cimmerians did not pray to crom. he was a god who did not turn his eyes to his creations; he spat in your guts, gave you strength, and continued to keep his throne. conan, as all cimmerians, knew this. he understood the old, weathered god's ways were his own, and to have his eye befall you was a terrible thing. such a god only gave trouble and doom to those in his gaze.

as his hands dig into the crags before him, as the air grows thinner and thinner, he thinks that crom's eye must be fixed upon him in order to make this so difficult. he is not sure how he caught the old god's eye, only that the more conan struggles, the more difficult it becomes to conquer the mountain range before him.

sweat drips down his forehead, lungs burning as he makes his way up the mountain. there might have been easier ways to do this, better ways. those ways had eluded him; the only way that he could see was to climb the mountain to get to the other side, the true wild of the world that he so wanted, that he craved.

it's amusing, though in a way. the more he fights, the harder it becomes, the more conan feels himself burn with the desire to conquer this forsaken mountain. the more he wishes to finally crest it, to go beyond it. the more he curses crom with every breath, the more he wills his body to go forward, the worse it is.

"you cannot keep me from this, old man!" conan squeezes out the words, glaring up at the sky above him, "you and your devils may do your worst -- i will keep going forward, i will tear out your own guts for this!" it certainly feels his hands and feet are sinking into the very insides of crom as he moves, starting to feel light headed, almost sick with the movement. his blood boils, and the sky peels open in response.

if crom's eye is on him, then conan glares back, mouth open in a sound of rage, of will.


it has been days since the sky opened up above him, and conan had cursed crom over and over. days since he found himself waking on the other side of the mountains, surrounded by cold and the feeling of new air in his lungs, with slopes greeting him that weren't at all like cimmeria, with new smells downwind, new kinds of trees arching to the sky, new kinds of carrion in the sky. for all that the surroundings seemed familiar beneath a blanket of snow on the surface, conan knew better, the more he travelled. the cold here was not as bitter as cimmeria, it did not seem to want to sink itself inside of conan, didn't not seem to want to tear him open at the slightest sign of weakness like cimmerian cold.

it is different. it is more. he craves and craves more of it as he goes.

there is fortune: he finds it easy to steal skins to cloak himself, and weapons to go with it from the small huts he finds here and there. there is no one there to challenge him, the skins warm around him, the knife gripped tightly in his hands. eventually, he loses the knife and all there is to take with him is the mangled, sharpened branch of a tree that seems much more suited to him.

not once does fear enter his heart, not once does he hesitate, not once does he think to turn back to cimmeria in the cold nights in this new place. never does it cross his mind to go back with his tail between his legs when the forest emits strange sounds around him and things howl and shriek in the night that he does not know the name of.

the courage, that strength given to him at birth hadn't failed him.

conan had beat the mountain. he had gone over the crags, had cursed crom and fought until he had come over the top. there wasn't a bone in him that would waste this now. he would show this new world who he was -- show them a cimmerian, make them know his name for his deeds, his strength. make himself a warrior, a king to all.

everything in this place, it was his for the taking. every offer was laid at his feet, every possibility was open. and he would take it.

even if that offer was sleeping in the hollow of a rotted tree in the cold, the skins wrapped around him. even if that offer was waking up to see a wolf, as hungry as he, paces away, eyes boring into him with hunger. even if that wolf was part of a pack that had caught his scent, even if he knew that of this confrontation, either cimmerian or wolf was going to survive.

he grips the branch tighter in his fist. the wolf steps forward, coat mottled with brown and grey. the wind picks up, sends down more cold, more snow between them. the pack is gathering closer, and conan takes breath, after breath. counting heartbeats, counting the sound of howls.

no god could determine, then, if conan smiled or bared his teeth. they could argue until the end of their long lives over the expression on his face, over the yell he gave -- was it primal rage? was it fear? was it pleasure to meet an enemy before him?

perhaps it was all. perhaps it was none.

the pack does not win against conan. neither does the bobcat in the first waterfall conan sees. nor the field mouse, among the first golden wheat he ever sees. nor the bear, interrupted in its river by conan's pleasure and makes the mistake of attempting to assert itself as king.

all fall to conan the cimmerian, as he begins his true journey to being a king.

Till we're lost in the heat of the moment

whenever alexander mentions the boarding schools he's gone to, there is always an assumption that such places helped to engender a community of brotherhood, understanding and safety. anyone who has actually gone to such schools knows that such an idea is laughable.

for many people, they eventually made it out with friends, connections, rivalries that mattered in the real world, could always be circled back to, and in a manner, could make something of it.

most boys were not alexander, who routinely found himself sneaking off to other places on the grounds to eat his food alone, who kept to himself whenever he could manage, who's one friend lived elsewhere, and who preferred the company of his nanny to his parents' voices over the line interrogating him on grades.

it was all this to say that to have any semblance of kindness or friendship was sparse and lacking. most contact with other boys in the emotional and physical sense, for him were ones laden with tones of annoyance or purely punitive in nature. his roommate bodychecking him roughly in the hallways, the sports he hardly participated in left him bruised, and the visible irritation others had whenever those necessary social engagements happened and alexander, somehow, failed to miss a social cue, or did not understand the joke being said.

to be suddenly touched by luna ibarra, in his kitchen, in a way that does not feel punitive or laced with irritation is strange. stranger still is that there is a yearning alexander finds in those moments before he bolts from the apartment. a yearning to have that touch spread, to have it linger in a longer way than the few moments he was permitted there, to have a true sense of... of something he has no name for.

So draw me close

two days pass between the hasty retreat. luna texts him, emails him. alexander ignores it, tries to actually pay attention to the course laid out for him. he feels however, his mind starting to wander every few pages. he thinks about what he's left there, about the warmth of luna's hands on his in that moment, on how much he had wanted from it. the words, the emotions are still there, at the very edge of his mind, sitting there, wanting to be understood.

worse, really, is that he misses luna. it isn't the same thing as missing other friends, as missing his parents or missing anything else. it is deeper than that, sticks in the craw of his mind in a way that he can't dismiss the same or push down like anything else.

so when, on day three, luna sends him another text, asking him to meet him for lunch, alexander says yes.

when luna asks him if they are still friends, alexander says yes.

and when luna asks him if he wants to leave for awhile, to make up for time, alexander says yes.