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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/603366-Part-58--Dreams
Rated: XGC · Serial · Fantasy · #603366
Strange dreams abound following Djuta's disappearance...
DISCLAIMER: Nonconsensual scene(s). (Sort of.)


Note: Um...actually...this part didn't even NEED a rewrite. o_o As it turns out, it was pretty much complete as it was! All that has been changed are minor details--a new sentence here, a changed word there--followed by a proofread. Please enjoy this newly public version of Part 58 and be on the lookout for updates to the next parts!



FROM THE GREAT Red Tribe, two tribes departed; one heading north, the other northeast. The alliance of the River and Yellow Sands Tribes was no longer necessary, and the wearied soldiers were returning home.

Three of those from the Great Red Tribe accompanied them.

* * * * *


Khetai's gaze stayed fixed on the neck of her Sha the entire time she rode, not far behind Captain Fe'kheru. She hadn't quite understood what had happened back at home...but it didn't matter. She didn't even question why anymore. Lieutenant Djuta had sold her to the enemy captain, and had walked away without giving her a second glance. She couldn't believe he had done such a thing, with how he had treated her before...but she felt that she shouldn't have been surprised. He was, after all, a Kana just like the rest of them.

My brother has been the only Kana I could ever trust. Every single other one I have ever met...has always been exactly the same.

Why did I ever hope for it to be otherwise...


She didn't bother to pay much attention to the warriors who rode around her now. The one thing she'd noticed was that they didn't appear to be much interested in leering at her, as those from her home tribe had been. Some of them were drunk, and others were exhausted; aside from the occasional glance, they paid her no attention. She didn't care. For the most part, she was beyond feeling threatened, or even sorry for herself. The shock of Djuta's betrayal hadn't yet fully set in; she doubted it ever would. She had been turned upon so many times by those whom she had once tried to emulate, that she just gave up. Her wings drooped as if she were ashamed to carry them; she stared at the mane of her Sha as it ambled along, and paid no attention but to climb down and climb back up whenever they stopped.

Every night they came to a halt at a spot along the river to catch their sleep, a few of them alternating watches; Khetai would lie on her side staring out at the desert cliffs far in the distance. They reminded her of her old home, with the brother whose name and place she had taken. Would things have been better if he had lived, and she had stayed Moru? At least she would have been safe there, and she would have had him to rely upon...

Footsteps came up behind her now, and a moment later someone knelt down in front of her. The young Kana, the lieutenant to the captain, held out a plate of bread and dates. Khetai ignored it, not even twitching a nostril at the scent; her stomach was painfully empty after riding without eating for three days and nights, yet she didn't care. She barely saw the Kana frown, and he held the food more closely to her face.

"Come on," he whispered. "You have to eat sometime."

Khetai ignored him. Annoyance flitted across his face and his wings flared.

"If you don't eat, you'll grow sick."

Khetai ignored him.

"Meteri."

The Kana bit his lip and turned his head. Fe'kheru stood at the other side of the fire they had built, and shook his head at him. He rose, taking the plate with him as he walked away; they'd been through this for the previous two nights, so she could tell that he knew the plate would remain full whether he took it to her or not.

"Let her be," Fe'kheru said quietly when the lieutenant joined him, sitting down with a scowl on his face.

"She refuses to eat."

"She misses her home. She will eat when she feels like it."

"It's been nearly four days. She won't be able to ride much longer..."

Their conversation faded out and Khetai still stared across the desert. If she imagined, just enough, she could almost see her old home, and that of her brother, standing below the sheer cliff face, shimmering in the moonlight. For the first time in days, a change came to the dead expression that covered her face. Her eyes glistened and blurred and she lapsed into darkness, imagining that she ran back home to the arms of her brother.

* * * * *


Ze'thet was nearly falling off of her Sha. Every so often her head would jerk up and she'd gasp herself awake, blinking and yawning, then slowly drifting forward again. The few Kana who rode around her found it quite amusing, and more than once she heard them chuckling. When one rode a little too close she barked and snapped at him, making him nearly fall off of his own Sha. The chuckles erupted into laughter, though it was aimed at him now, not at her.

Fully awake now, she cast a furtive glance at the one who led them. The strange lieutenant who had bought her from Thekheni. He was certainly an odd Kana. It had partly healed, but his ear was still torn and mutilated where she'd bitten into it when he'd first brought her back to his bed; she knew no amount of fixing would make it right again. He also bore healing marks upon his cheek, where she'd clawed him; and various other slight injuries that she was also the cause of. He had yet to beat her for any of it though. She'd never been beaten by a Kana, as he was her first master, but she'd seen it happen to others. When she had last seen a Kana beating his slave she'd shown him what she thought by gashing him across the eye. That was what had led to her being locked in her box in the back of the tent. She rather felt that Thekheni had not punished her simply because he was afraid of her.

This one, however...she could tell he was not afraid. He wouldn't have done what he'd done back in his bed, if he were. She flushed a little on thinking of it. It had turned into a sort of game between the two of them, at least until they had left; he would try to hold her down, and she would try to maim him as best as she could, and he would somehow end up satisfied. He had yet to take her, either.

She could tell that anger, physical aggression, excited him sexually. Not fear...but fury. She'd seen the disappointment flit across his face when she'd first shown fear toward him...how he'd again seemed pleased the moment her rage returned. And even though she had nearly taken off his ear, she could swear that that had been the moment he had enjoyed the most. So every other time when he did the same thing, she reacted in the same way, by attacking him in every way she knew how. Except for when he was busy pleasuring her, at which times she decided to go along with him. She still didn't trust him, but neither was she much afraid of him anymore. At least she got to take her anger out on his face without any complaint.

He rode at the front now, accompanied by another lieutenant who had followed them from the Great Red Tribe. She didn't know his name, only knew that he'd sold a slave to the other tribe that had accompanied them, and now was coming along with them himself. An equally strange Kana, he was very taciturn, and spoke only when She'hekha spoke to him. And then only in sentences of a few words. He didn't seem to be friends at all with any of them, and rode rather apart and to the side, but the others ignored him. He would have been handsome if he knew how to smile, or at least leer.

By now she was too tired to bother listening in on any conversation that he and She'hekha might have had, and it was only when She'hekha turned and caught her yawning widely that he pulled on the reins of his Sha, bringing it to a halt.

"We'll camp here for the night. We should reach the tribe within the next four days."

Ze'thet sighed. Why did they have to live so far away? Still, she was grateful for the break, and slid down off of her Sha. Her forearms had been bound...more for the Kana's safety than for her own, she was sure...yet she still managed to make it to the ground without falling over. She yawned again and rubbed her eyes with her wrists, looking around. Already several of the Kana were setting up the tent that She'hekha would stay in; she saw him speak with the other lieutenant again, gesturing at the tent, but the other Kana shook his head and She'hekha shrugged. She'hekha turned and came toward her instead, offering a slight smile and again gesturing at the tent. Ze'thet looked at it. With four or five Kana setting it up it rose quickly, but she could tell it was in fact quite elaborate, the kind of tent meant for long stays outdoors. The air was already growing cooler, and she didn't much care to sleep in sight of the rest of the soldiers, who were setting up camp around a newly built fire; her face lit up. The other lieutenant busied himself unloading his Sha while She'hekha led her to the tent and inside.

It was much better inside than it was outside. Wooden poles supported the tent, canvas flaps separating rooms; a sturdy cot, almost a bed, had been set up at one end, with a small table and chairs in the main part. Oil lamps lit up the sides, lending everything a soft yellow glow. Already she could feel the difference between the air in here and the air outside, and would have rubbed her arms were she able. She'hekha dug around in a box and pulled out a jar of unguent, unstoppering it and rubbing a bit on his neck, then on his wing.

"And so you would prefer to sleep in here tonight, then?"

Ze'thet nodded. She made a face at the entryway when a burst of drunken laughter came from outside. She'hekha shrugged.

"I rather figured this much. Are you sore at all?"

She nodded again, but when he came toward her with the jar she bared her teeth. He offered another shrug and set the jar down, pulling out his dagger. He sliced the bonds off of her arms and gave her the jar, allowing her to rub the oil on her own neck. He turned toward the other side of the tent and started to remove his pectoral necklace.

"I suppose the scout will be reaching Nehara soon...barring any unfortunate sandstorms..."

Ze'thet tuned out his voice as he spoke, moving toward the tent flap. She pulled it aside to peer out, and made another face when she spotted two of the soldiers kneeling just beyond the ring of the firelight, where they thought they could not be seen, rutting quickly and heavily. Even if she could not have seen their silhouettes, she could certainly hear their heated groans and smell their musk. She jumped a little when She'hekha appeared, looking out over her shoulder, and he gave her a look and shrugged, mouth twitching.

"Another reason why I assumed you would rather sleep inside than outside." The two Kana fell heavily to the ground with an audible thud, their legs and arms still twining as their hips moved; She'hekha let loose the flap and it fell back into place, blocking out the sight but not quite blocking out the hurried grunting. Ze'thet felt her ears grow warm, and turned away from the entry as well, trying to shove the distasteful image from her mind. Unfortunately, he saw her before she could do so, and laughed.

"Forgive me if I insult you, but are you suddenly modest?"

Ze'thet gave an ugly growl. She'hekha went to sit on the cot and patted the spot beside him. She wrinkled her muzzle and refused to budge; so he stood and came back toward her, and had her slung over his shoulder before she even knew what he was doing. Ze'thet squawked in indignation and started beating on his back; he set her down on the cot and sat down beside her, keeping a tight grip on her arm so that she wouldn't go anywhere. She continued growling at him, her ears flaring back.

She'hekha shook a finger at her. "You should know, I am practical as well as a hedonist. You are not merely a plaything or a pastime; you will serve a purpose."

Ze'thet's growl died down somewhat and her look grew tense.

"I have allowed you to batter me about and for all intents and purposes play the male ever since I purchased you," She'hekha continued. "Sometime soon, our roles must change."

Ze'thet looked away from him, her ears folded back. Her claws dug into her knee and She'hekha noticed them, then arched a brow at her.

"You are iat'ah?"

Ze'thet's face flushed. She still refused to look at him, though her muzzle wrinkled again. Her master's mouth twitched.

"I apologize, then. I had merely assumed that a shrew like you would have browbeaten at least a male or two back in your own tribe..."

Ze'thet hissed and whirled around, slapping him across the face. The sound CRACKED throughout the tent, and she couldn't believe how loud it had been. She sucked in a breath when the lieutenant merely rubbed at his stinging cheek with a slightly sour look.

"Usually you use your claws...have I caught you at a bad time?"

Ze'thet felt her face growing hot again. Why was he embarrassing her so? She couldn't maintain eye contact no matter how much she wanted to. Unfortunately he put his hand beneath her jaw and forced her to look up again, and she hated that her vision blurred. He saw the tears gathering in her eyes and his own widened, then he let out an annoyed sigh.

"Don't tell me you are going to be frightened of me now..."

"Not of you," Ze'thet said, and nearly clapped her hands to her mouth. Her master was just as surprised. Aside from a few choice epithets she'd flung at him in the heat of anger, as well as plenty of insults and jeering, these were the first words she'd spoken to him sincerely. For some reason, she had just never felt like addressing him before. He cocked his head and waited for her to continue; when she didn't he spoke for her.

"And so you are afraid of...?"

Ze'thet said nothing, but she knew her face must be positively red by now. She'hekha apparently understood.

"You are afraid then of nesakh'ai." Ze'thet had to fight to keep from shrinking in on herself. "Have you never seen others having nesakh'ai? Are you truly that naive of it?"

"See a Kana bastard like yourself forcing himself on a female," Ze'thet replied, and She'hekha smirked.

"Well, I hardly think I have to force you to do anything. Considering that you are my slave and all."

Ze'thet bared her teeth and growled. The Kana lifted one shoulder nonchalantly.

"And so what are you going to do if I try? Bite off my other ear? What will you bite off after that, pray tell?"

Ze'thet's growl turned into an ugly snarl. "Your puny cock, bastard!"

She'hekha started laughing and she could tell her threats had again had an effect on him opposite of what she'd intended. She made the mistake of lunging at him while he was thus occupied, yanking the dagger from his belt and plunging it at his chest. He caught her wrists and held them back, though she was quite strong for a female. Ze'thet hissed and snarled in his face; he merely smirked back at her, and twisted her wrist so that she yelped in pain, the dagger clattering to the ground. Almost immediately he had succeeded in pushing her down on the cot, still pinning her wrists much as he had the first time they'd been together. He grinned down at her and she could hear already the quick hitch in his breath. Damn it all, she'd excited him again.

She gnashed her teeth and started wriggling. "You are a sick perverted ball-licker!"

"I have yet to lick anyone's balls," he returned. "I much prefer what your sort has to offer."

"In the afterlife I hope your whore has a cunt made of hyena teeth, dungball!"

He burst into laughter again. "Where did you learn our tongue? Because you could put any of my men to shame."

"I could also bite off all THEIR cocks!" Ze'thet snapped, but that just made him smile at her again.

"You have a thing for cocks, don't you? Your mouth is very gutterish for an iat'ahi. I do not think I would like you giving me hakh'tua with that thing, gods know where it's been."

"Just try it, feces-breath, and then what happened to your ear will feel like balm!"

"As much as I adore your words of love, little Moru, I'd rather hoped we could get something done. Perhaps you can whisper more sweet nothings afterward."

Ze'thet bared her teeth and started struggling even harder. She'hekha bent down to nuzzle at her neck and she hissed, considering taking a bite out of his other ear. The thing was, she felt perhaps she risked going too far this time; every Kana had his limit, why not this one? So instead of fighting further, she merely tensed up, her face frozen in a grimace. She tried not to shudder when she felt his hand move up her thigh--it wasn't as if they'd never been in bed together, and naked, at that, yet she knew what his intent was this time. His fingers touched the tender spot between her legs--he had never touched her there before, at least, not in quite this manner--and she bit off a startled sound, flushing. When he slipped one finger inside her she tensed again, not much liking the feeling.

"That hurts?" he said; she didn't answer him. She felt a second and third finger join the first and her expression of distaste grew. "Does that hurt?" He slid all four fingers into her as far as they would go, and only now did she feel a twinge of pain, yet didn't tell him. His nostrils flared and he withdrew all fingers but one.

"Well, my size at least shouldn't bother you..." Ze'thet gasped and her body jumped when a jolt coursed through her, then she fell back panting. She'hekha smirked.

"That was your thik'ahi. Care to feel that again? And then tell me you are not interested?"

Ze'thet bared her teeth. Unfortunately, he chose that moment to touch her again, and instead of snarling at him she ended up moaning. Although she didn't want it to, her body responded to his touch; she felt herself grow wet, her muscles trembling. Would the whole act feel like that? If so, she certainly wouldn't mind tolerating it, although she wished it were with her own choice of a mate. She nearly clamped her thighs shut upon his wrist; the feeling was driving her mad.

He pulled his finger away and she sank again, panting weakly. He still smirked at her; she was a bit disappointed that he didn't continue. As if reading her thoughts, he touched her again, and again she shivered; then he pulled away. Ze'thet's muzzle wrinkled in irritation.

"Will you stick it in or will you play with yourself all night?"

"I thought that I was playing with you," he said mildly, rubbing his finger over her thik'ahi and then pulling away. He did this a few more times, making her squirm in impatience; she flashed her teeth at him and dug her claws into the cot.

"Stop it! If you are too pussy to take a female there are plenty of men outside who can hump you!"

More laughter. He kept touching her and pulling his hand away until she finally snapped and swung up at his face, her fist slamming into his nose. His head swung to the side and she actually saw blood spurt. He blinked dazedly, just once; then he turned to her with a grin and a quick pant. He raked up her dress to bare her hips; although they'd seen each other naked already, still she flushed, and managed to punch him again, in the other side. He nearly fell off of her; shaking his head dizzily, he grabbed her wrists and held them down. She watched him pull up his kilt and yank off his loincloth, her breath catching when she saw how hard he was--and then she realized what she'd done wrong. She'd hit him. He'd wanted her to hit him.

"Sick cum-drinker!" He grinned and kissed her and she bit at his tongue, making him wince and jerk back. He grasped her thigh and Ze'thet knew she wouldn't be able to stave him off; but she could at least try to make it as unpleasant for him as she could. When he came down at her, his shaft thrusting toward her opening, she quickly raised her knee.

* * * * *


Djuta stared at the fire, seated beside the other Kana of the tribe; he had stayed off by himself for the first few nights, as he thought he sensed displeasure from the others at being invited along, an enemy among their kind. Then tonight out of boredom he'd decided to sit nearer to the fire; the raucous laughter and joking had abruptly died down when he'd stepped forward, but one of the other Kana had coughed and asked him to sit. He had...and eventually the conversation started up again, although he didn't take part in it. Instead he sat and stared at the fire, or out into the desert, toward the southwest. The other Kana of the tribe politely ignored him, as he'd expected they would. He didn't much care to talk anyway.

The Kana beside him was busy cooking a piece of meat on a stick when a loud "AAAGGHH!!" echoed through the camp. Everyone's head jerked up in surprise--Djuta's included--and a few glanced toward the tent just beyond the ring of light. A moment of complete silence passed, then the soldiers started guffawing loudly.

"He's at her again!" a Kana on the other side of the fire exclaimed, and they all laughed in return. Djuta's muscles untensed; he'd recognized the cry as She'hekha's, but hadn't been certain what was happening. The other men didn't seem to much care to find out. They resumed their chattering and drinking, though the topic of conversation of course changed.

"Why does he keep bothering? She's hardly the pleasant type!"

"You know how he is...he practically ejaculates when he's in battle, so why wouldn't he want a battle in the bed too!"

"You know he doesn't like it unless they fight back..."

"Maybe I should try to find me one like her. Only without teeth, thank the gods!"

"Do you think he'd be stupid enough to let her use her teeth? Ugh!"

"Not stupid enough, but addled enough in the head..."

Before they could continue their joking any further, another cry came from the tent, this one higher pitched. Djuta's ears quivered. The men fell briefly silent, then all started hooting and clanging their weapons against their armor.

"HE DID IT!" the Kana on the other side of the fire bellowed. They laughed and hooted even louder until the same voice shrieked from the tent.

"SHUT UP, SHITBALLS!!"

Abruptly the clamor ceased, the Kana all gawking at the tent and at each other with wide eyes. Then they laughed again, but not nearly as loudly as before.

"She'll come after us next!" somebody crowed. "Poor Lieutenant, I hope he at least makes it out alive!"

"Perhaps she'd best kill him, what with what she's likely to maim next! I doubt it will be his ear!"

"Vulgar idiots," the Kana next to Djuta muttered, though Djuta could tell that he was in a good humor as well. He pulled the meat off of the stick and looked it over before tearing it in two. Djuta stared when he held out a piece, raising his eyebrows.

"Don't tell me you don't like meat?"

Djuta took the proffered food and chewed on it a little. The other Kana gnawed on his half while the rest of them continued chattering, losing interest in the grunting and squealing noises coming from the tent.

Djuta finished eating the piece of meat, though in truth he was hardly hungry; as soon as it was gone the other Kana crossed his arm to his breast. He was surprised to realize that he was being saluted, and so hesitated saluting back. The other Kana's mouth twitched in what might have been a hint of a smile.

"Fa'rukha."

"Djuta," Djuta said, hoping that he understood correctly. Apparently he did, as the other Kana--Fa'rukha--smiled in return.

"Well, at least now I know you can speak. For a while I thought perhaps someone had cut out your tongue. I realize that meat was a little bit on the dry side; would you like something to wash it down?"

"I do not like drink."

Fa'rukha blinked, then grinned. "Well, that's a new one. A Kana who dislikes drink...perhaps that's why 'Hekha insisted on bringing you along, you can keep sober while everyone else is getting plastered."

This time Djuta blinked. Then against all of his reasoning the corners of his mouth turned up of their own volition, and Fa'rukha saw the smile. He laughed and stood up.

"I've managed now to get you to talk, and to grin. If you are not careful I will soon have you drinking your innards out."

He turned, thankfully, before he could see the look on Djuta's face, and walked away toward the other Kana, who were by now singing loudly and off key. He stooped beside one of them, and for a brief moment Djuta expected him to ask for nesakh'ai or ahi'akhta, as some of the other men had wandered off further into the desert and were thus engaged. Which was why he was a bit surprised when the sitting Kana simply nodded, and Fa'rukha stood again, stretching his wings and leaving the ring of Kana. He moved off toward the river, fiddling with his pectoral as he did so, so Djuta turned back to the fire.

His heart was beating a little bit faster and he didn't care to wonder why. Instead he poked at the tinder with his foot and huddled into himself, letting out a sigh. For some reason he'd liked talking to someone, however briefly...but he quickly reminded himself that he wasn't here to make friends. Making friends with these Kana could be dangerous.

With this warning in mind, he pushed himself off of the rock he sat on and looked about for a decent place to lie down. He leveled the earth a bit next to the boulder and spread out in its lee a pallet he'd made, stretching out and lying down upon it, using his arm as his pillow. Even though he expected the rather annoying cries from She'hekha's tent and from elsewhere in the desert to keep him awake, he drifted off almost immediately.

* * * * *


"Sweet one..."

Djuta blinked. The eyes that stared back into his own were loving, tender. Familiar. But not the ones that he'd expected. Captain Tas'hukh smiled at him, the same look that he had always given him when he was a slave. But he wasn't a slave anymore. He looked down at himself, and saw that instead of his Kana armor, he wore the clothing of a Moru. What was going on? How had this happened...?

He looked back up at Tas'hukh in confusion. "Where...how did I get here...?"

Tas'hukh's brow furrowed in worry. "You do not remember?" he said; and with these words Djuta suddenly did remember.

Swords were clashing. Spears hurtling, even arrows spinning through the air. Djuta was a good fighter. He had always bested Resikh when they competed, even though the other Kana had often given him difficulty. He knew Resikh had even trained harder, under Be'shen's guidance, just because of him. He wanted to win, just once. Still, Resikh had never been able to defeat him.

He'd never told Resikh that, likewise, because of him, he too had trained harder, fought harder, just to keep up the challenge.

This tribe which was attacking was the greatest challenge either had ever seen. Already both of them had been wounded, but not badly enough to keep them from the battle. They were winning--the enemy numbers thinning, the remainders of their forces started to retreat, away from them. One made the mistake of coming toward him, screaming and battle mad. Djuta raised his sword with a yell and brought it down toward his head.

Shhhkkk. Something sliced through the air, through space, through membrane; he had enough time to get out a gasp of surprise as pain lanced up his wing. At the same moment, as if hobbled, he lost his balance; crashing to the ground as if in slow motion, his wings flailed uselessly, and he could feel the piercing ragged tear running up through the skin. He'd seen torn wings before, but he'd never had any idea that it hurt so badly.

As he struck the ground he lifted his head, saw Resikh not too far away, dispatching another one of the enemy as easily as anything; he spun around on one heel, his eyes alighting on Djuta's, and their stares locked. Greater than the pain in his wing, Djuta now felt the pain of humiliation on looking up at his comrade and friend. He saw the horror in Resikh's eyes, as if his wings had shriveled and fallen off right before him, as if they no longer knew each other. He had to break the stare, and he remembered nothing more of the battle after that. Things faded.

There was more, afterward, but he remembered it little...he did know that the other Kana treated him well as he was taken away after the battle, although he was no longer one of them...

Feeling a fever...perhaps the wound had become infected, or some other...it was hot and dark, all around him...

Something cool brushing against his face--a cloth?--a hand?--and a soft voice, echoing somewhere far off above him.

"You will be safe, with me..."

And the darkness moved in.

He had known, even before this, how Captain Tas'hukh had felt about him. The way the older Kana sometimes looked at him couldn't easily be disguised. Djuta was just surprised by the depth of the agony he sometimes saw there. Tas'hukh never said a word of it, but neither could he hide the look in his eyes.

Yet now, in one instant, everything had changed drastically...for a week, perhaps more, he lay in a fever while the other Kana tended to him, refusing to let the physician see him, taking over the duties himself. Perhaps Djuta had been in shock. He quickly resigned himself to things though. Whenever Tas'hukh was not looking, he stretched and flexed his wing, biting down the pain, and knew that the wound was not as bad as the others had thought. But still he said nothing of it. He learned that the captain had bought him, bidding higher than the rest of the Kana though there had been many willing to bid. He knew Resikh would have likely bought him, if he'd been able. For some reason he was glad that he hadn't. More than the thought of being the slave of his captain, the thought of being the slave of his rival and friend was a horrendous one.

He had to wonder sometimes if Tas'hukh was pleased with this outcome, or simply happy that Djuta had gone to him rather than anyone else. He preferred to think of him more highly than that.

He hadn't objected to Tas'hukh caring for him. He hadn't objected to growing used to living under Tas'hukh's roof as one of his slaves, even though the captain kept him separate from the rest. He hadn't objected, either, the first time that Tas'hukh made love to him. A soft touch to the face, cool fingers trailing down his neck; he'd shut his eyes and felt a mouth lightly press to his own, the touch trembling in anticipation and fear of rejection. He could sense Tas'hukh's surprise the entire time that he unclothed and touched him, slowly lowering him to the bed. He hadn't expected Djuta to accept him, though accept him he had, pressing his head back into the pillows and taking in a breath when his master buried himself deeply inside him. They both sighed at once, before they began to move, swaying gently and slowly in the dimness. Djuta bent his knees up and shut his eyes, listening to Tas'hukh's heavy panting fanning over him; whenever he opened his eyes he could see the look in Tas'hukh's, as if the captain didn't even see him, but rather simply felt him, his eyes glazed and faraway, his mouth slightly open as he moved. Djuta knew Tas'hukh had thought of him often and gotten the same look, only now it was reality for him, for them both.

"Djuta," he whispered, and moaned softly. Djuta shut his eyes again. He had heard the name moaned with the same sound of desire before, only then from his comrade, while Djuta had taken him. Even while Tas'hukh moved, it was Resikh he saw in his mind.

"Djuta..."

Arms wrapped protectively around him. "You remember now?" He blinked himself back to the present, from a dream within a dream; Tas'hukh held him close as they stood beside the pool. The captain stroked his face and looked sadly into his eyes.

"I did not protect you...like I promised I would...you were not safe with me, after all."

Djuta's brow furrowed. "This was not your fault, Lord..."

"I still bear the blame. I failed you. When all I had ever hoped to do was make certain you were safe. You have never been a Moru to me. I kept you, because I always wanted you to be Kana..."


Djuta shut his eyes against the stinging that had formed in them. He sucked in a breath, only to choke, and sucked one in again; his chest hitched, and it was as if now that it had started, he could not stop it. Tears spilled out from underneath his eyelids and slid down his face, first in a trickle, then in a rush and then a torrent; he let out a strangled sound, and clung to Tas'hukh as if he were a child clinging to its mother. His claws dug into Tas'hukh's shoulders but the other Kana made not a sound. He stood and held him while Djuta broke down and sobbed.

* * * * *


Something touched his shoulder, nudged, then squeezed. Djuta whimpered, feeling Tas'hukh's arms fade away from him, just when he wished he could feel them most. He'd never noticed before how warm and protective the captain's embrace was; he'd taken it for granted until now. Tas'hukh's face vanished from his sight and he furrowed his brow, a whine rising in his throat; then his shoulder was shaken harder, and a voice spoke to him.

"Djuta."

Tas'hukh faded away entirely, and Djuta opened his eyes. A strange but familiar face stared back at him, its own brow furrowed in puzzlement. He couldn't remember this other Kana's name, in fact, had no idea what he was even doing here.

"You were having a dream," the other Kana said, and made a face. "If you'd moaned any louder you'd have awakened half the camp!"

Djuta blinked groggily and finally managed to push himself up. Fa'rukha. That was the Kana's name. "I apologize," he said dully; Fa'rukha gave him an odd look before snorting and standing upright.

"Well...not as if we can choose our dreams, is it. You can go back to sleep now so long as you try to keep the noise down."

"I don't believe I can sleep," Djuta said. He sat up against the rock and yawned, stretching his wings and settling them again. The strange dream had totally dispelled all thoughts of rest. He glanced around the camp, noticing that the rest of the Kana were lying about in various places, snoring loudly. "Why are you still awake? Did I wake you up?"

"No, this is merely my night to watch. You haven't watches in your tribe? If not then I pity you."

"Would you mind if I watched along with you?"

Fa'rukha blinked. Then he frowned slightly, and Djuta couldn't tell if it was from puzzlement or displeasure. "Well...very well. Just don't go screaming if you doze off."

Djuta nodded. Fa'rukha turned and went back to his post. Djuta waited a moment before following, sitting down a little ways away. The other Kana cast him a look, as if not wishing him to sit so close, and Djuta had to wonder if he'd mistaken the cues he'd been given before. He decided not to think about it. The two of them settled themselves in for the night, staring out in opposite directions.

About an hour or two before the dawn, a slight noise drew Djuta's attention, and he turned to see Fa'rukha's head bobbing. His ear twitched. The other Kana had dozed off, a slight snore escaping him. It was something that could give She'hekha reason to cut off his head or flay his wings, if he wished. Djuta considered waking him up, then thought again. Fa'rukha hadn't said it was his time to watch; he'd said it was his night. Did they keep one man up all night then? No wonder he'd dozed off...Djuta pulled himself up higher and started to scan the desert and the riverbed, taking over Fa'rukha's duty for him. There was little point in waking him up, when he could do the job just as well, and couldn't sleep anyway.

He moved to sit atop another rock then, and stretched his wings once more before settling his eyes on the desert.

* * * * *


"I forgive you, Lord."

Tas'hukh opened his eyes and stared ahead into the dimness. He held Ri'hus close to him, his arms around the younger Kana; Ri'hus breathed slowly and quietly, his head resting against Tas'hukh's breast. He wasn't the one who had spoken. So who had? His eyes scanned the room, and he nearly jumped up in shock when he spotted Djuta standing not too far away, his body glowing just slightly. Tas'hukh's eyes grew and he would have started shaking, if he hadn't been frozen already.

"Dj...Djuta...?" he whispered hoarsely. Something wasn't right...not only would Djuta never come to his rooms at night, but he wouldn't dress himself in the garb of a Moru, either. Yet Moru he appeared to be, even his blue lappets gone, replaced by undyed ones. He stared at Tas'hukh with his slightly glowing bronze eyes, his head tilted to the side, and Tas'hukh could have sworn that he'd seen a faint smile flit across his face.

"I know that you blame yourself...for everything that happened," he said softly. "I still forgive you."

Tas'hukh finally slipped his arms from around Ri'hus--the private simply sighed and snuggled into the bed--and sat up slowly, his hands shaking. He didn't know whether to be afraid or to welcome him.

"Djuta...what...what happened to you...?" he asked, confused.

Djuta frowned. "You do not remember?" he said, and like a flash, Tas'hukh did remember.

He remembered the stunned feeling he'd gotten, on hearing of Djuta's wound after the battle...Djuta couldn't be wounded. Anyone but him. He had always been one of the best fighters in the tribe; he couldn't be a Moru. It was impossible.

Yet the one he'd seen, with the torn wing...was indeed Djuta...and his heart broke on seeing him, kneeling on the ground with his armor removed and his head hanging. It had been their right, for his failure to protect himself, but none of the other Kana volunteered to maim his wings. They had even refused to remove his soldier's lappets, and he looked very strange and out of place there, halfway between warrior, halfway between slave.

A formal auction wasn't even held. The other Kana were bidding on him already, including Resikh, whom Tas'hukh knew loved him. He'd thus hated the anguished look in the younger Kana's eyes when he'd bid highest, an astonishing amount, even for an able Moru. His bid had silenced everyone else. He knew he could hardly afford it, but afford it he had, just to take Djuta back with him. He felt he had to do it, for some reason. He owed his soldier this.

Djuta had been in shock, or ill, or still reeling from his wound; he hadn't even seemed to realize where he was or what was happening. Tas'hukh dismissed the physician and servants and tended to him alone, in his own quarters. It was the least thing he could do.

His own desire had only grown, along the way. He tried to stave it off, but it was difficult. Yet when he had finally dared to touch him...Djuta hadn't drawn away. Tas'hukh, excited beyond measure, mated him in his bed...and though the other Apsiu seemed somewhat distant, he had also seemed to enjoy it. Had he felt the same way for Tas'hukh all along?

He could never bring himself to believe this, but at least they were together, and none of the other Kana could ever disturb him...though his vow to keep him safe had not held nearly well enough. The bastard Bakh'asu...not even of Tas'hukh's own house. How did he come to be there? Why did he pick Djuta, of all the slaves? Tas'hukh felt he had lost a part of Djuta to Bakh'asu, and it would never be regained. And this tormented him daily.

Djuta had apparently forgiven him, not long ago...but could he forgive himself...?

Tas'hukh tensed. His eyes were shut in reverie, and someone's arms were around him. He felt a touch against his face, and then Djuta's voice, soft as a whisper.

"I forgive you, Lord...I have never blamed you..."

Tas'hukh's brow furrowed as he felt his eyes burning. His throat grew tight and he blinked open his eyes, hoping to see Djuta's staring back at him, to touch him back, to beg for his forgiveness, even though it had readily been given. He suppressed a murmur of disappointment when he saw that the one who held him was not Djuta but Ri'hus. They were lying in his bed, the private's arms looped around him. He'd been dreaming.

Tas'hukh let out a heavy sigh. Ri'hus shifted and yawned, drawing back and rubbing his eyes. He blinked blearily at Tas'hukh a few times before the corners of his mouth twitched down.

"Lord...? Is something wrong?"

The captain looked at him, then forced a gentle smile. He caressed Ri'hus's cheek, and the private snuggled close, purring. "Nothing at all, sweet one...just a dream."

Ri'hus continued rubbing his eyes. "Oh. I dreamed also...but it was rather silly."

"Please, let me know what it was. I'll tell you whether it was silly or not."

Ri'hus flushed. Tas'hukh's spirits lifted a bit; his young Kana was adorable when he blushed. "Well...it is silly, Lord...I dreamed I was swordfighting, and doing rather well at it too...like I said, a silly dream."

Tas'hukh scratched his ear. "Nonsense. I know that you would do excellently with the sword if given the chance. However, I'd like to try you out with the bow first. I believe you would have much more ease this way."

"Well..."

"Who was it you were swordfighting against, anyway? Was he as well matched as you?"

Ri'hus flushed even harder. He sat up in the bed, then turned away and put his feet on the floor. His wings shrank close to his back and Tas'hukh sat up in some alarm.

"Sweet one--? If I said something insulting, I did not mean it..."

"This...this isn't it, Lord..." Ri'hus's wings shifted. "I just...don't really feel like talking about the rest of it. It was just a dream anyway." Tas'hukh let out his breath; at least the private was still talking to him. He reached out to take the young Kana's hand, and Ri'hus turned his head; he offered a small smile, and Tas'hukh smiled back. "Could I ask, Lord?" he said. "What did you dream of?"

Tas'hukh's smile vanished. He quickly replaced it before Ri'hus could grow too apprehensive, taking his other hand and pulling him toward himself. "It was nothing...as you would say, a silly dream. We have better things to do anyway than talk over silly dreams, do you agree?"

Once more the color rose in Ri'hus's cheeks, and he smiled and nodded. Tas'hukh laughed softly as he leapt up into the bed to huddle next to him, and he pulled a sheet over their heads as they started giggling and moving.

* * * * *


Light began to glimmer in the eastern sky. Djuta blinked his dry eyes and allowed himself to stretch his aching wings. He hadn't kept such a long watch since serving in Tas'hukh's army years ago.

Perhaps I am getting soft, he thought, and made a face. He stood up to stretch the rest of his limbs and the motion made Fa'rukha's head jerk up, his eyes popping open and a snort escaping him. The other Kana glanced around himself in confusion before bolting to his feet.

"What the--where--"

Djuta glanced at him, rubbing at his neck. "You'll wake the camp before they're due, if you keep yelling like that."

"Wake--?" Fa'rukha blinked at him a few times, then his wings flared. "You mean you let me fall asleep?"

Djuta lifted a shoulder. "You appeared to be tired."

Fa'rukha's voice came out in a hiss. "I was supposed to be keeping watch!"

"And you did a piss-poor job of it, which is why I sat watch instead, just so you could get some sleep." Djuta stretched his wings again. "You should advise She'hekha to set shifts of three or four hours each, not all night."

The other Kana's eyes grew. "YOU kept the watch?" he exclaimed. Then he cut himself off and glanced at the other slumbering soldiers. When he turned back, Djuta could see the apprehension on his face.

"Why did you not leave?" he demanded, keeping his voice low. "You could easily have left the camp, or more so, slit everyone's throats. She'hekha doesn't even keep any guards by his tent!"

"You show an abnormal amount of trust telling me all this."

Fa'rukha's muzzle wrinkled. "Yes? Well, you do the same by still being here!" He put his hand on the pommel of his sword, feeling it, as if amazed that it was still there. "You didn't even DISARM anyone! What sort of game are you playing--?" He frowned. "As if you truly came along to join the tribe? Why did you not cut my throat as I slept and follow suit with the rest?"

Djuta's ear twitched in annoyance. "Because you have a pretty throat, and it would have been a shame to ruin it," he snapped.

Fa'rukha gaped at him, mouth hanging open. After a moment or two he finally managed to drag it shut, his brow furrowing in an amusing expression. He gave Djuta a strange look.

"You..." He paused, his look growing even odder. "Are you sen'akha?"

"No," Djuta said; then, bizarrely enough, "Sometimes."

Another gawk. Then Fa'rukha burst into laughter. He guffawed so hard that he had to lean over to catch his breath, and a few Kana started sitting up and rubbing their eyes, grumbling at the noise. Djuta stood and endured their annoyed stares, waiting for Fa'rukha to regather himself. The other lieutenant started gasping for breath, wiping tears from his eyes.

"Sometimes," he said. "He says SOMETIMES he is sen'akha!" He chuckled again, crying and laughing at once. "Well, I don't know whether to feel flattered or to break your nose, but at least you are honest."

"You seem to have effectively awakened everyone in the camp, so I suppose you did your duty after all," Djuta said. "I will not inform She'hekha if you do not."

Fa'rukha continued wiping his eyes dry. "Ah," he murmured weakly, gasping for breath. "Very well...but...do you really think my throat is pretty?"

Djuta rolled his eyes. "If I said yes, then you would have to admit that at least for today, you are sen'akha." Fa'rukha stared at him for a moment before seeming to get the joke, and began to laugh again. Djuta turned away before he could end up slugging him. "I'll go awaken She'hekha-Kana, since you are too flustered to do so properly."

"You are the one who said my throat is pretty!" Fa'rukha fairly yelled, but Djuta was satisfied that at least several of the other men in the camp heard him, and gave him the appropriate looks.

* * * * *


Khetai lay on her side on the ground, staring southward. She hadn't even bothered to cover herself up; and so the young Kana had draped a blanket over her earlier in the night. She'd dreaded the coming of the dark--she found she always did, now--yet Fe'kheru's men seemed to be a strangely disciplined lot. The activities at night were only minimal; once in a while she would catch two of the soldiers making love, but for the most part they seemed more interested in sleeping. She kept her eye mainly on the captain and the young lieutenant, for reasons of her own.

She remembered the first tribe she had tried to join, after fleeing her brother's slaughtered tribe. They had not accepted her, but perhaps it was for the best. A captain and his lieutenant had met her at the gate and the lascivious stares they'd given her had almost convinced her that they knew she was female; it had taken everything she could stand to avoid running away from them. She'd had to endure those stares the entire time she talked with the general. At least he hadn't seemed particularly interested in her. He'd allowed her to stay in his household for the night, with the stipulation that she take her Moru and leave in the morning; the tribe was currently at odds with another, and running short on supplies, thus didn't have the space or goods to house yet another Kana. Khetai had taken her Moru to the Moru quarters and left them there, then went to her rooms with a sigh of relief. She would be forced to sleep in the desert yet again, taking turns keeping watch with the more trustworthy of her Moru, but at least she wouldn't have to deal with the strife here.

Unfortunately, she hadn't been able to sleep, as she'd hoped she would; noises in the room next to hers kept her awake. She'd found a hole in the wall, perhaps poked there on accident when the reliefs were carved, and peered in, having a good idea of what she would see, yet ending up surprised anyway. Surprised, because the two engaged in the next room were the captain and his lieutenant. The lieutenant, thin and almost gangly in build, stood with his knees locked but his shoulders and head lowered so that his claws dug into the bedclothes; the captain, taller than he was and sinewy in build, grasped his hips tightly enough to draw blood, and plunged into him rapidly. They had both removed every bit of their clothing, even their jewelry and skullcaps. They could very well have been two Moru rutting, for all that she knew. The way their buttocks quivered, chests heaving and eyes glazed and teeth bared, made her shiver in disgust. She didn't know why, but there was simply something about the two that she didn't like.

"You...saw...the way he looked at you?" the lieutenant, grasping at the bed, panted aloud, making her ears flick.

The captain leered and squeezed his hips. "Yes, I saw...he looked at you, too. I think he would make a pleasant diversion...pretty little thing that he is."

"I would almost say...he is a woman, he is so beautiful!...perhaps...perhaps we can seek him out whenever we are done...?"

A grunt. The lieutenant gasped and stiffened when his superior's buttocks clenched, tail standing out straight and quivering as he released his seed. They stayed locked together for a moment or two, then he leaned over the younger Kana to snuffle at his ear, and grinned.

"I hear he's right next door. We can pay him a little visit right now, in fact."

With that, Khetai had pulled away from the hole in horror. For whatever reason, they'd set their minds on her, and she couldn't risk revealing her identity. While they were busy parting from each other and smoothing themselves down, murmuring as they moved, she hurriedly gathered her few belongings from the room and rushed out into the hallway. She ran until she crossed another lieutenant guarding the end of the hall; she'd expected more trouble from him--as what did Kana do better than stick to their own?--and indeed, he'd questioned her insistently as to her purpose in fleeing down the hallway. She'd ended up having to tell him the truth--omitting, of course, the fact that she was not the Kana she passed herself off to be--yet was surprised when he'd merely rolled his eyes and stepped to the side.

"Those two again? Gods know why the general keeps them around...I think there's an empty room three doors down on the lefthand side; you can stay there the night. I'm afraid the gate will not open again until morning. If they try to set their feet here I'll jab my spear through them so they will have to walk like little old ladies."

Khetai quickly hid her surprise and thanked the Kana gratefully, heading off down the hall. She still had not been able to sleep in her new quarters, what with how tense she'd been...but at least she hadn't had to worry about being assaulted that night.

She wished she knew that lieutenant's name, or what had become of him. That was the first and last she'd ever seen of him and that tribe.

And so after meeting a captain and lieutenant such as those, she was wary around these two. One of the few times when she'd managed to sleep she'd had a ghastly dream in which the two of them, still musky and heated from nesakh'ai, came to her with leers on their faces, practically salivating. She'd awakened, thankfully, just as they had both started to slide inside of her. She hadn't even been able to move in the dream. She watched them every waking moment in case it happened to come true.

The relationship between these two, however, seemed to be nothing more than familial; she could tell they were not related by blood, though the younger one looked up to the older one as if he were his father. Likewise the captain treated the lieutenant almost as a son; aside from that, there was nothing unbecoming about their relationship, that she could tell. The other Kana traveling with them seemed to hold them in respect, but not fear; she sensed that they were not heavyhanded, at least.

Khetai snapped out of her thoughts with a gasp when a hand reached down toward her face. She shrank in on herself to see the younger Kana leaning over her. It was a moment or two more before she could make out the cup he held before her nose.

"Will you drink?" he asked, his voice slightly peevish. "At least?"

Khetai glared at him as harshly as she dared before reluctantly taking the cup. He let out a sigh and stood, turning away. She waited until then to take a sip, and the water burned her tongue with its coolness. Unable to stop, she downed the entire cup in a few swallows and wiped a hand across her mouth, wishing for more. It had been so long since she'd eaten or drunk anything. She noticed one of the other Kana rise and come her way, but it was only when he had come within a short distance of her that she recognized the captain, and shrank back a bit again. He knelt down carefully--she noticed that he smiled at her--and held out a small loaf of bread. Khetai eyed it for all of two seconds before snatching it from his hands and devouring it voraciously.

The Kana gave a gentle smile. "They told me your name is Khetai," he said in a soft voice. "He is Meteri, and I am Fe'kheru."

Khetai stared at him over the disappearing bread. Once it was gone he held out a slice of dried fish, and she grabbed that from him as well, gnawing on it like a dog gnawing on a bone. He watched her for a moment before speaking again.

"I hope that you will feel welcome within my tribe."

Khetai averted her eyes now, feeling them sting. She thought of Djuta, again of how he had refused to even look at her as she was taken away. She sensed Fe'kheru's puzzlement, then heard him sigh. He stood and fumbled with something at his side, reaching down to hand it to her. Khetai noticed that it was a waterskin, and took hold of it hurriedly, clasping it to herself. She pulled the stopper out and began guzzling down its contents fast enough to choke, sputtering and swallowing anew. She didn't care that half of it spilled down the front of her clothing, just as long as she slaked her thirst. Fe'kheru turned away without another word and left her in peace.

Khetai drank fully half of the skin before pulling it away from her mouth, wiping her lips dry. She stoppered it again and tucked it under her reed mat. Fe'kheru and the younger Kana--Meteri--stood by the fire, talking. For a brief moment she felt embarrassed, ashamed, that she'd ever had such a hideous dream about them. Then she reminded herself that they were the enemy, and nothing was beneath their actions.

With this thought in mind, she made certain to wait until they had gone off to bed before daring to doze again, herself.

* * * * *


Resikh sighed in his sleep and rolled over onto his back. He felt a hand lightly brush against his face and smiled, pressing his cheek into its palm. He recognized the scent of the one touching him, and opened his eyes, blinking lazily. He smiled again. Djuta, leaning over him, smiled back.

"Where's Rithukh'het?" Resikh asked, his head still foggy.

Djuta lifted a shoulder. "She sleeps. I hardly wish to bother her now, when she should get all the rest she can." He tilted his head at the limp form lying beside Resikh and his mouth twitched. "I see you have your own company now."

Resikh turned his head to look at Heth'anet. She looked as if she would never wake up. As he stared at her, however, she yawned and stretched, her long limbs going every which way before pulling in toward her again. She rubbed at one green eye before noticing Djuta hovering over the bed; she blinked a few times and stared up at him in puzzlement.

Djuta sat down on the edge of the bed, placing his hand on Resikh's knee. "I thought I should come to see you before..." He paused, then shrugged. "Simply come to see you. This is all. Did I wake you at an inopportune time?"

"Of course not." Resikh sat up, trying to disentangle his ankle from the coverings. Heth'anet held onto his arm. "Were you planning on going somewhere? It's not like you to pop in unannounced so late."

"This is the only place I planned to go." Djuta smiled at him again, then leaned forward to kiss him. Resikh tensed a little, his eyes wandering to look at Heth'anet. She sat right beside him, close enough to reach out and grab Djuta's ears if she wished. Instead she stared at the two of them with a mildly curious look. Djuta pulled back and Resikh flushed.

"Djuta...this is Heth'anet," he said, feeling that he should at least explain. "Lor...my father bought her for me."

Djuta glanced at Heth'anet as if just noticing her, and nodded. Heth'anet gave a small smile and moved a bit behind Resikh, as if suddenly shy. The other Kana turned back to Resikh and stroked his face.

"He chose well, didn't he?"

Resikh nodded. Djuta smiled, and kissed him again. He felt his heartbeat grow faster and had to fight down the giddiness that the touch caused. He turned his head slightly so Djuta ended up kissing his cheek.

"Brother...I'm not sure if this is the best time."

Djuta blinked. "I thought I had not come at the wrong time...?" He pulled back, then looked at Heth'anet, obviously sensing Resikh's embarrassment. His smile grew and he chucked Resikh under the chin.

"You are worried about her watching us? When did you get so timid?"

Resikh's ears felt warm. "It's just that..."

Djuta shrugged and his mouth twitched. "If you feel improper engaging in front of her, then simply ask her to join us. It's no big matter."

"Djuta!" Resikh barked, shocked that his friend would say such a thing. Aside from the fiasco with Ri'hus, Djuta had never asked him to involve a third party in their relations, and Resikh had never asked it to be done either. He looked at him hard to see if he joked or not; Djuta's eyes were amused, yet not joking. He glanced at Heth'anet with the intent of offering an apology for the rude remark, only to see that she didn't look the least bit offended. She seemed amused by his consternation as well. He gasped when Djuta moved closer to him on the bed, looping his arm about his own; he tensed again when the other Kana openly nuzzled at his neck. "You've honestly never considered...? Whenever I was with Rithukh'het, you were never once jealous?"

"I would never ask poor Rithukh'het to join us. What sort of Moru do you think she is? She would die of humiliation first!"

"Your mate doesn't look so inclined." Before Resikh could stop him, Djuta reached out and chucked Heth'anet under the chin as well. "I noticed you are rather oddly equipped...but you must be pleasing, if Res allows you into his bed. Are you too embarrassed? Would you like to be left out?"

"Djuta!" Resikh hissed. To his bewilderment, Heth'anet merely blushed and smiled, putting her hand to her mouth to still a giggle. She shook her head and Djuta gestured.

"You see? The problem is solved. You have to stop being so coy, Brother."

"Have you lost your mind?" Resikh grated, though he was surprised again to find that his heartbeat had picked up considerably. When with Heth'anet, he'd thought of being with Djuta...and now here they both were, at once. He tried to shake off the feeling and bared his teeth. "I think ever since the trial you've been a few inks short of a palette, Djuta."

Djuta laughed. "How long did it take you to come up with that one?" Before Resikh could retort, he found his mouth pressed against his friend's in a long, languorous kiss. The fur on the back of his neck prickled and he tensed abruptly when he felt the other Kana's hand running up his thigh. Djuta parted from him and smiled slightly.

"I don't even have to ask you how long it took you to come up with that one," he said in an amused voice, his hand trailing between Resikh's legs. Resikh tried not to pant but couldn't help it. When Djuta's fingers cupped his sac his eyes fluttered shut and he moaned. His own fingers twined around somebody else's--he realized that it must be Heth'anet--and he tipped back his head. The pleasure was such that it hurt.

He felt Djuta's weight upon the bed, then hands gently pushing him down. He didn't resist; a moment later they were kissing again, the Kana caressing his face. Resikh instinctively parted his legs, though they weren't doing anything yet. He shuddered with relief to feel those cool fingers trailing over his hot sheath, and felt himself begin to rise.

Djuta's mouth separated from his own. "And so how would this be most fun?" he said, as if musing out loud. A second pair of hands joined Djuta's, and Resikh tensed. "I suspect you would rather like to be in the middle of things, Brother."

Resikh could only whimper softly.

Heth'anet's hand trailed down his tight belly. "To need to get with pups," she said, in a practical tone. "So to be bottom?"

Djuta laughed. "Well, I suppose, if you wish any of this to serve an actual purpose aside from the obvious." He rubbed a knuckle against Resikh's chin. "Come now, Brother. You can't even hide it anymore, so why bother?"

Resikh finally managed to force his eyes open. They shifted to the side to look up at Heth'anet, who smiled down at him. "Heth...Heth'anet...?" he whispered huskily, hoping this wasn't a bad idea.

Heth'anet's smile merely grew. She touched his cheek and leaned down to kiss him lightly.

"To have a thoughtful friend. To have nesakh'ai now? To enjoy, yes?"

Resikh tried to make heads or tails of what she was saying before realizing that it didn't matter, and he nodded hazily. "Yes," he murmured, and then felt Djuta take his arms, lifting him upwards. Heth'anet placed her arm around his back to support him before drawing away. He opened his eyes again and turned his head to see her kneel beside him, parting her thighs. Her firm buttocks were practically before his face and he had to suppress the urge to lunge at her with his snout, her juices looked so inviting. She smiled at him over her shoulder and lifted her tail, swishing it from side to side. Resikh groaned and sank into Djuta's arms; the other Kana lifted him again and turned him about.

"Go on, Brother...this is what she's here for, isn't it?" He stroked Resikh's own buttock, making him flinch. "And I'll take care of you also."

This was all the incentive Resikh needed. Panting with a sudden burst of excitement, he got onto his knees and moved toward Heth'anet, grasping her hips. She spread herself wider and he gritted his teeth, waiting until he was fully hard to move forward. As he sank slowly but deeply into her yielding softness, he let out a long breath...only to suck in another, likewise feeling his own hips grasped, a hot hardness pressing inside. He sank over Heth'anet's back as Djuta pressed himself over him, their hips joined together in a sublime moment of pleasure; Resikh decided to start the tempo, sliding his hands down Heth'anet's groin to clutch at her sheath, taking hold of the hard length that already throbbed there. Heth'anet let out a soft sound somewhere between a sigh and a whimper, putting back her head; Resikh groaned quietly when Djuta kneaded his buttocks and started pushing.

Some part in the back of his mind still continued to go over just how bizarre this all was. Since when was Djuta interested in sharing him with another? Certainly, he'd hinted as much when Resikh had first met Ri'hus...but he'd obviously been out of his head at the time, considering what had happened afterward. His muscles tensed and all of these thoughts fled when Djuta ran a hand up his side, almost tickling him.

"You're concentrating too much, Brother. I thought you would enjoy this?"

So did I, Resikh thought, and this baffled him. He pushed into Heth'anet and shivered at the sound of her moans, and his body responded to the feeling of Djuta inside him...yet he couldn't seem to focus on the sensation. Something about this just didn't seem right.

He bit his tongue and kept his thoughts to himself, instead leaning over Heth'anet and licking at the scars on her back. She trembled and sighed deeply, and probably would have sunk to the bed had she not had to support the weight of the two Kana atop her. Resikh marveled at her strength and rubbed her velvety testicles, feeling Djuta reach between his own legs to do the same. His wings flared and he threw back his head with a groan. Djuta licked his neck.

"I told you you would grow to like it," he said, and from the glazed corner of his eye Resikh could see him grinning. It was a look Djuta had never gotten before. And for some reason that was what told him.

A dream--?

Resikh gasped and jerked against Heth'anet, making her gasp and stiffen. "Djuta," he exclaimed, abruptly, and before he could say anything else, the female vanished from underneath him, leaving only the bed--yet he didn't fall forward. He saw Djuta's expression change from that atypical leer to a tender look, his eyes softening; Resikh sucked in his breath when he felt the Kana's claws lightly trail across his cheek.

"Goodbye, Brother..."

"Djuta!" Resikh cried again; now the Kana vanished as well, and he felt himself falling backwards into darkness. Something soft struck his back and he gasped and opened his eyes, sitting upright and flinging aside the sheet that entangled his legs. He glanced around himself in utter confusion before things began to become clear.

Heth'anet slept beside him, curled up on her side. The sheet that Resikh had tossed aside was sticky and soaked; his shaft still throbbed out between his legs, seeping at the end. He sat still, panting and confused. Djuta was nowhere in sight; although he could have sworn that he could detect his scent, just faintly, he couldn't have been in the room. Heth'anet herself was dry; he hadn't made love to her for at least the past few hours. He looked down at himself as he began to soften and slip back into his sheath, but didn't have the sense of mind to feel embarrassed. He couldn't quite understand what he'd just seen.

That was just a dream then. Djuta would never act thus. Would he? Why did I dream that...?

Wiping a hand across his brow, he pulled his ankle free of the soiled sheet and swung his legs from the bed, getting to his feet. He stretched his wings and checked himself over before shakily pouring himself a cup of beer. He downed it in one swallow and immediately understood why Tefkha found the stuff so necessary. Wiping his mouth now, he looked back at the bed, and with a sigh went toward it to remove the dirtied sheet. The corner of it was underneath Heth'anet's leg, and when he pulled it free she shifted and yawned and rubbed at her eyes, squinting up at him.

"Lord...?" she murmured sleepily.

"It's all right, Heth'anet." He wadded up the sheet, feeling his ears growing warm; he was still completely naked, as was she. The Moru blinked a few times, saw the sheet, then smiled. She rested her head against the pillows.

"Master to have an accident?"

Resikh flushed. "Somewhat," he said, and stuffed the sheet into a vase. Heth'anet giggled softly and rolled over onto her back, stretching and arching. Resikh's heart sped up a bit to see both the soft sheath and the smooth slit between her legs, and he averted his eyes, focusing on fitting the sheet in the vase, out of sight. The Moru smiled at him and trailed her foot over the bed.

"Lord to have an accident in Heth'anet?"

Resikh blinked. Then he couldn't help but laugh, the comment was so unexpected. Heth'anet joined in, rolling over onto her belly now. Resikh rubbed at one eye, trying to gather himself.

"I'm sorry...not right now. Perhaps later. I have to go look for someone. You will be all right here, won't you?"

Heth'anet smiled and twined herself in the sheets. "To be waiting," she said. "Impatiently."

Resikh smiled. He moved to the bed and leaned down to kiss her, meaning to hit her cheek, but she turned her head and he got her mouth instead. She opened for him, and the feeling was such that he hesitated, savoring her taste before reluctantly drawing away. She continued smiling up at him with lust-glazed eyes and he touched her face. This time his own smile was a bit more forced.

"I'll be back soon. Try to get some rest."

Heth'anet nodded. He turned away as she snuggled herself back into the pillows, and sought some fresh clothing in one of the chests at the side of the room. He tied on a loincloth and a clean kilt, slipping on a pair of sandals and leaving the rest of his attire behind. He didn't have the time to get fully dressed. The dream had left him with a strange feeling, and he had to find the reason behind it. Only one person could give him that.

Resikh stepped out into the hall, closing the door behind him and vanishing into the dimness.

* * * * *


More rooms in the household stood empty now that the two enemy tribes were gone. Resikh walked down the hall as quietly as he could, toward Djuta's rooms. His heart beat faster the closer he got, and he fiddled with the edge of his kilt. It would be a bit embarrassing to relate the dream he'd had, but he had to figure out what it meant. Djuta, he felt, was the only one who could explain it.

He slowed, unease building in the back of his mind, when he saw that the door to Djuta's rooms stood open, a soft snuffling sound coming from inside. He stopped outside, hesitating, before peering within. The room was almost totally dark, the only light coming from the dawn outside; a drape had been pulled across the balcony window. A dark shape sat on the bed, hunched over and letting out the low snuffling sound he'd heard before. He frowned and stepped inside silently, wishing that he'd brought his sword, or at least a dagger. Only when he had crossed to the middle of the room could he tell what the shape was, and he reached out for an oil lamp, lighting it. Its golden glow flooded the room.

Rithukh'het lifted her head, her eyes red and puffy from crying. She sniffled when she saw him, then dropped her head again, rubbing at her eyes.

Resikh's unease grew. He approached the weeping Moru and knelt down in front of her, taking one pudgy hand. Her wet fingers clasped his and her shoulders shook.

"Rithukh'het?" he asked, perplexed. "What's bothering you? Why are you crying?"

"M--M--" Rithukh'het tried to speak, but could only hiccup. She sniffed loudly and wiped away some tears. "M-Master to leave yesterday evening, n-n-not to come back."

Resikh's brow furrowed. "You mean Djuta? He left you yesterday and hasn't come back yet?"

Rithukh'het nodded and hiccupped. "M-Master to never leave so long, without explanation," she said, then lifted her teary gaze to meet Resikh's. "L-Lord to find him? Tell him Moru miss him? To worry, when Master gone so long..."

"Of course," Resikh said, without thinking. He squeezed Rithukh'het's hand. "Of course I'll find him. Don't worry. I'm sure he's only been detained somewhere. You know how it is to be a Kana."

The Moru's look grew slightly hopeful, and Resikh smiled at her to ease her fears. She offered a watery smile and he touched her cheek before standing up.

"I'll go get him for you, all right?" he promised. "And I'll even thrash his tail for keeping you waiting. He should know better by now."

Rithukh'het's mouth opened in dismay and she clasped her hands together. "Oh! To not be too hard on Master!"

Resikh laughed. "Don't worry...he's a big boy. Besides, he has it coming to him. You stay here...and try to get some rest. You look like you've been awake all night."

Rithukh'het's eyes watered anew and she sniffled. "To worry about Master...to never be gone so late, so long. To know Djuta-Kana all right?"

"Of course he is. I'll go fetch him now. You wait here, and rest. When I'm done with him, then you may work him over, if you wish."

The Moru smiled once more and nodded. Resikh turned away and left her in the empty room, lifting his hand to wave at her before slipping out of the door. He hated the lonely look on her face...but he had to find Djuta. It wasn't like him at all to leave his mate alone for so long. What could have gotten into him?

He met Hiath'ikh standing guard in the hallway and questioned him about the missing Kana; the other lieutenant replied that he too had seen Djuta the previous evening, but not since then. "He appeared to be somewhat busy," Hiath'ikh added, then frowned. "He saluted me as if he intended on going somewhere. K'tasai had some odd things to say about him also."

"K'tasai?"

Hiath'ikh nodded. "He said Djuta was acting most strangely for himself...I didn't get the details. He should be somewhere on the grounds; perhaps you can ask him yourself."

It took a bit of searching before Resikh could locate K'tasai, as the captain was atop the city wall, where of course Resikh wouldn't have thought to look for him...he stood looking out over the training area of the Kana, and watched with a somewhat amused expression as Resikh came puffing up the ladder. By now the sun was rising and the heat was growing, and he had to brush a hand across his forehead more than once, panting by the time that he reached the other Kana.

"I assume you came just to see me?" K'tasai offered when Resikh reached him. "Is it something special? I can't think of what else would drag you out into this heat."

"It's...it's about Lord Djuta," Resikh panted. "Hiath'ikh told me you spoke with h-him yesterday."

The captain nodded. "Yes, that I did...he and I were both a bit too preoccupied to make for good conversation, however. As it turns out he only wanted a favor anyway."

"A favor?"

Another nod. K'tasai stretched his wings. "He asked me to take over some of his duties for the evening while he went to do something else. He did not say what. Only that it was important that he do it just then. He is not one to normally ask for favors." He gave Resikh a look. "Which is why I thought it best to oblige."

Resikh frowned. The more that he heard, the uneasier he grew. Djuta never abandoned his mates...nor his duties...nor did he ever ask anyone else to take over something that he was meant to do, if he could help it. "Have you any idea where he went afterwards?" he asked, hoping for a tiny bit of knowledge, but K'tasai just shook his head.

"He would not say. I feel it was important. This is all."

Resikh nodded. "Thank you, Lord." He turned and made his way back down the ladder, his mind so distant that he didn't even feel the heat this time. He was so preoccupied that he barely even remembered wandering back into Mahakhi's household and through the cool hallways, rubbing at the back of his neck as he went. Djuta was not acting like himself, not in the least. Which meant that something was amiss. And the only one who knew what was nowhere to be found.

"You will not find him here."

Resikh stopped abruptly, head spinning to the side. He was just heading past the Moru quarters, and on looking through the open doorway, he saw the human, Ameni, standing within, peering back out. He leaned against the doorjamb, meeting Resikh's stare; the Kana turned to face him, tilting his head a bit.

"What did you say--?"

"You're looking for Djuta-Kana," Ameni stated. When the lieutenant nodded, he said again, "You will not find him here."

Resikh's brow furrowed. "How do you know? Did he speak with you?"

Ameni shook his head. "No. I saw him, though."

"You did? Can you tell me where he went?"

"He's gone."

Resikh's ears flicked. The human's uncharacteristic evasiveness bothered him. Was there no one who would act like themselves today? "Where did he go?" he asked, feeling as if he were speaking to a three year old, and sensing a headache coming on.

Ameni simply stared back at him with that odd neutral look...but when he finally did speak, the words left Resikh reeling at their implications.

"Djuta has left the tribe."


Continue:

"Part 59: Strangers


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