Ink fingertips used to cover his soft cheeks. As a child still innocent to the world, a bright wonder was all he would care about. Experimenting with the ink his parents used to bring as gifts, he found a way to come closer to the sky that the books and elders talked about all the time, a sky full of stars.
The ceiling of his room turned into the perfect canvas. Fun came with diving his hands in the cold liquid and let them roam from left to right, every single part of the surface turning as black as his eyes. ‘You’ll regret it,’ his older sisters warned him, poking their heads through the door frame just to make sure he wasn’t doing something more reckless. ‘Hardly,’ used to be his answer that came with a bright easy smile only a child could produce.
At the end, he didn’t quite regret it.
How could he? When there were countless hours behind the perfect night sky, every single star the books showed was there. It was his first masterpiece.
But he couldn’t quite love it.
His heart clenched with the knowledge. Yes, he was a child, but he wasn’t that naive. He could understand the price to pay for the ink spent on his ceiling, someone had lost it -either ripped from their hands or lifeless bodies- and it was given to him as a gift.
It made him sick.
Not that he could ever show it. The expected smile of gratefulness had to come instantly after receiving the gift, a smile that didn’t reach his obsidian eyes. He had been born into a risky position, forced to learn how to play through the dangerous game that royalty was. Every smile designed to be a sharp weapon.
But still, his instinct urged him to scream at every elder and council member present. Every gift given to him came with blood, blood he didn’t want in his hands.
At the end, he couldn’t force himself to throw the black ink away. Alone, in his chambers, his little hands gripping the flask so hard it could break in any second. But it didn’t. Instead, he would hug it against his heart, the tears that streamed down his face were for those who couldn’t mourn the loss. And he swore, to every living god, to the dead stars in the sky, that he would not loose his heart, not ever.
Funny how he lost something else on the way.
Run. That’s the first thing he learnt. Like a recently born gazelle, barely five seconds into the world and their skinny legs are trying to figure out the best way to run far from their hunter.
He was a boy whose frame could be blown away by the wind. Knowing each step could be his last, every heartbeat afraid of stopping midway, lungs that threatened to burst with each breath. Because he was just a child born into a cruel world, and he wasn’t strong enough.
But he was fast.
Gripping a single piece of bread -warm but brick hard-, his feet would take him through crumbling walls and desperate cries of pain. Fast enough to pretend not to hear them. With one goal in his mind: get home. Though, it was hard to call home a bunch of filthy blankets piled up as a nest in the safest corner of an abandoned building were only cold could reach. There he would find small bodies -more dead than alive-, trying to share some illusion of warmth with each other. All of them were children from war.
And they all held hope.
Their eyes would light up to the sight of the fast skinny boy with a trophy in his hands. It meant he wasn’t captured while stealing for them. That one sole bread would turn into several pieces, just enough for them to live a day longer but never enough to satisfy the constant hunger. Still, they held hope.
He hated it.
Yes, he would steal for them. Yes, he would risk his life. He was the only one fast and strong enough to make it home alive. But he hated how they still hoped for a better life. They would still smile at the miserable piece of food that would be joke to any other. They acted as they were alive.
They weren’t. War could only give birth to dead children.
A flock of forgotten birds defined the weak kids. Hidden at the top of a crumbling city, he was a boy whose heart had long died and braced the cruelty of the world, his wings had long fallen. He would stare to the dead-grey sky and curse the entire world. He blamed human nature for his misery.
There wasn’t hope for him.
And the dead flicker of the stars above him fueled all the anger inside his small body.
“My heart is already dead, I’ll make them pay, not for me, for them,” an oath that no 7-year-old should say in the middle of the night with only the stars as witnesses.
The stars always listen.
A scream pierced the night, clear and loud. Even the roaring wind seemed to be scared, calming after a few seconds -holding its breath.
Silence was way to loud.
Every living heart was beating to a fast pace like caged birds, all for different reasons. One was about to stop from desperation, a tear stained face. Another was fueled by adrenaline, steady hands, the perfect grip to kill. And one kept praying to an unknown god. All of them too loud in their ears.
Except for one.
Steady heartbeats came with hopeless eyes. Oh, but they weren’t sad, they still held a small fire in them -hatred, revenge. They could burn holes into anyone’s body. Maybe they were defeated, but never lost.
The sharp edge of the sword eventually pierced through the soft skin of the defeated. A lone trail of blood that went down, down, down, until it hits the floor with a muted sound.
Fire was burning high and strong, still, it never seemed to be enough to reach the ice in his eyes.
Or really was it?
The sword traces a perfect curve, a swing meant to end lives.
The metal weapon clashes into the ground with a loud clang. Something shatters, though no one can tell but them. Fire and ice know each other’s minds.
Because in the middle of the battle field, were one of countless wars is being fought, there was silence between them. War didn’t matter this time, not when both found something they never expected in foreign eyes. Call it fate, call it destiny. One would say it was written in the stars, but the stars are too far way to decide the path of broken boys. Though, they remember, oaths taken in the middle of the night at the despair of hearts.
Soft. His hands were always soft against the dry skin of the human warrior. Tender, warm.
Thump… Thump… Thump, thump… Thump, thump, thump, thump.
A dead heart that wished of life once again.
A subtle flicker that no living eye could ever see.
The stars love broken boys, don’t they?