Vesper couldn’t sleep. Before leaving his father’s study, Ryder had suggested he take something to calm him, but Vesper had refused. He didn’t want to be calm. He didn’t want to sleep, or dream, or forget a damn fucking moment. He had less than a month to live and rest was not at the top of his priorities.
Pacing the length of his bedroom, his gaze inadvertently strayed to the adjoining room where the door was left ajar. The twins were asleep, or at least, the blue-eyed one was. Draven, the red-eyed one, was likely pretending. Vesper wasn’t sure just how things had been told to the two demons about why they were there and what was expected of them. Heiden had likely scared the fuck out of the two. From what he could see, Draven was determined to protect his brother, Lilo, even if the both of them had very little capability in doing such. The gray-skinned boy was currently curled around his brother while the two slept on one of the two beds that had been spelled up for them, claws facing outward just waiting for attack.
Vesper didn’t bother to tell them that no attack would be coming. He had little interest in coupling with either of them. Not that they weren’t attractive—They were fine enough in a slender, petite way. They were also frightened, angry, and seemed to not wish to be in his house even more than he didn’t want them to be there. Vesper had spent years curbing his own innate desires. He wasn’t about to fuck it all up during his last month just to have the two demons end up dead when Heiden realized his pet had betrayed him.
Closing his eyes, he inhaled sharply and turned on his heel. This was not the first time he had faced his death, but it was the first time it had ever felt quite so real. There had been times too numerous to count in the beginning when he had thought to just end it all. To chose death over enslavement and draining. Heiden had been so terrifying, from looks to the disgusting feel of his magic. To think such a being would one day touch him had filled him with such dread, Vesper had dreamed of sharp blades enchanted to keep wounds from closing. Still, some nights, he would take down the Celestial blades passed down through the generations and consider the ease in which all of his problems would slip away with theflow if his blood from his veins.
He was not a coward. He had repeatedly chosen to live so another didn’t have to face his fate. Now… Now, having realized he should never have lived at all, he was at a loss.
His parents would not fail. They did not fail. Not when it came to the gods. Celestial Clan had dedicated their lives to the shadow faced god. Candidates had been in their bloodline since the first time an Heir had touched down on the Earth. Even if a Candidate hadn’t been chosen in a thousand years, it did not mean that the clan had lost their way.
Vesper just hadn’t known how absolute his fate had been decided before he had even been born.
God touched by the maddened one.
He should have killed himself. Now his parents were risking their own lives for his curse—And fine, perhaps they were responsible for not doing what needed to be done at his birth, but he refused to see it that way. They had given him life, had stood by him when his entire Clan had turned their backs. His very existence had hurt them at every turn, and still, his parents had kept their loyalty to him. He did not wish to have them be sacrificed because of him yet again.
His pacing brought him to the adjoining door again, red eyes glinting at him from the dim room. Vesper huffed, stalking past while trying to ignore the shiver of dread that went down his spine from his thoughts. Heiden knew about Evan. He may not know the name of the boy, but he knew a boy existed and it would be nothing for him to find the rest of the information. It wasn’t like he’d been discreet about any of it. No, he had made a damn ass of himself, challenging Asher Vah, pulling Evanel, then scheming with Devlan just so he could have a chance to scent the boy’s arousal again.
It had been good, though. It had been fucking divine. If he had been allowed to just touch the kid… Just kiss him. Evanel had nearly demanded a kiss. The boy would be punished anyways…
Vesper shook his head fiercely, forcing the thought aside.
Goddess, he had fucked everything up. The one boy he had ever felt anything for, he had very likely just damned. The demon twins were proof of it. Heiden would find Evan and he would destroy him. Just because he could. To send a message to him and to every bonded Malice that came after him that the rules were not a suggestion but a law. Heiden would take glee in it, whether Vesper was alive to see it at the time or not.
He had to do something. He had fucked it all up and he needed to fix it before it was too late.
Vesper sighed, his paces faltering, his gaze drawn up to the high ceiling where carvings of dragons glared down from the corners of the room. Was he allowed to pray to the goddess now that he knew? Would she curse him for being god touched by the maddened one? What god would listen to him with such a monster holding power over his soul?
Could he pray to the shadow faced god?
Blinking back tears, Vesper took heavy steps to his bed, his hands resting on the decorative cover. He could not pray to the maddened one. He had heard of men that had before and all had gone insane. The creature was demented, cruel, and all powerful. He had no interest in such a selfish, chaotic god that would destroy all for his own wants. All the Children of the Light were like that and Vesper had been taught to hate them for the destruction they wrought on the world.
But his brother, the shadow faced god, was known for his mercy. There was none other like him. While the Children of the Light squabbled and fought, destroying all in their wake, the shadow faced god came down and healed. He restored the balance, brought magic back, and always peace. He loved the beings he saved, as well as the gods he fought. The shadow faced god was mercy incarnate, and fuck, he could really use some mercy.
Decided, Vesper turned to his wardrobe, opening the wooden paneled door and skimming his fingertips through until he found a robe the color of night sky. He wrapped himself in the silky fabric, realizing for the first time just why his skin might shine so bright. God touched by the shining faced god. Made to be beautiful in his image. Beautiful, powerful, and fucking insane.
Maybe that was the new presence rising up in him. Not some primal mating brain waiting for his exritus but whatever the maddened one had imbued in him during his creation. Maybe even a piece of La Lune himself, waiting for his fae awakening to take him over and wreck havoc on the world in a way only a ruthless god could.
He could not let it happen. He would pray to the shadow faced god. Pray to his Heir if the being existed yet, reincarnated on the planet. Pray for a merciful end. It was the best he could hope for.
There was no way to tell if the shadow faced god was listening.
Vesper had gone out into the dark, stepping past the portal of his home just in case Ezella took offense. He didn’t want to ruin his family name any more than he had already. Encased in black against the mountain wind, he stood silent at the cliff’s base where the family portal led to above. He didn’t have any token of the shadow faced god, nothing to show that it was him he wished to speak to among all the many fae, ancient and new. But like all the Malices, he knew Nox Amor’s symbol and with a steady hand he drew it in the thin snow beneath his feet. There was something meditative in the curves of the rune, an interlocking spiral of power that held the light within while the darkness grew complete externally.
Vesper had given up on the gods many years ago. Being chosen by Heiden had stolen most of his faith. He still wasn’t sure just how much he believed. Something more powerful than him had marked him and cursed his family before he had even had awareness. That this creature could be more dangerous than Heiden seemed impossible, but then, there was some comfort in that as well. Maybe there being something larger in the world did not make him feel infinitely small and worthless. It had sparked a hope within, one not fully realized but already felt.
The darkness seemed to close in even greater by the time he had made the last line to the shadow faced god’s symbol. His eyes fixed on the rune, Vesper ducked his head, hunching over in the snow as he whispered to the god named Nox Amor.
He prayed for his family; for Leandra, Ryder, and their unborn child. He prayed for the Celestial Clan and his many aunts, uncles, and cousins. He prayed for Ezella’s forgiveness in his betrayal of her name because of the maddened one’s touch. He prayed for himself and whatever indiscretion he must have committed to have been chosen by the shining faced god in the first place. He prayed that Devlan wouldn’t face retaliation because of his involvement at the Hierarchy. He prayed that Lilo and Draven would be spared when he died. He begged that his brother or sister would be spared the curse of Heiden.
Then, when Vesper could think of nothing else that required his attention, he prayed for mercy for one boy. For Evan, who had done nothing but see him, and ask of him. He hadn’t shut him out when their eyes had met each time. It hadn’t been Evan’s fault but the boy would surely suffer if Heiden had his way. Vesper had taken on so much, had sacrificed without ever a word of complaint even if inside something screamed and broke each time. Surely he was due one wish of mercy.
“Just one boy,” he whispered, a note of pleading in his voice. “Just one.”
Fae gods didn’t respond to words but actions, Vesper knew that much. He just didn’t have much he could work with given his limited time and being tied to Heiden. The tattoo wasn’t active yet, but it was there, ingrained in his flesh. Any that saw him would make the connection and the more Heiden’s name was made a fool, the more likely the demon would seek revenge.
He had a plan, though, tentative as it was.
“I will do what I must, Nox Amor. I will set what I can in motion so that your hand can guide. Save him and I… I will gift you my last loyal act.”
It wasn’t right that his parents had to take on such a burden. Yes, they might have birthed him, but he wasn’t some helpless babe anymore. His exritus was upon him. He was an adult and it was his life that had caused so much turmoil. He might not have had any part in the circumstances of his birth but he could make a choice on his death. In some ways, it had been the only real choice available since Heiden. Just one he had refused to take. Out of fear. Out of selfishness for the last few moments of a life unlived.
It was coming to an end either way. Staring at the shadow faced god’s rune, the darkness closing in like a wave of water, he could swear he could feel death teasing at the edge of his consciousness. Waiting. Calling. The gods were close and surely they would hear his plea.
“I will give you my death, Nox Amor. I pledge my death to you.” The shining faced god might have claim to his life, Heiden might have second claim, but Vesper could at least say his death was his own to give. To protect his family, his clan, and the world from the shining faced god, he would kill himself before the madness took him. It was the only righteous choice he had left.