His love had died and he didn’t know how he’d ever get over it.
Nameless like everyone else in the hive, save the Queen and her consorts, he’d howled his grief essentially alone. His brothers had sympathized and comforted him as much as they could, but most didn’t really understand. Most of them held themselves pure while hoping for the love of the Queen. Only a few could find it in themselves to find affection and companionship with one of their own. Those who did find that understood what he’d lost, and clung to each other in desperate denial that it could happen to them.
He should have thought more that it would happen to him. He and his love were both battle sylphs. They took the fight straight into the crevices below the hive plateau, they hunted monsters in the darkness and up in the skies. They even ventured into the jungles on the flatlands, fighting against enemies that lived to destroy and consume them. Always there was the risk that one of them wouldn’t come back.
Why did it have to be him? Why did it have to be his sarcastic, opinionated, noble love that was killed? He’d have accepted a thousand deaths to see his love survive, but no. A moment of distraction when a beast he hadn’t seen leaped out of a fissure at him, a start of surprise as he was pushed out of the way by the being he loved most in the world, and suddenly he was alone.
It’ll get better, his brothers promised him. This is what we do. We fight and we die. There’s honour in it. He sacrificed himself for you.
Yes, he knew that. He knew it and he hated himself for it. It should have been him.
You’ll find someone else, they said. Maybe even the Queen will notice you!
Never. It would never happen. He was small and young and the Queen was known for growing bored and driving away even the mightiest of battlers once she was done with them. The only one who’d wanted him was gone now and he felt so painfully, horribly alone.
He started to avoid his brothers, finding the sight of them a painful reminder. He took to guarding the far end of the fields, talking to no one and wondering if this was to be his future now. This horrible sense of something missing that he didn’t know how to get back.
The misery wasn’t enough to make him miss seeing the gate.
It opened in the middle of one of the fields, hovering over the ground and humming, driving the elementals nearby away with its non-colour. He charged right in, flaring his hate in warning, but there was no life to it. It was something like a door instead and after he made sure it wasn’t about to attack or explode, he circled it instead, staring through it with growing fascination.
It led somewhere, someplace strange and closed in, like the inside of a hive, but there were no sylphs there. Right underneath the gate, he could sense the pattern of a female, something so like a Queen that it shocked him. An unbound Queen, which shocked him more.
His love’s cynical, suspicious, dead voice sounded in the back of his mind, bringing a familiar wave of pain that stopped his instinctive urge to dive through the gate.
Careful. Looks good enough to have something with teeth hiding behind it.
He hesitated, looking more closely, peering not just at her, so appealing but so different from what he’d lost, but also around her.
There was something there. Off to one side, nearly hidden, certainly easy to miss if he hadn’t been so cautious, there was a male presence. He felt the confidence, the courage, the strength, and the cynicism. Different indeed from the female, who reeked of fear and a desperation that drew at him terribly.
This male reminded him of his lover.
Ever after, he didn’t know what drew him through more. The woman tied down on the altar or the man behind her with the knife. He did go through, however, chasing something he had no words for, and the man’s arm came down, sealing his imprisonment with a single stab of the blade.
“Black!” the man shouted. “Your name is Black and you’re mine!”
Yes, Black thought, floating over the ruins and staring at him. Yes, he was.