I was a little nervous but wildly excited about what I was going to be doing shortly with Tyhlian. I’d never felt so much anticipation for a sexual encounter, and the one I was looking forward to wasn’t even real, technically. That didn’t stop my stomach from fluttering madly as I stripped and climbed onto the bed.
Kissing him had been wonderful, and his hands, regardless of what he was afraid would happen, were nothing but gentle. Even the slightly rough, nipping kisses he’d placed along my throat had barely broken the skin. I hadn’t been afraid of him then, and the aggression had actually increased my arousal. I never would’ve thought that before, but I seemed to be discovering things about myself and kinks I had no idea lurked inside me.
I lay on my back and tried to calm myself enough to fall asleep. After ten minutes of staring either at the ceiling or the inside of my eyelids and not moving anywhere closer to sleep, I tried meditating. Just when I thought I was calm and centered enough to fall asleep, my mind would jump to what I’d shortly be doing with Tyhlian. My heart would speed up, and excitement would zip through my veins completely ruining the calm I needed to dream of Tyhlian.
An hour passed, and I was no closer to falling asleep than I had been when Tyhlian kissed me and left for his own room. I gave a frustrated sigh and got up from my bed, my hair writhing around me in agitation at my inability to settle down. I’d have to tell Tyhlian we’d need to try again later. I was far too excited about the idea to fall asleep. I was behaving like a kid promised a trip to a candy factory with all the samples I could eat.
I pulled on my shirt before stepping from the room, shivering a little when my bare feet touched the cold metal of the floor outside the room I’d been in. The shirt hit me mid-thigh, so I figured it was enough of a cover for the brief time I expected to be out of my room. Aside from that, Tyhlian had already seen me mostly naked back in the hotel room before Phaedra burst in on us.
I knocked softly on the door to Tyhlian’s room, and when I got no answer, I opened the door. I was ready to tell him we’d have to try again later, but a quick look showed me that he was already asleep. I moved to stand next to the bed and watched him sleep, a surprising feeling of rightness moved through me as I watched him. His emotions were muted in his sleep but still the same as I was getting used to feeling from him. There was arousal and protection and possession coming from him in gentle waves and I was almost giddy to know they were all centered on me.
“Dak,” he called softly in his sleep, want heavy in his voice.
I bit my lip at how desperate and lonely his emotions felt. My hair slithered over him, caressing him. Contentment smoothed over his emotions, and he sighed before he rolled close to the edge of the bed and me, tangling himself in my hair in the process. I may have been hesitant about touching Tyhlian, but my hair had no such problem. I laughed softly at myself as I enjoyed the feel of him through my hair. My hair had just decided my next course of action for me. There was no way I’d be able to untangle myself without waking him up when I’d much rather be touching him than not. There was no help for it. I grinned as I stripped off my shirt and climbed into bed with Tyh.
His arms came around me, and he pressed his nose against my throat. A quiet rumbling of satisfaction came from him as he held me tightly. His tail wound around both our legs, tangling us together even tighter. I closed my eyes, sinking into the warmth of full skin on skin contact with him. I wasn’t surprised to feel my cock harden against Tyh’s belly. I actually wriggled in delight to feel his body react the same way to me. I relaxed completely into his embrace, my mind finally quieting and drifting in the feelings Tyh produced in me.
I blinked in surprise at my surroundings. Gone were the plain walls and utilitarian furnishings of Tyh’s room on the ship. In their place were high arched windows with gauzy curtains that billowed in the warm breeze. An impossible, glorious sunset coloured the sky in deep reds and oranges even as the sun hung on the horizon. It took a moment for me to realize that there must be two suns in the sky of the world Tyh had set his seduction in. Anticipation that wasn’t mine surged through me, and I turned to look at a large bed positioned in the middle of the room. Tyhlian reclined on it, naked, aroused and so very sexy looking; I wanted to wipe my mouth to make sure I wasn’t drooling. Excitement rushed through my veins and I was fairly certain that even my hair was twitching in eagerness for what was to come.
“Come here, Dak,” Tyhlian commanded softly.
I approached the bed slowly, my cock bobbing a little as I walked. I noticed then that I was just as naked as Tyhlian, yet I felt no embarrassment that I typically did when revealing my body to someone. I wasn’t terribly comfortable with how I looked, but there wasn’t much I could do about my skinny-as-a-pole build and nowhere-near-porn-sized dick. That it felt perfectly natural for me to be naked in front of Tyh was amazing and almost felt like a blessing. If I could’ve figured out how to say thank you for that without sounding like a complete moron, I’d have done it.
“Do you remember the word to make me stop? It’ll work here in the dream world, too.”
I nodded my head and didn’t hesitate for a single second as I crawled onto the bed to join Tyh. I didn’t think I was going to need to use that word on Tyhlian. I wanted this experience. I wanted to be close to him and to be touched by him. The more I was around him; the stronger that need seemed to be. The way Tyhlian made me feel was addictive in the extreme. Even without my empathic ability, I was dead certain that hurting me was the last thing Tyh would do on purpose.
“Say it, Dak. I want to make absolutely sure you know it,” Tyhlian said with a serious look as he suddenly grabbed my arm and yanked me to him.
“Tay, Tyhlian,” I gasped out, surprised at the unexpected speed and aggressive emotions from Tyhlian.
Tyhlian almost shoved me away from him as the things I was felt from him zipped into rejection so fast, it was like mental whiplash. A broken whimper came from him as he tried to get as far away from me as he could without actually leaving the bed. I reached for him, and he hissed as he backed further from me, his back slamming into the headboard of the bed. My eyes were wide at his reaction, but I noticed that his dick did not go down nor did the feeling of arousal drop a single degree. Interesting.
“Don’t touch me, Dak. Not after saying tay to me. I can’t really explain how or why that word works like it does, but until you tell me that you’re not rejecting me as a sexual partner, I won’t be able to bear your touch in a sexual way no matter how much I want you.”
“But you made me say it,” I protested. “I want you, Tyh. This was my idea, remember. I want to feel your hands on me. I want your kisses. I want you to continue where we left off when Phaedra interrupted us. I want—” I felt my cheeks heat at what I was about to say and licked my suddenly dry lips before I could continue in a voice barely above a whisper. “I want you inside me making me feel as good as you did earlier with just your fingers.”
Tyhlian’s eyes closed until there were just slits of pale green showing, and I heard him start to purr in an ultra-low register of sound. I had no warning before he launched himself at me, knocking me to my back and pinning my wrists to the bed above my head. I squeaked in surprise and stared up at Tyhlian. My hair flowed over him, but it didn’t seem to know whether to pull him close or push him away. Either way, his full weight felt absolutely amazing and arousing as hell, and my hair eventually settled for stroking his skin with erotic little touches.
His purring got fractionally stronger when my hair caressed him, and his cock twitched against my thigh. He was breathing hard, and I could see his tail lashing the air out of the corner of my eye. He leaned down and rubbed his cheek against mine, his rumbling purr briefly hitting the audible range before sinking back into a sub-sonic sound that I thought was sexy as all get out. I could actually feel the vibrations through his chest where it was pressed against mine.
“I wish I could smell your scent here. Your smell is like the strongest aphrodisiac there is to an Awh’anise. You don’t need it to make you any sexier, but damn you smell good. A Shal-hazal can work it so that people can feel things in the dream world, but we can’t reproduce scent. I never thought I’d want that so badly,” Tyhlian said in a deep voice as he nuzzled the thin skin behind my ear.
“Do you want to wake up and continue this for real?” I asked a little breathlessly. I was all for that.
“More than you could possibly know, but that wouldn’t be safe for you. I’ll make do with this until I can have you and not worry about hurting you.”
Tyhlian released my wrists before moving down my body. His cock dragged against the skin of my leg as he moved lower, and I hummed my approval. The warm, wet swipe of Tyhlian’s tongue down my throat and then across my chest to my nipple made me arch into him. I’d never had a lover lick me like that, and I liked it. He latched his mouth to the nub he’d teased erect, sucking strongly. My hair moved over Tyhlian, stroking his skin erotically as he pleasured me with just his tongue on my nipple. Both of us shivered and moaned when my hair travelled over the Risdepa on his arm. The sensation was intensely erotic.
Tyhlian growled and muttered something harsh sounding under his breath. I sucked in a sharp breath at the feel of his talons lightly scoring down my ribs. It didn’t hurt exactly but it made me squirm. I wasn’t sure if I was trying to get away from the sensation or get more of it. I’d never had a lover do something like that and I was a little confused at enjoying the small discomfort. Tyhlian left my nipple and nipped his way across my chest. He bit down lightly on my other nipple. I hissed and arched my back into Tyhlian at the sharp little pain that, oddly, felt good. I was utterly confused by my reactions and had no idea where the weird sensations of pleasure from pain were coming from, but I liked them and wanted more.
Tyhlian immediately released my nipple when I’d made the small noise and kissed it lightly before he sat back on his heels. I watched him as he seemed to struggle for control and his emotions swung wildly from one extreme to another almost too fast for me to follow. My hair continued to move over his body although the touches changed from arousing to soothing. I could feel the violence simmering in him and raised a hand to touch him.
I gasped in surprise when my arms were yanked roughly over my head although Tyhlian never moved an inch. I felt something wind tightly around my wrists and twisted to see what was holding me. I know my eyes got impossibly huge as I saw thin white ropes wrapped several times around my wrists. The ropes slithered like snakes down my arms, criss-crossing themselves until it looked like I had a lattice of rope around them from wrist to shoulder binding them together from elbow to wrist.
Something slithered around my ankles before forcefully bending my knees and drawing my ankles tight to my ass. I jerked my gaze forward to find my calves firmly lashed to my thighs with more of the white rope. As I watched in stunned surprise, yet more rope appeared, and my bent legs were pulled close to my chest, the ropes somehow tying them to my torso without me moving an inch. My legs were spread wide apart by the rope binding, exposing my hole to Tyhlian’s lust heavy gaze. I couldn’t move my arms or legs at all and was held completely open and at his mercy. More rope slithered over my balls and cock. My balls were bound and separated and my cock wrapped snugly from base to just under the head. It was like they’d just been caged in a very elaborate cock ring. I was pretty sure that no matter how much I’d want to come, nothing would happen until Tyh removed the rope from my cock and balls.
I’d never been so turned on in my life.
I flicked my gaze to Tyhlian’s face, my cock straining against the ropes at the lust I saw and felt from him. He narrowed his eyes to mere slits again and seemed to be breathing even harder than before. His cheeks were flushed and sweat suddenly sheened his body as if he was exerting himself immensely. His hands were balled into fists on his thighs as if he was struggling not to touch me. He muttered softly, sounding like he was having an intense argument in what I assumed was his native language. For all the beauty of the musical sounding words, something about the tone of voice he was using was a little unsettling, but I wasn’t afraid of him. I suspected that the voices he shared head space with were trying to take control of our encounter and that pissed me off at the same time that it worried me a bit. At the moment, my being annoyed with the voices possibly messing with my getting laid by Tyhlian was winning, but just barely.
Nervous little flutters started in my belly the longer I was held immobile and open to Tyhlian’s gaze without him doing anything but stare and talk to the voices. At the same time, it made me edgy as I waited for whatever he was going to do to me; it also cranked up my desire something fierce. Tyh stared at me, his look intense, and spoke under his breath again. I remembered what he’d said about the voices telling him how good I’d look tied up like this, how he’d find it erotic to mark me with bites and score my skin with his talons until I bled. That I’d look beautiful bound, marked and begging him to stop hurting me. I swallowed hard. Most of that sounded kinky hot to me until the part about bleeding and begging him to stop hurting me. Unease was beginning to snake through me the longer he looked at me and talked to the voices, but I still wasn’t scared enough to use that word on Tyh. Yet.
“Tyh?” I finally asked as apprehension warred with arousal in me.
“Gods but you’re beautiful, Dak,” Tyh said in a low voice as he raked his talons over my thighs, stopping just short of touching my groin. The path his talons travelled on my legs burned a little, but it didn’t feel like he’d drawn blood. If this were reality and not a dream, I’d probably have wicked welts from what he’d just done. My brain was being very unhelpful in saying that once I got over the initial burn, what he’d done was kind of arousing and I wouldn’t mind all that much if he did it again. I didn’t think it’d be safe to actually say that to him at the moment considering the violent feel to his emotions, but it was something I’d definitely wanted to examine with him when he had a little more control.
His head descended, and his lips brushed light as a feather over my bound cock. I exhaled slowly at the gentle touch that was at war with the look that had been in his eyes. He licked me from base to tip, catching my gaze. Tyhlian looked feral and hungry as he crouched between my spread thighs. His emotions spiked with violence, and he nipped the head of my cock at the same time that it felt like his talons pierced the skin on my hips. A dangerous growl sounded from him and my heart jumped into triple time even as my poor cock tried to twitch in excitement.
I had no idea why I found the pain arousing, but I was starting to scare myself a little at the way I was reacting to what was clearly a dangerous situation.
“Ow, Tyh, that hurt,” I hissed as I squirmed against the bonds that held me.
I wasn’t really trying to get away. My body liked the roughness and being at Tyh’s mercy even if my brain was still trying to figure out why. In struggling against the ropes, they tightened a little and a soft moan of pleasure slid from my throat. I was suddenly glad for the restraint around my cock and balls as I wasn’t sure that I’d have been able to keep from coming on the spot.
I had no clue I was such a kink.
“Xi’modna,” Tyhlian growled at me, an intense almost demanding look in his eyes.
His claws dug into me in a way that was suddenly unkinky, and a little unease shot down my spine when he didn’t seem to notice my wince. The level of violence started to rise in him and the emotion felt… tainted, like it truly wasn’t his feelings or wants that were in command. Desire started to ebb away from me, but I found myself still reluctant to use that word on Tyh when I had doubts that it really was him doing what he was doing.
“Tyh, you’re starting to make me nervous. You need to untie me right now. We can play with my being tied up another time when you’re more controlled,” I said in my best negotiator voice.
“Xi’modna,” Tyhlian repeated as he moved up faster than my eyes could track him and closed his hand over my throat, not choking me, but letting me know it wouldn’t take much effort on his part to go that extra step.
“I don’t understand, Tyh. What does that mean? What do you need me to say?” I asked, still using my negotiator voice as my hair finally reacted to my growing anxiety and wrapped around Tyhlian’s limbs to pull his hands from me.
Tyhlian strained against my hold on him, and I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to keep him tangled in my hair. He was a lot stronger than I thought he should be. He cursed lowly in his native tongue and bared his teeth at me. My hair tightened until it was almost cutting into his skin. I could feel the rapid pulse in his veins through my hair and knew the grip I had on him had to be painfully tight. I was astounded when I felt his desire increase.
He glared at me for the space of several heartbeats before he squeezed his eyes shut and took several deep, ragged breaths. I could tell he was struggling to control the voices in his head that urged him on but oddly enough, I still wasn’t seriously worried about my safety. A little nervous, sure, but I had faith he would do everything he could to avoid hurting me. A few hairs glided soothingly over the Risdepa on his arm and some of the tension and aggressive feelings in him eased even further.
When he opened his eyes again, the ropes holding me suddenly vanished and he seemed to have gotten a firm grip on his mental control. My legs, released from the ropes, slid across the sheets to bracket Tyh’s, and I moved my arms to a more comfortable position. I hoped his control would last so I could feel the pleasure of him moving over me because even though my desire had started to wane, I was still wickedly aroused. I was a touch disappointed that I wasn’t still tied up because that had been the kinkiest thing I’d ever experienced and I liked it a lot. I did understand though why Tyh released me from the ropes.
“Let me go, Dak. I told you this wasn’t a good idea. If you had any idea of what I’d been about to do to you…. I… it’s been months since I’ve had sex with anyone. Awh’anise just aren’t designed for abstinence. I thought I could control myself. Here especially. I really did. But going so long without the touch of another and the voices…. I want you so much, and you’re my Lor’fei— I’m genuinely afraid of what I’ll do to you, Dak. I’m flat out terrified I’m going to hurt you. Look what the voices almost made me do to you.”
As nervous as Tyhlian made me from his sudden aggressiveness, the news that he wanted me so much that I shot his control all to hell… I couldn’t help my pleased smile. Nobody ever wanted me that much. As wrong as it was, I couldn’t stop the warmth that gathered in my belly because of the strong emotions Tyh felt for me and the guilt for what he’d almost let happen. I was more than certain that Tyh wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me, voices or not. I was willing to stake my life on it.
“Make it not hurt,” I said softly.
“What?” Tyhlian asked confused and wary.
“You can make it not hurt, right? If you can make it so that we feel pleasurable things, then I’m sure you can make it so it doesn’t hurt as well. Do whatever it is that you do so that no matter what you do to me, I don’t feel any pain. You say you can manipulate dreams to be whatever you want them to be, so do that, and we both get the grand prize. Simple.”
Tyhlian looked at me in surprise before he laughed softly and kissed me gently. He nuzzled into my neck and licked the edge of my ear giving me pleasure shivers up and down my body. He pulled back and warmth was in his eyes. There was something else not quite sane in his eyes as well, but he seemed to be back in control of himself.
“That’s not the point, Dak. If I do that, the voices win. I can’t give them so much as an inch. If I hurt you here, even if you don’t feel pain from it, I’ll end up hurting you in the real world, too. I know it, and I won’t do that, Dak.”
“Then try again. I’m fine. You didn’t really hurt me. It was more surprise than anything. I’ll stop you if you go too far again. Tyh, what were you saying to me when you had your hand over my throat? You seemed very intense and like you were waiting for me to respond. I don’t have the Awh’anise language in my translator, so I had no idea what I was supposed to say.”
“Xi’modna. It’s— I’ll explain to you later. Lying on top of you like this is… you’re arousing the hell out of me, and I’m trying to do what’s best for you. You have to let me go and we both need to wake up, Dak.”
I decided to ignore his what-was-best-for-me remark. I was perfectly capable of deciding that on my own, thank you very much, and my body was telling me that what was best was for me to get my freak on with Tyhlian.
“You wanted me to reply, didn’t you? What did you want me to say back to you?” I persisted.
Tyhlian frowned at me and seemed like he wasn’t going to answer. I pressed my lips together and got a look my mother said was stubbornness incarnate on my face. It only took a few minutes for Tyh to sigh heavily and answer me.
“Ony modna. Dak, I need you to wake up. I can’t deal with you warm, willing and naked pressed against me like this even if it’s only a dream. The voices…” Tyhlian said as he ground his hips against mine. “Fuck, I want you so badly I can barely think straight even without the voices egging me on.”
“Ony modna,” I repeated carefully as I watched his face.
Tyhlian positively purred with pleasure, and his cock twitched against me. He dipped his head and kissed me like he couldn’t get enough of me. I wondered what it was that I’d just said to him. He seemed extraordinarily pleased, and his feelings smoothed out to something approaching calm. He pulled back from the amazing kiss he was sharing with me and licked his lips just before his desire surged. I really wanted to ask what the phrase meant since it had such an immediate, interesting reaction on him when he pressed two fingers to my mouth.
“Suck, Dak,” he demanded in a rough voice.
The commanding tone he used made heat pool in my groin and I could feel pre-come smear over my skin where our cocks rubbed against each other. I obediently opened my mouth and let him slide his fingers inside. I rubbed my tongue against the rough pads of his fingers. I couldn’t feel the talons that’d scored my skin earlier and briefly wondered why. Rational thought fled my brain when he shifted lower to lick swirling patterns across my chest. He growled at me to keep sucking when I stopped as pleasure cascaded through me from what he was doing with his tongue. I bathed his fingers with spit and was really getting into it when he took his fingers from my mouth.
“Spread your legs wider, Dak. I’m making this as real for you as I dare, and I need to open you up for me.”
I really hadn’t thought I could be any more turned on than I was. I was wrong. The command in Tyh’s voice was pushing kink buttons I had no idea I had. He was still wrapped firmly in my hair, but he was able to move fairly freely. My hair was feeding me all kinds of delicious, full-body sensations on top of the cock-stirring feeling of being dominated by him. I was seriously getting off on that aspect, something I never would’ve guessed before. From the emotions I was reading from Tyh, he was enjoying it a hell of a lot, too.
I gasped when I felt him press the spit-slicked digits between my cheeks. He rubbed firmly over my hole but didn’t try for more. He kissed me again, slipping his tongue between my lips. I opened my mouth to him and made a surprised sound when one of his fingers slid smoothly inside me. It felt just as good as I remembered from when he’d fingered me in the hotel room before Phaedra interrupted us. Tyh continued to kiss me, his tongue and finger moving in the same slow rhythm. I was soon moving my hips along with him liking the way it felt a hell of a lot. Then Tyh pressed firmly on that spot inside me that made me cry out in pleasure just as he had in the hotel. Whatever that was, he seriously needed to do it again. Multiple times.
Tyhlian pulled back from the kiss and moved to kneel between my spread legs. He ran his free hand over my legs and hip, humming his approval. He pulled his finger from me and pressed back with two. I squirmed a little at the extra thickness, not sure if I was comfortable with the feeling. It didn’t hurt, but it was different from just the one finger. Tyhlian was watching me and a little smile came to his face.
“I’m bigger than two fingers, Dak. If this were the waking world, it would burn the first time I took you no matter how careful I was or how much lube I used. Eventually, with regular sex, your body adjusts so that it just feels good all the time. Lucky for you, this is the dream world, and I’ll make sure you’ll only feel good.”
Tyhlian curled his fingers inside me and pressed on that spot again. I arched my back as pleasure rushed through me. My cock throbbed, and I desperately wanted more. Of what, I wasn’t exactly sure, but I knew Tyh would give me what I needed. My hair pulled Tyh closer to me, and a little moan of pleasure twisted from my throat at the feel of his weight against me. If I were with a woman, I would have pulled her into my lap and pressed my cock inside her. With Tyh, I wasn’t sure what to expect or what he wanted me to do. I knew what I wanted though. I wanted the pleasure of an orgasm, and I wanted Tyh to be the one to give it to me.
“Tyh, I want more,” I panted as I wriggled my hips. “Ony modna, Tyh. For the love of all that is holy, ony modna.”
He growled low in his throat, pulled his fingers from me and pressed his cock against my hole. He leaned down and kissed me hard as he began to push inside. My hair wrapped more firmly around him, holding him close to me. He growled so low I wasn’t sure if I actually heard it or just felt the vibrations of it in his chest. I moaned into his mouth at the feel of him slowly sliding into me. It was a much fuller feel than how his fingers felt. I liked the sensation of his cock inside me, filling and stretching me better than his fingers had. My hips jerked when the velvety softness of Tyh’s tail wrap around my cock and start stroking me. My groan of pleasure when Tyh began shallow thrusts was echoed by him.
Ecstasy flooded me. Tyhlian felt so damn good inside me. Better than anything I’d ever felt. My hips picked up his rhythm as I stared into his pale green eyes. Desire for me made them sparkle like jewels. Warmth that had nothing to do with the pleasure of his cock in my ass flowed through me. I was the one responsible for giving Tyhlian the intense delight I could see in his face and colouring his emotions. His strokes became longer and harder, and I moaned again at how good he was making me feel.
“Lor’fei,” Tyhlian breathed against my lips as he ground his hips into me.
I panted as I strained to get closer to Tyh. My balls felt heavy, and I knew it wouldn’t take much more for me to come. I dragged my short nails down Tyh’s back, making him growl in pleasure and thrust into me hard, his cock rubbing over that secret pleasure button inside me. Tyh nipped at my throat as he sped up his thrusts, each slide inside touching that spot and leaving me gasping. His hands found mine and he laced his fingers with mine, his grip tight. That simple action shoved me hard toward orgasm, and I writhed under him, trying to reach my pleasure as I teetered on the very edge of release.
“Xi’ soi-fu ony-mi zo xi’ ih’tes, Lor’fei,” Tyh said in a low voice filled with reverence as he thrust hard into me.
My back arched as my orgasm slammed into me. Intense pleasure washed through me as my cock spurted my release between our bodies. I felt joy whip through Tyhlian seconds before he slammed his hips tight to my ass, and his cock pulsed with his release. A deep, rolling purr sounded from his throat. Between pants, he said one word over and over again in a low voice as he nuzzled my throat and rubbed his cheeks against mine. Contentment threaded through his emotions, and I relaxed under him, feeling more comfortable and at ease that I had in… I couldn’t remember when. Sex with Tyhlian was one of my best decisions ever, and I could barely wait to try it while awake. I was sure that it’d be even better in reality, as hard as that would be to believe.
“Hey, Tyh, our sha-ter’al thinks she has an idea how to fix your head for a little while. She said if I happened to find you, I should let you know.” A voice came from across the room. “That was pretty awesome by the way. Do I have timing or what?”
Tyhlian and I both whipped our heads around. A young man leaned against the window frame and watched us with interest. He was Awh’anise like Tyhlian but very unlike Tyh in looks. Tyhlian snarled at the intruder, but there was no worry in him. He had tiny threads of fear, but they weren’t like the fear that Phaedra had caused. They were was rooted in another dread and nowhere near as strong as what I’d felt when Phaedra had found him.
The intruding Awh’anise looked to be slightly taller and younger than Tyhlian. His hair was wavy white-blonde and easily reached his waist. His skin was light brown with thin, irregular stripes of white-gold that looked like the pattern of skin on a wild animal. The tail that swished from side to side behind him was tipped with hair of white-gold. As a whole, he was a very striking looking young man.
He was also interrupting my totally kick-ass afterglow, and that ticked me right the hell off.
I wondered just how long he’d been there watching Tyh and me. Going by what he’d said, he’d seen us reach orgasm, but I’d been so wrapped up in Tyh the interloper could’ve been there pretty much the whole damn time and I’d never noticed. Heat rushed into my cheeks, and I pressed my face into Tyhlian’s throat, mortified that some random stranger quite possibly watched me have the best damn sex of my life. I seriously hoped that wasn’t some kind of weird Awh’anise custom because I was going to have major issues with that if it was.
“That was one fucking hot show. Please tell me that wasn’t a one shot deal because I would so love to see it from beginning to end,” the young man said with a grin as he pushed off from the wall and sauntered towards the bed.
Tyhlian surprised me by swearing and pulling out of my body as his emotions went from calm and peaceful to aggressive and possessive in an eye blink. I made a sound of protest even as I shivered in reaction to the erotic slide of his cock leaving my ass. Tyh tried to leave the bed, but my hair had other ideas and held him to me. He struggled against my hair and swore lowly as he tried to pull my hair away without hurting me.
“When I get free, I’m going to beat your ass into the ground, Moswen,” Tyh growled as he continued to try unsuccessfully to untangle himself from my hair.
Moswen? Tyhlian knew the man? Well that explained why he didn’t seem concerned that this Moswen character managed to find him.
“Ooooh, I’m scared,” Moswen said with a soft snort. “He’s really pretty, Tyh. What’s your name, and can I join you guys? Stars, you have gorgeous hair. I’ve never seen anyone with hair that long.”
Tyhlian snarled and finally managed to work himself free of the clinging strands of my hair. He shot from the bed in a blur of speed and met Moswen half-way between the bed and the wall. I watched in utter shock as Tyhlian drew back his fist and punched Moswen square in the mouth. Moswen stumbled back and barely managed to keep his feet. He bared his fangs at Tyhlian before licking the blood from his split lip.
“Fuck, you can top me, too, Tyh. Don’t get your tail in a knot. Stars, I was just asking to get in on the super-hot action,” Moswen said with a sulk in his voice.
“Xi’ Lor’fei,” Tyhlian growled at Moswen as he pointed at me. “Xi’ shal-demsho.”
Moswen’s mouth dropped open in shock as he looked between me and Tyhlian. Rapid fire Awh’anise poured from Moswen with Tyh responding curtly every now and again. After a few minutes, Tyh growled low and said something that had the torrent of Awh’anise from Moswen stop for a moment. Moswen looked at me again and there was pity in his eyes but I couldn’t have said who it was for, me or Tyhlian. Or maybe it was for both of us.
“Ah, crap, Tyh. I’m so sorry,” Moswen said with remorse in his voice as he stepped up to Tyh and pulled him into a fierce embrace.
I was at a complete loss as to what just happened. One minute Tyhlian was punching Moswen, and the next, he was allowing a tight hug from the guy he’d just punched. I really didn’t understand. Tyhlian had said that word again, Lor’fei, while he was talking to Moswen, and whatever it meant, it was something very important judging by Moswen’s reaction. I finally had the sense to drag a sheet over me and stood. I wasn’t sure what the relationship was between Tyh and Moswen, but it seemed deep.
I suddenly felt out of place and left out.
Xi’ modna: My fought for prized mate. – permanent pairing, said by dominant after winning a dominance fight.
Ony modna: You fought to be my prized mate. – permanent pairing, said by submissive after losing a dominance fight.
Xi’ soi-fu ony-mi zo xi’ ih’tes, Lor’fei.: My life is yours to my dying breath, Lor’fei. Formalized pledge from a Shal-hazal to their Lor’fei.
Shal-demsho: dream-lover –very formal usage by Shal-hazal only, signifies life-long permanence. Usually used for Lor’fei partners.
“Tyh?” the man Tyh had identified as Dakvir called softly, dragging my attention away from Tyh.
Dakvir’s eyes held confusion. He’d wrapped himself in a sheet, cutting off the very nice view of him naked, and now he stood uncertainly by the bed. Tyh tensed as soon as Dakvir called his name, and I felt his claws dig into my sides in a not-so-subtle warning. A low growl rumbled at me from Tyh before he pushed away from me.
“Wake up, Dak. Moswen is enough of a little shit to stand and watch us and offer a running commentary. I don’t want to share you with anyone else,” he said as he moved over to Dakvir and pulled him into his arms and stroked Dakvir’s back.
“Who is he?” Dakvir asked as he pressed himself to Tyh and stared at me with curiosity.
“My sha-ter’bil. We share the same father but have different mothers. Just wake up, Dak. I’ll explain everything then,” Tyh said as he gave Dakvir a kiss filled with passion and possession.
Dakvir stared at Tyh for a few seconds before nodding his head. His body turned insubstantial as he woke up from the dream Tyh created for them. I didn’t waste any time in following Dakvir to the waking world. I’d have a few seconds on Tyh as he needed to wake up and I didn’t, and I intended to use those seconds to find out more about Dakvir before Tyh stopped me when he woke up.
Tyh called Dakvir his Lor’fei, which was amazingly good and bad at the same time. A Lor’fei was so incredibly special and not something that most Shal-hazal got to experience. I was thrilled for Tyh that he’d found his. I was also really sad that he’d found his Lor’fei when his life was measured in months, if he was lucky.
I had caught Tyh and Dakvir at the point of orgasm, which was required to complete the Lor’fei bond; however, it was the dream world where they’d had sex and not reality. I had my doubts that doing it in the dream world would solidify the bond the way it was supposed to. I wasn’t very clear on why Tyh wanted to do things like that, but maybe it had something to do with how he was reacting to the Lor’fei. It wasn’t like I was an expert or anything on the subject.
Tyh wasn’t an expert either, but then again, no Shal-hazal really was as the experience was supposed to be unique for every Shal-hazal. Tyh said he didn’t tell Dakvir what being a Lor’fei would mean for them, which I thought was a huge mistake. Tyh had switched from Common to Awh’anise when we spoke about the Lor’fei in the dream world. I’d clued in that Tyh didn’t want Dakvir to know what we were saying and went with it. Tyh said he didn’t think Dakvir needed to know everything about the Lor’fei as his Hunter would probably catch up with him before it became an issue.
I still thought Tyh should’ve said something to Dakvir first before they’d fucked. At the very least, Tyh should’ve given Dakvir the basics of the Lor’fei. The poor man wouldn’t have the first clue about what it meant to Tyh or any Shal-hazal for that matter. Stars, it would be a complete disaster if Dakvir was only after a little random fucking. Even if they’d only done it in the dream world, I was pretty sure that would still bind Tyh to Dakvir in some way because it was a type of sex even if it wasn’t really real.
I wasn’t sure why Dakvir had decided to travel with Tyh, but it was plain stupid on Tyh’s part to let him, Lor’fei or not, and I’d told him that, too. I was a little worried that Tyh just brushed my concerns away. To me, that, more than anything, showed that he really wasn’t thinking right anymore.
I stepped from the dream world directly into a sparse room on a space ship. A quick scan of the area revealed Tyh tangled up in Dakvir’s hair and both of them naked and smelling of sex. Dakvir was blinking himself awake, and as he realized where he was, a slow smile spread over his face. Stars, but he was pretty. He made a noise of approval in his throat and pressed himself tightly to Tyh, who wasn’t awake yet but still hugged Dakvir close to him. It looked like Dakvir’s hair slithered over the two of them, caressing them, but that had to be a trick of the light or something. I moved from the foot of the bed to the head and started to open my mouth to ask Dakvir something.
Tyh’s eyes popped open, and he glared at me over Dakvir’s shoulder before I had a chance to say anything. He called me a little pain in the ass in Awh’anise before switching to Common and calling me a huge pain in the ass, which I was pretty sure was for Dakvir’s benefit so he’d know what Tyh was saying. Tyh even flashed a bit of aggressive fang at me for good measure. I ignored him and his posturing, my eye caught by something stark white on Dakvir’s lower back near his hip. His hair shifted, exposing a very nice, firm butt cheek as well as the white mark. My eyebrows rose in surprise. I’d seen and even licked that exact mark before, but it was in black and on Tyh’s inner thigh. Weird. I wondered if Tyh knew about it.
“Hey, Tyh, he’s got a mark on his back just like the one on your thigh. Do you think that’s something connected to being Lor’fei?” I asked as I leaned over the two of them for a closer look.
Tyh bared his fangs at me in a full on snarl. Crazy or not, Tyh didn’t really scare me too much at the moment. He wouldn’t attack me with Dakvir between us and in the possible path of danger. I leaned closer to Dakvir to get a better look, ignoring the sub-vocal aggressive noises Tyh was making. Dakvir glanced between the two of us and his brow furrowed. I heard something at the lowest edge of my hearing that sounded… soothing in a strange way. Like the sound of gentle waves on a beach. Some of the tension eased out of both Tyh and me at the same time, and a tiny, satisfied smirk teased the corner of Dakvir’s lips.
I wondered at that for half a second before a completely unexpected and wholly arousing scent hit my nose.
My cock went from hey-you’re-pretty-hot to holy-fuck-I-wanna-pound-your-ass-right-now between one breath and the next. Without thinking, I reached out to touch Dakvir. My hand was stopped from its goal by Dakvir’s hair wrapping around my wrist and keeping my hand from making contact. I was sure my eyes were as big as dinner plates at that. Holy fuck, his hair really was moving by itself.
“I don’t understand how you happen to be here, and I will expect an explanation later, but I’d appreciate if you’d give Tyh and me some privacy to dress right now,” Dak said in a no nonsense professional voice that automatically had me straightening and nodding my head before I could stop myself.
As soon as I began to pull back from Dakvir, his hair slithered off my wrist giving me a pleasurable shiver. I watched in fascination as his hair draped itself over the two of them in a blanket of silver-shot black, hiding the interesting bits from me. Another sub-vocal growl twisted from Tyh’s throat as I just stood there and stared at them, watching Dakvir’s hair shift slightly around them. I caught another whiff of the scent that made my arousal go through the roof, and my eyes went even larger as it finally clicked what I was smelling. Even for my massively fucked up karma and the way it tended to rub off on the people closest to me, this was a little too much.
“He smells like Ser’cin,” I said with shock in my voice. “What have you done and why, Tyh? This, on top of everything else, is really, really wrong. How crazy are you right now? Because you’ve got to be seven kinds of bonkers to be using Ser’cin for… whatever you’re using it for.”
“My people have a personal scent that is unique to each individual. What you’re probably scenting is mine as I have no idea what this Ser’cin is or why that seems to be cause for concern. Tyhlian has done nothing. Leave, please, so we can dress. We’ll join you on the bridge shortly,” Dakvir said as some of his hair reached out and pushed me none to gently away from the bed.
I wanted to ask how Dakvir’s hair could move by itself but decided to keep my questions for later at the look of hard pressed patience he was giving me. I raised my hands in surrender and edged backwards to the door despite wanting to stay in the room to confirm that the mark on Dakvir was the same as Tyh’s. I also wanted to see Dakvir naked again because he was damn pretty and like no other person I’d ever seen before. I beat a hasty retreat to the bridge to wait for them when Dakvir gave me a look that made me feel like a seriously misbehaving kit and clearly said he was losing patience with me and my stalling.
I slouched in the captain’s chair, my tail tip flicking up and down with impatience as I waited for Tyh and Dakvir. I had no idea how Dakvir did that… whatever it was with his eyes that made me almost jump to do what he wanted. If he could do the same thing to Tyh, my poor brother was so screwed— and not in the way that was fun. I idly wondered when Dakvir would realize that he had Tyh wrapped around his elegantly long fingers and snickered a little.
I was a little surprised when Dakvir showed up first. I thought Tyh would set a new speed record getting to me before Dakvir did so he could warn me away. Again. Dakvir’s eyes locked on me and followed my movements as I rose from my seat and moved towards him. There was absolutely no fear in his face as he watched me, and I thought that was the coolest thing ever since pretty much everybody who saw me had fear flicker through their eyes at least a little because of what I was.
Curiosity damn-near oozed from Dakvir as he watched me. I was used to that along with a chaser of fear from pretty much every Awh’anise I met. The animal pattern on my skin marked me as a Throw-back to other Awh’anise, which was the root of the fear and curiosity. From what I gathered, the animal pattern of my skin was something not often seen among the few other species I’d come across in my job as a Shal-hazal. Hell, I was curious about Dakvir’s skin as I’d never seen anyone with skin as black as the depth of space. I thought about asking if I could touch him, but Tyh was acting super possessive over Dakvir, and I wasn’t in the mood to really piss off a guy who could and would beat me into unconsciousness for doing something I knew better than to do. I was impulsive but not stupid.
There was also the fact that Tyh said Dakvir was his Lor’fei, and a Shal-hazal that was a new Lor’fei was damn twitchy. I didn’t have any experience with Lor’fei partners outside of the class that all Shal-hazal needed to take to learn about the Lor’fei, but it was made very clear that antagonizing a new Shal-hazal Lor’fei ran the serious risk of being a deadly mistake. The only thing more dangerous than poking a new Shal-hazal Lor’fei was pushing a Throw-back into a feral state and nobody in their right mind would do that. Seeing as how Tyh wasn’t in his right mind at the moment and that I was a Throw-back, I figured it would be beyond utterly stupid on my part to piss him off when it was an easy enough thing to avoid doing despite how curious I was about Dakvir.
What I’d learned in class led me to believe that a new Shal-hazal Lor’fei wasn’t a whole lot different from a Throw-back gone feral, and we were nasty pieces of work when driven to that state. Throw-backs still ate parts of our fallen enemies and revelled in it when we lost control. Given that, I wasn’t a fan of being a snack for Tyh if he went ballistic. I wasn’t thrilled about possibly eating parts of my favourite brother either if I did my version of crazed Awh’anise.
I’d probably win the fight, but I’d have to let myself turn feral, and that was a big fat no-fucking-way. Besides, Huyana, Tyh’s sha and my sha-ter’al, would kill me when she found out what I’d done. The last thing you wanted was a Shal-hazal Healer Will on your ass with murder in her eyes. A person could take a very long, very painful time in dying then. I shivered a little at the thought.
“So how long were you calling Tyh? And why? Were you in some kind of trouble?” I asked as I steered my brain away from contemplating all the awful ways Huyana could keep me from escaping into death to end her torturous retribution for killing and eating her baby boy if I went feral.
“You’re his Lor’fei. A Shal-hazal hears his Lor’fei when the needs of the two match up, and it has gotta be something big to bring a Shal-hazal to his Lor’fei. Tyh is going seriously crazy so that’s what his issue is. What’s your big issue? I’ve never met a Lor’fei before. They don’t happen all that often you know. Poor Tyh. To find you now when his life is almost done… that just sucks so hard. Why couldn’t you have called for him years ago when you guys could’ve had more time?” I asked as I stood as close as I dared to Dakvir, not so subtly inhaling that cock-stirring smell that seemed to waft from him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. He just showed up in one of my dreams, and then a few days later, he appeared in the flesh where I was working. What is a Lor’fei?” Dakvir said as he tried to step back from me.
I stared in surprise at him. I thought Tyh had been yanking my tail when he said that he hadn’t told Dakvir a single thing about the Lor’fei before they’d gotten down to fucking. I thought he would’ve at least mentioned something even if it was to say that it was a special relationship that very few were lucky to have. A completely sane Tyh would’ve never dreamed of taking an alien Lor’fei to bed without telling the person at least the bare bones basics of what it meant to both parties. Apparently, crazy-Tyh was a whole different story.
“You’re probably going to be severely pissed at him once you find out all about the Lor’fei and what it means, but in his defence, he probably isn’t thinking too clearly. He said you already know he’s going crazy. That on top of his being under the influence of the Lor’fei….” I sighed heavily.
Tyh’s situation was so unfair. He was a really great guy, and I didn’t think that just because he was family and my favourite sibling. He was dedicated to his work and was one of the top Litches. He was smart and compassionate and had a great sense of humour. He was fantastic in the sack, too. For him to be not only a Litch but also one of the best Litches around and to now step over the fine line of insanity was made of total suckage.
“The Lor’fei does weird things to a normal Shal-hazal. With Tyh being driven insane by the voices in his head, it’s probably a thousand times worse. Not your fault, but he’s going to be acting even nuttier than he normally would because of the Lor’fei. Don’t hold that against him though. Tyh really is an awesome guy. Honest. He’s one of my most favourite bao-ter. Stars, but you smell good,” I said as I just couldn’t resist temptation and leaned in to swipe my tongue along the underside of Dakvir’s jaw, startling him.
I never saw Tyh enter the room; all my attention had been focused on Dakvir and the way he smelled. I was jerked violently away from Dakvir and thrown into the bulkhead across the room. My head cracked against steel, and stars exploded in front of my eyes. I swore lowly and hissed as I blinked rapidly. I shook my head to clear it and growled, flashing some fang at Tyh. A dangerous growl rumbled from him, he bared his fangs at me, and his tail lashed the air, the tip puffed up bigger than I’d ever seen it.
Fuck. I’d totally pissed off a possessive Shal-hazal Lor’fei.
If I were alone with Tyh, I wouldn’t have a problem getting into a fight with him. Hell, a fight with Tyh was always a fucking good time. But Dakvir was standing not ten feet away from us, and there was a really good chance that he would end up in the cross-fire, especially since the bridge of the ship wasn’t exactly made for having a knock-down, drag-out fight like Awh’anise fights tended to be. I wasn’t sure Tyh realized that. I needed to distract him big time before we both did something really stupid.
“Oh, you wanna play? Cool. I can Dream-Step us someplace a little roomier. Wouldn’t want to trash your ship or anything. Bet that would drop the resale value of it, huh?” I said with a grin on my face.
“Don’t touch him, Moswen. Ever. He’s mine. Don’t challenge me over him,” Tyhlian warned with a soft growl that was all the more serious for its muted quality.
Shit. So much for distracting him. Option B was now the way to go and involved back peddling and apologizing like there was no tomorrow.
“I wasn’t… I didn’t mean… fuck, Tyh, you know what he smells like. I wouldn’t have done anything really. I’m not an idiot.” Okay, not the best apology, but I was trying for distraction more than I was trying to get Tyh to believe I was sorry for licking Dakvir when I wasn’t really.
Dakvir cleared his throat and gave the two of us a hard look. Prickles danced down the back of my neck at what I saw in his face, and I wanted to drop my eyes to the floor in the worst possible way. I shot a quick glance at Tyh and saw the same thing flash through his eyes. Crap, how the hell did Dakvir do that when he looked like he’d snap in two if I breathed on him too hard? Dakvir folded his arms across his chest and pinned us in place with a steely look in his eyes as his hair twisted around his body. My belly jittered a little, and I was pretty sure Tyh and I were in big time trouble.
“Tyhlian, why does Moswen seem to think I’ll be angry that you haven’t told me exactly what a Lor’fei is before we… got together in the dream world?”
Dakvir’s voice was velvet covered steel and he obviously meant business. I watched a blush climb into Tyh’s cheeks and snickered at his discomfort. Tyh was suddenly busy looking anywhere but at Dakvir. I relaxed my fighters stance and leaned against the bulkhead I’d been thrown at earlier. The desire to fight disappeared from Tyh and he shot me a panicked look mixed with a little desperation that pretty much screamed “Help me.” I grinned, shrugged and said nothing, relieved that it wasn’t my striped ass that was about to be chewed out but good.
“Shal-hazal Litch Will Lue Tyhlian Huyana-Dukker of the House of Heyda, I demand that you tell me right now exactly what a Lor’fei is, why that’s so damn important, what’s wrong with the way I smell and anything else it would be in my best interest to know. Don’t bother trying to lie either. I can feel it when you lie. The truth. Now,” Dakvir said with absolute command in his voice.
“You’re in deep shit now, Tyh. He used your full title and rank,” I said as I tried not to laugh in relief that I was off the hook for any bad behaviour.
“I don’t suppose you’d do me the favour of keeping your big mouth shut and fucking off?” Tyhlian asked me with a scowl before he sent a wary look at Dakvir.
There was no way in hell I could let this golden opportunity slip past me. The chances to yank Tyh’s tail but good were few and far between, and I’d be failing my duties as a bratty little brother if I didn’t jump all over this. I grinned even wider and decided to ramp things up a bit just for shits and giggles. I knew without a doubt that if our positions were reversed, he’d do the same to me. We loved each other a lot, but teasing was almost a way of life for the Awh’anise.
“Are you kidding me? Just from his tone of voice, you’re chin deep in shit and sinking fast. And it’s totally not my fault this time. This is almost better than watching you fuck him. Not that I wouldn’t want to see more of that too. Come to think of it, if I promise not to get in on the action, can I watch? I’ll be quiet and just masturbate in the corner. I swear.”
Tyh glared at me and stalked to the captain’s chair. He grabbed Dakvir’s wrist as he passed him and pulled him along. Tyh sat heavily in the seat and tugged on Dakvir’s arm until the poor man had to either sit in Tyh’s lap or risk having his shoulder dislocated. Dakvir sat, and Tyh’s arms went around him as if he feared what he was going to say would drive Dakvir away. Tyh tightened his hold until Dakvir squeaked a protest. I thought it was wicked cool that Dakvir’s hair entwined around them, joining them together.
“You, me and why we’re together is called Lor’fei. The best translation is something like ‘soul on fire for the beloved.’ Only those of the Bloodline, a Shal-hazal or a Vi’deshron, can hear the call of a Lor’fei. The act of calling is called Lor’fei as is the person doing the calling and even the one responding to the call. It’s something very special and rare.”
Tyhlian started to stroke the back of Dakvir’s hand as he spoke. I watched them in silence for several seconds as Tyh seemed to try and gather himself and figure out what to say. Tyh looked over at me, and what I saw in his eyes made me regret teasing him just a little. This was big time serious shit, and not only Tyh but Dakvir as well deserved for me to be adult about what was happening between them. The playfulness disappeared from my face, and I moved to sit in the empty co-pilot’s chair, my attention focused on them. If Tyh needed my support or help, he’d have whatever I was able to give without question.
“A Lor’fei generally doesn’t realize he or she is calling out to his or her Shal-hazal. It’s rather hard to explain what a call is. As I understand it, the call means different things for each individual who hears it. Your call was peace and salvation to me; it was so strong. I had no trouble finding you when it can typically take months to zero in on the general location of your Lor’fei never mind actually find him or her.”
“But I didn’t even know you existed, Tyhlian. How and why would I call for you to come to me if.… Never mind. This will go much faster if you tell me everything first, and I ask specific questions later, won’t it?” Dakvir asked, an intense look of concentration on his face. Tyh gave him a small smile and a quick squeeze before continuing.
“Once you find your Lor’fei, you can’t leave them alone. Denial over what they are to you isn’t an option. Generally, by the time you find them, you know they are your Lor’fei. Even if you told me to leave, I’d still stay near you. You wouldn’t see me, but I’d be there, watching you, protecting you. A Lor’fei is… it’s the other half of your soul that you didn’t know was missing. It’s the person who is everything you want and need in a partner. It’s a bond one of the Blood can’t and doesn’t want to refuse. It’s damn close to being a sacred thing for us. Sure, it scares the crap out of you when you realize what’s happening, but it also gives you a sense of… wholeness that you never want to be without again.”
I watched Tyh’s eyes as he spoke, and my heart ached for him at what I saw. He was already in way too deep where Dakvir was concerned. I really hoped that Dakvir was an open-minded kinda guy. It would probably give Tyh that final nudge into total insanity if Dakvir were to reject him and everything the Lor’fei offered.
Tyh should’ve never fucked Dakvir before telling him about the Lor’fei even if they went at it in the dream world instead of reality. Even being well on his way to crazy, Tyh should’ve known better. And he said I needed a keeper. I wasn’t the one who who’d taken an alien Lor’fei to bed without saying a damn thing about it. Not even I’d do something that dumb and irresponsible.
“Circumstances have to be just right to hear the call of a Lor’fei. Usually it’s a need in both partners that sets things in motion. Having a Lor’fei is actually quite rare. In the past one hundred years, there’s been only two or three dozen Lor’fei for all the Shal-hazal and Vi’deshron. While there isn’t a huge number of Shal-hazal and there are even fewer Vi’deshron, the number of Lor’fei is lower still. There have only been three or four alien Lor’fei in all that time.”
Tyh cupped Dak’s cheek and turned his head to look directly into his eyes. I could see the struggle in Tyh’s face over what to say. Dakvir must’ve seen it too, because his lips thinned and he got a stubborn set to his jaw that put Meriwa, one of my brood mates, to shame, and I thought she was the most stubborn thing on the entire planet of Awh’an, and that was really saying something. Tyh was so screwed.
“Out with it, Tyhlian. There’s more to this than you’ve said. I can feel your anxiety and… guilt. I don’t really understand why you’re feeling either emotion, but they’re there. You will tell me everything, Shal-hazal Litch Will Leu Tyhlian Huyana-Dukker of the House of Heyda, or I will make it my personal mission to turn your life into a living hell until you do. From what you’ve already told me about your people, all I need to do is deny you sex, which I wouldn’t be all that thrilled about either, but I’ll do it if you leave me no other options. I do still remember that word you told me to use to get you to stop. I also remember that you couldn’t approach me sexually again until I rescinded it. Do not make me use it. I do not bluff, Tyhlian. Ever. Tell me the rest.”
My mouth hung open in shock and awe. Dakvir had used that velvet covered steel voice again and even though I’d just met the guy, I could tell he was dead serious. He would totally cut Tyh off on the sex front and from the sounds of it, even use tay on Tyh. I wasn’t sure what he meant about the whole feeling anxiety and guilt thing, but he had Tyh literally by the balls. I think Dakvir scared me just a little. Tyh sighed softly and his shoulders slumped a bit before he spoke.
“The bond won’t be one hundred percent complete until we’re intimate with each other in reality. As with everything to do with an Awh’anise, it all comes down to sex. Until I fully have you, I’ll be extremely aggressive towards others and very possessive of you. I can’t do anything about that either. It’s just the way the Lor’fei works for a Shal-hazal. Even after the bond is set, I’ll still be aggressive and possessive… just not as bad because I know I’ll be yours then. Over time those irrational feelings will mellow as I get more secure in the bond and don’t feel like every person who comes into contact with you is trying to take you from me.”
Tyh stopped speaking, but Dakvir still had that obstinate look to his jaw and Tyh wouldn’t meet his eyes. I knew Tyh was still holding out on Dakvir and judging by Dakvir’s body language, I didn’t doubt Dakvir knew that, too. I shook my head at Tyh’s actions. He was being an idiot. It wasn’t like not telling Dakvir everything would make any difference now. They’d already fucked, even if it was in the dream world, and that set the completion of the bond in motion. There wasn’t any turning back for Tyh no matter what Dakvir might want. This was so fucked up.
“Tell him the rest, Tyhlian. He needs to know,” I said in a soft voice hoping to prod Tyh into speaking when he didn’t continue.
Tyh glared at me, and a little snarl trickled out of his throat. The “Shut the fuck up, asshole” was pretty clear, but I just shrugged and gestured for him to continue. Tyh’s upper lip curled back on one side, flashing a little fang at me in annoyance. I stuck my tongue out at him, and he rolled his eyes at me.
“What is the rest, Tyhlian?” Dakvir asked in a very firm voice that left no wiggle room for Tyh.
“The one of the Blood who finds their Lor’fei… they’re devoted to their Lor’fei,” Tyhlian said without looking at Dakvir though continuing to stroke his skin almost absently.
“Okay. That’s a little odd sounding especially when you probably don’t even really know the person who’s become your Lor’fei, but it’s not my place to judge another species’ customs. What’s so bad about this devotion?” Dakvir asked with confusion. Tyh’s arm tightened around Dakvir again as if afraid that he’d try and leave.
“From the moment I found you in the dream world and realized that you were my Lor’fei until the day I die, I belong to you. My life is yours. When you die, so do I. I mean that literally, not as euphuism. I may get a few extra breaths, but when your heart stops beating, so does mine.”
Dakvir stared at Tyhlian in shock. I couldn’t blame the guy. That was some pretty heavy shit to lay on somebody especially if he’d been thinking they’d just be having some fun between the sheets with no strings attached.
“What? That can’t possibly be true. Things like that don’t happen. How would that even work?” Dakvir asked as he swung his gaze between me and Tyh. “If you’ll pardon the expression, that’s insane.”
“It’s true, I swear it, Dak. Shal-hazal and Vi’deshron brain chemicals are different from the average Awh’anise, and what makes us able to enter dreams also switches certain body rhythms into synch with our Lor’fei. You breath out, I breath in. Our hearts beat in syncopation with each other. Stuff like that. I can’t read your mind or feel your emotions like you can mine. It’s mostly autonomic things like breathing and heartbeats that are linked.”
“Wait a minute. So if Phaedra finds you and kills you, I die, too?” Fine threads of anger coloured Dakvir’s words. “Needless to say, I’m severely pissed at that, Tyhlian.”
“No. Only a Shal-hazal or Vi’deshron is connected on that kind of level with their Lor’fei. You’d live without me. I, on the other hand, literally can’t live without you.”
“Well, make it stop,” Dakvir said with a frown.
“It doesn’t work that way, Dak,” Tyh said softly. “Once started, nothing can stop it. This was the reason I didn’t want to take you to bed. Granted, I thought it would be mostly safe in the dream world since that’s not real. Apparently, it’s real enough to almost complete the bond. I can feel it tightening and drawing me closer to you. I should say I’m sorry about that, but… well, you said you can tell if I lie.”
“But… but that is messed up. And if I’d known about this Lor’fei thing I… well, okay maybe I would’ve agreed to chance the dream world thing anyway. But that’s beside the point. You really should’ve told me, Tyhlian. Keeping that information from me wasn’t fair.”
“I really didn’t think it would matter in the long run. The bond affects a Shal-hazal very strongly, and whether I had you now or later, just by finding you, it started to take hold over me. The chance of you being able to get rid of any more voices for me isn’t something I’m going to hold my breath on although I’ll be ecstatic if you can. I thought I could deal with the building strength of the bond since it’s only a matter of time, probably not a very long amount of time, before Phaedra finds me again. You won’t die when I do, Dak, and I’ve already told you that she is bound by a code of conduct to not harm innocents wherever possible.”
Get rid of some of the voices in Tyh’s head? Dakvir did that … already? Wow and how the hell had he managed it when no Shal-hazal Healer had been able to in several thousand years of trying. He really was Tyh’s Lor’fei if that was the case. And what the hell was that comment about Phaedra finding Tyh again? When had she found him the first time, and why was he still alive? The questions were just piling up and begging to be asked but I had to bite my tongue on them because Tyh still hadn’t spilled the big important information to Dakvir, and it was starting to look like he wasn’t going to if he could help it. Stars, but I hated to do this to my own brother, but if he kept this from Dakvir now, the man was going to be beyond pissed when he found out on down the road.
“There’s more, Dakvir. He loves you,” I said with an impatient sigh. “Or he will soon. He’s either fallen instantly in love with you, or with every second he spends with you, he’s becoming more enchanted with you. We have no choice. The Lor’fei is our vree’coo shal, the soul keeper of our dreams. A Lor’fei is the dream of those who shape dreams into reality.”
“Moswen,” Tyh growled out in warning.
“No… choice?” Dakvir said in a small voice.
The hair that’d been moving gently over the two of them stilled before drawing away from Tyh. Dakvir pushed against Tyh’s hold, but Tyh tightened his grip until Dakvir had to use his hair to pry himself out of Tyh’s arms. He stood and seemed to ignore the soft little sound of protest from Tyhlian. I watched in fascination as an expressionless mask settled over Dakvir’s face.
“Thank you for telling me what you have Shal-hazal Litch Will Tyhlian and Shal-hazal Moswen. I hope you understand this is all a bit of a shock to me. I need some time alone to think about everything I’ve just learned and how I’d like to proceed. Regardless of what happens, I will honour our bargain and try and help you get rid of the rest of the voices since you have fulfilled your end of the deal by having sex with me as I requested. If you’ll excuse me now,” Dakvir said with a polite but distant nod at Tyhlian and me before he left the bridge without a backward glance.
The expression on Tyh’s face made him look like he’d just been gutted. He made a low sound in his throat like what an abandoned kit would make, and it just about broke my heart to hear that from him. He stared at the doorway that Dakvir left through, and I could see that he desperately wanted to go to him. Why he didn’t, I had no idea. If I had a Lor’fei that was all hurt and confused because of something I’d done, I wouldn’t hesitate to go to them and try to make things right.
“When are you going to tell him the rest, Tyh?” I asked in a serious voice. “He needs to know.”
Tyh snapped his eyes back to me and glared. “This is entirely your fault. Would it have been so fucking hard to keep your gods damned big mouth shut?”
“Me? Oh, fuck no. This is not my fault. I’m not the one who took an alien Lor’fei to bed without explaining about it first. That is all you, Tyh. I know you had the same class I did about it, and telling an alien Lor’fei about what it means to have that sort of relationship is like rule number one. What the hell were you thinking? Did the voices make you throw reasoning to the wind and jump right to the fucking without explaining anything? Seriously, Tyh, you know better. I know you do.”
“I meant to tell him. But he’s just really…. You have no idea how hard it is for me to say no to him. And when it’s something I want too…. But he wouldn’t be all pissed off right now if you’d been able to keep your fucking mouth shut and let me tell him when I felt the time was right. I swear, Moswen, if Sha-ter’al wouldn’t get so mad about it, I’d strangle you to death right now. Trouble should have been your name. It sticks to you like glue. I swear by all the gods above and below, you’re going to pay for the disaster you just created.”
I stuck my tongue out at Tyh and made a rude hand gesture. Yeah, I probably would pay for whatever I’d done. Karma liked to fuck with me far too much to let my interfering with Tyh’s relationship with Dak slide. I mentally shrugged. I’d deal with it when it happened. I studied Tyh silently for several minutes, my heart hurting for him and how miserable he looked. His eyes kept straying to the door Dakvir had left through, and I could practically see the need in Tyh to go to his Lor’fei and comfort him.
“You’re going to have to tell him the rest, Tyh, and sooner is probably better than later. Although, if he reacted this badly to hearing that you love him because of the Lor’fei, he’s really gonna lose it when he finds out that he’ll come to love you, too— whether he wants to or not,” I pointed out gently.
Tyh gave a frustrated little growl and shot me a venomous look.
“You aren’t going to say a damn thing. You’ve done enough damage as it is. Matter of fact, you’re going to fuck off right now and go cause disaster on one of our other family members. You need a keeper. I swear, Moswen, one of these days, all that trouble that follows you around like a bad smell is gonna come crashing into you in the biggest clusterfuck that ever clustered a fuck.”
“Says you. I don’t mean for things to happen like they do. You know that. Stuff just… happens. None of this was actually my fault either. I’m not responsible for you finding your Lor’fei. I’m not the one who decided to have sex without telling my Lor’fei what that would mean for both of us either. Come on, Tyh, you’re my brother and I love you. I don’t want bad things to happen to you. You know that. I want you to be happy.”
I left the co-pilot’s chair and dropped into Tyh’s lap. I wound my arms around his neck and rubbed my cheek against his in a comforting gesture. I tunnelled my fingers through his hair, massaging his scalp. He tried to hold himself rigid against me and the gentle touches, but like any Awh’anise denied close contact, he ultimately couldn’t resist for long. There was nothing sexual about our embrace although we had gotten our freak on more than once with each other. Instead, we sat quietly, just stroking our fingers over each other, both of us softly purring in contentment for a long time before he spoke.
“You shouldn’t have found me, Moswen. My Hunter has already found me once. You’re going to be in a world of trouble if the Council finds out you know where I am or can track me down and didn’t report back immediately. In case you’ve forgotten, I do have a death order on my head. It was one thing to help me get off Awh’an when you could’ve claimed ignorance about the order being slapped on me. This is different. You know I’m a dead man, and family or not, you’re supposed to report seeing me immediately.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine. I was Dream-Stepping when I found you. There isn’t another Shal-hazal in existence who can track me when I do that. I’m not stupid, Tyh. Besides, Sha-ter’al sent me to tell you she had a way that might hold the madness back a little longer. It’s risky as hell because she’d have to do something to mess with your head a little, and to do that, I’d need to bring her to you. She’s willing to risk it, and so am I, but it’s ultimately your choice. We don’t want to see you die, Tyh. We love you, crazy fucker or not,” I said as I pressed my nose into Tyh’s hair and playfully licked the edge of his ear.
“I know you’re not stupid, Moswen. You’re scary brilliant and an actual fucking genius, but you do some incredibly dumb things. Like finding me when you really do know better than to do that no matter what Sha-ter’al says. And no, I don’t want her coming anywhere near me, never mind even having a general knowledge of where I am. The more ignorance she can claim about my location, the better,” Tyh replied with a little exasperation in his voice as he rubbed his cheek against mine in a comforting gesture.
“Okay. The offer is there if you want it. From both of us. This whole thing about a Hunter being sent after you stinks to high heaven. I can’t say for certain, but Cadao ordering this might be my fault. He’s never gotten over that whole surprise trip through the dream world I took him on when I was a kid. The guy just can’t let shit go even after I apologized and said I’d never do it again to him. He knows we’re a tighter than normal family and this would be a really cruel and twisted way of hitting me with some really nasty-ass payback for that stupid kid prank.
“All that aside, I’m dying to know what Dak meant about helping you get rid of the rest of the voices. What rest? Does that mean he got rid of some of them? Are you less nuts-o now? That’s too awesome for words.”
Tyh sighed, rolled his eyes at me and briefly explained what happened the first time he met Dakvir in the dream world. I listened intently, my excitement building for Tyh. I started to believe, like Tyh, that if Dakvir had done it once, he could very likely do it again.
“So, he was able to totally get rid of three of the people in your head? You’re sure about that? I mean absolutely sure?” I asked with a serious expression.
“Believe me, Moswen, I can tell that they’re gone. There’s a certain… feel to sharing your head with someone. They’re out of my head, and all I have now are their memories and knowledge, which is pretty fucking cool and damn handy by the way. But I’d even take losing that shit, too, if it meant the voices were gone permanently. Just for getting rid of three voices… I can never thank Dak enough.”
“And he says a void exists inside him? Like a for real void of the cease to exist kind? I mean, that can’t be, can it? You said there was also a void around his dream, too?” I asked with curiosity creeping into my voice. “And, hey, if he can get rid of the voices, maybe he can teach other people like him to do that for the other Litches, too. Holy fuck, Tyh, Dak and his people might be able to save the Litches!”
Tyh shook his head. “He says he has a void inside him and he’s got no reason to lie about it. I don’t get how that’s possible either. Dak is the only one like he is among his people, and they hate and fear him. He says that if he hadn’t been raised in secret on a remote space station, he’d have been killed as soon as he was born. He says that people like him are rarer than Vi’deshron are for Awh’anise and that he’s the only one he knows about through their entire history that’s actually made it to adulthood. The rest have been killed either at birth or while still kids.”
“Well, damn. That sucks. But maybe he could still help the other Litches. Do some sort of… I don’t know, rotating thing where he gets rid of a certain number of voices for each Litch over the course of months or even years. Tyh, you have to at least ask him about doing that. Even if he says no, you owe it to all the other Litches to ask. If you don’t want to piss him off even more, I could ask him for you. I’d be more than happy to do that.”
I tried to keep my expression neutral as I offered to talk to Dakvir. I was excited as hell at the thought of peppering Dakvir with the million and one questions that were running through my brain about the void he said he had inside him and his ability to feel other people’s emotions and how he’d managed to take away some of the voices in Tyh’s head. I could hardly wait to talk to him. Tyh must’ve seen something in my face because his eyes narrowed as he looked at me.
“Moswen, I love you. You know that. But, I swear to every god that I can think of, if you step one striped toe into Dak’s dreams and start messing around trying to figure out how he can have a void inside him or the hundred other things you want to find out about with regards to Dak, I will kill you. Dakvir is mine alone, and that includes his dreams,” Tyh said with deadly seriousness.
I opened my mouth to protest but snapped it shut and gave a put upon sigh. Aside from attracting trouble like a magnet that I really didn’t mean to, I had a curiosity that was damn near insatiable even for an Awh’anise. My family usually teased the hell out of me for that, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to know everything I could, and if it was something brand new and amazing, I wanted to know so badly that the curiosity damn near drove me crazy.
“Fine, I’ll keep out of his dreams… unless he asks me in,” I said with a sly look at Tyh.
He cuffed me affectionately in the back of the head and gave me a hard squeeze. I kissed Tyh on the lips and rested my head against Tyh’s. My fingers played in his hair, and I wriggled my hips in Tyh’s lap. I was surprised when that got me zero reaction in the cock department from Tyh. Even if he’d just had sex with Dakvir in the dream world, it had been the dream world and not reality. Not to mention that the Awh’anise sex drive was pretty damn high, and Tyh should’ve been popping wood after going without sex for so long, sex with Dakvir in the dream world notwithstanding. I pushed a little away from Tyh to stare at him in puzzlement until a little tidbit of info from the class on Shal-hazal Lor’fei finally filtered into my brain.
“So it’s true,” I murmured softly with a speculative look in my eyes.
“What’s that, Moswen?” Tyh asked as he smoothed a hand over my back, obviously enjoying the easy contact between us.
“In class, they said that when you find and acknowledge your Lor’fei, you’ll only become aroused by them. I didn’t quite believe that. I mean, come on, an Awh’anise only having desire for one person for the rest of his life? Seemed a little unbelievable. But, here I am, sitting in your lap, wriggling my very cute ass against you and… nothing.”
“I … It’s weird,” Tyh said, his eyes wide as he looked at me. “I still see you as a striking male, but it’s like appreciating a beautiful painting. There’s nothing sexual about it. I remember how much fun you are to fuck, but it’s like a fond memory or something.”
“Wow. I hope for your sake that Dakvir doesn’t ever go through with that earlier threat of his to hold your balls ransom until you do what he wants. I’d like to help you out with Dakvir, but I don’t have any idea how to deal with him and his sudden weird mood swing. It had to be something about the Lor’fei, but exactly what that was… I dunno.”
“Thanks, Moswen. I appreciate the thought. I’ll figure it out. There has to be a reason for him to have reacted like he did to what we told him about the Lor’fei. Yeah, that’s kind of a lot to take in all at once, but he seemed to be okay at first, and then he just…. He’s got some issues because of who and what he is. We’ve barely had time to really talk to each other with all the shit that’s been going on. From the little he’s told me, he’s been alone and lonely for a long time.”
“Then maybe you should tell him that he’ll never be alone again. He’s got you now. He probably doesn’t fully understand what that means. Maybe he needs reassurance, Tyh. This is all pretty new to him, and if you were surprised to hear the call of a Lor’fei and you know what one is, think of how out-there this all probably sounds to him. Honestly, he’s taking stuff way better than most people would.”
Tyh looked at me in surprise. I knew I was right, and I could see that dawn in Tyh’s eyes. If Tyh was struggling to come to terms with finding his Lor’fei, how much more difficult would everything be for Dak to come to grips with? At least Tyh knew what one was and what to expect, more or less. Dakvir had never even heard the word Lor’fei, never mind what the Lor’fei entailed, until he met Tyh. Hell, from what Tyh said, Dakvir had never heard of the Awh’anise either, so this was brand new on so many levels for the poor guy. Dakvir still didn’t know the full extent of the Lor’fei and wouldn’t until Tyh could sit him down and try to explain. Gods, but this was so very fucked up, and I probably hadn’t helped all that much by running my mouth without thinking first. I seriously needed to work on the skill set of knowing when to shut the fuck up.
“What’s this, Tyh?” I asked as I ran my fingers over what looked like a giant armband made of hair on Tyh’s left arm from wrist to nearly his shoulder. The hair wasn’t Tyh’s, and I kept catching the subtle scent of Ser’cin from it.
“It’s Dak’s. Sort of. It’s his hair and it won’t come off. It’s called a Risdepa, and it’s like a… claim or something for his people. Kinda like a shu’anad for us. It tells others that I’m officially taken. Cool, huh?”
“No shit? It’s really pretty. He has gorgeous hair. I wouldn’t believe it moves by itself if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Does it feel as good as I think it does when it moves over you during sex?” I asked as I pulled Tyh’s arm closer to examine the Risdepa. I sniffed and moaned softly, my cock going fully hard in seconds from the arousing scent.
“Before you ask, no, I don’t know why he smells like Ser’cin. It’s a damn good thing I am on the run for that alone. Do you have any idea how many fights I’d get into just to keep other Awh’anise from sniffing him like he’s some kind of drug? And yes, it feels better than you can imagine during sex,” Tyh said with a smile as he pulled his arm with the Risdepa away from me.
“I suppose you wouldn’t be in a sharing frame of mind with him just so I could check out his way cool sentient hair during sex, would you?” I asked with a teasing grin.
Tyh shoved me off his lap and didn’t seem surprised when I simply rolled and came up in a crouch. My tail swished from side to side, and I laughed even as I made a rude hand gesture at him. Tyh grinned and launched himself from his seat at me. His fingers brush along my ribs, and I was grateful for the extra training I’d been doing on the side. I could fight as well as any Awh’anise and even better than most because I was a career soldier, but I really wasn’t a match against a Litch class Shal-hazal. Hand-to-hand combat simply wasn’t as important for the Spirit class Shal-hazal as it was for the Litches.
“You’re getting better, sha-ter’bil. Been training?” Tyh asked as he tried to circle around me.
“The last guy I tangled with in a dominance fight was one of Mahira’s team mates. He taught me a few things after beating my ass in three moves and fucking me stupid for several hours. I knew he’d kick my ass, but he was so damn hot I just had to try,” I said with a grin.
“Forever the bottom, eh, Moswen?” Tyh snickered as he moved past me and snagged the end of my tail, giving it a hard yank and forcing a surprised yelp from me.
I whirled and scored my talons across Tyh’s chest. He barred his fangs at me and managed to raise a thin line of blood down my arm with a backhanded swipe. It was a long standing family joke that I always seemed to pick the guys, and sometimes the girls, whom I didn’t have a prayer of defeating in a dominance fight. I wanted to top most times, but I had the worst luck for choosing properly to get what I wanted. Not that I didn’t like bottoming because I did. Just not all the damn time. Tyh hauled me to him using his tail and swept my feet out from under me. I landed on my back with a solid thud. Tyh straddled my chest and pinned my arms to the floor.
“If I were so inclined, you’d be bottom again, Moswen,” he said with a smirk. “I think it’s a good look for you.”
I snorted, grinned and Dream-Stepped out from Tyh’s hold. I reappeared behind him and tried to lay an arm bar on him. Tyh twisted away from me at the last second, and I scowled at him, my hands on my hips.
“That was cheating, Moswen, and you know it,” Tyh said as he eyed me warily.
“Whatever. All’s fair in love and war. I almost had you. Lucky for you I was going easy on you. I could’ve Dream-Stepped you without warning. You’d have been puking up your toenails then, and I would’ve won.”
Tyh laughed, motioned me over and hugged me tight to him. I figured he probably missed the touches and rough play of the Awh’anise, so I was more than willing to help him out in that regard. He kissed me full on the mouth and wrapped his tail around both our legs. I knew exactly what he was thinking, and it made my heart as heavy as I knew his probably felt. For all we knew, it would be the last time we saw each other. He buried his hands in my hair and inhaled my scent deep into his lungs. I was sure that if this was the last time he saw one of his family members, he wanted to imprint the memory in his head.
“Go, Moswen. Tell Sha-ter’al that I may have a way to get rid of the voices myself. Don’t let her send anyone else after me either. It’s too dangerous. Even with you Dream-Stepping, I’m worried they’ll discover you found me and didn’t report me or try to bring me back. You’re a pain in the ass, but I love you anyway and don’t want anything bad happening to you.”
“I’m the only one who can Dream-Step, Tyh. Nobody knows how I do it, not even me. They can’t track me if I don’t even need to sleep to Dream-Walk. I’ll talk toSha-ter’al and if I need to, I’ll sic Mahira on her to get her to drop the idea.”
We both shuddered at that thought. Mahira was from the same brood as me and had entered military service. She’d quickly found her way into the special ops branch and even at the tender age of eighteen was a force to be reckoned with. She might have looked like a delicate little flower that was completely harmless, but she could kill you before you could blink.
I moved out of Tyh’s embrace, blew him a kiss and vanished. Tyh had stuff he needed to work out with Dakvir, and as much as I’d have loved to watch him struggle and be all awkward about it, they needed to do that alone. I was sure it’d go much faster that way, too. I also had questions about the Lor’fei I wanted answers for because I was so damn curious, and the only place to get those was on Awh’an.
There was also a little parting gift I intended to give to Tyh and Dakvir that involved setting a false trail in the dream world for Phaedra to go chase her tail over. I might not be a master of fighting techniques or information collection like Tyh was, but if there was one thing a Spirit class was good at, it was completely twisting the dream world to be whatever I wanted while appearing like nothing had been done to it at all.
Phaedra was very good from everything I’d heard, but I was the Spirit Will of my House and it would take another Spirit Will as good or better than I was to see what I was about to do. Phaedra wasn’t a Will, and by the time the false trail I’d laid started to unravel, Tyh and Dakvir would be long gone, and any trace of Tyh would have vanished like a dream on waking.
It was the least I could do for family.
Bao-ter: sibling – general term, may be full or half blood, of the same brood or not.
Vre’coo shal: soulkeeper of dreams. Deep affection used exclusively by Shal-hazal and Vi’deshroon.
Sha-ter’al: shared father’s other mate
Shu’anad: braid partner (husband/wife) – permanent pairing
I left the bridge without a backward glance, praying that I’d make it back to the room Tyh had shown me earlier before I broke down. The Lor’fei thing sounded too much like what a Teichle could do and in my experience often did without a thought of how it would make the person they were toying with feel once the deception was uncovered. My stomach churned unpleasantly in remembrance at the times I’d been the target of my parents’ well-meaning but misguided attempts to ensure that I was happy through emotional manipulation.
While I loved my parents dearly, I hated that they casually played with my emotions regardless of them claiming they were only doing it to help me. That was one kind of help I could certainly do without. Thanks to them, I despised having my emotions played with, and I didn’t like it when it happened to others either. I didn’t like that Moswen said Tyh had no choice in how he felt because of the Lor’fei. I was appalled that Moswen claimed Tyh was either already in love with me or would soon be because of the Lor’fei. Tyh hadn’t denied Moswen’s words were true, and despite a little flare of panic from Tyh when Moswen blurted that out, there hadn’t been anything in Tyh’s emotions to say that Moswen was wrong. That Tyh didn’t have genuine feelings for me or would come to have genuine feelings for me because of what the Lor’fei did to him was a body blow I hadn’t been prepared for at all. That he didn’t like me because I was me but because something out of his control was twisting his emotions and making him feel that way….
I hated the wounded animal sound that escaped my lips before I could bite it back.
My emotions were roiling through me like a storm I hadn’t experienced in years. Hurt and confusion tangled into one giant ball of upset that burned like acid in my stomach and felt like lead on my heart. Childish as it was, I wanted to scream that it was unfair and maybe kick or punch something. That was a little shocking as I’d never felt like doing physical violence in response to being upset in my entire life, and I had no idea where that impulse was coming from. Sad to say, I’d probably break my hand if I did try and punch something, and for whatever reason, that made me angry on top of the other emotions I was feeling.
My stomach heaved, and I tasted bile in the back of my throat at how strongly this Lor’fei thing reminded me of Teichle habits of casually messing with people’s emotions. I swallowed hard and actually leaned against the passageway wall for several seconds to steady myself. Quite a few deep breaths later, I straightened and made it back to the sparse room that was mine, but I had no idea how I managed it on legs that felt more than a little shaky.
Despite what other Laiokians thought, I was remarkably like any other person. I wanted to be loved not only by family but by a lover. I wanted people to genuinely want me around just because I was me and not because they had to tolerate my presence due to some outside force. While I was somewhat resigned to the way things worked in my life with regards to interaction with other people, it didn’t mean I liked it or didn’t wish things were different. I didn’t think I was a bad person, and I was sure that if somebody took the time to speak with me, they’d find that I was a pleasant person to be around. I was sure that on the inside, I was a decent enough guy that people would like to be around me without the twisting of their emotions to make me more… palatable. I’d once had someone manipulated into being with me with disastrous results thanks to my parents, and I had zero desire to have it occur again.
My parents feared that I’d never get the chance to have someone to call my own because of who I was and who they were. It wasn’t that far off a worry either. My parents had only found each other through a bureaucratic error when they’d both been sent to the same research station at the very edges of Laiokian space. They were determined that I would have some measure of happiness and companionship and set out to do what they felt was right for me to achieve that goal.
I found out later that they’d monitored my emotions for months, biding their time until the right combination of events happened. When they’d felt my intense interest in a girl the same age as me who’d been visiting the research station with her parents, they’d twisted her emotions to give me what they thought I’d wanted and would be happy with. They also warped her parents’ emotions so that they approved of a relationship with me instead of reacting with the horror any Laiokian would at the thought of one of their offspring socializing with The Void.
I didn’t have the courage to approach the girl, so I’d only watched her from the shadows, creating vivid daydreams in my mind of what it’d be like if we were a couple. She starred in pretty much every masturbation fantasy I had from the moment I saw her, and I probably walked around half-way hard for days. I was shocked clear down to my toes when she sought me out one day when before, she’d acted as if I didn’t exist. I thought that she’d finally realized I was more than the Void and wanted to get to know me but had just needed to work up the courage to approach me. I was thrilled beyond words when she sat next to me in the cafeteria, introduced herself and started talking to me.
We’d enjoyed walks in the hydroponics bay and animated discussions on a wide variety of topics. She told me about things that I’d only read about or seen on a computer. I could feel her pleasure with the experiences as if it had been my own. She’d held my hand, hugged me, and let me hug her, and my first sexual kiss had been from her. Feeling her soft breasts press against my chest as her hair tangled with mine had been beyond erotic, and I was still amazed that I hadn’t blown my load right then and there. I was thrilled and damn near dizzy with pleasure that she was reciprocating my feelings. I had felt something was a little off about her emotions but didn’t have the experience then to realize what was wrong. It took me nearly a week to figure out that she was only with me because of what my parents had done to her emotions. As soon as I found out, I forced them to stop and set things right.
Once she’d been restored to her own emotions, there’d been an ugly scene. She’d called me an abomination and said that being near me made her physically ill. She’d screamed that I was the most disgusting, vile thing she’d ever seen and that I should have been killed when I was born. The hate and revulsion coming from her and directed at me had been staggering and dropped me to my knees. She’d spat on me then and hissed that I had better not have contaminated her with my touch.
I’d been a shy, insecure seventeen-year-old at the time with my very first crush.
I’d been devastated by her words and actions. That was also when I learned the consequences of a little too much of my void entering another person. That girl didn’t really exist as a person anymore. She walked and slept and talked when spoken to, but there was no personality existing in her anymore. I think I might’ve been trying to erase her hate and disgust of me, but I had no experience in using my void like that, and I went a little too far. The best phrase for her state now was a mindless drone that followed orders but had no thoughts of her own. Her parents had, understandably, raised a huge stink over the incident and alerted my government that I existed, thinking, perhaps, that I’d be taken away and put to death for simply existing.
The intelligence agency of my government had been very interested in me after that event. They’d come to the space station and offered to take me to Laiok where I could get training in using my void. My parents had been against it, sure that the government was setting up to whisk me away and kill me. I’d been curious but wary, knowing full well what typically happened to Voids. I also couldn’t see how they’d be able to help me learn to use my void when people like me were extremely rare and basically killed at birth.
It wasn’t until my parents screwed around with the emotions of the agents and had them tell us the bare truth of why they thought they could help me control my void that I agreed to go with them. Apparently, my government experimented on the Teichle children given to them and had managed to produce a few Voids from breeding certain Teichle together. They didn’t allow the Voids to live much past seven or eight years old out of fear that they’d run amok and that both angered me and made me feel sick. Despite that, my government knew more than I did about my void and how I could use it without turning somebody into a mindless husk, and they were willing to share that information with me.
My time at the government facility was brief, enlightening, horribly depressing and disgusting. I felt awful for the children kept prisoner there and what was done to them. I still wished there was something I could do to get them out of there. I was positive the only reasons I was allowed to leave the facility when I wanted to were that my government wasn’t sure of the extent of my abilities or how it could exploit them as well as having both my Teichle parents with me. I had learned control and finesse from them even as they tried to turn my void into some kind of weapon for hire. The learning process hadn’t been pleasant, and there were some things I’d done under the guise of learning to control and use my void that I wished I could erase from my mind. I had benefitted from going to the facility, but the price had been steep for more than just me.
I stood in the center of the room and carefully breathed in and out as I tried to shake off the bad memories and hold back the tears that threatened to fall. I hadn’t thought about that girl or my time at the government facility in years and assumed I was over the experiences, but apparently I’d thought wrong. My breath shuddered out of me on a little sob, and I bit my lip in an effort to hold back the sharp emotional pain slicing into me.
When the emotions of that old hurt refused to let me go, I opened myself to the void inside me and let the utter emptiness drain away all the painful things I was feeling. My void couldn’t take away the memories that caused my pain without losing myself so it was only a temporary fix for me, but right at that moment, I would take whatever I could get. Once again, I’d been shown a glimpse of something happy and bright and had it snatched from me. The void inside me ate the pain until there was nothing left. I let it take the fledgling happiness I’d allowed myself to feel, too, as that happiness was now connected to a pain that hurt even worse than I’d experienced with that girl. When all the jagged feelings were swallowed by my void, I felt hollow inside and less like I was going to shatter into a million sharp pieces.
I didn’t really feel any better though.
My heart hurt. I genuinely liked Tyh. I thought he liked me too. I thought he desired me like I desired him. Feeling his body moving with mine had been the best sex I’d ever had, and even with my rather limited experience, I knew it had been something very, very good by anyone’s standards. Having him tell me that he could barely hold himself in check because he wanted me so much was a heady pleasure.
But it was a lie.
He was forced to feel things for me that he didn’t. I felt like I was seventeen and being rejected all over again. I slowly sank to my knees, my head bowing in defeat. My hair wrapped around me defensively, and my throat tightened. Pain was suddenly back with a vengeance, and it had nothing to do with old hurts. It was new pain and it was so much worse. My void just wasn’t big enough to consume the amount of hurt and betrayal I was feeling.
I really should have known better. Nobody ever wanted the abomination of the Void.
I looked around in confusion. Wherever I was, it was not on the space ship. I wondered if Tyh had somehow knocked me out and then dropped me off on some random planet. It made a sort of twisted sense to me if he really was set on keeping me protected from everybody who might approach me. I was god-only-knew-where with no civilization as far as I could see. Apprehension made my stomach roll unpleasantly. I wasn’t afraid yet because I was sure Tyh wouldn’t leave me by myself someplace where I could be hurt, but it probably wouldn’t take a whole lot to get me to the point of fear and panic. I took a few deep calming breaths that settled my nerves far less than I’d have liked and thought I’d better take stock of my situation.
A quick pat down my body told me I had nothing on me to communicate with anyone at a greater distance than however far my yells would travel. I also had no food or water. My fikdeas was also not on its customary place at my hip, so I was weaponless as well. Not that I really knew what to do with a weapon, but still, it would’ve offered me a little comfort. I could use my hair in defence, and I did have my ability as the Void, but as stupid as it was, I would’ve felt worlds better if I had something weapon-like to clutch tightly in my fist.
I scowled when I thought that this was all the fault of the Lor’fei thing and the insane stuff it was making Tyh feel. With Tyh starting on the downside of crazy and being forced to feel irrationally possessive over me, dumping me on a random planet without intelligent life would be an excellent way to keep me sequestered. I sincerely hoped that wasn’t the case. But if it was, I needed to get my bearings quickly and make the best of things until I could convince Tyh to let me go.
I’d never seen anything like the landscape I was looking at. It was lushly beautiful and almost seemed to be exploding with life. Two suns burned in the sky, and my body felt a little heavier than I was used to as well as the air being a little thinner. It was very warm, and I debated taking off my jacket when I felt sweat start to trickle in rivulets down my spine and under my arms.
“No, he would not stash you away on an uninhabited planet for safe keeping without talking to you first. That would upset you, and your life and happiness means more to him than his own.”
I whirled around to face the speaker, a million questions forming in my mind. My mouth dropped open in surprise at what faced me. A creature larger than anything I’d ever seen was coiled up in front of me staring at me placidly. It was covered in scales in shades of brown that varied from nearly black to almost white. It was serpentine, and its body was thicker than I was tall which was considered above average for most. Its head was massive, and when it opened its mouth to blow delicate purple smoke rings into the air above my head, I was sure I could’ve easily stood in its mouth without my head touching the roof or my outstretched arms touching its teeth on either side. It had fangs wider and longer than both my legs put together, and the tongue that flicked out was probably wider than my body. It tilted its head and regarded me with an eye easily three times the size of my head.
“Good. You are not afraid of me. This will be much easier without you cowering in fear.”
I wasn’t sure how the creature was speaking to me or even how it was able to speak. Its lips hadn’t moved as I heard the words. My eyes widened in surprise when I realized that it was speaking in perfect Laiokian without a trace of an accent just like Tyh had when he approached me in the hotel. My brow furrowed as I puzzled out how that could be. In a flash, my mind leaped to the only logical conclusion.
I was dreaming.
Relief poured through me at the knowledge that Tyh hadn’t dropped me on some random planet by myself. My knees felt weak, and I sat abruptly on the ground, tension leaving me so suddenly I couldn’t have possibly remained standing. If it was a dream, then what I was experiencing wasn’t real, and the immense creature in front of me couldn’t hurt me because it wasn’t real either. I had no idea why I’d dreamed the thing up, but I had been very upset earlier. I didn’t even remember closing my eyes and falling asleep. I felt a little giddy that I hadn’t been abandoned on some random planet by Tyh in an overactive attempt to keep others from me.
“I am real. We are called Fire Snakes by many species, the Awh’anise among them, and I am the one assigned to Litch Tyhlian. You are his Lor’fei, and so by extension, I am also assigned to you. You cannot pronounce my name so you may call me what you wish.”
I gave the creature a suspicious look. It sounded very real and reasonable, but it had to be the product of my dreaming mind. There was a telepathic, hundred-foot-long giant snake that traipsed around in dreams and was apparently known to several species, yet I’d never heard squat about them with all the contact I had with alien species? Yeah, right. I’d believe that when my people welcomed me into the fold with open arms. To know what I’d been thinking and to have responded accordingly, it was obviously the product of my dreaming mind. That it spoke perfect Laiokian, something that was never spoken off-planet or around non-speakers, was another huge clue that the creature was the construct of a dream.
“You likely have far more questions than We are willing to answer. However, We can tell you some of the basics of the Lor’fei and the Awh’anise to help you better understand your situation with Litch Tyhlian. Typically, this task would fall to your Lor’fei, but he is regretfully not quite stable at the moment and may not remember all that he is to share with you were he in his right mind.
“We are the ones that helped the Awh’anise realize their potential to become Shal-hazal. There is a reason for that, but We are not able to disclose that at this time. Litch Tyhlian cannot enter this dream while We speak with you as Our words are for you alone. While the Shal-hazal are near gods of the dream world, We are the gods of dreams that they aspire to be.
“You have experienced Shal-hazal in your dreams and you know that they are real. By the same token, We are real as well. Just because you have never seen one of Us does not, in turn, make Us unreal. In your current location on a space ship, I cannot appear as there is simply not enough room for my physical form. Dreams are also easier and far more private.”
“Think of your situation and what you know has gone before with Litch Tyhlian.”
Whatever argument I’d started died in my throat as I thought. It was true that I’d initially thought Tyh was a sexy product of my dreaming mind. He’d proved otherwise in a rather startling fashion. There was also the incredibly good shared sex dream we’d had that further proved that the things I’d thought I’d known about dreams were miniscule. My cheeks warmed at the memory of the dream sex and my cock started to harden. I heard a soft coughing sort of noise and glanced at the Fire Snake. I could only call what I saw in its expression amusement and a very knowing look that made my cheeks feel even hotter with embarrassment.
“Litch Tyhlian has begun the final step necessary for the bond to be completed. The two of you will need to copulate in the waking world to complete it though. That was not the method We favoured for the completion of the Lor’fei bond, but certain instincts are apparently near impossible to override. It is Our suggestion that you mate sooner rather than later. Litch Tyhlian’s possessiveness will only increase until the bond is set for him, and you run the risk of rousing his aggression to unacceptable levels. He may not intend to hurt you in his eagerness, but that possibility does exist. We have not been able to completely breed animal instincts and aggression out of the Awh’anise, and after intense study and debate, We have come to the conclusion that they function best as they are and are better suited to Our goals for all their violence and fierce family bonds.”
I scowled. I seriously didn’t like the idea of some giant snake basically demanding that I get my freak on as soon as possible. That was… rude. And embarrassing as hell. And maybe a little kinky sounding to be ordered to bend and spread. My cheeks felt like they were burning, and my cock was now rock hard. The Fire Snake gave me another knowing look, and I was absolutely certain that it knew I was aroused. That embarrassed me all over again even as it tweaked my kink buttons. I was sure my cheeks were on fire now and thanked my lucky stars that my dark skin made seeing a blush impossible. I tried to ignore my embarrassment and dragged my attention back to asking things I wanted to know. I was somehow sure that if I didn’t grasp this opportunity to ask what I wanted now, the next chance might be a long way down the line, if ever again.
“What if I don’t want this bond to be completed? How do Tyh or I stop it?”
“It does not matter what you or Litch Tyhlian think you want. The Lor’fei is designed to make a Shal-hazal with great potential even stronger by restoring the Shal-hazal’s other half. That restoration is then added to the Bloodline, strengthening and furthering the direction that the Shal-hazal as a group must travel to accomplish Our goals.
“Granted, We did not fully take into account the fact that the Awh’anise are bi-sexual as a species and that the Lor’fei would pair up same sex partners as often as it does. Ultimately, it is of little consequence though as there are enough Lor’fei breeding pairs to achieve what We require.”
“Excuse me? Did you just say that the Lor’fei is some big experiment to you? That you’re toying with peoples very lives in the name of whatever science you’re doing? Oh, that is so not cool.”
I was appalled at that information. If I thought playing with an individual’s emotions was wrong, changing an entire species for the sake of an experiment was beyond that to a degree that I couldn’t even comprehend. Just who the hell did these Fire Snakes think they were? And what were these goals they kept mentioning?
“Our goals with the Awh’anise, and the Shal-hazal specifically, are much more expansive than some little curiosity-appeasing science experiment. We cannot share those goals with you, but rest assured that what We are doing is for the greater good of all living things in a multitude of universes.”
I snorted. Yeah, right. Like I hadn’t heard that before. From my own government no less. Things done under that kind of ideal always ended badly for everybody concerned. I stood and crossed my arms over my chest giving the creature a no-nonsense look that usually quelled difficult clients into doing what I needed them to do. Much to my annoyance, my look didn’t seem to be working on the Fire Snake and seemed to actually be amusing it. I scowled at it and briefly wondered if I’d get away with punching it in the nose. The sudden violent urge startled and confused me, and I blew out a slow breath as I reigned in my emotions and clamped them down hard.
The Fire Snake sounded pretty firm about not revealing anything more about whatever their plans were, but I was a professional negotiator, and I was very good at my job. I was determined to get more out of the creature before my dream ended. I was also sure that if they were the ones that came up with the Lor’fei, they had to know of a way to stop it. If they really were powerful enough to change a species to suit whatever their endgame was, then they had to know how to stop the effects of the Lor’fei, something they created.
“Do not bother attempting to wring the answer you seek about Our goals from Us. We are far older than you can imagine and have had people much more experienced try and wrestle the answers they want from Us.”
I smirked a little. “Well, they are them, and I am me, and you’ve never had to deal with me.”
The Fire Snake made that strange coughing noise again, and pink and green smoke curled from its nostrils. I was guessing I’d just amused the hell out of it again. Fine. Whatever. What exactly the Fire Snakes were ultimately after, I didn’t really care about except for curiosity’s sake. Whether or not there was actually a way to stop the effects of the Lor’fei was what I needed to know.
“You are free to ask Us what you would like with regards to the Awh’anise, Litch Tyhlian or the Lor’fei. As you are of another species, it would be in your best interests to demand that Litch Tyhlian share with you the information he has for non-Awh’anise about dealing with an Awh’anise. They are somewhat unique in their interactions among each other, and it is very likely you will have never encountered a species quite like them. Some of their customs may seem strange or even shocking, but you will be able to handle Litch Tyhlian much better if you understand how the Awh’anise operate.”
I snorted softly. “I’m a professional negotiator. I’ve seen and interacted closely with literally dozens of species. I don’t foresee any trouble with figuring out how to deal with Tyhlian.”
“Really? That is most excellent then. You should have an easier time settling with Litch Tyhlian regardless of the short amount of time you will likely have together. It would seem that the Lor’fei has done well by Litch Tyhlian. Pity you are not female and cannot bear him any offspring. The results could have been most interesting.”
“Excuse me? Short time together? Do you know something I don’t? And I’d greatly appreciate it if you didn’t discuss my—” I waved my hand vaguely, “my reproductive abilities. That’s very private and none of your damn business.”
“Apologies. The Awh’anise are very open about sex and reproduction, and We sometimes forget that most species are not that way.”
Forgot, my ass. I was willing to bet every last thing I owned that the creature in front of me forgot nothing. I narrowed my eyes, sure that the Fire Snake was having a good internal chuckle at my expense. I was startled when I realized that I wasn’t getting a damn thing emotionally from the creature. I pressed hard against my mental shields and still got nothing, which was highly unusual. I frowned, threw caution to the winds and dropped them completely, nearly struck dumb in shock and relief when still no emotions assaulted me from the Fire Snake. It was like the creature was a void and there was absolutely nothing there for me draw feeling from. It was utterly amazing.
“We assumed that you knew of the Hunter sent to kill Litch Tyhlian because of his encroaching insanity. If you did not know, he most certainly should have told you before doing anything else. Do not fear that his Hunter will harm you. The Hunter is prevented from harming others in the pursuit of a Litch. In the instance of a Litch having a Lor’fei, the Hunter is forbidden from harming or killing the Litch’s Lor’fei. Litch Tyhlian would never intentionally hurt you regardless of how mentally unstable he becomes. He puts your well-being above his, and should the situation demand it, he will remove himself from the area by whatever means are necessary before he could hurt you.”
“I already know that,” I said with a little exasperation even as I poked at the place where I should’ve been getting feelings from the Fire Snake. That there was nothing was too cool and made me want to examine it even closer. “We’ve already had a run-in with his Hunter.”
“And he yet lives? Interesting. How did he escape?” Gold smoke puffed from the Fire Snake’s mouth in what I would swear was the shape of a question mark. Nothing that felt like the curiosity I would’ve expected from the creature though.
“They fought, she grabbed me, that pissed me off as she interrupted an… intimate moment, so I choked her into unconsciousness. Tyh hustled us out of my hotel room, to his ship, and we left as quickly as possible.”
“You choked a seasoned Hunter into unconsciousness?” The Fire Snake looked me up and down, and if it’d had eyebrows, I swear that it would’ve quirked one up. “I find that very difficult to believe.”
I moved my hair up and around my body, weaving it in complicated patterns that couldn’t be excused as something the non-existent wind was causing. The Fire Snake tilted its massive head and watched my hair dance around my body for a few more minutes before nodding minutely.
“We have never seen anything like your hair. Do all your people have that ability or are you unique among them?”
I laughed a little bitterly, and the Fire Snake exhaled another question mark, this time in shimmery white.
“I am most certainly unique among my people. Not with regards to the hair. All Laiokians have sentient hair. I am unique in colour and for the fact that I have a void inside me that makes my own people fear and hate me. I’m also a receiving empath.”
Now, why the hell did I just tell the Fire Snake all that? I scowled at the creature and wondered if it was rooting around in my head, prodding me to tell it stuff that I hadn’t intended to. I should’ve slammed my shields into place, but I was too damn curious about the lack of emotions from it to do that.
“A void? Inside you? This is true?” Surprise was in the Fire Snake’s eyes and for the first time, I felt emotions spike the tiniest bit from the creature. “We have never heard of such a thing and Our knowledge is impossibly vast. How did this void end up inside you?”
“I am The Void. I was born this way, and that’s one of the things that makes my people hate me to the point that they would love to see me dead. They know what I can do with my void, and they fear that.”
The Fire Snake waited for me to continue, black smoke with sparkles twisting from its nose in the same patterns as I’d moved my hair earlier. I said nothing more and just watched the Fire Snake. Given that it was the dream world and the passage of time there had nothing to do with the reality of time passing, it still felt like hours standing there staring down the Fire Snake, waiting to see which one of us would twitch first. After what seemed like forever, I felt the barest hints of curiosity and admiration coming from it along with tiny threads of impatience. How I managed to keep the smirk off my lips, I had no idea, but the Fire Snake had just blinked as far as I was concerned.
“What can you do with your void, and why would your people fear that?”
Curiosity was starting to come through stronger from the Fire Snake, but it was still at a very low level. I was positive that if my shields were in place, I wouldn’t be able to detect the emotion at all. That was amazing to me since I’d never had that happen before, and I wondered how the Fire Snake was able to bury its feelings so deeply.
“I can permanently erase a person’s personality with my void. I did something similar to a few of the voices in Tyhlian’s head. I somehow pulled three of them from Tyhlian’s mind into my void, destroying them without harming Tyhlian. If I can remove the rest of the voices in his head without damaging Tyhlian mentally, then he won’t go insane, and he won’t need to be hunted down and killed.”
“Really? Fascinating. We have never been able to figure out how to keep the Litches from going insane without destroying their minds. This is very welcome news. Should We assume that if you can do this for Litch Tyhlian, you would be able to do it for other Litches?” Although there was nothing in the Fire Snake’s tone to suggest it, a little eagerness flitted through its emotions.
“I have no idea. I don’t even really know how it happened in the first place. All I am sure of is that I didn’t fry his brain when I did… whatever it was that I did. But if I can do it again, Tyhlian won’t have to die.”
“And that is important to you? Why? You hardly know him, and We thought you wanted to stop the effects of the Lor’fei? If Litch Tyhlian were to be killed in the very near future, which seems likely, the effects of the Lor’fei would halt. Is that not what you had asked Us to do? To stop the Lor’fei? You asked for a solution, and We are offering one.”
I opened and closed my mouth without saying anything. I wasn’t sure what to answer. Yes, I was angry that I’d been roped into the Lor’fei without being given a choice first. But there was also a part of me that panicked just a little at the thought of not being bound to Tyh. I didn’t understand where that was coming from and frowned. I knew Tyh’s feelings for me were the product of the Lor’fei and not real.
“Tyhlian shouldn’t have to die to stop the Lor’fei. That’s not fair.” Oh that sounded very mature and rational. I mentally snorted at myself.
“Love is not always fair and often not easy. That is what We have been lead to believe makes it worthwhile to pursue. It creates very strong ties that are difficult to break, sometimes impossible. We are intrigued by this emotion and have used it in creating the Lor’fei but do not understand it fully despite millennia studying it.”
The Fire Snakes didn’t understand love? That was interesting and a little sad. Maybe that lack of understanding was why I was barely getting anything emotionally from it. In my mind, love was a basic concept. I’d never met any species that didn’t know and feel some kind of love. It was a touch creepy that the Fire Snakes didn’t get it but still used the emotion when setting up the Lor’fei. And if they didn’t understand love, then how could they spout off about it? That just didn’t make sense.
“What Tyhlian feels for me isn’t real. It’s just the Lor’fei. You can’t force love into being. Emotions that aren’t his and that are being shoved down his throat are not love. It’s just… wrong. Why can’t you see that if you’re supposed to be this all powerful creature that can change the way an entire species develops? If you say you don’t understand the concept of love, how can you say that what Tyhlian feels is real since you wouldn’t actually know genuine love if it bit you on the… tail?”
“We said We did not fully understand the emotion. We have great understanding of the concept of love from the love a parent feels for their child to family love to how lovers feel. The concept is simple. Emotions are not. Did Litch Tyhlian tell you that his feelings were not real?”
Okay, the Fire Snake had me on that one. To know what love was and why people might feel it was pretty easy to get. It was correct that emotions were the tougher thing to understand. I’d been dealing with understanding emotions on a level that most people, regardless of species, never had to, and I was still confused sometimes at what I felt from people or why they felt certain things at certain times.
“No. Not exactly. His brother Moswen said that Tyhlian either loved me right away or was rapidly falling in love with me because of the Lor’fei. Tyhlian didn’t deny it, and I can feel it when people lie.”
Surprise trickled from the Fire Snake along with threads of resignation. “Spirit Moswen was with Litch Tyhlian when you learned of the Lor’fei? This explains things greatly.”
“It does? What, exactly does it explain?”
I’d thought Moswen was a nice enough guy even if he’d made a very untimely interruption. I wasn’t sure why I was getting resignation from the Fire Snake where Moswen was concerned.
“Spirit Moswen is unique. He is a Throw-back. Instinctually, he is like the Awh’anise were when We first discovered them. He is dangerous in the same way that a half-wild animal is dangerous. Throw-backs can be rational, but they can also fall into a feral state that is little better than an enraged beast. To become a Shal-hazal takes incredible mental strength in addition to the genetic quirk We boosted along, and not every Awh’anise marked as one of the Blood survives Shal-hazal training.
“A Throw-back Shal-hazal is a rarity, and most do not have the mental strength and stability to succeed. Most die or are killed through their reckless actions when they cannot control their baser selves. Currently, Spirit Moswen is the only Throw-back Shal-hazal there is. He is also the only Shal-hazal that can Dream-Step, which is to enter the dream world without needing to be asleep first as all other Shal-hazal must be. This is a talent that occurs far, far less than We anticipated.”
“And this all means… what to me? I’m not hearing an explanation for my situation at all in what you just said.”
“Spirit Moswen seems to pay for having the ability to Dream-Step by having a very twisted sense of karma. Disaster appears to follow him around and touches all those close to him. Of course, the disaster that seems horrible at first typically turns out to be beneficial in the end. But the difficulties in achieving that end are not pleasant. We do not envy his Fire Snake in the least Their task of watching over Spirit Moswen.”
I couldn’t have said for sure, but there almost seemed to be a shiver that rippled through the coiled body of the Fire Snake at the idea of having to watch over Moswen. There was a little horror in its emotions, too. While that reaction was interesting, I still didn’t have an answer.
“And again, what does that have to do with me?” I knew I sounded a little snippy, but I was actually starting to lose patience with the Fire Snake and the way it said it would answer questions but wasn’t really.
“Spirit Moswen told you something that Litch Tyhlian should have told you at the beginning. You reacted badly to the news and caused Litch Tyhlian great distress, which We sensed. We came to speak with you and to ease your mind of what troubles you regarding the Lor’fei. In doing so, We have learned that you likely hold the key to correcting the insanity of the Litches, which has long frustrated Us as a problem. This pleases Us. We will aid you in discovering what that key is if at all possible. You have given Us some things to consider and have possibly opened a channel that We had not thought to use.”
“Terrific. I’m happy for you, but that still leaves Tyhlian feeling things for me that he truly doesn’t. I can’t… I can’t deal with that. I hate it when my emotions are twisted and played with, and I hate seeing it done to others, too. Aside from Tyhlian dying, isn’t there some way to stop the Lor’fei?”
The Fire Snake sighed softly, and pale blue smoke drifted from its nose. Annoyance again trickled from it, and it regarded me with a hard stare. I refused to squirm at the look although I really wanted to. Thank god for my years of work as a negotiator facing down hostile people. I crossed my arms over my chest and waited. Tinges of red smoke joined the blue as the Fire Snake exhaled again. It was obviously irritated with me, but like before, it broke first. I was proud that I didn’t smirk in triumph.
“The Lor’fei cannot make a Shal-hazal love someone that they wouldn’t come to love anyway. The Lor’fei only speeds the process. A Shal-hazal may claim instant love upon finally seeing their Lor’fei, but in reality, they have typically spent months searching and subtly learning about their Lor’fei before they ever meet. Some Shal-hazal are more cautious and it may take longer still after finally seeing their Lor’fei, but eventually, they realize they have been lead to the other half of themselves.”
That still didn’t really make sense as Tyh saw me in one dream before he found me in reality several days later. He said he found me in dreams almost immediately after hearing me calling him. That wasn’t jibing with what the Fire Snake just said. Either it was lying, and I couldn’t really see why it would do that, or there was something else going on with Tyh and this Lor’fei thing.
“Tyhlian said he found me in dreams basically as soon as he heard me calling. He found me in reality only a few days later. That timeline doesn’t work with your explanation.”
The Fire Snake sighed again, and orange-yellow smoke plumed out of its mouth. I had to work hard to suppress a giggle when I thought that the smoke cloud looked highly annoyed. It closed its eyes for several seconds, and while I wasn’t absolutely certain, I thought that it was struggling for patience. It opened its eyes again and spoke.
“Persistent are you not? We are grudgingly impressed with the way you are dragging information from Us as annoying as it is. Few Shal-hazal are revealed as Litches. Of those, a fair number suicide when they find out what they are. They are aware that it is a death sentence from the very beginning. Rarely do Litches live as long as Litch Tyhlian has and remain relatively sane. Because of that, the chances of a Litch hearing the call of a Lor’fei never mind actually finding him or her are slim before they are lost to madness. Since their time is very limited, they are much more open to realizing where their hearts lie.”
“So, you’re saying that because Tyhlian is going crazy and doesn’t have much time left, that’s why he loves me? That’s bullshit and frankly insulting.”
The Fire Snake fixed me with a look that clearly said it was getting very impatient with me. I could feel a steady stream of annoyance and exasperation from it that seemed to be getting stronger. I didn’t much care at that point as I wanted clear answers, and I wasn’t getting them to my satisfaction.
“Litch Tyhlian, at the very least, cares for you deeply. He more than likely loves you as Spirit Moswen said. Of the hundreds upon thousands of possibilities of people that could have been chosen to be Litch Tyhlian’s partner, you are the single one who is perfect for him in all aspects. We do not understand why you are fighting this when We know that being loved for who you are is your fondest wish. Litch Tyhlian does not wish you to change and thinks you are wonderful just as you are. Perhaps you should think on that before you try and reject all that he offers you.
“We do not think We can say anything more to sway you. We have given you more than enough information to form an opinion on the Lor’fei and understand that it will benefit you greatly. We still strongly suggest that you speak with Litch Tyhlian about the Awh’anise, the Lor’fei and his feelings for you. You claim to be a receiving empath and to be able to tell the truth of a person’s words. If that is the case, trust in what your empathic ability tells you about Litch Tyhlian’s true feelings. We also recommend that you copulate with Litch Tyhlian in reality as soon as possible. It will help both of you to do so.”
I started to ask another question, but the Fire Snake vanished in a swirl of rainbow smoke. I scowled in the general direction of where the Fire Snake had been. I still had more things I wanted to ask it. The dream started to turn fuzzy around the edges, and my eyes suddenly felt heavy and like they had to close. I fought the sensation for as long as I could, which probably wasn’t all that long, before they slid shut.
I woke up on the floor of my room on the space ship. I felt cold and stiff, and there were tracks on my face that felt tight with dried tears. I sort of expected to feel muzzy-headed since I’d just woken up but was surprisingly sharp and focused. I had no idea how much time had passed between my falling asleep and waking up, but it had to be several hours at least for my muscles to feel the way they did. I surprised myself a little at being annoyed with the Fire Snake for not waiting until I’d crawled into the semi-comfortable bed before dragging me into a dream.
I stood and immediately wobbled dangerously as upset with threads of fear crashed into me. I gasped and slammed my shields down, the emotions muted to a fraction of the unshielded ones as soon as I did that. I shook my head a little and staggered to the bed, sitting heavily. Tyh was still upset. I knew he had been earlier, and apparently nothing had changed in that regard. The emotions were very strong even through my shields. That probably meant that he was fairly close to me. I sat for several long minutes thinking about what to do.
The Fire Snake said I should trust my empathic abilities about whether or not Tyh’s feelings for me were real or just a product of the Lor’fei. I was experienced enough now to recognize whether or not the emotions I felt from an individual were true or manipulated. The Fire Snake had also said I needed to speak with Tyh about other things as well. I was curious about his people now; something that I believed was the intent of the Fire Snake when it had dropped all the tantalizing tidbits it had. A tiny smile quirked up my lips when I thought that the Fire Snakes seemed to be rather sneaky, devious creatures. I didn’t like the idea of doing what they wanted, but that was the most reasonable sounding thing to do.
I wished there was a sink in my room so I could wash the dried tears off my cheeks. Unfortunately, there wasn’t so I needed to make a stop at the washroom before going to Tyh. I assumed, from the strong emotions I could read from him even through my shields that he was likely in his room just a few doors down from mine. I sighed softly, stood, palmed the door open and very nearly tripped over Tyh where he sat leaning against the wall next to my door. He pushed himself to stand. Everything about his posture screamed unhappiness to me, and I didn’t need to be an empath to pick up on that. Guilt sucker punched me for causing Tyh the level of upset he was feeling.
“We need to talk, Dak,” Tyh said, his eyes looking bleak and haunted.
“We need to talk, Dak.” My heart ached to see the dried tear tracks on Dak’s cheeks, and I wasn’t sure how to fix whatever I’d done to upset him. “Or do you still need to be alone?” I asked in a soft voice.
“I have some questions that I need you to answer. I had a very interesting conversation in a dream with something called a Fire Snake. It said there was information you needed to tell me about the Lor’fei as well as how to deal with the Awh’anise. It made learning about those things sound very important. It said some other things as well, but we can discuss that later.”
“You had a visit from a Fire Snake?” I knew something very close to shock was in my voice, but the last thing I’d expected to hear from Dak was that he’d had a visit from the biggest busybodies in any universe.
“Apparently. Does some great big snake creature in shades of brown that had quite the irritating attitude sound familiar? It said it was your… I’m not sure, really, but it said it was assigned to you, and because I’m your Lor’fei, it’s also assigned to me, too.”
I nodded my head, nerves at what the Fire Snake might’ve told Dak making my stomach churn. “Yeah, that sounds like the one that harasses me now and again. You really met with a Fire Snake?”
“I amused it greatly from what I gather, which kinda ticks me off, but that’s not important right now. We’re going to move this conversation out of the hallway and to someplace a little more comfortable. I suggest the galley.”
I nodded again and headed for the galley, knowing Dak would follow. He sat at the tiny table and folded his hands on the surface. His hair was utterly still, and he watched me with shrewd eyes as I quickly pulled glasses and a bottle of quli’roet, a potent Awh’anise liquor, from a cupboard. I poured out a double shot of the orange liquid for me and barely a mouthful for Dak. I had a feeling both of us would need a stiff drink for the conversation we were about to have. He gave me a questioning look when I slid his glass in front of him and sat down across from him with my fuller glass. I knocked back half the contents in one swallow, the alcohol going down as smooth as water.
Dak sniffed the contents of his glass, shrugged and tossed back the little I’d poured him, giving me a challenging look when he set the empty glass on the table. I was tempted to give him more, and several of the voices encouraged me to get him drunk and fuck his brains out. A regular shot of quli’roet would probably do the trick as it was a very strong drink meant for sipping not chugging as we’d both done. But I only wanted to take a little edge off Dak, not have him insensibly drunk. I toyed with my glass and tried to ignore the voices that started to call me names and jeer at me when I refused to pour him more alcohol and tried to think of how to start the conversation I really didn’t want to have with him at that moment.
“By the sacred nine tits, jess tell him everything an’ get it over wit. Ain’t like not tellin’ him will make the situation any better. Bad enough I get t’be front row an’ center fer yer queer fuck-fest, I don’t need t’be punished wit ya goin’ all flouncy in the head, too, like you have for the past couple of hours while ya waited for his royal hairness to have a good girlie cry,” Zeki muttered as he gave me a mental shove.
“Are you kidding? Having the best possible seats in the house when they fuck is the only good thing to come of this whole situation. Don’t listen to Zeki. Get that pretty man drunk off his ass and then do that virgin hole for real. You know you wanna, and going by the way he reacted to you before, he’d love to have you plough his ass again,” said Jawhar, lust tingeing his voice.
“Just tell him what he means to you. Most of the hard stuff has already been said. He seems willing to listen and he said he wants to talk. I’ll bet that he has his reasons for reacting the way he did,” Raini said in a calm voice.
While I didn’t like admitting when the voices were right about even the smallest thing, they all did have some truth to their words. Zeki was right in that not telling Dak everything wouldn’t make it better and would probably make it worse. As perverted and sex-crazed as Jawhar was, he was right, too. I did want to have sex with Dak in the real world, and it would probably blow both our socks off. I couldn’t, however, see Dak being willing to let me anywhere near his ass with so many questions hanging between us. Raini was also right in that Dak already mostly knew how I felt, and there had to be a reason for Dak to have reacted the way he did when Moswen blurted out that I loved him.
“I meant to tell you, honest, Dak. I just…” I sighed heavily and toyed with my glass as I tried to think of how to say what needed to be said without sounding like a jerk or scaring Dak off again.
“And when were you going to do that, Tyhlian? Tomorrow? Next week? The next time we made lo… had sex?”
I snapped my head up. I heard the correction, and the tense ball of worry in my gut eased a tiny bit. He had to think that what we’d done was special if he was thinking in terms of making love and not sex or fucking. Dak held my stare without looking away, but his hair started moving restlessly. A muscle tensed in his jaw, and after several seconds, his hair settled down again to near stillness. It wasn’t perfectly still, and I was almost positive that if I looked under the table, I’d see the ends twitching.
“I never expected to have a Lor’fei, Dak. Once I was revealed as a Litch, I never thought I’d have anything beyond casual partners. I assumed I’d never have children because I was a Litch. The typical working life span for full Litches is short. Six years is average with about eight being the max. There’s very few Litches that have lasted as long as I have. I’ve been a full Litch for ten years.”
Dak looked like he wanted to ask something and actually opened his mouth to speak before closing it again. He drew in a breath, licked his lips and exhaled softly as if steeling himself to say what he was going to say.
“Moswen said that you either loved me right now or soon would. The Fire Snake told me the same thing. The Fire Snake also said to trust in my ability to tell truth from lies. I can’t think of a single reason for either to lie about that. I want an honest answer from you, Tyhlian, and believe me, I will know if you lie. Do you love me?”
It was my turn to blow out a breath. I hadn’t expected Dak to flat out ask me how I felt given the way he’d reacted earlier when Moswen opened his big mouth. Dak stared at me intently, and I temporarily lost myself in his beautiful pastel rainbow eyes. He cleared his throat impatiently, and I tore my gaze from his eyes. I swallowed the rest of my drink and tried to steel myself against the bad reaction I was almost positive Dak would have, given what happened earlier when Moswen slipped up and said things I’d have preferred to stay unsaid, at least for the time being. I gripped my glass hard enough to cause it to crack and looked Dak straight in the eye again.
“Yes,” I said softly, willing Dak not to freak out like he had earlier.
Dak stared at me without saying a word for several long minutes. Nothing in his face gave away what he was thinking, but I almost jumped out of my skin when I felt the whisper soft touch of his hair caressing my ankles. It was brief, and if I hadn’t been so focused on him, I probably would’ve thought I imagined it if I’d noticed it at all. As quick as it happened, I clung to the sliver of hope it offered me that he might accept my feelings. I tried not to fidget under his gaze, and he finally frowned the tiniest bit and spoke.
“You really do and you haven’t been manipulated into it. I… I really don’t know what to say. I’m flattered and a little confused. Please don’t take this wrong because I can’t think of any other way to say this but bluntly. I think you’re a very handsome man and I’m attracted to you when I’ve never really been attracted to men before—curious, yes, but never enough to actually approach someone or to return his interest. For some reason, you’re different.” Dak lowered his voice and spoke gently. “Even so, as much as I’m attracted to you and how much I enjoyed what we did in my dream, I’m sorry, but I don’t love you, Tyhlian. I barely know you. I’d like to get to know you better though.”
Relief and hurt warred in me. Relief that he wasn’t pulling away from me and seemed to cautiously accept that I loved him. Hurt that he didn’t return my love. I knew that was irrational as his reaction to the Lor’fei would be slower to realize especially since he wasn’t Awh’anise. There was even a better than average chance that he wouldn’t understand his feelings until after my Hunter killed me, which was depressing as hell. It was extremely painful to know that the person who’s life and happiness meant more to me than my own didn’t feel the same way about me.
“I didn’t expect you to, Dak, but you asked for me to be honest with how I felt, so I told you.”
“Liar,” Dak said immediately in a hard voice, startling me. “Never lie to me, Tyhlian. I will know and nothing pisses me off quite like being lied to.”
“I—” Dak cut me off before I could say anything more.
“Save it. You not only want me to love you, you expect it. While I don’t know much about you, I do know you don’t have a massive ego about your appeal. That makes me wonder why you expect me to love you back after so short a time together. The Fire Snake said there was information you need to tell me about the Lor’fei as well as how to deal with your people. I want to know what that stuff is, and I want to know about it right now. This is not a point up for negotiation, Tyhlian. You will tell me everything, or as much as it goes against my personal code of ethics, I will use the talents at my disposal and make you take me to the closest inhabited planet and drop me off there.”
Dak was using that velvet covered steel voice again, and just like before, I thought it was hot as hell. I could tell by the expression on his face that he wasn’t bluffing and that he would do whatever he felt was necessary. I think I loved him even more for that. Based on looks alone, I never in a million years would’ve thought he’d be able to handle an Awh’anise, but he seemed to be doing just fine with me. We were exceptionally pushy, aggressive people by nature, and if a partner didn’t push back just as hard, he ran the serious risk of getting run over by one. I couldn’t help but be impressed by him all over again even as I dreaded telling him everything about the Lor’fei.
“Fair enough. But you need to tell me why you reacted so badly to hearing that the Lor’fei showed me that I love you? Most people would be surprised and maybe even excited that somebody loved them like I do you.”
“Most people would. But my upbringing is very different from anyone else’s,” Dak agreed with a little sigh. “Because my parents are Teichle, they can manipulate people’s emotions on a scale that is unbelievable. You’ve already experienced a bit of what they can do, and I don’t think you found it pleasant. They can do it without the person realizing that they’re being forced to feel things they normally wouldn’t. They can even do large groups of people. They aren’t bad people for doing that. It’s like breathing to them, and they really don’t see it as being wrong. That’s why my people are afraid of the Teichle. You quite literally can never be sure of what you’re feeling around them because it may or may not be real.”
That didn’t really explain anything as far as I was concerned, but I waited for him to continue. I wanted to know why he’d reacted so badly earlier. I’d still have to tell him about the eventual effect the Lor’fei would have on him, and judging from what happened earlier, it was probably not going to go over well. I’d have loved to give him partial truths to keep from upsetting him but since he could tell when I lied, I wasn’t willing to take the chance that he could sniff out a lie of omission, at least not with something as important as the Lor’fei.
“My parents manipulated a girl into loving me when I was seventeen because they thought that was what I wanted. I made them stop and return her own feelings to her as soon as I found out what they did. She wasn’t happy to find out she’d held my hand and kissed me. She called me some names and there was an ugly scene. I was hurt and angry and tried to drain away her hate with my void. I knew how to do that with my emotions, but I had zero experience doing that to other people. I went too far. I killed the person she was and left her as nothing more than a blank drone.”
Dak looked away, and his hair clung tight to his body. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes. Tendrils of his hair wrapped around my ankles and inched their way up my calves as if seeking comfort. I didn’t think he was aware of what his hair was doing, but it prompted me to reach for his hands and cover them with mine. Hope fluttered strongly in my heart when he didn’t jerk his hands away.
“It sounds like that was an accident, Dak,” I said quietly.
He opened his eyes and nodded. My heart sped up a bit when he turned his hands under mine, our palms touching and his long, elegant fingers curved to hold my hand. I wasn’t sure if he realized what he was doing as there was a faraway look in his eyes. I was fine with that. I’d give him any support he needed.
“It was. I didn’t get the courage to accept a woman’s advances again until I was in my early twenties. I was brokering a trade deal; she was an alien fascinated by my hair; I was a very long way from Laiok and she knew nothing about my being The Void. I was still cautious though. I’ve never forgotten the look on that girl’s face when the love she’d been forced to feel dropped away. I wasn’t expecting the alien woman to love me. I just didn’t want her disgust. I… I never want to feel the way I did when I was seventeen with my first crush stomping all over my heart. That is why I reacted like I did when Moswen said what he did. To me, it was that experience all over again with somebody I liked being forced to love me when they really didn’t.”
My heart beat faster at hearing that Dak liked me. I figured he did—otherwise, I didn’t think he’d have bargained his way into my bed—but it was still nice to hear it. I didn’t say anything out loud, but I was glad that the girl who’d been so cruel to Dak was gone. I was also sure there was more to the story than he was telling, but it seemed like a barely-closed wound for him, so I didn’t push. I wanted to drag him into my arms and just hold him until his hurt went away, but I didn’t think he’d appreciate it. I did, however, want him to know how amazing I thought he was. I was pretty sure he didn’t hear that much.
“In addition to loving you, I happen to like you, too. A lot. You’re a beautiful, fascinating man. You’re a contrast of natures that flat out intrigues me. You look delicate but you’re strong. You do a job that requires control yet you do impulsive things. I think you have a giving nature but you seem almost afraid to accept good things.
“What I feel for you because of the Lor’fei isn’t the same as what your parents did, Dak. The Lor’fei is something very special but something very few actually experience. It’s like… it’s like being suddenly given everything you ever wanted as well as stuff you didn’t even know you wanted. It’s an amazing feeling and I just can’t really describe it.”
Dak looked thoughtful for several seconds before he smiled at me. “Then don’t try. If you completely relax and open to me, I can feel what you feel. Remember, I’m a receiving empath, Tyh.”
My eyes widened. I hadn’t thought of that. “So what do I do for you to be able to feel what I feel? And are you sure you want to do that?”
“You say you can’t really describe what you feel, and I want to know. I think it’ll help me to understand. Focus on what you feel for me, and I’ll do the rest,” Dak said, his smile widening.
I was a bit nervous, but I wanted Dak to know that what I felt for him was real and nothing like what happened to him when he was younger. My feelings were my own. I thought about Dak and how I felt when I was around him. Of course, my body immediately went straight to arousal. The voices in my head were less than helpful as they started throwing images at me of my one experience making love to Dak. Dak’s eyes were intense, and I couldn’t help the soft growl that trickled past my throat when he licked his lips and the scent of his arousal teased my nose.
The hair that was wrapped around my calves edged upward, ticklish and arousing at the same time. It made it all the way to mid-thigh before an embarrassed look flitted over Dak’s face and his hair slithered off my skin. I wanted to protest the loss, but I was trying very hard not to scare him off.
“You’re a bit more of a challenge to read than others because of all the people sharing head space with you, but you really do love me,” Dak said with a little wonder in his voice. “You feel joy that your life is tied to mine and that joy is… boundless. I’ve never felt anything like that from anyone. Not even my parents who love each other dearly. There’s some sadness there, too. Why?”
Relief washed through me. I hadn’t thought he’d really get everything I felt in my heart. My experience with empaths was limited to Dak, and I had no idea what he could or couldn’t feel.
“The sadness is because I’ll only have a short amount of time with you. Even if you figure out how to get rid of the voices in my head, that’s no guarantee that my Hunter won’t still kill me before I can get to the Council to plead my case. Moswen said it might be a Council member he pissed off when he was in training that sent the Hunter after me as a way to get back at Moswen. If that’s true, then it won’t matter how sane I am when I go to try and get my death warrant lifted.”
He frowned and tilted his head to the side. “Okay, but you’re still not telling me everything. You’re still… protecting me from something. What else is there that I should know that you don’t want to tell me?”
Threads of anxiety twisted through my belly. I didn’t think he was going to like what the Lor’fei would do to him, and given what he’d told me earlier, I couldn’t really blame him.
“If you tell him, he’s going to leave you. You heard him. He said he hates to have his emotions played with,” said Kalere. “Tell him you’ll let him in on the secret after you fuck him. The bond will be complete, and he won’t be able to escape you or the Lor’fei then.”
I hissed at Kalere, and she laughed because she knew damn well that thought had crossed my mind briefly. The voices were vile but they couldn’t lie to me. They also delighted in throwing back into my face things that I thought about but wouldn’t act on or desires I kept buried and refused to bring out into the bright light of day.
“Oh, ho, ho, you want him as your very own fuck toy. My, my, my, the things you think about doing to him are positively lewd and lascivious even by my standards. You are a naughty, naughty boy,” chuckled Senwa, a murdering pedophile it’d been my pleasure to eradicate from the world.
“I don’t have any love for slavers, but Kalere is right. I’d love to watch you do some of the things you dream about to Dakvir. It’s been longer than forever since I watched a good fisting. Even longer than that since I’ve fisted someone. God, but it feels incredible to push your hand into someone’s ass. All that heat and tightness. You can feel their heart beat against your skin. Did you know that?” Jawhar said, lust heavy in his voice.
No, I hadn’t known that. I’d never been with someone who wanted to try something like fisting. And now that I knew Jawhar had experience with it, I couldn’t stop myself from quickly checking his memories. What I found made my heart rate jump into overdrive with excitement even as I regretfully shoved away any thoughts of doing that with Dak. There was no way in hell a man that’d just been introduced to sex with another man would even consider something like fisting. Matter of fact, I didn’t know of anyone who regularly enjoyed sex with men or women who’d tried fisting.
“That’s because you’re more like us than you want to admit. You’ve just been meeting all the wrong people for the sex games you’d like to play. Too bad we didn’t meet up before you killed me. I’d have played good and hard with you. I already know you like a Throw-back fuck, so we could’ve gotten on just fine. Probably would’ve been fun to find out which one of us would’ve killed the other during sex. I bet you would’ve been a good fuck even dead,” laughed Almon.
I shuddered in revulsion. While it was true that I had some dark kinks that I refused to share with anyone, I was nowhere near the level of any of the contracts sharing head space with me. I mentally snarled at the voices, and they backed off a little, their amusement from my torment grating on my nerves and making me want to put my fist through something.
Desire now wound through my body courtesy of the vivid memories of Jawhar and mixed with the urge to do violence. The voices pounced on the two feelings and immediately divided themselves into two camps. One pushed for violence, and the other waved lust under my nose. There were a few who cast their vote in favour of doing both. I mentally growled at the voices, and they retreated again. Dak’s hair again slipped over my ankles and calves, totally not helping me in pushing my arousal away.
“Tyhlian? What are you keeping from me, and why do I now feel such strong arousal from you? And anger and violence?”
Damn he was persistent.
“The voices are being their usual asshole selves and trying to provoke me. I’m fine, I have them under control. As for the lust, just being near you is arousing to me, Dak. Simple as that. Sorry, but you’re going to have to get used to it because I can’t do a damn thing about that reaction. As far as what I’m keeping from you, it’s the effect of the Lor’fei on you.”
“The effect of the Lor’fei on me? What effect? I thought the Lor’fei only did things to you. I deserve to know what’s going on, Tyhlian. What is it you think you’re protecting me from?”
Dakvir of the velvet steel voice was back, and that was not helping in getting my desire to go down to a background level. Stars, but a bossy bottom was so damn hot to me. I was going to be utterly doomed if he realized that at some point.
“You’re going to hate me for this because I let my wants override what I knew was the right thing to do. I should’ve never let you talk me into taking you to bed regardless of where it happened when I knew there was the possibility of the bond really getting started. Frankly, the possibility of you hating me scares the shit out of me.
“Because of the Lor’fei, you’ll end up loving me, too. It’ll take a little longer because you’re not Awh’anise, but if I can feel the bond strengthening, then it’s started to work on you, too. That, you can blame entirely on me. I knew better than to do anything sexual with you, I really did, but I… I can’t seem to say no to you.”
Dak snorted softly and pinned me to my seat with a look. “I’m fully aware of who talked who into bed, and it wasn’t you that did the talking for getting into bed together. If I recall the conversation correctly, and I know I do, I was the one who insisted on keeping the terms of our deal and you were the one who tried to talk me out of it. More than once, too. Am I happy about finding out about the effect of the Lor’fei after the fact? No. I’m actually kinda ticked off, but I know myself and I’ll get over it eventually. I also had a very interesting conversation with the Fire Snake in my dream, and it made me think about the situation we are in.”
Cautious hope bloomed in my chest. Dak still hadn’t pulled his hands from mine and his hair was wrapped around my calves, lightly stroking my skin. That had to be a positive sign, didn’t it?
“As I see it, my choices are limited. I could demand you drop me off on the next decent outpost of civilization we pass, and we go our separate ways. I don’t think that would really work though, especially if you say that I will soon be feeling the effects of the Lor’fei. I could stay with you and try to keep our relationship strictly professional. I don’t see that working either as not only can I feel your desire but I also happened to like sharing a bed with you. But if I stayed, I’d be fighting not only your arousal but mine as well. While I am very good at blocking others’ emotions, even I have a breaking point. Not to mention that putting two sexually frustrated men who want each other but are resisting that attraction in a small space from which neither can escape is asking for failure.
“As irritating as it was to have to drag every scrap of information from the Fire Snake, it told me that you only wish to give me what I desire above all else and that I’d be a fool to throw away my best chance to have what I want. I’m many things, but I’m not a fool. I know what I am and how my people view me. You are my best shot at having a relationship. Those bodyguards you saw me with in the hotel weren’t there to keep me safe but to make sure that I didn’t manage to spread my defective seed to anyone. Not that they could really stop me if I was determined and willing to risk killing them with a little selective memory wiping, but that’s beside the point.
“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t see you as some kind of consolation prize the universe has gifted me with. You’re more in line with a big time lottery win. But I hate having my emotions twisted around. The Fire Snake said that the Lor’fei only amplifies things that are already there and speeds the whole process along. I don’t understand how it could amplify love for someone you’ve never met, but even among my very staid, rigid people, there are epic stories of love at first sight that spanned continents and time and usually overcame impossible odds and even saved the world. If regular Laiokians, who don’t believe in flights of fancy, can embrace that idea, then I suppose I can go with the premise of the Lor’fei.”
I was dreaming. That was the only explanation I had for what I thought I was hearing. It sounded to me like he was willing to accept me and what the Lor’fei would mean for him. It sounded like he wanted to see where the Lor’fei would take us both. I wanted to grab him to me and kiss him senseless.
“Are you telling me that you want to stay with me, Dak? I know you’re not thrilled with the way everything has happened, and I’ll apologize to my last breath for that if you want. But I’m not sorry for finding you or for loving you. I think you’re the most beautiful, sensual man I’ve ever met, and it is my absolute pleasure to be with you.”
“Yes, I want to stay,” Dak said softly. “To me, that you want to be near me, to touch me because I’m me and not some… novelty or something that’s forced on a person… that’s a gift, Tyh. One I never expected to get. Right from the very first time we met in my dream, you wanted to touch me and were attracted to me.”
I could hear the loneliness in Dak’s voice, and it damn near broke my heart. I didn’t think he understood what being my Lor’fei would mean to him. Then again, he wasn’t Awh’anise so he wouldn’t have even the barest clue. I’d have to fix that as soon as possible.
“Moswen said you might not understand the bounds of the Lor’fei. For as long as I live, you’ll never be alone again, Dak. I’ll always be only a shout away from you when you sleep. You’ll never be far from my thoughts. Whatever I’m doing, I’ll drop it the second you call me. You are my world.”
Dak seemed surprised by that, and the hair twisted around my calves tightened briefly. I stood and pulled my hands from Dak’s. His hair tightened again around my calves, and I moved around the table to stand next to where he sat on the bench seat. He looked up at me with a slightly puzzled expression.
I knelt at his feet, crossed my wrists over each other in front of me and wrapped my tail around my wrists. I looked into his eyes and offered my throat to him. Technically, I was supposed to do what I was about to before we had sex to complete the Lor’fei bond, but I’d gone about the whole thing ass-backwards already, so what was one more thing?
“Ve-yul’io. Xi’ soi-fu ony-mi zo xi’ ih’tes, Lor’fei. Ony des-ri tha’ab, des-od gre’os un des-laew nasha. Ony xi’ shey-lu des xi’ haeko des xi’ vre’ zo-sen ony.”
A sub-sonic purr started in my chest and a feeling of rightness settled in my heart. I knew Dak wouldn’t have the vaguest idea what I’d said or what he was to do, but I needed to offer myself to him on a purely instinctual level. He studied me for several long minutes before I heard a series of undulating tones at the very bottom of my range of hearing. They were soothing sounds, and as I relaxed, the voices in my head faded to a barely heard rumble.
Dak brought his hands to my head and carded his fingers through my hair. His hair moved over me and the strands that brushed over the Risdepa on my arm made me shiver in pleasure. He leaned in, tilted my head up and kissed me softly on the lips. It wasn’t what was supposed to happen, but the gentle, accepting feel of his lips against mine gave me an almost orgasmic rush. There was nothing sexual about the kiss, but it had a solemn feel to it.
“What did you say to me? I’m guessing from your posture and tone that it was important. It feels symbolic,” Dak asked in a quiet voice as he continued to almost pet my hair.
I could’ve sat at his feet for the rest of the day and listened to the calming sub-sonic sounds he was making as he petted me. He wouldn’t know it, but one way to completely bliss out an Awh’anise was to pet us. We were an utterly touch-addicted species. The stroking of his hands and hair over my body was sending me to a very happy place, physically and mentally. I rubbed my cheek lightly over his knee, wishing it was his bare skin against mine instead of the soft fabric of his pants.
“Tyhlian?” Dak demanded softly, the command in his voice prompting me to answer him.
“Formal pledge from a Shal-hazal to their Lor’fei. My life is yours. You are my world.”
“And kneeling at my feet and wrapping your tail around your wrists is part of that, too?”
Dak’s voice was still firm demanding answers from me, and his fingers were working their magic in my hair. I nodded against his hands, enjoying the way the movement made him rub harder.
“I symbolically bound my hands and offered my throat to you as proof that my life is yours. Stars, but that feels great, Dak,” I said even as my purring rose into the audible range and my eyes half closed in pleasure.
“Is there something I’m supposed to do or say in return?”
Gods, but his fingers felt fantastic against my scalp, and his hair was just…. My eyes closed, and I lost myself in the pure delight of Dak’s touch. It was nearly as good as sex. My brain and body felt floaty and relaxed, like I’d taken a top-notch drug and was higher than a kite. I think I could become seriously addicted to Dak’s touch.
“Tyhlian, what is supposed to happen next?” Dak asked in a firm, low voice. “Am I supposed to answer you with some ritual words?”
I shook my head no, the movement making his fingers press hard against one side of my scalp. I turned my head and rubbed my cheek back and forth against the palm of his hand. Every breath I took pulled his enticing scent deep into my lungs. My upper lip drew back, exposing a fang that I dragged against the soft skin of his hand, scent marking him as mine. Arousal from his taste and scent swirled through me.
“Tyh, what happens next?” Dak prompted in that dead sexy demanding voice he had.
“We fuck,” I said in a dreamy voice as I licked the palm of his hand. “Then I’m truly yours, and you’re mine.”
“No, we don’t,” Dak said in a no-nonsense voice that was like a bucket of ice water dumped on my head.
The fingers that’d been giving me so much pleasure seconds ago tightened painfully in my hair and forced my head back. My eyes flew open in surprise and Dak gave me a hard, I-mean-business look. The pleasure haze created by the touch of his hands and hair left my brain in an instant. The grip on my hair was a sharp pain, but his hair continued to gently stroke back and forth over the Risdepa on my arm. What he was doing was incredibly close to haig’wuh-ani and nothing made an Awh’anise pay attention faster than that. I focused intently on him and whatever he was about to say.
“Before I share the pleasure of your bed again, you are going to tell me everything I need to know about the Awh’anise and how to deal with your people. The Fire Snake said that was important. I would also like you to speak Common or Laiokian to me until I can find a program for Awh’anise for my translator so I’ll understand what you’re saying to me. Are we clear?”
He was going to share my bed again? Fuck yes. I suddenly felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest. Telling Dak about the Awh’anise was easy enough. I had a standard dream package to play for non-Awh’anise that would give them all the information they’d need to know to effectively deal with an Awh’anise. A little tweaking of it, and it’d be just what he needed to know from a lover’s perspective. Adding the Awh’anise language directly to Dak’s head while he dreamed would be a snap and worlds better than some program. Hell, even a ten-year-old Shal-hazal trainee could add a language to somebody’s head through dreams.
“Crystal clear, Dak. I can add the Awh’anise language to your head while you dream. Trust me that it’ll be better than any program you could find anywhere. I also have a dream to play for you that’ll tell you pretty much everything you need to know about interacting with an Awh’anise. Although, you seem to have a handle on using haig’wuh-ani,” I said with a smile.
“Using what?” Dak asked as he let go of my hair and smoothed his hand over my head.
“Haig’wuh-ani. The literal translation is hitting with a gentle touch. Basically, if I’m doing something unreasonable and not listening to you or I’m being overly aggressive for no good reason, you punch me hard, usually in the chest or arm. My attention will snap to you, and then you touch me gently, usually on the face. You will have my undivided attention at that point.”
Dak looked aghast. “I’m not going to punch you when you’re being an ass, Tyh. That’s… that’s abuse.”
“For most cultures, yes, but not the Awh’anise. We’re a violent people, Dak, and the way we interact with each other often has roots in violence and asserting your dominance over another. Think of… it’s like when a mother cat grabs a kitten by the scruff of the neck and gives it a little shake to let it know she means business and it’d better listen or suffer the consequences.”
“But how can you tell the difference between somebody starting a fight and doing this… what you called it? I’d think that would lead to all kinds of misunderstandings.”
“Haig’wuh-ani is something reserved for family, lovers or very close friends. The gentle touch after the punch is key. Posture and body language have a lot to do with knowing what is the beginning of a fight and what is behaviour correction as well. You don’t have a tail, so I can’t judge your intention by that, which means I’d be paying extra-close attention to you. I think your hair sort of does what an Awh’anise tail would, so I’d probably take some of my clues from that, too.”
“So no touch after I punched you would mean I wanted to fight you?”
“It depends. How you were standing, the expression on your face and what your hair was doing would probably tell me what your intent was. If none of those things said fight to me and you didn’t touch me gently after punching me, then I’d know I fucked up really badly and possibly that you were rejecting me.”
“That sounds far more complicated than my just telling you to stop being a jerk and you listening,” Dak said with a frown.
“For you to understand, maybe. But you can’t deny when you grabbed my hair hard yet ran your hair over the Risdepa, you had my utmost attention. That wasn’t exactly haig’wuh-ani, but it was close enough to get my complete attention and make me listen very carefully to you. This is the way it is for all Awh’anise. You’ll get used to it, and I’m sure you’ll eventually see how direct and useful it is.”
Dak gave me a slightly suspicious look but said nothing more about the subject. I could understand the look he was giving me. If you weren’t Awh’anise, it did sound really weird and even bordered on abuse for some cultures. Dak was a smart man. I was sure that he’d see how well it worked after doing it a few times.
I stared at Dak for several seconds and chewed on my bottom lip in indecision. I wanted to ask him about the share his bed comment he’d made, but I didn’t want to seem like I was rushing him or being an asshole. I also didn’t want to sound like all I was interested in was getting into his pants. Yes, I most certainly wanted to share his bed even if all we did was sleep in it, but I also wasn’t going to lie. I hoped it’d be more than just spooning that’d happen between us. I mentally sighed and decided to just ask. If I pissed him off, I pissed him off.
“Did you mean it about sharing my bed again, Dak? It doesn’t have to be tonight or tomorrow or even next week, but I’d like to know if it will really happen. For right now, I’d be content with just being able to hold you while we sleep, but that contentment won’t last forever. The Lor’fei bond has started, and it’s affecting me very strongly, but we still need to have sex for it to be complete. I swear it’s not a sleazy line when I say that completing the bond is the best thing for both of us. I won’t be nearly as aggressive, and you’ll likely appreciate that a hell of a lot.”
Dak was quiet and seemed to be contemplating me and what I’d said for several seconds. His hair reached out and stroked my cheek, my eyes started to slide close in pleasure, and my purring started back up again. One of the Awh’anise voices in my head snickered and teased me about behaving like a barely weaned kit that purred from the slightest attention. I would’ve snapped back with something nasty, but there was more than a little wistfulness in the voice.
“The Fire Snake said it would be best to complete the bond, too. And it was pretty damn awesome when we had sex in a dream. I was really nervous about… ummm… you putting your….” Dak broke eye contact and made some vague gesture with his hand.
I grinned at his shyness. I was sure that if his skin had been a lighter colour, I’d have been treated to a bright-red blush staining his cheeks. He’d eventually get over his shyness when it came to talking about sex with me, but I thought it was cute as hell. I actually kinda hoped he wouldn’t get over that shyness. He cleared his throat and tried again.
“Sex in the dream world was one thing. Sex for real… I’ve read that anal hurts for the first little while until you get used to it. I’m not so sure about that aspect, Tyh. I mean it felt amazing in the dream, and I’d love to compare that to what it feels like when I’m awake, but you were also doing stuff in the dream world to make sure it didn’t hurt, and you can’t do the same thing in reality,” Dak said in a nervous rush.
He thought that was a problem? Really? The fix was so easy, it was a no-brainer.
“Then do me.”
“Excuse me?” Dak looked baffled.
“I’ll play the bottom for you, Dak. I’ll do anything for you. Bottoming isn’t exactly a hardship. I like topping better, but sometimes I just feel like having a nice hard cock stuffed up my ass. I would absolutely love to feel you inside me.”
Dak looked stunned at the idea. “But don’t you need to… to… penetrate me to set the bond? I thought that’s what was supposed to happen.”
“Nope. It doesn’t matter who is doing who as long as it happens. Hell, for the first little while you can do me until you’re ready to try bottoming in reality. Or you can always do me if you prefer that. It doesn’t matter one bit to me, Dak. However you choose to share your body with me is absolutely fine in my books.”
Dak’s mouth softened into a smile. “Oh. Well. I didn’t expect that. That… that will probably work for me. You’ll have to tell me what to do though. And be patient. I wouldn’t want to hurt you or anything.”
I laughed, almost giddy with relief and excitement. “The Awh’anise are a tough bunch. I can take more damage than you’d think possible and be just fine. I’d probably find some of it pretty kinky, too. You just let me know when you’d like to ride my very fine ass, and it’s yours for the taking.”
“Tyh!” Dak sounded scandalized and interested at the same time. “I will need at least a few days to work this all out in my head. It’s a lot to take in at once. But… I’m looking forward to it,” Dak said in a shy voice.
I picked up Dak’s hand and kissed the palm. Simply hearing him say that settled down worries that had been twisting my guts into knots. I could wait a few days or even a week if he needed the time. I’d be horny as hell, but I could wait. I was absolutely positive that the wait would be worth it, too. I started to get hard again just thinking about Dak sliding his cock up my ass. One of the voices reminded me that I hadn’t been able to find release when jerking off before I found Dak and I really hoped that wasn’t something still in play. But if I had to walk around with a perma-boner until Dak worked things out in his head, then I’d suffer through it until he was ready.
For Dak, I could do anything.
Ve-yul’io. Xi’ soi-fu ony-mi zo xi’ ih’tes, Lor’fei.: I love you. My life is yours to my dying breath, Lor’fei. Formalized pledge from a Shal-hazal to his or her Lor’fei.
Ony des-ri tha’ab, des-od gre’os un des-laew nasha. Ony xi’ shey-lu des xi’ haeko des xi’ vre’ zo-sen ony.: Literal translation is: 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.
This phrase is often shortened to simply You are my world. It implies that without the one it is said to, the person speaking will have nothing to sustain them and will die. It is a rarely used phrase for the general population and is mostly used by Throw-backs and Lor’fei partners as the level of devotion is extreme. The phrase is never used casually.
Haig’wuh-ani: Literal translation is: hitting with a gentle touch. Doing this tells an aggressive Awh’anise that he is being unreasonably aggressive and that he needs to listen carefully while he is told how to fix what he 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.
I scowled as I checked the address of the building again. There was no way in hell it could be the right place. I knew Litch Will Tyhlian was well on his way to crazy, but he’d have to be dancing with stupid to actually come where the faint dream trails led me. Then again, I did interrupt a hot and heavy bit of foreplay when I’d found him in the hotel room on the planetoid. I smirked a little when I thought that was probably frustrating as fuck for him. It was possible that he was doing something to take care of the need I was sure he was feeling very strongly by now. The Awh’anise were not known for being celibate for long periods of time, and Litch Will Tyhlian had been without sex for longer than anybody I’d ever heard about. I was sure he hadn’t been able to find a partner with me hot on his tail be it in reality or in dreams and I’d been chasing him for months.
I was pretty sure he’d taken the man he’d been pleasuring with him when he ran, but not one hundred percent certain. Nigidvo disappeared at the same time as Litch Will Tyhlian, but I hadn’t been able to confirm with anybody either in reality or in the dream world whether or not Nigidvo had boarded the ship with my target. It was like the two of them had disappeared into nothing after leaving the hotel room.
I wasn’t sure if Litch Will Tyhlian had backtracked through the dream world to erase his and Nigidvo’s presence from the people they must’ve passed on their way out of the hotel. If he had, for a man going crazy and likely being in one hell of a hurry to put distance between me and him, he’d done an amazing job of hiding his trail. Then again, I expected Litch Will Tyhlian to do an excellent job vanishing again.
The man was just that good even if he was well on his way to being certifiably crazy.
I was sure it was just a fluke or maybe even a touch of that weird karma that Spirit Will Moswen seemed to be infected with that had me catch him together with Nigidvo. Nigidvo was a very exotic looking man, so I could completely understand Litch Will Tyhlian being attracted to him and wanting to do something about that attraction. What I couldn’t understand was just why Litch Will Tyhlian would take the incredible risk of not only finding out who Nigidvo was but physically going to him. I could, however, completely understand the reasoning of Litch Will Tyhlian taking Nigidvo with him when he left. I couldn’t question a man I couldn’t find, and it was a brilliant strategy.
I’d hoped that Nigidvo sent some sort of message to someone saying where he was going, but so far, nothing had turned up. I knew from skimming the dreams of his guards that he’d had with him that he wasn’t supposed to leave the planetoid until the negotiations were done. I couldn’t get anything more out of the guards regarding Nigidvo except for the fact that they were up to their noses in shit for losing him.
Using official channels to try and find Nigidvo was a dead end. His people refused to tell me anything about where he was or if they even knew what’d happened to him. Not even when I told them that he might be in the company of a deadly dangerous man I was trying to bring to justice and who could harm Nigidvo did they offer anything more than a coldly polite thank you for informing them of the situation.
Even in dreams, they were a very tight-lipped, close-minded people. Shal-hazal Spirits would probably fall all over themselves to play around in such locked up dreams, but that’s the sort of thing they lived for. As a Warrior, I was more about getting what I needed through brute strength and forcing my will onto another to get them to give up their secrets.
As a lead, the Laiokians were a monumental pain in my ass at best and a dead end at worst, and I thought I had a better chance of making pets out of a cloud of ana-taw’dect than I did getting any help from Nigidvo’s people. Considering that a cloud of the tiny, vicious birds could completely devour a full grown Awh’anise in fewer than ten minutes and not even leave bones, I reluctantly had to let the Laiokians drop as a viable line of information.
I blew out a frustrated breath and stared at the flashing holo-sign on the building. Pictures of all kinds of species engaging in every sex act I’d ever seen, and a few I hadn’t, flipped by in a slide show even my hyper-sexualized Awh’anise senses thought bordered on the obscene. The club offered live sex shows as well as rooms for rent by the day or hour. I had to admit that some of the themed rooms looked interesting, but I was on a job and didn’t have time to indulge any kinks. I would, however, be filing away the location of the club for another time when I wasn’t hunting a fucking ghost of a Litch through dreams and reality.
A squat, bug-like alien yelled out some of the delights that could be had in the club in several languages at the people walking on the sidewalk. He saw me looking at the sign above his head and ramped up his sale pitch, listing some truly out there kinks and insisting that anything I wanted could be found behind the doors of the club. I raised an eyebrow, and he lowered his voice so that I had to lean close to hear him over the general street noise.
“We got a set of identical triplets that fuck each other on stage. One of them likes it best when his brothers tie him down and take turns spanking his ass before stuffing him full at both ends. Some females like watching that kinda thing. Gets them all hot and bothered. I think you look like you’d enjoy that sort of fetish, and I’m almost never wrong about that shit.”
Bug man was right. I did like that sort of thing. But I could see that sort of thing easily enough on Awh’an. My next door neighbours when I was growing up were a set of identical quints, and I’d watched them fuck each other in a group gang bang more than once. Hell, my sister and I had joined in a few times.
He leered at me as I walked past him and through the doors. I paid the higher than expected cover charge, and after answering a few questions about what my sexual preferences were, a wide blue and pink bracelet stamped with what looked like handcuffs and whips was strapped to my wrist. The four-armed female that attached the bracelet let her fingers linger longer than was strictly polite over my hand. I smiled at her and leaned into her space. I wasn’t above using her interest in me to get some of my questions answered. I also had a tactic for possibly getting extra info out of her pop into my head.
“My brother sent me a message that he found this really cool club and that we might have some fun together if I could come. He said he was going to be here for a few days, and I got here as fast as I could, but I’m worried I might’ve missed him. Our family tries to keep us apart you see. He’s got medium brown hair, light green eyes and he might be with a man with black skin and hair that reaches his ankles.”
“I’m not supposed to talk about clients, but I could maybe be convinced to say a little something you might find useful,” the woman said with a coy fluttering of her eyelashes that told me the right incentive would get her to run her mouth about anybody in the club.
“I completely understand that,” I said as I trailed a talon lightly down one of her forearms. “But he’s my brother after all, and he said this place was okay with us being together. He said we wouldn’t have to hide that we were brother and sister and that some people might even like to watch when we fuck if they knew we were siblings.”
The woman’s eyes widened a little, and she licked her lips. A crafty look came over her face and I could almost see money signs click over in her head. I held back my smirk at guessing that the staff probably got some kind of a bonus if they found people that were willing to let others watch their kinky play. I’d been around the universe enough to know that incest wasn’t common in most places like it was on Awh’an, and in some areas of the galaxy, it was even severely punished. I thought it was the most sure-fire way to get her to start talking, especially if she saw the possibility of make a little money out of the deal as well.
“The owner’s will pay a small fee to people who choose to share their unusual kinks with the rest of the patrons. It’s not much, but hey, getting paid to do what you were going to anyway is pretty good, right? If you and your brother would be willing to entertain other clients, I’d have to tell you about him so you could discuss whether or not the two of you wanted to do that.”
Finally it seemed like I was getting somewhere. And a small fee? Right. I believed that. Sure. I was willing to bet my left tit that half of what the owners paid somebody for their unusual kink to be done up on stage ended up in the pocket of whatever staff member found the extra kinky patron. Not that it mattered as I had no intention of letting Litch Will Tyhlian fuck me. I intended to kill him as soon as I spotted him.
Then again, that was probably a kink that would find an audience in the club I was in, and I was willing to bet that the owners would pay big time for that twisted fantasy.
“Absolutely,” I agreed with a smile. “Neither my brother nor I have a problem with public sex. We’ve done it with other partners but never had the chance to do it with each other, so this could be really hot. So have you seen him? I’m really anxious to find him because our parents and relatives know we like to fuck each other and keep us apart as much as possible. It’s been so long since we saw each other in person.”
I didn’t feel the slightest bit bad about lying to the woman. I didn’t know her from a hole in the wall and if a little untruth got me closer to capturing and killing Litch Will Tyhlian, then the ends completely justified the means. Fortunately for my little deception, Awh’anise weren’t encountered much off of Awh’an, and Awh’an wasn’t exactly a popular tourist destination because of the carnivorous... everything that lived there. Knowledge that it was common and accepted practice to fuck a sibling among the Awh’anise wasn’t well-known off planet.
The woman frowned as she thought. She started to say something but closed her mouth before anything came out. She was silent for so long that I wanted to grab her by the throat and choke the answer out of her to speed things along. Finally, her frown disappeared, and she nodded as if coming to some sort of conclusion.
“He was here up until maybe two days ago, and he was alone. I had to really think about it because he kept a low profile—kept to the room he rented and only came down to get food or find somebody to fuck. I didn’t see him every day either. I probably only saw him once a day, if at all.”
I could understand Litch Will Tyhlian wanting to keep a low profile. I was in what I was fairly certain was a club with some questionable legal practices, which made it a good place to hide out for a while and re-group but still not really a place someone wanted to be remembered being at. Really, when I thought about it, staying in the club for a few days was a smart move on his part. If he hadn’t slipped up that tiniest bit in the dream world, I’d have never thought to check out someplace like the club I was currently standing in. I filed the knowledge away for future reference when I next had to hunt down an insane Litch.
However, it was strange that Nigidvo didn’t seem to be with Litch Will Tyhlian. A very possessive form of “mine” had been used when Litch Will Tyhlian pointed at Nigidvo. It could’ve been a slip of the tongue due to his increasing insanity, but I didn’t think so. Awh’anise generally weren’t overly possessive of partners, especially ones they’d just met. I couldn’t recall smelling any evidence of Litch Will Tyhlian hitting his breeding cycle, which would make an Awh’anise territorial with whomever they’d chosen as his partner. Then again, I’d been distracted in a big way by the scent of Ser’cin clinging to Nigidvo, so I couldn’t say with one hundred percent certainty that Litch Will Tyhlian wasn’t cycling.
“He was alone? You’re sure? Wasn’t he with a man? The one with the black skin and hair I mentioned? Very pretty and delicate looking with rainbow-swirled eyes? He told me in his message that he’d found a subby, little pain slut we could play with.”
“No. I’m sure he was alone. I’d have remembered a guy like that. He paid his bill and left a couple of mornings ago. I remember that now because he left me a nice tip for telling him about one of our regulars who has a thing for really violent sex. Almost put the chick in the hospital from what I hear, but she said it was the best sex she’d ever had. Not my idea of a fun time, but to each her own, right?”
It was my turn to frown.
If Litch Will Tyhlian didn’t have Nigidvo with him, where the hell had he dropped the man off? I’d been keeping tabs on the news and on the public Laiokian channels, and there’d been no calls from Nigidvo to his people that I’d seen. It was entirely possible that the Laiokian government was keeping everything hush-hush since they were a tight-lipped people to start with, but I would’ve thought there would’ve been something mentioned when Nigidvo popped up again. His guards had been sure the man would be in a world of trouble for just leaving in the middle of a job. My instincts were still telling me that I needed to speak with Nigidvo about Litch Will Tyhlian and that the key to finding my target was the man with skin and hair like midnight.
If Litch Will Tyhlian had dropped Nigidvo off somewhere and told the man to lay low for a little while, it was a brilliant ploy. I couldn’t be in two places at once, and when Nigidvo did surface again, Litch Will Tyhlian had to know that I’d want to speak to the man to get whatever info I could out of him. Finding a person that couldn’t cover his tracks like Litch Will Tyhlian would be worlds easier than scrounging for clues of a person who could very nearly disappear as easily as breathing.
I sighed mentally. I liked a challenge as much as the next person, but this was the most difficult job I’d ever been given. I got the idea that even my teacher, Sunki, would’ve been pulling her hair out over this job. At the moment, both Litch Will Tyhlian and Nigidvo were trails I couldn’t easily follow so I switched tracks.
“So, this regular that my brother played with, do you think I could talk to her? He might’ve said something to her that would clue me into where he was headed next. I’d really like to catch up to him before our family catches up to us.”
“She doesn’t do women.” The woman warned.
“That’s fine. I only want to talk to her. I need to find my brother before one of us gets caught again and we’re separated by our family who just doesn’t understand what we feel for each other.”
The woman gave me a considering look before shrugging her shoulders and dragging a battered notepad and chewed up pen to her. She scribbled an address down in Common and tore off the page before handing it to me. She let her fingers linger over mine again.
“I’m guessing that you’re not going to go into the club now. I can’t refund you your money, but the bracelet is good for twelve hours admittance to the club. My shift ends in a couple of hours. You could come back to my place if you want something a little more private.”
“How about I see what this woman has to say and if it’s not a solid lead on where my brother went, I’ll come on back to have a few drinks with you and we can see how the night will go from there.”
The woman smiled and gave my hand a squeeze. I turned around and left the club, hailing a cab as soon as I cleared the door of the club. It was a little late in the evening to be paying a call on someone, especially a stranger, but I could almost feel time running out on catching Litch Will Tyhlian. I gave the cabbie the address and got a raised eyebrow. That meant one of two things. Either the address was in a crime-ridden area of the city and he thought I was insane to be going there, or it was in a rich area and he wondered what somebody coming out of that type of club was doing going to such a moneyed place.
When the cab pulled up to massive gates that screamed money and power, my eyes almost bugged out of my head. I’d thought nicely rich from the cabbie’s initial reaction to the address. Obscenely wealthy with more power than anyone had a right to was more in line with what just the gates of the house told me. There was no way I was going to be able to talk my way into the house. There was absolutely no way in hell that I’d be able to get into the house period when it was well past the time decent guests visited.
Fortunately, no gate, no matter how amazingly technologically advanced it was, could keep me out when I didn’t actually have to be physically be in the presence of my target to ask my questions. I paid the cabbie and waited until he drove off before making my way into the waist-high decorative bushes that lined the immense stone wall of the estate. It was a tight fit, and the shrubs had wicked thorns that scratched long lines into my exposed skin.
I ignored the slight pain and almost immediate itching that started up and hoped that the thorns weren’t covered with any kind of poison.
The Awh’anise were hardy and immune to a surprising number of natural toxins. We also metabolized things at an accelerated rate, so even things that we reacted negatively to usually didn’t last long. That wasn’t to say we couldn’t be poisoned, but more often than not, the desired effects of poisons, natural or not, often weren’t what happened. It would still really put a crimp in my plans to be immobilized by whatever the plants were if they were toxic.
When nothing but continued itching from the thorns occurred, I breathed a small sigh of relief. I stretched out on the ground, making myself as comfortable as possible among the roots and fallen leaves, and hoped that nobody could casually spot me from road. I closed my eyes and in seconds was asleep and in the dream world. I orientated myself and scanned the dreams of those closest to my location. I found some servants of the estate and cobbled together a description of the woman I was after. She wasn’t asleep yet, so I waited. As soon as she appeared, I pounced on her dream.
I rifled through her dreams and found that another Shal-hazal had been there before me. I started to grin. Yes. Finally a genuine break. The woman’s dreams had been tampered with and subtly changed. I tried to pull the dream apart to find the truth, sure that Litch Will Tyhlian had changed whatever had gone between them to erase anything he might’ve said that would’ve provided a clue to what he was planning or where he was going.
The more I tried to unravel the dream, the more complex it became. After carefully picking at the dream for over an hour, I’d barely made any headway. The care and subtly of the dream weaving was phenomenal. I knew Litch Will Tyhlian was very good, but this was beyond even the capabilities of a Litch Will. The workings of the dream weavings had changed the actual memories of the woman so that she believed with rock-solid faith what the dream showed her even though it never happened. What I was looking at was not the careful work of a highly skilled Litch Will. This was the work of a Spirit Will and a very, very good one.
Litch Will Tyhlian had never had sex with this woman. She’d never met him period. I swore when I made the logical leap that the four-armed woman in the club had probably never met Litch Will Tyhlian either. I cursed a blue streak when I extended the logic to assume that Litch Will Tyhlian had probably never even come anywhere close to this portion of the galaxy. I’d been sent on a monumental wild chase and fallen for it like the most wet-behind-the-ears recruit. I was impressed and pissed off all at once. I was also almost dead certain who the Spirit Will in question was.
Spirit Will Moswen.
I swore long and loud before I woke myself up and wriggled out of the bushes. My temper simmered a little higher when I realized that I had a hell of a walk ahead of me. There were no random cabs driving around in the super-wealthy area I was stuck in. I swore again and headed off at a fast jog back the way I’d originally come in the cab. With any luck I’d be able to hail a cab once I got closer to the city centre and wouldn’t have to travel all the way back to the space port on foot.
Luck was not with me.
I’d had the damnedest time finding a cab that was willing to pick me up and didn’t figure out why until I happened to glance at the window of a shop I passed. I had small twigs caught in my hair, dirt and dead leaves stuck to my clothes and where the thorns had scratched me, lurid green fluoresced under my skin. The skin around the brightly glowing green lines was a putrid yellow edged in red and swollen. It didn’t hurt and had stopped itching, but I looked like a plague victim. Hell, even the captain of the ship had barred me from boarding until the medical officer cleared me.
I cleaned myself up as best as I could in my room. The green shit washed off easy enough, but the hideous yellow and red wouldn’t come off no matter how hard I scrubbed. The scratches were already scabbing over and that really didn’t help me look any less like a disease ridden person either. I muttered several very uncomplimentary things about both Litch Will Tyhlian and Spirit Will Moswen as I punched in the code for the Shal-hazal Council. Once connected to the Council hub, I asked for Spirit Will Hilel and waited a little longer.
“Phaedra? I hope this is more than just a social call. I know you’re away on a job that has some unusual... qualities, but do you have any idea what time it is here on Awh’an? What, in the name of all the gods, did you tangle with? You look like hell.”
I mentally groaned. I was not winning on any front. I hadn’t thought about the time when I placed my call. Judging by the slightly rumpled and tired look to Spirit Will Hilel, he’d probably been asleep or maybe even fucking someone when I’d called. Beautiful. I might’ve just pissed off one of the people I was about to ask for help. I started to wonder if this sort of cascading bad luck was what Spirit Will Hilel meant when he said Spirit Will Moswen had screwed up karma that tended to effect those who crossed paths with him.
“I was following a faint trail that I thought was Litch Will Tyhlian’s. Except it wasn’t. Dreams were changed in a way that...”
Spirit Will Hilel immediately straightened in his seat and cut me off before I could say anything else. An aura of professionalism dropped over him.
“Say no more. Send me your co-ordinates, and I’ll come right away as I promised.”
As he promised? The hell? I didn’t remember Spirit Will Hilel saying any such thing to me when he’d dropped me off on the planetoid. Sure he’d said to call for him if I needed assistance, but that was a far cry from a promise. I heard urgency in Spirit Will Hilel’s words although nothing in his demeanour echoed that. I was about to say something when I finally noticed that it wasn’t so much a tired look as a haggard look that Spirit Will Hilel had. He gave me a nervous look spiced with a warning, and I frowned as I tried to puzzle out just what he was warning me about and why he was nervous. I sucked in a sharp breath when it hit me.
Something seriously wrong was going down with the Council and I was caught up in the middle of it because I was the unlucky bitch to have pulled the job to hunt Litch Will Tyhlian. Fuckity fuck fuck. Even if I wanted to bow out of the job of hunting him down, I probably wouldn’t be allowed to. If something or someone had spooked Spirit Will Hilel, a veteran Shal-hazal, I was damned sure I was dead meat if I did anything but the job I’d been assigned.
If this was yet another example of Spirit Will Moswen’s fucked up karma, I really wanted no part of it.
“Phaedra, send me the co-ordinates on the following channel. I’ll be there in under half an hour. Do not leave wherever you are. We’ll discuss this further when we meet.”
I nodded, cut the call and sent the information Spirit Will Hilel asked me to. I noted that the channel was a private one not connected to the Shal-hazals, and a shiver travelled up my spine. It was possible that Spirit Will Hilel was just being over-cautious, but I doubted it. He was one of the most unflappable Shal-hazal I knew with decades of experience under his belt.
I tried to remember who was in charge of the Council right now and kept drawing a blank. Typically, it didn’t matter to the average Shal-hazal who was in charge of the Council. You took your orders from the Wills of your House, and that was all you had to concern yourself with. The Wills were the ones to deal with the head of the Council when necessary, but even so, the Council only met once a month.
The head of the Council mostly did paperwork and coordinated the various Houses with whatever need the Awh’anise military had. The head of the Council was generally rotated out every four months if the person was still capable of entering a breeding cycle so that he or she were never in charge while under the influence of a cycle. Any that were past breeding or had his or her cycle suspended due to children under the age of six could remain as head of the Council for an additional four months provided a majority vote of confidence from the other Wills was achieved.
I struggled to remember what I could about the last time the Council head had changed. I frowned when the information refused to become clear in my head. While I didn’t pay close attention to the exact goings on of the Council, I tried to keep up with who was in charge. I’d never be made a Will as I didn’t have the skill level for it so it really didn’t matter if I knew who was the head or not, but I liked to know what was going on. I made a sound of triumph in my throat when my brain reluctantly spat out Spirit Will Cadao as the current head of the Council.
My upper lip curled back exposing my fangs. The man was a creep. It wasn’t anything that he did or said that gave that impression though. It was more... instinctual. Whether or not you were an asshole or made somebody’s skin crawl or were liked by everybody who met you had no bearing on being head of the Council. Every Will got a turn at being the head for good or bad. I couldn’t remember exactly when Spirit Will Cadao became the head, but if he made the other Wills as twitchy as he made me, I couldn’t see him getting anybody’s vote of confidence for another four month run.
Spirit Will Hilel appeared in my room, and I startled, my fist coming up automatically. Spirit Will Hilel raised his hands in the classic unarmed gesture, and I flushed red. Spirit Will Hilel’s cautious behaviour must’ve rubbed off on me. Or at least, that was the story I was telling myself.
“Phaedra. I’m going to assume that you think Moswen is the one who did the little extra-curricular dream weaving that lured you away from Tyhlian’s real trail. It’s been a while since I encountered any of his work, but the boy has a very subtle touch that’s noticeable only because it’s not noticeable. Amazing really for one so young. Backtrack me through the dreams you followed to the last one, and I should be able to confirm if it was Moswen or not who fiddled with the dreams.”
“Sure, but tell me first; why did you cut me off before I could say Spirit Will Moswen’s name? Something is going on with the Council, isn’t it?”
Spirit Will Hilel sighed and sat beside me on the bed. Up close, I could see that he looked even more haggard than he had on the vid screen. He looked like he wasn’t sleeping. While a Shal-hazal walked the dream world more often than not, we did still need to sleep even if we required far, far less than the average Awh’anise. A Shal-hazal that wasn’t sleeping was a very bad thing. Psychotic episodes in an individual that could control dreams was a level of bad just under an insane Litch.
I was starting to become very worried.
“I started to make a few enquiries into the order for Tyhlian’s execution as I said I would. I met a few stumbling blocks but nothing serious. At least, it didn’t seem that way at first. But the more I pushed for answers, the more resistance I got until I actually got a visit from Spirit Will Cadao himself telling me to drop my line of questioning unless I wanted to be brought up on charges. I pretended to go along with him just to get him off my back. I never liked that man overly much, and I thought that if a vote was made for him to stay for another term, I’d vote no. And shortly after that is where it went sideways.”
That big, icy ball of dread made an appearance in my belly again. I would’ve teased Spirit Will Hilel about being the harbinger of it, but his expression stopped me cold.
“I was curious about just when that vote would be but couldn’t remember when Cadao took the head seat, so I went to look up records. The database showed that Cadao took control of the Council a little over two years ago. They’re not records that are accessed frequently, but they are always kept up to date. Only this time they weren’t. I was sure that had to be a mistake. I copied the information to a data stick and printed out a hard copy and presented the hardcopy to the archivist. She was surprised and said it must’ve been an entry error. She said she’d retrieve the original paperwork and make the correction. She thanked me for pointing it out, and I left.
“The next day, I wake up and go back to the archive to see the corrected files. Only the woman had no idea what I was talking about. I watched her call up the files now showing Cadao took control a month ago. I knew that wasn’t right as Tyhlian had the execution order placed several months ago and the head of the Council needs to sign off on the execution of a fellow Will. I was sure that Cadao’s signature was on that order so he had to have been the head of the Council then which meant that his time on the Council was nearly done. I left the archive to double check on the original paperwork for that order at the Litch Hunter’s headquarters just in case I remembered it wrong. When I went back a few hours later, the archive was in an uproar.”
The dread was now a gut-freezing sense of doom. I was sure I wasn’t going to like what I was about to hear.
“The head archivist and several of the senior staff were dead. A Litch novice apparently freaked out upon learning what he was to be and attempted to enter the archives to change what was recorded about his Dream Journey. They refused to let him in, and he turned on them. He killed the archivists he could catch, smashed whatever he could and then slit his own throat. I could’ve maybe accepted it because some Litch novices do go off the deep end when they find out what they are destined to be, but it was just a little too coincidental for my taste. That night, somebody tried to twist my dreams. I woke up before much of anything happened but there were details that I knew had been changed because of the notes I’d made that didn’t mesh with what I thought I remembered. Changed too much and too quickly beyond what a Spirit could do alone even for one with massive talent.”
I stared at Spirit Will Hilel with my mouth hanging open in shock. What he was talking about couldn’t happen. It just couldn’t. It sounded like he was talking about some kind of conspiracy of the highest magnitude.
“As far as I’ve been able to tell, none of the Wills can remember exactly when Cadao became head of the Council. Some think recently; some think a few months ago. I’ve skimmed a few of the Wills’ dreams, but I can’t find evidence of their dreams being tampered with. I can’t probe hard for obvious reasons, but as it stands, I think I’m the only active Will that knows Cadao has been head for much, much longer than he should’ve been. He’s done and is doing something to confuse the dreams of the Wills. What the hell that is, how and why— I have no idea. Every time I sleep, I end up waking myself up when I feel my dreams being changed and I’m sure I only feel it because I’m aware that it’s already happened once before. It’s never anything definite that I can say is different, but when I check my notes, there’s things I either don’t remember happening the way I wrote about it or that it happened at all.”
Great gods above and below!
This was bad. Very bad. Worse even than an insane Litch on a power kill high. The Wills guided the Shal-hazals of their House. The Council head directed the Wills. If Spirit Will Cadao was doing what Spirit Will Hilel said, we were all very, very fucked.
“Trust no Will, Phaedra. Write everything down, and check your notes when you get up in the morning. Whatever Cadao is planning or doing, he has to be stopped. I think my time is limited. Yes, it could be the beginnings of a paranoid psychotic episode because I’m sleeping less than an hour a day, but I doubt it. I’ve had a sleep dep psychotic episode, every Shal-hazal has. This feels different. Cadao has obviously been planning this whatever-it-is for a long time. He was always very good at the long game and has unbelievable patience. I’m sure he knows I’m onto him and will want to shut me the hell up. That’s not paranoia; it’s fact.”
“He’ll come after me next won’t he?” I asked as a shiver of fear slid down my spine.
“Doubtful. You’re not a Will. How could you be expected to know the when of Cadao taking over as head of the Council? And you’ve been out chasing down an insane Litch Will for the last couple of months. While you are exceedingly good at what you do, you are not a Will; that’s all that matters. However, it won’t hurt anything to start writing things down and checking to see if your memories have been altered at all. You’ll probably benefit from being so far away from Awh’an, too. Shot in the dark here, but it was only after you’d been away for an extended period of time that you started to question the order of execution, wasn’t it?”
“I figured that. I’m going to check the dreams for you to see if it was Moswen. If he is helping Tyhlian, your job is going to be even more difficult. You do realize that there is also the possibility that Tyhlian isn’t as crazy as he’d need to be for an execution order. I hesitate to say that this is all part of some sort of twisted revenge for what Moswen did to Cadao years ago, but Cadao felt the prank Moswen played on him was humiliating, and Cadao has never dealt well with that particular emotion.”
Well fuck me with the sandpaper lube.
This job was officially the absolute shittiest job in the history of shitty jobs. I didn’t want to think about it all being a case of somebody getting his prissy little tail in a knot over a juvenile prank. I wasn’t sure that Litch Will Tyhlian wasn’t crazy because of what I thought he was doing or trying to do with whatever the ritual was that I’d interrupted. But what if that ritual had some other purpose than gaining power to smite my ass before I knew what hit me? What if he knew somebody other than the contracts in his head were messing with his mind and he was simply trying to clear Spirit Will Cadao’s influence from his brain? I groaned softly and closed my eyes. This was not at all what I’d signed on for when I accepted the order to hunt down an insane Litch Will.
“Take me to the dreams, Phaedra. I’ll confirm or deny Moswen as the source of the weaving although we both know that it’s him in all likelihood. After that, I’ll head back to Awh’an. I’ll continue to look into what I can. There’s no point in my stopping now. I’ll leave my notes for you. Just remember that the longer a Shal-hazal is away from Awh’an, and stays away, the less affected they seem to be by whatever Cadao is doing. If you’re going to trust anyone, make it another Shal-hazal that hasn’t been home bound in some time.”
I nodded. I rested my hand on Spirit Will Hilel’s arm and closed my eyes. I dropped into the dream world and as soon as he appeared next to me, I took him to the edges of my range and one of the dreams that’d pointed me in the direction of the place where everything started to unravel. Spirit Will Hilel only spent a few minutes examining the dream and declared that Moswen’s signature was there.
I studied the dream and couldn’t see anything wrong or odd. Not even when Spirit Will Hilel pointed out impossibly tiny inconsistencies did I really see what he was showing me. They looked like the standard skips that happened in dreams.
“Moswen, while young, is incredibly gifted. He made them look like skips on purpose so that even if you were looking for signs of tampering, you’d pass right over them. Chances are that if I wasn’t looking specifically for signs of Moswen being here, I wouldn’t have seen it either. He really is that good.”
I felt a little better that Spirit Will Hilel would’ve been fooled, too. The next several dreams were more of the same, but by the time we checked the dreams of the staff at the club, I could begin to see signs of Shal-hazal tweaking. It was still very subtle and without knowing exactly what I was looking for, I still would’ve had a very hard time spotting it the first time around. I led Spirit Will Hilel back to my room on the ship.
“Moswen did tamper with those dreams with the express goal of sending you on a wild chase. Where Tyhlian is now... good luck with that. Moswen obviously wants to protect his brother, but maybe he also knows that the order of execution isn’t a fair one. I don’t know if he’ll continue to help Tyhlian, but I hope for his sake that he doesn’t. The Council will not look kindly on this sort of interference, Cadao especially. Take care, Phaedra, and watch your dreams.”
Spirit Will Hilel rubbed his cheek against mine, squeezed my shoulder in support and stepped away from me. His eyes closed and he swayed slightly as he dropped into sleep. Between one blink and the next, he vanished. I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. Everything I’d just learned threw my whole game plan into chaos. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do.
I was supposed to find and kill Litch Will Tyhlian, but he might not actually be deserving of the death sentence. The head of the Council was somehow manipulating all the Wills, and I had no solid idea how or why. The person who’d been willing to help me was probably going to end up dead in the not so distant future for being a little too curious. I chewed on my bottom lip and wracked my brains on what my next move should be. I almost felt like a light went off in my head when something Spirit Will Hilel said came to me. I punched in a channel code and waited somewhat impatiently for the person on the other end to pick up. I had no idea what time it was where I was calling or even if there’d be somebody there to take my call.
“Phaedra? To what do I owe the pleasure of your call?” asked the woman who answered.
“Litch Hunter Sunki, I have a problem, and you’re probably the only Shal-hazal that can help me.”
The older, brown-haired woman raised an eyebrow at me and I could see that she thought I was flattering her for some reason. A tall man with aquamarine skin and turquoise hair appeared on screen beside Sunki and kissed her on the cheek. He made some undulating noises in his throat, and Sunki nodded and made the same kind of noises back before he disappeared off screen. Despite catching a very lovely flash of firm, pale blue ass, I refused to be distracted from the purpose of calling my teacher.
“There’s something serious going on with the head of the Council. Only Wills that haven’t been on Awh’an in at least the last two years stand a chance of not being affected. Since you’re retired and haven’t lived on Awh’an in a lot more years than that, I’m sincerely hoping you can help. I was just speaking with Spirit Will Hilel. He’d been investigating the job I’m on because it was... strange, and he thinks he’s now targeted to die because of what he knows.”
“Well that certainly gets my attention. Give me the short and sweet version, and we’ll see what I can do,” Litch Hunter Sunki said with a smile.
Relief washed through me. Litch Hunter Sunki was a retired Warrior Will and the best Litch Hunter trainer there was. She had more experience in the tip of her tail than I had in my entire body. She lived on another planet with her husband Ciiravee and as far as I was aware, hadn’t been back to Awh’an, except for the occasional visit with friends, in at least two decades. Even when she trained Litch Hunters, they went to her instead of her going to Awh’an. I came very close to worshipping the ground she walked on because I respected her skills and experience so much.
I just knew she’d be able to help me figure out my next move.
Ana-taw’dect: Literal translation is tiny rainbow with vicious teeth. Tiny, brightly-coloured birds that seem harmless and friendly enough to land on an outstretched finger. They are carnivorous and have razored beaks. They travel in large swarms, and when one finds prey, it will call the others to eat. An average-size swarm numbers approximately one hundred birds and can completely devour a full grown male in slightly less than ten minutes. Nothing will be left of whatever they eat, not even bones.