Fae Courts Echoes of the Elderglen

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Rivain

Sylverglade Sentinel
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Morning light filtered through the dense canopy of the Elderglen, casting dappled shadows onto the sparring ring created atop the forest floor. The air was thick with humidity, the breeze only serving to move the uncomfortably hot air around. Even in the dark shadows of the trees, there was no escaping the summer weather. In the center of the ring, two tall fae males stood facing each other, posture poised and alert.

Rivain, the eldest of the Adamou siblings, exuded an air of confidence and cockiness. His bare muscular frame was adorned with a slew of scars from a lifetime of training. White blonde hair clung to his sweat coated skin, a stark contrast to his tanned skin from the harsh summer sun. Golden brown eyes glowed from the sunlight that sprinkled in between the leaves.

The clearing was secluded, a perfect circle of soft grass hidden in the ancient trees. A location they had secured as children and worn down over hundreds of years and thousands of fights. The forest seemed to come to a halt, holding its breath anytime the two blond boys visited as if they respected the fae more than the laws of nature itself.

A blonde girl lingered nearby, sent by Rivain and Asher's father to ensure the two men did not cause too much damage during this session. None seemed too thrilled whenever she was nearby, a sentiment she returned. Rivain ignored her.

"Remember your stance." Rivain advised, his voice calm and steady despite the intensity of sparring and the exhaustion he'd felt from the hours before. He adjusted his own footing, eyes never leaving the younger Adamou. "You are slouching again. Shoulders back."

With a swift, fluid motion, Rivain lunged forward and sliced through the air while aiming for his brother. A move he would no doubt dodge easily. Asher was quick on his feet and even quicker with his sword. He'd always been more gifted with melee combat, but Rivain felt it unfair to hide in the trees and pelt his brother with arrows as a training exercise. He could use the refresher, anyway, often finding himself lacking with a sword or shield after so many years with a bow in his hands.

They danced around each other, striking and counterstriking in a pattern that was a testament to their natural born skill and nearly a thousand years of training.

"Try to be more unpredictable." His tone was encouraging, good advice for the both of them as they have grown accustomed to the same dance time and time again. "I'm getting bored."

Asher
 
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Vespera watched from the shadows of the ancient trees, keen eyes following every move the fae males made. She had been sent by their father to ensure they did not damage the forest or, more importantly, kill one another. Atop a moss-covered boulder at the edge of the clearing, she took her usual spot. It was a place they could not see, but they would certainly feel the unwanted woman in the vicinity.

Her presence was unwelcome, no one had every attempted to hide it except her late adoptive father and the two men's own father who found her to be quite fierce when he put a weapon in her hands. A half-human, half-fae, she had never truly belonged to either world, but this was the one she was found in and it would be the one she died in when her time came. Until then, she would do her job, and she would do it well. Their disdain, while palpable, would never eat too deeply.

Rivain's powerful strikes against Ash's agile counters echoed through the forest, lulling into an all to familiar rhythm. Her eyes narrowed on Ash, noticing that he had been falling into a pattern as he sparred. A pattern that Rivain had noticed, too. She silently prayed he would listen and do something unpredictable just to silence the eldest brother. Gods knew he was skilled enough to knock his brother on his ass. She wondered if it was out of respect or fear that Ash so rarely beat his brother.

But Ash had adjusted and Vespera could still see that the youngest Adamou was struggling to keep up with each blow. Rivain was a relentless beast. His advice was sound, but his superiority was grating and Vespera thought he might enjoy imposing on him the dynamic she had witnessed for years- forcing the youngest to prove himself competent against an older, more experienced male.

She turned her attention back to the horrible sticky armor clinging to her burning skin while they continued to exchange blows.
 
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Ash’s brow furrowed as he considered Rivain's words. Unpredictable. He could feel the strain of the morning's exertion weighing heavily on him, his muscles aching, his mind dulled by the remnants of last night's indulgences. His brother's relentless precision had kept him on the defensive for too long, and Ash's frustration was mounting.

With a sharp intake of breath, Ash stumble to one knee, dropping his weapons and grimacing as a hand came to clutch at his chest, sucking in a hiss of air through his teeth.

He needed only a flicker of concern, a pause of uncertainty from his brother, a step closer before he straightened and lunged forward, not with his swords but with a fluid, unexpected motion that brought him dangerously close to Rivain.

His brother's reflexes were quick, but in close quarters, Ash was quicker. He pivoted on one foot and sprang up, driving his elbow with calculated force into Rivain's face, his eyes blazing with a mix of determination and raw emotion.

"Unpredictable enough for you, brother?" he asked, his fists raised. The underlying rage and the effort to mask his weariness fuelled his movements.
 
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When he instructed the youngest Adamou to be more unpredictable, he had meant for him to dodge. To strike somewhere unexpected. Hell, doing a somersault to dodge the harsh blows from Rivain seemed more likely than his brother stumbling. A brow raised in concern, Rivain dropping his guard to step closer.

"Ash?" He stepped forward, face losing color as he feared his brother may truly be unwell. "What's wr-"

Unpredictable indeed.

"Oh you fucking-" Rivain dropped his own weapon as his brother's elbow made contact with his nose. A deafening crunch preceded the hot blood flowing down his face. Even with his surely broken nose, Rivain could not help the pleased smile on his face. Smug. That was what it was. Pushing his brother was dangerous, but it kept the both of them sharp when one threatened to falter.

Rivain would not allow Ash the be the victor, however. Metallic blood burned his tongue and he launched himself at the younger blond man, bringing them both to the ground. Without a weapon, he struck his own brother in the face and pinned him down. "That was better, brother." His blood dripped onto Asher's face. "Much less boring."

But Rivain was not done. Without a weapon, he would make use of his natural affinity for air. Asher would feel his breaths becoming more difficult to take, lungs emptying until there was nothing but that ever so smug face of Rivain looming over him. Waiting for him to admit defeat. Or suffocate.
 
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Ash gave a strangled grunt that was clearly some sort of profanity, his face flushing as he tried to gasp for air and the edges of his vision already growing dark. He hated it when Rivain did this. He knew his brother would never kill him, cause him to pass out perhaps, but the sensation of suffocating always triggered a flash of panic and fear. He had long ago learned to hide his fear. His father had seen to that, but it didn't make it any less real.

Let go.. Please let go..

He wouldn't give up easily. He couldn’t beg. His father had seen to that too. Ash’s hand splayed, fingers trembling as he called upon the shadows lurking beneath the trees. They answered his silent command, slithering like serpents toward Rivain. Smoky tendrils climbed his brother's body and coiled around his throat, something no longer shadow but tangible, solid, and pulling tight.

The runes etched over the entire side of his body pulsed with the magic that was not his own. This magic was twisted, warped and forced upon him, magic that he had no choice but to harness and hone. He felt the dark power surge through him, feeding his rage and desperation. Two could play at this game.

As the shadows constricted Rivain’s throat, Ash summoned a different kind of power. Fire, magic that was his, had been his mother's, magic that felt natural, whole, and right. Magic that his father had been too impatient to wait for. Flames licked at Asher's skin without burning it, their heat a comforting contrast to the cold, dark magic of the shadows. The fire gathered in his fist, burning brighter and hotter with each passing second.

With a final surge of strength, Ash threw his flaming fist at Rivain's face, his own vision nearly blacking out from the lack of air.
 
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He smiled over his brother, the cruel grin of an older brother not allowing the youngest to best him. Rivain could see it in Ash's eyes, the moment he began to struggle against his own magic. He hid it well, even their father could not coax fear from the boy any longer. But Rivain could see it in the way his pupils contracted and dilated, his tanned skin paling.

He was nearing his surrender, Rivain was confident.

He did not see the way Ash spread his fingers with shaking hands, nor did he see the subtle shift in shadow and light surrounding them. But he could feel them. Like snakes creeping up his body. Rivain did not immediately release Ash from his suffocating grasp, feeling his own throat closing. Ash would see his smile grow.

Rivain would never say he was impressed. Not out loud. But as he choked on a breath, throat squeezed tightly by the shadows, he nearly missed the flaming fist headed straight towards his face.

He released the magic he'd been using on his brother, allowing air to rush back into his lungs with only a fraction of a second to snuff out the flames before Asher's fist slammed into his face. It knocked him backward, and he stumbled backward. "Is that all you've got, brother?" He asked, rubbing his cheekbone while he stood to look down on Ash.
 
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‘Look at you. Pathetic. Fight back, boy!’

They’d been at this for hours. Ash was bruised and battered, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t find the power his father so desperately tried to coax from him. It didn’t matter how angry Ash got, how afraid he felt, how much pain he was in, nothing ever happened.

He was clawing at his own throat, tears streaming from his eyes as they silently begged his father to let him breathe. Let him live. How was he supposed to fight back when he could no longer draw breath? He had tried, feebly, swinging blocked blow after blocked blow until he’d ended up on his knees, crawling away from the towering man until a brutal kick to his stomach sent him sprawling onto his back, writhing in the grass.

‘Is that all you’ve got, boy?’

His father sneered, his hand trembling in a tight fist. Ash was going to die. His father had had enough. He could not plead, at least not aloud.

Darkness crept in, his slowing heartbeat pounding in his ears, until he gave up his fight entirely, and fell into unconsciousness
.

Here he was again, gasping for air as he lay in the grass, pulling breath back into his lungs in greedy gulps. The darkness cleared from his vision, but not from his mind. He looked up at Rivain and saw only his father standing there.

Shadows lashed up from the tall grass like coiled vipers, wrapping themselves around his brother’s wrists, his legs, his throat, holding him as Ash rolled to his feet and launched his assault. Quick, and violent. Jab, hook, uppercut..
 
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