Home > Cinders & Ashes Book 2 : A Gay Retelling of Cinderella(9)

Cinders & Ashes Book 2 : A Gay Retelling of Cinderella(9)
Author: X. Aratare

This isn’t right! I wouldn’t feel this way with Rohan…

But he did feel this way. Finn ran a shaking hand over his cold, clammy forehead. He was sick. That was the only explanation for seeing evil in Rohan.

“Are you sure that Tempest is all right?” Finn asked again, if for no other reason than to make conversation.

“He is. But to reveal where he is would be to give away my secrets. My magic,” Rohan chuckled again. “You wouldn’t want that, would you?”

Finn blushed and lowered his head. Rohan was being playful, not threatening. So he answered, “No, I suppose not. Though, again, you did not have to do all of this.”

“It is not a hardship! It is hardly anything at all. But sit and rest. I need to get the steaks on the grill,” Rohan said as he shifted towards the fire.

Finn stared into the fire and considered Rohan’s earlier words. Actually, one word in particular. “Magic.”

“Hmmmm?”

Rohan had speared one of the thick, two-inch steaks and placed it on the grill over the fire. The meat hissed and sizzled as it came in contact with the hot metal. The scent was heavenly. Finn drew in a deep breath and wished he could memorize it for later so he could recreate it in his mind. Beef was beyond expensive, and they had only one cow on the estate. She was a precious thing named Annabelle that was petted and loved. Her milk was sacred on the estate and she would only be slaughtered when she was old and her meat was tough and stringy. This meat that Rohan was cooking was anything but. This meat was marbled with fat. Finn’s mouth was watering and the maddening scent nearly had him forgetting what he had said.

“Finn?” Rohan said, his voice in a sing-song amused tone. “Have I lost you to the steak?”

Finn blinked rapidly. “Oh, yes, I’m afraid so. Beef is… my favorite.”

“Then I can’t wait to feed you every bite.” Rohan focused on the steaks, making sure that the flesh and fat caramelized but did not burn. “So you asked me about… magic. What’s on your mind?”

Finn was focused on the steaks again, watching how the fat crisped. “I was actually wondering what you thought about it.”

Rohan blew a long, wavy, blond lock back that had fallen in front of his eyes. “Magic is the realm of the Fae. Are you certain you want to talk to me about that?”

Finn blinked and curled forward slightly. “Why not you? You didn’t seem to--to hate the Fae when we spoke about them yesterday.”

Rohan glanced over at him and there was the strangest expression on his face. His eyes reflected the fire, even though he was looking away from it. Finn tensed, but then Rohan blinked and the fires were gone from his blue eyes--if they had ever been there before--and he was smiling.

“I am glad you feel comfortable speaking to me about magic and the Fae. I want you to feel you can,” Rohan said softly. “It’s just a taboo subject among humans.”

“Among… among us, you mean,” Finn said even as his heart started to thump again.

“Yes, us. I mean us.” Rohan laughed lightly. “But you were asking me about magic and my thoughts on it.”

“Yes, what do you think of it?”

“Blessing or curse?” A smile played on Rohan’s lips. “I suppose both depending on who you are and what type of magic you have.”

“There’s more than one type?” Finn perked up.

He thought of what Christopher had said about how he would have learned everything there was to know about magic if he were in Finn’s place. Finn suddenly wanted to do just that. He just hadn’t thought that Rohan would know much about it. Yet what a wonderful thing if he did! Who else could Finn talk to, outside of those on the estate, of magic? And even there, he had to be careful because they knew he could perform it. Rohan did not so he might not be so guarded about telling Finn everything he knew.

“There is.” Rohan nodded as he poked the steaks with a long fork to see if they could be flipped. “Most Fae magic comes from life.”

“From life? You mean nature, don’t you?”

“No, I mean life. The living part of nature,” Rohan corrected and his voice was crisp, very unlike Rohan in a lot of ways, but Finn didn’t trust his judgment. His illness had affected everything so far. “But the most powerful Fae mages--rarer than diamonds--draw from death.”

“Death?” Finn breathed.

He thought of how he took life from the land, mixed it with his magic, and caused it all to bloom. He drew magic from life clearly, but why did a niggle of doubt tug at him? Rohan’s next words confirmed that the doubt was perhaps justified.

“Yes, you see Death Mages drain life from the land, from animals and, of course, from people,” Rohan told him as he flipped the steaks. The fire sizzled and snapped as liquid fat dropped into the flames. “They can create incredible spells, spells that normal Fae can only dream of.”

“But at what cost?” Finn swallowed as he thought of how easy it was to draw in life and then cause the estate to bloom. The more life, the more he was able to do.

“At what cost?” Rohan repeated and laughed mirthlessly.

The sound was so sharp and jarring that Finn flinched at the sound. It wasn’t at all like Rohan! But perhaps his illness was making him too sensitive. He glanced at the door and saw that the woods were still so tightly packed that there was no way out.

This isn’t right! He thought for nearly the dozenth time.

“What would you pay to have this moment?” Rohan asked.

Finn blinked. The steaks were no longer giving out the delicious smell. The fire gave no warmth again. The blankets on his shoulders had no weight.

Finn licked his suddenly very dry lips. “This moment…”

“Your dreams are so… small.” Rohan gestured around them. “You don’t even dream of being in his estate, but instead you dream of here. A hovel. A shack. It’s hardly that, even. A warm fire and a bit of meat. This is the extent of your dreams?”

Finn’s mouth fell open. Rohan would never speak like this! He would never mock him! That wasn’t in his heart. Such cynicism. Such sourness. Such acidity. And he spoke of “Rohan” as someone else…

This isn’t Rohan, Finn realized with startling clarity. His mind and body had been trying to tell him this the whole time. This isn’t the cabin. This is all wrong.

“Who are you?” Finn asked as he tried to rise to his feet, but his legs were too weak to hold his weight. He sank back down with a moan.

It was then that Rohan’s blond locks changed. They went white-snow white--and grew much longer. They tumbled down his shoulders to the middle of his back. The piercing blue eyes were suddenly stained red.

Red as fires.

Red as rubies.

Red as blood.

Rohan’s body became leaner but also taller. The face changed to the delicate yet masculine features of a Fae. Even though Finn had only seen them in his dreams, he knew these features. Yet he could not place them.

“My name is Marikoth,” the Fae’s voice was rich and royal and yet filled with scorn. “But the real question, Finn, is who are you?”

 

 

THE WEBS WE WEAVE

 

 

“How are we going to get in there?” Serxio whispered, his voice going high and tight as they surveyed the Fae village.

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