What if things had happened differently? – The first snowfall of the year.
Sesha Liatos, archmage of the warlord’s domain, peered down from one of the grand citadel’s open balconies. His gaze coolly scanned the dingy hovels clustered up against the stone walls, like refugees huddling together for warmth. They certainly needed it today.
Snow was piled high in the narrow alleys that served as streets and weighed heavily on thin roofs. The white blanket spread out as far as the eye could see, likely making travel difficult. Spindly columns of smoke rose out of rickety chimneys, the families inside no doubt trying to fight back the chill.
The year’s first snowfall had come in with a vengeance, as if the aura of Darkhaven itself influenced the surrounding weather, drawing it in like a beacon. With the recent regime change he would not have been all that surprised. The air was bitterly cold, and he pulled his fur-lined cloak closer around himself. He himself had little to worry about, safe and warm when he was in his tower, or curled under the covers of his lover’s bed.
Down below, the peasants were busy trying to clear the snowbanks that had formed between their sad houses. Snow didn’t excuse them from work. Each had a task to help feed the machine, and they would need to work even harder now that the lean times were here.
He watched impassively as a pair of children, a boy and a girl, worked beside what he assumed were their parents, shoveling snow. The boy stopped, wiping his brow, and happened to look up and caught sight of him. He pulled on the girl’s arm until she, too, stopped and looked up. They were rake thin, which wasn’t usual among their kind, and even from here he could see a sort of haunted look in their eyes.
They stared at him. He couldn’t blame them.
He stood out like a splash of brightness against the stone. The weak winter light didn’t diminish his color, or dull the jewels he wore. His wings dripped with rubies, amber, and pearls, points of cold fire running through the feathers. He’d taken to wearing more than ever these days, until he looked more like a bird of paradise than the common ravens his wings resembled. His clothes matched, rich red trimmed in gold, that draped behind him.
It was all heavy, and restrictive, but he minded less and less these days. His love preferred him this way, beautiful to the eye. The other man often hinted of just how much he loved him draped in finery, so he always tried to look his best.
He wanted Domerin to be happy with him.
Just as he was starting to feel impatience with the children’s gaze their parents saw what they were looking at and quickly pulled them away and out of sight. None of them would risk rousing his wrath, no more than they would risk angering their ruler.
He felt a presence behind him. Arms went around his middle, and lips lightly brushed his neck.
“I thought I might find you out here, Sesha.” Domerin’s tone was light, no doubt pleased to have found him. “Watching the rabble dig themselves out of the snow?”
In the past he would have balked and pulled away from the man, but instead he relaxed. The former general alone had such skill to sneak up on him, and he did so often. Without even thinking he pressed himself back against the man’s hard chest, welcoming the added warmth.
“Yes. They’re having quite the time of it.”
“They think the cold gives them a pass to be lazy. I’ve already informed them that I expect the roads to be cleared by noonday.”
No wonder they were working so hard. There would be hell to pay if the warlord himself was unhappy.
Thinking to distract his mind from the people below he turned so he could look up at the other man, slipping his arms up to his shoulders, though he made no move to extract himself from his arms.
“Were you playing with your toys last night?”
“I was. You’re not jealous are you, Sesha?” The man asked, a gentle hint of reproach in his voice. “Green does not suit a jewel such as yourself.”
“I’m not jealous,” he quickly replied. “I just-”
Sesha felt his face flush. He might have been embarassed to admit it, but the other man had always been able to read him so well.
“Yes. I did miss you, Domerin.”
A smile touched the other man’s lips, a genuine one, though there was something almost possessive about it. It sent a pleasent, tingling feeling down his spine.
“There are so many more demands on me now that I’m warlord. You understand that.”
Domerin lifted his hand, gently brushing his cheek. “Don’t forget, my darling, that you sit at my right hand, above all others. And, I know how busy you are. Far be it from me to impose on you every night, right?”
The other man was indeed busy. He softened, the words soothing him, and he smiled. It was hardly fair to try and hoard the other man all to himself.
“Yes, you’re right, of course. Just don’t work yourself too hard.”
“I would never. Besides, I can’t stay long away from your beautiful face.”
Sesha felt his cheeks heat to the praise and he couldn’t help but preen a bit, which drew a pleased smile from his companion.
“Speaking of, I have a gift for you, my lovely. Down in the dungeon I’ve got another seditious lieutenant I recently rooted out. It seems the plots against me aren’t fully spent yet. His screams have been lovely. You really should join me tonight.”
Sesha hesitated. He wasn’t all that keen on that part of Domerin’s play, always feeling off base after each time the other man talked him into joining him down there.
Perhaps sensing the reluctance, Domerin ran his hand up and down his back, causing him to shiver when the touch slid between his wings. He leaned in and whispered, breath hot against his ear.”I’ll be done with him tonight. He’ll be yours, then. I’m sure he’ll taste wonderfully. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
Sesha couldn’t help but shiver again at the thought of it. The first time they’d let his demon feed on a living person he’d been hesitant. But it had felt so very good, and the power had been indescribable. He’d felt practically drunk on it, and the night they’d spent together after had been earth shaking. Domerin had given him such a gift in the act. As horrible as the screams had been he couldn’t help but feel desire rising inside of him.
“I admit… I feel the hunger.”
“I can see it in your eyes. We don’t want you getting hungry now, do we?”
Sesha shook his head, almost on autopilot.
“And just think,” Domerin whispered, tightening the hold he had on him for a moment, drawing the mage firmly against body, “we’ll have all night together to celebrate.”
“I would like that very much.” The words had left his lips before he’d even realized he’d said them.
“That’s wonderful! Come to me at sundown. I’ll have dinner waiting.”
“I’ll be there.”
“I cannot wait. But you should come inside, darling, you’ll catch your death out here.” Domerin drew back a bit and took up his hands, lightly rubbing them as if he could massage warmth into his chilled fingers.
“I will soon, I promise. I only wish to watch a bit longer.”
The other man looked as if he wanted to say more, but for the moment relented.
“As you wish, but don’t be overlong.”
Domerin ran his fingers along the pale skin of his hand, his touch brushing over the ring set with rubies that Sesha no longer ever took off. It was a symbol, a promise, and as the warlord gently turned the ring on his finger Sesha couldn’t help the pleasant flutter that went through him that had nothing to do with the cold.
He wasn’t sure exactly when his mix of utter frustration and desire for the man had morphed into something different. Perhaps when he’d given him the ring and asked him to sit at his side, solidifying something he’d yearned for. For years he’d never been able to get his feelings straight for Domerin Lorcasf, but now he looked at him with adoration.
True, there were times when he still balked at something asked of him, but the other man was powerful, cunning, and he made him feel such things. He’d be a fool to deny it now, when he had what he’d wanted for so long.
He nodded his promise, and lightly caught the man’s hand before he could go. “I love you.”
The man stepped in, cupping his chin and lightly lifting his face. “I know, my dear one.”
Domerin leaned in and pressed a kiss to his lips. There was hunger there, passion, and the way the man led him left him weak at the knees.
He was half clinging to him by the time they drew back and Domerin hovered close, with a smile that made his heart flutter.
“A little something to carry you through the day. To keep you warm. Remember, I’ll be waiting.”
Sesha nodded. He felt the chill again as the other man drew away, but the memory did warm him substantially. No doubt the warlord’s face would hover in the front of his mind for the rest of the day, and he already longed for his arms.
His fingers absently turned the ring on his finger, and he smiled to himself. What would he have done without the other man? He didn’t know, but he couldn’t imagine things any other way.