I had thought that Tyh was joking about how obsessed he’d be with sex during his cycle. He wasn’t. After the first week, I was exhausted. Tyh was very apologetic for being so demanding, which was sort of funny in a way because I was enjoying myself for the most part. He was trying to curb his needs, but I’d never had so much sex in my life. I never thought I’d say it, but there really was such a thing as too much sex.
We had sex in reality and sex in dreams. It often seemed that we’d no sooner found release and he was ready to go again. It was taking longer and longer for me to get erect between bouts and when I did orgasm, the amount of ejaculate I produced was down to a few pathetic droplets. Tyh had no such problem, which was a bit mind boggling and kinda hot at the same time. At one point, I’d actually tried to reassure Tyh that I didn’t need to orgasm every time we had sex during this cycle of his. He’d given me a look of disbelief but let the matter drop when I’d used my negotiator’s voice to reaffirm it. I think he felt he was cheating me out of pleasure or something, but I enjoyed the closeness and especially the emotional response from Tyh.
I was surprised that he wasn’t making use of my mouth more. Actually, when I thought about it, I hadn’t gotten my lips on his dick since his cycle started, which was more than a little strange. He’d even steered me away from getting my mouth on him more than once. Maybe it was a cycle thing for him, although he seemed to have no problems getting me to blow him in dreams. Despite the ridiculous amount of sex we were having, I still felt shy about baldly asking why he wasn’t asking me to suck his cock. Or maybe more accurately why he wouldn’t let me suck his cock.
If I didn’t know how thrilled he was to have me suck him off, I’d have thought that there was something about my technique that he didn’t like. But emotions couldn’t lie, so I knew that wasn’t the case from the previous times I’d had him in my mouth. It was one of those strange things that I’d noticed since his cycle started. I kept meaning to ask him about the things I noticed, but he usually distracted me with yet another round, or when I did think of it afterwards, I was so tired I fell right asleep.
Finally enjoying anal sex with Tyh in reality was better than anything I’d imagined. It felt absolutely right to have him slide his cock into my ass and pin me under him. He was being very careful with the amount of times he had my ass in reality, but it was still a little tender feeling—not that I minded all that much. I actually liked the way it physically felt coupled with the mental sensation of being thoroughly owned and used for his pleasure. I was apparently much kinkier than I’d ever suspected myself of being to feel that intensity from something like that.
There was just something so... powerful about feeling him thrust into me. It was like everything I felt was magnified a thousand times, and the rush of pleasure was so consuming that it was almost like I could read his mind to know what would give him and me the most pleasure. There were times in the height of passion when I would almost be willing to swear on my fikdeas that I heard Tyh speaking in my head.
That was impossible as I was a receiving empath and had never displayed so much as a glimmer of telepathy even under the most rigorous of testing my government had subjected me to. Telepathy was extraordinarily rare among Laiokians. More rare than a Tiechle but not as rare as one such as myself. The few telepaths I had heard of were almost always Tiechle or the twin of a Tiechle, and the ability itself was erratic and didn’t seem to be under anything but the barest control of an individual.
The quasi-telepathy that I seemed to have whenever Tyh had me under him was odd, but I completely blamed it on the Lor’fei. I was still blaming a hell of a lot of things on the Lor’fei, but I had no better explanation for the strange things I was experiencing. I hadn’t mentioned the maybe telepathy to Tyh as I couldn’t say for sure that it was something that actually happened or something I just imagined.
Or maybe something I wanted to believe had happened.
Funny enough, I didn’t want to blame the Lor’fei for my deepening feelings towards Tyh. That, I was sure, was simply because of the amount of time we were spending together and the level of closeness we were experiencing. I didn’t think the copious amount of sex was responsible for the way I was feeling towards him although it certainly wasn’t hurting. Tyh was just... He was an attractive man on so many levels. He was undeniably handsome. He was an extremely considerate lover and attentive partner. He was very bright and a wonderful conversationalist. Most of all though, he loved me as I’d secretly hoped someone would but never thought would really happen.
Tyh loved me exactly as I was. He didn’t want me to change and even went so far as to say that he thought my personality quirks were cute. He thought I was beautiful, something I’d never had said to me by anyone, barring my parents. He was not afraid of me or what I could do to him. There had never been even the tiniest sliver of revulsion connected to me from him—not even when I told him about more or less killing that girl when I was a teen. Granted, he was a highly specialized soldier, and I knew what soldiers did for a living. But that was a job and different in my mind from being, say, a serial killer and very different from accidently killing someone. Tyh had admitted to taking pleasure in killing some of the people he shared head space with, but after learning what some of them had done while alive, I had to admit to a certain sense of satisfaction in knowing that they were more or less dead and in a place where they couldn’t hurt anyone; Tyh excepted.
I sighed softly as I thought that I was probably falling in love with Tyh. That wasn’t a bad thing, but there were certain depressing elements and pressures to that path. He was going crazy from the voices in his head, and I was still no closer to figuring out just what I’d done the very first time to get rid of some of the voices without altering Tyh’s mind at all. He was being hunted, and if he was caught, the woman chasing him would do her level best to kill him. Both options would leave me on the wrong side of a doomed love affair, and I didn’t know if I was strong enough for that. I’d told Tyh often enough that I wasn’t some delicate thing that would be crushed from a little rough handling, but I was starting to think that maybe my heart was that fragile. It sure seized up fast when I thought of life without Tyh.
That little bit of cowardice was making me cautious about admitting my feelings even to myself. There would never be another person like Tyh in my life. I knew that with rock solid certainty. He loved me with his entire being. He would, quite literally, happily die for me. That was breath-taking, thrilling and scary as fuck. I knew he wanted me to love him back. I’d sort of danced him into a corner and gotten him to admit that hearing me say that I loved him was the one thing he wanted before he died. But, he also stressed that he didn’t want me to say it to make him happy. He wanted me to mean it when I said it, and I couldn’t fault him for that.
“Dak? You want to go for a walk? We’ve both been cooped up in this ship for a little too long. The planet is small, but safe; well, as safe as a relatively unexplored planet can be. You’ll be safe with me, and I have a pocket laser, too, just in case we stumble on something really nasty,” Tyh said with a smile as he poked his head into the room we shared.
The first thing Tyh had done after we both recovered from the initial bout of sex to start his cycle was find a suitable, uninhabited planet and land there. He hadn’t wanted to worry about needing to pilot the ship while he was so utterly focused on sex. I really hadn’t thought it would be a problem because that was what autopilot was for, right? Only, Tyh informed me that there were always surprise course corrections and random hails from other ships, and not making the corrections could land us someplace we really didn’t want to be. Not answering a hail could see us boarded as a derelict ship, and that would a whole other kind of bad for us.
He’d found us a small planet quickly and spared no fuel in getting us there. We’d landed in a grassy field, and Tyh shut down everything but lights and life support. When I’d asked why we didn’t just go outside and conserve even that, he’d said he was still too distracted with sex and wouldn’t put my safety at risk. He had said that when he started to come out of cycle, we could go out of the ship. It looked like that time was now.
I smiled at Tyh and nodded, closing out the news program I hadn’t really been paying attention to. I’d never spent so much time in a ship and I was well on my way to being heartily sick of the inside of it. Tyh beamed at me, took my hand and lead the way out of the ship. I blinked rapidly as we exited the ship, the sunlight harsh against my eyes after weeks of artificial light. I inhaled deeply, the smell of green, growing things heavy in the air. It was wonderful after the weeks of recycled air. I was also glad I was only wearing a sleeveless shirt instead of my usual long-sleeved one and roomy jacket as it was quite warm outside.
“I found a place sort of close to what Awh’an is like because I doubt I’ll ever get to show you it in reality and I wanted to be able to give you a little taste of it. I can dream it for you, but that’s not the same. I love Awh’an in all its savage beauty, and I think you’d come to love it, too. The gravity here is close if a little lighter then Awh’an and the air has nearly the same density, too. Tell me if it’s too much for you though because it is more than what the ship was set to. Most people find heavier than they’re used to gravity tires them out pretty fast until they adjust to it, and some people get light-headed from the dense, oxygen-rich air. Living with heavy gravity is something that makes us so incredibly fast when we’re off-planet.”
I laughed. “This isn’t heavy to me. Laiokian gravity is more than this. While I grew up on a space station, it was a Laiokian one so the artificial gravity was set to planet standards. The air is thicker than I’m used to, but not too bad.”
“Heavier gravity than this?” Tyh asked as he lead the way across the meadow at a leisurely pace, my hand firmly clasped in his. “Like a lot heavier?”
I nodded. “Quite a bit heavier actually. Laiokians are products of the heavier gravity in sort of the same way your people are. We’re typically short and sturdy. Tall males average five and a half feet but most are a little shorter than that. Women are usually a little over five feet tall. I’m considered freakishly tall at six foot five and hideously skinny. Even if I wasn’t the Void, I’d still literally stand head and shoulders above others in a crowd of Laiokians.”
“No shit? Hmmm, now that I think about it, you didn’t seem to have trouble keeping up with me the few times we’ve needed to walk anywhere.”
Impulse had me grin, shake my hand loose from Tyh’s and sprint across the meadow, my long legs eating up the distance quickly. I laughed in delight as I ran, not realizing how much I missed the regular running I used to do for hours at a time. I almost always ran on a treadmill since I was usually working somewhere where taking off for a few hours to run wasn’t possible, not to mention my guards never allowing me to do that. Running across the meadow with the scent of growing things in my nose strongly reminded me of running through the hydroponics bays on the space station I grew up on.
The gentle breeze ruffled through my hair that streamed behind me as I ran. It was a glorious feeling, and I laughed again. I heard a loud growl and footsteps behind me and risked a glanced back to see Tyh coming straight for me. I sped up and turned in a broad arc as I reached the edge of the meadow heading more or less back the way I’d come. I wasn’t about to run into an unknown forest on an unknown planet as that was incredibly stupid and dangerous when I was just having some fun.
I hadn’t gone more than a dozen paces when Tyh was suddenly beside me. He flashed me a grin, called me a slow poke and streaked away, laughing like mad. He wasn’t quite the blur in motion that he’d been in the hotel room when he and Phaedra fought, but it was a damn close thing. I slowed to a walk and watched him turn sharply and race back towards me. When he stopped in front of me, he wasn’t even breathing hard and joy was written all over his face.
“You really can move pretty fast. That was wicked cool, Dak. I haven’t run across that many other species that can even get close to moving like an Awh’anise.”
“I can run faster than that, Tyh. I’ve never seen anyone move as fast as you. All Awh’anise can do that? How quick can you run?”
“We can do short bursts of speed and strength. Average Awh’anise can reach top speeds of about fifty miles an hour, but that’s not sustainable over a long period of time. If I really push myself, I can run flat out for about three minutes, but I’m also in top physical condition. I’d need to sit and rest for probably a good thirty minutes before I could do that again though.”
“But you’re not even breathing hard now,” I protested.
Tyh laughed. “No, but that was only maybe a thirty second burst. If I’d been running at my max and say... carrying you, then yeah, thirty seconds would leave me winded.”
My eyes went wide. “You could carry me while you ran like that?”
“You’re not exactly a heavyweight, Dak.” Tyh snorted. “More like a little bit of fluff.”
I ignored that comment and wondered what other interesting bits of Awh’anise knowledge I could gain. Tyh was always willing to discuss anything about his people with me, but if I didn’t ask specific questions, he really didn’t know where to begin. We’d already covered the basic stuff so it was down to pouncing on the unusual, and this speed/strength thing was unusual to me.
“So if you need to rest for half an hour between these spurts, does that mean your overall stamina sucks?”
Tyh leered at me. “I think you know by now that I’ve got great stamina.”
My face heated when I clued into what he was implying. My hair reached out to snag his ankles and dumped him on his ass. He yelped as soon as his feet left the grass and twisted against my hair as he tried to land on his feet, his tail whipping around frantically for balance. I smirked at him as he sat at my feet, tangled in my hair and felt his emotions leap into what I could only call playfulness. Tyh said the Awh’anise liked to play and what I thought would be a fun idea popped into my head.
“Very funny, Tyh. Laiokians have pretty good stamina, too. Let’s see how you make out against me. Just remember that I’ve been off my running schedule for a bit and might not be up to my usual form.”
My hair slithered off Tyh, I spun around and took off running again. I wasn’t aiming for speed but endurance. I doubted I’d be able to outpace Tyh based on the little sprint he’d shown me earlier, but I might be able to outlast him. I might’ve been the tallest, skinniest Laiokian in forever, but I was still a product of Laiokian genetics, and we’d been selective breeding our people for centuries to produce an incredibly hardy species that could adapt to a very wide range of worlds with a stamina that was very well documented.
Tyh was beside me before I’d taken more than thirty long strides, running next to me easily. Fun and joy nearly poured off him. I didn’t doubt it was because I’d elected to play a game of some kind with him. He wouldn’t care what it was. Play was something Tyh seemed to need along with touches, both things I’d gladly give him.
“What’re the stakes in this stamina contest, Dak?”
“No stakes, Tyh. I’m just curious to see if you can outlast me,” I said as I settled into a nice, brisk pace.
“Bragging rights then. Okay. I’m good with that. You’re going down, shal-demsho.”
I got a light, almost giddy feeling in my belly whenever Tyh called me that. I knew what the word meant and basically being called the dream lover of someone who could actually control dreams was pretty damn special. However, it didn’t mean that I’d let him win just because he called me something really sweet. I did not like to lose.
“I wouldn’t be too sure of that, Tyh. I used to run at this pace for about two hours when I had a treadmill or track available to me. What you saw earlier isn’t my speed limit either. I can move faster and for a fairly long period of time, too.”
Tyh’s grin reached epic size. Competitiveness coloured his feelings. He said nothing further though and ran beside me as we started to make a circuit of the large meadow we’d landed in. An hour and a half later Tyh was starting to look a little ragged around the edges. He was keeping up with me but he was also putting in far more effort than I was. Granted, I could feel my shirt sticking to my back and chest from exertion and the warm temperature of the day, but I thought I was doing much better than Tyh. Determination heavily coloured his emotions, and an evil little imp in me had me start to pick up my pace gradually. I knew I’d tire more quickly, but the impulse to mess with Tyh was just too hard to deny.
He still kept pace with me, but he was starting to breathe hard by the time we hit the two hour mark. The evil imp paid me another visit, and I was just as helpless to resist as the first time. I pasted my most serious expression on my face and turned my head to look at Tyh.
“You want to get serious about this? I’m ready to jump up a gear in speed. You game?”
Tyh looked at me like I was the crazy one. I raised an eyebrow, and when he didn’t call it quits, I stretched out my stride and really started to run. I clearly felt the shock from Tyh as I ran faster yet didn’t seem bothered by all the running we’d already done. He surged after me and ran beside me for another twenty minutes before he faltered. Within minutes, I was ahead of him and gaining ground. When I didn’t hear any footfalls behind me after a few strides, I glanced back to see him kneeling in the grass, head down, presumably trying to catch his breath. I kept running and decided to show off a little by putting even more speed into my stride. My legs were starting to burn, and I was breathing hard, but I wanted to prove to Tyh that I wasn’t some fainting flower. I passed the spot where Tyh knelt in the grass several times before I slowed and finally stopped next to him.
My legs hurt but in the good way of hard exercise. I was sweaty, my shirt wet and sticking to my chest and back. I was hot, breathing hard and even my hair was limp. I felt great. I threw my arms around Tyh’s neck and kissed him.
“That was awesome. I feel wrung out and disgustingly sweaty, but it was so worth it.”
“You totally won the bragging rights, Dak. I can’t believe you kept running after I stopped. Can you imagine what would happen if our people were to breed? Stars, we’d produce the hardiest things on two legs.”
I pulled back and looked at Tyh in surprise. The Fire Snake had said sort of the same thing to me when it spoke to me in the dream. That was a little freaky, but I had to admit, when I thought about it, any offspring of a Laiokian and an Awh’anise would be pretty sturdy stuff. I let go of Tyh and wrinkled my nose.
“Ewww. We both smell disgusting. I would absolutely love a real shower right about now. I know the sonic shower gets you perfectly clean, but it simply doesn’t feel the same as a shower with water cascading over your skin,” I said with a wistful sigh.
A water shower onboard a space ship was a huge waste of water and not something that would have been installed on a ship as small as ours. Only luxury space liners had those, and even then, it was only in a few ultra-expensive suites. Tyh grinned and stood, holding out his hand to me. I groaned softly as I stood, my muscles letting me know that I really had over done it by showing off for Tyh. He clasped my hand and pulled me back to the ship. He told me to wait at the hatch and hurried off in the direction of our room. He was back shortly with some towels draped over his arm and was bare-assed naked with a wickedly long knife strapped to his thigh. He looked dangerously sexy.
“If you thought that run was cool, you’re going to be thrilled with what I found only a short walk from the meadow. Get naked, Dak.”
“Strip. There’s nobody within at least a thousand miles of us. The only one who’ll see your lovely bare bottom is me, and I will certainly appreciate the view.”
“I am not walking naked out of this ship, Tyhlian,” I said scandalized at the very idea.
“Why not?” he asked, curiosity in his voice and emotions.
“Because you don’t appear naked outside of your bedroom. That’s... not right,” I sputtered.
Tyh laughed, dropped the towels at our feet and had half the buttons of my shirt undone before I thought to slap his hands away. He was persistent and shortly had my shirt unbuttoned and pushed it off my shoulders, the sweat sticking it to my back the only thing keeping it from falling to the floor.
“Tyhlian, I am not walking out in public without clothes on,” I said in a stern voice.
“It’s not public if there is no public to see the view. What’s the matter, Dak? Scared a bird might see all your interesting bits?” Tyh taunted as his nimble fingers went to work with frightening speed on the button and zipper of my pants.
My pants, being heavier but not as sweat soaked as my shirt, ended up around my ankles before I’d even registered that they’d started to slide off my hips. With the amount of sex we were having, I’d given up on wearing underwear after the second day and now stood mostly nude where anybody could see me. Heat suffused my face at standing so exposed in the open hatchway of the ship. I was shocked to find the situation oddly thrilling.
Tyh stepped on the crotch of my pants and continued to pull my shirt off despite my struggling to keep it on. He growled at me and arousal spiked hard from him. My hair, traitor that it often turned out to be where Tyh was concerned, did nothing to help me regain my clothes and actually started to caress Tyh instead. Fine, I was finding his teasing aggression and gentle stripping of me against my will arousing. That wasn’t the point.
“I’m not comfortable being naked anywhere. I’m not... I’m not nice to look at. I’m hideously skinny and... I’m just not something people want to see naked,” I blurted out.
Tyh stilled and shock coursed through him quickly followed by anger so strong I wanted to take a step back. He folded me into his arms, his tail wrapping around us both tightly. Upset was suddenly coming from him in waves, and I had no idea why. My hair slithered around us and the low, comforting tone Tyh delighted in hearing from me started up automatically.
“I don’t know who told you that stuff, Dak, but it was a lie. You are absolutely beautiful. You’re tall and lean and sleek like a... runner or a dancer. You move with dignity and grace. You’re like a finely carved figure that needs to be set on a pedestal so the common brutish crowd can admire you but not break you. I’ve never seen anyone so exquisitely put together as you.”
Sincerity poured from Tyh, and he hugged me almost desperately. I had no idea what to say to him. I’d always been stared at with barely concealed distaste from my own people, my height and body shape so far from what was the norm and considered attractive; I was sure that even if I’d been a normal colour, Laiokians, in general, would’ve still considered me a freak and highly unattractive.
“That’s the Lor’fei talking,” I said softly.
“No. That’s the gods’ honest truth, Dak. I love the way you look. I could and do simply stare at you for hours at a time. Awh’anise come in all shapes and sizes from short and squat to tall and skinny. Moswen is my little brother, yet he’s taller than me by a good three inches at six foot three. His brood-mate, Mahira, is a tiny thing at just five foot two, and they’re sextuplets, so you’d think they’d be more alike. My sho-ter’le, Jaron, is six foot four.”
“What? You stare at me for hours at a time? When? I never noticed that,” I said with a frown as I pulled back slightly to look at Tyh’s face.
A blush coloured Tyh’s cheeks, and his eyes slid away from mine. I felt distinct discomfort from Tyh. I cupped his jaw and turned his face back to mine. Tiny threads of panic shot through him, and I was supremely confused at that reaction to what should’ve been a simple question.
“Tyhlian Huyana-Dukker, I demand you tell me right now when you stared at me for hours without my being aware of it,” I said in my professional voice.
Tyh sighed heavily. “Sometimes when you’re asleep, I’ll stare at you. I don’t do anything. I just watch you.”
“Why?” I asked, utterly baffled as to why Tyh would want to watch me sleep.
“Because I love you, Dakvir,” Tyh said simply. “I think I’m blessed to have found you in what little time I have left. Sometimes I can’t believe that you’re really real and with me and mine. So I watch you sleep and marvel that you’re next to me and that if I wanted to, I could touch you and hold you and just... be with you.”
That was the sweetest, most touching thing I’d ever heard. I leaned down and kissed Tyh, a tiny smile touching my lips when I felt his relief jump through his emotions at my obvious acceptance of him and his feelings. Some people might’ve thought that sort of behaviour was creepy or overbearing, but it made me feel wanted and treasured.
“Are you sure that there’s nobody even close to us?” I asked hesitantly.
“Absolutely,” Tyh said as a tentative smile started. “I wouldn’t tell you to get naked if I thought there was a possibility that somebody else might see you. I don’t want to share that view with anyone. I’m still kinda pissed that Moswen saw you naked.”
I nibbled on my bottom lip and tried to ignore the nerves that suddenly sprang to life in my belly at the idea of stepping outside without a stitch of clothing on. I knew if I really felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to do it, Tyh wouldn’t push the issue. Oddly enough, that made my mind up for me. I kissed Tyh again and used my hair to push him away from me. He resisted for a few seconds before reluctantly letting me go. I shrugged out of my shirt and struggled to step out of my pants, my shoes making it difficult. Once free of my clothes and shoes, I looked at Tyh.
“I’m trusting you in that we really are alone here. Lead away, Tyh. Show me this cool surprise you have for me,” I said after taking a deep breath and holding out my hand to him.
Tyh beamed at me, picked up the towels and took my hand to lead me out of the ship again. The grass was warm and springy under my feet and tickled a little. My hair was doing a good job of covering my privates, and I saw the look that Tyh gave me. Amusement might’ve been washing through his emotions at my modesty, but there wasn’t so much as a lip twitch or sound of laughter coming from him.
“It’s not far. Maybe a five minute walk. Are you okay for that after that wickedly impressive run you did earlier?”
“Yeah, I’m starting to feel a little stiff, but okay. I wouldn’t want to walk far for a while yet, but five minutes is doable. Are you going to tell me what you’re taking me to see? I assume it has something to do with water as you’re bringing towels with you.”
“I’m not going to tell you what it is as that would ruin the surprise, but you are right that it has something to do with water. You’ll find out when we get there.”
I walked hand-in-hand with Tyh across the meadow and into the trees. It was cooler in the shade, and the sound of birds singing was louder than it had been in the open. I heard what were likely small animals running through the underbrush. It was a very odd but freeing sensation to be walking through a forest without a stitch of clothing on. Once doing it, I sort of liked it. We crunched over fallen leaves for only a minute or two before the trees opened up into a tiny clearing.
In the centre of the clearing was a small pool maybe eight feet in diameter with steam gently curling from the surface. The sand around the edge of pool was crystalline blue and the water was a pale purple. Several brilliant orange flowers with feathery-looking petals and dark green, leathery leaves floated on the surface of the pool. Tall fronds grew in clumps around the pool offering areas of shade. It was peaceful and serene and utterly beautiful.
“What do you think, Dak? Was this a good surprise?” Tyh was a touch nervous about my reaction, which I thought was strange as the spot was gorgeous.
“It’s amazing, Tyh. How did you know this was here?” I asked as I walked to the pool and crouched at the edge to test the temperature. I barely bit back the groan of delight when it was the perfect temperature for a relaxing soak.
“I scanned the area to make sure it was safe before I asked you if you wanted to go for a walk. There’s a few other hot springs near the ship, but this was the closest one that was big enough for us to get in. The scan showed it to be pretty shallow; maybe four feet deep in the very centre. So, you really like that I brought you here even if I made you do it in the nude?”
“This is wonderful. And we both know that if I’d really balked at walking here nude, you wouldn’t have made me,” I said as I stood and moved over to give him a kiss. “I’m quite the lucky man to have such a thoughtful lover.”
Tyh actually blushed a little before taking my hand and walking into the pool. I followed, sinking to my knees with him when we were halfway to the centre of the pool, the water lapping at my chest. Tyh was slightly closer to the shore, and the water rose nearly to his chin. A groan of pleasure did escape me then as the water bubbled and flowed gently around my body. The almost-hot water felt amazing, and I swore I could feel my muscles loosening from the exercise induced stiffness.
The bottom of the pool was sandy but didn’t feel rough under my knees like I expected it to. Tyh scooped up some of the crystalline blue sand from the bottom of the pool and rubbed it over my shoulders. I started to protest but held my tongue when instead of feeling abrasive, it was no worse than a wash cloth. His hands gently massaged me as he worked the fine sand over my skin visible above the water.
“I didn’t want to maybe taint the pool with soap, so I figured we’d go rustic and scrub each other with the sand. We do this on Awh’an in some of the mineral springs, and it always feels like you’re really getting clean. Although, I have to say that this sand feels way softer than anything I’ve used on Awh’an.”
I smiled at Tyh and bent a little to scoop some sand up to return the favour. I held up the sand and gave him a pointed look. He grinned before standing so I could rub it over his skin as he’d done to me. As soon as my hand made contact with his body, he started to purr. He allowed me to rub the soft sand over him for less than a minute before he backed towards the shore, beckoning me to follow him to the shallower water. I stood and joined him in the calf deep water. He undid the long knife still strapped to his thigh and tossed it onto the bank well within reach if something happened along to threaten us.
He tugged me back down to a kneeling position with him and started scooping up sand again and rubbing the almost silky feeling stuff over my body. I copied his movements, liking the way his muscles felt under my hands as they flexed and relaxed with our movements. For once, my hair behaved itself and stayed out of the way; although, I thought it had more to do with the liquid heat of the water my hair lazily floated and swirled around in than any real good behaviour.
I had done many sexual things with Tyh, but none seemed to hold the same level of quiet intimacy that our impromptu bath in the natural hot spring did. Neither one of us spoke, but it didn’t seem like we had to. There was no fumbling or collision of hands as we gently rubbed sand over each other’s body and traded gentle kisses. We moved in concert with each other like we knew exactly where the other person’s hands were going to be at any given moment.
Given that Tyh was still in cycle and it had been several hours since we’d last had sex, I was surprised he wasn’t hard when we were running our hands over each other rather intimately. There was a low-level arousal coming from him, but I knew from experience that was something always present with him as far as I was concerned. I was curious about why he wasn’t erect, but not enough to actually open my mouth and possibly ruin the mood we seemed to be in.
After a while, we stopped rubbing the soft sand over each other and just gently touched each other like we were learning each other’s bodies for the first time. Eventually, even that stopped, and we simply held each other and leaned on one another, Tyh purring quietly and me making the sub-sonic undulations he loved hearing. For the first time in my life, I felt utterly at peace with myself and relaxed.
I let my shields slip down to half-strength, and a pleased tone wove through the comforting sound I was making when I didn’t get a rush of sudden emotions from Tyh. Yes, the feelings I got from Tyh were stronger since my shields were lower than normal, but they didn’t bowl me over as I half-expected them to. I actually liked the sensation of his emotions against my senses. They felt like gentle, warm waves advancing and retreating. I hadn’t expected it in a million years, but I was comfortable exposing myself as I was to him, and it was scary and thrilling at the same time. Tyh smiled at me, stood and stepped away from my hands. He dove into the pool and stayed underwater for longer than I thought he would. When he surfaced, he sighed in pleasure and slicked back his hair.
“You might want to dunk your head under, too, and give your hair a good scrub. It feels awesome. You’ll probably like that even more than I did given the things you can feel through your hair.”
I smiled back and did as Tyh suggested. My hair fanned out underwater and played in the subtle currents of the pool while I quickly massaged my scalp. He was right in that it did feel good and like I was finally one hundred percent clean. Tyh was sitting on the bank, his legs in the water, when I surfaced and he waited for me to come to him. Tiny threads of nerves and anticipation twisted through his emotions, and I wasn’t sure why. When I sat next to him, he took my hand and clasped it tightly in his before taking a deep breath and speaking in a solemn tone.
“I’ve called you my shu’anad, my braid partner, a few times, and while I know you know that the translation is roughly equivalent to husband or wife, that’s not really all it’s about. It’s one of those Awh’anise things that probably doesn’t translate well. For us, it’s a partnership that’s more than being a husband or wife that a lot of cultures seem to have. It’s almost... spiritual for us. A shu’anad pairing can be dissolved, but it almost never happens.
“Awh’anise are not by nature monogamous. When we raise our children, the parents are only obligated to stay together for the first six years of the kits’ lives. Sometimes, if the parents really can’t stand each other, they won’t live together for the raising, but that’s very unusual. A pair staying together for the long haul happens, but not often. For a pair to declare each other shu’anad is very rare for most Awh’anise. Moswen’s parents are still together after close to twenty years, but they haven’t gone that extra step, and while they love each other very much, I doubt they ever will because their relationship, while strong, doesn’t have the depth necessary to be shu’anad.
“There really aren’t any special words or ceremony. One person can declare himself shu’anad to another, and it doesn’t force the other into doing the same. It’s more a very personal decision to show the person how much you love and treasure them. Most often Lor’fei will be shu’anad, but even then, it’s not necessary because of the type of bond they share and some don’t do it. I want to formally declare myself as your shu’anad, Dak, but I won’t do that without your permission. You’ve had enough things regarding Awh’anise culture dumped on you without warning or explanation. You can say no, and I will be very disappointed and maybe even a little hurt, but I won’t go behind your back and do it anyway. Obviously, you don’t have to reciprocate, and I honestly don’t expect you to.”
My heart warmed at that, and I had to hold back the impulse to hug him.
“Thank you, Tyh. I appreciate you asking first. I don’t have a problem with you doing this shu’anad thing since I know you love me and we are Lor’fei partners. If you’re sure about taking such an important step with me, then I’m fine with it. What do you need to do and is there anything I need to do?”
Relief and happiness poured so strongly from Tyh that I felt a little giddy, too. I thought about throwing my shields back up but couldn’t bring myself to dampen the pleasure of Tyh’s emotions swirling around mine.
“Technically, all I need to do is add two very thin braids in my hair at my left temple and declare myself yours to you. I’d like to ask you to make the braids for me. Traditionally, that would mean that you accepted my pledge, and it would often be done in front of family and friends. We can’t do that for obvious reasons, but we’ll know how the braids came to be in my hair, and that’s more than enough for me. Again, you can refuse to put the braids in my hair, Dak. I’m simply thrilled that you don’t object to the braids period.”
I looked at the hopeful and slightly anxious expression on Tyh’s face and found myself nodding yes to his request before I let myself think it through. Tyh stared at me for several seconds as if he didn’t understand that I was agreeing to what he was asking. When he did make the connection, I saw him swallow hard and look down for several seconds. His emotions spiked wildly, and when he looked back up at me, I could’ve sworn I saw tears in his eyes.
“Thank you, Dak,” he said in a thick voice filled with emotion.
He turned his head to the side and told me to make two braids, one to represent each of us, no thicker than the width of a finger. He said nothing about how I was to make the braids, whether they were to be plain or fancy or something in between the two. Decorating hair was something every Laiokian took pride in doing. Competitions were even held nationally. I wasn’t even close to being able to put one of my creations into something like that, but I certainly had a skill set that would allow me to give Tyh something very special and unique.
“I need you to sit absolutely still for me, Tyh. This may take a while for what I’m going to do.”
“What? Why? I know you can braid hair. I saw you do your own back in the hotel room when you were trying to control it,” Tyh said as he turned to look at me.
“There’s braiding hair for convenience, and then there’s decorating the hair. You asked me to braid it for you because that would have deeper meaning for you. I will, but for something that is obviously filled with importance to you, I’m going to do something special for you to the best of my ability. Now, sit still and don’t move until I tell you to,” I said sternly.
Tyh’s emotions bounced around from pleasure to shock to amusement with strong undercurrents of love through it all, but he sat still as stone as I gently combed my fingers through his hair. I sectioned off a small part of his hair at his temple and used my hair to hold the rest of his hair out of the way. I smoothed his hair over and over again between my fingers as I thought of how best to accomplish what I wanted to for Tyh.
Tyh’s hair was much shorter than I was used to working with, and that took many of the very elaborate braids off the table. His hair was also not sentient like Laiokian hair and that made some of the complex braids all but impossible to do. I was also limited by the stipulation of size. A small smile graced my lips when I heard the ultra-low purring from Tyh and felt his emotions drop down into the barely perceptible range of someone who was nearly asleep. Apparently, I’d just discovered yet another way to completely calm Tyh down.
I finally decided to go with an elegantly simplified version of my risdepa. I sectioned his hair off even further into strands of maybe a dozen hairs each, took a deep breath and started to work, using individual strands of my hair as extra fingers to work the pattern that was still fairly complex. After probably twenty minutes, I was done one braid and very pleased with the results. I started on the other one immediately and was able to finish it a little faster. I’d tied the ends of his hair into tiny knots at the bottom to secure the design, and I wondered for a second if I should’ve done that considering that he’d likely have to undo the braids at some point to tighten the pattern as his hair grew. I mentally shrugged. We’d deal with that when the time came.
“Done,” I said softly as I released his hair.
Tyh looked at me and blinked slowly as if waking from a deep sleep. He touched the braids gently and frowned. An attack of nerves had me bite my lip. What if I’d done something wrong by not doing a simple braid or he hated it? His eyes widened as he realized what I’d done. He grabbed me in a massive hug that forced a squeak of protest from me and kissed me hard.
“You are more and more amazing every day, Dak. Stars but I love you more than you’ll ever know.”
He stood, grabbed the knife and pulled me to my feet, tugging on my hand as he hurried us back to the ship. When I asked what his rush was, Tyh laughed, turned and pressed his hard cock against my thigh. He said he needed to thank me properly for doing something so wonderfully personal and meaningful for his shu’anad and that he’d forgotten to bring the damn lube. I laughed with him and quickened my pace, any soreness and tiredness suddenly washed away by the feel of his happiness and love flowing to me.
Sho-ter’le: shared mother’s other mate
Shu’anad: braid partner (husband/wife)
I lay on the bed in the cramped room of the ship I’d hired and stared at the ceiling not really sure what I was supposed to do now. I had hoped Litch Hunter Sunki would be able to tell me what to do, but it appeared that my calling her in had only made the job I was working on all that more dangerous. It now wasn’t just dangerous because of the incredibly skilled and insane Litch Will I was hunting but also because I may have accidently uncovered a plot of unthinkable proportions to subvert the Shal-hazal Council.
That scared the shit out of me.
Sunki told me to continue to look like I was doing my job but to actually do nothing of the sort. She said the death warrant on Tyhlian’s head wasn’t valid for a variety of reasons and that even if I should stumble over him, I was to let him get away. I could hurt him, but not too badly; just enough to make it look good and like he’d escaped fairly. That galled my pride, but if Sunki told me to do that, I would. Such was my respect for my teacher. She said she was in contact with the other Wills of the House of Heyda and that they were going to see what could be done about bringing down the council head, Spirit Will Cadao.
That flat out terrified me.
Treason was a crime punishable by death, and for a species that held honour in such high regard, the death was not handed out until a physical punishment that left you wishing for death was dealt first. Whipping was the number one choice for Awh’anise physical punishment, and I had been on the receiving end of that a time or two. The previous whippings, which had been minor in strokes but still excruciating, would likely look like a walk in the park compared to what I’d get for a conviction of treason.
I knew from what Hilel and Sunki said that Spirit Will Cadao had somehow extended his term over the Council far beyond what was allowed. He couldn’t have done it alone as no Spirit was that good. They both suggested that he was using his Spirits in a treasonous way to hold onto power, but even so, it didn’t seem possible that he’d be able to affect all the Shal-hazal as he was. They both agreed that something more was going on there, but neither of them had a clue what.
Sunki told me that while the chances of my dreams and memories being messed with were small because I wasn’t a Will and generally out of any spheres of influence of basic Shal-hazal goings-on, I was still to write everything down anyway and check it carefully each morning for inconsistencies. The idea that somebody could change my memories and dreams without my realizing it made me feel ill, violated and incredibly angry. She also told me to expect a visit from Sprit Will Moswen. I was not looking forward to that. I’d looked into him and his crazy karma, and I wanted no part of it.
As if thinking about him conjured him up, I suddenly had a smirking Throw-back Shal-hazal Spirit Will standing in my room looking at me curiously. How I kept from leaping from my bed and growling at his sudden appearance, I had no idea. He looked exactly like his file picture, but the air of trouble that clung to him hadn’t translated into the photo at all. I could see why Hilel said weird things seemed to follow Moswen around. I was almost positive that if I looked at him from the corner of my eye, I’d see a miasma of what-the-fuck surrounding him.
“Want a picture? I’ll last longer,” Moswen said with a smirk.
I narrowed my eyes at him and stood. Cocky little shit. It annoyed me that he’d popped into my room without permission or warning. I even had to look up at him as he had a good five inches on me. I said nothing though. He was a Will, and even though I far out-ranked him in military titles, I was a Shal-hazal first and a soldier second. I touched the first two fingers of my left hand to my temple and nodded my head in salute. He returned the salute with a surprisingly crisp one of his own.
“Guess I don’t need to tell you who I am or why I’m here, do I?”
“Your reputation precedes you,” I said somewhat dryly.
He snickered at that and suddenly looked very much his eighteen years.
“We need to go on a little trip, and I’d like to get this done as quickly as possible. I’m... uhhh... I’m really not supposed to be here.”
I raised an eyebrow at that although I was somehow not surprised.
“I’m kinda supposed to be sequestered during a tribunal. There was this little explosion at a lab that wasn’t completely my fault, but my name sort of got mentioned during the initial disciplinary hearing and.... Anyway, my time is short, and the other Wills of my House are covering for me so I can do this, but they can’t do it forever so we need to get this moving. Take my hand.”
Explosion at a lab? My eyes widened when I flashed to the reports I’d heard about a month or two ago. The lab explosion had been all over the Awh’anise news feeds. It had been a cutting edge lab and had only been operational for a few weeks when a giant fireball levelled the place. Amazingly, there hadn’t been any fatalities. An alarm went off giving the people in the building just enough time to get out before it turned into a giant crater.
Top military scientists working there had been livid at the destroyed work. They were demanding answers and screaming for somebody’s head on a pole right up until disturbing evidence of unsanctioned bio-weapon production for hire was discovered in the rubble.
They’d shut up damn fast, but it was too late to backtrack then. Bio-weapons created from species native to Awh’an were strictly prohibited in several galaxies due to the highly virulent, cure-resistant nature of things that typically didn’t do much to us as a species. The money involved from the illegal sales of such a thing was staggering. It was also seen as extraordinarily dishonourable to break a convention that we had with other species. I’d heard the scientists involved in the illegal sales of the bio-weapons took a long time to die.
“That was you? How did you know what they were doing there?” My opinion of Moswen just went up several notches.
“I didn’t know anything. I just snuck in to play with the cool shit there while my sister and her team were guarding the place. Two of them came into the lab I was in for a quick screw, and we were all surprised to see each other. They offered to buy my silence by letting me join in, so I did. I kinda left the chemicals I was playing with cooking on a burner, and my foot might’ve hit a gas valve when the dude flipped me over to nail my ass. It was a total accident.”
I couldn’t help it. I started to laugh. The string of coincidences was too funny and fantastical for words. Hilel was right; Moswen was a walking disaster. Moswen crossed his arms and glared at me.
“Laugh it up. It’s not your ass that’s probably going to feel the burn of a whipping for something that wasn’t really one hundred percent your fault. It’s also very not cool that I get called to this stupid tribunal after patiently waiting weeks to nail the incredibly fine ass of the sexiest man alive that I also happen to be in love with. Do you have any idea how hot it is to screw a guy with wings? Stars, it’s amazing how they quiver when he gets all worked up. Everything can go fuck itself as far as I’m concerned until I can get back to Kijika and tell him that I love him. He needs to know that. He needs to know how important he is in my life,” Moswen almost growled.
I blew out a soft breath as my laughter died off. That Kijika person was in for one hell of a time, and I didn’t envy him. Having a Throw-back declare his love for you was a heavy burden. Rejection typically didn’t end well for the Throw-back and sometimes not for others close to the object of their affections either. I didn’t even want to think of how confusing it would be for a non-Awh’anise to suddenly have the intensity of a Throw-back in love.
“Apologies, Shal-hazal Spirit Will Moswen. It’s just that I’d heard of the strangeness that follows you around and thought maybe it was people connecting far flung dots. That really isn’t the case, is it?”
“Spirit or Will Moswen is fine. I have bizarre karma,” he shrugged and gave me a boyish grin. “I’ve learned to mostly deal with it. Now gimme your hand so we can get this over and done with before some snooping busybody decides to actually check up on me. It would totally fit with my cracked karma to have that happen.”
I licked my lips and hesitated as I stared at his outstretched hand. There was a level of trust involved in what he was asking me to do, and I didn’t quite have that. He sighed, and his tail started to flick back and forth in his annoyance.
“We need you on board for everything to work. If I was going to drag you into the Dream World against your will, I’d have just popped in here, grabbed you and taken you instead of wasting time talking and being all nice about this.”
“You wouldn’t have time to do that,” I protested.
Moswen was a Spirit class by training and twenty-two years my junior. I was confident I could beat his ass in a fight since physical fighting wasn’t as important to them as it was to someone of my class. I didn’t think he’d have enough time or skill to knock me out or daze me enough so he could drop into sleep to take us into the Dream World.
Moswen smirked. “Why not? I Dream-Step, not Dream Walk, the majority of the time. Neither you nor I need to be asleep to go into the Dream World when I’m running the show. Didn’t anyone tell you that?”
“No, and it wasn’t in any of the files I read either. I thought I’d need to be asleep even if you weren’t. That’s....”
“Pretty fucking kick-ass, huh?” Moswen said with a laugh. “Now you know why being able to Dream-Step is such a big deal and why the Council wants me to teach other Spirits how to do it. I would if I could, but I don’t even know how I do it. I just do. Now gimme your hand, and away we go because we’re really starting to shave the hair off my balls on close timing. Oh, close your eyes, or you’ll be puking up your toenails. That stays the same apparently regardless of how you end up in the Dream World.”
I closed my eyes and held out my hand while nerves attacked me over what might be the dumbest move in the history of dumb moves. I was trusting the brother of the man I was trying to kill to not kill me in a way that ensured I’d never be found and that could probably take me what seemed like an eternity to die.
“You can open your eyes any time now,” came Moswen’s amused voice.
I carefully cracked an eye open, ready to scrunch it shut if there was even a hint of the Dream World screaming past my vision. I was surprised to find we were in the Dream World. There’d been absolutely no sensation of movement. I’d never felt that before when a Spirit whisked me into the Dream World. Either Moswen was far better than any Spirit I’d ever travelled with, or the sensation of travelling by Dream-Stepping was much smoother than Dream Walking. Or maybe it was both.
We seemed to be in a library of some sort. The scale of things was a little strange with the tables and chairs slightly taller than I was used to. I looked around, and despite the oddness of the room, it felt welcoming. I almost wanted to curl up in one of the oversized chairs with one of the books and spend the day reading, lost in the world of make-believe. A little spurt of paranoia made me wonder if that was what he had planned for me.
“What is this place?” I asked in an almost whisper. Speaking in a normal tone of voice seemed wrong somehow.
“Kijika’s office. Sort of. It’s not the real deal obviously, but it’s comfortable and non-threatening and likely the last place a Shal-hazal would think to go looking for any info. Did Sunki tell you what I’d be doing?”
“Not really. Only generalizations. Something about setting up a barrier and an alarm and hiding all the crap I know but probably shouldn’t.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty much it. You’ll be able to access the information because I’ll show you how. But if another Shal-hazal comes along and tries to get into these memories, you’ll immediately forget how to do that and the memories will shatter and scatter. And I don’t give a flying fuck how good the Shal-hazal is; the memories won’t be able to be retrieved unless I’m the one doing it. A Litch might be able to find them if they absorbed your mind, but it’d take either serious good luck right from the start or months of sifting through every single memory you’ve ever had. Then they’d have to put all the separate pieces back together in the right order after finding them.”
Fear bloomed in my gut. “Are you setting me up for a mind wipe? Do you have a Litch waiting behind a stack of books ready to pounce on me?”
I already had a mind wipe failsafe installed in my head in case I was ever compromised by the Litches I hunted. I’d had it for years but it still sometimes made me nervous to think of how easily I could cease to be the person I was. Most times, I worked hard not to think of the subtly ticking bomb in my head.
I wondered if I should tell Moswen about that failsafe in my mind even though it went against everything I’d been taught as a Litch Hunter. I didn’t want him accidently setting it off or something. It was an unspoken understanding that we were never to reveal that little detail to anyone who wasn’t a Litch Hunter. It might even be illegal under Litch Hall rules for me to breathe a single word about it to anyone who wasn’t a Litch Hunter. If he was as good as everything seemed to indicate, there was a very good chance he’d find it himself, and I had no idea what he’d do when he discovered it.
“Nah. I wouldn’t drag a Litch into this. I don’t need to do anything that serious, and the less people in the know about what’s really going on, the less chance of somebody screwing up and getting all our asses in the fire. Come on, Phaedra, that’s like basic military tactics. Need to know basis and shit. I know you know that. Stars, you’ve been a Shal-hazal and a soldier longer than I’ve been alive.
“I’ll just make it so you’d forget everything you’ve learned about Cadao, the jerkwad stealing control of the Council and trying to kill off all the Litch Wills. That keeps you safe and keeps my House and Sunki out of it. I’m afraid I can’t do a damn thing for Hilel though. Cadao’s already aware that Hilel was digging into his business.”
I stared at Moswen with my mouth slightly open in surprise. He couldn’t possibly mean what he’d said. That was.... The kind of skill involved in doing all that was incredible, and frankly, I wasn’t sure someone as young as he was could do it despite him being a Will. I’d never heard of anything like that before, and I considered myself fairly up-to-date on the latest Shal-hazal techniques. Moswen grinned at me and folded his arms across his chest.
“Pretty cool, huh? Came up with this myself. It started out as a way to maybe help Tyh not go nuts, but it didn’t work. There’s a big difference between having the memories of a person and actually having that person’s consciousness in your head. I could destroy the memories easy enough, but not the actual conscience of the person without harming Tyh. Permanently erasing those contracts with this technique and still keeping the host the same is damn near impossible as far as I can tell.
“But, I did learn how to bury select memories so deep, not even the person they were part of could find them. A little time playing around with how to do things and I figured out how to set things up so certain actions would break and scatter or crash and burn the memories depending on what I needed to happen. That’s what I’m doing to you right now.”
“What?” I was not proud of the almost screech that word ended on.
“Did you think I was running my mouth for the fun of it after I told you I was on a tight schedule to do this? Stars, do you think I’m some kinda pompous dick spouting off on how awesomely amazing I am? It’s called a distraction technique, Phaedra. Worked better than I thought it would, too, for a Litch Hunter who’s supposed to be as good as you are. Okay, I’m done.
“Your memory retrieval process for only the stuff involving Cadao has been re-routed. You’ll need to think a little harder about that stuff, but it is there. That’ll lay a nice false trail about you not really thinking about Cadao and what he may or may not be up to. Anyone curious about poking you to see what you know will think you’re under whatever influence everybody else is as long as they don’t dig too hard. There’s an alarm set to ping you when somebody tries to change stuff in your head as you sleep. You’ll instantly wake up and literally smell burning shit for about three seconds. Not a pleasant smell, but you’ll know right away something’s very wrong. That’s your clue that somebody was dancing through your head and not just a random abrupt wakeup call or something.
“And all that stuff I told you about how I did all this? Yeah, that’s going to crash and burn as soon as I drop you back into your room on that ship. You won’t remember a damn thing and nobody, not even me, will be able to retrieve those memories. You’re gonna have a bitching headache when I do that, and for that, I’m sorry. But that’s a House secret, and unfortunately, I can’t have you carrying it around in your head. Time to go.”
I staggered as I was abruptly back in my room on the ship. White hot pain exploded behind my eyes, and I groaned. I looked around the room through quickly slitted eyes and didn’t see Moswen anywhere. I flopped face-down onto my bed with a moan and wished with a passion that pain medication worked much better on an Awh’anise than it did. The throbbing behind my eyes kept time with my heartbeat, and a vague queasiness swirled through my belly.
I lay on my bed for gods only knew how long as I tried to endure the raging fire in my head. I had the standard, stupidly high pain tolerance of an Awh’anise, but my brains felt like somebody had stirred them violently with a red hot poker before jamming said poker through each eyeball. I slid off the bed and crawled to where my bags rested on the floor and pawed through the contents, dumping half of the stuff on the floor before my fingers closed on the cool metal container I was searching for.
A small sigh escaped me as I pulled the container out and twisted off the cap. I tipped the container to my lips and took two big swallows, the alcohol going down as smooth as if I were drinking lightly flavoured water. Warmth spread through me as the quli’roet hit my empty stomach. In minutes, the pain in my head dulled to a tolerable level, the strong drink working far better and longer than any pain meds I’d ever run across. I took two more healthy-sized swigs before capping the container and shoving it in the direction of my bags. My body felt loose and relaxed, and the pain in my head was barely noticeable now. I crawled in a wobbly course back to my bed and collapsed onto it.
I was stinking drunk, and the gods willing, I’d stay that way until the pain in my head went away or I passed out, whichever happened first. I wasn’t picky.
I groaned softly and squinted at the little clock set on the shelf next to the bed. It was way past when I was usually up and about. The headache from whatever Moswen did was gone, but I wondered how a skar-sah’na managed to sneak into my room and take a giant shit in my mouth before burying it under a ton of sand.
I had vague recollections of getting up for more than one additional medicinal sip of quli’roet to try to ease the fire consuming my brain before I eventually passed out for good. Quli’roet worked wonders to dull pain and didn’t typically end in a hangover the next day. Your mouth, however, ended up desert dry and tasting like something took a shit in it or like something took a shit in it and then died immediately afterwards. Not even brushing your teeth helped unless you were willing to do it three or four times in a row. Fortunately, you only tasted shit for an hour or so, and your breath didn’t actually smell like shit.
Fresh cetr’ide drool swished in the mouth completely killed the decomposing shit taste from over-indulging in quli’roet, but few people were that desperate. Even if I’d had access to the stuff, I couldn’t put that viscous black mess in my mouth without immediately puking. The drool didn’t actually taste bad. It was sort of grassy flavoured. But the slimy texture and knowing exactly where it came from turned most people’s stomachs, mine included.
I got up and headed for the bathroom, noticing the message light flashing on the video screen as I passed. I did my business and hit play as I came out of the bathroom. Cold fingers of dread trailed down my spine as I heard Spirit Will Cadao’s voice begin speaking.
“Litch Hunter Phaedra, the Council is getting concerned about the length of time it’s taking to end Litch Will Tyhlian’s life. Every day that he remains at large is another day that the contracts exert more power over his actions. I don’t need to tell you how important it is to bring this situation to an end as quickly as possible. We require an update as soon as you receive this message. If you’re not up to doing this job, another Hunter will be assigned.”
My lip curled in disgust, baring a fang at the oily tone of voice. Even before I knew what Cadao was doing, I hadn’t liked the man. Based on what I knew now, somebody taking him out in the most painful way possible seemed like a stellar idea to me. I had no clue how that was going to happen, but I didn’t doubt that it eventually would. Sunki was involved and if she said they were going to take down Cadao, then that’s what would happen.
I ran a brush through my hair and straightened my clothes. I wanted to look as professional as possible for my conversation with the Council. Thank the gods that the rash from my run-in with that weird bush a few weeks back was gone. I would’ve looked less than competent covered in lurid green and yellow blotches and diseased looking welts. There wouldn’t have been a hope in hell that questions wouldn’t be asked about my appearance and how I got that way.
It would’ve been really bad for me professionally and for whatever Sunki and the Wills of the House of Heyda were up to if the Council found out that Moswen had laid a false trail that I’d followed like some utterly green Hunter. None of us needed the Council, or Cadao specifically, questioning how Moswen knew where to start laying the false trail. Despite being family, he was still expected to report to the Council any contact he had with Tyhlian. Not reporting contact with a Litch under a death order was a serious crime, and punishment was generally swift and brutal.
I punched in the code for the Council and composed myself while I waited for the connection to go through. I stated my name and rank and reason for calling to the perky young Shal-hazal that answered and waited while he pushed my call to the appropriate office. I barely kept the surprise off my face when it was Cadao himself who appeared.
“Litch Hunter Phaedra. About time. I was starting to think you felt my message wasn’t important enough to reply promptly.”
I swallowed back the snippy reply I wanted to give him. Not prompt enough my ass. The call was only a few hours old, and he obviously wasn’t taking into consideration any kind of time difference between Awh’an and where I happened to be.
“Your message came in during what was the middle of the night where I am. I was off in the Dream World at the time, hunting down Litch Will Tyhlian,” I said in a neutral voice.
Cadao gave me a narrow-eyed look as if he didn’t believe me. I had been in the Dream World when his call came through. Granted, I’d been there because I’d passed out drunk, but I had been in the Dream World. A Throw-back female came on-screen, her hand squeezing Cadao’s shoulder gently, and she smiled softly at me. My eyes widened a little in surprise, and I nodded my head in deference to her.
I recognized the woman immediately. Any Shal-hazal would. We all recognized a living Vi’deshron on sight, and Lidah was one of the younger ones. I hadn’t realized that Cadao was the protector to a Vi’deshron, and I wondered if Sunki and the Wills of Heyda knew about it. She seemed to be showing a lot of favour to Cadao, which was a little odd. The Vi’deshron generally didn’t socialize much with their Shal-hazal protectors in an effort not to become overly attached to them, something that was always a danger with Throw-backs and their whip-fast instinctual moves.
A Vi’deshron was an even rarer creature than a Shal-hazal. At any given time, there were generally only a dozen of them alive on the entire planet. They were marked with the Neksha as well, but they were always female and always Throw-backs. They had the ability to actually sing scenes from the past, present and even the future into existence that were so real, one would swear what she was watching was actually happening. Some really powerful ones could even make small changes to the future.
If an unsworn Shal-hazal scented a Vi’deshron, they were compelled to offer that Vi’deshron their protection. It was a bond that only death, the Shal-hazal’s or the Vi’deshron’s, broke. A Shal-hazal could have only one sworn Vi’deshron at a time while a Vi’deshron could have a virtually unlimited number of Shal-hazal as protectors.
“See? I told you, Cadao, that there was a perfectly good reason Hunter Phaedra hadn’t answered when you first tried to contact her. Stars knows you’re a horrible grump if somebody disturbs your sleep,” Lidah said as she wagged a finger at Cadao’s nose.
He waved her off and pinned me with a distrustful look. “Report, Litch Hunter Phaedra.”
At first I wasn’t sure what to say. I hadn’t had time to really think of what I was going to tell the Council with regards to how my hunt was going. I’d made the return call automatically without stopping to come up with a suitable cover story. I’d never before lied about how a job was going. I’d never had to. I thought furiously, and like a book opening to the exact page I needed, a story appeared in my head.
“Litch Will Tyhlian is extremely crafty and very resourceful. I have reason to believe that he is purposefully allowing some of the contracts in his head use of his body for limited periods of time to help him stay ahead of me. He stole a spaceship in one port and despite never learning to pilot one, he has apparently been flying it with great skill and expertise. One of his contracts was a pirate of considerable experience and knowledge which leads me to the next problem.
“The trail for the ship’s registration is a dead end as it would seem he brought it to an illegal modification shop and had new identifiers installed. I have been monitoring his accounts and those of his family, and there hasn’t been so much as a single misplaced credit in any of their accounts. One of his other contracts was a hacker, and I believe that was how he not only afforded the work he had done but bought the silence of the workers with what was likely a ridiculous amount of money.
“He has been keeping a very low profile, and as I’m sure you’re aware, his work as a Litch was exceptional. He knows I’m watching for the slightest misstep or clue in the Dream World, and he’s doing his best to give me exactly nothing to work with. That’s not to say I’ve found nothing. The trail is very faint, but it is there. It simply takes time for me to follow his ghostly footprints. There have been a few slip-ups, so I think that not all of the contracts in his head are getting the same treatment and may be showing their displeasure by causing him to lose focus.
“In my professional opinion, he is not a full-blown danger to others yet and is keeping the worst of his contracts in check. I believe he has a destination in mind, but I’m not sure of where that is or even why. I also believe that he took some cycle-delaying plants with him when he fled Awh’an since an Awh’anise in cycle would be highly noticeable off Awh’an. Even so, he wouldn’t have been able to take much with him, and it’s very likely that he’s either running low or is out of them by now. Since I’ve been hunting him for close to five months he should have already passed his normal cycle time, and I can only see three possible outcomes for an Awh’anise away from Awh’an during a cycle.
“One. He finds somebody and spends the next two weeks fucking them into oblivion. That sort of obsession and constant sexual need will not go without comment since it is my understanding that a sex drive that demanding is very much not the norm on most worlds. I’m watching news feeds and gossip channels for word of that sort of behaviour. Two. He holes up in his ship and lets his cycle happen without a partner and dies when his brain fries from the fever. Three. He tries to get his hands on more herbs. They are a restricted export, so I’m watching the Awh’an shipping channels with an eye out for where packages of those herbs go and to whom. For the record, I believe option two is the least likely scenario he will take.”
I fell silent and looked at Cadao with a calmness I certainly didn’t feel. Once I’d started speaking, the words had almost seemed to pour out of my mouth. It was a little bizarre as I didn’t even feel like I needed to think about what I was saying. It was like my body simply knowing what to do when I used certain fighting techniques. It was all automatic.
I was sure the story was planted in my head by Moswen, and I couldn’t help but be impressed by how he’d orchestrated it. I was fairly sure that the majority of the story was Sunki’s creation because it sounded like how I heard she ran her hunts. The story was completely plausible and made it sound like I’d been doing a very thorough job in trying to corner Tyhlian with all the information available to me.
It did irk me the tiniest little bit that I actually hadn’t thought of the cycle thing myself. I should have, but I’d honestly never chased a Litch as long as I was chasing Tyhlian. Three-quarters of the Litches I needed to hunt down were also planet-bound making my job a thousand times easier compared to chasing one across space. My longest run before had been two months, and that Litch hadn’t been able to leave Awh’an, so her cycle hadn’t really mattered since she had unrestricted access to partners and the herbs necessary to hold a cycle off.
“You’re very meticulous, Litch Hunter Phaedra,” Cadao said grudgingly. “Keep the Council informed on your progress more frequently than you have been. Let us know the moment you take Litch Will Tyhlian down.”
“Yes, sir. This is a very challenging job, but I will bring Litch Will Tyhlian before the Council.”
“See that you do,” Cadao said with a smarmy smile before cutting the transmission.
I blew out a relieved breath. He bought it. He actually swallowed the story whole without questioning a damn thing I said. I felt like giggling madly. I stood and stretched, tension draining from my body now that I’d cleared the hurdle of my first false report to the Council. I headed to my bed and lay down. I needed to tell Sunki and the Wills of Heyda about my success fooling Cadao and ask them if they knew he was so close to the Vi’deshron Lidah. I didn’t want to risk the easily traceable comm signals for what we were going to discuss so it was back to the Dream World for me.
Skar-sah’na: Literal translation is mindless burrowing teeth. Very large (approx. 30-50 feet long) worm-like creatures that burrow under the sands of the Awh’anise desert. They have no eyes or ears and are primarily teeth and stomach. They eat anything they can catch including other skar-sah’na. They typically don’t move fast and can be avoided if a person is vigilant and sees the furrows in the sand that the creature makes as it moves under the surface. A group is called a grind, and they only appear together for breeding.
Cetr’ide: Literal translation is ugly friend of many legs. Dangerous looking but harmless animal. Sixteen stocky legs and coarse bristles cover its entire body. It has two pincers at the ends of its foremost legs, and each leg is approximately the thickness of an adult male’s thigh. Mandibles around its mouth are approximately ten inches long each. Down the backs of its legs are suckers, and it has a heavy club-like tail. It stands approximately mid-thigh on an adult male and has six eyes on its head. It eats the vines of the gesh-ta’ne, grasping the vines with its suckers. The black drool it produces dissolves the tough vines and renders the mildly paralytic poison of the vines inert.
They are not bright animals, and even wild ones can be approached and petted easily. They are often kept as pets as once a cetr’ide claims a home, they scream at ear piercing volume if their home is invaded.
Vi’deshron: Literal translation is singer of dreams that have been, are and will be.
Awh’anise marked with the Neksha on the back of their neck in white. Vi’deshron are a very rare occurrence with approximately a dozen alive at any given time. They are always female and always Throw-backs.
They are able to sing stories and have the actions/scenes viewed by any that are within the range of their voices as if what they were singing about was actually taking place. They may sing of past events, events of the present or events that have yet to happen. The Vi’deshron enters an almost trance-like state and re-tells the events exactly as they happened and not as the victors/defeated say they did. Very strong Vi’deshron can make minor changes to the future shown, but the effort is exhausting. Sometimes, a Vi’deshron can make greater changes to the future but runs the risk of death/insanity by doing so.
While the Vi’deshron are marked by the Neksha, they cannot enter the dreams of others as the Shal-hazal can. They are aware dreamers, however, and share the same extremely high levels of brain chemicals involved in sleep.
Vi’deshron are protected with nearly mindless devotion by the Shal-hazal. A Shal-hazal that comes into close contact with a Vi’deshron will be compelled to offer themselves as the Vi’deshron’s protector which is a bond broken only by death. A Shal-hazal may pledge to only one Vi’deshron (but will protect others if they are endangered), but a Vi’deshron can have a virtually unlimited number of Shal-hazal as their personal guardians.
Something weird was going on with my Hunter. Not necessarily a bad weird, but something that definitely made the hairs on the end of my tail stand up. I’d had Raini, my resident hacker, set up some trip wires in case my Hunter started asking questions about things that might point her in my direction while I was busy sexing the daylights out of Dak during my cycle. A couple of them had gone off, but not in the way I’d have expected.
Setting off one trip should’ve made the next one in order go off, assuming she was good enough to follow the leads, which I thought she was, despite making them nearly invisible. But they went off in an odd order that didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason. And ones that I had felt nervous about leading to bigger clues on how to track me better hadn’t even been jiggled. It was almost like she was avoiding the things that would point her in my direction. Or just doing busy work to make it look like she was hunting me. Or flat out stalling in trying to track me down. That made no sense to me as I knew Phaedra by reputation, and the word among the Litches was that she was relentless and any Litch assigned to her for termination didn’t last more than a month or two on the run.
She wasn’t afraid to come at me. I knew that for a fact after our little toe-to-toe in the hotel room. She was an experienced Hunter, and she knew that letting an insane Litch run unchecked for too long was just asking for trouble. Sure, I was probably one of the best Litches out there and nowhere near the level of insane and prone to stupid mistakes that deserved hunting, but things were not adding up with the facts as I knew them. Every Litch Hunter pursued their target with single-minded determination that some might call obsession. There was absolutely no good reason I could think of for Phaedra to back off the hunt like it looked like she was doing. I was under no illusions that the death warrant on my head had been cancelled.
Her seeming to step back from my hunt was freaking me out a little, and I was damn sure that it wasn’t some sort of grandiose idea of just how awesome I was that was making me think she couldn’t or didn’t want to catch me. Hell, even the voices in my head thought it was strange when not that long ago I’d been working very, very hard at staying off her radar and just barely pulling it off. Truth be told, it was making me more than a little twitchy that she wasn’t chasing me, and that wasn’t good in my books. Dak could feel my nervous worry, and that made him worry. I hated to see him upset especially when it was my fault that he was upset.
“Do you want me to do some careful probing? I swear nobody would have any idea I’d been anywhere. I really am that good,” said Raini with barely hidden anticipation in her voice.
“Riiiight. And you’re so good that you got caught in that last job you did, which is what landed you in this head space with the rest of us,” Narilla, the spy, said with a little sneer.
“That had nothing to do with my hacking abilities,” Raini hissed. “I made a stupid mistake in my personal life, and that started me on the path down to being a guest here. I should’ve followed my instincts and bitten the traitorous bastard’s head off after sex when I had the opportunity.”
What? She couldn’t possibly have meant what she said. I couldn’t help myself. I had to poke at Raini’s memories to see if she was being literal or not. Given the character and mental stability of the people living in my head, a statement like that could actually be true as outlandish as it sounded. While Raini was probably the nicest of the personalities in my head, she had, what I could generously call, fluid morals. I was almost one hundred percent certain that for the right amount of money, she’d sell her own family to a torture fetishist. I didn’t see it as my business to judge what she did or didn’t do.
The only reason she didn’t betray me was that she wanted to use my body for her own purposes, and she couldn’t do that if I was held somewhere. She also knew that if I died, so did she, and that was not part of her plans. She was a contract kill not because she had so few morals but because she happened to piss off somebody with enough money to hire me to make her death appear to be of tragic, natural causes so it wouldn’t be investigated. No suspicious death, no looking into the life of the victim that would lead to the highly illegal activities she’d been doing for the individual who paid for her death.
After mentally thumbing through her memories, I saw some truly disturbing images of Raini getting her insectoid freak on with what I assumed was a male of her species. The male was smaller than Raini, and from her memories, that seemed to be the norm for her people. I was more than a little shocked to see her twist and grab the male with several of her forelegs and unceremoniously bite the male’s head off with horrifyingly large mandibles. Further rifling through her memories showed that it wasn’t a one-off thing and that a male of her species needed to be brave and quick if he wanted a little action and live to tell about it.
“Oh, ewww. That’s just gross,” said Jawhar. “And how do you expect to have a lasting relationship with someone if you constantly chow down on the heads of all your lovers? I’ve heard of the kiss of death but that’s being overly literal. And super-disgusting.”
“Our population growth is heavily skewed towards males. Males fight each other for breeding rights. The ones that are the best for the strongest cluster of young are the ones that win the breeding fights and then avoid being eaten,” Raini said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Still gross and really, really rude,” Jawhar said with a shudder.
“It’s rude to dismiss a culture you know nothing about,” Raini said with offence creeping into her words. “I’ve never once said anything about the slavery your people practice, which is barbaric to my people. It’s a wonder your people progressed past throwing your waste at each other. You have progressed from that stage, right?”
I mentally winced at the shriek of outrage from Jawhar. They were stopped from physically attacking each other only because they lacked the bodies to do so. The insults, however, flew fast and furiously. Some of the other voices started to egg the two of them on, and I could feel a headache start to build at the base of my skull. I needed to cut them both off mid-tirade for my own peace of mind. I mentally separated them to opposite corners of my mind and smothered the angry words still being hurled at each other.
“Enough. Both of you. Different cultures, different practices. Agree to disagree, or I’ll lock you both down until the two of you can keep your tempers to yourselves,”
“Thank you, Raini, I appreciate the offer, but not right now. I’ll leave well enough alone for the time being. If this weirdness continues for much longer though, I may take you up on it,” I said.
I tuned out the shouts from the other voices about that not being fair and how Raini always got to have some body time while everybody else had to wait until I was distracted or tired to try and steal control. Several of the voices were sulky, and the petulant whines in their tones had me gritting my teeth because it was virtually all I could do unless I wanted to lock them all away, which I would dearly pay for later.
Soothing sub-sonic sounds undulated in my ears, and I automatically relaxed as did every single Awh’anise contract in my head. Since they made up close to seventy-five percent of the voices, the level of childish screeching dropped to something approaching tolerable, and the voices that weren’t Awh’anise were soon forced into quiet by the others that wanted to fully enjoy the sounds Dak made. I looked at Dak and smiled gratefully at him only to find that he seemed to be engrossed in what was playing on the view screen and was paying no visible attention to me. The sounds had been his automatic response to my distress, which I thought was wicked cool. He was watching what looked like an Awh’anise daytime drama I was vaguely familiar with that was over the top and over acted and had, even for an Awh’anise, copious amounts of sex.
“Thanks, Dak. Uhh, you’re not actually watching that crap, are you? How the hell did you even find it? I swear to god, there are much better shows produced on Awh’an than that.”
Dak smiled at me, and the ends of his hair teased over my legs, stroking and squeezing in time to the sub-sonic sounds he was making.
“There is a truly staggering amount of stuff out there involving the Awh’anise and sex. This was the mildest, least shocking thing that came up. Enter sex and Awh’anise into a search engine, and you’ll get more results than you ever thought possible. I mean, I know sex is a very popular search topic in general, but your people are heavily represented, Tyh. One would think that the Awh’anise film every sex act they participate in or see.
“The show is funny. I’m probably missing a good bit of native context in the storyline, but the trouble these people get themselves into.... It’s so over done; it’s hilarious. And that one actor that’s supposed to be the Throw-back? She’s not really one is she because her spotted pattern keeps changing in subtle ways? And if your people are so wary of a Throw-back, why is she the one who has the most sex out of all of them? And why does she act so docile when you said that a Throw-back is the most violent of all Awh’anise, who are a violent species in general? I feel like there should be a drinking game or something for every time she gets pounced on and ravished because it happens so often.”
I snickered. “There is a drinking game. You down a half shot of quli’roet every time she has sex. Mostly kids in higher education play it at parties, but you sometimes see it as an event at a bar.”
Dak snorted softly. “If that’s the case, I bet you’d be falling down drunk before the show was half over, and it’s only an hour long.”
“Pretty much. You’re not seriously going to start watching it regularly, are you?”
“It’s like watching two space ships try to dock in the same bay at the same time. You know it’s gonna be bad, but at the same time, you watch in horrified fascination because you just can’t look away from the possibility of big explosions and huge flames and all the chaos that’ll come with an accident like that. I think there might be a subliminal message in the show that makes you unable to turn it off or something.”
I laughed and pulled Dak into my lap for a hug. He made a token protest before he reached out, paused the program and settled in my lap as his hair flowed over us both. I held him close to me and nuzzled the little bit of skin that was exposed and within reach. He was still body conscious and usually refused to step foot out of our bedroom naked, but I had gotten him to stop wearing everything buttoned up to his chin. He’d even kept up the no underwear habit that he’d developed during my cycle although my cycle was done and gone. I thought his new choice on the lack of underwear was spectacular. I loved knowing that his pretty cock and balls dangled bare and free under the cover of his loose pants. It was way too much fun to slip my hands down his pants and tease him intimately when he was least expecting it.
Dak rested his head against mine and sighed softly. He toyed with a loose piece of braid on my vest, and his hair slowly stilled. He didn’t say anything, but I’d come to know him and his little quirks in the months we’d been together. Something was on his mind that he wanted to talk about, but he was suffering from nearly terminal shyness so that meant it likely involved sex in some way. After the little fuck-fest of my cycle, Dak was trying harder to talk about sex, but he still had trouble looking me in the face when he did it. Jawhar said to let him do it on his own terms and that I should count it as a win that he’d talk about sex at all given the way his people viewed it. I grudgingly admitted that Jawhar had been right about the sex thing with Dak before, so I didn’t press him to talk when I really wanted to.
“Tyh, when you were wrapped up in your cycle, something bothered me. I kept meaning to ask you about it, but it kept slipping my mind because... well, for a bunch of reasons. I didn’t think too much of it after, but it’s recently been brought to my attention again, and I’d like some answers, please,” Dak said as he stared at my chest.
“Uhh, okay. You know you can ask me anything, Dak, especially if it’s about sex. I’m always thrilled to talk to you about that,” I said with a leer as I tried to catch his eye.
He peeked at me before quickly looking back at the decorative braiding he was in danger of tugging completely loose from my vest. His hair moved restlessly over us before settling back into stillness. He inhaled quickly and started to speak in an almost rush as if he’d lose the courage to say what was on his mind if he didn’t get it out fast.
“When you were cycling and we were awake, you never asked or let me get my mouth on your cock, but when we were dreaming, you let me do it all the time. Why? Were you controlling what I did in dreams so it’d be better for you there than when we were awake? If you tell me what you like or don’t like, I’ll remember and do whatever makes you feel good. You need to help me out a little here, Tyh. You’re the first man I’ve been with so.... Was I doing something wrong? I didn’t think I was, but your emotions were really hard to read when you were in cycle because the need for sex pretty much overrode everything else for you. Your emotions before your cycle were really wild because we were new to the Lor’fei. I wasn’t paying all that much attention to how satisfied you were with my oral skills because that was all new to me, too. And now you’re letting me suck you off again, and you seem pleased with the act. I’m just really confused about why it stopped for a while unless it was a dream and then suddenly started back up in reality.”
“Told you he was a fast learner. Did I or did I not tell you that he was a natural submissive who’d want to please you? Sounds like he has brains, too, if he’s questioning your sudden switch from getting him to suck you off, to not allowing it, and back to encouraging him to do it again,” Jawhar said in a smug tone.
“Shut the fuck up,” I growled and ignored the snickering from the majority of voices in my head.
“No, Dak, you didn’t do anything wrong. You are better than perfect. I love it when you suck my cock. It was something else that had me keeping you away from my dick whenever I could during my cycle. There was a little detail I sort of forgot about that is connected to my cycle. It’s something uniquely Awh’anise, and there have been some nasty and even deadly side effects for some species when they come into contact with it.”
Dak finally looked up at me with curiosity burning in his eyes. “What’s that?”
“It’s called sliaru. It’s a neuro-stimulant that males produce when in cycle that increases the chance of a non-cycling female to spontaneously ovulate, increases male fertility and gives both parties euphoric-like pleasure. It’s perfectly natural for Awh’anise and very much enjoyed, but we never know what it’ll do to other species until they’re exposed to it. It’s highly recommended that exposure be done with extreme caution.”
“So your body makes this... sliaru somehow? Is it like pheromones? Or is it something you need to inject into your partner by biting them like some species invenomate their prey? You do like to nibble and bite, and you do have fangs....” Dak trailed off with what I can only call a considering and interested look at my mouth. He liked it when I nipped and bit him during sex.
I snickered a little before I could speak. “I guess you could say that I injected you with it. Sliaru is produced when a male allows the pearls to appear down the length of his cock. Sliaru rises through the skin and appears in a thin, slick, rainbow-coloured film. You don’t need much of it to produce a reaction because it generally comes into contact with mucus membranes, and that makes it enter the system very fast. Or so I learned in Awh’anise biology.”
Dak’s eyes were impossibly wide. “You have what appear where? Show me.”
Dak scrambled from my lap, stood and watched me intently. I could’ve said that I couldn’t just pop a boner on command, but I’d be flat out lying where he was concerned. Having Dak’s sweet little ass in my lap for just that short period of time had me halfway to hard, and it certainly wouldn’t take much more to get me all the way there. It probably wouldn’t take more than thirty seconds. I actually thought Dak demanding I show him my erect cock was pretty hot, and as simple as that, I was suddenly fully hard. The pearls weren’t showing, but that was something I could control under any circumstances except when cycling.
Dak narrowed his eyes at me and crossed his arms over his chest. “Show. Me. Now, Tyhlian.”
By all the gods above and below, he was so damn sexy when he went all demanding, velvety steel voice on me. I pushed aside the edge of my pants to expose my erection to Dak’s intense stare. He frowned as he stared at my dick with critical eyes.
“It’s very nice, and I enjoy it a lot, but I’m not seeing anything different from all the other times I’ve seen your cock. Where’re these pearls you mentioned? I assumed they’d be something I can see since you said they appeared. Are you teasing me, Tyhlian?” Dak asked suspiciously as he met my eyes.
I wanted to preen when he said I had a nice cock and that he enjoyed it a lot. He gave me a hard look that said he meant business, and I caved. I really couldn’t deny him anything. I relaxed my control and felt a tiny burst of pleasure as the pearls appeared down the length of my cock.
“Look again, Dak.”
He gave me one last suspicious look before his eyes dropped to my crotch again. He sucked in a startled breath and crouched down to get a better look. A possessive growl wound through my throat at his position between my slightly spread legs, the scent of growing arousal starting to come from him had my dick up and raring to go. He reached forward to touch me before stopping inches from my cock and drawing his hand back. He licked his lips, and his hair twisted up around my legs as high as it could.
“Does it hurt? Why is this the first time I’m seeing this? Can I touch you? You can do this whenever you want?” he asked in his typical rapid fire manner when he found something new and fascinating.
“No, it doesn’t hurt and actually feels good to relax my control. I wasn’t hiding the pearls. Good Awh’anise manners during sex usually means that you keep the pearls from appearing unless you ask your partner first and receive permission. It generally takes more than one round of sex to work the sliaru out of your system and if you follow up the first round with yet another that includes sliaru, you’re going to find yourself on a looping pleasure high. Too much of a sliaru looping high, like during a cycle, and you end up not remembering details of what happened, just that your body was drenched in pleasure for hours on end. And yes, I can allow them to appear any time I want. The only time I have no control is when I’m cycling. You can always touch me anytime and anywhere your heart desires.”
Dak reached out and delicately touched one of the pearls. I bit back the groan of erotic delight in the simple touch, the pearls making my cock ultra-sensitive. He pressed on the firm pearl, and my tail thumped the edge of the chair I was sitting on from the rush of pleasurable sensation Dak was accidently giving me. He rubbed his finger back and forth along my length, his finger traveling over the line of pearls and making lust shoot to my balls. I almost whimpered when he stopped and examined the rainbow-coloured film now coating his finger.
“It’s very slippery. It feels a little tingly, too. So this is why I’d feel so aroused when you did me during your cycle even when my dick was too exhausted to go up? So, the looping pleasure high I would’ve had made me forget something this cool? That’s a damn shame. I’m sure somebody has pointed out to your people that you could make a fortune off this stuff, right?”
“Actually, we can’t. The shelf-life of sliaru is only a few hours. Freezing it destroys the stimulant properties and makes it inert. And there is the problem of it sometimes killing other species.”
“Good thing I was okay with it then, right?” Dak asked as he raised his hand with the sliaru on it and examined the way the colours shifted in the light against the pure blackness of his skin.
“I wouldn’t say that exactly. Something happened, but you seemed okay if really, really horny and a little aggressive. You also seemed to like pain more, which isn’t that surprising considering that everything feels great when sliaru is involved. It scared the shit out of me though when I saw the change.”
“What change?” Dak asked as he almost went cross-eyed as he held his finger with the sliaru on it a few inches from his face.
“Your eyes. The silver parts of your eyes turned bronze and the rainbow swirls changed into some sort of multi-coloured almost prism-like thing. You also seemed kinda high, but that sometimes happens to Awh’anise who are more sensitive to sliaru than others so that wasn’t too weird.”
Dak hummed and before I could even think of stopping him, he licked the finger with sliaru on it. His eyes widened in surprise at the taste, and he utterly shocked me by swiftly sucking on his finger, his eyes closing in delight. It only took seconds for the scent of his arousal to spike sharply, and when he opened his eyes, I got to see the transformation of his eyes clearly for the first time.
The bronze colour almost appeared to bleed over his silver sclera. The rainbow swirls I was used to seeing fractured like stressed glass and became holographic. When he looked at me there was sharp hunger and a completely foreign look of carnal knowledge in his gaze. His hair tightened briefly where it wrapped around my legs before loosening and starting an erotic slide over my skin.
“Oh I like this, Tyh. It tastes like honeyed berries. I feel really warm, too. And sexy, like I know how to do all kinds of kinky things. Horny, very horny, too. I definitely like this sliaru,” Dak said as he sank to his knees between my legs and shocked the hell out of me by kissing the head of my cock before opening his mouth and taking a surprising amount of my dick down his throat.
I groaned, and my hands tangled in his hair. Whether it was to pull him off me or keep him where he was, I couldn’t have said if my life depended on it. Dak made sounds of pleasure as he bobbed his head up and down. He made erotic slurping noises as he sucked and licked my cock that easily doubled my lust. He also had an ultra-low, bass sound going on that was at the very bottom of my hearing range but sexy as hell. His hair completely ensnared me, holding me hostage to what he was doing with his mouth, which pushed my arousal even higher.
“Fornis on a steel cock, but that sliaru shit is amazing. Damn shame I didn’t get to feel the full effect of it before it killed me. What a way to go though. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked you for taking me out that way, did I?” Jawhar asked in a wistful tone.
I ignored him in favour of focusing on the sensation of Dak’s teeth lightly scraping along the pearls. The last thing I wanted to be reminded about was sex with one of my contracts while enjoying the touch of my Lor’fei.
“I’m serious. If I’d been given my choice of how to die, meeting my great reward while getting my brains fucked out was at the top of my list. Sure, I’m still mad that you made it look like I was screwing around on my Master when that was the last thing I’d have ever done because I loved him, but I know now that’s what you were paid to do.
“Hey, because I’ve been such a stellar help to you in getting your sex life on course with your pretty boy, how about you let me borrow your body for a quick call to my Master just to tell him that I wasn’t unfaithful and that I still love him? Come on. I’ve given you great advice that really helped you both. That should be worth something, right?”
I mentally growled out a no and watched Dak do his best to make me blow my load. Jawhar sulked, and I winced a little from the mental kick he gave me before flouncing off. Dak pulled off my cock with a pop and gave me a considering look with his strange looking eyes.
“It might be easier on you if you tried to get along with the voices on small things. They might not harass you as much at least until I can figure out how to rid you of them. That would probably slow down the insanity, too. We can discuss that later though. I’m absolutely dying to feel your cock with these pearls in my ass.”
Dak stood, and before I could say a damn thing, his pants were around his ankles, and he was stepping out of them. He lifted the hem of his long shirt out of the way as he climbed onto my lap, giving me a nice flash of his cock and balls. Without any hesitation, he grabbed my dick, lined up his hole and pushed down, sinking fully onto my cock in one move. A possessive growl burst from my throat, and my claws extended to their full length, digging into the arm of my chair at the tight heat enveloping my cock.
Dak moaned, but it was a sound filled with pleasure not pain despite taking my cock like he had. I regularly filled his ass now, so he was used to that, but there’d been no loosening of his hole or lube. Granted, sliaru was an amazing lube substitute and made everything feel fantastic, but I was still a little surprised at not only what he’d done but also at the level of forwardness he was showing. I liked it. A lot. He started to move up and down on my cock, lush sounds of pleasure coming from him as the incredible deep bass, sub-sonic sounds synched to match the speed of his hips.
“Gods but this is amazing, Tyh. I want this all the time. The pearls are.... Gods you have no idea how good it feels. Or maybe you do. Why don’t I remember how mind blowing this is if you fucked me with the pearls during your cycle? That’s not fair. Move me, Tyh. Make me feel it. Make me remember this,” Dak demanded.
I pulled my claws in and gripped his hips, moving him gently in a rhythm that would hopefully give us pleasure while slowing down the slide to orgasm that I could feel starting to build at the base of my spine. Dak allowed me to move him as I wanted for only a short period of time before he made a frustrated sound in his throat.
“Harder. I know you want to. I can feel it, Tyh. I want it, too. Consume me with your shameless want. I want to feed on that. Dig your claws into my flesh so I’ll know you’re having fun. Fuck. Me. Tyhlian,” Dak demanded as his hair tightened painfully around me and his long, elegant fingers dug into my shoulders with surprising strength.
The Awh’anise voices in my head echoed the snarl that reverberated through my chest at the challenge in his words and actions. I reacted without thinking and reached up to rip open his shirt, sending buttons flying and forcing a startled sound out of him that shifted into a delighted noise at the aggression I was showing. I yanked his shirt down his arms, a vicious grin on my face when his cuffs refused to slide off his wrists, trapping his hands slightly behind him. I gripped his hips hard, the tips of my claws breaking his skin and dragging a sexy, pained hiss from his lips. I fucked up into him hard, muttering possessive Awh’anise words while Dak panted and gasped.
His hair tightened around my chest and stroked over the Risdepa on my arm, shoving my lust into overdrive from the sinfully erotic feel. I leaned in and nipped at Dak’s rock hard nipples making his sub-sonic sounds zoom up into the super-sonic register at the brief pain before dropping back into the ultra-low throbbing that sounded like pure sex to me. He writhed on my cock and moaned in pleasure as I pinched his nipple between my fangs and teased the end of the captive bud with my tongue. The thought once again came to me that he’d look flat out amazing with silver hoops through his nipples. A delicate chain connecting them would be stunning and erotic to play with during sex. I was definitely going to introduce that during one of our dream sex playtimes.
He groaned and shivered and whispered “Yes, please,” over and over again, so I bit down a little harder. Dak shrieked and stiffened as his ass began squeezing my cock and his release stormed through him. Intense satisfaction rushed through me at being able to get him off without touching his cock even once. I let go of his nipple, looked down and growled low at seeing his black seed decorating my bare chest. I thrust into him hard a half dozen times before yanking him firmly down and letting my own peak hit. Dak shivered and moaned and rocked in my lap, his cock still hard and his balls likely aching in the best way possible from the effects of the sliaru.
I pulled him off my cock despite wanting to stay buried in his ass and over his protest and the firm grip his hair had on me. I sat his butt on the edge of the console before swallowing his still firm cock down to the root. Dak gasped and spread his legs, wordlessly demanding more. I obliged him by shoving three fingers up his ass to press hard on his prostate while I sucked strongly on his cock. Dak made choking sounds in his throat and filled my mouth with another, smaller load, which I gladly swallowed. He moaned and slumped forward, his breathing fast and shallow. I felt euphoric from the combination of sliaru, the scent of our combined arousal and release and Dak’s personal scent that was heady all on its own.
I pulled back, and a purr wound from my throat at the sight of debauched pleasure that Dak presented. His legs were splayed wide, and my come trickled from his well-used hole. His cock was slick with spit and seed, and one of his nipples was slightly swollen with a tiny bead of white blood on the tip, stark against his black skin. Five more beads of white blood dotted each hip where my claws had broken his skin. When he looked up at me, his eyes were still changed, and there was a level of hunger in them that had my cock making a valiant attempt to rise again.
“That... was... fucking... amazing,” Dak panted. He drew in several steadying breaths, and the bronze receded from his sclera, the rainbow swirls of his eyes re-aligning themselves quickly. “I hope like hell I don’t forget the details of this like I did the cycle stuff. That would damn-near be a crime if I did.”
“You should remember. The cycle was an endless loop of pleasure with very little recovery time for either of us. That second orgasm should’ve purged the last of the sliaru out of your system.”
Dak looked down at the mention of his second orgasm, and as quick as that, the sex-shy man was back. I thought it was kinda hot to go from as demanding as he’d been to almost virginal shy. He went to raise a hand and noticed that it was caught in his sleeve. He looked up at me with a frown as his hair slithered off me and efficiently untangled him from the remains of his clothes.
“Tyhlian, as hot as I thought it was at the time, please refrain from tearing my clothes apart. I have a limited wardrobe, and if you keep destroying things in the heat of passion, I’ll soon run out of stuff to wear.” He pointed a finger at me and narrowed his eyes. “And don’t get any funny ideas about that either, or I will remove the temptation of tearing my clothes off by keeping you at hair’s length from me at all times. Understood?”
I grinned and nodded. I could control myself to that extent. I also made a mental note to pick up some throw away clothes for Dak so that I could tear those off him if the mood struck. He might protest after the fact, but he really got into it when it was happening. I was about to ask Dak if he was okay and wanted me to treat the superficial wounds I’d inflicted on him when he stunned me with his next words.
“So, where do we go to get my nipples pierced? I have no idea what the procedure on that is. Truthfully, I didn’t even know people did that sort of thing. But I agree that the mental image is very hot and makes me feel more than a little naughty just thinking about having it done,” he said as he examined his ruined shirt and sighed.
I gaped at Dak.
“Told you he was a super kink,” Jawhar said in a sing-song voice. “I could show you how to do it properly. That’d really be putting a claim on him, wouldn’t it? Hey, see if he’ll go for getting his cock pierced, too. Bet you he would. I could show you how to do that, too. I’ve pierced a ton of slaves in all kinds of places. The prettiest, most obedient slaves were always lead around by their Masters with thin gold and silver chains connected to their nipples and cock or clit. I was never obedient enough for that honour though. Bet you he would be.”
I licked my lips and tried very hard not to think about what Jawhar said. He was right in that Dak would be absolutely stunning pierced and on a leash. Great gods above and below, I was a complete pervert to think of doing that to Dak. He’d be aghast if he knew what I’d like to do to him. I had no idea how Dak had come up with the idea of getting his nipples pierced or why he mentioned it now. I hadn’t said a damn word about it, and he said he hadn’t even known people did that, just where the hell had that come from?
“Dak? Where did that idea come from? To have your nipples pierced?”
He stopped looking around for the buttons that had scattered when I ripped his shirt open and looked at me with a little exasperation.
“I thought you said the sliaru wouldn’t mess with memories this time around. Did you forget already? I got it from you during that mind-blowing sex we just had. I think you mentioned it once before, too. When your cycle was just starting, I think. You said I’d look ‘flat out amazing with silver hoops through my nipples’ and ‘a delicate chain connecting them’. You said it’d be ‘erotic to play with during sex’ and I totally agree. I loved it when you nipped me there, so tugging on something that pierced them would probably feel just as good if not better, right?”
“No, Dak. I didn’t say anything to you about you having pierced nipples,” I said with a shake of my head.
“Yes, you did. I heard you clear as day say that. The mental image you gave me by saying that is what helped push me over the edge.”
“I didn’t say a single word the entire time we were having sex, Dak.”
“But... I heard you say it. I know I did. Don’t worry, Tyh. I’m not saying I’ll do it because you’d like to see that on me. If you wanted it and I didn’t, I’d tell you to do it in dreams, that way we’d both be happy with the results. I want to do it because I find the idea titillating, pardon any pun there, and if it turns out to be something I don’t like, I can always take the rings out. I told you I liked trying new things, and this sounds really hot.”
“I didn’t say a damn word, Dak. I swear it. I thought about it because of something one of the voices said to me, but I’m telling you, the words never passed my lips.”
“But... but... but I heard you. I know I did,” he said, confusion plain in his tone. “I had to because that’s the only explanation unless....”
His hair twitched around him in agitation, and he looked lost— as if all the rules he knew had suddenly been yanked out from under him. I would’ve said or done anything to erase that look from his face. I couldn’t say anything but the truth as he’d know I was lying and lying to Dak was not a good idea even if my reasoning for it was good. Dak closed his eyes and hung his head as he blew out a slow breath. When he looked back up there was resignation in his face.
“I... I think I read your mind,” Dak said in a low voice. “And I’m almost positive this isn’t the first time either. What’s going on, Tyh? Is this something about the Lor’fei you didn’t tell me about? I thought we were past you keeping things from me to shield me from hurt.”
I sat abruptly in the chair I’d been sitting in earlier, a cold shiver of dread racing down my spine. I loved Dak with every fibre of my being, but I didn’t want him reading my mind. I didn’t want him to find out just what sort of depraved thoughts I had about him and what I’d like to do with and to him. I didn’t want him to see that dark part of me and be repulsed. I could tell that he was starting to really care for me, and I didn’t want him to run away screaming because of fantasies I had that I’d never act on.
“I’m telling you he’d probably be eager to try half the things you think will scare him and willing to give the rest a go just to see what it was like,” Jawhar said. “The man is a much kinkier submissive and more open-minded than you’re giving him credit for.”
“Not helping, Jawhar. Not helping at all,” I snapped back.
“You know everything I do about the Lor’fei. I’ve never heard of that happening with Lor’fei partners, but I’m sure there’s a lot of shit that doesn’t make it into the official records that’s kept private between partners. Maybe it’s something that happens with your people if they find their Lor’fei. You are a receiving empath, so maybe, this is just another facet of your talent. When did you first notice this mind reading thing?” I asked as I tried to calm my fears.
Dak frowned and concentrated for several long minutes. Even his hair stilled as he gave serious thought to my question.
“When you started your cycle and did me for real the first time. It happened during your cycle, too, but only when you did me and only when it was in reality. And then again this time. I’m sure of it.”
“It’s the sliaru. That’s the only new thing introduced to him,” said Visolela, the xeno-biologist, with excitement in her voice. “Quick, give him more to test the theory. This is highly unusual and I demand you immediately start testing to see how powerful this reaction is in him. There could be the potential for an amazing weapon if it makes him or his people instantly telepathic even for short periods of time. Ask him if he can still read your mind or if the gift is gone now that the sliaru isn’t in his system anymore. This is so exciting!”
I mentally growled a fuck off at her but had to admit that sounded plausible. I didn’t want to ask Dak anything she was harassing me to, but I did want to know if he could read my mind now or if it was purely a product of the sliaru somehow enhancing something in him.
“One of the voices in my head is a xeno-biologist, and she thinks it’s the sliaru that allowed you to do what you did. It sounds right as it is the only thing that is different about those encounters between us. Can you still read my mind now?”
“The sliaru did that to me? Wow. Okay. I’m not sure how to react to that. I mean, I love what it does on an arousal level, and it tasted amazing, but it’s a little freaky to know that I was actually hearing your thoughts. And no, the only things I’m getting from you right now are emotions, which is normal for me. Please don’t take this the wrong way, Tyh, but I’d appreciate it if you held off on the sliaru for me for a little while.”
“That won’t be a problem, Dak,” I said with absolute certainty, more than a little relieved that I wouldn’t need to worry about him finding out some of the things that I fantasized about doing with him.
Dak smiled, and I didn’t need to be an empath to know he was relieved as well. “Thank you, Tyh. Now, where do you think we need to go to get my nipples pierced? Do they do that sort of thing in a hospital, or is there some kind of special shop that would do that? Do you think it’ll be hard finding a place, or is it something you think you could do once you have the right stuff?”
The voices in my head laughed hysterically as I groaned at the anticipation in Dak’s tone. Above them all, I heard Jawhar offer again to show me exactly what to do and even to guide my hands so that none but me would touch Dak so intimately. I knew when to admit defeat, and Dak beamed at me, beyond pleased, when I said I’d check the nearest habitations for what we needed.
A thrill shot through me at the idea of seeing Dak with nipple rings that I put on him, and I sighed as I realized that I would take Jawhar up on his offer to show me what to do to properly and safely pierce Dak myself. Arousal tightened my balls and made my cock twitch at the thought of placing the hoops through his nipples and then fucking him senseless. I was apparently a seriously twisted individual, but fortunately for me, Dak seemed to really like that.
I still had no idea what I’d done to be so fucking lucky to have Dak as my lover, but I’d do it a million times over to keep him with me.
It took a little more than a week for Tyh to find someplace to buy the items we needed to pierce my nipples. I thought he was being a little obsessive about things and possibly stalling in the hopes that I’d give up on the idea. He still really hadn’t clued into the fact that once I set my mind on something, I was suddenly transformed into one of the most stubborn people ever born. There were times when I was sure he was being willfully ignorant of that facet of my personality. It was sort of sweet that he only wanted to see the good in me but frustrating at the same time. At least he’d stopped asking me every day if I was sure that this was something I wanted to do. Granted, that had required me staring him down coldly and refusing to speak or go near him for the rest of the day, but it seemed to have sunk into his head that I wanted to do this.
Jewellery shopping with Tyh had been interesting. I’d have been content with a plain pair of silver hoops. Not Tyh. He’d dragged me through at least a dozen stores before muttering that nothing we saw would do. It amused the hell out of me that for someone who’d spent several days subtly and not so subtly trying to talk me out of getting pierced, he was being hyper-critical of every piece of jewellery we saw not because it was some further stalling tactic but because he genuinely believed that nothing we saw was good enough for me to wear. It was adorable in a weird way.
We’d eventually gone back to the ship empty-handed, and Tyh said he needed a little while with Raini, one of the people in his head, to try and find what he wanted. It was the first time he’d actually mentioned one of the voices by name in the slightly more than two months we’d been together, and I’d wondered aloud what brought on that change. His cheeks had flushed pink, and his tail swished in embarrassment before he mumbled something about working with the voices a little more freely like I’d suggested had made them tone down their nasty shit. They still wanted to use his body for their own ends, but they weren’t being so rabid about it. He also said the ultra-low sounds I made calmed all the voices, even the ones that weren’t Awh’anise.
I’d been all pleased with myself at learning that. I was still going to try and purge him of the voices, but it made me feel incredibly useful and proud to know that I was helping him even if what I was doing was minimal in my mind. I sat beside Tyh at the comm console and watched in utter fascination as he drew in a deep breath and then let it out slowly, his entire personality shifting into what I could only call somebody else.
His posture changed, becoming slightly hunched. He wriggled his fingers for a few seconds, focused his eyes on the view screen in front of him and then started to type faster than anyone I’d ever seen before. None of what he typed made any sense to me. It looked like a continuous string of random letters and numbers and symbols. The view screen split into eight smaller windows and Tyh kept typing although I heard him mutter in a strange language that sounded like chittering and clicks as his eyes darted over each window. He said something in that language, and I didn’t need a translator to know a swear word when I heard it. The windows coalesced into a group of four, and Tyh grunted, obviously still not happy with what he saw. There was a long-suffering sigh, and the four became two.
“Is there a problem? Maybe I can help?” I said cautiously. I wasn’t sure what to do as I’d never seen Tyh when he wasn’t really him, and I knew the voices were not typically nice individuals. But I looked at it as not so much helping the voices as helping Tyh.
“No, thank you. It’s hard to do a good, thorough, fast search when you only have two eyes to focus on the screens and they won’t focus independently. Well, not without a lot of eye strain and a huge headache. At least I get a decent typing speed with two extra fingers.”
“Only two eyes?” Curiosity suddenly burned through me. “How many are you used to? And if it’s not rude, are you male or female? I’m not sure how to address you, and I don’t want to offend.”
A strange, high-pitched chittering sound burst from Tyh’s throat, and it took me a moment to realize that it was laughter.
“Female, and I have eight eyes. It’s so much more efficient than just two although I have to say that the colours I can see now are amazing and almost so brilliant that it hurts the eyes. The first time I jacked Tyhlian’s body didn’t last long because I was stunned at how colourful everything was. I’m Raini, by the way, and I appreciate you wanting to address me properly.”
Eight eyes? I suddenly wanted to know what Raini looked like before she became one of Tyh’s contracts. I couldn’t think of how to politely ask that though, so I switched my attention to watching the numbers appear on the screen at an almost dizzying sped. I was a little awed that Tyh’s fingers, under Raini’s command, didn’t stop flying over the keyboard as she held a conversation with me. I wasn’t quite a two-finger, hunt-and-peck typist and did all right when using a keyboard, but I was nowhere near the speed I was seeing. I also doubted I’d be able to hold up my end of a conversation without typing whatever was being said at the same time regardless of how fast I was typing.
“What exactly does Tyh have you searching for?”
“A quality metal worker that takes commissions in rare, hard to work with materials, works fast, doesn’t ask questions and doesn’t blab about their clients to people who wave obscene amounts of money in front of their faces for that information. As you may have guessed, those are pretty narrow search parameters. And he wants it to be somebody within a day’s travel of where we currently are.”
“Wow. That is pretty specific and sounds difficult. I told Tyh I was fine with just simple hoops. I don’t know why he’s insisting on this. It’s going to cost more than I think needs to be spent.”
“He’s doing it because he loves you to a degree that is insane, and he wants you to have something you can wear with pride even after he’s gone. That’s a direct quote from him, and I think it’s sweet even if it does make me very nervous for my continued life, such as it is, to hear him talk about being dead in the not so distant future. I think he’s trying to set you up with a little pocket change if things come to that.”
Raini smiled at me with Tyh’s face, and it was a little weird but not as strange as it probably should’ve been. The emotions coming from Tyh were not his. His were there but muted and more like a background thing. If I wasn’t aware of one of the voices using his body, I might have ignored the slightly off feel to his emotions as him either being pre-occupied or trying to suppress something. The look in Tyh’s eyes was different from what I was used to seeing, and even his voice was slightly different in pitch as well as cadence. It was really kind of fascinating and not remotely as odd as I thought having a conversation with one of the voices would be.
“It’s not like money is an issue with me running the game. I can get you a nice little egg sack equal to the GNP of a medium-sized country in a few hours without anyone knowing what I’ve done and making it completely untraceable. With that in mind, Tyhlian asked me to find someone who’d work in distilled imperium. He said nothing else would do for you.”
I gaped. I knew what distilled imperium was. Anyone who had any sort of higher tech access knew what that was. Imperium by itself was a very rare metal. Heavy as hell—a six inch cube of the stuff weighed around two hundred pounds. It had an extremely high melting point. It was also almost impervious to every type of corrosive and caustic substance thrown at it. Working with it was a nightmare of a task and required special tools and a furnace capable of putting out temperatures in the range of some stars.
But work with it, people did. The primary use of imperium was in flash transporters. It was the only metal capable of conducting the staggering amounts of heat and energy required to physically move a person or thing from one location to another thousands or even hundreds of thousands of kilometers across the universe without turning to slag the first time it was used. Flashes were generally only used to move time sensitive items for governments or the super rich. Only heads of state or the super rich could afford to use that as a personal transportation method.
An imperium coil was not large for the function it did. Typically it started out as a spiral of wire the thickness of two fingers that was coiled like a spring roughly four inches across and twelve feet high. Generally, it was good for about a thousand transports before it was used up and needed to be replaced. The purple-black imperium coil slowly thinned and turned a silvery-white under the high temperatures and energy pulsing through it. It would be monitored carefully towards the end of its life as there would only be a brief colour change to dark green before to it would suddenly lose three-quarters of its mass when it failed. Anything being transported then was gone forever, the very atoms of the item scattered far and wide over the distance it was travelling.
The resulting coil would still be about four inches wide, but it would have collapsed into a collection of rings roughly eight inches high. That was called distilled imperium, and it would still be as corrosive-resistant as imperium but had the benefit of being lighter in weight than most metals and had a lower melting point than imperium. That melting point was still ridiculously high and required a hotter furnace compared to other metals, so it was still very difficult to work with. I’d heard of wedding rings with a width slightly less than the thickness of a piece of twine selling for as much as half a million credits each. While technically distilled imperium was a waste product, it was still wickedly expensive and second only to imperium in price.
“Done. It’ll cost a nice chunk of change, but I have that covered, too. It was nice to play in the web like that. I liked the challenge even if it wasn’t the most difficult search I’ve ever done,” Raini said with a contented little sigh.
Raini turned in the chair and fixed me with a serious, intent look.
“I don’t expect any special consideration from you, and we all know what you’re going to try to do for Tyhlian, but not all of us in his head are bad people. I happened to make a few poor decisions on a personal level that put me onto Tyhlian’s hit list. As much of a jerk that I think Jawhar is, he just happened to run his mouth to somebody who had the power and money to shut him up permanently, which really isn’t surprising if you know Jawhar. Some were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and weren’t even contracts that Tyhlian was supposed to take out.
“I’m not going to soft spin it. Some of the people deserved to die and, in my opinion, the universe is a better, safer and even saner place without them. But for those of us who are guests in Tyhlian’s head through misfortune, I don’t think we deserve to be erased from existence. I’d like to ask on behalf of those of us that are not truly evil that you be selective about who you delete from his head. Yes, I’ve obviously got some heavy self-interest in this, but I’d like you to think about it even a little. I’m sure we can come to some kind of deal that—”
A subtle ripple moved over Tyh’s face cutting Raini off mid-sentence. One look at Tyh’s face, and I knew that he was back in control of himself once again without even needing to check his emotional state. He frowned at me, and his eyes took on the slightly faraway look that I identified with him having a rather strong conversation with the voices. He frowned, and if my hearing wasn’t so exceptional, I’d have missed the low little growl that rumbled in his chest. I was pretty sure I knew what Tyh was saying to Raini, if not all of the voices. I didn’t need to be an empath to know he was very pissed.
“It’s fine, Tyh. If I were in their position, I’d have done the same thing,” I said as I laid a hand gently on Tyh’s arm to draw his attention away from his internal argument.
“No, it’s not, Dak. The deal was that Raini would find me what I asked her to and she’d keep her damn mouth shut while she did it,” Tyh said in a grim tone. “There is going to be hell to pay.”
“No harm was done. It was interesting to speak to her. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d actually like to hear about how she came to be one of your ... guests some time. Besides, it would’ve been rude if she hadn’t answered me, and she didn’t strike me as a rude type of person. I was the one who initially started the conversation, so the fault isn’t hers. Let it go, Tyh.”
He muttered under his breath something about the voices corrupting me, and I had to work hard to suppress a giggle. I wasn’t exactly the purest individual to ever draw breath despite what Tyh seemed to think. No, I wasn’t a bad person, contrary to what my people thought, but I had seen and done my share of not so nice things while held at the government facility to test my abilities when I was a teen. I thought Tyh was cute when he was trying to be protective over nothing and was being thwarted. I hoped he didn’t crack down too hard on Raini when she really hadn’t done anything I considered terribly wrong. It wasn’t like she’d attacked me or tried to use Tyh’s body to take over the world or something. I’d felt nothing malicious in Raini’s emotions. I thought Tyh was over-reacting to a simple conversation.
“So where and when do we go to get these crazy expensive hoops you insist I have?” I asked, switching the subject.
“A few hours from here is a place with a guy who’ll do what I want. I need to drop into some less desirable areas to get what I need to pay the guy, but that shouldn’t take long. No, you’re not coming with me to those places either. I’m nervous about going there, and I know how to handle myself. You couldn’t fight your way out of a wet paper bag, and I’m not about to have you held hostage and used against me.”
I started to open my mouth to protest when Tyh cut me off before I could even start.
“No, Dakvir. Absolutely not. You will stay in the ship where it’s safe until I come back. I’m not being an ass here. I really half expect something to go down, and I don’t want to be worrying about keeping you safe on top of keeping my own ass in one piece.”
I rolled my eyes at him and huffed out a fine. I recognized his unbudging stance and knew nothing I said would change his mind.
“Do I at least get to go with you when you meet with this person?”
“That should be safe enough. I’ll set course for the asteroid where the black market is located and get what I need there. I’ll come back to the ship and pick you up, and then we’ll head to the metal worker.”
I nodded in agreement. Tyh immediately started pushing buttons and typing things into the console. I left him to his piloting and went to the galley to poke around and see what we had for lunch. I was intently curious as to what things he needed to pick up at the black market as payment but doubted he’d tell me given the slightly closed feel to his emotions. He probably thought he was protecting me from knowing about the seamy underbelly of society and what went on there. I rolled my eyes and started taking out things for lunch. Tyh would probably be shocked down to his tail tip if he knew half the things I had knowledge about.
To say I was shocked to see the metal worker was an understatement. I scowled a little at Tyh and wished he’d said something beforehand so I wasn’t left staring like some country hick on his first trip to the big city. I’d heard of the species and seen videos of them, but I never thought I’d actually see one in person since they very rarely left their home planet—never mind their solar system. It made perfect sense to me that he would be an individual to work with distilled imperium. Matter of fact, working with both forms of imperium was pretty much the sole reason they left their home world.
The Coruscate were products of a very hot home world. Technically speaking, I think their world was actually classified as a red supergiant star and not an actual planet. The average temperature on Coruscate was about three thousand degrees Celsius. The people were quite literally miniature stars themselves. They typically ran at temperatures of around twenty-nine hundred degrees Celsius. There had been some early attempts at enslaving the Coruscate people for their immense energy but having a captive crank up their internal temperature to the five thousand or so degrees Celsius of a red star before exploding with enough force to obliterate the small moon the slavers had been using as their base quickly cut that idea short.
A Coruscate could work distilled imperium with their bare hands, melting and shaping it like a potter did clay. It was both fascinating and impressive to watch. They had to work harder to melt pure imperium, increasing the fusion reaction at their core to up their body temperature, but they could still work it bare-handed. It was potentially lethal for them to increase their core temperature like that, but apparently, the ones who worked with imperium liked the challenge and thrill of courting death. They were highly specialized tradesmen, and my mind staggered at what this work was likely costing.
The Coruscate in front of us was suspended in a force field that protected us from being fried to a crisp. Even so, it was wickedly hot in the room, and we were a good fifteen feet from him. Sweat dripped down my face and ran in a small river down my spine. Less than two minutes in his presence and my clothes were sticking to my body like I’d been out in a heavy rain.
The Coruscate was a thing of pure beauty. Roughly humanoid in shape, he was more flame brought to life than actual identifiable person. He was hypnotizing to watch move—liquid fire that shifted from cherry reds to pale yellows to brilliant oranges and even to deep, cool blues. It was a little unnerving to hear him speak directly in my mind, but both Tyh and I relaxed a little when he said that he couldn’t read our minds. Granted, he could’ve been saying that just to ease our fears, but his emotions didn’t feel like he was lying.
They were also the strangest emotions I could ever remember encountering in all my dealings with alien species. They were very young feeling, like he wasn’t quite an adult and was still learning the ways of the world. If I were to guess relative age, I’d say he was the equivalent to a mid-teen. But at the same time, he also felt very, very old, which was exceptionally weird. I tried to hold my tongue but I couldn’t resist asking, what was probably, a very rude question.
“How old are you and have you ever done something like this before?”
Tyh hissed at me for being rude, but I ignored him and focused on the Coruscate. I got surprise from the Coruscate and then curiosity. He moved closer to us and I immediately felt the temperature jump up. The sweat that had been sitting uncomfortably on my skin dried so fast my skin actually felt tight. A warning bell sounded from somewhere, and there was annoyance from the Coruscate before he backed off to a slightly more tolerable distance.
“I have been working with both forms of imperium for several decades and am quite skilled. I am a ... prodigy is the word I think. I am rather young to my people but very old by most others standards. I was expelled from my parental matter about fifteen thousand of your standard years ago. I will not reach my full magnitude for another ten thousand years or so. How did you know?”
“Your emotions. You feel both young and old at the same time.”
Tyh hissed at me again to stay quiet, but I felt only genuine curiosity from the Coruscate. I didn’t see any harm in telling him a little about myself. As young as he was, I highly doubted anyone could force him to do anything he didn’t want to. I was thinking it would be very hard to threaten an individual that could burn you to a crisp if he turned off the force field for only a second or two. Or even just moved closer with the force field still on.
“I’m a receiving empath. I can feel the emotions of others.”
“Hot plasma! That would be so amazing.” Youthful excitement and curiosity coloured his emotions.
“It’s not as great as you think. Really, it isn’t. I have to run mental shielding all the time or else I’d completely lose myself in the things others feel and experience. Believe me, that’s not pleasant.”
“Like being accidentally absorbed into the core through a fissure?” His flames flickered and seemed to draw into himself, mild horror shadowing his feelings. “Oh. No, that is really not so hot.”
“If we could get back on track with this business deal....” Tyh trailed off.
The Coruscate turned bright orange, and his flames licked high, spreading out across the curved surface of the force field before he pulled them back in. He apologized and listened intently as Tyh told him what he wanted. The Coruscate agreed and said it would be easy enough to do. Tyh placed several canisters and a data disk on the counter and giddy excitement rushed from the Coruscate. Tyh told the Coruscate that the other half would come when the jewellery was finished. We were told to come back the following day at the same time and it would be ready. After we left the building where the Coruscate met us, I asked Tyh what was in the canisters and data disk that made the Coruscate so excited.
“Drugs and porn,” Tyh said with a little lip twitch of amusement. “And some cash to make up the difference.”
“What?” My voice rose embarrassingly high and almost sounded like a screech. “That is not funny, Tyhlian.”
Tyh snickered, and I smacked him in the back of the head. That made him laugh and grab my hand. Pure amusement and low-level desire swirled through him, and I wanted to smack him again but restrained myself. For the most part, he saw however-hard I hit him as gentle love taps, and it both amused and aroused him, and neither was the reaction I wanted.
“Did you not hear what he said when I asked him how old he was? He said his people considered him young. You cannot give some ... underage kid drugs and porn. That’s just not right. It’s corrupting a minor. The porn by itself is bad enough but drugs, Tyhlian? I hope like hell that it was one of your voices that convinced you to do that.”
“How do you know he’s underage? Did he say something to you that I didn’t hear? He’s fifteen thousand years old, Dak. There are technologically advanced civilizations that aren’t that old. Of course, you’d be considered young at that age if your people lived for a hundred thousand years at a stretch. Besides, what I gave him is nothing that couldn’t be fairly easily bought by almost any ten-year-old.”
“Explain,” I demanded suspiciously.
“The porn? Specific, crisp images of gas ejections from stars and massive fires on planets that were not that easy to get. There might have also been a slightly grainy clip or two from some secret government archives of stars going supernova and their cores collapsing in time lapse. The drugs were actually a selection of different, mostly harmless gasses like helium, argon, xenon along with a few hydrogen isotopes and one from some sort of gas I’d never even heard of.”
I gave Tyh a narrowed-eyed look, sure I was missing something from the mirth flowing through him. What he said was in the canisters didn’t sound like porn and drugs to me. It certainly didn’t sound like something worth much of anything, really. I couldn’t see how something like what Tyh said was in the canisters would be close to or of equal value to getting a Coruscate to make something out of distilled imperium.
“Think about it, Dak. The Coruscate are pretty much sentient stars. Fires raging out of control or stars going supernova is like their sort of porn. They feed off hydrogen but they’ll take other gasses as well and they’ve discovered that some gasses make their bodies, such as they are, react in different and probably pleasurable ways than plain old hydrogen. Porn and probably not drugs exactly but more like a really good shot of a stiff drink or a glass of fine wine. If he’s old enough and brave enough to go out on his own like this, then he can certainly have access to the things I gave him. We’re not his parents, and we’re certainly not the morality police for him. Stop fretting, Dak.”
I frowned but let it go. Realistically, there was nothing I could do about the deal now, and Tyh was right in that it wasn’t my job to police what other people did. And Tyh was also right that the Coruscate never said he was a minor only that his people considered him young, and his emotions felt young to me. I still felt a little guilty about supplying someone who felt so young with porn.
Then again, I remembered sneaking onto some banned channels when I was a teen and the illicit thrill of not only seeing actual sex for the first time but stumbling across a very hot three-way of two men and a woman together. Up until that point, I’d never considered that men could find pleasure with each other since it was such a taboo thing to most Laiokians. Maybe what Tyh gave the Coruscate was something like a taboo practice, and it was the only way the poor guy could fulfill his kinks. That made perfect sense to me, and I felt better about the whole deal and less like I was contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The Coruscate had done a stunning job with the hoops, and we’d both praised his work before handing over the other half of the payment and heading back to the ship. Tyh wasted no time in putting distance between us and the Coruscate. He’d said he hadn’t seen anything of Phaedra in the Dream World, but he didn’t want to take the chance on anyone remembering us more than could be helped. A fast, quiet exit to parts unknown was the best course of action.
I had to admit that Tyh had been right to insist on the custom design and the choice of distilled imperium. They weren’t round hoops like I expected but had seven sides. They were extremely fine and delicate looking, but I knew that you could probably hang at least fifty pounds from a single, thin ring and not have it break or deform. There were some tiny indents and scratches on the inside of each ring and they were identical. They were too deliberate to be random and given the quality of the work, I didn’t think the Coruscate would be so careless to leave marks like that unless they were supposed to be there. I asked Tyh what the marks were.
“Written Awh’anise,” Tyh said absently as he finished plotting our course to wherever it was we were going.
“And it says what?” I asked as I squinted at the tiny marks. “And why can’t I read it? You put the Awh’anise language in my head.”
“Spoken Awh’anise, yeah. I didn’t think you’d need the written language, so I didn’t bother,” he said as he turned in his chair to face me.
I gave Tyh a pointed look. I’d assumed that when he said he’d put the Awh’anise language in my head, it included the written part as well. He shrugged and nodded, and I knew I’d get the missing part of his language dumped into my head the next time I was asleep.
“So what does it say?” I prompted again.
“Your name, the phrase you are my world and then my name,” Tyh said almost shyly as if afraid that I’d put down his choice of engraving.
Warmth curled through me, and I smiled at Tyh as I gave his hand a squeeze. I felt his emotions swell with love and relief. I knew how deeply devotional that phrase was to an Awh’anise, and I was still a little awed that Tyh felt that way about me. It really was like the fondest wish of my heart had been handed to me when Tyh came into my life. I kissed him gently and knew that I was badly losing the struggle not to fall in love with him. I was finding it harder and harder to care that I was probably setting myself up for a giant heartbreak when he was taken from me.
“I’d like to wear these now,” I said firmly.
Tyh’s emotions spiked in surprise, and I could almost see him trying to come up with one last ditch effort to change my mind. I gave him a stern look and even my hair went still to show him I was absolutely serious about not only going ahead with the piercing but also doing it right away now that we had the rings.
“I’m one hundred percent sure I want this, Tyh. We have everything necessary to do it, and you told me yourself that one of the voices in your head has instructed you on exactly what you need to do. You want to see me with pierced nipples, and I want to experience them. We’ve already agreed that if I don’t like it, I’ll take them out. I’ve also promised you that if it hurts too much when you do it, I’ll tell you and the second one won’t happen. There is no reasonable excuse you can give me for not doing this now, Tyhlian, so please, don’t even bother trying.”
He sighed in defeat and nodded before he stood and held his hand out to me. “I want you laying down and comfortable for this. Jawhar said sometimes the people he pierced fainted, and I don’t want to take the chance on you falling out of a chair and face-planting on the floor.”
I rolled my eyes. I highly doubted I’d pass out from the pain. I’d researched piercing through countless databases, and while everything I read said it hurt quite a bit, the articles also said that it was over quickly. I let him lead me to our room as the piercing kit was in there and it was a simple thing to ease the emotions rolling through Tyh.
I was excited and a little nervous. Tyh was the exact opposite. Nervous anxiety was almost pouring off him. I made the calming sounds and for once, it barely made a dent in his emotions. Tyh took the rings from me, and I was relieved to see that despite his anxiety, his hands didn’t have so much as a quiver to them. He told me to take off my shirt and asked me to braid my hair and wrap it around my body to keep it from getting in the way. I did as he asked, lay on the bed and watched intently as he pulled things out of the kit. Tyh had opted for a one-use kit as he insisted that after doing my nipples, there wouldn’t be any other holes punched in my body. I wasn’t quite so willing to write that off, but I held my tongue on it.
He pulled out a box slightly bigger than the palm of his hand, placed the rings into it and clicked the lid shut. A quiet hum started as the sterilizer went to work. He opened a package and removed what looked like a thin towel and set that on the bedside table. A pair of shrink-wrapped forceps was taken out of the kit along with a package that I assumed held the needles. A few more bottles and packages followed. Tyh used a tiny laser to open the sterile packages and carefully placed the contents on the towel. Once everything was set out he went to the bathroom and washed his hands. When he returned, he donned surgical gloves, picked up one of the bottles and held it at the ready over my chest.
“You sure you’re ready for this, Dak?”
“Very sure,” I said before promptly yelping at the icy blast of disinfectant spray to my nipple.
Tyh snickered, and as easy as that, his nervousness melted away. He sprayed my other nipple and got a gasp out of me. I had no idea exactly what was in the bottle, but damned if it wasn’t the same temperature as ice water.
“I don’t think you’re going to need the forceps, Tyh,” I said as I stared at the stiff points my nipples had become.
Arousal leaped to the front of Tyh’s emotions before he squashed it down and chuckled. I smirked a little. It was very heady stuff to know that just seeing my nipples hard was enough to send lust through him.
“While I love how that looks on you, forceps are necessary if we want this done right. I’ve never done this before, and despite Jawhar’s guidance, I don’t want to fuck this up.”
Tyh picked up the forceps, and a thrill shot through me at what was to come. He nodded and muttered something in another language before clamping my left nipple. My breath caught in my throat at the tight pressure, and my cock started to rise. I hadn’t thought I’d be aroused, but I was finding out that I was a lot kinkier than I’d ever imagined. Tyh’s eyes snapped up to my face when he scented the beginnings of arousal from me, and I let out my breath slowly.
“Okay, these have the potential of being very fun toys. I know this is supposed to be a one-time use thing, but I’d really like it if we were to keep them for a later playtime,” I said in a slightly breathless voice as I enjoyed the firm pinch.
Tyh groaned softly and kissed me. He pulled back and picked up a needle that looked pretty big to me and made my belly flutter with nerves at the same time that it excited me. Instead of making me re-think going ahead with the piercing, I nodded eagerly at Tyh. He moved the needle close to my nipple and in one swift move pushed it through. I hissed through my teeth, the pain immediate and sharp before settling into a dull throbbing. Tyh left the needle in place, removed the forceps and clamped my other nipple. I groaned and closed my eyes, the combination of pain and pleasure urging my cock into a full erection.
“Dak?” Tyh asked in a husky voice, his lust surging in response to my desire. His feelings of arousal had the effect of making me more excited.
“I didn’t think it’d feel this sexual. Do the other one, Tyh,” I said as I opened my eyes and stared at him, letting him see how much I was enjoying the experience.
Tyh’s eyes widened in surprise before a growl of need sounded from him. He pushed the second needle through my other nipple, and while the pain was instant and sharp, it still shot another dose of lust straight to my balls making me groan in pleasure. He released the forceps and dropped them onto the sterile towel. He stared hard at my chest and gave into his desire, brushing a gloved finger lightly over one of my nipples. It felt like there was a direct connection from my nipple to my cock, and it twitched hard in pleasure. I groaned and wanted him to do it again. My hair writhed around me trying to get free, and if it had been loose, it would’ve been all over Tyh, touching and stroking him. Tyh’s breath shuddered out of him, and he gave my now ultra-sensitive nipple another soft touch before turning back to finish the piercing job.
He popped open the sterilizer, removing a ring. He threaded it carefully through the hollow needle and pulled the needle free before he locked the ring in place and then repeated the move on my other nipple. He lightly stroked both firm nubs and dual groans of pleasure sounded from us. Tyh’s arousal swamped me, and I loved the sensation. He regretfully drew his hands back and heavily sprayed both my nipples with something warm that stung a tiny bit. He told me not to touch my nipples or the rings for at least five minutes while the spray went to work.
“We’ll need to spray the piercings twice more in the next twenty-four hours with this stuff. It’s an advanced healer, and the piercings should be healed within forty-eight hours although the instructions said not to play rough with the piercings for another two weeks just to make sure everything is nice and healed properly.”
Tyh turned away to clean up, and I smiled when I saw that he kept the forceps aside instead of tossing them into the kit to be disposed of. Tyh stuffed the used kit into the recycler and washed his hands again before coming back into the room. He stared at my newly decorated chest for several long seconds, his tail swishing back and forth and a low, possessive growl sounding from him. His desire was a heavy feeling pressing on my senses, but instead of feeling overwhelmed, I revelled in it.
“You are officially the hottest person I have ever seen in my life. I know we can’t touch or play with the rings yet, but I’d really, really like to make love to you right now, Dak.”
I smiled at Tyh. “I’d really, really like that. I can’t believe how aroused I feel from you piercing me. Who knew I was that kinky?”
Tyh chuckled. “Apparently, Jawhar did.”
“Jawhar is the piercer, right? Please thank him for me for showing you what to do. I don’t think I’d have wanted anyone else to do this for me. It wouldn’t have felt right.”
“He was actually a sex slave. He said that he’d pierced a lot of slaves in a lot of different places that you wouldn’t think of. I guess he’s not that bad of a person compared to some of the people in my head, but he’s most often annoying as fuck and drives me crazier than I already am.”
Well, that explained a lot. I wouldn’t mind a little time to pick Jawhar’s brain, but I highly doubted Tyh would go for that. I wondered how aware the voices were when Tyh and I were intimate, and an embarrassed heat warmed my cheeks at the thought of what they may have seen us doing. I backed away from that idea quickly and refused to dwell on the notion that I might have been providing an unintentional live sex show for the people stuck in Tyh’s head. I focused back on the piercing part of our conversation.
“I’m going to guess that when you say different places, you don’t mean exotic locales but parts on the body. Now, I’m all curious. What other places do people get jewellery?”
Tyh licked his lips and arousal surged through him. I saw him hesitate and felt want rush through him before he ruthlessly quashed it. Curiosity zipped through me, and I lowered my shields by half. I knew I was perfectly fine to do that with Tyh as what he felt never seemed to overwhelm me, which was a complete first in my experience, but instead wrapped around me and felt comfortable and intimate.
There was very strong want for something, likely connected to my getting pierced since that’s what we were discussing. I couldn’t read his mind and could only guess at what the want was about. It had to be some other piercing Jawhar mentioned and giddy excitement leapt through me. I wouldn’t say an automatic no to it whatever Tyh was thinking of because the nipple piercing had been very erotically thrilling to me. I wanted to know what made Tyh so excited because there was a very good chance it would excite me, too.
“Tyh? Where else did Jawhar mention piercing people that made you aroused?” I asked as I reached for his hand and pulled him down to sit next to me.
Tyh frowned and muttered something in another language again, and I just knew that Jawhar was probably urging him to tell me. A miniscule flutter of nerves and wary caution stirred through Tyh, and if I hadn’t lowered my shields, I’d have never felt it. I was almost dying of curiosity now.
“He’s pierced males and females. He’s done nipples, ears, lips, eyebrows, tongues and genitals.”
Tyh’s emotions spiked the tiniest bit with lust when he said genitals. Oh my. I absolutely had to ask exactly what he meant by that.
“Pierced genitals how? Or maybe where is the better question.”
Tyh swallowed hard, and arousal again jumped through his emotions. I was kinda liking the way I could read him with my shields at half level. It felt very intimate and like some strange kind of foreplay every time his arousal caressed me. When we were alone, like we were ninety-nine percent of the time, it might be interesting to keep my shields at a lower level than normal. I decided to give it a test run for a few hours and see how that went, and if I liked it, I’d keep doing it. If not, it was a simple matter to raise my shields again.
“For a guy, different parts of his dick, his balls, the spot between balls and asshole. But I’d never ask you to do any of that,” Tyh hurried to clarify.
It wasn’t exactly a lie that he’d never ask me to get pierced in those places. There was something about one of those locations that he did want, but low-level fear wound through him and would prevent him from ever saying out loud what he thought. The idea of a needle going through some rather delicate bits of me made my belly flutter nervously, but at the same time, I was intrigued by the idea. People must do it for pleasurable sensations as well as how it looked; otherwise, why do it? I was going to be doing some database checking later. In the mean time, the urge to tease Tyh was far too strong to ignore.
“Well, you never know what I’d say if you don’t ask, right? We can talk about it later though because I’m still really turned on and you said you wanted to make love to me.”
Tyh’s utter shock followed by a giant wave of lust was amazing to feel with my shields half down. Oh yes, I’d certainly be trying this out as a norm instead of something I only did in the depths of passion. His arousal made me feel more aroused and very confident about my appearance and desirability, and that was a heady feeling I didn’t think I’d ever get tired of.
“Take your pants off and leave your hair tied, if it’s not bothering you to still have it bound.”
Tyh stood and was naked in less time than it took me to sit up and stand, which made me smile. I let my hair slither off me to hang in one long braid down my back that brushed the floor. Tyh stared at me, and his arousal rose the longer he stared. He was exceptionally good to my ego. I shed my pants, carefully folded them and set them on the chair before walking to the tiny washroom and the full-length mirror that hung on the door to get a good look at my pierced nipples.
I wasn’t a vain person at all. I really did think that my looks weren’t on the plus side of appealing, but I had to admit that the rings looked wickedly hot on me. I wanted to touch them but remembered Tyh saying not to. I wanted them to heal perfectly because I really liked the look of them. I also liked the way they made my nipples stand up and the little bit of throbbing I was experiencing. I knew the throbbing would go away, probably in a few hours, but I was enjoying the hell out of it while it was happening. Tyh walked up behind me and rested his hands on my hips.
“What do you think, Dak?” he asked softly as he pressed himself to my back. The head of his cock nudged against the curve of my ass, and I smiled at feeling more slickness than pre-come could account for.
“I love the way they look and the way I’m so very aware of them being pierced. Will they always stay hard?” I asked as I wriggled my ass into his crotch.
“Jawhar says it’s hard to say for sure. Some do, some don’t. They will be more sensitive though.”
Tyh moved his hands from my hips and grasped my hands with his. He brought our joined hands to the wall on either side of the mirror, his body pressing firmly against mine. A thrill shot through me at the dominating move. Tyh’s hands slid away from mine, and he growled at me to keep them there. His fingers settled low on my hips, and he spread my cheeks slightly apart with his thumbs. Excitement speared through me along with a healthy dose of kinkiness at what I thought was about to happen. He didn’t need to tell me to bend my knees. I did it automatically so that our heights were more even.
Desire was coming off Tyh in strong waves, and I could feel him struggle to curb that desire, which thrilled me probably more than it should. He was always very conscious about making sure I was comfortable and ready for him. I appreciated that, but with my shields lowered and his arousal twisting around mine, I wasn’t in the mood for slow and gentle. The thick braid of my hair wrapped around us both, pulling him tight to me and pressing his dick firmly between my cheeks. A low growl sounded from Tyh, and I met his eyes in the mirror.
“Not a good idea to do that, Dak. Not right now when I think you’re sexy as hell and want you so bad. I’m trying not to be rough.”
“I’d like it a little rough,” I said in breathless anticipation as the head of his cock pressed firmly against my hole demanding entrance.
Tyh had my ass frequently enough that he wouldn’t really hurt me if he skipped the foreplay entirely. Yes, it would sting a little, but I was already riding a bit of a pain high from the piercing. A little more wasn’t going to break me, and I had the sneaking suspicion that I’d probably like it quite a bit. My hair held us even more tightly together, and I flexed my knees, pushing my hips down and forcing the head of Tyh’s slicked cock into me.
I hissed softly at the burn, and Tyh’s claws dug into the skin of my hips. He snarled softly but didn’t make any effort to stop me. The sting of his cock sliding into my unprepared hole quickly faded, and pleasure spiralled though me. Tyh shifted his grip so that one hand was pressed flat on my belly and the other griped my hip. His tail snaked forward and the warm, velvety length wrapped around my cock.
“Whatever you want is my pleasure, Dak,” Tyh said into my ear in a low, sexy voice that made excitement and anticipation shiver down my spine.
Tyh began moving his hips in quick, hard thrusts, his tail squeezing and stroking over my cock in a complimentary rhythm. He growled and purred as he nipped at my shoulders and dragged his fangs over the back of my neck. His claws were sharp points of pressure against my skin, almost but not quite breaking the skin. Possession poured from Tyh, and I moaned at the borderline animalistic feel of being mounted and fucked hard. Seeing myself being thoroughly taken in the mirror was unexpectedly erotic. I loved the way light flashed over the rings in my nipples and could hardly wait until we could play with them. I started to pant as my balls drew tight to my body, my orgasm suddenly only seconds away. Tyh snarled and bit down hard on the back of my neck. My eyes went wide in surprise as my orgasm slammed through me at the erotic display of ownership from Tyh.
My seed splattered against the mirror, and Tyh growled low. His teeth sank a little harder into the back of my neck, and a sharp surge of arousal hit me when his fangs punctured my skin. Tyh’s claws pierced the skin on my belly and hips, the pinpricks drawing tiny white beads of blood. I watched a small rivulet of blood roll over my shoulder from where Tyh bit me and down my chest where it hung off my newly pierced nipple for several seconds before falling free. I’d never seen anything so erotic in my life.
My knees wobbled as Tyh’s strong desire, love and possession surrounded me and combined with my feelings of completion and submission to Tyh. He held me effortlessly for the few thrusts he needed to find release. I moaned at the feel of his cock spurting in my ass and the deep waves of love and possession coming from Tyh. All the strength left my body as I emotionally rolled in our pleasure, and I sagged in his arms breathing heavily. Even my hair went limp and dropped away from us. I felt incredible and wanted to stay exactly where I was, safe in Tyh’s arms and wrapped in his emotions, forever.
I realized then that I loved him with all my heart, and I was okay with that despite the probable heartbreak that I was setting myself up for. I knew myself enough to know that it wasn’t the Lor’fei making me feel that way but my own desires and needs. I was a little annoyed to find that the giant obnoxious snake in the dream had been right when it said the Lor’fei didn’t force me to feel things that wouldn’t have happened on their own. I’d probably still blame a multitude of things on the Lor’fei, but everybody needed some kind of thing in their life to blame for the dumb-ass shit they did.
Panic shot through Tyh when I went boneless. He let go of my neck, and his cock left my body so fast I cried out softly at the loss. He scooped me into his arms and lay me on the bed as if I was made of thousand-year-old cracked glass. I wanted to reassure him that I was fine, better than fine really, but my thoughts were sort of fuzzy and scattered. I felt like I was exceptionally drunk.
“Dak? What’s wrong?” Tyh asked in a cautious tone while upset and fear coursed through his emotions and drained away some of the drunken pleasure I was feeling and cleared my head a little.
“M’fine. Gods, that was good. We are so going to do that again. Hold me,” I demanded, proud that I didn’t slur my words.
Confusion swirled through Tyh but he only hesitated for a second before climbing in beside me and pulling me gently into his arms. I snuggled into him and sighed in contentment. This was where I was meant to be. I needed to tell Tyh how I felt but not yet. I’d only just admitted to myself what was in my heart, and I needed a little time to get used to the idea before sharing that with Tyh. I would do it soon though. I kissed his throat and murmured a Laiokian endearment as my eyes drifted shut, secure physically in his arms and emotionally surrounded by his love.
I was getting twitchy and doing my best to keep that fact from Dak. I was pretty sure he knew anyway because it was damn near impossible to keep anything from him when he could literally read my emotions. It wasn’t the voices this time but the lack of pursuit from Phaedra that had me feeling unsettled. Something was wrong. My gut told me so, but I had no idea what.
I’d tried to explain to Dak when he pressed me for answers before, but he thought it was simply that I had her chasing her tail so much she was busy off in some other part of the galaxy hunting down false clues to our whereabouts. That could be true and I’d have loved to take credit for that. While I was very, very good, no Litch was that good. Laying down a false trail so intricate that it was thought to be real was the business of a Spirit. Creating a false dream so real that even another highly trained and experienced Shal-hazal thought it was real was the work of a Shal-hazal Spirit Will.
Moswen could do it without batting an eye, but I hoped he wouldn’t be stupidly loyal enough to actually do that. He knew that a Shal-hazal Spirit Will created dream could eventually be picked apart by another determined Shal-hazal even if it took weeks or sometimes months. I loved him dearly, but I didn’t want him putting his life at risk for me any more than he already had. As soon as my family knew what I was, we’d all known the day would come when I’d have a death warrant on my head and that there wasn’t anything to be done to stop it.
As sick as it sounded, I wished that I had a Shal-hazal in my head so I could compare notes and see what he or she thought of the situation. The Awh’anise I had in my head were no help in that regard as Shal-hazal didn’t discuss Shal-hazal business outside of our Houses. We were held a little in awe by non-Shal-hazal, and what the average Awh’anise knew about us could probably fill a water jug with plenty of room to spare. I could find Moswen in dreams and ask him what he thought about my situation, but I really didn’t want to put him into the path of more potential trouble when he was considered gifted at having trouble find him and mess with his life.
“Has the thought occurred to you that your Hunter is biding her time, waiting for you to crack and do something stupid? Like asking your brother to help you figure this out?” asked Balin, a former military general with a brilliant if exceptionally twisted strategic mind. “I’d be monitoring your family for contact if I was your Hunter. Hell, I’d be using your family to draw you out. Nothing gets a reaction quite like harming those near and dear to your target.”</>
I was incredibly grateful that the Litch Hunters had a code of honour that forbid them from doing anything of the kind. The times that I knew about a Hunter breaking that code were few and far between, and the punishment was fast, brutal and of a permanent nature for those that did. Being literally torn apart by a revenge seeking family with full approval of the Council for harming someone not a Litch and not involved in Shal-hazal business was an excellent deterrent in my opinion.
“Yes, actually, it has. I don’t think so though. She was very determined when she was hunting me before I found Dak, and I know it had to really sting her professional pride to have Dak get the drop on her and help me to escape. Warriors typically don’t do well with defeat. They will chase their prey to the ends of the world if they have to. Litch Hunters are even more focused on their targets because of the damage and chaos an insane Litch can cause. Something else is going on,” I said.
“I’d be gathering all the intel I could on your pretty boy after that near capture in the hotel room if I was her. I would not want to be caught twice with my skirt up over my head like that,” said Narilla, my resident spy.
“Dak assures me that information on what he is is a closely guarded secret. His people hate him and what he can do, but they don’t want anyone else to exploit his talent, so there’s nothing official about what he is. He said they’re also a very closed-mouthed people to outsiders, so anything she gets from databases is probably what anyone could find.”
“Bet I could find out all kinds of interesting things about him in his people’s database,” Raini said with a little excitement creeping into her voice at the challenge of cracking into what was probably a super-secret government database.
“But you’re not going to because I just need to ask Dak, and he’ll tell me whatever I want to know about him or his people,” I said firmly.
There was some grumbling about me being a spoilsport, but nothing more was said about breaking into databases just because she could.
“Then you’re back at the beginning of knowing where to go from here,” Balin said. “Unless, of course, you take the fight to her. Turn the tables on her, hunt her down and use whatever means necessary to wring the information out of her. Your life and possibly the life of your... partner hangs in the balance. You have to see that the ends justifies the means here.”
Balin was persuasive, and I was fairly sure that throwing in the comment about Dak’s life being at serious risk was a calculated thing. I could almost taste his eagerness to plan out an attack and execute it. I could understand most of that as I was military as well, but his desire was approaching something almost euphoric as he plotted how to hunt down, torture information out of Phaedra and then kill her. That was a little on the creepy side to me although not unexpected given everything I knew about Balin.
“No, the ends don’t justify the means. At least not yet,” I said in a voice that did not encourage arguments, not that the tone of my voice stopped him.
“The longer you delay hunting her down, the better the possibilities of her finding the two of you first. I believe it’s a tactical mistake not to take action now. She is out chasing down ghosts or whatnot that are supposed to be you. This is the best time to strike. She won’t see us coming.”
I sighed softly and again vetoed the idea of going after Phaedra. As far as I could see, despite my bad feeling about why she wasn’t actively hunting me, I thought it would be courting disaster to go to the person whose job it was to get my head on a spike.
Like magic, Dak slipped into the co-pilot’s chair beside me, and his hair reached out to caress my legs. He could’ve easily reached my arms and chest with his hair, but if he thought I was busy piloting the ship, he made sure to keep his hair away from my hands and arms. He also tried hard to keep it from sliding over my crotch, but he wasn’t always successful at that, something I was pretty damn happy about even if it was highly distracting. I liked when he touched me, regardless of where, and I encouraged him to do it often, shamelessly playing on his less than complete knowledge of Awh’anise and what he knew of our desire to touch and be touched. I felt no guilt over that either. I loved Dak with every fibre in my body, and to have even a fraction of that returned to me in comforting or affectionate touches was a treasure to me.
“What’s wrong, Tyh? Are the voices harassing you again?”
“No, not exactly. Not more than usual at any rate.”
Dak hummed a non-answer, and his hair continued its gentle stroking of my skin. He watched me for several long seconds before speaking again.
“Well, something is really bothering you. If it’s not the voices and it isn’t anything about us, which I highly doubt given this morning’s lovely wake up call, then it has to be... the problem of your Hunter. Has she been getting close? Please don’t keep that sort of thing to yourself, Tyh. Her hunting you impacts me as well. Let me help you, Tyh. You should know by now that I’m tougher than I look. I’m pretty good in the brain-power department, too, and I’ve heard two heads are better than one. Voices in your head notwithstanding of course.”
Dak was adorable, and I felt a warm glow inside me from his offer even if I doubted there was much of anything that he could do to help me deal with Phaedra. As for two heads being better than one, that was true; however, I had thirty-seven other people in my head to help with tactical planning, and quite a few of them were exceptionally skilled in warfare and covert ops. I pretty much had the extra brains thing covered, and they were all heavily invested in my staying alive since if I died, so did they, and that wasn’t on any of their game sheets.
I thought Dak offered help because of how he felt about me and how he’d feel if I wasn’t in his life anymore, which thrilled me to the core. I knew his feelings for me were deepening, and I wished with all my heart that I’d get to hear him say that he loved me before I died. Some days I felt like he was getting close to that point, but other times, I despaired of ever hearing the one thing I longed for.
He had mumbled the word kassmeinlau before he fell into an exhausted asleep on the night I’d pierced his nipples. I knew in a general sense that it meant dearling, but I was sure there was some cultural thing connected to it that I wasn’t quite grasping about the word. While the word itself didn’t seem all that special, not many seemed to have the honour of it being said to them. It was used frequently, but only with regards to certain relationships, and it didn’t seem to be used in front of other people outside of a certain familial closeness. But why it was special and whatever the connotations it had for Dak’s people escaped me.
Dak calling me kassmeinlau had been two weeks ago, and he hadn’t uttered it again. I wanted to push him for an explanation about how he meant the word to apply to me, but I’d given him my word not to pressure him. I assumed from what little I did know about the word that it meant I had a special place in his affections. But how deeply in his affections I was, I had no solid idea, and that ate at me. I’d lost count of the number of times I wanted to baldly ask Dak how he felt about me.
“Thank you for the offer, Dak, but I really don’t know what you could do to help. I’m not being mean or trying to protect you from harm. I really don’t know what’s going on with Phaedra, and it’s making me jumpy as hell. There should’ve been some trace of her in the Dream World even if she wasn’t close to us. But there’s been a whole lot of nothing in the quick and casual looks that I’ve made. I’m telling you, Dak, something is not right.”
Dak tapped his lips thoughtfully with a long, elegant finger before he nodded as if reaching a decision.
“You’re absolutely sure of this, aren’t you? All right, that’s good enough for me. We need a plan to find out what’s going on with her. Dashing off willy-nilly may get you killed if we stumble across her or lead her to us, and getting you killed is not acceptable to me. You said using my void in dreams has been really effective in hiding us in the Dream World. Is there a way we could use my void as a... cloaking device to look for her and maybe monitor her?”
I stared at Dak. I knew he was smart, but I didn’t expect him to be so... tactical. Interest perked from Balin, and he prodded me to ask what Dak meant by that. I hated bowing to anything the voices wanted me to do, but I wanted to know what Dak meant as well.
“Well, if my void hides us or prevents her from investigating where your trail leads, then can’t we use the same thing to try and track her down? Going further with that, can’t we trap her in a void and question her to see what’s going on and why she doesn’t seem to be hunting you down like she’s supposed to be doing? You’d be there to keep her from doing anything, and if push came to shove, I could let her be sucked into a void, and she’d vanish forever.”
“Your pretty boy has an excellent plan,” Balin said, obviously impressed with Dak’s idea. “I’d take him up on his offer.”
“Nobody is asking your opinion,” I said somewhat testily. “I refuse to put Dak in danger.”
“I don’t think so, Dak. That sounds pretty dangerous for you. I refuse to put you in harm’s way. You’re too important to me.”
Dak gave me a narrow-eyed look, and I got the distinct impression that I’d just stepped in it with him. I wasn’t sure what I’d said to deserve the look. He knew I was fixated on keeping him safe and that it had nothing to do with the fact that my life was tied to his. I just never wanted to see him hurt or suffering if I could help it.
Jawhar made tsking noises and sighed like he needed to explain things to an exceptionally slow child. Again.
“Don’t continue to underestimate him, or you’re going to end up in serious shit with him. There’s a lot more to him than you give him credit for. I can read people better than just about anybody you’ll ever meet, and you’re not winning any points with him by coddling him. Sure it’s easing your mind, but he’s eventually going to get super-pissed at you for treating him like he’s less of a man than you are.
“He’s got one of those long, slow-burning fuses of a temper, but look the hell out when it finally reaches the explosives. We haven’t seen him explode yet, but I’ll bet you it’s a doozy when it happens. He’s not some delicate thing that needs to be handled with padded gloves. He’s even told you that himself. I know you love him in a way that goes far beyond obsession, but if you put him in a glass case to protect him from everything, he’s going to start resenting you. If that goes on long enough, he’ll start to hate you. I know people. I’m not telling you this to fuck with your head. I’m telling you this so you stop acting like an overprotective jerk. You want him to love you. I get that. I know what it’s like to love somebody and want him to love you back. You seriously need to stop doing things that will lead him in the opposite direction of loving you back.”
My heart stumbled at the idea of Dak hating me. I sucked in a sharp breath and tried to squash the feelings of despair and hopelessness that hit me like a tidal wave. I could probably live with indifference from Dak if I had to. I’d slowly die a little each day if he hated me. I swallowed hard and tasted acid at the back of my throat.
“Tyh? What’s wrong?” Dak asked in a worried voice as he laid a hand on my arm, the sub-sonic sounds of comfort he often made rising in volume.
“Do you resent me trying to protect you?” I asked in a low voice.
Dak stared at me with a considering look long enough to make my heart nose-dive to my feet. He did. Jawhar was right. Gods, I was such an ass. How the hell was I going to fix this?
“While I think it’s sweet that you put my needs and safety above yours, I don’t appreciate being constantly treated like a child incapable of defending himself. No, I’ve never been in a one-on-one physical fight in my life, and I’d probably get my ass beaten seven ways from Sunday if somebody did take a swing at me and I tried to defend myself using my fists. But I don’t need to use my fists to end a fight in a very decisive way.
“I am The Void, Tyhlian, but I don’t think I’ve really made clear to you what that means. I am feared, for some valid reasons, by an entire planet of people not given to irrational thoughts and ideas. If I’m pushed to the point where I feel my life is honestly in danger I can, and have, reduced an entire mob of people into nothing more than a group of mindless drones ready to do my bidding. I’m not proud of that, and even years later, I’m still incredibly mad and sickened at being forced into that position by my government under the guise of learning how far my abilities can go. Perhaps I need to show you just what I am that makes me so feared so you’ll understand and stop treating me like a damsel in distress. I don’t really want to because it’s upsetting to me to remember that time in my life, but if it’s the only way you’ll get it, then it’s the only way.”
Dak turned to the console and began typing. Raini was suddenly all eyes and watched the screen with rapt attention. An official looking seal of some kind flashed on the screen, and Dak entered a password before I could tell him not to. Three more successive screens opened up with password requirements before another screen with embedded links opened. Dak clicked on one, entered yet another password and sat back in his seat while a loading screen appeared.
“They were violent, insane criminals sentenced to life in prison for their crimes. They were told that the one who killed me would be released from prison, their record expunged, and set up in a new life wherever he or she wanted. They would also be given a free pass for six months to do whatever they wanted, including murder, with no repercussions from the law. To say they were highly motivated to kill me is an understatement.
“I was told none of this before I was pushed into the large, fenced yard. None of us had weapons, but that was a moot point. There were eighty-seven adult men and women let into that yard with me. It happened so fast and was so unexpected. I didn’t know what was going on for the first thirty seconds. They beat the shit out of me, breaking my hand, my cheekbone, my arm, and my ankle and knocking out several teeth when they converged on me. I had cuts, bruises and even bite marks all over my body from them. But this is what happened to them when I realized I was going to die and my self-preservation instincts took over.”
Fury burned through me as Dak clicked on the play button. I didn’t want to see the love of my life beaten nearly to death, but at the same time, I couldn’t look away because he wanted me to see this. The film had sound and the wall of noise as the people rushed a very bewildered, young-looking Dak made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and a low, angry snarl twist from my throat.
The colourful crush of bodies looked oddly beautifully as it undulated around the centre where Dak stood head and shoulders above everyone before he was sucked under the crowd. I easily picked out his cries of pain and his voice begging the people to stop. I felt like tearing something to pieces with my bare hands at the same time that I wanted throw up.
A ripple suddenly seemed to travel over the mass of bodies converged on Dak, and they slowly backed away as one to stand swaying around his crumpled form. He was sobbing, his clothes torn to shreds, his skin covered in stark white blood. The camera zoomed and panned the mob, and the blank expressions on their faces were uniform. They were the creepiest things I’d ever seen. As the saying went, the lights were on but nobody was home in any of the people. Something rippled over the face of one of the people the camera was focused on. The camera panned the crowd as the wave travelled over the people in seconds. A camera zoomed onto Dak’s battered face, and I felt a chill dance down my spine at what I saw there.
Dak was no longer crying, and his eyes looked exactly like they did when he was under the influence of Sliaru. His irises were almost holographic instead of the rainbow swirls of colour I was used to seeing and the sclera were bronze instead of silver. But that wasn’t what sent a shiver through me. The expression on his face was one of cold and calculating viciousness that I’d only ever seen on the faces of the psychopathic contracts I’d taken out.
“Give your souls to me.” Dak’s voice, when he spoke, was utterly devoid of emotions and full of command.
I never thought Dak would scare me in a fight-or-flight sense, but in that instant, watching that video, he did. Like some morbidly choreographed dance routine, they turned on each other, efficiently killing each other in utter silence until one person remained. Without a second of hesitation, the woman tore the shirt off a body at her feet and stuffed it into her mouth, cramming it down her throat. She stood there as her face turned blue, her arms slack at her sides, as she asphyxiated. She dropped to the ground, dead, without ever making an effort to try and save herself when she easily could have.
The entire time the massacre took place, the screen had been split to focus on the carnage and on Dak. He sat coldly watching the slaughter, a disturbing little smile on his face. As people died, I started to notice that the swelling in his face went down. At one point, he brought his broken hand up, and my mouth dropped open as the bones snapped back into place and he flexed his fingers. The camera zoomed in on some nasty cuts and bites on his arm. I watched in disbelief as the skin closed seamlessly. The more people died, the faster his injuries healed. By the time the last person hit the ground, all of Dak’s injuries were gone as if they’d never been.
The camera panned up to Dak’s face again. He had a twisted, satisfied smirk on his lips, and there wasn’t a drop of compassion or remorse that I could see. His eyes slowly changed back to their normal colour in a matter of minutes, and as they did, he looked around himself in growing horror. The video ended with Dak curling into a tight ball, his hair enveloping him as he sobbed his heart out.
Dak exited the page and closed the window. His hand shook slightly, and sometime during the playing of the video, his hair had abandoned me and was wrapped tightly around him. He folded his hands in his lap, and his professional mask slid over his face. I did not need to be an empath to know he was working very hard at controlling his emotions. It obviously hurt him to see what he’d done, but he’d shown me what he did so I’d see him in a different light.
“I don’t exactly remember doing what I did in that video. At least, I don’t remember much of it that first time, thank god. My government was understandably intrigued by the healing that happened as the prisoners died. While they had done experiments before on the few Voids they managed to breed, none of them had been able to do what I did. The best reasoning they had was that I’d reached puberty while the others they’d bred and experimented with had not.
“There were stories, of course, of Voids being able to do that sort of thing, but a centuries or even millennia-old story was not a reliable, scientific source. With me, they had proof that such a thing was a reality. The theory is that when I wipe a person completely, it creates some kind of metaphysical bond, and when he or she dies, the... life force, for lack of a better word, is absorbed into my void and heals me of any damage I may be suffering from.
“At last count, I could wipe a crowd of six hundred and forty-three people in roughly three seconds. I don’t really need a cool down period either. I just need to find new targets. You really don’t want to know how they found that out. I was seventeen and a half at the time when they last tested me. The other Voids they tested were just children with none over the age of eight, and even that first time I’d ever done something like that with zero training and only instinct guiding me, I outstripped them. My abilities, like most things people can do, grow stronger with repeated use and as I age. I will probably plateau at some point, if I haven’t already, but I really don’t want to ever be in the position to find out what that magic number is. Stories about Voids have us doing entire towns with thousands of people and even a small city with tens of thousands in one go, but I can’t quite wrap my head around that and think it was an exaggeration. But it could also be true.
“You are a very dangerous man, Tyhlian. Not only because of your mental instability but also because of what you can do when in dreams. You are a soldier, and from the little I saw of you fighting Phaedra, I’d say you’re probably very good at the regular soldier things. But you only hold a god-like power in dreams. In the waking world, you’re simply a very well trained soldier with a brilliant mind thanks to the people you share head space with.
“I, however, can be dangerous awake or asleep and quite possibly am much more dangerous than you could ever be. I can use my void to devastating effects in either state. While I can’t move through dreams like you, if someone shows up in mine and I don’t want them there, they don’t stay unless they want to be absorbed into my void and gone forever. I heal at an unprecedented rate after wiping an individual as long as they die, so theoretically, I can recover from virtually any wound. I’m opposed to killing people, but when it’s my life or theirs, I’ll choose mine every time. I do not lose my temper easily, but when I do, it’s not pretty. I am capable of defending myself very efficiently, Tyhlian. I just don’t like the consequences of doing it.”
“What I wouldn’t give to have him strapped to a table for vivisection,” said Visolela with a wistfully demented sigh.
I shuddered at the thought of her getting her claws into Dak and growled mentally at her to fuck off.
“By the sword, he’s like a living weapon of unbelievable power. The things I could’ve accomplished with him in my army. I’d have been unstoppable,” Balin said in a power hungry tone.
I mentally hissed at him to shut up.
“With him under my thumb I could’ve held onto my power and turned my enemies into my slaves. I’d still be ruling my home world if I had him. He’s utterly wasted as your bed warmer, pretty as he is,” sneered Dasha.
I snarled mentally at her yet resisted the impulse to toss her, Balin and Visolela into cages to silence them.
“Say something positive to him and say it now. Despite knowing how much you love him, I’m willing to bet he’s waiting for you to distance yourself from him because of what he just showed you. He’s so tense he’ll probably snap if you breathe on him funny,” Jawhar urged.
I didn’t need Jawhar telling me that. I could see it for myself. I stood, grabbed Dak’s hand and yanked him to me. He squawked in surprise as I fiercely hugged him tight to me. He stayed stiff in my arms as if unsure what to do, but his hair immediately wrapped around us, binding us together. I kissed the tiny bit of skin visible in the open V of his shirt.
“I’m angry that you were put through that, and I wish I could take it all away. You’re a wonderful, sensitive person, and for your government to do that to you was unbelievably cruel. I’m pissed as hell that somebody thought they had the right to do that to you. You just need to give me the word, and I’ll make it my personal mission to utterly destroy the ones involved.
“Nothing you could ever do will change the way I feel about you, Dak. Nothing. I thought you were amazing before. This... this blows me away. I thought when you said you could wipe a person’s mind you meant one at a time, which, while a pretty cool ability, didn’t seem to be that big of a deal to me. I also thought it would take longer than a few seconds for some reason. Finding out the extent of what you can do and how fast is pretty eye-opening, but it still doesn’t make me afraid of you.
“What you did in that video was something you were pushed mercilessly into doing. I’m not worried at all about what you might do to me. I actually feel better and more relaxed after seeing that because I now know for sure that if I go berserk at some stage in the game, I won’t be able to hurt you. Please promise me that if I turn on you, you won’t hesitate in making me a clean slate. The only way I would do that is if I was already taken over. Promise me, Dak. You know I’ll do anything for you. Please, just do this one thing for me although I pray it never comes to that.”
Dak stared at me with wide eyes like he couldn’t quite understand what I was saying. His lower lip trembled, and his eyes got suspiciously shiny. He nodded his head, and his body relaxed in my arms. I pulled his head down for a kiss and put every scrap of love and affection that I could into it. I was thrilled down to my tail tip when he responded and kissed me back. He drew back from the kiss before I was ready for it to end and smiled at me like I’d given him the keys to the kingdom and said, “Go have fun.”
“You are the amazing one, Tyh. I was afraid that if you knew just what I was, you’d re-think how you felt about me,” he said softly. “You understand now why I’m hated and feared.”
“What I feel for you is forever, Dak. Absolutely nothing will change that. I swear to all the gods above and below that even if you mind wiped me, you couldn’t take away how I feel about you. I know I’d still love you. I’ll try to be less of an over-protective jerk, but I can’t promise I’ll stop. The need to defend and keep you safe is at an instinctual level for me. I know your people don’t operate that way, but mine do because we’re not all that many rungs up the evolutionary ladder from our animal ancestors.”
“I think I’m still coming to terms with just how deeply you feel for me. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming when I think about it, but it’s thrilling, too. All I ask is that you try to be a little less obsessive about trying to protect me from everything.” Dak smiled at me, and he kissed me briefly before his expression turned serious.
“Now, about my idea of using my void to be all super-spy on Phaedra’s ass. You really don’t want me going into professional negotiator mode to get you to do what I want when you know I’m right. You know I’ll eventually win, and I have far more patience than you do.”
I laughed and hugged Dak tight. He was right in that he would eventually convince me his idea to use his void to hide us while we searched for Phaedra was the best one to find out just what the hell was going on. However, I wasn’t going to simply roll over and agree. I’d make Dak work for it partially because it wasn’t in the Awh’anise nature to be submissive right out of the gate. I also wanted him to go all pro negotiator because I thought it was a hot as hell attitude for him, and we both knew that as soon as I agreed to his plan, I was going to jump him and sex the daylights out of him.
That was a plan we could both get behind.
Kassmienlau: Dearling. Term of deep affection used between parent/child or between Ceitai Risdepa partners. Not a casual endearment, and when used between lovers, it implies a very close, extremely intimate relationship.