A prequel to "Fey"
Bastion was a wise old owl of a fae.
He was bearded and bushy browed with brown and white feathered wings in un-preened disarray. He had stumpy goat horns that usually had some bit of foliage or fluff caught in them, often a bright bit of down from having lain with his mate Vashti, a bright-feathered tropical fae as unlike him as day was night.
The acceptance of stark differences were what made Bastion a fae emissary. He could settle a dispute between the fae of the snow and those of the hot desert by making them see more of what they had in common than what set them apart. He literally lived in two worlds at once; wakeful until the deepest part of the night, then stirring from sleep only when the bright afternoon was well worn. A vast knowledge of the natural world caused him to be much sought amongst his brethren; a familiarity with alchemy threw a shadow of danger about him that caused his kind to avoid his acquaintance as a rule.
In all, Bastion was an invaluable teacher for the Nyght Fae young.
He'd been teaching the bat-like fae for longer than anyone remembered, and wondered if only he noticed their number slowly dwindling.
The Dark Fae had returned to their original island home over a hundred years before. They found the nearly forgotten Nyght Fae had never left. If their differences in appearance and habits hadn't separated the two peoples from the first, the Dark Fae's acquired worldliness would have eventually.
The sun was just a sliver on the horizon when Bastion lit the moon lamps. Nyght Fae were extremely sensitive to light and most lived long lives never once seeing the sun.
As full dark filled the sky, a strange sound could be heard just beyond Bastion's hallow. The scruffy fae peered out into the night, watching the Nyght Fae emerge from a fissure in the earth. He knew they launched themselves from the deep well of the central cave that had been carved by the powerful waterfall that flowed over the brink. They would shoot up through the enveloping mist created by the falls and extend leathery wings after clearing the trees, almost immediately lost and seeming to slip between the light of the stars.
The young ones were either lifted and released at ground level or, coming into their own strength, were able to just leap above ground and stumble-fly to Bastion's hallow. There were less than a dozen young coming to him, and soon it would be less as the oldest of their group, Sathe, was on the literal cusp of adulthood. The nearly grown Nyght Fae would set out soon on a journey that would, upon his return, place him among the elder of his kind.
"Bastion!" One little web-winged fae came tripping with excitement into the hallow. "Bastion, I caught something by my own self!"
"'Caught' is a bit much," Sathe said as he swept into the hallow, folding his dark, leathery wings to drop next to his little sister. "Plucked it off a bit of driftwood in the ocean is a more apt description. It didn't have anywhere to run."
"It could a' swum away," Sabine said petulantly, "'cept it seemed afraid of getting wet, or mad at the water 'cuz it kept hissing at it."
"And what did you do with this catch, little Sabine?" Bastion asked, ignoring the huffing sound Sathe made.
"I wanted ta bring it to you 'cuz it was different!" She said, the damp black of her eyes glowing with excitement. "It moved funny like it had eaten one a those zappy eels and it had all this white fuzz round its' mouth…"
"It bit her," Sathe interrupted, pulling Sabine's arm up to show a small wound.
"So?" Sabine jerked away from him. "I bit it back! Took all its life-stuff 'cause I caught it!" Her bottom lip trembled. "Now my tummy hurts."
That was another thing about the Nyght Fae; they were a type of hematophagous - blood drinkers. That fact alone bothered some, but it was the more troubling knowledge that it didn't matter where that blood came from that caused a distance to truly develop. The Nyght Fae nursed their sick from their own veins and babes fed not at their mother's breast, but the lesser arteries of her heart.
"She's too little to eat that much," Sathe said, "and she says she dropped whatever it was in the ocean, so she can't even show us. I think she was chasing fox kits again and…"
"Was not!" Sabine squarmed in Bastion's grasp as the old fae examined the bite. It didn't look serious, perhaps a fox kit had nipped her. He would just have to watch the next couple of nights and make sure there was no infection.
He did not allow the young ones to continue the argument, but launched into a lesson about the cycles of the moon - why it moved and changed the way it did. The entire scene between siblings was pushed to the back of his mind.
He regretted every moment lost after that.
Three long months later, a much grayer and soul weary Bastion stood waiting on the sea cliffs under the full moon. His eyes were fixed on something he never thought he would see again - Nyght Fae wings in the starry sky.
Sathe folded his wings and dropped deftly to the cliff edge. He smiled widely at Bastion and happily juggled a glowing orb from one hand to the other. He'd completed his growth quest and would now be considered an adult among his people.
Bastion's face remained solemn and Sathe's jubilant smile wavered.
"I need you to come to the southern shores with me for awhile." Bastion said without prelude. He hoped that his bluntness would make Sathe follow and not question his old mentor.
Sathe said nothing and his expression rapidly folded into lines of concern. He tried to push by the older owl-like fae but found a broad wing, twice as long as he was tall, blocking his way.
"Come with me Sathe. Do not go that way."
The simple words were meant to frighten the young fae into obedience, but Sathe had returned from his growth quest and was no longer an obedient adolescent. His face hardened into the defiant lines of someone who felt older than their years and he ducked through Bastion's feathers and headed resolutely toward home.
It had happened so quickly.
The clan had gathered to see Sathe off on his growth quest; little Sabine, though flushed with fever, waving happily as he leaped from the cliffs into the night.
Then the spring rains came.
The fae do not fly when it rains - their feathers were not waterproof and neither the Nyght Fae's hearing or sight was any use to them in a deluge.
No one was concerned that no flyers stirred from their roosts for a long string of days and nights at a time. Bastion waited as the nights dried out, but the Nyght Fae…
The Nyght Fae never emerged at all.
Bastion would have been alerted if the caves had flooded and they moved the entrance to their home. For that matter, he surely would have seen webbed wings in the clear night sky.
But there was nothing.
The black portal to the caves, fogged as always by the mist from the falls, gave no answers. No light penetrated further than the first few feet down the falls. It was a vertical drop into a misty void. Even Bastion, with his light absorbing eyes, could not see anything through that dense cloud. Only the Nyght Fae could possibly find their way.
In a state of much fear for his friends, Bastion concocted a ger¥mond and sent it in. Whatever needed to be done, if that meant killing an insane leader, detecting a curse, stopping a sickness from spreading, the ger¥mund would do it. It was an automaton and did not wrestle with morals or emotions. It would help by any means necessary, then come back and report.
The ger¥mund did not return to Bastion.
Instead, a Dragon Diamond scorched deep into the earth and incinerated the ger¥mund and everything else within the caves.
Sathe did not respond to the tale Bastion told. He seemed to become as featureless as the blackened stone that marked a wide semicircle around the where the river fell into the caverns. Then, long before dawn came, he spread his wings and left the place without descending beneath the falls.
Bastion did not try to follow Sathe's flight in the dark of sudden gathering clouds.
Nothing survives a dragon diamond. The fire that burns through the local of such an artifact sears so hot that not even ash is left in its wake. Stone could become molten in the onslaught. There was nothing left beneath the falls to find. If any of the Nyght Fae had survived, they would be elsewhere.
Bastion knew that, despite all the evidence of the clans' demise, Sathe was searching for his family.
Purposely avoiding the looming pit that yawned so near, Bastion spent sleepless days and nights searching for the last Nyght Fae. He saw his first dawn in decades, searching from sun-up to sun-down when Sathe would be holed-up somewhere away from the day. He kept to the search for several days and nights, but, but finally succumbed to exhaustion. Vashti, his mate, watched the skies while he slept.
Deep in the night she shook Bastion roughly awake. She held the glowing journey orb Sathe had left outside the hallow before diving into the darkness beneath the waterfall. He'd been carrying several limp, furred forms with him.
Dead blood was poison to the Nyght Fae just as surely as rotten meat was to any other. It putrefied in the stomach, neither rejected nor absorbed, becoming a congealed mass that swelled up into the throat and slowly choked one to death.
It was a slow, miserable way to die.
Fortunately, it gave Bastion time.
Dropping down into the dark hole beneath fhe falls was like a nightmare Bastion had once had where he had no wings or sight as he fell from a cliff. But here he did have his wings and a certain owl-like sight that absorbed what little light there was. He might as well have been blind in comparison to the luminous heat sensing, echo-imaging sight the Nyght Fae used in the caves, but his vision was good enough to find what he was looking for.
The pale form of Sathe laying on the blackened stone near the roil the craggy cascade made as it pounded its way further onto the depths of the earth.
The young fae's lips were stained dark with the thick, sticky residue of dead blood and his body convulsed every few moments as his body began to react to the malaise.
Bastion didn't even hesitate. He scooped Sathe up and launched himself back upward toward an opening to the night that he could not see through the mists. This was what every Nyght Fae had done for generations, trusting the night sky would be there to embrace them.
Once he'd gained the hallow, he dumped Sathe on the mass of feathers and grasses that nested one corner and began ripping through his mendicants. He threw things behind him, grunting in agitation and sweeping entire shelves free of their contents. Bastion finally found the vile of Clear Water in an alcove and kicked back through the mess.
Vashti held the half-conscious fae still as Bastion attempted to pour the concoction between his lips. Sathe turned away, blocking himself with confused hands and hampering wings as Bastion cursed darkly when the precious liquid merely leaked out the corners of Sathe's mouth in streaks down his cheeks.
It was Vashti who pushed him away finally and tended to Sathe herself. The young Nyght Fae settled as she spoke to him in low tones, tipping the contents of the vial between his lips while crooning an old hymn thought to bring healing. She stroked Sathe's throat lightly and felt him swallow weakly. Bastion was calmer and ready when Sathe began to cough and choke and took him, holding him steady as he vomited in violent convulsions and the dead blood was purged from him.
When the worst was over, Bastion wiped Sathe's gore smeared face with a ragged piece of cloth and laid him down, the hallow filled with the sound of the night fae's sobbing breaths.
From that moment on, Death began to stalk the last Nyght Fae.
Bastion knew its shadowy, lingering presence well and he could see it like a vapor sometimes clouding Sathe's aura. Defied twice already, Death would just wait patiently for another chance, easily slipping through the gaping holes in the young fae's life. Bastion had to keep on guard himself; the piece of his soul he'd used to power the ger¥mund, that which would have brought it back to him, had been utterly destroyed with the Nyght Fae. He could feel Death constantly testing that bitter wound.
Sathe found life again, becoming all at once older than his actual years, quieter. His growth journey was completed, he would truly never be that young fae Bastion had watched fly from the cliffs months ago ever again.
And who, besides an old bedraggled mystic, would carry a memory of the Nyght Fae after Death finally caught Sathe? It would take a powerful creature for there to even be hope any legacy would ultimately survive.