C O R P S E
B R I G A D E

RETURN ADULT FICTION

T H E   F U G I T I V E   S E R P E N T

Written on October 10, 2020 (♎)

Content Warning: 💀This sex in this fic is largely non-explicit; however, the consent is very dubious and bad things happen as a result of that. Isilud is typically a teenager at the time you encounter him in game, so this may be read as Underage, although it is up to interpretation. Additionally, this does contain Major Character Death, but several events play out differently than they do in the original canon, resulting in some characters dying in different ways. (Nobody who survived in the original game, however, explicitly ends up dead.)💀

Author's Notes at the end; this fic employs War of the Lions names.


“Is it wise to send two auracite across Lesalia in the hands of innocents, Hashmal? What if they should fall?”

 

“If they fall, I doubt that their innocence in the matter will persist. The stones take hold where they can, and a dying man’s heart has many points of purchase.” 

 

“Has it been made clear they’re suitable vessels?”

 

“Nothing is ever clear to the point of certainty”

 

“Perhaps your host took comfort in that?”

 

“I doubt it greatly. I will say, however, that these coming days should make a good trial of many things’ suitability.”


~O♈︎O~


Wiegraf felt something almost akin to relief as he stepped outside of the sanctuary and saw the sky was overcast. He had slept without thinking himself asleep for some good portion of the morning, lost in the wavering drift of a hangover that seemed to merge with every ill dream that came to him. If the sun had been high and bright in the sky, he doubted he would have handled himself well.

It seemed evident that it would rain soon, and this suited Wiegraf’s sentiments as well as it ever did. His breaths were ragged and deep as he leaned against the wall of the little chapel, watching the flutter of so many ribbons and petitions that pilgrims had tacked to its sides. He thought then that if he could just keep still, if he could temper the beating of his heart and the throbbing of his brain, he would be able to keep to the equilibrium he needed. He would walk straight throughout the morning and ride straight throughout the day, until this last sunburnt patch of the Lesalian countryside was behind them. He would keep steady, and he would not sicken.

When Isilud finally appeared, face pale as a greensick country girl, Wiegraf knew he was deceiving himself on all these counts. Shaking, he sank to the ground, and tried not to let the lump in his throat progress to weeping.


~O♓︎O~


It had been the feast of Huldeburt when Isilud had first seen the Gods, and he had kept ever after a special regard for that particular saint—even if he had no personal ties to lens-cutting, metalworking, aevis-hunting, the island of Gleddia, or whatever other minutiae of life fell under the man’s patronage. The circumstances of the vision were accidental, and he had learned thereafter to be more understanding of others’ accidents.

Mullonde was always awash with pilgrims, but there was a different character to a day’s proceedings when the penitents were Gougish tradesmen. The great street before the cathedral glittered with copper and glasswork, and the drone of prayers seemed to mingle with the shouts of many a guildman trying to make back what his order had just paid in tithes. Isilud had been warned against tarrying, but he was not forbidden to stop and look that year. He recalled later the scent of so much oil coming off the clothing of the hawkers—of the way that there seemed something unearthly to men born so far from the church’s throne. He recalled also that Meliadoul had bought him a barley candy with money that she oughtn’t have had, although if it weren’t for the stark recollection of how sweet it was, he would have dismissed the memory as a passing fantasy.

It seemed strange now—years after taking up the cloak and sword—that he should have once gone among those worldly, corrupt men and played with their children along the shore. It seemed stranger still to connect all the shadowy presences in that memory to his family. His father, if he remembered, had watched as he'd chased down the children of potters and machinists down the strand, waving rods of driftwood in the air as though they were so many Ordallian coeurl riders. His sister had been laughing, her hair spun out like a halo against the sun.

He had not been thinking of them when the game moved from the shore to the cliffs, and he only considered later that they must have seen him fall. One of the boys had pushed him. It had been unintended. He had not even known he was not where he ought be—out in the wind and sun—until he felt the burn of the water hitting his lungs.

The shift between recognition, panic, and acceptance had been seamless. Perhaps as a boy of eight, he had had no appreciation for the dread of dying. He remembered though—more than he remembered anything else—that when he had looked up through the water to see the sunlight above him, it had split into so many shapes, stars, and crosses.

All the vast blue around him had gone to a burning white as they folded themselves into the tessellating patterns of a cathedral ceiling. He had known then, folded in the emptiness of the sea, that there had been something beyond it.

When he told the story to Wiegraf—three scant days after the High Confessor had ordered them both on the mainland—it had gone over poorly. He had known at the time that it was a foolish story to tell to a man who had prior been all but a stranger to him, It had been some fit of childishness to imagine that Wiegraf might be in some way impressed—that perhaps it might be a cue for the former leader of the Corpse Brigade to tell him a story of his own.

Isilud realized, in the awful chasm of silence that opened between them, that he had been very stupid.

Wiegraf had evidently been caught somewhere between bafflement and annoyance throughout the entire retelling, and Isilud only really recognized it when he trailed off and realized the account didn’t really have anything like a proper ending to it.

“Who pulled you out?” had been Wiegraf’s question.

They had stopped. Isilud had looked to the dimming sky.

“I don’t remember,” he said in a bit of a stumble. “I only remember the vision and the festival and waking up later thinking I had died.”

“Well you didn’t die, did you?” Wiegraf shot back. “Somebody had to have saved you?”

Wiegraf had looked at him then as though he were a lackwit or madman, and Isilud had only thought to nod, spurring his bird as though picking up their pace might leave the conversation behind them.

They were one night’s ride out of Gallionne—holding close to the northern coast until they could see who would hold Lesalia after the first volley. Isilud tried his best to reckon where they were in the dark of the Yuguewood, and did not pause to consider that he never recalled his life having been saved.


~O♈︎︎O~


Wiegraf’s head was still pounding as they pushed on towards Orbonne in silence, and it was with a marked bitterness that he tried to think back upon all the boys inanities—to his baffling recollections of his childhood and to his nattering questions as to what he should and should not do at each town and city. “Will the stipend be enough to afford provisions here? Will they think me foolish again if I ask them about the heretics’ list? Is it common that Fovohamese men and women really keep company like that in the public eye?” 

Wiegraf only realized when they’d come in through the capital that Isilud had never been to the mainland before. The boy had been embowered by the great Bugross all his life until they’d flung him into the heart of civilization with him of all people for an escort. Wiegraf Folles, failed savior of the Ivalician downtrodden and stalking terror of the western countrysides and whatever other nonsense men now attributed to him: charged with keeping track of some mooncalf who had never been out of a priest’s eyesight. He had told himself very firmly at the time that he was going to cleave to whatever professional detachment he had left in him. He had told himself that he would ignore Folmarv’s son when possible and remain distant when their partnership forced them to converse.

The bird beneath him stumbled a bit over a large root. Wiegraf reeled a little as he considered all of his manifest failures layered atop one another—how he had failed even at being appropriately cruel.

He was still ill to the point of discomfort, but they were a league out from seeing the end of the Araguay, and he wasn’t going to dismount his bird to go tend a hangover now. Isliud would take the opportunity to say something. He bit through the cork off one of the little Physick’s vials he kept close at hand—an all-purpose anti-toxin of some sort. It tasted like goddamn ink.

He hoped it would do something. The Gods knew there were poisons enough in him upon which it could work.

They slowed down as the path turned to mud, and Isilud gave a little cry when his bird got itself stuck. It near bucked him as it attempted to extricate itself, and Wiegraf turned to look at him.

Their eyes met.

Wiegraf felt something hot in his face and fingers. He saw the words shape themselves on the boy’s mouth before he heard them. It was as if there were a gap between Isilud’s intention and its effects… longer than there should be.

“I’m sorry, Wiegraf,” he sobbed. “I’m so sorry.”

Never had an apology sounded more to him like an accusation. Never had he felt more in need of standing accused. He wondered if it would rain again as he turned back wordlessly and tried to spur his bird through the muck and bramble.

“Wait!”

He was being cruel now. He was being wretched. He was sick, however, and stopping to explain to Isilud how little he had to be sorry for was not in the cards. He was too far on his course to abandon it. They could blame each other after they got the damned stone.

All the rest of the silent ride, he grew achingly aware of the weight that beat against his breast in time to his bird’s talon falls and how it seemed to keep pace with the thud of his heart. As the trees thinned and the Lesalian countryside opened before them again, he had a morbid thought that the two objects might just batter their way through his body to meet one another.


~O♓︎O~


Isilud had tried his best not to be a burden once it became clear to him that that was what Wiegraf took him to be. He tried his best to move with the self-assurance of a man better used to his duties. He did his best to hold his tongue more often. Wiegraf—he thought—was doing his best to bear with him, and he felt he owed him some return on the favor by making himself bearable.

He had been perpetually uncertain as to whether his efforts met with any success. Wiegraf seemed a man given to reticence and quiet even under more amicable conditions, and Isilud could never tell if he should take the man’s silences for frustration or indifference.

He tried—and failed—to still his hopes that they might come to be friends.

When Wiegraf had started a conversation with him of his own volition one night—a little ways outside of Yardow—Isilud found himself feeling strangely ill at ease from the onset. It had been decided they should make camp instead of pushing on to reach the city. The birds had been tired. They had been tired. It had been plain that whatever was happening in Lesalia would not require they hurry to meet it. There had been no reason the two of them should not have stopped then, and there had certainly been no reason that they ought not speak.

“It’s strange riding past Riovanes, you know? I haven’t been there for over a decade.”

Isilud had only looked at him in response, uncertain if this was an invitation to ask about whatever had brought him there a decade prior. Wiegraf continued unbidden, taking a long draught from the bottle of sack they’d picked up from one of the little villages out on the wind flats.

“Romandan campaign. I was there during the siege. Took nearly two and a half months before the Southern Sky finally came for us.” He smiled bitterly. “I’d gotten very resigned to dying there.”

Isilud nodded, trying to remember whatever it was he’d heard of the western part of the war or about whatever siege it was of which Wiegraf was talking. The war had always seemed so far removed from Mullonde and all her concerns, even as often as the priests sent up prayers for victory and soldiers made their pilgrimages for absolution. As a boy, it had been of the same distant sort of interest as those legends of whatever it was explorers had found in all those strange kingdoms beyond the orient: the great temples of the Kildeans or the ruins of Ronka seemed just as near as whatever happened at Riovanes.

Wiegraf didn’t look at him as he drank again.

“You can ask about me, you know?” he said. “You asked about damn near everything else.”

Isilud felt stung by the remark for all that he was nervously excited at the prospect that they might talk about Wiegraf’s past.

“Is it true that—”

“Probably not.”

Isilud's face grew hot.

“Can you tell me about the Corpse Brigade, then—about whatever the parts are that are true?”

“It’s probably easier to tell the parts that aren’t though. None of us were wild men raised among the goblins of the Mandalian highlands. None of us drank broth from the skulls of noblewomen or compacted with the ancient devils of Ydora to lend us strength.”

“I didn’t think—”

“Whatever you did think is probably just as wrong.” Isilud could hear the creak of the man’s gloves as he gripped the bottle hard. “None of what happened was really good storytelling.”

“Wiegraf...”

Isilud was just beginning to realize how long the man must have been nursing the bottle on the road. The echo of the liquid inside of it led him to think it was nearly empty.

“I imagine if you rode however many leagues south or so, you’d find what’s left. Nothing there now.” He laughed again, although it bore an inflection that a man might mistake for a sob. “In the end, he was right: the only blood the earth drank was our own.”

Isilud had utterly no idea what he should be doing, but he drew close to Wiegraf anyway. He half thought he might get a chance to get the bottle away from him, but he mostly just thought it was good to be close to him for the sake of being close.

“It didn’t drink your blood. You’re here now.”

It was a useless thing to say—almost as useless as the thought that his presence might prove some sort of balm. Isilud felt very stupid as Wiegraf replied.

“Am I here, Isilud?”

Wiegraf’s voice was quiet and grave, and he waited for him to continue. Something stung in Isilud’s throat as if he were the one caught in the midst of some bitter recollection.

Nothing was said. No confessions were given. Wiegraf let the exchange die on that nonsensical question, and they both fell asleep.


~O♈︎︎O~


When they reached Orbonne, Wiegraf was no longer ill—or at least his guts were still and his head didn’t ache anymore. He nevertheless felt quite acutely how ill he should be, and at each moment he looked at Isilud, he walked a fine thread between pity and disgust. As they ascended the steps of the old abbey and the scent of so much stone dust and incense washed over them, Wiegraf thought that he would like very much to give the sort of desperate apology that the boy had given before. He thought of what a relief it might be to cast himself before Isilud and beg for the forgiveness he would no doubt give him—to watch as he yielded to him his compassion. 

He did not apologize. He barely acknowledged Isilud. He let all of the agonies drumming in his brain sound as loud as they liked as he pushed past them as he told the girls to watch the perimeter. He had no time or space in which to feel sorry for himself. He had a mission to see to.

They had a mission to see too.

How had they gotten here? Wiegraf didn’t have the means to card it out—his mind seemed to blur into the atmosphere of the sick night air around him. He thought back to the week before yesterday night, to the night before yesterday night, to the ten years before yesterday night—when it had been him and some other naive youth or another sent to bleed for their fathers’ sins.

It registered to him distantly when the monk got himself run through—the old man sputtering purple as Isilud shouted an order that he give over the stone. Wiegraf only realized in the most detached of ways that he was watching a boy of seventeen killing a man of seventy. He wondered if Isilud thought the Gods would forgive him.

He wondered if Isilud’s Gods would see anything to forgive.

It did not lie heavy with him until later, when they were deep within the entrails of the library fighting Ramza’s ragged band of heretics. He only recognized them as such when he saw Ramza's face, still bright and boyish as he'd been in the plains of Gallionne two years prior.

Wiegraf felt a sudden desperate violence that seemed to have no direction—least of all the one it should have. It was as though his body might fly in a thousand directions, that he would lay dead before Ramza Beoulve and not even notice the degradation of his own defeat. At each turn and with each pass, it seemed that he was fighting something or somebody else—that it was not Milleuda’s killer upon whom his blows landed, but on one of the errant ghosts of the Yugewood, on some shadow of the halls and candlelight given shape enough to mock him.

When there came a shout from the floor above, when Isilud stumbled down the stairs, his green cloak stained red, Wiegraf froze. He did not think himself an avenging hero a moment longer. He looked to Isilud, and it was for a moment as though he absorbed and reflected all the stark, shocked horror of the dying boy before him.

Wiegraf imagined that he must have turned pale as monumental stones of the abbey itself, and he fled. He ran into the deep wilderness with the girl and did not look back, not even when the sky above burnt a thousand different shades of blue and violet—not even when the stars seemed to split and shatter, like the eyes of all those deities to which Mullonde offered her tribute.


~O♓︎O~


They had been a little ways out past Lesalia, after the dust had cleared from the battle and the two orders had lapsed into the uneasy peace of a stalemate. The sky had been deep scarlet then. The wind had been low. They had quartered in some place appointed them by the Church: a little inn a few miles beyond the city limits. Isilud had stayed up later than he ought, waiting to see the stars somewhere removed from the city lights.

Isilud had told Wiegraf at some point or another that the stars were a comfort to him, and he had not elaborated once it became clear that the man was not curious. Perhaps it was the old legends: the stones and the braves. He had always thought it a surety that the symbols of Ajora and his disciples were writ in the sky above him, as though the endless belt of the zodiac were a visible tether between men and Gods, between himself and heaven.

In addition to all that, there was a surety in seeing that even so many miles away from his home, the same stars looked out at him.

It had been an unseasonably cool night, and Isilud was glad for it. It kept him on alert and made the sky clear. He offered his prayers leaning against the daub of the inn as he watched the moonrise and saw the lights of the Gemini emerge from the dark. He wondered a bit childishly what Meliadoul was doing.

“Come in, Isilud.” Wiegraf was suddenly at the door. “We have to ride before dawn again if we’re to make it to Gollund. You need to rest.”

“I need to pray too, don’t I?”

Isilud couldn’t see him, but he assumed Wiegraf was rolling his eyes. He was taken off guard when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“You can pray inside, you know.” His voice was soft.

“I can.” Isilud looked back at him. “You should pray too, Wiegraf,” he said quietly. “I think you might rest easier for it.”

It was a very presumptuous thing to say, but Isilud had said it with a measured serenity that he hoped didn’t betray any of his nervousness. Wiegraf looked at him a moment and then looked to the sky.

“I haven’t prayed properly in a long time, Isilud.” In the dark, Isilud could not quite gauge his expression, but he heard him sigh. “Your father really had no business making me a clergyman.

“Here.”

Isilud, before he knew what he was doing, turned to take Wiegraf by the hands. He pressed them together between his own and tried to stumble his way through whatever words might draw the Gods to comfort a man. He felt Wiegraf almost flinch at the gesture, but the tension in him seemed to break as Isilud’s hands warmed to the same temperature as his own.


~O♈︎︎O~


Wiegraf was increasingly having to confront the fact that he had become the sort of wretched creature who nurses his hurts through drink, and had he the means and wherewithal to change his life’s direction, he might have committed to never drinking again.

This—along with everything else—was not in his power. His head was spinning. The road warped and spun with it. His mouth tasted of the acid residue of the half bottle of Romandan baiju the youth leading them north had forced down his throat. He would no doubt cut a pitifully comical character should he be loosed from the cart in which he lay bound and be given leave to stagger about in his misery.

Wiegraf found the consideration of escape almost as nauseating as it was impossible. The Beoulve girl, eyes hard and glowering, seemed exasperated, however, that he continued to exist where he was beside her. She clearly recognized the absurdity of being kidnapped twice, and it was evident that she held Wiegraf accountable for both the kidnapping he’d orchestrated and the kidnapping he’d stumbled into.

The cart hit an uneven patch of earth, and Wiegraf groaned.

“Gods,” he muttered without really thinking it. “Gods. I left him.”

The girl turned to him rather severely.

“If you refer to my brother, ser…”

“I don’t care about your damnable brother!”

Wiegraf only recognized later what a phenomenally strange thing it was that he should say those words in connection to Ramza Beoulve. The girl didn’t say anything further. Her hands were free, and she glared at him for a moment as if she might strike him, but there was a sharp look from the Khamja boy that evidently made her think better of causing trouble.

“I’m sorry,” Wiegraf said after a few miles, uncertain as to whom he was saying it. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” she replied with the weariness of somebody else who was speaking without knowing the thoughts behind it. “We’ll be alright.”

She wrenched her fingers into his hand then, twisting them hard enough for it to be painful. As she looked at him, amber eyes reflecting the endless grey above, Wiegraf thought with gratitude that he was at least in the company of somebody who might find it easy to hate him.

It was a poor penance, but there was a relief in thinking himself despised.


~O♓︎O~


How had it happened? How had Isilud come to a place and position so ill-suited to himself? It was long past midnight. (Wasn’t always at night when they spoke?) They had only made it to the shrine when the keeper was abed. All the way past Dorter they’d been dodging a group Wiegraf thought might have been Southern Sky agents. They had the look of easterners, and it would not do for the Templar to cross paths with another party who had no business being where they were.

It had been the site where Saint Adjutar had hidden from unconverted Pharists during his sojourn to Limberry. Isilud had recognized the old man who swept its floors and kept its relics as having come to Mullonde years ago on some pilgrimage or another, although his recollections were not requited. They had been treated warmly nevertheless—given every leave to make use of the tiny chapel and its surroundings as they saw fit. The man told them, however, that there wasn’t a real fraterhouse and their options were to pack themselves into his quarters or sleep in the shrine itself.

Isilud had not known what to think when Wiegraf volunteered that they shelter for the night in a holy place.

There had come to be something more and more like camaraderie between them in the days that had preceded, and Isilud had been more accustomed to—if not more approving of—Wiegraf’s bouts of drinking. When the man had produced a bottle and offered that they share it within a martyr’s shrine, Isilud realized that he should object—that perhaps he should even protest.

However, when it came down to that first moment of temptation, he accepted the bottle and took a long drink from it.

His chest felt very warm, and he felt by degrees the world around him begin to soften. As he passed the bottle back to Wiegraf and had it passed back to him, he thought that they had at last come to be something more like peers. Between Wiegraf and himself and the faded statue of Ajutar in armor, there seemed now an almost conspiratorial sense of friendship. Wiegraf smiled at him, and he felt that the smile was not insincere.

“I hope sometimes that war comes to Mullonde, you know.”

Isilud must have furrowed his brow. It was such a strange thing to say. Somewhere above them, a mouse or a bat stirred in the rafters.

“I don’t mean that,” Wiegraf continued. “I mean I don’t and I do. It just seems abysmal that the High Confessor will never have to know what it means to have men at the gates—that it always plays out thus and none of them suffer.”

“Why should we want anyone to suffer, Wiegraf?”

“Do you think they sent you into the wide world to be a martyr, Isilud? Do you think if something kills you, they’ll set a pane for you in the great cathedral—let you hang there like a gnat in amber for pilgrims to admire?”

Isilud blushed as he flopped himself closer to where Wiegraf leaned against one of the worn oaken pews. There was an almost reflexive urge to say “yes,” but he imagined that wasn’t the answer Wiegraf was looking for.

“Most boys in wars just disappear, you know. The road to Ordallia is paved with flesh and bone.”

Isilud arced his body in playful exaggeration, grabbing for the bottle again with a swaggering assurance he would have never had while sober. Wiegraf laughed a little as he tried to keep it out of his reach.

“Slow down, Isilud!”

“Do you think I would have died in Ordallia, Wiegraf?” Isilud grinned as he finally managed to snatch the bottle and take another long swig.

“I think you would have died out in Limberry. You haven’t the meat on you to weather an eastern winter.”

“Did a lot of boys die in Limberry?”

Wiegraf tousled his hair then, and Isilud realized he was leaning against the man’s body, which was very warm.

“A lot of boys die everywhere.”

His voice cracked then, and there was some strange atmosphere between them that made Isilud think that with every degree Wiegraf proceeded to draw near him, it was his own body that was in motion. He felt a private exultation when he felt the man’s hot breath against his throat, when he suddenly could sense the dull fumble of an arm encircling the back of his waist.

It was, Isilud considered later, very much he who leaned forward to kiss Wiegraf at that instant, the alcohol numbing all the sharp edges of his conscience. He only dimly considered that this was a crime and mortal sin when their lips parted again, both of them panting as divers do when they crash back through the surface of the waves.

Wiegraf’s hands were suddenly on his arms, on his back, pulling at the fabric of his clothing. His mouth trailed hot kisses down his neck and his stubble burned against his skin. Isilud thought to himself again and again the words “I am drowning,” for all that this was nothing like being drowned. He moaned as he helped Wiegraf pull his tunic over his head.

He leaned back as Wiegraf pressed his lips hard against his, and his brain was alight with all those sins he had not known he desired until they were named and forbidden him. He felt as if he were floating, as if they both hung suspended in smoke or in mist, as though their bodies would coalesce into one greater one—merging like droplets of oil.

“You can bid me stop,” Wiegraf whispered desperately in his ear, a vapor of wine on his breath. “I will hate us both, but you can bid me stop.”

Isilud swam in Wiegraf’s caresses, and he felt a hand tug at his laces. He dug his own nails deep into the flesh of Wiegraf's arm, wondering what marks he engraved there—wondering how they looked against the scar-embossed canvas of his skin.

He said nothing by way of resistance or approval as Wiegraf fumbled his way to his cock and began to stroke it.

The walls of the little chapel were in poor repair, and everywhere the blotchy blue of what must have once been frescoes chipped and peeled apart. As Isilud began to buck into his partner’s grip, he kept finding himself swimming in those incomplete images made strange by the moonlight, trying to think as to what they must once have been.

He heard the echo of his own panting breath, of Wiegraf’s groans, of all the gentle thudding of limbs on marble or wood. Isilud felt cold even when another hot body was pressed atop his own. As he reeled and spun in Wiegraf’s arms, he had the strangest sense that he would come apart—that he would be reduced to those poor wrecks salvagers sometimes dredge up from the deep: his bones embossed with vining corals while eels slid between the spaces there once was flesh.

He did not know when it ended, but he recalled waking up at some dark hour of the night and feeling Wiegraf sob where his face lay buried in his neck.


~O♈︎︎O~


Wiegraf could not fathom as to why they thought he would be any use to bring to the meeting with Folmarv. From what little he had been able to glean of their plans, they ought know that he was of no worth to either them or the Templarate when it came to negotiations. The Grand Duke might parade him about to punctuate Fovoham’s advantage, but it should be clear neither they nor Mullonde would care if his throat was cut. It was beyond belief to imagine Barrington of all people would overestimate his worth.

He felt as if he had suddenly slipped back through time to the Riovanes of a decade prior. The sky was certainly the same even if the walls were not burning. Marach, silently contemptuous as ever, dragged him through the long hall, wrists bound, and he wondered if they meant to make a spectacle of killing him, letting him pay unto the castle a debt ten years overdue.

When he saw the figure that leaned back against the far wall, his gasp must have been audible. Nobody acknowledged it, however.

Barrington kept blustering, Folmarv kept deflecting, and the slender shape upon which Wiegraf’s eyes remained fixed did not move. He seemed unmistakably changed; there was a coldness to his features now that made Wiegraf doubt a moment if he was the child he had left to perish within the heart of Orbonne. His green cloak, however, was still torn where some blade or arrow had rent it.

Negotiations went poorly. Rain began to beat against the window panes. Isilud did not move, and Wiegraf thought for a moment that the boy did not even breathe.

Even before the roar of something greater than the thundering sky sounded through him, he knew he should be screaming. Even before he heard the scream of so many others around him, he knew he would die.

As the lightning flashed around them and the soldiers scattered, Wiegraf’s gaze still did not fall from him. He walked to him of his own volition, recalling with great clarity the heat of his sighs and the taste of the sea salt that seemed ingrained in his skin. When Isilud moved to meet him, he did not flinch. He did not turn back even as he began to catch the scent of blood on the air.

They stood but a little ways apart, and Wiegaf saw in the boy's eyes all the rainbow scales and fluttering coils that waited to invert themselves and crawl to the surface. He did not know what depth it was to which the boy had fallen.

He knew he should not be there alone.

The room went dark. Wiegraf did not flee. When the great beast crept through Isilud’s skin to meet him, what choice did he have but to hold fast and return its embrace.


Author's Notes: Written for Jaydee_Faire for the Darkest Night exchange.

The demon that possesses Isilud is loosely based on the mythical Leviathan, as this was the name given to what appears to have been the unused Lucavi associated with the Pisces stone. The title draws upon this, as "the fugitive serpent" was one of Leviathan's epithets. Saint Hudleburt and Saint Adjutar are based deliberately Hubertus and Adjutor. The latter's significance as the patron saint of drowning victims was intentional. Drowning episode loosely loosely inspired by winterlain's delightful "In Tempus Pacis", in which poor Isilud has a much better time of things.
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