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, Cyrrhi becomes even less predictable and singles Torrey out for answers as to who attempted the assassination.
This week I chose the prompt “Do you know what you’re doing?”
Sealed in Stone #32
“My Queen, this creature is all lies! Both of them are false!” Sovesa’s snarl twisted her face as much as her voice. Torrey watched her yellow eyes flick from him to Willem.
Willem had been strong so far, his answers to the Queen’s questions honest and more revealing than he knew, but he was showing signs of exhaustion and post-nuptial depletion. Fine tremors had appeared in his limbs and even a strong will could not surmount a body drained of nutrients and sleep. Torrey felt the effects in his own limbs and the gulf between the thoughts in his head and his ability to shape them into words. But he could still try, if only Cyrrhi would listen.
Cyrrhi didn’t speak. Red soaked the long bandage on her arm but the wound did not look mortal. Had the attacker—Shel or Lena—used poison? Torrey’s fear flared anew.
“My Queen, may I speak?”
“Do not listen to him.” Sovesa’s warning sounded sharp.
Torrey yearned to say something in his defense, but Cyrrhi had not extended permission. Tears gathered along the lower lid of his eyes. If she did not want to hear him….
“Strip them.” Cyrrhi’s command was crisp and chill. She murmured something to Sovesa.
Oh no. He tried to think of why she would wish them unclothed. The clothes perhaps offended her, but that would not be reason enough. The warriors removed the human garments roughly, cutting away what did not come off easily. Torrey heard a few murmurs. There were other queens in the chamber, Cyrrhi’s allies and senior queens, along with many of the nom’s junior queens, including ambassadors from some of the other noms. The sight of unclothed males drew all eyes. Her dominance re-established, she had little to fear from them. Only Cyrrhi’s warriors filled the room.
Cyrrhi’s mouth tugged to one side while she watched Sovesa check first Torrey and then Willem for threats. The older queen roughly examined their fingers and toes and the nails of each one, opened their mouths to pry inside, looked into their noses and smelled their breaths. When Sovesa thrust her fingers into Torrey’s mouth, she whispered into Torrey’s ear. “She is already dead.”
Torrey gasped when Sovesa removed her foul fingers from his mouth and stepped away.
“Are they clean?” Cyrrhi asked.
“Yes, my Queen. They have only words with which to wound you.”
“Then words it will be. Come here, my Chosen.”
It took all his will not to look at Willem, to give his friend a glance that would tell him to be strong, that they were together and he would fight for them both. He had heard Willem’s breathing and that it verged on sobs. Of course Willem was afraid. Fear seeped off his naked body in traces the nomari surely noticed. Fear had a smell, a look. Both of them wore it. Torrey knew Willem would be looking at him, blue eyes sick and filled with questions he could not answer. But he could not afford to see it. To take his gaze from Cyrrhi’s at this moment could well mean Willem’s execution. His friend was artless… but he was not.
Torrey rose and climbed the dais. When he moved to kneel at Cyrrhi’s feet, her hand snaked out and grasped his arm, pulling him directly to her. A new murmur swept the hall.
“We shall decide this now.” Her fingers dug deep into his flesh. Bruises no longer mattered. A knife flashed in her other hand.
Torrey fought his reflex to flinch away. Courage mattered more. Still looking her in the eyes, he bared his throat to the blade. The deadly wormtooth honed to a razor edge touched the skin where his pulse surely beat for all to see.
“Your lover is in danger as well, look to see.”
Torrey swiveled his eyes and was just able to see Willem, still kneeling below, but with a warrior holding him by the hair, his throat extended to a second warrior’s spear. “Yes, My Queen. I see.”
“They cannot hear us.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “The other was honest. Will you be?”
“Yes.” He did not need to move his lips to say it.
Loudly again, so all could hear, she asked, “I will kill only one of you. The choice is yours. You? Or him?” And then, softly again to him, “Who did let Bekatti into my chamber? It was not you, or him… or them.” He was staring straight at Shel and Lena, their dead faces twisted with agony.
“It could not have been your warriors. Who else was inside?”
He knew the answers. So did she. Sovesa. Hari. Nak. Aktu.
“Answer my question for them,” Cyrrhi directed. The blade remained at his throat.
“Me. Kill me, My Queen.”
The murmurs grew. Willem lurched forward and shouted “No!” before the warrior holding him by the hair wrestled him back. A line of red appeared on Willem’s throat, trickling blood.
“My Queen, please—”
“He will learn how to behave with the nomari as you have done—or he will die.”
Torrey drew a breath. He couldn’t control the situation. Only Cyrrhi could do that. I am Her Chosen—he reminded himself—trained to face the best and the worst. His task was to prevent Her vengeance from falling on the kumbhs. Not just his kumbh, but all of them. Willem knew what it would take to survive. He had to trust him to do it.
Cyrrhi’s gaze no longer fell on him, or on Willem. It slid to a point beyond his left shoulder to fix upon those who did not yet know suspicion had fallen upon them. Torrey did not turn his head. The wormtooth blade would have cut into his neck if he had. The only one he looked at, the only one who mattered, was Willem, whose blue eyes locked on his with an unspoken question.
Do you know what you’re doing?
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