Rasmus was at a loss. He wondered just what he’d accomplished during the better part of this decade. He was certainly no closer to being with Armando, which was one of his deepest wishes. He hadn’t even been able to make much progress with improving the status of his clan. His efforts had primarily been wasted.
Lately, when he’d been feeling particularly unsettled, he’d gone to speak with his mother. He had almost arrived at his family home now.
He pulled into the long driveway, parking in one of the available spaces. There was another car he recognized and here was the last place he wanted to see it. The large, expensive black automobile belonged to Dagmar. The insignia of the Havad clan was proudly displayed, jutting up from the hood of the car.
Why is Dagmar here? he wondered, as he felt his heart begin to beat faster.
Turning off the ignition and slowly exiting his car, Rasmus forced himself to maintain his composure. As much as he wanted to rush into the house, he pretended to be nonchalant, wondering if anyone might be observing his motions. He made his way up the steps, as if he had all of the time in the world. A servant opened the door, bowing and outstretching his hand for Rasmus’ belongings. He nodded in acknowledgement and handed over his coat and baggage. He’d planned on staying for the weekend.
He followed the voices of his parents and Dagmar. They were having a conversation in the living room. When his mother spotted him, she hurried to greet him.
“What a pleasant surprise!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t even know you were coming.”
Rasmus was perplexed over her words. That very morning she had called him to confirm that he would be visiting. He’d promised her that he was.
He hugged her, realizing something was wrong, especially when she gripped him tightly. It was as if she was filled with fear. Her smile was also too wide, her attempt to downplay the strain she was feeling was weighing on her. And, unfortunately, when he gave her a hug, he found that she was even frailer than when he’d seen her just two weeks ago.
“I’m glad you’re still happy to see me,” he joked, pretending that everything was fine.
He walked with her to one of the living room couches. She was reluctant to let go of him and he patted her hand, letting her know that she had his support.
“Hello Father,” he said to Balvan, who gave him a curt nod. He then acknowledged Dagmar, who was staring at him intently.
“I’m sure you’re curious as to why I’m here,” Dagmar stated, without much prelude.
“That’s true.” Rasmus couldn’t deny it.
“Well, I’m happy to say that the Teradas and Havads have made an alliance.”
“Regarding…” He looked expectantly at his father and then Dagmar.
“It is time the Teradas played a greater role in shaping this planet. Dagmar has a way and I agree.”
Rasmus noted that Balvan had said “I agree.” He had not stated “We agree,” including Listia. One of the Kelcho’s few redeeming qualities was that Balvan highly valued his wife’s opinions. Listia balanced him, as he could often be quite volatile. However, Balvan’s most recent words had cut Listia out of consideration. Rasmus was not pleased with what he’d just learned. His feeling of unease increased when he looked at his mother and saw that her face showed that she was hurt by Balvan’s attitude. Rasmus wondered if this was the cause of her weight loss. He decided to speak with her away from everyone else, as soon he was able to do so. For now, he’d find out more about what Balvan and Dagmar had in mind.
“And what exactly is your plan?” he asked.
“All in good time,” Dagmar said. “You just need to know that you and your brother have already played an integral part.”
“Khalaf and I began distancing ourselves from you,” Rasmus reminded him.
“Of course. However, you must have done that because you misunderstood my ultimate aims. I have found that speaking with your parents has clarified my position. We are now in agreement on how our clans must help each other.” A sharp, calculating gleam appeared in Dagmar’s eyes and it troubled Rasmus.
“Father, what have you done?” Rasmus demanded. Apprehension was now cutting into him. It did not help that his mother was now trembling next to him.
“Since you are one of my heirs, you should know that we’ll be bringing out more of our mercenary aspects,” Balvan explained. He leaned back in his chair, clasping his hands together in a self-satisfied manner. “We’re going to make use of some of the currently Forbidden Spells. Not all of the Kelchos are even in agreement that they should be forbidden.”
“Like I mentioned earlier, I’m already having success with one of the spells,” Dagmar stated. “That includes making it even stronger.”
“Truly to be expected,” Balvan replied. “The Teradas will aid in fortifying our talents.”
Rasmus knew of the Forbidden Spells and he was not pleased to hear that they’d be put to use. There were three of them; Fortification, Mindcreeper and Blood Replica.
Fortification allowed the caster to impart, temporarily, elemental wielding powers to humans. It had been outlawed when some young Nitelge had shifted into human form and attended a human soccer game. The humans had begun rioting, as sometimes happened after fierce competitions. This particular competition occurred every four years and the nations of many humans were involved. Tensions were especially high. After one particularly vicious semi-finals game, a riot had broken out. Spurred on by the disguised Nitelge, who had used the spell on an entire stadium, the humans launched their new powers against each other. At first, many of the games’ attendees had been stunned when they realized what they could do. However, their enjoyment of their powers had overridden their disbelief and self-control. Many individuals had been maimed and some had been killed. The Nitelge who had exacerbated the conflict had been punished, their powers being sealed for 20 years.
The second Forbidden Spell was referred to as Mindcreeper. It let the caster delve into the minds of the target, whether or not the individual was conscious. It had proven useful against the Basheil. The Nitelge had used it to read the thoughts of the captured Basheil. The information gathered had helped to reduce the casualties. After the war, some casters were enamored with their ability. They’d used it too often on a few targets and at a strength that was unbearable. They had ultimately driven their targets mad. The subjects had torn off the skins from their faces or gouged themselves with objects. They had believed they could get to their brains and attempted to rid themselves of the searching tendrils that burrowed through their minds. A version of the spell that was devoid of malice was permissible but it was only to be used under extenuating circumstances.
As dangerous as the other two enchantments could be, the Blood Replica was the most insidious. It instilled absolute fear in the Nitelge, even in those who remained enamored with it. There was virtually no defense against keeping someone from controlling the target’s mind, body and soul. It was the only outlawed one for which the death penalty was a possibility, depending on the damage done.
“I hope you understand the magnitude of what you’re doing,” Rasmus said.
“Listen to this youth lecturing us,” Dagmar said, laughing. Balvan chuckled in agreement.
Not for the first time, Rasmus regretted associating himself with Dagmar.
Stretching languidly, Armando gave Izdahl a smile that showed he’d been supremely satisfied. They had spent the last few hours reveling in each other’s bodies.
“I’m sore,” Armando said.
“You’re welcome,” Izdahl responded, looking quite pleased with himself.
“Of course I did have some effect on you too,” Armando said, slapping his lover’s rear.
“I want you again,” Armando said, marveling at his increased libido. “It must be something in the cave.”
“And here I thought it was my stunning sex appeal…Now about you wanting me again, I think I can handle th—”
Armando put one hand on Izdahl’s shoulder, causing him to stop speaking.
“Before we do anything else, I’d like to talk with you.” He moved closer, looking his lover directly in his eyes. “Izdahl, I haven’t done a good job of being straightforward with you. I haven’t told you things as early as I should.”
“It’s just that I don’t want you trying to decide what is best for me,” Armando told him. “I’m already quite stubborn. If you tell me you know what’s good for me, I’m likely to do the opposite. I know it’s not smart and I’m working on getting rid of that trait.”
“Well, if you wanted to prove how stubborn you can be, then bravo, you’ve succeeded.”
“Even so, there needs to be a balance.”
“Love, I’m balanced,” Izdahl teased. “You have some work to do.”
“Right,” Armando murmured, chuckling. “But seriously, there are some things I need to tell you. You have to promise that you won’t go into over-protective mode.”
“I’m not going to like what I hear, am I?” Izdahl was already looking at him apprehensively.
“Not necessarily but how you deal with it will show just how far you’ve come.”
“Tell me,” Izdahl said, bracing himself.
Armando began to explain what he’d learned from Xersa and Sunja. He needed Izdahl to know about the decisions made years ago that could have an impact on their lives. He’d brought up the subject before but now he felt this was absolutely the right time to lay out all of the information. There would be no distractions.
He carefully watched Izdahl’s face as he spoke. When he was finished, there was silence for a while.
“Iz, please say something,” he prompted.
“They really put the key inside you?” Izdahl desired confirmation.
“Will any of this cause me to lose you?” he asked quietly. His voice trembled slightly.
“No love; it won’t,” Armando soothed him.
“Maybe this explains why you weren’t hurt yesterday,” Izdahl mused. “I still feel badly about what happened with Kiana.”
“She’s very understanding.”
“Syrik isn’t. That’s his mate for life. He was ready to kick my ass.”
“I would have defended you,” Armando told him.
“Kiana would have needed to save both of us,” Izdahl joked.
“This is true,” the architect replied, grinning.
Izdahl smiled at him and brushed one finger tenderly over Armando’s lower lip. His lover had picked up one of his favorite phrases. Over the years, their habits—what each found to be humorous, foods they enjoyed, the usual things they said in certain situations—had rubbed off on each other.
Izdahl sighed, feeling overall contentment but still wishing that his doubts could go away. He truly hoped that the decisions made decades ago by their families would not take away their happiness. Nitelge grew up with the understanding of just how much they were connected to the Shield. Humans rarely had the same level of requirement. So few were intricately entwined with it. Why was it that his lover, a human who completely had his heart, had been required to make such a great sacrifice? Even most Nitelge would never have to deal with this kind of burden.
Armando could read the sadness on Izdahl’s face.
“We’ll be fine,” he said, pressing a kiss to Izdahl’s lips. “We’re not here to have a bad vacation. Let’s change the mood, shall we? There’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.”
“Oh really?” Izdahl asked, automatically intrigued. There’d been flashes of sharp desire in Armando’s eyes. “Do tell.”
Armando was about to let him know when his stomach grumbled.
“How about we get something in your stomach first,” Izdahl said, chuckling.
A short while later, the aroma of fish frying was teasing the architect’s nose. The pair was soon enjoying a delicious meal featuring the island’s fish. Izdahl had packed vegetables which, after being roasted, were a perfect accompaniment. Their satisfying meal over, Izdahl turned to the earlier subject.
“About that thing you wanted to try…”
“Oh this was it,” Armand replied, teasingly. “Fish and veggies. Yum.”
“Uh huh,” Izdahl grumbled, punching him playfully in the arm.
“Of course I’m joking.”
The architect grabbed Izdahl’s hand and led him towards another area of the cave. There was a crater which, when filled with water, would be perfect for bathing. The crater could hold about six feet of water. Armando only wanted the liquid to be about four feet deep.
“Can you put some water in here and heat it up? Not too much though.”
“Are you trying to tell me something?” Izdahl asked. He made a big show of sniffing under each of his armpits.
“No,” Armando said, laughing.
Izdahl went to stand between the shallower end of the lagoon and the crater. He effortlessly guided enough water from it to the location Armando wanted. Then he heated the water, having his lover test the liquid with every five degree rise in temperature. When the architect told him it was perfect, they slid into the clear water. Sighing with pleasure, they moved towards each other.
“This was what you had in mind?” Izdahl asked.
“Part of it.”
Armando’s hands slipped beneath the steaming liquid. Izdahl groaned when he felt his lover’s nimble fingers squeeze his cock. He quickly began to harden as Armando also massaged his heavy sack. The architect pulled down on it until Izdahl grunted in protest, making his lover chuckling.
“I’m just trying to slow things down,” Armando informed him. “You seem like you’re on the edge already.”
Izdahl grunted again but this time it was in agreement. He took a deep breath, attempting to reduce the pace of his heart. He had become excited much faster than usual. Part of the reason was that he was especially anxious about what else Armando had in mind. The other part was that Armando didn’t initiate sex as often as Izdahl did. Armando was quick to show other types of physical affections; hugs, kisses, a squeeze here and there. However, his sex drive was not as strong as Izdahl. Izdahl had adjusted to that. Still, each time the architect did reach for him first, he was assured of how much he was wanted.
Izdahl’s eyes closed in delight, as Armando showed him what else he had been planning. Without any warning the architect slid beneath the water. Izdahl gasped when he felt Armando’s mouth engulf the head of his cock.
After lovingly giving him attention for almost a minute, Armando came up to take a breath. He also gave Izdahl a wicked grin. Then he slowly sank back down, eagerly sliding his lover into his mouth again. It wasn’t long before he made Izdahl come. Calling out his pleasure loudly, Izdahl pumped his release into Armando’s mouth. A few white strands escaped into the water, floating between them.
“This is interesting…” Armando said, laughing. He gathered up the streams of pearls. He decadently slid them into his mouth, swallowing slowly.
“I would never have imagined you’d do something like that,” Izdahl groaned out. He made a note to replay the whole experience over and over again. It was now towards the top of his list of fantasies to relive.
“Does it bother you?”
“No; it just makes me want you more.”
“I thought it might have that effect.”
“Who taught you that?” Izdahl demanded. Then he hastily added, “Never mind. I might regret the answer.”
“I’ve never done that with anyone,” Armando promised him. “I actually got the idea from you.”
“What do you mean?” Izdahl searched his memories, trying to figure out if he’d ever mentioned this technique to him.
“You talked about it when you did that magazine feature as a new Core Guardian.”
“Oh, you mean the article that pissed you off?” Izdahl teased.
“Yes,” Armando responded drily. “At any rate, you said this was one of your unfulfilled fantasies.”
“You actually remember that?”
“Yes.” Armando’s face reddened slightly at what he was going to admit next. “I practiced underwater. A lot.”
“And did anything in particular represent my cock?” Izdahl eagerly asked.
“I used a certain vegetable that is the perfect shape,” Armando said, his face heating up even more.
“I don’t think you know just how damn hot you are!” Izdahl exclaimed.
Armando laughed and then floated away from him.
When they finally left the water, they returned to the soft bedding in one corner and began drying off.
“Let’s go walking around the island,” Izdahl suggested. “There are some other places I’d like to show you.”
“Will our things be okay here?”
“Yes. No one comes here without Vadem’s express permission. We have the full run of the island.”
With Izdahl’s role as a Core Guardian, the media had become increasingly interested in his activities. Even matters that were private were a source of speculation. Understanding that the couple had truly wanted a vacation, Vadem had made it clear that no media were permitted on the island and violating his rules carried a penalty. Those who committed infractions would have their media license in the Shabota territories revoked for five years. Vadem had even addressed the matter of using long-range technology to get information on the vacationers’ activities.
Izdahl and Armando had a level of protection that few could enjoy, especially with Izdahl’s role as a Guardian. Izdahl had every intention of making the most of it. After packing some food for a day’s exploration, he clasped Armando’s hand in his and they headed off to different spots. The two explored the island, until the daylight was fading.
“This night is even clearer than the others,” Izdahl said, as they walked along the beach. They were making their way back to the cave, the playful breeze cooling them from the day’s heat.
A grin had been plastered on Izdahl’s and Armando’s faces for most of the day. They’d often found themselves smiling or laughing. For the time being, they were able to push aside the issues looming over them, creating the kinds of memories they’d dreamed of making. On the island, things were simply perfect.