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I.

The story is old. You've tried to find out how old exactly but you've got to the point where its inevitability terrified you. You already knew it's older than trees around you and their memories, but the history seems to go deeper than any records you've found. Perhaps older than those of Paradise itself. Fate makes a point of telling it over and over and it's always the same, although circumstances vary. A master, a discipline, love and death. An eternal circle of inevitability.

The devil smiles behind you, all sharp teeth and poison, and you know it, although you can’t see him. It doesn’t concern you, after all it’s not hard to get behind your peripheral vision. It’s one of your flock, what makes you worry.
You don’t know why, after all you've dealt with others before. Perhaps it's the determination in his eyes, the lack of any evidence, or the fact you didn't notice until he was self assured enough to look straight into your face and lie.
Such attitude is hazardous with little boys, it makes things in the darkness notice them.

You approach him in the middle of night and he opens his eyes before you say anything. Being noticed puts little boys in danger. But he's not so little anymore, is he? His shoulders are wide, arms muscular and he sits up carefully because under a thick winter blanket, his nightshirt, oversized and starting at his knees only few years ago, is inappropriately short.

>>Put your hands around me<< you command and he does. None of your other disciples wake up as you take him away from his bed.
It has to be a girl or admirable lust for power. Either way you didn't sacrifice everything just to lose later.
You ask him directly as he sits at your bed looking around for an escape that isn’t here.

>>You seem distracted. What does your mind seek all the time?<<
But he’s grown wary. >>Perhaps stars, Master. Perhaps crows. You know how discracting can growing up be.<<
>>Yes, of course I do.<< you tell him, hiding your spite. >>I understand if you don’t want to tell me your secrets - after all, I was also an apprentice once.<<
He looks at you and asks like fool he is >>Have you ever had a master, Master?<<
Like it wasn't obvious from the story you've told them countless times.

You brush his hair away to look at his wide eyes but there is no deception. Not the lust for power then.

>>Does she have dark hair, your little crow?<<
>>Have you ever loved a girl?<< he continues with wrong questions and you laugh because of course he is so oblivious he wouldn't pick up the hint. And here you thought him bright. Of course he would assume you've been pure at least in the beginning. But such things are forbidden to sinners and you've been always in a pact with Hell for your aberrations.

>>I was always more into hunting a sacred deer.<< you say dryly but he still stares like he’s not one of the most powerful disciples you’ve had in years. Now it makes sense he doesn't seem to notice the looks Juro gives him. Years spent between heretics and he still doesn't know about different forms of desire. Perhaps he doesn’t know they all were rejected by their Heaven from the moment they cast the first spell.

>>What do you know about sodomy?<<
>>All intercourses outside a marriage are sodomy.<< he says almost too quickly, but he doesn’t shy away from your touch. He’s become terribly cocky and arrogant lately. He doesn't call you Master in every second breath anymore and for now you let it slip.

>>Have you ever seen a tiger?<< you ask him and by Hell, he is pretty enough for you to wish to put all the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah on his shoulders and watch him burn under your brimstone and fire.
>>It's like a cat if the cat was God. Terrific and powerful. It hunts people. It can kill you with one hit of its paw.<<
Your hands slip under boy’s nightgown and his body complies. It’s a simple touch and yet his heartbeat answers like you’ve defiled him already.
>>Or perhaps it wouldn't kill you, you are a tough lad. Perhaps you'd be still alive while it devoured you.<<
No man can tame such a wild force. You dig nails into his thighs.
>>Have you ever dreamed about what is it like to be devoured?<<
You want to scare him but he just stares at you with those wide eyes of his like you didn't just threaten to eat him. Then he runs his hands up your torso with the arrogance that lead him here in the first place, but devotion known only to young men.

>>You can have everything you want, Krabat.<<
To be honest, you appreciate his kind. Good boys raised in God fearing families. Clever boys who know to choose whose body to worship.
He kisses you and you almost smile because maybe they really love them, these fair young village girls, but what is love opposed to you. What power could have these good, proper girls over the knowledge you represent.

He’s turning marble under your touch and you let out a breath because somehow that was what you were looking for tonight. Whether you knew it or not. Perhaps because deep in your mind there aren't Krabat’s hands on you. A terrible sentiment. You've been overwhelmed by melancholy lately.
>>If you tell me a secret, I'll tell you mine.<< you offer.

You throw him down and climb above him. He is yours unconditionally. They all are, that’s the deal. You can destroy him and rebuild him as you please. You can kill him over and over if you want. Death doesn't mean anything in your mill, unless you want it to. Laws of nature obey you when it comes to your disciples.
You play with the idea of taking him hard and without warning, pushing him to his knees, choking and tearing him apart before he realizes what's happening. Submitting him to the unholy terror he deserves simply for daring to think about overpowering you. But that's not the game you are playing tonight and he wouldn’t be any good in his inexperience anyway.
>>She will never give you this. Even if she could, she wouldn't dare to.<<
Honorable women wouldn't engage in such obscenities under the threat of imminent death.
>>What's her name?<< you ask but he just stares at you in a fake confusion.

You pull his shirt off and throw it away. His skin is white and untouched and once you would perhaps enjoy taking away his innocence but you don't believe in the idea of it now. You clench your fingers into the skin of shoulders and tear long stripes of it, revealing black feathers underneath. You scratch his neck and chest with your claws, biting his fingers off, skinning him alive and tearing off his arms because he doesn't need any of it tonight and he's yours until the dawn of time. You turn him inside out, eat his hair, leaving only coal black plumage, and clash your teeth with his with such brutality there is a bridge of blooded salvia connecting your lips when you pull away.
His wings still clench around you, when you move your hips down impaling yourself on him in dry agony you haven't experienced in decades. You curse and he kisses you.

>>What's her name?<< you insist between kisses but he doesn't answer and you are prepared to dig deeper, to tear his heart from his chest and take her name directly from there.

You move on his body bind to the bed with you hands and you drink his youth and although your soul is black and your blood in your veins is cold, although you’ve died many years ago, you feel every part of your body burn with pleasure. He looks at you and in his eyes you see love and it may not be love for you but it still puts fire to your bones and every nerve and he, fool he is, gives it to you without a question. It’s not what you’ve planned but the pleasure, the pain, his love and your fury, a thousand sensations probe your body from inside and you let out a gasp of delight.

In the mess of limbs and maddening ecstasy someone pulls your hair but it couldn't be your disciple because he is under you, and it's from a different time and a different place and there is a different voice behind your ear whispering your name.
It’s hardly the first time you've heard him and you know exactly what abd why haunts you, yet it alarms you. His touch is unmistakable as he holds you so gently. The space shifts and you find it harder to keep a clear thought.

Shadow fingers are crawling around your neck and on your body and you close your eyes and let him kiss you. He whispers false words of reunion and you laugh hysterically. He sweetly tells you to join him, to add your bones to his and once perhaps you would. But that was ages ago and you are not foolish because you know what is waiting for you - you saw it when the last girl died. It was in the water. When the stream carried her away, for a moment it turned into a much stronger and older river. It was a lady, a mistress, untamable, dark, with lines of jewels and scraps of bones hidden in her warm muds and called for your damnation damnation with clapping of the milion fins of creatures you couldn’t name. She wore a scarf and you couldn’t call her by any other name than Mary, although she belonged to different memories and Gods than you. Yet, there was something of Mother in her as left you options to either pray for the children you’ve killed on your way or adding your soul to theirs. Like you had a soul to trade in the first place, you laugh.
She should have better ask for your flesh.

She wasn’t pleased with you and you didn’t really care since she was, along with her dark arts, buried for centuries but now it seems like she truly did start a fatal reckoning. She’s waiting for you somewhere in the circle of eternity and it won’t stop with you, no, but your time came to.
The master, the disciple, love and -

The boy under you looks up like he sees your own demons and you hit him as hard as you can but he only laughs, mouth bloody. If you had a gun, you’d have shoot your disciple right here. You would put a bullet through his head like you did to him. You would cut and slice and eat his flesh. You won’t give up, not after all you’ve been through. Not after everything you’ve paid.
He should understand like no one else. You wonder how much must he hate you.
You reach behind his lips and pull his front tooth out. You push your hands into his chest but the rib cage won’t open for you. You stab him with your claws but it does nothing.
In your desperation you try to drown him in the water which carried these damned souls here but of course you can’t. Hands on your body hold you back and you don’t look to see if they are slick with rivermud or blood mixed with gunpowder.
Nails enter your hips like spikes and with fractic movements carry your body to a complection like a black chariot of the Death itself. Long time dead lips kiss your neck as you shudder through your orgasm and you curse every second of it.

The spell around you slowly dissolves and you wonder who casted it in the first place. The boy under you breathes heavily and you roll away with exhaustion.
>>My grandmother used to say- << he whispers and you get mad again because how dares he to say something. How dares remember anything what is not you. But then you look at his glassy black, eyes with no sclera and realize that his mind is not here, that the afterglow sent him far away.
You wonder if this is his own ghost or someone long time lost.

>>Jirko?<< you repeat that name for the last time this night.
But black eyes glows in defiance and wings turns into boy's arms again. There is not a single bruise on his body which can’t be said about you and when your disciple speaks, his teeth are all back.
>>She said that people became ravens after death. That ravens are forever free.<<
Rage overcomes you and you wrap your hands around his neck although you know it’s useless.

 

In months, when she comes, you tie her eyes with a scarf of the color the dark woman in your visions wore.
>>How does he call you?<< you try for the last time but you don’t expect answer anyway.
>>By his heart.<< she says and smiles at you with a half of her face. It looks like compassion and you hope you’ve misread it.

Chapter Text

II

You meet her in your dreams mostly. It's the safest place to see her. Still, you are amazed how natural these visits are. She accepts your magic as the most ordinary thing in the world and she never finches.

>>You are not afraid of me.<<
>>That’s right<< she smiles like she sees no evil. >>There is earth, us and birds. Some are two.<<
Her beauty is beyond compare, her voice sounds with all tunes of the spring wind and you don’t understand her magic but it doesn’t matter. She does and you trust her.

She's not afraid to meet you in the real world either. She comes to you, when you call, all alone and although you know she can read you like an open book, you wonder if it's not a silly thing to do, when she's so soft and beautiful.
>>What if I ate your heart?<<
She answers without a pause and her voice is dry.
>>You can do that?<<
And you can't, really. You don't even know why did you say such a thing to her and shame overcomes you.
>>I'm sorry<< you tell her but she just smiles at you and you know she understands. Even though you don't.

 

Of course your Master found out. But you still can pretend since there is nowhere for you to run anyway.

You know you are in trouble when he takes you to his room in the middle of night and, Heavens have mercy, you are so close to panic.
He asks for her name and you deny her three times that night but it’s for a sake of her life.
He asks more questions and you deny your love too and you don’t regret that either.

Master’s hands are cold and rough on your skin and you wonder if consequences of such affair can drive you to madness. Should you submit or would you go too far with that and there wouldn’t be no redemption?
It all makes terrible sense and you wonder if he tries this trick on everyone. Did your predecessors go through such a trial? Is this investment you can afford? Or is it a payment?
Did Tonda know?
Now, when you think about it, he maybe warned you about something like this years ago but you were too young to understand.
You think of his grey hair and clouded eyes and a grave without a name and it's not something you can forgive.

But when you put your hands around your Master’s waist, oh, it's the bad time of the year. It's all wrong because he has paid his loan before no more weeks than you can count with one hand and although he’s still older than you, his features are strong and have an elegance of a man in early maturity.
Perhaps you would hate this and try to fight him if the harvest were over, but now you just grip his firm hips and wonder when have you started to feel so terrifyingly thirsty.

In the darkness his eye, although still singular, seems deeper and his dark hair longer. You've never realized how pleasant his face is in the springtime. God in his mercy must have given him grace, before time and sin stole it. Although he's still muscular and his manhood is undeniable, he is very slim and for a moment you fear it's going to be hard not to get lost inside him and not let out any secret but even with eyes closed you wouldn't confuse them. Her touch felt celestial. He puts fire in your veins and steals breath directly from your mouth. No matter how intoxicating the body of your Master feels, compared to her smile, it tastes like ash.

He asks for her name a few times and that seems to be his goal. You just shrugs and kiss him as deep as you can, pinned to the bed. You know are going to be bruised from his hand and the force of his stripping but being afraid of physical pain grows old with time and you’ve worked in the mill for two years now.

He says he can devour you and he tries to tear you, break you into pieces but it's all a dream anyway and you are used to nightmares. You've transcended your physical form by this time without him even noticing. He speaks of Gods and cats and for a moment you remember their claws and bared teeth and pained screams which accompany their mating and that is terrific but in the end, it's only your Master above you. You fear not for he has no power over you as long he has no power over her.
He seems to realize it as you look at his desperation. Suddenly you feel invincible.

You are immobilized as he moves his hips down on your lap and - Lyschko lied, of course, why does that still surprise you? -  it's not like breaking a seal nor it’s going to change your life. Perhaps that's because it's your Master above you not a soft maiden but how would anyone know?
There is, however, a little similarity with mares and stallions and you have to suppress a giggle. He rides you with same ferocity as he had once already in a different context. He looks straight at you with an annoyed grimace and shakes hair off his forehead. Maybe you didn’t hide your thoughts as well as you thought.

He is mad at you but, Heaven and Hell forgive you, he is also hot and slick with sweat and between frantic movements, he gives you a secret.
It's about beauty and intoxicating ecstasy of being whole for the first time in your life, a need which feels natural and right but for which Lord shall cast you into the Abyss. Then pain passing borders of physical, screams which can't be let out for they would tear out your lungs and then again - the abandonment.

All that in the name which is not yours. It’s a confession, you realize. You are not sure if you can take confessions but who else should do it in a place like this?

>>Suffering and sorrow without hope. What kind of love is that?<<
It must have been his first sin. This is not the revelation he had prepared for you. Perhaps that’s the price, when you share one horror, you have to share them all.

He seems to be as lost in the moment as you are and you refuse to seek any goodness within. His hands sneak into places of your body you yourself didn't have time to explore yet and that's what he does, doesn't he? You think him a snake and a demon. He gave you nightmares, abhorrent gifts of fear and insomnia, he threatened to kill you on numerous occasions, he beat you and put your boyish muscles to fire. You cried because of him in darkness in sleep and awake. He killed your friends and he would kill your love.

He doesn’t know anything but torture anyway. You offer him gentle touch, but he denies. You kiss him and he bites back.
Yet, if you were to further peruse the history behind his pain, surely you’d find yourself wishing it didn’t have to end in the inevitable tragedy.
In any case you've already decided not to falter. You have so much to save.

In the feverish dream of your shared madness you see figures, some of them are familiar, some are not. They stand behind him with empty eye sockets, watching your coupling and you wonder what they want from you. You don’t feel any shame for they are dead and how can they can judge you for living.
He seems to notice them too because he tilts his head slightly to the side, like he’s trying to see with the eye he lacks. You think they are another trick of his but at that moment he seems hollow. If you didn’t know him, you’d think him scared.

His grip is iron and he doesn’t know mercy as he dries you out with his body. He is hot and slick and his face is red. His hand trembles the way it does when he’s angry, his eye is closed, lips slightly parted and you’ve never seen something so enchanting. It’s still brutal, almost painful and you wouldn’t ever confuse it with love because someone in this damned mill has to know distinction between devotion and ownership, but newerless, you wish you could use your hands and carry him to whatever sinful paradise he is heading towards. You can barely move your hips to meet the warm inside of your Master. He keeps you paralyzed and you guess it’s meant to be derogatory but it’s an easy surrender. It’s the last sparkle of power of a helpless man. It's the fear of death what moves him, in a shape of a crowd of dead hands and faces.

Behind him, between other lost souls, Tonda stands with his grey hair and looks worried but you grin at him because he may remain in his grave. You will be neither ruined nor drowned. At least not tonight because you’ve already figured it out and your claws are as long and sharp as your Master’s. You only regret you didn’t know earlier. You could stop him from making Tonda dig that damned grave and every life you’d save after that would count too.

>>He is beyond saving.<< Tonda’s voice echoes in your head but that wasn't your intention anyway. You understand. He was never anything but kind and even for you it's difficult to accept anyone's death as the only solution.
He kisses your forehead gently and you wish he would stay forever.
He shakes his head and sighs. >>We will keep an eye on you but don't let that bastard turn you martyr.<<

The Master breathes heavily on top of you and you take his body as an offering. Somewhere you taste blood in your mouth but you can’t bring yourself to care. When he pins you to the bed, you still can breathe. And when he covers your mouth, you still can speak. He presses a palm against your lips and you kiss it.
It’s a joke, really.

>>Amen.<<

You spill inside him with and he cries out in a shame and terror and one of the shadow boys in a soldier uniform laughs so much you can see he’s missing a front tooth. You know that in the morning you wake up tangled in your own sheets, nothing will ache and no one will notice anything.

You don’t wait to see him burn with his mill. To be honest, you don’t want to ever think about him again. Kantorka says you should pray for him but you don’t think that’s any good since he himself never prayed anyway.
>>He did.<< she shakes her head. >>He prayed for the boy with the missing tooth to forgive him for his whole life.<<
You walk by her side through fresh white snow towards the New Year and you have no idea how can she know such a thing or how much did she see but you listen to her. After all, she’s always right when it comes to Heaven.