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 reveals the terrible consequences of the assassination attempt.
This week I chose “Even in death, my life sucks”, though I tweaked that somewhat into what is possibly the cheesiest line of dialogue ever.
Sealed in Stone #33
Cyrrhi removed the knife from Torrey’s throat, but continued to hold him by the arm. He noted how her arm shook ever so slightly and wondered if fatigue worked against her. Was she weakened by loss of blood? The smell of it soaked the room. Her gaze flashed regally over the gathering, bright despite the greenish hue tainting the whites of her eyes.
“Sovesa, stay, and these ri’im males also, all of them. And I wish Urdhva to stay too.”
The other queens cast looks at the one chosen to remain behind, but they filed out without words. Cyrrhi’s warriors stayed, of course, more than a thousand in counter to Urdhva’s two dozen or so. The younger queen looked nervous, as well she should.
Torrey met Willem’s terrified eyes. His friend still knelt on the polished, blood stained floor with spear blades poised to impale him. Stay strong, Torrey willed him. Stay strong so I can.
Golden haired with narrow golden eyes, a bold nose and the lithe, toned body of a commander of warriors in the field, Urdhva approached the dais and knelt. She appeared to pay no attention to Willem or the warrior holding him. Her attention fixed on the Queen.
“Daughter, Bekatti was ambitious, but so are you. You are as dominant as she was and had she succeeded, you would have died next. But she failed to kill me quickly enough and so she died by my warriors’ blades. Now you have no rivals. But you do have enemies.”
Torrey’s heart sank. Cyrrhi’s speech held notes of concession no Queen would ever use, unless…
“My Queen,” he interrupted, knowing in his heart he could.
“Silence for now, Chosen. All will be explained.” Cyrrhi kept her attention on Urdhva, who watched and listened intently. “Daughter, I will give you a great gift. Wisdom is priceless and difficult to obtain. You have, I notice, wisely kept yourself free of kumbh alliances.”
“Yes, great Queen. My command at the border with Ghautmarga made a kumbh alliance less imperative. Slave males serve me as well.”
“So you might think, and in bed that is true. But a slave male has no investment in you save as it furthers his safety or well-being, and he has none in the nom at all. All his cunning will be directed at advancing his own position.” Cyrrhi gestured and warriors seized Hari, dragging him forward. Now three knelt at the foot of the dais. “This one, for example, is beautiful, is he not?”
Fear tightened Hari’s features. His flawless skin, delicately kissed by the sun and pampered, turned pale. His fair hair glinted with gold as it fell forward across his cheeks, obscuring eyes blue as sapphires.
Urdhva’s face stayed carefully free of expression. To admire a ruling Queen’s favorite was perilous if doing so ignited Her jealousy. “He is famous for his beauty.”
“As famous as Rayyas?”
Torrey’s mind raced. Cyrrhi referred to history. The Tyranny of Rayyas the Beautiful, a gorgeous slave male who had so enthralled two Queens of Nirgantha he had all but ruled that nom through them. Finding his first Queen wanting, he had orchestrated her overthrow and replaced her with a younger queen he desired. That had not worked a third time, however, and the nomari had never forgotten the lesson.
“All beauties are as famous as Rayyas,” said Urdhva.
“Which is why a wise Queen takes precautions. We isolate the pleasures of our loins as surely as we do the drones of our innermost desire. Our males meet few other queens. This is by design. Have you seen Hari before this day?”
“No, great Queen.”
“Truth. Because I know this to be so.” Cyrrhi reached to Torrey and touched his hand, which he gave so she could twine it in his. “This is my Chosen, a son of the Kumbh’Pattaim. You have seen him, have you not?”
“Yes, my Queen. At an audience.”
“Truth again.” Cyrrhi pulled Torrey near and kissed him. Their lips met and he yielded to the caress, trying to discern its meaning. All he sensed was possession and a sweet approval that surprised him. “I chose well, I think. His brother, Artur, was my truest love, and his kumbh a strong ally that had nothing to gain from Artur’s death. You see, I am certain Artur was poisoned.”
Willem gasped, but Torrey only looked at Cyrrhi in surprise. Though his kumbh had suspected the reason for his brother’s death, she had never allowed talk of it.
“After his death I was advised to choose from a different kumbh for my Chosen.”
“It would have been wise, my Queen,” said Sovesa, her face pinched and sour. “See what has happened because you did not!”
Cyrrhi sank weakly back into her throne. “Indeed.”
He still held her hand. Torrey knelt at her side. “You’re frightening me. Is your wound so grave?”
“Even in death, my life sucks at the honey of love.”
“You are not dying!”
Her lips stretched in pain. “The kumbh women’s poison made sure of that. Even if I survive, I shall never bear young again. My time is done.” She looked to Urdhva. “There is truth still to be discovered. But consider these things: my Chosen and this youth he loves were betrayed just as the two dead kumbh women were. There is a connection somewhere between these assassins and another kumbh.”
“Ridiculous!” Sovesa stepped forward. “Their kumbh sought to advance itself with Bekatti.”
“Did they? How, when Bekatti was betrothed to a son of the Kumbh’Kasarim?”
The gold workers? The alliance made terrible sense. Torrey stared at Sovesa. She was Cyrrhi’s right hand. How could she not have known this? And if Bekatti was already betrothed to a son of a kumbh, what reason would Torrey or any member of his kumbh have to assist her in overthrowing Cyrrhi? Someone else stood to gain.
Torrey slid his gaze to Hari, who looked like he was about to collapse to the floor.
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