Fog rolls in.
Ringil sits stiffly by the edge of the shore, the Ravensfriend unsheathed but never far from him. The fire from last night has been stamped out, but he can smell and almost taste the leftover ashes, coating his tongue, making his skin feel sticky, hands dirty, long black cloak musty and he makes a face and spits.
“This is why I love you,” Hjel says, the sarcasm in the words evident even to a four year old. Gil shrugs and keeps looking at the water. It’s cool and damp and Horian’s stiff cock but he hates this kind of weather so much it’s as though the emotion is a living thing. He winds his fingers together and squeezes, curse on his lips, knees cracking as he folds his legs.
The fog is thicker.
Hjel’s eyebrows rise as he sits next to Gil. “Careful,” he murmurs. “The magic will always exert a price you may not be willing to pay.”
Gil blinks; the fog dissipates and the camp is slowly waking, noises from the old woman’s tent behind them, the sounds of bodies moving and fires flaring to life and horses chomping at the bit and men pissing, their voices soft in the disappearing fog. It’s still damp, though, and Ringil’s hair is clubbed at his neck, the length heavy on his nape even as he scrubs fingers over his face and through his bound hair.
He cants his eyes to the left, first at the dispossessed prince, and then to the right, where the Ravensfriend squats, silent and hulking and he twists his lips as he picks it up, sliding it home, the Kiriath sheath accepting his offering as it always does, swallowing the blade silently, creepily in the cool dawn light.
“Fuck that,” Gil says. “I am the only price I’m willing to pay.”
Hjel laughs and Gil finally looks him straight in the eye. The other man’s joviality fades as something else rises, something that heats the gloom of the fog that’s barely there anymore, and Gil can feel the itching in his hands to dance on the air, to draw and create the things he’s just learning, but the nearness of Hjel and the smell of the other man’s skin –
He rises and Hjel stands with him. The trees sway in the wind and the fires that have been lit for morning coffee smoke and crack and Gil’s scarred face is impassive, but his body is not. His heart suddenly races and the sword at his back is heavy and light at the same time, and the call of the ikinri ‘ska is loud and rushing in his ears, blood flow hot and thick with it, and he turns and makes for the depth of the forest behind him, the sound of the water following the fog he’d called echoing wavelike in his head.
Or is that his heart?
Hjel follows him, stumbling over tree roots as they walk-run deeper into the trees. Ringil stops at the base of a particularly large oak – or what might be an oak if he were home in Trelayne. Here…he doesn’t know, and doesn’t care as Hjel presses him to the tree, his groin rubbing against Gil’s backside, and Gil turns, snatching at the other man’s hair, jerking it, as he pulls him in for a kiss that’s tearing and painful and full of clacking teeth and his shoulder is pinched as he in turn is shoved against the bark, his blade whispering to him as it is tilted close to his ear. Hjel’s tongue is wet and demanding and Gil’s arousal, heretofore ignored, roars awake with the touch of the other man, hot and thick and he’s on the ground, ripping at Hjel’s clothing, his sheath torn free of his back, his cloak hastily spread, rumpled, a bed for them messily made.
There are days when Gil would be happy to never touch anyone again, fearing the anger he carries, fearing the hate and loneliness and self-hidden loathing for his own skin will devour any man or woman he might be close to. Or fuck, to call it truth.
But then there are other times –
He kisses Hjel again, and they’re unclothed in the fading fog, the damp in the air making Gil’s flesh slick, the softness of the feeling a bizarre contrast to the iron of his cock. He wants in his heart of hearts to be gentle, to have this man and care for him, as he knows Hjel seems to care, but he just can’t. There’s too much in his head, and he bites down on Hjel’s shoulder and the noise he makes
Gil’s thrusting and the other man is moaning his name and for a moment, even if it’s only a few seconds, it’s just them there and the ghosts that plague Gil every second of every damn day of his pissing, sodding stupid existence are silent, he may not even be able to see them after all, and he smiles, a crooked thing, and licks a hot line up Hjel’s throat as he comes, the friction of his stomach on Hjel’s arousal enough to bring the other man over
The fog is cleared and they sit, the warmth of the sun on Gil’s back, his white skin slightly pink from the glow and he finds himself content, just briefly, as the feeling disappears when he examines it too closely, a tiny winged thing that flits away the closer he gets. A long white scar snakes around his left shoulder blade and down his back and it randomly itches – a gift from a warrior caste lizard that he’d like to give back. He licks his lips and things are serene and he wonders when the magic he’s learning will exact the price the dispossessed prince warns him about anytime he talks about the ikinri ‘ska like it’s anything but the dangerous, crackling power it is.
He blinks, and the sun shines, and there's a shift in his mind's depths and Archeth and Eg smile at him from where they sit across from him, the fire in their midst licking heat over his face, their armor blood spotted and the night is thick and heavy with the sounds and smell of the dead from that day's battle, the tiny town of Gallows Gap a few leagues off, and the blade he wears at his back sings to him and he wants suddenly to join hands with his friends, the two that understand him and don’t begrudge him his darkness
- and he wakes, the ships they’ve prepared for their ridiculous quest rocking slightly in the quay, the sailors waiting for the sun and the wind that will take them toward the legendary floating city of An-Kirilnar and whatever waits for them there or beyond – the Illwrack Changeling a story that Gil wants to laugh at every time he talks about it.
But then there are dreams like the one he’s just had, and he wants to weep instead.
He rises, the leather of his trousers creaking, and he slides on his tunic and mail and jacket, pulling the sheath of the Ravensfriend over his head and lets it sit comfortably on his spine. He adjusts his pants, the lingering morning erection uncomfortable, especially after his dream of Hjel and something he could have had, might still have, who knows with the time slips and what the fuck is he even doing thinking he can do anything but what he was born to do.
Shedding blood is his business, not happiness and peace. No matter what he wants in his heart of hearts. No matter what he might tell Dakovash should the man-god ask him.
He gains the deck of the Dragon’s Demise quickly, joining Noyal Rakan at the railing. The young Throne Eternal Captain glances at him, and Gil is reminded again of his arousal, thinking to try and sneak maybe a half-hour later with the other man, quick fumbling sex, the only thing that passes for what Gil could possibly have if he led a different life. He licks his lips, the feeling an annoying deja-vu that forces him to recall his tongue rapidly. Rakan quirks an eyebrow but remains leaning forward on the balustrade that circles the ship.
Gil hears the cranky voice of Mahmal Shanta from below; the merchant must be feeling better, or at least enough to heap abuse on the unfortunate soldiers that are helping him climb the stairs to the deck.
Gil turns his head and watches the sunrise with Rakan, slipping his hand through his messy hair, the three day stubble on his cheeks scratchy at the touch. The colors of the new sun are brilliant and overwhelming and every version of red and gold he can possibly imagine and again, just for a millisecond, his right hip touching Rakan’s, he imagines the weight of the Ravensfriend gone from his back, his friends at his side, and his soldiering days long enough over that the scars he bears are ancient enough to have forgotten how he received them.
The dream of Hjel and the young Dragonbane and Archidi is disappearing and he pinches his lips together, a thin line of doubt and disturbance and the sailors get the Demise under way, and he and Noyal watch and Gil puts all thought of the ridiculousness of this whole thing out of his mind as they bob out into the sea, three ships and just enough folk to do what needs to be done.
The sun sparks off the hilt of the blade resting on his spine and they put the port at their backs behind them all too quickly.