Temple Boy [The Etsey Series 2]
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by Heidi Cullinan
Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy/Fantasy
Description: Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Etsey Series; Previous Book: The Seventh Veil
Though he's lived his whole life in a monastery, temple boy Aurel doesn't believe in God -- not until he wakes up knowing with stone-cold certainty God is dead. Then yet another god appears and he tells Aurel he's a god too, and that it's up to him to save the world.
Now giant stone beasts are running him down at mass, witches are dropping out of the sky, and a sad, headless man named Charles whispers to Aurel in his dreams. It isn't until a band of vengeful women warriors drag him into the desert and introduce Aurel to a lover of his own that he realizes how much not just his life but the lives of others are at stake. Whatever he does with his newfound power, be it taking Charles's place or finding a way to restore him, he'll have to do it soon, because the man who had Charles killed is looking for Aurel too. But while Aurel has always taken refuge in being a simple temple boy, he quickly learns all the power in the universe isn't worth anything unless he also believes in himself and his lover.
Publisher's Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: anal play/intercourse, dubious consent, menage (m/f/m with m/m content), rape, same sex practices (m/m, f/f), strong violence. Readers with a history of rape or sexual abuse may find elements of this story disturbing.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: November 2011
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [373 KB]
Reading time: 251-351 min.
The world is ruled by time.
Sitting on the white rocks littering a cliff, Charles Perry looked out over the Catalian Sea and turned a small blue ball over and over in his hands. Time. There were a lot of new concepts plaguing his mind since his life-altering trip back to Rothborne Parish three months ago, but "the world is ruled by time" was a concept that kept cropping up, and since his most recent bungle illustrated that so very painfully, it was worth revisiting the idea again. Because it would probably be a good thing if he didn't destroy the universe with a flan.
Ten minutes. The custard had been taking too long to set, and with nothing to do but think, Charles had realized how easy it would be to talk it into being done, and so he had. What harm could it do?
As it turned out, ten minutes could turn into a weird, tentacled thing and expand beyond mortal comprehension, especially if one were fool enough to shove it into the Void as if that magical dimension were some sort of cosmic garbage bin.
The world is ruled by time.
Charles stared down at his hands, watching the small blue ball of light glow softly against his palms. It was unexpectedly warm. In the Void it had been a monster, and it had made his sister, the mighty witch, scream in terror. Charles hadn't screamed--he'd just opened his arms and welcomed it home with a laugh. One of the few advantages, he supposed, of being a god. When you could see how the monsters were put together, they just weren't as frightening any longer.
But here in the world once more, as the author of this mess, it fell to Charles to correct it. Which meant he had to find this warm little ball of time a new home.
It was even bluer than the azure waters below him, bluer than the bright blue sea muted by white peaks and foam as it crashed upon the even whiter sandy shores. The ball was a blue that seemed to hum in the back of his mind, swirling gently inside the tender membrane that kept the chaos at bay.
This ruled the world, this strange blue stuff. In the Void it had grown and multiplied, for there was no time in the Void. It was like Catalian lace in Etsey; in its native land, it was a rare and beautiful flower. In Etsey it had nothing to check it and so became a weed that even now, four hundred years after its first introduction to the island, still threatened native grass--all this from one cutting's seed drifting into a meadow. So had it been for the ten minutes, and without limits, it had expanded to unimaginable size.
A moment of it could create a parallel universe. The barest scratch of a millisecond could alter the fabric of an entire world.
As the sea breeze kissed his face and ruffled his hair, Charles poked the bright blue ball hesitantly with his finger, watching the membrane dent briefly, sending the depths swirling into a new pattern around his intrusion. He made a soft chuff at the back of his throat and shook his head. Magic, he thought for the thousandth time, was a very strange beast. He lifted the ball and held it in front of his face as the new patterns fell into place. Time, it seemed, was even stranger.
The ball warmed hotter in his hand, and it called to him softly. It was trapped, condensed. It had tasted life. It wanted it back.
"Patience," Charles admonished it.
When he'd still been in the Void, he'd played with it. As he'd held the snarl of time, he'd had the fanciful thought that it looked like a nest of snakes. No sooner did Charles think this and the strange ropes of light grew heads, eyes, and mouths, and sharp, pointed teeth. There had been a lot of shouting then, and if Madeline hadn't coached him into thinking of something calmer and easier to contain, it might have been the strangest death of a god, ever.
"Damn your imagination," Madeline had said many hours later when they were both collapsed on her bed at their rented cottage. "I told you never to let your thoughts wander in the Void. It's bad enough for any novice, but you, Charles, create things."
Charles held his free hand in front his face and stared. The hand of a god.
He made a face and lowered his hand again.
The problem was that since the ten minutes had grown, now they could not simply, for example, go back into the flan. It was now so big it would create a Continent's worth of flan or make a single flan so dense it would sink through the center of the earth and make the world implode upon itself. Madeline had advised him to study it, to learn the weight and limits of it, and when he felt he had an appropriate understanding of it, she would help him turn it into something suitable.
As she'd gone off to weapons practice with Jonathan, she'd begged him to please, please not do any more new magic without discussing it with her first. Charles had sheepishly agreed and gone off to the cliffs to think. He was still here, many hours later. But he'd stopped thinking about possibilities of the time ball a long time ago, pardon the pun, because the first idea his mind had come up with had been so consuming he hadn't been able to dwell on anything else, only the ways to execute the plan.
Because he couldn't stop thinking that maybe, just maybe, he could use the time ball to bring Timothy back.
The thought had started innocently enough. He'd been thinking what a strange dish flan was, like the custards he knew from home in Etsey and yet not like them at all. He'd realized Timothy had likely grown up with flan, and then the familiar sorrow had returned, reminding him that had things been different, had he been stronger or smarter or something, Timothy could be with him now.
It wasn't fair that Timothy was gone. It wasn't right. They'd been lovers for a matter of days, and then there had been all that nonsense with the demons and the witches...and then they'd both found out they were gods. Shouldn't that have meant they had power? Shouldn't that have meant they could do whatever they wanted?
Why in the name of the Goddess had it meant Timothy had to be broken into a thousand pieces and turned into little more than an echo for Charles to chase down and try--with no idea how to do so--to restore him?
It all had made Charles feel so impotent and full of rage--and then the idea had dawned like a sunrise in his mind. He had a ball of time big enough to spawn a universe.
Could it bring back a man?
The ball twinkled at him. Go ahead and try, it seemed to say.
Charles skimmed his thumb across the swirling surface of the ball. Could the ball of time be a man? Easily. A man, a woman, a bit of both--truthfully, it would likely need to be a large group of people. Could it bring back a man, as in, bring a man back to life from death? Yes. As with so much of his power, Charles could see what he could do without understanding exactly why, could know his potential without understanding all that potential contained. It led him constantly into trouble, as with the flan. Whenever he recovered from his bungle, it all seemed obvious how he'd been ridiculous, but in the moment of action, it was always so easy and clear. There seemed no reason not to try out the ideas dancing in his mind. Bringing back Timothy was tricky, and so it warranted a great deal of examination. Tempting as it was to act on impulse, he wouldn't risk it without Madeline. Not for this.
He stared hard at the ball, relaxing his mind to let the deep knowing inside him rise forth and whisper. Could this ball of time be a man? Could it?
Yes, the knowing whispered. But not that man.
It was the same answer Charles had received every time he'd tried to find a new way. The ball of time had a lot of power. But then so did Timothy. And that must be accounted for.
He turned away from the ball, refusing to let its siren call reach his ears, and set his teeth against the ache rising inside him. It was the same problem they kept running into, he and Madeline, as they tried to construe magical theorems as to how Timothy could be brought back. It was why, Madeline said, they would need the shards and the veils: the magical pieces the Goddess had strewn across the world to rescue her lover. The Goddess had rescued him three months ago. All he wanted to do now was return the favor.
But how would they find pieces of the Goddess? What did they look like? Where exactly would they hide? Jonathan had been convinced the place to look was Catal, in the country where Timothy had been born, but so far all they had found was ruin and death and dust.
Charles opened his eyes again and stared blearily down at the blue ball of time. So many uncertainties, many of them full of despair and darkness. If they did find a shard, would it give them Timothy, or just another version of the Goddess? Would he have to be reborn completely, leaving Charles to lust after a toddler?
Would Timothy remember Charles? Or would he love alone in vain?
Charles didn't know. He didn't know the answers to any of his questions. He didn't know how to find Timothy or the Lady or even a decent pint of ale in the ruined coastal cities of Catal. He didn't know anything. He couldn't do anything. Any efforts he made to save his lost love were like this stupid ball of time: accidental, unexplained, and potentially catastrophic. They would never find so much as one piece of the Lady, not at the rate they were going. They knew nothing, they had nothing, and nothing was changing.
Perhaps it was time to face the truth: Timothy was gone. Forever.
Charles's thumb brushed against the bright blue pulse, his vision blurring.
Timothy is gone forever. But I have ten minutes of spare time sitting in my hand.
The ball began to throb, shifting back and forth to display its eagerness. Yes, yes. Use me. Make me something. Anything.
Could he use the ball to go back in time? That took a lot of energy, he knew, and he had the feeling it would leave the ball as nothing more than what he'd pulled out: ten minutes. It was hardly any time at all, just enough to tease--but if it was the choice of that or nothing, was there even a choice at all? He could go back. He could find Timothy and see him again.
And if he had more time--if he took ten minutes out of something else, if he withdrew more time and let it expand further, if he did this over and over again, he could keep going back forever.
Perhaps he could keep Timothy from dying, if he thought hard enough.
But what would happen to the world if he went back in time? What if he changed the wrong thing? What if he hurt people? What would happen to him if he manipulated himself out of existence?
Did he care?
Charles lifted the ball of time and held it in front of his face. It didn't have consciousness, but it had desire. It wanted to live. It wanted to be anything and everything, and it had no preference if this was a life of love or pain, if it was an existence as a rock that did nothing more but be worn away by wind and water, or if it were an insect living long enough to be eaten by a bird. And he could put it anywhere. It could be anything. Anyone.
But maybe, maybe, if he kept studying it, he could find a way for it to be a version of Timothy. If only he could stop the voice in the back of his head that kept shouting at him that this was a terrible idea, he might get it done.
Charles looked down at the ball and sighed.
"I am a very bad god," he told it.
It winked eagerly back at him, indifferent to his declaration. It was almost as if he could hear it speaking in his head. Make me. Use me. Give me life!
"No. Not yet." Charles tucked the time ball into his pocket. "Not until I'm sure."
Sure of what, though, he couldn't quite say.
The ball trembled, eagerness spilling into anger. Charles pressed against it absently, though he blinked when a small streak of light flashed out from the depths of his pocket and up into the painted sky. This time when it spoke, he truly did hear it.
"Make me! Give me life!"
Charles opened the pocket and glared down at the ball. "Patience."
He knew a bit of pride as what Madeline called "the God voice" crept into his tone. He sighed in relief as the tone seemed, at last, to work. Shutting the pocket, he returned to his woeful musings.
The sun was starting to set, and Madeline and Jonathan would be back soon. He would tell Madeline what he had discovered, and he would let her advise him about the ball. He would not spin it into a life, and he would not go back to see Timothy. Not without telling her.
Maybe I should just die and put this farce to rest, he thought bitterly, and not for the first time.
"Yes," said an unfamiliar voice from behind him. "Perhaps you should."
A brown-skinned man dressed in a white shirt and pants stood on a high rock, staring down at Charles. He had bare feet, which should have been bloody after climbing over these razors, but in fact not his feet nor anything else on his person was so much as mussed.
He smiled down at Charles with equally perfect dispassion.
He looked weirdly familiar.
"Do I know you?" Charles asked.
The stranger's smile tipped crookedly. Damn and blast, but there was something about him. Something drawing Charles in.
"Who I am will take some time to explain," the stranger replied at last.
"I have plenty of time. Plus a bit extra, in fact." Charles gestured to the space beside him. "Come, sir. Have a seat, and we will tell each other stories."
For a moment the stranger's face went oddly flat and unreadable. But it must have been a trick of the light, for then the smile was back, wide and bright, white teeth against beautiful skin the color of the flan with which Charles had nearly destroyed the world.
"I'd love nothing more," the stranger said, continuing to make his way down the rocks toward Charles.
It wasn't until the man looked away, glancing at something over his shoulder on the other side of the hill beyond, that Charles realized the stranger's opening piece of conversation had been in response to a private thought. Which in Charles's world wasn't even novel any longer. But he realized too what it was that he had thought: that perhaps the world would be better off if he were dead.
The stranger turned back to Charles once more, but this time there was nothing but malevolence in his smile. With sinking dread, Charles realized why the man seemed so familiar.
He was androghenie, a magical child of the Lord and Lady. Charles's own son stood before him. Looking very much as if he'd like to murder dear old dad.
"Shit," Charles whispered, backed up against a large rock, and reached into his pocket to clutch desperately at the pulsing, eager ball of potential time.