Drake and Alec are warriors of opposing armies. They are both deadly, and they are something more than human as descendants of their lines. Better. Drake has strength. Alec has speed.
When they meet, they know only one of them can live.
Unless something happens. Something deep. But if they dare to become allies, they will have two armies hunting them down...
Hello Nifty readers! My name is Albert Nothlit, and I hope you enjoy Winterblade. If you like swords and hot guys, you came to the right place! I got started as a writer by submitting to Nifty, and have since become a professional with several published books under my belt. This story is my free thank-you to all those who encouraged me to pursue my goals, and also to those who may be reading something by me for the first time.
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by Albert Nothlit
The next morning dawned much colder, with the first hint of frost in the air. Drake opened his eyes slowly and saw Alec was still asleep resting on his left side, breathing peacefully next to him. It was warm under the heavy cloak that covered them both, and Drake felt incredibly relaxed and comfortable, even sleeping over the grass as he had. He felt tempted to just roll over on his other side and fall back asleep, but instead he inched closer to Alec and put his right arm around him as he slept. Alec moved slightly when he felt the touch, but didn’t wake up. Drake smiled.
He caressed Alec’s body with his hand, feeling the suppleness of the skin under his fingers, and also the hardness of the muscles underneath. Drake let his hand wander down Alec’s arm, then back up his stomach, and lingering on Alec’s pecs. He traced the contours of the warrior’s body, eyes closed, enjoying the sensation and the warmth. He was already hard again, and he shifted so his erection rested between Alec’s firm buttocks. He was getting all worked up, but he didn’t want to wake Alec up so he stopped. He peeked at Alec to see whether he had awakened—and saw Alec looking at him, grinning.
“Hey,” he said, and yawned.
“Hey,” Drake answered. “Didn’t want to wake you up.”
Alec turned so he was lying on his back and stretched. “Too late for that,” he said.
He reached for Drake’s hand still resting on his chest and guided it down, under the cloak, all the way between his legs. Drake felt Alec’s rock-hard erection and his penis stiffened in response. He started stroking Alec slowly, his grip firm, and he did so he kissed him, long and deep.
They made love again under the cloak, but this time Drake took his time, enjoying every moment even more, his mad urgency of the night before turned into tender lust. When Alec reached his orgasm with a cry as Drake was still inside him, it felt to Drake as if the joy and the pleasure of the moment would never end. Then he reached his own climax, and he cried out so loudly that a couple of nearby birds were startled into flight.
“That was incredible,” Alec said when they were done, panting in each other’s arms.
“I know,” Drake agreed.
They said nothing for a while, just rested side by side, listening to each other breathe. After a while Drake yawned hugely. His stomach made a rumbling noise.
Alec laughed. “Hungry?”
“Me too. We should get something to eat.”
Drake glanced at the waterfall right as a fish leapt out. Alec followed his gaze.
“Oh, no way,” Alec protested. “Anything but fish. I’m sick of salmon.”
“You have a better idea?” Drake asked.
“I sure do. Roasted rabbit.”
“And how are we going to find a rabbit? I haven’t seen any around here. The battle and the mountain scared them away.”
“You leave that to me, Drake. You may be the stronger fighter, but I’m an expert tracker. I’ll get us breakfast in no time.”
“I hope you’re as good as you boast.”
Alec grinned. “I don’t usually lie.”
Drake nodded, and suddenly yanked the cloak away from them both. The cold hit them right away with its icy kiss of winter wind.
“Hey!” Alec yelled, scrambling for his clothes, “What’d you do that for?”
Drake only laughed. Then he put his clothes on quickly too, shivering and still chuckling.
When they were dressed, Drake got the fire going again while Alec had a look around the clearing. Alec stooped every few steps and looked around carefully, following something promising here and there. Drake didn’t see anything worth noting anywhere Alec stopped, but he had never been a very good game tracker. He depended more on his brute strength than on stealth when he wanted to kill something to eat.
There was a low rumble then, sudden and deep. Drake thought it was an earthquake at first, but then he realized he was hearing the rumble, not feeling it. He lifted his eyes to the mountain, outlined above the trees and covered in snow. The sound had come from there. So. The mountain was not completely at rest yet.
Eventually, Alec disappeared into the forest and Drake managed to get a good-sized fire going. He stacked a few more bits of firewood on it, then followed Alec, curious to see him track something down. For a while he didn’t see him, but then he felt movement just up ahead and saw him crouching with the stealth of a lynx, watching a pile of dirt that lay half-hidden underneath a thick root that poked out from the earth.
Drake approached as quietly as he could and knelt down next to where Alec was. Then they waited. He supposed they were supposed to be watching the pile of dirt, and he hoped it was the den of some kind of small animal. He was hungry.
Drake began to get bored and get cramps in his legs from crouching when he felt Alec’s posture change slightly. Drake froze. He didn’t see anything yet, but… there! A slight rustle of movement. Coming closer. Hop, and then another hop. Soon a brown rabbit was in full view, sniffing anxiously around the mouth of his den. His fur was becoming white in patches, Drake saw; changing to fit the coming winter snows. He wondered just how Alec was thinking of killing it.
The rabbit sniffed around some more, then finally decided it was safe and hopped towards its burrow. He was just getting in when Alec struck.
Drake couldn’t even see the blur of motion. Alec had hurled a rock so fast it looked as if he had used a sling, and the medium-sized pebble shot from his hand and straight for the rabbit’s head. There was a hollow bonk as the stone hit, and the rabbit dropped instantaneously. One of its hind legs twitched, then it lay still.
Drake was impressed.
“Breakfast!” Alec announced, casually walking over to his kill.
“Just how fast can you hurl a stone?” Drake asked him as he followed.
Alec grinned. “Fast enough.”
They walked back to their camp, but as they were coming out of the cover of the trees and into the clearing, Drake stopped in his tracks. His heart sank.
“What’s wrong?” Alec asked.
“Shit,” Drake said, realizing his mistake. “I must have put some green wood in there without noticing!”
A long plume of light grey smoke rose from the fire he had built, snaking up into the morning sky. It had been rising out of the fire for quite some time, judging by the height. Above the tree line, the wind quickly dispersed the smoke, but the damage had been done.
“I just lit a beacon that will bring every damn Guardian right here,” Drake said through gritted teeth. “Damn!”
He punched a nearby tree and left a mark when he took his fist away.
Alec dropped the dead rabbit as the realization hit him, too.
“Maybe they won’t come,” he said weakly.
“They are looking for survivors. From our side, or yours. I know that from the deserter I found yesterday.”
“Yes,” Alec agreed reluctantly. “He said as much.”
“He said there are Guardian patrols combing the forest, and he must have been right because the bastard hadn’t been able to make it out of here on his own. They will come, and try to finish me off.”
“Then we need to go,” Alec said quickly. “Back to the cave; we hide and then we leave when night falls. And we go—”
“Maybe away from the fight, deeper into the forest. They can’t check every tree. If we’re quick and move only by night, we can find a place to winter in, and—”
“Alec,” Drake interrupted, grabbing both the man’s shoulders, “it’s not going to work. You know as well as I do that we can’t outrun them. They’ll fly in and spot us in a second if we try to make a run for it. And if they see you helping me, they’ll kill you too.”
Alec shook his head. “No. If we’re not running, then I can talk to them. I can make them see you’re not like the others.”
Drake smiled sadly. “You know that’s not going to work. They won’t believe you. Not even you believed it, at first. There’s nothing to do.”
“No, that’s not true! There’s got to be something we can do.”
“I can’t run away and I cannot hide in here forever, Alec. This smoke signal is just making things quicker. I knew I was dead the moment my warriors lost the battle. I didn’t even know why I survived, at first.”
Alec tried to pull away and start moving. “No. We can still make it. We get away from this fire and run for the cave! Come on!”
Drake didn’t let go of him and Alec stopped struggling after a while. “I want to say something. These past two days with you have been amazing. I never knew I could feel like this about someone until I met you. I guess I was so happy that I chose to forget it had to end, eventually. But I want you to know that—”
“Stop!” Alec said, angry now. “Stop talking like that. You’re not dead yet, and you won’t be if I can help it. Let them come. Between the two of us we can take them all down.”
He drew his sword, the silver blade shining in the sunlight. Drake took a step back, snarling out of subconscious reflex. Then he caught himself.
“Come on! Let’s get ready,” Alec insisted, walking over to the fire. “We have time to sharpen a stick and make you a spear. We can harden it in the fire so you have a weapon. Where did you kill the deserter? Was it near here? You can get his weapons too, they’re probably still there. Did he have any armor on that you can use?”
Drake let Alec fuss around the fire and approached slowly, his eyes on the sky. He knew the Guardians were on their way by now; they couldn’t have missed the smoke.
“Hey,” he said gently.
“Do you think this stick is long enough? Or should I shave a branch of a tree? I can use my sword to sharpen it.”
“Alec, listen to me.”
“Where did you kill that warrior? You should go back and get his gear while I work on this.”
“Stop!” he boomed at last.
Alec stopped, his sword in one hand, a long branch in the other. They stared at each other, and Drake’s gaze was hard.
“Drop that,” Drake said.
Alec clenched his jaw, hesitated just a moment, and then hurled the branch away. Drake got closer to him, so they were standing right in front of the other.
Alec swallowed. “I’m not letting them kill you,” he said defiantly. His eyes were too bright, his voice slightly unsteady.
“I am a dead man,” Drake said. “You know that, Alec.”
“No. I’m not losing you right after I found you. Not after dreaming of someone like you for so long. They are not going to kill you.”
“I didn’t say anything about letting them kill me,” Drake said.
Alec blinked, confused. A faint dash of hope crossed his features. “What?”
Drake put a hand on Alec’s shoulder. “You should do it. If death has to come from anyone, I would have it be from you.”
Alec’s eyes opened wider as he understood. He looked at his sword, then back at Drake. He shook his head forcefully. “No. Not me. Don’t ask me that.”
“Listen to me.”
“No. There’s got to be some other way! Why me? I could never—”
“Alec, if you don’t do it yourself, they will suspect. They will ask you how you survived so long with me still around. They will wonder you had time to fix your arm like you did; then they will find the dead deserter and ask about that too. You won’t be able to lie your way out of it. Not with me still alive when they come.”
“Listen to me, Alec,” Drake said anxiously, drawing Alec to him. Their faces were almost touching. “You have to do it or we both die when they brand you traitor. It’s the only chance you have, and I am not going to let you die for nothing. Understand?”
Alec only shook his head.
“No,” he whispered.
Drake looked up and saw two specks of black coming closer, flying just above the treetops and coming fast.
“They are coming,” he said, backing off. “I will rush at you out of the woods and attack. Pretend you didn’t know I was there; you were just signaling for help. Then do what you have to do.”
Drake backed away, looking at Alec. Alec was still shaking his head, his sword limp at his side. Tears started rolling down his cheeks as he kept mouthing, no.
Drake hid in the trees until he heard the sound of the Guardians arriving at the clearing and preparing to land. Then he breathed slowly a couple times to calm himself, timing it so he would come out just before the approaching Guardians were on the ground to help Alec.
Then he attacked.
With an animal roar, he plowed out of the trees with clenched fists and ran straight for Alec. His mind registered every detail. The Guardians, two of them, just now landing on the wrong side of the river. Alec’s sword not even raised in defense. And his eyes, pleading. A tear rolling down the cheek he had kissed only this morning.
Drake didn’t hesitate. He didn’t stop. He charged straight into Alec and crashed into him shoulder first.
Alec went flying. He hadn’t even braced himself for the impact and the enormous force behind Drake’s charge sent him wheeling through the air so fast that he didn’t even have time to cry out. He was airborne for less than a second, then crashed back down by the riverside with a hard crunch. Alec cried out in pain when his wounded arm hit a rock. Drake felt something wrench inside him at the sound, but he didn’t stop. He walked slowly to where Alec lay, fists ready.
Alec was just standing up when Drake caught up to him. Alec’s pleading eyes hurt more than any wound Drake had every felt, but he didn’t allow himself a moment’s hesitation. He swung his fist in a vicious arc with all the strength in his massive muscles and caught Alec on the jaw.
Alec tried to twist away, but even as fast as he was, he couldn’t avoid the fist entirely. Drake felt it connect, and roared again as Alec’s head was thrown back. Alec staggered backwards, then fell near the water. He tried to stand up, but the punch had left him stunned. He spat out a tooth, and a trickle of blood began to flow from the corner of his smashed lip.
Drake approached to finish him but saw a blur of something and was forced to duck. A silver arrow whizzed by right where his head had been. As he crouched, Drake saw a silver-bearded Guardian notch another arrow from across the river. Even at that range, Drake knew he could not avoid another shot. He had no cover, and those arrows had to be poisoned. He rolled away from the river, got up again, heart pounding. He was done for.
“Stop!” Alec yelled, struggling up to his feet. Drake halted. So did the other two.
“Alec!” a younger Guardian called out. “Are you all right?”
Alec wiped the blood from his chin with his good hand, slowly. In it he still held his sword. His eyes were hard at last. Determined. As he raised his sword and shifted to a fighting stance, Drake felt a surge of relief tainted slightly with fear. Alec was finally ready to go all the way. He could see it in his eyes.
“This beast is mine,” Alec said loudly, his voice menacing. “His cowardly ambush has failed, and he has no armor. Let him come. Do not interfere!”
Drake saw the younger Guardian make as if to cross the river despite Alec’s words, ready to help, but the silver-bearded Guardian stopped him with a gesture. The elder fighter nodded slowly, approving of Alec’s choice, and put his own bow away. Drake allowed himself a last grin. Guardians were so predictable in battle.
Drake yelled out his challenge with all the power in his lungs. “Die, Guardian filth!”
He rushed headfirst into Alec’s deadly, razor-sharp sword.
Alec avoided his punch easily this time, moving aside with liquid grace. As Drake swung around for a kick at Alec’s right leg, the nimble Guardian struck with his sword and drew a shallow red gash on Drake’s back. Alec jumped away almost instantly, keeping himself out of range.
“Aarrrgh!” Drake cried out, and stumbled onto one knee. The wound was a line of fire in his back.
Drake got up right away and held his ground, letting Alec come to him instead. When Alec approached, Drake waited for the deadly downward stroke of the blade he knew was coming, and dodged aside with an agility born of years of fighting Guardians. He knew their fight patterns. He knew when and where to strike.
He also knew he had no chance of winning, not unarmored, not without any weapons at all.
As the blade cut the air just to Drake’s left, he delivered a back-handed blow to Alec’s shoulder that sent him staggering. He almost dropped his sword, and Drake used the chance to pounce on him—but he was still jumping when Alec brought his sword around in an arc and cut a straight line down the front of Drake’s shirt. Blood welled up from the wound in his chest almost immediately and he only barely managed to stop the pounce that would have impaled him on the blade by rolling to the side.
Drake half-crashed to the ground but managed to jump back up, panting, bleeding, hurting everywhere. He saw Alec was hardly winded at all, and his sword was all red from his blood. Bizarrely, the sight filled him with pride. Alec had what it took to take him down, broken arm or not.
Drake grabbed a rock from the riverbed and hurled it at Alec. He dodged it lazily, and closed the distance between them in the blink of an eye. Alec made a feint diagonal slash with the sword, and Drake bought it. He twisted aside to avoid it and was off balance when the true horizontal slash came his way.
The blade found its mark, and sunk deep into Drake’s side, shattering a rib with the force of the blow.
“Yes!” the younger Guardian yelled across the river.
Drake bent over from the pain, and Alec hesitated when he saw how badly he had wounded him. That was the opportunity Drake had been waiting for. He grabbed Alec’s sword arm with one hand, and his wounded arm with the other.
“Got you,” he whispered, as his eyes glowed bright with malice.
“Look out, Alec!” the younger Guardian yelled.
Alec’s eyes widened with fear a split second before Drake let loose the electrical shock.
It was Drake’s signature weapon, an implant he had grafted onto his hands years ago. It was the secret of his power and the most deadly of all the weapons at his disposal. He delivered an electrical charge like a taser would, but channeled it so that it coursed through his hands and into the body of whatever victim had been stupid enough to let itself be grabbed by Drake while he himself remained unaffected. And this time, the victim was Alec.
The sudden shock of electricity slammed into Alec’s cells and shredded many of them apart in a burst of agony. He cried out, dropped his sword, and began to shake uncontrollably as the current kept flowing, kept shredding a path through his body, kept coming closer to killing him by stopping his heart. But Drake could control the amount of electricity he attacked a target with. He could cause only pain, or fibrillate a heart so it would fail, or burn an opponent right down to cinders. This time he only caused pain. He needed it to look real.
He let go of Alec when he couldn’t stand hurting him anymore, hating himself for the look of pain in Alec’s eyes. He heard the Guardians on the other side of the river shouting, and heard splashing on the water as one of them jumped in to help. Drake pushed Alec away from him roughly, then made a show of picking up a large stone on the riverside to bash Alec’s head in. As he did so, he saw Alec reach for his sword, fighting the lingering, crippling pain of the electrical shock. Drake raised the rock over his head as Alec crouched on the ground, sword ready.
Their eyes locked one last time. Alec’s eyes misted with tears as Drake gave an almost imperceptible nod, and half a smile. Then Drake hurled the rock straight at Alec, but Alec was too fast, as Drake knew he would be. Alec sprang up to his feet and slashed upwards with his blade, a terrible one-handed strike that caught Drake at the base of the neck and bit deeper, cleaving through his throat, his spine, and lodging in the middle of his neck.
Alec yanked his blade out and blood spurted everywhere. Drake’s body fell to the ground in a crumpled heap, his eyes glazing over in their shocked surprise. His blood began pooling around his body. Alec looked away.
Forcing himself not to cry, Alec walked to the river’s edge. The Guardians had come, and they were looking at him with apprehension, but also with respect.
“Well done, Alec,” the silver-bearded Guardian said. “But you know those monsters must be fully beheaded lest they heal. You should finish the deed.”
Alec shook his head. “There is no need. My blade was poisoned, and the nanodrones will prevent any healing. The monster is dead.”
The silver-bearded Guardian nodded slowly. “Very well. What of the search, then? Have you detected any sign of the Winterblade?”
“No,” Alec said with conviction. The lies came with surprising ease. “I scoured the entire area with great care before the Hunter attacked me. It took me two days. I detected no energy spikes, nor did I see any of the landmarks outlined in the ancient texts. It will not be necessary to search this area again.”
“In that case, we are done here,” the elder Guardian said. “You have gone beyond the call of duty, Alec, and I commend you for it. We had thought you lost in the battle. Come, we must take you home. It is a wonder you survived this long on your own. The war council awaits, and any knowledge you may have of our opponents will be appreciated as we plan our final assault on their home base.”
“As you say, Captain,” Alec said. He wiped his blade on his pants, and couldn’t suppress a soft sob as he saw the bright red blood on the silver, gleaming metal.
“Alec!” the younger Guardian said, catching up to him while the Captain went on ahead. Michael, Alec had to remind himself. The young Guardian’s name was Michael. “That fight was incredible! I thought you were dead for sure when he grabbed you!”
“I know,” Alec said, remembering Drake’s terrible eyes at that instant, and shuddering. “I thought I was dead, too.”
“But you survived!” Michael pressed. “And you killed him… they say he’s a Commander of their force, we’ve been looking for him for days when we heard he was alive. I heard he once killed five Guardians single-handedly, but you killed him with only your sword! And that arm—is it broken?”
“Yes, but the robotic support is working fine.” Alec’s voice was dull. It took every ounce of self-control he possessed not to look back at where Drake was lying in a pool of blood. Alec walked mechanically. He did not see where he was going.
“Wow,” Michael said. “You’re sure to get a hero’s ceremony when we get back. Maybe even a command of your own! Wouldn’t that be great?”
“Yes,” Alec said, numb. “It would sure be great.”
The final chapter will be out next week!
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