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astolat and tzikeh organized yuletide, The Obscure Fandom Secret Santa Project. I was assigned falzalot, who requested something angsty with Ilias and Giliead of The Fall of Ile-Rien.

I wrote this story after several weeks of angst. The story contains spoilers for The Wizard Hunters, by Martha Wells (marthawells), but it's comprehensible even if you haven't read the book. It also doesn't spoil the book, per se, as the content of the story expands on the backgrounds of the characters, and isn't directly connected to events of the book itself.

The Wizard Hunters is the first in a trilogy, followed by The Ships of Air. The final book, The Gate of Gods, has a release date of November 2005.

If you haven't read the books, or aren't familiar with Martha Wells, I strongly encourage you to read the books, before or after reading this story. You can also check her website, which includes chapters from the books I've mentioned above. She's been one of my favorite authors for a few years now, and I think if you enjoy this story even a little bit, you'll love her writing.



Title: The Hidden Spring
Author: voleuse
Fandom: The Fall of Ile-Rien series [Martha Wells]
Ship: Gil & Ilias
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: The characters within were created by Martha Wells, and are published by HarperCollins.
Summary: Let us go off together to fight face to face against the devil's webs.
Notes: Spoilers for The Wizard Hunters



i. newborn from my own clay

Ilias is hungry.

He's been waiting for his father to come back, for what seems like hours, but it's getting dark now, and he's still alone. He doesn't like the smell of the dirt, or the shape of the rocks, and he decides he's going to find his way home himself.

Maybe it's a game, like the way he and his brothers pretend to fight with sticks. Maybe when he gets home, they'll cheer for him and give him his favorite meal.

He's very, very hungry.

Something howls in the distance, and he begins the long, slow stumble down the hill.


ii. the system that distributes hunger

As a recently-chosen Chosen Vessel, everyone agrees that Giliead must receive the proper training. How, exactly, to go about that training is a murkier area. As it ends up, Giliead's schooling falls into three areas.

He spends hours during the day in communion with the god. No one, aside Giliead himself, knows what that means, but he disappears into the cave and emerges with a certain shine that is difficult to describe.

When he isn't called to help with chores, Giliead practices swordplay, sailing, swimming. He's expected to be proficient in many things, because where he goes, most men dare not.

In the evenings, when the rest of the family settles around the hearth, Giliead studies. Occasionally, other Chosen Vessels visit and share their experiences. More often, one of the more elder family members shares the legends of Chosen Vessels long passed.

Usually, however, Giliead hunches over scrolls of history and poetry, lips faintly twitching as he absorbs the past, his future.

As does Ilias.


iii. your wild eyes

They first hear of the city after it's gone.

A trader told a lawgiver, who told a mother, who told a cousin, who told a Chosen Vessel.

They'd never been to the Inari Mountain pass, but when Giliead hears the rumor for the sixth time, he looks at Ilias, and Ilias looks back.

They pack their supplies that night, and leave the next morning, laughing off the warnings of their elders, confident in their immortality.

They arrive in the city a week and a half later, and they don't laugh anymore.

The streets are empty, and when Ilias pushes open the door of an outlying house, a dog scrabbles to the door and shoves its nose under his hand, whining.

They don't speak to each other as they survey the city, killing the occasional gul. At the end of it, Giliead shakes his head, finding no trace of active wizardry.

They set about freeing the livestock, pouring out feed where they find it.

They're two days walk away from the city by the time they begin to laugh again.


iv. against organized misery

They didn't actually mean to find the wizard, but one night Ilias dances with a girl with blue eyes and wild hair, before Giliead challenges him to a wrestling match, and he bids her good night with a smile.

The next morning he finds out that she's danced her feet to ribbons, and her heart to standstill, and Ilias realizes that he might have followed her.

If Giliead reaches a similar conclusion, he doesn't let on, but when they find the wizard responsible, he swings his sword with particular vehemence.


v. against the devil's webs

The villagers had warned them that it would be something with wings, but nobody had said anything about the teeth.

As he looks into the maw nigh-overflowing with needle-like fangs, Giliead wishes that someone had mentioned the teeth. Maybe then he wouldn't have been so surprised when it leapt at him, mouth first, and attempted to gnaw him into submission. As it is, he's managed to wrap a hand around its throat, and brace the other against its forehead.

He knows he can't hold it off forever, but luckily Ilias darts forward and hacks into it with his sword. It's inelegant, but effective.

The curseling squeals and swings around, giving Giliead the precious seconds needed to grab his dagger out of its sheath and burrow it into the creature's belly.

Between the two of them it falls, twitching, to the ground.

Their guide lets out a gust of a sigh, and they turn to where he sprawls against a boulder.

"Well done," Ilias says, offering him a hand up. "If you hadn't distracted the curseling, we couldn't have cornered it so quickly."

"If only we could have found it sooner," the man replies, "before it killed..." He trails off, staring down at the creature's body.

Giliead takes stock of the wounds on the man's body, some of which are days old, others that have been there mere minutes. He consults with Ilias in a glance; Ilias shrugs.

"You should come with us," Giliead offers. "Our house has the means to mend your wounds."

Something like gratitude fills the Licias' eyes, and he nods.


vi. in the midst of the fire

In the chaos, he doesn't immediately notice that Ilias is gone.

There's enough to worry about, with the howlers and the shifting mud and Licias--Ixion--around every corner, laughing.

After his second call to Ilias goes unanswered, however, Giliead knows the truth, like seawater in his lungs.

And he starts to run.


vii. let my blood sleep

Ixion's head hits the ground with a thump, and Giliead finally lets out the sob he's been holding. Turns to the curseling, slumped against the cave wall where it had fallen, struck across the head with a rock.

By rights, he should have killed it--him--at first sight, but Giliead hadn't been able to make himself do it. Looking down at the creature, he still can't.

Its skin looks darker, rougher, and wings jut from his back, but it still looks like Ilias.

Under Giliead's gaze, the creature jerks, and its eyes open. Giliead tries to ready himself for another beheading, but then its jaw, lined with jagged teeth, widens, and it croaks out a word.

"Gil."

The world shifts under his feet, and he falls to his knees. Puts out a shaking hand, and he half-expects the creature to bite it off. Instead, it turns its back to him, hunching over as if in shame.

Giliead draws breath in sharply, steels himself, and lays his hand on the creature's back.

Its skin feels like Ilias' skin, its spine like the familiar curve of Ilias' backbone. The only difference is the wings.

"Ilias?"

The creature's back straightens, and Giliead runs his palm down between its shoulder blades, trailing to the small of its back. The creature nods, and Giliead knows what he needs to do.

He slips his dagger from its sheath, takes a firm hold on its hilt.

Giliead begins to cut.


viii. shut out the world for me

The brand hurts.

Ilias hadn't given thought to that aspect when he made the decision, nor had it been one of the many reasons Giliead gave in his attempts to dissuade him. For the moment, however, Ilias is glad of that simple, undeniable pain. It distracts him from everything else.

His cheekbone throbs as he tosses on his pallet, and he wonders if he should consider it just punishment for being an idiot, or simply an unavoidable annoyance.

There's a quiet shuffle of steps behind him, and he sits up quickly, wary even in his own home.

It's Giliead. He kneels beside the pallet, holding out a steaming cup of tea.

Ilias takes it, sips quietly.

"It should help with the pain."

Ilias nods, but stares down at his tea.

Giliead's hand ghosts against the brand.

Ilias flinches back, looks up.

He sees his own pain mirrored in Giliead's eyes.

Giliead's hand brushes against his face again, and this time, he presses his cheek into his palm.

There is nothing more to say.


###

A/N: Title, summary, and headings taken from Pablo Neruda's The Flag.

Originally archived here and linked here.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
falzalot
Jan. 2nd, 2005 03:51 am (UTC)
I absolutely totally adore you for this. :-> Words cannot describe the gibbering idiot I become whenever I reread it. Which is often. :->
flowed
Apr. 5th, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)
I forget how the heck I found this, but I just thought I'd drop a line to say I LOVE it. I've been reading Martha Wells for years now, and Ile-Rien is my absolute favourite! I never really thought I'd find fanfiction for the fandom, quite honestly.
moodfic
Apr. 8th, 2008 12:11 am (UTC)
*g* Thank you so much for the feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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