Author Contact: loll4000 (at) gmail (dot) com
Series: Wraeththu (AU, sort of)
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Wraeththu Universe and its characters belong to Storm Constantine.
– Autumn, my favourite season
– U2’s struggling “October”
– Peter Greenaway’s movie “The Pillow’s Book”
– Edgar Allan Poe’s beautiful poem “Annabel Lee”
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
U2 – October 1981
He had never belonged there. Never. Not when Cal was just a ghost hanging over his heads, even less now that he was back in all his flamboyant and carnal essence, throwing tantrums and whispering alluring images of a perfect threesome.
Not that he had ever fed himself some sort of illusion, but it had been nice, at the beginning.
But now, now that Pell had accepted to host Cal’s pearl, they had cut him out. Completely.
So he had begun to travel. Representation trips, they called it. Keep Rue away, he had secretly renamed them, but yet, he had obliged without a single complaint.
He was the Tigrina and nobody, especially his two so-called consorts, would have rejoiced at his discomfort.
In the last month he had visited more tribes and met more rulers than he thought possible: first Megalithica, with a brief stop in Galhea, then around to the Kakkahaar’s camps and then back to Jaddayoth, visiting the Natawni, the Kamagrian of Roselane, the Emunah’s markets, the Maudrah and his Archon, the Gimrah and now, the Ferike.
Compared to some utterly uncivilized and rough tribes, the Ferike and, in specific, their leader Ferminfex Jael and his enchanting consort Lahela were a regenerating and refined company. So he decided to extend his stay for a little longer, enjoying the relaxing ambience of the palace, the music, the art and the good wine.
It was the incoming of autumn, not his favourite season at all. He loved the sun, the warmth and the scent of the sea. Summers in Ferilithia where cherished and valued memories he still clung to desperately, especially during some bad days.
But this first October’s sunset was breathtaking. From the huge window facing the garden he could see the explosion of reds, infinite reds, dark like a stormy sky or bright like droplets of fresh blood, stained in yellow, or green, or orange, or purple. Hundreds and hundreds of leaves dancing all around in the orange light of the twilight, carried by the wind, tore apart from the trees that only few days ago had nourished them in proud luxuriance.
A sudden wave of melancholy enveloped him like a possessive embrace. Longing…and not just of summer in Ferilithia.
And suddenly he was crying. Not a dignified silent weep, but shattering sobs, that made him hiccup and cough.
It was in this pitiful state that Panthera, Ferminfex and Lahela’s son, found him.
“Missing home already?” he asked, throwing himself over a sofa just in front of him.
Rue shook his head, sniffing hard, and wiped his puffy eyes, hoping that the ground would open under his feet, swallowing him away from the irreverent and persistent stare of the young Ferike.
“No, it’s just…” He opened his arm and moved it, embracing the landscape behind the window, as if that explained everything.
The puzzled expression in Panthera’s eyes told him that, probably, the Ferike thought him insane, at best.
“They don’t deserve you.” Muttered the black haired har, and then “May I paint you?”
Caeru eyes became impossibly wide. If that was an attempt to cheer him up, well, it was working!
Panthera shrugged, impatiently. “C’mon, you’ve understood perfectly. Can I paint you?”
Rue open his mouth to voice his protest against the evident lack of respect that his regal persona deserved, but the image of his huge portrait signed by Pell’s nemesis number one, hanging up in all his glory in the main room was too appealing to say no.
So he just nodded.
“Can I bring it back with me to Phaonica?” Rue asked, just to be sure.
Panthera smirked, a devilish grimace on his lips. “You can bring it wherever you want.”
Rue smiled, the first true smile in days and relaxed.
“How do you want me? Formally dressed, or-”
“Naked.” As if it was the most natural thing of the world. For the second time in few moments, the Tigrina’s perfect mouth fell open.
Panthera scowled at him.
“Very well.” Rue lifted his chin, defiantly.
“Lay down on that chaise-longue, with your back to the window. The light is perfect there. I go to fetch my colours.”
Few moments later Panthera was back, and Caeru, obediently, had positioned himself on his side, stripped bare and languid. This time was his turn to smile at the hungry stare over his naked form. He new the effect he had…
The Ferike put colours and paintbrushes on the small table beside the chaise and sat at his side, studying him. His fingers brushed the skin and pushed some locks behind the shoulder.
“Perfect.” He murmured to himself. Caeru smiled, dreamingly. He was beginning to enjoy this game.
Panthera wetted the tip of a minuscule paintbrush and approached him. Rue frowned.
Now, something was missing!
“Where is the canvas?” he asked. Panthera looked at him, the evil grin back in place.
“You are the canvas.”
“I AM WHAT??” Caeru tried to stand up but a delicate but resolute finger pushed him back.
“You said….” And then stopped.
Silly him! Panthera had been clear: I want to paint YOU. Not “I want to make a painting of you.” He exploded in a genuine laugh and shook his head, what had he gotten into?
But was that different, after all? No, he could have this peculiar piece of art displayed as soon as he returned to Phaonica, during their ritual in the Temple. And this time, both Calanthe and Pell were going to have a stroke, that’s for sure!
“How long does it take?”
“Days, maybe weeks.”
Panthera smiled back. Caeru made himself comfortable and close his eyes, while the last rays of the October’s sun warmed his back, making his hair shine like gold.
And so, for days and days, at the same hour, they met in the intimate parlour and Panthera painted over his naked body.
Usually they enjoyed the silence, Panthera concentrated in his task and Rue lost in some dream. The colours were water proof and they could be removed only with a special oil that Panthera would have given him at the end of their sessions.
Every night, in front of his bedroom’s mirror, the Tigrina admired the improvements of the drawing, a thin line of miniscule figures running from the back of his neck to his heel, following a mysterious and enthralling path around his body, down his chest, upon belly; a snake moving in spirals around his arm, his waist, along his right hip and leg.
What the little figures represented, he had no clue, they were too small for his sight. But he enjoyed the final result nonetheless: they made him look like a marble statue adorned with thin shreds of vines. Something he had already admired in the Kakkahaar fashion.
There had been some awkward moments, especially when the brush worked over his nipple, or over his inner thigh, so close to his soume-lam that he had almost climaxed for the intimacy of the act and the all implicit suggestions. He had looked between his legs, embarrassed to death, while the lilac and the fuchsia of his soume-lam swelled with life and the hot wetness of his arousal dampened the folds like fresh dew.
But Panthera had paid no attention to this, totally entangled in what he was doing, mysterious words touching his lips in a sort of spell. Strangely enough, that lack of attention hadn’t annoyed him, on the opposite, had helped him to relax and enjoy the touch, deferring the reaching of his pleasure to the intimacy of his room.
On the last day of his stay, Caeru was as usual at his place, naked and ready for the final touch. Panthera, or Thea how he ended up calling him, entered with a bottle of vintage wine and two crystal glasses. Some sort of sadness diminished his usually mischievous countenance.
It was already dark outside. The days had shortened from that first twilight. The sky was heavy with rain and the trees now were completely stripped bare, with their skeleton branches imploring the sky, black in the opalescent mist; all the reds of their lives melted into a dark brown mud.
Caeru noticed the lack of brushes and colours, and even the clothes were different, a pair of black riding pants and a wide white shirt in place of the usual dark tunic.
“Aren’t you going to paint?” he asked rising a brow.
“No. The painting is over, my beautiful Tigrina.”
“Oh…” The disappointment was more than evident in Caeru’s voice. He set up and pulled the silky dressing gown over his shoulders.
“No!” With his hand, Thea reached for the tissue and slipped it back. “Now I have to read it.”
Rue eyes widened. “Read?”
Panthera extended his hand and retrieved a small mirror, with a magnifying glass, and brought it close to Rue’s chest.
Enlarged by the surface, the little signs appeared for what they were: letters.
“What…” Rue couldn’t hold back all the amazement from his voice.
“Yes, and now lay down and I’m going to read it for you.”
Hypnotized, Caeru obeyed while Panthera put his fingertip behind his ear, over the first letter, and began to read.
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a har there lived whom you may know
By the name of Caeru Maveny;
And this har he lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and he was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Caeru Maveny;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted his and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Caeru Maveny;
So that his highborn kinsman came
And bore his away from me,
To shut his up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying his and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Caeru Maveny.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Caeru Maveny.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Caeru Maveny;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Caeru Maveny;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In his tomb by the sounding sea.
By the moment that Panthera had whispered the last word, punctuating it with a kiss upon his heel,
Caeru was aflame. The trail of Thea’s finger upon his oversensitive skin, mixed with the tone of his voice, low and full of promises, had ignited a path of fire. His soume-lam was moist and pulsing, each sikra a bunch of nerve endings that begged to be touched. Panthera was straddling the chaise right in front of him, doing nothing to hide his own arousal, his ouana-lim hard and pushing against the hem of his pants. He put his hands upon Caeru’s longs legs, parting them, and, a second later, his dark head was between Rue’s thighs, sucking and kissing and darting his tongue inside until each sikra exploded with release and Rue climaxed so hard, that rivulets of fluids flowed out and Thea drank them avidly.
Caeru lay spent and sated, with the Ferike’s head still pressed against his sex.
“Are you playing with me?” The words came out hoarse. Panthera stood up looking Caeru straight in the eyes, his lips swollen and glistening of his essence.
“Would I have wanted to play, do you think I’d spent all this time worshipping your body so?”
No. Rue didn’t think so.
“It’s a beautiful poem… so sad, and so soothing, at the same time. Did you write it?”
Thea shook his head and put a lock behind his ear.
“No. Unfortunately not. It’s a old poem from men that my hostling used to read me when I was harling, it is about a maiden called Annabel Lee but she reminds me so much of you… so I decided to change the words and…”
“But in the end the har dies…” Stated Rue.
“Yes. But you won’t.”
“Because I’m your saviour.”
Rue couldn’t help but smile. It was the first time someone had said something so sweet to him. Actually, it had been the first time for many things, in the last weeks.
With skilled hands, he divested Panthera from his immaculate shirt, bestowing kisses over his neck and chest. When they share breath, he could sense fresh fallen leaves and the live earth, dark and musky. Their tongues played languidly, caressing and teasing. When they parted, Panthera had still his eyes closed and he looked so young. He had tasted cold and loneliness behind the mask of apparent self-confidence. And the longing for a love that had never been returned. A feeling he knew personally too well.
This time was Rue to ignite the fire, bending his lithe back until is lips where few inches from Panthera’s still covered ouana-lim, bathing it through the fabric, sucking until it was hard, hot, full and dripping, and the tissue damp for their mingled fluids. Panthera had slipped his hands into Rue’s hair, and his hips rocked slowly, lulled by the hypnotic rhythm of Caeru’s tongue. It was only when he was so close that everything around had become blurred and distant but for the body bent upon him that Caeru paused, leaving him wailing and painting, pushing his hips into nothing. With feline grace, the Tigrina slipped along his body and kissed his lips.
“This is the only way I have to repay you. Come inside of me.” And without waiting for an answer, he straddled his hips and went to welcome his lover inside his personal universe of sun and sea, inundating the autumn of Panthera’s mind with the summers of his memories.
Their bodies moved together, perfect and harmonic, skin-to-skin, lips to lips, sweaty and hot. Building together the cobalt wave of the tide. And behind the sun and the sea, there were their true essence, made of flesh and bones and feelings and memories. Then, the snake bit and the world collided.
They climaxed, convulsing, screaming, kissing, biting into flesh. They spoke forbidden words, whispered lips against lips, mingled with their breaths.
A slow, but inexorable process of healing began to take place.
Later, Rue was holding Panthera against his chest, stroking his hair and listening to the rain. They didn’t dare to move, enjoy the warmth of their exhausted bodies and the cocooning intimacy of the room. Thea had covered them both with Rue’s dressing gown.
With a fingertip, Panthera was following the path of letters running over Rue’s heart.
Than to love and be loved by me.
“Do you think we’ll be able to get rid of them?”
There was no need to tell whom he meant with “them”.
“I don’t know. We cannot erase the past… but we can learn to live without them, I think.”
“Don’t go!” Panthera was now resting on his elbows, staring at him with a renewed determination. “Don’t come back to them, don’t let everything begin anew.”
Caeru let go a heavy sigh.
“I can’t. You know I can’t.”
“Because…” Yes, why not? Because he was the Tigrina? Bullshit. Thiede was gone, his role was not different from the marble statue in the Counsel Hall: purely decorative. Pell and Cal didn’t need him and, he realized, he didn’t need them as well. He looked at the incredible creature upon him and grinned “Such a pair we are! Two neglected souls that lick each other wounds while their old lovers share the same bed, happily unaware. Oh my, it really looks like a bad movie!”
They stared at each other for a moment before their mouths twitched and they burst into laughter that echoed throughout the room and brought tears to their eyes.
“Now, please, would you read the poem again for me?”
The following morning, a message was delivered to Tigrons. In it, the Tigrina announced that his coming home was delayed to indefinite time.
“Hei, wait a moment, but what is going to happen next?”
This is a thing I’ve always loved in the movie… what became of.
Calanthe and Pellaz: the two Tigrons tried to call the Tigrina back repeatedly but unsuccessfully, especially when they realized that they had no clue about how to raise a harling. In the end they gave in and combined their efforts to delegate the Tigrina’s role one week each.
Caeru settled in Jael, became Panthera’s consort, and after six months of blissful life and aruna, delivered their first pearl. When he hatched, they called him Summer.