One - Hollowing WoodsInfernal Saga (Part 1 Complete)
One - Hollowing Woods
The only time when he wished to step inside the throne room was, when he was still a child and he was following his mother around the palace. He saw the Queen on her majestic, icy blue satin and lace dress sat on her throne, talking to her general about the security of their kingdom and whatever it was that royals were supposed to talk about with their subordinates.
But that was when he was dreaming of becoming a soldier for his beloved Kingdom—Aeries.
As a child, he was fed with honey coated words about how good their kingdom was, how righteous they were and how they were striving for peace for Cepherus’ sake. His mother would always tell him how Aeries have the most intelligent people, even more than Garnloks, who were already the keepers of histories and facts. For it was not only from books that Aeries people got their knowledge, but also the wisdom that was passed on from their ancestors.
Light hairs, mostly highlighted with pastel colors, purple eyes and broad, pure white wings—these were the description of Aeries. They were like light itself that shone upon from the distant sky, serving as a guide, a pathway for anyone who were lost and in need of guidance. Thus, they were often referred to as the guardians of the skies.
Some people of other races envied them for being such beautiful creatures. And Aeries were very proud how delicate their splendors were.
As he grew, every dust of gold in his past was slowly blown away with the wind without him noticing. The first time it happened was when Aeries had suffered a great drought after Daevrics had ruined their kingdom, the fifth time in a half century. It was cruel that a twelve years old like him had to witness how the beautiful land of Aeries became a fire bed and a battleground between two winged-creatures of Cepherus.
This had forced people to do crimes against their own kin, their own race. Some started murdering for food, for diamonds. Those who lost their loved ones in the war had started seeking for justice that not even the Queen could give, for even the most powerful magic would never be able to bring back the dead nor bring back the time when they have yet lost the one who crossed over.
Baekhyun should have known that even his small family would not be spared by the stain of this misconduct. Nevertheless, the truth burned more than a hot iron on skin. To find out that the reason his father has been gone for months was because he was among the notorious groups of thieves had torn his heart apart.
He and his mother couldn’t even face the people of Aeries without being harassed by the society.
It wasn’t until he turned 18, that he got the first news of his father after a long time. His excitement didn’t last for long because his father came back home with ripped wings and a hole on his chest. Baekhyun stared at his maimed body, without being able to neither move nor even shed a tear. His mother collapsed from unbearable agony of losing her other half.
The Queen bestowed the fate of the criminals that night; she said that the corpses should be burned as it was written in their law. Baekhyun couldn’t even take his eyes off of the burning embers the same night when the huge bonfire was created, and encircled to it were the bodies of the men found that morning.
Including his father’s.
No, Baekhyun doesn’t want to be angry, he doesn’t want to mark his heart with hatred. Aeries were supposed to be good, to be righteous, to gentle and to be forgiving. That was how he was taught when he was a child.
But is it good to kill? Is it good not to forgive a mortal sin?
Is it good to deprive a person of proper ceremony for them to cross over peacefully?
Young Aeri would not admit it, but that was the first time he had ever doubt the good and the bad.
As if the brutality of burning the bodies was not enough, the High Queen of their kingdom proposed that the first born sons of the criminals who died without paying for their crimes must be the one to fulfill the responsibilities that their parents had forgotten. His mother had thrown a fit in the throne room when the announcement was done and Baekhyun’s name was called the last.
“My son isn’t going to pay for the crimes he did not do! Please, Your Majesty! Spare my son, he’s innocent! He’s so young!” she cried for him.
All voices and cries were left unheard.
Baekhyun managed to get into the throne room as he dreamed off—but as someone whose wings must be sealed for seven days and be thrown in the Western Woods, also known as the Hollowing Woods.
The magic seal tattooed on his back would last for seven days and it would prevent him from using his wings and escape the Hollowing Woods. He was bound to face the evil and demons of his heart; for the Hollowing Woods was the place where the darkest part of your heart would eat you alive. It was the place where felons were taken to pay for their sins. In seven days they have to repent, and if their hearts were weak, they wouldn’t make it out alive the forest.
But if someone managed to be alive by the dawn of the eight day, the magic seal would be broken and he would be pardon of his crimes.
But no one was able to make it out the Hollowing Woods for hundreds of years. That was why Baekhyun was certain that tonight would be his last night to see his mother.
“Son,” Baekhyun’s mother pulled him in a tight embrace, her warm tears staining the lilac robe he was wearing. Young Aeri nuzzled his face on his mother’s silky hair, possibly brushing his tears dry to hide it from his mother. “I love you mother… be strong okay?”
Baekhyun fought the urge to lash out at the soldier who roughly pulled his mother away from him. Don’t hurt her! He wanted to scream, but his eyes could only hold his mother’s beautiful amethyst orbs, glistening with crystalline beads of tears. She screamed for them to spare him, her innocent baby boy. His lips twitched in a sad smile as one of the soldiers pushed him to the entrance of the Hollowing Woods.
“Take fifty steps forward without looking back!”
The judgement has begun. He knew that the others were taken to the other entrance so that they wouldn’t be able to see each other. It would be considered luck if they ever found someone inside. Taking a deep breath Baekhyun tentatively raised his bare foot, since Aeries folks except the royalty and the soldiers normally didn’t wear protections for their feet since they were mostly off the ground.
What is good, what is bad? Someone whispered in his head. He didn’t know anymore.
∞ ♡ ∞ ♡ ∞
His first hours in the woods were full of running and hiding. Hollowing Woods was more than what people thought. With its cold and dark ambience, eerie silence and gigantic bald trees, it was impossible to find your way in the forest. An Aeri like him, who was more used into flying and floating would never be able to cope up with using his legs at times like this. Would he be able to survive or he’d be face death in this hopeless place?
Robe torn and stained with mud, young Aeri stood up from the root of the tree where he had tripped himself a while ago. His knees were scrapped, bleeding and were still gaping. The stretch on his skin made the pain worse. Hissing, he attempted to walk further into the woods, maybe find some clearing or a pond perhaps, where he would be able to clean this mess.
Baekhyun ended up dragging his legs. His whole body was aching with all the running and panting. Sometimes he felt something touching his shoulder and it would scare him to the point of screaming. And then while he was running the barks of the trees would seem like they were laughing at him. Their hollow sockets steaming with black smoke, their empty mouths would splutter blood on his face and Baekhyun would internally scream.
Stop… please… just stop, I have done nothing wrong!
He should have loathed his kin, for doing this to him. He should have cursed them, and maybe wished them to suffer as much as he was suffering right now. How was it possible, that the son would pay for every misdeed of their parents? How was it good, when the innocent would bear the crown of a fugitive? Still, Baekhyun wouldn’t bear anger in his heart.
It’s not how good people were supposed to act.
But it doesn’t matter anymore right?
Who’s good, who’s bad, whomever she points her finger at,
Will pay for the price without a fight.
∞ ♡ ∞ ♡ ∞
Thankfully, he found an almost dried up river. The water wasn’t so clean, but he thought it was better than nothing. Baekhyun fought the urge to cry while he was cleaning up his wounds, cupping the water with his dirty hands, he poured them on the maimed skin. Somehow while doing so, he caught his reflection on the water. His silver purplish hair that used to shine like moonlight with the pastel highlights of lilac were now dried up and stained. And then his pale skin that reminded him of his mother had became the canvas of dirt and mud. Lavender eyes, oh those eyes that his mother loved so much, were nothing but a mirror of his pain and disappointment.
In the middle of his silence and daydreaming, Baekhyun was interrupted by faint sounds of growls from the bushes. Young Aeri stood up and braced himself. Even if he was tired and he was still healing, when he saw three pairs of yellow eyes followed by the black furs and smoke of a demonic creature, he started running for his life.
He passed through the thick branches, stepped on fallen twigs and even hurt himself again in the process. The wolves… or more like hellhounds, were after him. Baekhyun kept on glancing back to see if they managed to catch up, though he was sure that they were following him for the fact that he could hear their snarls and growls getting closer.
In his attempt to get away, and to see if he outrun them, Baekhyun failed to see the trap—five steps away from him. His left foot got stuck on the pile of roots and twigs, some thorns kept piercing his flesh. He screamed when his whole body collapsed on it. Desperate to get away, a branch had pierced his shoulder before he could even get up. The hellhounds were gone, and he was sure that it was only a part of the wood’s game to make him kill himself.
Baekhyun pulled his feet from getting stuck among the branches, but to his surprise the roots began moving, as if they were alive. Each vine started wrapping him, first on the ankles, then on his neck, his arms, until they covered him already. Baekhyun shut his eyes and whined.
He didn’t even make it alive on his first day…
Darkness consumed him and Baekhyun waited for any pain that would come.
But what he felt was far from it.
Baekhyun gasped for air before his face made it underwater. He flailed his arms and legs to keep himself from drowning. Bubbles escaped from him as he tried to look for a way out of this body of water. It was dark, he could barely see nonetheless, the young Aeri swam away, praying that wherever he would be after this, let it be safer than a forest with live roots and hellhounds.
He swam up when he saw a faint silver light from above. Breathing the air, he thanked the gods and goddesses for keeping him breathing. When he pushed up his wet hair off of his face, the young Aeri was yet again to be bewildered by what he saw.
A gigantic tree stood majestically before him. With its thick bark and roots bulging out of the small pond that surrounded it. Its branches that resembled the vines and twigs were what pulled him down from the ground. The tree wasn’t like any other that he had seen before. Its body produced a sac that glow silver, like moon, but it also served as the place’s only source of light as it reflected down with the water. Baekhyun never knew such beautiful and mysterious thing exists in the Hollowing Woods.
When he found himself limping his way around the tree after he got out of the water, upon a closer look, he noticed the live bushes of wild berries surrounding the trees. His stomach rumbled at the sight and he would have started devouring it already, if it wasn’t for the figure he found on the other side of the tree.
It was a figure of a man, slumped against the space between two gigantic tree roots. Legs sprawled out on the ground with magic sealed cuffs attached on his ankles. His arms were on both sides of his legs, also chained to the tree. The sac has already soaked the metal and it made them easy to see. But Baekhyun was more curious of the man who had dark, raven hair, long enough to touch his broad shoulders and hide his face.
When he stepped forward though, the man jerked and he looked up at him.
A low growl had erupted from the man’s chest, trying to get free from the magical bind that pinned him against the largest tree of the Western Woods. His long, dark yet greasy hair was sticking on his dirty and muddy flesh. His ness, aside from the ragged cloth that was draped around his hips, had exposed his well-toned body, sculpted perfectly yet scarred with the most gruesome wounds his eyes had ever laid on.
Baekhyun gasped as he saw the man’s raging bloody pair of orbs.
A Daevric man.
There was a Daevric man bound helplessly to the tree. Baekhyun was aware that Aeries and Daevrics were longtime rivals, but he was more concerned of the reason why a person like him would be bound in the Hollowing woods. He looked young, around the same age as him, or a bit older. He had almond shaped eyes and prominent brows, full lips and a pair of elfish ears.
Strikingly attractive behind the dirt that painted his face, Baekhyun found himself moving closer to the man.
The man attempted to pounce on him, though he knew it was futile because of the sealed chains. “D-Don’t move…” he whispered. “I won’t h-hurt you, I’m a f-friend,” he stuttered. The man didn’t seemed to be convinced for he was still on an attack stance. Even when there were chains that strain his movements, Baekhyun knew that Daevrics were a strong race.
He placed his hands on his chest and dipped his head into a bow, a formal greeting among the Aeries folks and a sign of respect that indicating that he acknowledged the other as his equal and he meant no harm.
“My name is Baekhyun… and you are?”
Instead of an answer, he was replied with a grunt. Baekhyun blinked at the man who slowly retreated back to the space between the tree roots. Baekhyun could see the tattoo of the magic seal peeking on the top of his shoulder. It was also the same tattoo on his back, the one who kept him from using his wings.
Was he also a fugitive? How long had he been here? Baekhyun wanted to ask. But the man seemed to be uninterested of talking to him. A cold soul, aloof and silent.
“C-Can I stay here with you? I- I don’t have anywhere else to go…” The man glared at him, making him jumped back. “I-I will stay on m-my side, I’ll s-shut up too!” he promised. Again, the man didn’t say anything and huffed instead, turning his head away from him.
“A-Alright… t-thank you…” he whispered, taking that as a yes.
Baekhyun sat on the other side of the tree, closing his eyes for he was so exhausted he wanted to sleep for a day. Hopefully, he wouldn’t be hunted by his nightmares this time.
As the young Aeri travelled in his dreams, the Daevric man turned his head upon noticing the soft whimpers coming from Baekhyun.
The man wondered how a weak, stuttering man like this Aeri survived the Western Woods? He didn’t look like someone who could hurt a fly. Snorting, he threw his head back and closed his eyes. Why he was even concerned with the man he just met? He swore he would never trust anyone again. Even angels have their own horns too. He knew that the best.
This Aeri man was no better than them.
beta version 4.15.16
YAY! first chapter is posted! cherubs how is it? this is just the beginning~ you know how much more adventure/action/angst/of course romance would come. Let's give a big hand for my beta, Trisha, for working so hard editing this first chap xoxo ♥
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