I was bored out of my mind. I’d never been very good with doing nothing, and that was pretty much what I’d been ordered to do by Litch Hunter Sunki. Sure, I was supposed to make it look like I was still pursuing Litch Will Tyhlian, and I was doing what I needed to for that, but even the greenest Shal-hazal could do what I was doing more or less. For someone of my skills, it involved an hour, tops, and even then I was stretching the “work” out as much as I could.
The crew on the ship I’d hired wasn’t good for distraction since I refused to sleep with any of them and they couldn’t seem to learn even the most basic of Awh’anise games that small children could pick up fairly quickly. They also refused to play games with me and accused me of cheating when I’d taken all their money. I hadn’t cheated exactly. But in the process of learning the games they played from their sleeping minds, I’d also learned just how each of them operated and used that knowledge when I challenged them in the waking world.
Now, with nothing to do as far as Shal-hazal duties went and virtually no distractions, I felt useless, and I didn’t like that feeling.
On the other hand, I was scared as hell and sort of didn’t mind sitting around twirling my tail and doing nothing as long as it kept me out from under Spirit Will Cadao’s eyes. I still had to report to him with annoying frequency, but he wasn’t calling into question my lack of results. Yet. I did find it interesting that at least half of the time he seemed to be in the company of Vi’deshron Lidah. I’d told Sunki about that, and she’d been surprised and concerned and suggested that I let Hilel know.
I’d tried to reach Hilel on his personal line, but my call was never returned. A bad feeling settled in my guts after several days with no call back so I called the House Hilel was attached to asking for him and was told the shocking news that he was dead. Naturally I’d asked how he died and I’d been served the biggest bowl of pure shit I’d ever been fed in my life.
The Shal-hazal I spoke with said Hilel had been Dream-Walking and stumbled on an Equatorial Awh’anise that seemed to be an untrained Shal-hazal who was well past the point when he should’ve been in training. The story was that after a few encounters, the untrained Shal-hazal was found to be a Litch and got scared when Hilel pursued him and tried to get him to come to a House for training. The untrained Litch was supposed to have absorbed Hilel’s mind in a panic at the thought of leaving the vast desert he called home.
I didn’t buy that for a second.
While it was true that once in a great while we tripped over an Equatorial Awh’anise that was one of The Blood, it was extremely rare. For whatever reason, Shal-hazal were even more uncommon among the Equatorial Awh’anise than they were in general. They tended to be found within a few years of when they should start training since we did keep an eye out for them and untrained Shal-hazal were dangerous to everybody, including themselves. The incidence of Litch Shal-hazal among the Equatorial Awh’anise was also so low as to be nearly non-existent. Easily seventy-five percent of Equatorial Awh’anise Shal-hazal turned out to be Spirit class with the rest divided fairly evenly between Warriors or Healers.
It was possible that one of The Blood could go undetected until he or she was maybe ten tops, but really unlikely. Moving through the Dream World was like breathing for us. We just did it and actually had to work hard not to do it when we slept. Untrained Shal-hazal disrupted the Dream World, and other Shal-hazal could feel the ripples. Spirits tended to feel those little waves first and either investigated or, depending on the size of the disturbance, sent a Warrior to check it out. That a Litch could make it past the onset of puberty and close to adulthood without training or being detected years earlier? Never in a million years.
Completely untrained Litches were pretty close to the level of bad as an insane one. As the hormones released during puberty went into overdrive, so did a Shal-hazal’s abilities. If the untrained Litches weren’t taught how to control themselves early on, once their ability got cranked up at puberty, they’d be absorbing minds virtually every time they entered the Dream World. It wouldn’t be on purpose, but without knowing how to be in a dream without actually being part of the dream, there was a good chance they’d take the person’s mind when they left. Without training, they’d start to think they were crazy when they’d hear people talking to them that weren’t there or when they woke up somewhere without any idea how they’d gotten there or why they were there.
I could believe that Hilel found an untrained Shal-hazal, but I didn’t buy that he was taken out by an adult Litch with zero training. Hilel knew he was on Cadao’s hit list for being too nosey. He’d said it himself that he was working against the clock. Obviously, Hilel had run out of time to gather more evidence against Cadao, and Cadao had Hilel killed.
The Shal-hazal told me that the burial ceremony had already taken place, but if I wanted, he could send me a video file of it. I started to say no but changed my mind at the last second. I knew Cadao was responsible for Hilel’s death, and I wanted to see if the sleaze ball showed any of that in his face during the ceremony to inter Hilel’s body. Not that inappropriate expressions would mean anything in the way of evidence, but I wanted to see if he gloated over killing a damn fine Shal-hazal and somebody who’d been a genuinely nice person. The Shal-hazal said he’d send the file within the hour, and I thanked him before signing off.
I thought about contacting Sunki, but the less we talked through traceable channels, the better. I had a timer set with the hours for Sunki’s home, and it was the middle of the day where she lived while it was late night for me on the ship. Contacting her through dreams was a no-go as she wouldn’t be sleeping for several hours yet.
A sigh escaped me.
Pretending to be tracking down Tyhlian in dreams was not an option just in case I actually stumbled over him. Gathering more information on Dakvir was a complete dead end even before I’d been told to back off. Visiting my casual lover on Awh’an through dreams was not going to go over well because she said it freaked her out when I was in her dreams as she was never sure if I was real or not. I was so damn bored and frustrated I was starting to annoy myself.
I grumbled and flopped down on my back on my bed. Maybe if I just cruised around the Dream World I’d find something to occupy myself for a few hours. Anything was possible in dreams after all. Maybe I should see if I could find that four-armed chickie from that planet where I thought Tyhlian was. I’d never had a lover with four arms and that made me think of interesting possibilities. I closed my eyes, a tiny smile on my face, and slipped into the Dream World.
“Troubling things are happening,” said a voice I’d only heard once before in my life.
I turned slowly hoping that I’d remembered wrong. Nope. I hadn’t. Then again, it was hard to forget a voice that you felt more than heard because the creature it came from was so massive. Purple and blue scales with the occasional spot of white covered the immense being coiled up in front of me. I was almost positive it was even bigger than when I’d first seen it during my dream quest to find out what class of Shal-hazal I’d be, and I’d thought it was huge then.
“Do you know exactly what’s going on?” I asked surprised that the Fire Snakes were interested in Cadao’s power play. I’d have thought it was beneath them.
“Unfortunately, no. There is disruption in the fabric of things and this worries Us. We are not sure where it is coming from and that is frustrating. There exists the very strong possibility that this interference with the way things should flow will alter Our plans somewhat. It cannot be allowed to continue. We do not like it when twists unexpectedly enter the work We are doing.”
Now, I wasn’t so sure that we were talking about the same thing or why the Fire Snake was even talking to me about it. There was a reason, I was sure, as they never did anything without a very good motive, but what that was, I had no freaking clue. There was no prying answers out of them either if they didn’t want to give any. I could try and poke the Fire Snake into answering my questions, but that was probably as productive as herding a grind of skar-sah’na with a feather and happy thoughts.
“Can’t you fix what’s wrong?”
There. That was a nice blanket question. Maybe I’d actually get an answer that didn’t leave me more confused than I already was. The Fire Snake was silent, and I wasn’t sure if it was because it was thinking of what it could tell me or if that was because it didn’t know. If they didn’t know how to fix or stop whatever Cadao was doing, assuming that’s what it was talking about, we were all so very screwed.
“Yes, it is possible that We could do something with what is at hand. But that would negate nearly two centuries of careful planning and developing. We feel it is not the best use of what We have as time grows short for this goal. We require you to play your role. We understand that it chafes you to do nothing, but that nothing is actually something.”
Well that was as clear as mud. Damn creatures loved to speak in riddles and be all mysterious. It would be a hell of a lot easier on everybody if they just said what they wanted you to do.
“Nothing that’s something? I don’t understand.”
“Your hunt involves one that will be of great important to other aspects of Our plans. To kill Litch Will Tyhlian would nullify the co-operation We need from the one with him. He is a welcome twist and one We did not foresee at all. He will be of great value to the Shal-hazal and ultimately to Us if he can accomplish what We believe he can. There are still some details that require further investigation, but We are confident that this will correct a problem that has bedeviled Us for a long time.
“Neither Litch Will Tyhlian nor Lor’fei Dakvir can come to harm. The death order you were given for Litch Will Tyhlian is rescinded by Us. This portion of Our discussion will be left open should anyone question it. So, doing nothing in this instance is doing something vital.”
Lor’fei Dakvir? I felt like I’d been hit between the eyes with an iron bar. Everything suddenly made a lot more sense now. Tyhlian using the word <i>“xi”</i> when he’d pointed at Dakvir. The almost psychotic rage that flashed over Tyhlian’s face when I’d grabbed Dakvir and held him. Tyhlian taking the man with him when he left and not dropping him off anywhere. The strong traces of Tyhlian attached to Dakvir’s dreams.
I blew out a breath at how that complicated everything yet made it all so simple, too.
“You’re sure Dakvir is Litch Will Tyhlian’s Lor’fei?” I asked wanting confirmation.
“Yes. It is unusual for a Litch to find his Lor’fei given Litches short lives, but it does happen. It is even more unusual that his Lor’fei is not Awh’anise, but that as well happens. We knew there would be difficulties for some Shal-hazal to find whom they needed to complete them so We made allowances for that when We constructed the Lor’fei.”
Every Awh’anise knew the Fire Snakes had done something to us as a species to make the incidents of Shal-hazal being born happen more often than it had, but it was still really mind-boggling to hear it said directly from one of the creatures responsible for that boost up the evolutionary ladder. I felt rather small and insignificant right about then. Even so, I wanted to keep living my insignificant little life, and openly going against Cadao was a sure fire way to cut that life short. Refusing to carry out the death warrant would be like signing my own, and I was not in agreement with that idea.
“You do understand that Spirit Will Cadao is subverting the Council somehow, and it was him that personally signed the death warrant on Litch Will Tyhlian, right? Spirit Will Cadao is keeping track of my progress and demanding results. Litch Hunter Sunki is helping me not do my job as is Spirit Will Moswen, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to fool Spirit Will Cadao forever.
“He’s going to get impatient with my lack of results no matter how I pretty them up, and if he doesn’t have me eliminated with some bullshit story like he did with Spirit Will Hilel, he’ll have me yanked from this job and assign somebody new. I am the best, after Litch Hunter Sunki, but he’ll keep throwing Hunters at the problem until it’s solved. Solved meaning Litch Will Tyhlian dead is in this case.”
I’d have been willing to swear on my tail that something I’d said surprised the Fire Snake and that surprised me. They were as close to gods as any being could be. Hell, they might be gods for all I knew considering the things they could do in both the real world and the Dream World. I honestly hadn’t thought there was any way of surprising one. The Fire Snake sighed and great plumes of red smoke drifted from its nose.
“It would be too much to hope that this Spirit Will Moswen is a different one from the Throw-back We believe you are speaking about. We will be having words with the Others as We were not told of his involvement to this degree in current events and incomplete information does none of Us a favour.”
“Yes, it is that Spirit Will Moswen. The same Spirit Will Moswen that is the half-brother to the man I’m supposed to be hunting. Why?” I asked curiously.
“He is the chaos factor that We cannot plan for and have great difficulty planning around, and that vexes Us. We cannot see his future clearly, and his chaos factor affects those close to him further clouding what We need to see. Although, that would explain why We did not foresee this chain of events until it was much too late to stop what was set in motion. We do not envy his guardian Their job.”
Well that was interesting. I guess they weren’t gods if they couldn’t know everything and one lone Awh’anise screwed them and their plans up without even trying. Not that the information was going to help me in what the Fire Snake just asked me to do. I wanted clear cut orders about what my next move was. I worked very well when I knew what was required of me. Having a Fire Snake approved plan would be rather helpful, too.
“So what, exactly, do you want me to do?” I asked. “Although I really don’t understand why you don’t just protect Litch Will Tyhlian and his Lor’fei yourself if they’re so important to you.”
There was no point in trying to reason or talk them out of what they wanted me to do. Saying that my ass was in danger of being terminated if I did what they asked wouldn’t make a difference. I was not the important piece in their plans, whatever the hell those were. I didn’t doubt for a second that if I tried to resist what was being demanded of me, I’d find myself doing it anyway. They were powerful enough to change the evolutionary course of an entire species, so I was pretty sure making one woman do something she’d rather not openly do was zero effort for them.
“It is complicated. Things are at play that you do not understand, and We cannot explain or else We risk ruining a millennia of preparations. To extend Our protection would raise questions that are best not asked at this time. We have never asked anything of you Litch Hunter Phaedra and We do not feel this request is too great a thing when you were already doing something of this nature now.”
That had a note of finality to it. I grudgingly nodded because what else was there I could do? I didn’t kid myself. The Fire Snake could keep me in the Dream World as long as necessary to get me to agree to do what they wanted, and there was fuck all I could do about it. For all I knew, the Fire Snake in front of me had already tweaked my brain to get me to agree to what I was supposed to do. They made Shal-hazal with decades of training look like children just learning the ins and outs of the Dream World.
The Fire Snake made an amused sound and delicate pink smoke curled from its nose.
“But making you believe you wanted to do this would be counter-productive in the long run. Your species is entirely too curious for your own good, something We thought would eventually be bred out of you but has not been. Over time, you would come to question yourself and what you were doing. Considering how Spirit Will Moswen is involved in this, it would likely be at the absolutely most inopportune time. Your agreement to do what We ask without tampering by Us prevents that.
“We will be watching, and should you truly find yourself in a difficult situation where you are in danger of great harm, We will arrange things to prevent you from perishing to the best of Our abilities. While there is the chaos effect that muddles the possibilities of the future, We believe that you are removed enough from direct, constant contact with Spirit Will Moswen to give Us excellent odds on being able to see what is to come your way.”
With those less than uplifting words, the Fire Snake vanished.
I scrubbed a hand over my face and blew out a breath. I did not like being backed barefoot into a shit-filled corner and then made to say thank you for the privilege. The Fire Snakes were underestimating what was going on with Cadao. I was sure of it. They might’ve been looking at it as some sort of internal squabble or leadership problem that wasn’t worth their attention. I had no doubts that if Tyhlian and Dakvir weren’t so important to whatever their plans were, Tyhlian’s death and possibly Dakvir’s wouldn’t have even caught their notice. But since it had, that innate curiosity the Fire Snake mentioned made me wonder just what it was that Dakvir had or could do that would be useful to not only the Fire Snakes but Shal-hazal, too. The Fire Snake had said Dakvir could correct some sort of problem that they’d been unable to solve for a long time, and it was a little mind-boggling that a simple man would have the answer they did not.
A chill moved over my skin, and the hairs on the tip of my tail stood straight up. Dread and fear mixed in equal portions in my guts, and I growled, my lips pulling back to expose a lot of unfriendly fang. I had no idea what was going on, but there was an instinctual reaction for me to claw, bite and scratch my way back to the real world. I tried to dissolve the dream and nothing happened. I swore long and low, visions of Cadao somehow finding out what I was up to and moving to take me out.
“Relax, Phaedra. We just want to talk,” came a voice from behind me. I spun around, ready to shred whoever it was because I was not going down without a fight and stumbled in pure shock.
The Litch I was now supposed to protect stood just out of attack range with the other man I was also supposed to protect. I stared for several seconds with my mouth hanging open before I started to laugh a little hysterically at the timing. This had to be the responsibility of Moswen and his, as the Fire Snake put it, chaos effect. There was no other explanation.
I saw Tyhlian look at Dakvir, and Dakvir shrugged. I managed to get myself under control but only barely. Giggles still escaped me as I tried to look professional and simply curious about why they were standing in front of me. The dreamscape around us was unnerving as hell, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was about it that was making me twitchy. I tried changing the dreamscape and couldn’t, which irritated me. I wondered if the weirdness was some sort of purposeful thing Tyhlian was doing to try and throw me off balance. If it was, it was working beautifully.
Panic rushed me when I finally realized the strangeness was because we were surrounded by a void.
“You’re safe here as long as I want you to be. I am the Void, and whether they are in the Dream World or in reality, they are mine to control. I suggest you play nice with us, or I’ll make sure you never leave this place. We are inside a void right now. I wrapped it around us. It’s quite effective at hiding in plain sight, and apparently, there isn’t a Shal-hazal that will want to take the chance on poking one to see if there’s somebody inside. Nothing escapes a void so it also makes it a most excellent place to have a nice little conversation that we wouldn’t want to be overheard by others,” Dakvir said as he sat in a comfortable chair that suddenly appeared.
Two more chairs appeared, and Tyhlian sat in one and gestured for me to sit in another. My chair wasn’t as close to them as it would normally be for a conversation, but I wasn’t set at shouting distance either. With the command from the Fire Snake and the plan I’d already been following, attacking Tyhlian wasn’t something I’d be doing. But neither of them knew that. I did have one huge question for them though.
“Are you two really Lor’fei partners?”
Twin expressions of shock filled their faces. Tyhlian’s changed quickly to fear and then resigned determination. Dakvir placed a hand lightly on Tyhlian’s arm, and instead of leaping for my throat like I expected him to, he kept his ass planted in the chair. That action pretty much gave me my answer right there.
“Yes, we are. How did you know?” Dakvir asked.
“I’ve just had a very interesting conversation with a Fire Snake before you two ambushed me, and that was one of the things mentioned.”
Dakvir looked annoyed at the information while Tyhlian gaped at me. I understood Tyhlian’s reaction but not Dakvir’s. I heard Dakvir mutter something about irritating know-it-all creatures and stared at him with wide eyes. <i>He couldn’t mean.... They didn’t.... Did he have his own encounter with a Fire Snake?</i> I’d never heard of them doing that sort of thing before. He must’ve really tweaked their tails to get them to put in an appearance.
I was really starting to feel out of my depth with the way things were gathering momentum around me, and I didn’t like that. I was very, very good at my job hunting down insane Litches, but all this plot and counter-plot was throwing me completely off my game and leaving me floundering. This was Will level stuff, and I really didn’t like being part of it one bit.
“We’re pretty annoyed with the way everything is happening, too,” Dakvir said as he watched me intently.
“Who said I was annoyed?” I asked a little testily. I knew nothing in my face said what I was feeling, and the tone of Dakvir’s voice suggested that he wasn’t just making random lucky guesses. It was like he knew what was going through my head, and that was creepy and a little frightening.
Dakvir sighed softly. “You don’t have to be afraid of us. We said we only wanted to talk and that’s the truth. Really, if we’d wanted to hurt you or take you out of action, I could’ve wrapped you in a void once Tyhlian took me to where you were, and that would’ve been the end of you. I’m not saying that to threaten or scare you. I’m just letting you know that if we wanted you eliminated, it would’ve been over before you knew you were in danger or even what happened.”
“That’s not helping to calm her down, Dak,” Tyhlian said as he tried and failed not to smirk.
“Actually, it is,” Dakvir corrected him, and I tried not to show my shock that he knew that much about me. “Phaedra is still very nervous, but it’s not entirely about us and being here in a void together. She’s also quite irritated with herself and me and someone or something else. She’s bored and frustrated, too, and that is definitely something connected to us.”
I thought my eyes were going to bug out of my head at what Dakvir said. How the hell did he know all that? I was pretty sure I’d know if Tyhlian was dancing through my head and feeding Dakvir info because he was a Litch and I was especially attuned to them. Litches also didn’t have the barely there touch that a Spirit did when they went poking around in your brains.
“I’m a receiving empath, Phaedra. I can feel every emotion you have going on at any given time. Experience has made me very good at figuring out not only what emotions are coming at me but why certain emotions are happening. I can’t read your mind although I’ve been told that it seems like it.”
Well that explained a lot. I’d heard about telepaths and empaths, but I’d never met one. Was being an empath the thing that made him special to the Fire Snake? Curiosity zipped through me, but I kept my mouth shut. It really wasn’t my business to ask, and I probably didn’t need to know anyway.
I was also much more curious about the risk that Tyhlian had taken to not only look for me to talk but to bring Dakvir along when he did it. Yeah, the void thing was pretty cool, but I didn’t entirely buy the idea that Dakvir could control voids. Yes, something had happened the one other time I’d seen Dakvir in dreams, but that had to be a coincidence. How could you control something that was nothing? Tyhlian would’ve been better off creating a private pocket and trying to lure me there instead of possibly endangering his Lor’fei by bring him to me. Was his judgement failing that badly because of the voices?
“Why don’t you seem to be hunting me? I know I’m damn good, but there hasn’t been even a whiff of you on my tail in weeks. It’s like you’re actively trying not to look for me, and I don’t get it,” Tyhlian said as he fixed me with a hard stare.
I raised an eyebrow; I hadn’t realized he’d notice or question my absence. If that was the case, he wasn’t anywhere near as crazy as he should’ve been to have a death warrant put on his head. I didn’t doubt the voices were getting stronger in his head considering his active time as a Litch and the number of contracts he had. But there was no way in hell he was as close to losing his shit as a Litch needed to be for a death order. I shuddered when I thought of how many other Litches may have been unfairly terminated on Cadao’s twisted orders.
“Because I’m not. I had questions about inconsistencies in your file. I asked around and got another Shal-hazal curious about it. He did some digging and found some very weird shit. The more he dug, the more it looked like there was a conspiracy at play. I called Litch Hunter Sunki for advice and damned if there isn’t some big time conspiracy going on.
“Spirit Will Cadao is subverting the Council. He’s been head for two years although depending on who you ask, the time they think he’s been head varies widely. He’s also been ordering the deaths of Litches, Wills in particular, at an alarming rate. He’s doing something to alter the minds and dreams of the Shal-hazal as a whole, and we don’t have a fucking clue how he’s doing it or why. The longer you’re away from Awh’an, the more you start to question things if you start to wonder about Spirit Will Cadao in the first place.
“The curious Shal-hazal I mentioned uncovered proof that the Council head has overstayed his post. He paid for that with his life. Litch Hunter Sunki is working on a plan to get Spirit Will Cadao removed in a permanent way. Spirit Will Moswen is helping, too. I was told to make it look like I was doing something when I report to Spirit Will Cadao, something he demanded I do regularly as he wants to be kept up to date on how my hunting you is going.
“And that Fire Snake that I said I’d been talking to just before you two showed up? It said I was not to hunt you and that you and Dakvir were not to be harmed. The Fire Snake even left open the part of the conversation where it rescinded your death order if anyone questioned my actions. Now you know pretty much everything I do.”
Both men looked at me like I’d lost my mind. When said out loud like that, it did sound much too far-fetched to be even a little bit true. But, it was what it was, and they’d just have to try and wrap their heads around the information like I had. I felt Tyhlian glide over the dream sequence with the Fire Snake, and my lips quirked up at his stunned look.
“She’s telling the truth, Tyhlian,” Dakvir said in a low voice.
Tyhlian blew out a breath and scrubbed a hand over his face. “I kinda figured that because it sounds to fantastical to be anything but the truth. I checked and a Fire Snake did cancel my death order. That blows me away. You say Moswen is in on this, too? Fuck. I told the little shit not to get involved more that he already was. He’s going to get his ass whipped if anyone finds out what he knows.”
“He’s actually part of the reason I got somebody digging into your death order in the first place,” I said.
“Of course he was. What else would trigger this giant cluster fuck but something involving Moswen?” Tyhlian said in what was half exasperation and half fondness.
“I was also pretty pissed about his leading me around by the tail on a completely fabricated trail that was supposed to be yours. Even after I had a Spirit Will show me the traces of what he’d done, I still had a hard time picking the dream apart. I have to say that he’s probably the best Spirit I’ve ever crossed paths with.”
Tyhlian groaned and then swore. Dakvir looked concerned. I frowned a little when I heard something at the lower edges of my hearing that instantly put me at ease. It was an undulating sound that seemed familiar and welcoming, and it took me several minutes to figure out what it reminded me of. It was like the purring that my twin and I would do when we were little kits and were wrapped around each other for comfort and security. I had a sudden spurt of longing followed by sadness.
Phansha and I hadn’t spoken in twenty years since she almost killed me when she slashed my throat from ear to collarbone during a breeding cycle fight when we’d both focused on the same male. She was a Shal-hazal Healer, and we’d made sure to be re-assigned to different Houses after that fight so we wouldn’t have to run into each other. Hearing that sound reminded me how close we’d been and how distant we were now. I pressed my lips together to keep the tiny sound of distress to myself.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know that sound would upset you. Tyhlian says it’s a comforting sound and that the Awh’anise voices in his head like it, too. It never crossed my mind that it would make you sad,” Dakvir said, apology in his voice.
“You’re making that sound?” I asked in surprise.
Dakvir nodded. “My people have exceptional hearing and can vocalize in both the sub-sonic and super-sonic ranges. We use that particular tone modulation to sooth frightened children or skittish animals. I realize you’re neither, but it reminds Tyhlian of good things, so I do it automatically when he’s distressed. It helps with the Awh’anise voices, too.”
That sound calmed the voices in Tyhlian’s head? Wow. I wondered if that was the thing that the Fire Snake had been talking about that Dakvir could do for the Shal-hazal. But he’d said his people could do it, to, so that wasn’t something unique to Dakvir that the Fire Snake had implied was the case for needing him.
“It made me think of my sister and realize that I miss her. I think maybe it’s time I call her.”
Dakvir smiled at me, and Tyhlian caught my attention by leaning forward in his seat.
“So just to be perfectly clear here. You’re not hunting me. The Fire Snakes rescinded my death order. Cadao is running the Council like he’s emperor of the world and screwing with the heads of all the Shal-hazals. My walking disaster of a little brother is tangled up in this, and on top of all that, it looks like we’re going to do our damnedest to kill the head of the Council in an act of what everybody will likely see as high treason. Did I miss anything?”
“This sounds just like one of the epic adventures my people tell stories about. This is so exciting,” Dakvir laughed.
Tyhlian scowled at Dakvir, and I bit my lip to keep my snicker to myself. The quick change from serious man to child-like delight by Dakvir was strange but oddly endearing. I didn’t doubt that he understood how serious the situation was, but the little bit of levity was welcome from my point of view.
“I believe Cadao is fucking Vi’deshron Lidah regularly,” I offered with a little smile knowing what Tyhlian reaction would be.
“Oh fuck me with a rusty pole,” he groaned. “You’re sure?”
“Who’s this Vi’deshron Lidah, and why is that a problem?” Dakvir asked.
“A Vi’deshron can sing the past, present and future. Sometimes they can even alter the future in small ways. With a Vi’deshron under his control, there’s no telling what the dirt bag is capable of. He may even get advance warning of what we’re trying to do because his Vi’deshron could warn him. Hell, she might even try and change the future the little that she can despite the heavy price she’d pay if she’s in love with Cadao in order to save him.”
“Well that sucks,” Dakvir said with a frown.
I thought for a moment and then smiled. “We may have a secret weapon. Spirit Will Moswen. The Fire Snake said he is surrounded by the chaos effect, and that it muddies their vision of the future. I’m going to guess that if his weird karma screws up the Fire Snakes who are far more powerful than Shal-hazal or Vi’deshron, messing with one Vi’deshron’s view of the future is going to be dead easy.”
A little smirk came and went quickly on Tyhlian’s face. “I don’t think it’d be that easy because nothing with Moswen is ever that simple, and he has zero control over his... chaos effect. But I’ll grasp at whatever possibility there is and run with it. So where do we go from here? Is there actually a plan? Obviously we’ll help however we can. I’ve got a pretty big vested interest in seeing this through.”
“You’re taking me at my word that everything I’ve said is true and you’re willing to work with me when not that long ago I was trying my very best to kill you?” I was a little surprised to say the least.
“Dak knows when somebody is lying because their emotions betray them. He’d have let the void consume you if you’d lied about what was going on. He may not look it, but you don’t ever want to see him when he’s good and angry. It’ll scare the fuck out of you and make you go ‘Wow’ at the same time.”
That was obviously the Lor’fei talking because it looked like a stiff breeze would snap the man in two. Then again, he had done something with his hair to choke me out when I’d caught up to Tyhlian in the hotel room. I mentally shrugged. What Dakvir could or couldn’t do wasn’t important when we had larger problems at hand. Like how a Litch Hunter and the Litch she was supposed to be hunting were going to work together to bring down the power hungry head of the Council.
And to think, not that long ago I’d been mentally whinging about being bored with doing nothing.
Learning that some of the pressure to stay ahead of his Hunter was off Tyh was great news. Learning that there was some sort of giant conspiracy at work among the Shal-hazal Council was not so great and pretty much killed Tyh’s hope of appearing before the Council and convincing them that he was not as crazy as they’d been told and that with my help, assuming I could actually do something, he wouldn’t be getting any crazier.
Tyh was more relaxed since that dream meeting with Phaedra, and I’d noticed that while the voices in his head were still very much a part of his emotional make-up, they weren’t as... noisy as when I’d first met Tyh. I’d spent a lot of time thinking about why that was, and I had an idea of the cause although I didn’t think Tyh would buy my reasoning. I didn’t have any real proof except my experience in dealing with others’ emotions, their reactions and how to interpret all that. Considering that I’d been doing that sort of thing literally my entire life and was right almost all the time, I was confident in my hypothesis.
I believed that a lot of the lessening tension between Tyh and the voices was because he was actually talking to them and listening to them. I didn’t mean the crazy, take over the world shit he said they spouted all the time, but listening to their advice on general things. Everybody liked to know that they were being heard and not ignored. Nobody liked the feeling of being pushed aside or forgotten, and I was sure that since many, if not most, of the voices were ego-maniacs, being ignored and forgotten was something that fuelled their rage and drive to take command of Tyh’s body.
The majority of the voices were also Awh’anise, and they were calmed by the sub-sonic sounds I made that soothed Tyh. They were less likely to try to instigate violence when I made those sounds and were more likely to gang up on the other species when bad behaviour threatened to make me stop producing the tones all the Awh’anise loved to hear.
I’d learned quickly not to reward the deliberate provoking and instead stop all sounds and refuse to make any more until they straightened up and stopped acting like spoiled children. Better behaviour by the voices had the sounds resume, and it certainly hadn’t taken them long to figure that out. I also tried different sounds and tones, gauging the reaction of not only Tyh but the voices, too. Some sounds calmed, others energized, a few seemed to cause an urge to burst into high energy dancing and acrobatics, and some sounds even aroused.
Not that Tyh, or probably any Awh’anise, needed encouragement in the arousal department, but it was an interesting effect— one I’d shamelessly use on Tyh to get what I wanted. I really wasn’t anywhere near the nice, innocent man he insisted on believing I was. I should’ve felt guilty for manipulating him as I had. What I was doing was dangerously close to what a Tiechle did, but I was justifying it with the excuse that Tyh was going to enjoy the results just as much as I was.
I’d approached Tyh utterly naked as he stepped out of the sonic shower. I’d been making the sounds I knew would arouse him as he’d showered, confident he’d be able to hear the tones, if not really register them because they were so low on the scale of what he could hear. I was not disappointed when he stepped from the shower with a beautiful hard on and lust twisting though his emotions. I’d snagged him in my hair and steered him to the bed, forcing him onto his back and binding him even more securely in the net of my hair.
I knew it was a dominating move to catch and hold him as I did, but I wasn’t interested in doing him, as pleasurable as that was. I much preferred to have him do me. But I wanted a little more aggressiveness from him than he’d been giving me, and I thought this was the best way to push him into doing just that. I’d never done anything like what I was doing and hoped it would work the way I thought it would.
As I straddled his hips, Tyh struggled lightly against the hold I had on him with my hair. Pleasure crawled up my spine at the sensation of his hard cock rubbing against mine. His hips rolled, and a soft moan slid past his lips even as torment filled his eyes. I smiled at him and tried not to gloat. I had him exactly where I wanted him and was waiting for him to take charge, but he seemed clueless that I wanted him to be all dominating, flip me over and take me hard. Lord knows he warned me often enough about the dangers of provoking him into aggressive sexual behaviour. I wanted some of that aggressive sexual behaviour, damn it, and he was keeping himself frustratingly in control. Breaking him of the idea that I was fragile was turning out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.
Asking for what I wanted was still difficult for me, and half the time, I felt like the biggest perv around when I managed to whisper that I wanted him to spank my ass before fucking me. Tyh was always thrilled to do whatever I wanted sexually although I knew he tempered his strength and held himself tightly in check, which wasn’t what I was wanting at least half the time we had sex. I’d really liked the forceful way he had been when he was in cycle, but I hadn’t seen any more of that since his cycle ended, which was a little disappointing. He didn’t seem to be cluing into my hints either, thus prompting me into the actions I was now using. He said doing something like I was would instinctually make him challenge me for dominance, which was what I wanted very badly.
“Dak, I really don’t think we should play this kind of game right now. A lot of the Awh’anise voices are adding fuel to the fire and making my instincts to assert my dominance over you jump into overdrive. I’m really worked up, and so are they, and what you’re doing is really not helping me be gentle. I don’t want to hurt you because of what the animal part of my brain is telling me to do and what the voices are encouraging me to do. I couldn’t live with that. Please let me go, Dak,” Tyh pleaded with me even as his hips undulated under me, rubbing our cocks together again and making my breath catch in delight.
I smiled at Tyh. He was so sweet. He’d gnaw off his own arm before he’d really hurt me. I knew that like I knew my own name. His muscles were rigid as he tried not to move in the trap of my hair. There was enough slack that he could flip us over and do me hard but not actually get free. I’d made sure of that. I leaned forward, pressing our bodies together and brushed his lips with mine.
“You will never hurt me intentionally, Tyhlian. Not in the way you mean. The voices will never be able to make you do that. I’m absolutely certain of it. You are my Lor’fei. You’ll do anything to protect me including sacrificing yourself to save me. I am still deeply humbled by the depth of your love.”
I smiled softly when his hips rolled under me again. I could feel his emotions surge through him as he struggled to quash his need to let loose and take me roughly.
Silly man. Our wants and needs were the same. That was part of the Lor’fei and what drew two people together. He should already know that thanks to his more extensive knowledge of the Lor’fei. I only knew the basics of it, but I’d already figured that out.
“I want you, Tyhlian. You said you’d never deny me. Are you going back on your word?”
I had to work exceptionally hard to keep the grin off my face at his combined look of affronted pride that I’d called his word into question and lust at hearing that I wanted him, too. That was a little sneaky on my part because I knew he lived to hear me say things like that to him, but it was also completely true. I really, really wanted a hard and dirty fuck from him, but I was still too shy to actually say that to him. My tongue would probably trip all over itself in embarrassment if I tried to say that out loud. I wasn’t in the mood for any foreplay either, as nice as it was with Tyh.
Because of the fiercely aggressive instincts of the Awh’anise, I’d honestly thought he would’ve had me on my back by now and be only seconds away from driving his cock into my hole within moments of my trying to dominate him and saying I wanted him. Obviously, I’d vastly underestimated his need to do no harm to me. That was intensely sweet and annoying at the same time when a little gentle harm was what I wanted. I snorted softly at myself. I was such a contrary creature.
I sat up and ran my fingers over Tyh’s cock. Up until I’d met him, I’d never really considered having a male lover outside of some fantasies as I’d jerked off. As stupid as it sounded, I was pleased that Tyh was my first and only male lover. I hadn’t been a virgin in the strictest sense when we first made love, but I’d felt that way the first time I’d welcomed Tyh into my body. It’d been an almost spiritual thing that I was fairly certain was connected to being a Lor’fei, although it could’ve been just Tyh himself.
Tyh started to tense up under me again as I tightened the net of my hair around him. I stroked my fingers over his cock, the sub-sonic tones that aroused him sounding from my throat in an effort to push him into being aggressive. He panted lightly, and the pearls appeared down the length of his cock along with a light film of Sliaru. I hadn’t anticipated that happening at all when I’d come up with this plan, but I liked it. His control when it came to the pearls appearing was rock solid, and I hadn’t had the pleasure of them since the last time weeks and weeks ago. My belly fluttered with excitement at the memory of how good they’d felt and how close the Sliaru made me feel to Tyh.
“Tyh? Why are you letting the pearls appear? Not that I’m complaining, I love the way they feel, but I know you’re a little uncomfortable with the unusual reaction I seem to have to Sliaru, and you said I can’t have one without the other,” I said as I delicately licked some of the slippery liquid from my fingers.
My brows rose at the sweet, fruity taste and I moaned softly. It reminded me of the tiny, hard to grow, wickedly expensive oidatel fruit that were grown in the hydroponics bay of the space station I grew up on. Heat washed into my cheeks when I remembered how I used to glut myself on them because I could never stop at just one. Oh, I could get to like this Sliaru very much if it tasted like this and produced that wonderful feeling of almost oneness with Tyh.
“You’re making me... I can’t... Stars, what you’re doing is too sexy for words, Dak. Let me go. I just need to calm down a little. I might need to stick my dick in a bucket of ice water to make that happen, but then I’ll give you whatever you want once I’m not so worked up.”
Oh, no, I was not going to let such an excellent opportunity slide passed me. I liked the pearls and Sliaru. A lot. I was very aware of his feelings about me and Sliaru, and if I was a better man, I’d have done as he asked and let him go so he could regain control of himself. But I wasn’t as good as Tyh believed I was.
“I’m about to be very selfish, and I apologize in advance for that,” I said as I raised my hips and positioned Tyh’s cock against my hole.
Tyh’s eyes went comically wide, and he strained against the hold I had on him, demanding that I stop because I wasn’t ready yet. I wasn’t an idiot. Despite our frequent sex and Tyh having my ass most of the time, jamming a dick up my hole without lube and a little stretching was not something I was interested in doing. I didn’t appreciate or want that type of pain. To prepare myself for this encounter, I’d lubed and stretched my hole before stalking and then snaring Tyh in my hair.
My breath caught in pleasure as the head of Tyh’s cock slid smoothly into my ass. Every time we made love it seemed to be better than the last. I pushed down with my hips and moaned as the first pearls slipped into me. Tyh’s eyes closed to mere slits, and a soft growl twisted from his throat. I sank the rest of the way down until he was firmly seated inside me, my arms and legs shaking the tiniest bit at how intensely pleasurable it felt to have Tyh inside me. My nipples tightened, and I almost let Tyh’s hands go so he could play with the rings through them, something I found incredibly pleasurable. My eyes closed at the exquisite feel of being so full. I couldn’t help myself and tugged gently on the rings, moaning softly and wriggling my ass a little, teasing us both, as I got ready to start moving.
“Stars, but I love you. Words will never be enough. I love you beyond reason. You’re more important than the air I breathe. I’ll pray to whatever gods may be listening that you really do believe me when I say that what I feel is real and not something forced on me like you thought. I don’t expect you to love me back before I have to die to keep you safe from myself, but please, don’t ever doubt that I love you. My soul would shatter if you ever thought I didn’t love you of my own free will and not because I had to.”
My eyes popped open in surprise, and I stared at Tyh. His feelings had told me clear enough that he loved me, but I was amazed all over again at the level of devotion he felt. That he loved me despite what I was and what I could do made my throat tighten with emotion. Aside from my parents, and until I met Tyh, nobody loved me, and I was actively despised by my people. Tyh and the love he freely gave me were gifts that I still wasn’t sure I deserved.
The words had sounded exactly like his voice speaking softly into my ear while flowing through my mind at the same time. It was intimate and private and so special feeling, and I knew I’d do whatever I needed to so I could experience it again and again. His emotions were incredibly powerful and almost overwhelming even with my shields up, but also comforting as they wrapped around me and left me feeling cherished beyond words. A pleasure shiver danced down my spine at the tiny hip thrusts Tyh was making. It added up to an intensely intimate thing to experience and it made my heart feel full to bursting with love for him.
“Xi’vrecoo, move. Please. Before I lose the shreds of control I have, flip us over and fuck you hard like I’ve been dying to since the moment I saw you walk into the room naked.”
“So you want me to start moving before you flip us over and fuck me hard like you’ve been dying to since the moment you saw me walk into the room naked? What if I say I’d like that very much?” I felt my face heat from saying that much out loud.
Tyh blinked in surprise. “You’re already reading my mind again? But your eyes haven’t changed.”
I shrugged. “Maybe they only change after I orgasm. Maybe it’s a cumulative thing that takes longer to happen with each exposure. I don’t really care because I like how connected the Sliaru makes me feel to you.”
Pleasure and love flashed through his emotions at that. There was no anger in Tyh’s voice or face at what I knew was a very invasive thing to do. I still didn’t feel any guilt that I was doing something even more insidious than a Tiechle manipulating a person’s emotions by striding directly into Tyh’s most personal, private space—his thoughts—and enjoying how much it made me feel a part of him. I couldn’t seem to stop myself from enjoying the intimate mental connection just as I was loving our physical connection. To have both happening at the same time was so very good, and I knew I’d never tire of it.
I was still getting waves of pleasure and love from Tyh tinged with a little impatience at my remaining still. Anyone else would’ve freaked out at having their mind laid bare and shoved me from them. Tyh simply accepted it. The man was incredible. If I hadn’t already loved him, that would’ve sealed the deal for me.
“Being connected to you like this—physically and mentally—I don’t have words to describe how good and right it feels. I’m going to ride you hard like we both want.” My face was on fire from saying that, and I was very grateful that a blush was invisible against my black skin.
Lust from Tyh slammed into me, twisting around mine, and I gasped in pleasure. My hips started moving as if under somebody else’s control and I was just along for the ride. And what a ride it was. Desire spread through my body, mirroring what Tyh felt. The pearls on Tyh’s cock were amazingly erotic and better than I remembered them being. His soft growls mixed with his purring pushed my desire higher until I was panting and moaning as I bounced on his cock. My hand was on my dick, jerking myself off as the rush built. Tyh’s thoughts were an erotic litany in my head, telling me how beautiful he found me, how good it felt to have his cock buried in my ass, and above all else, how happy he was to have me in his life and how much he loved me.
I was surprised to hear other voices, too, as I’d never heard them before. They were fast turning into an annoyance. They fed off Tyh’s lust and told him to break free of my hold on him and use me like they knew he wanted. Tyh snarled mentally at them, and they laughed even as they ganged up on him and tried to push him into doing something he refused to do for fear of hurting or frightening me. I hadn’t thought they’d have such a strong reaction to the arousal tones I’d made since they weren’t attracted to me, but I probably should’ve since I knew how they reacted to the other sounds I made. I listened to what those voices tried to convince Tyh to do as I rode his cock, and my heart rate sped up at the sheer perverse nature of the ideas.
I’d never been tied down and fucked with toys until my hole was loose and I was begging for cock. I’d never had my cock caged and teased to the point of a release that wasn’t going to happen. I’d never had my mouth fucked until my jaw ached. I had absolutely no idea that it was possible to put your hand into someone’s ass and fuck him that way. Each of those ideas aroused me further and had me moaning as I thought about Tyh doing those things with me.
Who knew I was such a kink?
As much as I was enjoying the ideas, the voices were leaching some of the pleasure from Tyh as he tried to divide his attention between our love making and keeping the increasingly vocal voices at bay. That was simply not going to be allowed. Until I could figure out how to free Tyh from the voices, they needed to shut the hell up and let him enjoy himself.
Annoyance with their interference in our pleasure made me focus sharply on them as I cracked opened the void that existed inside me. I sent thin tendrils into Tyh’s mind to flick at the voices in warning. I had no idea if what I was doing would work since I’d never tried to do exactly what I was about to in the situation I was currently sharing with Tyh. To say our situation was unique was a massive understatement. I was also more than a little pissed off that the damn voices were messing with some of the best sex of my life, and it was never wise to provoke me to temper.
“You will all shut the hell up and leave Tyhlian alone. You’re distracting him and me from fantastic sex, and I will not tolerate it one second longer. The next one of you that makes a single sound will be sucked into my void and will cease to exist. You know I’m not bluffing because I’ve already done it once, and you know Tyhlian’s fondest wish is to be free of all of you. God help any one of you if Tyhlian actually stops fucking me into bliss to deal with you because I will wipe all of you from existence and damn the consequences. I am not a nice man when you make me angry, and you’re all pushing me in that direction.”
There was silence from the voices, most likely from shock at my being able to speak directly to them.
“And those perverted, kinky ideas you were all shouting and trying to egg Tyhlian into doing… thank you. I don’t think it’ll be too hard to convince him to try several of them. They sound positively, wickedly delicious.”
I felt the shock from Tyh and the voices and grinned. One of the voices burst out laughing, and I felt smug satisfaction coming from it, but that laughter was the only sound from them. I withdrew the void tendrils and focused back on the utter delight of Tyh’s cock in my ass and the heady lust in his eyes as he stared at me.
“Dak?” Tyh’s voice was a low growl. “Do you mean what you just said to the voices?”
“I don’t say things I don’t mean. You should know that by now. We’ll talk later about you sexually tormenting me for our mutual pleasure.” I panted as Tyh’s cock rubbed particularly hard over my prostate and sent pleasure spinning through me. “Those ideas the voices were giving you have me very aroused, and I love the way your cock feels in my ass. I’m close, Tyh.” I leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips. “I want you to come inside me. Now.”
Tyh growled at me again and my cock throbbed. I leaned back and moved faster over his cock, shivering and groaning when the angle had him nail my prostate with every thrust. I stroked my cock just as quickly as I moved over his. My balls drew up, and I slammed down onto Tyh, forcing a grunt out of him as I hit my peak. My cock spurted, striping his belly and chest with ribbons of iridescent black seed. I panted heavily as my body went lax, and I slumped forward, my hair finally loosening its grip on Tyh. He growled, and his hands, now freed, held my hips in a near-painful grip as he pistoned into me roughly a few times before he stiffened and a howl sounded from him. I groaned as his cock pulsed in my ass, my senses whirling as I enjoyed the final quivers of my orgasm layered with the one he was just experiencing. It was times like this that I was supremely grateful to be an empath. It was like a bonus, extended orgasm.
“I really, really like sex with you when Sliaru is coursing through my system. We are going to be doing this again, Tyhlian. Frequently,” I panted in a tone that said it was not a point up for debate.
Tyh laughed, and the sound was light and happy. It made me feel good that I’d been the one responsible for that. I lay over him in a boneless heap, residual pleasure shivers moving through me as I enjoyed the almost-too-good feel of his cock still buried in my ass. I closed my eyes and kissed his throat, smiling when I felt a vibration against my chest and heard purring. I could feel his contentment and wondered what he was thinking. I was disappointed when I couldn’t seem to hear his thoughts anymore despite his semi-firm cock still being in my ass.
I bit my lip as lazy desire still wound through me. I hadn’t been brave enough yet to completely drop my shields, but I wanted to. I’d let them hover at fifty percent most of the time I was around Tyh, and I’d even gone so far as to leave them only at twenty-five percent when we made love so I could wallow in the pleasure and love Tyh felt for me.
I was a little scared at being overwhelmed by Tyh’s emotions if I laid myself completely open to him, but I also wanted to feel them wash through me. I loved Tyh, and I knew it wasn’t something I’d been forced to feel by the Lor’fei. It was time I told him that. I wanted to feel his raw emotions when I did it, so I drew in a soft breath and dropped my personal shields entirely. I could only hear a faint murmur of Tyh’s thoughts in my mind, and I was highly disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to hear what he thought when I told him that I loved him. His emotions were very strong, but I didn’t feel like they were subverting mine. It was more like the love he felt added richness to mine because it was mutual.
I opened my mouth to tell Tyh that I loved him when pain unlike anything I’d ever felt crashed through me.
I cried out and jerked away from Tyh, his cock leaving my ass painfully fast for both of us, my hair slithering off him to wrap around me protectively. I mentally scrambled to jerk my shields into place and block out what felt like daggers of glass ripping my soul to shreds. I dragged in huge, gulping breaths that were fast turning into sobs. Tears coursed down my face, and my hair tightened almost painfully around my body. Soul-crushing grief pressed fiercely against my shields, and my heart ached.
“Owww, fuck, Dak. What the hell?” Tyh’s tone of voice turned from slightly pained to concerned, but I could barely draw enough breath between the wracking sobs to answer him.
“Dak? Talk to me, shal-demsho. What’s wrong? Please tell me I didn’t hurt you.” Panic surged through Tyh as he grabbed me to him and hugged me fiercely.
“Moswen,” I gasped between breaths as I struggled to regain control of my emotions. The level of emotional pain was intense, and I’d never had anything hit me so hard that it nearly stole my breath away.
“What?” Bewilderment was plain in Tyh’s voice.
“Moswen. He’s… here. He’s… shattered. I… I’ll be okay,” I said as I opened myself to the void and let it suck away Moswen’s pain. I gave one last shuddery breath as the deep, heart-wrenching agony drained away and felt my emotions settle back down. “I dropped my shields because I wanted to hear you in my head again and feel your joy combined with mine and…. He just showed up like a knife through my brain. He has the worst timing in the universe, you know. That’s the second time he’s messed up my being able to enjoy a good post-sex glow.”
I knew I sounded petulant, but I couldn’t help it. I felt all out of sorts from going from a euphoric post-sex high to soul-crushing pain and despair between one breath and the next. Moswen was likely splintered emotionally to be feeling such depth of pain, but I had needs and wants, too, and I was damn tired of always subverting them for everybody else. And he really did have the crappiest timing that it’d ever been my misfortune to see.
“That kind of thing happens a lot around him,” Tyh said with a small smile and a whole lot of relief in his voice. “Are you sure he’s actually here, and that’s what happened? You’re not trying to make me feel better for hurting you, are you?”
“You didn’t hurt me, Tyh. I’m fine now. Moswen is here on the ship and he’s… broken emotionally. We’d better go see him. Damn. I get no cuddle time. Again. At least he wasn’t actually watching us this time.”
Tyh hugged me hard and kissed my temple, relief pouring off him at the news that he hadn’t been the one to cause me harm. “All the cuddle time you want later, Dak. I promise. Let’s get dressed and go see what the walking disaster that calls himself my brother got into this time.”
It was worse than I thought.
Moswen looked fine at first glance, but you only needed to really look at him and see his eyes to realize that he was wounded in a way that might never heal. I felt bad for my initial annoyance with him. Even through my excellent shields, I could still feel his sorrow. I was a little jealous that Moswen was curled up in Tyh’s lap when I wanted to be there after the intimacy I’d shared with Tyh, but Moswen needed it far more than I did. Tyh stroked a hand over Moswen’s hair and used more patience than I thought he had in getting the problem out of him.
“Okay, so you met someone while running from whatever your last disaster was—this Kijika person—and he’s a prince and a soldier, and he’s going to have your baby, as bizarre as that sounds, and you love him as if he was your Lor’fei, but he called it quits on you and told you to take a hike. Now, you’re miserable because you want to do what he wants but you feel like you can’t be apart from him.”
“Yes,” Moswen said in a watery voice. “I started to go into his dreams once thinking that maybe I could talk to him and apologize, and he was still so mad at me. Not like get-over-it mad in a few days, but like I-never-want-to-see-you-again mad. I was trying so hard to not be myself for him, but I still fucked everything up.”
Moswen buried his face in Tyh’s neck, and the pain and sorrow coming from him jumped. I sucked in a sharp breath and strengthened my shields, putting everything I had into them. I’d never had anybody’s emotions hit me this hard while shielded. Not even Tyh’s, and he loved me to an insane degree. The expression on Tyh’s face was stricken when Moswen’s shoulders shook, and he made little snuffling sounds. I got the feeling that a crying Moswen wasn’t something that happened often.
I sighed softly and knelt next to Tyh. I was sure there was more to what was wrong than the simplistic words Moswen used. There were always two sides to any story. I knew that better than most because of my job as a negotiator. I touched Moswen’s leg, and he turned his face to me. His eyes were bloodshot and there were dark circles under them. His normally tanned skin was sallow, the pale gold stripes on his skin standing out like garish paint. He looked much thinner than the last time I’d seen him. Frankly, he looked like hell.
“How long ago did all this happen?” I asked gently.
“Two weeks. Maybe three. No more than four. I think. Maybe. Fuck, I don’t know. I’ve lost track of time while I’ve been keeping tabs on Kijika in the Dream World.”
Tyh sucked in a sharp breath, and I had the feeling that was bad for a different reason than I was thinking.
“Moswen, have you been sleeping? Not Dream-Walking or Dream-Stepping, but actually sleeping?”
“I… no? Maybe? I’m not sure. I’m trying to watch over Kijika without him knowing I’m doing it. It’s hard though. I know if I were to really go to his dreams he’d remember my being there because Ki and our baby are all I can think about. I told him I’d always do whatever he wanted, and I’m not going to make him hate me even more than he does now by seeing him when he doesn’t want to see me. It’s making me crazy to not see him, Tyh. Ki and our baby are my world.”
“No, not sleeping is making you crazy. How did you get here? Did you Dream-Walk or Dream-Step? This is important, Moswen. Think.”
“Step. I think. Stars, I don’t know anymore, Tyh. I just want to be with Ki and our baby. What if he doesn’t let me see our baby? What if he hates our baby because it’s mine and gives our baby away and won’t tell me who he gave it to? What if I never get to see our baby, ever? Oh, god, what if he decides he doesn’t want to have it at all. I--- I couldn’t handle that, Tyh. I have to go. I have to go and make sure he doesn’t hate our baby that much because of me. I can keep him in the Dream World until the baby is due and take our baby away. He’d never have to see either of us again.”
Moswen paled as he voiced his fears and tears spilled over his cheeks. I groaned and clutched at my chest, the pain from Moswen spearing under my shields stronger than anything I’d gotten from him previously. My hair wrapped around me tightly as if to protect me from the agony Moswen was feeling. Tyh growled and was out of his seat in a blur, Moswen held tight in his arms. I heard a solid thunk and the pain I was feeling from Moswen abruptly stopped. I blinked through tears and saw Tyh crouched over Moswen. Moswen was laid out on his back on the floor and wasn’t moving.
“Are you okay, Dak?”
I nodded even as I felt a headache start up behind my eyes. Great gods above, but Moswen was trouble by the cargo ship load. Tyh turned back to Moswen and ran a hand gently over his brother’s hair.
“Had to bounce his head off the floor. He’s out cold and that should hold for a bit considering how tired he has to be. I need to try and talk some sense into him in the Dream World. Hopefully, I can get him to stay asleep for a while. It’s a risk though. Phaedra isn’t actively hunting me anymore, but that doesn’t mean Cadao hasn’t set others to keep an eye peeled for me in the Dream World. If Moswen Dream-Walked to me, anyone could follow his footsteps and find me. If he’s as messed up as I think he is, there is the possibility he used whatever method he could to get to me. I know he’s not thinking straight.”
Unease settled in my stomach. “Do you think he did Dream-Walk?”
“Probably not, but where Moswen is concerned, I wouldn’t count anything out. Moswen always Dream-Steps. He says he needs to think to Dream-Walk. But it won’t hurt to be prepared if a Shal-hazal somehow manages to find me while I do this. I’ll be as careful as I can but that’s no guarantee. I have a huge favour to ask of you, Dak, and you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to.”
Tyh didn’t know it yet because of his brother’s awful timing, but I loved him, and there was very little I wouldn’t do for him. I felt uncertainty coming from him and wondered why. I nodded at him and gestured for him to continue.
“Can Moswen sleep between us? Just for tonight and just sleep. It’ll help him rest. He needs contact and closeness. Ideally, it would be with people who love him, but it should be enough with just me for that connection and the general closeness of the two of us. I want to convince him to go home to Awh’an and be with his brood for a while where he might be able to overcome a little of his heart break, but I’ll have to do that in the Dream World, and I don’t know if he’ll go for it. I’ll probably need to mess with his head a little to get him to do that. Implanting subtle suggestions isn’t in my job description as a Litch, and we’re not all that good at it. Funny enough, that’s part of Moswen’s job description.”
Tyh sighed and rubbed a hand over his face before looking at Moswen with love and affection.
“Moswen is a Throw-back. That’s a rarity among the Awh’anise, and they feel things intensely especially when it’s something connected with what they see as theirs. If he’s given his heart to this Kijika guy and is having a baby with him, as fucked up as a guy having a baby sounds, he’ll damn near kill himself to stay close to and protect his family. A Throw-back in love is about as close as a person can come to experiencing the Lor’fei without actually finding one. Some say it’s even more intense than the Lor’fei. It’s not uncommon for a Throw-back to commit suicide if the object of their affection rejects them.
“If he hasn’t been sleeping all that time as he moves through the Dream World while trying to keep tabs on Kijika, he’s pushing himself close to a mental break down. Logically, he knows that, but his Throw-back instincts are messing with his head and making him act in ways he knows he shouldn’t. I know I promised you all the cuddle time you wanted tonight, but I wouldn’t ask you to give that up if this wasn’t really important.”
“He’s… I’ve only felt that kind of pain and despair from suicidal people, Tyh. And it was stronger than anything I’ve ever felt. He got through my shields like it was nothing. That just doesn’t happen. Ever. Not even you can do that and your emotions are very intense where I’m concerned.”
“I’m not surprised. It takes a lot of mental strength to be a Shal-hazal, and if you’re a Throw-back on top of that, well, it’s even harder. Moswen is the only Throw-back Shal-hazal right now. The few Throw-backs that are born of the Blood usually don’t make it through the training. They’re too wild and can’t develop the iron will that they need to curb their Throw-back instincts, never mind handle what they need to as Shal-hazal.”
“What do they do then? I thought you said you’re born a Shal-hazal and don’t have a choice in the matter. It’s just what you are like being male or female.”
“It is. The ones that don’t make it through training, Throw-back or regular Awh’anise, die. They get lost in the Dream World, and we either can’t retrieve them, or we pull them back and their minds are gone. At least a quarter of the prospective Shal-hazals die in training. The rate of attrition is even higher with Litches. At least half suicide in one way or another when they find out what they are.”
I stared. I had no idea. The thought that Tyh could have been one of those that didn’t make it through his training or chose to end it had my stomach flip unpleasantly. I laid my hand over Tyh’s and gave it a light squeeze.
“As much as I’d love to snuggle in your arms, Moswen needs the closeness more than I do right now. He’s hurting so badly. It’s staggering, and frankly I’m amazed and maybe a little awed that he’s still moving and not huddled into a little ball in the corner of some room waiting to die.”
The relief from Tyh at my agreeing to let Moswen sleep with us was enough to make me smile. I was going to tell Tyh how I felt, but now was not the time because of the thing with Moswen. I got up from my position on the floor and waited as Tyh stood and slung Moswen over his shoulder. I followed him back to our room, detouring along the way to grab the mattress and blankets from the bed I’d first slept in. Tyh shot me a grateful look when I dumped them on the floor and pulled the thin mattress from our bed, pushing the mattresses together to make one bed large enough for all of us. I laid out the blankets and watched as Tyh placed Moswen in the center.
Tyh knelt next to Moswen, and his hands hovered over the ties to Moswen’s pants. He glanced at me and moved his hands away leaving Moswen fully dressed. Given the casual nudity and craving of skin-on-skin contact of the Awh’anise Tyh had told me about, I was glad he’d decided to keep Moswen clothed. I’d sleep with the man to offer him the comfort he needed, but I would’ve been very uncomfortable to do so with him naked.
Tyh lay down next to Moswen and waited for me join them on the other side of his brother, sandwiching Moswen between us. Tyh draped his arm over Moswen’s chest, his hand searching mine out. I wriggled closer, my hair slithering over Moswen to reach Tyh.
“I’m going to do what I can for him in the Dream World. I think that after I send Moswen on his way we might need to have a little talk with this Kijika person and find out just what happened. I know that’s dangerous as hell and probably leaves a trail a Shal-hazal could follow, but Moswen is family, and I know he’d go to the wall for me if our positions were reversed. Look at what he’s already done for me knowing that if he was caught the outcome would be very, very painful for him. He’s a good man, Dak, and you can trust him with your life. Whatever happens, he’ll never betray us. He’d rather die.”
I nodded and watched as Tyh closed his eyes and was asleep in seconds, gone to try and help his brother the only way he knew how. I hoped he could help Moswen. Interrupted post-sex bliss or not, nobody deserved the soul-deep pain that Moswen was feeling. I was tempted to try and siphon off some of Moswen’s pain through my void but didn’t want to disturb whatever Tyh was doing in the Dream World. I sighed softly and closed my eyes hoping that sleep would find me soon. I had the feeling that the next little while was going to make me need as much rest as I could get.
Convincing Moswen that he needed to go home for a little while had initially been like trying to empty the ocean with a sieve. You could probably do it, but it’d take forever and be more frustrating than anything imaginable. When logic failed, I’d gone one, reluctant step further and tried subtly twisting ideas into his mind about needing to be home right away.
Litches were not very good at that sort of manipulation as that’s not what our main training as Shal-hazal’s was about. We only had the basic dream-warping training that every Shal-hazal had to learn. Luck was on my side that Moswen had been so tired and worn down from his constant vigil over Kijika that I’d been able to mess with his mind a fair bit while I worked on verbally convincing him to go home. In the end, I’d managed to twist his memories enough so he thought it was his idea to go home for a while. I didn’t expect what I’d done to last long and he’d probably be mad as hell when he realized that I’d screwed with his head, but he badly needed the rest before he suffered a psychotic break. Our family only needed the one crazy Shal-hazal in it, and that was me. I figured he’d stay put for a week, if I was really lucky and his sho saw how close to the breaking point he was, but I wasn’t counting on that long. Four days was my best guess before he dragged his striped ass back to watch over Kijika.
I hated exposing myself and Dak to the possibility of being found, but Moswen needed the little bit I could do for him in the Dream World more than I needed to stay utterly invisible. I was as careful as I could be, but there was always the possibility of being discovered by some over-eager Shal-hazal under Cadao’s thrall whenever I went into the Dream World l. As I’d told Dak, just because Phaedra wasn’t actively hunting me didn’t mean that others weren’t. Yes, the possibility of that was extremely low, but it wasn’t zero. I’d rather be a little paranoid and free than overconfident and caught.
I also believed that I had a new problem to deal with thanks to Moswen. I needed to chew the hell out of the man who’d toyed with his heart. Moswen could be an idiot at times, but he said he told Kijika about how Throw-backs behaved and the sometimes irrational way they acted around people they cared about. Sure, Moswen could try your patience at times, but he never set out to be a little shit on purpose. He liked to tease, but show me an Awh’anise who didn’t, and I’d show you someone who wasn’t truly Awh’anise.
Moswen actually tried really hard to tame his natural Throw-back instincts to put people more at ease. He was a genuinely nice guy with a big heart, and I didn’t think that just because he was my favourite brother. He loved fiercely, cared deeply and was stupidly protective about the ones he considered important in his life. I couldn’t see any way that this Kijika person could miss how highly Moswen valued him or how ecstatic he would’ve been to find out that he was going to be a father. Moswen damn near put a flashing sign over his head announcing his feelings when he was attracted to someone. He sucked at hiding his feelings, which was part of his charm.
I’d never even met the man Moswen was sleeping with, and I was pissed as hell at him. I was going to chew him a new hole for what he’d done to Moswen, and I didn’t give a flying fuck if the guy was a genuine prince either. If he really was a prince, I was sure impeccable manners were probably bred into him. He had to be a world class dick to treat Moswen the way he did knowing how much somebody like Moswen would take that to heart. You didn’t treat people you cared about like shit, and you really didn’t do that when you were having a baby with them. It just wasn’t right.
I’d gotten the name of the planet his prince lived on out of Moswen while I was poking around in his head along with whatever other information I thought was relevant. Normally, Shal-hazal didn’t like to seriously mess with each other’s heads as that was dangerous, especially when it was two Wills involved and the one doing the messing wasn’t the best at that sort of thing. But Moswen wasn’t thinking clearly, and only the most basic of his mental training was active. Frankly, I was a little amazed that he was still sane, and it was a testament to his mental strength that he was still functioning at a reasonable level.
The voices had been oddly quiet since the mind-blowing sex with Dak when he managed to speak directly to them. I wasn’t sure why they were quiet, and I was loathe to disturb the blessed peace from the voices that he’d accidently gifted me with. However, we had to go see Kijika, and while I was a decent pilot thanks to some of the voices, I needed a professional to get us where we needed to be with the greatest speed and stealth possible. It took a good bit of poking and prodding before I managed to drag Zeki, the homicidal pirate, forward and get him to plot the fastest course to Gi-foeh. Once he had the joystick in hand, he was a happy sociopath, which left my mind relatively free to think about what happened between me and Dak.
He’d shocked me when he’d caught me up in his hair and told me that he fully intended to have sex with me within the hour. Dak was never that forward and most of the time I thought his shyness was adorable. I didn’t mind always being the one to initiate sex, but having him do it was sexier than it should have been. He’d used his professional negotiator voice on me, too, and I knew even from our short time together that there was no arguing with that tone. Not that I’d wanted to argue. Sex with Dak was utterly welcome any time.
How Dak was able to not only hear the voices but also speak directly to them, neither one of us had a clue. They’d gone silent from that point on though. I’d been shocked down to my tail tip when Dak told them that he liked their kinky ideas and even thanked them for suggesting them. Never in a million years would I have thought my beautifully delicate, blow over in a stiff breeze, Dakvir would get off on the idea of being bound or spanked, or gods help me, fisted. My cock started to harden as I let my mind drift into a fantasy involving white silk rope criss-crossing Dak’s midnight-dark skin, a string of graduated anal beads and jewelled nipple clamps as I slowly stretched him wide enough to slide my hand inside him.
“And what perverted idea are you toying with right now, Tyh?” came Dak’s voice, low and seductive in my ear.
My heart rate jumped into triple time at his words and the possibility of him initiating sex again. His hair slid over my chest and under the waistband of my pants to circle my cock with a silky, erotic touch. I opened my mouth and instead of the demand to come sit on my lap, a voice that was mine but not spoke instead startling us both.
“Keep yer damn hair t’yerself an leave his cock alone. By Frezia’s nine tits, cain’t ya see I’m tryin’ t’fly this here ship? Ya want t’make me fly ’er into that there asteroid field comin’ up? Randier than a fuckin’ grebnault in rut, the two a ya. Plain-ass disgustin’ to watch two men fuck each other. Don’t wanna have that shit happen when I’m sittin’ in control of this here body. Ya can wait yer damn turn to get fucked ’til we’re through this here asteroid field.”
Dak’s hair slithered away so fast I’d be surprised if I didn’t have friction burns on my dick. His eyes were huge, and he looked like he’d just been slapped across the face. A sick feeling started in my stomach at the horror on Dak’s face, and I fought Zeki for control of my body. He finally relinquished control when I promised it’d only be for a few minutes so I could explain to Dak just what the hell was going on. My hard-on died at Dak’s expression, and I wanted nothing more than to fix his upset.
“Dak, I’m so sorry. I didn’t think to say anything about letting Zeki pilot the ship. You were asleep the last time I checked on you, and I didn’t expect you to wake so soon.”
“I’ve seen you pilot the ship before, and it never even crossed my mind that you weren’t you,” Dak sounded surprised and horribly embarrassed as if he’d groped the wrong person in broad daylight, which, in a way, I suppose he had. “I mean, I saw you let Raini do the computer thing, but I was ready for that and... I don’t think I would’ve reacted well if that Zeki person or any of the others in your head had taken control while we were… intimate. They can’t take over then, can they?” Dak asked, and if he could’ve visibly blushed I was sure his face would’ve been bright red.
“No. I’m the dominant personality. While they are in my head—and I can’t do anything about that—I absolutely refuse to share you in that way with any of them, shal-demsho,” I said softly as I reached for Dak.
I let out the breath I’d been holding when he hesitated for only a second before taking my hand and allowing me to pull him into my lap. I stroked his back and nuzzled his neck, and he relaxed against me. He traced his fingers over his Risdepa that covered my left arm from wrist to shoulder giving me pleasure shivers and bringing me partially erect again. I watched the motion of his fingers and just barely heard him murmur something in Laiokian. Considering how good Awh’anise hearing was, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to hear what he said or if he was even aware he’d said anything out loud.
“Dak, love, what did you say?”
He startled in my arms before turning his head to look at me. The smile on his face was serene and sweet, and I knew if I’d had the time, I would’ve carried him back to our room and made love to him.
“Something I’ve wanted to say for a while, but circumstances kept preventing me from saying to you. Hertae nia yilli unree, Neshi vei dumou ish ofran ta neshe lestnei saisu.”
“And that means… what exactly? I have the Laiokian language in my head, and that sort of sounded familiar but not—if that makes sense. Is it some sort of dialect or something?”
Dak laughed softly and framed my face with his hands. He caught my eyes with his, and his hair flowed around us drawing us together.
“Or something. It’s Old High Laiokian in a dialect of the province my father grew up in. Nobody really speaks it anymore except in certain legal proceedings, religious ceremonies and formalizations of exchanges of Risdepa.
“When a Laiokian gives someone his Risdepa, it’s a very big deal and never done lightly. The pain involved in cutting our hair is… not pleasant. While you ended up with mine under very strange conditions, I believe that you are the right person to wear my Risdepa. That you have a Ceitai Risdepa, a method that’s almost never used anymore, just proves even more that we are meant to be together.”
Hearing Dak say that made my heart pound heavily in my chest and my mouth go desert dry. I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions, but what he said was sounding an awful lot like something I dreamed of hearing but never honestly thought I would before I died.
“Okay. I knew it was a big deal to your people, and you have no idea how honoured I am that you’re allowing me to keep it. But what did you say, Dak?”
“Through pain willingly endured, I give you this proof of my everlasting love,” Dak said in a soft yet firm voice before he leaned in and kissed me gently on the lips.
I felt like all the air had suddenly been sucked out of the room, and not all of it was because of the sweet, heartfelt kiss Dak gave me. He pulled back and smiled at me.
“Dumou Neshi saisu, Tyhlian.”
I knew what that translated as but I wanted to hear it again.
“And that means….” I was sure my heart was going to pound its way out of my chest in excitement as I waited to hear Dak say it again.
“I love you, Tyhlian. Although I know you know that’s what it meant already. I would’ve told you during my cuddle time the night we made love when I jumped you, but other things, namely Moswen, interrupted, and the timing wasn’t right then to say something when you were so worried about him. It’s not great timing now either, but I’ve recently realized that I can’t wait for the perfect moment given our current situation. If something were to happen and somebody was to find you, I’d want you to know that your feelings aren’t one sided and they’re returned wholeheartedly. I’m going back to bed. You can get on with… whatever you and that Zeki-person were doing. Just give me a little warning next time you do something like that, please. It was a little embarrassing to basically fondle a stranger.”
I nodded and kissed Dak again. I didn’t want to let him go. I wanted to hug him to me and demand he tell me again that he loved me, but I could feel Zeki getting restless and hear him grumbling about how we were going to end up in the asteroid field if I didn’t get my ass in gear and let him steer us around it. Dak stood and headed for our room, his hair trailing over my skin as if reluctant to leave me. Once he was out of sight, I let Zeki take control of my body and fly the ship to Gi-foeh where Dak and I were going to confront Prince Kijika over his crappy treatment of my little heartbroken brother. After that, I was going to show Dak in the best way possible how happy he’d just made me.
The trip to Gi-foeh was uneventful. Zeki was content that he’d gotten to fly a space ship again for an extended period of time, and he was silent in my head. Everybody else, well the earlier peace was a distant memory. They were having a bitchfest of epic proportions because one person got to do something for several hours and nobody else got to come out and play. While I did appreciate the skills that I had at my disposal because of all the people living in my head, I could do without the loud internal argument between forty some-odd people in a variety of languages. I was getting the headache to end all headaches, and I still needed to somehow get a royal audience to speak to Kijika.
Moswen was seven kinds of trouble, and I swear to all the gods above and below that he infected people who came into contact with him.
Getting permission to land on Gi-foeh was surprisingly easy. It was almost as if we were expected or something. I was positive that getting to see a royal wasn’t going to be nearly as simple and sighed heavily because I knew what I needed to do to secure a royal audience. I hauled out my formal Shal-hazal robes and shuddered.
They were awful in the extreme but did work when you needed to pull off the whole somebody of import thing. The cloth was actually of excellent quality and the embroidery on the edges top notch, but it was the thirty or so pounds of differently coloured and cut gems attached all over the robe that made it a total eye-sore. Moswen said it looked like an overstuffed jeweller’s bag barfed all over you, and I had to agree. I snickered softly to myself when several of the voices in my head actually questioned my sanity at wearing the atrocity. I’d just finished shrugging the hideous thing on when Dak walked into the room. He recoiled slightly when he saw me, and his hair swept behind him as if trying to hide from the garish robes.
“You’re not seriously going to wear that are you?” Faint horror tinged Dak’s voice.
“These are official Shal-hazal robes, and yes, I am. I figure the best way to get a royal audience is to go in as an Awh’anise ambassador, which I am by the way. These are our official business robes.”
“But… it’s…” Dak trailed off as he stared in appalled fascination at them.
“Gaudy as hell and twice as ugly? Yeah, I know. We keep saying we’ll do something about the robes, but it never happens. Moswen swears that when it’s his turn to serve as the head of the Council, he’ll petition them to change the robes to something less tacky and a whole lot lighter to wear. Despite everybody hating the impossibly hideous things, some will protest just because it’s tradition that we wear them.”
Dak wrinkled his nose. “I was going to ask your opinion on what you thought would be better to wear, but I’ll just go with my first choice.”
“Hey! I had nothing to do with the way the robes look. I just wear them when necessary.”
Dak sniffed in disapproval and tried not to look directly at me. He looked so snotty and offended at the idea of my wearing the hideous robe that I smirked. I definitely had it bad if I thought that was cute. I loved the little quirks of his personality that popped up with him and surprised me. He stripped with his back to me, and I licked my lips, forcing myself not to go to him and cup that exceptionally fine ass of his. My breath caught in my throat when he bent over to pull up a pair of cream coloured loose pants, his ankle-length hair slithering off to the side to fully expose his tight little ass. Stars but he had a fantastic ass, and I had to dig my claws into the palms of my hands to keep from going to him. He straightened and pulled on a matching coat/shirt thing that reached his knees and was edged with gold trim before he turned to face me, humour in his gorgeous multi-coloured eyes. He knew exactly what he was doing to me by dressing in front of me like he had. He could be such a tease at times, and I loved it.
“You like?” Dak’s smile told me that he wasn’t asking my opinion on his tasteful ensemble that complimented his slender build wonderfully.
“Oh yeah. Very much. Damn, I wish there was time for a quickie.”
Dak laughed and stepped close to me, his arms going around me. He pressed his lips to my ear and dropped his voice to a whisper.
“After hearing some of the things those voices of yours suggested, I went and looked up videos on mouth fucking. I want to do that next time we make love. I... I want you to... to spank me first and then mouth fuck me. Will you do that for me, Tyhlian?” His voice was whisper soft and a little bit hesitant as he spoke, and I thought what he asked me to do and the tone of voice he used were among the sexiest things I’d ever heard.
I couldn’t help it. I growled and bit Dak’s neck hard enough to leave teeth marks but not so hard as to break the skin. He hissed in pain at the sharp pinch, but his hips bucked against mine. I licked the subtle mark and grinned. He was hard as a rock. Just how lucky I was to have found Dak even if my life could be measured in months, if not weeks, hit me, and I hugged him hard. He squeaked a protest but hugged me back.
“I love you, Dak.”
“I love you, too, Tyh,” he smiled at me, kissed me softly on the lips and gave the base of my tail a light squeeze.
The lust that surged through me at that move almost made me throw him on the bed and stuff his cute ass with my cock, but he wriggled out of my grasp before I could do anything. He smoothed down his shirt/coat thing, drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. I blinked in surprise when the playful, horny man disappeared to be replaced with a cool and controlled individual who looked like he wouldn’t take any bullshit from anybody. Even his hair, which had been subtly feeling me up a moment ago, was perfectly still.
Stars but it would be an arousing challenge to wipe that look off his face with a little sexual torment.
“Let’s go, Ambassador Shal-hazal Litch Will Leu Tyhlian Huyana-Dukker of the House of Heyda. There will be time for that later, and it’s not wise to keep a royal waiting.”
“What?” I said stupidly as my brain was still in lust mode and very reluctant to let go of the mental image of mouth fucking Dak after soundly spanking his ass.
“I took the liberty of sending a request through the proper channels that you wished to have a word with Prince Kijika regarding a family matter. He was quite annoyed at first with the interruption and request until I mentioned Moswen’s name. He was rather accommodating once I told him that you were Moswen’s brother and needed to speak to him about Moswen.”
I was now staring at Dak with my mouth open, utterly shocked that he’d thought to do all that.
“I am a professional negotiator, Tyhlian, and I’m very good at what I do. Close your mouth, love, it gives the impression that you’re simple when you do that—especially when combined with those ghastly robes that no one in their right mind would wear voluntarily.”
My teeth clicked together when I snapped my mouth shut. I felt more than a little off-balance by the sudden change in Dakvir. This wasn’t the man I was used to seeing. It was kinda hot that he was all aloof and prissy when I knew he had a huge kink streak, but still a little jarring. He must’ve seen something in my expression because the ice in his pale rainbow-coloured eyes melted and he brushed a thumb over my cheek in a tender gesture.
“I’m in business mode now. It wouldn’t do to go into negotiations with my private personality. Nobody would take me seriously. If this Kijika person turns out to be a decent sort, I’ll relax and be more… me. We’ve only heard Moswen’s side of things, and I want to judge if that’s really what happened.”
I grabbed Dak’s wrist and placed a kiss on the palm of his hand. Stars but he was amazing. His hair curled around my legs and started to draw me into him. Annoyance flitted over Dak’s face, and he started tugging his hair away from me, mumbling things I could barely hear that still ended up sounding less than complimentary in his native language. He finally managed to pull all his hair free and sent a narrow-eyed look at me.
“Don’t do that sweetly romantic stuff when we’re talking to Prince Kijika. I have a hard enough time controlling my hair when you’re just standing there next to me, and it really doesn’t need any encouragement from you to behave badly. If it wasn’t so uncomfortable, I’d tie the damn stuff up so it would stop groping you every chance it gets,” Dak huffed out in annoyance.
I laughed and jerked Dak to me for a fast, hard kiss, letting him go as quickly as I’d grabbed him. His hair slithered forward again, reaching for me, and he scowled, batting his hair away from me before punching me hard in the arm. The punch was followed by his fingers trailing lightly down my arm with the Risdepa, and when he reached my hand, he gave my fingers a soft squeeze.
“Stop that, Tyhlian. Be serious about this. No holding my hand, putting your hand on my waist or the thousand other things that you do to show me how much you love me that I think is wonderful and the sweetest thing ever. You will behave yourself and comport yourself like the ambassador you’re going in there as and treat me with the respect of a professional negotiator working on your behalf. Are we clear?”
Dak was back to that negotiator voice again, and I knew he meant business. I nodded and resisted the urge to kiss him again because I thought he was incredibly hot when he used that take-no-shit voice. One of the voices in my head made the sound of a whip, and I smirked. Dak had me wrapped around his finger, and I knew it. I also didn’t care. He was beautiful, smart, sexy, had a kink streak a mile wide, and he was all mine. And he loved me. I was still awed that he did and that he’d told me more than once. I treasured it every time he said it to me.
Dak lead the way from the space port, got us onto something that was basically a flying carpet and had us dropped off in front of a truly impressive building that could only be the palace. He said something to a guard in a language I didn’t know and waited with perfect calm while the guard spoke into what looked like a jewelled microphone. The guard kept eyeing me, and I wondered if something was a little off about the man when he seemed to actually appreciate the gaudiness of my formal robes.
Then again, the man was wearing quite a bit of jewellery himself; the tiny vest and mini wrap skirt he was wearing leaving plenty of skin exposed for showing off necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets, belly chains as well as what I was pretty sure were pierced nipples and belly button. He looked like a walking advertisement for a jewellery store. But so had the majority of people we’d passed, so it must be the fashion or something to do with the culture. I was a little surprised that the colourful butterfly-looking wings of the man weren’t dripping with jewels, too. The guard finally nodded at us and motioned for us to follow him.
“Since when do you speak Vylfian?” I asked in a low voice as we trailed the guard through a maze of corridors.
“I have a universal translator implanted in my ear. I work with all kinds of species, and it was the easiest way to allow for communication without having to learn hundreds of languages or hope that the people I was working for spoke Common.”
Well, damn. I hadn’t really thought about a language barrier. I’d had no time to go Dream-Walking to lift the Vylfian language out of somebody’s head while Zeki was flying the ship. Leaving any of the people in my head in control of my body while I Dream-Walked would’ve been a recipe for disaster no matter how much better they’d been behaving of late. All I needed was a few minutes, and I could go grab what I needed from anyone, but I couldn’t see any way that I could drop into sleep and do that without appearing really rude. I didn’t like the idea of not having a clue what was being said although I was sure Dak would translate everything for me.
“Tyh, love, let me speak to Prince Kijika regardless of what language gets used. You’re doing a wonderful job of holding your anger in, but I can feel you hanging onto your temper by a thread the closer we get to him.”
I gave Dak a rueful grin and nodded. I trusted Dak to ask exactly what I wanted to know and to do it in a diplomatic way. He was right in that the closer we were getting to Kijika, the more my irritation with the man was rising. I kept seeing Moswen’s face and the utter heartbreak in his eyes. I’d been into the fringes of his mind, and the despair he felt was gut wrenching.
The guard led us through a door and out into a lush garden. It was beautiful, relaxing and very private. We followed a colourful crushed stone path to a large metal structure with a multi-coloured glass roof. A man was sitting on a cushioned bench, and my first thought was that Moswen had excellent taste in partners.
He was certainly exotic looking. I wasn’t sure if it was the sunlight filtered through the glass, but it looked like his hair was blue-black. He had wings like all the people we’d seen so far, but his were subtly different in shape. Everyone else seemed to have wing shapes like butterflies or other insects, but his looked more bat-shaped although the membranes were semi-transparent and actually closely resembled the rich mosaic tile design on the floor. His eyes were an intense pale aqua with dark blue pupils and were almost as pretty as Dak’s. When I really looked at his eyes, I saw how tired he looked, and I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but it looked like his eyes might be red and a little puffy.
The voices talked over each other creating a clash of conversations in my head I could’ve done without. Several commented on the gaudiness of the locals and their seeming love of jewels and colours. Jawhar mused on how interesting it would be to fuck someone with wings. Not to be outdone, Visolela started wondering about the mechanics of the wings and how the Vylfian were able to fly and how much she’d love to get one on an exam table.
I mentally hissed at them to all shut the hell up as the meeting was important and if they somehow screwed things up, there would be a shit storm of epic proportions on their heads because I’d tell Dak to go nuts with making them permanently silent. They went mostly quiet at that because they knew I was serious, but I could still hear some talking softly about the people and scenery, which was fine as I was used to that level of noise in my head and could ignore it for the most part.
Dak approached Kijika and bowed from the waist. Deciding that following Dak’s lead was probably smart since I had no idea what local protocol was towards royals, I copied him. Kijika gestured for us to stand and said something in a sharp tone to the guard. The guard stiffened and seemed to be about to protest when Kijika’s wings partially opened and he repeated what he’d said earlier. The guard snapped off a stiff salute, spun on his heel and marched away. Kijika’s wings folded closed against his back, and he turned his gaze back to us.
“Greetings Your Radiance Prince Kijika. I’m Dakvir Nigidvo from Laiok and this is Ambassador Shal-hazal Litch Will Tyhlian Dukker-Huyana, Shal-hazal Spirit Will Moswen’s half-brother. Thank you for agreeing to see us on such short notice. We won’t take up much of your time. Please excuse my using Common, but Ambassador Tyhlian was busy piloting the ship and didn’t have the opportunity to learn your language before we arrived. I was lead to believe that you speak Common fluently, which Ambassador Tyhlian also does. If you wish, we can speak in your native tongue, but I’ll have to translate our conversation for Ambassador Tyhlian.”
“Common is fine. Please, have a seat. You have news of Moswen? Do you know where he is? Can you tell me? Is he all right?” tension was in Kijika’s voice along with a barely noticeable thread of anxiety.
Dak flinched the tiniest bit, and some of his hair curled tightly around my leg. If I hadn’t been so hyper-aware of him I probably would’ve never noticed him flinching. Nothing in his face or voice said anything was wrong, but something had obviously happened. I tensed ever so slightly, ready to defend Dak from... whatever. Dak’s face softened slightly, and he sat on a seat facing Kijika. I sat next to Dak, my hand landing on a hank of his hair. It twisted around my fingers and wrist in a comforting gesture. My eyes were drawn to the motion of Kijika’s hand rubbing circles over his belly, and I noticed that he seemed a little thick through the middle. My eyes widened when I realized what that extra weight was.
Holy shit! Kijika really was having a baby with Moswen. That really was mind-boggling. I growled in a warning tone when Visolela piped up eagerly about wanting to cut into Kijika to see how it was possible for a man to carry a fetus and what the fetus might look like. That was my soon to be n’peh or n’hep she was casually talking about dicing into pieces, and that wasn’t going to be allowed.
“Moswen is… May I be blunt with you, Prince Kijika?” Dak asked softly.
Kijika paled but nodded, and Dak sucked in a sharp breath, his hair tightening around my leg and hand. What the hell was going on with Dak?
“Moswen is fine. Mostly. He came to us a few days ago. He hasn’t been sleeping and was very distraught. Tyhlian managed to send him home to Awh’an for a few days, but I’m sure that won’t last long. He said you’re having his baby and that something happened and you sent him away. He believes that you hate him because of what happened between you two. You don’t, but he’s very upset that you sent him away and can’t see that through his pain. He’s terrified that you hate him so much that you’ll keep him from the child or give the child away so that he can never see it, which would crush him. Neither of those things are true either, but Moswen isn’t thinking clearly right now.”
Kijika hadn’t sent Moswen away? He didn’t hate Moswen? What the hell was going on? I trusted Dak implicitly to be right about Kijika’s emotions, but if what Dak said was true, how the hell had Moswen read the situation so very wrong? Yes, he could be an idiot at times, but he wasn’t stupid. There had to be some sort of vital piece of information that was missing from the whole episode between Kijika and Moswen that would clear everything up instantly.
Kijika recoiled from Dak’s words as if Dak had punched him square in the face. His wings came around his body as if to protect him and tears slid down his cheeks. What Dak said about Moswen’s emotional state obviously upset Kijika a great deal, and I was becoming more certain by the second that there was key information missing. Dak flinched again and bit his lip. His hair was now in danger of cutting off circulation to my leg, and the fingers of my hand weren’t faring much better.
“Dak, loosen your hair,” I said softly.
He glanced at me and apologized quietly as he efficiently untangled his hair from me. Kijika tried to discreetly wipe away his tears and blinked several times as he focused with interest on Dak’s struggle with his hair. Kijika’s mouth quirked up in a smile when Dak swore under his breath as the second he let his hair go, it twisted around my leg and fingers again but not as tightly as before. Dak glared at his hair and then proceeded to ignore it while muttering under his breath that I’d just have to deal with it.
“Is your hair moving by itself?” Kijika asked in a slightly watery voice.
“Laiokian hair is sentient. Most have better control over it than I do mine, but that’s something related to what I am. I appreciate your interest and would be happy to answer whatever questions you have later. Right now, we need to discuss Moswen and what happened to make him think that you wanted him to go away forever and that you hated him so much that you’d deny him his child.”
“I… I don’t hate him. I… it’s the opposite actually. I love him very much. I have no idea why I’m telling you that. I’m usually very private with my relationships and emotions.” Kijika looked a little bewildered by what was coming out of his mouth.
He loved Moswen? Okay, Moswen was easy to love, and I was probably biased in my opinion, but how could Moswen miss that and think Kijika hated him so much after one little fight? That didn’t make any sense. Jawhar mumbled about people in love being retarded and doing stupid shit and jumping to dumb conclusions, and I had to agree. It would be even worse for Moswen because of his Throw-back nature and the insane intensity of his emotions when it came to those he cared deeply about.
“I’m a receiving empath. I can feel exactly what you do emotionally. I’m not doing it to intrude. It’s just what I am and not something I can turn on and off at will. People often say things to me that they normally wouldn’t to a perfect stranger.”
“I see. That’s a little disconcerting. So you know everything that I’m feeling right now?”
Dak nodded. “You’re relieved that Moswen is okay. Distraught that he’s not here with you. Mad because he’s not here with you. Excited over something that has to do with you, Moswen and the baby. I’m not reading your mind, by the way. I can’t do that. Those are simply my impressions based on the emotions I feel coming from you, what I know of your situation and literally a life time of experience in figuring out another’s emotions. I can also feel something else emotionally, but it’s not quite as strong. It’s not coming from you although it is at the same time, which is odd.”
Dak frowned and seemed to be concentrating. His eyes widened, and he raised startled eyes to Kijika.
“The baby is mirroring your emotions. It’s distressed. We need to get this resolved as soon as possible for the health of the baby as well as yourself and Moswen. Prince Kijika, will you tell us what happened to bring things to this point? We want to help Moswen and by extension, you and the baby, but we need to know just what lead to all of this.”
Dak could even feel the emotions of a baby not yet born? Wow. I was awed and impressed all at the same time. I also felt a surprising spurt of jealously that I’d never be able to have what Moswen did with Kijika. Having a child with Dak would be beyond fantastic. It couldn’t happen and that made me a little sad but also determined to shower Dak with every drop of love that I could.
Kijika looked as surprised as I felt from that information and nodded as he started to tell us of the events that lead to the latest Moswen induced clusterfuck.
Hertae nia yilli unree, Neshi vei dumou ish ofran ta neshe lestnei saisu: Through pain willingly endured, I give you this proof of my everlasting love.
Dumou Neshi saisu: I love you
Ceitai Risdepa: Made with the stands of hairs actually pulled from the scalp instead of cut and is a very old method rarely used. This is a much more permanent armband as the roots of the strands burrow into the flesh of the recipient, linking with their blood and nervous system.
I couldn’t have said what I was expecting when I’d gotten the message that people wanted to talk to me about Moswen and were requesting a private audience with me. I certainly hadn’t been anticipating anyone like the men who sat facing me. I’d agreed immediately to meet with them, desperate for any scrap of news about Moswen. I’d burst into tears as soon as I cut the call. I wasn’t even sure if I’d started crying because I was relieved that I’d finally have some news of Moswen after weeks of nothing or crying because I was mad other people knew where he was and what was going on when I didn’t.
Moswen told me that Throw-backs were a rarity among his people, but for some reason, I’d still expected his brother to have the same sort of marks on his skin. I could see some resemblance to Moswen in the shape of his eyes and the set of his mouth, but that was about all the similarity I could see between Moswen and Tyhlian. There was certainly more of Huyana in Tyhlian, and the family resemblance was much stronger between them.
Tyhlian was a very handsome man, and from the few Awh’anise I’d seen, I was starting to think that they were, in general, simply good looking people. He had warm chestnut hair that fell to his mid-back in almost curls that were tipped honey gold at the ends. His eyes were pale green, and there was something about the look in them that made me a little uneasy, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was that bothered me. He wasn’t as tall as Moswen and looked to be slightly lighter, weight-wise. His skin was also much lighter in colour than Moswen’s beautifully tanned skin. Tyhlian had some sort of intricate design that covered his left arm from shoulder to wrist. It wasn’t a tattoo, but I wasn’t sure what it was exactly. Tyhlian looked older than Moswen by roughly ten years.
My mouth quirked up just the tiniest bit when I saw Tyhlian’s robe. It was almost the same as Moswen’s atrocity except that the fabric of Tyhlian’s robe, where it was visible through the mass of gems attached to the fabric, was black while Moswen’s was a silvery white. I wasn’t sure which of the two robes was more the eye sore with all the jewels sewn on. Truthfully, I thought they were equally hideous. The guard who’d escorted Tyhlian and Dakvir to me was of a different opinion and obviously suffered from the typical Vylfian love of the gaudy. He thought the robe wonderful and wanted me to ask Tyhlian if he could get one in purple.
Dakvir was, by far, the most unique alien I’d ever seen—not that I had a vast amount of experience with other species. It wasn’t that he was ugly or horrifying. He was actually quite pretty. But I’d never seen anyone whose skin was the iridescent black of a moonless night and who had hair that actually touched the ground. His eyes were so light in colour that at first I’d thought they were colourless, which was a little perplexing as he could plainly see. When he sat across from me, I saw that his eyes were actually a pale swirl of rainbow colours. Dakvir was taller than Tyhlian and even a bit taller than Moswen, but he was lean to the point of being thin. He looked delicate and like a stiff breeze would snap him in two. However, the tone of voice and the attitude Dakvir possessed clearly said he was tempered steel and would not break without immense pressure.
His hair fascinated me with its beauty. It was pearlescent black shot through with strands of silvery-white and fell in a straight mass to his ankles. I’d never seen anyone’s hair move by itself and certainly never imagined that it could do so with any sort of purpose. I had to clench my fists to keep from either reaching out to touch it or to write the information down on the notebook beside my leg. The additional information that Dakvir was an empath was just as fascinating if a little disconcerting, and my fingers nearly itched to write that down as well.
I’d been stunned and horrified to find out that Moswen thought I hated him. Tears prickled my eyes when Dakvir told me that, and I’d actually been grateful for the royal training my mother drilled into my head that kept me from sobbing pitifully at the very idea. Tears had fallen, but they weren’t the torrent I wanted to let loose at hearing that Moswen thought I hated him. The baby thumped me hard under the ribs when Dakvir said Moswen thought I hated him. Apparently it wasn’t very happy with that idea any more than I was.
I’d told Tyhlian and Dakvir about Moswen’s behaviour once he learned that I was pregnant and the fight we’d had before I went to the training room, leaving out the fantastic sex part before our fight since I wasn’t about to share that sort of highly personal information with anyone. I then told them about the fiasco in the training room when Moswen saw the kid I’d humiliated in armed combat attacking me. Moswen’s homicidal rage had been shocking, but I’d never once felt afraid of him or threatened by him.
“I told him that I was beyond fed up with him and tired of him and his overprotective shit. I told him to get out of my sight because I couldn’t deal with him right now. Moswen looked at me then like his heart was shattered, said something in Awh’anise and vanished. That’s the last time I saw him, and I’m going a little crazy not knowing where he is or why he hasn’t come back.” The last bit was said with a quaver I couldn’t keep out of my voice no matter how hard I tried.
“What did Moswen say?” Tyhlian asked curiously.
“Ve-yul’io, Kijika. Xi’ soi-fu ony-mi,” I said carefully hoping I wasn’t screwing up the pronunciation to badly.
Tyhlian’s eyes widened slightly, and even Dakvir looked a bit surprised. Obviously whatever Moswen had said in Awh’anise was important and quite possibly unexpected for him to say to me. Now more than ever, I wished I’d asked Moswen to put the Awh’anise language in my head like he said he could.
“That’s what he said? You’re sure?” I nodded my head and waited for Tyhlian to tell me what Moswen said. Instead, Tyhlian sighed softly and ran a hand through his hair. “Well, now his insanely possessive behaviour makes a whole lot more sense to me. Prince Kijika, Moswen said he told you about Throw-backs, but did he ever show you?”
“Show me? I’m not sure I understand. I told you he was with me almost constantly. What more could he show me besides being himself? I know he was overly protective, but that really only came to light when he found out I was pregnant. That level of coddling was driving me crazy, by the way, and we’d argued about it more than once. What did he say to me before he vanished?”
“It was almost the pledge a Shal-hazal gives to his or her Lor’fei. Lor’fei translates as soul on fire for the beloved and is— It’s a very special, very rare bond between a Shal-hazal and the one person who is his other half. Things have to be just right for a Shal-hazal to hear the call of his Lor’fei and most Shal-hazal never do.
“Moswen can’t have a Lor’fei because he’s a Throw-back, but if they find someone they care about deeply, it’s almost the same thing for them as having one. Something in their twisted genetics doesn’t allow them to experience the Lor’fei, which is probably a damn good thing as they’d likely go completely feral in trying to keep their Lor’fei away from everybody and protect him or her from everything. Actually, Awh’anise scientists think the Lor’fei for the Shal-hazal is a version of the protective instincts of a Throw-back once the Shal-hazal finds his true mate. But, I meant show you in the Dream-world what Throw-backs are actually like.”
“He could do that?” I asked in surprise. I still didn’t really have a very clear idea of what Moswen did as a Shal-hazal. I almost desperately wanted to write down what Tyhlian just told me but managed to restrain myself.
“Yeah. It’d be easy as breathing for him. We actually have a class during training that teaches us what to show aliens whom we might encounter about the Awh’anise and I know there’s a dream sequence specifically for the rare few Shal-hazal that are Throw-backs. Damn. I’ll bet he didn’t show you because he was afraid of how you’d react.
“Throw-backs are looked at with a healthy dose of fear by Awh’anise because they’re generally unpredictable and violent and because there’s a lot of wildness to them. They get better at controlling themselves as they age, but even then, you never really know what’ll make one suddenly go feral. Moswen is currently the only full Shal-hazal Throw-back on Awh’an, and he’s the first to make it to full status in the last fifty or so years. He’s also Will level, and that hasn’t happened for a good two hundred years.
“There are two or three Throw-backs in training right now, but the odds of them being able to chain down their animalistic natures don’t favour them succeeding. Moswen is incredibly controlled for a Throw-back, but he is still a Throw-back and prone to exceedingly violent reactions, even by Awh’anise standards, when provoked. ”
“Feral? That’s the second time you’ve used that word to describe Moswen’s behaviour. Is that what you call his vicious attack on the guard who assaulted me after I soundly beat him in a sparring match?”
The guard would forever walk with a limp and had permanent nerve damage. Further, my mother said he’d come very close to being disembowelled by one of Moswen’s claw swipes. His actions didn’t change a single thing about how I felt about him though. Moswen was… Moswen. I loved him.
“If you hadn’t stopped him, he would’ve killed the guard and probably started eating him. If anybody but you had stepped in between him and the guard, they would’ve died as well and Moswen wouldn’t have given a second thought to killing them. They’d have simply been something getting in his way. He’d have felt really bad about it once he’d come back to himself, but it’s exceptionally dangerous to put yourself in the sight line of a Throw-back unless you hold a very special place in his world. And just so you know, in general, the Awh’anise only stopped eating our fallen enemies a couple of hundred years ago. Throw-backs still do it if they go feral, and their victims don’t necessarily have to be dead yet either.”
I felt some of the colour drain from my face. I had no idea. I’d thought Moswen was vicious when he’d been attacking the guard, but the idea that he’d go so far as to eat the guard never even crossed my mind. Why would it?
“You’re a Shal-hazal. Show me the things about Throw-backs that Moswen should’ve. Please. I want to understand Moswen better. I need to understand him better so stupid things like this don’t happen again. I’ve been so…” I paused to try and get my emotions under control as I felt tears start to form yet again, “I suppose heart sick is the only way to describe it.”
Tyhlian’s expression turned resigned, and he shook his head and looked down to where Dakvir’s hair tangled around his fingers.
“Prince Kijika, there are some circumstances right now that….” Dakvir sighed when I scowled, and his hair twitched as if in agitation. “I’m not trying to avoid anything, and neither is Tyh. We’ve taken a huge risk coming here to talk to you, but we felt it was necessary.”
I started to open my mouth when Tyhlian raised his head and looked at me. His expression wasn’t happy, and I got the feeling that I wasn’t going to much like what he was about to say.
“I don’t know what, if anything, Moswen told you about me. I’m the Shal-hazal Litch Will for the same House that Moswen belongs to. I’ve been pulled from active duty, and a Shal-hazal Litch Hunter has been sent after me. I have a death order on my head because that’s the only way we know how to deal with an insane Litch. All Litches go insane because of what we do as Shal-hazal. I’m not dangerously insane yet, but I’m certainly not in my right mind either.”
I stared at Tyhlian with my mouth open in a surprised little oh. That had been the very last thing I expected to hear. Tyhlian didn’t seem insane. He seemed pretty normal. There had been that brief flash of something in his eyes but…. Huyana hadn’t mentioned that her son was being hunted down because of encroaching insanity when Moswen brought her to Gi-foeh for my pre-natal exam. Then again, there wasn’t any smooth way to introduce the information that your son, and someone I now had family ties to, was crazy. A little bubble of panic rose in me when I thought of my mother’s reaction to that piece of news. She already wanted to string Moswen up by his balls and cut off his dick for leaving me and the baby like he had. She’d be furious to find out there was a history of insanity on Moswen’s side of the family and that it might be introduced into the royal family through our baby. There was no way in hell I’d be sharing that piece of information with her. Ever.
Dakvir’s hair flowed around Tyhlian, hugging him close, and I felt a surprisingly sharp pang of jealousy at the love and affection on display right in front of me. I wanted that with Moswen, damn it. Dakvir looked at me, and a small smile played over his lips as a hank of his hair slithered across the space separating us and curled around my ankle. It was soft as silk and gave me a reassuring squeeze before slipping away.
“You don’t have anything to be jealous about. Tyh found me when his life is likely measured in months if not weeks. We’ve already had one run-in with Phaedra, his assigned Hunter, and while Tyh is very good and he’s being extremely cautious, we can’t expect to remain hidden forever. There’s also his continuing slide into insanity to consider. Phaedra lost her first chance to kill Tyh because she was surprised by me. However, she knows about me now, and that won’t happen again. I’m trying to help Tyh get rid of the people in his head to stop his insanity, but we need time we don’t have to figure out how I banished some of them the first time we met. I have the feeling that it’s something very simple—possibly that it’s not even the removal of the people but a way to control or police them for him. I feel like the answer is right there in front of me and that I’m just not reading the situation properly.”
Dakvir sighed and frowned. He stared at me intently and seemed to reach a decision. “Prince Kijika, I’d like to beg a favour of you.”
If it had been anyone else, I’d have never nodded my head in agreement. But they’d come to speak to me about Moswen when they really didn’t have to and when it probably would’ve been safer for them not to drop in on me. They’d told me he was safe and home, and as much as it hurt to not have Moswen with me, at least I knew where he was, more or less, and that he wasn’t dead or had simply lost interest in me and our baby. I’d have to deal with the issue of him thinking I hated him when I finally saw him again.
“First off, I’m Tyh’s Lor’fei. Phaedra could use that bond against Tyh to deadly effect. When I draw my last breath, so does Tyh. That’s how deep the connection goes.”
My eyebrows rose at that. Surely Dakvir was exaggerating.
“No, I’m being perfectly honest about the level of commitment and how thoroughly our lives are now tied together. Tyh could die, and I would live on, because that’s the way the bond works, but the pain of the separation is great enough that most Lor’fei follow their partners within weeks of their Shal-hazal dying. Tyh has shown me this in dreams, and because I’m an empath, regardless of what he creates, I know when he’s being truthful and when he’s being not so honest. Shal-hazal may be near-godlike in dreams, but emotions on the level that I feel them can’t be faked or changed regardless of where I happen to be when I feel them.”
I chuckled at that. I didn’t envy Tyhlian’s position in that regard. Planning anything to surprise Dakvir would be a bitch.
“That’s against the Hunter code,” Tyhlian protested his tone turning offended that Dakvir would even suggest such a thing. “As rare as it is for a Litch to find his Lor’fei, a Hunter is forbidden from using the bond to eliminate her target. It’s too special a gift to steal it away like that.”
“Assuming a Hunter used the bond against us, who would be left to tattle for breaking that code? We’d both be dead, and as long as you’re dead, the Council will be satisfied. Nobody but you, me, Moswen and now Prince Kijika knows that we’re Lor’fei. Moswen couldn’t say anything because that would reveal he knew how to find you all this time and he’d be in for a world of punishment according to you. Prince Kijika might be believed, but he’s also Moswen’s partner, so it’s possible they’d view that as something Moswen told him to say.”
“They would dare to question a prince?” I knew I sounded all snotty, offended royal, but I couldn’t help it. I was mildly offended. Nobody questioned my word. Nobody.
“You’re not Awh’anise, and you’re the lover of the brother of the man sentenced to die. There’s no disrespect intended. Think about it from that point of view for a moment,” Dakvir said in a reasonable tone.
I scowled. Dakvir had a point. I didn’t like it since my integrity had never come into question before, but he was right. A good case in point for perceptions colouring views was the way my own parents had treated Moswen when he first came on the scene and especially when we’d told them of the baby on the way. Even Sakima had questioned Moswen’s motives for being with me and my being pregnant by him. I grudgingly nodded my head.
“What’s this favour you’d like to ask? I can’t grant asylum here as only the king can do that, but that’s a formality really if I make the request. I’m sure King Sakima would agree to it right away. I can also tell him that this Litch Hunter, Phaedra, is not to be allowed in our kingdom because she wants to kill Tyhlian.”
Dakvir smiled at me. “Thank you, Prince Kijika. Tyh and I appreciate your offer very much, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t really help. Phaedra is a Shal-hazal, too. If she can find Tyh in the Dream World, she may be able to kill him there. She may also not be the only Litch Hunter after Tyh.”
Tyhlian nodded and looked resigned. “Killing me in dreams is chancy and most of the time doesn’t work because of how attuned we are to dreams and the things going on in them. But a Hunter only needs a moment of inattention to have it work once. That’s why I can’t show you what you need to see in the Dream World.
“I took a huge risk just messing with Moswen’s head to get him to go home and rest, but he needed me to do that for him more than I needed to hide. I believe I was careful enough not to leave any trace of where I was or what I did, but I really don’t want to tempt fate. As I’m sure you know, Moswen’s bizarre karma has a way of making things unpleasant before the decent stuff happens.”
I nodded my head in understanding. I was highly disappointed and frustrated. None of this would’ve happened if Moswen had just told me everything. Had he been trying to protect me from himself again? My temper started to rise again, and the baby thumped my belly hard enough to make me gasp and press my hand over the spot. Dakvir frowned and pinched the bridge of his nose, and his hair curled around him again.
“Dakvir, are you all right?” I asked in concern as I rubbed the spot where the baby kicked me.
“I’m going to be really rude here, Prince Kijika. Being around you and the baby is exhausting, and I’m getting a killer headache from the way both your emotions and the baby’s are bouncing around like a possessed ball. My shields are very, very good, but you, the baby and Moswen have all gotten under them, and that never happens. Maybe it’s something related to Moswen being a Throw-back in so much emotional pain. Or maybe it’s just his weird karma messing with me. Whatever it is, I’m going to have to take my leave for a little while if you don’t mind, or I’ll embarrass myself in the next few minutes by either passing out or throwing up. Possibly both. I will discuss my hair and my empathic abilities with you later, but I need a bit of a breather right now. Tyh, if Moswen didn’t give Prince Kijika full disclosure about his Throw-back nature, I think there’s a very good chance he left out other important details about the Awh’anise in general as well. Could you enlighten Prince Kijika while I go take a stroll in the garden to clear my head?”
“I don’t think you should be alone in a strange place, Dak. I’ll go with you. We can finish our talk later with Prince Kijika.”
Dakvir turned a steely-eyed look on Tyhlian. My initial impression of the man was dead on. He was not someone to take lightly. My money was on Dakvir winning the argument.
“We don’t have the time for that, Tyh. The last thing we want to do is to lead any Hunters here. It wouldn’t take much for someone to find out that Moswen was here and that he’s been sleeping with Prince Kijika and put two and two together to come up with the fact that he must have known how to find you if we’d suddenly made a stop here. Fill Prince Kijika in on what you can about the Awh’anise without using the Dream World, and I’ll be back in about twenty minutes. I’m not going to leave the garden. Not that I think I could without permission at any rate.”
I watched the argument with some amusement. I could see that Dakvir considered the argument over and done and that he’d won. I thought he’d won, too. Dakvir was perfectly safe in the garden, and he was being very reasonable and persuasive. Nobody would harm or harass him while he was here as my guest. Tyhlian’s jaw developed a stubborn jut that I recognized from seeing it more times than I cared to think about from Moswen, and I wondered how Dakvir was going to deal with the obstinate stance Tyhlian was taking. Gods knew I’d never managed to get Moswen to budge an inch when he set his mind to something, especially if Moswen thought he was protecting me from something.
“Your safety is my job, Dak. Besides, I didn’t like the look that one guard was giving you. I’m sure he’d love to catch you alone so he could get into your pants.”
Dakvir stood abruptly, and his hair whipped behind him to writhe like a mass of agitated snakes. He gave Tyhlian a stern, narrow-eyed look and, to my utter shock, punched Tyhlian hard in the chest, making the chair Tyhlian was sitting on rock from the impact. Tyhlian growled but remained seated watching Dakvir intently.
“That’s enough, Tyhlian. I’m perfectly safe here. The only people here are me, you, Prince Kijika and the baby. Keep your ass glued to that chair and explain about the Awh’anise in general and Moswen specifically. Prince Kijika needs to know about the Awh’anise, and you’re the one in the best position to tell him. I need some time alone to compose myself because I utterly refuse to puke at the feet of royalty or pass out into the puddle of said puke. I’ll be back shortly, and we have Prince Kijika’s word that I’m perfectly safe in this garden. Do not argue with me any further on this matter, Tyhlian Huyana-Dukker, Litch Will of the House of Heyda, because this discussion is done. Are we clear?”
“Yeah. Fine. I don’t like it though,” Tyhlian muttered.
“You don’t need to like it. You just do it because I’m asking you to,” Dakvir said as he reached out and touched Tyhlian’s cheek in a gesture that was gentle and completely at odds with the bruising punch he’d delivered a minute ago.
I was thoroughly confused. That was some kind of fucked up relationship Tyhlian and Dakvir had if Dakvir could lash out physically at Tyh and get away with it without even offering the barest of apologies. I wasn’t opposed to a little rough play in the bedroom or sparring with somebody, but what Dakvir did was beyond bad mannered and downright abusive. I hadn’t taken Dakvir for being such an asshole, and I was usually a good judge of character. You did not hit the people you cared about, and going by the way they interacted, I’d thought Dakvir loved Tyhlian.
Dakvir’s head whipped around to stare at me, and he sighed heavily, smacking his forehead with his palm and muttering something under his breath in a different language I didn’t understand.
“I’m not abusing Tyh, Prince Kijika. What I did is called haig’wuh-ani, hitting with a gentle touch. I know it seems really, really wrong, but it’s something unique to the Awh’anise in a societal and cultural way. I’m sure Tyh can explain it better than me, but I swear it’s not abusive to the Awh’anise and actually helps them to understand when they’re being giant asses about something.
“Stars, Tyh, if Moswen apparently didn’t even tell Prince Kijika the basics of how to deal with an aggressive Awh’anise, it’s no wonder the poor man was so irritated with Moswen. Honestly, it’s a miracle he didn’t kill Moswen out of sheer frustration. Your bother is an idiot. I’m going for my walk. Educate the man, please, or this sort of thing will happen over and over again.”
Dakvir walked off without a backward glance, and I was left feeling even more clueless than before. I looked at Tyhlian, and the surprise on his face had me wondering what Moswen inspired disaster was now going to rain down on my head. I smirked a little when I realized that I’d been waiting for something weird to happen because it concerned Moswen.
“He really didn’t tell you how to deal with one of us when we start to get a little too pushy and aggressive?”
“No. I just thought that was… Moswen being Moswen. In my personal life I’m…. I may be an officer in the Naemo military and a prince of the Vylfian realm, but I don’t always feel the need to be in charge. I… uhhh…” My cheeks heated, and I had to look away from Tyhlian’s very direct stare before I could continue. “I’m content letting Moswen take the lead most of the time.”
Tyhlian grinned and chuckled. “And that explains things even more. Okay, since my idiot brother didn’t think to do this himself, I’m going to give you a crash course in Awh’anise behaviour. Understand that I’m not trying to embarrass you with anything, Prince Kijika, but this is stuff Moswen should’ve told you right from the beginning if he’d paid any attention in the class about alien encounters and how their culture was likely to be very different from ours.”
“Please, call me Kijika. After all, we’re almost family now, and I get the feeling that this conversation will be one that works best without any formalities.”
Tyhlian smiled. “You can call me Tyh. First off, Awh’anise are an aggressive, violent species, and we solve a lot of problems with a fight. We also fight to show dominance, just for fun and even as foreplay. Because we’re so physical and pushy, sometimes you need to go to extreme lengths to really make us pay attention. A good, hard punch to the body works best. A punch to the face will be seen as either a dominance thing or something for a serious fight, so I wouldn’t recommend that location unless that was what you were looking for. What you saw Dak do? That was to let me know he’d had enough of my coddling and that he wanted me to listen to him or there would be consequences that I probably wouldn’t like much if I didn’t pay attention. Think of… what an older pack animal would do to a younger animal that was bugging the shit out of them. Same principal.”
“But hitting someone like that is just wrong,” I protested.
“In most cultures, yes, and I’m guessing yours is one of them. Not for the Awh’anise though. We’re still very connected to our animal roots. The gentle touch after was to let me know that Dak wasn’t mad at me and just wanted me to stop being an aggressive dick and actually listen to what he was saying. We’re very touch orientated, too, so those after touches are critical. Yelling at an Awh’anise doesn’t really do much in the sense that it sometimes comes off as a posturing thing, and we won’t take it seriously unless there was a punch either before or after the yelling. Yelling after the punch with no gentle touches means you fucked up big time and you’d better be prepared to grovel or make up for your mistake somehow. That usually involves sex by the way.”
My cheeks heated again. I wasn’t very comfortable with where this conversation was going, but I’d learned more in just a few minutes of talking with Tyhlian than I had the whole time Moswen was with me. Why hadn’t he told me this himself?
“If you prefer to bottom, and you never actually smacked Moswen down when he was going crazy with the protectiveness, he was probably running all over you and thinking you were fine with that because that’s the way we’re hard-wired to think. That’s a dominance thing, and if you let us do that, then we’ll keep doing it until you put a stop to the behaviour. Did you ever do anything really physical to Moswen to get his attention when he was being all stupid and not listening?”
I nodded. “I once picked him up one-handed and shook him like a rag doll before throwing him to the floor when he was busy jumping to the wrong conclusions and pissing me the hell off.”
Tyhlian blinked at me in surprise. “No shit? How did you do that? Moswen’s no light weight.”
I stood up, grabbed Tyhlian by the front of his hideous robe and lifted him from his seat. I used two hands to do it, but I wasn’t being fuelled by anger as I had been the time I’d picked up Moswen. Tyhlian’s eyes went comically wide, and I snickered before lowering him to the floor and letting him go.
“Holy crap, you’re big. Bigger than any of your people I saw.”
“I get that from my father’s side. Most Naemo men are over the seven foot mark, and even the women are around the six and a half foot range. Vylfian’s are generally about a foot shorter than the Naemo. Some scientists speculate that the height difference may have something to do with the different wing types between our people, and that leads into the well worn argument about who was the original species on Gi-foeh or if we were both transplanted here before….” I blushed and snapped my mouth shut when I realized I was spewing information at Tyhlian.
Tyhlian grinned at me and was polite enough not to say anything about my suddenly running off at the mouth.
“Picking me up like that… That was freaking cool. You could probably use that to make sure Moswen was focused on you and whatever you wanted to say, too. Let me guess, you had his undivided attention after you did that to him.”
I thought about it and slowly nodded my head. I then thought about the other times when my temper had gotten the better of me with Moswen due to the hormones screwing with my system. Every time I’d ended up hitting Moswen out of frustration for hovering over me, he’d backed off and paid close attention to what I was saying. He seemed genuinely upset when I’d sent him away without touching him those times, too. A bad feeling settled in my guts when I made the mental connection of what happened to Moswen’s point of view based on what Tyhlian had recently told me.
“If I hit Moswen and then sent him away without doing that touch thing, what would that be telling him?”
“That you saw him as just an aggressive Awh’anise that needed to stop bothering you. If you still let him be near you, that would’ve meant that you were tolerating him for some reason, probably because you had to. Kind of like when there’s an annoying kid bugging the hell out of you but you can’t really do anything to send him away. Why? Did something like…. Oh shit.”
My heart literally hurt. No wonder Moswen thought I hated him. So many times I’d lashed out physically and yelled at him when he pushed me past the little restraint I had these days, and I’d either stormed from the room or kicked him out of it because I was horrified and appalled at what I’d done to someone I loved. Tears welled in my eyes, and I couldn’t stop them from sliding down my cheeks. I needed Moswen. I needed to apologize to him and tell him that I didn’t hate him. That everything was a huge misunderstanding.
“Kijika? What’s wrong? Stars, please don’t cry. I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s probably not as bad as you’re thinking it is,” Tyhlian said, concern plain in his voice. He placed his hand over mine and gave it a squeeze.
“I’ll be fine. I need to talk to Moswen,” I said with an embarrassed sniff. “He told me once to call for him in the Dream World, but he never explained how I was supposed to do that. Can you tell me how without needing to go into the Dream World to show me? I need to talk to him, and it has to be as soon as possible. I want this whole mess cleared up right away. I want Moswen with me. I need him with me.”
“He didn’t even tell you how to call him in dreams? I swear to all the fucking gods above and below. Moswen needs a god damned keeper. He’s a cluster fuck waiting to happen. Of course I’ll tell you. It’s pretty easy actually, and considering how hard he’s working to stay away from you, if you actually call him, he’ll show up faster than anything. He won’t be able to help himself.”
“Good. I have a few words that need saying, an apology first and foremost among them. Does that physical attention thing work in the Dream World?” At Tyhlian’s nod, I smiled. Moswen and I were going to have a long overdue conversation as soon as his striped ass showed up.
Ve-yul’io: I love you.
Xi’ soi-fe ony-mi: My life is yours.
Haig’wuh-ani: Literal translation is hitting with a gentle touch. Doing this tells an aggressive Awh’anise that you’re being unreasonably aggressive and that you need to listen carefully while I tell you how to fix what you did wrong. This is an action reserved for use between family, lovers and very close friends. The hitting is usually a punch to the body followed by a soft caress, often to the face. Stroking over the ears is seen as very intimate and usually reserved for lovers.
During my time as a professional negotiator I’d stayed in some beautifully appointed rooms, but none could even come remotely close to the sheer opulence of a room in the Vylfian palace. While it could be assumed that a palace would be pretty fancy, the Vylfian’s took it to extremes, and given the way the typical citizens dressed and the houses and shops I’d seen, it wasn’t something reserved for the royals.
Apparently, the majority of jewels that seemed to decorate virtually everything and everyone were terribly common and could be picked up by anyone walking along a river or stream bank. Cutting the stones into elaborate and stunning designs was a highly specialized skill and allowed the Vylfian’s to have a profitable trade in the gems with not only fellow Vylfians, but also with the Neamo and aliens from other planets. I’d had quite the invigorating conversation with the woman responsible for trade between the Vylfians and those who wished to purchase the gems. I was very pleased with myself for helping her ratify several agreements more in the Vylfian favour while we waited for Moswen and Kijika to drag themselves out of bed.
Tyh had insisted on staying on Gi-foeh until Moswen and Kijika worked out the problems they had. I’d tried to reason with Tyh that it wasn’t safe for us to do that, but he dug in his heels and refused to be budged from the idea. He said he needed to make sure his idiot brother did what he was supposed to do to fix things between him and Kijika. Tyh said it was a family thing and that he needed to do this for Moswen. Knowing how important family was to the Awh’anise, I let the matter lie. Phaedra wasn’t hunting Tyh anymore, but that didn’t mean we weren’t leaving a trail for somebody else to find us.
Tyh and I both laughed when it took a royal demand from Kijika’s mom, Princess Olanthe, to pry the two of them out of bed after three days. The emotions of the two of them were wonderfully warm and sweet with a strong chaser of arousal as they ebbed and flowed against me. Anybody with half a brain cell was able to see how much the two of them were in love. I had no idea how neither of them recognized that in the other when it was just so plainly there on display.
With Moswen and Kijika finally routed from their bed, it was apparently time to face Kijika’s family and the wrong they believed that Moswen had done to Kijika. Moswen had almost desperately asked for Tyh and I to be there for moral support and possibly as a character witness for him while he got the dressing down of his life. To say that Moswen was nervous about what was to come was an understatement. Kijika, on the other hand, was serenely calm, as was the baby. We entered a private sitting room and I was a little surprised to see not only Kijika’s parents but his grandparents, King Sakima and Queen Numa, as well.
Even if I hadn’t been an empath I would’ve been able to feel the tension in the room. There was a lot of anger directed at Moswen and a good deal of disappointment as well. He seemed to know how the others felt about what he’d done and was handling it fairly well I thought. He sat next to Kijika, their hands clasped tightly together, one of Kijika’s wings stretched out behind Moswen as if protecting him. I wasn’t familiar with the various nuances of Vylfian or Naemo culture, but it appeared to have some significance as Kijika’s parents and grandparents had looked surprised at the gesture and some of the anger I could feel coming from them dropped.
“I was not pleased with your sudden disappearance, Moswen. Kijika was very upset, and I don’t like seeing him that way when it’s something that could’ve been avoided, especially when a simple discussion could have cleared everything up. The pre-natal healer, Jiveen, told me that the baby was also stressed because of what you did. Kijika has obviously forgiven you, but I want an explanation since it seems that you’ll be here to stay,” said King Sakima as he gestured at Kijika and Moswen.
Moswen glanced at Kijika, and at the small nod from Kijika, he faced the people who were more or less his in-laws and spoke. He was nervous, but there was also determination swirling through him.
“I made some mistakes that I regret with all my heart. There were things that I should’ve told Kijika right from the get go and things I should’ve showed him that I didn’t because I was afraid of what his reaction would be. He is my world, and I didn’t want to risk scaring him away with something I can’t change,” Moswen began softly as he explained his Throw-back nature.
“We’re highly possessive and territorial and become exceptional aggressive and violent if we think somebody is trying to hurt or take away what’s ours. You can ask Tyh about that if you don’t believe how strong those instincts are. I didn’t want Kijika to reject me if I told him all about myself and what he should expect. I didn’t want to screw up what I thought could be something special, but I ended up almost doing that anyway.”
Princess Olanthe looked mad enough to spit nails, but under that was emotional pain. She was also listening intently to Moswen. Delseur sat still as stone, and I could only get the barest of emotions from him, disappointment being the strongest thing. Sakima and Numa had some anger, but curiosity was stronger in both of them.
“I should’ve told Kijika how to deal with a pushy Awh’anise right from the beginning, but I honestly never thought about it. I was just so thrilled to be with him, and the easy way he accepted me, I thought he was okay with my being so dominant. He’ll probably get mad for me saying this, but in bed, he likes being dominated, so I assumed he was fine with me always doing that since he never told me not to do it outside of our bed. I know better now.
“I also know now that your people see it as abuse to hit your partner, but you really do need to punch one of us to get our attention and make us listen when we’re being unreasonable. I was being a pushy, aggressive, territorial Awh’anise, and if I’d been on Awh’an, I’d have gotten smacked down right away for doing that if my partner didn’t like it. Kijika didn’t know what to do to make me understand I was being a way overprotective ass, and the few times he did lose his temper and punched me out of sheer frustration, he didn’t know to follow up with gentle touches to tell me that he… that he wasn’t just tolerating me because he had to.”
Moswen’s voice cracked on the last word and he looked down at his and Kijika’s joined hands before looking back up at Sakima, determination on his face.
“I was already in love with Ki by that time, and I thought he knew that I love him. I had told him several times that I did love him, but I’d either said it in Awh’anise or said it using a phrase any Awh’anise would understand as a declaration of love and extreme devotion, but it just didn’t translate into Vylfian. Again, that’s totally my fault but a Throw-back in love isn’t the most rational thing walking around because we’re so focused on the one we love.
“When Kijika had that sparring match that got out of hand and I saw him hurt, I completely lost it. To be honest, if I see the guy who hurt Kijika, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll either punch him in the face or claw him up. I know that’ll piss Kijika off, but that’s the way we Awh’anise work when it comes to claiming and defending what’s ours. I’ll be trying to tone down those impulses, but it’ll be a work in progress.
“A lot of Throw-backs don’t have serious relationships. Not because we don’t want them, but because we can be so intense and utterly focused on the person we love. Most Awh’anise can’t deal with that level of attention, and it takes a very special person to put up with us. We’re generally not monogamous as a species, and most Throw-backs make an effort to not become serious about a partner. If a Throw-back gives his heart to someone and they reject us… suicide is the most common reaction.”
I felt Kijika’s emotions jump a little before settling back down. The wing that was around Moswen pulled him closer, and Moswen leaned into Kijika, his tail curling around Kijika’s leg. A little smile twitched the corner of my lip up at how sweet they looked. My hair twisted around Tyh’s arm, and his tail wrapped around my leg, mirroring what Moswen’s tail was doing to Kijika.
“So why did you leave Kijika without a word and stay away for weeks?” Olanthe asked, hostility in her voice that was in direct contrast to the confusion and hurt in her emotions.
“I told Moswen to go away,” Kijika answered. “I was frustrated with him and his overprotective attitude, and I lost my temper. We’d argued earlier, and I’d hit him but didn’t know to follow up the hitting with a gentle touch that would let Moswen know that I was angry with his behaviour and needed him to pay close attention to what I was saying, but that I still cared for him. He thought I meant for him to go away and not come back. He thought I’d had enough of him and never wanted to see him again.”
“That sounds like a rather complicated system, Moswen,” Numa said with a gentle smile. “Wouldn’t it have been easier to simply pay attention to what Kijika was telling you? Wouldn’t it have been better to just ask him what was wrong?”
I agreed with Numa on that point at first glance. But, having also had experience with how haig’wuh-ani works when I’d used it on Tyh, it was actually a really straight forward thing and left zero confusion for the Awh’anise in question. Granted, it took a little getting used to if you weren’t Awh’anise, but it was ultimately very effective.
“Haig’wuh-ani works fine on Awh’an, and well, this was my first time off planet and it never occurred to me that things would be different on other planets. I know better now, of course. Kijika understands what he needs to do when I start acting like an overprotective jerk, and I’ve given him my word that I’ll work to tone down my Throw-back instincts as much as I can. I love Kijika and our baby with every fibre of my being. I will kill to defend them and die for them without a second thought. They are my world and without them, I can’t go on.”
“So would you do this… whatever you called it on Kijika?” Delseur asked.
“No. At least I wouldn’t now that I know your people see that as abuse. I don’t need to anyway. Kijika isn’t the one with all the issues, I am,” Moswen said with a little smirk.
“If I can interrupt and maybe explain….” Tyh said.
I looked at Tyh in surprise. I’d thought he just wanted to make sure everything was going to be okay with Moswen and Kijika’s family. Calm swirled around Tyh, and he patted my knee. Then again, with all the different species sharing head space with Tyh, he likely had a far better understanding of different alien cultures and how varied that could be than all of us combined. I had broad experiences with numerous species but nothing compared to actually having all those thoughts and memories in your mind as if they were your own.
“I love Moswen. Out of all my siblings, he’s my favourite. It’s probably because we’re both Shal-hazal and we understand each other better because of what we went through in training and what we do as Shal-hazals than the ones who aren’t. I love him, but he’s a trouble magnet and even if he’s a genius, a lot of times, on a personal level, he’s an idiot.”
“Hey,” Moswen said with affront.
Kijika snickered, and I felt humour come from all of Kijika’s family. A little chuckle slipped past my lips at the scowl on Moswen’s face and a few choice words muttered under his breath in Awh’anise. Tyh pretended not to hear Moswen, but I felt his amusement.
“Because Moswen is a Throw-back, he forms attachments quickly. He was probably halfway in love with Kijika after only two weeks together. Finding out that Kijika was going to have his baby was likely icing on the cake as far as Moswen’s instincts were concerned, especially since family is so utterly important to us. When Moswen came to me and Dak, he was an emotional and mental mess because he thought Kijika had rejected everything he was and wanted to give him. He was doing things as a Shal-hazal that he knew were dangerous to his mental health. But his need to watch over and possibly protect Kijika even when he thought Kijika hated him and never wanted to see him again; he was willing to lose his mind. That’s how much Kijika and the baby mean to him.”
Kijika’s emotions spiked in surprise, and then anger was chased by worry. He fixed Moswen with a stern look. Moswen held his gaze for only a few seconds before he dropped it. He chewed on his lip and the tip of his tail fluttered against Kijika’s ankle. Kijika gripped Moswen’s chin and forced his head up.
“It… uhhh… wasn’t as bad as that. Mostly. I left to go to Tyh for help before I got too bad.”
Kijika grunted and let go of Moswen’s chin. I was fairly certain that Kijika was going to have a few words with Moswen once they were alone. I’d have been willing to lay money on the fact that it was not going to be a fun experience for Moswen.
“So what you showed me that time was true?” Olanthe said with a considering look. “You really loved Kijika even before you knew he was pregnant. It’s not just because of the baby?”
“Yeah. Tyh is pretty much right. When I left the second time for the military thing, I had a lot of time to think while I waited to be called to testify. I thought a lot about Kijika and how I felt about him and what I wanted between us. I realized that I loved him and that I had loved him for quite some time. Kijika is my world.
“That’s actually part of a longer phrase that’s only used for people that hold a very special place in your heart. It’s actually, “You are the air I breathe, the food I eat and the water I drink. You are my world and my heart and soul rests with you.” Basically, it means that without that person, the person saying it will die because they have nothing to sustain them. It’s rarely used because of the level of devotion it puts on someone.”
Numa smiled softly. “That’s a rather beautiful turn of phrase, Moswen. Our poets would love it.”
“I didn’t find out about the baby until after I came back, and then… I was so happy that I don’t think I even have words to say how ecstatic that made me feel. I’m still a little awed that somebody as special as Kijika loves me and wants to have a family with me. That won’t ever change either.”
Olanthe gave a haughty sniff and fixed Moswen with one hell of a scary look. “See that it doesn’t. Kijika has obviously forgiven you for leaving like you did. I suppose if that’s the case, I’ll have to forgive you as well just so there’s no additional stress placed on him and the baby. I will be keeping an eye on you though, and may the gods help you if you hurt my baby boy again. It will not be pleasant for you then.”
Sakima laughed, and Numa smiled and patted Olanthe’s knee. Delseur was the only one that didn’t seem willing to forgive or at least give Moswen the benefit of the doubt that he was sorry for what he’d done and wouldn’t do it again. Oddly, Delseur seemed to believe that Moswen did love Kijika deeply.
Delseur was the most emotionally-closed individual that I’d ever met. I was barely getting any emotions from him. I was sure I could get more if I dropped my shields, but it would open me up to the emotions of everybody in the room. That wasn’t something I was interested in doing. Particularly since I knew the combination of Kijika and the baby’s feelings would hit me like a hammer and give me one hell of a headache, never mind adding Moswen’s emotions into the mix.
But I was curious how Delseur could be so… emotionally dead.
Knowing that it was probably a stupid thing to do but with intense curiosity egging me on, I tightened my shields, focused keenly on Delseur and opened a pin hole to appease my curiosity. I got strong feelings of disappointment and mistrust from Delseur, and it was all directed at Moswen. I widened the hole in my shield a little more and probed deeply at Delseur’s emotions. I found… nothing. That was highly unusual. I’d never come across something like that before. I frowned and concentrated hard, picking at the nothingness inside Delseur. My eyes widened a little when what that nothingness was clicked in my head.
There was a void inside Delseur. It was different than the void I had inside me. Mine swirled and shifted and had movement. What I felt from Delseur was vastly different. It was as if there was a dead place in him. His void was stillness and peaceful with an almost supernatural calm to it. It wasn’t harmful as far as I could tell. I let my shields down a little more, fascinated by this thing inside Delseur that spread calming acceptance through me. I’d never encountered anyone who wasn’t a Void that had anything even remotely like what I did inside him.
A hard slap to my cheek jerked me back to reality, and I looked around in confusion at the faces staring down at me. I was on my back, my head resting in Tyh’s lap. He was pale and breathing hard, and the relief in his face when I blinked up at him made me wonder what happened. Fear from him crashed into me, and I had no idea why. He bent over me and pulled me into a hug that was so hard, a little squeak of protest was forced from me. Tyh loosened his hold slightly, and I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head and saw Delseur looking at me with a frown.
“You’re dead inside,” I said, surprised when I slurred my words the tiniest bit.
Delseur visibly startled. All eyes focused on me.
“Excuse me?” Delseur asked. His emotions wavered between insulted and curious.
“Dead. Inside. I felt it. Like my void. But dead. It was peaceful. Like falling asleep when you’re all warm and comfortable,” I said, my words still oddly slurred.
I felt surprise from Delseur before that was quickly cut off. A pensive look passed through his eyes but he said nothing.
“Whatever you did, don’t ever do that again, Dak,” Tyh’s voice was hoarse. Fear and anxiety were still coming off him in waves although those emotions were startling to settle down. “You stopped breathing for a couple of seconds and just fell over. You scared the fuck out of me.”
My eyes widened when all the implications of what that meant hit me, and I clutched at Tyh. I could’ve killed us both. What I’d done was beyond stupid. My hair wrapped around us, and I had to let my void suck away the rising panic I felt. My father always said my curiosity would be the death of me, and I’d not only almost proved him right but I nearly took Tyh with me.
“You can feel the dead in me?” Delseur asked.
I nodded, my face still buried in Tyh’s neck, fine tremors running through me at what almost happened.
“Can you feel them in Kijika? What about the baby? Can you feel anything from it?” Delseur asked. Speculation twisted from him, and I wondered why.
I let go of Tyh reluctantly and turned my head to look at Delseur.
“Why would I feel deadness in Kijika? Not that I’ve looked. That would be…” I felt my cheeks heat and my hair, which had started to loosen, gathered close to my body again. “I deeply apologize, Ralne Delseur. What I did was incredibly bad mannered and intrusive. I have no excuse and don’t know quite what came over me to do that. It’ll never happen again. I promise.”
Amusement trickled from Delseur. “I almost feel like I should be apologizing to you, Dakvir. It seems I nearly killed you. I asked if you felt the same from Kijika because he has the same talent as me, which is what I assume you felt. We both can raise and control the dead. Kijika isn’t as strong as I am, but he has battle class necromantic abilities.”
Tyh and I both looked at Kijika in surprise. He shrugged his shoulders. I’d never gotten even a hint of that from him. Then again, the last time I’d really been in emotional contact with Kijika, the emotions he and the baby had been throwing around were crazy intense and had been of worry, anger and pain. Something as quiet and peaceful as death would’ve been buried under all that, and at the time, there was no way in hell I would’ve probed deeper into emotions that were making me feel like simultaneously throwing up and passing out. My curiosity poked its head out once more at Delseur’s revelation of what he and Kijika could do, and my tongue ran unchecked before I could stop myself.
“When you say raise the dead, what do you mean?”
Sakima sighed softly and rose from his seat. Numa followed his lead.
“If you’re going to get into a conversation about that, I’ll exit the room now. Olanthe, I trust you’ll stop harassing me now to find out what’s going on with Kijika and Moswen.”
Olanthe’s cheeks coloured, but she nodded her head in regal princess fashion. Numa kissed her daughter on the cheek and rested her hand on Sakima’s arm. The king and queen headed for the door where Sakima stopped and turned to look at us.
“You have the liveliest things happen around you, Moswen. This is also the happiest I’ve seen Kijika in a long time. Thank you for bringing joy into my grandson’s life.”
Surprise moved over Olanthe’s face. Kijika smiled softly at Moswen, who blushed red to the tips of his ears. Sakima chuckled and lead Numa from the room. Delseur ignored Moswen completely, something that upset Moswen but that he hid from Kijika. Delseur waited until the door closed behind Sakima and Numa before speaking. I sat up carefully, a little startled when I didn’t feel any worse for wear from my brief brush with death.
“I’m the highest ranking officer in the Naemo Army of the Dead. Kijika is an officer under my command there. If necessary, I can raise and command several thousand dead at a time. Kijika can do a few hundred. It’s quite interesting that you say there’s a dead space inside me. It makes me wonder if you’d find something similar with others that have other battle disciplines.”
“Other disciplines?” I parroted.
“There are Bearers of Shadows that control and manipulate shadows, mostly for cover and spying. One of my brothers has this ability, and it is also battle class. Elementals can use a specific element to do their bidding. We have healers as well that can see into a body and determine what’s wrong and how to fix it. The talents are random and the magnitude of the ability varies widely without seeming to have rhyme or reason. If you say you felt deadness inside me, which makes sense considering what my talent is, it wouldn’t be a giant leap of logic to assume that you could feel things from others as well. Having the ability to do that would certainly make finding strong talents and training them much easier than the current method. Tell me, Dakvir, can all your people do this like you?”
I gave Delseur a wry smile. “I’m more or less the only one like this. I’m the Void. A thing that should not be. A taboo child of taboo children. I suppose there’s the possibility that the Teichle, the taboo children, would be able to do something similar, but there aren’t a lot of them due to ingrained cultural responses to discovering a Teichle baby. It’s not uncommon for parents to smother their Teichle baby. It’s illegal to do that, but I can’t recall anybody ever being prosecuted for doing it.”
“That’s horrible. Why would a mother or father do that?” Olanthe asked, horror in her voice.
“Teichle can manipulate and project emotions onto others. Those emotions will be whatever the Tiechle wants, and you’d never have any clue they were doing it to you. My parents are both Teichle. Legally, they’re not allowed to reproduce and quite often are sterilized by the government. Laiokians distrust the Teichle and they are outcasts in my society only barely tolerated. They hate and fear me because of what I can do.”
Tyh hugged me tight again and my hair squeezed him back. “Dak’s people would rather see him dead than walking around.”
“Really?” Delseur radiated surprise briefly before it disappeared. “The Naemo would be very interested in your talents, Dakvir. Quite possibly those of the Teichle as well. Not just for the military benefits, although they’d want to monopolize your time and ability, but regular citizens would gain from knowing what, if any, talents their children had instead of waiting for it to manifest itself. Sometimes with deadly consequences for the more volatile abilities. Would you consider meeting with one of our tursheons to discuss this? Or even to set up something with the Teichle if you could. You would be compensated well for your time, of course.”
“I wish I could help but….” I trailed off and looked at Tyh. While it did sound like something interesting that a lot of the Teichle I knew would jump at the chance to do, Tyh and I didn’t have the luxury of time to set something like that up. It would also alert my people to where I was, and I didn’t want to leave any possible clues to our whereabouts for any nosey Shal-hazal that might have also been set after Tyh in addition to Phaedra.
“We’ve already stayed here longer than we should’ve. I wanted to make sure that Moswen and Kijika worked things out between them before we left, so I talked Dak into staying a few extra days. I have a Shal-hazal Warrior hunting for me and when she catches me, I’ll be killed immediately.”
“What did you do to warrant having somebody hunt you to that extreme?” Olanthe asked suspiciously.
I felt panic spike from Moswen and Kijika and a sense of impending doom. I wasn’t sure why.
“Not a damn thing except my job as a Shal-hazal Litch.”
“Well, that’s ridiculous. You seem to be a very nice man, and you helped settle things between Kijika and Moswen so that Kijika is happy now. You said ‘she’ so I assume you know who this person is?” Olanthe asked. At Tyh’s nod she waved a hand dismissively. “You’re perfectly safe here then. I’ll have my father forbid her to set foot in Vylfian territory. There. Problem solved.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Tyh said with a smile. “Kijika made the same offer. But because Phaedra is a Shal-hazal, she doesn’t necessarily need to find me physically to kill me. If she finds me in the Dream World, I could be just as dead.”
“I don’t understand. Why would she kill you because of your job? Does she want your job? Is it just a bigger paycheque she’s after? If that’s the reason, give her money to go away,” Olanthe said dismissively.
Tyh chuckled. “You don’t get to choose what type of Shal-hazal you are. You’re born that way. And nobody wants my job. Can’t blame them either. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to find out I was a Litch class.”
Distress rushed from Moswen and Kijika, and they were both starting to look a little worried.
“Hey, ummm… yeah, you guys have been here for a while. I didn’t even think of that. You should really get going. You shouldn’t have stayed as long as you did. It’s not safe. I hear Phaedra is one of the best Litch hunters out there. I’m grateful for everything you did, Tyh, but you and Dak should really leave,” Moswen said in a rush.
Disapproval radiated from Delseur, and Olanthe frowned at Moswen.
“Yeah, we do need to get going. I just wanted to make sure you stopped being such an idiot and told Kijika everything. You deserve to be happy, and I’d have hated to see you miss out on that because you didn’t speak up when you should’ve. I’m sure Kijika will be a lot happier now that he knows how to deal with one of us, too. You really shouldn’t have blown off that class on alien interaction, Moswen.”
“I still don’t understand why this woman is trying to kill you. Or why you do a job you don’t like or want to do. The Awh’anise are very strange,” Olanthe said.
“Being a Shal-hazal isn’t something you can stop doing. It’s like… like being royalty. You’re born into it. If something were to happen and your family loses the throne, you’d still be a princess regardless, right?” Tyh said.
“Of course,” Olanthe answered promptly. She gave a considering look at Tyh and Moswen and tapped her lips thoughtfully. “All right. I can accept that. I do find it a bit odd that your mother never said a word about you having somebody trying to kill you. As a mother, I’d be enlisting every single person I could to save my child.”
“If my sho, my mother, tried to interfere, she’d be in some serious trouble herself. She knows I wouldn’t want her to do that. We all knew from the moment I was revealed to be a Litch that I’d eventually have an order for my death passed down from the Council and that a Warrior would be sent to hunt me down. It’s honestly the only way we know how to stop an insane Litch, and we all go insane because of the nature of our job.”
Kijika’s breath hissed in sharply, and Moswen swore in a low voice. Delseur’s gaze swung to Tyh and he frowned. Moswen and Kijika watched Olanthe as if waiting for an explosion. I got slight annoyance from Olanthe, but whatever reaction Moswen and Kijika were expecting wasn’t happening as far as I could tell.
“Yes, yes, I know you’re not mentally stable, but that’s really no reason to have someone killed. There’s many kinds of medication and therapy available. I should speak with your mother again. She’s a fellow healer. She has to realize that death is not a suitable treatment. We can compare notes as I’ve dealt with mentally unstable patients before, and I’m certain there’s something that could be done to help you.”
“Mom? You… you know Tyhlian isn’t… well?” shock was in Kijika’s voice, and Moswen was staring at Olanthe like she’d suddenly grown a third eye.
“Well of course I do, sweetie. As soon as I found out Tyhlian was Moswen’s half-brother, I checked him out. I do that all the time with family and friends,” Olanthe said with a wave of dismissal. “By the way, Tyhlian, Moswen, you both have highly-elevated levels of certain brain chemicals, yet you seem to function normally. You should both be subject to frequent psychotic episodes or dead yet you’re not; Tyhlian’s encroaching insanity notwithstanding. It’s fascinating really. I’d love to study that more in depth.”
“Olanthe, we talked about you randomly scanning people and how rude that was,” Delseur said with a disproving tone.
“You said the Naemo find it rude and invasive, but you’re all rather stuck up as a species anyway. Besides, they’d never know I did it if you’d stop telling them I did and just pass along the suggestion that they get themselves to a healer as soon as possible. Really, Delseur, I’m only taking an interest in the people close to me and helping them to the best of my abilities as I swore to do when I took up the healing arts.”
Delseur sighed and closed his eyes. Irritation and affection warred in him before he sighed again and opened his eyes. The affection won and there was also an undercurrent of humour to him. He took Olanthe’s hand and laced his fingers with hers.
“You… uhhh… are okay with Tyh being kinda crazy?” Moswen asked cautiously.
“Well, it’s not like it’s his fault now, is it?” Olanthe asked in an exasperated tone. “Mental illness is never the person’s fault, and it’s rude to refer to someone as crazy, Moswen. You should apologize to your brother.”
Moswen stared and disbelief rolled off him. I wanted to giggle at the utter absurdity of it all. When Olanthe looked at Moswen and narrowed her eyes, he hunched his shoulders and muttered out an apology to Tyh. Tyh barely managed to hold back a snicker, and the amusement he felt made it even harder for me to keep from giggling.
“Actually, it is,” Tyh said. “The voices in my head that I hear telling me to do all kinds of nasty, evil things? They’re people that I’ve killed as part of my job as a Shal-hazal Litch.”
A wave of compassion rushed from Olanthe. “But they’re not real, Tyhlian. I know they can seem very real to you, but that’s part of your illness. I understand you may feel remorse for what you’ve had to do. Moswen told me once that the Shal-hazal are part of a special unit in the military, and you have to know that there’s things that you do as a soldier that you have to for the safety and freedom of your country and people. I’ve been attached to Delseur’s army and his primary healer for twenty-five years, so I understand military life quite well and the things it demands of its soldiers.”
“They are real,” Tyh said in a firm voice. “A Shal-hazal Litch absorbs a target’s mind and takes it into their own. The physical body dies, but the person’s consciousness lives on in our minds. They are aware of what happened to them, that I am their killer and what goes on in my life. Most are pretty angry and are what the general population would consider evil. After a while, the amount of people you share head space with gets to be too much, and the voices gain control of the Litch. It’s never a pretty sight and actually incredibly dangerous for those around the Litch.”
Olanthe gasped and raised a hand to her mouth. Horror and sorrow battered me. Delseur spiked with shock and interest. I leaned against Tyh, wordlessly offering him comfort. My hair twinned around him, pulling him close to me.
“Dak did something the first time we met that took away some of the voices without damaging me mentally. We’re not sure what he did or how, but that gives us hope he could do it again. If I don’t have the voices, I don’t need to be killed because I won’t go insane. I could still do my job as a Litch as long as Dak can get rid of the people in my head once I’ve retrieved whatever information I need from them.”
“The voices are rather frightened of me,” I said with a small smile.
“The military implications of this ability of yours, Tyh, are astounding. You can do this… absorption to anyone at any time? Or is this something that you can only do to other Awh’anise?” Delseur asked curiously.
“I haven’t come across a species I can’t absorb into my mind. As long as they’re asleep and I can find them in the Dream World, I can pull their conscience into mine. Moswen’s skills are best for trapping people in the Dream World or re-writing entire chunks of memory without someone knowing anything had been done. His class is also very good for transporting a small group of people over vast distances in less time than it takes to tell you about him doing it. The Fire Snakes also talk to the Spirit classes more than any other type of Shal-hazal. Sometimes the dead talk to him.”
All eyes, mine included, looked at Moswen. He squirmed, and the tips of his ears turned red.
“The dead talk to you? Why didn’t you tell me that before? And if you can talk to the dead, why the hell did you ask me if I could make the dead speak?” Kijika asked.
“The dead thing happens really, really rarely. I’ve only had it happen about a dozen times to me. And they find me not the other way around. Scared the shit out of me, too, when it first happened.”
Interest and amusement trickled from Delseur. Olanthe was giving Moswen a calculating stare, and satisfaction twisted through her. Eagerness wound from Kijika, and I got the sense that Moswen was going to be peppered with a million questions from Kijika and his parents.
“I hate to cut things short when the possibility of teasing the hell out of Moswen is right there, but he was right. Dak and I have stayed longer than we should’ve.” Tyh looked at Moswen, seriousness in his face and emotions. “Stay away from me, Moswen. If anyone ever finds out you can zero in on me and have known where I was this whole time, the Council will flay your striped ass in punishment. For once in your life, don’t go inviting karma to screw with you any more than normal for you. Please.”
“You’re family,” Moswen said with a shrug.
Tyh smiled and waves of deep affection rolled off him. He nudged me and stood. He bowed to Olanthe, touched his forehead with his fingers and gave a little head dip to Delseur in what I knew was an Awh’anise military salute, and approached Moswen and Kijika. He rubbed his cheek against each of theirs in turn and hugged Moswen hard.
Tyh was a good man, and he didn’t deserve what was happening. We didn’t deserve it. I cracked open my void and sucked away the unhappiness I was feeling as well as what Tyh was dealing with. He gave me a grateful look and took my hand. I bowed to Olanthe and Delseur and hugged Moswen and Kijika. Just before I pulled back from Kijika, I spoke softly for his ears alone, although given the acute nature of Awh’anise hearing, Moswen and Tyh would probably hear as well.
“The baby is happy and content now. It feels loved and protected and loves you both in return.”
I smiled at the startled expressions on Kijika and Moswen’s faces and followed Tyh from the room. If there was anything even remotely resembling universal fairness, Moswen and Kijika would have a long and happy life together with their child, and I’d be able to help Tyh get rid of or control the voices trying to take him over. It would be most excellent if we could appear before the council and prove that Tyh wasn’t a danger to anyone anymore and that there was hope for the sanity and lives of the Litches.
Tursheons: Naemo word for a talent tester/examiner that can help figure out what talent, if any, a Naemo child may have.