Xersa had summoned Izdahl.
Though the conversation began casually, Izdahl was filled with unease. He stood in front of his great-grandmother, noting that she had chosen to speak with him in her study. On most occasions, when he visited her home, they relaxed in her living room, had a meal, or walked the grounds, all while laughing and talking. However, on this visit, that was not the case.
Xersa was seated in her leather chair; her large desk was a barrier between the two of them. Izdahl noted the austere expression on her face. Xersa could sense that he was aware of her somber mood. She was reluctant to broach the topic on her mind, so she began the conversation lightly.
“I’m sorry I was unable to be at your concert,” Xersa told Izdahl.
“Yes…I understand that you and Kelcho Markel had a meeting.”
“We were speaking about some of the unrest in his territory. We were concerned it would spill over into one of our areas…At any rate, I did hear your performance was spectacular.”
“The orchestra also played quite well, GG…” Izdahl coughed nervously. “But that isn’t why I’m really here, is it?”
“You are correct.”
Xersa paused. Then she began to speak in Rokteel Nitelge, the version used to severely reprimand someone. The moment his great-grandmother began her sentences in the harsher format, Izdahl knew her level of anger. He stood in front of her, averting his eyes.
“It came to my attention that you were disrespectful to Kelcho Havad. During the night of your concert, numerous individuals heard how you spoke to him. Did you consider how that would reflect on our family?”
“No Kelcho, I let my temper get the better of me.” Izdahl’s response was given in Alteel Nitelge, used by one who is deeply apologizing.
There had been few instances when he had to converse with anyone in that submissive manner, especially his great-grandmother. He prided himself on not having to do it, paying close attention to how he conducted himself.
“I am acutely aware that you do not like Kelcho Havad,” Xersa continued. “I know when you are in a private residence, you have taken certain liberties. The discussions with Kelcho Havad have become heated, particularly when Syrik is around and feeds the issue. However, those kinds of actions in public are absolutely unacceptable. You will know your bounds, Izdahl.”
“Now, the reason we are the most powerful clan is because of the wise choices we make. Goading the leader of another group is not one of them.”
“As a direct member of my family, Izdahl Kandros Amasi, I have high expectations of you,” Xersa continued, addressing Izdahl by his full name. “Do not abuse your position as my great-grandson.”
Bothered by his great-grandmother last words, Izdahl forgot himself and returned to the more casual form of Nitelge.
“The only reason I—”
“Do not be so informal with me. Return to Alteel!” Xersa slammed her hand down on the arm of the chair.
“I apologize,” Izdahl murmured, doing as she ordered.
“Now, I have granted Kelcho Havad the authority to discipline you,” Xersa told him. “He has two opportunities to enforce discipline on you and you will bear it all. He has a year to execute this privilege.”
“Kelcho, isn’t that harsh, considering—”
“Harsh? Not only are you questioning me but you’ve returned to regular Nitelge again. Are you going to continue disrespecting me, Izdahl? Do you want to provoke my temper?”
The two, who were so much alike, stared at each other, feeling their level of anger rising. Izdahl broke the connection first, not wanting to make a remark he would later regret. After some moments, knowing he might almost lose the battle for self-control, he turned to go.
“I did not dismiss you,” Xersa told him coldly.
In that moment, Izdahl did not care. He continued to walk away. Angered, Xersa’s temper flared.
“Kaiem Nakra!” she shouted as she rose.
She released a spell that created a circle of dark-blue flames around the target. Few were able to cast it or even walk through it. Those ensnared would feel their skin begin to blister as the flames closed in around them. Izdahl, however, easily brushed a path through the flames, destroying the spell. He strode towards the door. Xersa moved quickly to get in his path.
“GG, please,” Izdahl begged. “It is best that you move. I would never raise a hand to you. You know that. I just need to be away from you. You have given incredible leverage to Dagmar!”
“Do you think that’s what I wanted?”
“Why couldn’t you have spoken with me, before making an agreement with him?”
“I wanted to address it as soon as possible. I have to carefully manage the image of our clan, Izdahl. You know this!”
“Perhaps you should also care about your immediate family.”
“I am sorry GG but you have no idea of what this could mean! I’ve never been so angry with you.”
Undone by the concern and pain in her great-grandchild’s eyes, Xersa gently took his face in her hands. He took her hands away, holding them in his.
“I’ll make you a promise. I will not shame the family,” he told her, quietly. “When it comes, I will take my punishment with dignity…Just please let me go.”
Xersa nodded and moved aside, watching him leave. She thought of how easily Izdahl had walked through the flames, showing an incredible ability. Her great-grandson had changed. She was worried about what else would happen.
“Did we make a big mistake?” Khalaf asked.
It was a question Rasmus was unsure how to answer.
The two had returned from visiting their parents. They had been told about the concerns Listia and Balvan had. This knowledge changed their view of Dagmar. So eager to increase their own position, they had given little consideration to the costs. Rasmus faulted himself for this. As the older brother, he felt he should have been the more reasonable of the two, properly thinking of the repercussions.
“Are you going to brood forever, ossti?” Khalaf teased. “You’ll rot there.” He bounced onto the couch where his brother had rooted himself.
“I don’t think you understand how serious this could get.”
“I’m 24, Rasmus. Why do you treat me like I’m 4?”
“Because you act like it!” Rasmus shouted.
He pushed Khalaf away, using more strength than he intended. Khalaf curled up at the opposite end of the couch.
“This is my apartment,” Khalaf complained. “Can’t you even show respect for me here? Are you going to start throwing me around like Father did?”
Khalaf looked at Rasmus reproachfully, stinging his brother with guilt.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Khal. I’ve always treated you well, even when I should have been harsher with you.”
Wanting to torture his brother, Khalaf effortlessly morphed into Armando. He blew Rasmus a kiss. Despite the obnoxious intentions of his sibling, Rasmus laughed.
“What am I going to do with you, Khalaf?” Rasmus shook his head. “Seriously, we have to think carefully about our next steps. Mother and Father said that they don’t want us to call suspicion to ourselves. If Dagmar finds out too early that we’ll be changing alignments, then we might have a larger problem on our hands.”
“Should we finish up the tasks Dagmar wants us to do?”
“That depends on how damaging they are. But perhaps we’ll never really know. We should have thought more about all of this.”
Khalaf studied his brother’s face. His eyes were clouded with concern that also made Khalaf worried. He was not used to Rasmus being deeply troubled. His older brother tended to be calm and methodical.
“Ossti, what do you…”
“Be still, Khalaf. Let me think. And change back to your right form. I can’t concentrate when you look like Armando.”
Armando found himself jolted awake by Izdahl, who had pinned him down on the bed. He had fallen asleep a short while ago. He’d stayed up, waiting for Izdahl for as long as he could. He’d been quite tired, having remained awake late into the night for the past several weeks.
He and Jonas were now managing three major projects and two minor ones. They were also discussing their strategies for their first inter-territory design competition. Architectural firms from all over the planet would need to draft plans for several building scenarios they had not seen yet. Each clan could select three firms that were headquartered in their territories. Armando’s company had been fortunate to have been selected to represent the Amasis.
Tonight, Armando had put all of his tasks out of his mind. He’d returned from work earlier than usual. He’d hoped to surprise Izdahl and spend some time with him, having felt that he had been a bit neglectful of him lately. He’d planned to make up for that tonight. However, he had not been able to reach Izdahl, not even by phone.
Periodically, Izdahl would take time away, especially now that his fragment had activated. He’d explained that he required those hours to process what was happening. Armando knew he had no cause to worry. Still, he did find himself longing for Izdahl, as the time moved into the early morning hours. And, then, unable to keep his eyes open, he had crawled up to bed. His slumber had not lasted long.
“Izdahl?” Armando asked, his voice groggy.
“Were you expecting someone else?” Izdahl replied, laughing. He kissed Armando deeply, the taste of the brandy he’d been drinking weaving its way into the architect’s mouth.
“You’ve had good liquor,” Armando said, laughing. “You should have brought me some.”
“I have other liquids for you,” Izdahl teased.
Armando was going to reach for the light but Izdahl gripped his hand. The architected was surprised by how firmly Izdahl had a hold on him.
“Why won’t you let me turn on the light?”
“I can see just fine.”
“Yes, I’ve done a bit of…changing.”
“Give me a look.”
Armando reached again for the light and, again, Izdahl stopped him. This time he pinned Armando’s hands to his side. The ease with which he did it was unnerving. Armando knew Izdahl was considerably stronger than him but it was rare that his lover casually displayed that. Izdahl’s next words didn’t help to ease the apprehension Armando was feeling. There was a roughness to his lover’s voice that Armando had not previously heard.
“I’m going to take you in the dark.”
“What brought on this edge?”
Izdahl didn’t answer. Instead, he began to savor Armando, intoxicating him with his desire. He started at the architect’s mouth and moved downwards. As his tongue traced the chords of his lover’s graceful, strong neck, he felt the pulse increase. He heard Armando swallow and smiled. The architect was anticipating what would happen next.
“Answer me, Izdahl. What’s gotten into you? I like it but…”
“Hush…” Izdahl inhaled deeply and shuddered. “I smell your fear. How long have we been together? You shouldn’t be thinking that I’ll hurt you.”
“This isn’t how you normally act,” Armando replied.
“It’s alright. I’ll be a bit rough at first, ‘Mando. My need is so great right now.”
“Why? Is it because of the fragment?”
“Yes. This will happen sometimes. You’ll have to bear what that means. No complaints. Just take it all.”
Armando didn’t know what to say. His mind raced, as he did his best to hold back his fears. He’d been with Izdahl for several years. He had no real reason for concern. He did his best to ignore the fact that Izdahl still had him effortlessly confined to the bed. It would take quite a feat to get out of his grasp and Armando didn’t want to feel as if he needed to escape. But in the end, his concern could be for nothing.
“I’ll take it,” Armando finally murmured.
Satisfied, Izdahl released his arms. He ordered Armando to get on his knees. Armando complied; the energy Izdahl was sending out causing him to shudder.
Lust threatened to overwhelm Izdahl, when he covered Armando’s body with his. He slipped one hand down to Armando’s crotch, stroking him to complete hardness.
“I don’t think you know what touching you does to me,” Izdahl whispered in Armando’s ear.
Armando chuckled nervously, hearing that Izdahl’s need was barely restrained.
Izdahl’s words were shaky, weighed down by his ambivalence. He wanted to proceed in the way his hormones were driving him. And yet, he was aware of the necessity to maintain self-control. The pleasure he’d have was not worth destroying the trust he had built. And so, he struck a delicate balance, reining in his nature just enough to appease his conscience.
He reached for the oils, making himself take the time to properly prepare Armando in the way that was best for his lover. Then, he slid into Armando slowly, moving at a pace that caused him anguish. The only hints of the difficulty he was having were the intense gripping of his lover’s waist and his fierce biting of his lips. Armando groaned as Izdahl bore down on him, making each thrust count, not with speed but with the promises they held. Armando was already eager for Izdahl to really hit his stride. He realized Izdahl was reluctant.
“You can move faster,” Armando encouraged him.
“Please don’t invite danger into our bed,” Izdahl replied.
Armando laughed softly. Then, he reached back between his legs and gripped Izdahl’s testicles, squeezing him until he protested.
“That’s what you get for not listening,” Armando told him, laughing.
“And this is what you get!”
Izdahl smacked Armando hard on his rear. Then, Izdahl released his wings, deciding to peel away layers of restrain. Each flap of his wings put more force into his thrusts.
He’d never used this technique with Armando. The architect was undone by it. Usually, he was quite active during sex, telling Izdahl what he liked, pleasuring him. But this level of fervency by Izdahl was new. Armando could only lay there, every part of him consumed by pleasure. Then a chill went over him. He’d felt another change in the atmosphere and his skin became prickled with goose bumps. The hair on the back of his neck stood up.
He heard his lover suck in air but there was no answer.
“Izdahl, I want to turn around now.” He was trying to reposition himself to turn on the light and see Izdahl’s face. His lover gripped his neck and stopped him from moving.
“Stay,” came a deep, gruff, uncompromising order.
The force behind Izdahl’s thrusts now was almost too much for Armando. Izdahl buried himself even deeper into the architect.
“No! You said you’d take it.”
The response was punctuated with an even more severe series of thrusts.
Armando cried out, as he came. He didn’t even get to fully enjoy the ripples of pleasure because Izdahl grabbed his hands, securing them behind his back. His face was pushed down against the pillow as Izdahl subjugated him. Armando was caught between enjoying it and feeling frightened.
There was a strangled groan behind him. He first heard then felt Izdahl coming. He flinched as a new sensation hit him. Izdahl’s fluids had a searing heat, as they filled him. He’d felt his lover come inside him before but this time there was certainly no doubt. The release was thicker and hotter; Izdahl’s spasms lasted three times as long. He was more vocal than usual as he came, his shout raw and primal. He pressed Armando further into the bed as he rode the last waves of his release.
When Armando was finally allowed to turn on the light, he was unsure whether or not to distance himself from Izdahl.
Izdahl’s eyes had changed; his irises were now half silver and half blue. The pupils were mesmerizing with their luster, the glint to them providing a hint of the darker nature in Izdahl. His skin had become dark blue. His wings were still out, fully extended, his dark blue and silver feathers more brilliant. He was slowly licking long, sharp fangs and did not look satiated.
“I don’t want you to see me like this,” he growled out.
“I feel feral.”
“Please don’t hide yourself from me.”
Armando reached up and touched Izdahl’s ears, which were now pointed. He rubbed the ridges and then an unexpected sound came from Izdahl. Armando laughed and fell back on the bed, any concern quickly disappearing.
“Did you just…purr?” he asked.
“It was not a ‘purr’. That was a deep, masculine rumble!” Izdahl concealed his wings and flopped down onto the bed.
“Is all of this because of your Shield fragment?”
Armando didn’t know which part of Izdahl he wanted to explore first. He touched his lover’s hair, then skin, returned to his hair and then rubbed his ears again. Izdahl laughed at the attention, basking in it.
“I’m going to be one big sex hormone for the next week,” he explained. “It’s the first full moon since I’ve become a carrier. This is what happens. From now on, I can make myself transform like this as much as I want, at least until I’m no longer a Shield Guardian.”
“I’ll have to prepare myself.”
Izdahl surveyed Armando, tenderly exploring his body.
“I’m sorry, love. I can already see bruises developing.”
“I don’t mind. It wasn’t too bad. It did hurt towards the end…And, I was confused at first. You wouldn’t let me turn to see you. You kept me on my hands and knees, well, until they buckled.”
Izdahl traced the outline of Armando’s mouth with one thumb and laughed. Then he kissed the architect and, without thinking, bit him sharply, drawing blood. Immediately, he looked apologetic.
“I don’t need any apologies,” Armando said.
Armando licked his crimson liquid, tasting the tangy flavor. Izdahl trembled with pleasure, glad that Armando was taking him as he was.
“Were you scared?” he asked the architect.
“Not at all.”
“Liar. I could smell the fear, especially when I pushed your face down and locked your arms behind your back.”
“Alright, fair enough,” Armando admitted, chuckling.
The two rested side-by-side.
“Izdahl, I was serious about what I said…You don’t need to hide anything from me. I’ve been reading about what happens, so I can be prepared as much as possible. But reading doesn’t quite cover everything.”
Izdahl grinned at him and then grew serious.
“Sometimes I think of when you didn’t like Nitelge. I don’t want to cause those feelings in you again.”
“What can I do to reassure you?’
“Just be with me…”