by Gilda Mock
This is my first piece of Wraeththu fanfiction, the first part in a planned novel. I hope those who read enjoy it, and I also hope you’ll share your thoughts and suggestions.
This story was originally posted to the “Pinkboard” works-in-progress in Feb. 2006. This was the only chapter posted but I thought it was worth rescuing and posting here.
The dehar reached out to him with his hand. In his hand was a scroll of yellow vellum, tied with red ribbons. His feet stood on air. Rushing, ripping, whistling air as cold as the beginning of the earth. The breath at the top of the world. The dehara’s smile was serene as the sun’s and more warm. His voice laughed like a thousand streams as he beckoned; the wind buffeted his hair back and forth like a writhing mass of golden-scaled snakes. The har, his tremelous feet perching atop the pinnacle of the tallest rock he’d ever seen, smelled the sickly salty smell of the sea wafting up from the base, too far away for him to see. The dehara before him was silent, but his eyes spilled words like water. Esoteric messages and furtive whispers whipped around the planes of his body like something he could reach out and grab.
“I can’t.” The har screamed. “I can’t, I’ll fall!”
The dehara’s smile opened to the gleam of pearly teeth. He cocked his head and pressed the scroll towards him.
Rock sanded away under the har’s toehold. Panic scrabbled in his heart.
The dehara spoke: “Sometimes you must fall.”
The har whimpered deep in his throat and tightened the thin sheet to his body. Tears stung his eyes and made him blind. Panic closed a choking fist over him and he fell to his knees, scraped them to the bone.
“If I take it from you…” He blubbered, “If I take it, will you keep me from falling?”
The dehara’s eyes melted from dark to light, then back, like watching the scales of a brilliant fish from above the water.
“Sometimes you must fall. When you land you will be a god.”
The har, heart hammering, swayed to a stand. He could feel the electric rush of blood through every vein in his body. His pulse throbbed in his ankles and wrists like stars. His feet were bloody. He dropped the sheet. It flapped once with a great boom like a dragon’s wing and disappeared in a shooting wind. The har was naked, and reaching. The dehara had a divinely victorious expression on his face. His eyes were closed, brown eyelashes casting dripping shadows; his eyebrows swept back like sparrow wings. The ribbons on the scroll made a tiny, silky, gasp; slipped out of their knot and flew away. The parchment fell towards the har in a cream-yellow trail. The polished wooden handle bumped his hand. He gripped it with clammy fingers. The dehar let go of the other end. The har felt his stomach flutter to his throat. His toes left the rock and he leapt into the sky. Banshees of air screamed past him. Icy fingers reached to touch him as he passed by. He heard birds. He glimped the dehar above him, a steadfast beacon of energy, burning like a phoenix. Somehow he knew he was laughing, joyfully.
The har smelled frying meat and eggs.
He broke away from sleep like a nearly-drowned from water.
Two hara reposed alone in the center of the room. Red mesh hung like sails on a ship from corner to corner at the top of the four walls. Incense snaked in oily whisps past the vermillion and indigo cushions, the wafting, long-leaved ferns and the ornamental vases. Unicorn’s blood, the incense was called. It was light and minty, its breath cool as a zephyr. Sunlight reached skeletal fingers through the high, thin, windows and painted everything a dusty gold. The only sound was the drawing of thin, panting, breath.
The first har, kneeling above the second, pushed his neat plait of cornsilk hair away from his throat and set his long hands against the other’s chest. The other har uttered a strangled moan and dug his heels into the thick tiger pelt rumpled under them.
“Hush.” Crooned the first.
“Faero, I can’t…it hurts…it hurts like nothing conceivable.” He wanted to say more but his words abruptly died and his head lolled. His face looked paperthin and pale, and then green.
Faero smiled serenely. He pushed the other har’s silken robes past his thighs and the firm swell of his belly. His hands looked very white against the other’s skin.
“It will be over before you know it, dear Shadra.”
Faero slid to his hands and knees between Shadra’s legs. He bent, and tasted the wet folds of his soume-lam. They were stressed to crimson. For a moment he became as weightless as a dust mote, and an etheral wind swept him through the squirming har’s body. Past thrumming veins and flexing muscles. The pearl loomed in front of him. Faero carressed it with invisible hands, held it and kissed it in welcome. Everything was fine.
He pulled away, licking his lips, and stretched out next to Shadra. Shadra’s hair was cropped short to his neck. His throat was very long and smooth, and the exposure suited him, Faero thought. Especially bathed in sweat as it was.
Faero smoothed the har’s brow. “Just a few minutes…”
Shadra wept for a moment, unable to swallow it. Then he nodded, trying to smile but all his muscles were trembling at once and wouldn’t cooperate.
Faero cupped his jaw and shared breath with him, showing him sandy white beaches and skies on fire with sunset. The feeling of the drying sea water on bronze skin, the smell of salt and fish.
The incense no longer burned. The ashes lay scattered in a grey heap below. The dehara of birth, whatever Shadra’s was, if he had one, ripped a final cry of pain from the har’s lungs and the pearl came, slipping from the soume-lam’s heart and onto the soft linen nest between his sweat-streaked legs.
Faero laughed – a childish cackle of victory – and swept the weeping and smiling Shadra into a horizontal embrace. He stood, tightened the tie on his patterned robe, and went out into the short hallway. Through an open arch and in the main room Shadra’s chesnari Wrool shot to his feet. He was nearly slavering from panic. There was white all around his wolfish eyes. He loped to Faero and took his hands into his own large, callused ones.
“He was an angel in there, don’t fret. Go see him now.”
He sprang away.
Faero dropped to the long pomegranete-colored couch. Sweet ribbons of Unicorn’s blood still clung to him. He could smell it sometimes when he moved. He lay in a swoon until Wrool padded out and thanked him. He couldn’t stop grinning. His canines were very sharp, Faero noticed. He decided to leave the two alone.
Outside, the day was cool. The sky was a pearly color shifting hues every few moments, but always milky and clouded. The sun burned, an amorphuous ball of white light, choked out in the lofty fog. From his front door he could see the thin winding street called Rabbit’s Run, where from its sides sprung two and three story villas, belonging to rich or important hara. To the right gleamed the three opal spires of the nayati, sacred and breathless as virgin snow. On his own sprawling lawn a few young sheep grazed and bleated and butted each other in the head. Turning the corner on the right came his chesnari, sheathing a monstrous broadsword against his hip and chewing a few green leaves-mint.
“Alexantrus!” Faero called, running barefoot to meet him. The taller har gathered him up into his arms and kissed the bridge of his nose.
“Their harling will be very beautiful!” Faero pronounced, as they walked along the lawn gate. He looped his arm through Alexantrus’, and they rounded the opposite corner of the stout wooden lodge and meandered to the back, where a tiny orchard beamed proudly in the miserable weather. Alexantrus plucked a dew speckled peach and pressed it to the Faero’s lips. He chewed a tiny bite thoughtfully, and then announced: “I had a premonition last night, I think.”
“A dehar- I think it was a dehar – reached out to me. He wanted me to take a scroll. I was standing on the very top of a rock. The very top. The tip. I couldn’t fit both my feet squarely on it. I kept cutting them. Anyway, he was floating though, a little bit away from me. If I took the scroll from him I would fall. But he told me… he said…” Faero stilled. He had his bottom lip between his teeth. One hand clenched in Alexantrus’ hanging sleeve.
“I’ve just forgotten it. Everything.” He whispered emptily.
Alexantrus touched his chin, turned it towards him. His eyes matched the darker parts of the sky. “If it’s truly a message from a dehar, you will be reminded.”
“This is true.”
They walked a little longer, not going far from their own property. Faero picked up one of their youngest lambs and carried him for a while, breathing in the sweety musty scent of his wool.
“In two days we will finally be bloodbonded.” Faero said, scratching the lamb’s ears.
“Yes.” Alexantrus answered.
“Are you happy?”
The lamb bounded from Faero’s arms and back to its mother. Faero smiled at it and pressed his forehead into the cool strength of Alex’s shoulder. “So am I.”
When they went back in, bejeweled everywhere in tiny pearls of water, Wrool and Shadra had already departed, leaving a hastily scrawled note of thanks and invitation to visit soon. Faero studied it. He never grew tired of the thanks, of the gratitude. The happiness in his patient’s faces warmed him like no other fire could.
The main room, from which branched a cozy kitchen, the bedroom, and the birthing room, danced with the fire in the hearth. Neither Faero nor Alexantrus tired of collecting things, and neither had the heart to throw anything away. The clutter created an eternal jungle of shadows that grew convivial in flame-light. On the left wall were four stern bookcases, running from floor to ceiling, packed with mostly human books. Faded red and green and brown with dully glittering letters of gold. A few new volumes huddled in one dusty corner, the first of Wraeththu stories. A boulder-sized globe of the world crouched near the cases, simply taking up room. A few of the black letters marking the names of lands had been painted over in white and replaced clumsily with their Wraeththu counterparts. There was a long couch, a loveseat with ochre feet and yellow floral print; three armchairs, one stuffed to bursting, one covered with patches and one worn to its final threads; there was no carpet but many rugs: striped pelts, oriental explosions of pattern, mellow-colored shags. A line of vases behind the long couch screened out the area with their leafy ferns. An empty fountain jutted out from the right wall, cracked and painted with dirt. A colony of chimes hung from the high, white-washed ceiling like rain frozen in its fall. On warm days Faero opened the windows and let the cool breezes send music through his house. The far wall housed a yawning hearth, around which their sitting-furniture formed a semicircle. Alexantrus knelt their now, poking the stubborn ashes with a long stick, trying to coax the glowing orange coals to life.
Faero sat down in the overstuffed chair, but then shot up. Alexantrus stopped.
“What is it?”
“Ah, I just remembered. I need to go get more herbs for the soothing ointment. I’ll just go and see Morgren real fast. Perhaps he’ll join us for dinner.
Alex nodded. “Okay. See you soon.” He turned back to his ashes.
Faero weaved across the room and through the little tile-floored kitchen, letting the loose back door slam behind him. It had begun to drizzle, half-heartedly. He and Alex’s lodge settled on top of a shallow hill. At its base was a cottage, small and round. It looked like a witch’s cottage, and may have well been, for all the other hara in town thought of its inhabitant. Faero flew down the earth steps carved into the hill, wanting to laugh at the feel of the rain in his hair and on his flesh. It reminded him of his human life. Of the spray of the sea water on his face, when he rode the Greenpeace ships towards idiots dumping oil or poaching whales or whatever needlessy destructive act they were committing.
Behind the cottage the forest began. It was a forest that gathered shadow to it like a cloak. But Faero loved it regardless. He and Morgren had danced naked in its secret glades more than once. He suddenly wanted to go to them, disappear in their evergreen embrace, but he tore his eyes away.
A thin trail of smoke began from the cottage’s crumbled chimney. As Faero’s feet touched the front step he smelled the rosemary and thyme growing in one of Morgren’s window-gardens.
Morgren swung open the door open before he could knock. He wore a comfortable, thin, smile.
“You looked like a fairy, dancing down the stairs in the rain like that. Your hair has come undone.”
Faero fingered it and realized this was so. He sat at his friend’s acid-scarred table with a steaming cup of tea as Morgren combed out his soaked hair and braided it again. Where Faero’s house always smelled of drifting swaths of incense, Morgren’s house was redolent of a million spices at once, like a giant spice cabinet. At once delicious and unsettling. He breathed it in with a content sigh. Again, where Faero had windchimes, Morgren had a host of glittering crystal pendants hanging in his window. They spun lazily now, the light so tired that their rainbows were weak, sliding across Faero and Morgren like oil.
Morgren was a Varr once, but Faero could never imagine this. His hair was dark but not without color. In sunlight it gleamed like plum or deep red, matching his lips. Almost all his clothes were green. Sometimes he seemed to be a flower: his slim body, clothed in its emeralds and forests and olive greens, was the stem and leaf, and his perfectly oval face, lovely and warning, was the bloom. Faero felt the caresses of an ancient magic whenever he stood near him. He always wondered who Morgren could have been, before. But Morgren never told.
The enigmatic har finished patting Faero’s hair dry and sat across from him.
“Now, what did you need?”
“I’m running low on that soothing cream, for when the poor dears tear during the birthing. Do you have any on hand?”
“No, but I can have you some soon, in the next couple of days.”
“Thank you, Morgren. Would you like to share dinner and wine with Alexantrus and I this evening?”
“I’m not sure if that would be wise.” He mused. He spooned a large helping of sugar into his tea and stirred. “I’ve been having a bit of trouble. With that Gelaming troupe, you see.”
“Oh, no! Really? What have they been doing? Shall I fetch Alexantrus on them? He’s been away four or five hours a day lately, training with the sword.”
Morgren laughed, a wild but soft sound. The ruffling of a raven’s feathers. “I hope that won’t be necessary. The situation appears to me as this: I think their captain, that… Nightus, Neghtus-something, wants me to be his bedmate. He’s quite adamant, actually.” A sharp humor glinted in his long, narrow, eyes, underscored by dread.
Faero folded his hand on top of his friend’s. “Morgren. Please. Do you need some help with this? The Gelaming may have started this town, but it is our’s now. We must protect it and the people that live in it.”
Morgen laughed again, bitter as a mouthful of tar this time. “I’m no more than an evil sorceror or sorceress here, you know that. Let’s not drag unwilling citizens into this.”
“You know what I mean.”
Two heavy-handed thuds sounded at the door. Morgren drifted to the entrance, thin and hesitant as a wraith. Faero couldn’t see who was there, but he saw Morgren’s face fall. Morgren seemed to be pleading, though discreetly. In the end he stepped back and opened the door, mustering a smile and gesturing the Gelaming captain to take a seat at the table. Faero stiffened and straightened, fingering the hold on his teacup nervously.
The Gelaming seemed to tower over them by feet, though Faero knew this wasn’t so. He was outfitted in thin, spotless silver armor, embazoned with an ornate crest on his chest, of a bird entangled with a lion. He took off his sleek helm. His hair was coffee-colored and bound high on his skull with blue ribbon.
“What a lovely guest you are!” He exclaimed to Faero. “I am Nightus.”
Faero swallowed the urge to pull away and shook his hand, muttering, “Yes, we were just recently speaking about you, actually.”
Nightus’ orange eyes blazed with pleasure. “Ah, is that so?”
“Yes.” Faero answered sharply, hoping the razor of his voice would fend as well as a real one. “Yes that is so.”
Morgren came to the table with another cup of tea. As he sat it down in front of his new guest, Nightus’ gloved hand found the curve of his rump and cropped a generous feel. Morgren uttered an angry sound and smacked at his hand.
“None of that.” He sat back down, staring resignedly down at his own untouched cup, looking ashamed and embarassed.
Realization flew over Faero suddenly. Chill as a ghost. Morgren’s potions, and his rumors of his dark magic and old wiccan secrets…these were his defence against hara who could hurt him. But this Gelaming captain had no pre-concieved fear. He wouldn’t keep away. And Morgren didn’t know how to defend himself. A wrenching pity for the misplaced, erstwhile Varr gnawed at Faero’s heart.
Faero summoned up his wild, Greenpeace courage and cleared his throat. “Actually, tiahaar, we’re partners in a midwifery business, and we have some urgent brewing of potions to attend to. Really, it must be something done alone. We can’t have our secrets getting out, you know.” He rose and took Morgren’s hands, urging him to rise as well. “We hate to send you back into the cold, but harlings won’t wait for the weather.”
Nightus set his cup down carefully. When he looked at Faero, it was like having the tip of a dagger aimed at his face. The accusing gaze slid away from him and to Morgren. The moment stretched, and thinned. The dagger-tip pressed, testing. Then, with a bowed head, the captain stood up, and held his helm to his chest.
“I understand perfectly, tiahaars. Next time I’ll make an appointment. I look forward to seeing you very soon, Morgren.”
Morgren was silent. His hands trembled in Faero’s.
When Nightus was gone and disappeared from window-view, Faero hugged Morgren tight against him. “You have more power than you think, dear friend. Don’t be afraid.”
Again, Morgren held his tongue. But a small fire smoldered in his obsidian eyes.
“I’ll probably come by tomorrow, but I need to get back to the house now.”
Morgren began clearing the dishes away, and nodded. “I’ll be here.”
Alexantrus had bathed, and wore a white shirt that tied from throat to mid-chest with a leather thong. It was mostly undone. A thin, musky scent wafted with the warmth of his body. He had their small table set with steaming crabcakes, white filets of fish and two bowls of thin, vegetable soup. Two glasses of wine glowed plum in the firelight. Three blue candles burned in a dusty candleabra. Their flames burned bright in Faero’s eyes.
Faero had eaten a few slivers of fish and downed half of his wine when Alexantrus threw down his fork in a silvery clatter and rushed to bite at his throat. Faero exhaled a panting moan and cupped the back of his chesnari’s head, tilting his head in invitation. Underneath his silk clothes, a thin trail of wetness smeared on his inner thigh, ushered by shock and pleasure.
Alexantrus was ever a silent guardian to Faero. A sentinel statue. Strong as stone, silent, flawless and smooth. Even his curls, brushing his shoulders, were grey as dust and perfectly formed, each one. Because of the empty coolness he always wore on the outside, his sudden fits of lust forever shocked Faero, and forever thrilled him to the core of his being.
Alexantrus’ shirt was a dark heap across the room; Faero’s silky robes had been smoothed away and retied to the small of his back, leaving his thighs and blossoming soume-lam revealed to the warm air. The door burst open, and the staggered figure of a har shuffled in, murmuring shrilly under his breath.
Faero cried out and attempted to gather himself up, but Alexantrus kept a firm grip on him, rooting him where he was.
“Oh I’m sorry, I hate to interrupt your aru-arla-aruna.” The har threw back his head, black, ragged hair flying behind him, and guffawed. He slid to his knees and sighed dreamily, head lolling against the wall.
Now Alexantrus stood. His hands were corded fists at his sides. Hard, and final should they strike.
“Eclipse!” He snarled. “Are you lost?!”
Faero rose next to him, patting the pulsing muscle in his arm. “Be nice…” He whispered. “He’s your brother…”
Eclipse, shaken it seemed by his brother’s harsh admonition, blinked once and looked around. He rubbed a hand through his black hair, pulled it back from his forehead.
“Oh…damnit.” The har pushed onto his knees, and then his feet, swaying like a harling. He glanced at Faero, furtively, next to his brother.
“Sorry. I’m really sorry.” His eyes started tearing up, and he rubbed them and scratched his flat stomach, pried open the door and disappeared. A gust of rainy wind blew into the room behind him, made the fire and the candles gutter. One candle went out in a coiling lick of smoke. Faero closed the door.
“Why does he drink so much? It takes a lot for a har to get drunk like that…” Faero worried, twisting a fold of his robe in his hands.
Alexantrus sighed heavily, fingering his crumpled shirt in his hands. He opened his mouth like he had an answer, but closed it and shook his head.
Faero put his hands on Alexantrus’ shoulders. He slid his hands down the length of his arms, took one hand in his mouth and gently tongued between his fingers. His honeyed eyes shone like liquid beneath brown lashes. Above, the chimes clinked idly.
“Do you still want to…?”
Alexantrus swept him up into his arms and poured him into the largest chair. Faero grinned. His skin seemed to glitter like sun on waves. The earth fell away beneath them.
Story Ends [Unfinished]