Vials of Wrath

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Author's Notes: Thanks for the reviews! I apologize for not working on this. This is one of the stories I'm working really hard on every single sentence to get it just right. *grin* Yeah, I'm obsessive.

Warnings: There will be angst, violence, death, shounen ai, and heterosexual pairings in this story.

Summary: Set over fifty years after the Uprisings, when the humans enslaved the demons and annihilated the peaceful Bellus, Julian lives in a peaceful town. However, he finds himself drawn into a chain of events that will decide the fate of every creature on the world. With humans, half-demons, and even those with Bellus blood lingering in their veins joining him in his quest, Julian must put aside his pacifistic ideals and become the hero he has to be.

Author's Thanks: SweetSun, Centi the yaoi hime, SakuraSun, and tmelange1 for reviewing.

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Vials of Wrath

Cinaed, Born of Fire

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Chapter Two: Every Man Has His Price

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"Oh, but I'll be taking Taliesin with me." The words seemed to hang in the air and wrap invisible tendrils of panic around Julian's throat to choke him. Maybe that was why his instinctive cry of protest was garbled as he twisted to look with shock at the hunter. This couldn't be happening!

Taliesin, to the carpenter's further astonishment, looked almost bitterly amused at the pronouncement. There was the faintest hint of an upward curve to his lips as he stared at the blond fighter. "That was very dramatic of you.. Are you certain you weren't a player for some performing troupe before you became a soldier?" The huntsman's tone was dripping with sarcasm.

"No, no, I was an herb peddler, as I said," Vignus stated, sounding almost amused. "However, I suppose a peddler must have /some/ player talents to be able to sell his wares." He gave a little shrug, looking down for a moment. "It doesn't matter anymore. My cart and goods were burned when I became a soldier. Now, Taliesin, come with me. You can gather a few belongings, but- "

"But nothing!" The tendrils of panic had loosened their hold long enough for Julian to protest. Loudly. "You are /not/ taking Taliesin! We're both pacifists, and you can't force him to become a soldier!"

The blonde ignored him, smirking as he gazed steadily at the hunter. The little grin didn't reach his cold gray eyes. "Idealistic, isn't he? Now, Taliesin, tell /friend/ not to make such a fuss. After all, it could be worse. His paper could have changed color, and yours could have stayed blank."

"Don't ignore me!" The carpenter found himself shouting, and could hear his own alarm in his trembling yell. "Tal is not going to be hauled off to-to murder people just because some damn general tells him to!" He began to storm towards Vignus, desperate to wipe that arrogant smirk off the man's face, but halted when Taliesin's hand rested gently on his shoulder.

"Be quiet, Julian." The brunet's voice was oddly soft. Had Julian ever heard him use such a gentle tone before? "I'll speak with General Haddon and see if I can talk him into let me stay in Grecian." Julian looked up into Taliesin's face, noting the tranquil expression. Only a flicker of nervousness in his sage green eyes revealed his worry at the serious turn of events. "If I can't talk him into letting me stay, I'll simply use nonviolent resistance until I get kicked out of the army. It's as simple as that."


Vignus wanted to laugh at the 'simple as that' comment. At least the brunet seemed to have /some/ brains! He would soothe his friend with some creative lies and then go off and become a soldier despite being a pacifist and then get killed. Perhaps word would never reach Julian of the other man's death and he would spend the rest of his life waiting for Taliesin to return to Grecian. That was how the world worked, after all. Everything and everyone was doomed to despair..

"Come on," he said, veiling his impatience with another easy smile. "You can't possibly have too many valuables. Simply pack a couple changes of clothes-weapons if you have any-and follow me to where the general is waiting."

Taliesin hesitated, and then nodded in acquiescence as his best friend's face crumpled, shock and betrayal warring for domination of his freckled features. "Tal, you /can't/ go off to war! People die!"

The young man's words were almost a wail, but his fellow brunet remained composed, at least outwardly. "Don't worry, Julian. I'll be fine." The hunter ruffled those shaggy, golden brown strands for a moment, as if his companion was a child of eight and could be soothed by such gestures. "I already told you my plan, so trust me on this. I'll come back to Grecian. You need to stay and take care of the house."

Julian jutted his jaw in a childish scowl. "I'm not about to let you become a soldier and go off on some dangerous adventure without being at your side, Tal. I'm coming with you."

"No, you're not!" Taliesin and Vignus said as one; the former had sounded alarmed, the latter scornful. The shaggy-haired man would be dead after two hours in the general's presence!

The woodworker wilted a little at their protests, but rallied after a moment. "Why not? I may not know how to use any weapons, but I can learn to defend myself!"

"You're not suitable," the ex-peddler remarked in a cold tone. He wouldn't mention why, of course, but Julian might eventually guess of the secret that Taliesin had been hiding from him all this time. Then again, he might remain as clueless as ever. The young man seemed to have that sort of naiveté.

"You're not going because I don't want you to," was the second explanation. This one was from the huntsman, his tone more a little sharp.

Vignus bit back a snort at Taliesin's rationale. Was that supposed to be a better reason? Still, it seemed to register more with the carpenter, because the determined jut of the young man's jaw seemed to wobble and lose strength at that.

"Why not? I can protect you.."

"If you're in the military as well, I'd get distracted during a battle, protecting you. /That's/ how people die," Taliesin explained calmly, ruffling that shaggy mane yet again. "Please, Julian, just stay home and take care of the house. I worked hard to save my money and buy this lovely place for the two of us." There was an underlying tone in the hunter's tone that pleaded with his friend to comply and seemed to knock the wind from the woodworker.


He couldn't let on that he was trying not to cry. Then Julian would insist on going again, and the hunter would die before he'd let the other man go headfirst into a war where he'd certainly be killed. Perhaps that was exactly what he was doing right now. Clearing his throat, Taliesin forced the huskiness from his voice and said in a softer tone, "Please, Julian, promise me you won't join General Haddon's army."

The huntsman locked gazes with the carpenter, and felt a rebellious lump lodge in his throat at the glitter of tears he saw in those dark brown orbs. Damn it, Taliesin was /not/ going to give in!

"I-I promise, Tal." Julian offered him a wobbly smile, and then blinked rapidly for a moment until the sheen of tears had vanished from his eyes. "Just don't get dead, please?"

"I'll try my hardest," the huntsman swore, knowing that he couldn't promise to come back alive. The hand of Fate dealt mysterious cards that no one could pretend to understand. /He/ certainly wouldn't profess to.

And then any further thoughts upon the matter of destiny were cut off as Julian suddenly flung his arms around Taliesin and buried his face in the other man's chest, mumbling despairingly, "I'll miss you!"

From the corner of his eyes, the hunter saw Vignus redden and look away, as if to give them privacy in exchange for their compliance. Ignoring the ex- peddler, Taliesin wrapped his arms around Julian and simply held him for a minute, feeling the woodworker tremble a little in his grasp. He closed his eyes for a moment, savoring this moment when Julian was in his arms and the rest of the world didn't matter. Taliesin could pretend to forget that in an hour or two he would be gone from his beloved town, towards possible death and certain anguish.

After a long pause, he began to feel the carpenter's trembling increase into outright shuddering, and knew that Julian was crying even before the huntsman felt the dampness of his companion's tears.

"Hey, no tears," Taliesin chided even as he pulled the woodworker closer to him. "I can't go off to be a soldier in a soggy shirt. Wouldn't be proper."

"Sorry," was the muffled, choked response that Julian made into his chest, his tone a bit helpless. "Sorry.."


Damn it all, now Vignus was starting to feel guilty. Well, what could he do? Haddon would /know/ if he had left a suitable soldier behind, and the general would come to the tiny cottage after punishing the former peddler. Either way, Taliesin would be impressed into the army..

He cleared his throat, and was grateful for the annoyance that replaced the mild bout of guilt when the two young men ignored him. Anger was better than remorse any day of the week. Vignus cleared his throat, louder this time, but they continued to ignore him.

Instead, Julian whispered something, accompanied by a loud sniffle, into the hunter's shirt. One of Taliesin's powerful hands stroked the other man's back a few more times before the man sighed and gently disentangled from Julian. "C'mon, Jul. You're not making this any easier.."

The carpenter's eyes were red, and he still had the glistening marks of shed tears upon his cheeks as he gazed at his friend. "Are you sure you'll be all right?" he whispered, his dark brown eyes glittering.

Taliesin smiled softly. "I'll be fine." The huntsman turned to Vignus. "Just let me collect my things. That should only take a moment." His words were matter-of-fact, almost enough to be curt.

The former peddler was tempted to snarl that it had better be, but thought better of it. Julian would simply get up in arms about coming with the other man if Vignus acted offensive. It was that reason alone which left him with the only option of simply nodding in response.

The huntsman exited the room, which left Julian free to glare at Vignus with red-rimmed eyes. The accusing stare made the soldier feel guilty again, and so he forced himself to feel indignant. It wasn't /his/ fault! If it was anyone's, it was General Haddon's! Only the ex-peddler couldn't think like that because the general always seemed to know if he was thinking rebellious thoughts..

"Don't look at me like that," Vignus snapped. "It's not as if I /like/ taking people from their homes! It's just a sacrifice that must be made if we're going to kill all the demons."

Julian continued to glare at him, his dark brown eyes suddenly as hard as obsidian. His puppy dog appearance vanished, replaced by one that was cold, threatening, and definitely not innocent. The carpenter advanced on him, and Vignus was suddenly very aware that Julian was three inches taller than he.

The former peddler resisted the urge to take a step away from the advancing woodworker. "Look, I told you, this is my job. Haddon would have eventually come and recruited your friend anyway. It was just a matter of time!"

The other man's lips curled into a disdainful sneer, and any childlike despair had long-since vanished from Julian's expression. When he spoke, it was in a low, menacing tone. "Listen carefully, Vignus. If I hear of you or anyone in the army hurting Tal, I'll hunt you down and kill you. If Tal dies in this war against the demons, I'll hunt you down and rip you apart. If anything happens to him, you'll pay the price." Julian smiled coldly, looking far too similar to Haddon for the blonde's liking. "Understand?"

Vignus swallowed, and the muttered, "Yessir," escaped him before he could help it. Immediately he fought back a blush. This furious boy was five years his junior! He couldn't do anything to him! Scowling, he added with a sneer in an attempt to regain his dignity, "Although I'll be interested to see if you could hunt me down."

"Oh, I'll hunt you down," Julian promised, still smiling grimly. "You have my word."


The carpenter had never been this angry before. The fury coursed through his veins and made him feel like his body was roasting from the inside. His vision of that trickster kept blurring, and Julian blinked to try and clear his sight.

When he could see clearly, Vignus was looking pale and shaken by his words, he noticed with no small amount of satisfaction. The woodworker couldn't help but wonder about the whispered, "Yessir," that had seemed to be instinctive for the ex-peddler. Oh well, what did that matter? Whoever the soldier called 'sir' was of no concern to Julian.

Vignus swallowed, his gray eyes flashing silver for a moment (or maybe that was simply a trick of the light). "War is war, Carpenter Julian," he said after a moment, a slight tremor to his words. "I can't promise you that Taliesin will return alive. I do swear I'll try my best to look out for him and show him a few tricks that'll help him survive."

"It would be in your best interest if you did," Julian informed him, still a little dazed by the merciless texture that colored his voice. If Tal died- but no, he couldn't think of it! The rage was making him shake, and he bit down on his lower lip for a moment, wanting to scream, to cry some more, to hit something or rather someone..

"Understood." The ex-peddler seemed to have recovered from his earlier bout of trepidation, and there was an almost mocking drawl in his words. "I must ask, however, what you'll do to me should he come home alive but crippled."

Crippled? Taliesin, crippled? An image sprang into the carpenter's mind, one of his best friend sitting in a chair, his powerful legs withered almost to the bone, his expression despairing because he was now useless. The huntsman would rather die than become a cripple! "If he's crippled, then you'll find yourself without the use of your legs either," snapped Julian, feeling almost nauseous. He struggled to banish that horrible image from his mind.

"I should've guessed," Vignus commented sardonically as Taliesin reentered the room.

A knapsack flung over one broad shoulder, the brunet quirked an eyebrow towards the ex-peddler. A good amount of arrows were placed in one of the hunter's preferred quivers, a dark brown one which blended well into the forest when the huntsman stalked his prey. He held his favorite bow, made of a sapling Taliesin had cut down himself, in a powerful but almost lazy grasp.

"I'm ready to be off," he announced in his usual gruff tone, nodding towards Vignus. Sage green eyes flickered towards Julian, and studied him.

The carpenter felt the blush begin, spreading from his neck to the tips of his ears. Tal always seemed to know when he'd gone and done something rash or lost his temper, which usually amounted to the same thing. Knowing his face was bright red, Julian nevertheless held his best friend's gaze.

Dark brown met sage green for a long moment before the huntsman said softly, "I wrote a quick note for my ma and da, if you'll give it to them. Make certain they don't get themselves run out of town while I'm gone."

That earned a laugh, although it was wrenched from somewhere deep and painful in Julian's chest. "You know I can't control them, Tal. I'll do my best though." It seemed everyone was promising to do his or her best today.

"That's all I ask." The pale-eyed man seemed about to say something, and then suddenly changed his mind, whirling to face Vignus once more. "Well, what're we waiting for? Let's go!"

Vignus raised his eyebrows, a flicker of something akin to amusement but also to bewilderment at the same time appearing in his gray eyes. "Impatient?"


Taliesin shrugged his powerful shoulders. "Might as well get going." If he stayed any longer, Julian might start trying to coax him into remaining in Grecian. Plus, he had gotten the feeling that General Haddon was not a man to keep waiting.

He turned back towards his best friend, noticing the carpenter's trembling lower lip and flushed cheeks. Resisting the urge to clasp him in his arms once more, the hunter said gently, "I'll be seeing you, Jul." It was an insignificant way to say good-bye, but if he said anything else, his best friend might realize that Taliesin was convinced of his own impending doom.

Julian offered him a watery smile, obviously forced. "Come back soon." The brunet hesitated, and seemed about to say something. Then he flushed and looked down. "I'll make certain the house keeps clean."

"My thanks." It was something to look forward to, really. He imagined himself a world-weary soldier, walking up the path of white stones to where Julian waited in the doorway, a bright smile on his face. He adjusted the strap of his knapsack and turned towards Vignus. "Lead the way, soldier."

The former peddler glanced almost nervously towards Julian before he nodded and turned, making his way towards the egress of the little cottage. The huntsman followed after, feeling his best friend's presence acutely as the other brunet trailed him.

He stepped out into the sun, blinking until his eyes had adjusted to the bright light. Turning, Taliesin offered a reassuring smile to the carpenter who hovered in the doorway, his visage anxious. He wanted to say something else, but the words lodged in his throat, and instead he simply reached out to squeeze his best friend's shoulder. Feeling the tremors that still shook Julian's frame, the huntsman turned away. He was blinking rapidly once more, but this time it wasn't because of the sun.

"Well, let's go." Vignus was quiet, and if the green-eyed man hadn't know better, he would have suspected that there had been a note of sympathy in the older man's voice. "General Haddon is expecting us."

Taliesin nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Knowing he would break down if he looked at Julian for a final moment, he didn't dare look back, instead following slowly after the soldier as Vignus began to lead the way towards the huntsman's fate.

Julian didn't call after him, and for that the hunter was grateful. He kept his gaze trained on a spot right between the ex-peddler's shoulder blades, for the other man had rearranged his long locks to cascade over one shoulder down his chest. The brass yellow tresses still hurt Taliesin's eyes, but it was a mild discomfort that he could easily ignore.

Once they had reached the end of the street and out of Julian's sight, Vignus paused, and turned towards him. There was an expression on the soldier's face, one of almost misery and shame. "General Haddon would've come for you anyway, you know. He's got a sense about these things. If he didn't have that sort of sense, I would've let you stay in Grecian."

Was this a way of apologizing to him? If so, Taliesin had already forgiven him. Common soldiers were only pawns. It was the leaders of the battles that were meant to hated. He arched an eyebrow, not saying anything.

His silence seemed to make the embarrassment worse, and Vignus blushed. "I promised Julian I would keep you safe. I may be a liar and once or twice a thief if I needed food, but I keep my promises." He extended a hand towards the hunter. "Let me show you a few tricks of the trade that might keep you alive."

After a brief moment, Taliesin accepted the hand, feeling the warmth radiate from those callused fingers. As they shook and made a pact of perhaps friendship, he said quietly, "I didn't blame you. It's General Haddon I blame for all of this."

Silvery-gray eyes widened at that, and Vignus looked almost fearful. "Don't let him hear you say that!" he whispered, his gaze flickering around as if the general would leap from the shadows and punish them both. "Don't even /think/ it!"

The hunter was about to retort that he had full rights to his own thoughts when he suddenly frowned, and gripped the other man's hand tightly. "What's that?" Sliding his bow into his quiver, he reached out and shoved the soldier's white sleeve towards his elbow, ignoring the sharp inhale of shock that the action earned him. "Who did that to you?" Taliesin's voice was quiet and slightly horrified.

Vignus yanked his hand from the huntsman's grasp, smoothing his sleeve back over his flesh. Now there was no sign of the white scars that marked his lightly tanned skin. There were pale wounds from countless knives and tightly bound rope, all looking fairly recent. Now they were veiled from Taliesin's sight once more, but he could remember vividly that there seemed to be more scars than unblemished flesh.

"Who did that to you?" The huntsman repeated his demand, his eyes wide. Who would hurt another person in such a way?

The healthy tan hue had vanished from the former peddler's visage, replaced by an ashen one. He seemed almost shaken by Taliesin's discovery, and even humiliated that the huntsman had seen the scars.

"That is why.." His voice failed him, and Vignus swallowed hard before continuing, the words rasping from his throat. "That is why you can't think negative thoughts of General Haddon when you're in his presence. He knows. He always knows."


Julian watched Taliesin and Vignus until they had vanished from sight, and it was only then that he allowed himself to cry once more. The earlier fury had left him drained, and the sobs shook him as he leaned against the doorframe. When his breathing finally became regular again, he wiped a hand across his eyes.

It was time for action. Of course he'd promised Tal that he wouldn't join General Haddon's army, but the hunter had never said anything about not becoming his own army of one. Julian would follow after this band of soldiers, and protect his best friend in any way possible.

Straightening his shoulders, he felt a determined smile curve his lips. He had a few things to do before he began to stalk General Haddon's army. One included giving the letter to Taliesin's parents, and another was that he was going to have to convince Aunt Minda to take care of the house.

Gazing down the road of the town that he had run amuck in for the past seven years, Julian whispered, "I swear that I'll protect Taliesin with my life, and that if we both survive, I'll tell him that I love him." He paused. By all the lost Bellus, he hoped they both survived.. Shaking his head, the carpenter turned and went back into the house, closing the door behind him.

He had a great many things to do, and precious little time to do it if he wanted to trail the army. Hopefully, Aunt Minda wouldn't complain too much, and that the townspeople would understand why he had to close up his carpenter shop for a couple months. After all, if General Haddon was as ruthless as everyone said he was, the demons not on the other continent would be wiped out in less than a year.

Listening to the silence of the empty house, Julian felt a lump lodge in his throat, much like the one that had prevented him from saying those three fateful words to Taliesin as the huntsman had left for places unknown. Had Tal really thought that the woodworker could survive in their home without him? No, the loneliness would have been incredible.

He entered Taliesin's room, and immediately spotted the letter. Snatching it up, the young man read the note, a wobbly smile forming on his lips. For all that Tal's parents had tried, they had never managed to teach their son how to spell. Or how to show proper respect in a good-bye letter.

/ Deer Ma and Da,

Hopefully Jul won't ferget and will give this note to you. I have been fourced intoo Genral Haddon's army. You know why. I may be gon awile. Take good care of Jul. We all know he needs it. I will try too rite, I promis. Be safe, and dun worry bout me. The solider who came four me seems like an ass, but I can handel him and anyone who is a ass. I'll be all rite. I mite even see sum amazing things.


Tal /

- TBC -

(Author's Notes: The chapter title comes from a Nietzsche quote that goes as follows: "'Every man has his price.' This is not true. But for every man there exists a bait which he cannot resist swallowing. To win over certain people to something, it is only necessary to give it a gloss of love of humanity, nobility, gentleness, self-sacrifice - and there is nothing you cannot get them to swallow. To their souls, these are the icing, the tidbit; other kinds of souls have others." Please remember to read and review!