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

skekSo played with his talon-like ring. The feast was getting out of hand – as always lately and the Emperor pondered, if it’s a good thing or something he should take control over. Something very bad that is. His subjects seemed either completely drunk – that alone would be not a sin, after all, wine is good when sipped, and even better when devoured – but among the undisciplined skeksis, he felt as a sore thumb and almost regreted he can’t allow himself to just drift into balsamic embrace of liquor god – skekZok definitely would find one, if ordered.

skekSo remember quite well, how feasts looked in their youth. Joyful, reckless and restless, they were more orgies than parties and he was fondly thinking of these naive times, when everything seemed easier. Old age and the essence idea made it all fall into pit. The essence worked briefly, too briefly. It made him even more pained, even if he couldn’t say no to it.

Darkening made it rot and dissolve in current status quo. Even if he needed it, and wanted it, like a perfect drug.

skekSo suffered. And he was bored, being the only skeksis, who was sane and sober.


Not only one. He almost felt as curious and eager eyes observe him, ready to jump at his every wish – if allowed, backstabbing him in the same time.

skekSo’s gaze turned on skekSil.

He was the last skeksis who he would trust but he perfectly fitted his current idea. If things get awry, he will be scapegoat that forest will take revenge on and swallow.

“skekSil” he waved a bejeweled finger at Chamberlain and skekSil approached quickly – less quickly than in his youth, but that was fault only of his old bones.

“Sire, Chamberlain honored that—”

“Yes, yes, obviously” skekSo dismissed the idle talk and empty compliments. He didn’t need them now.

skekSil took the hint and was standing there with head boweds deeply but sly smile were creeping on his beak, others would not spot it, possibly, but skekSo learned how to be aware of it and how to always be ready and careful.

skekSil wanted his throne, skekSo knew that. He will never get it.

“I am bored. And–” he pointed at essence- and wine-drunk court. “— I want to see them all writhe. They need a bucket of cold water, a chilling icicle under their robes.”

“Chamberlain listens” this time the smile skekSils sported was wider, more joyful. Ah yes, he possibly thought he is getting a reward, that he can stand by Emperor’s side and enjoy others wake up a very unpleasant way.

Yes, skekSil, you will writhe too.

His words rang in the feasting room like a metal bell.

“Call the Hunter. Sound the horn.”

Almost invisible twitch on skekSil’s face, a saliva swallowed way too soundly. All little things only skekSo was able to see. And of course Hunter, if present.

“Sire, hmmm…”

“Are my orders unclear?” skekSo offered him a nasty, fanged smile and skekSil had to nod quickly. “You will sound the horn. I want to see them all wake up, and hear it. Want them to be aware, that I still have power over their lives.”

skekSil visibly was counting how to make it work his way. Pros and cons. This was a deadly task. If skekSo could tame the beast, who will come here raged and displeased, that’s good, oh yes, that’s very good! But what if not? skekMal didn’t visit them for so long, his legend only grew deadlier among his kin. He didn’t visit skekSo too. Emperor could think skekMal won’t harm him, won’t harm them all, but skekSil heard the gelfling tales.

skekMal was more dangerous, more bloodthirsty and more violent than ever, now, when he also felt old age breathing over his neck.

This idea, this… way to appease Emperor’s boredom and need of dominance, could end very very VERY bad.

“skekSil… skekSil will sound the horn, most gracious sire…” he said eventually and bowing deep, way too deep, all the way through, he retreated, to do as his Emperor ordered.

A fast thought ran through skekSo’s head.

Was it reckless? Of course.

Was he scared? Partially.

But he also needed to see skekMal again. Long trine passed, but his blood still boiled at the mere thought about the Hunter.

He needed to see him and speak to him again, before…

…. before the Darkening swallows his life. Or he wins over it, making Thra crumble under his feet, bowing even deeper to its ruler, surrendering to him and his all-powerful scepter.

One way or another.

And yes, he wanted to make them all scream.

by skekMal

skekEkt: Ah, Hunter, the mask is only hiding your beautiful features. And I can’t measure you like that, when you look at me through these holes. It gives me goosebumps. Care to take it off?

skekMal: No.

skekEkt: But why?

skekMal: It gives you goosebumps. It’s enough of a reason for me.

skekEkt *waving with his palm*: My hands shake from dread. I may sting you with a needle! I may even take wrong measures!

skekMal: I will endure.

skekEkt *doing his work* What a awful condition an artist needs to work in…

by skekMal

Seladon: So what would you prefer for dinner, Hunter? *looks at skekMal with real curiosity*

skekMal: Your best guard, raw.

Seladon: ???

Ariya: He is joking *sighs* Badly joking.

by skekMal

The cold. Creeping through windy corridors. Stalking him when his bare feet were touching stone floor. Winter times were a real torture. And when the freezing chill was attacking his skin, skekSo could only shiver.

“Emperor wants a company this evening?” skekSil was always way too observant. “Warm skekSil, will keep Emperor heated.”

skekSo, knowing that skekSil is as cold and shivering as him, didn’t want additional cold feet gracing his bed. If it could be even called gracing. More making already bad situation unbereable.

The winter this year was harsher than usual. Skeksis, waddling through castle like lost crawlies, were putting literal pressure on skekTek to find out something that will warm their bones and talons.

Everything he invented though, was surrendering before stinging teeth of winter.

skekSo was sitting in the bed, arms and feet tightly tucked into ornamental blankets skekEkt sewn only for him.

“Ah, you will not want to leave the bed, sire! With my blankets, you will feel warm, cozy and happy.”

Yes, he didn’t want to leave bed. But not because skekEkt’s blankets were that effective.

skekSo hated winter. Hated cold. hated his frail body that was taking in the chill, spreading it under his thin skin.

The only thing he certainly not hated was a shape on the balcony. A shape covered in furs, with two lights where the eyes should be, the lights that concealed more than showed.


skekSo didn’t want it to happen, but a sigh left his beak and hanged between them two. The Emperor knew that with skekMal, he doesn’t need to hide his despise for this stinging cold.

More even. He hoped he can just take it away.

Isn’t the Hunter capable of everything?

“Long time spent in the woods” skekSo rasped, more or less hating his voice right now. “In this winter. In snow. And ice.”

skekMal slowly left his place on the balcony, entering the buble of light created by candles.

His furs were covered with snow, his feet as always bare, and his face unmasked. And while skekSo’s face took all shades of sickish blue and green, skekMal’s was touched by some miraculous warmth. His usually dark features were beaming with well-maintained inner heat.

“Winter comes and goes” skekMal said, supporting himself on Emperor’s bed, with two major arms. “The hunter must use all seasons as best as he can.”

“That means?”

“During winter, certain animals become more active. When ponds freeze, they choose places with better circulation. They hide in different caves, closer to warm streams that cut the stone.”

skekSo felt this warmth skekMal talked about. Just being close to the Hunter, he felt warmed.  And not only because skekMal really was keeping his warmth in better condition.

“Tell me, skekMal… how on Thra you are not freezing  in the woods” he saw a gleam in Hunter’s eyes, something familiar. A tease. skekMal moved a bit closer. He knees supported themselves in the legs of his bed. He wanted to stalk his Emperor.

Warm him up.

Spark a heat in him.

“I move a lot” skekMal’s hand brushed well concealed knee. skekSo smiled. Just as he liked. He loved being treated as a prize after a hard day. Wasn’t he a greatest prize of them all, an imperial jewel, only chosen ones could touch?

“You suggest I need to move too, to get rid of snow in my bed?”

“You don’t need to, your highness” chuckled skekMal.


“I am here. To kill you enemies. To sink my teeth in their flesh.”

“Hnmm. Tell me more, skekMal” skekSo observed as skekMal moves slowly in his direction. The Hunter, clothed in thick furs, adorned with a scent of pines and fresh winter soil, was a dream coming through for the chill-eaten Emperor.

“I will make you not only warm” skekMal’s grin became dangerous. Just as skekSo loved. “I will light a wildfire in you.”

skekSo, feeling as the Hunter slowly, infuriatingly slowly, creeps between his blanketed legs, started to remove skekEkt’s sewn work from his upper body. He didn’t feel cold anymore. A heat, marrow-deep, entered his veins. A sight of skekMal, hunting on him in his own bed was too much to bare, to not…

… surrender.

This was a prize hard won. After a kiss of winter, sudden feeling on teeth closing around his neck, hot breath on his arms, touch of ragged fur on his legs.

A hard won prize.

He deserved it.




“I hate cold, skekMal.”


“If I had control over Thra, I would remove winter.”

“Good that you don’t have, your higness.”

“Ah yes?”

“The good that comes after the bad is thrice as sweet.”

skekSo, even as much as he hated winter nipping at his bones, couldn’t not agree.

by skekMal

urVa: skekMal, we are here have some calm. To find tranquility in our soul. To breathe Thra.

skekMal *holding the blades ready*: I thought you meant we go hunting, bleeding out, killing. That’s how I calm down myself.

urVa: …

skekMal *sheathing his blades* That means no.

by skekMal

When he hunts it, it bleeds with honey and fills his beak with strength and sweet taste of fulfillment.

When he touches it, it caress him with wind, gives mossy beds to sleep on and whispers most intimate secrets into his ear.

This land is his, even if no one knows it. It gave itself to him, when he allowed it to enter his veins and tangle with his muscles and tendons.

by skekMal

The Hunter was still a mystery to her, yet she felt bound to him, with a strong thread made of sinews and bones. He appeared, took her by the hand, dragged into wilderness and showed her life, that maybe she wasn’t dreaming of, but needed.

And she still wondered how it was even possible. How desperately her heart was circling around skekMal’s soul. Like a moth around a flame that turns out to be new day. New world. A wonder that glistens with crystals and blood.

She observed him, when he entered the cave, which now was theirs, not only his. His clothes ragged after spending night in the woods, which raged with storm since he left. He didn’t carry any prey, yet his jaw was bloodied.

He fought. And if he still here, he won. How could be otherwise.

Without saying anything, she approached him. His robes were bloodied too but he didn’t seem wounded. When skekMal sat by the fire she very carefully was keeping alit for his return, she saw tiredness in his gaze.

Not something that couldn’t be washed away by a night of good sleep.

Still not saying a word, Ariya took his bloodstained beak in her hands and touched it with her forehead.

A sight, a relief, closeness. Ariya felt a spark dancing between them. Something she still didn’t know how to name, but needed it and loved it. Her place was here, by his side.

She will learn to know his bigger and smaller secrets, which form his wild heart.

“You fought?” she asked, finding a small wound on his brow, her fingers brushed it lightly.

His maw formed a grin, so unfitting to his tired eyes.

“It died a good death.”

A smile crept on her lips.

“It died by your hand. It was.”

He scoffed, but she could easily sence he liked her words. A proud hunter he was, and even if she still needed to understand the rites he does after each kill, she knew they are part of him, important, like water in hot day and pale sun in winter.

Ariya caressed the side of his face and pointed at warm fire she kept for them both.

“I made a vegetable soup.”

He growled, not annoyed, more amused.

“Yes, Mal, you said it once yourself” she chuckled. “Meat is to keep blood flowing, vegetables to keep teeth in good shape.”

He looked at her from under a brow, a tiredness she saw in his eyes before, started to slowly disappear.

“You certainly have a good memory, Ariya.”

“I rarely forget words said with such confidence.”

“Good memory is a curse of a long life” his tail lashed against moss. What things he remembered? she though. Some things that better drown in an abandoned well?

“Some things… better to forget. Some better to remember even after death” she said.

“Words worthy of a huntress.”

His eyes gleamed in darkness, wild sparks in sockets made by his scarred and folded skin.

A huntress.

She was not huntress.

Not yet.

But she somehow knew, he will make one of her.

He will make her wilder, more confident, more dangerous.

And she loved that.

He took her by her hand, dragged her into the wilderness and showed her the world that waited for her, with its teeth and talons, with its blades and edges.

With death breathing on one’s neck.

With Thra, ready to be thrown under their feet, if they want it. A kind of power Seladon will never have.

A kind of power no one understands but them.

by skekMal

“Puny gelfling.”

“Mal, they are my family.”

“I don’t like being caged.”

They were placed in a small room, once an Ariya’s one. skekMal at once felt trapped, and getting used to this new kind of prison took him more than he was gracious to spare. skekMal was an old creature, and his bond with freedom was immaculate. He needed woods to breathe and feel alive. His veins were filled with his own kind of vital essence other skeksis could drain to no avail. The essence of Thra, a very rare and addicting blood of trees and bogs, leaves and cold ponds.

Ariya was at the other side a very stubborn princess.

“I am sure you can at least appreciate that they tried to fit your tastes in food” she said, looking at him teasingly.


That was the only thing skekMal said. Ariya at once realized he is much more displeased by his quarters than she suspected before. Mal was a free soul and the walls indeed could feel for him like a cage. Especially how small they were, in fact. She decided they shouldn’t spend a night here. If skekMal feels this wrongs him, and wants to spend night on fresh air, she will oblige.

Especially, since annoyed Hunter could be a threat for her kind, even if he promised to her to tame his temper.

Still, he never broke a promise.

An idea came to her, like a lighning in the starless night.

“Mal… let’s take a look at this place. I almost forgot how my own home looks like and it holds many things that may  enchant you … if you allow them to show their real beauty.”

The Hunter’s fiery gaze landed on her and she immediately felt like his eyes traces a warm circles over her skin. Oh yes. She loved that. She loved everything he was. And now, she was like him too.

“So the vapran palace can compete with an open meadow?” he also teased her and she chuckled.

“Only if you allow it to dazzle you.”

“I am not easily dazzled, Ariya.”

“And I know that. But I know place which can at least… be to your liking.”

They left the way too small room behind, Ariya with a quite sadness realizing that for her, it also is too cozy, too comfortable. And doesn’t have trees murmuring lullabies to her, and streams near their cave, which whispered secrets of the woods in her sleep.

Vapran palace indeed was a wonder. Ariya took skekMal to the only place, which had overgrowth in it and she had to admit that seeing it again, felt like a kiss from a lover. She played in the garden with her sisters, when they still were young, naive and reckless. She was not young nor naive anymore. Maybe still a bit reckless.

skekMal looked disenchanted and maybe not annoyed anymore, but more melancholic. It strucked her how many other things he saw through almost one thousand trine of life. This garden probably was only a small rock added to an avalanche of his memories.

Their feet took them into depth of the palace and soon, quite by a strange urge Ariya felt, and maybe a need to see this place again in the middle of the night – just like in childhood – they ended in throne room, now bathed in a blue light, created by luminiscent plants she didn’t remember – had be planted, when she was away.

So many thing changed. Her, the most.

“So here you sister owns Thra” skekMal said enigmatically. His eyes, alit by inner flame, was reflecting the bioluminescence. It was fascinating sight, maybe a bit scary, even, for those, who should fear the Hunter.

“I think yes. Though not own. The skeksis still own it.”

“They don’t dare anymore to own anything aside their own skin.”

Ariya could believe. skekMal, helping the gelfling was aterrible treason for the skeksis, but also, a worst threat they even witnessed. She felt a pang of pride.

My forest beast.

“Go” he said suddenly, looking intensely at him.

She felt confused for a moment, but then, realized that he means the throne. He wanted her to sit on it.

She laughed, a bit nervously.

“This is Seladon’s seat. She probably even shaped it around her–”

“Yes. That makes her sister suitable for taking a seat.”

Indeed. But she never doubted Seladon would tear her head off and stick it on a spear. Metaphorically.

“Sit. It belongs to all-Maudra’s line.”

He could be really persuasive. And, she had to take it, she wanted to impress him a bit.

Slowly, she approached Seladon’s throne. So many time, she was seeing her mother sitting on it, ruling Thra – in the name of the skeksis. Seladon rules it now, completely in the name of the gelfling.

One step, two. She touched it. She almost felt, as it calls her.

She sat.

Then looked at her mate.

“So… here I am.”

“You are.”

His eyes burned in the darkness, with a certain intent and she could almost fill it. On her skin. In her soul.

“I am not all-Maudra” she had to say it.

“But you are.”


“You are my all-Maudra. A forest Maudra.”

She moved, a tail slid through her leg but disappeared when he started to circle her.

“A forest Maudra…”

“You are the queen of the woods.”


She swallowed hard. This was quickly getting out of control. skekMal slowly slid between her legs and, she at once, embraced him with them, just in the waist. Just to feel his arousal.

“Rule me” he huffed into her ear, and she knew she was already lost to him.

As always.

He took her, on all-Maudra’s throne, and it felt so right.

In her veins, a forest ran and she was its queen.

With her dark lord by her side.

“Rule me…” she whispered, and melted into him.

by skekMal

skekOk: Ah, taking care of those noisy fizzgigs skekUng keeps is excruciating. My books lay all bitten.

skekEkt: Do not even mention it, Scrollkeeper! Nothing is worse than a crawly!

skekMal: Fizzgigs and crawlies.

skekEkt: …

skekMal: You all really have no idea how pathetic it is.

skekOk: They bite the books, Hunter! The books!

skekMal: At least they don’t bite off your head.

by skekMal

The scent of blood was prominent here.

urVa sensed it faster than saw. It was strong, though masked a bit by surnayla flowers leaning over the stream – but for his trained nostrils, it was obvious.

Someone died a cruel death here.

urVa made his way through the overgrowth to see a bonechilling sight. The stream slowly rolling its waters near the rocks, was red as autumn leaf burned by the sun and smelled of iron; a murder scene, none the less, far less innocent than a leaf and far more revolting than steel.

The Archer caught also another scent; strong smell of leather and fur. And it was obvious, that someone died today to quench the neverending desire of his counterpart.

“Ah, skeMal” he shook his head, supporting himself on his bow.

He wasn’t even disappointed. He knew skekMal too well and realized long time ago, that his nature is different than his own. Different even from other skeksis. Trying to stop him would be chasing wind. And he appreciated that sometimes, skekMal agrees to not hunt or stops his blade, when his is asked by urVa.

No, urVa was not disappointed. Just sad. Yes, sad was a good word.

He decided to face the Hunter and see if he can do anything –  and if creature still lived, to ease its suffering. He was sure it must be a large beast, as the stream carried a lot of blood only huge animal could posses in its veins.

The forest, as if doing it purposefully, was making the walk more difficult for him. urVa got even a lash of a branch on his nose, even if he was careful as always. He would curse, if he was skekMal. But he only sighed again and took the branch from his path, as well as other numerous ones that stood on his way.

The scent of blood was stronger here and urVa was at this point sure that he will see a bloodshed. He didn’t like such sight, they were not turning his guts upsidedown though, as he has seen many of them, living on one thread with skekMal. He just wanted to be of help, if the prey’s heart still beat.

But he was not prepared for what he really saw.

No bloodshed. No suffering animal in death throes. No skekMal, wearing the crown made of blood, relishing on his kill.

Yes, skekMal was here.

Bare to the pants, with his muscular chest exposed.

Doing laundry.

The look on urVa’s face was not the wisest one. He felt as relief mixed with a strange need to laugh. He never truly was fond of laughing. He prefered kind, calm smiles and his urru nature, still more stoic than other living beings’, felt good with inverbal communication.

But now, honestly, he felt like laughing.

skekMal sensed him faster than he thought he will. But of course. His scent was so well known to him.

“I wash my clothes” he said, not turning back to him. “No prey slain. No creature in pain to rescue.”

Ah, how they both’s minds worked together. Like one mechanism. urVa smiled and stepped closer, to look behind skekMal’s arm. In typical for urru bent pose, he still was larger than his counterpart, who was small, but made of tendons and muscles.

“I always was curious, how often you wash these robes of yours…”

skekMal, still applying podling soap to his shirt, scoffed.

“Enough often, to not reek.”

“I really thought I will witness a bloodbath. I am happy to be wrong, skekMal.”

The Hunter grinned. A grin filled with both teeth and pure joy.

“Good, that my dirty clothes brough you here.”


“How often you wash yours, Archer?”


urVa laid his head on Hunter’s chest. Their both’s clothes were hanging on the tree branches. Not that urVa didn’t clean them, but he had to admit, that it was about time.

The Archer felt skekMal’s breath under his chin. The Hunter was not sleeping, but observing night with keen eye. urVa slowly drifted into a calm and soothing dizziness caused by closeness of his counterpart and warmth of the fire burning nearby.

The wind took the scent of the blood and playing with it a bit, chased it away.