Disclaimer: All characters involved in sexual relationships are over 18 years of age, and no minors are sexually exploited in this content. In no way are actual events or persons depicted. The mythology in this content is only loosely based on historical mythology and should not be seriously analyzed. The author of this story is not gay. Enjoy.
We were looking at each other in surprise. No, we were watching one another in expectation of some substantial happening. I had no idea what we were waiting for, or why. His perceptive green eyes were guarded but not quite hostile. I felt like they had punctured my soul and dove inside. I stared back, equally suspicious if that’s what he was.
Cares’s face crinkled gradually into a vexed pout.
“That’s the second one I dropped today.” he whined, kneeling to scoop up the broken bowl’s shards.
I bent to assist him. His warm hand skimmed into my own as I was dusting jagged clay pieces into my palm. Both of us drew back, and our staring match was rekindled. Uncertain of what to make of the sudden clumsiness between us, I lowered my head and glared down at the scattered remnants of the bowl impatiently.
“Don’t worry about it.” Cares said mildly. “You must be stiff all over from walking around so much.”
“I’ve been worse.” I blandly mumbled.
My injuries were numb from the healing salve and more bearable than when I had first awoke. I still felt uncharacteristically drowsy though. I helped Cares move the broken pieces into a larger bowl, wondering all the while if the strange doctor had a fetish for pottery. He sat cross legged and began pouring himself some more wine to drown the rest of his dinner. Spirits he definitely had a fetish for. I firmly gripped the neck of his nearly empty bottle to stop him.
“Haven’t you had enough?”
“Wine is the nectar of the gods, Klarsi.” he grinned.
I twisted the bottle away from him and returned placidly to the other side of the fire with it. Perhaps I was being unreasonable, but if it was one thing I hated, it was appearing insecure. After sobbing into another man’s chest like a frightened little boy, I felt the need to assert myself to him and prove that I was in no way vulnerable or easy to intimidate. I was also quite fed up with his ongoing binge. I sat exhaustively and gave my hood a habitual tug to keep my face shaded. Looking into his eyes had been hard enough before he saw me lose my composure.
“As if the gods exist.” I said bitterly. “If they do, their constant irresponsible absences could be explained by their choice of drink.”
“Not fond of the gods?” Cares raised his white eyebrows with a little smirk as he lifted his soup bowl and rested it in his lap.
I thought for a moment. It was dangerous to voice such heretical opinions in public, but Cares seemed truly impossible to offend even if he was one to hold the gods with high regard.
“I’m not fond of anything to do with the war.”
I picked up my own lunch and inclined the bowl to gulp down the lukewarm broth remaining in the bottom.
“Which war?” Cares inquired. “There are many going on right now.”
“All for the same selfish cause.” I added to his statement in reply. “The right to rule this rotten world.”
He looked more astonished than revolted by what I was saying. Encouraged by his tame reaction, I continued the rant I had always wanted to shout at the king of Skaldia himself.
“That is always the cause of war. When people want more power, or more land, or more gold, or more virgins, they steal it away from others.” I swept my hand over the blackened fire hollow in emphasis. “And the Angels, they want everything. They claim they were sent by the king of the gods, but no one has ever seen him. Each of the gods has only been seen in stories.”
We shared a pause in which Cares slid one of the steamed fish into his empty soup bowl and began to delicately peel off the skin. I watched his contemplative expression, wondering why he had suddenly retreated so far inside himself. Did he agree with me? Or did he disapprove? Not knowing was frustrating me.
“Say someone goes to war to help others?”
I shook my head solemnly in disagreement.
“Not enough people want to help others for it to be a winning fight. There is always some selfish motive for—” wanting to help another.
I caught myself, but my unspoken words hung in the air like the point of a sword to Cares’s heart.
“You have a most depressing understanding of the world.” Cares quipped as he pulled the juicy white flesh from the fish’s ribs and gathered the meat into a pile at the center of his bowl. “I’m assuming you’ve lived a harsh life in deed.”
I stiffened and quickly took another sip of my stew to somehow hide my discomfort. If he really was as powerful a caster I thought him to be, he could possess the ability to read minds. It was something I had suspected from the moment I first gazed into his hauntingly discerning bahis şirketleri eyes. Although, I had once encountered some idiot who claimed to be a reader before, and he had been quite baffled by my capability to unwittingly deflect him. After that I had often wondered if I was immune to being read. I was told the occasional person was. For all I knew though, there were only those who claimed to be “unreadable” or difficult to “break into to”. It all sounded like bullshit to me, but that was my thought about magic in general.
Lost in my brooding reflections, I instinctively glanced at Cares when I felt him looking at me and was startled by his inspecting green stare.
“Care to speak of it?”
“Not at all.”
“Then your history must be at least as horrible as I think it is.”
“Not really.” I snubbed. “It’s only not worth talking about…”
Cares smiled mysteriously as he popped a fish chunk into his mouth. I had no clue as to why he had responded with a smile, but likely he realized how much I was trying to avoid the subject of my past. Or, he really was reading my mind and didn’t need to press further to know if he was right.
“Then how about we discuss the war between the gods and Titans? It is a truly gruesome topic, but it is nothing to ignore.”
I picked up the stick I had sharpened earlier and skewered one of the remaining fish. I brought it to my bowl and marveled as its thoroughly cooked skin ripped easily against the point of my stake.
“Who do you think is more justified in the Holy War?” he went on, taking my lack of a response as an agreement, and I realized this man who I had consciously known for less than a day potentially understood me better than myself.
“Neither. Both sides want only to rule the world. None think of the humans they cause to suffer.”
“Ah. So you are an anarchist?”
I snapped the fish bone from its carcass is one sharp yank.
“I am no such thing. I believe that order should be instilled in this world. Only not by so called gods, and not by devils either. By humans. Humans should learn to take care of themselves before all of them die for the sake of one side or another in an endless war.”
Cares laughed melodiously. Offended, I narrowed my dark eyes at him.
“You almost talk like you aren’t human.” he smiled disarmingly.
I sighed internally. I might as well not be the way I was raised.
“What do you think? About who is right, I mean?” I asked out of genuine curiosity as I nibbled on my fish.
Cares turned his gaze on the blue, mountainous horizon as he spoke.
“Well, I admit it’s not so black and white to me either. Both sides have murdered countless humans like … like they were nothing. At the same rate, both claim to ultimately want to help us.” he paused, squinting at the old, sturdy peaks as if asking for their opinions as well. “If I’ve heard correctly, the Titans first appeared in the central reaches of the Old World and affirmed to have traveled from the afterlife. They offered eternal life on earth to anyone who joined them, but.. instead they began enslaving whole cities and turning them into human farms.”
As he spoke, my mind drifted back to life in the nameless city. The identical faces of the lower class daemen swam before me in a rhythmic, marching chain. I remembered scratching up dust from the ground with my fingernails like a rat and sorting fallen grains that I could eat from pebbles. The angry shouts of quarreling families floated around me like ghosts.
“Those they captured were used as tools in their conflicts, for experimentation, and even as livestock. It seemed their promises to humans proved empty. However, I’ve also heard those they used in battle against the Angels could be brutally stabbed many times over, even beheaded, and would still keep fighting until their whole bodies were disintegrated by fire. So perhaps there was something to the Titans’ promise of everlasting youth? If only a half lie, or a half truth.”
My head was bowed forward so he couldn’t see my face. I had broken out in a cold sweat and hadn’t moved for a while. I would have met the very fate he described if I had not escaped.
“As for the side of the gods, well, they have not even shown to fight in their own war. Instead, they sent the Angel army on their behalf. At least the Titan king had the courtesy of showing his ugly mug. Who’s to say the Sun Lord would not be using human soldiers like pawns the same as the Titans if he wasn’t able to create as many perfect warrior slaves as he desired?”
I sighed glumly, feeling more worked up by the second. None of his commentary was new to me, although it was a version of the infamous background of the Holy War that seemed much more rational than, “The Angels are good because they are from the gods. The Titans are bad because they are from the seven Hells.”
“The Angels claim to have come from the gods. They are lying.”
“Oh? That is nothing I’ve ever heard before.”
“Think bahis firmaları on it. No one has ever seen any of the gods, but there were stories about them ages before the beginning of the war. The Angels showed up after the Titans did, and from what I’ve heard, your home kingdom Remula was one of their first settlements. They made extravagant claims about men who met the approval of the gods being granted paradise after they died, never before heard. It amounts to lies. All of it. They want the same things the Titans do. The Titans offered eternal life in this world, so the Angels offered eternal life in a better world. The spider who weaves the largest web catches the most flies.”
Cares leaned in with his chin in his palm, appearing enthralled.
“But then… Where did the Titans and Angels come from?”
“They are men.” I insisted, passion raising my voice. “They look like men. They speak like men. They call themselves men. They claim superiority to ordinary humans in strength and magical skill, but they must share common ancestors with everyone else on this earth. The Angels and Titans must have originally budded from the same powerful family. The war has been going on for so long, no one knows who or what really began it. But my guess? It’s a blood feud. Everyone is caught up in the conflict between these two mighty races of men who desire kingship over the world.”
I suddenly became aware of how personal my rhetoric speech was getting and flung my gaze from my clenched fists up at Cares’s face. The slightest brush of a smirk was painted on his lips. Realizing my slip, I narrowed my eyes composedly in a dare for him to call it.
“I suppose you have dealt with one or the other of these ‘mighty races’ directly?”
I lowered my gaze pensively. If he was lying to me, I was doing exactly the same. It wasn’t fair for me to stand safely within the walls I had built around myself while hypocritically demanding that Cares come outside his own before I trusted him. But my reasons for keeping my past dead and buried had nothing to do with the desire to gain. It was only so painful for me to remember.
“Let me help you heal.”
I sighed deeply, loosening the metallic walls of tension around my mind that kept my inner sensitivity so tightly sealed away.
“I have been cruel to you. You did nothing to deserve my wrath.” I said so quietly I wasn’t sure if he had heard me at first.
He was regarding me soberly when I met his eyes.
“But… I can’t talk about my past. Not with you. Not with anyone.”
I was going to ask if he could grant me the rare favor of trust despite my lack of it, but I didn’t need to. He turned away from me to exile a foggy stare into the distance.
I wondered then. What had the Angels done to the humans in his home? Was he also someone who had escaped their war?
The path through the mountain valley was one of the most beautiful I have ever walked along. If only treading it was that easy. The hard, rocky trail was steep and riddled with bends, but the scenery was well worth living to see. The resilient, needly trees grew everywhere, but further within the valley there were groves of fruit trees and berry bushes watered by a steady network of streams and creaks pure as crystal. I saw a pair of birds darting overhead with long, exotic tails and brightly colored throats when we were passing over the edge of a vine covered cliff face. Crags and fissures were stacked into a jagged, twisting staircase at the far reaches of the valley. The lower steps were green and populated by trees. They looked like islands floating free of the mountainside. I watched the sun falling in the west and drawing closer to its inky bed in the mountains.
“Excuse me for a moment.” Cares yawned while stretching his hands over his head.
He had packed up his bowls and herbs for our trek inside a large, heavy looking shoulder bag made of bull hide; appropriate for a medicine man. I thought he was going to take a moment to switch the weighty satchel to his other shoulder. He turned away from the road, raised his tunic in the front, and shamelessly pulled out his cock to piss in the grass.
“Mmm…” he sighed contently as his bladder emptied.
By the time he righted himself and turned back around, my red, swollen face was pressed firmly into my palm. I didn’t know why I had found the incident to be so arousing, but my own member was then stiff and uncomfortable.
“You okay, Klarsi? …Don’t tell me your code of honor even prevents you from taking a piss with another man around?”
“Just forget it.” I said impassively.
“Klarsi… Give that bottle back to me, will you?”
I glowered at him stonier than the ground. I had his wine bottle knotted in a pair of my belt straps with no intention of handing it over. The dark liquid jiggled against its container’s sides with my every step. I was seriously considering tossing it over a cliff or something.
“…You kaçak bahis siteleri are certain your hip is manageable?” he fussed, changing the subject while keeping his eyes trained on the bottle like a dog awaiting a treat.
“I’ll live, thank you.”
Cares drew closer with the intention of resting his hand on my shoulder. I raised my arm to bat away the advance, but it wasn’t wholly out of rejection. I always reflexively guarded myself from being touched. I noticed this was not so unusual for my type after encountering other warrior bounty hunters who found casual interactions outside of sparing to also be uncomfortable. Cares didn’t seem to mind and lowered his hand respectfully. He had probably only been after the wine.
“The man I’ve entrusted the sword to is a seasoned caster called Het’re. He is working on interpreting its aura so we can undo the curse for you.” Cares notified me. “So far the poor old goat hasn’t much luck, but I nevertheless suspect the energy binding your wounds is being reaped directly from the weapon since its user has long since departed.”
I narrowed my eyes doubtfully.
“You couldn’t figure it out yourself?”
Cares furrowed his brow and shrugged.
“I was not familiar with any curses that persisted so long after infliction, especially on an Angelic blade. It’s practically unheard of, as the Angels prefer one hit kills. Your wounds weren’t getting any worse. They only weren’t getting better. When I realized what was happening, I sought out my old friend Het’re and prayed for the best. I think you’ll like him. He teaches at a schoolhouse.”
“Hmm.” I muttered.
So Cares can be wrong about me after all… Or he’s read my thoughts about his suspicious sense of perception.
I hated casters indiscriminately. Cares was the most decent one of the lot I had ever met despite his quirks and his habit of getting under my skin. His obvious reverence for the gods was also bothersome, but at least he wasn’t a fanatic. I had been chased by mobs of angry villagers before for cursing the gods or revealing the slightest inkling of how I regarded Angels. He might have disagreed with my opinions, but at least he had civilly heard me out.
“For magic users?”
“What?.. Oh. No, an ordinary schoolhouse for the children who live here.”
“Couldn’t you have used healing magic on me?” I pressed.
He laughed softly and put on a white, charming smile.
“Patients of a healer who closes wounds with magic will only die later as opposed to sooner.”
I shot him a skeptical glance. Did he just admit to being a caster? I supposed that was a start.
“As you probably know in your experiences with casters, all magic must be acquired from a source of equal energy. Magic is a tool of energy transfer, and as such it can never create new energy.” he related serenely, giving his shoulder bag a corrective tug. “Remedy magic dramatically accelerates the means by which we heal using energy from the damaged or broken areas targeted. It is better suited to mending severe wounds only partially to make them more bearable while the body finishes healing naturally. Imposing the healing process through magical means too generously could cause the body to be infected with tumorous growths. And yet I’ve seen many healers on my travels do exactly that… How they hate being corrected.”
I eyed him flatly, trying not to appear absolutely bewildered.
“So you are able to use healing magic?”
“I’m wary of it, but yes.”
“And you are able to fry people with lightning?”
“Great hells no! Producing lightning would require a massive amount of energy. A man of my strength would never be able to do it without an artifact or a familiar at the very least.”
I stared directly into his half asleep green eyes, frowning disbelievingly. He stared back, ignoring my annoyed scowl with a friendly smirk.
“I’m dreadfully thirsty. Would you mind…?”
I wanted to bend him over and ride his smart little ass until he was screaming for mercy. Oh, the thoughts he drew out of me. I seriously hoped he couldn’t sense them. I decided to ignore him in place of becoming irate and doing another foolish thing. I was trying my hardest to let go of the demanding need to learn his secrets, which were probably as personal as my own. We arrived at the fringe town of Tsenat after a short hike, and I wondered again why he had stored me in an isolated cave.
He must have been very concerned about my mental health. I thought disconcertingly.
I turned away from Cares to examine the unfamiliar Wretalorian town’s landscape at the bottom of the hill we stood on. I could see people roaming the grey streets freely and without order. There was a small pasture barring in a herd of long horned mountain cows behind the homey stone huts. I focused on a bearded farmer as he rode a white steer out of the pasture. He turned the imposing beast with his heels and effortlessly walked it parallel to the astoundingly high fence so he could slide the gate closed with a long pole.
“Breathtaking isn’t it?” Cares encouraged.
He was standing beside me, a finger leisurely scratching his chin as he looked fondly on the secluded mountain town.