This is a little 2k-word short set at the end of The Rycke (Book Three of the Monstrous series) when *SPOILERS AHEAD* Moth goes to find Aury because he can’t bear seeing his unrequited love so miserable.
Just a little teaser of our feral half monster boy Moth ahead of his book’s release in February 2022! Enjoy!
Content warnings: Bad language, mentions of violence
Spoiler warning: Set during the events of The Rycke (Monstrous: Book Three)
I had no idea why the fuck I was doing this.
My heart was pounding as I made my way slowly through the forest, sword in hand even though I was fully aware that if the rycke decided he wanted me dead, I’d be ripped in half before I even had time to take a breath.
But fuck. Ghost was so sad. I’d never seen him like that—like he’d just given up. He’d always been quiet and closed off, even when we were growing closer, but this was like the spark in him had gone out.
I hated it as much as I wanted to take his pain away.
Why does he want him? I couldn’t help but think bitterly as I traipsed through the forest, looking for the terrifying monster who Ghost had chosen over me. I slashed viciously through a bush with my sword even though it wasn’t in my way. He’s a true monster. He’s uncontrollable. At least my face looks mostly human. At least I don’t have giant wings and sharp spikes and big taloned bird feet.
I cut through another bush with too much force, watching with disinterest as a wanuk squealed and scampered out from under it, disappearing behind a tree.
I’d been searching for a few hours, and I still hadn’t sensed the rycke yet. But I knew he’d be close. He was mated to Ghost now—the thought made bitter jealousy churn my gut—so he’d want to keep an eye on him. He’d want to make sure he was safe.
He wouldn’t be able to bring himself to go too far.
How the fuck was I supposed to compete with that? With that kind of all-consuming possessiveness and want and longing? How was I supposed to compete with slaughtering and destroying an entire camp of raiders to keep him safe?
I would’ve done it, if I’d known that was what it took for Ghost to fall in love with me. I would’ve killed anyone he wanted. But I knew if I’d done that—if I’d murdered dozens of people for him—he wouldn’t have had the same reaction. He wouldn’t have tried to defend me, saying I couldn’t control it, saying it wasn’t my fault.
He hadn’t even forgiven me for leaving him with a pack of tiny little monsters who’d barely weighed enough to feel through the toe of my boot. And that hadn’t even been my fault. I hadn’t wanted to leave him.
But I couldn’t tell him why I had, and besides, what did it matter now anyway? Ghost loved Aury. The big, stupid rycke with his big sad eyes and the murderous, terrifying beast lurking under his skin.
My gut suddenly cramped with a sharp stab of foreboding. Tingles raced over my scalp and down my spine, my limbs twitching with the sudden, overwhelming desire to turn and run in the opposite direction. Run very, very far.
That meant he was close.
For a brief moment, my vision whited out with terror at the thought that he somehow knew what I’d been thinking and he was going to kill me for it.
I didn’t mean it, I thought timidly, forcing myself to take a tiny step forward. Your eyes are fine.
Leaves crunched under my boot, making me wince. The feeling of dread grew stronger as I forced myself to keep moving, my fingers clenching tighter around the hilt of my sword.
When I felt his eyes on me, I froze. My body stiffened up. I physically couldn’t move. For all of his seemingly soft, gentle nature, he had the eyes of a predator. Always watching. The beast lurked constantly under his skin, waiting to come out. To destroy.
That was all he was. Chaos inside. Chaos and death and destruction, a wolf wrapped in sheep’s clothing.
And Ghost wanted him.
I licked my lips nervously, my tongue catching on the warm metal ring piercing the lower. My voice was the slightest bit unsteady when I found the courage to speak.
“I want to talk to you about Ghost.”
My heart gave a mighty jolt when a branch snapped high, high above me. Leaves rustled furiously before the rycke thudded to the ground at the base of a very tall tree. His wings slowly unfurled, flexed, the sharp talons on the end of each finger glinting in the dappled sun.
I saw that dark fire flare in his eyes at the mere mention of Ghost, but he didn’t move. His black eyes watched me, making my skin crawl.
“Is he alright?”
That soft voice was so at odds with the monster lurking within. It made me angry—like he’d tricked Ghost into loving him, making him think he was all soft and sweet. Like it was all an act.
But he’d already latched onto Ghost. He was a true monster, but he would also keep Ghost safe for the rest of his life. That was what was important.
I forced myself to stand tall, turning to face him fully. But my voice still wavered when I said, “No, not really.”
That dark fire flared again. The rycke’s lips peeled back from his teeth in a snarl, and when he took a single step closer, I couldn’t stop myself from stumbling back. My heart felt like it would explode.
“What has happened? Is he hurt?” His voice had grown more guttural. Long fingers flexed at his sides, and I pictured them plunging into my abdomen and tearing out my guts.
“Not physically,” I said quickly, my hand sweating around the hilt of my sword. “But he’s… he’s hurting. Because you left.”
The rycke’s face became a picture of misery. He hung his head, green-hued hair shifting around his jaw.
“I can’t stay there,” he said, barely above a whisper. “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“You’re hurting Ghost by staying away.”
Aury shook his head. “I can’t risk it. And I can’t take him away from his home.”
“Okay, well,” I began nervously, “if Ghost is willing to do that for you—leave the camp, I mean—then… surely it should be something to consider. Together.”
My gut clenched at the thought of Ghost leaving with the rycke, vanishing into the Wastes. I’d never see him again.
The rycke’s huge wings twitched, folding in and out like a clenched fist. A nervous tic.
“He deserves better,” he mumbled.
Bitter resentment rose in me like a wave, clouding my judgement about this temperamental, dangerous monster and what he was capable of.
“Well, he picked you,” I snapped.
Aury’s head jerked up. He stared at me through wide eyes.
“He picked you, and he loves you, so all you’re doing is making him feel worse. You knew you have that thing inside you. You knew when you met him. If you really cared, you should have stayed away. You shouldn’t have made him fall in love with you.”
As soon as the words left me, terror made my scalp tingle. I anticipated watching this quiet monster change, grow, become something from a nightmare. I’d heard the rumours about the rycke. Overheard whispered, fearful conversations from monsters about the rycke being in this world, roaming the Wastes until he’d vanished all those years ago.
I remembered hearing relief in their voices when no one had seen him for years. Remembered them hopefully muttering that perhaps no new rycke would return if this one was dead—that perhaps the thing that had terrorised the monster world for eons would finally be gone forever.
Aury was watching me in silence. As I stared back, breaths escaping my nose in forceful spurts, his face softened. Sympathy bled into his eyes, and I hated it. I fucking hated it. It made me want to charge at him with my sword, fuck the consequences.
An ugly thought crept into my head. I could. I could attack him. The rycke was known for withstanding immense pain and suffering inflicted upon themselves. It was seeing those they cared about get hurt that brought out the beast under their skin.
I was good with my sword. Good at cutting body parts off. But… fuck. Even though I knew what this monster was capable of, he was gazing at me with those big, stupid, sad eyes, his posture utterly despondent, the pain he was feeling clear in his face.
“I didn’t know the full extent of it,” he whispered, looking away. “I didn’t know I was capable of such… chaos. I keep seeing them. Those humans in that camp. I keep… seeing what I did. If I did that to Ghost’s camp—his friends…”
He trailed off, rubbing his scarred cheek with one hand. I clenched my jaw and took a deep breath. I wasn’t here to be the rycke’s fucking therapist.
“You know you’d never hurt Ghost,” I said woodenly. “And if you become part of the camp, you’ll grow protective of the others too. You’d probably be an asset,” I forced myself to add.
When he didn’t speak, I cautiously added, “Ghost is miserable. He’s suffering.”
Aury’s expression grew pained, as if the very thought of it devastated him. But then his head cocked. He stared at me too intently, making me want to shuffle my feet and fold in on myself.
He knew. He knew how I felt about Ghost. I could see it.
And I despised the sympathy still wavering in his black eyes. I almost turned and walked off, leaving him here. To go back to the camp and never breathe a word of this. To act like the rycke was long gone, never coming back.
Surely Ghost would get over it eventually.
But then I pictured Ghost’s face, miserable as he picked at his dinner in his room. I’d never seen his whole face before, and I’d tried to commit it to memory while I could, because I knew I’d never see all of it again. I knew I’d never be in his room again.
“It was kind of you, to come and find me,” Aury said softly. He gave me a tiny smile, and I barely resisted the urge to scowl back. “You’re a good friend to Ghost.”
I nearly snorted. I didn’t want to be Ghost’s friend, and I wasn’t even that anymore. He’d blocked me out after that scouting trip. Even if I could have explained why I left him, he hadn’t given me a chance.
So I’d used my only defence. Arrogance. A cold mask, as if I didn’t give a shit that Ghost didn’t want me anymore.
I was used to people not wanting me. It was all I’d ever known, so one more wasn’t a surprise.
“He has been out here,” Aury said softly. “I’ve seen him and Lilac searching the forest.”
“Yeah, for you,” I snapped, trying hard to ignore the deeply ingrained instinct in my monster half telling me to run run run run. “He’s been looking for you. So he’s putting himself in more danger than he needs to, coming out here. You’re making it worse.”
Aury flinched. His head twitched hard, once, then twice.
“I don’t know what to do,” he whispered, and I fucking hated the pang of sympathy I felt in my chest. Big black eyes gazed at me mournfully. “How can I be sure that I won’t hurt the others? Can I control it?”
“I’m the wrong person to ask,” I shot back. “I don’t know how to find out more about your kind. Monsters hate me.”
Aury stared at me in silence. His mouth quirked into a sad little smile. “Monsters hate me too.”
Yeah, but at least you still have someone.
The rycke’s eyes drifted toward the direction of the camp at the edge of the forest. His brows pinched, eyes filled with longing. At length, he nodded.
“I will go back. To see him. To try and…” He rubbed his arms anxiously and whispered, “I need to see him.”
Peachy. Great job, Moth, reuniting the man you want with his big monster lover.
“Swell,” I bit out, turning and stalking off in the direction of the camp. “Let’s go.”
Aury followed in silence, but I could hear the rasp of his big wings dragging through the dead leaves on the forest floor.
Copyright 2022 by Lily Mayne
All rights reserved.