Introduction & Disclaimer
This is a sequel to another of my stories, “The Night Just Seems So Long.” Also, this storyline fits together with Paula’s story, “Freedom.”
All items contained on these pages are non-profit amateur fiction. The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire and all characters named in those books are the copyright of Storm Constantine and her publishers. No infringement on the copyrights are intended.
A Kiss for the Rose
– 1 –
The gentle tap, tapping at the door was the first thing Cobweb became aware of, followed by the sun shining directly into his eyes from the window by his bed. He groaned and pulled the quilt over his head. He didn’t want to get up – not yet. Nearly all the previous evening he had sat in a morose heap on the garden seat in the green-house, enjoying his misery. Now he wanted to sleep in…maybe stay in bed for the whole day – to dream. But there it was again, more insistent this time. He lifted his head from the pillow and called out.
“Go away.” But whoever it was didn’t. A soft voice issued from behind his bedroom door.
“Cobweb, please, it’s urgent.”
Cobweb forced his eyes open, gritted his teeth, sat up in the bed, flicked his hair off his face and called out.
“All right, come in Lias, but this had better be important.”
Lias opened the door quietly and entered the room, his head bowed. When he looked up there were tears in his eyes. “It’s Bryony, Cobweb. I think she’s dying.”
Cobweb almost fell out of the bed, grabbed his gown and followed Lias down the hall. Lias, his new personal servant was turning out better than Cobweb had hoped. He was considerate, discreet as well as very efficient. As a healer, he had also been nursing Bryony through her latest illness. For the past three or four years, Bryony had been in and out of bed with one problem after the other. Cobweb had hoped she would bounce back again this time as she had before…but Lias seemed certain she wouldn’t, when he took Cobweb’s hand now and looked gently into his face.
“She hasn’t long, Cobweb. This time the infliction has taken hold of her whole body and she is going down hill fast. None of my herbs or potions are making any difference. All I can do is make her comfortable.”
Cobweb picked up Lias’ hand and together they entered Bryony’s bedroom. It was filled with soft sunlight and flowers, and Bryony was propped up on several lily white pillows, seemingly asleep. Cobweb drew near to the bed and Bryony stirred, opened her eyes and smiled wanly at him. “Thanks for coming Cobweb.” Her voice was indistinct and husky, and the few words she had spoken tired her out. She sighed and shut her eyes again, momentarily.
Cobweb let go of Lias’ hand and took up one of Bryony’s. “I’m here for you my sweet friend.” Bryony opened her eyes and smiled at him.
“Thank you.” Was all she could manage before she slipped into a fitful sleep. Cobweb sat by her bedside for the rest of the day, giving her little slivers of ice to suck on and singing old lullabies to her. Several times she opened her eyes to look into his, but never spoke another word. As the light in the room began to wane, her life slipped away, and Cobweb laid his head on her chest and shed sorrowful tears.
Lias eventually pulled him away from her and led him back to his rooms. He was completely bereft, even more so than the night before. His whole body was shaking with emotion as Lias helped him to undress and brought him a cup of broth.
“I’ll send a message to Swift and Seel for you Cobweb. They should be able to get back here in time for a funeral.”
“It’s all right, Lias. I am in tune with my son. I will let him know in my own way what has happened. He was close to Bryony. They almost grew up together.”
Lias nodded and closed the curtains in the bedroom and turned on the bedside lamp.
“Can I get you anything else, Cobweb?” He asked quietly.
“What I need I don’t think you are capable of producing.” Cobweb answered, as he sucked in his lower lip.
Lias looked at him confused, but knew better than to question him any further. “I’ll leave you alone then. Just put your mug on the side table, I’ll see to it in the morning.”
Cobweb watched Lias leave, brought the mug of broth up to his lips, but put it down again straight away. He couldn’t drink it…his heart was leaden. With a long drawn out sigh, he pulled the quilt up over his head and tried to sleep.
Two days later, the morning of the funeral was bright and sunny, as Cobweb dressed slowly, looking out the window to the little garden Bryony tended. It had become a little overgrown lately, as she had been unwell most of the time. But there in the middle of the tangled herbs and drooping spring flowers, he saw it. A perfect red rose. He went into the garden himself and cut it carefully, taking in a whiff of its delicate perfume.
Swift and Seel had arrived the night before, along with a few servants who had worked in the house for a short time, including, Swithe and Ithiel, as well as an old friend of Swift’s, Leef. Cobweb was of course pleased to see them all, and fussed over everyone, making sure they were well fed and watered.
Swift approached him at one stage and took him aside. “Cobweb, stop fussing, we should be fussing over you – after all Bryony became one of your best friends, eventually, didn’t she?”
Cobweb just nodded and hugged Swift to him. “I didn’t send for Tyson, Swift. He has just ventured on his journey to be reunited with his hostling. I didn’t think it was fair to bother him. Do you think he will mind?”
Swift reassured Cobweb, and set about helping him to serve the drinks. Their servants looked on suspiciously, but Seel let them know that Cobweb and Swift were happy to be fussing, it kept their minds off the funeral that was being held that afternoon.
As the little entourage of mourners approached the small cemetery at the edge of town, Cobweb clutching the red rose, and his other hand holding his son’s, he noticed someone standing near the entrance gate. His heart skipped a beat when he saw the Har, with blonde hair, and an all too familiar stance. He looked suspiciously like Cal.
– 2 –
The soft brown earth tumbled gently into the grave as the mourners looked on. Death was not a regular occurrence in Forever, now that the fighting had ceased, as not that many of the hara were over 100 years old, yet. It seemed it was only the few humans left who were dying now. Cobweb wondered how much longer he would live. He wondered if he would feel the joy of loving another…even bringing up another young harling.
He waited behind with Swift and Seel, until the grave had been filled in, then he placed the red rose on top, to join the bunches of carnations and lilies, brought by the others. He whispered a small spell of protection for her, to give her a safe journey to the after-life, then turned away.
The stranger, with the blonde hair and blue eyes had not joined the other mourners at the grave-side, but instead had stood a little way back, beneath the willow tree. He was camoflaged by the shadows and Cobweb had only glanced at him briefly during the ceremony. Now he wondered where he had gone. Swift took hold of Cobweb’s hand again and beckoned for him to join the others back at the house. A feast fit for a King, had been laid in Bryony’s honor, and everyone had been invited to stay.
Cobweb found himself sitting in a corner all alone, with a glass of rhubarb wine in one hand and a crust of sweet bread in the other. He watched the guests as they mingled and chatted to one another, keeping one eye out for the stranger. He was desperate to know who he was, and why he had come to this particular funeral. His questions were soon answered.
Cobweb saw him moving slowly across the room, definitely heading towards him. He was certainly handsome, not necessarily any more or less than most of the hara occupying the room, but he had an air of self-assurance about him, that made Cobweb’s heart skip a beat. Except for the fact that he was taller than Cal, he could have been his brother.
“I’m his nephew, actually.” The har spoke to Cobweb, in a soft voice. He had obviously read Cobweb’s thoughts.
“Wha…what did you say?” Cobweb almost choked on his glass of wine, and crumbs from the sweet bread fell onto the front of his jacket. He hastilly found a small table to rest his glass on and brushed himself off.
“I’m Calanthe’s nephew, Cobweb. I am very pleased to meet you. I do hope you don’t mind me intruding at this sad time. If I had known that a funeral was in process today I would have waited for a little while to make your aquaintance.”
“I didn’t know that Cal had a nephew.” Cobweb cocked his head to one side.
“I don’t think Calanthe knows, Cobweb. Its a rather long story.”
“Really, would you care to tell me this long story…um…er…I don’t know your name.” Cobweb seemed confused for a few seconds, as the blonde har’s smile lit up his face, and brought a tidal wave of memories flooding into Cobweb’s mind.
“Pleased to meet you, Tian.” Cobweb extended his hand, and Tian took it firmly. Cobweb continued. “I didn’t even know that Cal had a brother.”
“Well he did, I can assure you. My father was several years younger than Cal. He wasn’t incepted until quite a few years after Cal. By that stage my father, Pinot, had no idea where Cal was, or even if he was still alive.”
“Is Pinot, still alive, Tian?”
“No, I’m afraid he isn’t. He died on duty as a warrior for Ponclast.”
Cobweb shuddered at the sound of that name, and Tian looked incredibly embarrassed.
“What about your hostling?” Cobweb continued with his questioning.
“Oh he is alive and well. His name is Espin, and he lives in Jael. He is a Ferike.”
“I don’t know much about that tribe, Tian. Did you live in Jael all your life?”
“Until now. I am a poet and a writer of love stories.” Tian smiled demurely as he conveyed this small snippet of information about himself to Cobweb.
Cobweb also smiled and thought to himself, that even though he looked like his uncle, he certainly didn’t have his demeanour or arrogance. He seemed to be rather fey and quiet. He wondered how Calanthe would react to his nephew, if ever he made his aquaintance.
Cobweb beckoned for Tian to sit beside him and called over one of the waiters to bring him a glass of wine and something to eat. When his guest was comfortable, he continued his questioning. “What brings you to Forever, Tian?”
“I’m on my way to Immanion, to seek out my Uncle, but I wanted to drop in here on the way, to meet you, Cobweb. You have quite a reputation.” Tian smiled as he said this then looked away coyly.
Cobweb coughed, and continued. “Did you always know you were the “Great Calanthe’s” nephew, Tian?”
“No…my hostling and I have only known for a few years actually. Espin discovered my ancestory by accident. You see, my hostling works in the Royal Palace of the Castlethane of Jael Ferminex. A few years ago he was promoted to the position of his Governor. It was during his first months at his new job that he became friends with Panthera, his son.”
Their conversation was interrupted suddenly by a loud gasp, and Cobweb looked up quickly to see his son, Swift, coming towards him. His eyes were round and Cobweb could tell he was quite surprised.
“Cal, What brings you here?” Swift eyed Tian.
“Swift, calm down, this is not who you think it is.”
– 3 –
Nearly all the mourners had left – just a small group remained on the patio, engrossed in conversation. Swift, Seel, Cobweb, Tian and Lias, Cobweb’s servant, who had had a little too much rhubarb wine.
Swift could not take his eyes off Tian, much to the disgust of Seel, who kept poking him in the ribs and trying to get him to leave with him. Seel remembered Tian’s father Pinot as an annoying little kid, with scraggly limbs and tangled blonde hair. After he and Cal had run off together as teenagers, he had never thought about him again. To be confronted now with his harling, was rather a shock.
Tian kept questioning Seel for information about when his father was a young human. He had died when Tian was only a very young harling, and he had never got to know him. But Seel couldn’t remember very much about him, except that he was only Cal’s half-brother, both of them having the same father, and that he was always in the way when they had wanted some privacy. After a while Tian gave up his questions and chose instead to concentrate on Cobweb.
‘I heard that Calanthe had a harling, and that you cared for him, Cobweb. Is that true? I haven’t seen him around.”
“Oh yes, Tyson is a fine young har now. In fact he is on his own mission to seek out Cal.” Cobweb snickered to himself when he thought of Cal, confronted at first by Tyson, then by Tian. Oh how he wished he could be there for the reunions. In fact, at that precise moment he decided he would take a short trip and check on Tyson for himself.
“You love bringing up harlings, don’t you?” Tian said, looking coyly at Cobweb, interrupting his thoughts.
Cobweb smiled at him. “It’s been a very special part of my life. But I have other interests, other things that I enjoy.”
“Can I do something for you, Cobweb?” Tian asked him rather shyly now.
“I suppose it depends what it is.”
“Would you let me paint your portrait. I haven’t seen any pictures of you around this house. It would give me great pleasure, Cobweb.”
Cobweb blushed, and it was Swift’s turn to nudge Cobweb in the ribs. “Let him do it.” Swift said. “I would love to see a painting of you.”
“But I’ve decided to visit Tyson and Cal, can it wait until I return?”
“It won’t take long to get down the initial sketches, then I can finish it while you are away. It will give me something to do. That is if you don’t mind me staying here for a while?”
“You are welcome to stay here as long as you like, Tian. After-all you are family…you and Tyson are cousins.”
“What does that make you, Cobweb?”
“An Uncle.” Cobweb replied.
Tian’s face lit up, he leant over and kissed Cobweb on the cheek. Cobweb blushed again, Swift coughed and Seel stood up quickly, knocking over his chair and walked off in a huff. Swift looked at his receding figure, shrugged his shoulders and grinned. Lias, who all this time was sitting on an outdoor reclining chair, with his half drunk glass of wine beside him on the ground, suddenly snorted out loud in his drunken sleep. Cobweb, Tian and Swift burst out laughing, then raised their glasses in a toast.
“To Cobweb’s portrait.” Swift declared.
The next day, Swift called in on Cobweb, to make sure that he would still let Tian paint his portrait. Cobweb was flustered and flapping about his room waving his arms about and raking his hands through his hair. It looked to Swift, as though every piece of clothing that Cobweb had ever owned was flung about the room.
“What am I going to wear…nothing looks right?” Cobweb grimaced as Swift spread a few of the clothes aside and found a small spot on the corner of Cobweb’s bed to sit down.
He noticed Cobweb’s look of consternation. “What? I didn’t crease anything.” Swift retorted, picking up a few articles of clothing and shaking them out carefully.
“Oh it’s all right. I can’t wear *that* thing anyway, it makes me look frumpy.”
Swift stifled a laugh and turned away from his hostling. Cobweb could never look frumpy and Cobweb knew it…but Swift decided to play along with him.
Swift held up the article of clothing in question, a red flouncy top, with gold braid. “Yes, I think you look frumpy in this…it just doesn’t do anything for you.”
Cobweb snarled at him and was about to spit back something venomous, when he realised his harling was having him on. “Hmmmph…if you can’t be any help, Swift, you might as well leave.”
“Cobweb, don’t be so melodramatic. Why don’t you just wear something simple and elegant, and let your hair hang loose.” Swift’s eyes searched the bed covered in clothing and picked up a pair of black leather pants and a grey silk shirt. “This would be perfect…it would accentuate your natural beauty.”
Cobweb smiled, even though he tried desperately not too, in fact he blushed slightly as well, then kissed Swift on the cheek. “I think you are right my sweet one, thank you.” With that he ushered Swift quickly out of his bedroom, threw all the other clothes on the floor for the servants to clean up and took his selection into the large bathroom, where he dressed and brushed his hair.
Tian had set up his easel in the morning room, by the French doors that led out to the paved patio. He was concentrating of getting the light to fall on his canvas when Cobweb sauntered into the room.
Tian gasped…”You take my breath away, Cobweb.”
– 4 –
“Sit down on the couch, Cobweb and lay back.” Tian took hold of Cobweb’s arms and tried to manoeuvre them into the position he wanted him in. “Relax, Cobweb, I’m just going to do a few initial sketches.”
But Cobweb was too tense to relax. Every time Tian tried to grab his arm, he would shy away, causing Tian to inadvertently touch him on his chest or under his arms. Giggling, Cobweb pushed him away. “Leave me, Tian. I’ll sort myself out.” After a few languorous wriggles and sensual flicking of his air, Cobweb found himself in a comfortable position and let out a long sigh.
“Is this all right?”
Tian sighed along with him, his eyes slightly misty and his mouth hanging open just a little too far. “Oh…that’s wonderful, Cobweb. Just one little thing though. Would you mind opening your shirt a little?”
“Like this?” Cobweb smiled at him and slowly undid the top three buttons of his shirt, then pushed it open, revealing his hairless and finely muscled chest.
“Perfect!” Whispered Tian, as he backed away from him slowly. He picked up his sketching pencil and held it just above the paper, noticing with surprise that his hand was trembling. Little beads of perspiration had formed on his upper lip and with his other hand he wiped them off.
The morning sun was glinting on Cobweb’s dark silken locks and he had closed his eyes. He had also pursed his lips slightly and seemed to be breathing just a little too quickly.
Tian finally controlled his trembling and began to draw with elegant sweeps of his hand. Cobweb was the perfect model, with his slender body, tautly muscled thighs and hands long and slender. He was just working his way down to the lower part of his body when Cobweb opened his dark eyes and peered at him, through a loose lock of hair.
He almost purred – “How am I doing?”
Tian coughed in embarrassment, hoping that Cobweb hadn’t caught any of his licentious thoughts…and told him that he was doing fine.
Cobweb moved about slowly, making sure he was completely comfortable, then smiled at Tian. “Good. Is my shirt open enough? I could undo it all the way.” Cobweb was grinning now, and Tian had to wipe a little more perspiration from his upper lip.
“No…no, how you have it is perfect, thank you. But maybe you could turn a little more onto your side…I can get the subtle curve of your hips then.” Tian realised that his voice was a little shaky as well. It was nearly more than he could bear, to be in the same room alone with this sensual creature. Everything he had ever heard about Cobweb was certainly true. He was delectably beautiful, and Tian realised without a doubt that Cobweb knew that fact only too well.
Tian lifted up his pencilled hand again, to continue his sketch, fully aware that Cobweb was watching his every move. With fine strokes he completed his initial sketch, then backed away slightly to view it. He was absorbed in this, unaware that Cobweb had risen from the couch and had made his way to stand right beside him.
“You have made me too beautiful, Tian.” He crooned into his ear, as he touched him on the arm.
Tian jumped and dropped his pencil. “No, Cobweb. This is exactly how you look – well to me anyway.”
“I think my hips are a little wider than that, Tian.” Cobweb teased and ran his hand down the length of Tian’s arm, lingering just a little too long. He smiled when he felt Tian trembling.
“Have you ever had your portrait painted, Tian?”
Tian felt sure that he was blushing and turned away from Cobweb to hide his face behind the fall of his hair. “Um…yes, Cobweb. My uncle on my hostling’s side, painted it a couple of years ago, just after my freybaiha.”
“Well, I am sure that you would have appeared just as beautiful as you are in real life.” Cobweb’s face was close to Tian’s now, and Tian could feel his warm breath on his neck. He turned to look at him, their lips almost touching.
“Thank you, Cobweb. But your beauty outshines mine.”
“Oh I wouldn’t say that, Tian…I think you are exceptionally beautiful.” Cobweb’s lips brushed Tian’s gently and he smirked when Tian jumped slightly and pulled away.
“You don’t have to be afraid of me, Tian…I won’t bite.”
– 5 –
Swift couldn’t find Tian anywhere in the house or the grounds. He wasn’t quite sure why he was searching for him…perhaps he was just fascinated by this creature who was so much like Cal, but so different from him as well. He was just about to give up when he spied Lias, Cobweb’s assistant, standing by the door to the parlour – or rather slinking might have been a better way to describe his movements.
Curious, Swift went up to him making him jump. He let out a little gasp of annoyance.
“Swift! What are you doing here?”
“I could ask the same of you, Lias.” Swift retorted rather abruptly, making Lias flinch slightly.
“Um…er…I was just going to the kitchen to get a cool drink.”
“Well the kitchen is down that way.” Swift pointed.
“Yes, of course I know that.” Lias barked back at him.
“Well what were you doing slinking around this doorway? Is something going on that I should know about?”
“Firstly I wasn’t slinking…I dropped a pen and I was looking for it.”
“Really?” Swift replied, feeling extremely suspicious of Lias now. He tried to peer into his thoughts, but Lias was being particularly obstinate.
“Who’s in the parlour, Lias?”
“How would I know?”
Swift smiled, sure now that Lias was hiding something and pushed his hand against the door. Lias tried to stop him, by pulling on the door handle.
“Lias, stop it!” Swift glared at him, and he backed away, just as Swift pushed on the door again, very hard. The force sent him sprawling inelegantly into the room. He cursed, steadied himself, then gasped out loud.
Cobweb and Tian were on the couch, in a state of semi dress, caressing each other and moaning rather loudly, not even aware of Swift’s rather unfortunate entrance, until he coughed with embarrassment and turned to make a hasty retreat.
“Swift! Haven’t you heard of knocking?” Cobweb snarled at him at he tried to make himself tidy. Tian was blushing darkly and was now standing up alongside the couch trying to do his trousers up quickly, but due to shaking fingers, he managed to get them caught in his fly. He turned around and furiously tried to extricate them.
Swift heard someone snickering behind him and turned to see Lias trying hard not to laugh. Every time he covered his mouth and tried to stifle a giggle, a sound like a goat snorting emanated from him. Swift shoved him out of the room – “Shut up Lias, you sound like a animal in pain.”
Lias snorted again, then began to laugh out loud. “Lias, go and get yourself that drink you were talking about…NOW,” and with a hard shove Swift sent him careening down the slippery corridor. Swift could feel a bubble of amusement welling up inside of himself as well, and try as he might, he could not control it. He began to giggle.
“What’s so funny, Swift?” He heard Seel’s voice behind him and spun about. “Nothing…nothing…Lias just told me a very funny joke, that’s all.” As he looked Seel in the eye, he winked, then with his hands behind his back, quietly closed the door to the parlour.
“Come on Seel, Cobweb is busy entertaining his nephew. I think he would like some time alone.” He grabbed Seel’s hand and dragged him away from the room.
After Cobweb had stopped cursing his son for the rude interruption to their little tryst, he stood up and tried to help Tian pull his fingers out from his firmly buttoned fly. But Tian was so mortified that he ripped them out for himself, tearing the fabric of his trousers in the process. With a loud sigh he slumped down onto the couch, looking like he was about to burst into tears.
Cobweb put his arm about him, kissed him softly on the cheek then whispered into his ear. “Perhaps we should go somewhere a little more private.”
– 6 –
Lias accompanied Cobweb on his journey to Immanion, but Cobweb wished fervently by the end of the journey that he hadn’t. The whole time he made little jokes and asides about Cobweb’s relationship with Tian. Cobweb kept trying to make him understand that he was not related to him in any way, but it still didn’t stop him from being a nuisance, and even his famous withering glares had no affect on his servant.
“I want you to stay in the city, Lias. I don’t want you to accompany me to the palace. Do you understand?”
“Oh, I understand only too well, Cobweb. Can’t have Tigron Calanthe finding out about your relationship with his nephew, now can we?” Lias smirked, ignoring yet again another exasperated sigh from his employer.
“Lias, remind me to fire you when we get home.” Cobweb growled, but the tiny flicker at the corner of his mouth was just enough for Lias to realise he was only joking. “Cal will be a little overwhelmed by his visit from Tyson…I don’t want to make it any worse with news of his unknown nephew. Not straight away anyway. And something makes me think that if you were let loose with his servants, the news might travel rather quickly around the palace.”
“Are you calling me a gossip?” Lias grumbled.
“If the hat fits.”
Cobweb was nervous about visiting Calanthe…he was unsure what his reception would be like. He had made a quick visit to Tyson first, (in secret) using his wiles on Cal’s secretary to gain entrance to his adopted hostling’s room. Tyson, as expected, had several conflicting thoughts about his reunion with his hostling, but Cobweb’s presence alleviated some of his concerns. He was terribly upset however, with the news about Bryony, and he berated Cobweb for not telling him sooner.
“Tyson, it was difficult for me. This was a very important journey for you…and I couldn’t interrupt it. Bryony understood.”
Tyson shed a few tears on Cobweb’s shoulder, cursing him softly for a few minutes, then pulled back and looked into his eyes. “You were right you know. This is important to me…are you sure Bryony wasn’t too upset that I wasn’t there.”
Cobweb nodded, but he really didn’t have the heart to explain to Tyson that Bryony was barely conscious in the last few days of her life and wasn’t even aware that he was there with her.
The time had finally come for his meeting with Cal…and his heart was in quite a flutter. As he entered the doorway to Cal’s rooms, he tried to calm himself and act nonchalant…he hoped his outward appearance belied his inner turmoil. He could feel himself catch his breath when he saw Cal looking at him, and sighed as he watched Cal’s lithe body move to the couch and recline languidly.
By the Aghama, he was so like Tian, even down to the sparkle in his eyes and the slightly crooked smile. He shuddered inwardly, then moved to the other end of the couch, where he mirrored Cal’s pose. He was about to mention Tian, when Cal grabbed the back of his head and pulled him close. The surprise of this action caused Cobweb to lose his composure completely, and he gave in to Cal’s advances.
Arguing hotly with his innermost thoughts, Cobweb succumbed and fought together with Cal in a parody of aruna, which seemed to be the only way they could communicate. It was physically enjoyable, as it always was with Cal, but it was a battle a wills, rather than a joining together of two souls. Cal’s last comment to him, though, made him aware of just how far Cal had come.
“Tyson is as much your harling as he is mine.”
In his room later, Cobweb reflected on his relationship with Cal, and wondered if his newly found fondness of Tian was just a poor imitation. He certainly hoped it wasn’t. There was something about Tian that Cal lacked, and that was a softness and femininity. When they had shared breath and joined in aruna, it was he, Cobweb, who had taken the masculine role. It was one of the few times in his life as a har where he had been in that position.
He was just brushing out his hair after a long hot bath, when there was a knock at the door. It was Lias, looking rather flushed and annoyed. Apparently he had tried to gain entrance to the palace to give Cobweb a message.
“Cobweb, why didn’t you tell the guards that I was travelling with you. I nearly got thrown in the dungeon.”
“Lias, there are no dungeons in Immanion. The worst they would have done to you was send you out of the city.”
“Well, it was embarrassing. If Tyson hadn’t seen me being escorted out of the grounds, I never would have been allowed entry.”
Cobweb flung his hairbrush onto the dressing table, settled himself back against the cushions of his bed and asked. “Well! What is so important that you have to interrupt my visit here?”
– 7 –
Cobweb dressed in dark clothes and hid his hair under an elegant hat as he accompanied Lias through the broad, bustling streets of Immanion, to a small guest house on the edge of the city. He was annoyed and intrigued at the same time, as he waited for the host to open the door and usher them inside.
“Your friend is not here, Lias.” The host informed him. “He went off to do some shopping for some brushes and paints.”
“Oh, by the Aghama!” Cobweb groaned. “He can’t go wandering around the city by himself.”
“Cobweb, he’s a grown har, and the city is safe. What are you worried about?”
“Are you blind, Lias?”
Lias glared at him and was about to answer him with some sarcasm of his own, but thought the better of it. “No one will notice him. The city is full of handsome blonde hars, with piercig blue eyes.”
The host butted in. “I think I know what you mean, tiahaar. He does bare an uncanny resemblance to the Trigron. It was the first thing I noticed about him, besides his demeanour of course.”
“His demeanour? What do you mean?” Cobweb questioned him.
“He seemed a little absent minded and dreamy. Like he was in love or something.”
Lias coughed and turned away so that Cobweb couldn’t see his face. But Cobweb could see his shoulders moving up and down. Cobweb poked him in the ribs. “Stop it you fool. We have to find him. I can’t have Cal finding out about him just yet. He has other issues to deal with first.”
“He’s met Tyson, hasn’t he?” Lias asked.
“Yes, he has, and they will need some time together. But I also discovered from one of the palace servants that both the Tigron and the Tigrina have been away, and Cal has been worried about them.”
The host was standing watching them, with his mouth slightly agape. “You know the Tigron?”
“What..?” Cobweb waved his hands about as he pulled off his hat. “Yes, yes…he’s an old friend of mine.”
“This young tiahaar, Tian. Would he be related to the Tigon?” The host continued.
“Don’t breath a word of it.” Cobweb demanded, in his most authoritarian voice.
“Wouldn’t think of it.” The host replied.
Lias coughed again, but this time managed to maintain a modicum of control.
It didn’t take them long to find Tian. All they had to do was follow the trail of awed hars in the streets. Shopkeepers, who were looking surprised at having had, whom they thought was their Tigron visit their shop to purchase paints and souveneirs. As they turned a corner at the end of a market street, they could see a group of people bustling about outside one of the small restaurants. Joining the crowd and peering through the window with them, they could see Tian, sitting at a table, enjoying a glass of wine and being served by not less than half a dozen waiters.
Cobweb wasn’t sure if Tian didn’t notice the fuss that was being made of him, or whether he was playing up to them. Knocking on the glass Cobweb tried to gain his attention, but several members of the crowd jostled him out of the way.
“We were here first.” One of them complained to him.
Cobweb wasn’t remotely peturbed by the har’s impudence, and continued knocking on the glass. Tian eventually looked up, smiled at him and beckoned him inside. The rest of the crowd murmured beligerently amongst themselves and Cobweb flashed them one of his memorable grins. Lias followed behind, pushing the crowd out of the way with his elbows.
Being the showman that he is renowned for, Cobweb decided to continue the little ruse, and bowed slightly to Tian, who seemed bemused, then kissed him on the cheek. A collective sigh rose up from inside and outside the restaurant. Cobweb then sat down next to him and ordered himself a cup of honeyed tea.
Cobweb whispered to Tian. “This is a nice little show you are putting on.”
“Sshhh, don’t spoil it.” Tian was grinning from ear to ear.
“You little devil. You are enjoying this, aren’t you?”
Tian continued to grin.
“I thought you were going to wait for my return. I don’t think the time is right for you to visit your uncle.”
“I didn’t come to see him, Cobweb. I came to see you.”
– 8 –
After much jostling and cheering, Cobweb managed to escort Tian from the restaurant and up the street to where he was staying, with Lias tagging along behind, snickering constantly.
“What’s so funny, Lias?’ Cobweb barked at one stage.
“I’ve had three lewd propositions from some of these onlookers, and all because they think I must be someone important.”
“Lias, you are supposed to be sending them on their way, not taking bookings.”
Lias laughed out loud, shooed away a couple more people then came up alongside Cobweb and whispered in his ear. “We can’t take Tian back to the guest house. These people think he’s the Tigron, they will expect him to be heading back to the Palace.”
“Well you will have to create a diversion, then won’t you Lias.”
“What do you have in mind?” Lias muttered under his breath, as he politely asked another onlooker to move aside. But he didn’t have to think any more, as suddenly there seemed to be a commotion a couple of streets away. Everyone in the street beside them stopped, and the air was abuzz with exclamations and shouts. Cobweb gleaned from a couple of them that two important Hara were riding through the city – one of them thought they looked like the Tigron Pellaz and his consort.
In a flash, Lias grabbed Cobweb and Tian by their arms and pushed them, none too gently, into a shop, and shut the door quickly behind them. He then peered out the window and saw that a few of the hara were looking about for them, but the rest had run up a side street to see the action further away. Lias sighed and turned around. The surprised shopkeeper was standing with his mouth agape at Tian. But Cobweb intervened before Tian could begin play-acting again.
“It’s all right tiahaar, my friend here is not the Tigron. He just has the misfortune to look like him.”
“I wouldn’t call it a misfortune.” The shopkeeper replied, then held up a plucked chicken. “While you are here, would you care to buy some fresh meat?”
Cobweb politely declined, then turned to look out the window. “Have they all gone yet, Lias?”
“Just one or two left.” He replied, then turned to the shopkeeper. “Is there a back door?”
“There is if you would like to buy a chicken.” The shopkeeper suggested with a broad grin on his face.
Chicken in hand, the three of them disappeared out the back and meandered down a few narrow alleyways until they found themselves at the back door to the guest house. Lias checked that they hadn’t been followed then produced a key and let Tian and Cobweb inside. Cobweb glanced at the key suspiciously and Lias shrugged.
“Elliah, gave it to me.”
When Cobweb started to open his mouth again, Lias continued. “Elliah is the owner, we have become rather good friends.” With that last comment Lias winked.
Lias bustled them both upstairs to Tian’s room, where they all collapsed in a fit of giggles on the rather large bed. “What are we going to do with this?” Cobweb laughed, holding up the chicken.
“We could give it to Elliah for our supper I suppose.” Lias suggested. “I’ll take it down to him. I’m assuming you two would like a little privacy.”
Cobweb and Tian nodded in unison, then turned to each other as Lias shut the door with a bang and bounded down the stairs to give his new friend his gift.
“Tian, you were taking a chance coming here to see me.” Cobweb said softly taking his face in his hands. “But I’m very glad that you did.” He smiled as he leaned forward and shared breath with him. He was sunshine and wildflowers, with a taste of honey and spice and Cobweb found himself mesmerised by his tenderness. Tian was a gentle but persistent lover, as he slowly undressed Cobweb, then himself, the whole time retaining his innocent but alluring expression.
Cobweb stood back and admired his new lover. Tian’s soft golden curls tumbled over his shoulders and his body was lean and firm, with just a hint of softness around his hips and thighs.. Cobweb sighed in pure delight and pulled Tian into him for another fulfilling sharing of breath. Sinking to their knees, Tian’s long fingered hands caressed Cobweb’s back, running up and down his spine, then lingering for a few moments on his shoulders.
Staring into his eyes, he said. “You can let go this time, Cobweb. I am sure I can handle you. After-all I am Pyralis.”
“I will only give what you can take my sweet.” Cobweb crooned into his ear, then licked at it sensuously. Tian shivered and pulled Cobweb down onto the floor on top of him.
“Do you want to get on the bed?” Cobweb whispered.
“I can’t wait that long.” Tian answered, as he lay back and became soume for him.
– 9 –
Lias stopped on the stairs for a few moments after he had left Cobweb and Tian alone. He felt a strange longing and an unsettling feeling in the pit of his stomach. For all the months he had been working for Cobweb now, he had harboured a secret desire for him. He knew it could never come to fruition, but where there was hope… His thoughts drifted for a few moments, then he heard what could only be described as sounds of passion drifting from the room. Lias sighed and walked slowly down the stairs, still holding the plucked chicken in his hand.
The owner of the guest-house, Elliah, was in the kitchen, singing loudly as he chopped vegetables for a stew. He grinned broadly when Lias entered and grabbed the chicken out of his hand. “Perfect…chicken stew. You don’t have to provide food though, Lias. It is in the cost of the room.”
“Just a small contribution, Elliah. Can I help?” Lias noticed that Elliah seemed to be eyeing him up and down, as though he were sussing him out.
“Well you could pour us both a glass of wine.”
Lias obliged, and sat down at the table facing Elliah. They raised their glasses. “Cobweb is certainly an interesting har, Lias. Have you worked for him for very long?”
“Several months now…but he is more than interesting.” Lias sighed again and Elliah sat down next to him, wiping his hands on his apron.
“Ahh! I see. Tian has come between you. Is that it?”
“No…not really, there was no us to come between.” Lias took a sip of his wine. “I could never aspire to anything with Cobweb, other than to have him as my employer.”
“You sell yourself short, Lias.” Elliah said softly, moving his hand across the table so that he was touching Lias’ hand.
Elliah leaned forward and took Lias’ face in his hands. “You are very beautiful.” He whispered.
Lias tentatively touched Elliah’s cheek. “So are you.”
As they shared breath, noises of lovemaking came from upstairs, but neither of them took any notice.
Cobweb reluctantly left Tian behind in the guest-house, as he had agreed to join Cal, Rue and Pell for supper that evening. Tian blew him kisses from the window as Cobweb walked down the street. It was the happiest Cobweb had felt for many years, and he chanted a small spell to himself as he walked. One that maybe would ensure this happiness would last.
He had the servants run him a bath, then dressed and refreshed, decided to make another visit to Tyson. He considered telling him about Tian. He thought perhaps he could practice on his adopted harling before he found the right words to inform Cal. As he stood in the corridor outside Tyson’s rooms, he went over what he would say. He knew Tyson would be happy to discover he had a cousin, but he wasn’t too sure how Cal would take the news. It had been a rather emotional few days for the Tigron, but now that Pell and Rue had returned from their little retreat, he felt that the time was right to inform Cal of his brother Pinot’s death and his unknown relative.
Cobweb was just about to push open the door when he heard soft snuffling sounds coming from the other side. He stopped for a second and pressed his ear to the door. Tyson wasn’t alone. Curious, Cobweb used his mind to delve into his harling’s, just for a second. He didn’t want to intrude on his privacy, he merely wanted to make sure that Tyson was all right.
With a wide smile on his face, Cobweb stood back. His harling was engaged in rather passionate aruna with non other than Abrimel. Cobweb was thrilled for him. Abrimel was a great catch – in fact, no one could have been more perfect for his precious harling. With a little skip, Cobweb took off down the corridor to his rendezvous with the Trigons and their Tigrina.
Cobweb entered the dining room and let out a soft gasp. The three of them, Pell, Cal and Rue were sitting at one end of a very long table, that had been elegantly set in fine gold china, perfect crystal glassware, shiny gold cutlery and an array of spring flowers overflowing in several gold vases. But it wasn’t just the table setting that made him gasp. It was the beauty and love that emanated from the trio seated at the table. They were all holding hands, their faces serene. Pell had his hair tied back loosely, but Cal and Rue had left theirs to fall voluptuously down their backs. All of them had dressed in silk jackets. Rue had on a dusky blue one, with gold braid, Pell was adorned in bright red, with a crisp white shirt underneath. But Cal took his breath away. He had on emerald green, simple and unruffled, with a black shirt underneath, studded with a gold brooch depicting a unicorn.
Cal looked up when Cobweb entered and winked. “Come Cobweb. We have been waiting for you. I don’t know where Abrimel and Tyson are though.”
“I do!” Cobweb winked back.
Cobweb took his place next to them and waited for his glass to be filled with wine. “Well, you look happy.” He said to Pell and Rue. ” Perhaps you should go on holiday more often.”
“Only if they take me next time.” Cal suggested.
“Pell, I must say, you look absolutely glowing tonight.” Cobweb remarked. Pell blushed slightly and turned to Cal, sharing breath with him. Cobweb coughed and turned away, but Rue just stared at them with sparkling eyes.
Cobweb felt like an intruder, as he tried to make light conversation during the meal. It was almost as though he wasn’t there and several times he wished he were back with Tian, entwined with his naked body.
As the last course was being brought out, one of the servants went up to Pell and announced that they had a visitor.
“Who’s calling this time of night?” Pell asked.
– 10 –
As Tian was shown into the room, an audible gasp was heard coming from Cal. For him it must have been like looking in a mirror. It was just as much a shock for Tian, as he hadn’t wholly believed he looked exactly like his uncle. For a few moments they simply stood and stared at each other, until Cobweb took the initiative and introduced him.
“Cal, this is your nephew, Tiahaar Tian, son of your brother Pinot and his consort, Espin.”
“My brother?” Cal was standing when Tian entered the room, now he sat down with a thud. “Is my brother here too?” He questioned Tian, who was looking to Cobweb for guidance.
Cobweb moved over to Tian and took his trembling hand.
“I have bad news about my father.” Tian said softly. “He is no longer with us. It’s a long story though and I’m sorry for interrupting your dinner party. I’m afraid I can be rather impulsive sometimes.”
“Like nephew, like uncle.” Pell mumbled under his breath. Then smiling he said, “come young Tian. Come join our table. Refreshments please…” he ordered the servants, as Tian sat down next to Cobweb. Cobweb continued to hold his hand, a fact that did not get missed by Calanthe, who was trying desperately to come to terms with this latest revelation.
“I didn’t even know Pinot had been incepted.” Cal kept staring at Tian, who was beginning to feel rather uncomfortable. “You say he is dead.”
“I’m sorry uncle. It was a long time ago. I was but a pearl when he was forced to become a warrior. I only know of him through what my hostling, Espin has told me.”
“What tribe are you, Tian?” Cal continued his questioning.
“Ferike, Uncle. My hostling became friends with Panthera Jael. I believe you knew him also.”
“Panthera…he was a dear friend.” Cal mused. “Is he well?”
“I believe so, and he’s very happy with his consort, Zackala.”
Cal’s eyes misted over for a second, and Pell took his arm and whispered something to him. Cal turned to him and smiled. “Yes, Pell. My old friend Zack. Small world isn’t it?”
“You can tell me all about your family later, Tian. Of course you will be our guest for as long as you wish.”
Tian nodded and smiled, and Cobweb raised his glass. “To old friends.”
“And new ones,” Cal added.
Just as they were about to resume their dessert, raucous laughter could be heard just outside the door. “Oh dear!” Exclaimed Rue. “I know that laughter anywhere.”
Tyson and Abrimel came stumbling into the dining room, arm in arm, looking rather dishevelled, but extremely happy. Pell looked at Abrimel sternly, but he took no notice. Then Tyson stopped suddenly and let out a loud curse.
“I’ve had too much to drink, Abby…I am seeing two of my hostling now.”
“Tyson, this is no way to come to dinner.” Cobweb berated Tyson, who decided to look contrite for the sake of his adopted hostling. “Come and sit down the two of you and behave.” He stood up, grabbed Tyson’s sleeve and pulled him down next to him.
“This is Tian, Calanthe’s nephew.” He said to Tyson, trying to get him to focus.
“His nephew. So he’s my cousin? Welcome cousin.” He was waving his arms about and knocked over a decanter of wine, spilling it all over Abrimel who had just sat down next to him. Abrimel jumped and knocked over his chair. Cobweb buried his face in his hands. He could hear laughter coming from Cal, and sighs and soft curses coming from Pell and Rue.
Pell began to issue orders to the servants to clean up the mess and to take Abrimel and Tyson away to clean and sober them up. When the hurricane of drunk hara had gone, Cobweb finally looked up from his hands. Tian was sipping his glass of wine, Rue was eating his dessert of spiced apples and cream, and Cal and Pell were nowhere to be seen.
“Where did Pell and Cal go?’ Cobweb asked.
“Just getting some fresh air I think.” Rue answered. “It’s been a rather interesting week, hasn’t it?” He said, with some amusement.
Tyson and Abrimel did not surface for two days, and try as he might Cobweb couldn’t find Lias anywhere, although he did have his suspicions as to where he might be hiding.
Tian seemed to be having rather too good a time at the palace, and Cobweb was worried that he might not want to accompany him when he returned home. Feeling a little down, he decided to try and find Tian, exploring the palace as he did so. As he was wandering down one of the wide marble corridors, he passed an open doorway and saw Pell, sitting at a desk surrounded by papers. He was looking rather flustered.
Cobweb knocked, and Pell smiled at him and asked him to enter.
“You look busy.”
“Hmmm, funny about that. When I returned from my short holiday, Cal promised he would help me with all of this. But no…he is off riding with Tyson and Tian, showing them around the place. Showing off is more like.” Pell picked up a wad of papers then dropped them down again in frustration. “I am so behind. I don’t think he did a thing while I was away.”
‘Why don’t you take a short break, and join me for a cup of tea. It is a beautiful day.”
“What a good idea, Cobweb. This can wait. Come, I will take you out to our private gardens.”
Pell looked serene away from his desk, and the sunlight dappling through the trees made his dark hair shine. “You know, don’t you Cobweb?”
“You will bear a fine harling, Pell.” Cobweb said softly.
“And so will Tian.” Pell answered, with a knowing smile.
– 11 –
Cobweb sat by the window to his rooms looking out at the courtyard and the stables that were nearby. He could see three horses being brushed down, and guessed that Cal, Tian and Tyson had returned from their ride. He decided to give them a little time to get cleaned up, then he was going to find Cal to say goodbye. Cobweb was finally going to pack up to go home to Forever, hopefully taking Tian with him. He presumed that Tyson would wish to stay, especially now that he had formed a special relationship with Abrimel. It would be sad to say goodbye to him, but it seemed that Tyson had found his true family, and he couldn’t take him away from that, as much as he loved him.
As he left his rooms, his asked one of the servants where Cal might be, and was informed that he was taking refreshments in his suite. Cobweb hoped Pel and Rue might be there as well so that he could say his farewells to all of them at the same time, but it wasn’t Pell or Rue who was holding Cal’s hand when he entered.
“Tian, so this is where you are?” Cobweb sounded quite surprised. Tian and Cal both looked up quickly, releasing each other’s hands and looking a little embarrassed.
For a few seconds Cobweb felt disoriented. Their likeness was uncanny, especially as they both were wearing the same style of leather pants and loose cotton shirts. He stared at them, noticing for the first time that Tian’s eyes were a little bigger, and his nose was finer than Cal’s. His hair also was longer, coming way down below his shoulders. Cal, of late, had taken to keeping his hair shorter and tied back neatly in a ponytail.
As if with the one mind, both of them held out their hands to Cobweb and smiled broadly. “We were just talking about you.” Cal said, grinning at Tian now, who was blushing a very dark shade of pink.
“Oh! May I ask what you were saying?”
“It was all flattering, Cobweb.” Cal snickered. “Come join us for a drink.”
Cobweb settled himself down on the couch and took a few sips of his rhubarb wine, before informing them that he was planning on leaving the next day.
“So soon?” Cal asked, looking a little crestfallen.
“Well, I have a home to run.”
“Couldn’t you stay for a few more days, Cobweb. I am just getting to know my uncle.” Tian asked, sitting down beside Cobweb and picking up his hand.
Cobweb let out a long sigh, surprising himself, as he hadn’t realised that he had been holding his breath. “So you do want to come back with me, then?”
Tian leant towards Cobweb and kissed him on the cheek. “Of course I want to come back with you. Whatever gave you the idea that I might not?”
“You seem so happy here.” Cobweb replied, putting down his drink and placing his arm around Tian’s shoulders.
“Yes, I am happy here, but that’s only because you are here. I have enjoyed meeting Cal, and everyone else, but my place is by your side.” He turned away suddenly and coughed. “That is, if you want it to be?”
“By the Aghama, you two. You are in love. Anyone can see that.” Cal declared, kneeling down in front of them. “Cobweb, I have never seen you so happy with anyone. And Tian, here…well what can I say. He deserves to be loved by someone like you.”
Without any warning, Cobweb leaned forward and began to share breath with Cal. Cal, although slightly surprised, didn’t mind in the slightest and revelled in the taste and feel of Cobweb, one more time. As they parted, Cal took Tian’s face in his hands, kissed him gently on the lips, then turned his face to Cobweb’s. Cobweb looked into Tian’s eyes and lay back on the couch as Tian’s mouth met his. With gentle hands Cobweb felt himself being undressed, and caressed by both of them. He sighed.
“Is this what you were talking about?”
“Do you mind, Cobweb?” A soft voice asked. He wasn’t aware who’s it was, but he didn’t care.
“No.” He managed to answer, as he felt Tian pull him to the floor, his now half naked body rubbing up against his. Cal joined them a few seconds later, slipping his arms around both of them.
“This is my farewell to you Cobweb, and my blessing for the two of you.”
Cobweb became soume for both of them, delighting in feeling them inside of him, physically and spiritually. But Cal only gently touched Tian, loving him as an uncle, as their only wish had been to pleasure Cobweb. With wise and knowing eyes and hands, he encouraged Cobweb to become ouana for Tian and lay beside them, enjoying their passion and love.
As they clung together afterwards, wrapped in the throw rug from the couch, Cobweb touched both of their faces. “Thank you Cal, for the memories I have of you, for allowing me to care for Tyson, and for being my friend. And Tian, just thankyou for finding me.”
Two days later, Cal, Pell, Rue, Abrimel and Tyson, all came down to the palace gates to wave goodbye to Cobweb and Tian. Cobweb’s heart was full of joy as his hugged Tyson and wished him luck. They would be returning without Lias, as he had decided to stay behind and help Elliah run his guest house. Cobweb didn’t mind, he knew he would be returning to Immanion soon anyway.
He kissed Tyson on the cheek and whispered. “I will make a very good grandhostling you know.”