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03. Muriel's Slice of Life

The rays of weak afternoon sun found their way through the thick leaves of the tree top to tickle the face of the boy lying underneath it. The boy rubbed his cheeks before he rolled on his side away from the rays, almost squashing two squirrels that lay on his chest.

The animals screeched and jumped to  the ground and the birds resting on the branches above rose up in the air. They made a circle over the tree before they resumed their previous position, appearing to watch over the black-haired youth on the ground.

The boy gave them a smile as he sat up. He patted one squirrel then the other and images of them eating walnuts and running up and down the trees appeared before his eyes. 

How easily he could appease them and make them happy. He wished he could do the same for his brothers. He looked at the house, behind whose walls his younger brother Haniel tinkered with machines or played human video games, while his older brother Uriel was probably still at Angelica's lab.

A bird landed on his shoulder and as soon as he caressed its little head a flock of them flew down and circled him, nudging him with their heads as if to say pet me, too, give us love, too.

His body grew three times its size, fur covered his skin and the birds chirped in excitement, their wings flapping. Their heads poking against him became more enthusiastic and more demanding.

“Yes, yes.” He gave them what they craved. His large, clawed hands caressed the small heads one by one. Their love for his beast form still amazed him, especially since he had once abhorred it, hated it and wished it could erase it.

He lifted one of the birds to his face, ignoring the protest of the rest.

The fragile feathered being stared at him with adoration and his tiny beak touched his snout before it nuzzled against him, emitting sounds of happiness.

Muriel knew that in his beast form his connection with animals was stronger, but their lack of fear surprised him every time. When he had seen it in the mirror for the first time, as a toddler, it had made his skin crawl in disgust and terror. He had run from it and hidden in the closet until his older brother reassured him that he had chased the monster away.

He looked at his hand, at the black fur, at the long, curved nails that could rip through steel like it was paper. A few years later, when he had found out that the image from the mirror was himself, the discovery had thrown him into a deep, black hole. He was different from the rest of them, ugly and worthless and nothing Uriel said to him could change that fact, could change what he was. But his sadness had called out the animals and they crawled out into the open for him; rodents, birds and mammals, and snuggled against him offering him support and love. He had then discovered that he could connect with them and he had relied on that connection, on the love they had for his beast, until he had accepted the beast as a part of himself,  a positive part which enabled him to 'talk' with animals. Others might dislike it, fear it or even hate it, but it was what made him what he was and if he accepted himself, the people who loved him had to accept him the way he was, too. Uriel and Haniel did, without any hesitation.

Muriel. Uriel's voice called him through the mental link he shared with his brothers. It's time for the ceremony.

I'm coming. Muriel nodded, said goodbye to the animals and went inside the house where his brothers waited for him in the semi-dark living room.

He sat on the couch between them still in his beast form, because his mental abilities were the strongest in his beast form.

Uriel and Haniel took hold of his hands.

The vibration of Muriel's blood and body's synchronized with theirs and the invisible chains that always connected them tightened until not only their minds, but also their bodies, became one. They became Dume, a powerful man-like creature with four wings whose outstretched span occupied more space than their large living room could accommodate.

Dume focused on the darkness that ruled in his mind, reaching outwards until thousands upon thousands of blue, purple, grey, and green threads lighted it. The human and Bloodeater's spirit energies.

He browsed through the threads until he found one braided with all of the colours with a golden spine. The spirit energy of Trinity, the soul that hid in the deep corners of another soul, waiting to get strong enough to be born again. They had been watching over it since it had appeared two thousand years ago. He pulled the thread down and pressed his cheek against it. And which they would continue to watch over, protect and hide its carrier's position until Trinity could do it on her own.

Holding the thread with his hands, he started to recite the words of protection, while his fingers brushed over it like they were applying layers of coating over it.

Soon the thread started to glow bright red, then slowly turned into black before it faded away.

Dume gave it a last caress then released it. He opened his eyes and his body shimmered as it started to separate.

Muriel, in his human form, leaned back on the couch, a thin layer of perspiration covered his forehead and his temples. His limbs felt heavy and numb. Since the joining allowed him to draw energy from his brothers, the process energized him, but the Protection Ceremony always drained him dry. Sometimes he wished he was not the one with the mental abilities.

Uriel lifted him up and cradled him against his chest as he carried him down into the basement where three steel sarcophagus-looking crates stood, the Sarniikzis. He opened the lid of one of them and put Muriel inside it. He brushed the bangs away from Muriel's face.

“I'm fine,” Muriel said.

“You are always fine.”

“Like you.”

“There's nothing wrong with me.”

“There's never anything wrong with you,” Muriel replied, a hint of bitterness colouring his voice. He pulled himself higher on the pillow. “You have been with Angelica again.”

“It has been a long time since Angelica experimented on me.”

But visits to Angelica's lab awoke the old wounds for Uriel, Muriel could feel it every time despite Uriel’s attempts to hide it. He curled his fingers around Uriel's wrist. And his refusal to talk about it -- Muriel knew the reason why, because Uriel didn't want to burden him or Haniel with his issues. And Muriel resented that. “You have always been there for me, why don't you let me be there for you?”

“But you would be the first one I’d turn to if I had problems, you know that.” Uriel's mouth curved into a smile.

With his mind Muriel reached out, trying not only to intrude into Uriel's head, but also in his thoughts. The blue whips appeared to caress Uriel’s mind, to calm it and to pull it into a warm, gentle embrace.

“Stop it.”

“But --”

“Stop it!” Uriel wiggled his hand out of Muriel's hold.

The whips withdrew and Muriel pouted.

Uriel sighed. “I know you are just trying to help, but I don't need it.”

“Yes, you do, you just don't want to admit it,” Muriel said. And Haniel was exactly the same. The boy raged, whined and pouted, and even threw tantrums, but never said directly what was bothering him. It was good that Haniel was an open book and Muriel knew which buttons to push to pull him out of his misery, while with Uriel... He couldn't even peep into Uriel's mind without him noticing.

 “You are worrying for nothing, again.” Uriel patted Muriel's hand.

Muriel rolled on his side, his eyes on Uriel. “Worrying is your speciality, not mine.”

“Maybe.” Uriel's lips curved in a smile. “Now, be a good boy and go to sleep.” He tousled Muriel's hair before he closed the lid.

He's probably going to polish his sword, Muriel thought. He always did that to calm himself, and after having been with Angelica he did need to calm himself. If Uriel would only let him do something for him, that was  all Muriel wished for. To lighten  his brother’s burdens  and to brighten their days. But Uriel wouldn’t let him. The stubborn jerk.

A small smile flashed on his  lips. Well, they were all stubborn, proud and unable to share their burdens. The only traits that they shared equally.

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