And The Flowers Bloom Like Madness In The Spring
by Camile Sinenis (Teapot)
Author: Camile_Sinensis (Teapot)
Thiede returns from exile and begins the journey home…
Sequel: After the Rains
And The Flowers Bloom Like Madness In The Spring
Seven years is a long time. A lot can happen in seven years. A harling can be conceived and born, and grow up, and become a har. Adulthood can bring new experiences and new perspectives on old certainties. So much can change, and yet so much can remain as it always was.
The sleeping har was alone in the room, but had anyone been there to observe, they would have noticed that he was restless. Although the room was chill, the heavy fur coverlet had been thrown aside, and one arm dangled over the edge of the bed, fingers grazing the bare wooden floor. The first pale streaks of a watery winter morning began illuminating the room, slowly making visible the shadowy objects within. Outside the birds commenced their morning salutations. The har stirred in his sleep again, and moaned slightly
Thiede awoke to a rush of warmth and blinding light, but it was not the dawn which roused him. Instinctively his hand moved down to his groin, fingers curling around his still hard erection, now wet and sticky with the ejaculated essence of his body. He felt the hot wetness spread down between his legs and he gave an involuntary groan. Grasping himself more firmly , he squeezed gently and stroked his thumb a few times down the length. It was almost too sensitive to touch, but his own semen provided comforting lubrication, and it produced a pleasant, if atavistic, sensation which helped ease away the last of the tension from his aching flesh, while simultaneously sending a few last half-hearted reminders of his recent orgasm along his nerves.
As his breathing and heart-beat slowed, and the painful stiffness began to recede, Thiede experience a moment of confusion as he looked across to the other side of the bed for his aruna partner. The he remembered – he was alone.
The dream was still fresh in his memory, though, and replaying it in his head caused his softening ouana lim to stir and move once more, but Thiede resisted the urge to touch himself again. It wasn’t that he was ashamed of his responses, it was just that it had been a long, long time since he had had a wet dream. He was used to being in control of his body, and it felt strange to have it escape from that control under the cloak of his subconscious. But then, a lot of strangeness had transpired lately.
If you had asked him seven years ago what his definition of “strange” was, then heading the list would almost certainly have been the transmutation to another reality and subsequent reincarnation as an inter-dimensional Godhead. Then again, it was something he had always expected.
Thiede smiled wryly to himself and allowed that there was a degree of insanity inherent in that admission. Even given his unusual life. It is one thing, though, to conjure mentally with the theoretical sublimation of the Self, and quite another thing entirely to experience it. To die and be reborn into another realm, where earthly passions and emotions had no meaning. It was peace, of a sort. Something he had always yearned for.
…. be careful what you wish for….
What he hadn’t expected was to come back. That was where the strangeness really started.
It was the child’s fault. Pell’s child. Pell’s and Cal’s child. Pell’s and Cal’s and Rue’s. A strange child, but he had called for help, and there had been no option but to go to him. And now he was a child no more. Thiede himself had been the one to initiate him into adulthood.
Seven years. Darquiel was seven years old. It had been seven years since Thiede had last experienced aruna. He had not missed it. In his Godly dimension it had been irrelevant. It was, however, very relevant indeed in this earth-bound existence. He had been surprised at how intense the experience had been – more so than his memory had prompted him. Yet that in itself was puzzling. Aruna was the most intense experience a har could have. How could he have forgotten that? Perhaps it was different now.
Perhaps something had changed. Perhaps he had changed.
He rose from the bed and shook his head, as if trying to clear his thoughts, causing long tendrils of dark red hair to ripple across the bare skin of his back in a pleasingly tactile way. He stood naked, examining the soiled bedsheets, pursing his lips, as if trying to decided what to do with them. It looked as if a goblet of liquid, iridescent gold had been spilled across the bed. Although it was not aesthetically displeasing, he had the sudden urge to rip the sheets from the bed and wash them. He sighed.
Don’t be ridiculous, he chided himself, There are servants to perform such menial tasks, and they have seen such things countless times. And if they are aware of the fact that Darquiel did not spend the night here, then what of it?
Besides, it had not been Darquiel’s face or Darquiel’s body which had been the cause of the sheets’ disgrace. Darquiel was beautiful, but he was still, for all that, a child.
Seven years. Thiede sighed again. Sometimes he felt his own age weigh heavily upon him. Aruna with the young scion of the Aralisians had been very pleasant indeed, but he was not the cause of these intensely erotic dreams which left him hot and wet with desire, both inside and out. Another har was responsible. Thiede knew he could conjure up that har’s face if he closed his eyes, and his body would respond again, but there was neither the time nor the place to explore this new phenomenon at the moment, because it was another thing which was strange. Another change. It had happened three days ago.
Thiede had always prided himself on his perceptiveness. Perhaps that had been his greatest weakness. Pride. Nevertheless, he enjoyed peering into the lives of his hara and using their hopes and fears and loves and hates to manipulate them. They were all his, after all, to do with as he wished, and he was the arch-manipulator. The thought that he himself might have been manipulated had never entered his head. It was absurd. He was the Aghama, who knows all and sees all.
Three days ago, he had discovered that he didn’t know as much as he thought he did; didn’t see as clearly as he had always assumed he had.
He stepped into the small antechamber which functioned as a bathroom. If anything it was even colder in here than in the bedroom. He began to wash himself carefully, removing the residue of his own emission where it had dried stickily on his inner thighs and in the dark red hair above. The water was cold too, and he shivered. When he had finished, he returned to the bedroom and dressed himself in linen undergarments, followed by heavy woollen robes and furs. It was just past the turn of the year – midwinter, and this bleak landscape had none of Immanion’s temperate forgiveness.
How could I not have known? How could I not have seen?
He sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on thick leather boots. Outside, there were voices, and the sound of early morning activities. Opening the door, he stepped out into a glittering world of snow and ice. His vision blurred momentarily as the cold air and blinding light caused his eyes to water. He pulled his furs closer around his body and set off the direction of what his nose and rumbling stomach told him was the kitchens.
The sun was now well risen, and despite the season still had some power to warm. Thiede felt it on his back, through the layers of clothing. He was acutely aware of everything touching his skin; from the smoothness of the linen, through the scratchy texture of the woollen cloth to the soft, sensual caress of the furs. The sun poured over him like liquid honey, seeping into his pores and dripping down his spine. It was undoubtedly the same sun as had warmed him seven years previously, and yet it too was somehow more intense than he remembered it. Every physical sensation his body experienced seemed magnified a thousand times.
Am I imagining it? Was it always like this, and I just never noticed before?
There was a scar on his right hip, shaped like a ragged star. He had forgotten it was there. The bullet had entered and lodged in the bone, and it had taken a long time to heal, but that had been years – decades – ago, before he had become what he was now, and he had long since dismissed the incident from his mind, but now he felt the old ache return; bone-deep, down his leg like something cold and hard.
He frowned slightly and banished the discomfort. Regardless of the source of these… sensory hallucinations, he still had some degree of control over his body. It must simply be the effect of the climate in this frozen place. For seven years, his body had inhabited an environment which was neither hot nor cold. Obviously, it would take time for him to adjust physically. He realised, though, that the ache was still there, even though he could no longer feel it. It was part of him, it would never leave him. He had just chosen to ignore it all these years.
What else had he chosen to ignore?
Why had he chosen to return to this realm? Because of Darquiel, of course. No – ask that question again. Why had he chosen to stay here? He knew now he would not return to his Godly dimension, with its calm, its serenity, it’s lack of pain or passion. Even when others had joined him there, he had felt no physical desire in their presence, and no loneliness in their absence. Why did he court such things now?
At first he had been alone. Apart, yet still able to observe his former Earthly abode. He could still feel his hara – every one of them. He knew he could not abandon them entirely. He needed a corporeal agent to do his will. A factotum. He had extended the tendrils of his consciousness, seeking the one whom he knew would serve him, and quickly found the other’s presence. That had been easy enough. The next step proved to be slightly more problematic. He had no idea how he would transport the har across the dimensional divide.
Call me, and I will come
With his will and his intention, he had summoned the har known as Velaxis, and in an instant Velaxis had stood before him, his long white hair and dark eyes flickering with blue fire.
“I am here for you,” the har had said. “I have always been here for you.”
In retrospect, Thiede thought, he should have known there and then. But it was easier for him to believe otherwise, because it was what he had always believed.
Breakfast was a cheerful, communal affair. Perhaps the other hara gathered there were surprised to see him in attendance, but they kept a respectful distance, neither crowding him nor being too obviously deferential. Thiede didn’t care. He had lived with all the trappings of absolute power and royalty, and he had lived in the gutter, and was unimpressed by either condition. Cal and Darquiel were both there too. Cal, of course, would be at home wherever he found himself and mixed easily with the democratic throng. Darquiel was simply too young to have any preconceived notions of status.
Make the most of it, my young friend, he thought, somewhat sadly. Once they returned to Immanion, life would never be the same for him. Thiede found himself torn between wanting to forewarn the young har of what lay ahead of him, and almost sentimentally wishing that his innocence could be preserved for as long as possible.
The food was hot and filling – some sort of stodgy, meat-filled dumplings and broth. There was also a beverage which had obviously started life in somehar’s mind as a homage to coffee, but had mutated along the way in collusion with availability of ingredients, and now resembled – both in taste and appearance – water in which a large number of hygiene-negligent hara had recently bathed. Thiede took one sip, and by the sheer power of his awesome will alone managed not to spray the stuff out or pull the sort of face normally associated with unexpectedly encountering a decomposing skunk. He discreetly placed the cup back on the table and moved away from it with studied nonchalance.
Cal was talking animatedly about Darquiel’s latest advances in negotiating the otherlanes, and Thiede nodded gravely, pretending to take note of everything, but he was distracted, and barely heard Cal’s proud, paternal boasting.
He felt the other’s presence before he saw him. His eyes tracked away from Cal’s animated face, and focused on a spot a few metres behind the Tigron’s left shoulder. Blue eyes met his own, and a small, secretive smile flicked briefly across the other har’s face.
Cal’s monologue faltered as he sensed Thiede’s attention shift, and he turned to look behind him
“Vel, you’re just in time. I was telling Thiede about Darq’s progress. He really is quite remarkable!”
“Yes indeed he is, ” Velaxis replied smoothly
“We are planning to do some more exercises this morning. Will you be able to join us?”
“Of course. I shall be with you once I have had breakfast. Assuming I survive the experience.” he added, looking into Cal’s cup with an expression of mild horror.
Cal drained the last of the brown liquid, looked momentarily surprised, then escorted Darquiel from the room.
Thiede looked directly at Velaxis.
“I think it’s time we talked.” he said.
Three days previously, he had simply been too surprised at the sudden revelation concerning Velaxis’ true origins to form any coherent questions. Up until that moment, all his attention had been focussed on Darquiel and the rapidly evolving situation with the other-worldly beings who posed such a threat to himself, Darq, and to Wraeththu as a whole.
These concerns had not gone away; they were still very real and very present. This was a dangerous time for the Wraeththu race, and he could not afford the luxury of personal introspection if he was to be of assistance to his kind.
Together, they left the refectory hall and walked in silence back to Thiede’s rooms. If he was being honest with himself, Thiede had no idea what he was going to say to Velaxis. (Although he was fairly sure it was not going to be along the lines of “.. oh, by the way, I have been having erotic dreams concerning you….”). As they walked, a slight breeze caused Velaxis’ long hair to flutter like a flag. The freezing air had warmed slightly, and icicles were dripping, glinting wetly in the bright, shattered sunlight.
When they reached his room, Thiede was glad to find that servants had lit a fire to warm the interior. His leg had started to ache again, and it was distracting him. He removed the heavy fur coat and sat down in a chair by the fire with a sigh. Velaxis took off his gloves, slowly and carefully, then sat in the chair facing Thiede and looked directly at him. His blue eyes were dark and unreadable.
“Do you feel betrayed?” he asked quietly.
For some reason, that question caught Thiede off-guard
“I just….. You should have told me, Vel!”
“Don’t you think I wanted to?”
There was no possible answer to that, because Thiede of all people knew that sometimes – no matter how much you might wish it to be otherwise – there were circumstances which dictated that secrets must be kept.
Did he feel betrayed? He supposed that in some sense, he ought to. He had trusted Velaxis more than any other har alive. More than the Hegemony, certainly. Maybe even more than his beloved Pellaz. Moreover, that trust had extended beyond the political. He had never queried why Velaxis had been so readily able to tolerate aruna with himself. Few could, and Thiede had bitter memories of those whose lives he had destroyed with what should have been a wondrous experience.
At the same time, it was still something he needed, on a physical level, like any other har. He had joined with Velaxis, body to body, on many occasions, and each time it seemed to him almost an act of faith that the other har would survive the experience. Yet even more than the trust implied in this physical intimacy, Thiede knew that he had trusted Velaxis on a deeper level. He had trusted him to remain emotionally distant.
Aruna was more than just the joining of flesh; it brought about the melding of thoughts, feelings, needs, wants, desires and yearnings. Thiede had always considered these to be less important than the manipulation of energies which could be achieved.
In the beginning, it had been the Wraeththu credo that emotional attachment between hara was – at best – undesirable, and even – ideologically – impossible. That, of course, had turned out to be arrant nonsense. Thiede had watched for over thirty years as the emotional attachment between Calanthe and Pellaz had refused to accept these terms and had survived every effort on his own part to destroy it. Eventually he had conceded that not only did such things exist, but that they too had a part to play in the elemental nature of aruna. But he considered himself apart from this.
I am different. I am unique. I cannot afford such indulgences
He knew he had never experienced the sort of connection with another har that Cal and Pell took for granted. And despite his haughty claim that, as Aghama, he had no need of such things, he knew he envied them. It had taken a long time for him to admit that to himself. Longer still to accept that it was not his power that prevented him from achieving it himself, but rather, a weakness. Perhaps he was afraid of the consequences. Perhaps he simply did not know how.
Velaxis folded his arms close to his body. He seemed uncertain, which was not usual for him, but understandable given the circumstances. Thiede felt a twinge of sympathy. He knew what it was to be different, and to have to keep that difference hidden.
“You did what you had to, Vel. I would have done the same in your place.”
Velaxis smiled softly.
“Yes, I believe you would.”
A brief flicker of understanding passed between them. Thiede watched as Velaxis ran his long fingers through his hair, pushing back an errant strand which had fallen across his face. He remembered how those fingers felt as they had kneaded and massaged the tired and knotted muscles of his shoulders; soft and delicate, yet with an underlying strength. He remembered them rubbing his abdomen, the warmth flowing through his skin and internal organs, soothing yet at the same time sending prickles of desire coursing through his body as they moved lower. He remembered the feeling of long, silky hair spilling over his body, down his thighs, across his hard ouana-lim. Unbidden to his mind came the memory of Velaxis’ mouth parting wetly and engulfing that hardness; the hot tongue tracing and probing the sensitive contours.
He realised that Velaxis was looking at him curiously, and he banished the reverie, with some reluctance.
“Are you alright?”
except for the part where I no longer seem to have any control over my mind or body
He shifted discreetly in his seat, adjusting his aroused ouana lim under his clothing; trying to find a position where it did not strain so uncomfortably against the constricting under-garments. This only had the effect of increasing his discomfort. At that moment, all he could think of was how good it would feel to ease himself into the soft, gliding wetness of another har’s mouth or body instead of being painfully constricted by the coarse linen.
Thiede wondered if this was what it felt like when a harling went through feybraiha. He himself had never experienced the phenomenon.
I have been without desire for seven years; perhaps this is my spring. A rebirth of sorts .
“It must be difficult, returning to the earthly realm after such a lengthy period of time.”
“A little disorientating perhaps…”
“How do you feel?”
Feel? That was a question no-one had ever asked him before. How should I know?
For seven years he had felt nothing at all, in the conventional sense. Now it was as if he had seven years backlog of physical and mental sensations all crashing down on him at once, demanding attention.
“It feels… ” he said, testing the unaccustomed word hesitantly, “… as if I have lost an outer layer of skin”
There was a loud crack and a shower of sparks from the fire. Pine cones burned in the hearth, giving off an earthy, resinous smell, and occasionally exploding as their scales opened up in the intense heat. Thiede poked the blaze with a decorative iron implement kept nearby for that purpose, and the flames rose eagerly for a moment before settling down again. He stared into it’s depths for a few moments before turning to look at Velaxis again.
Velaxis was beautiful, there was no denying it, and Thiede had always admired that beauty, albeit in the rather detached way he approached most things. Now he could see beneath the surface. He did not know if this was because the very knowledge of Velaxis’ difference now allowed him to perceive what he had not before, or if the other har had simply stopped trying to disguise himself now that there was no need.
He sighed, and shook his head wonderingly. “How could I not have seen…..”
I thought it was me. All these years, I thought it was me, keeping you out. Now I realise it was the other way round. Or perhaps it was both of us…
Velaxis smiled, and perhaps there was a touch of wistfulness there. “People see what they expect to see. What they want to see”
“It must have been difficult for you….”
Velaxis looked at him curiously.
“Yes, ” he agreed, after a moment. “For many reasons….”
His gaze met Thiede’s, then travelled down and up the other har’s body in one, deliberate movement. Thiede felt a shiver run though him that had nothing to do with the cold. He recognised the look in Velaxis’ eyes, if only for the fact that such looks very rarely came his way. Hara looked at him with fear, with awe, with respect. Sometimes even with loathing. Not desire. Never desire. But he felt it now. Smelt it and tasted it. And his own body experienced a new rush of physical need in response.
I want you to touch me, he thought suddenly, guiltily. I want to feel your hands on my skin and your breath in my mouth, I want you to stroke me, kiss me, suck me…
The intensity and immediacy of these feelings left him slightly breathless and light-headed, as if all the oxygen had suddenly been drawn from the air.
He rose from the chair, rather awkwardly. Velaxis stood up too, reaching out a hand to grasp his arm, as if to steady him, or perhaps draw him nearer. They were so close now that Thiede could smell the other har’s perfume, thick and evocative; flowers and spices.
There is a place we agreed never to go, you and I. We stood on the brink and looked down, and then by mutual consent we turned away .
“It has been a long time for me too,”
Now it was Thiede’s turn to smile
“I’m quite sure you have had many hara in your bed in the last seven years”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I know.” the smile faded a little.. “But this is not the time – There is too much else to deal with right now. We need to discuss things further after we return to Immanion.”
He felt the edge of Velaxis’ thumb move softly along the inside of his forearm. and his erection twitched in response, causing him to draw his breath in quickly. Almost surreptitiously, he reached round with his free arm and placed the palm of his hand on the small of the other’s back. Velaxis made no move to draw away, nor to move any closer. He tilted his head slightly – an achingly familiar gesture.
“Is that my punishment?”
Thiede realised he had been holding his breath, and let it out slowly.
“No,” he whispered “it’s mine.”
The next morning they returned to Immanion. The biting cold of Nezreka and then of the otherlanes gave way to a damp, blustery Almagabran day. Thiede paused for a moment, letting the others walk on ahead of him. Part of him had believed he would never return to this place. Now, he was assaulted by a kind of bittersweet nostalgia. He had given so much of himself to this place; he had tried so hard to make it an earthly paradise, perfect in every way. It had been hard to give up that dream; harder yet to let go and allow his successors to take over.
They had grown up in his absence. They had needed that absence in order to grow. I am redundant now, he thought, and surprisingly, felt quite cheerful about it.
A new life awaited, but he was used to leaving old lives behind. He had walked away from the dead suburbs of his youth, he had fled his newly-spawned Wraeththu when they had turned on themselves and started becoming the thing he had sought to replace, he had departed Immanion, his perfect city, when Cal had arrived to bring it the gift of imperfection, and now he was turning his back on Godhood itself. For what? All his life he had been a symbol; a cypher. Aghama. His life had never been his own. It had belonged to his people; his children. They had inherited the Earth, and their lives were full of joy and richness and sharing, and things he had never experienced.
They are no longer my responsibility, he thought, rather smugly.
For the first time in years, Thiede felt his long life to be a blessing rather than a curse. He strode off smartly to catch up with his companions, his long cloak and long red hair whipping in the wind, fluttering around his face and body. Ahead of him, Velaxis was speaking to Darquiel, bending slightly to reach the smaller har’s ear. Thiede cast an admiring glance at the river of silvery hair pouring down his back like water, and the slender, undulating hips. He allowed the feeling of desire to form within him without guilt.
Sensing the scrutiny, Velaxis turned his head very slightly, and for a moment his dark blue eyes met Thiede’s own, and he gave a small, secretive, seductive smile before turning back to Darquiel who remained blissfully unaware of the exchange.
…worlds enough and time…
Time enough to discover many things about the world he had chosen to return to. Time yet to discover himself.
Together, they walked down the hill and into the world.