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, the boys see for themselves the fate of Queens and the dangers of change.
This week I chose a visual prompt.
Cyrrhi rose. Death did not yet sit upon her so strongly she must bow before it. She held her hand out to one of the warriors and signaled for its spear. It knelt before its Queen and presented the weapon. As her hand closed around it, Torrey’s heart beat cold around his blood.
Her gaze slid to him. “I can do no more for you.”
Torrey knelt and bent his head to the foot of her throne, to her feet, a bow of honor and obeisance. “What can I do for you?”
“What your kind do best. Remember.” She touched her free hand to his hair, combing the soft waves. “I never had a heart to give you. But then neither did you have one for me. It was cynical of me to think that made us compatible.”
Torrey glanced up through his tears. “I loved you anyway.”
“A generous heart is a gift beyond measure.” She removed her hand. “Go to him, who loves only you. Your kumbh is once again your shield, for I no longer can be.”
Torrey rose and descended the dais until he stood by Willem’s side. He put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and felt the subtle shudder that was both thanks and fear. A nomari Queen armed with a spear, guarded by a thousand armed warriors, could do anything without consequence.
To the warriors holding Sovesa pinned to the steps, Cyrrhi said, “Turn her over.” They flipped the captive older queen easily, holding her down as she now stared up at her Queen in defiance.
“Are you ready to enter Hlicata’s realm, old friend?” Cyrrhi touched the spear to Sovesa’s ribcage.
“This nom required change. Change you would not give.” Death had a way of releasing truth from the mouths of the condemned.
“And now everything changes. May you take pleasure in it.” Cyrrhi lowered the spear. “Stake her for the vr’nabi.”
Sovesa did not go quietly. It took five warriors to carry her screaming from the chamber. The Queen turned her attention again to Urdhva. “All daughters of Kavvra die. I would die as a Queen, and not fall to their poison.” She descended the steps, spear in hand. “You will have to move quickly if you wish your succession to be unrivaled.”
When Cyrrhi tossed the spear to Urdhva, the younger queen sprang to take it and—with the fluid strength of training in battle—turned it toward her target.
“No!” Torrey cried. But he was already too late. Though he tried to lunge toward the queens, Willem wrapped him up in his arms and held him back. The spear’s long steel blade pierced Cyrrhi’s exposed throat and drove out through the back of her skull. Already dead, Pesht’s Queen toppled to the floor.
A good death. Torrey tried to believe it. The nomari would call it that. A quick death. A true death.
Though he struggled to go to her, Willem still would not let him go. The other youth’s arms tightened about him until, with choking sobs, Torrey collapsed against Willem’s shoulder, his tears falling on bare skin.
“I rule the nom!” Urdhva raised the bloody spear—her spear now—before the keening, gathered warriors.
Willem tugged Torrey, trying to pull him away. “This is dangerous!”
“Stay.” Torrey knew what they had to do. He’d just never thought he would have to do it, or try to save Willem along with him. “We still belong to Cyrrhi. We’re part of what Urdhva has seized. Do nothing. Only She can keep us safe.”
A sea of warriors seethed about the new Queen. The mysterious chemistry of a ruling queen’s dominance followed primal markers eradicated by Cyrrhi’s death and was being reasserted by the ascendency of the queen who had slain her. Blood and breath and the touch of fingertips bearing traces of pheromones they craved. In the physiological warfare between nomari queens for power and status, there was no act more dominant than that of taking the life of a nom Queen.
Warriors poured in from the outer chambers, seeking their new ruler’s touch. Queens young and old entered to kneel and touch their heads to the floor before her. The movement never stopped, the air became hot and close. In the midst of tens of thousands of nomari flowing through the chamber like lifeblood, Torrey and Willem stayed near the new Queen by sitting on the steps near Cyrrhi’s corpse. Warriors brushed them in passing but never with intent. The human males, naked and weaponless, smelled of submission and threatened neither the new Queen nor the nom. At some point Aktu and Nak crawled to join them. Even Hari, ignored for the moment, sought their small island of humanity. They were the dead Queen’s men, prizes to be claimed, or gifted. Already other queens eyed them, assessing dominance to be gained along with pleasure in their beds.
“At least you’re safe, if she keeps her word.” Hari spoke as low as he could and still be heard. Bitterness dripped from his words.
“Svadhu.” Torrey would not look at him. If he did, he would despair at seeing evil still lurking in this room. “If you choose the dark path, embrace the darkness. Don’t beg for light.”
Svadhu, the dark god. Twin to the sleeping god, Yavnath, the bright consort of the nomari Goddess, whose male essence brought life. Svadhu’s male essence brought envy and sexual fire, making him the Destroyer. Humans did not worship these gods, but they knew them.
Space opened around them. Warriors no longer occupied the dais and the steps where the human males huddled near Cyrrhi’s cooling body. Torrey raised wet eyes to see Urdhva standing before him.
“So, you did love her after all.”
“I was Her Chosen. She honored me.”
Urdhva’s gaze touched for a moment on her fallen predecessor, then on Willem. He followed Torrey’s example and did not look away. “And now you are mine. If I want you.”
(to be continued…)
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