Drink Deep and Remember (Part 1)
Part One: Red Sky in the Morning
Wind raced along the streets, stirring the detritus of the fall’s leaf litter. Whirling devil-tails of leaves rattled along the gutters like old bones on a string. The past winter refused to loosen her grasp. She was a tenacious mistress, all too content to hold spring at bay until she had wrung one last shiver from every citizen of Arcadia City.
Evander Tharros stepped out into the cold, pulling on a pair of gloves. He shook his arms and legs, stretching in preparation for his morning run. The black leggings and fitted zip-up he wore accentuated the thick musculature of his thighs and the broad reach of his shoulders. He looked toward the road, assessing the quiet emptiness in the dark of early morning. The smooth ease of running on a paved road held no interest for him. A thin layer of concrete was too far removed from him; he had grown up roaming through rocky hills and forests bursting with life. Evander wanted to feel the earth under his feet and watch the patterns of her mantle unfold. He craved the company of nature and yearned for his homeland. Hearing the pocked report of his running shoes pounding the dirt and the rush of the Pronoe River would have to suffice.
If only time ran as quickly here as it did on the other side, he thought. We’d be through this cold already.
He skirted around the Victorian house he shared with his lovers, Vera and Sam, to the footpath that ran alongside the Pronoe. The flower beds that bordered the house were bare patches of earth. Last spring, he and Sam had planted them with lavender and yarrow, calendula and lupine. He could sense the roots awakening from their winter dreams of warm and yielding earth, ready to push up through the soil toward the sun.
He dropped into a runner’s lunge. A single jogger came up the path. Evander smiled and waved and the man—Dave, he reminded himself—returned the greeting without hesitation. The normalcy of it all had Evander chuckling to himself after Dave passed. The relationship between Vera, Sam, and himself had raised some eyebrows when they moved into the neighborhood.
And that’s not even the half of it, Evander snorted as he started down the path at a light jog. The reality in which Vera, Sam, and Evander lived was complicated. They had two lives. One was mundane; they owned a bookshop, attended neighborhood association meetings, and kept their hedges trimmed. It was a life that they had built together. Arcadia City itself was in its infancy compared to the ancient landscape where Vera, Sam, and Eva had grown up. Evander founds the newness of it thrilling and guarded each memory they created there with ferocity. It was an unspoken point of pride for him that he shared a history with them that was unburdened by the weight of their other world. The time they spent in the city was filled with moments that were theirs alone.
But then there’s home. That was a place of unbridled wildness. The land itself held the memories of those who walked its paths reaching back to the dawn of civilization. The lives that all three of them lived there were part of a collective history. Every aspect of their lives were part of a narrative that was ever unfolding as each moment flowed into the next. He trained his eyes on the ground, allowing the dirt path to unwind beneath his feet, while he tried to make sense of this homesickness that had struck him hard and fast.
It is as if the history of that land will not let us rest, he thought. A bitter twist crept to his lips. Decisions made by those who had lived long before them had been haunting Vera, Sam, and Evander for the past year. It felt right that he would begin unraveling his tangled thoughts by starting with the journey that created his home in the first place.
Eons before Evander was born, the old Gods and Goddesses created the Sacred Passage and stepped away from the mortal Earth. They had taken tribes of humans with them, those who proved they could wield the power of the elements with care. Evander’s ancestors had been among those people. Their new world was called The Beyond and there the humans embraced the ancient ways to keep elemental magic alive. The Goddess Gaia had established the Order of the Mound of Gaia to protect both worlds and be stewards of the Sacred Passage that connected them.
The Beyond was Evander’s homeland, so much so, that he had been bound to serve the Mound of Gaia when he reached his seventh year. Now he was Guardian Consort to the High Votaress of the Order - one of three people charged with leading the protection of both worlds. Together Vera, Sam, and Evander traveled between the two earths the way a butterfly dips in and out of an open window in the stillness of a summer afternoon.
A pleased grin stretched across his lips and he became acutely aware of the cold slap of wind against his cheeks. He loved his family, so much so that he had willingly left the dozy space between his lovers’ bodies for the icy damp air and the burn that came from pushing himself to the brink of exhaustion. Vera and Sam’s safety was paramount, not only to him, but to the survival of the worlds and all three of them had been tested as of late. It had been a year of open battles and surreptitious plots. He ran now to hone his endurance for the next attack. One would come, of that he had no doubt.
Vera’s power attracted would-be usurpers. The magic she drew from the elements was unparalleled. She had withstood the Curse of Harmonia with her iron will and destroyed King Minyas’ vengeful daughters in the Battle of the White Wolf. She was the most powerful being on either side of the Sacred Passage. Those seeking to make a name for themselves would see tearing her off her throne as a worthy endeavor.
There was also Vera’s age. Humans who lived in the Beyond skipped over time like a rock across a still lake. Lady Petra, Vera’s grandmother, had not ascended to power until she was well into her second century. Vera had been eighteen, as had Sam and Evander, when Vera ascended to the role of High Votaress. The three of them comprised the youngest triune in history to lead the Mound of Gaia.
They had been born into a time of prosperity; there were no wars in the eighteen years Vera lived in the Beyond, nor had their been any challenges to the leadership of the Mound of Gaia. Furthermore, no hardship existed in the Beyond in the way it did in the mundane, mortal world. Vera, Sam, and Evander’s ability to lead through trials by fire had gone untested. As such, they were still children in the eyes of the Mound of Gaia’s elders - the goddesses, gods, elemental beings and magical creatures over whom they were supposed to rule were alive and remembered when Gaia had established the order.
Not to mention they’ve had thousands of years to nurse their hurts for the slights they think the Mound of Gaia has visited on them, Evander thought. Challenges were inevitable so he would not begrudge himself the time to train.
The path he followed was unpaved and worn with the muddy riverbank on one side and a row of houses looking down toward the river on the other. Evander’s body fell into the familiar rhythm. As the worries over ancient grudges and pretenders to the throne faded away, he focused on the sound of his shoes hitting the earth and the power in his stride. His mind quieted and he turned those thoughts back to the comfort of his bed and the pleasure of being surrounded by his lovers as he surfaced from sleep.
Evander was awoken by the sound of a branch rattling against the window of their bedroom. His lovers were curled around him, their three bodies entwined like the silk ribbons that Vera wove into her hair for celebrations. Sam was nestled against Evander’s chest. Vera tangled her legs together with his and pressed her bare breasts against his back. His cock laid plump against his thigh, filling with blood, arousal seated deep in his loins. It surprised him when he felt Vera move closer, the soft curls between her thighs brushing against his bare ass and her fingers tracing patterns along his length from the root to the tip.
Evander smiled. The recollection was like a mental shield against the vicious gusts of wind that blew off the river. The stinging cold still smacked at his cheeks and made his eyes water, but it was nothing compared to the delicious warmth of his lovers’ bodies. He vaulted over a tree limb that had fallen in the path and whooped aloud, invigorated now that he had given himself leave to release his worries. Evander started to pick up speed, letting the memory of making love to Vera while Sam watched with sleepy devotion as they came unhindered.
He moaned when Vera swept her finger through the moisture beading on the tip and spread it down to ease her way.
“Shh, love, you’re going to wake puppy,” she whispered in Evander’s ear, nipping at his earlobe.
Sam. He needs time more than Vera and I put together, Evander thought. The troubles of the past year had stolen some of Sam’s lightheartedness.
Outside of family, Sam was the first person Evander had ever loved. The first one to awaken his heart. Sam was his life. Then Vera had appeared, and his world opened from two to three. Sam was also Vera’s Familiar, the tether for her immense power. He gave of himself, even when he had little to keep. It had always been like that, even when they were children.
Evander kept on the path as it turned away from the river into a dense forest of trees that had yet to fall victim to urban sprawl. The bare branches formed a canopy over the path that would grow thick and lush with green when spring finally arrived. Now, however, they looked like skeletal arms reaching out for one another. It reminded him of the story of Tantalus. A man who had been bound in Tartarus by Zeus himself, doomed to always be reaching for, but never able to grasp, the objects of his desire. The space beneath the trees seemed darker and a chill skittered up Evander’s neck.
“Perhaps Sam isn’t the only one overwrought,” he muttered to himself. Evander gave his head a hard shake to dislodge the image of a lank and tortured man forced to bear hunger and thirst for eternity and drifted back to his memory of that morning.
Vera slid one hand around his manhood and snaked the other across his neck. She pressed her palm against his Adam’s apple, not enough to restrict his breath, but enough to remind him who he served. He lifted his chin in supplication. “That’s right, sweetness,” she purred. “Give yourself to me.”
Her tone sent a quiver through his body, followed by a wave of prickling heat. Vera did not often exercise the power of her station when they made love. She was more prone to allow Evander to wield his control and relieve her of the burden, but there were times when she ruled over him like a stern and loving Queen. Evander’s chest swooped with excitement. It was a thrill to lay his heart at her feet and know that it was safe in her grasp.
Vera caressed him until his cock was dripping against her palm. He swallowed each whimper while she chanted a litany of filth in his ear.
“You’re so wet for me, darling, you must be aching to be inside me. Do you want that, to slide inside me while I hold you in the cradle of my hips? Do you want me to lick you open and tease you with my fingers, milk you until you’re dry as bone and then ride your tongue until your face is bathed in my slick?”
Sam shifted in his sleep. They both stilled until he settled and his breathing evened out.
“He’s so fucking beautiful, isn’t he?” Vera whispered.
Evander nodded, and she turned him toward her until they were face-to-face. Her eyes shined black in the darkness. She took his hand in hers and brought his fingers to her lips. He shivered while she sucked on them, imagining the firm swipes of her tongue gliding across the head of his dick. Vera caught the thought and arched an eyebrow, his fingers falling from her mouth.
“Is that the way you worship your Queen?” she said, her voice husky with desire. Vera grabbed his sack and rolled Evander’s balls in her hand, giving them one sharp tug. The purity of the pain was reprimand and a reminder that in that moment, Vera controlled his pleasure and her own.
Evander dropped his eyes in supplication. “No, my lady.”
She released him and lifted his chin with her free hand, so their eyes met. The stern mistress was abandoned for the moment and Vera’s smile was warm and easy. “What’s your color, Evy?”
Power was a thread that wove through the fabric of their relationship. They were all leaders, but Vera was a Queen, the High Votaress of the Order they all served. She was within her rights to demand anything of Evander and Sam, even their lives. It is what made her insistence on consent within their sensual play not just an act of respect, but a declaration of love.
“Green, my lady.”
The tenderness in her face was replaced by the stern Queen once again. Vera took Evander’s hand and guided his fingers to the delicate folds of her sex.
“Do you feel how much I crave your mouth? How much I want to taste myself on your tongue?” Those last words came out on the back of a gasp as she rocked against his hand. There was something enticing about letting her push and pull his body into the shapes she wanted for her own gratification. A surrender that gave him a sense of freedom.
Vera lay back and pulled him with her, until he was hovering over her voluptuous body, her nipples pressing hard against his chest. Her hand traced sinuous patterns across his back, shoulders, and chest, trails of light glowing in the wake of her touch. She leaned up and took his mouth in a kiss when she finished. A rush of warmth traveled up his body, building strength like a wave as it roared toward the shore.
Evander became aware of Vera’s lust hovering beneath his skin. He could feel the physical sensations that she was experiencing as if they were his own. His chest tingled as he worshipped her nipples with kitten-licks. Vera’s hands slipped through his hair, pulling until a delicious zing of pain shot down his spine and mixed with the pulsing want that swirled at his center. She owned him in that moment.
Evander moved lower, until he buried his nose in the dense curls at the juncture of her thighs. He breathed in the earthy richness of her womanhood and the subtle notes of bergamot and rose that lingered on her skin from her bath the night before.
A wider, calloused palm caressed Evander’s shoulder and he looked up to see Sam smiling down at him. “You didn’t actually think I’d sleep through this, did you?”
Evander reached out to pull Sam toward him, but Sam batted his hand away. “I’m too worn out to play. I’ll supervise now, and if you’re a good boy, I’ll ride your cock later.”
“You heard him, my beauty,” Vera said, her laugh rough and deep. Another flush of desire crashed through Evander’s blood. Honey-sweet tendrils of desire lit him from within and his skin glowed with the sigils she had drawn on his body. He took her clit in his mouth, suckling at the small pearl and then circled his tongue at the entrance to her most sacred space. The attentions he lavished on her resonated within him, phantom hands stroking and grasping at him, making his nerves spark like flint struck by steel to create a fire that would burn him to ash. Evander ground his hips against the bed seeking some relief and was shocked by the crack of Vera’s palm against his shoulder.
“Don’t be greedy,” Vera chided, a wicked smile stretched across her lips. “Greedy boys don’t get to come.”
Evander groaned and pulled his knees under his hips. He bent forward, his cock bobbing, untouched between his thighs, blood-heavy and hard. Vera moaned, spreading her legs wider. One of her hands parted her nether lips and the other pulled Evander’s mouth to her sex. She held his head still while she rolled her hips and pressed her flesh into his mouth. Evander’s abdominal muscles clenched. Each pass of his tongue made him dizzy with yearning and he slipped two fingers into her sacred channel. Her inner walls were like silk. He crooked his fingers, massaging her from within and was surprised by a razor-sharpened surge of pleasure that rocketed outward from deep within his own core, causing him to cry out.
Muddy water splashed up his thighs. He stopped running and bent to catch his breath. The strength of the memory had pulled on his consciousness like a team of horses, dragging him away from the present. He looked around, taking stock of his surroundings. The trail he was on had swerved back toward the river and the eastern horizon was lit with burnt oranges and reds like the heart of a fire.
Red sky in the morning, he thought, sailors take warning.
A flash of foreboding chilled his blood. The skin on his arms turned to gooseflesh and the palms of his hands were searing like he had held them to an open flame. Evander cursed his inattention and the seconds it took for him to determine which direction was home. While his mind spun, he ran. Each thought tried to outpace the fear that was weaving pictures of his home burning, his lovers gone, murdered.
Guardians don’t panic, you idiot.
The self-recrimination did nothing to ease the gut-clenching fear that crashed against his breast-bone with each beat of his heart. Evander, like all Guardians, possessed a glimmer of magical sight, but it was like searching through a heavy mist. Images, sounds, or emotions would break through, rushing forward until he was possessed by that singular moment, but they came to him without context. His ferocious love for Sam and Vera strengthened his power, but it was still limited to hazy visions of a possible future.
He fought to focus his mind as he sprinted toward home. Their house had been protected with impenetrable magic after the Battle of the White Wolf. It would take an Olympian to break the wards and their King, Zeus, had sworn fealty to the Order. Vera’s power was well-known to the magical beings living in the Beyond and to the few who resided in the uninitiated world. There was no one foolish enough to chance an attack on the High Votaress head on, even if they did have the element of surprise.
Evander’s steps slowed. The more he turned the thoughts over, the more absurd the likelihood of an all-out attack appeared. His cheeks heated and his stomach rolled with embarrassment. He was Guardian Consort of the High Votaress of the Mound of Gaia. It was humiliating that he had allowed himself to panic for no reason.
He was within sight of the dock at the back of their property when he saw a woman on the riverbank. She was waving frantically and calling out to a little dog that climbed out onto a log lodged between two rocks. One wrong step and the poor thing would fall and be swept away by the current.
Evander turned off the trail to head towards her. “Miss, do you need some help.”
The woman turned around. She was younger than he had first thought, her cheeks still plump with the last vestiges of childhood. She twisted a leash attached to an empty collar in her hands. Her eyes were owlish with fright.
“Thank you, yes.” Her words flowed out on one long, unbroken breath. “I can’t swim, he slipped off his lead and crawled out there, he won’t come back, can you help me, I swear he won’t bite.”
Evander flashed his most reassuring smile. “Sure, what’s his name?”
“It’s Goldy, he’s just a baby, please, sir-”
Evander interrupted. “It’s okay. I’ll get him for you, but you need to stay here. I live there in the grey Victorian. If something happens, knock on the back door and tell whoever answers that Evy needs help. Do you understand?”
“Thank you. Oh my God. Thank you so much. Grey Victorian. Evy needs help. I got it.” She nodded, her head bobbing up and down, as she danced from one foot to the other.
Evander stepped into the river. The frigid water seeped through his shoes and numbed his feet. He was struck at once by a swirling darkness at the borders of his vision. The present moment started to fade like the muted colors in an old photograph. He blinked and rubbed at his temples.
It’s the shock of the cold, he told himself, brushing off the disconcerting tilt the world had taken. Get it the fuck together.
The dog was seated on the log, staring at Evander with unblinking black eyes. It regarded him with patience, unconcerned by the swift current less than a meter beneath its feet. The roar of the river was loud in Evander’s ears and the feeling of panic that he had experienced on the footpath returned.
Something’s wrong, he thought as his mind slowed like the final tinkling notes of a music box as it unwound and stopped.
He strengthened his resolve, bracing a hand on the log to maintain his balance against the pull of the current. Evander cooed gentle reassurances to the dog as he moved closer, “It’s okay, little guy. You’re going to be just fine-”
He stopped. The dog’s name fell away as soon as he thought of it, like he was trying to capture a wisp of smoke in his hand. Evander shook his head to clear his mind, but it did him no good. The dog shimmered in his field of vision. The numbness that had started at his feet climbed his legs and a gorge rose in his throat.
“I’m sorry, what’s your dog called again?” he choked out, shocked by the confusion and breathlessness he heard in his own voice.
“What dog?” The answer came as low whisper that dripped with an ancient malice. It was close enough that he felt breath against the shell of his ear, but when his head whipped back toward the shore, the riverbank was empty.
A thick curtain descended in Evander’s mind. His vision swam, each blink sending reality spinning in another direction. The water was deeper than he had anticipated and the current pulled at his lower body with tremendous force. He had swum in deeper, colder waters as a boy, but he was struggling. The sand slipped beneath one foot while the other sunk into the mud of the river bed with a horrible sucking pressure.
Evander could not remember why he was standing in the river. He turned to make his way back to the shore. He stumbled, and lost his footing. His hands flailed as he tried to grab a nearby log, but it was too late - the water took him. Its force bore down on him like he was no bigger than a helpless child.
The last thing he saw before he was pulled under by the frigid current was a grey Victorian house sitting alone at the top of a hill. He wondered who lived there and hoped against hope that the people within were watching the river.