there will always be the hunt skekMal inhaled the deep scent of the thick forest; the moss mixed with damp earth and the rain that just washed Thra. His tail thumped against the ground, with content, as last droplets fell on his unmasked face.
by skekMal

He never knew what went wrong. His face gained a raw scar, a cut of talons that almost severed right half of his face. He didn’t care for how this looks. He would even wear it with pride, as all scars on his body.

But others would see and know, yes, know, he can be beaten, torn, and his flesh destroyed. He didn’t fight for the reputation of being a shadow and death, to show the gelfling and especially skeksis, mostly other skeksis, that he can be vulnerable.

So he killed the beast. His size, his strength, all matched his own.

Took one trophy only, a skull. And put it on the face, on the scar and it fit like he swallowed not only the strength of that animal with its meat but its being.

Many trine later, the gelfling will be talking about the masked ghost, killing the reckless fools at night and leaving bones of animals, taking some as a trophy, the rest allowing to return to Thra and become one with the earth. It will please him.

But now, the first time in his short, hundred-trine life, he really absorbed the soul of a slain beast. He didn’t know if this happens again. But it was a good feeling.

by skekMal

The beast was close, he heard it with his acute senses, he felt how it stomped on the ground.

And he felt the scent.

Blood. Fresh, just spilled blood. He would find it even more energizing, if not urVa’s feelings slipping through the mind’s connection they had. urVa felt revolted and he felt that too, that cold rage, that anger.

But he was sure he would not trade his counterpart’s company for any pleasure he felt when blood was hot and his talons were stained with it.

urVa was giving him his vital essence, enfolding his body with an invisible net made of assured courage, and stoic strength, hard as stone.

He jumped on the tree faster than the urru’s eye could follow. urVa didn’t try to climb after him, even if he could do it, easily. He relied on skekMal’s eyes and skill.

The Hunter chuckled darkly.

“These gelfling were really stupid. To go on such a well-armed animal without any support.”

“That creature was bringing them harm for almost an unum, skekMal” urVa said calmly. “They are desperate. And when someone is desperate, they don’t think about danger.”

skekMal sniffed in the air.

“I feel blood, a lot of it. Intense scent.”

“I feel it too” nodded urVa.

“You possibly still want us to save the remaining gelfling?” scoffed skekMal but his green eyes glinted with amusement.

“If you will be that kind.” sternly replied the Archer.

“I am a forest beast, I am not kind” skekMal grinned wildly and jumping off the tree, he unsheathed his four blades.

urVa liked to see his counterpart that alert, that much enjoying his hunt. He himself felt the same – kind of surprising – elation, not only knowing that they can save this tribe’s lives, but also to witness how skekMal punishes the deadly creature for taking so many of them. To punish it himself, too. The Hunter sniffed through the overgrowth, indeed like a wood’s beast, a dark apparition stalking its prey.

Wasn’t he just that, though? urVa allowed skekMal to go faster, as his own bow relied on longer distance.

The remaining gelfling still tried to save themselves, but they were covered with wounds, blood trickled and gushed and flew and he could almost sense how much it moved his darker counterpart.

He would hate it if skekMal unleashed it once against the innocent ones. But it would not happen today.

Today he used his wild side to make justice.

skekMal moved like lightning, when he fell on the creature, using only two blades for now. He was testing its strength and aggression first. urVa helped the gelfling move from the battleground, they were too tired and too wounded to even care who drags them off.

They will possibly add to their legend, after it, he thought. Two mysterious creatures that fell off the forest to save their lives and disappear after it. He wasn’t against it, even if he found it really unnecessary.

skekMal work’s on the animal was calculated and precise, and at the same time wild and unpredictable. urVa noticed how something slips from under the beast’s lower arm and the Archer saw a claw, dripping with something telling. He aimed with his bow and shot an arrow, just near skekMal’s head, hitting the claw and pinning it to the animal’s chest.

skekMal didn’t turn to show that he even saw his help, but urVa knew that he understood what his counterpart just did.

urVa pulled another arrow, alert and patient. But skekMal didn’t seem to need any more help. The beast was bleeding from numerous wounds and was losing its strength fast and gradually.

urVa turned to the gelfling, one of them lost consciousness, the other looked at him with awe in his eyes. To an untrained gelfling eyes, he had to be just a silhouette in darkness. He spoke calmly, trying to sound as peaceful as he could.

“You are safe.”

“Who are you?” the gelfling rasped, trying to touch his body and see if he could feel his wounds. “Are you a shadow from the mist?”

urVa thought about it for a while and replied.

“One of them.”

He pulled a fresh and clean cloth from his satchel and started to secure the wounded arm of the gelfling. The beast behind them growled in death throes, when the Hunter finished it off. skekMal joined the agonal roar of the animal with his own, victorious one.

“And that? What was that?” the gelfling moved restlessly.

“That?” urVa smiled. He sensed the irony of the situation. skekMal just saved these lives, even if he didn’t care. He aided Thra in a way, that Thra will return, in another time. “That was the other one.”

The gelfling eyes widened and urVa felt a blood dropping on his arm. skekMal stood behind him, with a dangerous glow in his eyes. He had to look even more deadly to the gelfling, large creature, dripping with vital fluids of the animal that just almost killed them all.

“That was thrilling” he rasped, his neck and hands glistening with sweat and blood.

“You did something good today.”


“Not everything is good just because you like it, skekMal.”

The Hunter laughed gutturally and they both exchanged grins. And urVa felt how skekMal feels the battle, the blood and danger. How it stirs his dark soul.

And he had to admit that he prefers to see him that way, as long as he stays skekMal, honest to rawness and sharp as a blade.

Do not change, skekMal, he thought and sat on the ground, the gelfling already drifting off into a restless sleep, caused by loss of blood.

“So we eat meat tonight, again, eh?”

by skekMal

His opposite. His enemy. His friend. His lover. And his undoing if he ever chooses that.

He never ever tried to solve the mystery that was his counterpart. He never tried, not really hard, only sometimes was giving this a few thoughts, to abandon them, as unable to explain. He never knew if he can call him a foe or the only person that truly understood him. Even when they were sharing bodies. This was an act of self-love, which suited him. After all, he was as selfish as skeksis could be. Self-love was the only kind of real love he would admit he could feel to anyone.

urVa was patient. Not as patient as other urru. He had wild streak which fascinated skekMal because he felt that he himself had some sentimental part too. There was a thick mental rope between them they shared and which was binding them together with a vine that couldn’t be cut.

Sometimes he thought that this sentimental side was implanted in him by urVa himself. Sharing hunts, sharing tales, sharing everything when they rarely met – it all made him different. He was sure that the same happened with urVa – he became wilder, more reckless.

Dare and calm mixed together into something that once was one creature and never – if skekMal had a word in that – will exist again. The mere thought of being someone else than the Hunter was repulsing to him.

They both shared one more love. Love for life. Curiosity for life and the will to explore, travel, tear the last drop of existence from Thra and absorb it themselves. urVa would not admit it but skekMal knew. He was observant and patient.

Why his enemy, his friend, his lover, his opposite, was the only one who could be his undoing? Why he had a string of certainty that urVa, even if loved him, could put Thra before him and himself?

But skekMal never wanted to destroy Thra. This was his land, his blood, his root, and bone. And they both walked the same paths, sometimes in the same Unum, knowing that the other was there too.

And smiling bitterly at that. Soon. We will meet soon. And we won’t talk about anything but us.

by skekMal

There were rites at the beginning of time when he was still very young and his body still not as tested by battles and hunts and age, not scarred, not hard as leather. He was more naive, purer, and definitely more stupid.

He was thinking them up himself, leading parties of the hunting skeksis, who were as well young, and naive and very very stupid. Even more than himself, he thought.

Their bodies were bending in an ecstatic dance of the prosperity and when the hunt came well, they were taking even more wild approach, to appease Thra. To appease themselves, to assure themselves that Thra wants them.

Now, the rites were gone and the hunt started to be a rite of its own. He had his habits, yes. But he never danced at night anymore, never squirmed between starts, not now.

Now, he was silent, deadly, and focused and if he ever did any rite, did any honor to Thra, it was never before or after the hunt.

He was silent facing the days of youth. He wanted to forget them. Not because he was so very very stupid back then. Not because the other skeksis became even more stupid as the trines went on.

Because it – deep down in his soul – was too painful to think about. He had secrets, which never see the daylight. These secrets will disperse one day during the next and next hunt. It was his own ritual of survival and the way to forget the things that never should be seen by a living being.

He wanted to feed on life, on fresh prey. Not the ghosts that inhabited his soul every time he got lost in memories.
One day. One day he ventures onto these paths and deals with them.

But not today.

by skekMal

The hunt never ends. But after a rough battle, the blinking stars over his head seemed blurred and the forest denser. The shadows were creeping around him as they felt blood on him. And there it was, a lot of blood, trickling, and pooling from his wounded flank and leg, like a stream of rubies.

skekMal’s tired hand laid on the dead animal’s corpse, which he eventually slew. But not without costs. Each hunt could be his last, he knew that, but even if he was prepared, he didn’t w a n t that. He liked to live, conquer his limits, each day, from morning till night filled with luminescent light of Thra.

His gaze landed on the sharp jagged wound coming from his chest to his hip. A slight hiss escaped his beak. That was too easy. Too easily the animal wounded him. When he gets off this ordeal – and he was not sure, if he will, not at all – he will be more cautious. Last hunts made him feel invincible, and this one put him again on Thra’s surface.

Curse it; he spat saliva, which was not mixed with blood. If he was wounded internally, it will be much more difficult to mend his hide.

But the animal was laying next to him, dead, very dead, and he was still alive. If he manages to move, he will go to his camp and mend himself.

He wouldn’t be skekMal if he didn’t try.

He wouldn’t be a skeksis if he didn’t want to win over death. One more time.

by skekMal

We were one. A long time ago.

He bit through the raw material that his shirt was made of. Should work. If not, he will bleed to death. He was not ready for death, not now, not in the close future.

Death was something he was embracing with dare but only if he held all threads in his talons. If death was cutting them, it was making him angry. Furious. Ready to crack necks and dig out to freedom.

We were one. As two twin stars, that shone with dual light.

He cursed. Awfully. He knew many curses, but he held the worst ones for those he cared for.

The gelfling woman writhed in his grasp and he hissed into her ear, his sharp beak touching her hair. Nothing like a touch of skeksis skin. Nothing like soft urru fur. Long, tangled, awfully normal. It was nothing like the touch that still lingered in his mind.

“If you kick one more time, I will bind you like a makrak.”

She spat him in the face.

That would be enough to rub the worst part of his, enough to violently pull that old soul out of safety and send him into a frenzy. But he didn’t care. As long as he stays alive. His sharp laughter filled the air, the arrow went deeper and his laugh became ragged.

“You have lost, skeksis” she muttered, half boldly, half looking at him with sincere fear.

“You know nothing about lost causes” he felt like arrows, these arrows dig deep into his wounded flesh.

We were one. Two creatures in vines that bind, tangled like branches of an elder tree.

“I know when someone dies” she spat again and he flung her, like dead prey. She squeaked and she knew that was the best reward he would get from her.

His eyes got closer to her, her awfully normal, light hair falling on his knees like a veil made of waterfalls.

“If I die, you will die too. No compromises.”

That made her think a little. The creature they were flying on seemed indifferent to what happened on its back and that fitted him. He didn’t need transport’s rebellion. It was already tiring and soon he will need to land.

To kill the gelfling.

To not kill the gelfling.

Did it matter? He was losing blood and the point of no return that urVa warned him about, got lost in the misty past. He was killing gelfling before. Not with pleasure, he didn’t feel the same while ending the life of the dangerous beast and these tiny little pests, who were unworthy of his blade.

But he did that. He killed many. When they interfered in his hunt, when they made the mistake to disturb his aging mind, a cruel touch of time which was making him more merciless, wilder, less… bound to civilized ways.

Maybe he should care about this change. But not when his blood trickled and flew and poured and he had only a few hours to get to that cursed castle filled with morons and fools.

How long ago did he stop liking them? In times of youth, he enjoyed them even too much. So many things changed and so many things flew away from him, like a bird freed into the wilderness.

The gelfling woman’s eyes drilled into his soul and that was annoying, so annoying, to be reminded of the time, when he feasted with her kind during his hundredth birthday, their eyes when they admired him, called him by his name, and felt him as both fear and wonder.

We were one. We lost something. Or only I lost it. You were too stubborn to lose your path.

His wounds wailed when the creature landed on the forest clearing. Like he predicted, too tired to go forth. Good.

The gelfling winced when he unceremoniously tossed her on the grass. He knew where they were, not too far from the castle but the idea that his pierced body would need to carry this girl all over the path was making his guts turn. It WAS painful. But he will never show ANYONE that he can feel pain.

He dragged her into one of his hiding places and coughing out a few droplets of blood, he pulled out the net. He simply pushed the gelfling in, so she wasn’t causing too much harm to his screaming wounds, and looking into the sky, he lept.

That hurt even more. It felt like his whole world centered around these arrows, which were digging harder, deeper, and mercilessly into his very core.

A reminder, about love and understanding but both stained with knowledge and suspicion, that he hunts for the wrong party.

He couldn’t leap for long, when he reached the castle, he would be a bloody mess.

We were one. We will die as one.

Or live longer than Thra, when we will reign as stars among the crepuscular darkness.

by skekMal

He has seen many things in the woods. From beautiful, through dangerous, to atrocious. All taught him more about Thra. The dawn, midnight, all filled with beings that only this place could give birth to. Luminescent, fanged, horned, colorful, and black as night.

He hunted on them, yes. But never without a certain awe. His land was brimming with life and since his early days, he liked to think that being predator here, doesn’t strip him from the binds that Thra put on him.

He liked it. It was satiating his hunger for the unknown. The unknown is so tempting.

And he never was backing off from any temptation he was able to fulfill.

by skekMal

He was proud, of everything that he was. It was not only typical skeksis pride, which was so tied to their kind, as the Dousan were tied to death. Skeksis were boasting over the power they had, feeling everything belongs to them, taking and taking and taking, never giving. And if something happened and they gave, it was never sincere.

His pride was never connected with who he was, when he was born, in the flash of light and screaming and terror. It was earned. It was based on hundreds of trine of proving his skill to himself, hard work over his traits, relentless pursue over being the one that was feared among the land, the shadow that eats the flesh, the ghastly apparition everyone knew about yet no one could say they know its true identity.

He was proud because he had reason to. Not sniffing books, not partying till the legs were bending and the world spinning, not using slaves or servants to do things for him, which he could easily do on his own.

Yes, his pride was coming from a source that was carved in his very being. Because he could engage in a most deadly battle, most bloody fight, most dangerous hunt.

And always end up victorious.

Nothing as good as the thought, that he was the only skeksis that truly conquered death.

by skekMal

He never considered himself a guest. Not in this forest. Not in the Crystal Desert. Not among the nature breathing the fresh air into its green lungs.

He surely wasn’t born here and his body won’t return to Thra, as it never came from it.

But he was never a guest. He was part of Thra since his first day, when he was traveling the whole day, searching for his first prey.

Maybe his blood never belonged here, maybe the soil would never accept it when it soaks into the ground. But this land was his and no one would take that away from him, he was the owner of it, as much as the other skeksis owned the castle, gelfling, power over the commons.

He didn’t even need to prove that. It was as natural as the circle of life, natural as strong taking over the weak, and natural as the predator claiming its meal.

by skekMal

He has never forgotten the first hunt.

Never forgot the first bite of the prey he slew himself. The taste of blood on his tongue, sharp and intense scent of the animal, the way his teeth were sinking into the flesh.

He learned to prepare his meat in the future, over the brimming fire.

But the taste of blood still lingered in his senses, the taste of youth and freedom. It would be foolish for him to not try it even now.

His fangs tore the morsel of freshly hunted makrak. It’s good. It’s natural. It’s HIM. Why change that?