Welcome to Wednesday Briefs, where authors post free fiction of 1000 words or less each week.
I’m continuing with Sealed in Stone, M/M science fiction about Torrey and Willem, two human youths who love each other but must fight to stay together when Torrey becomes the Chosen of the alien Queen who rules over his people.
In this chapter, fleeing from one danger leads the boys to something possibly worse.
From this week’s numerous prompts, I chose finding a penny on the ground, though this world calls them coppers.
Sealed in Stone #28
Torrey kept hold of Willem’s wrist, dragging the bigger boy along as he plunged behind the heavy draping into one of the pleasure rooms ringing the Queen’s bedchamber. Some sexual performances required unusual features. The pool room was one such chamber. This vaulted room with machinery was another, though its ropes and winches could not be seen in the dark. But Torrey had explored the Queen’s Chambers well and had chosen this room because it accessed the secret passage.
“This way,” he whispered. Willem was starting to react to their abrupt flight. They’d left behind the clashing of spears.
“What are we doing?”
“Buying time. Safety maybe. Stay with me and don’t speak, all right?”
He prayed they’d escaped unseen. The warriors had focused on the signs of battle. It would be natural for the other youths to focus on the warriors. He especially hoped Hari had not seen where Torrey and Willem had gone. Unless they took up arms, the slaves would not be harmed. Youths with kumbh affiliations had more to fear. Feeling along the wall, he found the touch stone and pressed it. Part of the wall swung outward. Still in darkness, he pulled Willem after him into the narrow passage and pulled the door closed behind them.
To the right… or the left? Silence enveloped them now. Torrey stood very still, trying to feel and taste currents of air. Cooler air, fresher, trickled across the beads of new perspiration on his face. To the left. If he was right, this way would take them to the new chamber Cyrrhi had commissioned, where the stoneworkers were housed. He and Willem kept to the left hand wall, feeling their way hand by hand until a stone door frame barred their way. The passage had not had a door when he’d last seen it.
“It’s blocked!” Torrey felt frantically around the edges. When Willem nuzzled the back of his neck, he shivered. “Stop that!”
“I know I’m fucked up. I just can’t—”
Torrey pulled Willem close, sharing heat and kissing his friend’s neck. Fear had gotten them this far, their bodies’ need to flee overpowering all else. But that couldn’t last and he needed Willem to stay calm. To keep himself calm as well.
“They put up a door. Lena, Shel—they must have done it first thing.”
Though he couldn’t see Willem’s face, Torrey felt his breath, the pressure of his torso as he moved around him. Soft brushing sounds of skin on stone told him Willem was feeling the shape of the door. There would be a way in, a hidden catch placed there by the stoneworker. Torrey had never learned how such were made, but Willem had studied the craft.
“Here,” Willem said. A soft clunk led to the sigh of perfectly set stone on a pivot hinge swinging to allow them to pass. They stepped into a dark chamber barely brightened by slender rays of moonlight. Overhead glimmered the outlines of a scaffolding and, framing that, a hole to the sky.
The craftwomen had opened an aperture in an outer wall. Because of it the air should have been fresh, but a foulness filled the chamber along with disturbing shadows.
“Lena!” Willem hissed, calling out the leader’s name. “Rue!” No one answered.
“This isn’t right.” Torrey’s eyes had adjusted enough for the shadows to have taken on more definition. He stumbled toward the chamber pot stench. As he approached the tented enclosure of the human living space, he spied two pale shapes upon the floor. “Oh, fuck! Willem! Over here!”
He knelt beside the first naked form and the smell of rotting flesh told him there would be no heartbeat. Willem dropped to his knees beside the other woman and studied the unnatural angle of her neck. “She’s dead!”
“Who are they?”
“This is Marda.” Willem looked over at Torrey, distress on his handsome features. There was just enough light to see the scar on his cheek. “That’s Rue.”
Rue Segund, a Master Cutter. And Marda Kwin was one of the kumbh’s best stone shapers. Torrey swallowed a thick lump of fear. They’d come here under the Queen’s protection. Who would have killed them? A glint of a copper coin caught his eyes and he picked it up.
“Close the door through which we entered,” he said. While Willem did that, he walked past the dead women toward the wall meant to communicate with his chamber. Work had not started yet on that door, but when he looked across the room he saw the black shape of another opening that hadn’t been there before. Willem joined him and they stared at it together.
“Where does it lead?”
“I don’t know. To the Corridor of Drones, I think.” He wasn’t sure, but he feared what they would find if they followed that passage.
Willem’s breathing hitched and he asked, “Why don’t I want to screw you anymore?”
“She's mated. The dominant Queen.”
“I don’t know. The fighting… but when the pheromonally dominant Queen is impregnated, the nuptial ends.” Torrey stumbled back toward the darkest shadows and found the wall, where he slid down to the floor. So many emotions welled inside him it was all he could do not to howl. Here in the dark he knew nothing. Outside this room a queen war might well be raging while he and Willem huddled helpless at the center of it.
Willem sat beside him and folded him in brawny arms. “Are we going to stay here?”
“I think we should.”
Willem didn’t say anything for a while. Torrey pressed his face into the angle of Willem’s neck and shoulder and just inhaled his lover’s warm, human scent, wishing he could go home, out of the nom, back to the safe sweet love of their childhoods. He softly sobbed as Willem kissed his hair.
“We’re in this together, Tor, whatever happens. Me and you to the end.”
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