All my Love
“Pax, please. I don’t want to die. It hurts.” It was all I could do to breathe. A wave of darkness followed bright gold lights and Henry’s voice telling me to hold on.
“Say my real name. No one can hear you but me. My beautiful monster, you kept your word.”
“Kasdeya, please heal me.” A wave of darkness took over my mind allowing me to rest.
Pax coiled his human shape around Alerie’s face like a contorted gymnast. His human body stood tall, holding her bloody remains.
She looked lifeless.
All at once, the pool of blood began to quiver. The ground started to rumble—every scrap of natural forest material vibrated away from the center of the five by ten space.
A dark, humanoid shape rose from the pool. Blood dripped from its skin as it stomped toward Alerie. Pax’s human form transferred her body to the monster’s arms. The large man fell to his knees, breathing a sigh of relief.
A broad set of dark wings unfurled. The edge of the wings touched outside the rectangle shape and were scorched as if brushed with open flame.
Malou clutched her chest and fell to her knees, reciting the prayer of the new sun. The creature looked at her torment with a perverse smile, opened its wings, and scrapped them along the forbidden space. Sparks dripped to the forest floor and died when they hit the dirt. Malou was in agony.
The creature’s body was tall and thick, covered in reddish black scales that seemed to steal away all the light streaming through the trees. Thick wings wrapped around Alerie’s body as it slowly sank into the pit of blood.
Memories were pulled from the dark recesses of my mind with the enthusiasm of a gaggle of high school girls raiding a closet on Saturday night. Everything sparkly and flashy was in their clutches. Sensible sweaters were left strewn across the floor.
Flashes of light held old images to my eyes. While I felt the hot weight of Pax pressing his massive hands against me, I could focus on nothing else. The pain was unbearable. In sweet relief, I faded away only to find a thousand tiny needles digging at the raw edges of my shredded flesh.
A cold numbing caress and the feeling of water trickling down my stomach soothed my mind before the next wave of repair began. I lay on the narrow ledge of Pax’s articulated tail. My legs dangling below me, but I didn’t need them—there was no escape.
His blood felt like thick hot syrup in my veins. After a few minutes of treatment, I could feel my heart adapt, and my extremities react to the restored information from my brain. Wrapped in his claws and captured inside his wings, all I needed to survive was complete trust in a creature I should not find trustworthy.
I wrapped my arm around his waist and felt Pax’s breathing quicken.
He pulled me closer to his face to repair my eye. His mouth lacked lips, and his neon green eyes were missing lids. His skin seemed incredibly thick. Running my leg across his, I couldn’t find a hint of genitalia.
“What are you doing, Little Worm?”
“I’m looking at you. Why don’t you have lips?” I ran my blood-caked finger along the narrow band of skin around his mouth.
“Please, it’s unpleasant.”
“Sorry,” I looked at my blood-caked hands. “I didn’t notice how dirty I am.” Pax carefully took one of my bloodied fingers into his mouth and sucked it clean.
“I love the taste of your blood. But this body doesn’t match with yours in any way you will find pleasurable.” I ran my fingers over the strange patterns carved into Pax’s skin as he repaired my eye and cheek.
“Sorry, I was curious.” Pax smiled, revealing a mouth full of needle-sharp teeth. “I will never seek to curb your curiosity, but you must be careful with my kind. It’s all in the blood for us.” He licked his clawed finger running it over my open cheek. The skin seared back into place as an uncomfortable snag of pain ran through my brain.
“Just a few more repairs then a bath of my blood to seal your skin.”
When I could, I thought of Leo. I prayed he was alive and free from pain. Though I’m not sure, any God would hear me now. I would gladly accept every gouge and puncture if it meant Leo could survive. This was my fault. If he dies, it will be my pride and ignorance that killed him.
“This is all I can do for you. The wounds will heal, but until my blood is gone from your veins, the scars will show.”
I looked into Pax’s eyes and let mine fill with tears. “That’s fine. I’m grateful for my life.”
“Pax laughed. You are a lousy liar. It is within my power to grant favors. Hide your scars from others letting only you see them, or I hide them from you, letting all others see your true image. Your choice.”
“Please hide them from others. Seems we found a way to get some of your blood in my veins after all.”
Pax looked over his work with scrutiny. “Be careful what you wish for. My blood saved your life, but it will bring out your darker traits. I treated you with all the love and generosity I possess. Please do not ask this of me again.”
“I need a second greater demon friend, jeez, that’s not likely.” I rested my arms on his shoulders and laughed, stretching my back.
His clawed hands slid up my legs to my waist, reclining my body on his wide grip. His hot tongue licked the freshly dried blood from my stomach with a sloppy wet hunger. I grabbed the edge of his wing and bit down on the rubbery skin.
“That is surprisingly enjoyable,” he commented. “But any other would not stop at your blood. It’s not uncommon for us to eat our prey alive.”
“Please don’t eat me alive, Pax.”
“You are the only being on your entire planet who knows my name, and you choose to call me Pax.”
“It’s our secret. Am I the only wolf to bite your wings?” Pax pulled me to his chest.
“Can you hear under my skin?” I nodded, yes. “Do you hear a heartbeat?”
“No, I don’t.”
“There is no heart, Little Worm. Blood flows under my skin, never leaving unless I choose to take it. While I inhabit a body in your realm, my essence lives in that flesh. This is only another vessel, but it is capable of magical tasks. It’s time we head back to your realm.”
“Thank you for saving me.” I wrapped my body around Pax and kissed his face. His wings wrapped tightly around me.
“Keep your eyes shut. They are very tedious to repair. When we arrive, there won’t be much time for me to act.” I looked into his eyes and nodded. “Take three deep breaths.” I complied and felt the sensation of a speeding elevator fill my body.
Pax unfurled his wings. Each heavy step, he took forward vibrated through his frame, shaking mine. His arms cradled me effortlessly.
“I’m going to hand you off to Ismael, my human host. Sit tight.” Pax tossed me to a set of rigid muscular arms. I hit the man’s chest with force.
I turned in time to watch Pax pull a short blade from his armor and cut off his right hand, tossing it on my chest. The amputated appendage landed with the hot steamy weight of fresh horse manure. It was all I could do not to hurl.
Pax charged into Ismael’s body with a thud. His demon form fell to the ground in a mound of hot coals.
Pax took the severed hand from my chest and tossed it into a tub of water, waiting near triage. He walked his human form into the tub and sat down in the water with my body resting on his chest. I leaned back and took my first breath of clean air in what felt like hours.
“Bring your witches, Malou,” Pax bellowed into the crowd.
Malou reached the edge of my tub. My eyes fluttered open long enough to see she was concerned.
“Cast a spell to seal my gift. Alerie wishes to hide the scars from all but herself. Once my blood is gone from her veins, the wounds will be healed, and the scars will vanish. Apply your knowledge of her image to my favor.”
An older man stepped next to Malou. “We saw your skin when you dropped your clothes for Henry—it was perfection. My experience in this art is extensive.”
“Yes, Alerie. Don’t worry.” Bob pulled up his sleeve and waved his hand over his arm, revealing his burned skin. Waving his hand over the patch again hid the scars.
I pulled my hand out of the water and grabbed Bob’s hand. “Thank you.”
“Lay back and fall asleep. Dagen is on his way to scold me.” I did as Pax asked. It wasn’t hard to pretend—I was exhausted.
“She’s alive. Thank God.”
“You can thank me, not God. A few more minutes, there wouldn’t have been enough life left in her to save.”
“It’s a miracle. Thank you, Pax.”
“How painful was that for you?”
“Very,” Dagen admitted.
“She asked about you and the half-wolf. I told her you were both safe. I’m glad to see you didn’t make me a liar.”
“Leo’s in the Grove, but his body seems stable in the White.”
“That I know. Leo is the other half of Alerie’s soul. If he were dead, it would be beyond my power to save her.”
“Hmm, a rare situation.” Dagen sounded disappointed and confused.
“She is a rare being, Old Wolf. You think yourself up for the task?’
“Her wolf claimed mine and mine hers. The choice is made for me.”
“You poor bastard. I would have kept her below with me had I known. Saved you the misery.”
“I like suffering,” Dagen growled the words in a controlled delivery.
“The vortex of anguish surrounding our patient is thick. Who will take her home to convalesce? I think it is wise to hand her over to her mother. She is still her child, after all.” Pax was enjoying toying with Dagen too much.
“She can choose, but that may be the best for the evening. I can take her home with me tomorrow.” Good boy, yes, I can make my own choices.
“Pull her away from her young half-wolf, not so prudent.” Pax shifted in the cooling tub water, causing a cold rush over my skin. He squeezed my cheek under the water.
“Dagen?” I whispered. He lunged toward me, shoving his hands in the water to grab me. “Are you hurt?”
“It’s okay, Sweetheart. Leo is stable in the Grove. We will unite him with his body in a few days letting him heal for a week or two. Henry can come out once we move Leo.”
“I’m so glad. It’s hard to move. It’s getting cold.” Pax stood up, taking me with him. I kissed him quickly on the mouth.
“Thank you.” A blanket wrapped around me.
I dropped down a few inches and heard Dagen’s wolf whimpering. I nestled my face into his chest and tried to console the precious animal.
“Dagen, stay with me. I’m so tired, but I’m afraid to fall asleep.”
“I’m right here. I won’t leave you.”