This week's prompts were: "I come from the land of ice and snow..." or "I come from a land down under..." or "Wherever I may roam..." or use: a band of angels or "Something's rotten in the state of..." or "two peas in a pod" or use sugar, but not in baking or tie a yellow ribbon in some way or "We will be victorious" or "Puff the magic dragon" or feature an Escher print or a piece of Warhol pop art. I wanted less Earth culture for my alien world, so opted once more for a picture prompt.
Click here to start with the first chapter.
Sealed in Stone #2
“I won’t let the nomari take you.” Willem meant it. Rage permeated muscles thick from days spent working stone. “We can run away, hide in the hills. Make our way to one of the villages”—he was desperate—“or maybe the barbarian tribes.”
The youths sat side by side as they gazed upon the cliffs, spires, and terraces of Pesht. Carved from a mountain, the nom—as the nomari called their dwelling—was both fortress and hive. Pesht towered above a squat maze of walled communes called kumbhs, each devoted to a craft and bound to the nom and each other by alliances and trade. The kumbhs’ inhabitants were human. The nomari were not.
Or at least, not exactly.
Torrey shook his head. “Even if we tried, what would happen then? Neither of us ever trained to use weapons. We’d have to escape the kumbh and Pesht Dasa without being detected, and that’s almost impossible. And then we’d have to cross the hard lands or ford the river and… we don’t know how to hunt or fight, and we can’t outrun the bugs.”
Willem sighed because Torrey was right. Escaping Pesht was a fool’s dream. Even if they did succeed, and the nomari didn’t chase them down, the land teemed with predators. Beetles the size of human children could sever limbs with a swipe of their mandibles. But the worst were the vrnabi, winged arthropods that laid eggs in their paralyzed prey. Becoming food for a vrnabi larva was so horrific the nomari staked victims out as punishment.
“All right, so we won’t run,” Willem conceded. They decided this every time. And every time the twisting panic in his stomach grew. He couldn’t look at Torrey anymore and not want to break into tears. Did Torrey feel the same? How would he feel if it was Willem who might be taken away?
Willem leaned forward, pinning Torrey between his arms to claim a kiss. Maybe it would be their last, maybe it wouldn’t, but he put all the fire of his blood into it. Torrey answered by wrapping both arms around Willem’s neck, pulling him down onto him as they tumbled to the cold stone of the roof. Still kissing those sweet lips, Willem rolled atop Torrey and together they pressed against each other, grinding and pushing until they were both hard and yearning. But they could not consummate their passion, not here where they might be seen from Pesht’s high terraces.
“Will, we can’t—”
“Why don’t you fuck me?” Willem murmured. Torrey’s breath was hot against his neck, arms tight around him. He ran his fingers into Torrey’s dark unruly hair. “Let someone see us with your cock in my ass, and She won’t want you then—”
Torrey struggled out from under him. He propped up on his elbows and gave Willem a baleful look. “No. But neither will the kumbharani. If I do that, even my mother would agree to send me off to some other kumbh in a breeding trade! Do you want me to be farmed out in a kumbh alliance… or to some village with a quarry?”
Though the ache in his groin was answer enough, Willem sat up with a groan. “Oterra! I hate this. It’s not fair!”
“Fair? I don’t think it’s fair my mother’s the Kumbhara and that makes me and my brothers candidates for alliance. Or how about this? That Pesht’s Queen of all queens is allied to this kumbh and not some other one—”
Willem swallowed and blinked back tears. His damn friend was setting him straight… again. “Torrey, I’m sorry. I’m being selfish.”
“Yeah, you are. And so am I, because I want to be with you instead of doing what I have to do. I want a chance at us, except there is no us, not in the sense of you and me. There’s only us and them.” Together, they looked again at the stony shape of the nom as it loomed above them with its thousand terraces and windows. “The Bhesarim, the Pattaim—all the kumbhs—need to placate the queens, and especially the Queen, to keep us safe.”
Taking Torrey’s face in his hands, he nuzzled his friend’s delicate cheekbones and stubborn chin, his straight nose and long black lashes. Torrey had the most beautiful lashes and deep gray eyes. When he kissed those perfect, beloved lips, he encountered vestiges of resistance and fear and feelings of being alone with a burden neither of them had ever wanted. Sometimes Willem wished the flying chunk of stone that had struck his cheek, laying it open and scarring him, had sliced Torrey’s face also. But Torrey had never been allowed to actually work with stone.
“I’m sorry,” he said again, after the other man relented and returned his kiss. Forgiveness softened Torrey’s lips and gentle, welcoming tongue. He pulled away reluctantly. “Damn it, Torrey. I can’t even imagine life without you.”
The first gong of day called the workers from their beds. They had to appear for the count. Willem grudgingly followed Torrey to the stone stairs and they walked down together.
“Queens don’t kill the men they take,” Torrey reminded him as they neared the last step and the courtyard of the laundry, where white-petaled day flowers grew from cracks between the flagstones. Willem’s buff tunic had been dyed using the flowers.
“Sometimes they do.”
“Slaves, then, but not free men. The nomari value alliances and our kumbh is influential. Besides, I might not be taken.”
Willem tried to hang on to hope the nomari Queen would choose one of the other youths being presented that night. What else could he do? He really would have run away with Torrey. He wished with all his heart Torrey would turn his back on his kumbh-be-damned duty. The kumbhs didn’t need the nomari Queen’s protection. They had arms. They had walls. They had…
A gnat’s chance in winter of breaking free.
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