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, our story is winding down. Following Cyrrhi’s death, the boys learn their fate and Torrey negotiates human fates.
This week I chose the prompt: “We are stronger than we look.”
Sealed in Stone #36
As he met the gaze of the bloodstained and fierce younger queen, Torrey lightly squeezed Willem’s hand in reassurance. They were safe, both of them. Though Cyrrhi lay dead, Urdhva had nothing to gain by killing them—and a great deal to lose. From this point forward, Urdhva must erect and maintain connections both nomari and human. He, and Willem through him, were pieces of a dominance scheme that would encompass the consolidation of her rule as Pesht’s Queen.
“We are Yours to do with as You will, Great Queen.” Bestowing the honorifics secured their places. He tugged Willem’s hand down and was gratified when his friend flawlessly followed him into a deep kneel and bow. That Willem trusted him completely gave him all the purpose and support he needed.
“Look upon me as we speak.”
He had hoped for that. Queenly dominance had many shades. His hope lifted further when he saw that her expression, while calculated, was also warm.
“You were an asset to her. Beauty, of course, and good manners… but intelligence also. I saw for myself how she prized your insight and honor. A male well-chosen is the jewel every queen seeks for herself. I must hold the jewel in whom I entrust the heart of Pesht. I have nurtured, in secret, an alliance with the Kumbh’Pattaim, and have promised to choose one of their sons when the time came.”
Torrey allowed a smile to touch, though barely lift, his lips. “Your time has come.” A son of the Silk Weavers was a fine match for any queen.
“He will be my heart. Still, I wish to take a lesson from she who came before me.” She turned her gaze to Willem. “She knew you would answer truthfully. She knew you speak truth because you trusted him. I know this because fear lies. Trust does not.”
Willem’s wide eyes flicked to him and Torrey nodded he should answer. “I trusted Her, Great Queen”—he did his best with everyday nomari—“because he did.”
Urdhva’s lips curved very slightly. The nomari did not truly smile in the way of humans. The expression signified triumph, not amusement. To Torrey, she said, using the more refined speech of queens. “He lacks your skills but his integrity is attractive. To possess him would appeal to some, but you know I will not allow that. Him, or you. Too much dominance would be gained by one who possesses Cyrrhi’s former Chosen.”
She spoke truly. Torrey could but agree. The greatest prize of any dominance move was to possess a more powerful queen’s prize. Among the nomari, there was no higher prize than a male. In Urdhva’s case, she now possessed the highest prize of all—the nom’s drones. Human males were mere reflections, though powerful ones.
“As males, we have no choice,” Torrey reminded her.
“This is true. So I will decide this. My Chosen arrives tomorrow with full ceremony and we will be joined. I wish you to meet him and ascertain if his education is as yours.”
Even on the surface, the request was unusual. It could be construed as an affront to the Silk Weavers. Just the presence of another male of status equal to the new Chosen could be misconstrued.
“My Queen, I—”
“That is my one condition. After this service to me, you and your friend will leave the nom. Upon my order, you are to retire to your kumbh, the Bhesarim, and reside in privacy there for the rest of your days. You shall never belong to any queen, nor will I permit your kumbh to formally join you to any females of your kind. You forever will be Cyrrhi’s.”
In the eyes of nom and kumbh, perhaps. But Torrey knew better. Now, at least, he could forever be Willem’s. He bowed to Urdhva’s terms, knowing his mother and all the kumbharani would agree to them. A former Queen’s Chosen was exalted, and possessed enormous diplomatic standing.
“I thank you, my Queen—and so does he.” Torrey ducked back a smile as Willem nodded vigorously. He knew his friend well enough to imagine him wanting nothing more than to leave the nom as soon as possible. “We will be your servants, however you might need us. We ri’im offer many gifts. We are stronger than we look.”
“Strong, and cunning, and sometimes wise. While I have you, I will seek wisdom.” Urdhva pointed to the other human males huddled naked beside Cyrrhi’s still fresh corpse. “What shall I do with them?”
She could, of course, parcel them out as gifts, earning dominance by distributing prizes. All three men possessed beauty surpassing that of any kumbh born youth. Torrey met and held Nak’s wide, tear-filled eyes. Nak was the youngest and loved lithe Aktu with all his heart. To separate them would be cruel.
“Keep the two dark haired ones.” Torrey answered without hesitation. “Possessing two of Cyrrhi’s males enhances your dominance far more than you would gain by gifting them. But also your Chosen will be lonely without others of his kind. These males are loyal and gentle. They are playful by nature. They will be welcome companions to your beloved, as they were for me.”
Urdhva lifted an eyebrow. She had not thought of that. “And the one who opened the door to Bekatti. Cyrrhi did not kill him with Sovesa, but left him to me. Do you know why?”
He did. Torrey held Hari’s blue gaze. “He cannot be trusted. She left him to you as the first test of your new Queenship.”
Urdhva would know what he meant. Cyrrhi had left behind a challenge to her wisdom. All queens had heard of the Tyranny of Rayyas. But it was for Urdhva herself to meet the Test of Kaffiri and decide the fate of the great beauty who had brought her predecessor to ruin.
Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more fun, free fiction use the links below to visit the blogs of the other Wednesday Briefers.
You can visit the Wednesday Briefers home page HERE for opening snippets and links to all the briefs. Or you can choose from the list below. Enjoy!