He has a new life - now he just has to keep it...
Gaven learns that being Vlar's pupil in all things is a mixture of pain and pleasure. He hates his Finnarian teacher...doesn't he? Yet his body betrays him time and again, especially when he experiences the sexual ecstasy of a Finnarian bite and the giving of his own blood.
There seems to be so much more to their relationship than either of them can understand, so Vlar calls in his father, a Finnarian prince. What he tells them shakes Gaven to his core and he fears he cannot possibly live up to what Vlar wishes of him. Just when they seem to be on the edge of truly discovering each other, a shadow from Gaven's past comes to shatter it all to pieces.
I whirled to the right, knowing in that instant that I had made a fatal error.
I managed to bring up the sword in time to take the blow on the steel instead of my shoulder, but the impact flung me sideways and I rolled in the dust, desperately trying to avoid...
The sword point hovered in the hollow of my throat.
"Slow today, boy. Any particular reason, or are you just being difficult again?"
I stared into green eyes with defiant silence, fighting to restrain the snarl that would only get me punished.
Vlar laughed softly, letting the sword gently sweep down my chest through the sweat that literally ran over my skin. The point finally rested right over my groin, the tip actually prodding my shaft and then my balls through the thin fighting pants.
"You're getting better in the bed, Gaven, but you have a long way to go in the fighting field." Vlar withdrew the threat of the sword and turned away, taking a cloth that one of his trainees handed him to wipe the blade clean.
I wanted to smash the ground in frustration, wanted to throw the nearest rock at my eramon's head, but I was learning restraint.
I felt myself flush then. I was learning restraint in more ways than one. I slowly and painfully pulled myself up from the ground and dusted myself off with shaking fingers. I felt unable to meet anyone's eyes. Had they heard my screams last night? Vlar had tied me up and tortured me with pleasure, telling me that the more control I showed, the shorter the session would be. Well, I had obviously had little control, because it had gone on for over three hours, until I had literally begged to be allowed to come.
It was a little difficult to be at ease with the other men, when I felt I might be judged on those reactions.
Being Vlar's eramai was more difficult than I could ever have imagined. Now that the older man had official control of me--the right to treat me as he saw fit, he was harsh and often almost brutal in how he trained me on the field.
It was hard for me to hold my tongue. The one time I lost my temper, Vlar made it perfectly clear that I needed to lose the attitude. His training would keep me alive in times to come, and I had better get my head out of the clouds and get down to serious work, if I ever wanted to be anything other than a burden.
It had stung, but it had also given me fire in my fighting, and I made several important strides from that incident alone.
I just wished I could control my reactions to Vlar's prodding. I was too sensitive, overreacting to Vlar's every word, but the man just had a way of setting me off without even trying.
It made me feel very young, and I wished that I could achieve the calm and control that Vlar displayed so effortlessly.
So I gritted my teeth and tried harder. Some of the best fighters in the army had been trained by that man. Not one of them could beat Vlar, but I could only hope that one day I would attain the impossible and kick the older man's ass.
I could dream, probably the same dream as every other eramai that Vlar had ever had...
I rubbed my sore shoulder with a grimace of pain and tried to walk without a limp. Damned if I would rub my sore ass...
Supper was loud and boisterous. I sat with mug in hand, brooding as I watched the other men. Teaser and Weasel were in fine form that night, bouncing humor off of each other and creating a raucous atmosphere around them.
They seemed so happy together, so right. What made it so? How had they found it? How did they keep it?
At that moment I missed my old friend, Micael, even more than usual. The simple camaraderie the two men showed and the deep bonds among the Eight, as I called them, made me feel excluded. I stared down at the reflections in the wine, a frown on my brow. Everyone there was so close; years of fighting had bonded them into a tight-knit unit.
I felt like an intruder, and time had not seemed to lessen the sensation. I felt no more like one of those men than when I had first come there, felt no closer to being what the warlord wanted me to be.
As to Vlar...
My hand tightened into a fist, and I took a deep drink of the wine to quell the many emotions that coursed through me at the mere thought of my eramon. So many things had changed between us. Even his appearance was not the same as when I met him; his hair, which I had learned was not dark at all, was in truth various shades of blond. It had been dyed when I first met him, apparently due to some ceremonial coloring due to grief at the death of a friend. He had seemed like a creature of darkness then, and now he was all golden, all beautiful.
Across the room I could see Vlar; the Finnarian laughed with some of the more experienced warriors, and my breath hitched. My body tightened, heat pooling in my groin.
I hated that my body reacted so easily to a mere glimpse of that powerful form. The way my very skin tingled and my mind seemed to want to force me to accept that this man almost owned me, could do with me as he wished.
Of the many emotions churning within me, indifference was not among them.
The king himself had ordered that I also receive teaching in reading and writing as a noble's son, and I found it much more difficult than the fighting. I am a physical person. Sitting and listening to my tutor drone on and on was a far heavier burden than taking bruises from a sword blow.
I tried though; it seemed to make my uncle Sarin--the king--happy, and I had begun to like the man quite a lot. He was very little like his brother, my father. Despite his burdens and responsibilities, he displayed a lighthearted, more compassionate nature.
To my surprise my uncle was obviously trying to forge a relationship of some sort with me. I could not imagine why, but I could not repel his advances without being rude. I am not good at being rude. That relative, at least, had never done me harm.
The king's attention seemed to draw notice to me, and more people seemed willing to make conversation with me. I doubted their motives and trusted them not at all, but still... It was nice not to be ignored or, worse yet, taunted as I had been during my childhood.
On that particular day, I sat staring at the sunshine, trying to focus my mind enough to practice my writing. I startled as a hand came down on my shoulder, and guiltily I looked up at my long-suffering tutor, Philas.
"Gaven, my boy. This is enough for today. I am not so cruel as to expect you to be enthused over letters, when such a beautiful day calls you. Go enjoy it. We can continue tomorrow. I am sure that one day won't make a difference either way."
I could have hugged him as I leaped up, almost falling over my own feet.
Philas shook his head, apparently amused. "My boy you are like an overgrown colt, all legs and energy." He looked at me for a long moment, a certain seriousness appearing in his eyes. "You are far more intelligent, though, than you give yourself credit for, Gaven. Believe in yourself. A lot of your father is within you. Gareth is brilliant, almost too smart for his own good, but with an attitude as large as his brain. You are a pleasant surprise; there is no arrogance in you, only a wish for kindness, and you are deeply empathic to others. I see you often sensing another's emotions, before that person knows themselves. I feel that, one day, if you work past your own insecurities, Gaven, you would make a great leader, perhaps even better than Gareth himself."
I stared at him in mute astonishment then blushed fiercely, scarcely knowing what to say to such things. I had no idea how he could witness these things within me, when I saw nothing at all.
He smiled then, a little ruefully, perhaps. "Go, my boy."
I bowed with respect, then lunged out the door eagerly on the way to a respite of freedom.
The heat rose throughout the day, until, in the late afternoon, it was nigh unbearable. The men sought ways of cooling off, and the favorite method was a swim in the nearby lake.
I ventured there tentatively and was relieved when I saw Teaser waving at me. It was easier then, and I stripped down, keeping my eyes averted, so I would not see if anyone was watching me. It was still difficult for me to get past the modesty that had been so instilled in my earlier years.
I had no sooner set foot in the cool waters, trying to slowly acclimate myself, than I was tackled by Weasel. We landed in a great splash of wind milling arms and legs. I gave a choked yell that almost got me drowned; then I twisted in the older man's hold like an eel and ended up pushing Weasel under the water in retaliation.
Soon Teaser came to rescue his lover, and it set off the other six, so that it turned into a free-for-all. Whoops and yells called in any other guard in the vicinity; soon it was hard to tell where the brawl began and ended.
I managed to extricate myself by swimming underwater for a ways, getting past the combatants. I popped up with a grin, watching the antics from a safe distance as Weasel slapped the water around him, looking for a rematch.
I escaped to deeper water and swam lazily, keeping an eye on the action in case it moved in my direction. I had no warning before an arm came around my waist, and I went under. I splashed to the surface, ready to fight, only to face Vlar.
I became flustered then; very, very aware of his hands resting on my hips, very aware of the close proximity of my very naked eramon.
Vlar grinned at me, a slow tilting of the lips that made my blush heat even more.
"We will make this another training session, Gaven. One in trust."
The mere word made me tense up, my breath coming harder with an effort to stay afloat.
"Lie back; let me tow you through the water. When you relax in trust, you will float. When you resist, you will sink. This is the test." Vlar's tone indicated he knew full well that I was going to sink quite a bit.
Having opened my mouth to argue, I snapped it shut and gritted my teeth. Damned if I would act as Vlar so obviously expected. Without a word I lay back, trying desperately not to tense as Vlar put one large hand around my chin and began to tow me through the water.
Rising to the surface, sputtering and angry with myself, I glared at Vlar, who merely arched a brow as he waited with all the patience of the rocks themselves.
I wanted to growl, but I restrained myself and once more floated onto my back. The hand gently encased my chin again, and I focused harder on letting go, letting myself relax into my eramon's touch. I took deep breaths, trying to urge my muscles to go slack. The more they did, the higher I floated. I shut my eyes finally, finding that it helped me focus.
"Good, very good," Vlar rumbled, swimming strongly. "Give yourself into my hold."
I tried. I let my breath out, drawing in another slowly and easily, eyes closed. I tried to think of gentle things: of soothing streams and soft breezes, of Vlar's kisses on my lips...
I came up snorting and wide-eyed. Where in the hells had that thought come from? I could not even look at Vlar, hoping that being Finnarian did not include mind reading. I could feel the telltale flush on my face and knew that alone gave away the tenor of my thoughts more surely than anything. Cursing a blue streak under my breath, I tried again.
That time was a little better, my determination to the fore. I would not think of my eramon. It was bad enough I had to foster with him; it would be far worse if I actually began to want him. It was not going to happen ever, ever.
I got through the session without drowning, although the trust issue seemed to have gained little ground, judging by Vlar's grin and my time spent underwater.
It would definitely need some work.