Chapter VI- A Touch of Honor
Driskell looked up from his journal. The candle's light flickered for a moment and then puffed out, a thin tendril of smoke wafting up from the wick. He frowned slightly, his brows furrowing. Glancing out the leaded window panes he watched dark, angry storm clouds shadow the moon, enveloping it completely and plunging the courtyard into darkness.
Seth's bright gold eyes reflected what little light was left from his perch on the stone fence just like a cat's. Nibbling on his bottom lip he watched his son place a restraining hand on the young elemental's head and rub reassuringly. He could almost hear the mumbled words of comfort as corn-silk hair fell out of wary violet eyes. He met those eyes through the glass and nodded minutely, a single word falling from his lips like last autumn's leaves.
Cain did what he could to wrap Emrys' wounds, but he was more concerned about the blood loss his mate had suffered. By the time he'd finished shredding his last shirt into workable bandages Emrys was out cold, his skin sallow with a light sheen of sweat covering his body and his breathing labored. A cold wind whipped across the lake making him shiver. He needed to find a more secure location for them to recover and figure out their next steps.
Glancing around the temple he stood, leaving Emrys wrapped in his travel cloak, his own coat draped on top, his dark head pillowed on their bags. He stepped cautiously around the remainders of Bran's root attack, tiptoeing in some spots just to avoid touching them. There were two small arrow slit windows, one on either side of the fallen doorway, and he made for one and then the other, trying to see without being seen. He didn't know if there were any others in this cursed land, but he wasn't going to start taking chances now, not when Emrys was helpless like this.
He caught the shimmer of moonlight on the water, the wind rippling the lines of silver, tearing them in its disregard. Across the far bank he could see the hateful bridge he'd crossed to get here in the first place. He thought of trying to back track with Emrys' body limp and unresponsive and shook his head dismissively; there was no way they'd manage that. Moving to the other window he tracked a serpentine river from the lake back into the brush and nodded, he'd have to try it. He didn't know how Emrys had followed him, how he'd come to this temple or why he'd let Bran loose upon the world once again, but it felt like water had been at every fateful encounter they'd shared so far and following it now made some weird sort of cosmic sense.
Stepping closer to the window Cain glanced at the immediate surroundings and took a chance, pushing with all his weight until the door was pried open far enough he could drag enough fallen branches in to build a litter of sorts and get Emrys out of here. With the door wedged so it wouldn't fall shut again he returned to his lovers side and gingerly checked his pulse; rapid, but holding strong. He sighed and stood, tucking the cloak in around Emrys' chin as he did. He'd have to be quick; this twilight world was starting to awaken and he didn't want to bump into anything more intelligent than himself.
He snorted thinking what Emrys would have said to that thought and moved out into the surrounding foliage to find sturdy enough branches and some vines to lash them together with. Vines…glancing sideways at his arm he watched the vines with renewed interest and a twinge of wariness. These same vines that had possessed him at their mating had come to his aid when he attacked Bran. He wondered just how much he could control them; he'd have to talk to Emrys about it when he was awake…Snapping a branch in half he spun on his heel.
"Damnit all," he growled under his breath as he kicked a loose rock into the river beside him. "I couldn't do a damn thing."
He needed to learn to control his power if he was going to be able to help Emrys in the coming battle because he knew that, regardless of his desire to drag Emrys back to that cave and never come out again, his mate wouldn't be able to avoid his brother. Brother; Gods what in all the hells did he get twisted up in here? It at been over a century and Emrys didn't look much older than himself. How did that even happen?
A racking cough brought him out of his thoughts. Gathering up as many of the branches as possible he ran back to the temple. Emrys was twisted up on his side, Cain's make-shift bandages soaked through with his red blood. He dropped the branches and skidded to a stop beside Emrys, cradling the dark head against his chest he grit his teeth in anger and frustraition.
"I'll get him, Emrys, don't you worry. I'll pay him back a thousand times for the hurt he's given you."
"Cain…." Emrys gasped out, his face held a feverish blush.
Groping around in his pack Cain pulled out the last of their water and held it to his lips, their shaking making his chest tighten painfully.
"You'll be fine, it's just a scratch." He whispered, body bowed over as Emrys slipped back into the darkness of sleep. When he felt his body go limp in his hold Cain stood and dragged a hand across his eyes to clear them; he didn't have time for emotions right now.
Going to the pile of wood he bound a thick, sturdy branch across two of the longest branches and draped his cloak across them all, using flowering moon vines as lashes to keep it taut and then as gently as possible settled Emrys atop it, tucking his own jacket and bed roll around him until the man was practically cocooned inside their few belongings.
Checking the door once more he shouldered their packs and then carefully dragged the litter over the threshold, flinching every time he felt the bed shift in the soft sand. He aimed for the river, following what was little better than an animal trail. Eventually he made it to the boat house and from there saw the first true sign of civilization. A broad courtyard with a dozen two-story houses set in an encircled pentagram. A symbol of High magic, Cain knew the very layout of the community would help focus any powers on the people who lived here.
He chose a house at random and started walking, dragging the still unconscious man behind him. The house was a little apart from the others….the tip of the pentagram he thought. Perhaps it was a sign that the door had been pried from its hinges, he probably should have chosen another, but there was something about the house, about the feel of the place that called him forward, like a whisper tattered by the sigh of the breeze.
Leaving Emrys just inside the doorway he scouted the first floor, face dark and mouth set into a firm line at the twin lines of dusky red trailing from the kitchen towards the stairs. Blood. Something horrible had happened here long ago. Following the lines he stood at the base of the stairs and ran a hand over the handrail's intricate scroll pattern.
It stirred something deep within him, that part that hung somewhere in the periphery of his perception; the part that instinctively knew Emrys was awake. He glanced over his shoulder at the stairwell leading up into the darkness of the second floor as he stomped back towards the entrance. He could feel Emrys stirring and refused to leave his lover alone again. The man had a knack for getting into trouble it seemed.
Stepping out from under the awning Cain came to a stop and swore out loud. "You stupid…"
Dropping to his knees he helped Emrys sit up, his head lulling against the cool stone doorway. His green eyes were slightly unfocused and sweat beaded his upper lip, but his was conscious, and already starting to heal by the looks of things. Cain shook his head at the stupidity of the man and helped push him into a better position.
"You want to explain to me why you think sitting up when you have a hole in your belly is a good idea?"
Emrys gave him a weak smile as he looked around, the humor dying in his eyes. "Why are we here?" he gasped out, breaths ragged.
Cain glanced back at the house and shrugged. "You need to rest and heal; this place looked good, why?"
"This place…" he groaned, looking away from the open doorway and the smears of blood on the floor. "This was our house."
Something clicked, some part of Emrys' story that made him ill just thinking about it. "Shit. Emrys, I'm sorry, I didn't know."
Emrys nodded weakly, face contorted in pain as a sob threatened to rack his already wounded body.
"Bran…he's my brother. I didn't know...didn't remember until I saw him there in the temple. He killed us all, the entire House of Kat'ia, left our little sister pierced by his own blade, our parents with their throats torn out…the village…. He killed us all and for what? For what?"
Gripping the thin shoulders tightly he shushed the other, "Emrys, Emrys, come on love, calm down. You'll reopen your wound. If you don't want to stay here we'll go somewhere else, but you have to calm down or you're going to die! Damnit all, I swore I wouldn't let that happen!"
Cain's voice shook with unspoken emotion. How had this man gotten so far inside his heart, so much he felt Emrys' pain like it was his own? He could feel Emrys start to hyperventilate and did the only thing that came to mind-he kissed him, hard.
Crushing Emrys against his chest, the smaller man's body arching as he pushed harder, he thrust his tongue between gasping lips and tried breathing for the both of them. At each in draw of life giving air he felt his senses overwhelmed by his mate, his touch and taste, the scent of earth and pine mixed with blood and sweat. It was a heady feeling that made him weak and strong all at once.
He smiled around Emrys' tongue and stroked a hand down his lover's side until it came to rest on the swell of his ass. He pulled Emrys into his lap, loving the feel of the body trembling in his arms, pricks of claws on his back as Emrys shuddered and moaned into his mouth. He could do this forever, he thought, groaning as the lithe body shifted atop him. He could, and would, but not right now.
"Emrys…Gods I'd love nothing more than be buried in you right now, but I can't, not with you so hurt. Please love, just try and calm down until I can find us a place to rest."
"We'll stay here."
Cain pulled back horrified. "No! I'm not putting you through that."
"It'll be worse in the other houses, Cain and you're right, we need to rest." Emrys bowed his head against Cain's neck and sighed softly, his heart beat finally slowing to a more normal speed. Cain's touches always did that to him. He smiled slyly and dragged sharp fangs across Cain's jugular, marking him.
"What the hell?" Cain yelped, jerking back slightly.
"Just a reminder."
"Of what?" he demanded, fingers prodding the red welts.
"That you're mine, regardless of what happened here." He sobered quickly, his voice becoming a faint murmur. "Help me inside, Cain. It's time I told you about what really happened here."
Cain frowned as he gathered Emrys close and stood shakily; the man wasn't a feather. He smiled at the feel of Emrys burring his face in his the crook of his neck and stepped back inside, trying to decide where to go.
"Upstairs; second door on the left. We'll take my room, as the others…I don't want to see what's behind those doors."
"Are you sure, we could just go back to the temple?" Not that he really wanted to, the house was the more secure location, regardless of the tragedy that had befallen it.
"My room, Cain, please, I have to know. I have to see this through."
He answered with a nod and started up the steps.
Blood dripped down his arms where he held Emrys and he hastened his steps, careful not to topple them both over the edge. Eventually they stood in front of a simple wooden door, the handle an intricately carved moonflower. Awkwardly he juggled Emrys until he could get the nob turned and then prodded the door with his booted foot, stepping in to a moment, it seemed, frozen in time.