It was a loud boom, a death curdling scream that echoed for miles around queuing everyone's attention to a shadowy figure to the north. The body of a man with an animal skull atop his head slumped over in front of it, dead, only to reveal the wreath of black flame wrapping tightly around its master. The nine champions gazed in horror at the sight, only to reconcile the fact that the Dark God, Uthrieum, had just slain King Tyr with one swift motion of his blade. Of the band of heroes, even the most experienced fighters found themselves shaking in their boots. They all knew this was it, their final battle was thrust upon them in mere seconds. Every man and woman took up stance, preparing themselves for what may come, all but one.
Flanking two large fire beasts, young Aiden Firebrand froze in place. He thought about what he would do in this moment so many times before, and now that it had come, he simply couldn't bring himself to go on the immediate offensive. He'd been trekking around the world for two years chasing Uthrieum and his minions. He knew the darkness before him was the real deal, and to lash out at it in a burst of sudden anger would be suicide. If I only took my portal home, he thought, then all of this would be a distant memory. Or maybe I wouldn't remember anything at all. I had a chance to go home, to see my father, to show him that I'm alive and okay, and I blew it. How could I be so stupid? Then, as he prepared to move forward, Aiden caught a glimpse of Uthrieum's bright blue, glowing eyes. They were the only things of note around a swath of blackness. His heart raced immediately. He did not reconcile with himself that this could possibly be it, that he could fall dead in a field of nothingness just like his liege.
Suddenly and without warning, a bright blinding light encompassed the entire area. Aiden raised his wing to shield his eyes. As they adjusted, he could see the slender, beautiful, yet imposing figure of a young woman burst forth from the center of it. She stood steadfast, opposing the Dark God with her long flowing silvery blond hair. The young bat boy stood in awe of her presence. Apart from his wife, Princess Abigail of Tyr, she was quite possibly the most stunning woman he'd ever seen. He knew from his previous experience that this was Gaia standing before him and the nine champions. She gave one glance at all of them, saving the young prince for last, before raising her hand against Uthrieum.
“You will no longer be able to threaten my people any more, piece of filth,” she said as a flickering bolt of light shot from her fingertips and connected with the black swath, instantly disabling it. As the darkness faded, it was revealed that Uthrieum stood just a bit taller than the average man, looking no different from a knight in heavy armor. He gurgled in pain as the magic protecting him wore off completely. “Now champions, you may have at him. Do not stop until you're victorious.” In a thunderous flash, Gaia seemed to disappear with nary a trace that she was ever there to begin with. To the nine opposing the Dark God it was all too typical of her, as she normally showed up only when she wanted to.
Aiden straightened up his circlet and began chanting a few foreign words. A speck of light no bigger than a pea appeared at one of his fingertips. He was pointing his right index at the now visible target, raising his dragon-wreathed quarter staff into the air with the opposite hand. The tip of it glowed a dark green color, the ball of light effortlessly following suit as it approached the god of darkness. Once above his head, the teenaged bat shouted the arcane words in common tongue. The light instantly expanded into an acidic bubble, drenching Uthrieum and everything within about twenty feet all the way around him. It exploded with the sheer ferocity of Aiden's anger, sending the once all-powerful being to writhe and scream in pain. With it, the young Firebrand knew he hit the spot. Keeping a safe distance, he prepared another charge while the others took to using their own methods to wear the evil one down.
* * *
He woke up out of the horrible nightmare clasping, almost clawing at the sheets beneath him. He felt a certain warmth around him and noticed that the sheets, along with his bedclothes were all drenched in sweat. He looked to his side and noticed his wife rustle softly and then return to the stillness of a peaceful sleep. Aiden sat up and lit the candle by his bedside. It emitted a soft glow that was bright enough for him to examine his person. He checked his arms, the length of his body and his wings. Noticing nothing out of the ordinary, he took a moment to sit perfectly still and gaze out the window at the starry night sky. Taking deep breaths, he was then able to slowly relax his body from its tensed state. Steadily feeling his blood pressure return to normal, he made a move for the chamber pot in the corner of the room. It only took a few seconds, but the sound of trickling fluid against solid brass awoke the princess, just a couple of hours before sunrise.
She yawned. “Aiden. What are you doing up at this hour?”
“Huh?” he groaned, forcibly relieving himself.
“Was it the nightmare again?”
“Again?” he mumbled. “Yes, but it was different this time.” Aiden wrapped the night robe around his middle and used a broad, thick silk lace to tie it off. He stumbled back over into bed, throwing all of his weight on it at once. He felt himself sink down further than normal and bounce back up slightly.
“I saw Gaia this time. Normally I freak out right around the part where I freeze after hearing dad scream in agony. I just froze, I could do nothing.”
Princess Abigail caressed the back of his head, ruffling her fingers slowly through his thick, brown hair. “It wasn't your fault, sweetie. There was nothing you could have done. He died for a good cause, we both know that.”
“But he shouldn't have needed to.”
She started massaging his neck. “I remember your first liaison with me,” she said, “how you told me of losing your father the way you did. You were only twelve, I know, but there was something about you, something that I couldn't deny. You came from a place far away, and Uthrieum was just as responsible for your being here as he was for my father's death. I think our bond became stronger after that day.”
Mere months had passed since the final showdown with the Dark God, but Aiden still couldn't shake the memories of that day. He remembered everything, but the thing that stuck out the most was the moment he froze in place at the sound of King Tyr's screams. The noise seemed to rattle through his mind, even when he wasn't trying to think about it. At the same time, he was also beating himself up over the way home he didn't take. It was something that he didn't yet speak of to his wife. How could he reveal it to her, that he was willing to flee back to his home world whilst leaving her and his unborn heir behind? Something inside him said that she already knew of it, even if he didn't say anything. The connection between them was so strong that either of them could sense any falsehood escaping from either of their lips.
As he lay back down and tried to resume sleeping, he felt her hand move over his body. She started at his chest and slid her hand further south. Although he was neither eager nor prepared, he knew what was coming. There was little he could do in the way of her, letting out a light moan as her fingers crept up a slight incline below the belt lace of his robe. Aiden tried to put it out of his mind, but Abigail simply wouldn't let up.
“Stop,” he whispered, “Please Abby. Stop.” In that moment, she froze with her hand gently wrapped around his girth. She could feel a light throbbing sensation coming from it. “I'm sorry. I just... I can't right now honey.” Apart from the physical sensations, Aiden's mind just wasn't in it. He felt terrible about it, knowing that she was trying to take his mind off of the cumbersome events. At the same time, he knew that she wanted to make love to him, and how he would feel the same way if she rejected him in much the same fashion.
"And you were so eager for it," she scoffed, reflecting upon his actions over the past few months, "you've seriously changed. If I were you I wouldn't come barking up my tree the next time you're looking to have your way."
"I'm sorry Abigail, I really am. I just can't right now. I don't expect you to understand."
She turned over, facing the opposite direction of her husband. As much as he felt like crying, he knew it wouldn't do any good. He slowly sank in the bed, wrapping his wings around his body. He lay there, looking up at the faint, cress-crossed wooden beams attached to the ceiling. The feeling of guilt over Tyr's death. The inability to please his wife or otherwise be pleased. He closed his eyes and streams of tears ran down either side of his face. His right ear twitched to a soft rustle. He felt a pair of lips press firmly against his cheek. Still, he could do nothing but remain there and receive it. His thoughts immediately turned to her as he rolled over and embraced her with one arm, wrapping his wing over her exposed half. She snuggled up against him softly, and they both drifted back to sleep.