Fire and Fate
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by C.J. Black
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Fantasy
Description: Lad has always feared fire. Secrets surround the fateful night assassins used it as a weapon to rob him of his parents and his true name. The scars left on his body and soul forced Lad into a lonely existence. He roams the countryside as a sword for hire, never feeling safe, never settling down. While on a mission, Lad meets Jai, a dark and mysterious warrior with his own secrets. Jai ignites a very different fire in Lad and the young man knows a new type of fear. Will Lad allow himself to succumb?
eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: May 2010
13 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [43 KB]
Reading time: 24-34 min.
The blade glistens, reflecting red-gold from the fire light as it cleaves flesh and bone. He is always victorious, defeating his enemies with ease, earning the gratitude of those he served. He has saved lives and protected people's belongings, yet somehow, it holds no meaning anymore.
* * * *
Lad entered the temple, pushing past a group of mercenaries on their way out. Despite the fact that they were within a holy place, they were drunk, but that never mattered to them. Sometimes they came for the same reason he did--to find work and to pursue those who committed crimes against the temple's followers. The priests never turned them away. At least Lad tried to show some respect, although he had a feeling if the priests knew all his secrets, they would look at him with scorn.
His steps led him down the sparsely decorated halls, past robed acolytes and statues depicting the images of the various gods worshipped. At the very rear of the temple were the offices where the priests conducted their business, ranging from acts of charity to ministering to the sick.
He stepped before an open door and saw the old priest seated behind his desk, busily scribbling on paper with a pen. Lad knocked on the doorframe. "Hello, Father Dralin."
He looked up with a smile. "Well, if it isn't Lad. I trust your mission was successful?"
"Yes. The murderer is dead."
The priest sighed and nodded in resignation. "I'm not surprised you were forced to kill him. Very well, if you have the necessary paperwork, we'll close this case, and I'll see to your payment."
"Yes, sir." Lad removed the backpack he wore and reached within, presenting the sheath of documents to the old priest.
Dralin returned to his desk. "So where will you go now?"
"South," Lad said. "Winter is coming on, and I have several jobs."
"Lad, I've been meaning to ask you." The priest seemed to be choosing his words carefully. "Why not stay here and join the ranks of our protectors?"
Lad moistened his lips. It was not the first time he'd received such an offer. "No, thank you."
"Won't you even consider it? You've been wandering the countryside for so long, haven't you? You need a home, a place to settle down, raise a family."
"No, thank you," Lad said again, placing a small amount of force in his voice. He'd had a home, and he'd lost it.
Father Dralin released a breath. "Very well." He handed Lad a burlap envelope within which he knew was his payment--a combination of paper script and gold since the new paper currency wasn't yet accepted in all the provinces. "If you change your mind..."
Lad managed a smile but knew it probably resembled more of a grimace. "I'll see you next spring."
"I'll look for you," Dralin said. "And look out for yourself."
* * * *
He was called Lad, although that wasn't his real name. He didn't know his real name. He was certain he had one. He just didn't remember it. The man who saved his life, who cared for him until his death always called him lad.
"Now, lad, I'm going to show you how to use a sword."
"Come along, lad, we have work to do."
"This is what we do for a living, lad. We find criminals and bring 'em in."
He supposed the old hunter could have given him a name, but he'd never bothered, and Lad didn't find any name that he felt suited him.
The hunter was called Noth, or at least that's what the villagers called him. Lad had lived with Noth until he was seventeen summers and then...
Lad strode down the dirt road towards the ramshackle hut he shared with Noth. He'd been away longer than he intended. When he returned to the village, the people went out of their way to avoid him, never quite looking into his eyes or hurrying through their business transactions with him. He was worried now, since no one asked how he was doing or if he'd been home to see Noth. Lad lengthened his stride until he was running. The air was filled with the scent of old smoke and the loam of the earth.
As he rounded the bend, he saw it.
His home was gone. All that remained was a few blackened timbers, the structure ravaged by fire
Lad fell to his knees as he hugged his arms to his chest. His stomach churned as his chest shuddered with dry sobs. Fire. Lad feared fire. No, it was more than fear -- he was terrified of it. To him, fire was death--a monster with glowing eyes that roared terribly and drowned out his own screaming voice
Lad shook his head as he walked, hoping to banish the memories. Of course, they never left him.
He'd searched through the charred remains of his home hoping that Noth was out somewhere, perhaps injured, but even as he searched he knew. The villagers had told him without words that the only father he had ever known was dead.
Lad left the village that same night. Until then, he thought of it as home. Now, he had no home. For five years he'd wandered the lands, taking jobs as he could. To him, home was a myth. Something others had that he obviously didn't deserve.
* * * *
The pretty serving girl set down the plate and the cup of wine. Her smile was inviting, but it only made Lad sigh inwardly. He tired of having to explain himself to women. He'd taken a long time to come to terms with his sexual preferences. Noth had told him what he knew about men loving men, and Lad supposed it was enough.
But Noth had warned him, "Ya probably don't want ta go gossipin' about the fact that ya like men. Some people don't take too kindly to it."
Lad took a sip of the beer before digging into the succulent roast beef and potatoes. The inn was one he frequented when he was in this town and knew he was in for a lengthy stay. He'd been hired by the town officials to find a thief who had stolen some rare artifacts of the local temple, and to find and return said artifacts. Lad doubted the thief was still in the area, but he'd been told where the thief might be hiding.
There were ruins outside of the city, remnants of a long forgotten ancient civilization. The place was supposed to be cursed, but Lad seldom paid attention to such rumors. He was familiar with magic and had dealt with magic workers in the past who told him that such "curses" usually dissipated over time or with the death of the caster. Curses were also usually tailored to either one person or a family and descendants, and despite popular belief, had no power over a random stranger.
Tomorrow Lad planned to travel to the ruins, see what he could find, and go from there. He didn't go out at night if he could avoid it because it would necessitate lighting a fire. Even on the coldest and darkest nights, Lad was incapable of bringing fire to life. When he was forced to travel at night, he usually paid for a mage torch--light captured in a glass globe and set atop a staff.
With that settled, Lad went about enjoying his meal...until he had the unmistakable sense of eyes on him.
He raised his head, his gaze traveling across the room. He examined each patron for a brief moment to determine who might prove to be a threat. In a short time, he found the source of his discomfort.
The man sat at the far corner of the room near the massive fireplace. Lad immediately envied the fellow's ability to be so near fire. He wasn't entirely handsome, for his face possessed many angular lines and an aquiline nose. His hair had the appearance of being hacked off with a knife, much like Lad's, except it was dark, almost black. His eyes were dark as well. Fathomless, as Lad had heard such a color described in romantic ballads. Lad thought such tales were ridiculous.
He made no attempt to hide his scrutiny. The dark-haired man raised a cup to his lips and continued to regard Lad over the rim. There was a sense of familiarity about him that made Lad squirm in his chair. Confrontations were common in his line of work, and it wasn't a stretch that this was an old vendetta coming back to haunt him.
The man's lips lifted in a slight smile, and the simple action sent a ripple of awareness through Lad that he hadn't experienced in quite a few years. It was uncanny. Lad furrowed his brow and narrowed his eyes, sending a clear warning. The man continued to look, obviously enjoying what he saw.
There was a connection between him and this stranger, an arc of fire linking them and filling Lad with heat. The man nodded slightly, his eyes filled, it seemed, with knowledge of what was in Lad's heart. Moreover, if Lad didn't know it was impossible, he would have sworn that he heard a whisper in the back of his mind.
You belong to me.