?"
"We..." Both looked at each other and Umo bit his lip. "We got caught up in the traffic,"
Mulan leaned on his shoulder and whispered. "Yeah, the traffic of blankets and pillows," Greg chuckled and the other two looked embarrassed. Mulan smiled. "For real, though? You better get ready,"
Both nodded and headed inside to get dressed. Greg watched them walk away, smiling sweetly at each other. His smile slowly faded away and a tingling feeling filled up his chest.
Berta nudged him on the side. "Jealous?" She teased.
"What?" He shook his head and pushed her gently. "No, I have a boyfriend too," He rolled his eyes and caught glimpse of a consumer with her child, looking confused. "I'm gonna be inside if you need me," Berta and Mulan nodded and he walked up to them. "Can I help you?"
"I was looking for a toy, a... what was it honey?" She looked at her son.
"A Master Fang figurine! Now it talks, and it can move around and-" The kid trailed off dreamily.
Greg smiled; it reminded him of Connor when he was younger. "Let me have a peak on the back store really quick," He looked at the boy. "We might have some left," The little boy smiled brightly and Greg walked away feeling a little bit better.
He passed through a narrow hallway and then opened a door at the end, where a lot of boxes were stocked. He worked his way around until... He stopped suddenly and covered his eyes. "For my stars!" Umo and Derryl both had their shirts off and put them back frantically as Greg caught glimpse of them. Greg looked away as he searched for the specific box. "Can you not?!"
Umo's face was all red while Derryl didn't seem to have any regrets. "Some of us are not out of the closet yet, nor have parents out of home most of the time,"
"Yeah but here, Derryl? Fucking stars..." Greg asked as he checked the number of a box and realized it's the one he was looking for. "Next time have the decency to do it somewhere else," He said as he exited the place.
Once outside, he searched for the woman and her child and spotted her talking to Merida while her kid looked bored. "Hey!" The kid looked up and lighted up, shaking his mother's coat excitedly. Greg stopped in front of them. "Here, sorry for taking so-" He stopped dead in front of them. "-long..."
The woman looked at Greg, who watched her kid terrified. "Is everything okay?"
Greg couldn't keep his eyes away from the bloody, skeleton horse over the little kid, who was waiting for him to handle his toy. "I-" He swallowed and smiled forcibly. "Y-Yeah, sorry, here." He handed her the toy with a shaking hand and the woman looked at him strangely.
"Thanks..." She nudged her son away. "Come on, Thomas," And proceeded to pay.
Greg couldn't stop looking at the horse, that was looking right back at him with an eye hanging from its skull. He looked around, when no one else seemed to notice, he looked back and the horse was no more. W-What?
It appeared behind him as he turned around and then the horse left, walking by the kid's side and looking back at Greg several times before fully disappearing. "What the...?"
"Greg!" He snapped out of his shock and looked at Merida. She pointed at a screen. "I said there's trouble on hallway 6,"
He nodded without saying anything and headed for hallway 6, the image of the horse still on his head. What on the stars was that? He reached the hallway and caught the two problematic kids Merida had pointed out. They were probably between the 9 and 10 years old, and they were ripping off some stuffed animals. "Hey, you two!" The two kids looked at him. "What do you think you are doing?"
"What, are you gonna do something about it?" One of the kids, a boy, spat; the girl beside him agreed with him.
"Yeah, call security," Greg answered. "So you better leave that now,"
"Us? We do what we want, so the answer is..." The kid put his hand under his chin and shook his head with a smile. "No." The kid handed Greg the ripped plushie and cried. "Dad!"
An old man with some strikes of white hair walked over to them worriedly. "What’s wrong?"
"He's blaming us for doing something we didn't do!" The little girl spat, signaling Greg.
"Me?" Greg asked incredulous. "You were the ones doing it!"
The man grabbed his wrist and said. "Hey, you don't talk to my kids like that," Greg tried to back away but the man only stared. "If you can't handle your own messes then maybe you shouldn't be working,"
Greg's veins burnt with anger. "But it was your kids!" He broke free from the strong grasp and faced the man. Umo and Derryl showed up just at the worst time. "If you can't handle your kids then maybe you shouldn't have them!" Greg hissed, rubbing his bruised wrist.
Derryl hurried in front of Greg and Umo stopped the man from launching himself at Greg. "Whatever it happened here I'm sure it was a misunderstanding, sir. Please come with me," Umo guided the man away but he looked back and spat:
"This isn't over, you'll see,"
Greg hold death stares with the man until Derryl turned around and took him to the back of the store, Merida watched them worried. Derryl sat Greg on a chair in a grim room illuminated with only white light. "It wasn't me, I swear!" Greg shot up.
Derryl sat him again. "I know, but sometimes we gotta suck it up, Greg," He looked down at Greg angrily. "If we told our consumers what we really think all the time we would be sued, probably jobless,"
Sometimes Greg forgot that Derryl was his superior. He caressed his wrist, which right now hurt a lot, and let out a shaky breath. "Okay,"
"I know it sucks, but that's just how it is," Derryl exited the room. "I'll get some ice for that," He told him before closing the door.
Greg grunted and nodded, sitting alone in the cold room. I just want this day to be over.. .
The Mall was getting empty when Greg was picking his stuff to leave. It was already late at night and his shift had already ended, he was ready to leave before Mr. Tatcher -who got back a few hours ago- called him. He looked at Umo, Derryl, and Merida, who were the ones left on the store and they grimaced at him.
When he approached, Mr. Tatcher nudged him away from his fellow co-workers. When they were far away from their hearing, though everything was quiet, Mr. Tatcher said. "Green, first you arrive 40 minutes late," He pointed at a schedule with his name on it. "You took from the back store an unreleased toy," He pointed at something else on the list. "Didn't clear the empty boxes that were supposed to get thrown out ages ago, and now a note from a customer alleging you were harassing them?"
Greg sighed frustratedly. Of course the motherfucker did that...
Mr. Tatcher rubbed his temples. "If this keeps going on, and this is the first warning of all," He crossed his arms. "You are gonna get yourself fired." He cast Greg a warning glare. "Don't let this happen again,"
Greg, with the worst feeling ever, nodded. "Yes, sir..." He walked out of the store hurriedly, ignoring Umo calling his name worriedly. While he made his way out, he angrily thought. Well, maybe it's for the best if I get fired from this stupid job... not that I like it anyway...
On the way out, he caught glimpse of the man and the two kids from before, watching him with a satisfied smile. Lucky bastard... He wanted to punch the man to erase that stupid grin from his face, but Greg had enough trouble for today to be messing with the authorities.
It wasn't raining anymore when he walked through the wet parking lot, instead, a chilly breeze ran through and ruffled his messy hair. Taking his phone out, he noticed some texts from several people, including Connor and his mother.
[17:30, 24/9/2025] ~Lina: Baby are you coming home
[17:31, 24/9/2025] ~Lina: Or are you going to Connors
He checked Connor's texts.
[19:38, 24/9/2025] ~Babe<3: Don't forget to pick up the Petit Masks
[19:38, 24/9/2025] ~Babe<3: From Riley's
Greg grunted. Right... He crossed the street and stopped a taxi. Riley's place wasn't that far, but he didn't feel like walking. When he got on it, the driver greeted him. "Goodnight, sir, where are you heading?"
He greeted back. "Goodnight. To Bernadette 1900, please,"
"On the way," She said.
Greg put on his headphones, turning Sadderdaze by The Neighbourhood on and watching outside, where no one was seen already. These last few months had been rough for him, and he wondered if they would get better or if it was gonna be this way for many more.
He wished not.
15 minutes later, he stepped in front of Riley's door and rang the bell. A tall, sleek man resembling Riley but with longer hair opened after a few moments of waiting. "Yes?"
"Um, I'm looking for Riley. I'm Greg," Greg said.
"Greg..." The man looked resentful at him before going back inside.
Riley appeared on the door minutes later. "Greg!" He seemed happy to see him again. "It's... It's been a while," He said awkwardly. "Do you wanna come inside or...?"
"I just came to pick up the kids," Greg tiredly said.
"Oh..." Riley looked disappointed. "Amaya told me I had to keep them until next-"
"Change of plans," Greg interrupted him. "Federico is staying with them for a while, then Silver," He hesitated on saying the next part, but he said it anyway, feeling as if he just ate trash. "We'll see about you later,"
Riley looked hurt and it broke Greg's heart, making him regret it all the way. "I... okay, just give me a few minutes..." Riley said as he went back inside. Greg waited on the door for ten minutes, texting Federico before hearing the kids approaching. Riley opened the door again. "Sorry, but they were getting ready for bed,"
He handed Greg the kid's stuff and the kids jumped beside him. "Is Connor here?" Unità asked.
"Are we staying at his place tonight?" Hope asked hopeful.
"Not tonight, kids, sorry..." Greg said. They looked disappointed and stood beside him.
"Bye Riley!" They waved. Riley only waved and went back inside, not eyeing Greg nor saying goodbye to him, making Greg feel even worse. Was it really necessary to say that, Greg? Was it?
They walked down the street with the kids quietly following him. Vita grabbed his hand. "When are we staying with Connor again?" She asked innocently.
"Not for now, Vita..." He said sadly.
"Then when?" Unità pushed further. "Is he still sick?"
Greg half-way smiled. "He's not sick, Unità, he's just not feeling well," He looked at them. "Maybe, if he feels better, you can stay with him next weekend,"
"Really?" They gleamed. He nodded. "Yay!" They celebrated.
Greg laughed. "You really like Connor, don't you?"
"He gave us a home!" Vita said.
"And a family!" Hope added and then sighed. "We miss him,"
Connor hadn't stayed with the kids for a few months now, only visited them on his friends' house when he was feeling joyful, which did not happen a lot... Maybe I can convince him to keep the kids this weekend . Greg thought.
They crossed the street then stopped at Federico's place, where Greg already saw the pink-eyed boy waiting for them at the door. "About time you arrived," He said. The kids hurried inside and left Federico and Greg alone. Greg handed him everything and Federico looked at him. "Why are they suddenly staying with me and not Riley, as we agreed?" He sounded as if he was accusing Greg, but Greg thought it might have been the guilt he felt for dismissing Riley that way.
"It was Connor's decision, not mine," He told him. "I don't know why though..." He lied.
Federico didn't look convinced but ignored it. "Alright," He put his hand on the back of his neck. "Sorry for snapping at you like this morning, I was in a bad mood today,"
Greg smiled and snorted. "Today hasn't been a good day for anyone, it seems,"
"Guess not," He waved at Greg. "See you around."
"See ya, sorry for bothering with this again," Greg walked away and walked the usual path to his home, tired to the bone. A few blocks away, where no one could be seen, Greg suddenly felt chills ran down his spine.
He stopped and looked around, waiting to see someone following him or a monster to pop out from the dark of the dark alleys on the street. He felt unsettled when he saw no one and nothing and only met emptiness. He decided to ignore it and walk ahead, faster as he saw his neighborhood ahead. One block away from his neighborhood, he heard a neigh echo on the empty street and he turned around, terrified.
At the end of the street, there was the dead horse he saw earlier on the store with the kid. It was shining red and looking at Greg with the only eye it had left, beside him, the kid from the store stood still, a red aura around him.
They did nothing but stare at him for several seconds before the horse bit hard on the kid's head and tore it from the body. Blood scattered all around as Greg covered his mouth horrified and disgusted, and when the shape fainted the horse galloped over to him with blood streaming from its mouth.
Greg turned and ran as fast as he could into his neighborhood, catching glimpse of his house and heading there. With shaking hands, he grabbed the keys and tried to open the door. He could hear the horse closer to him and he struggled to open the door.
He looked back desperate, hearing the horse near and not being able to open the door. He shook the door with the key trying to open it, each seconds hearing the horse near and when he finally heard a click, he pushed the door open and closed it, breaking his key on the process.
He panted hard against the door and gulped. What was that?
Greg laid on his bed, looking at the ceiling as he still could hear the horse gallop around. He wasn't sure if it could reach him here, and he was afraid that if he closed his eyes the horse would magically appear by his side and bit his head out of his body as well. A few beeping sounds distracted him and checked his phone to see some texts from Connor.
[23:58, 24/9/2025] ~Babe<3: Are you coming over?
He sighed and answered quickly, not feeling like talking to anyone.
[00:00, 25/9/2026] ~Greggy: Not tonight Connor
[00:00, 25/9/2026] ~Greggy: Sorry
[00:00, 25/9/2026] ~Greggy: I don't feel like it
[00:01, 25/9/2026] ~Greggy: Today has been awful
[00:01, 25/9/2026] ~Greggy: Night
[00:01, 25/9/2026] ~Greggy: See u tomorrow
He got a reply instantly.
[00:01, 25/9/2026] ~Babe<3: Okay
[00:01, 25/9/2026] ~Babe<3: Love you
He didn't reply after that, not because he didn't feel it, but because he was too tired and afraid to process what he was doing.
Greg didn't sleep that night.
Chapter 2: Death at your Door
I might publish another one tonight to make up for the late publishing, or I might not, who knows oops
I want to clarify that this story has heavy spoilers for all the stories that come before this one, especially Sacred Hearts and Catboy's Quest, and the ones that follow it, which is Moonstone and part of The Rogues. This story also includes delicate themes, such as death, graphic descriptions violence, sex, heavy words, and slavery. It also touches deeply the theme of PTSD and Caregiver Burden. IF you don't find yourself comfortable reading any of these, I suggest you leave the story now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Greg headed downstairs with heavy eyelids and dark bags under his eyes. Last night he didn't sleep anything due to being afraid of the dead horse the wandered around until the sun started to come out.
He was heading to Connor's right now, determined to hopefully get some cuddles from him; he needed them desperately. Yesterday was a ride to his emotions and he needed immediately some comfort, and he was pretty much sure Connor needed them too. This morning he had texted Greg worried about him, asking if he was okay and if he was hurt, and Greg was sure he had a nightmare about him.
Before he could head out, his mother stopped him. "You look tired. Did you sleep well last night?"
Greg sighed and shook his head. "Not really..."
She noticed his wrists, that still had a huge bruise. "What happened?" She took a look at it but he snatched it away.
"Just a problem with a customer, nothing else." He rubbed the back of his head. "I, uh- I accidentally broke my keys last night..." He bit his lip. "The other part is still inside the door..."
"Greg..." She shook his head and sighed. "Don't worry, I'll ask Alexander if he can take it out later."
"Sorry..." He simply said. "I'm going to Connor's,"
"Text me if anything happens."
He nodded and exited his house, the hair on his arm on edge as he expected the horse to jump and chop his head off any moment now. When nothing happened, he rushed to Connor's place and rang the doorbell as he forgot the spare key back home.
Connor was the one to open the door and as soon as he did, he hugged Greg. Greg hugged him back and asked, "Was it a nightmare?" The other nodded without saying anything and Greg made Connor look at him in the eyes. "I'm fine," He wasn't sure about that, though. "I'm here and I'm not hurt, okay?"
He gave him a peck on the lips and then both walked inside. Connor noticed the bruise on Greg's wrist and asked. "What happened?"
"A customer yesterday, but nothing really serious," Greg answered. He grabbed Connor's hand and guided him to his room, and once there, both laid with each other on the bed. "How was your day yesterday?" Greg asked.
"Awful," Connor answered. "I... I had a breakdown," He shamefully admitted.
"Why didn't you call me?" Greg asked worriedly.
"I didn't want to bother you with something stupid like that," Connor said. "There are more important things than me,"
Greg frowned. "No, there aren't, and that's not stupid, Connor." He caressed Connor's hair and sighed. "I want to know when you're feeling worn out or sad, or scared, or anything... I want, and I need you, to be okay. This is not stupid," He said.
"But you were working and I didn't deserve that after pulling something like that," Connor hugged him tighter.
"Yes, you do..." Greg made Connor look at him and smiled tenderly. "And I want to know, everything , alright? Even the slightest thing."
Connor nodded. "Okay," He put his head over Greg's chest and Greg covered both of them with Connor's blue sheets. He did want to know everything about Connor, he worried he was gonna pull something like the thing he did a few months back... He blinked. He said he won't do that again... Greg wanted it to be true.
His mind drifted to the image of the kid's head being torn out of the body. Should I tell him about it? He watched Connor now snoring quietly over his chest. No, he has enough problems than to deal with this . Then he remembered the horse chasing him down to his house and staying close all night. But if something happens to me because of it, he'll never know...
His phone rang and quickly he picked it up to avoid waking up Connor. He noticed Amaya calling and answered. "Hey, something's wrong?"
"No, I just wanted to check on-"
"Connor?" He finished. "He's... He's making progress, I guess?"
"You guess?" She asked.
"Things had been difficult, but he's not as bad as he was back when the Stars were still around," He told her. "He still had nightmares, and sometimes he gets a bit aggressive over little things, and feels unloved..." He trailed off. "Sorry. We are working on it," Was all he said.
"Well, if you need any help, I'm here." She said.
Greg noticed a bit of helplessness on her voice and felt bad for her. He smiled. "I know, thanks, Amaya."
She said goodbye to him and then hang up, leaving Greg with the phone on his ear. He slowly put it down and looked at Connor. He wanted him to get better, but it was hard when he wouldn't accept help from others rather than him. He's not ready yet, and I respect that. Greg thought to himself.
He decided to go to sleep.
Greg opened his eyes in a glowy place, feeling rested. He sat and looked around, only to notice the starry clearing with a pond on one side. He smiled and was about to call his name until the creature talked to him first.
"Long time no see, Greg." Greg turned around to see Green Fang sitting on a rock not so far away from him.
"Green Fang!" He hurried to the animal totem's side and hugged him. "You don't know how glad I am to see you!"
Green Fang hugged him with his tail and emitted a happy sound. "I know, and I'm sorry! I wanted to reach you early, but there were more important things to deal with,"
Greg petted him. "It's okay, I understand." He sighed and sat on the grass. "I needed to talk to you..."
Green Fang looked at him worried. "Is it about Connor?"
Greg hesitated. "It's... It's about a lot of stuff, honestly. I just seem to be unable to catch a break lately, and last night..." He sighed. "Last night I saw something that I'm not sure... that I'm not sure if it was true or not," He confessed.
"What did you saw?" Green Fang asked gently.
"A horse, but it was dead... or well, half-dead," He scratched his head. "First I saw it while I was working at the store, it was hanging around a kid I was serving, but it didn't do anything..."
"Then later at night I met with it again, but this time it..." He swallowed hard, remembering the brutal scene he presenced. "It killed that same kid and then chased me down to home. It hung around until dawn,"
Green Fang looked thoughtful. "Did it had a leash around its neck?"
Greg looked suspicious. "Yeah, it did, but it was cut off... why?"
"I think I might know what it is, but I need to confirm something before I can say what I think it is," Green Fang said. "I'll talk it with Night Flight and Foudre Strike tonight, for now, sleep well Greg. Don't be afraid of it, I'll be here,"
Greg smiled, but deep down he didn't feel reassured at all. He was about to say something else, and Green Fang looked expectantly, but he shook his head and only said: "Thanks, Green Fang."
"Always, Greg." With a poof , Green Fang disappeared and Greg laid on the grass, closing his eyes and waiting to drift back to reality. Instead, he opened his eyes to meet a foggy forest with a trail of mountains, one of them far away to be seen but close enough to be massive. He looked around confused and scared; he has never been there before.
"Green Fang?" He called.
He heard a gasp and when he turned around, a blurry black, pink and white figure stood near him. It was a human, or so Greg thought, smaller than him and shining like a Star, but not being one. "Hello?" The figure asked. Greg realized it was a male voice.
"Who are you?" Greg asked.
"Who are you ?" The figure asked shocked. "I can see you, not enough but... well enough to know you aren't from the Tribe of Constellations. Why are you sharing dreams with me?"
"I... I don't know who you are, or why I'm sharing dreams with you..." Greg confessed.
"Whoever you are, I don't care," The blurry figure spat, sounding desperate. "We need help, please!"
"Help?" Greg was confused. "Where are you?"
"I live in- Mountain- Town!-" The voice was cut off and the place around Greg was starting to fall apart.
"I couldn't hear you! Say it again!"
The blurry figure talked again but this time, Greg definitely couldn't hear him. There were only two words he could make out, and it only sent chills down his spine: "Milennia Town!"
Greg shot his eyes open only to find Connor gazing down at him. "You okay?" He asked.
Greg wasn't sure he was okay, the desperation on the young male's voice was enough to unsettle him and make him feel worried for his safety. Help with what? He wondered. Is he in danger? What is the Tribe of Constellations? How had he wandered into his dreams? Why was he sharing dreams with the stranger?
"Greg?" Connor was still waiting for an answer, this time he looked sick worried as if something was gonna go wrong at any moment. "Is-Is everything okay?"
"I... Yes, I just had a nightmare, that's all..." He said.
Connor looked unconvinced and he scratched his arm. "What was it about?" He asked.
Greg didn't answer, instead, he threw himself at Connor and kissed him harshly on the lips. The other barely reacted but let him finish. Greg parted away and said. "I love you,"
Connor was confused by Greg's little outburst of love, but he didn't complain, he smiled confusedly and said: "I love you too, Greg,"
Greg wanted to tell Connor about what he saw, and about the boy calling for help, but mentioning that he might travel to Milennia Town will spark, and he was sure of it, something in Connor he doesn't want to spark. He stood up from the bed and said: "I have to talk to Amaya about something, I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?"
Connor seemed doubtful and nodded hesitantly. "Okay..."
He kissed Connor on the cheek and headed out of the room. When Greg was downstairs, he watched Titina hissing at the window furiously and he stranged walked to her side. "What is it?" When he looked outside, the skeleton horse was back and Greg froze against the window.
He couldn't go like that, not if the horse was outside. The horse looked at him with its hanging eye and the empty one for several seconds before, fast as lightning, galloping towards Greg and smashing its head against the window. Greg yelled in fear and Titina jumped back with him hissing.
The horse kept banging its head against the glass trying to break it, and while he did so, Greg heard footsteps hurrying downstairs. He looked terrified towards the stairs and saw Connor jumping down. "Greg, what- WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?! " He yelled terrified.
Greg hurried to him, picking up Titina on his way. The horse broke the window and had its head inside, but the rest of its body couldn't make it inside. Greg took that as an opportunity and led Connor upstairs. "I don't know what it is! I just know it's dangerous!" He yelled.
He heard the window break fully and then things on the house getting tumbled over and breaking. The horse was chasing them! Greg pushed Connor ahead and hid him in his room. Greg closed the door and said: "Get under the bed!" Both got under the bed, Titina crouching beside them as if understanding that the horse was dangerous.
Finally, the door was blasted open and Greg saw hooves walking around the room. He was holding his breath, Connor beside him shaking, and Titina with her fur on a stand. Connor held onto his hand as if his life depended on it and Greg squizzed it to let him know he was there for him.
It was long minutes after when the horse left, but the three of them hid under the bed until it was sure to come out. Connor was weeping and Greg was trying to reassure him. "It's okay, it won't hurt you..."
"But- But he tried!" He cried. "What if... what if it kil-"
"It won't," Greg quickly added. "Not while I'm here," Greg poked his head out from under the bed carefully, and when he concluded it was safe outside, he pulled himself out and stood up, helping Connor.
Connor looked at him terrified. "What was that? Why was it chasing us?"
"I don't know what it is, or why it was chasing us, I only know that it's dangerous," Greg sat on the bed and put his head between his hands. "Stupid horse... I just want to have a normal life for once..."
"I don't think our lives will ever be normal..." Connor said quietly.
"It was!" Greg spat. "Until yesterday when that thing appeared to me!" Then he realized his mistake.
"Yesterday? You said yesterday nothing happened." Connor frowned. "You've been lying to me?"
"I just didn't want you to worry about anything else than you had to!"
"You told me that whenever something happened to me I should tell you, but you don't tell me anything!" Connor snapped. "Is there anything else you are hiding from me?" He demanded.
Greg sighed. He didn't need Connor's outburst right now, but he surrendered. "I had a dream... I'm not sure it was a dream though."
"Someone asking for help. He appeared after I had a chat with Green Fang asking for my help, he said something about me not being from the Tribe and the rest I couldn't understand, I was waking up." Greg explained.
Connor looked miserable. "Great. Do you know where he is from?"
"He said something about a mountain and..." Greg didn't want to say anything about Milennia Town, not for Connor or himself.
"And?" Connor was still waiting for an answer.
Greg sighed. "It's in... it's, um, there. " He said, not daring to mention the cursed place. Connor opened his eyes as if suddenly a wave of memories engulfed him so suddenly that it killed him. His legs trembled and he sat hastily on a chair near him, his blue eyes lost on the void. He put his hand over his side, right where Greg knew he was stabbed and he suddenly regretted telling him. "Connor..."
"You are going... there?" Connor asked, looking at the floor, lost in memory.
"These people need help..." He tried to reason with him. "I don't want to go there either, but if something happens to him because I did nothing, knowing that I could've had done something... I would never forgive myself, Connor..." He looked at the wooden floor and with a barely audible voice, he asked. "Surely you understand that, right...?"
"I..." Connor stood up and numbly walked over to the bed. "I need to lay down for a bit..." Greg moved aside to let Connor climb to the bed and face away from him. He watched helplessly and sighed, lying down beside him but not sure if to hug him or not.
Greg woke up in the shiny forest, ready to meet Green Fang again. After Connor had fallen asleep, he decided to fall asleep again as well. He needed answers from Green Fang, now. "Green Fang?"
"I'm here, Greg." The lizard answered, emerging from the pond. "Back so soon?" When Green Fang noticed the expression of his face, he said, "You are looking for answers."
"That thing tried to kill me and Connor today, of course I need answers." He said, frustrated.
"I didn't want to tell you this way, I wanted you to be calmer, but I guess there's no better time." Green Fang said. "It's a Famine."
"A Famine? " Greg asked.
"Famines are horses that belong to Red Stars confined to keep guard on The Place of Fallen Stars." Green Fang explained. "When the breach was open, many Stars and people were killed. Surely when a Red Star died-"
"The Famine kept wandering around," Greg realized.
"Exactly. Probably to replace her dead horsemen," Green Fang carefully said.
"Wait, but why me?" Greg asked confused.
Green Fang hesitated, fidgeting in his place, but finally answered. "I... don't know. She probably sensed you killed several Fallen Stars, so she might be confusing you with her horsemen," Green Fang said. "For now, ignore it. The best thing you can do is that. The more you pay attention to it-"
"The worst it'll be..." Greg sighed. "You're right." He sat on the grass. "I'll think about what you said," He remembered the foggy forest from earlier and frowned. "There's something I gotta do, though," He laid on the grass and closed his eyes and when he opened them, he found himself on the foggy forest again. He sat up instantly. "Hello? Are you there?"
But Greg couldn't hear the boy from earlier, instead, he only heard whispers in the distance; they were so distant that it seemed as if the wind was talking to him. Greg opened his eyes in realization. The wind, it comes from the mountain. He remembered the last time he came across the blurry figure. It had mentioned something about a mountain.
He looked around, expecting to see some sort of place, but only the part where he was standing was illuminated and a black fog covered everything. Greg gritted his teeth. "How do you want me to help if you won't show me the way?!" The whispers in the wind became stronger as if they were approaching Greg.
Greg thought he saw shining white eyes in the fog, but every time he blinked there was nothing. He still got a glimpse of the mountain, at least the peak of it, so he was sure he was still in the same clearing. "Where is the boy I had met? If you won't tell me, maybe he will!" He spat.
The whispers suddenly got unbearable. They were loud, but still whispers, and they messed Greg's mind as they kept talking. Greg at some point surrendered to the whispers and grabbed his head between his hands. "Just tell me!" He yelled.
S uddenly, flashing images ran through his eyes.
First, he was at the foot of a mountain, where people were entering the forest near it in a carved path. Then he saw beavers swimming in a marsh, carrying sticks in their mouths. Then he found himself standing on a moor, where long ahead of him was... Greg felt his chest tighten; it was the hill where he had carried Connor's body. Do I have to go there?
A breeze sent chills running down his spine and someone whispered in his ear. "He reaches for the Moon," He jumped in fear and when he hit the grass, he stabbed his hand with stone and that's when he opened his eyes, only to be in Connor's room.
Outside it was late at night as the moon wasn't high up in the sky, it was descending. Greg sighed and looked at it. His hand still hurt, badly, but he ignored and closed his eyes, trying to go back to sleep. Can't believe I'm about to help a stranger I barely met...
Thanks for reading, don't forget to leave a review, they help me improve :)
Chapter 3: A Cursed Town Never Stops Being It
I want to clarify that this story has heavy spoilers for all the stories that come before this one, especially Sacred Hearts and Catboy's Quest, and the ones that follow it, which is Moonstone and part of The Rogues. This story also includes delicate themes, such as death, graphic descriptions violence, sex, heavy words, and slavery. It also touches deeply the theme of PTSD and Caregiver Burden. IF you don't find yourself comfortable reading any of these, I suggest you leave the story now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Greg quietly slid out of bed as Connor rested peacefully beside him. Slowly, he crossed the room quietly ready to leave, but guilt jabbed at his heart at the thought of Connor waking up and not finding him. It will cause him to worry lots, He sighed. And that's not what I want. He walked back to him and sat beside Connor. Besides, he needs to know what I'm gonna do.
He took a deep breath and gently woke up Connor, tapping his side. "Connor, wake up, Connor-" The older boy kicked his side strongly and threw him to the ground, with an unbearable pain on his side. Greg noticed that his hand was covered in dried blood and that it might have been the worst idea to wake up Connor now.
Connor sat up on the bed, touching his side, and when he turned to look at Greg, he had an anxious expression that changed to a worried one when he spotted Greg's hand. "What happened?"
"It's okay, nothing bad happened, I-" Greg stood up. "I cut myself, yeah, but in my dreams," How didn't I noticed it last night? He thought bitterly.
Connor seemed to calm down a bit, but he kept watching Greg's hand. "Can you wash it, please?" He asked Greg gently. Greg nodded and left for a few minutes before coming back with his hand washed and one of Connor's shirts. Connor stared. "What happened that it's all... cut open?"
Greg felt the chill on his back as he recalled the voice whispering in his ear. "Something spooked me, and I stabbed my hand with a stone, but I didn't think it was affecting me for real,"
"Did you dreamt about this boy again?" Connor asked.
Greg stared. "Yes, but he wasn't there," He caressed his hand to relieve the pain. "I've got locations to where I have to go though..." Greg felt guilty as he looked up to Connor, who was looking pleadingly at him not to go. "That's why I was waking you up, to tell you that I'm leaving to help them," When Connor only stared, Greg added. "I need to help them, Connor, I can't just sit around and wait until they-" He stopped himself before he could say it.
"Don't you care that anything might happen to you?" Connor spat. "Are you that careless?"
"I'm not careless," Greg tried to reason with him. "I just think they-"
"A fucking dead horse is chasing you around, and you want to head off to be easy prey for it," Connor cut him off bluntly. "And if it doesn't reach you, you are gonna get yourself killed in-" Connor stopped and then grunted frustratedly. "You don't care, do you? I swear," Connor covered himself with the sheets again. "If someone is gonna get me killed, it's gonna be you,"
Greg felt attacked. "I care, and that's why I'm also leaving," Greg grabbed his phone and walked out the door. "It's the right thing to do and I'm doing it,"
He texted Amaya on his way downstairs, and when he stepped into the living room, nothing was broken or damaged, it was placed like yesterday as if nothing ever happened. Greg grimaced. Fuck that horse, anyway. When he walked out the door, Amaya was exiting her backyard. When she spotted him, she waved. "Greg!" He walked over to her and both greeted each other. "It's been a while,"
"I know," Greg sighed, suddenly his eyes felt tired. "I need you to look after Connor for me,"
Amaya seemed surprised. "Me? Why?" She noticed his leg moving anxiously. "Where are you going?"
"Someone asked for help, someone I don't know," He explained. When she opened her mouth to reply, he cut her off. "I dreamt about them and now I gotta find them before it's too late,"
"Them?" Amaya asked, following him when he walked over to his house. "How many people is it?"
"Several, I only talked with one though," He looked at her pleadingly. "Will you keep an eye on him?"
Amaya looked back at Connor's house and then at him. She smiled reassuringly. "Of course, Greg," He smiled and then she said: "Good luck finding these people,"
"Safe travel," She trotted over to Connor's house and Greg saw her rang the bell. He didn't wait for Connor to open the door for her, instead, he entered his own house and trotted upstairs. He felt his mother stare burning on his skin, but he didn't say anything yet.
Once in his room, he packed everything he thought would be necessary, including a knife he stored on his drawer. When he had everything done, he sat on his desk and opened his green laptop. The laptop was still on, as when he opened it he found some drawing files open in there, most of them of forests and flowers.
Greg used Maps to search for Milennia Town, and when he found the city, he looked at places that might have a mountain near. He thought of the places he had seen on his dreams and his mind shifted to the hill he once carried Connor's body. Maybe I can find an alternative way... He thought. He didn't want to go through the same place again. That place only served for one purpose, and it was to bring back unnecessary pain.
He heard the door of his room be opened and he turned around to find his mother staring at him questioningly. Right... "I have to-"
"Leave?" His mother said, looking at his stuff. "Where is it this time?" She asked.
She didn't seem approving of it, yet Greg noticed that she didn't say anything. Maybe she knows this is important. "I have to go back to..." He found it hard to mention it, but he swallowed that heavy feeling and said it, "I have to go back to Milennia Town."
"Again? It's only been..." She counted with her fingers the months and sighed. "Seven months since you've been there..." She sounded disappointed as if she was looking for an excuse to not let him go.
"I know it's scary, but I have to go," He told her.
"I know, but the fear of you never coming back will always be there, Greg." She walked to him and kissed his forehead. "I fear that I'll lose the only kid I have left,"
"You still have Nina, mom," Greg laughed.
"I know, but she's far away and she's not a hero, you are," She caressed his cheek. "I can lose you at any moment..."
Greg let himself be reassured by his mother for a while. He felt like a little kid again, when his only worries were if Luna was gonna steal anything, or if Romeo was gonna do a stupid machine, or if Night Ninja was gonna show off that night; most of all he missed spending time with his mother the next day and playing games with her...
He wondered when all of that stopped, when had it changed.
"I'll be fine, I'll always come back," He reassured her. "I would never do that to any of you," Greg looked away though. “I don’t know how much time I’ll spend there, so it might be a while before I’m back,”
She smiled and nodded while hugging him tightly. After a while, she said: "Rent a bus to the old mines,"
He looked confused. "What?"
She pointed at his screen and said. "In Milennia Town there are old abandoned mines that only serve as a place for tourists to visit, you can travel there and then head to the mines, or go directly to the mine with these buses," She tapped her temple with her finger. "You might be smart, and a hero, but I have years of experience,"
Greg smiled. "I guess so," They kept chatting for a while until sunset when Greg had to leave.
"You have everything you need?"
Lina was accommodating his coat as Greg was about to board the bus he had to take to Milennia Town. She looked at him and then started accommodating his hair. "Mom!" Greg slapped her hand away gently. "I said I'm fine! I need to go,"
Lina looked at him and smiled. "Okay," She kissed his forehead. "Be careful, okay?"
"I will," Greg promised. He walked over to the line of passengers and when it was his turn, he showed his ticket to the driver and he let him pass. Greg sat on his seat, one against the window, and took his phone out. There were several texts from classmates, like Riley and Cameron, and one from Umo, but he ignored them all; only one person caught his eye.
[17:42, 27/9/2025] ~Kitten<3: Travel safe
[17:42, 27/9/2025] ~Kitten<3: I love you
[17:42, 27/9/2025] ~Kitten<3: I'm sorry
Greg smiled sadly as he read Connor's texts and replied:
[18:32, 27/9/2025] ~Greggy: I'm not mad
[18:32, 27/9/2025] ~Greggy: I love you too
The bus started rumbling and he looked outside the window, watching his mother wave at him. He waved back and mouthed 'I love you' to her and she said it back. The bus started driving away and Greg used his headphones to bear the long way to Milennia Town... and to cease away the sick feeling he had about going back there. He put on Mountain by Message to Bears and looked outside the window, watching the last ray of sunshine hid behind the buildings of Tarabiscoville. It's been a while since he was alone and somewhat relaxed.
Lately, he had to keep track of everything and everyone, it seemed. First Connor, who he's been the one dealing with his PTSD, it wasn’t easy. Then there was his job, where he had to worry about not getting late or not forgetting to do stuff, or screwing up. He also had to check on the Petit Masks, and who was gonna take care of them and who seemed the best choice at the moment; and there was school, who has been assigning a lot of homework that took the best of Greg.
His work mostly enraged him, since he had to interact with a lot of people that most of the time were rude to him, but it was a good way to help his mother with the monthly shopping or just gifting things he knew she would like. He had called earlier to ask for a license in his job; it didn't seem like the best time since he had screwed up badly last time, but he had to get to Milennia Town as soon as possible.
The boy from his dreams wandered in his thoughts. He wondered who he had talked to. How was he able to reach his dreams? That boy wasn't an animal totem, nor a Star, therefore he couldn't reach Greg's dreams. He recalled how the boy claimed that he wasn't from the Tribe of Constellations. What is the Tribe of Constellations? Is it some sort of place?
A long way away from Tarabiscoville, Greg looked outside the window one more time, only to froze dead in his seat. The Famine was following him, galloping on one side of the road. Please, not now! Greg closed the curtain and closed his eyes shut, trying to sleep. If I ignore it, I will be okay.
But Greg couldn't, the fear of being caught by that thing was strong. He carefully opened the curtain, only to find the Famine over the top of a red car, chewing up the half of the face of a woman and crushing the skull of a man around her age. Greg suddenly wanted to puke. When he blinked, the Famine was gone and the red car was still there, driving peacefully beside the bus.
Greg relaxed, thinking it might have been his imagination. He watched the car quietly drive beside them.
Until a truck crushed in it.
Greg jumped on his seat and several passengers on the bus too. A baby near started crying and the mother tried to reassure them. He could hear the gasps of horror from several people and some of them tried to calm themselves. The bus stopped slowly as other cars and trucks did so too.
People on the road started getting out of their cars and rushing to see what happened. Greg gulped and took a look where the truck and the crushed car was, only to spot the passengers: a young woman and a man, dead in their seats. The man with his head crushed by a wheel and the woman with a piece of iron through her face.
Greg stood up and rushed to the bathroom. He got to close the door before he puked everything he had inside, horrified.
Greg was trying to get some sleep, but couldn't. It was late at night already and everyone on the bus was sleeping, of course, but him. They had moved after ambulances and police had arrived at the place of the accident. Greg's eyelids felt heavy, and his eyes hurt of how tired he was. He wanted to sleep so badly, but every time he closed his eyes the image of the dead people from the accident flashed through.
Outside, grey clouds covered the moon and made the route and everything around pitch black, except for the pieces that were illuminated by the bus' light. Maybe there's a storm coming... Greg thought tiredly.
The storm reminded him of Connor. What was he doing now? Was he safe? Was he okay? Greg couldn't help but worry. Since what happened on Milennia Town, Connor had been scared of thunderstorms, and he wondered that if it was raining on Tarabiscoville, what was Connor doing about it.
He calmed himself. Connor's with Amaya, Greg, he's safe. He was snatched from his thoughts when a flash of lightning blinded him. He slowly opened his eyes. Did a bolt of lightning hit close? When he noticed that nobody was making a fuss about it, he thought. Maybe the storm is starting... He yawned. Nothing I can do about it...
After an hour or so, Greg drifted into sleep...
Greg's sleep was disturbed by someone shaking him awake. "Wha...?" He noticed an old, white-haired man looking down at him. "Where am I?"
"You overslept, kid, you reached your destiny." The bus driver said.
Greg rubbed his eyes and realized no one was on the bus. Everyone must be outside. He stood up and grabbed his stuff, then hopped off the bus. He realized it had stopped in the middle of a route covered by trees on each side. Greg opened his eyes wide. Connor and I had been here before!
He watched how the group of people started to move along into the forest, but he didn't follow them, instead, he sneaked into a bush and kept quiet until the noise died down and the bus waiting on one side drove away. He was alone now.
It was probably noon, as the sun was high in the sky and burning Greg's smooth skin. He stopped. If I don't get my sunscreen I'll get a sunburn, and that's the last thing I want. He started searching on his backpack and finally found it.
While he applied it to his skin, he felt watched and instantly looked around. There was no horse, which was his worst fear, but there also wasn't anyone. Why did he felt watched?
Bushes rustled ahead of him and two chinchillas ran past him, playing together. "Oh," Was all he said. Maybe that's what he felt. He kept applying the sunscreen and the put it back into his backpack, ready to keep going.
20 minutes later, the forest was quiet. The sound of nearby cars was gone, birds sang songs up in the trees, squirrels ran around and chinchillas hid whenever they saw him approach. He smiled. They reminded him of Vita's pets, Cotton and Candy. She had found them here and took them back to Tarabiscoville with her.
Greg thought of the kids and almost facepalmed. I forgot to tell Connor to take them this weekend! He knew how much they loved Connor, and he had promised them he would tell him. He sighed. The kids weren't the only ones missing Connor.
Greg's hand suddenly started burning and looking at it, he saw that the bandages around it were starting to stain with blood. Dammit... did it open again? That's where he had carved the pictures from his dreams. He stopped.
The pictures from his dreams... the pictures from his dreams, of course! He took the bandage out and admired how one of the wounds was bleeding. Was it a sign? He looked around and realized he was at the foot of a mountain. Greg smiled. The trail of mountains from my dreams! But it was close. In his dreams, the mountain was far away, but not enough that it still was massive. I need to keep going this way then. It was only a straight line from where I was standing.
Greg kept walking ahead until the end of the forest opened into a large valley, which was a marsh. He grunted. Really? He looked around carefully, trying to see if there were any alligators or any dangerous animals that lived in marshes. He spotted none, so disgusted he put a leg into the water and from there kept walking ahead, with the muddy water up to his knees.
Luckily the grass grew on opposite sides of him, and some trees popped here and there, so there was nothing on his way that would keep him from following a straight line except huge rocks on the water. If I had Cat Jump, I could just jump over the rocks and be on the other side in no time. He thought bitterly as the water got inside his pants. He watched around, where beavers were swimming and some raccoons played on trees. If there was any danger, they wouldn't be here. Greg looked at the sky and then ahead of the marsh. I need to hurry or else I'll be stuck here at night.
Two hours later, Greg still walked through the marsh. The water now was deeper, reaching up to his waist, and that frustrated Greg to no end, especially for the fact that the sun was still high and hot in the sky. It was kinda hilarious to him though, some types of geckos lived on marshes.
Something on his leg caused him unbearable pain and he had to climb a rock to see what was the source of the pain. When Greg pulled up his pants, he saw a leech on the back of his leg. "Ew," He said, his voice echoing around. He took a breath and put his finger under the mouth of the leech and started removing. When it was out, Greg threw it back into the water. "Shit." He complained.
If there was one leech, then there were more. He sighed. He wished there was a better path to where his destiny was, but all of them had to be traveled through the forests, and one of them Greg didn't dare to get close to.
Greg threw some wood into the fire he created. It was late, and he was soaking wet since not so long ago he had exited the marsh. Now he was on the forest on the other side and, to his relief, closer to where he had to be. He had caught a fish on a near stream and was cooking it, though it wasn't his favorite.
He didn't know where he was gonna sleep, he only brought a blanket and he didn't want to waste the rest of the clothes he had in the backpack. He felt lonely, yet calm. He put his hands near the fire and felt the warmth coming from it. Fall was around the corner and the warmer temperatures from before were starting to fade away.
He sighed. He missed the company of his friends on missions, but he didn't stop once to ask for their help, and not because he was running out of time, but because their lives weren't the same as before. Silver had traveled away with Clara and Romeo, a trip between friends she had said. He and Federico never really got along, they didn't hate each other, but they couldn't be in one place without quarreling, and Riley... Greg didn't want him around. Deep down he felt betrayed, but he knew he had to forgive him, else he was just repeating all of his past mistakes.
"It's the same story..." Greg said, rubbing his temples. "Over and over again." He heard rustling above him and now he was sure he was being watched. He looked around for the horse, it usually appeared between sunset and dawn, but found nothing. A leaf fell quietly in front of him and Greg slowly grabbed a thick branch, and as fast as he could, threw it between the trees.
He prepared himself to fight whoever was there, but a familiar voice got him shocked. "Owch... Didn't think you'd be able to throw it this far... Owch..."
Greg stared shocked. "Connor?"
Connor jumped from the branch he was hiding and landed gracefully like a cat in front of Greg. "Hey..." He said awkwardly.
Greg's mouth hung open and then he snapped out of his trance. "What are you doing here?"
Connor took a step back. "You don't want me here...?"
Greg shook his head. "No, no, of course, I want you here but... how?" He pocked himself on the cheek, trying to test if it was all a dream. "How did you find me?"
"I..." Connor scratched the back of his head. "I saw you leave home with your mom and turned into Lightning Fur to follow you..."
Greg opened his eyes wide open. "You followed me all the way here on foot?"
"I didn't want you to notice me..." Connor admitted. "I was just gonna make sure you arrived safely, but then I saw you sneaking away into the forest and... and I got scared..." Connor's tail twitched. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay..."
Greg smiled. "Oh, Connor," He put his arms around Connor's neck and kissed him. Playfully, he put Connor's hood back on, leaving him blinded for a few seconds before Connor pulled it up with a smile. Greg admired that. It was rare these days to see Connor smile.
Connor sat beside him in front of the fire and put his head over Greg's. "Sorry I snapped back home," He said.
"It's okay, I understand your fear..."
Connor looked at him. "You do?" The images of the car accident flashed on Greg's mind.
Thanks for reading and being patient :)
Chapter 4: Tribe of Constellations
I want to clarify that this story has heavy spoilers for all the stories that come before this one, especially Sacred Hearts and Catboy's Quest, and the ones that follow it, which is Moonstone and part of The Rogues. This story also includes delicate themes, such as death, graphic descriptions violence, sex, heavy words, and slavery. It also touches deeply the theme of PTSD and Caregiver Burden. IF you don't find yourself comfortable reading any of these, I suggest you leave the story now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The next day, Connor and Greg traveled silently through the forest. Greg suspected that it brought Connor some sense of relief since now he didn't seem as upset as he looked back in the city, but like everything -he watched Connor's tail twitch- it reminded him of something.
Greg had already found the mountain trail and the traveled through the marsh, now he just needed to reach the moor that he had seen in his dreams. "Did you follow me through the marsh?" He asked Connor curiously. He was curious about it since last night when Connor showed himself to him.
Connor shook his head. "No, I found my way around, it was exhausting,"
Greg nodded. Of course, no way he's gonna get close to water. "What about Amaya?"
"I... I might have left a note before following you," Greg stared at him accusingly and Connor smiled shyly. "I just needed to catch your bus or else I wasn't going to know in which one you were going, sorry..."
"It's not me who you need to apologize to," He told Connor, but then blushed. "It was sweet of you to check on me, though,"
Connor emitted a sound from deep in his throat that resembled a purr and Greg almost giggled. That made him happy. They both stopped at the end of a hill, where trees ascended further up with the land. "Seems that we gotta climb," Greg told Connor. The other one only nodded and followed Greg when he started climbing.
"Why don't you transform into Green Blaze?" Connor suggested. "We don't need to wait for nighttime to transform anymore," He reminded Greg. Greg nodded; he still wasn't used to the idea that he could transform during the day, any less that he wasn't Gekko anymore. "Besides, it'll help with your leg."
He had told Connor earlier today what happened in the marsh. Greg nodded and pressed his bracelet and a green light surrounded him, transforming him into Green Blaze. The green light shot into the sky and exploded like a firework. Green Blaze grimaced. Hopefully, that didn't alert anyone. He removed his green hood and was left only in a mask covering his eyes.
Connor touched the crest that came out of his head and was between his messy hair. "Doesn't that bother?"
Greg giggled. "No, it doesn't," He reached for the ears sticking out of Connor's head. "Don't they?"
Connor smiled. "Nope," They kept climbing silently the hill until they reached the end. Greg watched as Connor gazed into the forest downhill. "It seems... endless..." Greg gazed with him. The trail of mountains from his dream was there, but from here he couldn't spot the moor. Connor looked at him. "Now where?"
Greg opened his mouth and then shut it. He didn't know. "I... well..."
Connor's ears pinned down. "You don't know? Seriously?"
"I-I do! I just need to get-" He didn't finish what he was saying, he wasn't sure where to go. He saw the mountains and the marsh on his dreams, the moor as well, but now he didn't know where to look; it's what his dream failed to show him. He sighed defeated. "I know we need to head to the moor, but from here I can't see it. My dream didn't show me the way..."
Connor looked thoughtful for a moment. "Moors are usually surrounded by forests, maybe we just need to find the end of this one?"
Greg nodded. "I know, but where does it end? We can go one way but find ourselves on the wrong one,"
"Can't you remember anything else from the dream?" Connor asked. Greg didn't want to tell him he had seen a lake, any less the hill he had carried his body to. Connor suddenly added. "Where the sun was setting? If the were animals? Anything?"
Greg focused and closed his eyes. He let himself be swept away by what he has seen on his dreams, and slowly, the moor appeared right in his eyes. He could clearly see the hill, and forest right on the side of it. Come on, Greg. There was more of it. He looked around as if he was there, and then he spotted the peak of the mountains far away, right behind the forest. The sun always hides behind the mountains, and if it always hides on the east, and the mountains are on my right...
He opened his eyes. "We gotta head north," He pointed down the forest and then signaled to his left. "That way,"
Connor smiled and descended, caressing Greg's chin with his fluffy tail. "I've got a smart boyfriend,"
Greg followed Connor with a stupid gaze. "Thanks," And followed.
Five hours later, Connor and Greg had lost sight of the mountains, or the sky in general. The forest around them was so thick it was impossible to look at the sky. Connor seemed tired already, and Greg wasn't so far behind, they had been zigzagging all along, trying to get a glimpse of the mountains to be sure they were on the right path.
Connor grunted. "I hate this forest..."
Greg stopped and looked at him. "Do you wanna stop for a while and rest?"
Connor shook his head, though Greg noticed he was frustrated. "No, let's keep going." Greg stopped him right there and Connor arched an eyebrow. "What are you doing?"
"Connor, you're tired, and honestly I am too, so let's stop for a while and rest," Greg told him, sitting down his backpack and starting to look around.
"But the faster we go, the faster we leave," Connor grunted.
"I'm not giving you an option, Connor," Greg picked up some sticks and gathered them in one place. "Now sit down while I prepare the fire, the night is not so far away," Connor did as told and sat on a nearby branch, though annoyed.
Greg grabbed two small pebbles and created some sparks with them, allowing the fire to flare up on the pile of sticks. Connor watched him closely. "You are good at this," He complimented.
Greg smiled as he tore from bushes blue and dark purple berries and handed them to Connor. Connor knew what to do and smelled them, throwing half of them after smelling a sweet and woody aroma from them. He proceeded to smell the rest in case there were any left and concluded there were no more of the sweet-smelling ones. "All clear,"
Greg kept looking at the bush. "I thought they looked like Juniper berries, we are lucky that I gave them to you to smell them,"
"You weren't going to?" Connor asked confused.
"Almost," Greg sat beside him with more berries on his hand. Connor stared. "These are blueberries, don't worry." He started eating them with Connor while the fire flared up, making them warm. The orange sky above them was turning blue with each minute that passed, and Greg had to lean on Connor to feel even warmer. It felt colder in this part of the woods.
Greg kept watching the fire ashes blowing into the sky as if tainting it and making itself part of the stars. It was all so quiet and... relaxing, totally different from the atmosphere back in Tarabiscoville. He watched Connor contemplating the stars, a look on his eyes deceived he was thinking of something. Maybe the Stars? Greg thought.
Connor had joined the City of Stars once, right after he died. He traveled there to go back to them, he even had confessed that it was the fear of leaving them all behind that had brought him back, the need to apologize to them and be a better friend; he didn't want them to suffer for something he deserved, as Greg recalled the words of the brunette.
But Connor never truly told them what happened, what had he seen and what had he learned. Something there changed something inside Connor that Greg would never understand, not until death would reclaim him. One thought crossed Greg's mind since Connor had told them that; had Connor considered staying in the City of Stars? Had the thought even crossed his mind? If it did, would've he decided to stay?
"Stay where?" Connor's voice surprised him.
He panicked for a moment. Have I said that out loud? "Oh, um, nothing... sorry," He shook his head. "I'm just thinking,"
Connor eyed him curiously but said nothing. In silence, they watched the Moon raise herself into the sky slowly, not saying anything to each other. Maybe, just maybe, they were enjoying the peace for once.
Greg was laying beside Connor on the grassy ground of the woods while the brunette breathed quietly beside him. Greg was currently watching some fireflies hovering above them. Greg used his hand to imitate the rhythm they lighted on and off, making it glow with his Lizard totem power.
He was restless, he couldn't sleep, and he couldn't stop wondering why. He looked at Connor. At least he's sleeping alright. A terrifying neigh in the distance made him jump in terror.
Deep in the woods, the mare that has been chasing him down stood tall and deadly as she had always been. She looked at him with her white and empty eye, giving Greg the sensation that people were talking to him.
The mare's stare diverted to Connor and Greg jumped over him. "You're not harming him!" He told her, but the mare didn't seem disturbed by his threat.
She slowly paced towards him, then launched herself ahead for Greg. Greg threw himself over Connor and faced his destiny as he knew there was no running away now. The mare stood in two hooves and was ready to crush Greg's spine in two with the ones in the air.
Greg watched horrified until another horse -or man, Greg wasn't sure as it was half-human and half-horse- burst from the shadowy depths of the woods, followed by a goat and a ram that crushed into the mare's sides strongly, knocking her down. From the goat and ram's feet, white quartz appeared with each step they took.
A lion possed himself over Greg and Connor, protecting them both with his huge, starry body. Water poured from the ground, forming a long stream, and with it, fishes and crabs swam around the mare's hooves.
The mare fought back until a scorpion stung her, in which she terrified fled away, leaving a trail of dead flowers behind her. Greg looked amazed. It's the first time someone scared her away!
The lion that stood over them took steps back and everyone turned to look at them. Greg watched them back as well, confused but admirably. "Who are you?" As he asked that, two men with long, curly hair and a crown of leaves around their heads sneaked through the branches of the trees above them all.
They started whispering withing each other, including the animals, and Greg felt insecure around them once again. "Thanks for saving us..." He managed to say, swallowing his fear. "But we need to keep going,"
They all looked at him, their eyes turning white. One of the twins signaled with his head to the other, making the smaller one nod and jump away. They started chanting something, and the forest around Greg started to flourish into a powerful and blazing Spring. As seconds went by, the chanting became louder and louder until Greg had to cover his ears.
The other twin came back, with a pink-skinned boy shorter than him. The boy put his hand over his blacktop and gasped in shock. "The Tribe of Constellations!" He exclaimed. "You're back!" Then his blue eyes diverted to Greg.
Greg's mouth hung open. "It's you! You're the voice that was asking for help!"
"You were the stranger in my vision?" The white-haired boy asked. The chanting around them became extremely loud, and Greg watched the blue eyes of the boy turn white while his mouth moved along the lines of the chant.
Greg shut his eyes closed and covered his ears, hiding his face in Connor's side. At some point, the chant ended and Greg slowly opened them, only to be welcomed by the dark woods he first met the boy. "Hello?"
"The Green Blaze of Spring will also bring a Storm of endless Lightning..." He turned around to find the white-haired boy sitting on the grass, confused. "To save our Tribe from the Brightness of Darkest of Skies..."
The blue-eyed boy shook his head, looking around confused as if he didn't know where he was, then he spotted Greg. "You're near, I can see you now," He had a soothing voice that calmed Greg's nervousness. "What's your name?"
"I'm Greg," He looked around. "What is this place?"
"The grounds where the Tribe of Constellations hunt," The boy said in a soothing voice. "You sure bring surprises," He said.
"They saved me from something I've been running away from, I didn't choose to be here," Greg told him.
The white-haired boy accommodated his hair. "No one does, that's kinda their thing," He stood up and walked over to Greg, helping him up but Greg wasn't able to feel his hand. "They do that usually with me,"
Greg sighed. "Well, I'm glad they decided to save me," He looked at the boy, which seemed kind of familiar but couldn't quite picture who he resembled. "Now that we are here though, where do I need to go? I'm kinda lost with my partner," He looked at where Connor was but found no one.
The white-haired boy didn't seem to notice that, though. "Oh right, you don't know where our camp is, do you?" Greg shook his head. "Don't worry, I can show you," The boy turned and Greg looked at the clearing ahead of them.
The boy started whispering and the clearing changed; now they were standing on a hill, a hill Greg knew pretty well. "I've been here before, months ago..."
The boy looked surprised. "Have you?" He looked thoughtful. "Maybe the Tribe of Constellations knew that..." He shook his head. "Anyway, you need to follow the river up to the lake, which is in the opposite direction from where the current is going, from there you walk near the shore until you reach the lake,"
Greg fidgeted. "Isn't there any other way?" He didn't want to get near the shore. "Connor doesn't like rivers that much..." He hated them.
The boy shook his head. "There isn't, sorry, that's the only way to reach our Tribe staying out of trouble,"
Greg sighed. "Okay, if you say so..." He worried about Connor; he didn't want him to go anywhere near that cursed gorge. "Luckily we can arrive tomorrow night or so,"
The boy smiled. "The sooner the better," He sighed happily. "Thank you for doing this, we need your help,"
"I like to help, anyone," Greg smiled at him. "I couldn't stop thinking about you since the first time you came across me, you sounded so desperate back then, uh, um... what was your name again?"
"Oh, sorry! The name's Apollon that Reaches for the Moon, or just Apollon," He looked at the floor. "That day something happened and we needed help from someone... I'm glad I could reach you," He smiled.
"Well, Apollon, just you wait. We'll be there in no time," Greg reassured him.
"I hope so," Apollon replied with a smile. The land started to fade away and he said. "Until then, let the Tribe guide your way!"
Another chapter to compensate for the lack of updates, hope you enjoyed and thanks for reading :)
Chapter 5: The Fatherhood
Warning: Underage sex.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Greg trotted out of the woods beside Connor and into the green hills of the moor. Connor caught up with him. "So let me get this straight-" Greg descended the first hill with Connor running just behind him. "You and this boy called Apollon share a connection through dreams?"
At the end of the hill, Greg shook grass of his costume and then started climbing another hill. "Apparently, yeah," Once they reached the top of this one, breeze ran through the moor and ruffled their hair. "One of the things I saw was the hill I..." Greg hesitated. Should I say it? He sighed and carefully said. "The hill I took your body the first time..."
Connor stopped and looked at Greg incredulously. "You didn't tell me we were heading that way."
"We are not," Greg quickly added. "We are going in the same direction, but from there we have to go up the river." Greg trotted ahead but stopped when Connor didn't.
"T-The river...?" Connor looked lost as if a swarm of memories was relived. "I-I cannot go there, it's dangerous. Something will happen to us there and- and- and I don't want to go there,"
Greg ran back to him and hugged him. "I promise you, we're not going near or through the river, we just need to go against the way the current is going, but we're not going into the river." He made Connor look at him in the eyes, but Connor's blue eyes held a storm. "Okay, um, let's sit here," Greg told him gently.
Connor nodded, but his hands gripped on Greg's forearms as they sat gently on the grass, turning them red because of how strong he was squeezing. Greg gently released one arm from his grip and placed his hand under Connor's chin. His thumb brushed the side of his neck and he could feel Connor's heart beating fast. "Will you tell me what's making you scared?" Greg asked.
"T-The river, um," Connor swallowed. "The water...," Connor was having trouble breathing and Greg caressed his cheek tenderly. "I don't want it to... to hurt me again... it was scary and- and- I don't know... I just don't know... I-" Connor closed his eyes shut. "I don't wanna go back to the City of Stars!"
"Wanna breath with me?" Connor nodded and when Greg exhaled, he repeated after him. They repeated it, in and out, holding gazes with each other. Connor put his forehead on Greg's shoulder but kept breathing at the same pace Greg did until Greg felt his heartbeat decreasing 20 minutes or so later.
The breeze gently wiggled the grass to one side to another while Greg and Connor sat there breathing, embracing each other. Nothing was bothering them, no people, no river, not anything. It was only them and only them, sharing one moment together of the many there were and the many to come.
The past few months Greg had learned to control some of Connor's fears and outbursts, he knew how to help him after something triggered him. He would usually ask what was bothering Connor and the other would tell him while he listened carefully. Greg realized at some point that Connor wanted to be heard and that he needed his own pace to heal from the traumatic event.
Greg grabbed one of Connor's hand and kissed it tenderly. "I'm here with you, nothing's gonna happen while I'm here,"
Connor sobbed and buried his face in Greg's neck crook, crying softly. "Sorry..." Greg only hugged him tighter and let Connor vent in there.
When Connor fully calmed down, Greg looked up the hills and said, "Ready to go or do you rather wait?"
Connor breathed in and out slowly this time. "L-let's go," Connor looked at themselves and said: "Can we go back to our normal selves, though?" Greg acknowledged his request and both transformed back into their normal selves.
Greg helped Connor up and nudged him slightly ahead, then broke into a run ahead like before. They reached the top of the hill and looked at the moor, watching the wave of grass move thanks to the wind. Greg stared up though, where the biggest of hills stood with crystals popping out of a hole in the peak. We're officially back...
That was the cave once Greg as Gekko had to carry Connor's dead body to bring him back to life, or so the animals had insisted. Frustration empowered him. Will cursed animals ever stop chasing me? But the Famine was different from them, or so he thought... he hoped.
Connor looked at it with heavy eyes and Greg could feel that same pain too. Greg grabbed his hand and pointed to the east side of the cursed cave. "We need to go that way, not there," Greg reassured. Connor nodded slowly and turned to keep running, Greg behind him. They kept running until the sun started to hide behind the mountains. On the far end, Greg spotted a forest and made a run for it with Connor surprised of the speed he suddenly got.
It was not so long after when Greg and Connor finally reached the core of the forest. The forest was dense, often catching Greg between its leaves and bushes and setting Connor on edge; Greg complained. "No wonder Apollon doesn't live here, this forest is so fucking-"
"Annoying?" Connor replied, removing thistles from his hair.
"I was gonna say hard to go through, but that works too," Greg agreed with Connor, pulling his leg from a patch of brambles. The part of the knee on his pants ripped open and Greg groaned. "I wish there was a better way to get through this mess," Though he knew he was telling himself, and Connor, lies.
"Me too," Connor nodded, then he stopped dead where he was.
Greg eyed him. "What is it?"
Connor all around, including above them, anxiously. "People." He said, turning to look behind them. "There are people around us,"
Greg thought it might be one of Connor's fight-or-flight responses to being in such a dense place. It might be reminding him of something. He thought. Greg worked around his response to that, trying hard not to sound as untrusting. "There are animals in these forests, it could've been-"
"I swear to our Stars, Greg," Connor said, clenching his fists and greeting his teeth. "There are people around us."
Greg took a deep breath and walked in front of him. "Let's keep going so we can lose them, does that sound okay?" Connor nodded as he kept checking all around them. Greg nudged him forward and they kept their way.
It was when they reached a sandy hollow of red sand, soft dirt and a stream running beside it that Greg heard a crack near them, loud enough to be made by an animal. Connor jumped and instantly got into a defensive position. "They are following us," He snarled, looking at the trees above them sheltering the place.
A leaf fell slowly between them and Greg turned to look up just like Connor, but both found themselves narrowing their eyes due to the powerful sunlight. Birds suddenly flew away alarmed and all the trees cracked, Greg heard: "Attack!"
From the trees, a group of people dropped into Connor's and Greg's shoulders', pinning them to the ground and holding them strongly. Connor twisted furiously with a dangerous spark on his eyes, though an anxious one showed up too. "LET US GO!" He demanded.
"I caught them, Spear, I caught them!" A childish like voice exclaimed.
"Well done, Iron," A gruff female voice praised. She was the one that pressed Greg's haunches harder and he gritted his teeth in pain. For some reason, he could move his arms. "Who are you and what are you doing in our territory?" She demanded.
"We were just passing through, we mean no harm!" Greg tried to defend themselves. "We didn't know it was your territory!"
She pressed him to the ground. "It doesn't matter know," She mocked. "You're here, and you're ours,"
"What?!" Connor yelled when two big women dragged him away from Greg. He kicked and fought, all while he looked in fear at Greg. "Greg!"
Greg twisted. "Wait! Take me to him!" He tried to turn his head to look at whoever was keeping him in place. "We'll stay but take me with him!"
"Iron, help me," The back of his neck was grabbed forcefully and he was dragged beside Connor. The red sand left a trail as they were taken away. "We'll take you back to our Tribe and Bright Sky will decide your fate,"
"O-Our fate?" Connor asked in fear.
"Your fate." The woman who dragged Greg, a blue-eyed and dark-skinned one, smirked.
Greg looked miserable. What have I gotten ourselves into?
Greg followed miserably Connor and the two women who held him captive. Behind him, Spear walked pressing a sharp object on his back that Greg guessed it was some sort of dagger. He had pleaded her teammates, Sapphire and Lazuli, to not do the same with Connor and that they will cooperate. The last thing Connor needs right now is a panic attack.
But Greg knew that at some point he was gonna have one; the calm he had before totally washed away and he was on edge all the time. "How long until we reach your Tribe?" Greg asked.
"As long as it needs to take," Iron, the small girl with a scratchy voice, answered. She dismissed him with a flip of her hair and pushed him forward into a hallow gorse tunnel. Greg rolled his eyes. Fucking annoying... Brambles on the sides of the cave brushed his arms and he gritted his teeth to fight the pain.
When they emerged at the end, they were welcomed by a huge clear of trees clearing that hold stone houses and even some that were inside caves. If they hadn't run into it without Spear and Iron catching them, Greg would've missed there was a whole society of people living there.
The houses looked like boulders covered of vines and the ones that were inside caves were barely noticeable. On top of a huge, thick tree though, was a stone house with quartz popping from the sides.
People excited their houses and cast them hostile glares, some of them even threw them insults or even rocks. They started stomping the floor and calling the name "Bright Sky!" loudly. Spear kicked the back of Greg's legs and he fell to his knees in the middle of the clearing, Connor beside him.
A loud horn rumbled in the place and the clearing went deadly quiet. From the house, a muscular and tall man -even taller than Connor- walked with his chest high, as if proud of himself. He addressed his Tribe with a weird gesture of his hand and then looked at Connor and Greg severely. "Adress yourselves,"
Connor was shaking beside him, so Greg answered for them both instead. "T-The name's Greg, and this is my-" He was about to introduce Connor when Bright Sky raised his hand to stop him. "What...?"
"I want him to introduce himself," He spoke with such calmness that it put Greg's hair on a stand. Bright Sky looked at Connor expectantly.
Connor had difficulty answering, as his words came out as an inaudible murmur. Greg looked at him and breathed in and out slowly, Connor repeated and then looked at Bright Sky. "I'm- I'm Connor,"
Bright Sky looked at both of them. "Can I know the reason you two were trespassing into Fatherhood's territory?"
"We were just passing by, looking for someone, we truly didn't know it was someone else's territory..." Greg said nervously. "We just want to keep going our way, we don't want to cause harm to anyone,"
"I understand," Bright Sky said, making Greg relax, but then he said: "But I can't let you go,"
"What?" Greg asked and frowned. "Why not?"
Iron interrupted Bright Sky with her scratchy voice. "Once you enter Fatherhood's territory, you become Fatherhood's property!" She looked proud of herself when both Spear and Bright Sky looked at her severely. She shrank in her space and kept her mouth shut.
Greg looked at her and smiled satisfied, gaining a death glare from her. Bright Sky looked at him and then said. "Iron's right, though. You're my property now, therefore you're not leaving."
"But-" Greg tried to object, but Bright Sky dismissed him by addressing Spear.
"Spear, take them to the food crops. They'll help the Harvest." Spear nodded and nudged them away. Bright Sky addressed them one last time. "I hope you find joy among your Sisters." Then he went back inside his house.
Greg noticed for the first time that most of the Fatherhood's members were female and that there were only a few males. The ones Greg got to spot were around his age or in their twenties. He didn't get to look at anyone else before he was taken out of camp and lead to a huge field of wheat and maize crops.
Other people were working on the wheat and maize crops, all of them worn out. The sun was burning them as it yet wasn't even sunset. Greg noticed that most of them looked miserable and that they rather die than be there. Maybe people like me and Connor... captured... Greg concluded.
Spear called to a group of people watching everyone from huge stands of woods that stood over the fields; they noticed her and instantly hoped off them, acknowledging her with a nod of their head. Spear did the same. "Harvests,"
"Spear," A teenager with bronze skin and curly hair greeted her. She turned to look at them. "Who do we have here?"
"Greg and Conner," Spear answered.
"Connor." Greg corrected.
Spear ignored him and said: "They are the newbies. We caught them trespassing." She looked at the field and then back at the teenager. "Bright Sky sent them here to you, Gold."
The group behind the teenager murmured between each other excitedly. Gold smiled. "How nice of him! Leave them over there," She signaled to cabinets made of woods on the side of the wheat crops. "We'll take it from here,"
Spear nodded and left once she took Connor and Greg to where Gold had instructed. Gold approached them with her group. "Greetings! The name's Gold, I'm the leader of the Harvests: Wool, Rye, Maple, Bronze," She pointed at each of her companions while they nodded back at them.
She inspected them carefully. She walked around them, pressing her hands on Greg's shoulder blade and then kneeling to admire Connor's legs. Connor backed away and stood near Greg with an expression full of rage; Gold ignored it and kept watching them closely. She grabbed Greg's biceps and squished them, making Greg felt uncomfortable.
Finally, she pressed her hands on Connor's shoulders, who shook her away hastily and she said: "Rye, Wool, take Connor to the vineyards," She turned to look at Maple and Bronze. "Take Greg to the mines to extract minerals," She pressed dreamily her hands on Greg's arms. "He has an amazing body to waste it on the fields,"
Greg backed away from her and only followed Maple and Bronze, then he stopped. "Wait, I can't just leave Connor."
Rye and Wool pushed Connor into one of the cabins and Connor turned back now and then to look at him. Gold watched him do so and told him. "Dear, it's not a matter if you can, you must leave him, it's an order." Maple pushed Greg into a cabin as well and handed him clothes. "Put on them," Gold instructed.
Greg took the clothes but before he started changing, he caught a glimpse of the two girls and the boy looking at him. "Do you need something...?"
"Don't mind us, we need to keep an eye on you," Maple answered, his hand covering his smile. Greg rolled his eyes. Yeah, sure.. and cats fly. He started changing his clothes, ignoring the burning stares on his skin.
"My..." Maple sighed dreamily. "Hadn't seen a body like that in a while," Greg heard him say.
"Yeah... last time we had one of those Bright Sky killed her," He alarmed as Bronze mentioned that. "It was a shame she was such a rebel,"
Gold giggled. "Do you think Bright Sky will let me have this one?" As Greg took off his pants, she whispered to her friends. "I would love to have some of his babies,"
Greg felt disgusted. No fucking way that will ever happen, not while I'm alive, When he was finished, he walked out and Maple and Bronze gripped his arms tightly. Gold sent them away. "Take him away now," They led Greg away and on the way, Greg caught Connor's eye. We'll see each other later, He mouthed.
Connor nodded as he finished changing. Greg caught the eye of Maple and Bronze, who stared at him dreamily. He sighed. This is gonna be a long day...
It was nighttime when Greg finished mining. Other several people followed Bronze and Maple beside him, exhausted and miserable. He's been anxious all day, thinking of Connor being alone and away from him with strangers that only wanted them for their benefits. If they laid one finger on him someone's dying tonight.
They all walked to the woods, where he met more people covered with either grape juice, leaves or corn. They all looked tired and Greg could feel them. They made us work like animals... He thought bitterly. They didn't even move a finger!
"Greg!" He felt relieved at the sound of that voice and some people turned to look with him. Connor jogged towards him with a relieved expression. "You're okay..."
"I am, don't worry. Did they do something to you?" He whispered as they kept following the crowd.
Connor shook his head. "No, the only thing they did is getting on my nerves,"
Greg looked ahead at Bronze and Maple and felt again the irritation of today; they wouldn't keep their eyes away from him. He sighed. "Same here..." The crowd stopped and so did they, and then Gold, Wool, Rye, Maple, and Bronze stood over a boulder.
"Good work today, but if we keep going at this pace we won't have anything prepared for winter, so I expect tomorrow's work to be better, and faster," She threatened. "All the new Siblings follow Wool. He will guide you to your bungalows. That will be all."
Some people from the crowd walked away from them while other, just like them, stood in the same place confused. Wool jumped from the boulder and ordered them to follow. They followed him through bramble walls and on the far end, they visualized caves that were covered with thorn bushes over.
Bronze, who Greg now realized was following them, nudged him and Connor to a cave. Connor turned and pushed her violently. "Don't touch me!"
Bronze looked irritated. "Just get in your fucking cave already, then,"
Greg held glares with her for a few moments before gently guiding Connor to a cave at the end of the rock wall. When they entered, they spotted a small door with tenue lights inside; it was a room. Greg pushed the door open and found a wooden table, a small pool of water in a deep boulder, and wool blankets on the floor that Greg figured were beds.
Bronze shortly after entered and threw some clothes at them. "Get ready for bed. I want you up at dawn," And then she left.
Greg sighed. He wanted to get the dirty clothes off his body and wanted to take a shower. He walked over to the pool of water and took all of his clothes off then realized he didn't have his backpack with him. They must've taken after they attacked us earlier today... He didn't even realize that. He stepped in the water and was surprised to find it warm.
Connor eyed him. "You okay?"
"Yeah, it's just warm and it caught me by surprise," He answered. He washed silently as Connor took his clothes off and his body felt warm, and he wasn't sure if it was because of the water or if it was because of Connor. "Won't you at least wash away some of the dirt?" He asked him, trying to ignore his body impulses.
"I..." Connor didn't seem sure, and Greg could understand that.
"I can wash it away for you if you want," He offered. Connor hesitated before walking up to him, jumping back when some of the water fell near him. He closed his eyes and stretched his arms toward Greg. They were stained with wine. Greg moved and reached for him, washing his arms gently and looking up now and then at him.
When he was done with himself and Connor, he exited it and changed, ready for bed. Connor followed and both laid on the floor, over the wool blankets. They got closer to each other and stared into each other's eyes, realizing how tired each other was. "Sorry," Greg apologized.
"What for?" Connor asked, his voice echoing in the walls of their room.
"For dragging you into this," Greg nudged him closer, looking for warm as the room was starting to get cold.
"I followed you, remember?" Connor reminded him as he positioned himself under Greg's chin and near his chest. "And you didn't know this was someone else's territory." He put his arms around him. "If all, I got myself into this,"
"You were just trying to keep me safe," Greg recalled. Connor didn't answer vocally, instead, he hugged him tighter and Greg enjoyed it. The warm coming from Connor made him sleepy, but Connor brushing his hand inside his pants made him jump. "What are you doing?!" Greg whispered frantically.
"Think I didn't catch you looking at me a few moments ago?" Connor gazed into his eyes. "I could see your intentions from miles away, Greg." He moved his fingers inside Greg's underwear and Greg squirmed.
"They could catch us," Greg whispered. "And if they do, we're finished for sure,"
But Connor didn't stop. "Then we better keep quiet, right?"
When Connor only kept going, Greg threw his head backward and his breath came curtly. At the motion of Connor's hand, he moved his hips, trying to feel more pleasure from the whole situation. It's been a long while since they've done it, and it's not like Greg wasn't looking forward to it, in fact, he was but the fear of they getting caught was greater.
He failed to override those feelings though, and he only warmed up. Connor, looking at him lustfully, sat up and lowered's Greg pants to his knees with one hand while the other kept doing its job. Greg bit his lower lip as pleasure rushed to his face and lower abdomen, making him arch his back and groan in pleasure. Connor looked at him with bedroom eyes and bent over, putting his tongue on Greg's tip. He worked his way around it with his tongue, teasing him while Greg desperately fought his desires.
We have to stop... He thought. When Connor stopped, Greg looked at him agitated; the other was looking at him with a desire-laced look. But how can I say no to him?
Greg only let Connor put it in his mouth and move his head down, then up again. He repeated the same action over and over again, driving Greg crazy as Greg's only thought was how warm Connor's mouth felt. Greg caught a bit of Connor's hair between his fingers and Connor looked at him for a few moments before closing his eyes and keeping going. Connor knew this was one of Greg's favorite things to do, he knew he felt in power, so he never complained.
Greg took that as approval and grabbed Connor's hair, making it a fist around his long, spikey hair. He tugged at Connor's hair as the other changed pace, sending waves of heat through his body and desiring for more. He lifted himself with his elbows and looked at Connor, whose other hand was inside his pants.
Connor stopped and removed his mouth from Greg's cock, sitting and then laying down on his back over the wool blanket. Greg took that as an invitation to get a better taste of him and he gladly accepted it, placing himself over the blue-eyed boy with an obvious intention. He pulled Connor's loose trousers down his tanned legs, next being his underwear. He wanted more, and he wanted Connor, he wanted to love him and Connor wanted to be loved.
Greg placed himself over Connor and kissed him passionately, feeling the warm of Connor's chest against his own and his heartbeat going faster. It felt as if their hearts were connected, as if they were one, they knew what each other wanted and they were giving it. Connor traced his hand over Greg's sides and he frotted himself against Connor, hearing him moan through their kiss and making feel even hotter. He broke the kiss for a few moments, "You're so beautiful..." Indeed he was; Connor was one beautiful boy he loved deeply and wanted, that he needed.
Connor pulled him down hungrily and put his tongue inside his mouth, Greg flowing with him swiftly. Connor broke the kiss and led Greg down to his neck, letting clear of what he wanted Greg to do to him. Greg did as pleaded and nibbled on his neck, feeling Connor put his arms around his neck and his legs around his waist. He moaned quietly on his ear and that turned Greg on right away. He stopped fast as a wink and wet his fingers with his saliva, moving them back down and slowly inserting them inside Connor. The brunette moaned loudly and as he did it, he also covered his mouth fastly, closing his eyes shut as Greg continued to play with his insides as he pleased.
Greg removed them and then jacked off over him, making Connor move his hips towards him, pleading for more of Greg. He aligned Connor with himself and looked at him. "Are you sure about this?" He whispered. Connor reached for him and pulled him down into a slow and hot kiss that just melted Greg.
Connor broke the kiss slowly and gazed at him with his hand on Greg's face. "I wouldn't do it if I wasn't sure..." They kissed again, this time deeper; Greg's tongue explored Connor's mouth and Connor moved his own along.
Greg gently thrust into Connor, hearing him gasp slightly in pain. "Sorry..." He said through the kiss. Connor only kept moving on as Greg pushed it in and out slowly, feeling Connor move his hips when he was deep inside. It was obvious he wanted closeness with him, Greg did too, they went through a lot and the only thing they wanted was to feel like one, just for a moment.
Greg fastened his pace and Connor moaned under him, pulling him down even more and embracing him tightly, scratching his shoulder blades with his nails and leaving red marks behind. Greg only kept going, hearing Connor moan his name beside his ear and feeling him close around himself as he thrust in and out.
As he felt himself reaching his breaking point, he let go of Connor and kneeled, leaving Connor laying down on the wool with his legs on both Greg's sides. He traced his hands over his body and then down to his hipbones, gripping the hips and pulling Connor towards him each time he would thrust. Connor as well moved rhythmically along, gasping and moaning while he jacked off.
Greg gazed at Connor dreamily, the boy he never thought would fall in love with. They've been friends for so long it almost felt surreal to have him here as a precious object that now served to fill up his love and desires, that made him feel for him like he never felt for anybody else.
Greg threw his head backward; he couldn't keep going, the pleasure reached his breaking point. He quickly cast Connor a look that Connor returned, letting him know that he reached it too and was free to do what he wanted. Greg groaned and thrust one last time inside Connor as he cummed, watching Connor shortly after do so too. Connor let out a breathy moan and his legs shook slightly as the pleasure filled him. Greg stood deep inside Connor for a few moments before pulling out slowly, watching the other complaint quietly.
He leaned down and kissed him tenderly. When they broke apart, they smiled and hugged each other, feeling safe in each other's arms.
Thanks for reading :)
Chapter 6: Leaf That Heals Under the Stars
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Greg and Connor were frantically putting their assigned clothes. After the whole experience from last night, they woke up late and now they were trying to get to their duties on time. Bronze said they were supposed to meet her at dawn... it was almost morning.
Greg looked for his shirt everywhere, but couldn't find it. "Have you seen my shirt?"
"Shit," He heard Connor complain. He looked at him and noticed Connor was wearing a shirt that left his belly exposed, realizing it was his. Connor took it off. "I thought it was mine,"
"It's okay," Greg said as he grabbed it and put on it. "I couldn't have told the difference either," The shirts were so dirty from yesterday's work that they were hard to tell each other apart. When they were done, they rushed outside of the cave and through the path that led to the bramble tunnel.
They thought they were clear, but Bronze and Wool caught them both. Bronze shook her head. "So cute, but so stupid," Wool laughed and then shoved them towards the way that would lead them to the fields. Again they were split like yesterday, Connor to the vineyard and Greg to the mines, unluckily for them.
Time passed fastly as Greg mined, the sun was high in the sky, giving away that it was noon already. After he parted a stone and found a bunch of amethyst inside, his thoughts drifted to last night, specifically to the wonderfulness Connor was. Those blue eyes, that amazing body, the amazing person he was to Greg... Greg shook his head and sighed. He wanted to be with Connor, and he wanted that closeness again.
There was commotion outside that made him, and the people beside him, stop. Something was happening and Greg had a twisted feeling at the end of his stomach. Why do I feel it has to do with Connor...? He watched Maple jump from the rock he was using to keep an eye on them and climbed outside. "What's the problem?" His voice echoed in the underground cave.
Greg recognized Gold's voice when she spoke, and she had an annoyed tone. "One of the newbies had a panic attack, we are taking him to the stream to refresh him a little," Greg's heart sank on his chest and he instantly climbed, surprising Gold and Maple.
"Hey, go back to work!" Maple snarled.
"Is it Connor?! I just need to know that!" Greg pleaded.
Maple was getting worked up when Gold stopped him. "Yes, it is..." She cast him a suspicious glance. "How did you know?"
"There are certain things that can trigger him," Greg said. "He probably crossed path with one and that triggered him," Greg looked at her pleadingly. "Please, let me see him, I can help and he'll be back on the fields right away..."
Gold and Maple shared looks and then Maple nodded. Gold looked at him. "Very well, come," She shoved him away. "He went that way,"
"Thank you," Greg said, but Gold held a dagger of some sort to his back and growled:
"But think of doing something stupid and I'll open that beautiful scar on your partner's side," Greg nodded and kept walking ahead, Gold following close behind. It was no long after that they entered a dark pines forest he heard a commotion. He heard voices and then one particular voice. Connor! He raced ahead and found Bronze, Wool, and Spear holding Connor down, next to a stream.
Greg shoved them aside strongly with his shoulders. "Leave him alone!" Spear was about to jump at him when Gold stopped her. Connor was on the ground covering his ears with his hands and whispering things to himself. Greg had to carefully lift his head to look at him. "Look, it's me... I'm here,"
Gold and the others were looking expectantly at him and when Greg hugged Connor, he snarled at them. "You idiots, he can't be near water!" When Connor didn't stop shaking, he raged. "Don't you ever try to force him near it!"
Spear, Wool, and Bronze growled but Gold kept watching through narrowed eyes. "Leave us alone," She told her companions. "But stay near in case they decide to do something reckless," The others nodded and left, but not before giving Greg hostile glares.
Greg whispered to Connor's ear reassuring words and Connor talked back to him, telling him how things were happening all over. It took Greg half an hour to finally calm him down. "I'm here, okay? I'll protect you,"
Gold watched, half impressed. "How did you know that what you said was gonna calm him down?"
"It's been like this for four months now, I kinda got the hang of it," He caressed Connor's hair. "Not totally, but I'm getting there,"
Gold yawned. "Why is he like that, though? Why can't he be near water?"
Greg rolled his eyes. "I don't have to tell you the whole story," He hissed.
Gold leaned against a tree and started playing with a knife. "Don't do it and see what happens," She pointed at Connor, who had his head leaning on Greg's shoulder. "To him, especially,"
Greg bared his teeth but said nothing; he frowned. "He drowned, and almost died," He spat. "He's developed PTSD after it," When Gold raised her eyebrow, Greg grunted and rolled his eyes. "It stands for-"
"Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," A female voice added. Greg was surprised to finally hear someone with common sense, and when he turned to the stream that was running behind him, he noticed a girl older than him. She was probably around her twenties, with long brown hair, dark skin and freckles all over her. "It occurs after someone has experienced a life-threatening event," She finished.
Gold looked coldly at her. "Leaf." She glared at her up and down. "Shouldn't you be collecting dirt or something?"
"I collect herbs, and that's what I'm doing," Leaf glared back with her amber eyes. "Shouldn't you go back to sucking Bright Sky's dick or something?"
Greg was surprised by Leaf's response, especially surprised why Gold hadn't attacked her. Surely she was on the same territory as them? Gold snarled. "That's none of your fucking concern, go back to your useless Tribe."
Leaf didn't seem to give a thing for what Gold said. "I am on my Tribe," She said, pointing at the side she was on the other side of the stream. "I can stand here all day with you ordering all around and I'd still do nothing,"
"Very well about that, but these people are not your concern, so leave," Gold spat back.
"And that my friend is where you're wrong again," Leaf said confidently. "I look after the sick, after the injured, after those who cannot watch over themselves and those who need help, and he-" She pointed at Connor. "Needs help,"
"We'll see about that," Gold threatened.
When Gold turn around to call for her companions, Leaf signed at Greg with a hopeful spark on her eyes. "Be ready," It took Greg a few minutes to understand when he finally nodded.
At the same time, Wool, Bronze, and Spear approached and held his and Connor's shoulders. "Guys, take them back to camp and tell Bright Sky we have invalids in here. They are no use to our Tribe." When they were about to lift them, Leaf punched in the air and an invisible shield broke down. The Harvests were shocked by her sudden movement and that allowed Greg to punch Wool and Spear, sending them away. Connor similarly stood up and used a thick branch to hit Gold and Bronze, unbalancing them.
Leaf hurried them. "Over here, hurry!" Connor jumped over two rocks to get to the other side while Greg ran through the water. When they crossed through the gap Leaf made, she closed it, leaving Gold and the others on the other side. Gold angrily punched the invisible shield, creating a few waves through it.
"This isn't over, Leaf!" She yelled.
"Except that it is," Leaf replied, turning and walking away with Greg and Connor.
When they were far away, Greg turned to her. "Thank you for saving us, Leaf." He thanked her.
She turned towards him and acknowledge his thanks with a nod. "I always help people who need it," She told him. "I was collecting some medicinal herbs when I heard the commotion in the forest." They followed a path full of trees with orange and yellow leaves, squirrels fled toward trees as they approached. "When I saw him I instantly knew he was having a panic attack, but when he started saying things unrelated to his surroundings is when I noticed he had PTSD,"
Greg stared at her. "How you'd come to know what it is but they don't?" Pause. "Wait. Scratch that. They are complete idiots, they wouldn't know what it is even if you told them twice,"
Leaf chuckled at his response. "I learn every kind of medicine spirits can guide me through," When Greg looked at her confused, she said. "I'm a Guider apprentice. Guiders learn everything to help and educate everyone on their and others' medicine,"
"Wow," Greg exclaimed as they climbed a hill full of stones.
"I know right?" She said. "It is a wonderful job..." She looked at Connor, who was quiet the whole way. "Is there anything you want to share?" Connor shook his head slowly and Leaf nodded. "Okay, but if there is, you can open up to me anytime,"
Greg watched her impressed as to how kindly she treated Connor, and how understanding she seemed to be. "Do you belong to a Tribe too?"
Leaf nodded. "Yeah," She turned around two huge boulders and entered a forest full of twisted trees that looked like people. "But don't worry, the Motherhood isn't like the Fatherhood. We think before doing anything,"
Greg thought for a second and then asked. "Do you by any chance know someone named Apollon?"
She stopped and Greg accidentally bumped into her. She turned to look at him with a surprised look on her eyes. "You know Apollon?"
"We met through dreams, he was asking for help." He explained carefully.
Leaf brightened and smiled. "Yes! He's our Tribe's Thera apprentice!" Her excitement spread to Greg as he finally felt that things were begging to come around. "He was right all along! You were coming!" She sprinted ahead into the woods. "Come on, follow me!" Greg and Connor shared a look and rushed after her.
As they ran, Connor finally spoke up. "Leaf, you mentioned something about a Theia...?"
Leaf, without stopping, said. "Thera! A Thera in our Tribe is like a doctor to you, just with a special connection to our ancestors, just like me, but lesser. A Thera can only reach our ancestors, we Guiders can share with many skies as we want," She laughed. "Funny you said Theia, though, that's our leader!"
"They won't make us work as they did, will they?" Connor asked anxiously.
"No, don't worry, Theia is not like that at all!" Leaf answered. They started climbing rocks, carefully not to step on a loose one. Leaf smiled. "Theia will treat you like an equal, she's like that,"
"Well, those are good news," Connor agreed.
Once they reached the top, they broke into a run between the trees. As Greg ran, he felt his hand burning and looked at it, noticing some yellow and green liquid on the wound that he made in his dreams, though it was sticky. Leaf gasped horrified. "That's infected!" She exclaimed. "Once we get you to our camp I'll treat those wounds properly."
Greg nodded and followed her with Connor by his side. While they ran, he looked at him with a bright smile. We are here!
Thanks for reading :))
Chapter 7: The Motherhood
I want to clarify that this story has heavy spoilers for all the stories that come before this one, especially Sacred Hearts and Catboy's Quest, and the one that follows it, which is Moonstone. This story also includes delicate themes, such as death, graphic descriptions violence, sex, heavy words, and slavery. It also touches deeply the theme of PTSD and Caregiver Burden. IF you don't find yourself comfortable reading any of these, I suggest you leave the story now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Greg, Leaf, and Connor arrived not so long after to the entrance of the camp. There, a ginger woman with golden skin and freckles all over her watched them hostile. She stood up and held a lance, "Intruders?"
Leaf shook her head. "Friends," She said with a smile.
The green-eyed woman put the lance down and smiled at Leaf. "Friends?" Then she lighted up. "They come to help?" Leaf nodded eagerly and the other woman smiled. "I can't believe it... Apollon was right! There was help on the way!"
When Leaf crossed the wooden gate, the ginger woman followed. "I always trusted on Apollon's words,"
"Same here," The ginger woman turned to Greg. "What are your names?"
"I'm Greg," He grabbed Connor's hand. "This is my partner Connor," Connor waved at the ginger woman who waved back with a smile. Greg noticed she was full of weapons and had armor over the most sensible parts of her body. She must be some kind of fighter or something... "What's your name?"
"I'm Squirrel That Fights at Night," They walked through woods and at some point Greg started hearing people. "You can call me Squirrel, though,"
"Nice to meet you then, Squirrel," Greg looked thoughtful, "Why such a long name, though?"
Leaf answered that. "In the Tribe, our names represent most of what we are, what we serve to the Tribe and what The Tribe of Constellations see as," She spotted a young boy that had noticed them and signaled to him; he nodded and ran ahead of them. "You know me as Leaf, but my name is Leaf That Heals Under the Stars,"
"Is each name different?" Connor asked.
"Yup," Squirrel said, taking the lead. "Those who have the Stars at the end of their names have an important role to our Tribe, like our Leader, Forewoman, Theras, Guiders... you get it,"
Leaf continued, stepping over stones to cross a small stream. "Those who have at Night or the Night at the end of their names are usually those who protect and defend our Tribe, like our Fighters, Guardians, and Planners."
"There are lots of names, but those are the most important ones when it comes to a place in our Tribe," Squirrel added. They all stopped and Squirrel turned to them. "We are here,"
Greg looked at them. "Is there anything we have to know before you present us to your Tribe?"
Leaf looked thoughtful and then said, "Your names might be changed, and you might be given roles, but don't worry, we are not like the Fatherhood,"
Squirrel looked at her surprised. "You saved them from the Fatherhood?" Leaf nodded proudly and Squirrel punched her arm affectionately. "Well, look at you!" Leaf smiled but gently rubbed the spot Squirrel hit. They turned and signaled Greg and Connor to follow.
They descended through a path brimming of trees on the side as the ground elevated and the path kept going down. The trees were leafless; all the leaves were on the ground and colored the path in beautiful yellow and orange, reminding Greg that fall was already around the corner. When they reached the end, they stepped into an open clearing with massive, tall trees all around. Greg gawked.
The floor was of sandy rock and the walls of Leaf's Tribe camp were similar. On the Trees, houses of woods connected each other with bridges of ropes and clear wood. There were caves on the walls of the camp too; those were massive. Inside there were people either working or living, as it held homes made of boulders like the ones back in the Fatherhood's camp. A small waterfall ran on the far end of the camp, falling into a pool and then turning into a stream that ran towards the rocky walls of the camps and disappeared inside.
People were enjoying themselves here and there, some of them carrying baskets full of apples, others working on trees, even some of them laid peacefully under the sunlight. Kids ran between the houses in the trees, with older people watching them from not so far away. Hearty laughs filled the air and Greg caught the eye of a group of teenagers of all ages sitting over roots in the camp's wall, animatedly talking with each other.
One of them noticed him and elbowed her friend, who turned to look at him and then told the others, who watched him curiously too. They stood up and climbed into the trees behind them, and a while after Greg saw them descending through the path they formerly walked through.
The children from the trees stopped playing and looked down at them beside their caretakers, and the people working and enjoying the sun had stopped and stood up near them with curious gazes.
Connor pressed himself near Greg and watched around defensively. Greg could understand him; so many gazes on them felt overwhelming.
Leaf ran ahead of them and into of the caves, while Squirrel made her way up a tree and into the biggest of the houses. Connor whispered to him. "Can you stay near me? I don't like so many people watching us at the same time." Greg smiled at him and nodded.
At that moment Leaf hurried towards them with a girl around their age, probably a bit older, and a boy shorter than both of them. Greg recognized him instantly. "Apollon!"
Apollon smiled and looked at the other girl beside Leaf. "See, I told you, Dandelion!"
Dandelion smiled calmly at him. "I didn't doubt one bit,"
Apollon approached Greg. "I can't believe you're here," He looked up at Greg. "You're taller than I expected,"
Greg smiled amusedly. "That would be the first time someone said that to me," Connor and Greg shared an amused glance before turning back to Apollon. "I said I was on my way, I wouldn't lie about it,"
"Thank you for coming," He said gently. "I-"
"Motherhood, gather under the Great Tree! Leader Theia is on her way!" A muscular, dark-skinned woman with short brown hair yelled beside Squirrel. She had big, pink splotches on her arms and one over her face, right under her right eye.
"Theia is our Leader," Apollon explained. Leaf walked away towards an old man with bronzed skin and dark hair with stripes of white, while Dandelion trotted ahead and near a thick vine. Apollon nudged them forward gently. "You gotta stand at the front of the crowd, you're the guests!"
When they did, and a crowd of people formed behind them, Greg watched as Apollon and Dandelion climbed the thick vines and sat in them. Leaf and the man from before stood over a tall boulder opposite to Dandelion and Apollon. Squirrel climbed down from the tree and stood beside Greg. "Theia is gonna address you, she's our Leader, so you gotta treat her with respect,"
"We were planning on doing that, don't worry," Connor said through gritted teeth.
Squirrel looked at him surprised at the kind of tone he used towards her, but Greg nudged her and said. "He doesn't like being the center of attention, so he's starting to get irritated," It was weird for Greg to say that. Once Connor had been the exact opposite, liking the attention people gave him and not been ashamed to admit it.
"That's okay," Squirrel reassured. "But if one of you is gonna do the talking, it better be you," Greg nodded and at the same time the crowd went quiet. From the treehouse, a sleek woman with a long dark blue tunic stepped out and looked down at them with an eyebrow raised.
"Greetings, Motherhood," She greeted and the crowd of people greeted back. Her stare drifted to Squirrel. "Who am I talking to, Squirrel?" She asked through narrowed eyes.
"Leader Theia, these are Greg and Connor," When presented, both nodded respectfully at her, with a small twisted feeling at the end of their stomachs as she stared at them intensely with her dark blue eyes. "They've come to help,"
Theia held their gaze for a moment before turning to look at Apollon. "Are these the ones you've come across to?"
Apollon nodded. "Yes, Leader Theia. I've come across Greg while trying to reach for the Tribe of Constellations," Greg thought he saw a glint of proudness on Theia's eyes and noticed how similar both Apollon and Theia looked, with their white hair and all.
Theia laid her eyes on Dandelion. Dandelion nodded. "I believe him,"
Theia, though, stared at Connor. "Apollon has only contacted Greg, why are there two of you?" Connor fidgeted on his place as Theia hold his gaze. He pressed hard Greg's hand and Greg looked at Squirrel for approval. When she nodded, Greg looked up at Theia.
"Theia," Squirrel shoved him from the side while she mouthed 'Leader Theia', and Greg corrected himself. "Leader Theia. Connor has always traveled with me-" That was not exactly true. "He has come to help you as much as me,"
"Is that so?" She turned to Apollon. "You didn't say he was gonna bring company,"
Apollon's words wobbled. "I- Well... W-We only spoke twice, I didn't have time to ask him," Greg wondered if he hadn't seen Connor last time they've met through dreams.
Theia looked at him severely. "And how many things haven't you asked?" Apollon shrank in place. "They could've been a threat to the Motherhood and you would have led them here," Apollon kept quiet and looked down, but Theia softened. "Your intentions were good, whatsoever. And I can see that their intentions are not far from yours," Apollon looked at her, but the spark of confidence from before was gone. "Next time be careful who you talk to, Apollon,"
"Yes, Leader Theia," Apollon responded, looking down.
Greg heard someone scoff and a male voice murmured: "Right, when we make mistakes we get punished," A few murmurs of agreement rose. "Now when Apollon makes them he gets a pat on the back and moves on as if nothing happened,"
"Well, he's Leader Theia's son, of course she wouldn't punish him," A female voice added angrily.
The male's voice mocked: "Yeah, he's her little baby,"
Squirrel turned around annoyed. "Well, if you don't shut up now, especially about Apollon, we'll see what kind of punishment she gives you," When she turned around, she rolled her eyes and Greg made an amused smile.
Theia called them. "Now that you're gonna be part of our Tribe temporarily, you'll need to adapt to our traditions," She looked at the woman beside her. "Bramble here will assign your work to do, and alongside Apollon, they'll show you our problem," Apollon and Bramble nodded, and so did Greg and Connor. "You will also call yourself what will be chosen tonight at your Oaths. Greg and Connor should not be addressed after it. That will be all."
They nodded and after she dismissed everyone with her hand, Bramble descended from the tree and Apollon hopped from the vine, both heading towards them. Apollon reached them first. "It didn't go as bad as I thought it was gonna go,"
Before Bramble could take them away, Leaf walked towards Greg. "I want to threat your hand before you lose it completely,"
Greg nodded and Connor kept close to him. When he was about to follow Greg and Leaf, Bramble stopped him. "She only needs him, you can start duties right away,"
Connor looked back and forth between them, unsure of what to do, but Leaf put herself between the two of them. "I also want Connor, if you don't mind. I want Guider Aster to see him,"
Bramble nodded through narrowed eyes. "Very well. But I'll be waiting here,"
Apollon looked at them. "Well, while you're with Leaf, I'll finish some stuff I've got left to do with Dandelion," Greg nodded and then followed Leaf towards one of the caves, specifically the one nearest the waterfall. Connor moved to the far side of it and walked beside Leaf. Leaf noticed that and murmured to herself.
As they entered far inside the cave, leaves and flowers covered the wall, markings decorated the ceiling and some crystals hanging from there made the cave colored looking. When the sounds of people working around faded, Greg started hearing an old raspy voice humming a song quietly.
As they stepped near, the song stopped and someone asked. "Leaf, is that you?" The voice was raspy and deep and Greg figured out that it was a man, and that he was really old. "And you brought Green Blaze and Lightning Storm with you!"
Leaf stopped where the cave opened, revealing flowers decorating inline the walls, crystals in a circle and lavenders burning on the far end of the cave, leaving a relaxing smell inside. "It's me, Guider Aster, and I have!"
The man was sitting on the ground, wearing a long purple tunic with golden stripes on it. "That is great news! Apollon is a talented boy," He joyfully said. "Come sit with us, Green Blaze, Lightning Storm," He looked at Leaf through narrow eyes and a smile. "Leaf, prepare something for our guests,"
"Right away, Guider Aster," She hurried out and Aster looked at them.
"I was hoping you'd come. Never, in my 167 years of leaving, heard of another Thera talking directly to the Tribe of Constellations, let alone someone not from it! I was intrigued."
"It has never happened before?" Connor asked quietly.
"Only once, right before Theia's daughters disappeared," He said, with a hint of grief on his voice. "Someone reached me, but she was too far away for me to hear her, after that no one saw the little girls again,"
"Oh, don't blame yourself for that, Guider Aster, no one blames you," Said Leaf, entering the cave with a teapot and two cups of porcelain decorated with paint.
"Oh but Leaf, how much I wish there was something I could have done about it..."
"Even if you did speak with that girl in your dreams, you can't be sure that what she told you had to do something with Theia's daughters," Leaf said.
Guider Aster sighed. "I guess," He looked gratefully at Leaf. "Thank you, Leaf," She nodded and then he put some leaves in the cups that Leaf handed him. "How did you came across Apollon, Green Blaze?"
Greg and Connor shared a look. "How do you know my name is Green Blaze?" Greg asked. "And I was just finished talking with my Totem when I heard someone asking for help,"
Guider Aster looked thoughtful. "Just like all those years ago..." He closed his eyes and said. "Green Blaze is how your Stars know you, and Lightning Storm... Lightning Fur, it's you, isn't it?" Connor nodded. "Your names... they have quite the reputation up there, and in some other skies too,"
Connor looked curious. "Are there other skies more than the Stars'?"
As Leaf poured water on the porcelain cups, she said. "Sure! Many others you aren't aware of! Like the Star Way or The Clan of Ancestors! The Stars' sky is probably the biggest one, though, because many people believe in them,"
Guider Aster nodded. "There are so many skies, but they all look down on everyone, they care about everyone." He picked one of the leaves Leaf used before and another one. "Tell me the difference within these two tea leaves," He asked.
Connor and Greg inspected them and then Connor said. "They are the same...?"
Guider Aster laughed and shook his head, showing Connor the leaves. "Of course not, Lightning Storm, this one is a tree leaf, this one is the tea leaf," He put them down and looked at them. "We might look up to different skies, but they all look down on us as if we were the same, they don't separate us as we separate them,"
Connor looked intrigued. "That's so... incredible,"
"Indeed it is, Connor," Leaf said, handing him the cup. "Greg," Greg looked up at her. "Let me treat that hand, Bramble is waiting for us outside," She turned to Guider Aster. "Sorry, Guider Aster, but we must leave soon,"
He put his hand on the air with a gentle smile. "No, no! Go follow your paths, I'll be here when you come back,"
Leaf kneeled beside Greg and took a look at his hand. "Oh... it isn't as bad as I thought it was, Apollon and Dandelion can treat this," She said, somewhat disappointed. "Darn! I wanted to have something simple to cure for a while..." She bit her lip. "Maybe I can..."
"Leaf, that's Dandelion and Apollon's work, you know it," Aster warned.
Leaf sighed. "Yeah, right... Sorry, Guider Aster," He nudged Greg and Connor away gently while they waved at Guider Aster.
"Yeah, luckily it isn't that bad,"
Greg, Connor, and Apollon watched as a tall girl with short, blonde hair, tan skin, and sky blue eyes cleaned Greg's wounds. She looked up to him accusingly. "If you left it untreated, not only the infection would have taken your hand away, it could've spread on your body and kill you,"
"It's only been four days since I left my hometown with my hand like this," Greg said.
"Infection spreads fast," Apollon said, spreading salty scented water into Greg's wound, which made Greg grit his teeth. "If you've kept working for the Fatherhood, Dandelion would've been right, you could have died,"
Dandelion stopped Apollon before he could pour more water and properly covered Greg's hand with bandages. "Now, don't press too hard on it, nor do any job that can get it dirty, if it does, come to me right away so I can change the bandage, understood?"
Greg nodded and Apollon said. "I'll tell Bramble not to give him a hard job then," They could see the woman standing outside Dandelion's Liar -that Apollon said that's how they addressed the houses all around- stomping her boot on the rocky ground and her arms crossed over her chest. "But we better hurry, or she'll be jumping at our throats later,"
Dandelion nodded. "You do that," She waved at them as they exited the Liar and headed towards Bramble.
Bramble caught their eyes and Greg could see her annoyance through her eyes. "About time... follow me," She exited the camp through the path they took earlier and they followed, curious about what they were going to show them.
Greg and Connor, after getting some fresh clothes from Apollon at last moment -which annoyed Bramble even more-, followed Bramble and Apollon towards a rocky hill. The sun was strong over them, though it was almost sunset, and Greg could feel it burning his skin. He looked at Apollon, who had a sunhat and an annoyed expression. "You hate the sun as much as I do?" Greg asked.
Apollon looked and smiled. "Yeah... My skin is really sensitive to it, which is why I have to wear this stupid hat,"
"Words," Bramble warned.
"Sorry," Apollon apologized. "Theia insists that I should become a Night Thera, but I really enjoy working as a Thera all day," He looked bright again. "It makes me feel complete,"
"Being a Thera is a big job, isn't it?" Connor asked, kicking a thorn bush that got stuck on his clothes.
Apollon turned with a smile. "It's more than a job!" He bounced happily ahead and explained. "It's just amazing feeling that everyone relies on you to take care of them and asks you for advice, it's wonderful!" He looked around. "I get to learn about new flowers, crystals, signs, and the best of all is that I get to talk to the Tribe of Constellations!" He laughed heartedly. "Guider Aster said there was no Thera like me in a while!"
"You guys keep mentioning that," Greg said. "What is it?"
It was Bramble who answered this time. "The Tribe of Constellations is where our ancestors, the people that lived before us, go after they die," She jumped over a rock and entered a passageway between two inselbergs. "Be careful, there might be snakes around,"
"The Tribe of Constellations have lots of wisdom, so they travel back to some us to tell things that we might need to know," Apollon said, walking over holes in the ground in a silly way.
A strong wind blew through the passageway and Bramble said, "We are here."
They stood in the middle of the passageway, looking at nothing but the rest of the way. Greg and Connor looked around confused. "Are we supposed to be seeing something?" Connor asked.
Bramble looked at Apollon expectantly. Apollon stood confused for a moment before jumping slightly in place. He scratched the back of his head with a small blush over his face. "My bad! Sorry..." He took from inside his shirt a small, pink, hexagonal crystal and with his hand touched the air. A shield lighted up faintly enough for Greg to see it was there, and in the middle of it, right in the passageway, there was a hole big enough for a person to go through.
"You see, the Fatherhood and the Motherhood don't exactly get along..." Bramble said.
Apollon looked at Greg worriedly. "If they find out there is a hole in here, they'll want to reclaim this land for their own, and either, kick us out or-"
"Kill us," Bramble finished. "We need help closing it before they find out about it."
Connor stared. "How are we supposed to close it?"
"You see," Apollon started. "Before I came across Greg, there was a brutal confrontation between some of the Fighters of the Motherhood and some from the Fatherhood..." He looked at the hole. "Because the shield was weakening in the lakeside, they were able to swim through it and into Motherhood's territory,"
"We lost two Fighters, and that patrol from the Fatherhood was carried away by the river. Bright Sky hadn't found out about the weakened shield, not yet," Bramble continued.
Apollon nodded. "Before going to sleep that night, I prayed for the Tribe of Constellations to help us find a way to close it before many more were gonna get killed," He pointed at Greg. "That's when you come in. When I saw you the first time I instantly knew you weren't from the Tribe of Constellations, so I figured they were guiding me to you,"
"No one believed him until he got into one of his fits," Bramble said.
"It was during the meal," Apollon said. "I was having a meal with the Motherhood when one of the Twins, Pollux, dragged me into the Moon Patch, where you were saved by them I believe,"
"Some of us started to believe him, others didn't and just passed it as his usual convulsions," Bramble said.
"Not even Theia believed so, she thought I must've been hallucinating..." Apollon said down-heartedly. "Now that showed up though, they all believe, including me, that the reason the Tribe of Constellations guided me to you was because you have a way to close the shield."
"If there is a way, I don't know it," Connor stared at Greg.
Greg scratched the back of his head. "Sorry to disappoint, Apollon but... but we don't know how," Greg touched the shield slightly. "We've never seen a shield like this one before," He looked at Connor. "There was Luna Girl's dome once..." Greg looked at it again. "But this is like, four times bigger,"
Bramble raised an eyebrow and looked accusingly at Apollon. Apollon got nervous. "W-Well, maybe once you've settled here you'll start to understand it and then we can figure out something together!" He nodded fastly then walked past them. "Yeah..."
Greg and Connor shared a look and followed him. "Bramble?" Greg stopped when he heard Connor's voice and caught him staring at Bramble who was inspecting the shield. "You coming?"
Bramble nodded. "Yeah, just wanted to see how bad it was..." She walked away and Greg watched Apollon tell her something, which he guessed it had to do with his hand and was about to follow when Connor stayed behind, looking at Bramble and Apollon through narrowed eyes.
"What is it?" Greg asked worriedly.
"Nothing," Connor shook his head and stood beside him. "Let's keep going..."
Thanks for reading!
Chapter 8: Oaths
I want to clarify that this story has heavy spoilers for all the stories that come before this one, especially Sacred Hearts and Catboy's Quest, and the one that follows it, which is Moonstone. This story also includes delicate themes, such as death, graphic descriptions violence, sex, heavy words, and slavery. It also touches deeply the theme of PTSD and Caregiver Burden. IF you don't find yourself comfortable reading any of these, I suggest you leave the story now.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Greg and Connor climbed a tree through a latter, with Apollon and Squirrel above them. Nighttime was around the corner, and they both had to be presented properly for their ceremony later that night. When Apollon and Squirrel reached the top, they extended their hands to help Greg and Connor up.
Apollon used a small key to open a door to a rusty house and let them in. "From now on this will be your house," He said with a shy smile. "I chose it myself, to make sure you two were comfortable enough,"
Greg smiled and put his hand on Apollon's shoulder. "Thank you," When they entered, he looked around. "Wow, this is bigger than I expected,"
"We are pretty good at making small spaces useful," Squirrel said. "The Motherhood's camp used to be small," She walked towards the door. "I gotta make myself look good for your ceremony as well, so I'm heading to my own house," As she walked out, she told them. "Apollon will tell you what you have to do tonight, and will give you proper clothes as well,"
Greg and Connor nodded and then as Squirrel left, they turned to look at Apollon. The younger boy said, "Either I'm too short or you two are awfully tall,"
Connor smiled amusedly. "You might be too short. You're the first person to call Greg tall," Greg punched his arm playfully and Connor looked warmly at him.
Apollon looked at them with bright eyes then said. "Oh yeah, here," He walked inside and walked upstairs to an open second floor. Connor and Greg followed. When they reached the place, they found a matrimonial bed with a few chests near and a nightstand on the side. Apollon walked back towards them with clothes in his arms. "This is for you,"
When Greg grabbed them, he was taken by surprise by how soft they were. "These are nice," He said. When he unfolded the shirt, he found that it was a green tank top with three golden diamonds stamped in the chest; the borders of it also had golden stamps. "I like the colors," Greg said with a smile.
Apollon smiled. "I tried to choose something that you two might like, while still honoring your positions on the Tribe," He signaled the three diamonds on Greg's tank top. "These tell others that you are a Caretaker," He unfolded Connor's shirt, revealing a similar tank top except that it was blue and had a flower on the side of the chest, over the heart. "These tells others that you are an Artisan and should not be bothered,"
Connor smiled relaxedly. "That sounds nice,"
Greg smiled at him. Earlier today, when they returned from looking at the problem the Motherhood was having, Bramble had assigned them different places in the Tribe. Connor was an Artisan, that according to Squirrel and Apollon, were those who crafted tools and daily things with different materials; Greg on the other hand, was a Caretaker, those who looked over the youngest in the Tribe.
Connor looked at him amusedly. "Though I can't picture you looking after a bunch of kids,"
Greg turned to him. "I can take care of kids,"
"You barely could look after the Petit Masks," Connor pointed out, almost laughing.
Greg pulled him towards him and both stood face to face with each other. "You don't want to upset me, Connor," Greg warned with a smile.
"Maybe I want to," Connor said as he gave him a peck on the lips. They gazed at each other warmly, losing themselves into each other before Apollon awkwardly said:
"I... I can wait outside if you want,"
Greg and Connor separated and then embarrassed shook their heads. "No, no... sorry. Sometimes we can't help it," Connor said with a blush.
"Okay, um," He played with his fingers a bit before lighting up as if remembering something. "Your oaths! Of course!" He smacked his head gently and then walked past Connor and Greg, going back to the first floor. "You are going to do oaths tonight, and you need to know what to say because one wrong thing and the Tribe of Constellations might look down on you, and not nicely,"
Connor stared anxiously as he followed the younger boy. "And what if that happens?"
"Bad things might come your way," Apollon crossed his arms suddenly upset, Greg noticed a spark of grief on his eyes. "That's how it was for my sisters..."
Connor stared worriedly. "Guider... uh, Aster?" Apollon nodded and Connor continued. "Mentioned something about Theia's daughters, and I'm guessing your sisters, right?" Apollon nodded sadly as if regretting too many things so suddenly.
"What happened to them?" Greg asked softly.
Apollon opened his mouth, but the words didn't come out of his mouth, they had fallen from it and he was working around the answer. After a few seconds, he finally answered. "They disappeared... no one knows what happened to them," Anger flashed in his eyes. "But I never believed that. I always suspected Bright Sky had to do something with their whereabouts,"
Connor put a hand on his shoulder, empathy clear in his voice. "I know how it feels to lose a sister, I lost mine too, she died when we were both born," Greg stared at him with sadness.
What Connor was saying was right. He had lost his sister Candela when they both were born. Candela died one day after birth due to heart disease, and Greg knew it was even more painful to Connor since he had met her again in the afterlife, then lose her again when she had to stay in the City of Stars.
"Sorry for your loss," Connor finished.
Apollon smiled at him sadly. "Thank you,"
Greg's curiosity escaped his mouth, though. "What were their names?" He realized he shouldn't have asked, so he added. "If you don't mind me asking,"
"Sorry, but I can't tell," Apollon said. "When you die in the Tribe, your name should not be said or told again, to avoid staining the memory of that person,"
Greg nodded. "It's okay, I understand,"
Apollon looked away for a second, then shook his head. "Right, your oaths..." He nudged them near and when they all huddled together, Apollon explained. "Theia is gonna first address the Motherhood, she's gonna talk about you, and what you have done in our Tribe so far, then she's gonna address the Tribe of Constellations, asking if they accept you into the Tribe," Apollon stared at both of them severely. "You should not, by any means, interrupt her. The Tribe of Constellations, or even Theia herself, might get angry at you,"
Connor and Greg nodded; Connor stared at him. "Do we have to say something?"
Apollon looked at him. "I was getting there," The crystal around Apollon's neck, and the ones hanging from his ears, started to glow faintly as darkness fell upon the camp. "After the Tribe of Constellations have given the approval to either Leaf or Guider Aster, me or Dandelion will ask you if you accept being here; once we do that, you must answer with: 'I accept my new identity and become part of the Motherhood. My old self is past and will be until I part ways from the Motherhood.'"
Apollon looked at them. "Think you can remember that?" They nodded and Apollon relaxed. "Cool. After that, you will look into the sky with your eyes closed, and keep silent until you hear someone whisper your Tribe name."
"Whisper our Tribe names?" Connor asked confused. "Isn't Theia gonna give it to us?"
Apollon shook his head. "Never! Your names are only chosen by the Tribe of Constellations, never by others. If someone addresses themselves as something else, they will not be looked over by the Tribe of Constellations, they will be rejected,"
"Well, that's relaxing," Connor said with a grimace.
Apollon cleared his throat. "As I was saying, once your names have been whispered, you will open your eyes and say: 'My name, from now on will be...' and you say the name that has been whispered to you, then finish it with 'and I respect it. Thanks for giving me a place in the Motherhood, Tribe of Constellations.'. We always thanks them for the things they gave us, so don't forget to do so,"
Greg nodded but asked worriedly. "What if I missed it and didn't hear it?"
"Then the Tribe of Constellations will send a sign to Dandelion or me, and either of us will have to whisper it in your ear," Apollon reassured him. "In case that happens, don't panic, that's the worst thing you can do... oh!-" He raised a finger. "-one more thing. Until your name is whispered, you are not allowed to open your eyes,"
"That's all we need to know?" Connor asked.
Apollon nodded. "Yup, that's all. Once finished all that, a meal will be set and we all will celebrate you joining our Tribe!" He walked towards the door. "If you have any doubts, I'll be keeping an eye on the clearing, so look for me there. The celebration is at midnight, so good luck guys!" Then he exited the place.
Connor and Greg watched him leave, and then Greg stared at Connor. "We better get prepared, midnight is not that far," Connor nodded and followed him to the second floor.
Greg was accommodating his hair on a mirror near the door. He was currently waiting for Connor, who was still dressing. He grabbed a golden crown that was modeled like leaves and put it around his head. Is this really necessary? He did like the clothes though. He heard footsteps descending the stairs and when he turned, he stared dumbfoundedly.
Connor was also wearing a tank top and cargo shorts, but his tank top was blue with stripes of golden, and as Apollon said, it had a flower over the heart. His hands were neatly decorated with long fingerless blue gloves with golden needlework in the extremes, and his fingers had several golden rings, the heart finger the one with the most in each hand. His hair also had a golden crown, but his had real flowers in it laced with the golden roots.
Connor eyed himself up and down as he could and asked Greg, "Does I look okay or do I look dumb?"
Greg was lost of words, then he shook his head. "Y-You look amazing,"
Connor blushed and walked towards him. "You look amazing too," He nudged Greg gently towards the door. "Let's go, it's almost midnight,"
They both walked outside and looked down from their tree, watching the camp neatly decorated with festoons and flowers, as well as lanterns with tenuous orange light. People were wearing outfits similar to Greg and Connor's, except they didn't have the golden crowns they had.
Greg's eyes darted across the clearing; Bramble, Squirrel, and Leaf were seated on one side of the caves, sharing a few drinks in wooden cups. The group of teenagers from earlier were watching a muscular, orange-haired boy explain something eagerly, a boy Greg didn't see earlier today, so he figured he must have been out doing something. Dandelion and Guider Aster were sharing different flowers while Dandelion questioned him, and kids near the entrance to the camp were running and playing games while a group of adults and teenagers watched over them.
While everyone was sharing things, Greg spotted Apollon checking every decoration closely, and then noting down something in a piece of paper. He noticed that no one paid attention to him, and even some pushed him gently but didn't care to apologize. Greg frowned. Does no one care?
A group of people coming from the forest carried baskets of fruits and different kinds of meals, placing them down in a large table decorated with silver and gold centerpieces. Apollon walked over to them and signaled them where Greg concluded the centerpieces were supposed to go. They nodded, but when they walked away, two boys and a girl carrying baskets bundled together and whispered to each other, often looking back at Apollon.
Connor nudged his arm. "You saw that, right?"
Greg arched an eyebrow. "How they are treating him?" He nodded towards Apollon.
Connor nodded. "They are stepping over him," He frowned. "What's their problem?"
"I don't know, but we can ask him later, or just try to find out," Greg started descending the ladders. "Now we got a ceremony to attend,"
When they stepped in the sandy ground, people looked towards them with gentle smiles and approached them. Kids ran towards Greg and he kneeled to listen to what they had to say. A little girl around 7 or 8 years old with a long, white and silver dress gave him a necklace. "We did this all together for our new Caretaker!" She exclaimed. "It's for good luck!"
Greg thanked her and when he stood up, he put it around his neck. The necklace consisted of a nice silver chain with a gemstone at the end that Greg recognized as a Labradorite. When he looked at Connor he was surrounded by more older people, joyfully talking to him and giving him different things that Greg couldn't see. When they stepped away, Connor turned to look at him with an awkward smile, and Greg had to stop himself from laughing... and with good reason; Connor was wearing a tall hat and a long tunic.
Leaf, luckily for Connor, walked between the people. "People, people, don't overwhelm our guests yet," The people around her laughed kindly as if having great affection for her. "They appreciate your gifts, but right now they need to be left alone," The crowd nodded and walked away, excitingly talking to each other.
Connor took the hat and tunic off. "Thank you, I didn't know how to take it off without seeming rude,"
"You're welcome," Leaf laughed. "Artisans and Caretakers are excited to have you among them, they just couldn't hide it,"
Greg looked at the necklace the kids gave him. "It is a nice surprise before a big thing like our oaths,"
"Oh, yeah," Leaf took from a small purse made of wool a small jar with some golden liquid in it. She opened and pressed her finger on it, then took it out and traced it along Greg's and Connor's forehead. "This is protection from any bad energy that might try to get in the way of your naming ceremony. Sometimes can happen. It happened to Bramble,"
When she was finished, Greg and Connor nodded gratefully at her. "Thanks,"
She nodded back and asked. "I believe Apollon told you what you have to do and say for your oaths, am I right?"
"Yup! He told us everything a while ago," Connor confirmed.
"Nice!" Then she turned to him and said, "If you don't mind, can we talk in private? There's something I need to ask you,"
Connor looked curious and shared a look with Greg. "I suppose I can give you a minute," Leaf nodded gratefully and both walked away towards Guider Aster's cave. The old man watched them go, and acknowledging Greg with a nod, he followed them.
Greg looked around and spotted Apollon not so far away, now checking over the meals and fruit placed on the table. Greg jogged towards him and patted his back, making Apollon jump in surprise. "Greg! You're already here," His eyes diverted to the necklace around his neck. "I can see that the Caretakers and the kids already bumped into you,"
Greg smiled. "They did! It's such a nice present," He looked around. "Why aren't you celebrating? I think it's more fun than doing this," Greg pointed at the decorations and meals.
Apollon hugged the paper to his chest. "I don't mind, I like working..." He looked at his feet. "Not like I have anyone else to hang out with anyway,"
Greg was about to reply until the orange-haired boy from before, the one he saw from the treehouse, interrupted them by putting his arm around Apollon's shoulders exaggeratedly and brushing his hair with his fist. "Little brother! Is this the boy you ran into your dreams?" He asked loudly. "Everyone's talking about it!"
Apollon managed to look up with a shy smile. "Yes, he is. His name is Greg,"
The boy smiled and extended a hand to Greg. Greg took it, and the boy shook it with such strength that it reminded Greg of Armadylan. "Nice to meet ya, Greg! The name's Sol that Burns the Shadows." He smiled cockily. "I'm the best Fighter around here, in case you were wondering,"
Greg smiled awkwardly. "What's... What's a Fighter?"
Sol gasped and looked at Apollon. "You didn't tell him?!" Sol let go of Apollon and put his hand over his chest. "A Fighter like me -though there's no one else like me, obviously- are the ones that fight enemies in the frontiers,"
Apollon rolled his eyes. "Though there wasn't much to fight, now was it?"
Sol smiled and put his arm around him again, then squizzed his cheek playfully. "The other day there was, or am I wrong?" Apollon laughed and shook his head. Sol looked at Greg. "Your help means a lot to us, the Fighters are already talking about your courage, no one dares to take a battle against the Fatherhood that easily,"
Greg arched an eyebrow. "Battle?"
Sol grimaced and looked at Apollon, who had his hand over his face. "You... didn't tell him, right?"
Apollon looked at Greg. "There's more to the story than the broken shield, but we feared that if we told you sooner..."
Greg opened his eyes. "We'd left sooner,"
Apollon scratched his arm. "Sorry..."
"Don't worry, we've taken worst than the Fatherhood," Greg reassured him. "They are nothing against us,"
"Didn't they take you imprisoned before though? That's what everyone's saying," Sol added goofily. Greg smiled amusedly and at that moment, Connor approached them from the Guider's cave. Sol watched him curiously. "Who are you?"
Apollon answered for Connor. "He's Greg's partner, Connor,"
Connor waved at him and Sol instead took his hand the way he took Greg's and shook it again strongly. "The more people in here, the more chances there are to take down the Fatherhood," Sol let go of his hand and signaled to a group of young adults near the center of the camp. "Well, leaving you here! Gotta take a nice spot before the ceremony starts! Lucky lucks!"
They watched him go and Apollon turned to them. "Sorry about Sol, he might be a little bit... brute... but he's got good intentions,"
"Don't worry, we don't mind," Greg said. He looked back and forth between Apollon and where Sol had left. "So you two are brothers?"
Apollon nodded. "He's my older brother, well, half-brother," Apollon scratched his arm uneasily. "We don't share fathers,"
Connor smiled. "Well, aren't we alike? I also have a half-brother," He put his hand under his chin. "Except... we share the same father, and we don't talk a lot..."
Apollon smiled innocently. "Sol and I do, though he does most of the talking," He laughed. At that moment, claps around the clearing caught all of their attention and Apollon straightened, panicked; he pushed them towards the center of the clearing. "It's starting! Get in your positions!"
Greg, as he and Connor walked closer to the center of the clearing, watched how everybody around them clapped their hands. Is it some sort of tradition? As they stopped in the middle, Theia walked out of her lair and looked down at them, whispering something to Bramble and watching her nod with a frown. Greg felt a weight in his throat. Did we do something wrong?
Apollon jogged to their left and stood near with Dandelion, Leaf and Guider Aster by his side. Apollon smiled and gave thumbs up to them. Greg smiled back gratefully. At least someone has confidence in us.
Theia used a thick vine to slide down skillfully; Bramble followed with a serious expression on her face. "Greg, Connor, kneel before your Leader,"
Both of them nodded and carefully, kneeled. Theia walked around them and then with a powerful voice, said:
"Motherhood, this is a very special day," She smiled. "This is the day our ancestors look down on these two young lads to accept them and welcome them into our Tribe!" Everyone cheered, yelling Greg and Connor's names; Apollon's voice was the loudest among them. "They had traveled from afar and worked hard to reach us after we had called for their help, and for that-" She turned to them and nodded respectfully. "We are very grateful and honored to have you here. Thank you,"
"Thank you," The crowd of people repeated.
When the murmurs died down, she looked at the sky. "Tribe of Constellations, we call you upon this night to look down on these two lads. They had traveled here to help us, even though they didn't know us, and for that, we ask you: Do they belong into our Tribe?"
"Do they?" The crowd repeated.
The forest went deadly quiet. No animals did noise, no person moved. The gentle breeze stopped ruffling the leaves of the trees, and the night sky seemed to brighten for a moment. The only person that moved was Leaf, who looked into the sky suddenly with her eyes lost in the moon. Greg watched a dark cloud cover the moon and cast a shadow over Connor, then the wind it brought blew green leaves around Greg, even though it was Fall and all the leaves around were either brown, orange or yellow.
Leaf took a deep breath and then looked around, finally stoping at Guider Aster. When he nodded, she said: "The Tribe of Constellations had spoken," She smiled. "They both belong here,"
The crowd cheered and congratulated them, overwhelming Greg. Connor by his side squizzed gently his hand as the crowd quieted down. Dandelion walked in front of them, and looking at them with a powerful stare, she asked. "Do you accept leaving your old identity, your old life, to walk beside, care, and protect this Tribe, until you leave the Motherhood either by natural causes or your own will?"
This is the part Greg and Connor had been practicing all this time since they feared to get it wrong and upset the skies that the Motherhood looked up to. They looked at her solemnly. "I accept my new identity and become part of this Tribe. My old self is past and will be until I part ways from the Motherhood."
Dandelion nodded at them and walked away, standing beside Apollon. The teenager passed his finger over his eyes, reminding Greg about what came next.
Greg looked at the sky and closed his eyes, right alongside Connor. His shoulders relaxed, and for some reason, he felt secure. The breeze embraced him, caressing him with its chill body. The trees creaked now and then, and the flapping wings of birds echoed around. He heard whispers, but they seemed far away from him as if not talking to him but someone else. It's not my time yet, is it? A faint 'no' answered his doubts and he kept his eyes shut.
It was Connor's voice that rang in the clearing first, though Greg noticed how weary it came out. "My name from now on will be Lightning that Storms in the Shadows, and I accept it." He breathed curtly and finished. "Thanks for giving me a place in the Motherhood, Tribe of Constellations."
"Lightning Storm! Lightning Storm!" Leaf cheered, then the rest of the Motherhood cheered after her.
After a few long minutes of waiting, Greg still kept his eyes closed, but this time a frown decorated his face. Why aren't they talking to me? Did I do something wrong?
Greg heard hooves stepping into the sandy ground of the clearing and stiffened. Please, not now! He didn't want the Famine to interrupt his ceremony, or worst, kill him. He pleaded to the Tribe of Constellations. Why won't you name me? I'm in danger!
A hand rested on Greg's shoulder, but it felt very light. Through his eyelids, Greg saw a bright white blur illuminate and kneel before him. "Don't worry, you're not in danger." A soft male voice told him. "The name's Archer, and I choose not to tell you your name yet."
Why not? Greg asked.
"It's Apollon who has to hear it, it's his path," Archer finished. He heard him walk away and whisper, though he couldn't hear what he said.
Greg kept thinking. What does he mean with it's Apollon's path? He was snapped off his thoughts when someone, who Greg instantly recognized as Apollon, whispered in his ear. "Green that Blazes on Spring is your name, Green Blaze is how everyone will remember you as,"
When Apollon backed away, Greg opened his eyes slowly, watching the intrigued expressions of everyone around. He took a deep breath. "From now on my name will be Green that Blazes in Spring, and I accept it. Thanks for giving me a place in the Motherhood, Tribe of Constellations."
"Green Blaze! Green Blaze!" It was Apollon who shouted first this time, then the clearing exploded in cheers.
Greg and Connor stood up and were approached by different people of all ages, congratulating them for being welcomed into the Tribe. Apollon and Leaf approached them, and Leaf said. "Congratulations guys! I can't believe the Tribe of Constellations chose me for your ceremony!"
Apollon nodded excitedly. "Me neither! I was so nervous!"
At that moment, Guider Aster and Dandelion appeared by their side. "It had to happen at some point, you two are training for the most important roles of our Tribe," Guider Aster said. "Congratulations Green Blaze, Lightning Storm, we're glad to have you around to help," He told them. "Whatever you need, I'm at your disposition,"
"Thank you, Guider Aster, we'll have it in mind," Greg smiled.
Apollon bounced excitedly. "Come on! Now's the Great Meal!" He pushed them towards the table near the Guider's cave and Greg heard Dandelion, Leaf and Guider Aster laugh. "I've organized it myself, so I hope you like it!"
Greg and Connor smiled at each other and picked seats next to each other. Apollon sat beside Greg, and a little while later, Leaf sat beside Connor. Greg watched her put a hand on Connor's leg and tell him something Greg couldn't hear. A small jealousy feeling overpowered him for a moment. "So Leaf! You're training to become a Guider too?"
Connor and Leaf stopped talking and looked at him; Leaf smiled. "Yeah! I always wanted to be a Guider. I was so happy when I was accepted to become one,"
Connor looked at Apollon. "And you're gonna become... a Thera?"
Apollon nodded. "Yup! Dandelion and Guider Aster got signs that I should be it so now I'm... training to be one!" He scratched the back of his head. "I didn't think I'd made it,"
"Why not?" Greg asked.
Before Apollon could answer, Theia sat beside Bramble at the far end of the table and addressed everybody. "Now that Green Blaze and Lightning Storm had completed their oaths, it's time to celebrate!" She grabbed a golden cloche and followed by Bramble, who had a silver one, they placed it in front of Greg and Connor. "As the new members of the Motherhood, you're the ones to take the first bite to initiate the Great Meal, enjoy,"
Greg and Connor thanked her and when the cloche was removed, they were surprised by a fine meal composed of fish, salad and a small bowl of fruits on the sides. They accommodated themselves, and feeling a little nervous, they took the first bite out of their meals using cutlery.
Theia smiled once they finished. "The Great Meal can begin! Bon appetit!" Everyone around cheered and started picking different meals settled on the table.
Greg felt warm inside. This is such a nice welcome... The clearing was warm thanks to different settings of fire on the wall, right above them. Besides their table, there was another one, where the kids of the Motherhood were eating joyfully. Apollon by his side had his cheeks round due to the lots of food he put in his mouth, which took from Greg a few giggles. Squirrel, sitting across the table in front of them, rolled her eyes and Greg laughed.
When he turned to look at Connor, he saw him talking quietly with Leaf again. This time, though, she had her hand in his. For some reason, he felt as if his blood burnt. He went back to his meal and ate quietly, while Apollon eyed him strangely. Greg swallowed hard. Nothing's wrong, Connor wouldn't do that. Greg's mind drifted three months ago, where he was watching Connor through the door of Cameron's room...
He shook his head. That was different. A small feeling of fear jabbed at his belly. Was it?
"Greg!" Connor's voice snapped him out of his thoughts. The brunette had a worried expression. "Are you okay?"
There was a genuine concern in his blue eyes, as well as in his voice, which almost made Greg stab himself with the knife he had in hand. Why did I ever doubt that? Of course, that was different! He sighed and smiled at Connor. "Yes, I'm fine, just a little tired," We can always talk about it later. He wanted to say but kept his mouth shut.
Greg jumped when a thud near him made him turn around. Apollon's seat was empty, and when Greg looked down, he saw him on the floor with a pained expression on his face. Dandelion jumped from her seat and yelled. "Leaf, Guider Aster! It's Apollon!" At the sound of her voice, Leaf and Guider Aster left their seats as quick as she did.
Murmurs of worry and horror filled the place and Theia left her place to run beside Apollon. She kneeled beside Dandelion. "It's okay, Polo, this will pass..."
The boy lost consciousness for a few moments before his arms and legs became stiff. Dandelion's hand started glowing in a clear sky blue as she pressed them into Apollon's forehead. Theia had her hands over her mouth and her breaths increased in speed, Leaf put her hands in her shoulders. "Don't worry, Leader Theia, remember we've talked about his fits before?" She nodded. "He'll make it through this one too,"
Greg looked at her. "Fits?"
"Apollon was born with a small problem in his brain," Leaf explained. "I'm not sure what it is, I've never seen something like it," That's when her concentration was snatched away by Apollon twitching. The boy had his eyes rolled in the back of his head and a small amount of foam poured from his mouth.
Dandelion's hands glowed harder and Guider Aster approached Theia. "Talking helps, Theia. Try reassuring him," Theia caressed Apollon's hair and started whispering to him softly.
Connor watched Dandelion. "What is she doing?"
Leaf answered immediately. "Dandelion has healing powers, her powers allow her to reduce pain and sometimes even cure internal injuries,"
"Why didn't she cured Apollon by now, then?" Connor asked.
"Because I can only heal injuries caused by something or others, not things that someone has already been born with," Dandelion replied bitterly. "If I could've healed him, I would've done it by now,"
As soon as she finished saying that, Apollon stopped. His left arm still twitched slightly, and his hand trembled, but he recovered consciousness, and he was looking at Theia. "It hurts, mom..." Dandelion retired her hands from his forehead and helped him sit.
"Let's get him to our Lair," Dandelion told her.
Theia nodded and lifted Apollon, carrying him like a baby in her arms. Leaf and Guider after followed them, and Greg sharing a look with Connor, hurried after them. Before entering the cave, he noticed that the crowd of people had gathered around, which enraged him. This is not some kind of spectacle!
He was about to yell at them, but Bramble stood in front of him. "What do you think this is? A freak's show? GO BACK TO YOUR SEATS!" People started walking back to their seats and Greg, for the first time, felt grateful for Bramble.
When he followed the others, he found himself in front of a small house made out of wood. The cave is bigger on the inside! He followed upstairs and then gently pushed the door open. "Can I come in?"
A weak 'yes' was heard from the inside and Greg entered, seeing Connor already beside Apollon. He walked over to them and asked Apollon. "How do you feel?"
"Awful," Apollon said, laying back on the bed and covering his face with his hands. "I've ruined your ceremony," He cried. The small part of his face that Greg could see was red, and he figured he was blushing.
"What?" Greg asked confused. "Of course not! You couldn't help it,"
"I wish I could have!" He whined. Greg could hear a hint of shame in his voice, and he guessed Apollon was feeling embarrassed about the whole thing. "I hate it when it happens!"
Dandelion approached them with a few seeds on her hand. "For the pain," She smiled with pity. "And don't be so hard on yourself, Apollon, Greg's right. You couldn't help it, nor knew it was going to happen,"
"But I was feeling like I always do right before a fit is going to happen," He cried. "I just thought that maybe this time it wouldn't happen..." When Dandelion handed him a glass of water, he put the seeds on his mouth and then swallowed them with the water. "Why can't I be normal like the others? No wonder they don't want to hang around me,"
"We like being around you, Apollon," Greg told him friendly. "If they have a problem with you then they can go fuck themselves,"
Dandelion, putting a wet rag on Apollon's forehead, snorted. "Couldn't have said it better," Apollon smiled sadly at him and then closed his eyes. Dandelion nudged Greg gently. "Apollon needs rest, you can visit him in the morning if he feels better,"
Greg and Connor nodded and waving at him gently, they left. As they left the cave, Theia walked past them and a voice rang around the clearing, recognizing it as Bramble's. Theia must have told her something. "The ceremony is over. Let's clean up and all head to your respective places so tomorrow you can keep doing your usual activities,"
Complaints from the crowd echoed in the night, and the voice of a kid said. "Aw, we barely get ceremonies, why does this one have to end early?"
Another voice yelled. "Because of Apollon, who else?" Greg recognized him as one of the teenagers from early when they had arrived at the Motherhood. The grey-haired boy rolled his eyes. "He's the only one that can keep a whole Tribe from following traditions,"
Connor's angry voice rang above his. "You can't blame Apollon for something he can't control!" Greg was sure that if Bramble wasn't there, Connor would have attacked this boy. The anger was so evident in his voice that some of the people nervously agreed with him.
Bramble looked coldly at the boy that spoke in the crowd. "I will let know Leader Theia about your thoughts on Apollon, Thistle, so we can follow traditions properly,"
Thistle stiffened in his place. "I-I don't think it's necessary, Bramble,"
It was Connor who answered. "Except that it is necessary since you're so interested in keeping the Tribe in tradition," He snarled.
Bramble shrugged. "I wouldn't have said it better myself," She looked at Thistle severely. "Meet me and Leader Theia tomorrow at dawn, so we can discuss properly your punishment," She looked at the crowd. "Meeting is over Motherhood! Move!"
Thistle's eyes darkened with hate and Greg felt nervous. If we gain enemies in here, we are gonna be fucked... He nudged Connor as the crowd walked away and others kept around, helping. "Connor, let's try and not... pick a fight here,"
Connor's anger sparked in his eyes, and Greg wondered if he was seeing into his eyes or the Place of Fallen Stars. "But Greg! Have you seen how that idiot was treating Apollon?!" He grunted. "We can't let others step over him like that!"
"I know, and I don't like it either," Greg said, grabbing his arm gently and walking away with him. "But there are other ways to do that than to pick a fight,"
Connor started to cool down. "I guess..." He said between gritted teeth. Greg took a last look at the clearing, where people were helping, and he crossed eyes with Thistle, who was looking at them with a blazing fire on his dark, magenta eyes.
Greg turned around, with a frown. If there is one thing I'm sure about right now... When he turned around again, Thistle was gone. Is that we gained one enemy here...
Thanks for reading and don't forget to review :))
The next morning Greg woke up feeling cold. He hadn't opened his eyes yet, the blazing light of the sun directly hit his eyes and instead, he tried to reach for Connor's warmth. He patted several times Connor's spot on the bed until he realized it was empty. He sat up confused and noticed he was alone in their house.
Connor's clothes were gone from their spot, and fruits had been consumed in a nearby table, as he noticed the core of an apple and a banana peel sitting on a plate. He stretched. Where is he?
He stood up and walked over to a small closet, grabbing his clothes from it and proceeding to put on them, as he was currently wearing nothing but his underwear. When he was done, he grabbed the necklace he was gifted yesterday and put on it with a smile, leaving at the same time their house.
The clearing was not active at all. He saw Dandelion and Guider Aster sitting near the small waterfall, washing some roots and flowers as they talked animatedly. Others were leaving camp with baskets under their arms, and Bramble and Squirrel were discussing on the far end of the clearing as Sol's group stood behind Squirrel.
Sol caught eye of him and slipped away, trotting over him with a worried expression. Greg waved. "Morning Sol,"
"Sunlow, Green Blaze," He watched him anxiously. "Have you visited Apollon yet? Do you know how he is?"
Greg shook his head slowly. "Today? Not yet, but I did visit him last night," He looked concerned. "Haven't you visited him yet?"
"Leader Theia didn't let me last night... She said that he needed to rest and not be bothered," He looked sad and Greg seemed to be staring at a different boy than the one he met last night.
"He was weak and pretty tired. Dandelion kicked us out as well," He told Sol. "But he was doing fine, he just needed rest,"
Sol sighed. "I guess that's good to hear," He straightened. "If you visit him, can you tell him I'll visit him after doing rounds?"
Greg smiled and nodded. "I will,"
"Fighters, it's time to go!" Squirrel's voice echoed around camp.
Sol looked at Greg gratefully. "Thanks. See you around!" He trotted away and merged with the group that was leaving the camp.
Greg looked around and still didn't spot Connor. Where could he be? Maybe he started doing duties earlier. But that doesn't make sense... Artisans' duty starts in the afternoon... A hand suddenly landing on his shoulder spooked him, but he relaxed after seeing Guider Aster. "Guider Aster, good morning," He said, putting a hand over his heart.
"Sunlow, Green Blaze. Feeling a little bit lost?" Guider Aster joked.
Greg giggled. "I was looking for Lightning Storm," It still felt weird to call Connor that. "He wasn't at our house,"
Guider Aster looked thoughtful and then raised a finger. "Last time I saw him he was going into the Thera's lair with Leaf," He smiled. "Maybe you'll find him there,"
"Thank you," He waved at Guider Aster and then ran into the cave where the Thera's lair was located. He walked upstairs quietly, and before opening the door, he heard very familiar voices. Connor and Leaf!
For some reason, he felt unsettled. He couldn't bring himself to knock the door, and instead, he felt the need to listen to what they were talking about. Probably nothing important... He bit his lip. Why do I feel so worried? He put his ear near the door and listened.
"Before Sunlow?" It was Connor. "Just the two of us, right?" Greg stiffened.
Leaf giggled and softly said. "Yeah, just the two of us, don't worry,"
"I don't want to worry Green Blaze," Connor said anxiously. Was there also a trace of guilt on his voice? "What do I tell him?"
"Nothing," Leaf said. "He'll be busy with the kids during that time, so don't worry about it,"
Connor sighed. "I guess..."
Greg backed away, a piercing feeling on his chest. What are they gonna do? He took a deep breath and tried not to think about it so much. It's probably nothing... He tried to reassure himself. He knocked on the door. Then why not tell me? He thought before Leaf opened the door. "Oh, Green Blaze!" She seemed surprised. "Did you just woke up?"
Greg smiled forcibly. "Yeah..." He looked inside. "Is Lightning Storm here? How's Apollon?"
Leaf stepped aside to let him in. "Yup, Lightning Storm's here! And he's doing fine. Actually, he's at the Sanctuary,"
When Connor saw him, he lightened up and walked over to him, greeting him with a peck on the lips. Greg felt surprised and awkwardly returned affection, gaining a confused stare from Connor. "Everything okay?"
"Y-Yeah," He smiled. "I'm still a little bit sleepy, that's all," He squeezed Connor's hand. "You weren't at the house when I woke up. Did you got up early?"
Connor shared a quick glance with Leaf before looking at Greg and nodding. Greg smiled seemed to force even more. He's lying! Connor looked anxious. "Did you worry too much?"
"Just a little bit, I couldn't find you," He looked at Leaf and felt his gaze getting colder. "Where did you say Apollon was?"
Leaf looked a bit uncomfortable and pointed towards a back door in the Thera's liar. "He's at the Sanctuary. He likes to be there after one of his fits,"
Greg let go of Connor and walked away, not even looking at them. He exited the place, only to be welcomed by a tunnel that led up. It must lead out of camp. Greg followed and soon he was welcomed by the sound of nature and the sun blinding him. When he composed himself, he watched around.
He was in a small clearing surrounded by alder trees. Birds nest were high above and a small stream ran not so far away, Greg could see the reflection of the water on the bark. A few huge cats were sleeping inside an empty tree, and similarly, mouses and shrews ran around. Butterflies hovered above them.
Greg noticed Apollon sitting on the grass, with a cat on one of his sides and butterflies above him. When he tried to get near him, the cat lifted his head and hissed at him. Apollon startled, but relaxed when he saw him. He petted the cat between the ears. "Don't worry, Poppy, he's a friend," The cat, a tortoiseshell molly cat, relaxed but didn't stop looking at Greg. Apollon smiled sweetly. "Sunlow, Green Blaze,"
Greg couldn't stop noticing that everyone he greeted answered with Sunlow. "Sunlow...? Apollon." He walked and sat in front of him. "Feeling better today?"
Apollon scratched his arm. "I guess..." He looked at Greg apologetically. "Sorry for ruining your ceremony,"
"You didn't ruin it," Greg reassured him. "You can't help that,"
Apollon sighed as he put some of his hair behind his ear. "I wish I could, though," He frowned. "That way no one would bother me anymore,"
Greg frowned. "Is this why everyone steps over you?"
Apollon petted the molly cat on his lap. "Being Theia's youngest son doesn't help. She puts me above everybody else, including Sol... and I don't want that. I just wanna be like everybody else..."
"But you are like everybody else!" Greg pressed.
Apollon sighed. "No, I'm not. They think I'm weird, let alone that I ruin everything," He looked sad for a moment. "They are not wrong about that, though..."
Greg felt the anger running through his veins. "They are! You're not weird," He put his hand on Apollon's shoulder. "You are yourself, and there's nothing wrong with that,"
"Try to make them understand that," Apollon muttered between gritted teeth.
A high, pitched sound rang across the forest, and Greg looked confused at Apollon. Apollon startled and stood up instantly, lifting up Greg and nudging him away. "Those are the Caretakers! You gotta go!"
Greg nodded, and before leaving, he said. "Sol said he was gonna visit after his rounds!"
"Okay!" He heard Apollon yell as he entered the cave again. He ran all the way he used to get there, running past Connor and Leaf again, and then out. He saw a bunch of people dressed the same as him but in other colors, and kids sitting near with cups and cookies on hand.
A tall boy around Riley's age spotted him and walked towards him with a gentle smile. "You're Green Blaze, right?" Greg nodded and the other boy shook his hand. "I'm Alder that Grows Flowers, or just Alder Flower!" He radiated such energy that Greg felt joyful for a moment. "Is this your first time as a Caretaker?"
"Yeah," Greg felt shy, he didn't know most of these people. "What do Caretakers usually do?"
"Oh! It's my first time being a Caretaker too, so I don't really know either..." Alder Flower said, blushing. "B-But at least we are not alone!"
Greg smiled. "I guess it's nice to have someone who hasn't been a Caretaker before either," When their group moved, they trailed behind them.
"Yeah!" Alder Flower smiled. "I've been nervous all the past days because I was the only one, but knowing there's another new Caretaker just... makes me happy!" He bounced.
Greg giggled. "You remind me of a friend," Indeed. Alder Flower's personality was much like Federico's, except that the pink-eyed boy was more snarky and sharp-tongued, while Alder seemed more nervous and shy, as well as energetic. "You say you were made a Caretaker a few days ago?"
"Yeah..." Alder Flower said. "I didn't fit into any of the jobs I was assigned to, so they wanted me to try this one," He looked at the others ahead. "I hope I'll make it okay... else I'll bring the Shadows over me and I'll need to leave,"
"Leavings sounds a little bit extremist, don't you think?" Greg asked. "But having the Shadows over you? I've never heard such a thing,"
"It's not extremist, at least not here," Alder Flower said. "Having no place in the Motherhood gains you the title that Brings the Shadows, and it's better for you to leave rather than have that as your name,"
"Is it really that bad?" Greg asked worriedly.
"Yeah... you haven't seen anything yet," Alder Flower said.
Greg watched him go as he slowed down. I haven't seen anything yet...? He remembered Apollon's story before he arrived to the Motherhood, how the Fatherhood had attacked some of the Motherhood's Fighters, and how Sol mentioned an upcoming battle. Something fishy is going on around here...
His mind drifted to Connor and Leaf suspiciously talking and how Connor had lied to him earlier. Something fishy is going on there as well... He bitterly thought. If there was something Greg hated more than anything, it was lies. They had screwed over his life so many times he could barely count them.
Someone grabbing his hand brought him back to reality and he looked down to see a little girl staring up at him. "Can we be friends?"
Greg smiled awkwardly; he never interacted with kids so much. "Uh, sure, why not?"
Another boy around the girl's age pulled him from the other side. "I want to be his friend, Breeze! You had the last one for yourself!"
Breeze stuck out her tongue to him. "Go away, Night! I've seen him first!"
Another girl climbed to his leg. "I gifted him his necklace! He belongs to me!" They started arguing and Greg couldn't help but smile; they reminded him of the Petit Masks, especially because of Night and Breeze; they argued as much as Hope and Unità.
"Kids, kids!" An elderly woman walked towards them with a middle-aged man by his side. "Leave Green Blaze alone, he won't be friends with any of you if you keep stretching him like a rubber band," The woman looked at him. "Kids... they can be impossible to handle at times,"
"My boyfriend knows that better than anybody," Greg laughed, then he kneeled beside the kids. "We can all be friends. Sharing is a thing,"
Breeze lighted up. "Really? Yay!" He looked at Night and clung onto Greg. "I call the swings first!"
Night looked at the other girl and quickly added: "I call second!"
"Aw, not fair!" The other girl added. He looked up at the elderly woman. "Lavender, they are being mean!"
"Ruby, you can play with Alder Flower too, he's new here! Just like Green Blaze!" Lavender said. Ruby smiled and then ran ahead. Greg watched her jumped Alder Flower and he looked confused for a moment before smiling and telling her something.
Lavender nodded at him and walked away with the man by side, and then descended through a wooden staircase that led to a clearing, which actually was a playground. The clearing was surrounded by trees, and Greg observed some cut ones inside the playground. From a wooden house on the side, cats emerged at the sound of kids running into the games. Some kids climbed trees; others chased each other; some waited beside the swings and slides, between them Night and Breeze, and lastly, a small group started petting the cats.
The man from before approached him. "Our job is to keep an eye on them, and if they want, play with them," He told Greg with a serious and deep voice. "Don't make them cry," He warned Greg before going his way.
Greg walked down and joined Alder Flower, who was watching Ruby climb a tree. Alder Flower smiled at him once he saw him approach. "Ruby is a sweet girl! And really energetic, too,"
Greg watched all around as laughs of joy filled the air. "They all are," He noticed movement on the corner of his eye and spotted Breeze and Night waving at him. "I'll be back,"
"Okay!" Alder Flower said, walking towards Ruby.
Greg walked towards Breeze and Night, and when he was near enough, they grabbed his hands and hurried him towards the swings. "You said you were going to play with us!"
Greg smiled. "Okay, okay, let's play then,"
The two kids sat on different swings and Greg started pushing them slightly. As time passed, and they laughed, Greg couldn't help but remember one time where he had accompanied Connor and the Petit Masks to the playground, right before the whole thing with the Stars happened...
Connor had begged him to tag along, and Greg gladly did so. That day they had played with the kids and then took them to the city fair. Greg smiled; that day he felt like a kid himself, something that didn't happen so often...
"Green Blaze!" Greg looked at Night and Breeze and helped them stop. When they were still, they hopped off the swings and looked at him mischievously. Breeze pressed her hand on his belly and then ran away with Night. "Tag, you're it!" She yelled.
Greg smiled and then chased after them.
It was noon when they headed back to camp. Night and Breeze sat on both of his shoulders and Alder Flower walked beside him with Ruby on his shoulders as well. "You're so strong!" Breeze exclaimed.
"It's my turn after Meal!" Ruby told her.
As they argued, Alder Flower said. "It's so much fun being a Caretaker, though a little bit tiring..."
"I couldn't agree more," Greg said. He had a great time all morning, playing with the kids and watching over them. Is this how Connor felt when he played with the Petit Masks? Connor had always loved kids, and he had expressed to Greg that he would like to have his own someday. Greg slightly regretted telling him that he wasn't so sure about it... It's not that bad... But the idea of parenting scared Greg to death.
While they descended the path that led to camp, he saw Thistle between the leaves of the trees, watching them walk carefully. When he noticed Greg was looking, he opened his eyes wide and disappeared from sight. Greg felt uneasy. What was he doing up there?
He let Night and Breeze down and they ran towards a small table suited beside another big one. Lavender stopped and looked at all of the Caretakers. "It's Mealtime, prepare the kids properly and later you can have time to yourselves. Go!"
As they all dispersed around camp, Greg and Alder Flower stood awkwardly; they didn't know what to do. Greg approached Lavender and asked. "What are we... what are we supposed to do?"
Lavender looked at them with an eyebrow raised. "Didn't Bramble tell you this morning?"
Greg and Alder Flower shared a look. Alder Flower shrugged. "No, we didn't see her today,"
Lavender looked puzzled. "Really? She told me she talked with you two before leaving camp," She sighed. "Nevermind, come here..."
As Greg listened to Lavender tell them everything they had to do, questions hung on his mind. Why would Bramble lie? Did she forget to tell us? But then why tell Lavender she did if she forgot? Does Thistle have to do with it? What was he doing up in the trees?
As they walked away towards the rest of the Caretakers, he saw Connor leaving camp as well. He hurried after him. "Connor!" Connor turned around and seemed surprised to see him. "Where are you going?"
"To take a walk before Meal," He looked behind him, and Greg noticed Leaf waving at him. "With Leaf... how was your day?" He suddenly changed subject.
Greg looked at him. "I guess it was okay," He said, a half-smile on his face. "Gotta go now... see you later?"
"I start working with the Artisans later, don't know until when though, but I'll see you tonight for sure," Said Connor with a smile.
"Okay..." Greg sounded disappointed. I know you're lying. He turned around and trotted towards one of the Caretakers, aware of Connor's stare on him. He approached the Caretaker. "Hey, um, is there anything I can help with?"
"Oh! You're Green Blaze, right?" She asked, accomodating her short, blonde hair with a pin. "Yeah, we've helped the younger kids to wash their hands, but we forgot some towels. Do you think you can get some? The Theras have them,"
Greg nodded and trotted towards the Thera's Lair. Once there, the sounds of the camp died down slowly and as he walked upstairs, Apollon excited the place. He smiled when he saw him. "How's it going with the Caretakers?" He asked.
Greg still couldn't shake the feeling of disappointment. "It was okay, I guess..." He looked at Apollon with a half-smile. "I'm supposed to get some towels for the kids, they said there are some here,"
Apollon looked at him apologetically. "Sorry, but Alder Flower beat you to it. He just left with some," Greg felt irritation and Apollon frowned. "Something happened?"
Greg kept quiet for a few seconds before his shoulders dropped. "Connor is lying to me,"
Apollon looked surprised. "How come?" He dragged Greg inside. "What about?"
"I don't know... I just heard him and Leaf this morning about the two of them doing something in the afternoon, but she told him not to tell me," Greg said angrily as he walked behind Apollon, gaining a stare from Dandelion. "A just now he lied to my face as well,"
"Maybe you're interpreting it wrong," Dandelion said calmly.
Greg looked down. "You think so?" Then a feeling of fear overpowered him. "Do you think I'm being possessive?"
"Not possessive," She said while she sorted some herbs. "But maybe there's a problem of communication between the two of you,"
"Why don't you tell him what's bothering you?" Apollon suggested.
Dandelion nodded. "You wait for him tonight and calmly ask why he has lied to you." She put the herbs in small bags. "If you keep it to yourself the problem will never be solved," Dandelion walked up to him and gave him the now closed small bags and said, "Give these to the Caretakers, and you take one too, it'll give you all strength for the rest of the day,"
Greg nodded, and as he approached the door, he looked back and said. "Thanks," Both Apollon and Dandelion nodded and he left. He hurried outside, where he saw the kids already eating on the small table, and saw the rest of the Caretakers sitting down as well. He approached Lavender. "Dandelion gave me these for the Caretakers,"
Lavender smiled as she saw the bags. "Ah! The herbs I asked for!" She took half of them and then told Greg, "The Caretakers usually end really tired for the Meal and won't play with the kids in the afternoon as much as they did in the morning. Would you give this half to them?"
Greg nodded and walked towards the table, giving them the small bags. "Dandelion sent them," He told those who cast him a confused stare. When Lavender finished giving the rest, he sat beside Alder Flower and watched Lavender address all of them.
"Caretakers! As you saw, Green Blaze and I handed you some herbs," They agreed and then quieted down again. "These herbs will prevent you from feeling tired and will allow you to do things properly from now until our shift is done." The Caretakers smiled at each other and murmured excitedly. "Besides your meal, there's a cup with hot water, sink the bag in it and then drink it."
"Just like tea?" Someone on the far end asked.
"Just like tea," Lavender said. "Now, enjoy your meals!"
Alder Flower put the bag beside his plate of food and looked at Greg. "I'll drink it once I'm done with my meal, I'm hungry!" Greg giggled and then proceeded to eat his own.
Greg watched the kids ran around the playground while he sat beside Alder Flower and another Caretaker, Blossom. Greg was telling them how Connor had met the Petit Masks once. "He had traveled this far to meet them, and later he took them back to our home city to live with him,"
Blossom looked confused though. "But you said that that man, uh... Bleeder? Had been a threat to you all. What happened to him?" He recalled how Connor told him, detail by detail, how he had killed Bleeder by opening his throat open... And then the whole mess with the river...
Greg worked around the truth. "He tried to kill Connor, but couldn't. He was dragged by the river at the end of the ravine while he tried to do so,"
"Oh, so he died?" Alder Flower asked.
Greg nodded. "Yeah, but it was his own fa-" He couldn't finish the sentence as all the sounds around him -the kids' laughter, the talking, the sound of the cats, other animals around- quieted down. He looked around terrified when a familiar feeling of being watched gave him chills.
Alder Flower looked at him. "Are you okay?" But his voice sounded distant.
Greg stood up and watched around, looking for the source of all this. Leave the kids alone! His stare fell upon a tree elevated upon the playground. The tree was on the border of one of the walls, dangerously hanging upon all the kids. Beside it, the Famine stood dead still while she looked at him.
Greg shook his head slowly as she rose up one of her hooves and slowly placed it on the bark. The scene in the playground changed and suddenly all the kids, alongside some of the Caretakers were laying dead on the floor. The tree crushing several of them, to Greg's horror, Alder Flower being one of them.
A roaring thunder broke his attention and he saw the tree slowly falling. The kids yelled and the Caretakers rushed in to get some of them out of the playground. No, I'm not letting you do this! Before Alder Flower and Blossom could head to the center, Greg pushed them away and ran towards the falling tree.
On his way, he pressed his bracelet and a bright neon light engulfed him. When it was gone, he was truly Green Blaze. He put his arms in the air, right below the falling tree, and yelled. "Super Gecko Muscles!" He closed his eyes tight and waited.
After a while, he felt a small weight on his hands and slowly opened his eyes, only to open them wide as the tree was hanging over him. Murmurs of surprise arose around and he yelled. "Get them all out of here!" The tree was starting to feel heavy, and if they didn't take the kids out, not only some of them would be crushed, but he as well.
"Ready!" Blossom yelled at him after a while. He frowned and using all of his strength, he pushed it a few feet up in the air and then jumped out of its way. The tree still fell on the playground, but it didn't do any damage to any of the kids, nor the Caretakers.
His shoulder blades hurt tons, it was a while since he lifted something heavy. He felt hands on his arms and he was helped to stand up. "How did you do that?!" It was Alder Flower.
He shook the dust from his costume and when he turned, all the Caretakers were looking expectantly at him, waiting for an answer. Greg felt a little overwhelmed by their stares, so he only said, "I-I'm a... um... I'm a superhero?"
"You are!" One of the kids exclaimed. "You lifted a whole tree on your own!"
Lavender approached him. "You saved us all! How did you know it was gonna fall down?"
Greg only wanted to forget the Famine's stare, that still hung on his mind. He lied. "It was over the border, and I saw the root snap. When it roared I knew what it was gonna happen..."
"This gotta be known!" Blossom exclaimed. "You saved us all!"
Cheers rose in the clearing. "You saved us all!" All of them exclaimed. As they approached to congratulate him, Greg blushed and smiled shyly. It felt good the attention they gave him. He always worked in the dark, not letting others know who he was and what he did, but now it was different; it felt nice.
"Let's head back to camp, Caretakers! The parents need to know what happened, and so does Leader Theia!" Lavender yelled above the rest. They agreed and all headed back to camp, surrounding Greg and asking him questions as the sun lowered behind the mountains.
Greg was overwhelmed by grateful parents as he stood in the middle of the clearing. Everyone here was so much bigger than him, and their deeps voices and fearsome aspects made Greg feel like a true gecko. "Everyone, step away, can't you see you're overwhelming him?" Squirrel, who just got back from rounds, yelled.
Everyone apologized but still looked at him impressed and gratefully. The kids were surrounding his legs. "Can you lift us all at the same time?!" Breeze asked. The other kids looked at him expectantly.
"Um, yeah, I guess I can," Greg said with a gentle smile.
"Do it!" Night yelled. The other kids joined in and Greg soon had all of them trying to climb onto him. He sighed amusedly and using his Gekko Muscles he lifted six of them. They gasped in joy and laughed. "This is so fun!" Night said.
Another group of people descended through the usual path that led to camp and when Greg looked, Connor was among them. Connor, alongside the others, looked confused and intrigued about the situation. A man beside Connor asked, "What is happening?"
"We have a superhero among us!" Ruby yelled.
The Caretakers soon approached the Artisans and started explaining everything, and as they talked, Connor approached Greg. "They know that you are Green Blaze?"
"A tree almost fell on all the kids," Greg explained. When he saw Leaf coming out from between the Artisans, Greg remembered the conversation he had with Dandelion and Apollon. "I had to do something. I couldn't just stare..." He said upset.
"I get that," Said Connor with a gentle smile, but worry filled his voice. "But isn't that a little bit dangerous?"
"You wanted the kids to die?" Greg spat.
Connor opened his eyes wide. "What? No, I just think-"
"We need to talk," Greg said. Connor looked blankly at him as if he just said the cursed words. At that moment, Bramble and Theia walked out of their house. Greg looked away. "But later, when we are alone,"
Greg walked ahead and looked at Theia and Bramble. A soft voice replied, "Okay..." And he felt his heartbreaking in two. Was I too harsh?
The Caretakers and the Artisans, joined by the Fighters, stood behind Greg. Lavender walked to his side, and from across the camp, Apollon and Dandelion sat curiously on their roots. Leaf was already standing on one side of the camp, but she was looking worriedly towards the crowd. Not the crowd... Connor. He bitterly thought. At that moment, Guider Aster joined her side and she looked up.
"Lavender, what's all this about?" Theia addressed her.
Lavender dipped her head. "Leader Theia, you won't believe what happened today. And it has to do with one of our new guests!"
Theia raised an eyebrow. "Really?" She looked at Greg. "What happened?
Lavender looked at him and nodded. He proceeded. "W-Well, I was looking after the kids with Alder Flower and Blossom when I saw one of the trees over the playground lowering," He started fidgeting. "I knew it was gonna fall, so I..." He looked around nervously. "So I transformed into my hero self, Green Blaze, and prevented the tree from harming anybody,"
"Your hero name is Green Blaze?" Guider Aster asked. "For how long have you had it?"
"For a few months now," Greg said.
"What's a month?" One of the kids asked confused. A few other voices agreed with the question.
"He means a few moons ago," Leaf corrected. The crowd exclaimed acknowledgedly and then kept quiet.
Guider Aster looked intrigued. "So you've been named Green Blaze by the Tribe of Constellations, but it was your name long before arriving at the Motherhood," He looked at the sky. "Interesting..."
"The tree might have been just lowering," Theia said sharply. "How did you know exactly that it was gonna fall?"
She's testing me. Greg concluded. "One of the roots snapped and a thundering sound filled the place. Everyone can guess what comes after that,"
Theia looked intrigued. "Have you experienced something like it before?"
"Kinda, yeah," And he did, back when the Petit Masks were practicing in the Finch Pines Forest. A hole had appeared in the middle of their training and Greg had to help take Crash and Cotton out from the bottom.
Bramble looked at him intensely with her amber eyes. "How do we know he's not gonna harm any of us?" She suddenly spat. "Think about it. He's far stronger than us, strong enough to hold a big tree with his hands. How do we know he's not gonna take over us?"
"Greg- I mean- Green Blaze, would never do that!" Connor hissed at her. "He's got a good heart!"
"Why should we believe you out of all people? You're his partner," Bramble hissed back.
"I-If they had bad intentions the Tribe of Constellations would've never brought them here!" Apollon yelled shakily.
"And how are you so sure about that?" Bramble narrowed her eyes. "The Tribe of Constellations had been silent for moons, and suddenly they talk to you! Traitors could already be among us and you'd never notice because the Tribe of Constellations hadn't said anything until now!"
"Bramble is right, we should take them out!" Thistle, who appeared from the side, yelled. A few others beside him nodded their agreements.
"I think we should all consider that while the Tribe of Constellations hadn't talked to us, when they showed up they decided to talk to a Thera, instead of a Guider. Apollon out of all of us." Guider Aster walked to the center of the clearing. "Why would they do that if it wasn't special?"
"Last time the Tribe of Constellations talked to someone else besides the Guiders he betrayed us and killed two of his daughters," Bramble growled.
Gasps of shocks filled the air. "Enough!" Theia stepped in. Her powerful voice echoed a few times more before quieting down. "If he had bad intentions," She growled to Bramble, who shrank in her place. "He wouldn't have shown us his hero side, let alone save the Caretakers, the most important part of our Tribe,"
Greg sighed in relief. At some point, he thought he was gonna get chased out.
"All of those who agreed with Bramble will have a word with me afterward," Theia said severely. "Including you Bramble," Bramble opened her eyes wide and looked away upset. "I don't want this issue addressed anymore! Let alone what happened a long time ago. That's forbidden to talk about."
Everyone murmured their agreements. Guider Aster spoke up. "I think Green Blaze should have recognitions here in our Tribe, Leader Theia, don't you think?"
"We will carve his name in the Stone of Spirits, after that you can all go to sleep to start duties tomorrow," Theia said. "Motherhood dismissed,"
Everyone surrounded Greg to congratulate him and when Apollon bounced happily to him, Greg asked. "What is the Stone of Spirits?"
"It's a stone with carved names, but not any names, names that made history in our Tribe!" Apollon told him excitedly with a huge, white, toothy smile.
"Isn't that too much of a privilege?" Someone suddenly said. Both of them looked to a teenage girl with long brunette hair and blue eyes. She had lighter spots all over her. "He's not done something that great,"
"If saving most of the Caretakers and the kids of this Tribe isn't that great, I don't know what it is, Mist Eye," Sol, who walked behind her, said.
"He did one great thing, yeah, but comparing it to the many things that those whose name is carved on the stone did, that is nothing," Mist Eye retorted.
Sol scoffed. "You're just jealous that the newbie got his name carved into the stone and you haven't," He put his face close to hers. "Try harder, sweetie, your name ain't gonna be carved until you actually do something," Mist Eye lashed her hair to him and walked away.
"Who was that?" Asked Connor irritatedly, appearing by Greg's side.
"Mist that is Blind to the Eye, or just Mist Eye," Sol answered, crossing his arm. "She's the spoiled brat of the Motherhood,"
"Sol, don't treat her like that," Apollon said gently.
"But she is!" Sol exclaimed, then softened. "How are you? Do you feel better? Sorry, I couldn't visit you earlier, the Fighters trained like tigers today,"
"That's okay. I feel much better now, thank you," Apollon answered calmly.
"You sure? Doesn't your head, or eyes, or anything hurt?" Sol asked worriedly.
"I've had plenty to rest and regain myself, I'm fine, seriously," Apollon said. Greg and Connor watched fondly at their interaction. Sol and Apollon seemed to be really close brothers.
"Okay, but if you feel even the slightest pain let me know. I'm just around the corner!" Sol said. "Going to bed now, though, I'm really tired,"
"Okay! See you at Sunlow!" Apollon waved. He turned to Greg. "Anyway, congratulations on getting your name carved in there, it's hard to do so!" He looked at Connor intrigued. "Do you have powers too?"
Connor hesitated for a moment. "Yeah... I do..."
"That's so cool!" Apollon said. "I have powers too! But they are healing powers..."
"That's cool too, Apollon. Not many people have them," Greg said with a smile.
Apollon was about to say something until Connor cut him off. "Everything is great and all but can we talk now?" He asked Greg anxiously.
Greg looked at Apollon apologetically. "Do you mind?" When the other shook his head, Greg waved at him and nudged Connor away. They headed silently towards the ladder that led to their treehouse and climbed it. Once up, they walked through the wooden paths until they reached their door and walked inside. Greg locked it.
"What was the thing you wanted to talk about?" Connor asked.
Greg took a deep breath and said. "You lied to me. Twice today."
Connor was taken by surprise. "What do you mean?"
"You and Leaf," Greg seemed unsure. "I heard you talking in the Thera's Liar this morning. You were planning to do something in the afternoon, just... the two of you..."
"You were eavesdropping?" Connor asked upset.
"I... I didn't mean to do so," Greg burst out. "I couldn't help it," He frowned. "Especially when Leaf told you not to tell me what you were planning to do," He panicked for a second. "Not like you have to but..."
"I can do things on my own," Connor said, but he scratched his arm. "And she only said that because I was relying on you too much to do things,"
Greg stared at him. "She said that?"
"She's not wrong, you know?" Connor said, walking away. "Do you really wanna know what we were doing today?" Greg nodded slowly as Connor turned around. "She's helping me. She's helping me with my PTSD. That's what she offered me yesterday during the Meal for our Oaths,"
"Oh," Greg simply said.
"Today she took me to a calm part of the forest, and started asking me questions..." Connor crossed his arms. "She started questioning me about my relationship with you, and she said a few things that make sense that so far I hadn't really considered,"
"Like?" Greg asked quietly.
"That I do rely on you too much, and that can have effects on you as well... effects I don't really want you to have," Connor said. "And thinking back at how we were in the city... how you were in the city... it kinda makes sense what she said. You were starting to have some of those effects and I got scared when I noticed,"
"I do get that but..." Greg sighed. "There have been enough lies in our relationship, even before we started dating, don't you think?" Connor looked incredulously. "You can always explain to me stuff, I won't stop you from doing them. Now when you lie about them..." Greg bit his lip. "I don't like it. It gets me on edge, and I don't mean specifically just you, that goes to everybody that lies to me,"
Connor grunted frustratedly. "You want me to tell you what I'm doing every minute and who am I with all the time,"
"What? No, I-" Greg was taken aback. "I just don't want you to lie to me, I rather prefer you told me the truth!"
"How I was supposed to know that you eavesdropped me and knew about it?" Connor raised his voice.
"I didn't mean to!" Greg spat. "And I would've known about it if you would've told me Leaf was gonna help you with your PTSD!"
"It doesn't concern you!" Connor yelled angrily. "It's my disorder and it doesn't involve you in it at all!"
"Well, I'm sorry if I'm concerned about your mental health enough to want to know about it!" Greg turned around and grunted. He took a deep breath. "You know what? Fine. You're right and I don't have a word in this,"
Connor frowned. "That's not what I said,"
"Well, you implied it!" Greg snapped. "I'm just... I'm just gonna go to bed, I'm tired from today," He rubbed his temples; it seemed as if his head was exploding, and it has been like that for a really long while... He walked towards the door and opened it.
"Wait, where are you going?" Connor asked.
"I thought I was the one controlling," Greg said bitterly, exiting the place. He saw Apollon walking in the empty camp with sheets on his arms. There were two adults waiting for him and Greg took that as an advantage. "Apollon!" He climbed down the ladder and sprinted towards him.
As the two adults took the sheets from Apollon and walked away, Apollon turned to him confused. "I thought you were with Connor," Greg's shoulders dropped and he looked suddenly tired. Apollon frowned. "Oh... It... It didn't go well, did it?" Greg shook his head and Apollon smiled pitifully. "That's okay, not everything always goes the way we plan it... you can stay at my cabin if you want. I don't sleep there anyway,"
"Thanks," Greg gratefully said. He walked beside him towards the caves and took a last look at the treehouse. He sighed as Apollon's word rang in his mind.
Not everything always goes the way we plan it...
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