Sorry I'm a bit late in posting this chapter. -Skye
Breakfast, sparring, a meeting, and more sparring.
Thanks for sticking with this one. I know it's slow to update, and repetitive if you've read the books, but I'm trying to make it so you don't have to have read the books without spoiling everything. Bear with me folks, we're getting there.
Circus for aPsycho
Instead of the kitchen, Feyre led them to a more formal dining room with a long table already spread with food for what looked like twenty people. Nuala and another woman who looked nearly identical to her floated around the table, straightening things and nodding at Feyre and Rhys. The two women disappeared through the wall and Ben wondered if he'd ever get used to that.
"Please, sit." Feyre did so herself, and Rhys flopped down beside her. "I don't know when the others will join us."
Ben did as instructed and was pleasantly surprised to find a chair he didn't have to squeeze himself into, though the back was oddly shaped.
Feyre noticed him observing the other chairs.
"It's for the wings," she said through a mouthful of flaky pastry.
"Wings?" Ben asked, confused.
Feyre smiled and large black wings appeared behind her.
"Wings," she said. "He can summon them too, but he doesn't show them to newcomers." She points her fork at Rhysand, who says nothing.
"I'm sorry. What?" Ben had no idea what she's talking about.
"Start at the beginning, Rhys."
"Yes, Feyre, darling," he says to Feyre. To Ben, he says, "so demanding, my mate." But he smiles down at her and it feels too private, so Ben looks away.
"Rhys," Feyre says.
He sketches a half bow from his seat.
"So you know I'm High Lord. I suppose a bit of background might help. Prythian is divided into two large sections, the solar courts and the seasonal courts. The solar are Day, Dawn, and Night. The seasonal are self-explanatory. I am High Lord of the Night Court, and Feyre," he rests a hand on her shoulder, "is my High Lady, though none of the others have a High Lady."
"Yet," Feyre adds.
"Yes. Well, my family has ruled the Night Court for millennia, and my father mated an Illyrian female."
At Ben's look of confusion, Feyre supplies the answer.
"Illyrians are fae with wings. Our general and spymaster are the strongest Illyrians in history. You'll meet them later."
"Anyway," Rhys continues, "my father mated an Illyrian female, so I'm a half-breed, no better than a bastard to some, and I can summon the wings at will. Another Fae kingdom exists across the sea, Hybern, and that is where my story really begins. A little over five hundred years ago, the humans waged war against the Fae, who had used them as slaves for millennia, and they'd had enough. Fae served on both sides of the war, but Hybern was among the worst. They'd been built on the back of human slaves and were not willing to give that up."
"And you?" Ben asked. "What did you fight for, if that's where your story begins?"
Rhys eyed him sharply.
"The Night Court fought for freedom," he said simply.
Ben nodded and finally began eating.
"So," Rhys continued, "I fought for freedom. And Hybern did not. But we won the war. The humans built a magical wall to separate us, keep us out. A little more than fifty years ago, Amarantha, one of Hybern's worst commanders was sent to Prythian to take over for Hybern in his bid to return the humans to slavery. Amarantha," and Rhysand spat her name, "wanted Tamlin, High Lord of Spring, but he didn't want her. She couldn't stand that he wasn't interested, so in revenge, she used a spell to steal the power of the High Lords. To curse us. For fifty years, we remained locked under our sacred mountain. And…" Feyre gently laid her hand on top of his where it rested on the table. "For fifty years she used me. I let her use me. I serviced her to turn her attention away from my people, my court. I did horrible things for her. The people thought I was a monster." Rhysand was gazing off into the distance, a frozen look on his face.
Ben was horrified at what he was being told. Sacrificing himself, to save his people? He felt he saw the High Lord cast in a new light.
"To protect them, my people, I showed Amarantha and the rest of the world the monster they expected to see. And then, along came Feyre." He paused and smiled slightly. "I dreamed of her, at first. Not knowing who she was or where she was. But I got little glimpses from her in the human lands. She used to be human. Did you know?"
Ben shook his head, intrigued.
"We'll get to that, but yes. She was across the wall, so my visions of her weren't clear. Until one day, they were and I knew she was here . And I saw her. With Tamlin . She was the one who would break the curse. I had to be the monster, or Amarantha would have killed her. With her last breath, Feyre saved us all. And I convinced the High Lords to each give a tiny kernel of their power to bring her back. To me. I knew she was my mate before I felt the bond, but she didn't. And I couldn't tell her. She had to choose ."
Feyre looked down at her plate but didn't speak.
"And she did, eventually. That is another long story, but not important now. I think we can learn from each other." Rhys gestured between himself and Ben. "And besides," Rhys stood and cracked his neck, "you look like you could use some exercise." The grin he gave Ben was nothing short of feral. "Come with me."
"Rhys," Feyre warned.
"No, it's alright," Ben said quietly. "I can take care of myself." He straightened his shoulders and followed Rhys out a large set of glass doors to a flat, tiled section of patio with a space that was clearly a sparring ring. A large round object on a stand cast shade over a few long chairs with a small table between. Ben stood awkwardly, hovering just outside the glass doors as Rhysand walked over to the edge of the ring, rolling his shoulders.
"You have some training?" Rhysand asked, unbuttoning his tunic.
"I do," Ben nodded, rolling his shoulders too. He pulled his own tunic off, and when he looked back to Rhysand, an enormous pair of black wings sprouted from his back. Ben was surprised, though they had told him about the wings. Blue-black tattoos snake like vines over the other male's shoulders and arms, appearing to move as he rotates his body to get the blood flowing.
A ripple of power snaked out from Rhys; a signal, Ben thought, but for what, he didn't know. Rhysand waves a hand, and a rack of various weaponry appeared. Longing for his lightsaber, Ben stalked over to the rack, examining the various implements warily.
"Where did it come from?" he asked, picking up a spiked mace and spinning his wrist.
"I keep this particular rack in a sort of pocket realm, or space between spaces. Feyre darling doesn't care to look at weapons when they're not in use." Rhysand winked at his mate, who had come out the glass doors and passed them to settle in one of the long chairs with a steaming mug and a book. "Ready?" Rhys asked, nodding to the mace in Ben's hands.
"Ah, I'm more comfortable with other weapons." Ben thought that the mace felt too violent, and he didn't want to call to the darkness he still felt resting inside him. "Perhaps a staff?"
In unison, Rhys and Ben flung out their hands toward the rack, each summoning a staff. A wide grin split Rhysand's face as he and Ben started circling each other within the ring. Out of the corner of his eye, Ben noticed that another female, this one with long blonde hair, had joined Feyre and taken a chair.
Rhys's first blow nearly caught him off guard, but the Force warned him with just enough time to flick his wrist to deflect the staff from breaking his nose. Ben's knuckles whitened as his grip on the staff tightened. He let his breath out, stilling himself, using the Force to anticipate Rhysand's next moves. With a flurry of movements, Ben threw himself forward, spinning and jumping and striking. Rhys blocked each move, and Ben could tell that they were nearly evenly matched in size and stature and skill. And so they continued, using the staffs and throwing in the occasional acrobatic move for good measure.
Ben and Rhys locked staffs, and Ben heard a giggle and a derogatory remark come from the direction of the two females. Rhys rolled his eyes and broke the staff-lock, panting slightly. Also out of breath, Ben panted and nodded his thanks when Rhys floated a glass of water over to him on a thread of glittering black power.
A slow clap sounds from behind them, and Ben whirled to see two more winged males approaching. Rhys and Feyre made no move to defend themselves, so Ben stood down, but kept his staff within reach.
Just in case.
"Cauldron, Rhysie, you're getting slow in your old age," the one with shoulder-length hair and red stones on his gauntlets spits out with a barking laugh.
Feyre and the other female guffawed loudly from their seats. Ben looked closer to see that the other woman had brought a bottle of wine that they were nearly halfway through.
"Cassian, your insolence is ill-advised in front of guests ," Rhysand hissed. He nodded at the other male. This one had slightly shorter hair, with blue stones on his gauntlets. The three winged males all looked similar, in the way that people from the same region all look vaguely similar without looking alike.
The longer-haired one, Cassian, slammed a large hand on Rhysand's shoulder and Rhys scowled back at the other male.
"Azriel," the other said by way of introduction.
"Ben," Ben nodded to him.
"Have you found another human?" Cassian asked, eyeing Ben both warily and with a hint of humor in his hazel eyes.
Ben ignored the pang that came with the realization that Cassian's eyes looked like hers .
"Not exactly." Rhys tossed the remaining water in his glass at Cassian, who barely sidestepped to get out of the way. "He fell through the door."
Azriel and Cassian both snapped their attention to Ben, who felt remarkably uncomfortable under such intense scrutiny.
"And he's not human, at least, not like the humans in our world."
Ben wanted to point out that he was standing right there, they could just ask him . He shifted his weight and clenched his hand around the staff.
Feyre stood and wandered over while the males all stared at each other.
"Play nice, boys. Benny here is one of us." She patted him kindly on the shoulder.
Cassian cracked his knuckles ominously, took two staves from the rack, and tossed one to Azriel, who spun it once around him. Ben was reminded of his Knights and fighting with his brothers who, at the end, had been used by Palpatine like himself and Rey. Anger burned through him, and Ben rolled his shoulders in preparation for the onslaught from the two newcomers.
Amid the whirling and striking of the staves, Ben lost himself to the Force and the fight. How long had it been since he had been able to practice and focus on form?
Before Snoke, surely.
Even his training while under Snoke's thumb had had an edge, and Ben had never truly let himself sink fully into the training the way he was with these…Illyrians.
Ben's muscles burned, and he relished the pain. Not in the sense that the Dark Side relished pain, but in the sense that his body was moving and working and he was alive .
A particularly hard blow from the near-silent Azriel had Ben ducking and rolling beneath the flurry of blows, and he used a Force-push to propel himself away.
"No fair," Cassian complained. "No magic."
"Eh," Rhysand said, and Ben got a bad feeling.
Cassian grinned at Azriel, who rolled his eyes. Their movements were perfectly synchronized as they slammed their hands together before them, their red and blue stones glow expanding to form a sort of shield in front of them.
Scrambling backward, Ben held his own hands out in front of his body, readying himself for what, he didn't know.
A spear of blue crackling energy, like but also unlike Force lightning, spiked out of Azriel's blue shield, and Ben was just barely able to deflect it with the Force. Azriel frowned but didn't attack again. Cassian mimicked the movement and slung another spear of power at Ben who Force-pushed it back into the joint where the two males' shields joined. The power flickered, but the shield held, a deep, gong-like ring sounding from it. Ben rolled his shoulders, flexed his fingers, and readied himself for another blow. This time, the two winged-males flung power at him at the same time, and he saw that he would be unable to dodge both, so, remembering Rey's jump in the desert of Pasaana, he backed up a step and vaulted himself up and over the force field, and landed behind them.
Both spun to face him, but clapping from Feyre's direction halted them.
"Enough male posturing," she said. "You can pull out a ruler later. Let's drink!"
Ben thought it a bit early in the morning for drinking, but the others seemed to have no problem joining her, so he did as well. Wineglasses were passed around and filled, and Feyre silently toasted.
After everyone had drunk to her, Ben saw Feyre make small shooing motions at Rhysand and the other males with her hands, and Ben hid his grin with a sip from his wine. Cassian frowned at Feyre, clearly not understanding, but Azriel gave a long-suffering sigh and a nod before walking to where Ben stood slightly away from the group.
"You're well-trained," the winged-male said.
"Ah, thank you. As are you."
Both gave a sharp nod to the other and went back to their drinks.
"Your skills in swordplay seem…different," Azriel offered after an awkward silence.
"Ah," Ben spun the glass in his hands, "I'm used to a different style of weapon. A lightsaber."
Ben felt the others' attention shift to their conversation, though they kept up the pretense of their own.
"A what?" Azriel asked politely, though he cut his eyes to the others as if in a plea for help.
"Lightsaber," Ben repeated.
He explained to Azriel about the kyber crystal focusing the plasma beam inside the metal hilt, and when he'd finished the speech he'd practically recited out of a sacred Jedi text, Cassian and Rhysand had joined them.
The three males shared a look, then turned as one to peer at Feyre, who waved haphazardly with her wine glass.
"Could you demonstrate this light... saber?" Rhysand asked.
Ben could feel something simmering behind the violet eyes, though he couldn't discern what.
"Mine was…lost," he said. "And my…well…there are none here."
"Suppose we could offer you a focusing crystal of sorts," Cassian said, tracing his fingers over the red stone on the back of his gauntlet.
Now that Ben's eyes were drawn to it, he could feel the sense of power emanating from it and the male who wore it.
"Cass and Az wear siphons," Rhys explained, "seven each. The most of any Illyrian. Ever." He didn't bother hiding the pride in his voice. "Illyrians wield raw killing power. The siphons allow it to be harnessed, wielded with precision. I think that with Feyre's help, we could build one."
Ben blinked several times at the males clustered before him. They all wore a vaguely wary, but somehow hopeful expression.
"Why?" Ben was mostly wary with almost no hope.
The tiny flicker of the Force that was Leia sent what felt like an eye roll his way.
"Well," Rhysand started, but he was interrupted.
"It's a new weapon!" Cassian exclaimed, hoisting his glass high, wings flapping slightly.
Azriel cut a look at Rhysand and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"What darling Cassian means," Rhys said, "is that your lightsaber is something that could be…beneficial to us."
"Are you at war?" Ben asked, brows furrowing and shoulders ratcheting up around his ears.
He wasn't prepared for war the first time he participated in one, and he certainly wasn't ready for a war in someone else's universe. His heartbeat pounded as he waited for their answer.
Rhysand stared at him for a moment, and Ben felt the scrape of Rhys's mental claws over his own shield. But it wasn't invasive so much as…Rhys was trying to say something?
Not yet , came the High Lord's voice in his mind, even as he spoke aloud.
"It is the High Lord's duty to always be alert and ready to defend his people," Rhys said, arching a black brow.
"Very diplomistic of you…diplomastic… diplo-whatever the fuck it is," Cassian drawled, flinging his arms around Ben and Azriel.
Ben could feel that Cassian was not as drunk as he was pretending, and wondered if this was another sort of test from the general.
"C'mon," Cassian said, dragging his captives along as he walked back toward the house. "Let's show him how those siphons work."
Alarm bells rang in Ben's head, but he didn't sense outright hostility from them, so he let himself be dragged back inside, readying himself for a fight.
As soon as they were back inside, two energy shields, one red, one blue, erupted around Ben in a perfect sphere, and Cassian dropped the drunk act. He stalked toward Ben, not threateningly, but still with a look of intent that made Ben uneasy.
"Why are you here?" Cassian glowered at him, though their equally-matched heights made it less intimidating than Cassian probably meant for it to be.
"I don't know," Ben admitted. "I died, and that is all that I know."
Cassian crossed his arms, bulging muscles rippling. Azriel stepped forward, side-eyeing Cassian.
"You've never heard of Prythian? You truly know nothing of the fae? Of the courts?" Azriel's voice was cold and quiet, where Cassian's had been loud and violent.
"It is true." Ben crossed his own arms over his chest and waited for the interrogation to continue.
"Rhys said that you have some sort of Daemati powers, like but unlike his and Feyre's," Azriel continued.
"Yes," Ben agreed.
"Can you demonstrate them?" Azriel asked.
Ben arched an eyebrow and felt through the Force for Azriel's mind.
Is Cassian always a prick? Ben asked Azriel through the force. Azriel's lip gave a minuscule twitch, his only reaction.
"Can you tell me more about the siphons?" Ben tried to bring the focus back around to a subject less likely to get him pummeled by magic.
Cassian continued glaring.
"Tell us more about you first. Why are you so well-trained?"
"I studied under my uncle, a Jedi master, and later with the Knights of Ren." His training under Snoke had been less about combat and more about mental and physical torture, so he left that part out.
"A Jedi master? Explain," Cassian barked.
And so Ben recited a brief history of the Jedi, their rise and fall, and the shortest version of Luke's story he could come up with that didn't sound bitter and angry.
"And then, when the Knights of Ren destroyed the Praxeum, Luke escaped and hid, effectively ending the Jedi for good." Ben also neglected to mention Rey and her training.
She wasn't a Jedi, so it didn't count, anyway.
His neglecting to mention her had nothing to do with the pain of saying her name aloud. Not at all.
"Hmm." Cassian's monosyllabic answer left Ben wondering if he had said too much or too little. "So your family feared you, abandoned you, and then your uncle tried to kill you?" Cassian asked.
Cassian's guffaw made Ben jump as it echoed around the room.
"You'll fit in well with the bastards, then. Az and I don't have the best relationships with our families either." Cassian's white teeth glinted like a predator's as he grinned at Ben. "I won't trust you fully until you've proved yourself somehow. Understand?" Ben nodded. "Good. You can stay."
Azriel nodded his assent.
"Let's raid the wine cellar and find more of the good stuff Rhysie's been hoarding."