The Shilan stood up and swept from the room, refusing to look at his son whose continued presence was such a threat to him. He would not be relegated to a position of power should this son rule after him, of that he was certain. Bel’loc had always gone his own way and refused to go along with his agenda. The Shilan snorted, his best friend was a commoner for Lords sake!
Following closely in the Shilan’s footsteps was his Sheven, the aged priest who had been his closest confidant for years. He was rapidly assessing options, plans and responses in his head as they left the Temple for the Shilan’s compound near the lake at the end of the Vale. He knew that the relatively calm façade of the Shilan’s would disappear the second they were alone.
As they approached the compound the warriors on the doors snapped to attention, hurrying to open the huge double doors that encompassed the main entrance into the building twice as large as the Temple. It had obviously grown over the years, each Shilan bringing something new to the building and grounds. The stone walls and ceilings were accented by beautifully woven tapestries and elaborate stone work, all showing scenes of significance to the Tarennans.
The inner chambers the Shilan occupied were in the central area of the compound, the many doors and hallways were left open in times of peace but capable of being shut off and defended in the case of attack. It had only happened once in the past, in the times of Bel’loc’s great grandfather, when a neighboring tribe thought that being the leader of Tarenna would be as easily won as taking the life of a single man. The occupants of the Vale dissuaded him in such a manner that there had been no further attempts. That people of Tarenna remember that day as the largest blood bath in their history with over 300 dead on both sides. The pyres had burned for 3 days in respect to the dead, releasing their essence back to the Lords.
The Shilan altered his firm strides not one whit since they left the Temple. His face remained impassive until the second the doors to his suite closed behind the Sheven, then his rage was immediately visible and his entire posture changed. He picked up a vase and with all the fury he could muster shattered it against the warm brown walls, the pieces bouncing off the stone floors with sharp pinging sounds.
“AHHHH!” he bellowed, unable to restrain his temper in any longer. The staff was very familiar with the mess his temper tantrums made. The destruction released his pent-up feelings more as he pictured Bel’loc in place of the vase, being hurled into the walls to shatter into a thousand impotent pieces. The Shilan would not allow him to ruin all the hard work that he had done since his father reached the age of ascension to the venerated Sharaken.
The priests were careful to gauge the span of years so that the Shiren was of the proper age when the Shilan was ready to become the Sharaken. They followed closely to the dictates of the Lords, where the young man was the warrior, ready to prove his worth as a leader of men on the field. The mature man was the ruler, strong and firm in his guiding of the people of Tarenna and the elder man was the counselor, the wisdom that stood behind the throne ready to advise the Shilan. Not that the current Shilan’s father had survived long as Sharaken, the sharing of power was not something the Shilan was inclined to favor.
“My Lord Shilan, Fa’ril, please…you must calm down. Plans cannot be made if you are going to continue to lose your temper and shatter vases that have been handed down in your family for more generations than I like to count!” The Sheven was pushing the limits in how even he was allowed to speak to the Shilan, but the use of his familiar name got Fa’ril’s attention.
“What are we supposed to do now? They have been blessed by the Lords, given sacred torcs, known to us only in legend, to show their special rank and duty now to the Lords. My time as Shilan will soon be over, even the Lords alluded to the end of my rule as soon as Bel’loc and that outworlder finish whatever the task is that they are ‘destined’ to do!” Fa’ril ranted.
“Shhh…keep your voice down. Not even your chambers are completely secure for that sort of talk if you are going to keep on yelling.”
Fa’ril dropped onto a cushioned chair by the set fireplace, ready to be lit if he should feel a chill. There was an assortment of sweets and wines laid out for his refreshment and staff ready to answer to his every whim. Yes, being Shilan was good, very good. He was loath to give all of that up just because some group of priests decided that he had ruled his ‘allotted time’.
“We’ll think of a way to turn this latest development to our advantage, My Lord. Perhaps we can use the Lords instructions for the Shiren and his Sheven to get in touch with the land and the people to our benefit. This is what I think we should do……”
Bel’loc and Cale sat for a few moments after the Shilan and the members of the priesthood left the room. Cale was thunderstruck; his beliefs had been shaken to the very core with what happened. Bel’loc watched the play of emotions on his face as he cautiously touched the strange torc that was now set around his neck. It went from shock, to disbelief to a growing expression of fear as he could not feel any joint in the torc.
“What is this, why can’t I get it off!” Cale said in a strained voice as he pulled on the torc around his neck. He began to panic; the pressure on his personal beliefs with this latest stress was just about as much as he could take. His neck began to turn red where he was pulling and twisting on the odd black torc. Bel’loc grabbed his hands and pulled them off, holding them together between his own.
“Cale, Cale…you need to calm down before you hurt yourself. “ Bel’loc urged. “There is no way to get off the torc; they are this way so that the people know that we are the favored and chosen ones of the Lords. I have heard of them in tales, but no one in living memory has seen one before.”
“So I have to wear this for the rest of my life? I don’t want to; I want it off, NOW!” Cale exploded. “No one asked me if I wanted this, if I have plans for my own life, things that I must do beyond what your ‘god’ wants me to do! I had never heard of Tarenna, your Lords or you before yesterday but now you are telling me that I am ‘chosen of your god’ with no choice in the matter?! It’s not fair and it’s not right!”
Bel’loc’s expression showed his hurt for a moment before he could control it. He knew that Cale was just overwhelmed and upset. He was sure that such things would never come from his mouth normally, but that was just the problem. They had known each other for only two days, and those had been far from normal. First they had been attacked by the garthon and Bel’loc injured, then Cale had to fight a Trial by Combat and he had been both hurt and poisoned…then brought back from the dead. No matter how strong this soul bond between them was already, Cale had been forced to react to events as they overwhelmed them. It was too much to ask of any person.
“Shhh…Shhh….It’ll be okay. I promise we’ll figure all this out together, shhh…” Bel’loc took one of his hands and started to rub Cale’s neck, squeezing gently. The soft massaging touch was slowly loosening the tight muscles and Cale’s rigid posture began to ease as some of the tension ran out of his body.
Bel’loc released Cale’s hands, bringing his other hand up to cup the strong chin, raising the hanging head up to make eye contact. “I know this is all just too much for you right now, but I promise I will be here to help you though everything. You’re not alone, I’m here…” he soothed.
Cale drew in a shuddery breath, knowing that his actions were a bit hysterical. This was all just too much, and the fact that the Lords had actually appeared? That was freaking him out the most. He was used to the comfortable knowledge he had of his own physical universe, proof that some sort of deity actually existed was enough to shake his beliefs to their foundation. The feeling of that crumbling beneath his feet had him floundering for any handhold to steady himself.
Cale brought his hand up to cover Bel’loc’s, sliding their combined hands up to his cheek as he nuzzled into the warmth that was being offered. He could feel the hard callous on Bel’loc’s hand, but the overall feeling was of gentle softness. He took in a deep breath, smelling the faint pine scent still from their earlier bath, the feelings leftover from that time soothing him further. It would be okay, they would figure this out together. For now, he just needed to relax.
“I’m calmer now, thanks.” Cale said softly. “I just need some time to process this, to think about what it all means to me.”
“Let’s go back to the bedchamber in the healer’s hall. I am sure the elder priest will be able to recommend a tonic that would help and we can get some food. We skipped the noon meal for this meeting, and I am sure an empty stomach isn’t helping anything.”
Bel’loc and Cale stood up, their entwined hands letting go but staying close to each other. They walked silently out of the council chamber, ignoring the guards that were left behind as they returned to their room. Bel’loc whispered his request to an acolyte that was idling near the entrance to their hall, sending him for food and the elder priest.
The elder priest arrived before the food. “How may I be of service, My Lords?”
“It’s been a rough couple of days. I was hoping that you could provide a tea perhaps that might be able to sooth our nerves?”
“That is understandable, given the nature of the last few days and everything you two have gone through. I heard about the visitation from the Lords from some of the council members already.”
At that comment Cale tensed up again, his face showing his fear as he sat silently on the bed. Bel’loc shot the elder priest a helpless look with an entreating expression, his eyes clearly speaking his need for someone, anyone to help him in this situation.
“I know just what you need My Lords, a calming tisane would be just the thing in this case. I think that, a nice light meal and rest will restore your nerves. Have you sent for an acolyte to the kitchens to fetch something?”
“Yes, we have, one should be bringing something shortly. I also requested some boiling water to be sent as well.”
“That will be fine, I happen to have the herbs with me that would make a perfect tea for what we are looking for.”
There was a light knock on the door as the tray of food was delivered, a meal of cold meats, fresh flat bread, fruit and juice. The steaming vessel of water and tea cups was carried by a second acolyte. The priest directed them to the table in the corner where the meal was set up to be shared by the two men. With his back turned to Bel’loc and Cale, he began to add the dried herbs and flowers to make a light, sweet tea. Cale didn’t notice that there were a few extra herbs added to his cup as the priest dipped the twisted cloth infusing the hot water with the healing essence of the plants, the Aspect of Nature that he revered and dedicated his life to.
Taking up the leavings from his preparations and the leftover trays, the priest handed them over to the waiting acolytes. They bowed to Bel’loc and Cale, leaving the room as silently as they had come. The two men sat down at the table in the same seats they had used that morning to share the earlier meal. That seemed forever ago to Cale, back when things still made sense to him. He could feel the panic hovering just below the surface, waiting for a moment when his will would weaken to come out and swamp him again.
“This tea should help, My Lords. If you should feel up to it a bath or a rest after you have eaten and drunk might be healing as well. Please don’t hesitate to send for me again if you should need something a little stronger.” The elder priest bowed, and left the room.
Sipping at the tea, both men sighed in pleasure and relief. The herbs gave it an earthy flavor while the light sweetness of the flowers added both complimented and hid the stronger herbs essence. Bel’loc showed Cale how to wrap the cold meat slices with the flatbread, rolling the two together into a handy sandwich. Finishing off the meal with some succulent plasya melon, they both lounged back in their chairs, feeling comfortably stuffed. The food and the tea had helped, Cale was feeling drowsy and his eyes were half shut as he enjoyed the lassitude that spread through his body.
That was the sign that Bel’loc had been waiting for. His tea hadn’t been quite as strong as Cale’s, just enough herbs had been added to sooth his anxiety for Cale. A rest was in order and he knew that Cale needed that extra help so the elder priest had added just a little extra something. His laugh rang out softly at the silly grin on Cale’s face as he stripped him of his kilt and slippers before tucking him in under the covers. He walked to the other side of the bed, stripping to his own tunic before sliding in next to Cale.
Cale let out a murmur, almost asleep already as he succumbed to his mental exhaustion. Turning on his side, he snuggled up to the warm body in bed, comforted by the remembered scent and feel of this person. He rubbed his cheek on the cloth covered chest before he sighed and sank into oblivion. Bel’loc stroked his hair, the gentle motion soothing as he too fell asleep, secure for the moment.
The next morning Cale woke up sleeping on his side with a large body wrapped around him, legs tangled with his own. Bel’loc’s face was buried in his hair and his hands were wrapped around Cale’s chest, heavy and lax with sleep. He was aware of a hot bump snuggled against his ass cheeks, making him blush. He wiggled away gently, lifting Bel’loc’s arm as he slid across the bed. Bel’loc rolled onto his back, the blanket slipping down to show his muscular chest and just a hint of one hip. The bump that Cale had felt was nicely outlined by the blanket as well, this time making Cale feel a rush of heat along with his renewed blush.
Cale hurried across the cold stone floors into the bathing chamber to use the pot he had been shown yesterday. He knuckled the small of his back as he stretched backward, after he let his tunic fall back down.
“Well, isn’t that an intriguing sight first thing in the morning?” Bel’loc chuckled.
Cale started, “Oomph…ouch,” he winced as his back twinged.
“Your back is sore? I’m not surprised after the last few days, plus me lying on you part of last night. Here let me give you a hand, I am actually really good at this.”
Bel’loc’s strong fingers dug into Cale’s back by his spine, kneading the muscles into submission. Cale groaned at the pain it caused as the knots and kinks eased under the skillful attention. He was still a bit tense so Bel’loc suggested another bath, this time with no fooling around. He felt they both just needed the closeness of sharing the pool. They sat close as they relaxed in the hot water but the companionship warmed them instead of igniting their passion.
“We should go to the Shilan’s compound and get you set up in the Sheven quarters that adjoin my rooms. We share an anteroom and bathing chamber but have separate sleeping chambers. I am sure the staff have most likely aired the rooms out and made them ready for you to occupy by now.” Bel’loc chuckled, “I bet they probably started before we even entered the Temple for the first time. “
“Okay, I’m good with that. Is there anything we need to do here first?”
“No, the elder priest knew we needed the help to calm our nerves yesterday and a good long rest. It is why he agreed with me and put the knockout herbs in our tea.” Bel’loc said with a wink. “Why do you think we slept for so long?”
“Well, I do feel much calmer now, so I guess I will forgive your high handed behavior,” came the haughty response, “THIS time…” Cale looked at Bel’loc with one eyebrow raised, waiting for his apology for drugging him.
“What? I’m not going to say I’m sorry. If I was feeling the stresses of the past few days, you have every right to be close to hysterical. You needed to calm down and rest. The herbs did nothing but allow your body to do what it really wanted to without your mind getting in the way.”
Cale grudgingly agreed as they left the healing chamber. Be’loc led the way out of the Temple again, this time by a different route to allow Cale to see more of the exquisitely carved totems in the niches along the walls. Some were only inches tall while others were several feet. Each one showed a different version of the Lords or Aspects of Nature. The interpretations of the Aspects were many and varied as the artists chose what spoke to their soul.
Cale just took in the sweet air, still relishing it after the years upon industrialized planets, orbiting stations and cruisers. Granted most of the time spent in transport cruisers was asleep in pods, but one still woke up with that taste in the mouth of old recycled air, breathed too long and by too many people. Breathing deeply, he kept pace with Bel’loc as they retraced their steps down near the lake to the Shilan’s compound, which they had only viewed from the path the day before.
“So…you grew up in the compound and this village, Bel’loc?” Cale asked.
Bel’loc gave him a heated glance at the use of his name, causing Cale to blush. “I’m sorry, I forgot.” He said just a bit sheepishly.
“Yes…I was born by the Priestess who was the vessel for the Shilan in the Temple of course, in the Inner Courtyard by the Shrine to the Lords. It was the same place that I spilled my blood and prayed for your recovery, the most sacred place to our people. Typically only the Shilan and Shiren, plus their Shevens can enter the Courtyard, the one exception being when an heir is born. “
Bel’loc nodded at the guard as they walked into the gates of the Shilan’s compound and up to the massive double doors. They were identical to the ones that led into the Temple. Cale gaped at the wide elaborate space they opened up to. He had seen some of the carving on the totems in the Temple but the walls had been mostly left bare stone, austere as befitted the priesthood. Cale stopped just inside the main chamber, staring at the bright colors of the tapestries that lined the walls and the polished black stone floor, inlaid with white stones mosaics of the flower that centered on the doors to the Temple’s council chamber.
Bel’loc watched Cale’s face, smug that he was impressed even though he was certain Cale was used to far nicer surroundings. “Well, c’mon. I want to show you to our rooms so that you can settle in.”
Following Bel’loc Cale kept twisting his neck around, looking at all of the fanciful carvings and weavings. The colors used were bright and clear, the jewel tones that he was so taken with in Bel’loc’s eyes were so faithfully rendered he wondered how the dyers could get the correct tones. He stopped before a tapestry just down the hall from their room, mesmerized by the glinting hair and beautiful face of a child who seemed so lifelike that he just had to touch it.
The glinting of the golden tresses had a metallic feel to it, as if it were spun gold, woven into the cloth as thread. And the eyes, those were hard and smooth, the colors of green and red, which should have seemed eerie but were breathtaking, seeming natural to the child in a way that couldn’t be explained.
“That is my father, the Shilan, before he became Shiren when his older brother died. As a second son he was groomed as a spare heir, so he was prepared anyway to take over as leader when the priests announced the ascension of his father. It had been extremely unorthodox for me to have been born to a consecrated Priestess while he was still Shiren, but with no spare heir there wasn’t much choice.”
“But that is a conversation better left for other places than this seemingly deserted hall.” Bel’loc said, knowing the whispers about his father and the suspicious nature of his brother’s death.
Cale nodded, still curious, he figured there was more to the story that he would find out at a later time. There were no more delays as he followed Bel’loc down the hall and through a large wooden door, carved with the flowers from the temple again. The rooms inside were large, open and lit well by the strange lights that Cale had been wondering about. So many things on this planet were completely unfamiliar to him, it seemed like every minute he was awake he thought of two more questions for everything he saw.
Bel’loc crossed the anteroom, opening another door that led outside to a private garden. “This has always been my favorite place in the compound. It is so quiet and a space just for me. I don’t even allow the gardeners to enter it.” Bel’loc explained. He went over to the large polalla tree that was sweetening the air. “I have spent so much of my time here, dreaming of another life where I could be free to be like other people, to be able to experience a touch, the sound of someone saying my name in a voice not filled with loathing.”
Cale responded to the melancholy tone in Bel’loc’s voice, quickly walking across the blue mossy covering instead of following the longer path. He took hold of Bel’loc’s shoulders and turned him from where he was wistfully stroking the tree bark.
“You have that now, a person who you can touch, who wants to touch you,” he said, wiping a tear away with his thumb, cupping the sculpted face of his…well, he didn’t know what to call him yet, but, “You are mine and I am yours…we can find out what that means together, I promise I will be here for you.”
More tears streamed down Bel’loc’s face as his relief was as overwhelming as his loneliness had been. Cale whispered, stroking the face cupped gently between his hands. “You are mine, mine to hold, mine to protect, and mine to…love.” Bel’loc’s eyes widened at that admission, no one had ever said they loved him before.
Bel’loc threw his arms around Cale, burying his face in his neck and sobbing out the years of pain he had experienced. It was a cathartic experience for them both, as Cale felt the role of protector for the first time, not only for another person’s physical well-being, but their emotional as well. Tears slipped down his face to fall onto the hair just below his chin as he experienced his own realization at what had happened these past few days.
He had fallen in love with Bel’loc. As cold and heartless as he had been raised, the duty and honor ideals which allowed no room for love or gentleness, something inside of him had remained hopeful that one day he too could find someone who would be able to break down those barriers and steal his cold heart. He didn’t want to see it before now, but from the first moment they had met Bel’loc had tugged at something inside of him, something no one had touched before. It was as if he had taken Cale’s heart in his hands and just warmed it slowly until the feeling became too much for Cale to hide from.
“I do…I love you,” Cale said wonderingly. He laughed, softly, awed at the emotion that he had never really thought to experience. “Bel’loc, please, please look at me…”
Bel’loc raised his head, his wet eyes shining even as they were blurred with tears. “Oh, I’m looking at you, Cale…You have no idea what that means to me, to hear you say you love me is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard in my life. Thank you so much for being honest with me, because…”
At that Cale blanched a little, Thank you was not an ardent admission of love returned…it was too soon, they were both unused to kindness from those close to them, how could he even really know what love is, oh no….he had just said I love you to an alien man he had known only two days…oh Gods…..
Bel’loc watched the fear and embarrassment grow on Cale’s face. “Shhh...No…” He did the only thing he could think of, leaning forward and kissing Cale’s open mouth, first gently then with growing passion. He pulled back a moment, waiting as the eyes he was so crazy about opened a small distance, the look dreamy and soft. He moaned at the invitation he saw there, the need that echoed the hunger he felt inside.
“Cale,” Bel’loc whispered, “I love you too, so much, oh so much. I never could have imagined someone as perfect as you coming into my life or that you could love me back. I have to say thank you, it is just another way in which you have saved me, this time from myself.”
In an equally hushed tone, husky with want and need Cale said, “If you really want to thank me, kiss me again, touch me, hold me…I never want to leave your arms, Bel’loc, I want you so bad.”
Cale pressed his body closer to Bel’loc’s, grinding his erection that had sprung into life into the hips in front of him, his hands gripping Bel’loc’s ass to hold them tight together as he sighed against the lips sooo close to his own. “Bel’loc, please….” He said pleadingly
He was unprepared for the frantic response he got, one hand gripping the small of his back to grind them together even harder, the pain a sweet torture that had them both groaning against the other’s lips, which were covering the dueling tongues that curled and stroked each other in a frantic dance. Bel’loc gasped and pulled back slightly at a particularly skilled twist of Cale’s hips.
“I think we should take this inside…”
Fa’ril stayed closeted in his rooms for several hours with his Sheven. No servants dared to even knock on the chamber doors to receive instructions for the feast. It was traditionally given when the Covenant was sworn after the Shiren had chosen a Sheven. That had obviously been put off a few days due to the injuries Bel’loc and Cale had suffered; but most of the staff truly cared about the Shiren, even though they had to hide that and wanted to celebrate his new Sheven.
Fa’ril and his Sheven spoke at length, hushed tones carrying no farther than the two chairs they where they were sitting in by the unlit fire. Plans were made; things would have to be set in motion before any steps could be taken to speed Bel’loc on his way. The Sheven cautioned the Shilan to be patient, any slip up or indication that treachery was afoot would most likely cause swift repercussions from the Lords. Such was their hubris that they thought to fool the Lords by using intermediaries, as long as their hands were ‘clean’.
“You should call for the cook, My Lord Shilan. I believe they have a feast to prepare.”
“Yes, We wouldn’t want to cause any talk like We do not accept this new Covenant, now would We?” smirked the Shilan.
“Oh no, that would give everyone the wrong impression. While you do that My Lord, I think I shall go take a walk to the bird pens. I do believe I saw the handlers were neglecting a bird that I should try to heal. I might be able to save it; I don’t know, it might have to be disposed of. “ The Sheven said with a wink. The pair’s conspiratorial smiles were sickening to behold, turning their faces into something far baser than a person could ever look like.
“Please send in the cook on your way out, We will have to rush things a bit but there should be just enough time for them to prepare the Shiren’s favorite foods, he has such simple tastes.”
The Sheven bowed as he stood to leave the room, his mind already on his next task. The Shilan continued to sit in his chair, his hands rubbing his body in a rather disturbing manner. He just knew this time he would be successful in ridding himself of his troublesome eldest offspring. The anticipation of the power that would be his tickled his senses, almost arousing him in the secret pleasure the thoughts provided. It wouldn’t be long now…
Thank You for Reading!
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