breakfastofchampions: (nelius)
[personal profile] breakfastofchampions
Title: Safe From Harm
Universe: Wind & Foxes
Characters, pairings: Reian, Nelius
Rating: PG
Warnings: Some blood, nothing major.
Word count: 1,064
Summary: The world has been without sorcerers for so long, and the last living sorcerers caused so many problems. Because of this, Reian has almost forgotten something important: in the old tales, sorcerers were the great protectors of their people.
Notes: Written for [community profile] origfic_bingo, for the prompt "self-harm". You know I had to write about Nelius for self-harm!

Reian had spent so much time with Nelius, he had begun to find it easy to forget what Nelius was.

When Reian had first met the man, he had obviously been a barely-controlled, half-mad danger to himself and everyone around him. It had been easy to be careful of him, to respect his power. After so many months spent living with a quieter, calmer Nelius, Reian had started to slip into complacency. Nelius was soft-spoken and gentle. He liked to sit by himself in the woods. He spent his time searching for wildflowers and listening to birdsong. When Reian spoke to him--sometimes--he smiled.

It was difficult to connect that mild man with a power that could shatter stone or reduce a human body to its component parts in an instant. He didn't seem dangerous. He hadn't used his sorcery at all, except for small things, like making lights and pictures, harmless little things that were far more pretty than anything else. It was hard to feel frightened when you awakened in the middle of the night, sensing that something was strange, and you peered out through the entrance to your tent, only to find a soft, golden luminescence hanging in the air, gathered into the shape of a flower.

It was like something in a folk tale. The old sorcerers always used to make flowers out of other things: light, water, smoke, fire. How could you be frightened of someone who could do a thing like that? Reian had lost his fear, and he was fast losing his worry.

That was why he was shocked when he entered Nelius' usual clearing and found it full of blood. He froze, horrified to the point of feeling sick. He had never seen so much blood in one place before. It didn't seem possible that a single body could have contained so much. Which meant--what did it mean? He thought of several possibilities, none of them pleasant.

The blood, which was spread across all the stones and grass and earth of that small, open space, was not particularly fresh. Reian did not see the sorcerer, so he called out. "Nelius? Where are you?" He could hear his voice rising. The clearing stank of blood. He hated the sharp smell of it. Nelius did not answer at once, and his chest tightened. "Nelius!"

There was a sound from the bushes, a rustle so faint he almost didn't hear it, and wouldn't have if it had sounded an instant before, while he was shouting. Reian all but dove into the bushes, pushing branches apart to see what was behind them.

It was Nelius. Perhaps he wasn't completely unconscious, but he wasn't moving, and his hair, clothes, and skin were as covered in blood as the forest around him. As carefully yet quickly as possible, Reian pulled him from the bushes. He stripped him of the robes, searching his skin for any wound that needed binding.

Nelius' skin was unbroken, and he was breathing evenly. Reian's relief came out in a breath so sharp, it all but cut his lips. He fell to his knees beside Nelius, shaking. He examined the clearing again. It was all blood, no flesh. It was likely it had all come from Nelius himself, since there was no other likely source present. That was more or less understandable. The price of sorcery had always been suffering; that physical limitation put a check on that great power. A sorcerer like Nelius would have to cause his or her own body pain to perform any significant sorcerous act. Nelius must have had the presence of mind to heal himself even as he damaged himself. That was very fortunate. It would have been too easy for him to push himself too far. Reian set about covering Nelius up again, reassured as he stirred in his sleep.

A question remained: what sorcery had Nelius performed?

"Can you hear me?" he asked.

Nelius opened his eyes. "Yes," he said.

"Are you hurt?" He looked unharmed, but there were many ways one might be hurt.

"I'm tired," said Nelius, his eyes almost closing again, then opening wider as he focused in Reian's face above him. "Reian," he said. He was speaking in modern Kelisavian now, which meant he truly wasn't too badly off. He was still learning the younger language. If he'd been disoriented, he almost certainly would have switched back to his previous, more ancient tongue.

Reian had not been aware of any unusual occurrence that day, not until he'd seen the clearing full of blood. Except for the blood itself, he saw no evidence that anything out of the ordinary had taken place. Nelius seemed aware enough that he didn't feel like he was taxing him too much, so he asked, "What happened?"

Nelius paused before continuing, as if he had to struggle through the recent past to find his memory. "I felt something."

"What was it?"

"Inside the earth," said Nelius. He spoke like a foreigner, in broken sentences. "Beneath us. Movement. Too much. I stopped it."

Reian could not speak for a moment, then he asked, "An earthquake?"


"You stopped it?"

"Yes. The earth--had too much strain. I took it."

"Into yourself?"

Nelius' eyelids fell shut again, but he was not asleep. "I'm tired," he said again.

"Of course you're tired," said Reian, marveling. "You stopped an earthquake."

"You would have been hurt," Nelius murmured.

"But I'm not hurt," Reian said, smiling as he stroked Nelius' cheek. "Nobody's hurt."

"I'll keep you safe," said Nelius, his grammar a little off, but close enough that Reian knew what he meant.

Reian judged it safe enough to move him, so he picked the man up. As much as Nelius liked to stay out in the woods, it was best to keep him in a nice, warm tent after what he'd been through, and he wouldn't feel entirely at ease until Imbri had looked Nelius over and made sure he bore no hidden injuries. He had taken an entire earthquake inside himself. If you were living with a legend, it seemed it was all too easy to forget what a legend was: something amazing, something rare. Something precious, too, and worth preserving, for all that it might be dangerous.

"We'll keep each other safe," Reian said.
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