The mountain rose up through the forest, jutting is flat top to the sky. Keleri knew what was there, the rotted wooden stairs and ashes piled high by the wind. He tucked his hair back behind his ear. The bag on his shoulder got heavier with each step, leather strap rubbing through his shirt. The cloth was sweaty against him. A little too hot for comfort, but he knew the night would be colder than a tromp through the forest in the middle of the day.
Keleri didn’t stop for the night, pushing branches out of his face and holding a lit finger in front of him. The moon overhead didn’t do too much good. Even the stars seemed dimmer when Keleri saw the stairs, moss turning the dark wood green. They creaked under his weight. The mountain rose in front of him, only the edge of the top visible as he started up.
The top of the mountain almost stopped him, the scent of fire still lingering. Keleri closed his eyes, turning his head away from the crater that lay at the center. He lifted one hand to touch his shoulder, fingers lingering just below his ear. His eyes wouldn’t open for a long moment, the whistle of air past him smelling of ashes and hinting at decay.
When he did look up, he saw things he knew. A few skeletons visible through the shifting ashes, peeks of charred bones. There was some beams from the house sitting upright and trembling in the wind. All the walls were gone, the foundation a hole deep in the ground and filled with ash. Keleri knew the house hadn’t been that big, though he remember a mansion of immense proportions.
“Whore-boy came after all.” Hibrido’s voice was all sneer, one ghostly hand brushing across Keleri’s back. He laughed at the shiver that went down Keleri’s back. “I though you’d stay with your new special friend.” The air around him shifted as the younger man turned, staring up with dulled eyes.
“He is just another person I’ve helped.” Keleri’s smile was weak and shaky, his eyes frightened. “I’ll protect him at all costs.” His hands fell to his sides. “I won’t die for you.” There was a pause as Keleri coughed, covering his mouth and struggling to breath. The fit lasted longer than Hibrido was willing to wait, the ghost flitting above Keleri’s head.
“Are you some kind of fairy tale?” Hibrido laughed, flicking a finger against Keleri’s shoulder. “Do you want parents to talk about the whore-boy with a heart of gold? Will they leave out the part where you killed your family?” He shifted in the air, standing in front of Keleri. His feet didn’t touch the ground, though they brushed the ashes. “Or will that be included? A little tale of treachery.”
“I just want to help people.” Keleri’s voice was a rasping whisper. His eyes had closed as he coughed. “I don’t care about being anything else.” He shook his head, tucking his hair back behind his ear. The ashes spun around his feet in a tiny bit of wind. “People still need me.”
“Need you?” Hibrido ran his fingers along Keleri’s back. The shivers were violent, shaking Keleri’s entire body. He looked smaller as he shivered, turning his head up even though he didn’t have to look too high. “No one needs you. Maybe wants you. You are a pretty little figure, my whore-boy.”
“I’m helping him. As long as he needs me.” Keleri tried to take a step back. His body was shaking too hard to move. His eyes closed against the cold, head falling forward and arms crossed across his chest. “As long as he needs me.”
“No one needs you.” Hibrido sneered, floating back from Keleri. “Maybe you want him.” He laughed as Keleri’s head shot up, the young man’s eyes wide. “Is that why you stick around? Do you care about him?” His laugh was almost hysterical, kicking his legs up and staring at the sky. “Oh, that’s too good to be true.”
“He’s almost independent. I’ll be gone soon.” Keleri’s voice shook as he spoke, staring at Hibrido. “He’s a friend. I helped him. I won’t leave him until he’s happy.” He shrugged, though the motion was tiny and unsure. “Then I’ll go. I want to help before I die.”
“You’re no martyr.” Hibrido ran his hand across Keleri’s shoulder. “You’re just a little whore without any idea what you’re doing.” He watched the young man shivering. A few bones shook in the distance, the wind picking up. “And I’m your master. So close your eyes and burn yourself up inside, just like you did to me.”
“I’m not yours.” Keleri shook his head, though his voice trembled. “You died. I’m free. I’m helping people now. I’ll be yours in ten years when I die. Be patient.” The smile he gave Hibrido was weak and shaky, his fingers trembling as he clutched his arms. “I’ll be dead eventually.”
“Hmph.” Hibrido screwed up his face, looking Keleri over from head to toe. “I’d bet you’ll be even skinnier when you die. A better chance for pretty.” He ran one hand along the young man’s chest and face. “Fine. Help your people. Build your silly little fairy tale of a whore-boy. But remember.” He sneered as he bent closer, touching his nose to Keleri’s and watching him shiver. “You’re mine. Forever.”
“After I die.” Keleri’s voice was shaking as he spoke, barely rising above a whisper. “Until then, I’m my own.” The hint of challenge in his voice was lost as he started to cough, body shaking until he fell to his knees. The ashes rose above his head, choking him as he struggled to breath.
“You’re never your own. Someone will always own you.” Hibrido flashed out with those words. He left a swirl of ashes behind, a few bones falling from the air.
Keleri tried to force himself to his feet. The coughing wouldn’t subside though, ashes collecting on his lips and in his mouth. Slowly he lay down on the rocks, curling up on his side and trying to cover his head.