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, the assassination plot unravels and Torrey and Willem learn what lies in wait.
This week I chose “I’m running out of time.” Come to think of it, that’s what this story is doing. We’re nearing the end.
Sealed in Stone #34
Torrey watched how Cyrrhi’s gaze caressed Hari, tenderness bound up with pain. Hari’s beauty had always shone brightly and it did so still, the planes and curves of his flawless body promising the joys of sex, his lovely lips the sweetest submission and service. Even filled with fear, as now, the slave’s eyes overflowed with declarations of love.
“My Queen,” Hari spoke.
Willem swiveled, wide-eyed, to look, but wisely said nothing. Torrey prayed Willem stayed silent. Cyrrhi’s willingness to let Hari speak was not a pardon.
“You have things to say?” Cyrrhi’s voice sounded on the verge of relenting. A human male and a younger queen knelt on the floor before her dais, their knees red from the blood that stained the floor of this great chamber, waiting to see if their blood was to be added to the price.
“My love for you is strong, has always been strong—”
“As was my passion for you. I was foolish in my pleasure, allowing you to think it meant so much.” Cyrrhi’s cough brought blood to her lips. She gestured to the warriors guarding Urdhva, and they lowered their spears, and then stepped away. “Look long at this one, daughter. His coloring draws us, does it not? He could be a mature male of our own kind, so bright is his hair, so golden his skin, though his eyes are the color of rare jewels. And when his kram is hard, it is of such length and girth it would serve to pleasure the Goddess herself.”
“Full of power.” Urdhva flicked her gaze to Hari, whose shallow breaths barely moved the elegant cage of his ribs. A faint sheen of perspiration shimmered on his skin.
“Full of lust. This one… is lust. If controlled, lust is beautiful, powerful. If uncontrolled, it consumes and destroys. Svadhu slew Yavnath. Her beloved, his brother, the Life Giver. That is the lesson we must learn anew in each generation.” Cyrrhi’s lips tensed. “The highest jewel of dominance is the pure and perfect male in whom we can invest our power without fear. I had that. Artur was Yavnath to me. He filled my loins, he filled my heart, and to him I spoke freely of all my thoughts. The nom prospered and so did the kumbhs and the land. But I heard whispers of a beautiful slave, one destined for a queen’s bed, and in my pride and desire for dominance over all my daughters, I procured him for my own.” Again her hungry gaze devoured Hari. “And he was delicious. Consumed by his bright flame, I burned upon love’s altar. His body stole all my hours, so sweet were those I spent with him.”
It seemed to Torrey Urdhva was imagining those delights. Her gaze upon Hari blazed with dreams.
“It was a trick.” Cyrrhi’s words snapped all of them to attend her again. Her color had bled away and even her lips now were pale. “Perhaps this one knew from the start, perhaps his consent with the plot came later, but consent he did. Artur tried to warn me but I did not listen. I believed I had found my youth again.”
Torrey ducked his head. He was his mother’s last child—Artur had been her first. Twenty years between them. A man nearing forty could seem an old man, and one like Hari become the joy of a Queen’s fading years.
“I would never betray you, my Queen. My heart.” Hari had nothing to lose by speaking. Words flowed from his lips. “Had those women come to me I would have slain them with my own hands.”
“The women did not come to you.” To her warriors, Cyrrhi gestured crisply. “Seize her.”
Sovesa’s scream of protest rang from the vaulted ceiling as two warriors wrenched the spear from her hands and four seized her by the limbs. The warriors dragged her up the dais and flung her to her belly, whereupon one pulled up her head, bending her spine sharply until Sovesa could gaze upon her Queen.
“It was not me! It was their kumbh!” Fear bubbled on Sovesa’s breath. From his place at Cyrrhi’s side, Torrey could smell the wildness. Below them, Urdhva lifted her head, knowledge dawning across her controlled expression.
“Only one kumbh stood to gain by my death.” Cyrrhi’s breathing was labored. Torrey knelt so she need not look up at him.
“How can I help you?” he asked, keeping his voice low.
“I’m running out of time. Help me finish.”
“Anything, My Queen.” When she indicated she wished him to help her stand, he did so. She was not steady.
“Daughter,” Cyrrhi addressed Urdhva again. “Removing Artur was Sovesa’s first blow against me. She removed his voice and hoped to force me toward the Goldworkers, and when that did not work she allied them to Bekkati. She needed a younger Queen for her ambitions.” Her fingers tightened on Torrey’s arm. “Claim your own Chosen wisely, as I did, and guard him better. There are jewels to be had among these ri’im males.”
“And this one?” Urdhva gestured to Hari, though she did not glance at him.
“Soon you will kill me. Then he will be yours.” Cyrrhi inclined her head toward the next Queen. “I have one claim to make upon your honor as Queen.”
Urdhva tipped her head to acknowledge the request. “If I can, I will honor it.”
“I know you will not dishonor my Chosen. You are too dominant to lower yourself in so low an act. However, I wish you to also honor this other male, who he loves. If you choose him for yourself, keep them together—or return them together to their kumbh, as you determine best.”
The younger queen bowed low. “They served their Queen loyally. I agree.”
Torrey managed to smile at Willem’s surprised, hopeful stare when the warriors holding him stepped away. Though their fate remained uncertain, they were not to die.
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