I'd like to thank JE and DK for weeding out all the bad. Any remaining mistakes are mine and mine alone.
The only other thing I want to say about it is the following. If it hadn't been for Thorny Sterling's wonderful Sea God's Sacrifice my story probably wouldn't exist.
|Picture found in Google Images|
Con was exhausted and ready to collapse. The old and bulky oak tree gave him the support he needed while he tried to catch his breath. He’d been running on and off for hours and had left the village well behind him. He knew he was utterly alone and yet he could still feel their eyes on him; the pity in their stares burning holes into his body.
Of course they were nowhere near. The celebrations would be well underway now that the annual coupling had taken place. The other twenty-one year olds would be centre stage while the village partied the next three days and nights away. Once again all the new adults had found and accepted their life-partners. All of them, except Con.
He wasn’t sure why it hurt so much. He, like everybody else, had known this was how it would go. While the official coupling had taken place this morning, Con and his yearlings had been allowed to drift from partner to partner ever since they’d turned 18. He, like all the others, had sampled tastes and bodies. All of them had discovered what they liked while deciding who they wanted to couple with. It was nobody’s fault the numbers had been odd this year just as he couldn’t blame anybody for the fact that he hadn’t clicked with anyone.
A shiver ran down Con’s spine. He still felt those eyes on him. He knew he was alone and yet couldn’t escape the feeling someone was observing him. He glanced around him. The sun shone brightly, turning the foliage around him a vibrant green. A soft breeze stirred the branches and leaves over Con’s head, making shadows chase each other across the ground.
Con noticed a clearing just ahead and moved towards it. Strange. He would have sworn he knew every inch of this part of the forest and yet he’d never seen this statue before. It was surrounded by trees, while weeds and grass obscured the pedestal it stood on. The sculpted man was glorious and naked.
Con stepped closer, reaching up to stroke the statue’s thigh and immediately pulled his hand back. He’d expected the stone to be cold or at least cool to the touch but instead encountered a warmth reminding him of skin. He could have sworn he heard a soft sigh, but another glance around confirmed he was still alone.
He didn’t have time for this. He had to find somewhere to settle. He couldn’t go back to the village where he’d grown up. Adult singles were thought to be potentially disruptive to the existing couples. Somewhere on the far side of the forest would be a community of other singles, outcasts like him. He had to find his way there before nightfall. The trees weren’t safe at night.
Without thinking about it Con pulled the piece of chalk he’d started carrying when he’d been apprenticed to the village’s tailor from his pocket and scratched his initials on the top of the barely visible pedestal. Maybe one or more of his former friends would find the statue one day and remember him when they saw the mark.
Turning away from the statue was hard. Almost harder than it had been to run away from the only place he’d ever called home. He turned back to look at the statue three times before he left the clearing and immersed himself among the trees again. His emotions had to be getting the better of him because he was convinced the statue looked less happy with every step Con took.
The day got warmer and the shadows shorter as Con walked on. He hadn’t known the forest was this big. Of course nobody from his village had been allowed to go all the way through the trees to the other side because that’s where the Outcasts lived. From the stories he’d heard he’d imagined it would take about six hours to get from one end to the other. He’d been going for that amount of time at least and still he saw no sign of the trees thinning out.
As his feet continued to carry him forward, he tried to remember when exactly he’d realised he wouldn’t be coupled. It certainly hadn’t been during his first year of freedom. That year when he’d been eighteen had been amazing. His contemporaries and he had not only been given permission to sample each other, they’d been told they were expected to test the waters in order to find their perfect fit.
A smile flitted across Con’s face. None of them had been in a hurry to settle on anyone in particular when their freedom had started. Promiscuity had been encouraged by the elders and embraced by the youngsters. Con had enjoyed a new partner nearly every week and it had taken him about a month to confirm what he’d always suspected. He wasn’t into girls. He didn’t dislike them and could appreciate their beauty as well as the next guy, but on a deeper level they left him cold. Lying with a girl had never given him the same experience of ecstasy he encountered with another man.
The smile turned into a frown. Of course that had been the start of his problem. Same sex relationships were allowed but limited by the rules. Every coupling had room for four non-heterosexual partnerships. Four men had found each other before he’d even thought about starting to look for somebody to spend the rest of his life with. By the time he’d resigned himself to having to couple with a girl, all of them had made their choices as well. Which left his former friends happily starting a future with someone who fitted them, and him walking alone among the trees.
Lost in his thoughts and looking at his feet as he walked it took a moment before Con realised his surroundings were significantly brighter than they had been. He lifted his head and stopped moving. In front of him was the statue he’d walked away from some time ago. He turned around and looked back to where he’d come from. He was sure he hadn’t turned around on himself. He’d grown up in and around these trees. He would have known if he’d been walking in circles. Could there be more than one of these statues in the forest? And could he possibly have missed running into them all his life?
Reluctantly he approached the beautiful stone man. Con blinked when he looked down. There, on the pedestal we’re his initials. He had managed to get lost. He was no closer to finding the Outcasts’ village than he’d been hours ago and the day was getting older.
Taking a step back he looked up at the statue again. If anything the man looked even more beautiful. His muscles seemed more defined, as if he’d been exercising them while Con had been walking. The statue’s face was different too. What had seemed like a frown earlier now appeared to have relaxed into a small smile. Con shook his head. He was losing it. Between the shock of being cast out and the long hours walking in the sunshine his mind was imagining things that weren’t there. Statues did not change appearance unless someone took a chisel to them. With a sigh he took his chalk out again and put a mark next to his initials before walking away. This time he’d pay closer attention to where he put his feet. He had to find a roof before the day was over.
Con wasn’t surprised when, just over an hour later, he found himself face to face with the stone man again. He stopped on the edge of the clearing and took the time to study the statue in detail. The longer he looked at the man the more convinced he became there were subtle changes taking place. What he’d initially taken for a frown and then compared to a small smile, was now a full grin. The sunlight reflecting off the stone made it appear as if muscles were moving. At least, Con thought, no hoped, it was a result of the sunshine and not a sign he had lost his reason.
Although he knew the answer, Con had to check. On the pedestal were his initials and the chalk mark, just as he’d left them. Tears burned behind his eyes. He hadn’t cried when he’d been told to leave. He hadn’t been too worried about his future when he started what he’d thought would be a leisurely walk through the woods to get to others like him. Suddenly certain he was destined to never find those others, desperation descended on him.
Maybe this was it. How could he even be sure there was such a thing as another village? Just because the Elders had told him that’s where he had to go didn’t mean it actually existed. He’d never known anybody to come back from exile. What if that was because they died here in the forest, after walking around in circles, possibly for days on end?
Suddenly exhausted, Con turned his back to the statue and sat down on the soft moss, resting his shoulders against the cool stone of the pedestal. Closing his eyes he resigned himself to his fate. If he had to die he’d do it here, at the feet of this beautiful, stone carved, man. He didn’t have the strength or the determination to set out for a third time. At least here he could pretend he wasn’t all alone, even if his only companion was made of marble.
Con took the chalk from his pocket and twisted his upper body to put a third mark next to the first two. If anybody ever found his remains maybe they would understand what it meant. He had tried to get away, to find that new life he’d been promised, and it had been impossible. So be it.
Resigned to his fate, Con finished his last mark and jumped to his feet as the pedestal behind him started to shake. Stumbling backwards he couldn’t tear his gaze from the spectacle unfolding in front of him. The statue moved while its colour changed. Con held his breath as a transformation took place. It didn’t take any time at all before what had been a statue had turned into the most beautiful man Con had ever seen.
His skin was golden, his eyes and short hair raven black. The muscles he’d thought he’d seen moving when the man had still been a statue quivered underneath his skin as he stretched and bent before jumping off the pedestal.
“You really need to start breathing again.” The golden man’s voice was soft yet powerful and had a musical quality to it.
Con exhaled the breath he’d been holding and had to close his eyes for a second as dizziness overcame him. Before he could open his eyes again a hand steadied his shoulder.
“A few deep slow breaths and you’ll be fine.”
The voice seemed to travel through Con’s consciousness. He could feel the voice as clearly as he could hear it. He’d never experienced anything like this before. The skin underneath the man’s hand was heating up. The rest of his body yearned to feel the same heat, to be touched by that hand.
“What? How? Who?”
The man smiled the most beguiling smile Con had ever seen. “Did you not see the message on the pedestal?”
“It’s there right in the middle.” The man turned, pointing towards the now empty pedestal before lowering his arm again. “Oh, I guess you didn’t. I should have known it would be overgrown after all these years. Come.”
Leaving his hand on Con’s shoulder the former statue turned both of them around before taking the few steps separating them from the platform that used to be his home.
“Part the grass and weeds and see what it says.” His voice was gentle but brokered no opposition.
Con knelt down and pushed the greenery out of the way.
On the mark of three I come to thee
My name is Tharik and I thank you for releasing me.”
Tharik. The name sounded familiar although Con knew he’d never heard it before.
“I don’t understand.” Con looked up into dark eyes that shone with delight and something else he couldn’t name. “What just happened?”
“It’s a curse.”
Tharik had led Con to the edge of the clearing, wrangling his name out of him as they walked. Both of them were sitting on the moss, resting their backs against the remarkably smooth bark of a huge tree.
“Centuries ago I was imprisoned in that marble, my spirit alive but my body frozen. I was told one day I would be freed by someone who, like me, had been cast out of his society. The person to find and free me had to be alone and male. The spell made you return here. Old magic forced your hand when you marked the pedestal. Others walked by my statue but you were the first to meet those conditions.”
“Why would anyone do that to you? What did you do to deserve such a punishment?” Con wondered if he should be scared. Maybe Tharik had been a criminal before they’d imprisoned him in stone. Con didn’t feel any fear though. Sitting next to Tharik, with their shoulders touching Con felt safe.
“I rejected the partner they’d chosen for me and refused to change my mind.” For the first time since coming to life Tharik looked uncomfortable.
“Did you know what the punishment would be?”
“Yes, although I didn’t know how long it would take before someone would find me and break the spell.” Tharik looked away.
“Then why?” Con stopped. Did he have the right to ask these questions? He didn’t know this man at all.
“Why did I not just accept the partner they had picked for me?” A reddish hue crept across the golden skin on Tharik’s cheeks. “I couldn’t live my life with a woman.” The dark eyes stared off into the distance for a moment. “And I wasn’t allowed to live with a man.”
Con’s heart jumped in his chest. This man, like him, preferred male lovers.
“Why weren’t you allowed to partner with a man? There are some restrictions on same-sex couplings in my village but that’s just to make sure we don’t stop procreating.”
The frown disappeared from Tharik’s forehead and the charming smile tugged at his lips again. “Men are allowed to partner with men now, are they?”
Con nodded. “Yes, and women with women. Like I said, they limit the numbers but usually it works out fine. Most men want to couple with women and vice versa.”
Con had been expecting Tharik’s question. Tharik had been very up front with him and Con didn’t feel he could hold back. Besides, now that Tharik was free he’d probably be on his way soon enough. For some reason that idea hurt Con.
“The Coupling for my year of birth took place today. There was no partner for me, so I had to leave.”
Fully aware he hadn’t answered the question Tharik had asked, Con explained his village’s customs and what they had meant for him, while Tharik gave Con’s words his full attention.
“And if the numbers had been even, would you have coupled with a man or a woman?
Tharik’s question meant it was Con’s turn to blush and look away.
The harsh release of breath he heard made Con turn his head to look at the man beside him. The dark eyes gazed into his and for a moment Con lost his equilibrium. He could feel himself tumbling down a well. A soft caress flowed from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet although the only part of his body actually in touch with Tharik was his shoulder.
“That’s why.” Tharik’s whisper was barely perceptible.
Before Con could ask the question Tharik touched his face and stroked his cheek softly.
“They created the curse in such a way only one who loves like I do could free me. They probably thought it would never happen. They couldn’t have known the rules would one day change.”
Con leant into the hand stroking his face. Never before had such a simple touch caused such a complicated array of feelings in his body and mind. He could feel the soft caress of Tharik’s fingers not just on his face but also in his blood. It flowed through his body, warming him from the inside out. When Tharik moved closer, Con mirrored his movement as if they were magnets, irresistibly drawn to each other and powerless to stop the inevitable connection.
In the past, Con had listened to the stories about magic and curses without ever believing them. Even Tharik changing from a statue into a living and breathing man hadn’t completely convinced him. Tharik’s touch, his mouth and his tongue when it pressed through Con’s lips and explored Con’s mouth, converted him. It wasn’t because Tharik was a great kisser, although he certainly was. What proved the magic beyond doubt were the images Con saw with his eyes closed as his tongue tangled with Tharik’s.
It started off as vibrant colours coming together and drifting apart, forming shapes in the process. As the kiss got deeper the pictures Con saw became more realistic. He saw Tharik surrounded by men and women being led through a forest. The next picture showed Tharik, still alive and breathing, on the pedestal. A beautiful young woman stood in front of Tharik, looking up at him with a pleading look in her eyes while Tharik looked over her shoulder at something or someone standing behind her. In the final picture Tharik had turned into the statue he would remain for centuries to come. An older looking man stood in front of the statue and stared up at it with great sadness in his eyes.
“Who are you?” Con had only thought the question but the answers flowed into his eyes and ears as if he’d spoken out loud. It was as if he absorbed the knowledge.
Tharik’s mouth never left Con’s as the golden man’s touch explored Con’s body. The sensations mingled with images of men who weren’t quite men. They could do things with their mind Con wouldn’t be able to do with his hands.
As Tharik removed Con’s shirt and traced soft strokes across his chest Con understood he was one of the old people of myth. The same myths Con had always rejected as children’s tales and fantasies. Not quite immortal, so the legends said, they lived for as long as they wished to stay alive. They could achieve the impossible just by wishing for it. Understanding came with a bright flash of light. They were the Outcasts.
Con pulled back for a moment.
“Do you understand?” Tharik’s voice held a note of urgency. “You were meant to find me. You had one chance to liberate me and without knowing what you had to do or why, you took your opportunity. The magic was there to guide you but you could have ignored its call. Because you decided to answer it, we will be together for as long as you will have me.”
Con felt dizzy. Confusion battled with lust. His cock was hard and pounding in his loose trousers. He wanted more of Tharik’s touch. He knew being with Tharik would be nothing like, and so much better than, anything he’d experienced before.
“You need to be sure about this. If I take you, you’ll seal the deal. Our bond will be forged and unbreakable.” Tharik’s voice held a note of urgency Con didn’t understand.
“Yes. Please. Unbreakable.” The words escaped Con without conscious thought but he knew they were right the moment he heard them. Tharik was the reason he’d been the last man alone. He’d been cast out because it was his fate to find Tharik. Con knew he’d found the reason he was alive and had no intention of ever letting him go.
Tharik’s mouth slammed down on Con’s for another kiss. The softness was gone and replaced by harsh demands Con eagerly answered. He was vaguely aware of suddenly being naked, although he’d no idea exactly how it had happened or how he’d ended up on his back, cushioned by the soft moss, with Tharik on top of him.
All Con knew was Tharik’s body pressed against his, their two hard cocks rubbing against each other and Tharik’s touch. His lover’s skin felt alive under Con’s hands and made his fingers tingle. Con’s body enjoyed sensations it had never felt before. Fire ran through his veins, need screamed in his head and lust made his body soft and pliant. He wanted nothing more than to surrender to this magical man, give himself in whatever way he could.
Con lost himself in a whirl of sensations. Tharik’s hands and mouth were everywhere at once. Soft touches on his face and neck elicited moans before a harsh pinch on his nipples made Con growl out loud. Soft wet lips around his cock head made Con think he’d come too soon. A tight grip on the stem of his penis lowered the pressure and promised him prolonged pleasure.
Two fingers were pushed into Con and opened him up. The initial pain was expected and welcome. He wanted this. No, what he felt was more than want. It was a burning need, something primal he hadn’t known he’d been looking for until this moment.
There was one moment of fear. When Tharik moved back and got ready to enter Con with his thick long dick, Con couldn’t help worrying.
Tharik’s smile both teased and reassured him.
“Did you need it when you took my fingers?”
“No.” Con hadn’t thought about it but there’d been no lube and the pain had been less than it had ever been in the past.
“That’s magic for you.” Tharik laughed. “I won’t hurt you. Ever.”
Con heard the promise and believed. “I know. I don’t know how, but I’m sure of that much.”
Feeling Tharik enter him slowly but without pausing until all of him was buried deep inside Con was unlike any previous penetration. All the feelings he would have expected where there; the burn, the pain and the pleasure that came as his body adapted and relaxed. But this experience was more than just fucking. It even exceeded lovemaking. This was a coming together of two souls that had been separate for too long. Con hadn’t known he’d been missing something until Tharik was inside him and completed him.
The initial thrusts were smooth and almost leisurely, filling Con with blissful sensations he’d never experienced before. Con felt Tharik’s need growing with every single push and wasn’t surprised or shocked when they turned harder. A millennium without intimacy soon translated into a hard and fast fuck. And it was perfection. Tharik’s cock pounding his ass while his hand worked Con’s cock in perfect synchronicity drove Con ever closer to his climax.
Con opened his eyes and met the dark and smouldering gaze of the man who’d become both his saviour and the centre of his world in two short hours.
“Yes Con.” Tharik’s voice betrayed his own struggle for control. “Let it go. Be mine.”
Con let go and could have sworn he flew as his orgasm roared through his body. Even before his body relaxed again and his cock stopped shooting cum, he knew he was Tharik’s, as sure as if the man had stuck his hand inside Con’s body and grabbed his soul. It was only when Tharik stiffened and poured his essence deep into Con, that Con realised they were on a two way street. Tharik was his, just as much as Con was Tharik’s.
Con blinked his eyes a few times before fully opening them. A canopy of leaves greeted him, patches of blue sky visible through the gaps. He’d no idea how long he’d dozed for. He looked down and gazed at the head resting on his stomach. The black hair shone in the sunlight and a satisfied smile was visible both in Tharik’s eyes and the curve of his mouth.
“Are you okay?” The softness of Tharik’s voice matched the expression on his face.
“Perfect.” His answer took Con by surprise. It was a word he rarely used. Perfection was not something Con believed in. There was always room for improvement, or so he’d thought. Today he’d learned perfection not only existed, but also had a name: Tharik. And perfection had come to life for him. He didn’t know and didn’t care what would happen next. Whatever life might look like after today it would include Tharik, and that would be enough. It would be perfect.
“We should go.” Tharik’s voice was soft but Con didn’t miss the urgency. “I don’t want to stay this close to my prison, and I want to see more of the world I’ve missed for so long than this small patch of forest.
Con nodded and reached for his clothes.
“Leave them. I like you naked. You’re beautiful and your body should be admired all times.” A soft caress across Con’s chest underscored Tharik’s words.
“Don’t worry. If we run into people I’ll make sure we’ll appear appropriately dressed.”
Tharik made a gesture with his hand and Con not only saw the luxurious garments on his body, he could feel them. With another gesture they were gone again.
Tharik rose and grabbed Con’s hand, pulling him until they were both standing.
“Where are we going?”
“That depends on you.” Tharik said. “That’s your choice.”
“What do you mean?”
“See those two paths?”
“Yes.” Con said.
“If we go left, we’ll return to your village where they’ll accept us. They won’t remember they ostracised you and they’ll think I’ve always been a part of their community. If you choose this path, that’s where we live.”
“And what if I choose to go right?”
“To the right lies adventure. It’s unknown what we’ll encounter if we go that way, even I’m not sure.” Tharik stared to his right, his gaze filled with a combination of longing and curiosity.
“To the left lies a Lifetime, to the right Forever - virtual immortality. The decision is yours and there is no wrong choice.”
Tharik’s mouth was back on Con’s. The kiss was once again filled with images. Con saw glimpses of himself and Tharik, slightly older but much the same as they were now. Although, something was different. Tharik still had his beautiful golden hue, but in the mirage so did Con. His colour wasn’t as deep as Tharik’s but he wasn’t white skinned any longer. The images flickered again. Con saw bright days, dark nights, high mountains and deep lakes. Monsters chased beautiful winged creatures Con couldn’t name. And finally Con saw a beautiful cabin with a bright room in which a large and comfortable looking bed took centre stage. Con knew he was looking at Forever.
When Tharik withdrew his mouth Con moaned.
“I can’t give you more without you choosing it.” Regret sounded in Tharik’s voice.
“Why...” Con closed his eyes. He knew why he hadn’t seen images for ‘a Lifetime’. He knew what a Lifetime would look like. Only one question remained.
“If I were to pick a Lifetime, what would happen to you when I die?” He looked at Tharik and suddenly knew the answer to that question too.
“Would you return to your statue?”
Tharik nodded his head.
“And still you give me the choice?”
Con didn’t understand. If Tharik had not told him there was a choice they could have just walked into Forever and Con would have been none the wiser.
“Magic always comes with conditions Con.” Tharik spoke softly. “If I lie to you or try to trick you into making a certain decision it all ends, for both of us.”
Fear shivered its way down Con’s spine.
“Don’t be afraid. I won’t lie to you. Ever.” Tharik smiled. “And no matter what choice you make it’s going to be good for me. After a thousand years in stone, a lifetime of breathing and loving is a dream come true.” Tharik caressed Con’s face and looked into his eyes.“A lifetime with you will give me the memories necessary to sustain me through another millennium in stone.”
Deep inside Con something loosened. A veil had been lifted. It all made sense. Of course he’d been the odd one out during the coupling. His partner hadn’t existed in his village. Somehow all of this was meant to be. He and Tharik; it wasn’t a question. He didn’t know why he’d felt the need to think about it. The answer was blindingly obvious.
“We’ll go right.”
©Helena Stone, August, 2014