Title: Without a Generation
Author: youcantseeus, firstname.lastname@example.org
Characters: Gahrazel, Terzian, Purah
Word Count: 3811
Spoilers: Bewitchments of Love and Hate
Summary: Gahrazel has never really fit into his own tribe. Terzian makes a startling proposal to Gahrazel one night. Terzian/Gahrazel. Gahrazel/Purah.
Warnings: Violence, talk of torture, Ponclast is a messed-up-har.
AN: This is my version of Terzian/Gahrazel. I love feedback!
We capture a two ragged hara on the outskirts of a near-abandoned town. Just some messed up little shithole in the middle of nowhere that humans abandoned long ago. I think, from the style of our prisoner’s dress and their general demeanor, that they are Uigenna. My fellow warriors take delight in describing how they plan to torture and humiliate these hara as they sit around a campfire near where the prisoners are tied to a post.
“And what would you do, my Lord Gahrazel?” a tall har named Girin asks me. There is a hint of mockery in his voice, especially on the “Lord.” Word has gotten around – I’m Ponclast’s soft son who vomits after a battle, who discusses theories of nonviolence with his weird friend, and who cuts himself until the blood drips onto the ground at his feet.
One thing I can do well is talk.
“Oh, I’d cut off their fucking ouana-lims and shove them in their mouths,” I say, cheerfully. “And then I’d hold their faces to this camp fire and listen to them squeal. This elicits good-natured laughter from my companions. I know that the prisoners can hear me, but I try to ignore them.
“Gahrazel,” a stern voice says at my back. Fuck.
I turn to see Terzian, in all his commanding glory standing behind me with a couple of his hara. I know that he’s heard everything I said and he won’t be pleased about it. Terzian isn’t a connoisseur of torture like my father – he prefers swift, clean deaths, though he’ll resort to torture when he thinks there is something to be gained from it. But the reason he won’t be pleased with my statement is that he knows I would never actually do it.
My companions quickly leap to their feet at the sight of their commander and I stand slowly.
“Come here,” Terzian says to me.
I walk slowly toward him, expecting a lecture, but he doesn’t give me one. Ostensibly, I’m of the lowest rank in the army, but everyone knows I’m being groomed for command. He won’t berate me in front of these hara.
Instead, he takes a pistol from his side and puts it in my hand. I stare at it as if unsure of its purpose. Terzian gives an almost imperceptible nod toward the two hara tied, back to back, to the post. My heart sinks. These two had just been trying to eke out a miserable existence, probably fled from their tribe. They had the misfortune to stumble onto a Varrish army.
“We still need to interrogate them,” I say. This probably isn’t the best thing to say since “interrogation” usually involves torture, but I just don’t want to be the one to have to fucking shoot them.
Terzian looks at me mildly. “They have nothing we want,” he says. “Deal with them, soldier.”
Suddenly, I laugh. That’s what they all want to hear – nonchalance. Then I stroll over to one of the two hara and I shoot him in the head. I do this very quickly, so I don’t have to think about it. The second har is more difficult, because he starts begging when he sees me shoot the first one but I make short work of him as well.
My dinner companions from earlier are all silent. Impressed, perhaps? I walk back over to Terzian and I shove the pistol in his hand. “Fuck you,” I murmur, so low that only he can hear.
— — —
Purah finds me vomiting in the bushes outside of camp. “Why do you let him do this to you?” he asks.
“Didn’t know I had much choice,” I say, wiping the puke from my mouth. “He is the commander.” Purah never hesitates when they ask him to do something terrible, and yet he hates them for it. He hates Terzian and Ponclast and the Varrs with a silent fury that sometimes terrifies me. I know a few other people with anti-Varr sentiments, but most of them are so distant, so intellectual about it.
“You know what I mean,” he says. “You’ll still go to him tonight, won’t you?”
I suck in my breath. This is a point of contention with us, how I keep being drawn back to Terzian’s bed. “He’ll expect me,” I say, shrugging my shoulders.
“You’re not in love with him,” Purah says.
“No.” How can I explain Terzian’s appeal? He can turn on his sensuality at will, more so than any other har I’ve met. I’m quite sure that at one point in my life I would have found the idea of aruna with him unthinkable. He’s always seemed so old, so parental. Now, he can send my knees to quivering with just one glance. I think he knows it, too, even though I’d never admit it to him. He knows the power he has over hara.
But that doesn’t quite explain why I keep going back to his tent. I don’t think I can explain it.
“You just want me in your sleeping bag tonight,” I say to Purah, with a laugh.
He goes stiff. It’s well known that he’s besotted with me. I find that I like making him a little uncomfortable. He doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.
“I want you away from Terzian,” he says. “He’s the same poisonous bile that’s corrupted the world for centuries. He’s barely Wraeththu.”
Sometimes I can forget that Purah is first generation. I think that’s part of why I hang around him – it feels like we’re the same age. Most of the first generation hara I know seem impossibly old. Most second generation are like babies. I think of Swift wrapped in his safe little cocoon in Forever – most hara have tried to protect their sons like that. My father never bothered to protect me from the darker activities of the Varrs – until I started to give him trouble and he decided that I might do better in Terzian’s household.
I’m a har without a generation.
I tie my hair back from my face. I am sweating. “Don’t worry, sweetheart,” I say. “I’ll give you a good roon later this week.” I pat the side of Purah’s face. He doesn’t seem amused.
— — —
When I go to Terzian, we tear at each other like animals. He’s an arunic force, strong and masculine and perfect. I always feel overcome by him. He’s the only har I’ve ever taken aruna with who never wants to be soume.
Afterwards, I curl up at his side and he stretches, long and lean, against the cushions. He puts his strong arms around me. When I’m with him like this I feel strangely safe, even though my back is raw and bleeding, even though Terzian is one of the most dangerous hara I know. And I know so many dangerous hara.
“We need to talk about what happened today,” he says, at last.
It feels so peaceful. I can hear crickets chirping outside. Terzian’s tent is like a miniature Forever – full of nice things. Not ostentatious, but subtle in its luxury. Even on a march, he travels in style. His bed is a huge thing, covered in expensive furs and I sometimes wonder how his staff manages to cart it around.
“Let’s not,” I say, turning away from him.
“You’re still having trouble, Gahrazel,” he says, looking at me with those intense grey eyes. Those eyes! I can’t look at them. Sometimes they are the first thing I see in my dreams. Sometimes I think they’ll be the last thing I see before I die.
“Look, I’m sorry, okay,” I say, hugging myself defensively. “I shouldn’t have been talking shit. And I shouldn’t have hesitated when you gave me the gun. I know.”
His hands curl in my hair. He likes my hair – it’s thick and dark and beautiful. I think he would like it if I grew it long. “There’s no need for foul language,” he says.
I laugh, my voice sounding high and strained. No need for foul language. I just shot two hara in the fucking head and there’s no need for foul language.
“What you are feeling is natural,” he says. “Normal even. I have new recruits every campaign with the same problems.”
I’ve heard the lecture before. “But I need to get over it,” I say, rolling my eyes. “I know.”
But Terzian shakes his head, his golden hair falling in front of his eyes. “Some hara never get over it,” he says.
I laugh, uneasily, thinking of what becomes of failures in my father’s house. “Starting to think I’m worthless?”
“I don’t think that,” he says. “But some hara are made different. They’re gentler, I suppose, and that’s why they don’t handle the violence well. Some hara are made for another role.”
His hand creeps down my body before settling on my stomach. He gives me hot glance.
It takes me several seconds to understand what he’s getting at. “No!” I say with a gasp, pushing his hand away and sitting up. I feel dizzy. “No. Terzian.” Hosting. That’s what he means. How did I not see this coming? Me taking aruna with him every night, me always being soume. Terzian was bound to ask me to host his sons sooner or later. All my father’s generals always have breeding on their minds.
He lets me breathe deeply for a moment before draping his arm casually around my waist. “Listen,” he says. “There’s no shame in admitting –”
“And what did you plan to tell Ponclast?” I interrupted him, because I didn’t want to listen to one of his often all-too-persuasive speeches. “He wants you to make me a little warrior and you’re going to make me a hostling?
“Ponclast will listen to reason,” Terzian says. “I’ll persuade him.”
I laugh, unsteadily. “You have met Ponclast, haven’t you?” I ask, sarcastically. I stand up and stumble over Terzian’s silver wash basin where I splash water on my face.
Terzian leans back, apparently not much fazed. I realize that he expected to me to object, that this is just an opening gambit. Part of Terzian’s power is his persistence. Sweet Aghama, is this what he does? Is this how he gets hara to host for him? When Cal first came to Forever he was about as far from a hostling as I could imagine, but somehow Terzian convinced him to host a pearl.
“I don’t understand why you’re being so unreasonable about this,” he says after a moment. He stands up, comes over to me, wraps his arms around my waist. “This would be good for you,” he whispers, his voice low, his mouth pressed to my ear. “You’re not cut out for this soldier’s life, Gahrazel, anyhar can see it. I’m offering you an easy way out – a way that your father will likely accept if I speak to him about the matter in depth.”
I take his hands, look up into his eyes which have just that hint of masked cleverness. I realize that there is more to this than he’s saying. “And what does Terzian get out of this deal?” I ask. He’s no lovesick fool – at least not over me.
“I’m quite fond of you –” he begins.
He quirks one eyebrow at me, an expression with an oddly sensual undercurrent that always makes me want to melt into the ground. “Language. Right,” I say.
“You’re very beautiful,” he tries again.
“I’m pretty,” I say, trying to collect myself. “I’m no Cobweb. Or Cal, for that matter. Why me? It’s because I’m Ponclast’s son, isn’t it?” I know that’s it. It’s not a bad move, politically. Brining me into the house as a hostling would signal to Ponclast’s other generals Terzian’s favored status and would absolutely cement his position as the second most powerful har in our tribe. Terzian’s sons would be Ponclast’s highsons. And since I’m the only son Ponclast claims, Terzian would probably become leader of our tribe if Ponclast happened to die. It will all work out very well for Terzian – if Ponclast doesn’t rip his throat out for suggesting it.
And there’s the rub. There’s the part that I don’t think Terzian understands. Because Terzian and Ponclast view hostlings in fundamentally different ways. Terzian thinks that hostlings are still worth something after they’ve delivered up their pearls. Oh, he believes in soume har/ouana har differentiation as firmly as anyhar I’ve ever met. He also thinks himself superior to soume hara. But I’ve seen the way Cobweb is treated at Forever – like a Queen — his moods indulged, his whims catered to, his opinions on childrearing and running the household respected.
And I remember the pale, abused things who lurked around my father’s house flinching at my childish touches, growing thinner and more insubstantial by the day. Sometimes I could hear them screaming during the night. After a few months they were always replaced and I learned not to grow close to them. I know that some of them hosted pearls for my father but I have no idea what became of the harlings. Ponclast has fathered many sons. What makes me so special? Why does he treat me like the heir? He doesn’t even like me.
Terzian might as well throw me to wolves as tell Ponclast that I’d make a good hostling. Hostlings are garbage in my father’s eyes.
Terzian hesitates, twining his fingers through my hair. “It is partly because of your status, I’ll admit,” he says, at last. “But there are other reasons as well. You fit in rather well with our household and I see no reason why you shouldn’t be brought into it as a hostling. You are second generation, your bloodline is strong and I think you would host, fine, strong sons for me. And I am very fond of you.”
I shiver and he immediately notices. “Come back to bed,” he says. I follow him, reluctantly. Has there ever been a time when I refused him? I sit on the bed and he wraps a blanket around my shoulders.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in love with Cal or something?” I ask, because I want to talk about anything other than the hosting itself. The thought of having his pearl growing inside me makes me feel ill. And a harling – if it had Terzian’s face, I think I’d go insane. “What would he say about all this? What about Cobweb? I know how he reacted when you brought in Cal.”
Terzian laughs. He chuckles for fuck’s sake. “I don’t think that they’ll prove to be a problem, but if they do, then you let me handle it. Cobweb seems to like you well enough. And I’m told that the third is easier than the second.”
I’ve heard that said as well. Of course this type of thing is a great topic of dinner conversation among the Varrish upper class – how to rope multiple unfortunate hara into hosting your young. Lovely. I once met a har who had eleven hostlings living in his house.
“You would have everything that they have, you know,” he whispers in my ear. “A suite of rooms at Forever, beautiful things, servants to wait on you, a spending account at all the nice shops in a Galhea.”
“I’m already rich, you know,” I say with a laugh. “You can’t tempt me that way.”
“You wouldn’t have to march all day,” he goes on as if he didn’t hear me. “You wouldn’t have to train. You wouldn’t have to kill hara. You could sleep until noon everyday like Cal if you wanted. Really, you wouldn’t have to do much of anything.”
“Except that pesky pearl-having business,” I say, rolling my eyes.
“Except that,” he agrees. “But hosting only takes two months, you know.”
“But then I’d have a harling,” I say, shuddering at the thought. “And I don’t know a damn thing about raising harlings.”
Terzian waves this objection away. “I’m sure that Cobweb would be willing to help you. And if he wasn’t, then I could hire nannies, tutors, assistants, whatever you wanted. I want you to have the best.”
I know that he’s telling the truth. He would give me lots of nice things. Even though everyhar knows that Terzian loves Cal in a way that he doesn’t love Cobweb, I’ve never seen him make any distinction between them when it comes to status or material things. Then I realize that I’m actually considering his proposal and I banish all those thoughts.
“Sounds sort of boring,” I tell him.
“You could occupy your time however you wished. You could go to social events, parties, do charity work. You could study whatever subjects you wished. Take up a hobby. I believe that Cobweb does embroidery.”
I try his trick of arching one eyebrow, but I know that I can’t manage it. “Cobweb only started the embroidery thing so you wouldn’t question where he was when he was reading tea leafs or communing with the spirit realm or whatever the hell else he gets up to.”
“I know that,” Terzian says, with a small smile. “But he’s gotten quite good at it, don’t you think? The embroidery, I mean. He gave me a handkerchief he did before I left. It’s lovely.”
“I wouldn’t know,” I say.
He takes my face in his hands, soothes my hair away from my face. I wonder if he can see how absolutely terrified I am. I’ve become good at hiding it.
“I know that you’ve always been a little …jealous? Yes, jealous of Swift and his upbringing, how I’ve shielded him at Forever. Well, now you can live at Forever permanently. Your sons would be Swift’s brothers. They wouldn’t be exposed to any of the unfortunate things you were exposed to as a harling.”
Aghama, he had to mention Swift! I think about Swift and all the times we whispered secrets together, all the times I made fun of his father to him and suddenly the thought of being a hostling for Terzian seems even more unbearable. I can imagine myself trying to tell Swift and Swift tilting his head to the side and giving me that owlish, wide-eyed look that he gets sometimes. It would be mortifying.
Terzian leans forward and puts his arm around my shoulders. “What happened to your hostling wouldn’t happen to you, Gahrazel,” he whispers.
I recoil from him. He has no right, absolutely no right to bring up my hostling. I can barely remember my hostling; just little things about him come to mind sometimes, his sweet singing voice, his long golden hair, his shallow breathing as he held me close the last time I saw him. I was so small.
I don’t know what happened to my hostling, but I think Ponclast killed him. I suppose I could ask Terzian about it now, but something stops me. I don’t want to know, I don’t want to hear about what Ponclast did. Terzian leans forward and shares breath with me and it is different than earlier because this time he chases all the bad things away. I allow him to take me in his arms, allow myself to get lost in aruna with him. It’s strange how Terzian can be so comforting sometimes.
But afterwards when I feel warm and safe in his arms, he says; “You’ll think about it, won’t you? What I’ve asked?”
My mood is spoiled. It has gotten darker and I can’t even see Terzian’s face. “You’re not even a little bit worried about what Cal will think?” I ask, trying for a teasing tone.
I hear Terzian sigh in the dark. “You remind me a little of him, you know. Cal.”
“I don’t look anything like him.”
“I didn’t mean in looks.” We are both silent for a minute or two before I hear him say, very quietly; “I could protect you, Gahrazel. If you’d let me.” His voice is quiet and small, so unlike the voice he usually uses.
“From who?” I ask. He doesn’t answer. “From Ponclast?” I laugh. “Don’t kid yourself, Terzian.”
— — —
The next morning at breakfast, as I am sitting around a fire with my fellow Varrish soldiers, trying to force down a runny egg, when Purah finds me.
“So how was he?” he asks, a bit sarcastic as he plops down beside me.
“Oh, divine,” I say. “He wants me to host his son.”
Purah sits up straight. He’s not an exceptionally beautiful har, but his eyes are amazing – a bright, piercing blue to contrast with Terzian’s cold grey. “That bastard,” he whispers.
“Don’t talk about him like that,” I say.
Purah holds his hand to my face. I think he hates Terzian more than he hates any living har – to Terzian Purah will always be the human boy who Terzian allowed to stay in his home. Purah hates him for that. And for having me. “Is this really what you want, Gahrazel? Is Terzian really what you want?”
“No. But we can’t always get what we want.”
Terzian’s offer isn’t a bad one. I’m very aware of that. I try to imagine myself in a few years as a hostling in Terzian’s home – long hair, silk clothes like Cobweb, a couple of harlings clinging to my legs – it seems so wrong. But then I try to imagine myself a commander or troops like Terzian, try to imagine the future that my father has planned for me and it seems equally wrong. Are there really only these two options? It feels like there is no place in the world for me.
“You’re so special,” Purah says and I wonder if he’s been reading my mind. “Too special for the Varrs.”
“Shh,” I say, looking around to see if any of the others have heard his treasonous talk.
“There are other options, Gahrazel,” Purah says. His eyes are relentless. “You should let me tell you about them.”
He’s tried to tell me things like this before – traitorous things. I always refused to hear. I know he’s involved with one of the underground groups, that maybe he’s planning on defecting to another tribe. But I don’t like the choices that the Varrs have given me. And I’ve never felt much loyalty toward my father. I take his hand and link my fingers through his.
“Okay,” I tell him.