Drink Deep and Remember (Mound of Gaia Vol. 6)

Anne Stagg
12 mins read
Published about 2 years ago
Chapter 4

The Flavor of Memory

They hobbled back to the house together, Sam supporting Evander’s weight while Vera conjured the breath of summer to beat back the chill. Channeling her power out in the open where any uninitiated passer-by could see was a risk; she found she did not care. 

Let the Elders try to censure me, she thought. They’ve no idea what’s been unleashed here. 

It earned her a concerned glance from Sam, who sensed the fury brewing in her mind. 

Evander did not speak during their walk home. He scrutinized every rock and tree along their path, searching for something, anything that was familiar. Vera sensed disorientation consuming his thoughts. His craving for memory was like the thirst that lives in all living things when a land is stricken by drought. She watched Evander’s face when they turned off the running path and started up the hill toward their home. There was a flicker of recognition in his eyes before the mask of confusion descended again.

“Do you recognize the house?” 

“No, I thought…maybe? It’s like I know I should recognize it, but when I reach for a memory there’s nothing,” Evander’s mouth tightened, his lips thinning to white before he growled, “I can’t even remember my own goddamn name.” 

“Your name is Evander,” Vera said, matter-of-fact. Her thoughts were a tangled skein of anger toward who or whatever had done this to her lover. 

I’ve loved you since I was a girl. How is it that you don’t know us? 

All of their memories had ceased to exist for Evander. The reality sliced through sinew and bone, straight into her heart. It left a wound that she knew would not heal until Evander was able to look at her and Sam and remember the life they shared.

Evander,” he said, rolling the sound around on his mouth. It was as if he was searching for himself in the flavor of each individual letter. Vera wondered if tingle of the “v” against his lips reminded him of ginger and burnt orange as it did her or if the pop of the “d” evoked the flavor of smokey oak and honey. The thought that the banquet of memories they shared was lost shattered her and she struggled to keep her expression calm and open.

You’re one of the most powerful beings on either side of the fucking Passage, get your shit together, she thought.

“It’s a good name,” Evander added. Controlled fear was emanating from every pore of his being. It crawled along Vera’s skin like a wasp, its vicious sting belying the delicate tickle of each step. The space where the warmth of his presence had been anchored in Vera’s mind was filled with stark, white emptiness.

“You’re a good man,” Sam rasped. His throat had been scraped raw. Vera turned her inner-eye toward Sam. His consciousness was awash in darkness, the fear rising like a storm swelling far out at sea. She pushed aside her own feelings and sent tendrils of love and comfort out to wind around both Sam and Evander. Sam met her gaze with a tired smile, returning her comfort with a wave of tenderness that eased some of her clinging worry.

“I’m Vera. This is Sam,” she offered.

“Do I live here?” Evander asked, reaching out to touch the lintel as they passed through the back door. 

“You-, Yea-, fuck-” Sam’s head fell forward and he scrubbed at his eyes with one hand, grappling with his emotions, trying to keep the anger that was roiling in his chest from spilling into his voice. The gentle touch of Evander’s fingers threading together with his own broke through the morass of emotion. He looked up, startled, “Yeah, this is our home.” 

Evander stared at his fingers as if they had moved without his permission. It gave Sam a glimmer of hope and he sighed, squeezing Evander’s hand. “You may not be able to feel it, Evy, but you’re still in there, somewhere.”

“You both live here with me.” It was not a question. Evander looked between Vera and Sam, his eyes wide with wonder. “I know that. I have no fucking clue how I know that, but I’m right aren’t I?”

“We live here together,” Vera said, the clenching fear in her gut loosened. “Now let’s get you into a warm shower and some dry clothes,” she said shepherding Evander up the back stairs to their bedroom. 

“Does any of this look familiar?” Sam asked when he reached the top of the stairs.

The second floor was one large master suite, with an enormous platform bed along one wall and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out toward the city skyline on the opposite side. The duvet and sheets were twisted and rumpled at the foot of the bed. A jumble of pillows leaned against the headboard, one piled on top of another like a bank of thunderheads gathered on the horizon of a summer sky. 

Evander stared at the bed and a gentle flush of rose on his cheeks. A flutter of hope bloomed in Vera’s chest, but he shook his head. 

“It’s okay,” she said, like she was gentling a skittish horse. “We’ll figure it out.”

Sam watched Evander looking at all of the small artifacts that spoke of their lives together, willing something, anything to trigger a cascade of memory in his lover’s mind. Evander’s eyes caught on a picture that they kept on a bedside table. It was of the three of them, arms entwined beneath an awning that read Out in Print Used & Rare Books. He reached for the picture, his hand stretching out and then withdrawing, unsure if he was allowed to touch.

“That was the day we opened the store,” Vera said. “Every time I turned around, you were outside staring at the awning.”

Sam picked up the picture and placed it in Evander’s hands. “You were so proud that we finally had something that was ours.” 

Evander drew his finger across the faces in the photograph and Vera sensed anger beginning to churn beneath his fear.  

“The first thing I remember is how metallic the water tasted. It was like having a mouthful of blood, and I was so cold.” He set down the picture and rubbed at his temples like he was trying to coax his memories to the surface. “It’s like I was born in that river. What kind of monster can remember the taste of blood and forgets his own family?” 

Evander collapsed on the bed, a sob caught in his throat. The skin on his face tightened and his hands and feet tingled like they were on the brink of falling asleep. His arms and legs were sluggish. An image appeared in his mind, that of a creature near dead but too dumb to lie down and take his final rest. 

It’s been a shit day, Evy,” Sam crouched in front of him, “Shower first. You always feel better when you’re warm.” Sam held out his hand and Evander grasped it, tightening his grip until his knuckles whitened.

“Evy, what did you just say?” Vera’s whisper was harsh, urgent, and both Sam and Evander were startled when she fell on her knees next to Sam. Her eyes were bright, racing back and forth, studying Evander’s face.

“That I must be some kind of monster, if all I can remember is the taste of blood.” 

“No, not that, right before?”

“That it was like I was born in the river?”

“Sam,” Vera said, her voice trembled with excitement. “You need to shift, tell me what kind of magic you see.” 

“Do you think—” Sam started and Vera cut him off before he could finish his thought.

“I know, just do it,” she ordered, then met Evander’s curious gaze. “You’re about to see something really strange. I need you to not freak out, okay?” 

Sam stood, cupping Evander’s cheek with his palm. “Please try to remember, I will never hurt you.” 

Evander nodded. Sam stepped back and let his arms hang loose at his sides. Evander felt a pressure on his eardrums, like he had sunk to the bottom of a deep lake. He watched in awe as the air around Sam began to ripple and a memory rose up from the emptiness. 

The three of them were sitting together on a rocky stretch of beach. Their faces were rounder, more youthful, and there was an air of unhurried freedom in the way they leaned against each other, laughing and throwing smaller stones into the surf. Evander could smell the brine of the sea and hear the shrieks of shorebirds off in the distance. He saw the boy with Sam’s plush mouth shimmer in the waves of heat rising from the rocks, his lithe body changing until the youth was gone and a massive wolfhound sat in his place. The dog loosed a chorus of eager barks before speeding away toward the water. 

Evander shook his head and the image broke apart, fading into his mind. When his vision cleared there was a great, black hound seated before him. 

“What the—” Evander stared, open-mouthed as the dog nudged his dangling hand with his muzzle. He pulled his hand back and Sam whined.

“He’s not going to hurt you. I promise. Sam will be back in his human skin in a minute,” Vera soothed. Evander fought to stay still while Sam sniffed at him, nuzzling around his neck and in his hair. He yelped when a warm, wet tongue lapped at his cheek. 

The sinking pressure returned and Evander’s eardrums popped. This time he watched, amazed as the hound quivered and blurred. The room was flooded with the scent of caramel and cedar and Sam was beside him, once again in the shape of a man. 

“What did you see?” Vera demanded, unwilling to wait for Sam to get his bearings.

“Whatever it was it took immense power to get here.” The magic he had seen swirled over Evander’s skin like oil on water. Some places it shone in florid blues and purples, while in others he could see its strength fading to sheens of sickening greens and yellows like the mottling of a bruise. “It looks like it might be fading in places already. How are you feeling?”

Evander scrubbed at a patch of dried mud on his jaw. “I. You can see what’s doing this to me?” Sam nodded. Evander was silent for a moment before continuing. “That makes sense, I guess. When you, did whatever it is you just… did, I saw us, the three of us, but we were younger. Just kids. We were by the ocean.” 

Vera sagged with relief. “It’s already starting to wear off.”

“There’s no way it could last without someone keeping a portal to wherever it came from open. Even the Olympians can’t access that kind of power without the Mound of Gaia knowing. It’s next level shit, like it came-”

Vera had caught the thread of Sam’s thought. “Like it came from Underworld.” 

“Yeah.” Sam’s mouth hung open.

“The Underworld? Like Hades and don’t look back, Orpheus? That Underworld? ” Evander asked and then shook his head. “Do I even want to know how I know that?”

“Great fucking Gaia it can’t be…” She stuttered to a stop, a memory rising to the surface, the rippling haze of time clearing as it came into focus.

Vera stood in the center of the High Votaress’ chamber. The bedding was stripped and the enchantments that blocked out the sun had been dispelled. A handful of attendants were waiting in the hall to begin removing her grandmother’s furniture and replace it with her own. She had begged for a moment alone, from Sam and Evander, the Elders, from all of them. She wanted to see this room as it had been one last time, to cling to being the granddaughter of the High Votaress for a few seconds more, before that girl was lost to time and duty. A knock interrupted her thoughts. 

“Come,” Vera commanded, her irritation obvious.

“You sound just like My Petra when she was your age.” 

Vera flushed, stomach swooping with embarrassment when she realized that her intruder was not some impatient Attendant or nosy Elder, but Dar, the love her grandmother’s life, Guardian Consort to the Great Lady Petra.

“May I come in?” Dar asked. Their accent was thick, the vowels stretched long and consonants soft, connecting their words like a melody. Vera had grown accustomed to the incongruous gentility of Dar’s voice compared to the corded muscle and power that they carried in their body. Dar was Refsi. A tribe of mountain warriors who’s gender flowed and changed moment-to-moment like the colors of the sky at dawn. 

“Of course,” Vera was mortified at her pique. Dar had been present at her grandmother’s side since before Vera was born. They had taught her to ride a horse and hold a dagger, to love without reserve and to fight with intellect and mercy. It was not her place to bid Dar enter the room they had shared with the Great Lady for hundreds of years. The gravity of Dar’s loss combined with her own overwhelmed Vera and a fresh stream of tears slipped down her cheeks unchecked. Dar held out their arms and Vera crumbled into the embrace.

“What’s this, little woodlark?” Dar pulled back, tucking a finger beneath Vera’s chin, and raising her eyes to meet their own.

“I miss her.”

“I know, so do I. We’ll see her again.” 

“In Elysium, hundreds of years from now,” Vera choked on a sob.

“We can only hope it is that long, if not longer, for you. In any case, I’ll see her first and let her know you say hello.” 

“How will I do this without her?”

“The same way she managed when her mother died. The same way your daughter will, Gaia be willing, when you pass through the Veil.” Dar released Vera and plucked a small leather bag from their belt. “Your granny wanted to you to have this.” 

“What is it?”

Dar smiled, “It’s a draught from beyond the Underworld. A dear gift given to My lady when she ascended to High Votaress.”

“What does it do?” 

Dar shrugged. “Your grandmother was a fan of riddles. She told me to give it to you with the message that what Tethys’ daughter washes away, Gaia’s daughter will restore.”  

Vera allowed the memory to linger. It was so clear that she could smell the scent of verbena and jasmine that always lingered on Dar’s tunics. 

Of course, she thought, and raced to her dressing table. She opened the rosewood box that sat on top. It looked unobtrusive, just a functional place to store keepsakes that were forgotten as soon as they were set inside. In truth, it was an enchanted piece of craftsmanship that would open for Vera alone. It held her most beloved remembrances, including the small leather bag that Dar had given her after her grandmother’s death.

Evander looked to Sam, who looked just as confused by Vera’s outburst.

“Close,” said Sam. “Hades is just one of the kingdoms that’s beyond the Veil.”

“What Veil?”

“The Veil of Death,” Vera said, standing before them with a triumphant look on her face.

She was holding a glass phial filled with what looked like molten gold. The stopper was silver inlaid with mother-of-pearl wings that were encrusted with emeralds. 

Vera sat down beside Evander, taking his hand in hers. She stroked her thumb over his knuckles and looked him in the eye. “Do you trust me?”

Evander studied her and then turned to Sam. The first drops of rain splashed against the windows as the storm that had threatened earlier began in earnest. Silence stretched between Vera, Sam, and Evander as the wind mouthed at the eaves. One of the bare branches of their home’s guardian oak tapped at the glass like a lost soul begging for shelter. 

“I do.” 

“Good.” Vera said and stood. She led Evander into the bathroom and Sam followed. 

The bathroom had been done in shades of slate and a soft, milky jade. The floors were smooth stone beneath Evander’s feet. He watched as Vera drew a bath in a huge clawfoot tub that sat beneath a rain-streaked window. The basin was long and wide like a boat, and deep enough to that the lip of the tub touched Evander’s upper thighs.  

Vera pulled two small jars of oil from the windowsill and spilled their contents into the stream of water flowing from the faucet. Wisps of steam scented with the sharp snap of rosemary and lavender rose from the bath. Vera motioned for Evander and Sam to join her. She spoke over the splash of the faucet while she trailed one hand along the surface bathwater in lazy circles.

“The three of us are different, Evy.” 

“That’s kind of obvious,” Evander laughed and Sam stifled a smile.

Vera rolled her eyes, though Sam could feel the pleased warmth that was radiating from her. The coil of fear and sadness that had lodged in his heart began to unwind, comforted by Vera’s confidence. 

“The two of you are hopeless,” she scolded, but there was no heat in her words. “We’re not from this dimension of Earth. We come from somewhere that exists beside where we are now. You were born there, all three of us were.”

“We call it the Beyond,” Sam added. 

Vera nodded. “There’s another place. One that is older than our home. It’s where those of us who were born in the Beyond go when our bodies die. It’s vast. There’s a river there. It’s called the Lethe in the language of the Underworld. We call it the River of Oblivion. The daemon who rules over it is the daughter of Tethys, Gaia’s sister. Souls who want to live out a life in this mortal world have to drink from it before they are permitted to reincarnate. It erases the memories of the lives they’ve lived in the Beyond.” 

“And you’re saying someone did that to me?”

“I’m saying someone cursed you with water from the River of Oblivion. It’s why you can’t remember, but they didn’t have the power to bring enough of the water to wash your mind clean.”

“So, is it permanent? Sam said it was fading. I’m already remembering, aren’t I?” 

“The magic from the Underworld can’t exist uncorrupted for long on this earth, because it draws its strength from death. Sam’s right, it’s already fading, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your memory back in full. This,” she held up the phial, “this will bring you back to us.” 

“What is it?” Evander asked, staring at the way the golden liquid, a faint light emanated from its center. 

“It’s something that my grandmother left to me when she died. A drop of water that comes from the River of Oblivion’s sister, the River of Memory. It is ruled by a daemon born of Gaia herself.” Vera said, pulling out the stopper and handing it to Evander. 

Sam stepped forward, to take the bottle that Vera was offering, but when he met Vera’s gaze, she offered a frown and a slight shake of her head. He withdrew his hand.

Evander took the bottle in hand. “What do I do?” 

“Drink it and then let your body and mind remember.”

Evander unstoppered the bottle and the scent of fresh apples and clover permeated the room. Vera heard the buzzing of the Temple’s hives and could feel the waxy sweetness of honeycomb in her mouth. It was as if the warmth of every midsummer sun she ran beneath as a child was shining on her in that moment. Sam was taken by the memory of sand beneath his paws and grit of brine on his lips as he rollicked in the surf. Evander breathed deep and felt a curling warmth beginning to spread from the center of his chest and throughout his body. He was struck by a need to consume the light that was glowing brighter within the phial of golden liquid. 

He drank.

A fire raced through him and he was certain his body had been set alight. Everywhere there was heat beneath this skin. It spread like a wildfire burning the fear and uncertainty of the past hours to ash. There was no pain as the magic of the River of Memory seared through the shroud that the water from the River of Oblivion had cast over his memories. His past was returned and with it the craving for his lover’s touch. It was as if he had been separated from them for years. He was a starving man finally permitted to feast. Tantalus restored, released from his curse and allowed a taste of the fruit and water that had taunted him for eons. 

Evander pulled Vera against him, taking her mouth in a bruising kiss. She opened to him without reserve, her body going lax in his grip. Her slender hands cupped his burgeoning hardness and he threw his head back gasping for air. 

“Vera, my lady, my Queen,” he whispered, imbuing her name with the love of each kiss they had shared throughout the course of their lives. He remembered every one and felt in him the clenching arousal that was growing within her as she ripped at his clothing, desperate to feel his skin beneath her hands.

Broad palms gripped his shoulders and spun Evander until he was facing Sam.

Evander looked into Sam’s eyes and saw the boy he held dear for as long as he had known what it was to love. He could taste the bitter saltiness of Sam’s spend on his tongue as he had the first time they explored each other’s bodies so many years ago.

“And you, puppy, my gorgeous boy, ” he said, running his fingers through Sam’s hair. Evander tightened his hands into fists and pulled Sam’s head back, baring his throat. 

 A flurry of movement accompanied the shedding of clothing. Once nude, Vera, Sam, and Evander converged like tributaries meeting in one great river to make the journey out to sea. No words were spoken. None were needed. They flowed together into the bath. 

The steaming water rippled around their thighs. Sam and Vera placed Evander between them, turning him from one to the other while he re-acquainted himself with the feel of their bodies. Evander teased Sam’s nipples to hardness with sharp bites. He slid his fingers through the slick, softness that gathered at the entrance to Vera’s sacred channel. Every hitched breath and moan from his lovers made him dizzy with want. His cock was throbbing and he cried out when both Vera and Sam both took his hand, stroking him in turn while they worshipped him with their mouths.

Vera pulled away and Evander groaned, chasing her lips with his own. She smiled, unguarded and pure, joyful tears stood in her eyes. She cupped her hands, gathering water and tipping it over Evander’s head. It sluiced over his body, rinsing away the silt and river water. Sam followed Vera’s lead and took up a bar of soap milled from milk and honey, working up a rich lather between his hands, and massaging it over Evander’s skin.

He closed his eyes, relishing the gliding hands that stroked his back, his arms, the tender skin on the inside of his thighs. Then there was the firm touch of fingers circling his center, dipping past his rim for a moment, before sliding forward and caressing his balls. A slippery palm wrapped around his length, trailing from the base to the tip. The rhythm was too slow to soothe the elusive tingle of desire that was rocketing through him and he bucked his hips in protest. 

Vera chuckled and the sound conjured the taste of black coffee, scented with cinnamon in Evander’s mind. Sam’s laughter joined Vera’s and soon they were rinsing the soap away, wrapping Evander in thick towels, and leading him back to their bed.

They fell together onto the rumpled sheets and duvet, bodies still warmed from the bath, Evander once again between them. Sam peppered his back with kisses and kitten licks, stopping to nip at the globes of his ass, before spreading him open and licking at his rim. He moaned at the taste of clean skin and musk and reached for the bottle of lubricant they stashed by the bedside. Sam slicked his fingers, while plunging his pointed tongue into Evander, stretching him open as the muscle relaxed beneath his ministrations.

Sam’s moans reverberated along Evander’s skin and he shook with longing. Vera trailed her tongue along the sculpted lines of his abdomen. She suckled the head of his prick, alternately licking the beads of shining moisture from the tip and sliding her mouth down his shaft until he felt her throat closing around him. The sensation of Sam and Vera both feeding on his passion filled him with a maddening thirst that could only be slaked by the joining of their bodies and minds. 

Sam and Vera both shuddered at once and climbed upward, writhing against Evander. He felt the blunt tip of Sam’s cock against his slackened hole at the same moment he felt the wetness of Vera’s channel at the head of his cock. The three lovers clasped hands and Evander was engulfed by Vera’s warmth at the same moment Sam breached his outer muscle and sheathed himself inside him. 

Evander’s consciousness engulfed Vera and Sam’s, until he felt everything that was happening within them. The intensity of their pleasure added to his own. He felt the clasping muscles of Vera’s sex along his shaft and the delicious pressure that she felt when he moved within her. Sam slid along the rim, his cock angled to stroke the tender bundle of nerves inside that had Evander’s toes curling. Somehow he also knew the gut-clenching sweetness Sam felt as he moved into the heat of his lover’s body. 

They undulated together, like wind and water, the shapes of their bodies changing as they writhed. The room was awash in the sounds of breath and passion. They had each been taken by the need to wrap themselves in the others. Vera sobbed when Evander’s fingers found her clit as she moved against him and he panted into the space where their breath mingled. Sam’s teeth clamped down on his shoulder and his prick hardened and pulsed as he ground his hips against Evander’s ass.

The crest of their fervor fast approached and a light appeared in Evander’s mind. It was the same gleam that had lay at the center of the glass phial, within it was a blinding knowledge of the pure love that existed between them. It pulsated like a beacon, once, twice, and a third time, before it flashed outward with the power of fledgling star, filling Evander, Sam, and Vera with light. 

Evander was unsure of how much time had passed as they dozed, content to bask in the silence now that his hunger had been sated. The return of his memories had brought with it a passion that had consumed the three of them. He had spent most of his life loving Sam and Vera. There were often times when the sound of Sam’s voice or the scent of Vera’s skin made him ache with want. All those moments paled in comparison to the shimmering clarity with which he had beheld them that afternoon. The way they had seen him, in turn.

It was like being a glimpse of eternity, he thought. The rain had stopped as the storm moved eastward, toward the Atlantic. Awareness came and went as he surfaced from sleepy visions both familiar and strange, only to tumble back into his dreams moment later. The light had faded to dusk when he woke for longer than a single breath, still tangled with Sam and Vera, their legs wound together. Vera was propped up on one elbow. He smiled up at her. 

“Is Sam still asleep?” he whispered. 

Vera nodded. “I’m glad to have you back. I love you, you great idiot.” 

“I love you, too,” he chuckled.

She traced his lips with her fingers. I’ll find out who did this to you if I have to burn all the worlds down to do it, she thought.

“I was kind of hoping we’d figure this out without world-ending destruction,” Evander said and kissed her cheek.

“Wait, what did you just say?” 

“I said, I’m hoping we won’t have to burn it all down to get answers, why?” 

Vera stared at him for a moment, a flicker of surprise and concern lit up her eyes like a flash of lightning and was gone. She leaned in and brushed her lips against Evander’s. “Go back to sleep, love.”

“Hmmm, that sounds like a good plan,” Evander said and nestled into his pillow.

Vera swept the hair from his temple and stroked his brow until Evander fell into an easy sleep. She watched his dreams, all quick flashes of the memories that had been hidden from him by whatever or whoever had orchestrated this attack. There were new memories among the old, too. Recollections that she recognized as her own, as well as the echo of her own thoughts, reverberating from his mind to hers. She kept her vigil while Sam and Evander slept, content to enjoy the silence and peace, until her lovers woke.


Anne Stagg's 'Mound of Gaia' series is a Bellesa exclusive.

I. The Song of Water
II. Rumors of the Wind
III. Flame's Tongue
IV. The Sacred Passage
V. Blood Makes Noise
VI. Drink Deep and Remember
VII. The Huntress

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