I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.


    **A Series of Bi-sexual Tragedies

    Tariq
    Tariq
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    **A Series of Bi-sexual Tragedies  Empty **A Series of Bi-sexual Tragedies

    Post  Tariq on Tue Dec 25, 2018 4:23 pm

    Abit

    It was only with the utmost care that he had convinced the people that the boy’s blindness had not been a reflection of the efficacy of his incantations. Instead the blame had been cast on the boy’s mother, a development that had suited the temple priest just fine.

    Perhaps she did not fear the gods as she should. Perhaps she incited dissension among her neighbours. Perhaps - and this was whispered amongst the people but never repeated by the priest, of course - she had coupled with the beasts of the forest and it was their moon-pale eyes he had been granted.

    Whatever the case, there was nothing he could have done. And so maybe her face is cut by a sharp stone that is flung by an anonymous hand in the crowd as she returns from the market. Maybe the family is forced to the outskirts of the town, their presence tolerated but their company rarely accepted. At least she lives! At least she continues to feed the child of the grain that he coaxes the gods into bestowing! The whole of the people would have suffered had their faith in his ability to care for them eroded.

    He is central to the continuation of life here - it is he who takes the sacred hyssop and watches the stone mouths of the gods, he who deciphers the silent will of the stars, and it is he who chooses who is brought to his room at the top of the temple. And so it is.

    As the years pass, he finds there is a wariness to the white-eyed boy that draws his attention. He is quiet, but not shy, for when he speaks it is with deliberate care. There are complaints of his being headstrong and contrary, and Abit can occasionally glimpse an iron will flashing in those pale eyes. He learned to say “no” early, and is already unravelling with an adult sophistication what can be bartered in exchange for a “yes”.

    The taste of him in the priest’s mind begins to lose the bitter tang of his own failure. It begins to taste of something else altogether.

    It is an honour to be brought to him. The boy comes without a fuss. His hands keep to the walls of this unfamiliar room until he is instructed to the center, told to lay in the bed. He is quiet but does as he is bid.

    Abit takes his sacred duties seriously. There are prayers to recite and offerings to make before he disrobes.

    The boy weeps and blood runs between his thighs but afterward, the priest feels as though he has slain a demon whose teeth he had not known were buried in his heart.

    Later, when the boy-now-a-young-man is brought before him, he touches his forehead with the papery skin of his hand. He inhales deeply, smoke coiled in his lungs, and murmurs that he will lead an unremarkable life but will have the honour of dying in battle. It is the last he ever thinks of the boy.
    --
    Nisaba

    Her fingers are stained red from the wet clay she carefully marks, the point of her stylus crisp despite adolescent clumsiness. His fingernails are caked with earth, yellow with mustard pollen and still metallic with ox blood from a birth or the rare joy of slaughter. He smells like the green sap of a crushed stem, of rich, dark soil and the feral creatures with glowing eyes that menace her from the shade of the forest trees.

    The first time he speaks to her, he does not know how to conceal the envy in his voice and it cuts her like the blade of a knife. The oiled skin of her bag rattles with reeds when she pulls it close to her chest.

    The boy’s eyes are cloudy and vague, but his words are precise. He does not ask; he demands that she teach him how to make sense of the pointed symbols she spends her days carefully imprinting. She does not know what to make of this command, but agrees so he will leave. He solemnly takes her at her word, and she is unsurprised to find him waiting for on her route home the next evening.

    He is a fast learner with a seemingly infinite well of patience. It is not long before she finds herself looking forward to their clandestine lessons. It is not much longer before he approaches her on a warm afternoon as she is waiting for him in the sun and kisses her, rough but not careless.

    She likes it, the petrichor taste of his mouth, and they go together to an old unused side building which smells of musty straw. He asks her before even starting to remove her clothing if this is what she wants, and he keeps asking her throughout, his voice quiet, his hands touching her hair and face, as though searching for an answer there as well.

    They are slow but hardly gentle, careful but hardly cautious. She doesn't think about what her parents would think of her rutting with a boy of no standing in a moldering shed, and she doesn't know what he thinks, though she can guess that it would be more prudent for his first sexual experiment to be with a prostitute and not a girl who might one day talk to the gods.

    Their dalliance is brief. It is he who breaks it off, shaves slivers from their inexperienced fumbling until it is the size of nothing but heads rested on shoulders or hands clasped together as they watch twigs float down the green river.

    She can not say she minds; later she will experience love that does not feel so much like the desperate alliance of wild animals. The pair remain friends as they grow, meeting only after the day’s tasks are done with her skin steeped in holy smoke and his clothes smelling of the dusty grains they feed the chickens.

    She would not see him again after he left. But she carries the memory of her childhood friend in her bones, sometimes dreaming of their days in the sun long after the possibility of her bearing her own children has passed.
    --
    Iyala

    She is accustomed to the men who come to surrender their virtue to her in the hopes that they might learn how to please a future wife, or simply to rid themselves of a burdensome chastity. They are often nervous, lacquered in false bravado. They wait for her to guide their hands. They ease with childish relief into her encouraging words and they spill quickly, her work over as soon as it has begun.

    She expected this of the blind stranger when he confessed it was to be his first time. But her expectations are quickly dashed. He is sure of himself and asks in whispers for what he wants of her. He has no shame in his body, nor of hers, and his clever hands are reverential on the curve of her shoulder, the bend of her back. His lack of sight is no impediment and when his fingers slip between her thighs they return to his mouth wet.

    She finds it charming, in a way. Without having to direct him, she is free to enjoy it. Her moans become deeper, breathier. She wraps her hands in the dark hair he wears to his shoulders and allows herself to slip into a memory of another man, another time.

    However, she returns abruptly to this room when his teeth come together on the delicate skin of her collar, hard enough she cries out in surprise as much as the pain, hard enough it leaves a red-speckled bruise that she will examine with disapproval in the mirror the next morning.

    He apologizes, and his chagrin seems authentic. Iyala winces when she touches the sore spot to her fingers. He takes her hand in his and kisses her wrist, coaxing, his voice soft. She gives in and allows him to finish although there is a tenseness in her body that had not been there before. She does not think that he notices the twist of her lips when he kisses her neck.

    He does not linger when he is finished. He thanks her, politely, his manners restored with the return of his clothes. She advises him if he wants to set his teeth to the next girl to try the temple prostitutes who will humour all manner of idiosyncrasies in the name of ecstasy and his eyes darken as though he is angry but he accepts the advice with a nod and leaves on the horse that she is certain does not belong to him, no matter how patiently it waited for his business to be concluded.

    Her bruise is sore for the next week, and every hand that unintentionally brushes it forcibly reminds her of the blind stranger that inflicted it.
    --
    Samaria

    What can she say about her time with him? That it was all a matter of practicality? That they were in love?

    Sometimes, perhaps, she can almost believe that. Their son possesses the same curious grace of his father, and sometimes when they are together, her son and the man who brought him into her life, she is willing to attribute the stirring of her heart to love.

    This becomes easier when he disappears, swallowed by war or disease or maybe his own cowardice. It is easier to weave her feelings into poetry when she knows she will never have to explain them to him again.

    He came to hear her sing, as most men did. As with most men, she had no interest in him.

    He accepted her disinterest with grace, but it did not dissuade him from coming again and again. He had no status, barely even a vocation, but he brought her sweet-smelling gifts and his mouth was honeyed with words that often made her laugh.

    It was neither of these that attracted her - if bribes and flattery could win her affection, she would have been married off long ago. It was the way he seemed to open up against her scorn, the quiet pleasure he seemed to take in returning to her fresh from a rebuke that gave her pause. When she summoned him to her bedchamber he came at once, without pretense, and she found to her satisfaction he was no less willing to bear her ill-treatment in bed.

    The marriage was one of convenience. This was understood between them without it needing to be spoken. Without a husband to elevate her, she was little better than the infames, despite her gifts, despite the men and woman of money and status that came to hear her voice.

    In return, he got the pleasure of calling her his own. This too was understood between them without words. He did not restrict her freedoms and so she agreed to the life of a songbird on a tether.

    It was she who managed their household. She was upset when her belly swelled and impeded her work, more upset at the difficult birth that tore her open and bled her dry. There had been no talk of children, certainly not of the humiliation of this pain. Her son was born with dark eyes and dark hair and in the pain of her labor his passing into the world seemed to open up within her an equally dark passage of grace.

    Her son had many fathers and mothers among her admirers to watch over him, and her husband was not the best among them. He had an excess of patience, willing to spend long hours soothing the infant after an upset or sleeping with him against his chest, but there was little about the child that he found interesting and his priorities lay elsewhere. The child is hardly old enough to string words into sentences when his father’s letters stop arriving.

    Blood cannot be turned aside forever, and it is not long before he begins inquiring about his father. She tells him the truth, usually, although even the unvarnished truth has begun to take on the dimensions of a legend.

    She moves her family of two into the estate of a patron who has auspiciously never found a husband, a wealthy woman with curled hair the colour of acorn shells and a mouth that tastes like wild strawberries, and she is happy.
    --
    Khamewaset

    He is a servant to many masters who come and go. It means little to him to be bribed to slip an incriminating letter into a pocket in which it does not belong, or a bitter herb into an unattended cup of wine.

    This request is one of the simpler ones. It involves the concealment of a knife and an excuse to be in a chamber in which he does not belong. Perhaps it will end with the death of a man who has made one too many enemies. It is nothing to him.

    The excuse is easy to find. This man can not see, but the lingering press of Kha’s fingers as he pours his wine or the breathy catch in his voice when he addresses him don’t need to be seen to be understood as an enticement. It is a week, and then two, and a third, and Kha is beginning to doubt himself, beginning to consider alternative ways into his room, when finally the invitation comes.

    It requires great patience, but eventually the man does take notice of him. He is unsubtle and unmistakable about it. It is at a moment when the others in the room are about to leave and, when they are gone, the man goes swiftly to where Kha stands, reaching to touch his cheek so unhesitatingly that he thinks for a moment that the man will have him at that very moment, in that very room.

    The man's hand is unexpectedly cold and Kha can't help but flinch. His eyebrows raise, and he meets Kha’s gaze with his hazy eyes. The boy finds himself holding his breath. There is a pause, a heartbeat in which Kha doesn't know what he will do. And then he says in heavily-accented Coptic, "Come to my room at midnight."

    And so, the nearness of success terrifying him, he comes, the knife hidden in his boot and kohl accenting his dark eyes. He knocks, and the man answers. There are streaks of black in the white hair he has tied back at his neck.

    They turn their backs to the other to undress. Sitting on the bed, Kha reaches down, ostensibly to unlace his boots, and, with a shallow breath of reassurance, finds the handle of the slim knife. He slips it out and looks up through dark eyelashes at his quarry, who is unfastening his tunic, and stands to scan the room for an appropriate place to conceal the weapon.


    But he doesn't have more than a second, for the swift movement causes the man to turn and, in his haste to conceal the knife, he catches it on the edge of a chest of drawers and it clatters loudly to the floor.

    It is enough to alert the blind man. He moves too quickly for Kha to react, grabbing his wrist with one hand to hold it immobile and reaching with the other for something hidden in the sheets of the bed.

    Light skitters along the edge of the blade, and the boy’s mind freezes, grasping for an explanation that does not come. He does not know why the pugio was in the bed, but imagining makes him afraid for what the eques though he was consenting to.

    Before he has digested this information, the knife is at his throat. He's been caught.

    The man pushes him down onto the bed, the knife pressed so close to his throat it cuts him when he swallows. A bead of blood rolls down his neck, stains the sheet berry-red.

    The man’s voice is implacably calm. "Whose orders are you under?"

    Kha hesitates, shifts. He is pinned to the bed by a knee in his stomach and the pain is a distraction despite the adrenaline pumping through his ears.

    “You are going to die regardless," the man says, his tone genteel but filled with cold anger that raises the hairs on the back of the boy’s neck. “But there are many ways to die and you may as well spare yourself the painful ones."

    Kha chokes out the name of the gens, of the individual who paid him and gave him the blade. He tries to explain, tell his captor that he is no assassin, this was sabotage at best, but his voice is shaking in his throat. He is surprised when a tear falls from the corner of his eye.

    The man exhales a long breath, as if this has confirmed his fears. And then, without removing the knife, he leans down and kisses the boy beneath him. Knowing better than to fight, Khamewaset closes his eyes and dredges up the hazy memories of the prayers for the dying.
    --
    Stryx

    It is his gift to know the human body.

    It is a gift without a language, and he would struggle to teach it to another. He does not know how to speak of the complex pathways of branching tendons and wending arteries that carry hot blood or of the underlying architecture of hard bone. But he understands them intuitively, his knowledge intimate and accurate.

    It is this knowledge that is diverting his attention now. His hand has found the hard ache of skin nestled amid the soft thatch of hair between the blind man’s thighs, his tongue drawing love letters on the enticing arch of his throat, but the man’s body is speaking a distracting language, a tension that is gathered in the focus of his bones that Stryx cannot quite understand. It niggles at him like the bite of a fly.

    And then, in a flash, it comes to him. He does not fear revealing the sharp curve of ivory teeth in his smile here, not with this blind man panting against him.

    He shifts up on his elbows so he can take the man’s face in his hands, his palms tingling with the warmth of the blood rushing to his cheeks. His companion stills and Stryx senses the taut suspense within the silence. It is the strain of a dog on a leash.

    He looks into the constellation of his clouded eyes and calls him by the name that would become his epithet for decades to come. It is unbidden, the flutter of the man’s heart like a bird’s wing in his chest, his sharp mouth a temptation like the pulse of hot blood.

    “Korvus,” he says, and later, to public ears, this will shift to the masculine Korvine that is not softened by the affectionate pet name. Blackbird, carrion crow, something in him dark and hungry and restless. “You can hurt me. Bite me, if you wish.”

    He is still, at first, as though uncertain whether he can trust this allowance. But the expression of fierce desire as he leans close makes Stryx’s eyeteeth heavy in his mouth.

    He does not need further coaxing. The marks he leaves will fade quickly, the dark bloom of bruises and rose-hip red of torn skin wilting to nothing within hours, but that does not stop the vampire from crying out again and again from the pleasure of this unexpected pain.
    --
    Isidora

    She had met him on the worst day of her life.

    What else could have compelled her to the bridge above those dark, cold waters at such an hour but raw, wordless anguish? She remembers the wind whipping at her hair and threatening to knock her off balance, plunging her into the hungry, sucking mouth of the river below.

    The moon was a cruel shard of silver in the frost-bitten sky. His eyes were no less cruel and no less silver when he took her by the wrist, gathering her up as one gathers a child who has suffered a nightmare.

    She had thought, vaguely, that perhaps he meant to kill her. The thought brought no relief; she was numb to comfort, as she was indifferent to fear and to the chill that froze her skin. She let him take her to his home, let herself be warmed and held and later, touched, surprising herself with the ferocity of her wild need.

    She leaves his house aching and raw but returns often. She lives a double life. Her days are flooded with sunlight, the mundane tasks of living and the earthy smell of the glaze that stains her husband’s fingers. Her nights are velvet with shadow, alive with savage tableaus of tooth and nail that make her feel like a snarling she-wolf, a beast untamed and unspoilt and somehow fiercely alive.

    Sometimes she does not make it home - the pain is too great to face the walk and she must rest. She leaves blood in his bed and he holds her jealously, their hair tangled and soft breath mingling.

    The despair and yawning grief that led her to those dark, cold waters begins breaking apart into manageable pieces. The bruises he leaves on her collarbones or the inside of her thigh begin to make her wince. The fierce joy begins to fade until there is more pain than pleasure in the throb of injured skin.

    Steadily, she makes up her mind. And the time comes after an encounter in which she had to stifle tears at his roughness.

    “I’m pregnant,” she lies. His blind eyes fix on her and she holds his gaze. Her heart pounds in her throat. “With my husband’s child,” she continues. “We can’t do this anymore.”

    The flash of ivory in his mouth is wolfish. There is pain as he takes her by the wrist and fear suddenly sits in her stomach like a stone.

    “I think, beloved,” he says. His voice is soft as velvet. “It is time to meet this husband.”
    --
    Theódoros

    “Undress him.”

    He is in their bedchamber, although Theo can not recall how the stranger has gotten there. The dusky afternoon light illuminates the golden dust motes whirling in the space above their bed. His wife’s voice is shrill, higher than he has ever heard it.

    “What?”

    Theo is silent. His head is spinning. He is very carefully not looking the stranger in his horrid milky eyes. There is something not right about this, although he can not say what it is. Somewhere the drone of a beetle’s wings buzzes.

    The stranger’s voice is calm. “He is your husband. You lied to me for this.”

    He sees Isidora flinch and lower her eyes at the words. Something like anger is churning behind his eyes and he can not hold a thought in his head for long enough to follow it.

    “Go on, or I will do it myself. I promise you will find that far less pleasant.”

    Theo feels cold pool in his collarbones. “No,” he says, his tongue leaden, the protest feeble even to his ears. The stranger’s hand is around his throat, though he had not seen him move, those moon-pale eyes close enough that he flinches back into the hand that is choking the air from his chest. The smell of this man is like the frost of autumn. It is sharp and dangerous, like a beast that has brought the scent of night on its fur.

    “You will do as I say,” the stranger says. His teeth are distracting, clean ivory and too sharp. His breath has a faint metallic edge that puts Theo in mind of the sharp blades he used to slaughter the goat when her milk dried up. “Or you and your beloved will die.”

    The stranger releases him and Theo gulps air. He is only vaguely aware of his wife approaching him, of the tender touch of her hands on his aching throat, the sides of his face. He wishes the incessant buzzing would cease so he could think.

    Isidora kisses him. He feels her tongue between his lips and his mouth opens to this familiar warmth. She begins slowly working loose the buttons of his shirt. The air is still.

    His shirt is off and his chest is bare. Theo swallows, closes his eyes, opens them. He cannot remember why dread sits like a stone on his chest. His wife is unfastening his trousers. He is aroused. He could choke on shame.

    He is still, unparticipating, as though her hands are causing him some injury. And then at once, his hands settle on her waist, his mouth on her shoulder. She clings to his ribs and he can feel the soft shaking of her body as he kisses her throat, his hands hastily unlacing her dress.

    “Keep going,” the stranger says quietly. Theo is not sure where he is; the voice may as well have come from inside his own head. “Touch her.”

    He does. They both do as he tells them. She is on her back and he is on top of her. He is between her soft thighs and the stranger is touching the back of his neck with cool hands. They are a serpent with three heads, an Ouroboros of something that is not quite pain and not quite pleasure but which devours all it encounters with an eager mouth.

    “Good,” the stranger breathes, and a thrill of satisfaction shoots through Theo’s chest at the praise. The knowledge that he is exactly where he should be settles over his bones like dust. “Now, my golden one. I want you to hurt her.”

    When he returns to consciousness, his mouth tastes of rot. There is an arm slung with a scalding familiarity around his bare waist and when he flinches the stranger, awakened now if he was not before, shifts, arches his back with feline pleasure.

    Beneath the man in his bed is a dark, spreading stain that his mind reels to contemplate. Behind him, a slumped shape does not stir. The room is more silent than he has ever known it. He can remember everything he did.

    “I am going to kill you,” he says flatly. He feels empty, drained of rage, of terror. The stranger laughs, a sound like the stirring of dry autumn leaves.

    “You cannot kill me in any way that matters,” he says. He stands. His lips brush against Theo’s forehead. The tears in Theódoros’s eyes blur the edges of his silhouette as he leisurely dons his clothes and departs. He is left with nothing but the ragged gasp of his own breath, too solitary for this room meant for two, and distantly, the soft hush of a chorus of crickets.
    --
    Alecsander

    If he could, he would spend hours doing nothing but touching his lord, his Sayeed, hands, lips soaking up the sensations of his skin. But Alecsander knows better than that, knows Sayeedi prefers to touch than to be touched, and that Alecsander must abide by what his lord wants.

    He does not mind it, the submission – it is in his nature, he thinks, and the absence of complex, ever-shifting, uncertain dynamics of control is a relief. He has even learned to enjoy the thrill of fear that Sayeedi’s cool anger gives him.

    There are times when it is nearly unendurable, times when his desire to inflict pain goes beyond the bounds of Alecsander’s ability to enjoy it. But the times when it is exquisite beyond words are far more frequent, and he knows that his love for his lord is such that, were there a way to be free from the terrors that come with being his lover, he would never take it.

    Sayeedi is rough with him and he often bears the marks of his fingers around his throat. He takes pride in them, vainly fingering the stipples of purple and red when he is alone. He yearns to please him.

    There is a time, after he has made the grievous error of allowing himself to be mugged and beaten, where his lord’s anger scalds him to the bone. His punishment is isolation, to be separate from the fire of his presence, and he is driven mad with the emptiness inside him.

    He knows better than to plead and so he stays away, much of his days spent idly pacing his room like a wild animal. It is a relief so great he sobs when he is summoned once more to his lord’s bedchamber.

    He is bidden to undress and he does so, hands shaking. In bed, Sayeedi presses his cruel mouth to his throat and he lifts his chin, eyelashes trembling along his cheek. His joy is so great he feels he could drown in it.

    Habibi,” he murmurs and Alecsander’s heart skips a beat in his chest. “Do you love me above all others?”

    “Yes,” he says without hesitation. He has not been touched but his blood is already stirring, flesh aching with need.

    “Would you do anything for me?” His steady hand has found the erection between his thighs, is teasing it with blissful strokes of his palm. It is rapture.

    “Anything.” It was nearly a gasp.

    “Would you die if I commanded it?” His voice is playful, a rough purr of desire.

    “Gladly.” His heart is full to bursting.

    Sayeedi’s breath is hot on his throat. Alecsander is in an agony of anticipation.

    “That’s my good boy,” he says, and bites him. The pain is the white-hot scorch he has always imagined his own immolation in the fire of his lord would be.

    He takes his last breath and it is not spoiled by regret. He never knows how close he came to resurrection.
    --
    There are many names here. He has forgotten them all.
    --
    Fakhir

    He is old already when they meet, long past the age when many of their kind surrender to despair or ennui or simply the long slow burn of self-destruction that makes them incandescent, but only in the moment before they are extinguished completely.

    His age makes him dangerous, and she respects him. She thinks at first that he is bitingly clever. Later, however, the uncomfortable suggestion will slip into her head that his cunning is not intellect so much as it is the deep, primordial guile of a crocodile or the naked self-knowledge of a wolf.

    He is cruel. So is she. They take more than either of them need, the pleasure of his tongue licking the blood from her teeth enough to make her shiver. He scoffs at her witchcraft. His objections, as far as she can tell, are not that it is ineffective; only that it is unnecessary.

    Nevertheless, he avoids the doorways she has marked with thorns and blood, and his tongue is subdued on the days she smells of smoke and charred bones. She notices his fingers trace the embroidery of scars on the back of her hands without his seeming to know it.

    She has, if she applies it carefully, the power to alter memories - although the notion of cracking into his head makes her shudder at what she might find - and his power to hypnotize will, through bullying or coaxing or some devilish combination of the two, has startled her with its strength. Both are potent weapons against the other.

    It is only after she watches him softly cajole a man into killing his own hound that had irritated him with its barking that she vows to never be his. His ability to convince is too great, his need for control too overwhelming, and his cruelty too deep. She would become nothing more than a plaything. A hooded hawk in a gilded cage to kill on command.

    She is a killer. She is also a witch, and a woman, and the thought is too much to bear.

    So she leaves him. Without goodbye, so as to not tempt him into giving her reasons to stay. She is lonely soon after and makes a new companion, trickles the blood into her new lover’s mouth and allows the memories of him to fade.

    Every few decades, their paths cross again. He bears her no ill well, speaks to her as cordially as ever. She savours the hardness of his mouth, the desire he has never attempted to mask. Such trysts are better as rare delights.

    They met last in a house on the banks of a river even more ancient than they. There is a tension inside him that she does not fully understood. He has always been good at getting the answers he wanted, and his questions are casual, but she recognizes the pattern to his questions about her new lover.

    She leaves that night, and vows to stay away from him until he’s trapped himself a new pet. She will not be his hawk.
    --
    Fabien

    He is tied to a bed in a back-alley whorehouse when he first meets the man who will kill him.

    He did not know then that his death had walked in the door; but perhaps he ought to have guessed it from the glass shards of the man’s unnatural teeth or the eerie gleam of his clouded eyes.

    The man takes a seat. He says nothing. The boy, straining at rope-burnt wrists, speaks nervously, tries to find an opening.

    The man leans forward with interest and asks the boy’s name. And, like a fool who has never been taught the power of such things, the boy gives it to him.

    It is a mistake that will prove to be fatal.

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