Author’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web page: http://www.paranoid.nl/avalon
Pairings: Pellaz/Cal/Caeru and Rune/Galdra
Summary: After receiving a head injury, Pellaz’ younger self takes over for a while.
Disclaimer: Not mine. No copyright infringement is intended. All characters belong to Storm Constantine.
Warning: AU of course.
Spoiler warning: Set after book 6.
Beta read by Patricia and DA, thanks sweeties!
All remaining mistakes are mine.
Pellaz-har-Aralis, Tigron of Immanion, was curled around his consort’s body and soothed Caeru who had suffered from a nightmare only a few minutes ago. Although Diablo’s attack had happened some time ago, Pellaz still felt like he had to fight for Caeru to stay with them. Holding Caeru’s hand in his, he rubbed the knuckles with his thumb.
“Pellaz, don’t do this to yourself. The attack wasn’t your fault.” Cal stroked Pellaz’ hair and tried to comfort his chesnari. “There were forces greater than ours at work at the time, you know that.”
Cal… What would he do without sweet, understanding Cal, who had become his chesnari in every sense of the word, thanks to the purification rituals and Thiede’s training the blond har had gone through? Pellaz shook his head. “No, Cal, I am responsible for this mess,” he whispered saddened and in a guilty voice. “None of this would have happened if I hadn’t coerced the two of you into creating that pearl.” Pellaz rested his weary head on Caeru’s shoulder. Feeling safe with Caeru and Cal, he voiced his unsettling thoughts aloud. “Cal, I made one mistake after another.” His latest mistake had been losing control and allowing Galdra to make him with pearl. “Why did Thiede pick me to be Tigron? I am a failure. I can’t even keep my consort safe – or you, Cal.”
Cal petted Pellaz’ hair, but the touch offered Pellaz no comfort. He felt like he had put both of them, Caeru and Cal, through too much pain. “I am the wrong har for the job, Cal. I wish Thiede had never found me – had never made me Tigron. Then you wouldn’t have gone insane, Caeru wouldn’t lie here more dead than alive and I wouldn’t be with pearl.”
Cal, lacking the right words to comfort Pellaz, remained silent. Pellaz’ outburst had taken him by surprise. Normally the dark-haired har oozed self-confidence.
Pellaz rubbed Caeru’s fingers and turned his head so he could study Cal’s face. “I wronged the two of you. I wronged so many hara – including Galdra.” Tears, which he had forced down most of his life, spilled from his eyes and flowed down his cheeks to drip onto Caeru’s chest.
Cal moved closer and enveloped both of them in an embrace. “Hush now. There is no need to doubt yourself, Pell.”
But Pellaz didn’t listen. He was lost in self-reproach and self-hatred. “I should…never have…been made…har…let alone…Tigron,” he whispered, as he slowly succumbed to fatigue. His eyes closed, his body relaxed, and he drifted off into sleep.
The Tigron opened his eyes and blinked at his surroundings. He wasn’t at the palace any longer and Caeru and Cal had disappeared. Instead he found himself on the farm where he had lived for the first sixteen years of his life. He stood in the living room, which had been devastated by some force and he had to pick a chair up from the floor so he could steady himself. Looking down at himself, Pellaz found that he was still dressed in his elaborate robes. Golden rings still adorned his fingers. Although he was back ‘home’, he wasn’t young again. He was still Tigron. “What sort of dream is this?” he wondered aloud and looked about.
“You wished you had never been made Tigron. I am here to show you what happens if that reality comes true.”
The voice sounded remarkably familiar and Pellaz spun around so he could face his visitor. But once he had turned, he froze. His eyes widened and his breath came in gasps. “This can’t be,” he whispered in shock. In the corner of the room stood a younger version of himself. This was how Pellaz Cevarro had looked just after inception: young and beautiful, but then the Tigron noticed that this har was also covered in cuts and bruises. No, this was *not* the way he had looked right after inception! That had been a joyous time and those large eyes looked haunted. The young har was gaunt and the clothes tattered. The hair was a dark mess of dirt and dried mud. Altogether, the young har presented quite a pitiful sight. “Who are you? You can’t be me.”
Pellaz the young har, gave Pellaz the Tigron, a look filled with resentment and bitterness. “I am you. I am the Pellaz who had to come into existence because you didn’t not become Tigron.”
Pellaz blinked in surprise. It was true: he had wondered about a universe in which he had resisted Thiede. “How can this be?”
The young har shrugged his shoulders. “Will you listen if I tell you?”
Pellaz nodded his head. “I will listen. What happened here? Where are my brothers? Where’s Mima? What happened to you?” The young har took a step closer to Pellaz and narrowed his eyes. This younger version of him oozed pain, humiliation, and fear. It was hard for the Tigron to understand why that was. “Why aren’t you with Cal?”
“You have no idea what happened, do you?” The young har cautiously took another step toward Pellaz and extended his hand.
Pellaz flinched. Hara were well known for their healing abilities. This har’s fingers however were twisted, as if they had been broken and re-broken. He felt hesitant to take that hand into his, but the look, filled with need and hope, convinced him to do so. He slowly curled his perfect fingers around the twisted ones. “Please tell me.” After uttering those words, the front door opened and Pellaz saw the wasteland that stretched out in front of him.
“My parents were murdered by passing hara. My brothers were taken prisoner. Dorado was the only one to survive and became Snake after his inception. We will visit him later. Terez is dead, as is Mima.”
Pellaz’ eyes widened. “No, they are not. Terez is with me in Immanion and Mima…” The young har gave him a look filled with pity.
“No, they are dead. Terez died in the wilderness. There were no Ulaume and Flick to perform Grissecon in order to heal him. Flick remained a hermit and never ventured into the world ago. In this world, there are no dehara.” He paused, drew in a deep breath, and then continued. ”Ulaume never had the chance to save Mima’s life. They are dead, Tigron.”
Pellaz suddenly found himself standing in a forest close to the mansion. He recognized his surroundings at once. When he looked down, he saw a skeleton lying there. He jumped back and bumped into his guide. “Don’t tell me those are…”
“Terez’ remains. Since his inception was never completed, he never became har. In the end, insanity won and he took his life. He jumped toward his death.” The younger Pellaz pointed at the overhanging precipice. “He couldn’t take it any longer.”
“And Mima?” Pellaz shivered and became aware of the fact that his fingers were still curled around those of his younger twin’s. Their surroundings changed and they stood near the stream that ran in the mansion’s vicinity. He shrieked and moved away when he saw Mima’s body afloat on the water.
“Ulaume wasn’t there to save her. Ulaume never had that vision in which he witnessed your death. He never left Lianvis, never rescued Lileem, and still serves the Kakkahaar leader. Lileem died in the desert and my sister drowned while she was on the run for raiders.”
The emotionless tone in which his guide delivered those words made the blood in Pellaz’ veins freeze. “What happened to Snake? You said we would visit him later.”
“Do you want to see him now? We can go there.”
Pellaz nodded his head. “Please…” He needed to know that at least one of his siblings was still alive. The ruins that now took form around him, made him shiver. This had been a busy town at one time. A few feet away from him, three hara were making their way through the rubble. He recognized them. “He is still alive then.” But Snake was still injured!
“But they lead miserable lives,” the younger Pellaz said. “Snake’s injuries will never heal, for Cobweb and he will never meet. Raven will stay with them for the rest of his life and will never be reunited with his chesnari…and Moon… Lovely Moon will become bitter and resentful for Tyson will never enter his life. Without each other, their lives are lonely ones.”
Pellaz shivered and turned to face his younger twin. “Why are you doing this?”
“You wished you had never become Tigron. I am showing you what my life would be like if I had stayed a ‘normal’ har.” The younger Pellaz appeared unfazed by the Tigron’s discomfort. He had seen too much pain to feel distressed over Pellaz’ anxiety.
His guide’s words suddenly registered with Pellaz. “You said that Cobweb and Snake never met, but…? And that Tyson…?” He frowned and deep lines of worry appeared on his brow. The truth was that when he had uttered those words in bed at night that he had never considered what his life might have been like if he had never ascended to Tigron. This was a rude awakening.
“I will take us to Galhea. Then you will understand.” An expression of pain suddenly crossed the younger Pellaz’ features: he had to steel himself for what was to come. He didn’t want to go to Galhea, but he had to – he had to show his older twin why Pellaz had to embrace being Tigron.
Pellaz couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Forever, the house that was home to Cobweb, Swift, and Tyson, resembled a prison. Steel bars had been placed in front of the windows and Varrs patrolled the surroundings. The house breathed desolation and angst. He swallowed convulsively and was overcome with a sense of dread. “What happened here?”
The guards paid them no attention and it dawned on Pellaz that they were invisible to them. His young guide gestured for him to follow him into the house and Pellaz complied. Shivers ran down his spine when he realized how heavily armed these Varrs were. Arrogant sneers lay on their faces and their eyes shone with bloodlust.
“You want to know what happened here. Let me show you then.” The younger Pellaz opened a door and stepped inside. “Look for yourself. Do you recognize him?”
Pellaz’ heart thundered in his chest as he approached the bed. A blond har rested there, curled up in a fetal position. The long, shiny hair reminded him of Cal’s, but surely this couldn’t be his chesnari? Dressed in only a hint of silk, the body bore witness to violent aruna. Bruises circled the ankles and wrists, and when Pellaz looked at the face, he released a terrifying scream. It was Cal. But it wasn’t *his* Cal. The expression in those normally so alert eyes was cold and dead. He looked emaciated and his hands rested on his abdomen. The movement of those hands had been confined with handcuffs. “Who is this?” Pellaz spun around and glared at his guide.
The younger Pellaz shrugged. “It’s Cal.”
“But…” Lost for words, Pellaz looked at his guide and then back at Cal.
“Do you remember Cobweb? Terzian’s former consort?” the younger Pellaz asked.
Pellaz flinched and he nodded his head. “I remember him.” Beautiful Cobweb, who wouldn’t remember him?
“Cal and I didn’t rescue him from his kidnappers. The wound on his leg became infected and his abductors left him behind. Cobweb starved to death. Without our help Cobweb never escaped.”
“I can’t believe any of this!” Pellaz stalked over to the bed and knelt on the floor so he could look at Cal. “Oh, Cal, what did they do to you?” He reached out to caress Cal’s face, hoping for some kind of reaction, but nothing happened.
“You should ask: what did *I* do to him.” The younger Pellaz moved over to the bed as well and sat down on the edge. His hand hovered above Cal’s body, but he didn’t touch him yet.
“What do you mean?” Pellaz questioned sharply.
“In this life Orien warned me. He told me that Thiede was after me and that once inception had been completed, Thiede would have a hold on me.”
Pellaz noticed the longing in his younger twin’s eyes whenever the young har looked at Cal. “What did Orien do?”
“Orien incepted me himself.”
Pellaz blinked. “He did what?”
“You heard me. Orien incepted me and it worked. I became har.” The young har finally placed his hand on Cal’s head and stroked the blond strands. “For a time, we were happy.”
Pellaz’ head reeled from all this information. “Orien incepted you?”
The younger Pellaz didn’t bother to confirm that again. “We left Saltrock to travel about. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t run into Lianvis and his Kakkahaar. We ran into Varrs instead.”
Pellaz shivered and grasped Cal’s hand in his. His chesnari didn’t react to the touch though.
“Terzian recognized Cal of course. Since Cobweb was lost to him, he took Cal as his new consort. Cal has been kept locked up in this room for years, producing one pearl after another. Terzian created his own private breeding facility at Forever.”
Pellaz suddenly grew afraid to ask this young har what had become of him after Cal had been taken away from him. That was information he wasn’t yet ready for and his guide seemed to understand.
“You wonder about Tyson, of course,” the younger Pellaz said, maybe in an effort to distract himself. “Tyson was born, but received a different upbringing. He is one of Terzian’s most feared general’s now and heir apparent.”
“What about Swift?” Swift was one of his dearest friends and it would grief Pellaz to hear that Swift had died too.
“Swift never had Cobweb to supply him with insights, wisdom, and an inner balance. Swift fights in Terzian’s army, but no longer plays a vital part in Terzian’s life. Swift carries too much of Cobweb’s legacy in him and Terzian turned to hate him once he had Tyson to take Swift’s place.”
Pellaz didn’t want to let go of Cal’s hand. He wanted to gather this broken har into his arms and heal him, carry him away from there, and see him recover.
The younger Pellaz however continued talking and said, “The Varrs rule Megalithica. I wasn’t there to stop Terzian and Ponclast. They still maintain their stronghold in Fulminir and reign over haradom in terror.”
Pellaz swallowed the bile that had gathered at the back of his throat. He hadn’t considered something like that could happen until now.
“Ponclast has descended to new lows,” the younger Pellaz said. “Fulminir has become an infestation that affects all hara. Ponclast sends for new meat every other week. The breeding facilities flourish and are producing hara for consumption. Eating the flesh of hara is something Ponclast promotes; telling his soldiers it will give them strength. The musenda in Fulminir are filled with hara that never chose to become kanene. They are kept there against their will and raped at will by Ponclast’s soldiers.”
“Stop this! I have heard enough!” Pellaz raised his hands and tried to cover up his ears.
His younger version however pried them away and forced him to listen further. Looking into the haunted eyes, Pellaz forced himself to compose himself. “Why are you doing this?”
“You wished you hadn’t become Tigron. I am trying to show you why you must be Tigron.” A look of sympathy flashed across the young har’s face. “I know that being Tigron is hard on you and demands certain sacrifices, but you must do it.”
Pellaz looked at Cal again and his heart contracted painfully. He was reminded of Caeru, who had been confined to bed but for different reasons. “Why must I always hurt the ones I love?”
“Ironically enough, there is one har whose life is better now. Caeru’s.”
After uttering those words, their surroundings changed again and Pellaz found himself in a familiar setting back in Ferelithia. One look at the stage told him that it was Caeru’s band that was performing. Caeru looked as desirable as he had that day they had first met. Pellaz, who had denied he loved Caeru for a long time, loved seeing the blond har own the stage.
“Caeru is happy, though I am not sure how much longer it will last. Even life in Ferelithia is changing and the Varrs are moving in.” The younger Pellaz pointed out a silver-haired har to his older twin. “Velaxis came here looking for distraction from his worries and found Caeru. They quickly became chesna.”
A smile formed on Pellaz’ face when he saw the two hara embrace happily and then share breath. He had forgotten what a remarkable sight a happy Caeru was. “That is good.” But then another thought occurred to him. “Isn’t Velaxis supposed to be in Immanion?”
“Ah, Immanion…” The young har turned soulful eyes to his older twin. “Let me show you Immanion.”
Apprehension swept over Pellaz at hearing those words and he reached out for comfort. He took his guide’s hand into his again and for the first time he noticed how cool the skin was and how much the limb shook.
Such tremors likewise tormented Pellaz’ body when he set eyes on his plundered city for the first time. Immanion consisted of burning buildings, slaves being led through the streets, wounded hara, and Varrs pushing them on, refusing them healing. His gaze shifted to the balcony, where he normally stood overlooking his city and his heart stopped beating for one long moment, seeing two hara stand out among the devastation.
“Terzian and Ponclast never murdered Gahrazel. He became one of the main leaders instead. With Ponclast ruling Fulminir, Terzian in Megalithica and Gahrazel in Immanion, they are in absolute control.” The younger Pellaz closely studied his older twin and saw the shock on the Tigron’s face. “Do you see the har standing close to Gahrazel?” He waited for Pellaz to nod and then said, “His name is Panthera.”
Pellaz swallowed hard. That was a name he was familiar with. Panthera had been his contender for Cal’s love at one point. He frowned then, looking closely at the har. Panthera had always been described as beautiful to him, and looking closely, he could still see the hints of said beauty, but the har itself looked old and worn. The hair had lost its luster, the eyes stared blankly ahead, and the har was too thin. “What happened to Panthera?”
“Terzian found him when he raided the musenda Jafit kept him prisoner in. Remember, there was no Cal to free Panthera. Panthera fell into Terzian’s hands and Terzian gifted him to Gahrazel. Can you tell how happy they are?” Those last words dripped with sarcasm since Gahrazel chose that moment to lash out at Panthera and slap him across the face for not obeying a command that instant.
Pellaz flinched in sympathy and then gathered his courage to ask his young guide, “What happened to Galdra… You didn’t mention him yet.” Could it be that Galdra had survived somehow?
The younger Pellaz nodded. He had been waiting for that question. “Freyhella is still a free land. Tyr and Galdra rule there, although… The Varrs want to conquer the north as well.” His eyes narrowed and he said, “You do realize that none of our children came into existence? And you never took aruna with Galdra…”
Pellaz released his guide’s hand for a moment and placed them protectively over his abdomen, where Galdra’s and his pearl was developing. “Where is Thiede in all this? Surely he must have intervened?”
“Thiede tried, but without the Hegemony and the Gelaming backing him up, he lacked strength. You see, Pellaz, *you* are the binding factory. Thiede can’t move without you. You are his avatar. Thiede needs you as much as these hara need you.”
Pellaz shook violently over his entire body when he turned to face his younger version. There was no use in postponing the inevitable. “What happened to you?”
The younger Pellaz took a step closer to his older twin and carefully wrapped his arms around him. “You want to know what happened to me?”
Pellaz’ shivering increased and he shakily nodded his head. “I do.” He feared what he might hear, but he had to know.
“I died. Terzian murdered me. There was no Thiede to protect or empower me. By letting Orien incept me, Thiede couldn’t prepare me to become Tigron. Terzian took great delight in breaking my bones and once that failed to amuse him any longer, he slid my throat in Cal’s presence. Cal lost his mind after that. When you saw Cal in that room, you didn’t know the real reason why he’s like that. He saw me die and then Terzian made him his whore. Eventually Cal will stop fighting. All that keeps him alive at the moment are his memories of me – of how good it felt to hold me.”
Pellaz wanted to break free, but stopped himself when he saw the big, fat tears leave his younger twin’s eyes. “I love him so much,” the younger Pellaz said. “Terzian told me what he had in store for Cal before he slid my throat. When I released my last breath I saw Terzian wrestle Cal into submission. That image will always remain with me. I am a ghost now. Please understand why certain sacrifices are necessary. I know it hurts to see Caeru in such pain. I know it hurts that Cal lost his mind for a while and found comfort elsewhere… “
“But Pellaz, you are still alive. You still have Cal’s love. Cal went through his rites of purification and he came out of it a Tigron. Hara in your world are relatively happy. Cobweb has Snake and Snake has been healed. Moon and Tyson are together. Swift rules in Galhea with Seel at his side. Ulaume and Flick are happy too. I want you to know that much good came out of you being Tigron.”
The world around them had faded and in this new vacuum only they existed . Pellaz couldn’t help but ask, “Thiede, is this you?” Who else would play mind games on him?
“No, I’m not Thiede.” The younger Pellaz rested his head against the Tigron’s shoulder and shivered violently. “I am what would have been if you had chosen a different path. I am as real as you are and I hurt as much as you do.”
Feeling confused, Pellaz lifted the head from his shoulder and probed the other har’s thoughts. They were real and he sensed no manipulation. “Once this is over, where will you go?”
The young har gave Pellaz a rueful smile. “My sole purpose was to show you why you must be Tigron. Once I accomplished that I can rest.” He raised a hand and touched the Tigron’s face. “I accomplished what I set out to do, didn’t I?”
Pellaz nodded. “You did. I understand why I was chosen and why I accepted. I might regret certain events in my past, but you made me aware of the fact that I have the power to make amends. I can’t let your reality come to pass.” The smile that had appeared on the young har’s face made Pellaz feel humble. “Thank you for showing me.”
“You made the right choices,” the younger Pellaz said. “Cal and you are happy, while my Cal is lost to me forever.”
“Can I do something…anything to lessen your pain?” Pellaz wanted to reach out and made amends to this lost soul. Slowly he wrapped him up in his thoughts – warm thoughts – feeding him memories that were dear to him.
“Love Cal, Caeru and Galdra and love your children… They deserve your love. You are a good Tigron. There will be moments of despair in your future, but… stories like yours always have a happy ending.”
Pellaz enveloped his younger twin in a tender hug and closed his eyes, concentrating on all the tender moments he had spent with Cal and Caeru in the past. He could sense how the young har took them inside him. “I promise you that I will love them…and I will be the best Tigron I can.”
“Then I can rest…” The younger Pellaz cocked his head and pressed a chaste kiss onto the Tigron’s brow. “Never doubt yourself. You made the right decisions…” Those words vaporized in the vacuum and a moment later, the other har was gone, leaving Pellaz alone behind.
Pellaz woke up because Caeru was stirring in his sleep. He lifted his head and tried to shake off the dream he had just had. Although, had it just been a dream? His brow itched where it had been kissed. Pellaz sat upright and looked at Caeru, who was waking up. The eyes opened and tried to focus on him. In them, Pellaz read too many questions.
“Don’t say anything.” Pellaz buried Caeru in a hug. Cal had woken as well and after moving about the blond har embraced them from behind. “All is well,” Pellaz said, reassuring Caeru when the Tigrina wanted to speak.
Pellaz shared breath with Caeru and curled his fingers around his consort’s hand. One day, he might tell Caeru and Cal about his dream, maybe not. He didn’t know yet what he would do. Closing his eyes, he momentarily focused within, trying to find traces of the young har that had opened his eyes. Was he still there?
He found him in the deep recesses of his mind. Extending his thoughts, he tried to contact him, but the younger Pellaz was cocooned in something warm that protected him from further prying. Concentrating harder, Pellaz realized that the young har wasn’t alone. For one moment, a bright image imploded in his mind, showing him his younger version and a healthier looking Cal curled around each other on a bed in Saltrock. Cal looked happy holding the younger Pellaz in his sleep.
Satisfied that this younger Pellaz had found this version of Cal, Pellaz opened his eyes again and focused on Caeru. He was going to keep his promise. He would work hard on mending the rift between Caeru and him.
Looking at Cal from over his shoulder, he smiled. The bright smile on Cal’s face showed Pellaz how much his chesnari had changed over the years. Thiede had found a way to forge a steel blade out of Cal’s wild Uigenna blood. Cal was supposed to be at his side as his protector and so was Caeru, as their Tigrina. The three of them deserved to be happy and he deserved to be Tigron of Immanion, ruler of all hara.
His eyes had been opened.
“Cal, you must come with me — now!” Caeru grabbed Cal’s hand and pulled him toward the doorway, uncaring of the disapproval the members of the Hegemony were voicing at their disgraceful exit. Cal had been meeting with them when Caeru had unexpectedly appeared, obviously distressed and panicking.
“Caeru, calm down. I don’t know what is wrong, but it can’t be that bad.” Cal was about to force Caeru to a halt when the blond har turned his face toward him. Cal read fear in the Tigrina’s eyes. “What’s wrong?” Thoughts of stopping Caeru from dragging him down the corridor vanished when Cal saw the urgency in the Tigrina’s manner.
“There was an explosion – some kind of accident – and Pell was in the middle of it. He is hurt.” Caeru’s heart was going a million beats per minute. “He is unconscious, Cal. He received a head injury. Sheeva is with him and doing all he can to ensure he survives.” Tears formed in Rue’s eyes. He didn’t want to lose Pellaz now that everything was right in their lives again.
Cal squeezed Caeru’s fingers and sped up their pace. This time it was Cal dragging Caeru along as he headed for the medical facility on the grounds. It couldn’t be as serious as Caeru had said. Pellaz wouldn’t die…couldn’t die *again*!
“For Aghama’s sake, be quiet!” Sheeva glared at Cal and Caeru upon their entry. “He needs peace and quiet!” Concentrating on his patient once more, Sheeva reached out with his mind to make sure Pellaz wasn’t in pain.
Cal sat down on a chair next to the bed and carefully gathered Pellaz’ right hand in his hands. Caeru stood behind Cal and placed his hands on the blond Tigron’s shoulders. Both hara looked extremely worried. “What happened?”
“We don’t know yet. Ashmael is investigating the incident. Pellaz was caught in some sort of explosion and one of the walls came down, hitting his head. I am giving him healing, but the wound is serious.”
Cal looked at the section that had been chaffed by the bricks. The hair there was gone and the scalp looked an angry red. Pellaz’ pale complexion and the fact that his chesnari was unconscious worried Cal. He had never seen Pellaz look so vulnerable before ever. Extending his mind, he tried to make contact with Pellaz, but to his dismay he found that it wasn’t working. Pellaz wasn’t reacting. “Rue, help me. Maybe together we can reach him.”
Caeru, equally worried, opened his mind and joined with Cal. Together, they tried to probe Pellaz’ mind, but the Tigron’s mental defenses were up and didn’t allow penetration. After trying for another few fruitless minutes, Cal gave up. He had done his best to get through to Pellaz. He had never used that much mental energy before in order to make contact with anyhar. “It can’t be done,” he whispered in disappointment. Caeru squeezed his shoulder and, although the gesture comforted him, it didn’t take away his worries.
“Pellaz needs time,” Sheeva murmured. “You can compare this situation to the one he was in after he battled Ponclast. Back then, his astral body had taken a beating. This time, it is his physical body. Give him a few days to heal himself.” He sympathized with them. Pellaz was important to all hara, but being without their chesnari and consort had to be particularly hard on Cal and Caeru. “However, there is something you can do for him. Take over his duties as long as necessary. I will send word the moment his situation improves.”
“I want to stay,” Cal announced firmly.
Sheeva understood Cal’s need to stay close, but… “It is for the best that you leave now. Pellaz needs a chance to recuperate.”
Caeru started to pull Cal from his chair. “You heard Sheeva, Cal. We need to take over Pellaz’ duties. We have obligations here.” Cal glared at him, but Caeru withstood the angry look. “I care about Pell too. You know that. But Pellaz is the Tigron everyone looks to for guidance. Once they find out what happened to Pell they might panic and the members of the Hegemony might try to take control. We can’t allow for that to happen. We must present a united front, you and I.”
Cal however wasn’t convinced. “Let our sons handle it.”
Caeru shook his head. “No, Loki, Darq, and Geburael lack experience to rule. You and I must do this. I want to stay here too, Cal, but we can come back later.”
Cal sighed. He knew Caeru was right even though he didn’t want to admit it. He rubbed Pellaz’ brow with his thumb and gave the Tigrina a pleading look. “You must understand, Rue. This is the first time ever that Pell isn’t there for me. Usually I am the one who does the vanishing act. His body is still there, but his mind isn’t.”
“He will return to us.” Caeru pressed a kiss onto the crown of Cal’s blond hair. “Pell counts on us to take over. You know he would want us to take his place.”
“You are right of course.” Cal rose from the chair. His fingers released the strand of raven hair that they had been caressing. Cal leaned in and pressed a kiss onto Pellaz’ brow. “I will hurry back to you. I promise.”
Caeru guided Cal out of the room and hoped that Pellaz would quickly return to them. They needed him.
Waking up after what seemed to be a long dream, Pellaz rubbed his eyes. He was in Saltrock at Seel’s house and Cal was curled around him. He had been so happy when he had found this particular memory in the Tigron’s mind that he had shamelessly claimed it for himself. The Tigron hadn’t seemed to mind though. Although Pellaz’ younger self had no way of knowing the time, it felt like he had been away for a long time. He patted Cal’s blond hair fondly, but the other har didn’t wake up. Eventually Pellaz swung his feet to the floor. This was odd. He wasn’t supposed to ever wake up from his dream. He had shown his older self why he had to be Tigron and Pellaz had accomplished his mission. So why had he been roused again?
Pellaz walked over to the doorway. His instincts told him to leave the room and explore. It was a good thing that some of the memories they shared were identical. Pellaz knew the layout of Seel’s house and headed for the luxuriously draped living room. His eyes widened when he saw that it wasn’t Seel reclining against the pillows there, but his older self.
Seeing his younger self approach, Pellaz raised a hand to gesture him to come closer. “I need to talk to you.”
Pellaz approached and sat down on the floor. He was surprised to find the Tigron there with him. “I thought I would never see you again.”
Pellaz weakly nodded his head. “I thought the same thing, but I need you.”
“You need me?” He shook his head in disbelief. “Why? You are Tigron. I am a ghost.”
“I am injured,” Pellaz explained his situation to his younger self. “There was an explosion and…” A wave of pain washed over Pellaz, making it difficult for him to remain conscious, but it was important he talked to his younger self. “I need you to take my place while I recover. Cal and Rue will do their best to rule in my stead, but I need you there too.”
The younger Pellaz frowned. “How can I be conscious when you are not?”
“Because we are different entities. Don’t ask me how it works, I don’t know, but I do know that you can help me out here.” Pellaz’ image began to darken. “Do this for me while I rest.”
“But…” Pellaz tried to grab hold of his older self. “Don’t go away!” But when he reached for the Tigron, Pellaz was gone. “I don’t know what to do! I am not Tigron! You are!” Feeling nervous, he wondered if he could still flee back into Cal’s arms. Shakily he got up and made his way back to the room they were staying in. But he froze in shock when he found the bed already occupied by the Tigron, who had nestled himself into Cal’s embrace.
“What do I do now? I can’t replace you!” But he didn’t have a choice when the body he was in began to wake up.
Cal and Caeru kept vigil at Pellaz’ bedside that night. Earlier that day they had informed the members of the Hegemony on what had happened and had mastered the emotional storm that had followed. Like Caeru had wanted, they had presented a unified front and none of the members of the Hegemony had dared to protest when they had announced that they would continue to rule, even without Pellaz to guide them. After doing that, they had returned to Pellaz and had started their vigil.
Cal sat to Pellaz’ right and was rubbing his chesnari’s fingers while Caeru had taken to gently stroking the Tigron’s brow. Both were trying hard to reach the unconscious har for they both needed Pellaz back in their lives for their own reasons.
“Please come back to me, Pell,” Cal whispered. He felt lost without Pellaz at his side. They had been apart before, but Cal had never felt this lost.
Caeru nodded his head. “Come back to us. We need you.” It had only been recently that the rift between them had been mended and Caeru yearned to spend more time with his consort. They had finally become Tigron and Tigrina the way Thiede had wanted them to be. Their blood-bond now bound them for the right reasons.
“Don’t do this to me, Pell.” Cal felt selfish for not giving Pellaz the time his chesnari needed to heal, but he needed Pellaz at his side. For the first time, he understood how Pellaz must have felt whenever Cal had left his side in the past. “I am sorry, but please don’t put me through the same thing.”
Caeru placed his hand on top of Cal’s where it rested on Pellaz’ limb. “He will return to us. Never doubt that.”
Cal gave Caeru a grateful look and nodded his head. Thank the Aghama that he still had Caeru!
“Look!” Caeru’s breath caught when he saw movement. Pellaz was trying to open his eyes! He inched closer, sitting down on the bed as he waited impatiently.
Cal grew excited and squeezed Pellaz’ fingers before extending his mind to Pell. He felt Caeru join forces with him and together they reached out. “He is waking up,” Cal announced, pleased.
Caeru nodded once. “It is as I said: he is coming back to us.”
His head throbbed, his eyes stung, and the lights in the room were definitely too bright. He wanted to raise his arm so he could touch his forehead, but for some reason, he couldn’t. His right hand was being restrained.
“Pell, you woke up!”
Cal’s voice, although showing great relief, hurt. “Don’t…shout…”
Cal immediately felt guilty and, when he spoke again, his voice was a whisper. “Pell, you worried us.” He was relieved that Pellaz had woken up again and, while the expression in the dark eyes was still unfocused, his chesnari *was* trying to look at him. “Rue and I kept a vigil all night.” He shouldn’t forget about Caeru since the Tigrina also loved Pellaz. He shouldn’t be selfish.
Pellaz tried to look at Cal, but there was too much light in the room. “Lights…hurt,” he managed and his fingers flexed within their hold.
Caeru walked over to the wall and switched off the lights before sitting down on the side of the bed to watch Pellaz. “Better that way?”
“Yes…” Pellaz felt too weak to move his head in order to nod. His older self had mentioned a head injury and he surmised he was still suffering from it. Why had the Tigron thrust him into this life even when it was only temporary? He had objected to being revitalized, but the Tigron hadn’t listened!
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Cal gently stroked his chesnari’s brow. He sensed Pellaz’ unrest and wondered about it. “You will be back to your charming self in a few days and, in the mean time, Rue and I have taken over your duties. You don’t have to worry about a thing, except to get better.”
Cal made it sound so easy. If the other har only knew the truth! Pellaz managed to focus his gaze and saw Caeru sitting nearby with a concerned look. He managed to smile at the har. He knew that Caeru was the Tigrina in his older self’s reality and the har *did* look radiant. He was the perfect Tigrina as far as he was concerned. “You are… beautiful,” he mumbled and managed to raise his left hand to touch Caeru’s robes since he lacked the strength to do anything else. He wasn’t prepared to see tears slide down Caeru’s cheeks. “I didn’t want to…” It hadn’t been his intention to hurt Caeru in any way!
“You didn’t hurt me,” Rue responded quickly. “You just surprised me. You were unconscious for a while and then you say something like that completely out of the blue.” He offered his consort a smile and wiped away his tears.
“You should rest,” Cal suggested, taking charge. “You need to sleep so you can recover.” Since he knew that his chesnari was no longer lost to him, he thought it important that Pellaz recovered as quickly as possible. “I want you back at our side, Pell. We need you.”
“But Cal… I am not…” He had to tell Cal the truth that he wasn’t the Tigron, but only a ghost, a segment of Pellaz-har-Aralis.
“You are not well yet, I know that.” Cal continued to stroke his chesnari’s brow soothingly. “I can see you are still hurting. I can feel it. Rest, Pell. We will talk the next time you wake up.”
His body was still weakened and his head continued to throb, so Pellaz had no choice but to give in and fall asleep.
Cal took Caeru’s trembling hand into his, brought it to his lips, and pressed a kiss onto it. “I didn’t know how lost I would feel without him.” Realizing how deeply Pellaz’ coma had affected him stunned him. His gaze shifted from Caeru to Pellaz and he drew in a deep breath. There had been a few moments in his life when he had realized just how much he loved Pellaz. One moment had been when he had returned to Immanion after defeating Thiede and he had held Pellaz in his arms again. Another had been when Pellaz had told him that Galdra had made him with pearl and had given him Loki – the son Cal had always craved. And this was another one of those precious moments, for Pellaz had returned to them.
Caeru sensed Cal’s thoughts and agreed. “We are a bit lost without him, aren’t we?”
Cal laughed softly. “You can replace a bit with a lot!” Cal smiled at Caeru. “I want to stay here.”
Caeru nodded. “I will see to it that the members of the Hegemony are briefed and then I will return to you.” Caeru agreed with Cal. He didn’t want to leave Pellaz alone either.
“We heard what had happened to Pellaz,” Darq said as he entered Caeru’s rooms closely followed by Geburael. “How badly injured is he?”
Caeru took Darq’s hand in his and waited for his son to calm down. “He regained consciousness, Darq. He needs to rest for a few days, but he will be okay.” Geburael kept in the background, but Caeru noted the young har’s relief. “You can visit with him tomorrow. Cal is with him now and we don’t want to swamp him.”
“How did it happen?” It was unusual for Geburael to ask questions uninvited, but he wanted to know.
Caeru shrugged. “Ashmael is investigating the matter. All I know is that there was an explosion and part of the wall hit Pellaz.”
“Do you think it was a murder attempt?” Geburael hoped not. Pellaz was a known force and one he had learned to handle over time. He’d rather deal with Pellaz then with some usurper.
Caeru frowned. That thought hadn’t occurred to him. “I don’t think so. Who would want to murder Pellaz?” The Tigron was loved and respected and hardly had any enemies. “It must have been an accident.”
Darq held Caeru’s hand in his. “I will investigate the matter, even though Ashmael might not like that.”
Caeru nodded. “Do as you please. Will you visit Pell tomorrow? And bring Loki too.”
“I will. Are you going to visit Pellaz now?” Darq asked.
“Yes, I don’t want to leave him alone too long, even though Cal is already there. I want to be there too.” It should be the two of them at Pellaz’ side during a time like this.
Cal smiled when Caeru entered the room again. “He is asleep.” Pellaz hadn’t woken again, but Cal could tell that it was a restful sleep, free of troubles and nightmares. “Sheeva believes Pellaz might wake up again soon.” Cal still held Pellaz’ hand, needing to be in physical contact with his chesnari.
“I spoke with Tharmifex and the others. They are upset that Pellaz is injured, but they won’t move against us. It helps that I could tell them that Pell had woken up and had been lucid.” Caeru pulled a chair closer to the bed and sat down. He placed his hand on Pellaz’ brow and rubbed the skin there. “It is strange. Pellaz always seems indestructible. I never thought anything like this could happen.”
Cal understood. “He seldom shows his weakness. He hides it even when he feels exhausted. We started to think that nothing could get to him. We made a mistake.”
“Maybe we should encourage Pell to take some time off? He never did that.” Caeru looked at his consort and saw lines of fatigue etched onto the handsome face.
“We will bring it up, but ultimately it is up to Pell and you know how stubborn he is.” Cal, who had wrapped his fingers around Pellaz’ hand, felt the tiny movement first. “He is waking up again.”
The dark eyes opened and stared at the ceiling. Waking up was still a strange experience for the young Pellaz, who had been asleep for so long. He turned his head a little and saw Cal’s face. His breath caught as he gasped. He had never seen Cal looking so sexy before. *His* Cal, the one Terzian had turned into a whore, had been more dead than alive. He continued to stare at Cal, as if he couldn’t get enough of the sight. Cal smiled, obviously amused, and the look caused him to blush.
“You are looking at me as if you are planning to eat me.” Cal gave his chesnari a wicked grin. “I don’t think you are up for that yet.”
The sexual innuendo was typical Cal and caused Pellaz’ blush to deepen. They hadn’t been together long enough for him to have grown used to that kind of speech.
Unintentionally Pellaz batted his eyes and Cal couldn’t help but become aroused. It was rare for his chesnari to act that coy. “I would think that after all that time we have been together you had gotten used to me and my charms,” Cal teased.
“Don’t say things like that.” Pellaz felt a bit embarrassed because, after all, Caeru was also present.
“That wall must have really hit you hard,” Caeru commented. “I don’t think you ever said that to Cal before.” He smiled affectionately and surmised it was time to change their subject. “How do you feel?”
“I need to tell you something – something important!” Pell had to tell them that he wasn’t the Tigron!
“Before you do, drink something.” Pellaz had sounded hoarse, so Caeru reached for the glass of water that stood on the nightstand. “Can you sit upright?”
“I don’t know,” Pellaz mumbled and frowned.
“I will help you.” Cal carefully pulled his chesnari into an upright position and then supported him. “Is this okay for you? You aren’t hurting?”
Cal was extremely close now and Pellaz couldn’t help but notice how attractive the blond har was in this reality. Suddenly, telling them what had happened wasn’t so important anymore. He wanted to be close to Cal instead and he wondered if he would stay long enough to take aruna with Cal just once. His existence was a strange one. He had all this knowledge and possessed so many memories, but he had never lived them. His whole life was an illusion and he had been created solely to show Pellaz how much good had come out of him being Tigron. He had never taken aruna, yet the memories of it lived on in his mind.
Caeru placed the glass at Pellaz’ lips and he swallowed obediently. It was nice, being pampered like this. The Tigron was a very fortunate har to have them as his mates.
“Do you remember what caused the wall to come down on you?” Cal was suddenly all business. If it hadn’t been an accident then it meant that they had enemies within the palace gates.
Pellaz gave Cal an apologetic look and had to wait for Caeru to remove the glass before he could answer. “I don’t.” Then his conscience kicked in. He had to tell the truth. “Cal, I am not Tigron. I am Pellaz.”
Cal blinked and exchanged a look with Caeru. Until that moment he had thought that the accident hadn’t resulted in any psychological damage. Now he wasn’t so sure anymore. “Of course you are Pellaz. Pellaz-har-Aralis. My Pell.”
But Pellaz shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. I am not Tigron. I am…” What was he? How could he explain this to Cal? “I am a segment… A ghost… I’m not your Tigron!” He was growing distressed and took hold of Cal’s shirt as he cried, “Cal, I am not your chesnari! I am someone else! I am Pellaz, but I am not Tigron!”
Cal was growing increasingly worried and one look at Caeru told him that the Tigrina felt the same way. Cal took Pellaz’ hands in his and rubbed them. “Yes, you are Pellaz,” he murmured, not wanting to upset his chesnari further by adding that he was also Tigron. The accident had affected Pellaz’ mind. He had to go slowly. “You need to rest, Pell. Don’t worry about anything. Rue and I will take care of everything.” Maybe Rue was right and Pellaz really needed some time off. The expression in Pellaz’ eyes spoke of panic and confusion and Cal cursed himself for asking about the accident. “Rue and I will stay here, if that is okay with you.”
Pellaz quickly nodded his head. “Please stay.” He felt confused and needed them close. He refused to let go of Cal’s shirt and the blond har gave him a puzzled look. “Stay close?” He had become used to sleeping in Cal’s arms in his dreams.
Cal exchanged his chair for the bed and carefully stretched out next to Pellaz as he turned the other har onto his side. “Rue?” he said and gave the Tigrina an expectant look. Caeru understood and spooned up behind Pellaz. Cal completed their union by wrapping them up in an embrace. “Better this way?” he asked, amused.
Since Cal and he were face to face, Pellaz nodded his head. “This is great.” He felt safe and cherished in their embrace. “Cal, I am not your Pellaz. I am not your Tigron. I am someone else… I am Pellaz, but not your Pellaz.”
Cal shushed Pellaz. “That’s okay. You are Pellaz and I am going to look after you… Right?”
Pellaz nodded his head. “Right.” Had Cal understood?
Caeru gave Cal a look full of warning. They had to tread carefully if Pellaz’ mind was this delicate. “Try to relax and not to worry,” Caeru advised. He pulled Pellaz tighter against him and maintained eye contact with Cal. They had to talk to Sheeva as quickly as possible.
Sheeva listened carefully and considered the matter. The healer had been checking on his patient and, although he had been surprised to hear that Pellaz seemed confused, it was possible that the head injury had caused partial amnesia. “The Tigron has been under considerable stress these last few years. We can’t simply forget about that. He kept going no matter how exhausted he felt. It was bound to catch up with him eventually.”
Cal tucked Pellaz’ head under his chin and sighed. The look Caeru gave him told him that the Tigrina agreed with Sheeva’s assessment. “What do you suggest we do?”
“I suggest you give him time to recover. Don’t push him and his memories should return in time. Maybe this is his body’s way of telling us that he needs rest. We know so little about our bodies and the way the mind works.” Sheeva took a step away from the bed and headed for the doorway. “He doesn’t really have to stay here. The head injury itself has healed. All he needs now is rest.”
“Can we take him to his rooms?” Caeru disliked staying in the infirmary, having unpleasant memories of the place himself. He had hated the time he had spent there recovering from Diablo’s attack.
Sheeva was almost out the door as he nodded. “Yes, you can. I will visit with him each day though. Keep me updated on his mental state.” After that, he left the room, giving them their privacy.
“In that case, let’s get out of here.” Like Caeru, Cal didn’t like the infirmary much. “I will carry him, you open the doors.”
Caeru nodded and got out of bed. Cal followed and pushed his hands beneath Pellaz’ shoulders and knees. He slowly lifted him and cradled him against his chest. “Sheeva is right. He has been running himself ragged over the years. No wonder it has caught up with him now.” Cal carried Pellaz over to the doorway. While Caeru opened the door, Cal kept a close eye on his charge, who was waking up.
Pellaz blinked sleepily. “What’s happening?” During his sleep, he had tried contacting the Tigron, but Pellaz had been beyond his reach. He was probably still mentally recuperating from the attack, but that left the younger Pellaz in quite a problematic situation.
“We are taking you to your rooms. You no longer have to stay here,” Cal replied.
“My rooms?” He blinked. He had never had any private rooms before. Suddenly panic surged through him. “Cal, I am not your Pell.”
“Yes, you are.” Cal pressed a kiss onto Pellaz’ brow. “You just need some rest. Trust me, everything will work out in the end.” He gave his chesnari a stunning smile.
“Sheeva thinks you worked too hard,” Caeru added as he fell into step beside Cal. “And I agree. These last few years were stressful. There is no shame in needing rest.”
“But…” Cal silenced him with a look and Pellaz buried deeper beneath the blanket wrapped around him. It was useless trying to convince them with words. He had to find a different way.
When they reached the corridor his rooms where in, a red-haired har approached. The har had a guilty expression on his face and looked distressed. Pellaz wondered who he was.
“Pell, I heard what happened. I wanted to visit but…” Only then did Vaysh realize that he was making himself vulnerable in front of Cal and Caeru, but did it matter? He had become worried after hearing about the accident. “I readied your rooms.”
“Thank you,” Cal said when Pellaz didn’t answer. “We appreciate it.”
“Who are you?” Pell knew he shouldn’t be asking that question, but he had never seen this har before and it looked like the stranger *did* know him.
“I am Vaysh,” he answered with an odd look on his face. Why would Pellaz ask him that?
“You must forgive Pell,” Caeru intervened as he opened the door to Pellaz’ rooms. “But the head injury caused partial amnesia. He doesn’t remember certain things.”
Vaysh followed them into the bedroom and watched how Cal carefully placed Pellaz in the center of the bed. “You forgot about me?”
Pellaz cringed. “I am sorry!” Apparently this har was rather important to the Tigron. “I don’t know you. I have been trying to tell them that I am not the Tigron. Yes, I am Pellaz, but not their Pellaz!”
Vaysh, whose complexion was already rather ashen, paled further. This was much more serious than he had thought! He wanted to say something, but then Cal spoke to him in mind touch. /Don’t, Vaysh. He needs peace and quiet. He has been under too much stress lately. Everything finally caught up with him. Sheeva is confident that the rest of his memories will return once he has had a chance to rest./ Vaysh nodded his head to show he understood and wouldn’t question Pellaz at that moment. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“You can fetch Loki and Darq if you want to,” Caeru suggested.
“What about Geburael?” Cal didn’t want their highhar to feel left out.
“I don’t want to swamp Pell. Geburael and Bree can visit tomorrow.” That was, if they wanted to visit Pellaz. Caeru wasn’t sure they would want to do that.
Loki… The younger Pellaz knew that name. It had been revealed to him when he had tried to convince the Tigron that his rule was wise and just. But who was Darq? He was about to protest the visit when Vaysh took his leave to fetch them. Realizing there was no way out of this, he tugged at Caeru’s sleeve, since the Tigrina stood closest to him.
“Yes, Pell?” Ever since Pellaz had woken up and called him beautiful, his heart had swollen with love for the other har all over again. Their relationship had known many ups and downs and he sincerely hoped that they would never go back to the fighting they had done in the old days. He was someone who thrived on love and harmony.
“Who is Darq?”
Pellaz’ question stabbed at Caeru’s heart. The Tigrina quickly glanced at Cal. The blond Tigron looked distressed as well. They couldn’t lose their composure though and Caeru forced himself to sit down on the bed and explain everything calmly to Pellaz. “Darq is our son, Pell. Cal, you, and I created him. He was lost to us for a long time, but he returned to us.” The comical look Pellaz gave him made him frown. “What is wrong?”
“You said that the three of us made him… How is that possible?”
Cal laughed. “I said the same thing before you suggested creating that pearl. I reckon Caeru and I could demonstrate… But you would have to cooperate.” The blush that settled on Pellaz’ face was rather becoming and Cal moved closer to his chesnari. The way Pellaz was acting reminded him of the time they had spent together shortly after Pellaz’ inception. His chesnari had been a lot like that back then. “I think I am falling head over heels with you all over again.”
“Stop making me blush!” Pellaz felt hot beneath the blankets and the look Cal was giving him was making matters even worse. Under the blankets he had turned soume and his body yearned for Cal’s touch, but he had thought on that and had reached the conclusion that loving this Cal would be just wrong. This was the Tigron’s Cal, not his.
Caeru smiled, amused. The Pellaz he knew had never blushed that easily. The Tigron had always kept his emotions in check. “I like seeing you blush.” He was about to lean in closer to share breath when the door opened unexpectedly. He wanted to reprimand the har who had dared to walk in on them, but he stopped himself upon seeing Loki and Darq standing there. It had taken their sons a while to accept each other’s presence and get along, but these days they managed quite well.
Darq headed for the bed and came to a stop near Cal. He exchanged a look with the blond har and then eyed Pellaz. Something was different about his father, but he didn’t know what it was. “Do you feel any better? We were worried.” He included Loki in that statement on purpose. He was trying hard to strike up a friendship with Loki and Darq realized that meant they both had to work at it.
“I feel better.” Pell swallowed hard, wondering if he was talking to Darq or Loki. He didn’t want to make the mistake of addressing them wrong.
Cal realized the same thing and made it easier on Pellaz. “Loki, you can come closer you know. Your hostling wants to see you too.” Loki was hovering near the doorway.
So it had been Darq addressing him! That helped. Pell still wondered how the two Tigrons and Tigrina had managed to create a pearl among the three of them, but he wasn’t going to pry. Then Cal’s words registered with him. /His hostling? I birthed a pearl?/
Loki made his way over to Pellaz’ bed tentatively. He had never seen his hostling in such a state before and didn’t know what to say. “I hope you will feel better soon,” he said eventually and hated himself for the way it sounded so lame.
This was the son the Tigron and Galdra had created, the younger Pellaz knew that much. Galdra was nothing but a fleeting thought in his mind and he couldn’t even picture the har properly because Galdra was part of the Tigron’s future and not of his past. He couldn’t help feeling curious about the har that had almost replaced Cal at a time. “Loki? Sit over here.” He patted the edge of the bed and smiled at the younger har. Where Darq radiated self-confidence, Loki oozed discomfort.
Cal smiled approvingly. It was good to see Pellaz reach out to his sons and Loki in particular after everything that had happened lately. Caeru raised an arm and Darq advanced on him, tucking himself close when the hostling took his son into his arm. Even though Darq was past his feybraiha, Caeru loved holding him because the Tigrina had never been able to do so when Darq had still been a harling.
Loki seated himself on the bed and tried to gauge his hostling’s mood. “It is strange to see you like this.”
Pellaz was still trying to accept that he had hosted and delivered a pearl. In his reality, he had died young and had never had the chance to create harlings. He pushed himself upright and opened his arms, burying Loki in a hug. “They tell me I will recover quickly.” Loki originally tensed in the embrace, but then relaxed. “We should spend more time together,” Pellaz said releasing Loki. “Darq, you, and I.”
“And what about Geburael?” Loki asked softly.
“Geburael too.” Pellaz wanted to reach out to them during the duration of his stay, which would probably not last long.
“You should go now,” Cal suggested, feeling protective of his chesnari. “Sheeva told him to rest.”
Pellaz pressed a kiss onto Loki’s brow and smiled at him. “Don’t worry about me.”
Loki rose from the bed and walked over to the doorway. Darq however wasn’t following him. He was staring at Pellaz instead and Loki wanted to know why.
Darq blinked and felt frustrated. Why couldn’t he figure out what was different with Pellaz?
“Darq, thanks for visiting me.” Pellaz raised a hand and Darq quickly moved forward so he could take hold if it. Pellaz squeezed it. His other self was truly blessed to have produced such sons!
Darq nodded and the two younger hara left the Tigron’s rooms. Once Cal and Caeru had Pellaz to themselves again, they exchanged a thoughtful look. After a moment’s thought, Cal commented, “Maybe you need aruna to recover. We can help you heal.”
Swallowing hard, Pellaz stared at Cal. “We can’t take aruna.” He couldn’t do that to his older self. This was the Tigron’s Cal. He couldn’t trespass no matter how tempting the offer.
Cal raised an eyebrow. Pellaz had never turned him down before! “We won’t disappoint you,” he answered, feeling puzzled. Caeru sat down on the bed and was in his line of sight. Caeru looked equally mystified.
“It is not that. I know that taking aruna with you is…” He lacked the words to describe the sensation. “But I can’t. I am not your Pellaz.”
Cal was growing frustrated. “You know what it is like to take aruna with me, but you are not my Pellaz? How can you know what taking aruna with me is like if you weren’t involved?” The look Pellaz gave him was sad and confused. Maybe it was time to take action and forget about words. “I will show you…” Cal was determined to get through to his chesnari.
Pellaz felt shocked when Cal leaned in closer to share breath with him. “No!” But Cal didn’t heed the warning and pressed his lips against Pellaz’. It wasn’t sharing breath yet for at the moment Cal contented himself with kissing him.
Caeru slowly slid the blanket lower, revealing Pellaz’ torso to them. Since Pellaz was naked beneath the blankets, Rue’s fingertips encountered bare skin and he quickly located the copper disk that circled a pert nipple.
“No,” Pellaz whispered into Cal’s mouth. But they were talented, his chesnari and his consort, and he was too weak to withstand their joint seduction. He could only hope that the Tigron would understand why it had happened after his older self returned to awareness.
“Yes,” Caeru breathed against Pellaz’ neck and started to lick up the column of his consort’s neck, making him squirm in the process. He guided Pellaz’ head against his shoulder and claimed his consort’s lips when Cal released them. Sharing breath happened slowly. Caeru released only part of his emotions and thoughts since he wasn’t sure how Pellaz would react. But Pellaz took everything in greedily.
Since the resistance had melted away, Cal grinned and quickly removed his restraining clothes. Naked, he climbed onto the bed and went back to seducing his chesnari. Pellaz trembled in-between them and closed his eyes when Caeru began licking at his bottom lip.
Cal pushed the blanket out of the way and bared Pellaz to him. His mouth watered at the delicious sight Pellaz presented. “Rue, lose your clothes,” he ordered, realizing the Tigrina was the only one dressed still at that point.
“You take him.” Caeru guided Pellaz against Cal and urged the blond Tigron to share breath with Pellaz. They couldn’t let Pellaz slip away.
Cal shared breath with his chesnari while Caeru disrobed. Pellaz tasted different and the images he encountered in his chesnari’s mind mostly featured their days spent at Saltrock. But he simply accepted that as he recalled that the other har suffered from partial amnesia. If thinking of life in Saltrock made Pellaz feel safe, so be it. His hands glided down Pellaz’ flanks and Cal arched an eyebrow at finding Pellaz becoming soume.
Caeru had seen the transformation as well and was equally puzzled. During most of their encounters, either Cal or Caeru had been soume for Pellaz. “Is this what you crave?” Caeru showered Pellaz’ face with kisses and stole a look at what Cal’s hands were doing.
Cal slid one finger into his chesnari’s soume-lam and found Pellaz eager and ready for him. This was quite a change from the ouana aspect that Pellaz mostly favored. “Will you be soume for both of us?” Caeru seldom got the chance to live out that aspect of his being.
Blinking in surprise, Caeru searched Pellaz’ face for an answer. Pellaz had closed his eyes and had thrown back his head. The lips were pursed, his lower back arched, and he was actually pushing down on Cal’s finger. “It looks that way.”
“Cal, I need you… Fill me with your essence…” It was the first time ever that he was going to take aruna. As a ghost, he lacked a body and he yearned to feel what it was like to take aruna.
Cal gave Caeru a wink and leaned in closer to share breath with the Tigrina. Caeru nodded, smiling, and Cal parted Pellaz’ legs so he could move into position. He placed his hands on Pellaz’ hips and let his ouana-lim slide into the moist soume-lam. Pellaz arched beneath him, the dark eyes opening to stare at him in rapture.
At the same time, Caeru claimed Pellaz’ lips again and shared breath with his consort. That way, the sensation Pellaz was experiencing traveled into his mind and he could take part in their aruna.
Cal growled at seeing them share breath and his hands traveled higher to roll Pellaz’ nipples between his fingertips. His chesnari yelped, but the sound was absorbed by Caeru’s mouth. Seeing Caeru bury his fingers in Pellaz’ raven hair, Cal growled again. It had taken them some time to get comfortable with taking aruna like this, but once they had admitted to coveting the other, things had happened quickly.
Pellaz loved being possessed by Cal. The blond Tigron was nestled deep inside him and Pellaz felt like he had finally come home. When Cal started to thrust, Pellaz moaned and then bit onto Caeru’s bottom lip. A fire consumed him from the inside and he wanted to be burned. He reached his climax the same time Cal did and writhed on the bed.
“You feel different.” Cal managed once he had caught his breath again. The passion, the need, and the surrender which he had sensed in Pellaz had been extraordinary.
Pellaz felt too enraptured to react to that. All he knew was that he wanted to experience that again and this time with Caeru. He rolled onto his side, facing away from Caeru and tried to pull Rue close with his hand. “Inside of me…”
Something like this had never happened before. Pellaz had never voiced this particular need and Caeru looked at Cal for guidance. As long as he could remember, Pellaz had been ouana and the Tigrina soume.
“Indulge him,” Cal murmured and lit a cigarette. He was on his side, propped up on an elbow and watched Pellaz’ relaxed face. Things had been this passionate between them in the beginning. Later, some of the passion had been replaced with a deeper love.
Caeru, unable to deny them anything, moved closer. He was so used to being soume that it took some effort to stay ouana. It was unusual for him to play that role in their relationship. His ouana-lim easily glided inside, helped by the mixed essence of the two Tigrons and he halted once he had claimed his consort in that way. He wrapped his arms around the trembling Pellaz and returned to licking his consort’s neck. His tongue moved lower then, leaving a wet trail down Pellaz’ shoulder.
Pellaz opened his eyes and looked Cal in the eye. In his existence Cal was the only har he had ever taken aruna with. So it was a novel experience for him to look at Cal as he lay in front of him while feeling another har inside him from behind him. “Cal…” Pellaz reached for Cal, who extinguished his cigarette, and moved closer toward him. When they shared breath, he tasted the tobacco on Cal’s lips. Caeru finally started to move inside him and Pellaz pressed back. Cal’s fingers resumed playing with his nipples and Pellaz jerked in their embrace. The sensation was about to overwhelm him and Caeru sensed that. He stilled again and allowed Pellaz to calm down.
Cal fingered a strand of Pellaz’ raven hair. “You really need this, do you know that? For how long have you been yearning to take aruna with us? You only needed to tell us.” Yes, they had been busy the last few days, but Cal hadn’t realized just how much Pellaz had needed them.
Pellaz was unable to reply since his body was preparing itself for its climax. Caeru started to thrust again and Pellaz grabbed Cal’s head, forcing his chesnari to share breath with him.
The moment of climax took Caeru by surprise. Pellaz dragged him over the edge with him and Caeru let go the same moment Pellaz did. Suddenly he realized how close they were to creating a pearl. For some reason Pellaz wasn’t keeping back the way he normally did.
Pellaz felt exhausted and snuggled up to Cal, who happily buried him in an embrace.
“Yes, try to sleep. You need the rest.” They had obviously worn him down. Cal waited until Pellaz’ eyes had closed and then addressed Caeru. “I wonder what that was about. Did you feel…?”
Caeru nodded. “We came close to creating a pearl. It is like he doesn’t know how to prevent conception. How can that be?”
“He suffers from amnesia, remember?” Cal patted Pellaz’ hair. “The hunger inside him shocked me. Did you feel how badly he needed this?”
“I did.” Caeru’s head still reeled from the fact that he had been ouana just now. “I had better cherish this moment,” he whispered. “It is the first time ever he let me be ouana.”
Cal grinned. “But probably not your last time judging by the experience just now.”
“I had better put in an appearance at the Hegemony,” Caeru muttered and regretfully released Pellaz from his embrace. “I don’t want Velaxis or Tharmifex to check on us.” This was a private affair and should only be privy to their eyes.
“Tell them that I will join them later today.” Cal wriggled closer and kissed Pellaz’ dark hair. What had happened between the three of them an hour ago had felt sacred and it had worked some healing on a very deep level for Caeru. Cal was sure of that.
“I will,” Caeru replied as he dressed himself. He felt rejuvenated and full of energy. Before turning away from the bed, he leaned in closer to press a parting kiss onto Pellaz’ brow. “Thank you.”
Cal waited for Caeru to leave the room and then said, “I know you are awake, Pell.” The dark eyes opened and the glow which burned in them took Cal aback. He had never seen it there before. Pellaz had become a force of nature – something elemental – and Cal recognized the fire that burned inside his chesnari. Automatically Cal became soume and his mouth went dry when Pellaz climbed on top of him.
Pellaz cast the warning aside that was echoing in his mind. He was caught up in lust and could only think of possessing Cal in turn. He was on top of Cal within seconds and sank into his chesnari in an attempt to calm the fire burning deep inside him.
Cal could do nothing but surrender to this primal fire. Pellaz always overwhelmed him, especially when the other har was ouana. But this time, taking aruna was different. Pellaz took him to a place he had never been before. No…that was not correct. He had visited that place once a very long time ago and the realization made him panic.
Pellaz threw caution to the wind and buried himself deeply inside Cal. He wasn’t aware of what he was doing. His instincts had taken over and they told him to take this to the next level.
Cal could have stopped it from happening, but when Pellaz reached for his center, he allowed it, fully aware of what they were doing. Maybe they should have done this a long time ago. “Yes,” he whispered, encouraging Pellaz. “Do it.” A sharp bite delivered by a tendril of Pellaz’ ouana-lim caused him to scream his pleasure and then he let go. Pellaz’ aren filled his cauldron of creation. They had made a pearl.
After they had taken aruna, Pellaz fell asleep in Cal’s arms, which gave Cal a chance to think everything over. It was obvious that Pellaz had been oblivious to the fact that they had created a pearl and therefore, Pellaz had had no reason to stop aruna. Cal however, had realized what had happened and could have stopped conception, but he hadn’t. So what did that say him about himself? Had he always wanted another son? One he would host?
The time during which he had hosted Tyson’s pearl was a time shrouded in madness and darkness. He hadn’t been in his right mind when he had stayed at Forever at that time and had let Terzian get away with creating that pearl because he had known what it meant to Terzian. Tyson was his son, there was no denying that, but Cal had never felt like his hostling. He had the feeling things might be different for him this time. This time around, he had chosen to host this pearl. Why?
The answer to that question lay deep within his healed psyche. In the past he had been an emotional cripple and he owed his mental recovery to Pellaz who had made a deal with Opalexian. He owed Pellaz a lot. Was hosting this pearl his way of thanking Pellaz for that? No. Pellaz had never said that he wanted another son. There had to be another reason.
Cal searched deeper and encountered a need which he had kept hidden from himself for a long time. Until that moment, he hadn’t even realized it existed. He wanted another son, one Pellaz had fathered. Pellaz had several sons. Abrimel was the son Pellaz had sired with Caeru and even though Pellaz still had a hard time accepting Abrimel and his highhar Geburael, they were still related. Then there was Darq, who was the product of all three of them. But Cal had never felt like a father to Darq. Their son had been taken away from them and they hadn’t seen him grow up. Then there was Loki. Although Cal loved Loki from the bottom of his heart, Loki wasn’t his son either. It finally dawned on Cal that he wanted something from Pellaz for himself.
But how was he going to tell them? Maybe it would be best to tell Rue first. He didn’t want Caeru to feel humiliated because Cal had conceived when Rue could no longer host a pearl. He had to tell the Tigrina that he hadn’t done it to spite him. And once he had done that, he would tell Pellaz. Cal hoped that both hara would accept what had happened.
Caeru returned to his private rooms briefly to change his clothes. He slipped into a gray-shirt and tight-fitting jeans before returning to the vanity to brush his hair. He was glad that the meeting had come to an end. Chrysm, Tharmifex, and Cedony had been pressing for more information concerning Pellaz. Caeru had surprised himself with the way he had handled them. Throughout the years he had learned a lot by simply watching Pellaz. Since the formal meeting was done, he was looking forward to relaxing.
“Rue? Can we talk?” Cal remained near the doorway, not feeling confident at all.
Caeru looked at the blond har via the mirror and noticed the odd expression in Cal’s eyes. “Is something wrong with Pell?” he asked as he turned around.
Cal cringed. “Not exactly.” Involuntarily, Cal wrapped his arms around his waist as if to protect the new life growing there. “I might be in trouble.”
“What did you do?” Caeru patted the space next to him on the divan and waited for Cal to seat himself. Cal looked different – a bit debauched. Had Pellaz and Cal taken aruna again after he had left?
Cal gingerly sat down next to Caeru and laughed absentmindedly. While he had made his way over to Caeru’s rooms, he had started to doubt his decision to host this pearl. What if Pellaz didn’t want another harling about creating havoc?
Caeru suddenly realized what was different. He should have noticed it the moment Cal had appeared in the doorway. “You are with pearl!” Stunned, he stared at the blond har.
Cal flinched and then carefully made eye contact with the Tigrina. “I wanted it to happen.”
Caeru blinked in surprise. Hosting pearls was *his* job, but the Tigrina had been barren for years. Was Cal trying to take his place?
“No!” Cal lifted his hands and moved them dismissively. “I am not trying to take your place! I was afraid you would think that, though.” He bowed his head and stared at the floor. “I want something from Pell that is just my own.”
“How did this happen?” Caeru was still trying to understand what Cal was telling him.
Cal laughed mirthlessly. “You know how it happens, Rue – during aruna.”
“That is not what I meant and you know it!” Caeru glared at Cal. “I didn’t think Pell…” Suddenly, he gasped as he saw the guilty look on Cal’s face. “What did you do?”
Cal gave Caeru an apologetic smile. “You are right. We took aruna again and this time I was soume. He was all over me, Rue. I haven’t seen such passion in his eyes in a long time and when we peaked… I felt him nudge my seal and it was my decision whether to open up or not.”
“He didn’t know what he was doing? I find that hard to believe. After all, this is Pell we are talking about.”
“An amnesic Pell,” Cal corrected Caeru. “He has no idea we made a pearl. I could have stopped him. I knew where we were heading, but I didn’t want him to stop. I wanted this to happen.”
“Cal, do I need to remind you how much you hate to host?” Caeru shook his head. “I don’t understand why you did this.”
“I wasn’t sane when I hosted Tyson’s pearl and you know it.” Cal looked up defensively. “I didn’t have much of a choice back then. Letting Cobweb raise Tyson was the best solution.”
“And you think things will be different now?” Caeru remained skeptical. He no longer believed that Cal had done this to spite him or to humiliate him. Cal had had a reason to conceive and it had nothing to do with Caeru’s position in the palace, but he did worry about the effect hosting might have on Cal.
“I know it will be different. I can feel it. I am no longer insane, Rue.” Cal, who had only draped a morning robe over his shoulders, pushed the fabric aside and rested his hands on his abdomen. “I want this pearl, Rue. I want to see my son hatch and grow up. I want to be there for him. I want to make amends.”
Feeling deep sympathy, Caeru wrapped an arm around Cal’s shoulder and rested his other hand atop the Tigron’s. “Tharmifex will have a heart attack when he finds out.”
“I should probably tell Pell first,” Cal whispered. Sensing Caeru’s acceptance, Cal looked at the other har. “Thank you for accepting this, Rue. I’d hoped you would understand my reasons for doing this.”
“I do understand,” Caeru murmured and stroked Cal’s back. “But at the same time, I worry about you. I worry how hosting this pearl will affect you and I pray that you won’t change your mind once you birthed it. I don’t want this harling to grow up without his hostling’s love.”
“He won’t,” Cal promised. “He will have my love. Now I only need to find a way to tell Pell.”
Caeru groaned. “You picked a most inopportune moment, Cal. Pell isn’t himself at the moment.”
“Maybe that is why I did it. Pell would never let go if he were himself. He would never make a pearl with me.”
“How do you know?” Caeru asked. “Did you ever ask him?”
“No, I didn’t. I just know it.” Cal shrugged. “You know the troubles Pell has had with sons.”
Caeru sighed. “Yes, I do. Well, we will hope for the best then. Do you want me present when you tell Pell?”
Cal nodded his head. “I might need you to back me up. I have no idea how he will react in these circumstances.”
Caeru’s expression softened and the worry momentarily left his eyes. “I am happy for you, Cal. Hosting a pearl is something wonderful. I do hope you can enjoy it this time.”
Cal gave Caeru a hopeful smile. “I want to, Rue. I want to do this… I only hope that Pell is as accepting of this as you are.”
Pellaz frowned as he found the bed empty. When had Cal left? He elbowed himself into a sitting position and crossed his legs beneath him. Hair that was too long tumbled down his chest and tickled his knees. Why had his older self done this? He felt lost in this world where the faces of many hara were familiar, but their personalities were different.
He blushed as he recalled how much passion he had taken Cal with. Aruna with his Cal had been a lot like that, but this Cal felt even better beneath him because he wasn’t so skinny and this Cal didn’t have that haunted look in his eyes. This Cal had been through many trials and had matured.
“Pell? Can we talk?” Cal felt shy when he seated himself near the foot of the bed. Caeru followed him over to the bed and sat down closer to Pellaz, which was for the best. The Tigrina had become good at placating Pellaz.
“Of course,” Pellaz replied as he nodded his head. A fist seemed to close over his heart. Cal looked at him in a way that showed that something was wrong. Had he been too forceful during aruna? Had Cal disliked taking aruna that way? He didn’t know what things were like between the two Tigrons.
Cal disliked seeing the shame in Pellaz’ eyes. He didn’t know what his chesnari was thinking and didn’t want to pry at the moment. He had enough to worry about. “I need to tell you something. Do you remember taking aruna after Rue had left?”
Pellaz blushed and nodded again. “Of course I do.” He would never forget the way Cal had made him feel. “Did I do something wrong?” he added in a tiny voice.
Cal took Pellaz’ hands in his. “No, you didn’t. You did everything right.” Cal wondered how to tell his chesnari what was hopefully good news. “I don’t know how to tell you so I will be direct. We made a pearl, Pell.” Had Pellaz been himself he would have already known. Cal steeled himself for whatever reaction Pellaz might throw at him. He wasn’t sure what to expect.
Staring at Cal, Pellaz wasn’t capable of any response at all. Too many thoughts raced through his head and they raged from horror to ecstasy. Horror because he had fathered a pearl without Pellaz’ knowledge and ecstasy because he *had* fathered a pearl. How angry would Pellaz be with him once his older self returned to awareness? Suddenly he realized that there was no use in worrying about that. When the Tigron found out that Cal was with pearl, he would be asleep again – back to being a ghost and a memory. He should savor every moment he spent with Cal and Caeru.
Cal tried to read the emotions that flashed across Pellaz’ face, but they changed too quickly for him to understand what his chesnari was feeling. “Pell? Ranging on a scale from one to ten, how mad are you with me? I know I should have asked you how you felt about having another son, but…”
“Cal, I am…” Pellaz didn’t know how to voice his joy and simply pulled Cal into his arms. He hugged him affectionately and then shared breath with him, sharing his feelings that way.
Feeling immensely relieved, Cal heard Caeru chuckle. The Tigrina had also been worried, since they hadn’t known how Pellaz would react. Cal managed to pull away slightly so he could make eye contact with Pellaz. “I didn’t think you would welcome another son, especially since I am hosting the pearl.” Horrified, Cal watched Pellaz grow pale and suddenly tremble like a leaf. The joy which had been palpable on Pellaz’ face a moment ago vanished and terror replaced it. “What?” What had he said wrong?
Cal couldn’t know that Pellaz had suddenly remembered how Terzian had kept him locked up in a room at Forever while seeing Cal lying there more dead than alive and hosting another pearl for Terzian. The image was enough to set off Pellaz’ reaction to Cal’s words. “No, you can’t do this! You can’t!”
Caeru, who had been chuckling, grew quiet. Like Cal, he felt equally puzzled. Why had Pellaz’ mood changed so quickly? “Pell, what’s wrong? Only a moment ago, you were happy and now…”
“No,” Pellaz moaned pitifully and his hands roamed over Cal’s face, caressing the skin before pushing back blond strands and rubbing Cal’s lips with his thumb. “I don’t want you to die, Cal.”
Cal blinked. “Die? I am hosting our pearl, Pell. I am not going to die. Hara don’t die because they are hosting.” Pellaz however seemed unconvinced and Cal was at a loss on what to do when Pellaz suddenly burst into tears. “I am not going to die,” he repeated as he rocked Pellaz in his arms. Shocked, he looked to Caeru for help.
But Caeru didn’t know what had happened either. He moved closer and embraced Pellaz from behind. “Pell, why do you think Cal is going to die?”
“Because… you were more dead than alive… And Terzian, he forced you… to host… I couldn’t stop him…”
Cal caught Caeru’s surprised gaze feeling equally stunned. “Hey, that is in the past. Terzian is dead. He can no longer hurt anyone.”
Pellaz raised his head and looked at Cal. “You don’t understand…” He was going to undertake one more attempt to show Cal who he really was. “Caeru, can you join Cal’s mind?”
Caeru nodded. “I can, but why should I?”
“Please do it,” Pellaz asked as he looked at the Tigrina from over his shoulder. “I need to show you something.” He leaned in closer and caught Cal’s lips in a kiss, which he deepened until they shared breath. Carefully, he told them his story. He told them what had happened between the Tigron and himself and showed them what he was: nothing but a ghost…a segment of Pellaz-har-Aralis at best. He took them to Saltrock and chose to show them the image Pellaz had honed in on after the accident, letting them witness their conversation. When he pulled away, he felt stressed and frightened. How would Cal and Caeru react now that they knew the truth?
Cal and Caeru looked at each other. They had a hard time believing what they had just learned.
“It is the truth,” Pellaz whispered and squirmed on the bed. “I tried to tell you that I am not your Tigron. I am Pellaz, but not Pellaz-har-Aralis.” He waited a moment and then added, “On a scale from one to ten, how mad are you with me?”
Cal suddenly laughed and shook his head. “This is…” Lost for words, he looked at Pellaz. “Why didn’t he ever tell me?”
“He probably didn’t believe it important enough to mention it to you.” Pellaz caught Caeru’s gaze and smiled apologetically. “You are really quite something. I am sorry I died before I had a chance to get to Ferelithia, although in my world you hooked up with Velaxis.”
Caeru’s head reeled with all the information he had received. Through joining Cal’s mind, he had lived it as well when the other two had shared breath. “Well,” he started and blushed. “I had considered taking aruna with Velaxis at one point, but…”
“You love Pellaz best. I understand that and he knows it too.” Raising his hand, he stroked Caeru’s blond hair. “I am sorry it was only me in this body when we took aruna and not your Tigron.”
Caeru blinked. “No,” he replied quickly and cupped Pellaz’ face in the palm of his hand. “Don’t say that. What you did means a lot to me.”
“So Pellaz is asleep?” Cal was trying to grasp the substance of what he had learned.
“Yes, we switched places.” Pellaz bowed his head. “I am sorry.”
“Why?” Cal had finally made up his mind and raised his chesnari’s head with a finger beneath the chin. “You are Pell too.”
“Don’t.” Cal shook his head. “I saw the pain and misery in your thoughts when we shared breath.” He caressed Pellaz’ face and added, “I know what happened to your Cal and how you died. Maybe Pellaz had his own reasons for switching places. He doesn’t do anything without a good reason.”
Caeru tended to agree. Pellaz might have had his reasons for switching places. “What is done is done,” Caeru stated and squeezed Pellaz’ shoulder. “I want you to enjoy your stay for as long as it lasts.”
“And I am with pearl now.” Cal gave the other two hara a smug look. “Had *my* Pell taken aruna with me, he would never have fathered a pearl.”
“Are you so sure of that?” Caeru asked, narrowing his eyes.
Cal shrugged and then grinned. “I will ask Pellaz when he returns to us.” But then the smile disappeared from his face as he realized that, when that happened, this younger version would disappear again. Suddenly the sly grin reappeared. He should hatch a ploy of his own. “Did you enjoy taking aruna with us?”
Caeru chuckled. “You already know the answer to that one. You just want to hear him say it again!”
“Caught.” Cal cocked his head and studied Pellaz. “You were right. I didn’t believe you at first. I thought you had partial amnesia.” Sharing breath however had convinced him otherwise.
“What do we do now? With the pearl and… me?” Pellaz cringed. “It is my fault that you are with pearl now.” Cal however took his hands and rubbed them. “It almost seems like you don’t mind.”
“You made me happy. I didn’t know I wanted another pearl until you breached my seal. When I hosted Tyson’s pearl I didn’t have the chance to enjoy it. I want that, Pell. I want a son of my own. I know that’s selfish, but…”
“No, I understand,” Pellaz replied. He raised a hand and placed its palm against Cal’s abdomen. “I won’t be around though to see you drop the pearl or the harling hatch. I don’t think Pellaz will need that long to recover.”
“Then we must make the most of this situation now.” Caeru was growing fond of this younger version of his consort. “For what it is worth, I am sorry that your mind is filled with so many dark and grueling memories. Maybe Cal and I can supply you with some good ones?”
Pellaz blushed. “You already did. I never knew taking aruna could feel that good and… I got to meet the sons that I could have had.”
“You will have two more visitors tomorrow,” Caeru informed Pellaz. “Bree and Geburael will visit.” Recalling that this version might not know who Bree was, he explained, “Abrimel is our son, Pell. I conceived him in Ferelithia. Unfortunately, Pellaz and Abrimel don’t get along. Pell started to make amends, but the hurt is buried deep.”
“I will do my best to mend any rifts that happened in the past.” Pellaz felt the deep hurt inside Caeru’s mind and released Cal to hug Rue. “I am sorry some things didn’t work out for you, but you have seen the alternative. You know what would have happened if Pellaz hadn’t become Tigron. I know he hurt you and he knows it too.”
“Hearing you say that means a lot to me.” Even though it wasn’t Pellaz the Tigron speaking, it still *was* Pellaz. “I will be sorry to see you go when Pellaz returns to us.”
Pellaz didn’t want to think about that yet and tried to distract himself. “Doesn’t the Hegemony need to know that you are with pearl, Cal?”
“Not yet.” Cal shook his head. “Maybe in another few days. I want to keep this private.” For now, he simply wanted to enjoy hosting.
That evening Cal, Caeru, and Pellaz had dinner in the Tigron’s rooms. Dinner was a pleasant affair during which they relaxed and talked. Both Cal and Caeru were quickly growing fond of this version of Pellaz and would be sorry to see him go.
They made their way onto the balcony in search of some fresh air and to snuggle on the comfortable divan, but then realized that they weren’t alone. Cal wasn’t prepared to face Thiede in the dark of night.
Thiede leaned against the balustrade and noticed their wary expressions. He knew they still didn’t trust him. They might never. “So, creating another addition to the dynasty, Cal?”
Cal shivered lightly and Caeru pressed a hand against his lower back in a show of support. “Good evening, Thiede.” Cal refused to start off on the wrong foot.
“I wonder if you weren’t waiting for your chance subconsciously,” Thiede commented and grinned. “It came in handy that Pellaz is momentarily…how can I phrase this…indisposed?” Thiede’s gaze sought out Pellaz’ gaze. “I didn’t think you would gain so much power. When I had created you to show Pellaz why he had to be Tigron, I had expected you to go away after you had done your work. Instead, you slumbered inside Pellaz’ mind. Extraordinary.”
Pellaz froze. He clearly recalled the Tigron asking him if Thiede was playing games with him and he had denied it. Now, he didn’t know what to make of this.
“Stop confusing him,” Cal snapped, feeling protective. “It is bad enough that you just used him to get a message through to Pellaz.”
Thiede cocked his head. “Maybe…” He was stunned that Cal and Caeru were developing feelings toward the imposter. “I can send him right back and bring back the real Pellaz.”
Pellaz’ heart missed a beat at hearing that. He didn’t want to leave yet!
“No, Pellaz will return to us when he is ready to do so. We have been putting way too much pressure on him and that includes you, Thiede. I suggest you start thinking of a way to help Pellaz here. It hardly seems fair that he has to leave when Pellaz returns. He is a sentient being and a part of Pellaz-har-Aralis. Surely you can find a way for them to coexist?” Cal was more than ready to become Pellaz’ champion.
“Why would I want to do that?” Thiede felt puzzled.
“Because he has the right to see his son grow up.” Cal glared at Thiede. “Really, sometimes you lack any sense of propriety, Thiede! You should know right from wrong.”
“I will think about it,” Thiede replied more to placate Cal than in taking the issue seriously. “So, our Tigron is with pearl.”
Cal suddenly wanted to flee Thiede’s presence. He doubted the har would ever stop manipulating and scheming. “This is one har you will never get your hands on. Don’t even think about it.”
Thiede raised his hands defensively. “I am not interested in your son, Cal.”
“And we are supposed to believe that?” Bitter resentment dripped in Caeru’s voice. He would never forget how badly Thiede had meddled in their lives.
Thiede realized he had outlasted his welcome. “I stopped meddling. I am retired.” He moved to exit the balcony when Cal suddenly placed a hand on his arm. Thiede looked up in surprise. He had been under the impression that Cal had wanted him to leave.
“I meant it. Think about it. Can’t you find a way for this Pellaz to stay once the other Pellaz returns to awareness?”
“Finding a way will be difficult,” Thiede replied thoughtfully.
“But is it possible?” Caeru questioned.
Looking at Pellaz, Thiede considered his possibilities. He had never expected them to worry about his creation. “Maybe. I will have to grow a new body.”
Cal shivered violently. “You can do that?”
Thiede shrugged. “I did it many times before. But I am not making any promises.”
Pellaz surmised it was time for him to say something. “Please, I am grateful that you want to do this for me, Cal, but Thiede is right. I am not a real har.”
“Nonsense!” Cal vehemently shook his head. “Thiede used you and he had better make things right again for you!”
Thiede took Cal’s words in stride. “I will try, but remember, I am not making any promises,” he reminded them as he exited the balcony.
Pellaz wrapped his arms around his waist and bowed his head. His long hair shielded his face so Cal and Caeru couldn’t see the multitude of emotions reflected in his eyes. Shuffling his feet, his long blue robes moved along his calves. “You didn’t have to do that.”
Caeru covered the distance between them and took Pellaz into his arms. “Yes, we did. You convinced Pellaz that he had to be Tigron. We owe you. But even if we didn’t, we would be your champions.”
“Hey, you were there when we created this pearl,” Cal added and lifted Pellaz’ head with a fingertip. “I want you to be there when he hatches and grows up.”
“Won’t that be awkward with Pellaz being there as well?” Pell didn’t think Cal’s idea would work out.
“We will worry about that when the time comes.” Cal turned his head and stared at the doorway through which Thiede had vanished. If it took growing a new body to enable this version of Pellaz to remain part of their world, Thiede had better try hard or be ready to answer to a very angry Cal.
That night, Pellaz felt awkward when Cal and Caeru curled up around him. He was at the center with Caeru spooned up behind him and Cal in front of him. His hand moved out of its own accord and came to rest on Cal’s abdomen. “I can barely believe that you are hosting our pearl.” The moment he spoke those words a wave of sorrow hit him, emanating from Caeru. He sent a wave of warm affection in return and Caeru patted his hair.
“I know you didn’t mean it like that. It just hurts that I will never be able to host again,” Caeru said, being painfully honest.
Cal raised an arm and caressed Caeru’s face. “Look at it this way. Soon there will be another harling running around that you can spoil.” That thought seemed to cheer Caeru up and the Tigrina smiled. “Admit it…you are going to spoil him rotten.”
Caeru chuckled. “You are right. I probably will.”
Pellaz didn’t want to voice it aloud, but he would love to be there when Cal birthed the pearl. He wanted to see the harling just once, but would he be granted his wish?
Pellaz waited until Caeru and Cal were both asleep and then opened his eyes. Although he cared for Caeru, his heart belonged mostly to Cal. After seeing his Cal succumb to Terzian’s reign of terror, it warmed his heart to see this Cal so healthy and alive. Stroking Cal’s hair, he wished he could stay, but he knew his stay there was only temporary. He could feel Pellaz starting to tug at his thoughts, telling him to meet his other self in his mind. “I love you,” he whispered and kissed Cal on the brow. “Take good care of yourself and our pearl.” The next moment, his thoughts went dark and he slipped into unconsciousness.
Pellaz waited for his younger self to join him in Seel’s living room at Saltrock. He had made himself comfortable amidst a sea of silk pillows. When his younger self joined him, Pellaz saw the shame on the har’s face. “Why look so glum?” he asked and gestured for the younger har to seat himself.
“I made a mistake. I told you that you shouldn’t have put me in charge! I am not like you!” Feeling miserable, the younger har seated himself at some distance away from the Tigron. Feeling defensive, he pulled his knees close to his chest and wrapped his arms around them.
The Tigron however smiled. “I know what happened. You don’t have to feel guilty about making Cal with pearl.”
“Why didn’t you stop me?” Pellaz looked at his older self and felt miserable.
“I had no reason to stop you.” Pellaz inched a little closer and then crawled over to the younger har on all fours. “You got to meet Thiede, didn’t you? I knew he wouldn’t be able to resist you.”
Pellaz’ eyes grew big. “Did you orchestrate this?” That hadn’t occurred to him yet!
“Maybe,” Pellaz replied with the same air Thiede had. “I learned how to manipulate him. I owe you and I intend to pay my debt in full.”
“Did you also plan for Cal to conceive?” He had to know the truth!
“Maybe on a subconscious level,” the Tigron admitted. “I have sensed the need to host a pearl in Cal for some time, but so far, I didn’t address it. In a way, I am grateful that you solved this problem for me.”
“You coward,” Pellaz retorted while laughing softly.
The Tigron joined in and chuckled. “I tremble at the thought of Cal hosting a pearl. I wonder how it will affect him.” Pellaz calmed down and gave his younger self a hopeful look. “When he hosted Tyson’s pearl, he wasn’t in his right mind. I hope he will enjoy the process this time.”
“I believe he will.” Moving closer, he gingerly touched the Tigron’s face. “What will happen now? Will you allow me to go back to sleep in Cal’s arms?”
“Is that what you really want?” The Tigron didn’t believe his younger self.
Bowing his head, Pellaz shrugged. “What I want doesn’t matter. I am not you. I am expendable.”
“No, you are not.” The Tigron raised his hands and placed them on either side of his younger self’s head. “Look at me.” After a moment’s hesitation, the younger har complied and the Tigron saw tears in Pellaz’ eyes. “Don’t cry. There is hope for you.”
“Why do you say that? You are cruel. You shouldn’t have let me taste life! Now I want to go back and that is your fault!” Pell felt miserable as tears dripped from his chin.
“I know Thiede well and I am certain he can’t resist this temptation to show off what he is capable of. You only need to be patient. He will grow you a body and then we will find a way to transfer your mind into that body. That way, you can live your life.”
The younger Pellaz was afraid to hope that Thiede would do that for him, but there was another problem. “That will just be awkward. There would be two of us. Even worse, it would be cruel. I could never have Cal.”
“Who says I am not willing to share?”
The Tigron’s words stunned him. “You would do that for me?”
“I feel connected to you in a way I never experienced before. You *are* a part of me and I refuse to leave you here when you could have a real life. Can you be patient a little longer? It might take Thiede a while to grow that body.”
“I trust you…” Pell looked the Tigron in the eye and requested, “Should this not work out, please take good care of our son.”
The Tigron nodded. “I promise you I will.” In a rare demonstration of affection, Pellaz leaned in closer and touched his lips to his younger self’s. As they shared breath, the Tigron took back control of his body and his younger self was sent back to sleep in the dream Cal’s arms.
Cal stirred against the Tigron in his sleep and Pellaz reached out with a tendril of his mind to soothe him. He knew that Cal was with pearl, but what he had told his younger version was the truth: he *did* tremble at the thought of Cal hosting again. But he needed to have faith in his chesnari. This was a changed Cal he was dealing with. The madness of old was gone.
“Why are you brooding this time?” Cal woke and studied Pellaz’ face. The eyes were open and in them he saw a different Pellaz looking back at him. *His* Pellaz. “You are back,” he realized and frowned. “What happened to…?”
“He went back to sleep again.” Pellaz shared breath with Cal to show him what had happened earlier. “You see? He is peacefully asleep in *his* Cal’s arms.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about the vision you had?” Cal cast a careful look at Caeru and found that the Tigrina was still asleep.
“I didn’t think it was that important and you saw what fate Terzian’d had in store for you. Maybe I didn’t want to upset or hurt you. I know you had feelings for Terzian.”
Cal shivered. “Not for that Terzian. I saw what he did to me.” Cal pulled Pellaz close against him. “Did you do it on purpose? Did you switch places with him deliberately?”
Pellaz nodded against Cal’s shoulder. “I did. I always wanted him to know what living in my world was like. I didn’t know if I could rouse him from his sleep though. I had tried before but had failed.”
“Did you also arrange for the accident?”
“No, I didn’t. The explosion was not my doing. Somehar caused it. I didn’t orchestrate it. I would never willingly put my life at risk.” Pellaz lifted his head and looked at Cal. “You like my younger self.”
“He reminded me of how we used to be. A lot less inhibited and wilder.” Cal traced Pellaz’ bottom lip with his thumb. There was another matter he had to address. “What about the pearl? Do you regret that we created it?” Did he want to hear Pellaz’ answer to that question?
“I have been remiss,” Pellaz admitted and briefly sucked on Cal’s fingertip when it was close enough for him to lick at. “I felt the need in you to host again, but I was too much of a coward to address it. Cal, when you hosted your first pearl, you… You weren’t fit to host.”
“I know that.” Cal became ouana due to the delicious sensation traveling down his fingers. A wet tongue lapped and suckled at his fingertips and he couldn’t help but want Pellaz all over again. “But I am a different person now. You know that.” He pushed the blanket away and his hands drifted lower down Pellaz’ body. Deft fingers manipulated Pellaz into become soume and a moment later, they were joined. Pellaz lifted a leg and lazily draped it over his thigh. Cal pulled Pellaz even closer and started to thrust. “I can’t remember the last time we took such casual aruna.”
Pellaz nodded. “We lost pieces of ourselves over the years.” Surrendering to his chesnari’s skilled fingers and cunning thrusts, Pellaz relaxed and opened up for Cal.
The movement however woke Caeru, who gave them a bemused look. They were taking aruna again! “Just be careful that you don’t create another pearl,” he mumbled and turned over to get more sleep.
“Rue, don’t… be… like…that…” Pellaz managed between Cal’s thrusts. “Come… join… us…”
Caeru lay there for a moment and then rolled onto his other side so he was facing Pellaz’ back. “And now what?” He didn’t like being roused from his sleep like this and could be grumpy in the morning.
“Be ouana…and join us…” Pellaz found it hard to talk with Cal moving so erotically. Since Cal was with pearl the blond har’s sensuality had increased tenfold. He hoped Rue caught on before Cal brought him to orgasm.
Caeru blinked. “You can’t be saying what I think you are saying.” They had only been together in that way once and that had been in order to create Darq. “Don’t tell me you want to host too.” Immanion wouldn’t survive if both their Tigrons were bitching and snapping heads off because they were hosting.
Pellaz tried to laugh, but the movement caused his body to contract and his soume-lam tightened around Cal’s ouana-lim. “Rue, get…inside…now.”
There was no denying that discussing the matter had made Caeru ouana. The thought of possessing Pellaz at the same time Cal was had worked wonders. “Do you really want that?” When he had taken aruna with the two of them, it hadn’t exactly hurt. He had just felt extremely full. Suddenly Pellaz’ fingers curled around his ouana-lim and started to guide him inside.
Cal’s eyes widened when he realized Pellaz’ plans. “You wicked minx.” He loved it when Pellaz had ideas like this.
Pellaz relaxed and concentrated as he guided Caeru inside. It was the most exquisite feeling ever, feeling both of them inside him at the same time. It felt good being at their mercy and yet at the same time being cherished and wanted. He should have done this a long time ago.
Realizing they had to time their thrusts, Cal took the lead and Caeru quickly caught on. When one har pulled out, the other thrust. Pellaz buried his fingernails in Cal’s back and bit down on his chesnari’s shoulder. The pleasure building inside him would shortly explode and he wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold on.
Cal managed to lift his head even with Pellaz still attached to his shoulder and claimed Caeru’s lips, sharing breath with the other har. At the same time, Pellaz climaxed and his pleasure leaked into their minds, pushing them into their release as well. They lay entangled and panted softly, each lost in ecstasy.
Pellaz finally released the skin he had buried his teeth in. He felt larger than life. His body vibrated with energy and power and he wasn’t certain he could contain it. He had felt like this when he had taken aruna with Galdra. Galdra’s mind had been an ocean he had swum in and eventually he had always reached the shore. But now he felt like he could swim forever and never encounter land again.
Cal sensed Pellaz’ need for grounding and stroked the handsome face to gain his chesnari’s attention. “Look at me, Pell.”
Caeru, still quivering with the afterglow of taking aruna like that, suddenly realized that no inexperienced har could have done this. That meant that *their* Pellaz was back and the younger Pellaz was gone.
“I feel…” Pellaz lacked the words to describe what was happening to him. “I feel strong…” he murmured eventually when no other word would come to him.
Cal laughed. “I feel it too. You created a lot of energy when you did that.” He drew Pellaz’ head to his shoulder, uncaring that his chesnari had drawn blood in the midst of taking aruna. “Rue, that was…” Cal purred.
Caeru had to agree. “Pell, what possessed you to do that?”
Pellaz freed himself of Cal’s embrace and turned around slightly to face Caeru. “It seemed only right to celebrate my return in that manner. I want you to know that you are a part of this, Rue. I don’t want you to feel left out. This was my way of showing you that you belong with us. I hope it worked.”
“It did.” Caeru kissed Pellaz’ lips and then shared breath with the other har. “I never thought you would ever be soume for both of us,” he admitted honestly.
“My younger self reminded me how much pleasure there could be found in being soume. I have to thank him for that.”
“Pell, about that young har… Is there anything we can do to help him?” Cal wanted to help.
“It is up to Thiede at this point. He took the bait as I had hoped he would. If anyone can grow a body and transfer a mind into it then it is him. We must be patient now.”
“And your younger self? How does he feel about this?” Caeru asked.
“He wants a real life, I am convinced of that. At the beginning, sleeping in Cal’s arms was enough for him. But now that he has tasted life…” Pellaz gave Caeru a sly grin which was almost a perfect copy of Cal’s. “I couldn’t just let him vegetate in my mind. I had to help him.” Pellaz sat upright, pulling gently off of them before he smiled. He placed a hand on Cal’s abdomen and said, “Maybe you will be our first non-problematic heir. That would be a nice change.”
Pellaz stretched out on his side and propped himself up on an elbow while stroking Cal’s abdominal area. “I read some of the reports the hostlings at the Varr breeding facility wrote. They are convinced that talking and singing to the pearl while it is growing helps to build a relationship.”
“I don’t sing,” Cal retorted firmly. “Trust me you don’t want to hear me sing!”
“But Rue sings,” Pellaz whispered and gave Caeru a look from over his shoulder. “Do you know any lullabies?”
Caeru smiled. “I just might.” He leaned in closer and started to sing softly. He hadn’t sung in a long time and enjoyed singing for them now. Tears started to build in his eyes and he hoped they wouldn’t surface. This wasn’t the right moment to shed them.
Pellaz however sensed the emotional upheaval Caeru was in and buried his fingers in the blond hair so he could massage the nape of his consort’s neck. He regretted that he hadn’t been able to prevent Diablo’s attack which had left Caeru barren and could only hope that having another harling about would heal some of the Tigrina’s hurt.
“I was expecting you,” Thiede commented as Pellaz entered his private suite at the palace. He had moved in there when he had returned to Immanion with Cal and Darq.
Pellaz, dressed in red royal silk, came to a halt and seated himself opposite Thiede on a chair. “You know why I am here.”
Thiede nodded his head once. “You want me to help a ghost.” He leaned in closer and looked Pellaz in the eye. “He doesn’t really exist. He is nothing but a figment of your imagination.”
“That is a lie and you know it.” Pellaz’ eyes narrowed. “Why are you opposed to this?”
“He was never supposed to stay. He was supposed to disappear again.”
Pellaz cocked his head in understanding. “I always had the suspicion that you were behind that vision even when he denied it.”
“He didn’t know the truth. I didn’t want him to have such knowledge. I showed him what he needed to know and he played his part in convincing you.” Thiede leaned back against the comfort of his chair. “Why do you want to do this?”
“Because he is a part of me, Thiede. You probably don’t understand that, but when you created him, you connected him to me. I can’t let him vegetate in my mind. Not when I know that he can have a life of his own. Now, will you do this for me? I never asked for something in turn. I always played your games even when I was tired of them.”
Thiede inclined his head, trying to hide his true feelings when Pellaz phrased it like that. Pellaz was right: he had never asked for something in turn. “I will do this for you, but only if you understand the consequences. How will Immanion fare when it houses two of you?”
“We will find out. That is no reason for me to reconsider.” But Pellaz *was* already thinking about the consequences and he might have found a solution. Who said that his younger self needed to stay in Immanion? He already had an idea which would probably work out. “Do it, Thiede…please,” he requested.
Thiede nodded his head once. “I will, but I hope you know what you are doing.”
“Pell, get in bed.” Caeru had undressed Pellaz and lifted the sheet commandingly.
Pellaz arched an eyebrow in amusement. “I don’t know you so forceful, Rue.”
“Bree, Geburael, and Loki will visit shortly and you need to be recovering from the accident.” Caeru cocked his head, indicating Pellaz should get in bed.
“But I have already recovered. I don’t need to…” Suddenly Pellaz understood. It must have taken Caeru a lot to convince Abrimel to visit with him. “All right. I will do this.” Pellaz slipped into bed and pulled the sheet up to his shoulders. This was important to Caeru and he was determined to do his best.
Loki approached the bed with the most confidence of the three of them, reluctantly followed by Geburael, while Abrimel continued to hover near the doorway. It was easier than Pellaz had thought to engage Loki and Geburael in conversation. However, Abrimel wanted no part of it. It was clear that Abrimel was only there because Caeru, and most likely Geburael, had asked him to come along.
Pellaz knew damn well why he had always hated Abrimel. Abrimel reminded the Tigron that Caeru and he *had* shared one night of passion. No matter how hard Pellaz had tried to convince himself and Caeru that it had just been a one-night-stand, there had been love involved. Abrimel had been conceived in more than just passion and was the living proof that Pellaz had betrayed Cal. Caeru was right: it was time to make amends, but Pellaz didn’t know how exactly he was going to accomplish that.
“You don’t look that ill any more,” Geburael said, voicing what everyone else was thinking. Pellaz might be in bed, but his instincts told him that the Tigron didn’t really need the rest.
“I am getting better thanks to Cal and of course Rue’s excellent care.” Pellaz watched Geburael and wondered if he still had a chance to convince the young har that he wasn’t as evil as Abrimel had made him out to be. His heart however surprisingly ached with the realization that Abrimel might be lost to him forever. “Will the three of you join me for dinner the day after tomorrow?” Cal had to break the news that he was with pearl some time and Pellaz judged it best for that to happen when their family was assembled wholly. Maybe he would even ask Tyson and Moon to join them. It would be nice to see Moon again.
Geburael and Loki exchanged looks and then turned to Abrimel to see what the older har would decide. “You can attend,” Abrimel said. “Just don’t expect me to be there too.”
The chill that radiated with those words made Pellaz cringe and he noticed the saddened look on Caeru’s face. The Tigrina still hoped that father and son would one day find common ground. Pellaz wrapped the sheet around his body and then rose from the bed, making it seem like he was undertaking an effort that cost him a lot of strength. His heart warmed when Loki moved to support him and he smiled at his son. With Loki’s assistance he made his way over to Abrimel, who stared at him with something akin to horror in his eyes.
“What are you doing? Get back in bed while you are feeling that weak!” Abrimel started to back away from his father, but Pellaz continued to approach. Abrimel gave Geburael a pleading look, hoping for help, but the highhar merely shrugged his shoulders. This was between Abrimel and Pellaz.
Pellaz raised a hand and made sure it trembled lightly. It was not all just an act for it did frighten him a little that he was actually reaching out to his firstborn. “I would like for you to be there too, Bree.”
Abrimel swallowed hard. Pellaz touching him like that felt surreal. As long as he could remember his father had done his best to keep the distance between them intact. “Why would it mean anything to you?” Had Pellaz not been injured, Abrimel would have shaken the hand off, but now he didn’t want to offend.
“Because it is time to bury the hatchet. The two of us made mistakes… I am ready to own up to mine and make a fresh start. Are you prepared to do the same?”
Abrimel was about to reject Pellaz’ peace offering, but then saw the hopeful look in his hostling and son’s eyes. Caeru and Geburael were hoping he would accept. “Me joining you for dinner would be a bad idea.”
“Everyone else will be there. The entire family and I want you there too.” The next thing he had to say was hard on Pellaz. “You should be there. You are my son too.”
Caeru’s eyes filled with tears. He knew he was too emotional at times, but he couldn’t help it. He had prayed for so many years that something like this might happen.
“I will think about it,” Abrimel responded, unwilling to commit fully.
“That is the best I can hope for, I guess.” Pellaz turned around and allowed Loki to guide him to bed where he made a big show of lying down.
Caeru felt it was time to act. “You should leave now. Pellaz needs to rest. This meeting exhausted him.”
Loki was disappointed that he had to leave again so quickly, but Abrimel was grateful he could leave and was out of the room in a second. “Give him time,” Geburael suggested as he collected Loki. He took Loki’s hand in his and pulled the blond har to his feet. “This was quite a shock to him.”
“I understand that,” Pellaz replied. “I will give him time. Maybe you can try to convince him that this time around I mean well? I want to make this work for Rue as well.”
Geburael nodded his head. “I will do my best.” Geburael and Loki then left the room.
Pellaz raised his head and saw tears lurking in Caeru’s eyes. He knelt on the bed and pulled Caeru into his arms. Pellaz rested his head against Caeru’s abdomen and stroked his consort’s back with soothing circles.
Caeru bowed his head and stroked the raven hair. “You could have told me you were going to do that. I could have prepared Bree for it.”
“It was best that he had no advance warning. He might not have come otherwise.” Pellaz raised his head and smiled at Caeru. “I want a few minutes to myself. I need to think certain things over. Do you mind joining Cal? I will join the two of you in an hour or so.” There were a few things he had to attend to.
Caeru pressed a kiss onto the crown of Pellaz’ head. “Of course I will. Don’t take too long though.” He freed himself of Pellaz’ embrace and, still feeling rather stunned, left the Tigron’s rooms in search of Cal.
Rue found Cal on one of the divan’s in the Tigron’s private suite. Cal had stretched out on his back and was idly staring at the ceiling. Smoking a cigarette, Cal blew the smoke in the air and watched it disintegrate. “Feeling melancholy?”
Cal gave Caeru a blinding smile and then shook his head. “Not really. Just being bored.” Since most of the problems had been solved he had nothing on his hands. Well, nothing except hosting a pearl. “Where is Pell?”
“He wanted some time on his own. He shocked me today. He tried to mend the rift between Bree and him. I didn’t expect that.” Cal reached up with a hand and pulled Caeru onto the divan. “He has changed since this younger version of him appeared.”
“He has mellowed.” Cal nodded once. “He is no longer that uncompromising for himself.” Cal gripped the column of Caeru’s neck and brought him in closer so they could share breath. In small huffs he shared the feeling of hosting another pearl with Caeru, wanting to make the Tigrina a part of this.
Caeru smiled when he realized Cal’s intentions and felt grateful for the fact that Cal and he had become close over the years. That way, he didn’t feel like Cal was trying to take his place as hostling. “Thanks for sharing that with me.”
“I am going to turn into a lazy slob during hosting,” Cal commented and grinned. “I feel too lazy to do anything.”
Caeru stretched out on his side next to Cal and played with a strand of the Tigron’s hair. “Did you already think of a name for your son?”
Cal laughed. “Not yet.” The right name would come to him when he laid eyes on the harling for the first time. Unexpectedly Caeru started to sing softly and Cal closed his yes. This hosting process was so different from the one he had lived through in Forever. The time he had spent there hosting Terzian’s pearl was a nightmarish memory – one he’d rather not dwell upon.
Pellaz was confident the Listeners at Forever would pick up on his message and would send him a reply once Moon and Tyson had made up their mind on whether or not they would join them for dinner. Pellaz hoped they would accept for he wanted to be there to soothe Tyson should the younger har overreact to the news that he was gaining a brother.
He returned to his private rooms and sat cross-legged. He rested his hands palm upwards to the heavens and tried to reach deep inside him. He searched for his other self and found him still asleep in Seel’s house at Saltrock. It was a pity that the har couldn’t hear him for Pellaz wanted to tell him that Thiede was working on growing a new body for him. Abandoning his fruitless efforts to contact his younger self, Pellaz opened his eyes again. Maybe he could only reach the younger har when they were in danger? He would find out later. Now he felt the need to go to Cal and find out how his chesnari was faring hosting their pearl.
Pellaz found Cal and Caeru cuddled up together on the divan and took a moment to study them. Cal, Caeru, and Galdra all had blond hair and were similar in stature. He was very well aware of the fact that he had chosen his lovers for their appearance since Caeru and Galdra each resembled Cal. It was a fact that had frustrated him for a long time, but should Thiede find a way to give life to the younger Pellaz, he hoped it would work to his advantage. He seated himself at the foot of the divan and found himself being watched in turn. Cal and Caeru were awake and eyeing him.
“What have you been up to?” Cal asked, thinking he saw a wicked gleam in his chesnari’s eyes.
“I called for a family meeting the day after tomorrow. You can’t keep the fact that you are hosting a secret, Cal. You will have to tell our family first and then the members of the Hegemony.”
Cal cringed. “A family meeting?”
Pellaz nodded and answered Cal’s real question that he hadn’t voiced. “I also sent an invitation to Forever, asking Tyson and Moon to join us. Maybe Cobweb will come along too. He still has a calming influence on Tyson and I honestly don’t know how your son will react to finding out he is gaining a brother.”
Cal had known this day would come, but he had hoped to have a little more time. Caeru stroked his hair and Cal closed his eyes, enjoying the touch. It was time to change the subject. “What did Thiede say about growing a body for your younger self?”
“He agreed eventually. He is worried on what will happen when another version of me resides in Immanion. This is a har he has no control over.”
“And Pellaz has a lot of potential, right?” Caeru asked.
“You are right. Thiede didn’t incept my younger self. Orien did. Orien however was powerful in his own right. It will be interesting to see how Thiede will deal with that.”
“If this works,” Cal said, stressing the ‘if’, “then what are your plans for your younger self?” He knew from personal experience that Pellaz always thought ahead.
“I have some ideas,” Pellaz replied mysteriously. “But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. First we need to find out if Thiede can bring my younger self to life.”
“I hope he can,” Caeru whispered softly. “I really liked him.”
“I know you did. He reminded you of the har you ran into at Ferelithia.” A wink accompanied that statement to tell Caeru that he meant well.
Caeru understood the hint and nodded. “Yeah, he did.”
Pellaz rose from the divan and walked over to the window from where he could look out over Immanion. “Our first priority however is to keep our pearl safe and see it delivered without causing you too much pain.” He turned to look at Cal. “You never cease to surprise me.”
Cal raised an arm and gestured for Pellaz to return to them. “Can you blame me for wanting to host our pearl, Pell? After all those years, I wanted something that consists of you and I.”
“I know that.” Pellaz walked over to the divan and caught Cal’s hand in his. He knelt next to the divan and rested his head on Cal’s lap. “I always wanted a harling of our own.”
Making sure that Caeru didn’t feel left out, Cal turned his head toward the Tigrina and pressed a kiss onto the other har’s brow. “He will be yours to spoil, Rue.”
Rue smiled. “I understand what you are trying to say, Cal and I want you to know that I don’t feel threatened.” He had Bree while Cal and Pellaz had never created a pearl before. “I am not angry with you or jealous. I still remember what hell birthing a pearl was.”
Cal blanched. “Do you have to remind me?”
“We will be there to support you,” Pellaz remarked quickly and raised his head to look at Cal. “We will lend you our strength.”
Cal however swallowed hard. Yes, birthing Tyson’s pearl had been painful too, but since he had lived in a state of constant madness he no longer remembered the details of dropping the pearl. “I will need it.”
“I am nervous,” Cal admitted as he readied himself to join his family. Caeru had offered to help him dress and, while he didn’t need the help, Cal had gratefully accepted. He didn’t want to be alone at the moment. Pellaz was already receiving and entertaining their guests so Cal had the time he needed to mentally prepare himself for the announcement that another heir was on its way.
Caeru watched Cal fuss over his looks and shook his head. The blond Tigron had always remained something of an enigma to Caeru. Most of the time Cal acted cocky, but sometimes the insecurity that lay beneath that self-assuredness surfaced and made Cal more approachable.
After walking over to Cal, Caeru wrapped his arms around the blond har and watched their joined reflection in the mirror. They were alike in many ways and so different in others. Dressed in blue and with his fair hair loose, Cal looked more feminine than he had in a long time. Caeru felt a kinship with Cal these days and it hailed from the fact that Cal was turning more soume with each day of his hosting. “I understand why you are nervous, but I don’t think you have much to worry about. What can they do except accept the inevitable?”
“They can throw tantrums and scold me.” Cal sighed deeply. “You might not believe it, but it matters to me what Loki, Darq, even Abrimel, and most certainly Cobweb and Tyson think of me.” Pellaz’ hunch had indeed come true. Cobweb had chosen to accompany Tyson, who had turned up without Moon at his side.
“Sons are important.” Caeru rested his chin on Cal’s shoulder and squeezed the Tigron’s body gently. “You have nothing to fear from Bree and Geburael. They couldn’t care less.” Saying the words hurt, but they were true. “I don’t know how Loki and Darq will react, but I suspect they will accept this and they might even be happy for you.”
“Ty is the unpredictable factor in this.” Cal laughed mirthlessly. “Like hostling, like son.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Cal. Ty loves you. He worships you, but at the same time…”
“At the same time he hates me for abandoning him and giving him into Cobweb’s care.” Cal bowed his head. “I just couldn’t care for him at the time. I thought that Pell was dead and Terzian… He knew how to exploit that weakness. I wasn’t sane back then.”
“Ty knows that too.” Caeru hugged Cal once more and then released him. “You can’t postpone this much longer. Dinner is about to start.”
“Let’s do this then. I want this over with.”
Nervousness hung in the air and several hara contributed to that feeling. Although Pellaz did his best to put everyone at ease, the company was too diverse for him to succeed with everyone. Abrimel was still staring at him in shock and had been pushed inside by Geburael, obviously wishing to be someplace else. Geburael and Loki remained close and were seemingly blocking the way over to the doorway, giving Abrimel no chance at escape. Darq sat by himself and appeared to be sulking. Pellaz knew why. His son had wanted to spend time with his chesnari, but then the summons had reached him. Pellaz didn’t feel too guilty. Darq could leave after the meeting had taken place.
Then there were Tyson and Cobweb. Tyson wasn’t at ease either and Pellaz wondered why Moon hadn’t accompanied the blond har. Moon had a gift for comforting Tyson during moments like these. Cobweb’s eyes met his and Pellaz read secrets in them. It was an illusion to think that he could keep anything from the other har. Cobweb probably already knew that Cal was with pearl.
He hoped Caeru and Cal would join them shortly because balancing the assembled group’s interests and moods was getting to him. Things became even more complicated when Thiede unexpectedly showed up with the intention of having dinner with them. The look Thiede gave him told Pellaz that the other har wanted to talk to him in private that evening.
“So, why the meeting?” Darq was puzzled. Pellaz was shielding his thoughts and he had no idea why they had been summoned.
“You will find out soon enough.” Pellaz gave his son a fond smile and felt relieved when Caeru finally entered the room. “You look stunning,” he murmured and kissed Caeru.
Pleased, Caeru gave Pellaz a smug smile. It was nice being noticed, even if he knew he wasn’t the most handsome har in the room. Without any doubt that was Cal at the moment.
Cal shuffled into the room and ducked his head when Cobweb happened to glance at him. Suddenly he felt like he was back in Forever and Cobweb was mocking for him hosting Terzian’s pearl. He hadn’t counted on the unpleasant memories to choose that moment to surface again.
/I am at your side,/ Pellaz told Cal in a mind touch. /You have my support./ He deserted Caeru, who made his way over to Abrimel. Pellaz wrapped an arm around Cal’s waist and then whispered into his chesnari’s mind, /Keep your head held high. You have nothing to feel ashamed of./
Pellaz’ encouraging words helped and Cal raised his head. However, he cringed at Cobweb’s gaze. /He knows./
Pellaz guided Cal to the dinner table and the two Tigrons seated themselves. Sitting next to each other enabled them to hold hands. “There is a reason why we asked you to join us today,” Pellaz started, offering to tell them in Cal’s stead since his chesnari felt too shaken to do so.
Tyson was curious as to find out why. He had the suspicion that Cobweb knew why they had been summoned, but the older har had refused to tell him and had insisted on accompanying him instead of Moon. Tyson had been displeased because that meant parting from Moon, but at Cobweb’s insistence, he had given in.
Cobweb wrestled with his own feelings. He was grateful that Cal had placed Tyson’s upbringing in his hands, for he had always craved another son, but at the same time he wondered what would happen to the pearl Cal was carrying. Would he abandon that son as well?
“I have been wondering why too,” Loki admitted when no one else said anything.
Thiede just remained quiet and watched Cal squirm.
Pellaz exchanged a look with Cal. Did Cal want to tell them himself or did he prefer Pellaz did that for him?
“You tell them,” Cal muttered when his courage escaped him. Cobweb’s presence was upsetting him. Cobweb knew how Cal had been like when he had been hosting Terzian’s pearl.
Pellaz nodded and squeezed Cal’s hand. “Cal and I created a pearl and Cal will drop it in two months time. There is going to be another addition to this family.”
The result was a stunned silence. Tyson gasped softly then and stared at Cal in shock.
“I want it,” Cal declared and lifted his gaze to meet Cobweb’s. “I want another shot at hosting and bringing up a son. I have had some experience with Loki and…”
“And you did well!” Pellaz stated and gave all of their family members a defiant look. He would take on anyone who dared to condemn Cal for conceiving.
Loki nodded his head. “You are the best father I could hope for.” A hesitant smile broke on his face as he shyly admitted, “I would like having another brother.”
Darq, who still felt stunned, needed a moment to deal with the information. “Pellaz and you created it?”
Pellaz nodded. “We did.”
Darq blinked. He had no reason to condemn his fathers for producing another pearl. After all, having harlings was something hara did and he wanted sons as well when the time was right. “He is most welcome,” he said and smiled reassuringly.
Pellaz released a deep sigh. Two down, three more to go. “How do you feel about this, Bree?”
Abrimel shrugged his shoulders. “I am surprised I am allowed to have an opinion about it.”
Caeru, seated next to Abrimel, placed his hand on his son’s arm. They had had their differences in the past, but the Tigrina was under the impression that they were growing close again. “Tell us. What do you think of the fact that you are going to have another brother?”
He shrugged again. “It doesn’t really have anything to do with me.” He would always maintain a distance where his family was concerned.
Caeru sighed. He supposed he wasn’t going to make Abrimel *really* speak his mind. This had to do.
“I think it is madness,” Cobweb responded darkly, attacking Cal. “Do I have to remind you what happened after you birthed your first pearl? You couldn’t wait to hand Ty over to me!”
Tyson cringed when Cobweb said that. He had always known that Cal hadn’t really wanted him, but to actually hear it still hurt.
Cal raised his arms in an attempt to placate Cobweb. “Will you ever stop condemning me for what I did back then? I was a mess and you know it! Letting you raise Ty was the best thing I could have done!” Cobweb’s words stung.
“Cal, you are not hosting material! You know it!” Cobweb bit his lip. He almost said that he was surprised that Cal had chosen to be a father to Loki, who was in fact Galdra’s son. “I think it is madness that you made another pearl.” He glared at Pellaz. “You should have known better.”
Pellaz glared at Cobweb in turn. “Cal and I made this pearl. It was our decision to have another harling and I have the utmost faith in Cal that he will be a good hostling.”
“Then you are a fool too,” Cobweb mumbled angrily. He was about to address Cal again when Thiede shook his head.
“You spoke your mind and you have every right to do so. You raised Tyson, but Cobweb, hara change. You should know that as well. Can you look at Cal and say that he is the insane har that hosted Terzian’s pearl? Can you?” Thiede gave Cobweb a piercing glance and Cobweb looked away.
“You are probably right,” Cobweb admitted. “I am merely worried.”
“I know you are,” Pellaz said. “But this isn’t your decision to make. If anyhar has a say in it, it is Tyson.”
Cobweb grudgingly agreed and looked at Tyson. “What do you think of this, Ty?”
Tyson still looked stunned, but there was something else as well and it was making him blush. He had gotten to know his hostling better when they had joined forces to defeat Ponclast and most of the negative feelings he had kept inside for years had vanished after that. “Can we speak in private? On the balcony perhaps?”
Cal nodded his head. “Sure we can.” He rose from his chair and released Pellaz’ hand after a brief squeeze. This was the confrontation he had been afraid of the most. He followed Ty out onto the balcony and leaned against the balustrade. Immanion’s streets were busy even at this late hour. “So, let me have it. Tell me what a fuck up I am for having another pearl.” Cal avoided looking at Ty and stared at the floor. Cobweb’s words had made him doubt his decision. Cobweb was right most of the time and Cal had convinced himself that therefore he had to be wrong.
Tyson hadn’t believed it possible, but he actually felt sorry for his hostling and took a step toward him. Comforting Cal was something he had never done before and he wasn’t sure he could actually do it. “Cobweb is worried, that is why he said those things, but… I don’t quite agree with him.”
“You don’t?” Surprised, Cal raised his head and looked at Tyson. Why was his son blushing like that?
“I know you have changed. Had you been back then like you are now you would never have deserted me.” At least, he liked to believe that.
Cal nodded slowly. “I would have raised you myself. I didn’t know I was capable of being a father until we had Loki.” He hated the way that sounded. “That doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
Tyson nodded absentmindedly. “How long have you known that you are with pearl?”
“Only three days. It is still fairly new. I believe I shocked everyone.” Cal finally felt confident enough to grin at Tyson. “Did I shock you?”
“In a way you did.”
“So, what do you think? Do you like having a younger brother or…?” Cal involuntarily sucked in his breath.
Tyson grew even more flustered. “I like the idea. It will give me a chance to practice.”
Now it was Cal’s turn to be surprised. “Practice for what?”
“Moon and I… We decided… We want… Ah, heck, why is saying it so hard?” Tyson turned away from Cal and curled his fingers around the wood of the balustrade. “We want to make a pearl shortly.”
Cal blinked. “I didn’t think you would want that so quickly.”
“Well, Moon wants a harling and I must admit I like the thought of creating a pearl with him. It would be nice to have our own harling – one we can spoil.”
Cal allowed himself to feel relieved. This conversation was going better than he had thought. “And which one of you wants to host?”
“Moon,” Tyson answered. “I am still a bit hesitant to host and he is eager so I am not stopping him.”
“Having a harling is a great responsibility,” Cal said and then flinched. “I am sorry, Ty… I…” He turned away from Tyson and drew in a deep breath.
Tyson however moved toward Cal and rested a hand on his hostling’s shoulder. “I told you once before that I don’t blame you for letting Cobweb raise me. He did a good job and I turned out well. I know you couldn’t raise me at that time. I understand that.”
Cal turned and raised his head, peeking at Tyson. “Surely you resent me for handing you over to Cobweb.”
Realizing it was up to him to mend this rift, Tyson shrugged. “Maybe at first, but once I learned how Thiede had tricked you I felt deep sympathy for you.”
Maybe it was because he was hosting and being more sensitive than he normally was or perhaps it was because Tyson and he were opening up to each other. He didn’t know what it was, but suddenly Cal opened his arms and embraced his son. “I am sorry I made so many mistakes, Ty.”
Closing his eyes, Tyson savored being held so close. Although Cobweb had raised him, Cal *was* his hostling – that would never change. “I hope you will drop the pearl without any problems. Notify me when it happens. Moon and I would love to visit and get to know your harling…my brother.”
Cal felt immensely proud of his son. Tyson had turned out much better than his hostling!
Tyson suddenly looked up sharply. Cal’s guards were down and he had picked up on that thought. “That’s not true!” He hated the fact that Cal sometimes thought so little of himself and surmised it stemmed from a time when Cal had not been sound of mind.
Cal shrugged his shoulders. “I know I made mistakes.”
“And you did much good! Cal, you helped defeat Ponclast! Without you, Pellaz might not have come out the victor!”
“You turned out a fine har,” Cal murmured, feeling proud of Tyson. He hoped his second harling would turn out just as fine.
“I know you don’t agree with our making another pearl,” Pellaz stated. “But I would appreciate it if you didn’t bring it up again. Cal already has a hard time admitting that he is with pearl *because* he knows certain hara will judge him for it!”
Caeru approved of the way Pellaz defended Cal. Cal needed Pellaz backing him up.
“I will keep quiet. I just hope that history won’t repeat itself.” Cobweb knew when it was best to be quiet.
Cal and Tyson returned from the balcony and the smiles on their faces showed that all was well between them. Cal seated himself next to Pellaz and gave his chesnari a smile. Tyson sat down next to Cobweb and the look they exchanged told everyone present that Tyson didn’t want to hear Cobweb question Cal’s motives again.
Thiede choose that moment to address Pellaz. “A word?”
Pellaz nodded, knowing what this was about. Thiede wanted to update him on the progress he was hopefully making. They moved into another room and Pellaz crossed his arms in front of his chest, waiting for Thiede to start talking.
“I am growing a body for your…charge,” Thiede stated, delaying a bit to find the correct term for the younger Pellaz “But it will be a replica of yours. A younger version, but still – the two of you would be able to pass for twins.”
Pellaz considered Thiede’s words and reached the conclusion that he could live with that, especially since he had plans for his younger self. If everything went according to plan, his younger self wouldn’t stay in Immanion for long. ‘That is acceptable. What steps do we need to take? When can we transfer his mind into this new body?”
“It will take six to seven weeks to get the body ready… In the meantime we have to find a way to transfer his mind into that body.” Thiede liked a challenge, that much was true and that was the main reason why he had indulged Pellaz and was trying to help this ‘ghost’ which refused to go away.
“Contact me the moment you are ready. I will try to find a way to separate his awareness from mine.” Now that he knew that there was a body waiting for his younger self, he had to find a way to free the young har from the confines of his mind.
“Did your talk with Ty go as well as I thought it did?” Pellaz lowered himself into the pool and swam toward Cal who was already floating on the water.
“It went surprisingly well.” Cal continued to float on his back with his eyes closed. “Did you know that Moon wants to host?”
Pellaz shook his head. “No, I didn’t.” He stood and pulled Cal against him. Cal’s head bumped against Pellaz’ chest and the blond har gave him an adoring look. Pellaz bowed and kissed Cal before he shared breath with him. Cal’s mind was open and allowed Pellaz to witness what had been said on the balcony. “Tyson has done some growing up,” Pellaz commented and nibbled on Cal’s bottom lip.
“Moon helped. Sometimes, when I look at them I see us – the way we were before Thiede had you murdered.’
Pellaz didn’t completely agree. “I see us after you came to Immanion to defeat Thiede.”
Cal laughed and got to his feet again. Standing in the water, he pulled Pellaz close. “What did Thiede say about our friend?” He tapped a finger against Pellaz’ brow.
“He is growing a body that is identical to mine. I had always wondered how he remade me, but I never had the courage to ask him. I am not sure I still want to know.” Pellaz sighed deeply. “I hope we can help him.”
Sensing Pellaz’ growing distress Cal thought it wise to change their subject. “Where’s Rue?”
“Talking to Darq. He wants to spend as much time as possible with him and I can’t blame him.” Pellaz’ eyes narrowed when Cal’s hands disappeared beneath the surface of the water. “Here? Now?” He got his answer when Cal’s fingers wrapped around his ouana-lim, getting his message across.
“Yes, here and like this…” Cal wrapped his arms around Pellaz’ shoulders and rubbed his lower body against his chesnari’s. “I need this.”
Pellaz pushed his hands beneath Cal’s buttocks and steadied him. The water moved around them and was warm and inviting. “This *is* your element,” he whispered and invaded Cal’s body. His ouana-lim easily glided into Cal’s soume-lam and Cal threw back his head in surrender. Pellaz guided Cal’s legs around his waist and then thrust upwards.
Cal clung to Pellaz for support and relished the moment. Pellaz had mellowed quite a bit since his younger self had taken over for a while and they were taking aruna whenever and wherever they could. He felt alive and started to let go of Pellaz so he could float in the water again. Pellaz lowered him onto the water, but still maintained a loose hold so Cal wouldn’t accidentally disappear beneath the surface.
“It feels different,” Pellaz whispered in surprise. “You feel different.”
“Maybe it is because I am with pearl.” Momentum was building inside him. The water surrounding him made him feel relaxed and he spiraled toward his climax. “Pell, I…”
Pell sensed it and let go the same time Cal did. Their essences mingled and the water glowed momentarily. Pulling Cal close again, he wrapped his chesnari up in an embrace. “I can hardly wait for you to drop our pearl.” He brushed Cal’s brow with his lips and looked him deep in the eye. “I hope he looks like you.”
A solitary tear made its way from Cal’s eyes to his chin and he quickly wiped it away. “I want him to have your eyes though.”
Pellaz smiled. “This harling is ours. No one is going to get his hands on him. No one.” It was a promise he took very seriously. He had failed his other sons – he refused to fail this one too.
During the next few weeks, Pellaz seldom left Cal’s side. Caeru was also often found at Cal’s rooms and at night, the three of them slept in the same bed. They grew even closer than they already were and especially Caeru’s hurts were healed during this time.
The members of the Hegemony were informed and Tharmifex almost suffered a heart attack. Chrysm, Cedony, and most of the other members congratulated the Tigrons with their pearl. Ashmael simply gave them a grin and Velaxis looked shocked. Vaysh stayed clear of Cal and Pellaz knew why. Barren as he was, seeing Cal hosting had to be painful for the red-haired har.
One late evening Thiede suddenly had his presence announced.
“You know why he is seeking you out,” Caeru commented as he sipped his wine. It was already late in the evening and the three of them had been about to go to bed.
“This is about the body he is growing.” Pellaz idly played with a strand of Cal’s hair. The blond har lay close to him on the bed while Caeru had seated himself in a comfortable chair. “Show him in,” Pellaz ordered one of his servants.
A moment later, Thiede entered the room and the first thing Pellaz noticed was the smug look on the other har’s face. “You succeeded then?” Thiede and he had talked two months ago and he hoped they could transfer his younger self’s mind before Cal birthed the pearl, which could happen any day now. Cal had told him that he would like for the younger Pellaz to be there when he dropped the pearl.
“The body is ready,” Thiede announced. “Are you still certain you want to do this?” Thiede also looked at Cal and Caeru to see what they thought of the matter. This would affect their lives too.
“We are certain,” Cal answered in Pellaz’ stead. “The young har deserves a shot at life.”
“Even when that means you have two Pellazes to contend with?” Thiede grinned. If their minds were made up there was little he could do to change it. As long as they went into this with their eyes wide open, he would indulge them. Maybe a part of him was curious to find out how this different Pellaz would handle life – and him.
“Can it be done before I drop the pearl?” Cal was feeling sluggish and tried not to move about too much. He thought he recognized the feeling and grew afraid that Thiede had appeared too late. He felt like he could deliver the pearl at any moment.
Thiede shook his head. “You already know the answer to that question. Your time has come.” That was the main reason why he was visiting with them. He had felt Cal’s time approach. “You should call the healers.”
Cal however shook his head. “I don’t want them near me.” He grabbed hold of Pellaz’ hand and said, “I want you and Rue in the room with me. No one else.”
Thiede shrugged. “I will wait in the corridor then.” He would respect Cal’s decision and headed for the doorway. He closed the door behind him and started to pace.
“I…” Cal stopped speaking when the first wave of pain moved through him. “It is going to happen now.” He raised his head and looked at his mates. “What do I do? With Tyson… I don’t remember what…”
Caeru took charge. “Let gravity do its job for you. Start walking.”
“But first, we should undress him.” Together, Caeru and Pellaz rid Cal of his morning robe and then supported the blond har while walking him about. “Rue, does this really work?”
“The hostlings at the Varrish breeding facility thought so and it makes sense if you think about it.”
Cal gritted his teeth. The pain was bad, but still bearable and walking about actually made him feel better. “How long is this going to take?” he grunted from between clenched teeth.
“A few hours?” Pellaz sent Cal a wave of comforting energy. He had gone through the same thing when he had dropped Loki’s pearl. That had taken him one hour and he had been glad it had been over.
“A few hours?” Cal growled. “This pearl had better be birthed quickly!”
Two hours later, Cal was ready to call in the healers and have the pearl cut from his body. “I can’t do this anymore! Why again did I want to host? Why didn’t you stop me?”
Pellaz grinned. “I wasn’t there, remember? You took advantage of that.”
At Caeru’s suggestion, Cal was seated on his hunches and started to push. “Why can’t I lie down?”
“Because then it will take even longer.” Caeru rubbed Cal’s back and tried to channel healing energy into the exhausted har. “It won’t be long now. I can feel it.”
Pellaz sat on his heels in front of Cal and rested his brow against his chesnari’s. “Rue is right… It’s time.” Adding his healing energy to Caeru’s, they supported Cal while he birthed the pearl. A scream ripped through the room and the pearl finally left Cal’s body.
Caeru quickly caught the pearl before it hit the floor and Cal finally got his wish. Pellaz lowered him onto a bed of soft pillows. Panting hard, Cal focused on the energy they had lent him and his body started to repair the damage the pearl had done.
Caeru smiled and placed the pearl in Cal’s arms. “You should rest now.”
Cal opened his eyes, curled up on his side, and stared at the pearl in wonder. “Is that mine? My pearl?”
“Ours.” Pellaz stretched out next to Cal so he could take the blond har into his arms. The pearl was safely wedged in-between them and Pellaz smiled at the exhausted har in his arms. “I don’t hear you snapping my head off now for getting you with pearl.”
“I didn’t mean it,” Cal whispered and brushed the pearl’s exterior with his fingertips. “It is a miracle. I wish I remember holding Tyson’s pearl in detail, but I don’t.”
Remembering that there were certain duties to perform, Pellaz looked at Caeru. “Will you tell them that the pearl has been dropped and that Cal is recovering? Tell our sons first then send a message to Forever to Tyson before informing Tharmifex and the rest.”
Caeru nodded. “I had better tell Thiede first or he might have my head.” Caeru leaned in closer and pressed a kiss onto Cal’s lips. “You should rest now. All you have to do right now is sleep and keep the pearl warm and I am sure that Pellaz will help you do just that.” Caeru exited the room and ran into Thiede, who finally stopped pacing. “You surprise me. I didn’t believe you would worry about something like Cal birthing a pearl.”
Thiede looked at Caeru with curious eyes. “Can I go inside?”
“But only for a moment. They need their privacy.” Caeru watched Thiede go inside and then carried out Pellaz’ instructions.
Pellaz looked up at hearing someone enter the room. Seeing Thiede approach was a surprise. He hadn’t thought the har would wait around that long.
Thiede grinned at seeing them curled protectively around the pearl and was once more reminded of the grave mistake he had made in the past. He had been convinced that Cal had been the wrong consort for Pellaz, but was wise enough now to admit the truth. Cal should have been Tigrina instead of Caeru. “You must be glad it happened so quickly. It only took you two hours, Cal.”
“That was one hundred and nineteen minutes too many!” In spite of all the healing energy Pellaz and Caeru had heaped upon him Cal still felt like he had just received a major beating. “I am not doing that ever again.”
“You wanted this,” Pellaz commented in amusement and stroked Cal’s sweaty skin. He would send for warm water in a bit and clean his chesnari up himself.
“I know I did.” Cal looked pleased and let his fingertips explore the texture of the pearl. “I can hardly wait for the pearl to hatch.” Looking at Thiede, he added, “Do you think the other Pellaz will be able to be there when it does?”
Thiede nodded. “It can be done in time, but I will need Pellaz to help me.”
“Rue will stay with you when I need to leave.” Pellaz nuzzled Cal’s throat and then licked the skin, tasting the salt there.
“I will ready everything. Pellaz, come to my suite the day after tomorrow. Then we will try to make it work.” Thiede thought it was time to take his leave so they had their privacy back.
“I will be there.” Pellaz watched Thiede leave the room and then pulled Cal close. “And I will be there for you and our harling when he hatches. Cal, did you already think of a name?”
“Not yet. With Tyson, I didn’t know the name either until I saw him.” A sad expression glided across Cal’s features. “I didn’t really want to give him up, you know. I held his pearl like this, kept it warm, and loved it. But I was too much of a mess to…” Pellaz shut him up by pressing his lips onto his.
“You did what you had to do. You had his best interest in mind. Let go of the guilt, Cal. This is the right time for it.”
Cal knew Pellaz was right, but letting go was hard. He had felt guilty for so long. “I know I must…” Letting go would take him time, but knowing that he had Pellaz’ support would help him through it.
Pellaz regretted having to leave Cal’s side, but it was time to join Thiede in their effort to free his younger self. “I will be back soon,” he said and hugged Cal closer. “Should the pearl start to hatch unexpectedly, let me know at once.”
Cal nodded against Pellaz’ shoulder while locked in Caeru’s tight embrace. The Tigrina lay spooned up behind him and the pearl rested against his abdomen. “I will send word.” Though he didn’t think the pearl would hatch yet, but maybe in one or two more days. “I hope Thiede and you will be successful.”
“I hope the same thing.” Pellaz left the bed and dressed casually in green trousers and a shirt before stepping into some boots. As he made his way over to the doorway, he looked over his shoulder at the two hara curled up in bed and smiled.
Once Pellaz had exited the room, Caeru started to hum softly and Cal closed his eyes, feeling comfortable and warm. The pearl where it was resting against him felt warm too. This was such a different situation from the one he had been in so many years ago. When he had held Tyson’s pearl his mind had been clouded and his only thought had been one of flight.
Caeru suddenly stopped humming and chuckled softly. “We have visitors, Cal.”
Cal looked at the entrance of the room and saw Moon and Tyson standing there. A wave of relief rolled over him when he saw that Cobweb wasn’t with them. “Don’t just stand there. Come closer,” he ordered and gestured for them to approach.
Some odd feelings moved through Tyson at seeing Cal curled so protectively around the pearl. Cobweb had never told him, but Swift had informed him that Cal had done the same thing with his pearl. Cal had also held him close. It was true, he realized. Had Cal been in his right mind, his hostling wouldn’t have given him to Cobweb. But the time to dwell on the past had gone and he had to focus on the present. He took Moon’s hand in his and they made their way over to the bed.
Moon was the first to raise a hand and ask, “May I touch the pearl?”
Cal nodded and watched closely how Moon’s fingertips caressed the pearl. “Ty tells me that you want to host too.”
Moon nodded his head and sat down on the edge of the bed. “I want a harling.”
Tyson felt awkward standing and pulled up a chair so he could sit down close to the bed. He sought out Cal’s eyes and saw the hope in them. Hosting and dropping this pearl had healed some of his hostling’s old hurts. “Did delivering it hurt?”
Cal cringed, but opted for the truth. “Those two hours had me in agony, but it was worth it.” Holding the pearl close, he wondered what their harling would look like. Would the harling have Pellaz’ looks or his own? He hoped for a mix of both.
“Two hours?” Moon appeared thoughtful. “That’s not very long.”
Cal flinched. “Just wait until you have to go through it!”
Caeru agreed. “Don’t underestimate the discomfort, Moon.”
“I am not changing my mind.” Moon gave them a stubborn look. “Once we are back at Forever I want to make a pearl.” Realizing the way that sounded, he made eye contact with Tyson who, to Moon’s relief, looked bemused. “I mean of course that *we* will make a pearl.”
“May I hold the pearl for a moment?” Tyson leaned in closer and looked at Cal pleadingly. He wanted to hold the pearl and find out what his feelings were about his brother as well as Moon hosting.
“Just be careful,” Cal murmured and picked up the pearl. Cautiously he placed the pearl in Tyson’s arms.
“I won’t drop it.” Tyson interpreted Cal’s words as a sign that his hostling didn’t trust him while holding the pearl.
“Don’t take it personally.” Caeru smiled at Tyson. “He even told Pell to be careful. It is instinct, Ty. Moon will be like that too once he births the pearl.”
Moon’s heart missed a beat at seeing Tyson sit there rocking the pearl in his arms. He had always hoped that his chesnari would make a good father and seeing Tyson like that proved that he had been right. “Can I hold it too?”
Tyson transferred the pearl into Moon’s arms and whispered, “Be careful. It feels brittle.” Hearing Caeru chuckle, he realized he had sounded even more protective than Cal had and grew flustered.
The moment Moon cradled the pearl in his arms he knew that he wanted one of his own. He heard Tyson groan softly and grinned at his chesnari for Ty had read his mind. “We will make one once we are back at Forever.”
Realizing that he didn’t want to fight Moon over this Tyson gave in graciously. “We will.”
After holding the pearl for another minute, Moon cautiously placed it back in Cal’s arms. “Thanks for allowing us to hold it.”
Cal nodded, but was mostly focused on moving the pearl as close to his body as possible.
Seeing his hostling act so concerned for the pearl’s well-being made Tyson angry with the ones who had caused Cal’s madness and his wandering. If Thiede had left Pellaz and Cal alone, they might have been his parents instead. But thinking like that would only get him hurt and he pushed the thoughts away. “Moon and I will stay until the harling hatches if that is okay with you.”
“More than okay.” Cal smiled, pleased. “I know Pell is also looking forward to seeing you again, Moon.” It still struck Cal as uncanny how much Moon resembled Pellaz in appearance. And now another look-alike was about to join the ever-expanding family. Cal couldn’t help but wonder if Thiede and Pellaz had already been able to transfer the younger har’s mind into the newly-grown body.
Pellaz trembled as he stood in front of the pod that held a body which was identical to his. His hair was perhaps a bit longer and his skin more tanned, but the body floating inside that pod resembled his body a bit too much for him to feel comfortable.
“You wanted this,” Thiede remarked as he picked up on Pellaz’ emotions. “But it is not too late yet to abandon these plans. I think you should. Stop this. You won’t help anyone by doing this.”
But Pellaz had a vision of his own and shook his head. Something told him he had to do this and it wasn’t Thiede’s will for a change. It was something born deep inside himself. “No, we are not abandoning our plans.” He turned to look at Thiede and saw the discomfort on the other har’s face. “Why is this upsetting you?” For a long time he had thought Thiede knew no scruples.
“I shudder at what this will do to Immanion.” Thiede shrugged his shoulders. “This new har won’t be like you. If you are looking for an identical twin you will not find it. This Pellaz Cevarro is different from you. Orien’s blood flows in his veins, not mine.”
“Does that scare you? That Orien incepted him?” Orien had been a wise har – a shaman to his people.
“I wouldn’t call it scared. I just don’t feel comfortable having an unpredictable force running about in my organized world.”
Pellaz laughed. “Come on, Thiede. He will present you with a challenge.”
“I want to know your plans for him. You are shielding your thoughts too strongly for me to read them.”
Pellaz decided to confide in Thiede. “He will stay with me for a while until he has adjusted to life.”
“And then what?” Thiede’s eyes glowed excitedly. Had Pellaz thought of something he had missed?
“And then I will send for Galdra.”
Thiede suddenly burst out into laughter as he finally caught on. “You smart devil, you!” Of course! Pellaz had fallen for Galdra a few years ago and there was little doubt in Thiede’s mind that a younger version would also fall head over heels in love for the Freyhellan.
“I always felt sorry for Galdra,” Pellaz admitted softly. “I know how much he loves me and yet we can’t be together that way. My younger self and Galdra however can.”
Thiede grinned wickedly. “You know something? At the moment, Cal is thinking about a name for your harling… It might be wise if we thought of a new name for your charge too. It might get confusing otherwise.”
“A new name? Why would I want to do that? He is Pellaz too.”
“But you can’t introduce him to let’s say Tharmifex like that. It would cause problems.”
Pellaz considered the matter and reached the conclusion that Thiede was probably right. “We will think of a new name for him.” He moved closer to the pod and placed his hands against the glass. “Is he aware of us?”
“He doesn’t have a mind yet…” Thiede shook his head. “He doesn’t sense anything.”
Pellaz flashed back to a moment in his past when he had been afloat in such a pod. He vaguely remembered Seel visiting one day with the intention of killing him, the monstrosity Thiede had created. But then Pellaz had opened his eyes and had managed to convince Seel that he inhabited that body and Seel had abandoned his plans. “I believe I can transfer his awareness to his body.” Pellaz had been thinking about the issue and had explored the deep recesses of his mind where his younger self resided. “I might need your help though.”
“I will help,” Thiede promised. He had a lot to lose if Pellaz was damaged in the process. He had worked too hard to risk injury now. “I need an hour to get him out of the pod and ready him. I suggest you meditate and try to make contact with your younger self. It would also help if we had a new name for him when he wakes up.”
“Will his memories be intact?” Pellaz asked as he turned away from the pod.
Thiede nodded his head. “I gave him memories. Erasing them now would cause trauma and the transfer is already delicate. He will remember what has happened.”
“Good. I want that.” Pellaz went into a corner of the room and sat down on the floor cross-legged. He closed his eyes and reached deep inside himself in search of his elusive younger self.
Reclining into a pile of pillows, Cal managed to get some of the food which Caeru had brought him down. Moon and Tyson had left when it had become clear that Cal needed to rest. He had placed the pearl in his lap so he could still maintain contact with it.
“I wonder if Pell and Thiede made some progress already.” Caeru couldn’t but wonder if the younger Pellaz would return with the Tigron to Cal’s rooms later. “I grew fond of him.”
“Me too. I hope they are successful.”
Thiede transferred the grown body out of the pod, onto a bed and cleaned him up. He dried the skin and arranged the dark hair. The body was breathing on its own and ready to be possessed. The question was, had Pellaz found a way to make contact with his elusive younger self?
/I know you are there and that you can hear me./ Pellaz was using a considerable amount of energy to reach the har lurking in his mind. /I know you are listening to me. Don’t pretend otherwise./
/You should leave me alone. I will only cause trouble./
Pellaz smiled victoriously. /You know what I have been doing?/
/I am a part of you. Of course I do and it’s folly. Thiede is right. You ought to abandon your plans./
/I can’t. You are a sentient being and deserve a life of your own. Thiede should have considered that when he gave you awareness./
/I am not important to Thiede, but you are. You are Tigron. Why can’t you leave me be?/
Pellaz frowned. He hadn’t expected his younger self to put up such a fight. /I am going to do this with or without your cooperation, though things would be easier with your help./
/You didn’t think this through, you know. You can’t just introduce me to everyone saying that I am you./
/Caeru and Cal already know the truth and they accept you. The rest do not need to know. I will introduce you as a relative…a younger brother perhaps who I thought was lost to me. They will accept another brother since I have already introduced them to Terez and Snake. They won’t question another one./ This time there was a silence, telling him that his younger self was thinking everything over. /You could give yourself a name that would belong just to you. A name that would make you unique./
/A name? I don’t know what kind of name would suit me./
Pellaz felt victorious. His younger self was considering his options! Pellaz projected trust and affection and hoped it was working. /What do you have to lose?/
/Nothing really./ But making this decision was still hard. /Should I accept your proposal it will affect everyone near you. Did you consider that?/
/I already told you that I considered it. How many more excuses are you going to come up with? Do you want this or not?/
/I want this,/ he admitted. /But I am also afraid of the consequences./
/Let me worry about those./ Pellaz focused his energy and readied himself to aid Thiede with the transfer of his younger self’s mind. /Just do whatever it is we tell you to./
/I will. I am scared though./
/It is okay to be scared…/ Pellaz looked up and saw Thiede standing there. “We are ready.”
Thiede nodded. “Then let’s do this.”
Pellaz felt drained as he looked at the sleeping har on the bed. He didn’t know exactly how they had transferred his younger self’s mind into the body, but it had worked and that was all that mattered to him. “What happens now?” he asked tiredly.
“He rests…and you should rest too. The transfer exhausted you.” Thiede placed a hand on Pellaz’ shoulder and started to push the Tigron onto his back. “You lost a part of yourself. It takes time to adjust.”
Stretching out on his back, Pellaz then rolled toward the new har so he could study the face, which was almost a perfect copy of his. Looking closely though, he saw differences. The har’s skin wasn’t as tanned as his was and the hair was shorter. It only reached the shoulders and he looked younger. Thiede had exaggerated when he had said that they would be able to pass for twins. As far as Pellaz was concerned he was looking at his younger brother. He wrapped an arm around the other har and pulled him close.
Thiede smiled, though the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. He hoped Pellaz’ plans would work and that Galdra would capture the younger har’s heart.
Opening his eyes was something he had thought he would never do again, but he blinked and looked at the ceiling. He was on his back in a comfortable bed and something warm was pressed against him. His tongue dashed out to moisten his lips and he blinked again. He was alive. The experiment had worked. He had a body now and was no longer part of the Tigron’s mind. Turning his head slightly, his breath caught as he saw who was holding him in his sleep.
“You are awake – that is good.”
Hearing a strange voice startled him and he turned his head to the other side where Thiede was seated. For one moment the red-haired har frightened him. He possessed the Tigron’s knowledge and knew that it was Thiede who had given him life – twice. The first time was when the har had created him to show the Tigron what would have been if he hadn’t accepted his calling and the second had been when he had gifted him with this body.
“Don’t be afraid of me. You have no reason to fear me.” Thiede eyed the other har curiously. “I created you – are you aware of that?”
He nodded carefully as to not wake Pellaz from his sleep. “Why did you do it? I know you wanted me to disappear again.”
“I love a challenge,” Thiede replied and leaned back in his chair. “In a way I am your hostling. I created your mind and your body. I think it is only just that I should name you.”
“I need a name and I don’t know one myself.” He understood that he couldn’t be Pellaz in this life. He had to create a new existence for himself and was grateful for any help he could get, be it from Thiede or Pellaz. This was the right moment to choose a new name since he had started a new life.
“Since you were human once or have memories of a human existence I think we should pick a name that suits that part of your ‘life’ as well. I name you Rune, since your true existence will always have to remain a secret. You can never tell anyone, do you understand?”
Rune nodded his head. “I understand. I will never tell anyone who I am.”
“Pellaz will introduce you as his youngest brother, whom he had thought lost. The Cevarro family produced one more child we never knew of. The members of the Hegemony will believe it.”
Pellaz stirred. Maybe hearing his name had woken him, but he smiled at seeing the young har in his arms. “It worked.”
“Yes, it worked,” Thiede agreed as he rose from his chair. “I had better leave you and Rune alone now.”
“Thank you,” Pellaz whispered, knowing he couldn’t have done it on his own. Thiede nodded his head and then left the room. Pellaz turned his attention to the other har. “Thiede called you Rune just now. Is that the name you have chosen for yourself?”
“Thiede gave me that name and I like it.” Rune smiled at Pellaz. “I like the idea of being your younger brother.”
Pellaz agreed. “We shall be brothers from this moment on.” He brushed some strands away from Rune’s face and gave his brother a thoughtful look. “Do you know that Cal birthed the pearl?”
Rune shook his head and Pellaz’ fingertips moved against his face in an embrace when he did. “I have tried hard not to spy on you these last few days. I didn’t want to return to life.”
“You don’t have to be afraid of any consequences your presence might have. Cal and Rue know the truth and are okay with this.” Pellaz released Rune from the embrace and pushed himself into a sitting position. “Would you like to see the pearl?”
“Can I?” Wide-eyed, Rune swung his feet to the floor and pushed himself upright. His world spun briefly but then he started to feel attuned to his surroundings. “Being alive again feels odd.”
Pellaz walked over to Rune and extended his hand in invitation. Rune took it and Pellaz led the younger har into the corridor.
Cal patted the pearl absentmindedly as he watched Caeru return from the bathroom. The Tigrina had taken a long bath and a sea of smells invaded Cal’s nostrils. The pale hair shimmered like spun gold and a delicate hue adorned the normally pale skin. “You look good enough to ravish.” Unfortunately for Caeru, Cal’s need for aruna had suffered a setback since he had delivered the pearl.
“You can make it up to me later,” Caeru retorted and draped a burgundy robe over his slim shoulders. “You should take a bath too, Cal. You haven’t bathed in days.” Pellaz had cleaned Cal up after the blond har had dropped the pearl and Cal hadn’t left his bed since.
“I will do that after our pearl has hatched. I am not leaving it alone for a minute.”
Caeru thought Cal’s dedication to the pearl adorable and cursed Thiede all over again for separating Cal from Pell in the past. Had the two of them still been together when Cal had had his first pearl that harling would have been spoiled rotten. “Have you thought of a name yet?” Caeru slid under the covers and brought with him a refreshing scent of perfume.
“I did.” Cal examined the pearl and thought he detected a shadow of a crack on it. But that would be too early. “I want to tell Pell and you at the same time.”
Caeru approved and watched Cal study the shell. “It is starting to crack. It won’t be long now.”
“The harling can’t hatch without Pell close.” Cal was about to ask Caeru to fetch Pellaz when two dark-haired hara entered the bedroom. Both Cal and Caeru stared in surprise at the pair. “It worked,” Cal managed eventually. He had immediately recognized his chesnari and, although the other har bore a great resemblance to Pell, everyone would be able to tell them apart.
Caeru purred softly in approval. This younger version of Pellaz was attractive and almost made the Tigrina drool. “Do you have something to tell us, Pell?”
Pellaz pulled Rune along since he still had a tight hold on the younger har’s hand. “As you said, it worked. Thiede grew the body and together, we planted my younger self’s mind in it. May I introduce Rune to you? I will tell our sons and the members of the Hegemony that he is my long lost brother.”
Cal nodded. That would probably work, but he wasn’t sure Darq would buy it. “Rune – that’s a good name. Sounds a bit Freyhellan.” He grinned deviously.
Pellaz had noticed that as well. He continued to pull Rune along until they had reached the bed. He pushed the younger har down onto the bed. “Look, the pearl is about to hatch!” Excited, Pellaz stretched out on his front and eyed the pearl closely. He still remembered how Loki had freed himself of the shell and had reached for him.
Rune felt overwhelmed. Too much was happening at the same time, but since he didn’t want to miss this, he focused on the pearl. He had been inside Pellaz’ body when Cal and he had created it and it felt like this was his harling too. “Did you already name him?” he asked Cal when the blond har curled his fingers around his hand.
Cal was happy to see the experiment had worked. Although Pellaz was the harling’s father, Rune had had a part in the pearl’s conception as well. “Not yet, but I have thought of a name.”
Pellaz took Caeru’s hand in his and pressed a kiss onto the back. This was a moment full of love and he didn’t want anyone to feel left out. “What name?” A tiny hand suddenly pushed through the shell and the fingers stretched for the first time. Pellaz was tempted to help the harling break free from the shell, but didn’t act. If anyone should help the harling it was the hostling – Cal.
“Areeli. I want to name him Areeli.” Cal broke away a larger piece of shell and helped the harling emerge from it. “He has your eyes,” Cal whispered as he opened his arms to the harling.
“And your hair.” Pellaz couldn’t have been happier and watched Cal and the harling get acquainted with snuggling. His chance to hold the harling would come later. He wanted Cal to have this moment.
“Areeli-har-Aralis, now there is a mouthful.” Caeru chuckled and the harling turned his head at the sound. Caeru grinned at the harling and saw Pellaz’ intelligence in the young gaze. This was one harling who would learn to wind them around his little finger quickly.
Cal cradled Areeli and held him close. For the moment, the harling was content in being rocked, but he was already making eye contact with the other hara. Cal breathed in his son’s scent and let go of the guilt he had for failing Tyson in the past. He would make none of those mistakes with Areeli.
“Can I hold him?” Pellaz moved a little closer and opened his arms. Cal placed Areeli in them and Pellaz made himself more comfortable, resting his back against Caeru’s chest. Seeing the hesitant expression in Rune’s eyes, Pellaz nodded. “You can touch him, you know.”
Rune raised a shaky hand and touched the harling, patting the hair. Areeli cocked his head and smiled at him, which filled Rune’s heart with love for the harling. “This is amazing,” Rune admitted. “I never thought I would ever be granted to touch him.”
Pellaz didn’t want to let go of Areeli just yet, but realized this was important for Rune. “Hold your arms like this,” he instructed and then let Areeli glide into Rune’s arms. “Yes, like that.” He leaned back against Caeru again and watched Rune rock Areeli. Hopefully his ploy to match Rune up with Galdra would be successful. Maybe then, Rune could start thinking about hosting himself.
“I can’t stop looking at him,” Caeru whispered fondly. He hands itched to hold the harling, but he was content to wait his turn.
Growing aware of Caeru’s needy air, Rune placed the harling onto the Tigrina’s lap. He was happy they had let him hold the harling for a moment.
Caeru’s fingers caressed the harling’s face and he chuckled. Areeli tried to imitate the noise and moved his hands to capture Caeru’s face in-between them. But his hands were too small and the Tigrina’s head too big. “You are still too little to do that.” Caeru kissed the harling’s brow and then handed him back to Cal, who had been giving Areeli a longing look. “Go to your hostling.”
Areeli hugged Cal close, as much as any harling could do. He pressed his face against Cal’s chest and then closed his eyes. He liked all four hara, but this har was his favorite.
“I shall ask the servants to bring some refreshments.” Caeru rose from the bed and excused himself momentarily. “And after we have eaten, you are going to take a bath, Cal.”
Cal laughed and decided that humoring Caeru was probably in his best interest. “Pell? We created something beautiful.”
Pellaz nodded his head. “He is perfect.”
Cal suddenly looked a bit sullen and avoided Pellaz’ eyes. “Can we inform Ty before we tell the rest of our family? I want him to have a chance to meet his brother before it is too crowded in here.”
“We can do that.” Pellaz agreed with Cal. “I will go get them. Rune can keep you company in the meantime.”
Cal waited for Pellaz to leave the room before he addressed the young har. “I am glad Thiede could help you. I really started to care about you and then you were gone!”
“I had no choice but to retreat since Pellaz was waking up.” Rune slowly raised a hand and brushed the harling’s blond hair. Staring at Areeli, he asked, “Does it discomfort you that I am here now? I mean, I possessed Pellaz’ body when your pearl was created.”
Cal laughed and slid his fingers into Rune’s hair, which had the same texture and color as Pellaz’. “Pell doesn’t mind, so why would I?”
“Because we…we took aruna and…” Rune blushed.
“That is what hara do – we take aruna. I am certain you will take aruna many more times in your life.” The refreshments arrived and Cal had them placed on the bed. Under his hostling’s watchful eye, Areeli tried some of the food. Caeru however didn’t return and Cal deduced that the Tigrina was either handling the members of the Hegemony or informing their family that Areeli had hatched. “Are you going to stay with us? I really hope so. We could team up against Pell.”
Rune smiled and Cal found that smile dazzling. Rune had never learned to put on a mask to hide his feelings or ignore them. Rune was a refreshing breeze in the Tigron’s chambers.
“If you want me to stay, I will. That is, if Pellaz doesn’t mind. It must be odd for him to have me living here.” Rune drank some water and then lowered his gaze again. “I still can’t believe I am real.”
Their conversation ended abruptly when Pellaz returned accompanied by Tyson and Moon.
Tyson remained standing in the doorway and swallowed hard. He had expected to see the harling, since Pellaz had told him that it had hatched, but who was the har seated close to Cal? He looked like Pellaz and Moon combined!
Pellaz coughed to draw their attention. Before he could introduce Areeli to them, he had to explain Rune’s presence to them! “This is my youngest brother, Rune. I thought he had died, but our forces found him a few days ago. Rune, this is Tyson and Moon.”
Rune recognized them. In his reality these two hara had never found each other and had lived bitter lives. “My brother already told me about the two of you.” Rune rose from the bed and waited for anyone to speak. What was he supposed to do?
“I never knew you had another brother. Snake never mentioned him,” Moon whispered thoughtfully.
That remark reminded Pellaz that he needed to talk to Snake and Terez. He would find a way to make them comply and confirm that Rune was their long lost baby brother.
“The family resemblance is striking, don’t you agree?” Cal commented and gestured for Tyson to approach. They couldn’t dwell on Rune too long for then the two younger hara would get a chance to think everything over. It was time to change the subject. “Ty, don’t you want to meet your brother?”
Tyson approached the bed and sat down on the edge. The harling that looked up at him from the confines of Cal’s arms was doubtlessly his hostling and Pellaz’.
“His name is Areeli.” Alert, Cal watched how Areeli crawled toward Tyson.
Moon pulled up a chair and sat down too, but his attention was divided. He couldn’t stop staring at Rune either. At the same time, Caeru returned and went to stand next to Rune, who was moving away from the bed to escape Moon’s scrutiny. Caeru handed Rune a cup of tea and guided him over to a couch, where they sat down and watched Tyson play with Areeli.
Caeru curled his fingers around Rune’s hand and simply lent the other har the strength he needed to come to terms with everything that had happened.
“Thank you for coming so quickly. There is something we need to discuss.” Pellaz sat beside Rune and tried to ward off his brothers’ curious looks, feeling protective of Rune.
Terez and Snake couldn’t stop staring at the pair. “What has happened here?” Snake asked. He had been stunned when a second Pellaz had been there waiting for him. Terez had a better rein on his feelings, but Snake could tell that his brother felt equally shocked.
“I will tell you the truth and in return you must promise me that you will never tell anyhar. Not Raven, not Cobweb…nohar.” Pellaz was putting his foot down and curled his fingers around Rune’s when the other har reached out to him.
Snake eyed both hara closely. His senses tingled with curiosity. “I sense your essence when I probe his thoughts, Pell. How can that be?”
Pellaz drew in a deep breath and then told his brothers what had happened. He told them about the vision he had had and how he had realized that his younger self had become a part of him. Passionately, he spoke of finding a way to free his younger self and how, in the end, Thiede had grown a new body using some of the DNA Thiede had stored after remaking him. “Rune is my brother as far as I am concerned and I need you two to back me up. The rest of the family will question his presence,” Pellaz finished and waited for either Snake or Terez to answer him.
It was Snake who spoke up first. “I look at him and I see you, Pell. Do you really think the members of the Hegemony are going to believe you? It takes one look to realize something is wrong.”
“Nothing is ‘wrong’,” Pellaz replied determinedly. “He is our youngest brother and got lost. The Sulh incepted him and he wandered for a long time until he found his way to Immanion.”
Snake wasn’t convinced yet. “What if he decides to take over and replace you? He could get away with it.”
“I would never do that!” Rune stared at Snake in disbelief. How could brothers be so different?
Snake decided to be honest. “I am not certain I can keep such a secret from Cobweb. We know each other’s mind and keeping secrets from my chesnari is something I feel uncomfortable with.”
“I must insist that you keep this to yourself,” Pellaz responded firmly. “I don’t want any force – known or unknown – to be aware that Rune and I have more in common than just being brothers.”
Terez had thought everything over while Snake and Pellaz had been discussing the situation at hand. Ruled less by emotions than his siblings, he looked at this from a neutral point of view. He was head of security and was only worried about guarding Rune’s safety. He had already enough things on his mind since he had to secure Areeli’s safety too. “Where will Rune be staying?”
“I will make it easy for you,” Pellaz said. “He will stay in my rooms, with Cal, Caeru, and Areeli. That should make things easier.”
“Security-wise, it does.” Terez wondered if he could leave now.
“Snake? Will you play along? Terez will, won’t you?” Pellaz asked.
Terez nodded his head once. He had no reason to sabotage Rune’s life.
Snake reluctantly nodded his head. “But I can’t vouch for the secret’s safety. If Cobweb happens to find out I am not going to deny it.”
“That’s fair enough.” Pellaz knew it was the best he could hope for. “I hope the three of you will befriend each other. In public, we have to act like we are familiar with each other. That shouldn’t be too hard since we don’t gather too often as a family.” They had only gathered in order to celebrate Areeli’s birth.
Snake gave Rune a probing look. He didn’t know what to make of the other har yet.
Rune was nervous. Pellaz, Caeru, Terez, and Snake had gathered in the antechamber, where the guests had to pass through to get to Cal and the harling. Pellaz had decided against inviting his family members on two separate occasions and preferred to do this just once.
The first har to arrive was Thiede and Pellaz suspected the har had only come to gloat at his handiwork. “Cal is already expecting you,” Pellaz said and hoped Thiede’s visit would be short. Cal was weary and wary of too many visitors. Later, everyone would gather in the main hall and the feast would continue deep into the night.
Once Thiede had moved into the next room, Moon and Tyson appeared. Rune started to feel a bit more relaxed since they already knew each other and even managed to smile at them. After that, things started to get more difficult though. Loki and Geburael could do little more than stare at Rune for a long moment and it was Pellaz who explained to them that his youngest brother had been found. Loki and Geburael were still in the room when Darq and Abrimel appeared. Abrimel simply accepted Pellaz’ explanation, but Darq didn’t. Darq sensed something out of the ordinary was at work there. It was like his father’s mind was also present in Rune’s. But since the occasion was a joyous one he didn’t press the matter and guided his brothers and Abrimel into the next room where they would meet Cal and Areeli.
Things got awkward again when Cobweb, Swift, Seel, Flick, and Ulaume arrived. Pellaz found the look on Ulaume’s face highly comical when the other har’s eyes almost bulged from their sockets, but one look from Cobweb stopped his laughter from bubbling up.
Rune tried to stay in the background and let Pellaz do the talking when the members of the Hegemony arrived. Tharmifex, Ashmael, Eyra, Chrysm, Dree, Cedony, and Glave all gave him odd looks. Velaxis appeared curious while Vaysh simply stared at him in shock. Did Vaysh suspect the truth, Pellaz wondered?
Rune didn’t know if any of them believed Pellaz’ explanation and he wished the floor would open and swallow him. They hadn’t thought this through! “I don’t want to be here,” Rune whispered into Pellaz’ ear. Caeru’s hand came to rest against the small of his back, but even that loving gesture offered him little comfort.
“It won’t last that much longer. Once they have all congratulated Cal and seen Areeli, you will no longer be noticed in the crowd that has formed by then.” Pellaz wanted to comfort Rune, but also realized that this was something the other har had to go through.
A few moments later, Pellaz gave the sign that Caeru and Rune should follow him. Terez had left their company when Raven had appeared and Snake had headed inside at Cobweb’s side. Pellaz sought out Cal, who looked happy and pleased. Cal was seated on a comfortable chair and Areeli was playing with strands of his hostling’s hair. “Are you overly tired?”
Cal shook his head. “Areeli and I will stay a little longer.” He was dying to get his hands on a cigarette and was grateful that Caeru had made him soak in the bathtub for over an hour. He felt refreshed and clean again. He seated Areeli on his hip and walked alongside Pellaz into the hall where music was playing and hara were dancing. More hara, mostly house hara, had joined the festivities to which every har was invited. After all, the hatching of a son of the two Tigrons of Immanion was something to be celebrated.
Rune was grateful that Caeru remained at his side. He would have felt lost otherwise. All the time hara came up to him who wanted to talk to him and he had a hard time politely excusing himself. “Why did I agree to this? I should have remained a part of Pellaz’ mind.”
Caeru gave Rune a look that told him to be careful. “The walls have ears here. There are too many Listeners present. Be careful what you think and say.”
Rune took Caeru’s warning to heart and lost himself in the dance, allowing the Tigrina to lead him.
Cal sucked in his breath when he noticed Cobweb creep closer to him. He had seated himself and Areeli on a comfortable sofa and he was pointing out all the different hara to his son and telling him their names. He had hoped that Cobweb would let the matter lie, but Cal was afraid Cobweb would start chastising him again and this time in front of Areeli.
For over an hour now Cobweb had watched Cal interact with the harling. At first he had been highly skeptical that Cal could care for Areeli, but the longer he had watched, the more love he had seen in Cal’s eyes. Pellaz had been right: Cal was a changed har. “May I keep you company?” he asked before seating himself on the couch next to Areeli.
“If you must.” Cal wanted Cobweb to leave. This was *his* evening – *his* moment of triumph.
Cobweb sensed Cal’s hostility and knew he only had to blame himself for it. “I spoke too hastily the other day.”
Cal blinked in surprise and looked Cobweb in the eye. “What do you mean?”
“It is obvious that you love Areeli. I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“You are a fool, Cobweb,” Pellaz retorted as he appeared from his lurking in the shadows. He had made his way over to Cal the moment he had seen Cobweb advance on his chesnari. “Cal has changed as much as you have. You are no longer the har that hated Cal for hosting Terzian’s pearl and Cal is no longer insane.”
Areeli, who was still too young to make much sense of what they were saying, busied himself watching all the pretty hara dance.
“I understand that now and I am here to apologize.” Cobweb reached out to Cal in mind touch. /It was wrong of me to condemn you. Please accept my heartfelt apologies. I needed to see you like this in order to understand./
“I accept.” Cal pulled Areeli onto his lap. The harling had managed to crawl off.
Cobweb, eager to change their subject, saw Caeru and Rune dance. “Odd, isn’t it. Snake never told me about another brother. And the resemblance is uncanny, Pell. One might think that the two of you were twins… or that Thiede had grown another body. But even if he did, whose mind occupies that body?” He looked at Pellaz, who still stood behind Cal, and cocked his head. “How much of you is there?”
Pellaz surrendered. “It is impossible to keep things from you.”
“Snake tried, but his thoughts are much too transparent these days. I can read him with ease. He didn’t want to betray your trust: he had no choice.”
Pellaz nodded once. “Will you keep quiet?”
“I will honor your request. Snake and I will keep the secret.” Cobweb watched Rune dance and a smile appeared on his face when he noticed a commotion near the doorway.
“What’s that all about?” Pellaz asked and squinted to see what har had arrived that could draw such attention.
Cal, getting a look at that har before Pellaz did, grinned. “Does the name Galdra-har-Freyhella mean anything to you?”
Rune definitely enjoyed dancing with Caeru. The Tigrina was working his hips sinfully and Rune got caught up in the music, mimicking Caeru’s moves. Rune might not realize it, but a lot of eyes had fastened on him. Caeru however *was* aware of the attraction the younger har was attracting and couldn’t help but grin smugly. It was good to see Rune enjoy himself after everything the other har had been through.
Galdra made his way through the crowd to pay the Tigrons his respects. When the news had reached him that Cal had birthed a pearl, he had been surprised and happy for them. Galdra didn’t begrudge Cal the love of Pellaz though at times it was hard living a solitary life. He had lost his heart to Pellaz years ago and had never been able to reclaim it. He loved Pellaz from a distance and had made his peace with it over the years.
He attracted many looks and, gracious as ever, he nodded to the hara that had noticed him. At one time, he had been a candidate to replace Cal, who had disappeared at the time, and Galdra had practically become chesna with Pellaz. But then Cal had returned and upended his world. Galdra had stepped back and had not bothered Cal or Pellaz again until that portal had appeared in Freygard. Meeting Loki and realizing he had a son had made him proud, but at the same time he had also felt lost and lonely because he could never truly recognize Loki as his own.
He reached the couch Pellaz and Cal were seated upon and bowed respectfully.
Pellaz’ heart beat a faster rhythm when the salt of the sea invaded his nostrils. Dressed in leather and with a traveling cloak made of wolf skin draped over his shoulders, Galdra was an impressive sight. The long, blond hair reached Galdra’s buttocks and danced around the har with each movement he made.
“Greetings, tiahaara,” Galdra said and straightened again. Fondly, he looked at Cal, who was trying to restrain the curious harling that was busy crawling off his lap. It was strange to see Cal so nurturing and expressing his soume aspect in public, but he liked the softness that had appeared on the handsome face. “Good tidings reached the North and I am here to congratulate you and bring you the blessings of my people.”
Pellaz smiled at Galdra. There would be time to greet the other har in private later, but for the time being, they had to act formally. “It is good to see you, Galdra. You are most welcome here.” At Pellaz’ sign a chair was moved closer so their guest could seat himself.
Galdra removed his wolf skin cloak and sat down. “May I inquire when the pearl hatched?”
“Only a few days ago,” Cal replied as he assisted Areeli from crawling from his lap onto Galdra’s. The harling was curious and didn’t seem to have any fear of strangers.
Galdra smiled at the harling who was trying to climb onto his knees. He steadied the harling with a hand and patted the head. “And what’s your name?”
“Areeli,” Pellaz replied and smiled. “He takes after his hostling character wise.”
Loki had seen Galdra enter the room and had quickly made his way over to his father. Galdra embraced Loki, but made sure Areeli was still supported as the harling tried to ride on his knee. Galdra moved his knee about and Areeli chuckled with glee. “You gained a brother, Loki.”
“They are cute when they are little like that.” Loki watched Areeli and couldn’t help but laugh at the harling’s antics.
“This is quite a party,” Galdra commented as he viewed the crowd. The celebrating would continue for another few hours, but he doubted the Tigrons would stay that long.
Pellaz had picked up on that thought and nodded. Galdra never erected barriers to keep him out. “We are going to retire in a moment. Cal and Areeli have had enough excitement for one day.”
Cal finally managed to light a cigarette and sighed appreciatively. Areeli gave him a puzzled look and tried to catch the smoke with his hands. “No, you are not picking up that habit yet. Maybe in a few years.” Cal finished his smoke and extinguished the cigarette. “I want to leave,” he announced and gathered Areeli into his arms again. “You are welcome to join us, Galdra.” Over the years, he had warmed up to Galdra. It had helped that they had taken aruna together – the three of them, Pellaz, Cal, and Galdra. After that, they had buried any ill feelings they might have still harbored.
“I accept your invitation. I would like to talk some more in a private setting.” The whole of Immanion could hear what they were saying. “And I will meet you tomorrow, Loki.” Loki happily nodded his head and then left to seek out Geburael.
Cal collected and then cradled his son in his arms and rose from the couch. Pellaz started to excuse themselves to their sons and the members of the Hegemony and Cal was glad he didn’t have to deal with them. Areeli snuggled up to his hostling and rested his head against Cal’s chest. He was tired. Meeting so many new hara had drained him and he needed to sleep.
Galdra got to his feet as well and wanted to follow Cal out of the room when Pellaz gestured for him to wait. “What’s wrong?” He walked over to where Pellaz was standing overlooking the dance floor.
“I want Rue and Rune to join us.” Pellaz had already planned his next step. He had to time the moment that Galdra would lay eyes upon Rune for the very first time.
“Rune?” Galdra frowned. “I never heard that name before.”
“Rune is my youngest brother. We thought him lost, but he was incepted and found his way to Immanion a few weeks ago.” Pellaz had finally caught Caeru’s gaze and inclined his head in Galdra’s direction, hoping that his consort would catch on.
“Another brother?” Galdra laughed. “I would like to meet him.”
“You will.” Pellaz laughed wickedly when Caeru gave him a conspiring wink. “As a matter of fact, here they come.”
Caeru placed his hands on Rune’s shoulders to stop the other har from dancing. “Pell and Cal are retiring for the night. It would be best if we joined them.” A crestfallen expression appeared on Rune’s face and Caeru felt guilty for ruining the younger har’s fun. “There will be other parties,” he promised. He had seen Galdra standing next to Pellaz and knew what Pellaz was up to. “Are you coming with me?”
Rune swept back his hair and nodded. “I don’t want to stay here on my own. I don’t know any of these hara.” And he didn’t trust them either. He would have loved to keep on dancing for another hour, but would comply with Caeru’s wishes. He consoled himself with the idea that there would be more parties indeed. Ever since his ‘birth’ he had slept in the same bed as Pellaz, Cal, and Caeru, but because Areeli was also present, most of the time snuggled up to either Pellaz or Cal, they hadn’t taken aruna. Rune regretted that for his body craved it. He was however, restraining himself.
Caeru took hold of Rune’s hand, turned, and guided Rune away from the dance floor. His gaze was fixed upon Galdra, curious as he was to find out how the har would react to seeing Rune for the first time.
Galdra’s breath caught when he saw the har walking next to Caeru. For one moment, he thought he had lost his mind and was seeing double. But Pellaz was dressed in gold that night and this har was dressed in black. “Who’s that?” Open-mouthed, he stared at the vision that approached. The jet black hair reached just below the har’s shoulders and the eyes were identical to Pellaz’. Those eyes had already bewitched him and Galdra couldn’t look anywhere else besides at that har.
Feeling smug, Pellaz grinned. “That’s Rune, my brother.” The reaction, at least on Galdra’s part, was exactly what he had hoped for.
Caeru was forced to halt in his tracks because Rune came to an abrupt stop. Glancing to the side, he followed the direction of Rune’s stare and smiled when he ended up looking at Galdra, who had an equally stunned expression on his face. Had this been Pellaz’ plan all along? Caeru couldn’t help but wonder.
“Rue, who is that har?” Rune couldn’t take his eyes off this har. His body was going berserk with all kind of reactions to this har’s presence and he found himself changing from soume to ouana and back again repeatedly until it became painful. Blushing to the roots of his hair, he lowered his gaze and forced himself to calm down. He had never reacted to anyhar like that, not even to Cal.
“That’s Galdra. Pellaz and he were chesna for a time, but then Cal returned.” Caeru took Rune’s shaky hand into his and petted the back. /Galdra is Loki’s father./ Caeru chose to divulge that information via mind touch, not wanting other hara to hear it.
The blush on Rune’s face deepened and he shuffled his feet. “That explains why I am reacting to him.”
Caeru nodded his head and drew Rune into an embrace. “Pellaz’ taste in hara and yours are the same. Come on, I shall introduce you to him.” Caeru had to force Rune into motion by pulling him along. Pellaz gestured for him to follow them into the corridor and Caeru realized introductions would be made in the privacy of the Tigron’s rooms.
“I thought you were going to introduce me to him?” Galdra reluctantly followed Pellaz when the Tigron pulled him along.
“We will have more privacy in my rooms.” Galdra and Rune’s reactions so far pleased Pellaz. He followed Cal into the suite and pulled Galdra along into the living area. “Wait here. I just want to look after Cal and Areeli.”
Galdra froze and couldn’t move. Something had happened when he had laid eyes on Rune for the first time. A moment later, Caeru and Rune entered the room and a strained silence unfolded.
“Cal, are you okay with this?” Pellaz sat down on the bed and twined his fingers with Cal’s. Cal had stretched out on the bed and Areeli had snuggled up to his hostling.
“I know what you are trying to do,” Cal whispered. “It is a very smart thing to do. I don’t want Galdra to be lonely either and Rune would make a good chesnari.”
“Did you notice their reactions when they saw each other for the first time? They gave me hope.”
Cal nodded. “They are already drawn to each other and that is good.” Cal raised a hand and caressed Pellaz’ face. “Join us when you can and make sure Rue comes along with you.”
Pellaz frowned. “You did not include Rune in that invitation.”
“Rune might opt to sleep someplace else. Pell, he is har and he will want to take aruna. This is new to him.”
Pellaz’ eyes widened. “Do you really think they will take aruna this quickly?”
“You tormented yourself over Galdra. Rune has no reason to do that.” Cal brushed Pellaz’ top lip with his thumb. “And if Rune wants to wait he is free to join us tonight, although I am afraid we won’t be taking aruna with Areeli around.”
Pellaz pressed a kiss onto Cal’s brow and then rose from the bed. “I will be back shortly.” Pellaz returned to the living area where Galdra and Rune were still eyeing each other.
Caeru, Pellaz, and the room they were in had all disappeared to Rune and Galdra who only had eyes for each other. Rune found it hard to breathe and he had to restrain himself from throwing himself into Galdra’s arms. Galdra fought similar urges, but couldn’t act on them since they were in the Tigron’s rooms.
“Galdra, may I formally introduce my youngest brother to you? This is Rune.” Pellaz grinned and then continued. “Rune, this is Galdra-har-Freyhella, a *very* good friend of mine.”
Galdra made his move and advanced on Rune. Bowing from the waist, he said, “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
Hearing Galdra’s voice made the blood in Rune’s veins sing. “My brother told me about you, tiahaar, and I am honored to make your acquaintance.”
Caeru grinned. They would dance around each other for a while until the need to take aruna would overwhelm them. “Why don’t you seat yourself? Pell, does Cal want our company or…?”
“Cal wants to sleep and Areeli is already asleep.” Pellaz poured four glasses of sheh and handed each har one. Then he directed them toward the comfortable divans on the balcony. He could do with some fresh air. Amused, he watched how Rune and Galdra tried to move closer and yet did their best to maintain their distance. The two hara ended up seated opposite each other. The air sizzled with an arunic charge and Pellaz surmised Cal had been right in that there was a chance that Rune wouldn’t join them in bed that night. So be it.
“The family resemblance is remarkable,” Galdra said eventually.
Pellaz nodded when Rune remained silent. “When we were still human people mistook us for twins. Not much has changed since then.” He fed Galdra the white lie with the har’s best interest in mind.
“Your name sounds Nordic,” Galdra inquired in an effort to strike up a conversation. “Did you ever visit the Northern lands which I call home?”
Rune carefully answered, “I haven’t visited your lands yet, tiahaar, although I have heard about their beauty. The seagulls are said to soar high in the skies and even as we sit here, I can smell the salt of the sea on you.”
Pellaz and Caeru exchanged pleased glances. Pellaz smelt the same thing and fondly remembered taking aruna with Galdra in the past. The har had given him strength when he had needed it the most. “I suggest you visit Freygard then. Maybe Galdra would be kind enough to act as host?” He hoped he wasn’t being too obvious, but the two hara just had eyes for each other and probably wouldn’t notice any manipulation.
“Any brother of Pellaz is welcome in my home.” Galdra sipped his wine and wished Rune and he were alone so he could put his hands on the har’s body. He had craved Pellaz from the first moment he had seen the Tigron, but the pull he was experiencing now was even stronger. Rune’s presence had an even greater effect on him.
Being direct, Pellaz stated, “My brother knows that we were chesna once. He also knows that Loki is your son. There are no secrets between Rune and me and there needn’t be any between you and him.”
Galdra nodded his head once. “It is a good thing that Rune knows these things.” It meant he could be himself around the other har. “Originally I had planned to leave for Freygard tomorrow, but now I am thinking I might stay a few more days. That is, if you have a room to spare me?” He looked at Pellaz. “The palace is probably filled to the neck with guests.”
“We will find a room for you.” Pellaz prepared his next move as he added, “I would invite you to share my bed, but Cal and Areeli need to rest. There is a spare bedroom in the back. Maybe you can share it with Rune?”
Rune had been sipping his wine, but spat out his mouthful at Pellaz’ suggestion. “But…” Until now, he had shared their bed!
“I don’t want the bed too crowded after Cal had to attend the feast all evening. Cal and Areeli need rest. Surely you understand that, Rune?” Pellaz left Rune with no way out.
“If sharing a bed holds no appeal to you I can sleep on the floor,” Galdra suggested to cover how vexed he felt at Rune’s protests.
“No, you don’t need to sleep on the floor.” Rune blanched at Galdra’s suggestion. “We will manage.”
“Good. In that case, Rue and I are going to excuse ourselves and join Cal and Areeli.” Pellaz intercepted Caeru’s wicked grin. His consort had caught on and approved of making Rune and Galdra share a room and hopefully a bed. Cal had been right of course: Rune was longing to take aruna by this time. Had Areeli not been sleeping in their bed, Cal and Caeru would have long indulged Rune. Caeru and Pellaz disappeared into the bedroom. Rune and Galdra stayed behind and looked at each other, quite bewildered and wondering what to do next.
Rune felt awkward around Galdra because of the emotions the other har had woken in him. There was need, longing, and, most of all, the overwhelming urge to touch. The night that lay ahead of them would be a long and tormenting one because he felt he couldn’t possibly take aruna with his brother’s former lover. And especially not with Pellaz sleeping in the next room.
Galdra picked up the bottle of sheh and walked toward the doorway. Looking over his shoulder he saw that Rune hadn’t moved yet. The har was still seated on the divan and looked dazed. Galdra understood why for he felt the same way, but had a better grip on his emotions. “Are you going to stay out here or are you joining me?” His instincts told him to be careful. The other har struck him as young and inexperienced in the matters of the heart and Galdra didn’t want to make any mistakes.
Rune pushed himself to his feet and slowly followed Galdra into the bedroom. He maintained a certain distance between them though since he didn’t trust himself around the other har. He loved the salty scent that clung to Galdra and he wanted to bury his face in the pale hair and inhale that scent deeply. Visions of Galdra moving above him tormented him and he became soume, aching with desire for the other har. Vexed that he couldn’t handle his emotions any better, he lowered his gaze and glared at the floor.
“Do you want another drink?” Galdra sat down on the bed and rested his back against the headboard. He filled his glass as he waited for Rune to answer his question.
“I had better not.” He wasn’t sure he would be able to control himself if he drank more. He wasn’t used to sheh and didn’t know what kind of effect it would have on him. Galdra nonetheless poured sheh into the second glass and extended his arm, indicating Rune should take it.
“The bed is comfortable…” Galdra cocked his head and studied the other har. Pellaz had kept him at a distance for a long time, believing that once he took aruna with Galdra, he would become unfaithful to Cal. Playing such games had caused them both pain and Galdra was determined not to play games with Rune. If Rune was anything like Pellaz, Rune would torment himself over Galdra and find a reason why they couldn’t be together. “You must be tired too.”
Reluctantly, Rune sat down near the foot and took the glass from Galdra. Yes, he was tired, but not *that* tired. His body was actually waking up and he fought the urge to crawl closer to Galdra. The pull he was experiencing was extraordinary. “If you are tired please feel free to rest. I won’t disturb you.” The room had a balcony and he could hide there until the morning came. Knowing that he didn’t trust himself around Galdra disturbed him. All he could think about was taking aruna with the har.
Galdra had planned on taking this slow, but Rune’s body language told him that the other har craved aruna. He wondered absentmindedly when Rune had taken aruna the last time. It must have been some time ago. “I really like your name. In the North, we use runes to foretell the future.”
Rune didn’t know how to react to that and merely nodded his head. “I am told it means something like keeping secrets.” Looking at the glass in his hand, he succumbed to temptation and downed it in one go. He needed something to sustain him.
“Yes, but runes can also reveal secrets.” Galdra placed his glass aside and knelt on the bed. Crawling on all fours, he moved closer until his face was only inches away from Rune’s. “I am very adept at reading them.”
It was getting harder for Rune to breathe. Galdra was close and the scent of the sea was strong on him. Rune thought he heard seagulls cry out in the wind and the waves of the sea echoed in his ears. He saw himself standing on a ship and crossing into the Northern waters. He quickly shook his head to rid of himself of the vision, but doing that caused his lips to brush Galdra’s and he jerked away from the contact as if burned.
Galdra cocked his head and slid his right hand into the dark hair. His fingers rested lightly at the nape of Rune’s neck and Galdra felt like he never wanted to let go again. “Why are you fighting this?” Galdra asked. Pellaz had fought him because he had been chesna with Cal and hadn’t wanted to give into Galdra. “Are you chesna with anyone? Is that it?” His lips still tingled from being brushed by Rune’s. The skin beneath his fingertips felt familiar. The expression in those dark eyes was one he had often seen before and even the way Rune was shying away from him was known to him. He had seen those things in Pellaz.
“I have no chesnari.” Rune didn’t dare look at Galdra. He was afraid of what Galdra might read in his eyes if he did.
“Then why are you fighting this? We are hara, Rune. We take aruna. We need it like we need the air to breathe. Am I so unattractive then?” He knew that wasn’t the reason why Rune was shying away from him, but maybe saying it would make Rune open up to him.
“Pellaz and you were chesna once. I can’t possibly take aruna with you. I would hurt his feelings and I don’t want that.”
Galdra shook his head and laughed, bemused. He *was* dealing with an innocent if Rune really believed that. “Why do you think Pell put us in this room?”
“Because the other rooms are taken and Cal had a long day and…” Galdra had placed a finger beneath his chin and raised his face so he had to look into the other har’s eyes. He quivered fiercely and tried to move away from Galdra, but he was backed up against the pole at the foot of the bed.
Squinting at Rune from through the strands of his pale hair, Galdra eyed the other har carefully. “Why do I get the impression you are not as adept at this as your brother?”
Rune knew he had to come up with something. “I am not used to hara trying to seduce me,” he replied boldly, letting Galdra know he was on to him.
Galdra however suspected there was more to it. Rune didn’t know how to flirt, that was for sure, but what Galdra really wondered about was just how much experience Rune had taking aruna. Which was odd. Rune was an adult har and hara tended to have aruna frequently. “Why not let yourself be seduced?” Galdra lightly breathed into Rune’s mouth, letting their breath mingle in foreplay. “Is the idea of taking aruna with me so unpleasant to you?”
Rune swayed slightly and coughed. Galdra’s breath had made him feel dizzy. “I don’t know if we should do this.”
“Then let’s find out.” Taking charge, Galdra leaned in closer and claimed Rune’s lips in a prelude to sharing breath.
Rune told himself to fight it, but he was quickly losing himself in Galdra. Sharing breath with the other har was new and excited him. His body prepared itself for aruna and his soume-lam moistened with desire. Horrified, Rune wondered if Galdra could smell the change on him. Galdra’s lips deserted his and a sweet smile appeared on the other har’s face, which made Rune want Galdra even more.
“You are hungry,” Galdra whispered. “It must have been a long time since you last took aruna.” Attuned to Rune’s physical reactions, Galdra had noticed the sweet fragrance of arousal on the other har. “I am hungry too.”
Rune gave him a look filled with need, but didn’t make any other move and Galdra realized it was up to him to take control. “I want to see you.” His fingers slipped beneath the fabric of the robes Rune was wearing and pushed them down the pale shoulders. Where Pellaz was golden-tanned, Rune’s skin was rather pale. He suspected however that once the sun had had its way with Rune, his skin would also turn bronze. “You smell good.” Galdra buried his nose against Rune’s shoulder and started to lick the skin. “You taste good too.”
Rune’s breath came fast and hard. He stared at Galdra in disbelief, but didn’t fight him when the other har undid his belt so he could part his robes. Beneath them, he was soume and ached for Galdra’s touch. He thrust himself at Galdra and crawled on his lap.
Amused Galdra smiled and brought his arms up Rune’s back. The need that oozed from Rune’s pores affected him and filled him with desire. Beneath his leather outfit he had long turned ouana and he could hardly wait to take aruna with Rune. “You have a wild streak about you.” Running his fingertips down along Rune’s spine with enjoyment, he leaned in closer and crushed his lips to Rune’s. This time, sharing breath almost overwhelmed him when Rune responded with his whole need and desire. Tiny red flames of need and lust burned its way into his brain and down through his body to focus within his ouana-lim. Any ideas he had had of taking this slow vanished as Rune’s need burned him. “Get me out of these clothes.”
Rune’s fingers were already working on undoing the buttons and lacing that held the leather jerkin in place, but he failed to undo them because he trembled with need.
Galdra, being the more experienced har, placed his fingers over Rune’s and stopped him. “I will do it.” Rune was already grinding his lower body against the leather of his uniform. “You are intoxicating.”
Since Galdra was removing his jerkin, Rune tried to unzip the leather pants Galdra was wearing. He no longer felt in control of his actions. He only knew that he needed Galdra. He needed aruna so badly that he claimed Galdra’s lips in a bruising kiss and tried to suck the har’s life essence right out of him.
“Calm down,” Galdra whispered once he had managed to free himself of Rune’s lips. “You will get what you need.” He had never sensed such hunger in a har before. Not even in Pellaz after they had finally given into their needs. And Pellaz had been without aruna for a long time. He finally managed to wiggle out of his leather pants and his ouana-lim was freed of its confines. Greedy hands descended onto it and started to stroke it. “No, not if you want me to take aruna with you.” Otherwise he would spill his essence in vain.
Once he had Galdra finally naked, Rune attached his lips to any available part of Galdra’s body he could reach. He started to lick his way down a shoulder, suckled a pert nipple, and then made his way down the flat abdomen until his tongue encountered the other har’s ouana-lim.
Galdra had to stop Rune once more and cupped the handsome face in his hands. Rune was shaking with need and his eyes were unable to focus on him. “You really need this.” Making Rune wait would be cruel. Hopefully they would be able to take aruna more slowly once Rune’s hunger had been appeased. Galdra pushed his hands beneath Rune’s buttocks and helped him climb onto his lap. Caressing Rune’s soume-lam left Galdra’s fingers wet and he finally took pity on the needy har. He maneuvered Rune until the dark-haired har hovered above his ouana-lim and then started to slowly lower him onto the stem.
Rune had different ideas however about their joining and pushed down. Galdra threw back his head and cried out in rapture. Rune latched onto Galdra’s throat and suckled the skin there violently. Now that they were joined, Rune couldn’t restrain himself any longer and he circled his hips to increase his pleasure. Galdra’s hands settled around his waist and steadied him and soon they were bouncing on the bed.
Galdra tried to last for Rune’s sake, but the intensity of the aruna they were taking made him peak much too soon. However, he didn’t want to leave Rune behind and pulled him over the edge with him. The scream that left Rune’s lips was most likely heard in the surrounding apartments and would probably wake anyhar who had managed to fall asleep, but Galdra didn’t mind. To him, it was proof of how strong the attraction between them was.
Tremors coursed through Rune’s body and he collapsed against Galdra, who caught and held him. Rune rested his head against Galdra’s shoulders and tried to bring his breathing back under control again. The earth had just moved for him and Galdra was the force that had moved it. “Oh,” he managed and hugged Galdra close to him.
Galdra could only agree with Rune. That had been fucking intense! He had often taken aruna with Pellaz in the past and not once had the earth moved like that for him. He felt like he was caught up in a thunderstorm and lightning had struck him in the heart. Rune’s breathing echoed in his ear since the har had rested his head close to it. The sweat that had formed on Rune’s body started to cool down and Galdra held him close so he could warm the other har with his body heat. The release he had gained still sizzled through his body and Galdra felt adrift on the ocean of Rune’s desire. Taking aruna like that left him empowered and he felt like he could face any enemy and utterly crush him.
Rune had never felt like he did before and didn’t know what to make of the powers washing over him. He lifted his head and looked Galdra in the eye. “What did I do?”
“You are a force of nature,” Galdra whispered and brushed Rune’s lips with his. “I don’t ever want to part from you again.” But since they had taken aruna their bodies were adjusting and his ouana-lim left Rune’s soume-lam. He doubted however that this was the last time they would take aruna that night. Once their bodies had renewed, they would take aruna again.
“Who is screaming?” Areeli had woken from the noises and was trying to climb out of bed. Cal however pulled the harling back against him. “Who is screaming and why?”
Cal smiled at his son and Areeli cuddled up to him again. “They are taking aruna and it gives them great pleasure.” He didn’t know how else to explain the matter to a harling. Areeli would grow up quickly enough and didn’t need to know everything yet.
Pellaz nodded his head. Rune’s feelings of ecstasy had battered against his shields, but he had managed to block the emotions since he didn’t want any part in their aruna. “I will make Cal scream like that at nights, but it is nothing for you to worry about.”
Cal chuckled. “And you don’t have to worry when Rue screams like that either.” Rue had fallen asleep spooned up behind Pellaz and hadn’t woken at all.
Areeli accepted the explanation without questioning them further. The screaming stopped and the harling snuggled up to his hostling. “They are quiet now.” That meant he could go back to sleep again.
/I doubt they will be quiet for long,/ Pellaz told Cal in mind touch. The fact that Rune and Galdra were taking aruna made him want it too, but there was a little complication in their bed called Areeli. /Tomorrow, we will let Rue baby sit Areeli… I want you./
/I feel the same way,/ Cal assured Pellaz. /Tomorrow./
Pellaz nodded. /Tomorrow./
Galdra held Rune close while they recovered. He had stretched out on his back and Rune had rolled onto his side, snuggling up to him. Rune rested his head against Galdra’s shoulder and watched the other har’s chest rise and fall. He felt different and, in a strange way, unfulfilled. It was like there was something more waiting for him, but he didn’t know what it was.
“You are troubled.” Galdra ran his fingers down the shoulder-length hair and frowned.
“There is something missing,” Rune whispered and felt guilty for saying it. Galdra had made his wildest dreams come true and yet, something was missing. Suddenly, he started to cry softly.
Startled when moisture glided down his shoulder, Galdra sat upright and pulled Rune along. “Why are you weeping?” He didn’t understand any of this! The aruna they had just taken had been mind-blowing!
“I don’t know.” Guiltily, Rune turned away from Galdra and curled up on his side. “I am sorry.”
Rune’s emotional outburst made Galdra leave the bed and head for the doorway. He needed to find out what was wrong and had the feeling Rune didn’t know that himself. “I will be right back,” he said and then stepped into the living area, disregarding the fact that he was naked. He wasn’t surprised to see Pellaz standing there with only a sheet wrapped around his body. “He is crying. Why is he crying? Did I hurt him? Do you understand?”
Pellaz hadn’t understood Rune’s outburst either until a moment ago. Then everything had fallen into place. In a way, this was Rune’s feybraiha. Rune had never been a harling, had never gone through feybraiha, and this was the first aruna he had taken while inhabiting his new body. Pellaz advanced on Galdra and placed a hand against the muscular chest. Galdra’s physique was impressive and Pellaz moistened his lips, involuntarily giving himself away. “There is nothing wrong with Rune. You merely need to finish what you started.”
“Stop speaking in riddles and tell me what I need to do!” Galdra had had enough of riddles.
“Be soume for him. Let him be ouana. Rune doesn’t know it, but he needs to take aruna again and he needs to be ouana. You need to complete the circle.”
Galdra frowned. The explanation Pellaz had given him puzzled him. “But why?”
Pellaz sighed deeply. “Do you trust me, Galdra?”
Galdra nodded. “I do. I trust you with my life. You should know that.”
“Good, then go to him and be soume. Everything will solve itself after that. Trust me. I know Rune best.” He *did* know his younger self best. Galdra *had* to complete the circle and let Rune be ouana.
Galdra shrugged his shoulders. “I will follow your advice, but…”
“If it doesn’t work, I will be here to answer your questions, but that won’t be necessary.”
He was certain that the situation would resolve itself once they had taken aruna again.
Returning to their bedroom, Galdra found Rune sitting on the bed staring ahead of him and wiping away his tears. The dark-haired har seemed to have composed himself again. Galdra hoped that Pellaz was right and that taking aruna again would solve the problem.
“I am sorry I started to weep,” Rune mumbled and peeked shyly at Galdra, who sat down on the bed. “I don’t know what is wrong.”
“Maybe I do.” Galdra moved closer and knelt in front of Rune. Rune’s eyes were red from crying and slightly puffed. “I talked to Pell. That is why I left so abruptly.” Rune nodded and Galdra continued. “He told me we should take aruna again and this time, you should be ouana.” There was something odd about their situation but he couldn’t put his finger on it. “Do you want that too?” The smile that surfaced on Rune’s face told Galdra all he needed to know.
Rune’s mood brightened and he nodded as his eyes started to glow. “Very much.”
Galdra straddled Rune’s waist and leaned in closer to share breath. Maybe Pellaz was right. Maybe this was what had been missing. It probably was a strange thing to wonder about, but he *did* wonder about the excitement in Rune’s eyes. It almost seemed like this was the first time Rune was going to be ouana. The touches bestowed onto his skin felt awkward and Rune ended up nervously patting his back.
Galdra had little trouble turning soume for Rune. He was a har that enjoyed taking on either role and the thought of taking aruna with Rune nestled inside him caused him to moan softly. He wanted this as much as Rune did. He blanketed Rune’s body with his and nibbled on an earlobe while Rune’s hands continued to stroke his back. Pressing his lips onto Rune’s once more, he fully opened his mind to the other har and shared his past, his hopes, and his desire with the raven-haired har.
In his mind, he carefully wove a tale, showing Rune the Northern lands where he ruled. He showed Rune his home, the snow-covered plains, and the wolves that ran loose on the tundra. He shared everything with Rune, including his desire to take him there and to show Rune the land in person.
The experience left Rune a bit shaken and his hand trembled when he touched Galdra’s face in wonder. The expression in those eyes was warm and caring and Rune realized how easy it would be to become chesna with Galdra. But he was getting ahead of himself.
However, Galdra had picked up on that thought and gave Rune a pleased smile. He had the feeling that Rune would fit in perfectly with his people. But first, he needed to make something else fit – namely their joining. He slid down Rune’s body until he was kneeling between the other har’s parted legs. Wrapping his fingers around Rune’s ouana-lim he teased the organ until it sparkled in golden and orange colors. Rune was ready to take aruna again.
Lowering himself onto Rune, he threw back his head and moaned when their bodies entwined. This time, they connected on a much deeper level as well. Spiritually, a connection was formed and Galdra closed his eyes, thinking of his home. He wanted to take Rune there and cover him with a blanket consisting of the skins of the wolves he had personally taken down.
“Galdra…” Rune found it hard to breathe as his ouana-lim was tightly squeezed by Galdra’s soume-lam. He raised his arms and brought them up along Galdra’s back. “I need more…” But what it was he needed, he didn’t know.
Galdra however did and rolled Rune on top of him. “I am yours,” he whispered and gave Rune a lazy smile. “Make me melt.”
Rune drew in a deep breath and placed his hands on either side of Galdra’s shoulders. In dreams, visions, and memories he had done this before, but his body didn’t know those moments. “There is no ice inside you, Galdra,” he murmured and started to thrust. “Only fire.” The waters he was swimming in consisted of fire and flames.
Taking aruna this way felt primal to Galdra, who had never experienced anything like it before. The strange thing however was that the body moving above him felt familiar. His hands had mapped that body a long time ago when he had taken aruna with Pellaz for the first time. He couldn’t explain the fact that Pellaz and Rune’s bodies reacted so similar to his caresses or that they shared the same dimples and sensitive spots. There was something uncanny about it, but in the throes of passion, Galdra simply accepted all that.
And then they were moving toward release. With a start, Galdra realized what he was doing and quickly slammed his seal shut. He had come awfully close to opening his cauldron of creation. Fortunately, he had seen Pellaz close his own seal often enough and Galdra had learned how to prevent conception, but it still worried him how easily Rune had gotten under his skin.
Rune leaned in closer, claiming Galdra’s lips as he surrendered himself to the sensations coursing through him. Opening himself up to Galdra was dangerous, but he didn’t realize that during their moment of passion. Galdra gained access to his every thought, his memories, and his emotions.
Galdra felt startled as conflicting and confusing images surfaced within Rune’s mind and were shared with him. He saw Pellaz’ life, saw things that could have been, and even caught an image of Pellaz drifting inside a pod, but then Pellaz was standing in front of that pod and placing his hand against the glass. The images then faded and more recent ones replaced them. Galdra saw himself enter the hall, witnessed Rune’s excitement at seeing him for the first time, and shared the need that had burned Rune from that moment on. They had been rushing towards each other since the beginning.
Unable to postpone the inevitable any longer, Rune released the pleasure he had been holding inside and it swamped Galdra, pulling the blond har over the edge with him.
Yelping the moment Rune found release, Galdra followed a moment later. Holding each other in the wake of their pleasure, Galdra caressed Rune’s face and then guided the dark head towards his chest. He wrapped Rune in an embrace and rocked him. The intensity of their aruna had taken him aback. He had always believed that what he had shared with Pellaz couldn’t be topped. He now realized he had been wrong. He wanted to steal Rune from Pellaz, take him to his ship, and sail to Freygard so he could keep Rune with him always. He was at a loss to explain the fierce emotions running through him.
When their physical connection was severed, it felt like someone had stabbed a dagger right into his heart and Galdra started to crave aruna all over again.
Finally, Rune felt like everything was right in his world. He pressed a teasing kiss onto Galdra’s lips and smiled happily. “Can I keep you?”
Galdra’s expression turned serious when he replied, “You already have me, Rune. I am yours.”
Rune, not realizing that Galdra was dead serious, giggled and cuddled up to the blond har.
Pellaz returned to bed and wrapped his arms around Caeru, who now lay in front of him. Cal was still curled around Areeli and the harling was sound asleep. Rune’s reaction had surprised him at first, but then he had understood. Rune had been going through his version of feybraiha. Pellaz was happy for Rune as well as Galdra for that matter. The knowledge that Galdra wouldn’t take a chesnari had always hurt him. The only har Galdra had ever considered becoming chesna with had been Pellaz, but Pellaz had been unavailable. Therefore he was thrilled to see that Galdra and Rune had gravitated towards each other.
Pellaz hoped that eventually Galdra would take Rune north where they could start their own family. Pellaz had the suspicion that Galdra would love to host Rune’s pearl.
“Can’t you think a little more quietly?” Cal locked gazes with Pellaz. “I can hear you thinking, you know.”
“I am sorry.” Pellaz smiled at his chesnari. “I am happy for them.”
“I know you are.” Cal lifted his arm and cupped Pellaz’ cheek in the palm of his hand. “You outdid yourself this time around. You had this planned all along, didn’t you?”
“Guilty,” Pellaz readily admitted. “I’d hoped they would work out.”
“Judging by the happy feelings emanating from Galdra and Rune I think it is safe to say you succeeded.” Cal traced Pellaz’ bottom lip with a fingertip. “I do hope they will stay for a while. I would hate to say goodbye to Rune just yet.”
“I feel the same way.” Pellaz also hoped that Rune and Galdra wouldn’t leave anytime soon.
Galdra couldn’t sleep that night and contented himself with holding Rune and studying the har’s face. Rune’s resemblance to Pellaz was uncanny and he no longer believed that they were brothers. Certain images which he had seen in Rune’s mind told a different story – one he was hesitant to believe, but it was the only plausible explanation for Rune’s existence. He doubted Rune knew what he had given away when they had shared breath. Rune didn’t possess any noticeable defenses and Galdra had seen everything.
Now he had to decide how he felt about that.
Rune merely pretended to be asleep. He didn’t dare open his eyes and face Galdra. He was very much aware of what he had given away during those intense moments and wanted to savor the other har’s embrace for as long as it would last. Galdra might take it all away now that the other har knew the truth.
Holding his breath, he realized he had to face Galdra eventually. He opened his eyes and pushed away from Galdra. He sat on the bed and pulled up his knees, wrapping his arms protectively around his waist. “I was careless.”
At first, Galdra didn’t know how to react to that statement. He sat upright and crossed his legs beneath him, watching Rune closely. “I saw your memories, if that is what you are referring to.”
“You know who I am. What I am.” Rune shyly raised his gaze and looked at Galdra. “Are you going to take it all away from me?”
Galdra understood Rune’s fear only too well. “You are Pellaz.”
Rune swallowed convulsively and looked away again. “Only a part of me is. I am still trying to find out who I really am. I didn’t have much time yet to explore. I am still…very young.”
Galdra considered the har in front of him and thought back to what had happened the other night. He had seen many strange things when he had worked alongside Pellaz to battle Ponclast and hadn’t shied away back then. He wasn’t going back away from this challenge either. “You just matured, didn’t you? Last night, you had your first aruna.”
“This body’s first aruna, yes.” Rune grew flustered. “I have lots of memories of taking aruna, but…”
“They are a bit false, aren’t they? You never took aruna that way.” Galdra crawled closer to Rune. “But last night was real.”
“Last night was precious. I will never forget it, no matter if you turn your back on me.”
Galdra shook his head. “Do you have so little faith in me?”
“I am not your Pellaz,” Rune whispered and turned his head away when Galdra reached for him. He didn’t want to see the expression in Galdra’s eyes when the other har rejected him.
“That’s true. You aren’t Pellaz. You are Rune and I like you…” Galdra placed his hand at the column of Rune’s neck and pulled him close until Rune was forced to lie down on his back. Galdra hovered above Rune and saw the puzzlement in the dark eyes. “Last night I took aruna with you – not with Pellaz – and you blew me away.”
Rune held his breath and stared at Galdra, whose face was only an inch away from his. “What are you saying?”
“I want you, Rune. I want to take you with me when I return to Freygard. I must be mad, but I don’t care. Come with me. Become chesna with me.” Galdra had never thought he would ever ask another har besides Pellaz-har-Aralis to accompany him home.
“You *are* mad,” Rune answered in shock. “We only met yesterday.”
“I don’t care,” Galdra declared with conviction. “You don’t have to answer me now. Just think about it. If need be, discuss this with Pellaz. Just think about it, Rune.”
Rune had a hard time believing Galdra still wanted him even though the other har knew the truth. “I have seen your home in your mind, Galdra.”
“Did you like what you saw?”
“I did.” Rune drew in a deep breath and fingered a strand of Galdra’s blond hair. “I would like to live there with you…”
“But do I really belong there?” Rune stroked Galdra’s cheek and then his hand dropped to the mattress.
“Of course you do. I wouldn’t ask you if I wasn’t convinced you belonged with me. If you want me to, I will ask the rune stones for their advice, but I already know what they will show me, *Rune*.”
Galdra sounded so sure of himself that Rune allowed himself to believe that he had a chance with the blond har. “Do you really want me?”
“I want you, Rune. The things you made me feel last night were unknown to me. You showed me things I never thought possible. When we took aruna, we… We melted together.”
“It felt the same way to me.” Rune blushed. Growing more confident, he pulled Galdra closer and then kissed him on the lips. He was still hesitant to instigate breath sharing though.
“Don’t hold back,” Galdra whispered into Rune’s ear. “I can take it. I am strong. Show me everything so there won’t be anymore secrets between us.”
How could Rune possibly deny Galdra when the other har offered his loyalty and dedication that freely? “I hope you won’t despise me.” Rune drew in a deep breath and kissed Galdra, surrendering his every emotion and memory to the blond har.
Rune stole into Pellaz’ bedroom and was thankful when he found Caeru and Cal gone. Noises coming from inside the bathroom informed him that the two hara and the harling were enjoying taking a bath and were most likely splashing water at each other. “Pell?”
“I thought you might want to see me.” Pellaz made his way over to Rune and wrapped an arm around the younger har’s waist. “How did things go with Galdra?”
“We talked and he accepts who I am. I couldn’t keep the truth from him. It happened when we shared breath during aruna.” He looked at Pellaz to find out if the other har was angry with him for revealing the truth to Galdra.
“That couldn’t be helped,” Pellaz responded while sending a wave of soothing energy into Rune’s mind. “It is probably for the best. There shouldn’t be secrets between two hara who are chesna.”
Rune trembled. “Pell, I am not sure I should become chesna with him.”
“Is it because you just met?” Pellaz smiled. “Trust me, you can become chesna rather quickly.” He recalled becoming chesna with Cal just as swiftly.
“It is because you care about Galdra too.” Rune averted his gaze and managed to twist away from Pellaz, forcing the other har to let him go. “I know Galdra and you were chesna once or very close to becoming chesna. I feel like I am stealing him away from you.”
“Listen closely,” Pellaz ordered and turned Rune so the younger har was facing him again. For a moment, his breath caught when he saw that Galdra was standing in the doorway and was listening too. He had to explain this to the both of them then because Pellaz saw guilt in Galdra’s eyes too. “Rune, you are right. I care greatly about Galdra, but it pains me that he should live his life alone. I can’t be his chesnari, you know that. But *you* can.” Galdra stirred in the doorway and Pellaz prayed the blond har wouldn’t make his presence known yet. “It would comfort me to know that he found a chesnari in you, Rune. It would warm my heart to see you accompany him to Freygard. It would delight me if Galdra and you had sons.”
Galdra’s eyes had widened at first, but then understanding appeared in them. He nodded, showing Pellaz that he fully comprehended the Tigron’s words. Pellaz had just given them their blessing and in a way, Galdra knew that it had been the right thing to do. He was a part of Pellaz’ past and not of the Tigron’s future. He could never be with Pellaz that way because Pellaz belonged with Cal and Caeru, but he *could* be with Rune and have harlings with him.
Rune however wasn’t convinced yet. “But Pell…”
Pellaz shook his head and placed his hands on either side of the younger har’s head, looking him deep in the eye. “I want you to be happy and I want Galdra to be happy. Don’t you realize that the two of you were made for each other? Don’t you understand what happened last night? The two of you are connected, just like I am connected to Cal. You can’t fight that… No, let me rephrase that. You can fight it, but you will lose that fight because you are fighting something that is stronger than yourself.”
Rune lacked the strength to fight Pellaz over this. “You are Tigron. You are wise. You know these things.”
Pellaz laughed and it was a warm laugh full of love and joy. He brushed Rune’s brow with his lips and pulled the younger har close. “Yes, you can look at it in that way.” If that was what it took to convince Rune, Pellaz was okay with it. After tucking Rune’s head beneath his chin, he made eye contact with Galdra and inclined his head in a silent order that he should leave. Rune shouldn’t see him standing there.
Galdra caught the hint and returned to the room he shared with Rune.
“Now go to him and accept him as your chesnari. The two of you are already bound.” Pellaz turned Rune about and pushed him in the direction of the doorway. “Don’t be afraid.”
Rune shuffled his feet and then looked at Pellaz from over his shoulder. “Are you certain of this?”
“Yes, I am. Now go.” Pellaz pushed Rune out of the room and then closed the door behind him.
Rune shuffled into the room and sat down on the bed next to Galdra. “I talked to Pellaz.”
“Did it help you make up your mind?” Hearing Pellaz give them their blessings had helped Galdra too. He had felt like he was betraying Pellaz when he had asked Rune to accompany him to Freygard.
“Yes, it did.” Rune peeked at Galdra through a curtain of raven hair. “If you still want me at your side, I will go to Freygard with you.”
Galdra heard the real promise in those words and pulled Rune against him. “Freygard will quickly become your home.” Feeling Rune shiver, he added, “And we won’t leave right away. We will stay in Immanion until you are ready to leave.”
“Thank you.” Rune closed his eyes while deeply inhaling the blond har’s scent. He wanted to see Freygard and find out if it was like the land he had seen in Galdra’s mind. But, for now, he wanted to stay in Immanion close to Pellaz, Cal, Caeru, and Areeli.
Rune found Caeru in the Tigrina’s apartments. The har was seated on the floor and was playing with Areeli while softly humming a song. A smile surfaced on Rune’s face as he watched Caeru care for the harling.
Caeru looked up and saw Rune standing in the doorway. He gestured for the har to join them and Rune seated himself close to Caeru and Areeli on the floor. “What brings you here?” Caeru corrected Areeli’s handiwork. The harling had been given some coloring books and refused to stay within the lines.
“Galdra promised Loki to spend time with him and I don’t want to keep them apart so I excused myself.” He grinned as Caeru threw his arms up in the air when Areeli used the whole page to color the smaller image displayed there. “Must be Cal’s legacy,” he quipped.
“I am not so sure about that.” Caeru grinned back. “Pell can be quite stubborn too.” Gazing probingly at Rune, Caeru tried to figure out why the other har had sought him out. “How did things go with Galdra?”
Blushing, Rune made sure Areeli was focused on coloring his drawing before he answered Caeru. “Extremely well. It seems he has taken quite a shine to me, at least, that is how Pell phrased it.”
“I was the one that got them together originally. Pell and Galdra, I mean. Pellaz was depressed and lonely and everyhar could see the attraction between them. If Cal hadn’t returned, Galdra would carry the title of Tigron today.”
Rune nodded, taking in the information. “Galdra asked me to go to Freygard with him once I am ready to leave Immanion. And don’t worry,” he said while quickly raising his hands to appease Caeru. “I am not leaving yet.”
“Good.” Caeru sighed in relief. “I don’t want you to leave yet.” He was glad though that Rune and Galdra were attracted to each other. “Do you know that it shows that you took aruna?”
Perplexed, Rune blinked. “What do you mean?”
“You glow,” Caeru explained and smiled. “You glow from the inside.”
Caeru’s words caused Rune’s blush to deepen and he figured it was time to change their subject. “Where are Pell and Cal that you are stuck watching Areeli?”
Caeru smiled to show that he didn’t mind watching Areeli. “They are taking aruna.”
“And what about you?” Rune helped Areeli draw a star when the harling asked him for assistance, but he still kept one eye on Caeru to see if the blond har really didn’t mind being excluded.
“I will get my share of aruna tonight.” Caeru really didn’t mind. “I understand them, Rune. Sometimes they need their privacy.”
“If it is okay with you…” But Rune had a hard time imagining that he could willingly share Galdra with anyone – even Pellaz.
Pellaz’ mind stretched to include Cal and he arched toward his chesnari. They had been taking aruna all afternoon and he finally felt sated. Cal however kept going at it. Not that Pellaz minded. Seeing Cal move above him was a sight that always filled him with awe. Cal’s eyes shone with passion and his movements had become slow. His chesnari had finally worn him down, but Cal wasn’t spent yet. Cal moved inside him and Pellaz savored that feeling. They hadn’t taken much aruna while Cal had been hosting and this felt like a giant relief.
Cal looked at Pellaz, who was writhing in need beneath him. The long legs rested on the mattress after having been wrapped around his waist most of the time. Pellaz’ hands gripped the bedposts and he was holding on for dear life. Cal thrust ferociously, making up for all their lost time. He was close though and release was only a breath away.
“Pell…” He latched onto Pellaz’ lips and shared breath with his love, showing his chesnari how grateful he was that the dark-haired har had stayed by his side and had supported him when he had dropped the pearl.
The foundations on which Immanion stood shook when the Tigrons climaxed. The power they had built was released and appeared in the sky, momentarily showering Immanion with fireworks. Pellaz, realizing what had happened, laughed.
Cal, finally feeling satiated, rolled away from Pellaz and stretched out onto his side next to his chesnari. They had desperately needed to taka aruna! “You are so wonderful,” he whispered and brushed Pellaz’ forehead with his brow. “I hope I didn’t push you too far though. Tonight, we must also take care of Rue’s needs.”
“I will manage.” Pellaz had been soume all afternoon and it felt like Cal was still inside him. In his mind, he relived them taking aruna again and again. “That was…beyond words.”
Cal laughed and licked Pellaz’ cheek, making his chesnari chuckle. “I know what you mean.” Cal rolled onto his front and placed his elbows on the mattress before resting his chin on his fist so he could study Pellaz. “Everything turned out just fine, didn’t it? This time around there are no loose ends.”
Still smiling happily, Pellaz looked at his chesnari. “No loose ends. Not this time. We are happy. We will make Rue happy tonight and Galdra made Rune happy last night. We are all perfectly happy.”
Cal laughed warmly at the way Pellaz had phrased that, but then calmed down again. “Rune will leave eventually.”
“But not until he is ready to do so and Galdra will wait for him.” Pellaz’ fingers moved down Cal’s spine and he ended up cupping a buttock. “Giving him life was the right thing to do.”
Cal nodded. “Rune and Galdra will be happy.”
Pellaz agreed. “Very happy and I see harlings in their future.”
“Do you now?” Cal pushed himself onto all fours and blanketed Pellaz’ body with his. “And what do you see in our future?”
Cal threw back his head and laughed. Looking Pellaz in the eye, he realized how blessed he was that everything had worked out so well for them.
A month after Galdra had returned to Immanion, the har was already preparing himself to leave the palace. The other month had been a wonderful time as far as Galdra was concerned. He had been able to spend time with Loki and Geburael, had talked to Pellaz and Cal, and had played with Areeli. Galdra had joined Caeru and Areeli one day and had listened to the Tigrina’s song. Life was good and couldn’t get much better. The only thing he longed for was to go home and show Freygard to his chesnari.
But Rune had needed this time to grow close to Pellaz, Cal, Caeru, and Areeli and he didn’t begrudge him that month for the nights were solely theirs. Taking aruna with Rune had left Galdra breathless each time anew. There was so much unbridled passion and energy in Rune that it tended to push Galdra past the point of no return. Each time he was soume and Rune ouana, he was tempted to open his seal and conceive, but he had managed to avoid conception so far. As a side-effect, Galdra opted to be ouana more often these days. At first, Rune had given him a confused look, but then Galdra had explained the situation to him and Rune had gladly given in. During their nightly talks, having harlings had also come up and Galdra had admitted he would like to host one day.
Everything that had happened during the last two months had left Rune breathless. He was still so young since his body was only two months old and he had already experienced so much!
“What are you thinking of?” Cal found Rune seated in a secluded corner and joined him.
“Where’s Areeli?” Cal seldom left the harling alone.
“With Pell and Rue, being spoiled rotten.” Cal cocked his head and eyed Rune closely. “What’s on your mind?”
“I seem to be a real pearl maker,” Rune replied half-jokingly. “Each time Galdra and I take aruna and he is soume, he has to stop himself from conceiving.”
“You don’t hear me complaining about that character trait.” Cal smiled warmly. “What’s *really* upsetting you?”
“Nothing is upsetting me. I wouldn’t call it that…” Rune fumbled with the fabric of the robes he was wearing and then turned his head to look at Cal. “I don’t want to leave Immanion, but I want to see Freygard. I want to make my home there.”
“We won’t hold it against you if you leave,” Cal answered. “I know what it is like when destiny grabs hold of you and starts pushing you around. There’s nothing you can do about that. You can only give in and hope for the best.”
“I feel deeply for Galdra. I can’t imagine my life without him and we just met. Isn’t that strange?”
Cal shook his head. “When I met Pell I knew we were supposed to be together.” He grinned. “But you know what it was like. You were there.”
“My Cal was the same. He put me under his spell and I couldn’t stop myself from following him, even if that meant leaving my family.” Rune carefully took one of Cal’s hands into his and caressed the fingers. “I feel guilty, I guess.”
“What for?” Cal frowned.
“For not thinking about Cal very much any more. I keep thinking about Galdra instead.”
Cal curled his fingers around Rune’s hand and cocked his head. “Hey, look at me.” Rune reluctantly complied and Cal gave the other har a comforting smile. “Your Cal would want what is best for you. The two of you can’t be together, but Galdra and you can.” Having this conversation felt surreal to Cal. “Galdra and Pellaz would have worked out if I had been dead, but I wasn’t and I returned to Pell. Your Cal is dead, but Galdra is very much alive.”
In a way, receiving Cal’s blessing took away Rune’s guilt. “Do you really think so?”
Cal nodded. “Humans used to say that that there was only one mister right, but… Rune, that’s not true. Cal was your first love and you will always remember him, but Galdra… Galdra is your second love and you should bury your claws in him and never let him go again!” Cal laughed.
Cal’s laughter echoed in Rune’s ears and made things much easier. Smiling, he nodded repeatedly. “I will never forget my Cal. You are right about that, but the feelings that Galdra wake in me…they are so strong!”
“You have no reason to fight this. Be happy, Rune. You deserve it.” Cal took Rune into his arms and buried his face in the shoulder length hair. “Go to Freygard with Galdra, give him his pearl, and make him happy.”
Saying goodbye was harder than Rune had thought it would be. Since Galdra preferred to travel the old-fashioned way, namely on a ship, they wouldn’t reach Freygard for a few more weeks, but Rune didn’t mind. He was looking forward to spending that time in Galdra’s cabin. But first, he had to say goodbye to Pellaz.
He had already said his goodbyes to Caeru and Areeli that morning, thinking it easier to say goodbye separately. He wanted to take his time, unwilling to be rushed into leaving.
“These are only temporary goodbyes,” Pellaz said as he hugged Rune close. The ship was already waiting to sail away since the tide was high and Pellaz knew he couldn’t postpone this much longer. “We shall visit you in Freygard and you will return to Immanion to visit me.”
“We won’t really be apart,” Rune whispered into Pellaz’ ear. “We are one…”
Pellaz smiled knowingly and nodded again. “Yes, we are.” He pressed a chaste kiss onto Rune’s brow and then took a step away from the younger har. “Go to Galdra. He is waiting for you.” He hadn’t believed it possible, but a part of him envied Rune for having Galdra as his chesnari. The feelings which he harbored for Galdra would never go away, but he found comfort in the fact that Galdra wasn’t alone anymore. He wanted Galdra to have a chesnari and eventually harlings and that would never happen if Galdra kept his heart locked up in a chest only Pellaz possessed the key to. In a way, he was grateful that Thiede had created his younger self. Unwillingly, Thiede had given Galdra second chance.
“Do you have to go away?” Areeli, standing in-between Cal and Caeru and holding their hands, looked at Rune pleadingly. He didn’t like it that the har who looked and acted like his father was going away. “Can’t you stay?”
Rune lowered himself onto his heels and ruffled the harling’s hair. “What if I promise you that you can come visit me shortly? Wouldn’t you like to see Freygard?”
Pellaz smiled. Rune was very adept at bribing just like he was.
Areeli nodded his head. “Yes, I would like to see Freygard.” Looking up at his hostling, he asked, “Can we go there?”
“We will visit Rune and Galdra in a little while and then you will get to see Freygard, I promise,” Cal answered.
Letting Rune leave wasn’t that hard anymore and Areeli managed a grin. “I will visit you shortly.”
Relieved that the problem had been solved, Rune got to his feet again and walked over to Galdra. It was time to board the ship. /Thank you for everything,/ he told Cal, Caeru, and Pellaz mentally. /And don’t wait too long to visit./
Pellaz raised a hand in goodbye when Galdra escorted Rune onboard. Caeru pulled him close and Pellaz rested his head on the Tigrina’s shoulder. “I want them to be happy, but letting them go is hard.” A part of him still loved Galdra, but he couldn’t be selfish now.
“You made the right decisions,” Caeru murmured.
Those words catapulted Pellaz back to his vision. His younger self had said exactly the same thing. Waving goodbye, Pellaz focused his mind and touched Galdra’s, bestowing a last caress onto the other har.
Galdra sensed it and smiled. Pellaz had let go. Now he could start planning his future with Rune.
They stood at the bow of the ship and Galdra had wrapped Rune up in his traveling cloak. The wind had turned colder some days ago and it gave them another excuse to snuggle up together. Standing behind Rune and holding him close, Galdra’s eyes scanned the horizon in search of land. The breeze played with Rune’s dark hair and Galdra brushed the strands out of the way. The skin beneath his fingertips had started to shed its pale color and was turning bronze due to the sun which had shone each day of their voyage. They had spent their time either in bed or on deck. “It won’t be long now.”
Rune nodded. Galdra’s excitement fed his and he joined his chesnari in searching for land. “Will there be hara to welcome us?”
“I sent word ahead. My friends should be there.” They had been overjoyed to hear that their much loved leader was finally bringing home a chesnari. Nuzzling Rune’s neck, Galdra whispered hoarsely, “You make me lose my mind.”
Rune merely laughed. He had said the same words to Galdra the other night after his chesnari had been soume for him. The previous night had been special for they had discussed making a pearl and who should host it. After that discussion, they had taken aruna and Galdra became with pearl. Rune had never seen Galdra look as smug as during the moment of the conception. In two months, Galdra would birth the pearl and eventually a harling would come into their lives. The pace with which everything had happened still left Rune dazed.
Galdra’s arms tightened around him and Rune felt his chesnari’s excitement in his mind as Galdra suddenly called out. “Land!” Galdra smiled brilliantly and longed to set foot on the soil. “This is your new home.”
Rune blinked. “What’s that?” The sky, which had already darkened with the coming of night, suddenly shone greenish blue. Green and blue lights colored the sky in swirls and the sight of it took his breath away. At the same time, a sizzling sound echoed in his ears. “Galdra?” He was tempted to look over his shoulder at his chesnari, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of the light.
“Humans called the phenomenon the Aurora Borealis, but my tribe refers to it as the Northern Lights.” Galdra rested his head on Rune’s shoulder. “The sky is green and blue now, but it can also be gold or red. I never tire of looking at it.”
“Can we see it from we will live?”
Galdra nodded. “Yes, we can. We will watch the Northern Lights often.” It pleased him that his chesnari liked the phenomenon. The Northern Lights were a part of who he was. They had always comforted him especially after Tyr had died.
“I will like living here.” Rune already pictured them standing in the snow and looking at the Northern Lights. Turning in the embrace, he sought out Galdra’s eyes, which had taken on an emerald hue. “I want our son to see these lights right after he hatches.”
Galdra approved and drew in a deep breath. A new life was growing inside him. Hosting was something he had wanted to do for years, but the time had never been right until Rune had come along. “I consulted the runes last night while you were asleep.”
“And what did they tell you?”
He had drawn three runes. The first had been Eh – the law – and it represented their past, which had been ruled by obligations and limitations. Odil, the second rune, had showed him that he had really found his holy grail with Rune. The last rune, foretelling the future, had been Bar and that rune depicted the mothering aspect in its strongest form, confirming that hosting their pearl was the right thing to do. “They told me that we will be very happy.”
Enveloping Rune in a hug, Galdra tucked his chesnari’s head beneath his chin. He had come home, the Northern Lights were welcoming him back, and he had brought his family with him.