By Marc Tremaine
(Copyright 1998, Two Voices, Ltd. All rights reserved.)
I am a quiet drunk. A fact for which the innkeeper is insufficiently grateful. Or perhaps he is merely resentful that I picked his inn. The old ways are vanishing, true, but the Quest Law still holds. A knight on a quest...even such a knight as I...the fool!...does he think I am so befuddled with the alcohol that I don't see the contempt in which he holds me...is entitled to certain things. Benefits, if you will. Including free food and lodging.
The Crown is supposed to reimburse him, so long as the knight signs the bill of fare, and I have no doubt that what I sign when I leave will be vastly inflated. The Law says nothing about the quality of the fare, and I am certain he will charge for each tankard of swill that he calls ale as if it were the finest wine from Merinomae herself. But the City of Light is far from here. Times are uncertain, the roads are uncertain, even travel on the Imperial Highway is uncertain, and so he fears he will never see the gold he is sure he deserves for "honoring" me.
Although the outer provinces have long since fallen away into anarchy, into rebellion, into...nothing at all, as did the Fourth and Fifth Tiers, and this Province of Amerise is now on the frontier of the Empire where once it had been comfortably secure in the Third Tier, still it honors the laws of whoever sits on the throne at the moment. As the times are uncertain, so is rulership, and news is slow. But the garrison here is large enough to enforce Imperial law, at least so long as its soldiers are paid. Unfortunately, the payroll shipment from the Provincial capital is overdue. I will, however, be gone from here, or at least so I pray to the gods I do not believe in, before the Army decides to collect its pay from the citizens it protects.
I wave my tankard at the barmaid, who looks to the innkeeper for approval before slowly walking to me to refill it. Her face is closed and resentful. She is somewhat plump, somewhat pretty, unaccustomed to men rejecting her subtle, or even her not so subtle advances, as I did the morning of my arrival, and for several days thereafter until she finally understood. She is not even halfway back across the common room before the tankard is half empty.
I am not one of those who believe that containers are half full.
Custom is slow today. I really should get up, while I am still able, and go out in the city, to seek news of that which has brought me here: a tale told over and over, drifting throughout the Empire, altering with the telling, but consistent in one thing...a dragon has been seen, if not within Amerise then within the former Province of Dharre which adjoins it. Of course, by now the dragon, if truly it was there at all, could be long gone. I pray it is not, I pray I will find this dragon, praying of course to the gods who never answer me.
Another quarter of the tankard is making its way down my throat when the door to the street opens.
He stands silhouetted against the chill grey light for a moment, enough to see he is tall, well-dressed, young if a stroke of reflected errant sunshine across his cheek is accurate. The innkeeper hurries over to him. I decide to finish the tankard in a long swallow and set it down on the table with only a mild crash. No one pays any attention.
My eyes adjust to the dimness of the inn's common room quickly; my night vision is very good. Not many customers, although from the outside the inn looked prosperous enough. A few workers, a few of the city militia, a whore murmuring into the ear of the soldier, other men sitting with their heads bent, nursing whatever it is they are drinking. And an old man at the far side of the room, his back to the wall. He slams his tankard down with only a mild crash and no one pays any attention to him. He stares at me.
I turn my attention to the innkeeper, who bows to the elegance of my clothes, to the hint of a thick wallet at my waist. He is all smiles, eager for the embrace of my coins, until I tell him who I am, what I am, and then his face becomes a still, painted image. "Two of you," he says, so softly most could not hear him, soft and bitter.
Two of us? No. It can't be; it mustn't be.
"Lord knight, there is another of your Order here already, on quest as well. I am duty-bound to honor the Quest Law, but as the inn is already full, surely you would not demand that I evict someone..." a paying customer his bland expression says, "in order to serve you. Surely you will not mind sharing a room with your brother knight."
As if I have a choice. The Law says nothing about private quarters, though the histories say it is customary. I wonder aloud where the knight is, and the innkeeper tilts his head.
That old man? A knight?
I gamble that no one here can catch the mental "scent" of Power at work, and allow a trickle to feed my eyes, sharpen my view even further.
I don't know whether he saw the innkeeper's gesture, but he stands, staggering only a little, shoving the low table forward. He is taller than most in the room, but not as tall as me, but gods above he is wide. Those shoulders and arms belong on a blacksmith, not a knight; enormous bunched muscles clearly visible since the shirt he wears is sleeveless, buttons are missing in the front, undoubtedly from the strain put on it by his chest, and by the thick forest of blonde hair mixed with grey and white visible through the opening. The trousers are equally old and worn, faded, and despite the belly that has begun to hang over them, they are tight and display all that he has to offer. His offer is considerable.
His face is stone, carved from the mountains of Ideren, but carved with a blunt chisel so that all the planes and edges are rough, hewn with broad strokes. He hasn't shaved in some time, although not so long as to begin an actual beard. His hair is close-cropped, looking as if he hacks it off with a dull blade himself. Blond once, but mostly grey now. Beneath bony eye ridges his eyes are sunk deep, completely hidden, but the fire glows brightly for a moment and sends a faint shimmer of gold across them, and then they are hidden again.
I stare at this old knight, worn, tired, going soft. I wonder if I will have to kill him before he finds out the truth. I wonder if I can.
The young one is staring at me. Intently. Far too intently. I wipe my lips with the back of my hand and stare back. I thought I smelled...something...but it was gone quickly; probably just my own stink. I haven't bathed in several days. Just before the newcomer looked at me, the innkeeper nodded toward me, and the barest flicker of dismay played across the tight muscles of the young one's face.
Apparently the gods have been listening after all, and have decided to torment me. A knight. And on a quest. And by the dismay and the nod, he is to share my room, although the fact of that sharing will undoubtedly not appear on the bill of fare sent to the Crown for him. As if that were not torment enough, there is the knight himself.
Taller than me by several inches, he fills out his clothes the way I always imagined I filled mine...when I was far younger, when Power was plentiful and I could Shift with ease, and often...when I could dream I was not so broad of shoulder and hip and thigh. As he weaves his way across the room, I watch the play of his muscles, the smoothness of his walk, the spring of power in his steps just waiting to be unleashed, the movement of cloth across his genitals, outlining every crease and fold. I feel a stirring below my belly, and crush it. I raise my eyes to his face. My eyes are deep-set. He didn't notice where I was looking.
I wonder as he stops in front of me if I will have to kill him before he finds out the truth. I wonder if I can.
We greet each other in the traditional way, especially with so many eyes on us...hands clasped to wrists. His pressure on my arm suggests he could crush the bones into powder if he chose to do so; my pressure on his arm strives to say the same, and failing, hints at revenge. Yet despite threat and counter-threat, I feel a surge of...something...between us, back and forth as rapidly as the stroke of a hummingbird's wings, all along where our flesh joins. The grip is too long, an eye-blink too long, a wing-stroke too long, and then it is over.
I have no need to ask the young knight to sit at my table as our arms separate. He simply does. Leaving me standing, looking foolish. I have looked that way before. It does not bother me. Much.
I begin to call for ale, but the barmaid whose name I have not bothered to learn is already at the table...actually, at his side. She bends over to wipe an imaginary spill off the boards with a rag so wet it leaves more moisture than it collects. Her plump breasts are in his face, almost falling out of the dress. There is a subtle withdrawal in his body, the stillness of an animal about to enter a trap, seeking a way out, but he makes no overt gesture.
He orders a meal with wine...fine wine...the type of wine this inn might have had when it was Third Tier, but which has not been available for years. The fool even offers to pay for it. The barmaid fakes a blush of embarrassment telling him she cannot bring the wine for which he asks, but assures him she will provide him with the best the inn has to offer. She ignores me...but only until my hand engulfs her forearm as she would turn away.
Her flesh trembles beneath the calluses, a tiny bird terrified of the great beast which holds it. "I'll have the same," I tell her. "Precisely the same. And put both meals on the bill of fare for...our?..." I look at the young knight who nods. "...for our room then."
Set free she flutters away.
Old...and vicious as well. There was no need to frighten her just to get food.
We sit quietly as the hum of conversation resumes around us...about us. Two Dragon Knights. On quest. In the same city, the same inn. It will be a tale told for years to come.
She returns with two metal goblets, setting mine carefully before me, nearly slamming his down with as much insolence as she dares. He ignores her, lifts his goblet to his lips, and then appears to remember. He holds it for a second, lifts it in salute. I wait for the prayer thanking the gods for his holy quest, asking their protection for mine, so that I may...try to...respond in kind. Apparently he thinks the salute is enough to satisfy the gods.
If I believed in the gods I would thank them for his thinking so. I have no duty now to pray with him. I salute him back and sip the wine. It is neither as good as I hoped, nor as bad as I feared. He clearly has no palate, but gulps a large portion.
He seems to come to some decision. He puts the goblet down, but his massive hand is wrapped around it, nearly hiding it.
Odd. A knight who does not demand the Knight's Prayer. If I can find some gods to believe in I shall have to thank them.
We sit in more silence. The day fades, and the common room begins to fill. The woman returns with two platters of food, a basket of bread, a flagon to refill the wine we have drunk.
He removes a small knife from a pouch at his side, a finely-wrought fork with three tines, a spoon; begins to cut the meat and vegetables in the stew, lifting them one-by-one to his lips. I tear two large hunks of bread, use them to scoop up my own stew, daring him to say a word as I pick up a large vegetable chunk, pop it in my mouth, lick my fingers clean.
The wine swirls through my body, joining the ale in an intricate dance upon my senses. A knight may not be asked about his quest, although he may volunteer. And if he is unwilling to speak, I will ask anyway. I will use the liquor as excuse, but I need to know.
"I have come from Indushan, and go to Dharre, perhaps beyond, if that is where my search leads me." He appears not to notice the infinitesimal pause before the substitution of "search."
A Dragon Knight may not lie. Actually, can not lie if the tales are to be believed. Unfortunately, I am not able to lie either. Yet he will believe me...he must!...because I am, after all, a fellow knight.
"Sir knight, I deeply regret to inform you there is no dragon in Dharre. Nor in Felsharen, nor Tosimorae, nor any of the lands beyond the borders of Amerise."
It is as if some great beast had entered the room, and now its gaze holds its terrified prey utterly still. The others do not notice, but I do. The old knight has not moved but he looms above me, and the light of torches and fireplaces flickers and dims. His eyes hold mine.
"How do you know?"
Four words. Fortunately for me the wrong ones. I can still...misdirect him. "My search..." I do not stumble over the word; if he can use it, so shall I, "has led me through all the Outer Lands. I have made sure that there is no dragon left anywhere in those lands."
There is a tiny pause and then I hear a high-pitched sound, almost at the edge of my hearing, thin, shrill...and realize it is the agony of the goblet in the old knight's fist as he closes his fingers and the metal dies. He ignores the wine that has spilled, does not appear to notice the blood on his hand.
He is not looking at me. He slowly opens his clenched fist and the crumpled goblet falls sideways to the wood. He lifts his eyes to mine and I stop breathing. The world stops as well. I have never seen such rage. If this Dragon Knight lets go now, Shifts into battle-form, I will die, and every mortal within this building as well. I could not Shift as rapidly, and in any event can do so only once more.
And then the moment has passed. And all there is before me is a drunk old knight, blinking quickly as if to hide tears.
The word howls in the caverns of my soul, reverberating against the walls, urging me to do something. But I can do nothing, for this young knight could Shift to battle-form long before I could begin, much less complete, my own Shift.
Apparently the gods have decided they do exist after all, and this is to be my punishment for disbelief.
Perhaps if I can catch him before he Shifts....
I control myself. I look at him; take another drink of the wine without moving my eyes away.
Perhaps I can do to him what he has done to me. Perhaps I can give him no reason to live either. A Dragon Knight who cannot find the last dragon has no purpose.
"You will find no dragon in Indushan, sir knight, nor anywhere in the south. I made sure of that before coming here."
It is his turn to sit very, very still.
As I hoped. It is as great a blow to him to learn he cannot keep his vow to the gods. I wonder what the gods do to Dragon Knights who break their vows. Destroy them? Perhaps I shall learn to pray after all.
The word is a great bell-tone in my head. I am amazed the walls do not vibrate with it, do not come tumbling down. I want...I want....
I want what I will never have.
I bow my head, concentrate on what remains of my food, ignoring the crudity with which the old knight continues to eat. I signal for more wine. There is no point in talking. The only point is drinking. Perhaps this old man had the right idea after all.
I lose count of the wine refills. But however much I have swallowed it is not enough, not tonight.
He drinks with me, wordless, his face flushed, perspiring...beautiful.
I rise with the careful precision of one who is truly drunk beyond his ability to control himself, but who nevertheless dreams he can do so. He does nothing for a moment, continuing to stare straight ahead...at my crotch, I would think if he were not so drunk. And yet.... No. I shake myself. The movement causes him to lift his head.
"I am going to bed, sir knight. Do what you will."
He stands with an equally exaggerated precision of movement. He follows me.
The steps are winding, narrow and dark like the corridors to the tiny room we must share on the fifth floor. It is only accident when I stumble against him; It is only to steady him that I hold his elbow so very briefly.
It is an accident when I reach to the wall to keep me upright, and brush the anchor-cable muscles on his upper arm.
It is an accident our hips kiss in the corridor as we stand before the door. He opens it...he gestures me through.
Oh gods! There is just one bed.
I lie beside him in the narrow bed. For some reason he did not suggest that he sleep on a pallet on the floor. Nor did I.
He was beautiful in the moons-light as he undressed. The light was living cloth, translucent, draping itself in every crevice and fold of his body, making the deep reddish hair that furs his chest, his arms, his legs, his glorious pubes glow with a light of their own, dressing him in fleeting glory at odds with the warriors' gear he was discarding. Strangely he seemed to be very meticulous about it--slow, even. I have seen whores undress, male and female, some awkwardly while trying to be sensuous, some breathtakingly sensuous but only because they were so practiced at it. This young knight was totally unaware of his body, of what he was doing to me.
I concentrated on...I know not what. Yet my eyes were locked to his body, the sleek muscles of his back; the sharp curves of his buttocks as he bent forward to drop a piece of gear, of clothing; the balls that were momentarily visible; calves that curved down to powerful feet. He turned toward me, wrapping the light around him and I wanted to gasp but did not dare. He padded toward me, his penis swaying, glowing in the light. I wanted to rise up from the bed, pull him to me, devour him.
I did nothing.
I lay there on my back, willing myself to remain soft beneath the thin blanket that was my only cover. I was only partially successful.
If I believed in the gods I would have shouted their praises as I watched this old man undress. And any who heard me say that would call me the fool that I am. A knight. An old knight. A man long past his prime; even more drunk now than when I arrived; unshaven, dirty, the smell of him thick in the room despite the fire's odors. And yet...and yet....
He paid me no attention as he removed his few clothes, leaving them wherever they fell. He...what words shall I use...his body absorbed the light from the moons, gathered the greys and shadows and cool silvers, then used them to carve the statue of a man from the granite heart of the mountains of Ideren. The blond of his hair had disappeared into shining silver; his nipples were iron coins; the belly that should have turned him into a creature of pity, shown him for what he once was and would never be again, seemed in that moment a right part of him, a part of what he is, which is the sum of all that he has ever been, with nothing subtracted. His legs were the aged pillars of the temple at Carinae, worn, occasionally trembling, but still powerful. His feet as he stood up, back straight, held him as firmly as though he were that mountain range, as solid and immovable as those peaks.
And then he moved.
I dropped my eyes, certain...or at least hoping...he had not seen me watching him, had not seen me looking into that deep shadow beneath his stomach, between those massive thighs, wondering what...delights?...lay hidden in that darkness. I concentrated on cleaning my sword; concentrated as if my life, my soul, my sanity depended upon it.
As they did.
When he was on the bed, the side away from the fireplace, a gesture I had not expected of him, he lay on his back with his head supported by his left arm. His right arm lay flat, on top of the blanket that he draped across himself from belly to toes.
I could not face him as I undressed myself, moving as slowly as I dared, desperately willing my erection to disappear. I was about to lie down, to sleep next to a murderer, and I wanted him. I concentrated on that thought, and when I was nearly soft, I turned and walked to the bed.
I slipped under the blanket, not looking at him, as he was not looking at me. He raised his right arm so that the blanket would lift, and then put his arm back in the same position. Drawn by what I do not know...although I actually know but will not admit it...I put my left arm in the same position.
We lie here now, mirror images, breathing deeply, feigning sleep. His arm is no more than a parchment's thickness from mine. Neither of us can move further away, or we will fall from the bed; neither of us moves closer.
I can not sleep; I must sleep. But if I sleep, at least I will not dream. I never dream.
He has said nothing to me; he simply lies beside me, pretending sleep as I do. I can not sleep, not here in bed with a killer; I must sleep. But if sleep comes, at least I will not dream. I never dream.
I dream of a great dragon in the mountains far to the north and west of here, beyond the remnants of Empire, beyond the faded memory of Empire. His scales are the color of blood, the color of wine, the color of life. His claws are ivory, his wings ruby.
I dream of a great dragon in the desert far to the south and east of here, beyond the remnants of Empire, beyond the myth that Empire ever was. His scales are the color of polished gold, the color of the sun's heart, the color of life. His claws are white, his wings flame.
...of wings flashing scarlet and molten yellow in the noon-day sun
...of serpentine necks caduceus-coiled and gleaming fangs smiling
...of bodies rolling in the air, pillowed on Power, tails and wings entwined
...of draconic laughter rolling thunder across the cloudless sky
...of red hindquarters spreading eagerly, a mile and more above the Northern Sea, accepting the short, incredibly wide penis
...of golden wings enfolding coupled bodies, thrusting hips forcing them down and down and down in a screaming power dive toward the rough, icy waves
...of air temperature joyously rising to volcano-heart, washing over their scales
...of plunging into the frigid depths at the precise moment gold erupted into red
...of parting in the depths, swimming side-by-side, glowing in the darkness, sheathed in Power
...of rising languorously to the surface, breaking into the air, reveling in the sudden storm
...of whale-sounding chases in the driving rain
...of spreading wings and gathering Power to rise above the waves
...of powerful downstrokes, and more Power lifting bodies and wings in a steep spiral to and through the clouds
...of a chase that was not a chase through clouds into storm and again into sun
...of red mounting gold, and a bugling golden cry of triumph and ecstasy
...of Power woven around them in a globe-shaped shield, shining light and life rising above the planet
...of gentle thrusts going on and on and on, there, above the sky, encased in a bubble of Power, warm and safe and free in the cold of infinite space, against a background of stars
...of shuddering joy in simultaneous release and floating gently downward until the bubble of Power can be set free and vast wings spread for the long slow glide to the shore
I dream...of glory!
I wake...to an awareness of having dreamed, to a desperate effort to retain the wisps that fade into a sense of ineffable loss. I wake...to dismay.
My hand is around my softening penis, sticky with precum and the semen that puddles, still warm, on my chest and stomach.
I wake...to realize that I slept, and as I slept my forearm had moved across his, my wrist had pressed to his, our fingers had entwined, and now I grip his hand tightly, my thumb caressing his flesh.
Impossible. I do not dream...and yet....
I wake...to a sense of loss so profound I desperately wish I had not waked at all.
I wake...to find my right hand unconsciously rubbing still-warm semen between my fingers, into the hair of my stomach.
I wake...to the horror of finding my hand being held virtually immobile in the grip of the old knight...horror and shame...and a strange hollowness and breathlessness as his thumb caresses me in soft circles, as if unaware of what he is doing, and then he freezes.
He is awake. He does not move, but I know he is aware. I should...I should release his hand, roll away from him and off the bed so that he does not know what I have done. I should pretend nothing has happened, get out of here as rapidly as possible.
I do not move.
I cannot move.
We lie here, playing the I know that he knows that I know game. His eyes are closed as mine are closed; he cannot see my shame; cannot see what I have done. I should pull my hand away from his, from the safety of his clasp, from the warmth seeping into me. I should pretend nothing has happened, get dressed, get out, get away.
I do not move.
I cannot move.
I must move.
I do move. In the wrong direction. Oh gods in whom I will not believe, I roll on my side--toward him.
Still holding his hand, I turn and his hand is now holding mine, no longer passive, he uses our locked fingers to pull himself toward me.
I move my left hand toward his face and he turns his face into my palm, nuzzling it, turning his head again, opening his mouth, and this murderer licks the residue from me....
My rage explodes.
I can't breathe. His left hand is crushing my throat, he is rolling on top of me, his weight rushing down the bunched muscles of his arm pressing me into the thin mattress of straw, into the unyielding boards below. I arch my back, grab his wrist, but I might as well try to move the Mountains Beyond themselves. My legs thrash, I twist and turn but my lungs are weakening, flashes of color and blackness rush across my eyelids.
He releases his grip, but only enough to allow me to gasp, hauling in oceans of air, opening my eyes to look into his eyes...to look into fury of a volcano about to erupt. He holds me, the vibrating tension in his fingers making it clear that a movement will bring about my death.
I lie on my back, my right foot on the floor. He is between my legs, his knees and thighs spreading me. His right hand is on my stomach, palm flat, an instant away from leaning into me with all his weight.
"Lift your legs." His voice is soft, deadly. "There has been enough death..." there is a pause, virtually unnoticeable, yet there, and somehow I know a word has just been eliminated although I do not know what it is. "...and so I will not kill you." Once again he has censored his words but this time I can hear the although you deserve it as clearly as if each syllable had pierced my ears, branded my soul.
I want to ask: "Why?" I want to shout, "It's not I who deserve to die." I want to throw him from me. I want to kill him. But he is right. Too much death. Enough death.
I cooperate with my rape.
I lift my legs.
His eyes are beyond me, far away, unseeing, but his body is here and now. His left hand still clamps my throat, making his point. He spits on his right hand, reaches between his legs. In the near darkness from the waning fire I cannot see him. I feel the head of his penis pressing against me, hard, moist, starting to slide in. I feel a moment of contempt. This giant has the smallest cock in the Empire.
The scream that launches toward the moons from my throat when he shoves the rest of his penis inside me in a single vicious thrust is only partly devoured when his lips drop on mine. My rectum is burning; I have been spread wider than I would ever have believed possible. He twitches his penis and I can feel my flesh begin to mold itself to each contour, each ridge, to the narrow head, to the shaft that spreads and spreads and spreads down to the stiff, wiry hair that presses against my buttocks. He pulls his hips back and inhales my moan.
Even in this part of the city my scream is not ignored. Someone pounds on the door. The scent of Power fills my nostrils as he casually, without breaking his concentration, without stopping the slow slide into me, works a spell that sends the interloper away. Another mage! I would open my mind to his but the sensations rising through my body from the central core of the penis buried inside me blot out concentration, blot out thought.
His lips are rough, demanding more than I am willing to give, more than I am capable of giving, his tongue is long, agile, caressing my mouth. His arms are beneath my legs so that I am bent nearly in half, my knees against my shoulders; his hands are beneath my shoulders, palms up, holding me to him.
Gods! Let me hate this knight!
Gods damn me for a fool! I should have threatened the innkeeper to send him away from the door, not spelled him. Perhaps the young knight beneath me did not notice, or better yet, is not capable of noticing.
I move my hips only a slight increment faster. I do not understand why I am kissing this killer. I do not understand why I can not stop.
I do not think he is even aware that his cock is rigid against my belly. I am. Long, thick, it burns my flesh. I stroke deep into him and he begins to move with me, then out, and in again, increasing my pace as his rectum loosens to me, gives me what I want. I move faster yet and he is writhing against me, shoving his penis against me, his arms spreading to reach around our bodies, to hold me.
Faster still and yet more, until I pull my cock all the way out of his body. He cries out but I swallow the sounds. I know without looking how his anus looks, raw, red, a gaping opening that tries to close, but I tauntingly insert just the tip of my penis. He tries to hunch forward, to pull me into him, but I will not allow him any control. I pull away and he understands. He is motionless.
I lift my head from his; his hands slide away, one arm resting on the bed, the other dropping to the floor. I spread his legs wide, holding his knees, look down at the hole that twitches before me and shove inside him once again, hard and fast, deliberately vicious, deliberately hurtful.
"GODS!" he screams and my go-away spell smothers the sound.
I will not look at him. Can not. Must not. Lest I be the one to suffer, not him.
I am barely conscious. My scream will be unheard, his spell will see to that. I am...nothing...in this moment. A receptacle to be filled, to be used.
He does not look at me as he holds my legs apart, begins to plunge into me again and again. The pain is unbearable, wolves gnawing at my flesh, forcing me to howl as they do. And still he goes on. And on. And on.
My breathing becomes faster, deeper. My body, my face, my fingertips...tingle. The pain increases, goes beyond any imaginable threshold, passes into agony, passes into...somewhere else. I am above us now, looking down...not through magic, through a Power-fueled spell...but I am an intangible presence, observing, feeling...oh gods, the feelings that course through me.
I watch myself shift my hands to my own cock, one hand clasping the other, fisting my penis together, moving in rhythm to my rape. My head lashes from side to side, my stroking speeds up as the old knight makes an impossible increase in the speed his hips are shoving in and out of me. Each outward stroke takes him completely out of me. Each inward stroke races past anal muscles that are no longer a barrier, smashing into me.
We move faster yet, my sight tracing the battle-scars that cross his back, my fist crushing my own cock, my voice raw itself, cracking, begging for I know not what in words and sounds completely unintelligible, pleading perhaps for release.
My prayer is granted.
I am an avalanche crushing a tiny deer as I bury myself in his body one final time...and cum...and cum...and cum.... His final scream coils about my body, about my soul, as he joins me...the ropy jets of his own orgasm blasting out and up, drops landing on his face, on his shoulders, on the bed.
Our chests heaving, I drop on him. He takes my weight without a murmur.
I am still for only a moment. A moment I wish could last forever. I pull myself away from him, out of him, the only moment of gentleness I have allowed myself.
I look at the bruises on his throat...and my anger...and all else woven within it...disappears.
He pulls away from me, rises away from the wreck of the bed that was never intended for such...vigorous...use. Anger shimmers about him. Directed at himself. Directed at me. But more at himself, I think. He doesn't look at me as he asks if I am hungry. I nod and he strides to the door.
I remind him he is naked. But if he hears, he says nothing. He pulls the door open, stalks into the darkened hall, moving with the lithe grace of an animal on whom clothing would be absurd. Lightning crashes in the storm, not so distant now, as he disappears toward the stairs.
The smells of this place...surely they will cover the scent of magic. Power trickles inward to my call, and with Power I follow him down the stairs as if I were...beside him, behind him, in front of him, the images flicker crazily, rapidly, from one viewpoint to another. I never have trouble using follow-sight on humans, but then...I have never tried with a Dragon Knight before.
He meets no one in the hall outside our room, down the stairs, crossing the entrance-way to the inn. There is no door to the common room, just an arch where a door might have been long ago, in more prosperous times. Yet when he steps through silence falls an instant later, as if a door had slammed against a thick wall with the sound of an avalanche roaring down from the peak of Mt. Khelharesh onto the town.
He walks forward, his sex swaying dangerously in the flickering light of fireplaces and torches. He is a mountain of gold and grey granite moving. The barmaid who served us so reluctantly opens her mouth to speak...she has far more courage than I would have given her credit for...but shuts it. The owner, who emerged from the kitchens at the sound which was not a sound, stares at the old knight crossing to him.
An old knight who has become...strangely different...as if a lightless cavern were suddenly open to the sun and thick, deep veins of rich gold striating the walls and floor, burn with a heatless fire against the stone.
He walks and as he walks, hands reach out to caress him, his buttocks, his penis, his dangling balls, the scars on his back, the vein that throbs in his neck; hands rub his nipples, and run through the wiry hair upwards from crotch to the hollow of his throat; a fingertip traces his lips; a mouth attempts to kiss him but failing that attempts to catch him below, to swallow him...yet no one moves, no one has moved. They merely yearn, male and female, motionless...and more than a little afraid of their yearning.
He has to feel what is in this room, he must, yet he gives no sign. The slight thickening of his penis is merely my imagination.
He tells the owner what he wants, orders with all the joy of a murderer selecting the food he will enjoy before the gallows enjoys him.
And then he waits.
Legs slightly spread to take his weight, hands at his sides, the mountain which moved has become still again, with the infinite patience of earth and rock. He compels silence with his stance.
The outer door opens beneath the flash of lightning and a near-instant rumble of thunder, travelers almost tumbling inward in their eagerness to get shelter. Their shouts as they enter the common room are grabbed from their throats and stifled; they look at the naked man at the far side of the room. One newcomer...a young man...a boy?...looks at the back of this no longer pathetic man and feels a surge of heat in his groin. He blushes and tries to hide the erection he cannot hide.
Try as I will I can shift my view everywhere but in front of him.
The owner returns from the kitchen carrying a heavy tray. The knight takes it from him and in that movement, the silence begins to crumble in the common room. It is only the slightest crackle of the fire, but it can be heard now. He turns toward the entrance, holding the tray easily, and looks at...me. Impossible. Merely a trick of shadow and light. It must be, for then I can only see his back as he moves.
Each step toward the archway frees the room, like pieces of a glacier falling into the sea, first one, and then several, and then more and more until all are gone...and the room is alive once again. I only imagine that the old knight looks at the young man so painfully erect, so deeply embarrassed, with a compassionate smile, a regretful smile for what might have been but will not be, a grateful smile that for a moment joyfully caresses the young man's body.
The knight leaves the common room, begins to climb the stairs. I know without watching that the young man leaves his companions, uncaring of their opinion, seeks the privacy of the jakes, and ignoring the man who has reached it before him, pulls out his penis and masturbates to a joyous orgasm that leaves him gasping and holding himself trembling against the wall with his free hand. The seated man, lost in his own dreams, lifts his hand and licks it clean. In the dimness their eyes meet briefly, without embarrassment, with a tiny smile of shared joy.
The old knight steps back into...our room. He sets the tray on the table, closes the door, hooks the latch that could only keep a small child out...the latch that will be more than sufficient to ensure privacy for so long as he desires it.
We eat in silence, and when we are through he looks at me as though he would speak, but says nothing.
He gets into bed. I lie down beside him.
"My name is Kilarin," he says quietly into the near-dark of the guttering fire.
There is nothing more to be said.
But there is more. I can not take this.
I do not look at him, lying so close beside me that my flesh is scalding.
I make my voice harsh, brutal. "Get out."
I will do as he says. Eventually. I must. But not now. I tell him, "No."
He looks at me, then. His face has become again the carved stone I first saw, but behind the stone...there is more. There is more...and there is danger.
He is right. No more death. Not by my hand lifted against him. Not...despite all he has just done...by his hand lifted against me. Not in this space of time, in this room. But later...later...only the gods know and they certainly do not speak to me.
I sit up, left knee curled, right foot on the floor. I lift the hand that choked me moments...an aeon...ago. I complete the gesture he started and hold his palm against my cheek. The mountain begins to crumble.
An impulse surges over me. An impulse to tell him the truth. I crush the impulse as his hand crushed my throat.
We are motionless. Connected. By more than the touch of palm on cheek. I release his hand but he lets it stay. He lets it stay as I slide from the narrow bed to fall on my knees, as my right hand pulls on his buttocks, pulls him onto his side and towards me, and his cock slides easily into my welcoming mouth. I do not ignore the raw smell of a man who has not bathed, of semen, and my own ass...I glory in it. His hands rest lightly now on my hair; he strokes down the side of my face; his fingers trace the joining of my lips with his penis. He begins to swell in my mouth. I respond with my own renewed erection.
My ass advises me that what I could barely take below, I certainly can not take above. In this form, my jaw could not possibly spread that wide.
But still...what I can do, I will.
And I do.
He...surrenders...to me, lets me guide him, gently pushing him. It is his turn to lie on his back. I place his hands flat on the bed, telling him with a second's firm pressure on this wrists to leave them there. He does.
I crouch above, beside him.
I begin to make love to the murderer who shares this room.
I should leave. But I can not.
What keeps me here is not any thought induced by the head of my cock, so wonderfully buried in his warm mouth. What keeps me here is an impulse to tell him the truth. To offer to use what would certainly be the last of my strength to Change him, to ask him...beg him...to leave all he has ever known behind, unreachable ever again, solely to be with me. I crush the impulse as I nearly crushed his throat.
He moves beneath me, thrusting his hips upward, but softly, softly, giving me only as much of himself as I am able to take. My hands grasp the rest. I am concentrating so intently on the sensations in my mouth and throat, on the sounds of his quiet moans, that I almost miss the touch on my hip, on my ass, that urges me to move above him, to bury my cock in his throat.
And as we move, our hips pushing, I open my mind to him. It is only a tendril of thought; there is only the faintest scent of Power being used in the room. It seems to be drawn into his body through his penis, entering his blood stream, moving with constant pressure into every cell, filling every muscle, every nook and cranny of flesh, until it hits barrier of his mind.
My tongue, as agile and talented as his own, strokes and coils about his penis. He sighs into my cock.
The barrier does not shatter, merely...dissolves.
But not all barriers. He and I...we have in this timeless instant opened the gates of the cities of our selves. He and I...we walk our separate ways, exploring the streets and parks of the other's city, the other's self...exploring spacious rooms in tall towers lit by brilliant sun...exploring dockside taverns populated by hopeless dregs in the early hours before dawn. Ever more rapidly each city falls to the welcomed invader, until there is no door that is not open, no casket of treasure or trash that is not unlocked.
At the center of the city of granite and gold, at the center of the city of ruby and flame, lies shadow and light. Light so bright it conceals what is behind it; shadow that falls over all that has been revealed, making it appear to be what it is not, hides what it purports to reveal so that all we know is what we seem to see: two Dragon Knights. As our bodies suck, lips and tongues and hands moving faster and faster, light and shadow, shadow and light, swirl into a cyclone of images too fleeting to be seen as they are whirled here and then away, a cacophony of voices with only one discernible phrase: stay away!
I am pushing my cock into his throat now, hard and deep and he takes me eagerly. I swallow as much of him as I can.
The walls around the cities have fallen; the cities have become one...except for the blinding light that shimmers in the heart of all that we are, except for the shadows that cover all we have become.
We are no longer two but one. I can feel...our...cock burying its full length into the old knight's throat, our throat. I can feel...our...cock spreading my mouth, our mouth to its ultimate limits. I can feel...us!...reaching a soaring climax that explodes the joined city, shattering that last barrier, shadow vanishing in the blinding brilliance.
I...we...can feel the fear.
And in the same instant each of our final barriers vanishes, he and I...no longer one...resurrect them, rebuild them...higher, wider, stronger. Impenetrable so that there is no risk of penetration again. Ever.
The cities are separate again on the plain now. Elaborate, complex, and with walls that can not be breached. We look at each other as in the real world we gently suck the last drops from the other's penis, and I move away from him, to sit on the floor, cross-legged beside the bed. We look at each other in the real world, in the heart-world, and we wonder...we fear...what the other saw when the walls fell.
We are separate once more...and forever more.
But mostly afraid.
I get off him, get off the bed. Move away to sit on the tiny hearth. I add the last of the fuel to the barely warm embers. Uncaring whether he notices, I flick Power, and the wood catches quickly.
I begin to hate this room, feeling it close in on me. The storm talks to us in long drum rolls of thunder, and voices of ice and snow that chatter away in every hard-hitting drop of freezing rain on the roof and walls.
A blast of cold air hits me. I turn angrily, to see him standing at the tall, narrow window, the shutters thrown wide.
He turns to look at me, and the fire casts a strange flickering shadow behind him. "You smell."
I would prefer to lash out at him, but the shadow-hidden grin I hear in his voice melts the anger. "And you don't?"
"Let's get clean." He holds out his hand, and I am drawn to it, thinking despite the obvious that he really means to compel the innkeeper to haul hot water and a bathing tub up here. I have had enough of mountains and cold; I want warmth.
But still holding my hand he places his rump against the edge of the window, throws one leg over the sill, squeezes his massive body through, and standing on the roof of the floor below us, a narrow, slight slope of wooden shingles, he hauls me forward. If he pulls too hard, if I let go, he will fall four stories to the brick streets. Awareness, yes, but no longer a desire.
He senses my reluctance, perhaps because I tell him that I will be eternally damned before I will go out there.
My refusal would be more believable if I weren't holding his hand so tightly.
Naked, majestic, slick with rain, impervious, he smiles broadly, tugging at me. "Come," he says, "it's no worse than plunging...."
"...into the frigid depths," we finish together.
He looks at me strangely. No more so than I feel inside. I wonder where those words came from.
But then I am past wondering. I am outside on the roof with him, shivering as the water lashes my skin. I can hear my balls screaming with fury as they frantically try to shrink up inside me. It doesn't matter. Nothing matters but the feel of his hands on my body as he uses the rain to wash me. There is no part of my body he does not touch and as he touches his hands warm me. He lifts my face directly into the rain, uses fingers and thumbs to scour inside my mouth. He rubs and kneads my shoulders, my arms, scouring my armpits, rubbing my fingers, coaxing my balls to cooperate, massaging my thighs, gently inserting a finger up inside me, working his fingertips around my ankles, and between my toes. I am warm with the warmth of the southern desert as I bathe him in turn, lingering far too long, not nearly long enough, between his legs. The city is closed and silent; the storm is too powerful for the Guard to make their rounds, so no one sees two naked men perilous on a narrow strip of roof, cold in the dark, hot and erect and kissing deeply.
I bring him back into the room, hold him tight as the storm ends. We look out at a city coated in ice, glittering dangerous diamonds. I close the shutters, get the blanket, dry him with it, dry myself, spread it near the fire.
I kiss him again, deeply, letting him feel my hunger, but only through my body. My mind is closed to him. I cannot...dare not...risk it.
If I cried I would cry now.
He is kissing me...it goes on for all of time compressed into an upward stroke of a hummingbird's wing.
That dangerous penis is erect, pushing beneath my balls, spreading my legs. I am not sure that I can take him again.
But if he wants it, I will try.
He is leaking steadily against me, unconsciously rubbing the underside of his shaft and the wide head in tight little circles.
I break the kiss and lead him back to the bed; he starts to get down on it, looks over his shoulder in surprise when I pull him away. His eyes widen further when I kneel on the bed, my buttocks in the air, my weight resting on my forearms.
He doesn't bother wondering, asking, whether I really mean it. He rests one knee on the bed between my legs, the other foot on the floor, providing balance; he bends close to my crack, pulls my cheeks apart with wide-spread fingers and thumbs and buries his face. I moan as his tongue parts my anus, lapping and curling into an impossibly agile strong tube that moves inside me. I moan again as he withdraws, wets his fingers, and shoves two of them in...hard. Then three, moving them in and out rapidly as he massages my penis from between my legs, smearing precum over me.
He is now kneeling between my spread legs. I hear him spit on his palm, deliberately loud. I hear the soft slither of precum and saliva mingling, oiling the gleaming head, making the shaft slick and smooth.
I feel his hands, one moist, one dry, take hold of my hips, move them backward, position my anus against the head, and then pull me back again; he is motionless, he is forcing me to open myself, to fuck myself onto his cock. I want it, I want him. I do it.
The bards sing that there is magic in threes. This third time is magic, despite the fact we are no longer one, no longer touch except with our bodies. Yet as I enter him in a steady slow stroke something begins to happen to us, some mortal blending of senses and souls and flesh. His moans are soft for a man of his size, they stay soft but steadily increase in intensity as I begin to move inside him. My hips seem to acquire a life of their own, lunging furiously again and again, then holding back, moving slowly, rotating so that the head of my penis spirals against every inch of his inner walls as I move out and then in. This will be short, it cannot be anything but, I am too aroused, too desperate to somehow make him mine, as if by exploding with all the...lust...merely lust!...I have, by spraying his ass with an outpouring to match the one with which he filled me, he will become part of me, and I of him.
He is holding his weight on his left arm, his head bent to the bed. I can feel his right hand stroking his cock in time with my movements. I lay over his back, grabbing his shoulders with a strength I did not know I possessed, using their stone stillness as leverage for the thrusts. I hold his shoulders tighter and tighter, digging my fingers into the core of a mountain, crumbling rock into dust, then lift away, arching my back, throwing my head back as well, completing the arc, my hips moving with a speed I can no longer control. His weight rests on his forehead now, he has stopped stroking, is clenching my ass cheeks with his hands, helping me, guiding me, pulling me. My throat opens and a cry of triumph is ripped from my heart as I slam into him once more and feel every spurt making its way up the length of my penis and into his bowels.
We are carved statues and then I collapse slowly, bonelessly against him, panting. I hear his heart beat as my head rests on his back, feel the tremors of his breathing...hear...a sound like weeping. But when I pull out of him, away, turn him over so that he rests on his side, left knee up and bent, sole on his right calf, his eyes are clear. I kiss him gently, and then move downwards to lick his hand and body clean, turning him on his stomach briefly to get what I can of myself back again.
It is his turn to kiss me, to hold me. He whispers that we will talk in the morning. He pulls the nearly dry, warm blanket off the floor and over us. He is next to me, touching me with all his length...and as far from me as the southern-most tip of what the Empire once was.
I breathe slowly, deeply.
I wait until Daneth's breathing slows into deep regularity, and stays there. He sleeps on his stomach. I can't resist a caress...just one more...a hand cupping a strong buttock, gentle now, not with the frantic urgency of a few minutes ago when both my hands had grabbed Daneth's ass cheeks, urging him to fuck me even harder, causing my own cock to spew from the feel of him inside me. Unconsciously, Daneth raises his hips to meet the caress, sighing a little in his sleep.
I slip quietly from the beneath the blanket. The room is almost completely dark, but with the end of the storm, the second moon is now visible, its light painting the furnishings a pale yellow. But I don't need much light; my night vision is very good. It takes me only a few minutes to find my clothes, get dressed. I walk to the door, carrying my boots in my hand.
At the door I turn and look back. Daneth has turned over, pushing the blanket to his knees. A swath of moonlight coats his body, turning the hair on his chest and belly and around his thick cock into a shimmering red-gold. I feel another stirring in my cock, an eagerness in my throat, and suppress both. A part of me prays to the gods I don't believe in to let me stay with him. A part of me curses the gods I don't believe in for having to fear him, having to run.
I am rooted to the wooden floor; the soles of my feet have sent down tendrils, becoming a vast taproot that holds me in this place. An axe-stroke of will releases me, although I want to cry out with the pain.
Daneth's face is in shadows but I can dimly make out his features. His eyelids flutter and for a trembling instant of time I think he is going to wake; I can see a faint gleam of his eyes...a pinpoint shout of brilliant red...no, just a quirk of moons-light and my imagination.
I feel like a fool. An old fool. But I mouth the words at him anyway, knowing he can't hear, won't know, won't understand why he is alone when he wakes. I turn away, close the door, and run. Although my steps are deliberate, slow, carefully quiet on the stairs, I have already begun my race away from him.
I am not asleep. I know he thinks I am, and I let him believe. It has to be this way. Yet it hurts.
I feel his hand on my ass. I can't help myself, I push my butt into that hand, remembering the callused grip of his palms an instant ago, an aeon ago, when he was on his knees, his face buried in the pillows, his arms reaching behind our kneeling bodies to hold me in an almost painful grip, clenching and releasing with every thrust of my strength into him. He pulled me into him, his ass devouring me, and when I shuddered my release he held me still...kneading me, needing me, there in the patterns of the second moon's light seeping through the shutters.
I feel him slip quietly from under the blanket; hear him gathering his clothes quietly, although not so quietly as he believes. I turn over, pretending sleep, watch the murmuring slide of trousers over calves and thighs and ass, caressing his skin as I want to caress it, molding his genitals as I want to mold them with my fingers, with my soul. The shirt rustles down over his head, concealing the slight cut I had made with a fingernail, almost invisible among the battle-scars crisscrossing his back. I remember the instant I did it: the same instant he came inside me, and I screamed to the gods of my...lust...or so I thought it merely was.
He bends forward, balancing on first one foot, then the other, to put on his stockings. The trousers are old, and faded, but the crack of his ass is sharply defined. I want to leap up, drop to my knees behind him, bury my face there, clamp my hands on his thighs and hold him motionless forever.
I don't move.
I don't move when he walks to the door, pauses and turns to look back at me. I cannot see him beneath the trousers, yet I know there is a stirring there, I feel it in my own loins.
We do nothing about it.
I watch him through slitted eyelids. The gods have carved a wooden statue in the doorway for me, or perhaps have grown it from the floor's memory of what it might have been had it not been chosen for such humble service. His face is shadowed as mine is shadowed, and I want to see his eyes, just one more time. I risk opening my eyes a bit further, fluttering the lashes, still pretending sleep, and for a second only I see him. Less than a second, actually...a mere whisper of time. I can see a faint gleam from his eyes...a pinpoint burst of hot gold...no, just a quirk of moons-light and my imagination.
I feel like a fool. I let him mouth the words at me that I would give almost anything to answer, anything except my life, not letting him know I hear, not letting him know I know. He turns away, closes the door, and runs. Although his steps are deliberate, slow, carefully quiet on the stairs, they are the beginning of his race away from me.
Why he runs from me, I do not know. Perhaps the reason is still hidden in that part of him he would not, could not, share with me. As my reason is hidden in that self-same part of me, the part I would not, could not share with him. He merely does to me, what I would have done to him in moments, if he had not acted first.
I rise and dress myself.
I am far enough away from the town. There are still several hours before dawn, and I must cover a far greater distance than I could by merely walking. As I gather Power to me, as I begin to Shift for the final time, I refuse to acknowledge the tears that streak my face. They are merely a weakness of my mortal form.
I feel myself expand...feel the joy of release from the compression of my self into merely human shape. There is a moment, a moment only, of exquisite pain and then I am my self again. I lift my head on my long, long neck, a swan curve that yet leaves my ridged eyes almost level with the forest top. I stretch my wings and with a snap! that is loud in the emptiness, I launch myself into the air.
Had there been any human eyes to see...and I had made sure there were none around...they would have seen in the sky a battle-scarred golden dragon silhouetted against the moons, flying south and east, running south and east.
He believed me. He will quest no more and will not seek me out, will not kill me, this Dragon Knight.
I will hide in plain sight in the far desert, soaring golden against the sun, unseen, becoming a myth, becoming safe, slowly dying, already dead.
My wings beat, gathering air, manipulating Power, pushing me southeast.
The gleam in my faceted eyes is only a trick of cold starlight, nothing more.
Dragons do not cry.
I am far enough away from the town. There are still several hours before dawn, and I must cover a far greater distance than I could by merely walking. As I gather Power to me, as I begin to Shift, I refuse to acknowledge the tears that once again streak my face. A weakness of my mortal form--just one of many, like...no, I will not go there.
I feel myself expand...feel the joy of release from the compression of my self in human form. There is a moment, a moment only, of exquisite pain and then I am my self again. I lift my head on my long, long neck, a swan curve that yet leaves my ridged eyes almost level with the edge of the cliff beneath which I stand. I stretch my wings and with a snap! that is loud in the emptiness, I launch myself into the air.
Had there been any human eyes to see...and I had made sure there were none around...they would have seen in the sky a red dragon silhouetted against the moons, flying north and west, running north and west.
He believed me. He will quest no more and will not seek me out, will not kill me, this Dragon Knight.
I will hide in the Mountains Beyond, a range far from Amerise, from Dharre, from even the hint of Empire. I will become a myth, a dream, a whisper of a tale to frighten children. Gods! But I have never wished, we have never wished, to frighten children. I will be safe, slowly dying, already dead.
My wings beat, gathering air, manipulating Power, pushing me northwest.
The gleam in my faceted eyes is only a trick of cold starlight, nothing more.
Dragons do not cry.
I lift my voice to the heavens, as my wings and Power lift me. I shout my loss, and in the distance I seem to hear another dragon's voice. It is only my imagination. The sound is nothing more than the eternal loneliness of a foghorn...save there is no sea, no fog...no one to care. And no voice echoing mine.
I fly on.
It is only my imagination, my longing for what is not, that makes me hear a far and fading dragon voice, crying above the wilderness. I raise my own voice, again and again and again, smashing it against the mountain heights as I can not...will not...smash myself.
Below...behind...a great wolf...a wolf the color of silver, the color of smoke, the color of storm, hears my cries, looks to the clouds that have begun to gather again, and joins me with a long and mournful howl.
I fly on.