Black Blossom, Part 67: A Terrible Risk.

We continue Black Blossom, the novel that follows The Aphorisms of Kherishdar and The Admonishments of Kherishdar. It is a form of quasi-communal storytelling, as described here. Feel free to ask questions, converse or react as you wish in the comments; the Calligrapher and I are at your disposal, as time permits us both. And don’t fear… your questions are shaping the narrative. Read closely in the future and you may see yourself referred to there.

Black Blossom, Part 67
A Story of Kherishdar as Translated by M.C.A. Hogarth

      A moment’s surprise. Then with a bowed head, he rose. I went to him and removed the robe from his shoulders, accepting his acquiescence as a tacit apology. He even helped silently with the shirt as I pulled it over his head. And then, finally, as he had bidden me, I touched him, turning him and looking first at the yoke of his shoulders. I did not expect him to realize what I was doing, but of course he did.
      “Here,” he said, voice nearly a rasp. He touched the meat of his shoulder, between its point and his neck. “He bit me when he held me down.”
      I ran my thumb lightly over the fur. The pelt showed no signs of trauma, but when I moved the hairs, I felt a slight drag where the fibers grew in slightly different directions. He shivered under my fingers, and I gently bent and kissed the mark before resuming my examination, which Kor abetted after a long pause by gathering his hair and pulling it in front of his shoulder.
      The long, horizontal marks were easier to see; where the fur grew skewed, the light lit the stripes differently, matte against gloss. I touched those too, gentle. “Did… was it… you were whipped.”
      “With many different tools,” he agreed, voice low.
      “How many?” I demanded.
      “Nine,” he said. He felt behind himself and touched a point near his side, at the base of his ribcage. “Here…” There was a knot of fur there. “That one had metal spurs.”
      “How many times,” I whispered.
      “Enough,” he said, and his voice was rougher then.
      “And the knives?” I asked. “Where did they scar you?”
      “There were,” he said, voice level now, “many encounters with knives. The First Servant was, as I said, fond of them.”
      “Lie down,” I said, softly.
      “And if I do,” he asked, “will you touch me again?”
      “Lie down,” I said.
      So he did, stretching out on the bed on his back while I disrobed. It seemed disrespectful to be so free with his body while obscuring mine; ajzelin is a relationship between chosen equals, and responds poorly to artificial barriers. Once I was nude, then, I sat beside him and helped him with the remainder of his clothes, until I could look at him entire. The glow of the warm light from the nearby lamp showed me what brighter, better light had so often obscured: the slight imperfections in pelt that hinted at his ordeal. I traced one along his ribs.
      “The whip wrapped around,” he said. “It cracked that rib, in fact.”
      “Were you allowed to mend?” I asked, quiet.
      “The rite was halted until I had recovered enough to continue,” he said.
      I nodded and resumed my study, fingers gliding over him. Arm. Shoulder. Chest—”piercing there,” he murmured. “The aesthetic at that time in history was… different.”
      I made a face and continued. I wasn’t sure what affected me more… the evidence of those scars, so secret, hidden behind a dark pelt and his reserve, or the body they afflicted; the muscle woven through the ribs as I passed my fingers over them was a crosshatch of powerful fibers that made me shiver. I could not tell if I longed to draw them or pet them, and at some level, the impulse was the same.
      Throughout this, Shame remained calm. So peaceful, in fact, that one could almost miss the rigidity in the yoke of his shoulders, and his wrists. He was very aware of my touch and very affected by it; and my kisses, where I gently touched them to his hidden scars, seemed to ease him. So I turned him onto his stomach, so I could make a better survey of the marks on his back, and he hid his face in his pillowed arms. I thought nothing of it, save perhaps to be briefly mesmerized by the splash of his hair against the blanket, dark strands glistering in the glowing lamplight.
      From nape to toe, I touched, spreading fur to find the discolorations beneath, the seams and slight puckers. By the time I reached the balls of his feet my entire body felt bruised from the tension of uncovering each succeeding horror.
      “You,” I whispered, “you were tortured…!”
      “It was… a spiritual experience, Farren,” Kor said, low. “I was broken so that I could be remade in the proper shape, as a vessel for the virtue.” He looked at the wall, at that nothingness on the inside of his head, the light glittering on eyes that already seemed to shine with some inner fire. “They shattered my body so my spirit could be freed of it… and from that I learned that nothing of the body could chain me. Me or anyone else, if I had the skill to bring them to that place, and back safely again.”
      The light on his eyes made them look clear as drops of water. The sight of his composure as he spoke of the raptures of the spirit…
      It is true, what Seraeda accused me of, of feeling more than thinking, so I cannot tell you why I moved. Had I been any slower, the sight of his surprise might have quelled me; as it was, he was only just lifting his head, frowning, when I grabbed a fistful of that weight of hair near the nape and pushed it back down again.
      “Farren!” he hissed and then lost the next words as I thrust him into the bed. Before he could get the breath to speak, I threw a leg over his hips and straddled him, grinding him into the sheets. There was nothing of sex in it, for all the hard curve of his buttocks against my groin and the startled flexure of his tail. None of it enticed me. I chased a different quarry, lowering my face along his neck, kissing the back of his neck where his fathrikedi had marked him so that he drew in a sharp breath.
      And then at the peak of that in-breath, I bit him, hand wound in his hair and body close over his, forcing him down… and he cried out against the pillow.
      Silence. I could hear my pulse beating the insides of my ears, to go with a heart that pounded so hard my chest shook where I held myself above him. I began to tremble.
      And then he whispered, “Thank you… thank you, for the grace of my Correction.”
      I collapsed on him, choking my wretched cry against the back of his neck. I was intimately aware of his accelerated breathing as his ribcage lifted mine; with my nose against his fur I could smell the sweat and sex on his skin. I prayed the ease I felt in his body meant I had not ruined everything in pursuit of a feeling… that he had bound up his body’s use and its expressions of intimacy in rite, and removed them from any possible place in his day-to-day life.
      “Kor,” I said, my voice hoarse.
      “Sssh, ajzelin,” he answered shakily, still gathering his breath. “Peace.”

***



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About M.C.A. Hogarth

Genderqueer sci-fantasy writer, animal geek, conlanger, pyrographer, painter, doodler, jewelry artisan, web designer, Kemetic, and musician. Snake-crazy.
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