A gentle breeze blew through his hair, pressing the robe around his body, but doing little to relieve the heat from the twin suns high overhead. He could hear the catcalls of the warriors from the rocky ledges above him, but refused to look to the crests which surrounded him on three sides. He chose, instead, to stare into the desert -- toward his death.
He shifted his weight, and the chains which bound him to the stone pillars moved with him. He had no one to blame but himself. He had been a fool -- so sure in his vision, so sure he would find the truth behind his dreams. Forgetting the one simple truth of the desert -- no one enters Ellison's Aerie and returns to tell the tale. The off-worlders had crashed a century ago and had quickly expelled those who had lived in the hollow mountain, leaving them defenseless to the predators and killing heat. Since that time, they took what they wanted, caring little for the delicate balance of the ecology which surrounded and maintained them.
However, the four-footed creature, black as night, with eyes as blue as his own, had prowled his dreams for two years, since he came into his powers. He had sought advice from Incacha, who guided him in the ways of the shaman, as soon as they had begun, but the older man had been reticent in his replies.
In his dreams, he always followed the sleek creature deep into this mountain; never afraid, even though he knew better than to follow a predator into its lair. The creature always led him to a pool of clear water. Slowly, it would immerse itself, until it had completely submerged. He would find himself drawn to the edge of the pool, curious as to the creature's fate - only to be met by a blue eyed warrior emerging slowly from the water. The naked warrior would move as if trying not to frighten him. He was always mesmerized by the droplets of moisture running tantalizingly over the bulging muscles as the warrior drew near. He always seemed to wait a second too long before realizing he was within the warrior's reach. Strong hands would cup the back of his neck and draw him in close, sniffing him as if imprinting his scent. 'Guide me,' the warrior would whisper huskily. 'Give yourself to me. Teach me to heal the land and our people.'
His fingers clenched in the chains which bound his wrists. How arrogant he had been to believe that he would be the one to find a way to bind the warring factions and bring peace to the land. Could one truly be seduced by a dream?
The sands shifted behind him as two men approached; but he did not turn to face them -- would not give them the satisfaction of acknowledging their presence first.
A large hard man of late years stood in front of him, momentarily giving him some relief from the suns. Even though he did not understand the man's language, he clearly understood the angry tone. The man's voice raised in volume, demanding attention. The backhanded blow, while not totally unexpected, stunned him with its power, snapping his head back and knocking him off balance. Using the chains, he pulled himself back to his feet and raised his gaze to meet his attacker's. Slowly, deliberately, he licked the blood from his lips and sneered at the older man.
The warrior drew back his hand again, but was stopped by a lighter, almost teasing, voice -- the second man. The older man breathed deeply for several moments, smiled, then laughed, though his gaze burned with hatred. The man spoke again in a more jovial voice, although his tone was clearly threatening. He barked several words, then strutted away to address the warriors on the crests above him.
He allowed himself a brief moment to close his eyes and recenter his strength. When he opened them again it was to find the warrior of his dreams standing in front of him with a shocked look of recognition on his face.
"Father, is it your intention to tenderize your sacrifice before giving him to the sandrays? I mean, he is a bit on the scrawny side. Perhaps they will appreciate not having to chew on him for so long," James chuckled as his father drew back his hand again to slap the captive.
James clenched his jaw as he watched his father struggle to gain control of his emotions. William Ellison ruled with an iron fist and few braved his wrath. The prisoner had shown great courage by not cowering in fear or begging for his life. Although James did not understand his father's insistence to kill any native which entered their mountain, he was determined to let this man die with whatever dignity he could.
William finally smiled, booming in laughter though never taking his eyes off the captive. "No, you're right. I do not wish to take away from the ray's eating pleasure." He turned and faced the warriors standing on the rocky ledges above them. "Once again the infidels try to breach the sanctity of our home, refusing to allow us peace in even this small sliver of their world."
James sighed as he stepped in front of the long-haired prisoner, intending to offer him a sip of the drugged wine, which would dull most of the pain as the rays stripped his flesh from his bones. The outsider opened his eyes and both men gasped as blue eyes met blue.
The man from his dream. James' eyes greedily drank in every feature of the young man; from his curly sable hair, highlighted with red and golden hues, to the sturdy, but lithe, form beneath the flapping white robes. James had never thought of a man as beautiful before, but there was no other way to describe the exotic creature before him.
"Once the rays have had their fill, we will leave his bones hanging from these chains as a warning to others who would dare try to take what little we have," William promised those above him.
James blinked in despair. This could not be happening.
"Son, the wine, before I change my mind."
Swallowing hard, James raised the goblet in offering, but the young man shook his head in refusal; his eyes never leaving the warrior before him.
"Perfect," William purred in satisfaction. "I shall enjoy his screams for mercy." Without another word, he unsheathed his dagger as he returned to the captive and slashed both of the young man's palms. The infidel gasped, but did not cry out. James watched as the young man twisted his palms upwards, trying to keep the blood from dripping onto the ground; for everyone knew the rays would come as soon as the scent permeated the top layer of sand.
"Come, my son," William commanded as he strode off the killing ground.
James blinked in horror as he watched the blood pool slowly in the heel of each palm until it overflowed the rims and ran down the young man's upraised arms, turning the white sleeves of his robe red.
"Now, James," William growled.
Stunned, James stumbled after his father, leaving the captive to his fate.
He watched in growing horror as the sleek black shapes arched gracefully through the air and dove with precision into the sand, moving on a steady course toward him. Though they were too far away for him to hear their chittering cries, he knew it would only be a matter of moments before the noise would start driving him insane.
He looked desperately up at the iron shackles which held his wrists. As long as they were bound in metal, he would have no hope of summoning his magics.
He looked back at the predators flowing almost serenely toward him and made his decision. Tilting his palms, he allowed the blood to flow faster down his wrists and arms, turning them slowly within the shackles. Closing his eyes in concentration, he pulled his arms downward, biting back a cry as the metal bit into his wrists.
The chittering began to invade his consciousness -- his time was almost at hand, but he could feel the slow slippage of flesh beneath the metal. Biting his lower lip against the pain, he pulled harder, crying out as his right hand slipped its bonds.
He fell against the stone tower on his left just as huge mottled wings lunged into the empty space where he had just been. Panting harshly, he pushed himself to his feet and, using his free hand, pulled desperately at his left hand.
He felt, more than saw, the second flying figure closing in on him. Grasping the chain in his fist, he swung his body around the support, grunting as a huge weight slammed into the stone pillar. He heard the men on the crests yelling, but doubted it was in support of his actions. Gathering his strength, he used everything he had and pulled on his trapped arm. With an almost sickening pop, he pulled his wrist free of the restraint.
He lunged forward several steps as the sand beneath him erupted, dancing away from the jaws of death.
"Sand windan fraters aiden eme," he cried out as he shoved his arms away from his body.
The elements reacted immediately to his cry as the sand and wind whirled about him. Although the men on the ridge were blind to his movements, he knew the rays stalking him had no need of their eyes.
He cast about desperately, looking for a way to get to high ground, when he heard the cry of the creature from his dreams coming from the cliff face off to his left side. His brain demanded that he ignore it, but his heart cried out in acceptance. He pelted across the open sand, casting his sandstorm further out around him, hearing the cries of the men on the ridges as the storm drove them back. Ignoring the growing noises of the hunters, he followed the cry which encouraged him to push himself harder and faster.
Leaping, arms stretched over his head, he felt hands capture his. His momentum slammed him into the granite mountain and plunged him into darkness.
He awoke with a start, taking in several facts as he did so. It was night, he could feel that in his bones. He was in a tiny chamber, laying on a pallet and covered with a soft blanket. His palms and wrists had been cleaned and bandaged.
Holding his wrists to his chest, he tried to control his breathing as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. He could hear the howling of the winds outside, but knew it was not the storm of his making. Nature had eventually taken over.
A soft blue glow emanated from the hallway beyond the room. He staggered to his feet and leaned against the doorway. To the right, the stone tunnel angled slightly downward and led deeper into the mountain. The tunnel to the left went upwards, towards freedom. Licking his lips nervously, he glanced down at his wrists and made the decision to explore further into the mountain.
He moved slowly through the tunnel, occasionally marking the walls; however, the blue glow always seemed just beyond the next turn.
He was just about to turn back and decide on the best route home when the tunnel opened up into a small grotto. His breath caught as he recognized the cavern from his dreams.
A soft warm voice called to him. His gaze snapped across the pool of clear water in the middle of the cavern to the man who had offered him the drugged wine. He trembled slightly as the older man walked slowly around the pool. The warrior held out his hands in supplication as he spoke again.
He shook his head, indicating he didn't understand, and watched as a small look of frustration passed over the warrior's face.
"James," the older man said, patting himself on the chest. Then raising an eyebrow, the warrior gently patted him on the chest.
He shook his head again in confusion.
The man repeated the word and patted himself on the chest. "Ja-mes," he said again and graced him with a brilliant smile. Nodding encouragement, the man patted him on the chest.
Smiling suddenly in understanding, he said quietly, "Blair."
Blair nodded, then said quietly, "James?"
The man nodded and Blair grinned in relief. His dream had a name.
"I've dreamt of you," James said softly, knowing the younger man didn't understand, but feeling the need to communicate anyway.
Blair nodded, his eyes bright.
The warrior reached out and gently cupped the mystic's cheek, feeling the younger man tremble even as he pushed slightly into his hand.
"You came for me, didn't you?"
Confused, but open, blue eyes stared up at him.
James clenched his jaw in frustration, though he brought his other hand up to cup the back of Blair's neck, closing the distance between them, intent on communicating the only way he knew how. He could feel the heat rising from his companion as his lips tenderly brushed the full mouth beneath his, giving the other man every opportunity to refuse him. He was delighted when Blair not only accepted his offerings, but opened his mouth slightly, allowing him to deepen their connection.
They broke the kiss when the need to breathe became consuming, although neither broke their physical connection. James smiled smugly as the younger man breathed harshly, trying to recover from their brief joining. Letting his fingers trail down the mystic's neck, he slowly untied the first binding of his lover's robe.
Blair's breathing became harsher and his trembling increased. James untied the second binding and slipped his hand beneath the robe and laid it over the younger man's heart. "Mine," he whispered.
"Nae. Blair," was the response, which caused James to throw his head back and laugh.
"Blair," he confirmed, pressing a tender kiss to the mystic's forehead, before untying the third binding and pushing the robe off the younger man's shoulders.
Blair gasped, suddenly looking very young and vulnerable.
"Shhhh," James said quietly as he stepped back and admired the lithe body in front of him. His eyes were drawn to the soft fur of the man's chest which angled tantalizingly downward, stopping at the light gauze pants which hugged the slender hips.
James removed his jerkin, smiling when he realized he had the mystic's full attention. He slowly removed his own shirt, watching as the younger man licked his lips.
Blair reached out and gently placed his hand on James' bare chest. "Min."
The mystic blinked and spoke very rapidly for several seconds. James shook his head indicating he hadn't understood. Frustration reverberated through the younger man, but stopped when James unbuckled his pants and let them fall to the floor.
"Eowers," James repeated with a leering grin before he turned and sank slowly into the slightly bubbling bathing pool. The warrior watched as the younger man bit his bottom lip, hunger clearly written in his gaze. "Blair," he whispered, holding his hand out to the mystic.
The younger man closed his eyes briefly, then removed his pants, revealing him to be as perfect as James had dreamed. As the warrior took his elbow to assist him, Blair lowered himself into the pool.
Blair had never felt such gentle pressure, the soothing bubbling glide of water over his skin, and couldn't help the moan which slipped past his lips as he sank into the warm pool. He hadn't realized he had closed his eyes until the warrior's chuckle made him look upward. Blair tried to speak, to let the warrior understand how much his gift was appreciated, but all he could do was moan again.
The warrior placed his hands on Blair's shoulders and turned him so that his back was pressed against the side of the pool and very deliberately placed both of Blair's arms over the ledge. James tapped the bandages and shook his head. Blair tried to raise his arms, but the warrior shook his head again. He watched in fascination as a mischievous, but sensual, smile blossomed over the warrior's face.
"Uh-oh," Blair whispered.
"Uh-oh," the warrior repeated with a feral grin as he leaned forward and sealed his mouth tightly against the shaman's. Blair tried to lift his hands again, but the warrior held his arms down at the elbows, all the while deepening the kiss.
Blair whimpered under the onslaught.
The warrior changed tactics and nibbled down the shaman's neck, lathing his Adam's apple with broad strokes of his tongue, gently biting his collar bone. Pulling back slightly, the warrior studied his face, licked his own lips, then dove swiftly to one of Blair's brown nipples. Blair's whole body arched under the sensual assault, desperate to touch the warrior in return, but James continued to hold his arms out of the water.
"Ples," he begged.
"Nae," James teased as his mouth moved to the other nipple.
Blair moaned under James' tender ministrations for several minutes; his hips thrusting forward slightly, desperate for more contact with his lover.
"Ples," he begged again, gasping hard, his head rolling back and forth on his shoulders as he tried to lift his hands again.
"Nae," the warrior growled sensuously.
Blair hooked one leg around the warrior's hips and pulled the older man closer to his body. James chuckled as he slowly ground his groin against Blair's.
"Yus," the shaman demanded.
"Yus," James responded quietly as he aligned their cocks and began to thrust deliberately against his lover.
"Ples." The younger man's hands arched upward and his cries became lyrical pleadings. "James. Ples."
As soon as the warrior released his hold, Blair lovingly wrapped his arms around James' head, drawing him in and kissing him deeply. The warrior moaned in response. The two moved as one, each giving and taking, their moans blending into an increasing harmony which culminated with their release.
"Eowers," Blair panted quietly as he tightened his arms around James' neck, his knees buckling.
The warrior chuckled in satisfaction, rubbing his face against the shaman's. "Min."
James held the young mystic for several minutes, touched by the trust the man had shown him when they had shared nothing more than a common vision. And although they still had not progressed in their communication skills, James had no doubt they shared the same dream -- a dream to heal the land and unite the tribes.
"We need to get you back home," he whispered in the younger man's ear.
Blair blinked up at him. "Cumen eme?"
"Yus," James nodded with a reassuring smile. "I'm coming with you."
The smile the mystic graced him with would have rivaled the noon day suns at their peak. James gently lifted his lover to the edge of the pool and nodded his head in the direction of the younger man's clothing, taking a moment to admire the view.
Blair turned to say something, then noticed the attention directed his way and blushed. James chuckled softly as he raised himself out of the water and gathered his own clothes. He was slipping on his last boot when he heard a noise and cocked his head, listening to voices in one of the far tunnels.
"Shhh," he said, pressing a finger to the mystic's lips as the younger man began to speak. They quickly finished dressing.
James took the mystic's hand and led him deeper into the mountain, stopping several times to secret them in crevices when he heard or smelled other warriors approaching. Blair watched him intently as his nose twitched. When the danger had passed, James guided them from their latest hiding spot.
After traveling a couple of miles underground in almost total darkness, James led them to the surface. Several of the moons were out, but none of them were full. Clouds drifted slowly across the sky, making it a perfect night to escape his father's tyranny.
They stood in the mouth of the small cave which lay miles from the main mountain complex.
"Ready to go home?" James asked softly.
Blair nodded, but stopped the warrior before he stepped out into the night. James turned and faced him curiously.
Blair put his fingers really close together and said, "Lesse." Then he spread his arms as far as they would go. "Mar."
Blair gently touched James' nose. "Smellen? Mar?"
James furrowed his brow for a moment and then realized what the young mystic was asking. "Yus."
Blair caressed the warrior's check and gently tugged on his ear. "Heeren? Mar?"
The mystic's smile grew wider. His fingers trailed sensuously down to the warrior's lips as he whispered, "Tasten? Mar?"
Blair raised both hands and gently placed them over James' eyes. "Seon? Mar?"
The mystic ground his hips against the warrior's for a moment then grinned mischievously. "Felen? Mar?"
James nodded as he leaned down and gave the younger man a soft kiss. "Yus."
"Sen-ti-nel," Blair whispered in awe.
"Yus. Ell-i-son patre, uh-oh."
James wasn't exactly sure what the mystic was getting at, but had to grin at the implication.
"James, sen-ti-nel," Blair said quietly as he tapped the warrior on the chest. "Blair, sha-man." He tapped himself on the chest.
The warrior grinned, understanding the meaning clearly. "Mates."
"Werld," Blair said quietly as he flung his arm out to indicate the landscape before them. "Uh-oh."
James chuckled in understanding. Now that he and Blair were mates, the world had better watch out. "Uh-oh is right, lover. But for now, let's concentrate on getting you home." He bent his head quickly and pressed another tender kiss to the shaman's lips; then gently taking the younger man's hand in his, stepped out to greet their future.
~~ finis ~~