Abandoned by their employers in a hostile city, Adiún and Matti, together with liberated slaves Devi and Sauda, must find a safe place to spend the winter. While searching, Adiún and Devi struggle to remember how to love each other. The unexpected return of some old friends prompts a flight to the mountain fastness of a rebel people. Have the companions found a home at last? Will Devi and Adiún finally learn the hardest lesson of all: that true love might just be the work of many hearts? Find out in this sequel to "Master of None: The Eight of Pentacles."
Both of the TIDES stories were inspired by Tarot archetypes. For MASTER OF NONE, it was the apprenticeship qualities of the Eight of Pentacles that informed my main character, Adiún. For POLYPHONY, it was the Two of Cups which often signifies love and balance.
Here is an excerpt (teeny bit spoilery for MASTER OF NONE):
POLYPHONY PROLOGUE: DEVI'S DREAM
In his dream, Devi was fucking Adiún, frantic and free, on the riverbank outside Keoded short days after his emancipation.
Adiún’s damp hair coiled around his wrists, twined with his fingers. In Devi thrust, and in and in, with nothing more than spit and river water to ease the way. He knew he was hurting Adiún, and he knew Adiún wanted it.
Heat fizzed up his spine and raced along every nerve until even his fingers and toes felt about to burst apart with orgasm. “With me, Adi-love,” he whispered fiercely in the beloved ear. He hadn’t been brave enough to use the endearment in the waking world, not since he’d been rescued from the slave camp. But in his dream, he was brave, not broken. He thrust again, courageously, wild with love and gratitude and the jagged shards of desperate regret and terror.
It was too much. The hair around his wrists tightened, solidified until it wasn’t Adiún’s hair at all, but strong hands grinding the bones in his wrists together. His thrusts into Adiún’s willing body became hopeless bids to free himself from a heavy, careless man with the face of any and all of the men who’d fucked him in the brothel. He’d never screamed in the brothel, hadn’t fought once; the procurer had beaten it out of him. He’d never hurled invective or ridicule. But here, in his dream, he twisted and hollered and tried to kick. Hard hands held him down, and a hard prick sought, then won, entry.
“No, no! Tides, please! I am not for you, not yours! Please!”
He came awake still begging. Sauda’s face above him was indistinguishable from the dark of the tent only by the brightness of her eyes. Adiún’s arms were around him, not restraining him but catching him instead, easing him out of the nightmare with soft words and gentle caresses.
“All right, love?” Adiún’s voice, sleep-slurred and warm, murmured from under his ear, tempting him to relax back into their blankets instead of letting his panic send him crawling to Sauda. He wasn’t alone anymore, and neither was she; they no longer needed to be each other’s everything as they had been in the brothel or slave coffle. That truth, welcome as it was in daylight, was difficult to remember in the dark.
He laid his head on Adiún’s shoulder and succumbed to the petting of his shamefully short hair, which even after weeks of freedom reached only to his chin.
Matti’s gentle voice reached him as the light in the shelter began to grey into morning. “We have you,” he said softly.
Devi nodded, hoping the others could see him do it. He didn’t trust his voice yet. Trusting anything but the nightmare took effort, no matter how much evidence of his new truth, his new friends, and his old love, presented itself.
His world was a tidal sink, and he’d forgotten where the solid land lay.
Chapter 1. Hunting
|From Jessica Godino & Lauren O'Leary's World Spirit Tarot.|
and were comparing ways to kill different animals with such mannish glee he knew Sauda was only moments away from joining in. To his knowledge Sauda had never killed any animal but men, and he had no desire to hear her thoughts on the best and most decisive methods. Better to cut the discussion off at the knees and endure his friends’ fond derision.
The four of them -- Devi, Sauda, Adiún, and Matti -- had remained outside the delta city of Keoded after bidding a bitter farewell to Gydha and their norvander friends. More farewells had followed, as a few days later their remaining troupe companions, the siblings Kino and Joh and Mari, had outfitted themselves for a return to Dinas hoping to make a claim for Kino’s lover, who was trapped in a brothel there. Devi didn’t like their chances of getting the boy free of his brothel, but he kept quiet on the matter. Too often since his reunion with Adiun, he had brought dark words and anger. That knowledge held his tongue now. Matti and Adiún were going hunting, and Devi had a bad feeling.
“We need food, and goods to trade, if we are going to make a go of it in the city.” Devi startled. Sauda’s voice came as a surprise. She was the only person who could sneak up on him, so vigilant had he learned to be since leaving home.
“I know,” he sighed. “I just…”
“Fret like an old woman,” Sauda finished for him. But there was no rancor in her voice, only the rough affection he had come to rely on in the brothel and later as slaves awaiting transportation to parts distant and unknown.
“They’re being insufferable,” he groused.
“Tell them so, if that will help you let them go.”
“You’re always so reasonable, tiba,” Devi answered, using the name for each other Sauda had taught him from her mother tongue. It meant ‘dear one,’ and she was, though he still found her frightening sometimes.
“Sure you won’t come, Sauda?” Matti asked. “Your knife will be welcome.”
Sauda waved him off. “I don’t hunt. I am war maiden. Would you like to know what that means?”
The grin she flashed was almost feral, and Adiún stepped up quickly, shaking his head and smiling. “I can imagine.” His face hardened to deadly seriousness. “Sauda, keep Devi safe. If we didn’t need food…”
Hackles up, Devi interrupted, “Tides, Adiún! I can protect myself, or did you forget I kept myself alive without you for months?”
Adiún’s nostrils flared. Devi knew that look from their lovemaking, but hadn’t gotten used to seeing it in anger. “I could say the same to you, all right? Keep each other safe, will you?” And with that Adiún planted a hard, possessive kiss on Devi’s lips. Devi savored the tingle as he watched Adiún plant a quick peck on Sauda’s scarred cheek. Matti offered gentle, shy embraces, and they were gone into the tangle of brush that abutted the road, Kibi the half-grown pup lolloping in their wake.
|From Ciro Marchetti's Gilded Tarot.|
Since the disintegration of Gydha’s performing troupe, Matti’s divination cards had been infuriatingly cryptic in their advice about what to do next. Jürn the juggler had taught Matti the trick of the cards, and helped him make his own deck, but Matti fretted that there was much he had yet to learn. Devi well understood the feeling.
Sauda tugged at his arm. “Come, tiba, there’s no reason we can’t make ready to storm the city while the boys are off playing in the woods.”
Devi chuckled, a rusty sound he was only just trying out again after months lacking mirth. He looked over his shoulder to where his lover had disappeared into the wilderness. Then he followed his friend, cautiously hopeful about what the day might bring.
© Lee Benoit
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