A Calanthe By Any Other Name (is still Cal)

Editor's PickA Calanthe By Any Other Name (is still Cal)
by Thevina
(thevina33@gmail.com)

Rating: General

Canon Characters: Seel, Swift, Cal

Summary: Cal may be an enigma, but he always arouses strong reactions in the hara closest to him. In seeking his rescued son, Swift finds new patience to deal with his chesnari’s bitterness toward the har who has profoundly shaped them both.

Author’s Notes: I wrote this as a gift to the dear Heartofoshun as a thanks for her exceedingly helpful copy edit and evaluation of Maelstrom and Mage before I sent it to Storm for further edits. She asked for a story that dealt with how differently Swift and Seel perceive Cal and how very different their relations with him are. Set at the end of The Shades of Time and Memory at Imbrilim, after Swift and Seel have seen Cal and discovered that he rescued Aleeme and Azriel from Ponclast.

A Calanthe By Any Other Name (is still Cal)

Swift finished his second glass of wine in a contemplative silence, waiting for his chesnari to return to their tent. It was ridiculous for them to be staying, in some ways, since their home wasn’t that far away, especially by sedu. He didn’t trust the Otherlanes right now, however. Plus, his beloved son was here. Cal had saved him. He’d rescued Azriel from Ponclast’s filthy clutches…

He felt Seel’s presence and straightened up, hearing successively the outside and then the inside flaps of their tent thrown aside. Seel clomped in, his maelstrom of emotions so obvious Swift imagined he could see the conflict swirling around him. His hair was wildly messy, almost moving of its own accord as Aleeme’s hostling’s did.

“That walk doesn’t seem to have helped much,” Swift noted as Seel continued to pace.

“Too many hara,” Seel complained bitterly. “I want to get out of here.”

“You mean Cal’s around, and you wish he’d never reappeared.”

“Would you stop being so fucking insightful?” Seel said explosively before clawing at his scalp. “And it’s not just him. There’s Lianvis, who’s scary and creepy at the same time, and the Gelaming contingency— I’d forgotten how fucking superior they act.”

“I thought you were glad to see Ashmael.”

Swift pushed himself up and out of the chair and retrieved a brush, determined to take care of Seel’s hair. It was something that usually soothed him, but given what all had gone on in recent days, Swift realized it might well take a potent sedative to get Seel to simmer down.

“Yeah, I am,” Seel admitted grudgingly, scowling at Swift when he approached, hairbrush in hand.

At another point Swift might well have told Seel that he was acting like a harling and he could pout and sulk all he wanted, but he’d be doing it alone. But since Azriel and Aleeme had been rescued, and he knew they were alive and whole and healing — though the healers were being frustratingly vague — Swift was more magnanimous than usual.

“It’s good to see Ash again,” Seel said, half to himself as he brushed out the tangles. “Out of all of them, he’s he most down to earth. When he talks, he makes sense.”
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What Is This Thing Called Love

Monthly Challenge SubmissionWhat Is This Thing Called Love
by Oshun

Story Notes

Summary
Seel struggles with the concept of love and seems to be losing the battle, although not without a fight. Contains an explicit description of aruna between Seel and Swift. Thank you, Elfscribe, for the Beta. Any remaining failings are my own. (May be read as a sequel to my story “Fated Obsession,” but is intended to able to stand alone.)

Author’s Email: heartofoshun@aol.com

Web page: http://heartofoshun.livejournal.com/

Pairings: Seel/Swift, Cal/Swift (discussed only)
Overall Rating: NC-17

Word Count: 3,670
Spoilers: The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure

Disclaimer: The characters, plot, and setting all belong to Storm Constantine.

What Is This Thing Called Love

The thin grey walls of the tent rippled with the chill early-morning wind. A faint rosy glow shone through them, indicating that morning had indeed arrived. It did not matter to Seel. Nothing or no one could pry him out of that tent, out of Swift’s arms, until he was good and ready: not Thiede nor the entire Gelaming military force.

Neither har had bothered to dress when they had emerged earlier from their warren of fur coverings and silken sheets to partake of the food and drink that they found on a nearby table. Seel would have been satisfied with water or juice. Although, something alcoholic or even a cigarette would not have been unwelcome. Yet they had no more begun to revive from their ecstatic lethargy in the wake of those first two world-exploding arunas than Swift had shyly announced that he was starving.

“Can you believe this?” Swift giggled. “Muffins, toast, butter, cream, jam, tea. How do you think all of this got here?”

“I think they could have run a herd of elephants through here and we wouldn’t have noticed.”

Swift’s eyes crinkled in a heart-melting grin. “What would you like?”

“Tea would be fine.” Seel couldn’t take his eyes off Swift’s flushed cheeks and those dark eyes, still glittering but vulnerable and endearing. Swift stuck a finger in the pot of cream and sucked it clean. He scooped out another dripping dollop of cream and held his finger front of Seel’s face.

“Open your mouth,” he demanded, lowering his brow warningly until they both laughed.

Despite this and other proofs of Swift’s youth and ebullience, Seel would never again think of him as a harling. His control of their arunic experiences of the past night had forever put that issue to rest. And the image of Swift’s impressive ouana-lim flashed through his mind: warm coral and a dark coppery rose, its petals tipped and faintly veined with bronze. Yet when it came fully to life, it pulsed with metallic blue. His visualization of that lovely ouana-lim which had haunted him in the preceding weeks had been photographically perfect. Had Thiede sent him that image or had he chosen to pair the two of them based upon an ability to read their fantasies?

Not that it mattered anymore. They had produced the powerful Grissecon that Thiede had decreed and created a pearl as well. In the aftermath, Seel realized there was no returning to who he had been before. He couldn’t muster the energy to regret any of it either. It wasn’t only that he now hosted a pearl or what that would mean. Quite the contrary, he relished the feelings Swift wrung out of him and welcomed the renewed heat in his groin. His resurgence of desire must have reached Swift, who squirmed closer to him and burrowed his head in the crook between Seel’s neck and shoulder. Swift’s dark hair spilled chaotically over the pillow and onto Seel’s chest in the most alluring way. An indolent smile played about the corners of Swift’s mouth, while his half-closed eyelids fluttered open.

“Well, that’s finally over,” Swift said, his voice wooly with sleepiness.

The words jolted Seel out of his exaggeratedly romantic state.

“You sound relieved,” Seel said, lifting an eyebrow in challenge. “And I thought you were enjoying all this. In fact, I know you were.”

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Fated Obsession

Monthly Challenge SubmissionFated Obsession
by Oshun

Story Notes

This is a story written from the POV of Seel that attempts to explore how he might have struggled to come to terms with his initial attraction to Swift. In Bewitchments Swift tells us his side of the story in poignant detail, but I was curious as what Seel endured during that same pre-Grissecon period. It is neither flagrantly AU nor austerely canon and is influenced by, but not necessarily entirely faithful to, Thevina’s interpretation of the relationship between Ashmael and Seel in her story “Interpret Me the Savage Whirr.” I want to thank Elfscribe for her sympathetic and encouraging Beta. Any remaining failings are my own.

Author’s Email: heartofoshun@aol.com

Web page: http://heartofoshun.livejournal.com/

Pairings: Ashmael/Seel, Cal/Swift, Chrysm/Swift, Seel/Swift (none explicit, all implied or foreshadowed)

Overall Rating: R

Word Count: 2,344

Spoilers: The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure

Disclaimer: The characters, plot and setting all belong to Storm Constantine.

Fated Obsession

Seel stepped out into the last bright rays of sunlight as Imbrilim slipped from late afternoon into early evening. Looking at the banners and flags wafting in the summer breeze and the undulating movement of the multihued sides of the tents and pavilions of the encampment, he wondered how all of this appeared to Swift the Varr. He tried to imagine himself as a newly incepted har viewing Imbrilim for the first time through the prism of his own childhood. To Seel, this entire scene, part military outpost, part fantastic carnival or bazaar, would have conjured up dreamlike settings from a tale of exotic Arabian nomads or perhaps a gathering of fair knights and heroic kings.

Swift, however, was nothing like him: a pureborn, most likely woefully lacking in education and with no comparable cultural references. He wondered what Swift’s home had been like. What depravity had he participated in or witnessed? When they had come upon him at the edge of the Forest of Gebaddon, filthy, grey with exhaustion, skinny, and filled with fear, he had responded with courage. Swift had stood up to the Gelaming force that confronted him, not as the snarling half-feral harling Seel had expected, but as an intelligent young har concerned more for the welfare of his companions than for himself. In spite of everything, an air of entitlement hung over Swift, poignantly mixed with wistful hopefulness and a desire to trust. The presence of such qualities would generally reflect that one’s upbringing had included loving care and attention. None of these observations matched what Seel thought he knew of Terzian or of the Varrs in general.

Seel could not guess what lay behind those wide-set dark eyes: innocence or corruption. One thing he did know was that they had nothing in common. Seel perpetually sought peace and enlightenment while Swift surely had been schooled in violence. Seel cultivated a near-ascetic self-control while the Varrish youngster fairly crackled with arunic precocity and unselfconscious sensuality, undoubtedly encouraged by Cal. They did have Cal in common, Seel thought, but that ought to drive a wedge between them rather than bring them closer. What could Thiede be thinking to put the two of them in this intolerable situation?

As Seel drew near to the pavilion dedicated to the use of the Hegemony, Ashmael sauntered forward to greet him, his handsome face opening in a genial smile only lightly tinged with humor.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t show up.”

Seel grunted noncommittally. Ashmael laughed and slapped him on the back. “Cheer up. It’s only a small gathering, an opportunity for everyhar to view our much-discussed visitor. I thought you would like to get a better look at him yourself: rested, fed, and all cleaned up. He actually is lovely.”

“I could see that well enough before.” Seel remembered Thiede telling him that Terzian’s heir was presentable. That had proved to be another of Thiede’s sardonic understatements.

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Choosing Sides

Choosing Sides
By Camile Sinensis (Teapot)

Story Notes

Editor\'s Pick A sequel, or follow-on, or something like that, to “Command Structure”. Or, rather, it was all orginally conceived as one story, but I knew if I wrote it out it would expand , rather like one of those sponges that are tiny when they’re dry, but swell up enormously when you put them in water. How right I was! (but I did it anyway)

Set in Imbrilim, shortly before Swift and friends arrive.

Characters: Velaxis and Ashmael. With guest appearances by Arahal, Thiede, Chrysm, some Varrs and a pair of handcuffs.

Spoilers: Minor ones for “Bewitchments”, if you squint hard enough.

Summary: A Varrish defector is brought to Imbrilim, causing Ashmael to reflect on the dual nature of Wraeththu, and which side is the stronger.

Author email: teapot@doramail.com

Website: http://red-shellac.livejournal.com, http://www.mudsharks.org/stuff/

– 1 –

“In the words of humankind, Velaxis is merely a whore. It’s his choice… If you asked Ashmael for Velaxis’ company for a night and Ashmael said “yes,” Velaxis would have to agree, because that’s the role he’s taken on…”

– The Bewitchments of Love and Hate

For such an impermanent structure, Imbrilim had a very solid air of permanence about it. The tents and pavilions and canopies which made up the encampment were laid out in neat, ordered rows, their colourful silk walls forming the boundaries of streets and avenues; the avenues converging at crossroads, and giving way to open, public spaces where hara and humans would congregate.

The Gelaming were famous for their attention to detail and their planning skills, and no doubt considerable time, effort and expertise had gone into the construction of the camp to allow it to function as efficiently as it did, but to Ashmael, it felt as if the small town – which the settlement was rapidly becoming – had taken root of its own accord, and grown organically; as if this arrangement of private dwellings and communal areas had an inevitability about it.

It felt as if it had always been there, and in that respect it was very true to the Gelaming vision. The last remnants of human civilisation was still convulsing in its death throes, but already the new lords of the earth had smoothly taken possession of their inheritance. The transition had been almost obscenely brief.

They should have waited until the old world was cold and buried, at least, Ashmael thought, watching the bright pennants fluttering in the brisk morning breeze. But there had been no time for that. No time to look backward, only forwards, to the dazzling new future. Imbrilim itself was a symbol of that, its bright pavilions as clean and new-minted as the morning itself. All around the old towns and villages and settlements were being abandoned or destroyed. Chaos and disorder were spreading across the land, but here in the heart of Megalithica a small piece of the hopeful future had taken root. A light to push back the encroaching darkness. A refuge for all those seeking sanctuary from lawlessness and fear.

Also, a strategically useful outpost, militarily speaking.

Ashmael had little time for the social engineering aspects of Imbrilim’s development. He was a soldier; he was in charge of the Gelaming army, and he knew the problems facing the new Wraeththu civilization better than most. Humanity was a spent force – a more sinister adversary now threatened the Gelaming’s new world. Their own kind. The Varrs.

The Hegemony had hesitated to act against this threat. Some of them had argued that no Wraeththu tribe could sink to the level of human barbarity. Wraeththu were too spiritually advanced for that to happen. Ashmael was of the opinion that most of the Hegemony had led very sheltered lives, and that they had little or no experience of what Wraeththu were capable of. He had informed them of this in no uncertain terms and the ensuing debate had been vigorous. It had resulted in several small breakages in the Hegalion debating chamber, and the founding of the settlement of Imbrilim as a refugee camp and Gelaming Embassy. The military presence was low-key as yet. Many still hoped that a political solution could be found, but Ashmael did not delude himself.

Too much too soon. We are not so far removed from human kind and human nature.

He raised one hand and shielded his eyes from the brightness of the early morning sun. In the distance, beyond the woods to the north of the camp, a low pall of smoke made a dirty smear across the clear blue of the sky. The small town had been put to the torch three days previously, and a steady trickle of homeless and displaced hara had been arriving in Imbrilim ever since. The town’s leaders had refused to offer allegiance or assistance to the Varrs, and the community had paid the price.

Ashmael sighed and turned away. It would come to a fight, in the end. He knew it. The old human vices lived on; the desire for power, for status, and for control.

It will take more than an interesting addition between our legs to purge us of those, he thought glumly, kicking at an innocent rock in the middle of the otherwise smooth and level ground.

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The Summons

The Summons
by niennaainur

Story Notes

Contact: nienna_ainur@hotmail.com

Pairing: Lianvis and Thiede

Rating: PG-13 – (?) who knows I’m very liberal

Summary: This was originally the character intro and setup for an RPG. Unfortunately, due to a horrific crash and tragic death of my hard drive, a considerable increase in workload, an overly active Mommy schedule, and an errant muse, I was unable to play … *sobs* This was intended to position Lianvis in Imbrilum so that he could play with Vaysh.

Disclaimer: All the pretty Wraeththu, as well as the world they live in, were created by, and belong to, Storm Constantine, who (bless her!) is gracious enough to allow fans like me to take them out and play with them occasionally. No disrespect or copyright infringement is intended.

Warning: AU

Beta read by: a very patient bigunen – all the rest of the mistakes are mine.

The Summons

Lianvis stood in the entrance of the tent and watched absently as hara put the finishing touches to the encampment. He noticed with a certain degree of satisfaction the veiled, guarded looks hara sent his way. “Let them be slightly wary of their leader,” he mused; it’d serve him better than too much ease and familiarity. Today, however, the wary watchfulness was perhaps warranted as he was brooding. He was Lianvis har Kakkahaar, leader of the Kakkahaar tribe; no har summoned him anywhere, and yet he had, in effect, been summoned. What was even more disturbing than the summons, at least to Lianvis, was the fact that he had heeded them.

A self-satisfied smirk spread across the Kakkahaar’s face for he had only partially heeded the summons. The missive had not contained any details. Lianvis had a fairly good idea what the meeting was going to be about; Immanion was currently busy tying up loose ends. His presence had been requested in Imbrilum “immediately.” He had come but not alone: he’d brought his entire camp. He had come but not to Imbrilum: he’d camped in the desert at the very edge of Kakkahaar territory close enough to access the town. He had come, but most certainly not immediately.

With the war over and tentative new alliances forged, he was, as were all the non-Gelaming leaders, walking a thin line between tribal alliance and tribal consolidation into the Gelaming machine.

He sighed softly and let the tent flap fall. Turning, he headed back to the bed, lowering himself gently, so as not to wake the young har who lay sleeping peacefully. Lianvis reached out, and with a feather light touch, traced the soft contour of the sleeper’s shoulder. The har, one of the tribes’ listeners, stirred slightly and snuggled closer into the curve of Lianvis’s body. Lianvis was half-tempted to wake the sleeper and lose himself once again in pure physical pleasure; the young har had been so deliciously accommodating a few hours earlier. At the memory, Lianvis felt his body begin to stir to life.

Then, with a sudden sigh, he rolled onto his back amid the small mountain of soft pillows, and stared intently at the tent wall.

He’d dreamt strange dreams for the past several nights. He’d dreamt about Ulaume for the first time in a long time. Along with his erstwhile chesnari Ulaume, Thiede, General Aldebaran, and Pellaz, and even Pellaz’s ever present shadow Vaysh had flitted in and out of the dreams. Were these just dreams? Were they some shadowy messages from the ethers?

He made a face at himself as he rose from the bed and tied his knee-length honey-coloured hair back with a leather thong. He left the listener’s tent quietly. As he threw up the hood of his dune-coloured robe and strode off in the direction of his own tent, the skies above him darkened and appeared to fold allowing one lone sedu to exit from the otherlanes depositing it and its rider on the desert floor.

Any visible surprise Lianvis might have displayed at the identity of the rider was well hidden in the shadows cast by his hood. He folded his arms across his chest as his visitor dismounted and handed the reins of the sedu to the young stable-har who had appeared seemingly out of nowhere and now stood in wide-eyed awe of the sedu and its rider.

Standing motionless, Lianvis waited as the new arrival approached him; when they stood face-to-face, Lianvis inclined his head by way of greeting.

“Welcome”

His visitor inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement.

“I am honoured, but somewhat surprised that you have …” Lianvis paused pointedly “thought to visit.”

His visitor inclined his head slightly.

“Please…” with a slight gesture of his arm he indicated that his guest should accompany him. “I shall have some refreshments brought,” he added and they both set off towards his tent.

Drawing back the tent flap Lianvis ushered in his guest. Lianvis swept past him, extending his arm gracefully to indicate a low pillow-strewn couch; he settled himself onto the couch directly across and lounged back regarding his exotic-looking guest with candid interest. His guest remained standing and motionless in the center of the tent.

The guest studied his host with an inscrutable gaze and said nothing; in return Lianvis offered nothing. The silence remained and under the intense scrutiny Lianvis began to feel an unusual sensation: a slight sense of awkwardness. He was saved from appearing uncomfortable by the arrival of a tall willowy serving-har carrying a tray bearing delicate anise biscuits and a lightly spiced tea.

“I can send for something more substantial if you prefer…” Lianvis offered, but his guest shook his head and with a brief wave of his hand dismissed the attendant. Lianvis busied himself by pouring the tea. With a practiced and theatrical flourish his guest seated himself on the low couch opposite Lianvis, and leaned back, and observed Lianvis, his head cocked to one side somewhat pensively.

“Lianvis, Lianvis, Lianvis” Thiede began in a bemused tone “whatever am I going to do with you?”

“Do with me?” Lianvis replied dryly “How about giving me a seat on the Hegemony.”

Thiede chuckled “I don’t think so”.

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