Journey to the West

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 

Chapter IV

"This isn't what it looks like!" Scott said as he quickly tried to pull up
his pants.

Robin only continued to stare at them, his face a stony cold mask.  "Young
sir," he finally said, addressing the servant, "would you not care to
gather your clothing and then leave us alone for a time?"  The young boy
dashed into the bath and returned immediately, clutching a bundle of
clothes.  He then dashed out the door without even stopping to dress.  Once
he was gone and the heavy door closed behind him the cold mask of Robin's
face broke into a smile and he leaned his head back emitting a deep, hearty
laugh.  Scott stood, dumbfounded, staring at his lover as if the king had
lost his mind.  Meanwhile, Robin wiped the tears of mirth from his eyes.
"I must make a poltarin of your face when you first saw me in the doorway,"
the fairy said as he gasped for breath.  "You looked so shocked, surprised
and guilty."

"I...I don't understand..." Scott stammered as he grew red in the face.
"You catch me in a compromising position and you think it's funny?"

"My love," Robin said as he managed to stifle his chuckles, "would you care
to explain how you came to be in this situation?"

"What is so damned funny?  Aren't you even a little bit jealous?"

"Forget you that we are bound together?" Robin said by way of explanation.
"Had you really tried to betray our love I would have felt it, in here."
He touched his hand to his heart.  "I need no jealousy when I know your
true feelings.  Now, how came this ridiculous situation to be?"

Scott relayed the whole story to the king.  He then told Robin of
Dannemel's insistence on dressing him that morning as well.  "It is
possible that we understand not the customs of the west," Robin replied
slowly and thoughtfully.

"I hear and unspoken 'but' in there," Scott said.

"I think in truth it is fairly obvious that we have a problem," Robin
continued as he sat heavily in a chair.  "I suspect this youth is trying to
seduce you."

Scott sat just as heavily on the reclining platform.  "Seduce me?" he asked
dully.  "But why?"

"One thing becomes obvious.  He knows not about our bonding, else he would
not attempt this.  Anyone of the land would know it impossible to come
between a couple so joined.  Or else he thinks it impossible for a human to
bond with a Tuathan, or at least for two males to so join."

"Okay, so the kid's gay and he has the hots for me.  I'll just discourage
him, or you can explain that we're bonded."

"That would be too simple," Robin said as he stood and paced to the terrace
doors to peer out through the frosted glass.  "It is too obvious for your
servant to become enamored of you.  I believe it not.  I think it was not
your looks that attracted him."

"What are you saying?  I'm not attractive enough to have anyone interested
in me?"  The king's comment stung Scott's vanity.

"Be not foolish, love.  You are attractive enough to win the heart of a
king and the love of his realm," Robin protested.  "But in dealing with
this delegation from the west I suspect treachery."

"You think he's playing Mata Hari?" Scott asked with a sudden flash of
insight.

"Playing what?"

"A spy...you think he's a spy trying to use me to get to you?"

"Perhaps."

"Then let's assign him to someone else," Scott suggested and stepped up to
his lover, wrapping his arms around the fairy's firm chest and laying his
head on Robin's shoulder.

"I think not," the king said.  "We know not to whom he answers, or to what
purpose."

"So what do you suggest?  I play along with him?"

Robin turned quickly and gripped Scott's arm tightly.  Their eyes met and
Scott felt himself being drawn deeply into the twin green pools.  Their
minds joined in the deep communication.  "Wish you to couple with this
youth?" the king asked.

"No," came Scott's heartfelt response.  "He is attractive and does catch my
interest, but why should I want a boy when I have a man?"  Robin pulled him
close and mashed their lips together in a sensuous kiss.  As he did so, he
lifted Scott bodily off the floor and carried him to the reclining
platform, their lips never breaking the kiss.  Scott stretched out on the
pallet, relaxing on the soft quilts as Robin stood and began to remove his
tunic.

When they had finished making love the two held each other gently,
luxuriating in the afterglow.  "So what do I do now?" Scott asked.

Robin leaned up on one elbow to look down on his lover's face.  "About
what, love?" he asked.

"About Dannemel?"

"There is a human expression.  Play difficult to achieve," Robin said.

"You mean hard to get?  I've been doing that," Scott countered.

"You must continue until we discover his real intent, and discover it we
shall if I must ask Elnar to use truth magic.  Although I should rather
avoid that; it can be quite painful if resisted."  Robin rolled over onto
his back and sighed deeply.  "This is a bad time to have such strife.  I
worry about Ellenia and Clive.  There has been no word of them from the
great forest in the east and they have been gone a very long time.  Then
too, everyone is upset about Alex's illness.  I hope the human doctor
returns soon.  Perhaps we should have gone with her to your land."

"She'll be okay," Scott assured him.  "What can happen to her with Rood
along."  Robin looked at Scott and both of them broke into laughter.
"Okay, bad idea.  Maybe I should have gone along."

"Not without me."

"I'll go to Elnar's library later and see if everything is okay.  I can
just step through the cabinet into the other world and check out the
house," Scott suggested.

Suddenly Robin sat up.  He listened for a moment then quickly jumped up and
sprinted to the door.  Jerking it open he revealed only an empty outer
chamber, although the door to the main hall stood open.  "What is it?"
Scott asked as he grabbed a robe and followed his naked lover into the
other room.

"There are indeed spies about.  Someone in this chamber listened to us.  I
heard this person cross the room and leave by the main door."  Robin
stepped to the hall door and looked out into the empty corridor.  "Whoever
was here left in great haste."

"You think it was Dannemel?  Maybe he heard what you said about that truth
magic and got scared." Scott suggested.

"Perhaps but to where could he go?  There is nowhere he might hide in the
palace."

Scott suddenly felt a sinking sensation in his stomach.  "He said how he
was very interested in humans.  It sounded almost like an obsession.
That's why he asked to serve us.  And just a moment ago we were talking
about the cabinet in Elnar's library."  Robin turned on his heel and
started out into the hall.  "Where are you going?"  Scott ran after him.

"To alert the guards," the king said over his shoulder.

"Here," Scott said, grabbing him by the arm.  "Take my robe.  I'll go back
and get dressed."  Robin looked at him curiously.  "Well, I can't let the
king march around the castle stark naked."  Robin pulled the loose garment
around his tall frame and headed for the guard room at the end of the hall.
Meanwhile, Scott padded back to their chamber to put on his human clothes.
He had an uncomfortable feeling he would be returning to his native land
very soon.

* * *

He hadn't lied.  It was not in the nature of Tuathans to lie.  Sure, there
had been a random few people who were able to tell obvious falsehoods, but
that was generally very rare.  Since everyone in the land possessed the
ability to practice the deep communication, the linking of mind and spirit,
lying was a useless task.  However, the truth can be distorted without ever
telling a lie.  It's just a matter of not revealing everything one might
know, or perhaps selectively revealing certain facts.  This is what he had
done.  Even though he was only performing a task set for him by people
older and supposedly wiser, Dannemel had no desire to be subjected to truth
magic.  If he revealed all he knew he would face the anger and possibly
painful wrath of the overseers back home.  If he hid anything, or attempted
to, the magic could be quite painful.  Any course of action he chose would
only land him deeper in trouble.  So of course the only logical solution
was to flee while he had the opportunity.  But to where?  He was certain
the palace guard knew Esbereth better than he could ever hope to.  Also,
the king's wizard undoubtedly had spells that could track him down no
matter where he went.

One thing Dannemel had said to Scott earlier was true.  He had always had a
fascination for humans.  They were so interesting, so similar to Tuathans,
and yet so alien.  Being able to see humans up close was exciting.
Although he was not a reversal, he was even willing to chance the physical
contact of coupling with another male, if need be.  The overseers knew the
king's consort was a human male; that's why they chose Dannemel.  He was a
very attractive boy on the verge of blossoming into manhood.  They knew
about his keen interest in humans and decided they could put him to good
use.  But just as Robin had said, and Dannemel had overheard, they did not
know the king and his consort were bound together by the ceremony of
joining.  Thus, Dannemel's assignment was doomed to failure.

But as the youth stood silently in the outer chamber his keen elfin ears
picked up the words that might well be the key to his salvation.  There was
a cabinet in Elnar's library that apparently held a gateway to the human
world.  Dannemel knew from his briefings that Elnar was the Keeper of
Magic.  All the boy needed to do was find the magician's library.  How
attractive he found the idea, just to step across to another world.  He
would be away from the overseers, the high king and his court, all of them.
Dannemel doubted if even the wizard's magic would be able to track him in a
different world.  He could pull his long, golden hair forward to cover the
telltale, pointed fairy ears and then he would surely blend in with the
humans.  In his excitement, he dashed across the chamber and out the door,
not even thinking about maintaining his stealthy silence.

It was no trouble finding the wizard's chambers.  All he had to do was ask
somebody, anybody.  Practically everyone in the palace knew, just up the
east stairs and down the long, curving corridor to the right.  It was a
ridiculously easy task to arrive at the big, oak door.  However, from there
the task became increasingly more difficult.  The first hurdle was getting
up the nerve to enter.  Dannemel knocked gently on the door.  He waited a
few moments, then screwed up his courage and rapped firmly, but there was
still no response.  The boy then reached for the handle and quietly opened
the heavy, wooden door.  It swung silently in on its ornate hinges, and he
slipped into the chamber.

At first Dannemel thought he was in the library.  Everywhere he looked he
saw stacks and piles of books and scrolls.  They overflowed on a couple of
chairs and a table, and formed large pyramids in all the corners.  In fact,
there was only a small pathway on the stone floor that led from one door to
the next, with a crossroads of sorts in the center of the room.  But there
was no cabinet of any sort.

Dannemel arbitrarily picked a door and made his way across the cluttered
room to it.  He lifted the latch and quietly pushed it open.  Behind it was
an even more cluttered room, this one containing a couple of huge tables
covered with books and scrolls as well as a number of bubbling glass
beakers heated by candles stuck in the middle of all the mess.  Dannemel
wondered that the place didn't quickly catch fire, and he wasn't too sure
that such a thing might not happen at any second.  At the far end of the
room a tiny little man dressed in a baggy, blue robe that looked to be
several sized too big for him stared into bright green flames that were
crackling loudly in a huge, stone hearth.  He turned to peer at Dannemel as
the boy came into the room.

"Excuse me, my lord.  I was just..."

"Not now," the tiny little man said.  "I have not the time for these
interruptions.  I am very busy."

The boy stuttered in embarrassment.  "I...I am sorry.  I meant not to..."

"It is the door on the right.  And forget not to anoint yourself before you
go."

"Anoint myself?"

The little man gave a sigh of exasperation.  "Must I think for you as
well?" he grumbled and turned to grab a small bottle from one of the
tables.  "How expect you to communicate in a strange land where you speak
not the language?"  The man poured a small amount of the contents of the
bottle into his hand and quickly stepped to Dannemel's side.  He dipped his
fingers in the shimmering liquid and then touched the boy just behind each
ear and on the lips.  "Now go quickly before you cause me any more
trouble."

The youth was too shocked to think, but not to react.  He quickly retreated
back to the cluttered antechamber and made his way to the door on his left.
He opened it and stepped into the library.  At the end of the room opposite
the door stood a large, ornate, wooden wardrobe.  This must indeed be the
gateway.  It didn't look like anything special, but then Dannemel didn't
really understand magic.  Maybe he just didn't know what to look for.  He
slowly crossed to the cabinet and pulled the two doors open.  Inside it was
just an empty box made of wood.  The disappointment was so strong he almost
dropped to his knees under the weight.

Just then Dannemel heard the sound of voices in the chamber, harsh, angry
voices.  He looked around for a place to hide, feeling like a wild animal
about to be backed into a corner and trapped.  Aside from the wardrobe and
the mostly empty bookshelves the room was pretty bare.  His eyes went back
to the wardrobe.  It was the first place they would look, but what choice
did he have.  Dannemel climbed inside and pulled the doors closed.

* * *

Evening was falling and Rowana was exhausted.  She had spent most of the
day with Akuta, keeping watch at Alex' side.  It was an emotionally
fatiguing chore, but one she gladly did, giving what support she could to
her friends.  As the shadows began to grow long and take over the kingdom,
she excused herself to return to her chambers and await her mate.  Melcot
had been working with the new boys from the western kingdoms this
afternoon, and she feared he would be as exhausted as she was.

Only minutes after she had freshened up and changed into a soft linen
tunic, Melcot stormed into the room.  He was obviously agitated and trying
his best to suppress the rage he felt.  "Either those boys are incredibly
stupid or they enjoy deliberately causing chaos.  They cannot perform the
simplest tasks without being told, then shown, and then shown again.  I had
to demonstrate four times to the last group how to fetch water from the
fountain and haul it to the stable for the horses.  By the time they
understood the task was complete."

Rowana had to step behind her mate and busy herself with massaging his
tense shoulder muscles so he would not see her smile.  "My lord and loved
one, I think they be not so stupid."

"Why not?" Melcot grumbled.

"They made sure the horses were watered, and without lifting a finger."
Melcot swiftly turned to her, a glare of anger on his face.  Try as she
may, Rowana couldn't keep back the smile she felt at the image of her mate
doing all the chores while his charges stood about feigning ignorance.
Melcot stared at her, watching the corners of her mouth quiver in an
attempt to disguise her feelings, and he felt his anger turn to chagrin.
In an instant they were embracing each other and laughing heartily at the
situation.  "Go bathe and change, love, and I shall call for supper here in
our chambers," she said.

Melcot had been gone but a few minutes when Rowana heard a firm pounding on
her door.  She quickly answered it and was surprised to see Robin standing
in the hall just outside.  His hair was mussed and he wore an open robe
thrown loosely about his shoulders.  "Lady, forgive the intrusion," he
began.

"What is it, lord?" she asked, suddenly alert, knowing some calamity must
have occurred.  Robin explained as briefly as possible while Rowana grabbed
three cloaks, one for her, one for Melcot and one for the king.  She then
gathered up her bow and staff and Melcot's short sword.  Robin and Rowana
then stepped into the hall just as her mate came back from the communal
bath that the guard's quarters shared, still toweling his golden curls.
Rowana tossed him his sword and cloak, then took a moment to pull Robin's
robe closed and to fasten the heavy, woolen cape over his shoulders and
around his neck.  Then all three of them dashed out of the guard's hall
only to meet Scott at the top of the stairs leading down.  The four quickly
descended the wide staircase heading for the wizard's chambers.

Without even bothering to knock at Elnar's door, Robin barged into the
messy antechamber.  The little wizard was standing in a corner digging
through a pile of charts and documents.  "Have you seen..." Robin began.

"Yes, yes.  He went in there," the little man said, gesturing to the
library door with one arm which was completely enveloped in the overly long
sleeve.

Without a further pause, the four dashed into the empty library and looked
around.  As the boy had observed earlier, there was no place to hide except
the cabinet at the end of the room.  "We're too late," Scott said in
dismay.

"Perhaps to stop him, but not to bring him back," Robin said.

"My lord, no," Rowana called as the king quickly crossed to the magical
wardrobe.  "You are needed here."

"I shall not be long," Robin said as he pulled open a door.

"You aren't going without me," Scott called and bolted after him.  They
climbed inside the wooden box, pulling the doors shut.

Rowana and Melcot looked at each other in confusion.  The girl suddenly
took a step toward the cabinet.  Melcot grabbed her by her sleeve.  "Where
go you, my love?" he asked.

"The king needs a guard.  We must follow," she replied.

"But what of the kingdom?  We must stay to tell Akuta where they are.  He
will be steward in Robin's stead."

"Akuta is in no condition to be steward.  You know this," she said angrily.

Melcot's eyes widened.  "That means..."  He suddenly realized that he was
next in line after Akuta.  The fear of command weighed heavily on him,
spurring him to action.  He reached to open the cabinet door, this time to
be stopped by his mate.

"And where go you?" she asked.

"As you said, the king needs a guard," came his quick response.

Rowana reached out and firmly closed the cabinet door blocking the way.
"It is too late to follow.  Your duty lies elsewhere, my liege.  And I
shall stay to see you accept it."

"But the king and lord Scott..."

"Will have to rely on their own skills," the girl said as she forcefully
escorted her mate back from the library.  "After all, Rood is in the human
world with them, as is Caseldra."

"They are in the human world as well," Melcot admitted, "but it is an
awfully big and dangerous world."

 

 

 

 

 

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