L E S S E R   C A R N I V O R A

Written on September 11, 2020 (♍)

Author's Notes: I know this dude doesn't get the Vampire ability when WotL hauls him back from the grave to be boss-battled again, but his boss is Alucardroth and he lives in the province where the flag is a giant upside-down bat, so he gets to bite people. You mileage for how shippy this is may differ depending on your thoughts about the inherent eroticism of that sort of post-mortem biting.

When Izlude had last seen Limberry, he could not have been more than eight. He remembered hiding underneath his sister’s cloak as the rain beat against them, and he remembered marveling at how different things were in a place so far from the sea. It was seldom that they had cause to come to the mainland, and he had kept thinking to himself that the harsh landscape of Limberry was the result of being parched for water, even if it stormed during the whole miserable week of their visit. He had not understood why they had come or what the state of war had been; he only understood that he was suddenly surrounded by deserts and swampland and children who might never grow into being Templars or priests. They had left him to play in a courtyard at some point, and he only dimly recalled that when somebody came for him, he had been crying.

Izlude had cried a lot as a child. His mother had told him it was no sin even if courage might be a virtue. He wondered, as he now walked the parapets of Elmdor’s castle, what she would think of his temperament now.

He kept his footsteps in an unswerving straight line, imagining he was balanced atop the edge of the wall. He was to be on the road to Orbonne in a few days time.

“—are you with the Templar?”

Izlude froze at the question. The voice which spoke it was harsh—ragged to the point that it startled him when its owner stepped from the shadows of the nearby tower and revealed himself to be a youth whom he doubted had seen more midsummers than himself.

“I asked if you were with the Templar,” he said again. 

Izlude nodded.

The boy’s skin and hair had the jaundiced hues of a bleached autumn leaf, and something about him seemed to have the same sense of dry, papery decay. Izlude wondered a moment if he might be a leper. As the stranger stepped out into the sun, he caught the scent of some sort of earthy resin or gum on the air—something with a distinctly funerary note.

“They are meeting with the Marquis, you know?”

Izlude nodded again, fidgeting silently with the pommel of his sword.

“Why would they leave you here?” his interlocutor continued.

“I wasn’t needed.”

“Why not?” he asked darkly. “Were you not important?”

Izlude was increasingly unsettled. The youth had drawn quite near to him now, and he had a sinking sensation that they ought never have met. He tried to figure out an avenue by which he could leave, but found that whoever this was had nearly backed him up against the wall.

“I understand, you know.” Izlude could feel his whispers run cool against his skin. “I was once the sort of boy they left behind too.” 

“I should be going, ser,” Izlude said quietly, trying not to make it apparent the degree to which he was afraid. “They will be wanting me soon.”

He turned as if to leave, but when the youth grabbed his arm and pushed him up against the dark stone, Izlude froze. He thought to move—to scream—but the vice-like grip that held him was absolute. It struck some hidden chord that reverberated through all the fibers and sinews of his flesh to make them useless. It was as though he were trapped within a pane of ice. He could barely will himself to blink when the boy leaned his weight against him.

“God, you’re so warm.” Something in his voice cracked. “I can’t tell you how long… how long I’ve been in the cold.”

Even in the dull heat of late August, Izlude could not help but think he somehow spoke true. The fine hairs on his throat and shoulder prickled. The points where skin touched skin burned like steel left in the winter air. As he stood there motionless and mute in this stranger’s shadow, Izlude thought for an instant that the stinging in his own eyes had congealed to something less than liquid, as though sleet had fallen on his cheeks where there should be tears.

Izlude felt the youth’s other hand wrench itself into his hair, and quick as lightning there was a stab of something that burnt into the large veins of his throat. He gasped, and suddenly it was as if he were outside of himself—as if he were flowing away with all the vital fire that escaped to the cold body atop his own.

Everything seemed lost in the white of the sky and the flapping of all the red banners that bled across it. Izlude didn’t have enough time to consider he might be dying. It was only when he felt the tremor of his assailant’s flesh against his own that he fell back to himself. He realized that he once more had use of his limbs when he reflexively grasped at the boy, now sobbing, face buried in the crook of his neck. 

He thought to push him away, but did not. Whomever he was and whatever his condition, he was clearly a lunatic. Izlude’s injured throat stung in the breeze, but the boy did not worry it further.

They held together a while like that, Izlude trying to tell himself again and again that Ajora smiled on every charity given the wretched and ailing—trying to tell himself that perhaps there was a moment of warmth he could spare. He still felt very ill by the time that approaching footfalls brought an end to their strange embrace. 

The Marquis, eyes blazing like two comets fallen from their spheres, said nothing when he approached.

The youth left to follow him unbidden. 

“It’s fitting isn’t it?” the boy chuckled darkly, turning back a moment. Izlude saw that his face was streaked with something like tears: something dark and rust-colored.

“Sadalfus blood’s too worthless in the end even to heat this poor wreck alone.”