For years now the harvest has been less than it should be. Last year the people of Oisin's village sacrificed a goat, but their god did not come. Now, in desperation, a human sacrifice has been suggested, and Oisin, recently orphaned and feeling life is not worth living, volunteers.
But the god Belinos is not quite what he seems, and Oisin's sacrifice will not be what he expects, for Belinos first came out of the darkness to drink the sacrificial blood not because he was a god, but because he was a vampire.
This is just the beginning of the changes to Oisin's life, as he is drawn further and further into a world of gods and magic, where the most unexpected thing is not even his own blossoming talent, but the blossoming feelings he has for Belinos.
Love between mortal and immortal is not without its difficulties, though. As outright war among the gods threatens, Oisin will end up making a far greater difference in the conflict than he could ever have dreamed possible.
Bel reached out, touching his shoulder gently. “I know what it is to be alone in the world. I am glad you’ve been happy with me.”
“I have been. You are ...” Oisin trailed off, looking over at Bel. They sat close, side by side, and Oisin reached out, still up a fair bit, even sitting, and brushed his fingers along Bel’s cheek.
Bel tipped his head towards Oisin, looking at him with a faint puzzlement in his soft, silver eyes. Oisin slid his hand to the back of Bel’s neck, pulling him down a little further, and leaned in to kiss him softly.
For one long, glorious moment Bel kissed him back, his hand coming up to run through Oisin’s hair, his lips moving softly against Oisin’s, but then he abruptly pulled away, pushing Oisin back.
“No. You ... you cannot. I cannot ...”
Oisin felt his heart sink, his eyes beginning to tear up. He had a sudden sympathy for Caydren, for what it felt like to have one’s kisses rejected. Bel did not want him. He should have known it must be so. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice choked with unshed tears.
“Oisin ...” Bel looked stricken, and Oisin’s heart fell further. He’d gone too far, presumed too much. How could he have thought he was worthy of a god? “You ... I ... Such things between us are not wise. I am not human, my little deer. I cannot be a lover or companion to you. I ... I am a monster, a creature of shadow and blood. If you come too close I will hurt you, and I would not hurt you for all the world. Please ...”
Oisin felt a shock go through him. What was Bel saying? Bel was acting as if he was not worthy of Oisin, which was utter insanity. “I’m not afraid,” he said, blurting out the only thing he could think of in response.
A visible shudder went through Bel. “I know. You have been fearless all this time. You have been ... astonishing. But I will hurt you if you grow too close, my little deer. I will be unable to help myself. Even now I can smell the scent of your blood, and it is so sweet, far sweeter than the blood of the forest deer. Please, do not press this on me. I could not bear it if I harmed you.”
“Bel ...” Oisin looked up at him, trying to find the right words. How could he express what was in his heart? How could he say how little he cared for any such danger?
“You are young, my little deer. You have the heedless courage of youth, I think. I am old, and beyond old. I am not suited for the likes of you. Find a lover who is human. Find a lover whose love will not harm you. You are gifted beyond measure. You are ... you are bright and fair. You have so much life ahead of you. You could have lordlings and princes if you so desired, I am sure of it. I will bring you to the court of any kingdom in all the world, if you wish it.”
“I wish only you,” whispered Oisin, feeling like he might weep.
“I’m sorry,” said Bel, his own voice thick with emotion. He rose abruptly, turning away from Oisin. “We should return home. Though perhaps you should remain here. I cannot ... I cannot give you what you desire. If you stay with me, you stay only as my apprentice.”
Oisin looked up at him, at the tall, dark form standing above him. A firm resolve snapped into place in his heart, and he stood also. “Then I will stay as your apprentice,” he said gently. Remaining unsaid was a conviction. He would stay. If apprentice was all he could be then so be it. But he had felt the way Bel had kissed him back in that first moment and had heard the way Bel had yearned towards him even while turning away from him. If Bel rejected him only for his own good, well, he would do all he could to change that decision. He had been willing to give Bel his life before they’d even met. He would step into any danger, however dire, to have his love.