Journey to the West

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 


Author's Note: this is Book 4 of the Tuathan Series which began with THE
CRYSTAL THRONE.  Although this book stands on its own, for a fuller
understanding of the universe in this series it is recommended that the
earlier three books, THE CRYSTAL THRONE, RIDERS OF TUATHA and THE POWER OF
THE DARK LORD should be read in sequence.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to any individuals
living or dead are unintentional and coincidental.  This book contains
references to homosexual acts.  Anyone who is uncomfortable with this
should not read it.

Chapter I

"My love, I would speak with you."  Scott looked up from the dusty old
volume of Tuathan history he had been trying to read.  Since becoming the
consort to the king of this magical realm, he had been involved in several
political situations and had to assume the king's responsibilities in
matters of state at least three times.  Consequently, he felt it was his
duty to learn the background of the world he had adopted as his own when he
fell in love with its monarch.  But even so, history and politics had never
been Scott's strong suit.  Reading about them in what was not only a
foreign language, but a foreign alphabet as well, made the task nearly
impossible.

Robin was dressed in a white tunic with golden embroidery and wore a thin
band of gold on his brow to signify his royalty.  The gold band held his
long, pale blond curls back from his face, allowing the hair to fall to his
shoulders just behind his pointed ears.  He reached out a strong arm and
gripped Scott by the elbow, lifting him from his chair and guiding him
toward the door of the library, the history book forgotten on the table.

"So what's up?" Scott asked as they walked out into the corridor.  He could
sense the tension in his lover.  It was apparent in Robin's stride as Scott
had to quicken his own pace to keep abreast.

"I must ask you about personal matters concerning sex," the fairy king said
in a hushed voice.  Scott stopped dead in his tracks and gave his lover a
long, suspicious look.  "Come," Robin urged, tugging at the human's elbow
again.

"Not until you tell me what this is about!"

Robin looked at the floor and fidgeted nervously.  Scott had the distinct
impression that if the fairy could blush, he would be doing so.  "This is a
matter for privacy.  I should not like to discuss such things where other
ears may hear."

"Then speak in English," Scott suggested as he quickly changed to his
native tongue from the Tuathan language they had been using.  Scott and
Robin were both bilingual and could converse as easily in a language
foreign to most of the inhabitants of this world.

"I should not like to discuss this when anyone might hear, including any
other humans."  Robin continued to fidget.  Scott knew that there were
other humans living in the palace, all of them close friends and not likely
to be lurking about eavesdropping.  But he wasn't going to argue.  Now it
was Scott's turn to grab Robin's arm and rush down the hall at a quick
pace.

In a short time they were up the stairs and behind the closed door of the
king's private chambers, a suite of rooms they now shared.  Scott slipped
the bolt in place on the heavy wooden door to assure their privacy, and
then turned to the tall man who sat heavily in a padded chair.  "So what do
you want to discuss about our sex life?" Scott demanded.

"It is not our sex life about which I need to speak," Robin began.

"Then whose?" Scott stammered.

"It is Akuta and Alex," the king replied.  Scott reached for another chair
and dropped into it.  Akuta was one of the palace guards, second in command
of the king's personal forces.  Alex was an old friend of Scott's who had
met Akuta and been introduced to the world of Tuatha because of him.
Actually, Scott and Alex had been lovers several years before, but things
had not worked out, and they went their separate ways.  Only in the last
six months had Akuta and Alex met and fallen in love.  Knowing Alex as he
did, Scott was prepared for almost anything.

"Making love is a thing of beauty, a wondrous gift to be shared between two
people.  How can such a thing be dangerous?" Robin asked.

"I don't know what you mean," Scott replied, not sure of where the
conversation was headed.

"Akuta came to me with questions.  Since I too, love a human male, just as
he, he thought I could provide answers.  But I could not."  Robin paused,
and then drew a deep breath.  "Alex has told him they must have what he
calls harmless sex.  To do this, Alex...places a device on...he covers
their..."  The fairy was obviously very uncomfortable with what he was
trying to describe.

It suddenly became clear.  "Safe sex.  You're talking about safe sex.  You
mean they use condoms?"

"What is condoms?" Robin asked, repeating the unusual human word.

"It's a latex or rubber sheath.  You unroll it over the penis when aroused.
That way, when you climax, you don't..."  It was Scott's turn to be
embarrassed.  He blushed furiously.  "Well, there isn't any exchange of
fluid."

"Yes, that is it," Robin said.  "That is what Akuta described.  Why is this
safe, and what is dangerous about sex without such things?  Is this
something we should also practice?  I admit I know not all there is to know
of the differences between us."

Scott assured his lover that there was no need for the two of them to
practice safe sex.  He explained that the use of condoms was primarily to
prevent conception or transmission of disease.  Scott knew he was in
excellent health, and venereal disease was something totally unknown to the
fairy population.  In fact, he couldn't imagine why Akuta and Alex would be
practicing safe sex.  Akuta was no different from Robin and Alex...

"What is it, love?" Robin asked, seeing Scott's face suddenly pale.

"Do you know about AIDS?"

Robin thought for a minute.  "Is this not some form of human disease?" he
asked.  "What has this to do with us?"

"Don't you know how the disease is transmitted?" Scott asked.  Robin had
lived in exile in the human world for many years, and still sometimes he
seemed terribly na‹ve.

"Mean you this is something for which the condoms is a protection?"

"Condom singular," Scott corrected.  "Yes, sex is one way of catching
AIDS."

"Surely Alex thinks not that he may catch this from Akuta.  We have no such
disease here," Robin argued.

"It may be the other way around," Scott said.

"Does Alex have this disease?" the king asked.

"I don't know," Scott replied.  "He may have been exposed.  After all, he
was making porn movies in California a year ago.  Who knows how safe any of
that was?"

"I must know, love," Robin said, slowly rising from his chair.  "Does this
disease pose a threat to our world?  If Alex is contaminated, does he
become a risk to us?"

Anger flared up for a moment in Scott's heart.  His lover seemed to be
reacting just like all the other bigots Scott had heard about or
encountered.  This was the same fear that kept children from being allowed
to attend school or innocent victims from obtaining needed health care.
Then Scott realized this fear was bred by ignorance, and there was one way
to combat it.  "Let's go," Scott said as he stood and took his lover's
hand.

"Where?" Robin asked.

"To the halls of healing."  They left their chambers, descended the stairs
and exited the white tower.  Crossing the courtyard and entering a low,
stone building, they were soon seated in a visiting chamber while a young
apprentice went in search for Sharon Gates.

Sharon was an attractive, young woman in her late twenties with short brown
hair and a slim figure.  She was a medical doctor who had worked as a
research scientist until she was unwittingly brought to the magical land of
Tuatha.  Once she was over the shock of realizing such a place really
existed, Sharon acclimated quickly and took over the recently vacated
position of lead healer.  This gave her a unique position from which to
study these strange beings who were similar to but not quite human.  Scott
had just turned to say something to Robin a she walked into the room.  "My
lords king and consort," she said in passable Tuathan.  "To what do I owe
the pleasure of this visit?"

"AIDS," Robin said abruptly.

"What?" Sharon gulped in English.  Her grasp on the elfin tongue seemed to
abruptly disappear.

"He knows very little about the disease," Scott explained.  "I thought you
could give him some information."

After a momentary pause the doctor launched into a basic lecture on the
illness.  She spoke in English, knowing Robin was totally bilingual, and
told of the virus, its methods of transmission and mode of attack.  "So you
see, you can't catch it by casual contact," Scott said when Sharon paused
in her lecture.

"I never argued this," Robin answered, bewildered by the anger in his
lover's voice.

"I'm sorry," Scott said, rapidly cooling down.  "I guess it's just that
when you asked if Alex posed a threat...it sounded like all the old
prejudices again."

"I only asked because I knew not of this sickness and as king my first duty
must be to protect the land.  Now that I know he is safe..."

"Hold it!  Time out!" the doctor called.  "What's this about Alex?  Is he a
PWA?" she demanded.  Both men turned to look at her, and then glanced down
guiltily.  "As lead healer, and the only doctor in this world who knows
anything about human physiology, I think I ought to be told."

"We don't really know," Scott admitted.  "It's just that Akuta and Alex had
insisted on practicing safe sex, and I thought maybe..."

"You jumped to conclusions," she admonished.  "As for safe sex, it's
probably an excellent idea no matter what.  There's no way of knowing how
human germs may affect Tuathan biochemistry, and vice versa.  And do you
know the iron content of human blood?  Iron is a poison to them, like a
caustic acid.  If there is any contact with our blood through even the
tiniest cut... And can you imagine what their reaction might be to human
semen?"

"It is something to which one builds a tolerance," Robin interjected.

"I suppose you know?" Sharon asked.

"Yes, I know," the king replied as he matched her stare, causing the doctor
to blush a bright red.  "When we first made love there was
some...discomfort, but it soon went away.  I am no longer bothered by it."

"I'll be the judge of that.  You're staying for a complete physical.
Shakara will prepare you."  Sharon snapped her fingers and the young
apprentice they had first seen appeared instantly at her side.  "Child,
take the king to my examining room," she said in Tuathan.  Robin slowly
stood, his face clouding with anger.  Sharon stood as well, arms folded
across her breast, a look of equal defiance on her own face.

Suddenly, Robin broke the tension with a smile and a slight bow.  "As you
wish, lady healer."  He followed the young girl from the room.

"I had no idea," Scott stammered once the two of them were alone.  "Could I
really be hurting him every time we have sex?"

"Don't worry about it," the doctor said gently.  "I'll check him over just
to be sure."  She then looked closely at Scott.  "What about you?  Have you
ever been tested for HIV exposure?"

"Yes," he replied.  "About a year ago.  I was negative.  And I haven't been
with anyone else except Robin since then.;"

"What about Alex?  I know you two were good friends.  Has he been tested?"

Scott shook his head.  "I don't know.  He was probably in a lot of risky
situations recently."

"Well, maybe you ought to have a chat with him.  I could do the test," she
suggested.

"Here?"

"No, we'd have to go back home.  But I still have friends at the Blanc
Institute."

Scott smiled gratefully.  "I'll go talk to him."

Sharon turned to leave.  "Let me know what you find out," she said, then
rolled her eyes.  "I've got a king to examine."

* * *

"So how is he?" Scott asked when he and Sharon met in the gardens behind
the white tower after the evening meal had been served.  Robin had been
called away to solve a dispute and the rest of the court seemed to be
settling into the quiet routine of the fall evening.  Robin and Scott had
attended dinner with the court in the main banquet hall, something they did
at least twice a week.  This evening had been one of the most uncomfortable
Scott had ever known.  If it had not been for the argument that broke out
between two members of the high council, he knew he would have died of the
quiet tension.  Alex and Scott had argued in the afternoon, which led to a
quarrel between Alex and Akuta.  Robin and Sharon were both brooding over
their own quiet thoughts which only made the forced conversations of their
friends more annoying.

"He's fine," Sharon said as she sat on a stone bench and wrapped a shawl
around her shoulders against the chill night air.  "These beings have
remarkable recuperative powers."

"Recuperative?  What do you mean?" Scott tensed.

"Relax, will you?" the doctor countered.  "There was just the lightest
evidence of scar tissue, but that even seems to be disappearing.  Robin was
right.  He seems to have built up a mild tolerance to the iron in your
bodily fluids.  I guess you can go on doing what you've been doing and not
worry about it."  Scott shook his head in amazement.  He couldn't believe
there lovemaking had been painful to Robin.  The king had never given him
the slightest indication that it had been anything but extremely pleasant.

"So what about Alex?" Sharon asked.  "What did you found out?"

"Nothing," Scott replied.  He related his discussion to her.  He had first
tried hinting around; Alex was evasive.  He finally bluntly asked and Alex
told him in no uncertain terms to mind his own damned business.  "I get the
feeling he may be hiding something.  Sharon, what if he is HIV positive?
What if..."

"Don't worry about what you can't change," she interrupted him.  "Alex is
in a stable, monogamous relationship now and he's practicing safe sex, to
boot."

"But shouldn't he be under a doctor's care?  Shouldn't he be talking drugs
or something?"

Sharon gently shook her head.  "If we were home I'd agree with you.  But
I'm not so sure we have to worry about it here."  She looked directly into
her friend's grey eyes.  "Scott, I think I may have discovered a cure for
AIDS."

The silence between them deepened.  This last revelation landed on Scott
like a ton of bricks.  He had lost many friends and acquaintances to this
dreaded disease a few years ago before they improved the drug regime, and
now Sharon was saying the words the world had prayed to hear.  "A cure!?
What do you mean?" he finally managed to ask, excitement building in the
pit of his stomach.

"Before you get too worked up, let me explain," she temporized.  "As you
know, humans seem to live an incredibly long time in this world.  I can't
find any reason for it, but I suspect that it has something to do with the
way this world changes our metabolism.  I think we live longer because
everything slows down, aging, growth, even cellular reproduction.  It's
like our bodies are in slow motion."

Scott was still confused.  "So what's this got to do with a cure for AIDS?"

"Don't you see?  Living in Tuatha is the cure," the doctor explained.
"Well, not a cure, but the disease will slow down as much as anything else.
A person with AIDS could live longer in Tuatha than a vigorous, healthy
person back home.  There's only one catch."

"And that is?"

"We can't very well use this cure or market it in the human world.  It's a
cure we can't use on anyone."  Scott shook his head; he was very confused.
"For example," Sharon went on to explain, "We know there are hundreds of
sick and starving children in Africa.  We can't just go there and kidnap
them all.  Where would we put them?  How would we feed them?  Where would
they live?  What about their families, their impact on the economy, and so
forth?  Do you see the parallel?  The same thing applies here, only worse.
We can't just bring all the PWA's here.  And can you imagine the culture
shock?  Can you imagine what would happen to this world when its existence
became common knowledge?  Just look what almost happened when the military
got involved the last time."

"I guess you're right," Scott agreed.  "It's just that when we have the
power to save lives..."

"We have that option every day, but we have to start with ourselves, and
after that, then we do what we can to change things."  Sharon shivered
slightly in the cool breeze.  "Scott we've discovered the fountain of
youth.  In this world people might live for centuries.  Do you know what
would happen if you went home and told anybody?  If you weren't locked up
in a mental institution, then this world would be destroyed.  Historically
speaking, man always destroys what he can't understand.  Could you stand by
to watch a whole world die?"  She paused for effect.  "I know that probably
sounds callous.  It isn't an easy decision, but it's a fact of life."

Scott suggested that they head back toward the tower.  The night breeze off
the Crystal Mountains had picked up and carried the chill of winter with
it.  After their conversation, Scott wondered if it was the chill of death
as well.

That night Scott's dreams were full of confused and frightening images.  He
was in the center of a huge hospital ward, completely surrounded by sick
and dying people.  As he looked from bed to bed, he saw that he knew most
of the patients.  They were friends and relatives from the past, most of
whom were already dead in the real world.  In one bed was his mother.  He
knew she had died well over a year ago, but here she was, alive but dying
again in this nightmare hospital.  Scott felt helpless; he didn't know what
to do, but felt that all the patients were looking to him for help.
"You're the doctor," a familiar voice called out.  "Help us."  Scott turned
to see his friend Troy in the next bed.  He remembered that Troy had been
murdered last summer, but here he was again, alive and ailing.

Just then a nurse appeared at Scott's side.  "Congratulations, it's a boy,"
she said.  He turned to see that the nurse was Ellenia, Robin's cousin.
She was smiling and holding out a tiny baby wrapped in a green blanket.  It
struck Scott as odd to see this beautiful fairy woman dressed as a human
nurse and holding a child.

"Ellenia," he said.  "Whose baby is this?"

"It's yours now," she replied and handed it to him.  "Do you want me to
cure these humans, Doctor?" she asked, looking at Scott with her intense,
green eyes.

"How?" he asked as he held the baby.

"By taking them with me," she replied, and stepped to the nearest bed,
helping his mother to rise.

"Where are you taking them?" Scott asked her.

"To the western islands, of course," Ellenia answered.  Troy now got up.
"Don't forget your head, dear," she said to him as he followed her.

"No!" Scott called.  "You have to die to get to the western islands!  Don't
go!"  He wanted to stop them, but something was holding him, preventing him
from following as the patients all left the ward.  Ellenia was smiling
sweetly and holding the door for the sick people as they filed out of the
room.  "Stop!" Scott cried.

"Scott," Ellenia said as she prepared to leave as well.  "You and Robin
take good care of the baby."  Scott looked down and saw that it was the
baby who was holding him, keeping him from following his friends.

"No!  Don't go!  You'll all die!" he cried.

"Scott," the baby said gently and reached out to shake him.  He saw that
its eyes were the same intense green as Ellenia's.  "My love, it is
alright," the baby said.  Its face seemed to expand and take on a maturity
as it shook him.  Only the eyes didn't change.

"Love, awaken."  Scott jerked awake instantly.  It was Robin who was
shaking him.  Robin's own fierce, green eyes looked down on him.  Scott
reached up to hug his lover, grateful to be out of the strangely
frightening dream.

"I had such an awful nightmare," he breathed against Robin's shoulder.
"All my friends were dying and I couldn't stop them.  Then Ellenia showed
up and gave me a baby and said she was taking everyone to the western
islands."

Robin gently held the human and ran his fingers through Scott's hair.  "I
understand not these dreams you have while you sleep, my love.  But fear it
not.  It was not real.  The lady Ellenia is with her husband visiting in
the great wood.  They shall soon return to us.  It is but your worry about
friend Alex that created this vision."

"No," Scott replied.  "I know what it was.  Sharon told me this evening
that she found a way to save people from dying of AIDS.  I think it was my
guilty conscience that caused this dream."

"Then perhaps we should discuss this matter of saving people," Robin said
as he sat back on the reclining platform.  "If it was serious enough to
disturb your sleep, we must look into the matter."

 

 

 

 

 

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