A stranger leaves Ian a bequest that starts him on a search which begins five hundred years earlier and takes him further back in time until his hunt leads him to TeotihuacÃ¡n in Mexico. However, even Ian didn't realize where his search would finally lead him as he and Mac dig beneath an ancient palace. They discover a pair of skeletons who are guardians to a goddess and a crystal spider that takes them on yet another journey. All the time they are being stalked by a man who believes he has been cheated out of his inheritance.
This is the third paperback in this series.
Di'al stood on the edge of the rise looking out over the jungle as far as the eye could see. The heat rose from the damp leaves in an almost visible haze to dissipate as it reached the tops of the trees. Di'al loved this place, the sights, the sounds, the smells. Goddess, he could even taste the heat! This was his home and he never wanted to be anywhere else; sadness welled, causing a lump in his throat at the thought that he would never enjoy this view after today. He felt tears prick his eyes and he brushed them away wearily.
He heard footsteps behind him and knew without looking who it would be. He felt arms go round his waist and a head rested on his shoulder, warm breath ghosting over his neck.
"I missed you, my love," Ba'yin whispered. "I guessed you would be up here."
"I'm glad you came. I wanted to say goodbye somewhere privately, and where better than here, the place I first told you of my love." His voice was calm but his heart was beating fast in his chest. He wondered if Ba'yin could feel it where he leaned against his back. Determined to accept what fate had placed on his shoulders, Di'al said, "Mother is already supervising the creation of my robe. She has the women collecting owl feathers and..."
Abruptly, Ba'yin spun him around, so fast he almost tumbled, but Ba'yin held him tightly, pulled Di'al close against his chest. Oh, it felt so good to be held so tightly in his arms.
"I am not saying goodbye to you," Ba'yin said gruffly. "I can't, I won't."
"It's not your choice, Ba'yin, any more than it is mine. Do you think I want to leave you? I don't. I love you. I had hoped to spend my life with you. As a fourth son, my father could choose to turn a blind eye. He already has enough heirs to secure his throne. But the High King chose me to be his ambassador to the Great Goddess..."
"...and I am going with you," Ba'yin interrupted. "Tell your mother to tell her women they must collect enough owl feathers for two robes."
"Yes, Di'al!" Ba'yin declared. "It is my right. Not only your father, but your uncle, my father, both know it was our choice to be joined come the next high moon. I have as much right to be with you on your journey as I do to spend my life by your side here. Unless you...refuse my company?" There was a slight crack in his voice, as if he couldn't believe such a thing.
Di'al raised a hand and laid it gently on Ba'yin's cheek. He smiled, but it was sad. "I would never refuse you anything, my love. But I want you to live. I want you to come to the Great Goddess when it is your time, when you have lived a full span among the people. I will be waiting for you, I promise."
"But don't you understand? Without you by my side, in my arms and in my heart, I will have no life. I will only pass long lonely years without my heart. They might as well cut it from me and send me to the Great Goddess now as make me wait however many years alone, lonely for a love I can never have. You have been given the honor to take a very special message to the Great Goddess, do me the honor of allowing me to accompany you?"
Di'al leaned his head on Ba'yin's shoulder, his tears sliding down his face and onto Ba'yin's beautiful body. "Oh my love, I should say no, I should let you be, but the thought of having you with me now and always..." He looked up then and met his lover's gaze. "If you are sure, really sure you want to do this?"
"I have never been more sure of anything in my life, except my love for you. I want to come with you."
"Then you shall." Di'al pulled Ba'yin close, wrapping his arms tightly around him and their lips met in a sweet kiss. Tender and gentle at first but as Ba'yin opened his lips to let Di'al in, the kiss turned more heated, more desperate, and his hands on Di'al's shoulders gripped tighter, digging in. Never letting go.
They sank to their knees, holding on as the kiss deepened even more. Ba'yin lay Di'al down and stretched out over him, their chests rubbing together, nipples hardening as their cocks filled and lengthened. Di'al slipped his hand between them and swiftly untied their loincloths, pulling them away, sighing as he felt the heat of his lover's length settle alongside his own hard cock.
Ba'yin kissed his neck, biting a little but not breaking the skin. He rubbed his face over Di'al's chest and blew hot breath over the pebbled nipples. Di'al gasped and, smiling, Ba'yin licked and nipped first one and then the other. Di'al was very sensitive there and he groaned and bucked beneath Ba'yin as his lover played with them. Di'al surged up into Ba'yin, his cock rubbing against Ba'yin's and both of them moaned at the contact. Ba'yin pressed down and circled his hips, the movement made easier by the perspiration that coated their bodies.
"More," Di'al begged, his fingers digging into Ba'yin's spine, moving down his body until he reached the small of Ba'yin's back. "More."
Ba'yin took Di'al's mouth again as Di'al rocked against him. Di'al's hand moved lower and skittered across Ba'yin's crease and he gasped as Di'al's fingers delved inside. Ba'yin increased his pace and Di'al's fingers slid deeper as Ba'yin cried out his name.
Di'al was so near, he had never felt such bliss as he did with Ba'yin. Again, he reached for Ba'yin's opening, sliding a finger inside, feeling Ba'yin tense as he did so. He pushed and Ba'yin moaned, moving faster and faster over Di'al. Wrapping his other hand around Ba'yin's waist, Di'al pushed his finger further inside, looking for the special place that sent his lover soaring, and when Ba'yin cried out his name Di'al knew he had found it. At almost the same moment he felt heat spread between their bodies and the knowledge that Ba'yin had shared his seed brought forth Di'al's own explosion. They clung tightly to each other, their gasps and moans intermingling.
Ba'yin rolled off Di'al, panting for breath, and Di'al was suffused with joy. Joy that faded a little as he turned into Ba'yin's embrace and wondered if this was the last time they could be together.
"I know it is an honor, but oh, I wish it could have been so different," Di'al whispered. "Is it wrong that I wanted to live with you, to love you and cherish the love that we share?"
"No, my love," Ba'yin admitted. "But think on this. Who knows what will happen when we stand before the Great Goddess with the message from our High King? What reward she might endow upon us? What pleasure we might find together in her realm? Perhaps we might find something even more fulfilling than we could ever imagine living a normal life here with our people."
* * *
It was a small but highly colorful parade that brought Di'al and Ba'yin from their home to the ritual center of the great city, where the whole populace was gathered to greet them. The two young men looked quite magnificent in their colorful robes edged with the much prized owl feathers.
The High King was waiting on the bottom steps of the Great Goddess' temple with the High Priest in his full regalia. Di'al and Ba'yin turned to say a final goodbye to their families, acknowledging the pride tinged with sadness in the expressions of their loved ones. Then they turned to stand before the High King, heads bowed.
Di'al felt a mixture of fear and excitement and longed to take hold of Ba'yin's hand, but he knew such a display before the High Priest was not acceptable. Instead he glanced at his love and Ba'yin's gentle smile buoyed him up as nothing else could have done at that moment.
The High King was giving a speech to the gathered masses but Di'al was too nervous to take in his words. He knew what it was about anyway, just reiterating what everyone knew and that the priests had offered the honor of taking the message to the Great Goddess to two members of the royal house of Ayin'al. Then the High King drew both Di'al and Ba'yin forward to stand by his side as he presented them to his people, and the crowd put up a cheer.
Then the High Priest began to call to the heavens to let the Great Goddess know that her people were preparing to send her a message, a special message that was to be brought to her realm by two of the highest class, by two sons of the royal house of Ayin'al.
The priest intoned, "Praise to the sons of Ayin'al!" The crowd repeated his words as they fell to their knees, hands raised in supplication.
"All praise to the Great Goddess!" The crowd repeated the words, lowering their upper bodies until their foreheads touched the earth.
Another priest stepped forward repeating other prayers that were echoed by the crowd as the High Priest led the sacrificial party up the steps to the altar high above. The High King followed behind, his regal figure somehow looking small and insignificant behind the two proud young men going willingly to their deaths as a promise and a prayer on behalf of their people to the Great Goddess.
As they reached the top of the long flight of stairs several priests were already waiting, one standing at either end of the solid stone altar set in the very center on the top of the pyramid of the Great Goddess. The High Priest moved to take his place behind the altar, the High King moved to stand to one side, where he had a good view but would not get in the way of the sacrifice to come.
Di'al had believed he was ready for this but suddenly he felt very afraid, afraid to leave his life, afraid to journey to a realm he didn't know and didn't understand and to face a goddess who engendered both reverence and fear. Then he felt a slight brush against his hand and felt a sense of peace wash over him, and he looked at Ba'yin standing by his side. His lover was looking at him, a slight smile gracing his lips.
Ba'yin murmured so softly that Di'al had to struggle to hear his words, "We will be together, forever."
Dial let out the breath he didn't realize he had been holding. "Together," he whispered. "Love you."
Then one of the priests moved to stand directly in front of them, reaching for Di'al. With a last look at Ba'yin, Di'al let the priest lead him forward to stand facing the High Priest from the other side of the altar. The priest walked behind his back and, taking his arms, the priest tied his wrists together, not too tightly but enough to hold him firmly.
This precaution was always taken, it mattered not that the sacrifice was honored to be awarded such a task, it was also human nature to be afraid and to try and pull free at the moment the knife was seen to be descending. It was better this way. But at that moment all Di'al felt was trapped, his very heart beating so hard it felt as it if would leap from his chest. He almost laughed at the irony of that thought, but his mouth was too dry even for that.
The second priest approached and together with the first one, Di'al was lifted onto the stone altar. His arms were taken by the priest who had tied them and pulled over his head and held. His body was stretched out on the altar, his chest bare and ready for the High Priest to prepare him. The High Priest raised his hands high, calling to the Great Goddess. He moved to the altar and, dipping a small brush into the pot of red paint on the edge of the altar, he began to draw sigils on Di'al's chest. The priests on either end of the altar repeated the words after the High Priest, as he painted more markings on Di'al's chest in blue and then in black. The words of the High Priest rose as his incantation reached its climax.
Di'al's eyes sought Ba'yin, but his lover's eyes were closed and his mouth moved in silent prayer. Come to me soon, Ba'yin.
Suddenly, Di'al's attention was caught by the jagged ceremonial knife in the High Priest's hands. The stray thought came that it was beautiful, the bright metal blade topped by the golden crystal handle. Then all he could think was of the pain to come as the wicked blade sped down towards him. He knew the High Priest was speaking, intoning more prayers, but Di'al couldn't hear a word. All he could hear was the scream inside his own head, the scream that tore from his throat as the sharp blade tore into his flesh; the scream that reverberated again and again. He could have sworn he heard his own name screamed out as the pain faded, as everything seemed to swirl towards blackness...
At the first scream from his lover's throat Ba'yin's eyes shot open and he cried out Di'al's name. Immediately he once again closed his eyes against the sight of the sacrificial knife still plunged into Di'al's chest, as the High Priest worked to cut out his heart. Knowing what was to come was not the same as witnessing it. His own heart was breaking for what Di'al was suffering, for what he himself had yet to face. Automatically his hand went to his waist where he felt the thin gold chain to which was attached a small golden sigil.
Ba'yin opened his eyes and looked down at it. He couldn't stand to look at the altar and all that remained of his love. They would never be joined in life now, only in death, but at least they could wear a sign of their intent. It was all they could do to say to the world left behind that they loved each other. Their bodies would be placed together, flanked by the animals beloved of the Great Goddess, the jaguar and the owl, and until the time was right they would guard the place of her great secret.
He smiled at the thought that at least in that way they would never be separated. Always together, he and his Di'al, as it was meant to be.
Then he saw that the priest was coming for him now. I am coming, Di'al. Soon now, I will be with you. Forever.