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The Pink Ravyn

The Stars That Fall

Chapter One

by Nikki Mahlia

The year 6345 OI (Odunti Ikpe)

In less than a week, a new year would begin. New years always began with the Orin-Jua Festival; the streets would soon be crowded with vendors and civilians all excited for the early spring. Somehow, however, this year felt different.

Yugi wanted to believe he knew why he felt this way, why he’d felt an emptiness in the pit of his stomach. For him, the usual happenings of the festival meant that he’d once again have to purchase his harvest from the other kingdoms. It meant he’d be caught off-guard once more, like the last time. Last year, if his memory served him correctly, he hadn’t made his purchase from Kekere-Daun Kingdom in ample enough time for the opening ceremony.

Since then, it had been nothing but bitter embarrassment.

He leaned into his chair, his eyes following the moon as it trailed across the night sky. The cold wind brushed across his face, his hair blowing into his eyes. Perhaps the air brought a chill with it that was never there in the last few weeks. Even with the hustle and bustle of the festivities, and the upcoming preparations for the new year, Yugi had known something was off.

He felt it in the air.

He found himself staring at his reflection, a faint silhouette that could only be noticed against the blackness of the sky. A bit of his tattoo peeked out from above his collar, nearly reaching up to his ear.

Titan.

That’s all he’d ever be.

Yugi blew a breath, and faced forward.

“Aren’t you going to answer the question?” Kireh asked. His green eyes twinkled underneath the lights; his fingers drummed on the obsidian table.

The other ehols seated around the table waited in hopeless anticipation.

“What question?” Yugi furrowed his brows.

“Can you provide Reapers?” Kireh’s eyes narrowed, his lips drawing thin, creating a scathing look on his face; the freckles around his nose paled.

Reaper.

Yugi had once thought that being a Titan was far worse than being a Reaper, that celestials had feared the ancient creatures of long ago who had torn this world apart. In a distant time, Titans had roamed Ịtoba: tall, muscular creatures, with stately horns and wings hewn of smoke and ash. Their ruthless thirst for power had nearly destroyed the realms. Once, Ịtoba and Ariwa-Ịte had been one realm known as Xhian, but after the wars, when blood painted the streets, and terror filled the air, Xhian was no more.

It was then, in the peak of war, when bodies lay lifeless on desolate ground, Yugi learned that many had feared one thing far more than a Titan. They feared death.

“Tell me, Yugi,” Kireh repeated, his tone course. “Are you getting the Reapers for the Azharanian Council? The Councilors have been asking that we provide an answer to the deaths—the sanyas.” Kireh’s eyes darted to Levi seated in the corner, then back to Yugi.

“I’ll try.” Yugi’s throat felt parched as he pushed the words out.

I’ll try.

Was he going to stick to his word? It was more or less an empty promise if Yugi would dare to call it such. He’d known why the Council wanted the Reapers. Had seen the massacre himself. All it did was rekindle old memories of his past, memories of bodies, of blood. He should’ve been wiser by now, stronger, more resilient to these sorts of things. But he was a Reaper. He was a Titan.

And that’s all he’d ever be.

“So, what’s the plan?” Kireh’s fingers danced around the lapels of his coat. His eyes glowed in the moonlight, fixed on Yugi, tracking every move he made.

“I will figure something out.”

“Do it quickly,” Kireh hissed.

Yugi wondered about Kireh sometimes. Kireh had been the only one in his clan to survive the disease, just as Yugi was the only one in his clan to survive the merciless slaughter. The Titans had betrayed the Asayli, and for that, the Asayli had ensured that each Titan was either dead or chained up in the Abyss, unable to see sunlight.

For Kireh, his clan, the Eccentrics, were almost as formidable as the Titans, except they’d succumbed to a terrible disease … and Kireh had managed to outlast even his earliest ancestors.

“The sanyas are dying, Yugi,” Kireh stated. “There are too many deaths, and you need to give account for it.”

“I didn’t kill the sanyas.”

“I am not accusing you of doing anything.” Kireh stepped closer. “I simply want to understand why the Reapers haven’t been making a record of this.”

Yugi pulled in a breath, let it out slowly. He understood why Kireh had been adamant, but these were sanyas. They were of the lowest rank in Xhian—the Seventh Rank, also known as the mortals. No god nor aingeal should care about them. At least, no one who sat around this obsidian table seemed to care. Each ehol present were of the Third Rank: the erelim. Who would have thought that high aingeals and gods would’ve cared about mortal lives? 

“You’ll need to think of something before the festival.” Kireh’s face hardened.

“I’ll pass by your residence,” Yugi said, hoping it would ease the tension; Kireh squared his shoulders in response.

“Does anyone else want to add to this?” Kireh asked. His eyes locked to Levi.

The ehol slipped into his seat, arms folded.

Something was off about the ehol. Yugi couldn’t quite place it, didn’t try to.

Levi was the Ọba of the Central Octeract, a Kingdom most-prized by the Asayli. Wars were fought over the kingdom; wars that had lasted several eons, that had seen many moons and many deaths before it all finally came to a faltering end. Yugi had been young then, witnessing what a Titan could do if given time and power. And Yugi had witnessed what a Reaper truly was when bodies littered the ground, the last of their souls ready to be harvested.

“No plans for the festival,” Levi said. “At least, not on my end.”

“I wasn’t talking about the festival,” Kireh snarled.

Levi frowned. Levi was no doubt beautiful: any ehol should be. It was said that power came with beauty: the more enthralling a god, the more powerful he was.

So, sẹda bubbled from Levi; his embers skirted around him whenever he walked. Yet … something about him didn’t sit right with Yugi.

“Shall we adjourn this meeting?” Bry asked. He’d been silent the entire time.

Yugi relaxed his shoulders, taking in deep and timed breaths, thinking to himself what he’d do with the Reapers. After this, he would need to have a meeting with them, then start the interviewing process.

“I need to have a private discussion with you,” Kireh said to Bry.

The male nodded in response, returning his gaze to the moonlit night.

Bry wasn’t an ehol; Yugi was sure of that. He wasn’t some mere aingeal or even a demi-god like what the other ehols were. Bry was something ancient, though Yugi couldn’t be too sure.

Yugi looked around, noting that the other ehols had already left. He along with Bry and Kireh were the only ones in the empty room.

Kireh frowned at him, his freckles suddenly darkening in response to his swelling anger.

“I’ll get the Reapers,” Yugi said under his breath, but then again, when did he ever keep a promise to Kireh?

For the past few months, Kireh lost Sleep planning the Orin-Jua Festival, visiting each Kingdom to ensure everything went smoothly. He’d known of the deaths, but ignored it for as long as he could. He ignored it until the Azharanian Council had pulled him up on it, until he could no longer ignore it.

“What should we do about Levi?” Kireh asked Bry. He’d hoped the deaths would’ve subsided by the time the new year came around.

It only got worse.

The festival was supposed to be a time of celebration: a time to sing praises to the Asayli for creating the realms, but the air seemed off this year.

Everything felt stagnant. Within the last week, there were around forty-five deaths, all in the Central Octeract, all unaccounted for. Levi couldn’t give an answer for any of those deaths.

Kireh was reluctant to ask Yugi to put up the Reapers, but the Council forced his hand. That was certainly never a good sign. Anything that got to the Azharanian Council would go to the Ọbakun, and anything that got to the Ọbakun would eventually make it to the Asayli.

A cold wind brushed across Kireh’s skin; his shoulders tensed.

The Asayli were the last set of people Kireh wanted to deal with.

“And what about the other ehols? What should I do with them?” Kireh pressed.

Bry ignored him, his eyes glued to the outside, tracking the moon as it lazily moved across the night sky.

“Levi’s control of the Central Octeract is concerning. The people are afraid of him.”

“Isn’t it a god’s duty to make his people fear him?” Bry finally turned to face Kireh.

“Not the way Levi does it.”

Bry crossed his legs, closed his eyes, and took in a few breaths. When he finally opened his eyes, he said, “Levi has gone insane. His mind is bent and twisted. His soul, tortured.”

Did Bry mean…?

No. He couldn’t have meant that. Bry couldn’t have been speaking of Age, not when the Eccentrics had died out because of it … because of the disease. If the disease had reappeared, then it was the end for Kireh. He’d trained all his life to manage his sẹda—control his power so that he’d never have to succumb to the fate of his ancestors, and yet….

Bry stood up, his hands pushed into his coat pockets as he made his way across the room to the window, his face pressed against the glass as he stared into the courtyard below. “Power,” Bry said.

The word sliced through Kireh’s shielded mind.

“But we Age in power,” Kireh argued. Sẹda was what made an ehol, an ehol. It set them apart from being mere mortals, it distinguished them from the aingeals.

But Bry…

The male smiled. “The more we use the sẹda we have, the more we thirst for it. To use it is to drink poison. It acts slowly, but with each sip we take, the crippling effect of it hastens to destroy us.” Bry stepped away from the window. “For Levi to be saved, he must let go of power. Or, at least stop using it. Sẹda is needed to sustain these Kingdoms, this is true, but the younger ones, they aren’t wise enough to know how to use it properly.”

“What are you going to do about it?” Kireh asked, swallowing a breath.

“I spoke with the Asayli, but I’m afraid the ultimatum and its consequences are too harsh for now. So, They’ve given me the go-ahead to instruct you the way I see fit.” Bry tapped his fingers together. “I think that for now, it’s best to have the ehols refrain from using their sẹda. For a short while.”

“All of us?”

“Yes. But I’ll have to ask you to talk to the others.”

“But no one would agree to that.”

“It’s not indefinite,” Bry continued. “Only until I can stabilize Levi. If I don’t try it this way, then I’ll be forced to strip their sẹda from them, and that’s a fate no ehol wants to endure. It’s much too painful. Too radical. It’s akin to death for the immortal god.”

Akin to death.

A chill brushed against Kireh’s skin. What did Bry mean by that? What did he mean when he said death?

“I must go now.” Bry turned toward the door. “But know that something must be done, whether by will or by force.” Then, he vanished.

Whatever Bry had gone through wasn’t the loss of power. It was something far greater; something much more terrible than what Kireh knew or could ever imagine.

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