Ilamaych had once dreamed to become a Flame, to be able to change his body to be entirely female or male as he chose, instead of stuck shamefully between from birth. But that hope died when he was captured by slavers, and sold to a rough, lusty Ventris farmer named Earen whose commanding manner is at odds with his role as a serf to the local Matron. Earen is the first person Ilamaych has ever met who actually appreciates his unique body.
When Ficus—Flame to Earen’s Matron—discovers that Earen has been keeping Ilamaych prisoner on his farm, they are hauled in for punishment, and some very personal reconciliation.
But the world is bigger than one matron’s household, and the Ventris have been feuding with the lords of Tache for over three thousand years. Just when Ilamaych and Earen are finally finding their way with Ficus, things suddenly become much, much more complicated. (M/M, M/F, Other)
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When he finished he stood aside, uncertain what to do next. The man gestured to the bed. Ilamaych hesitated, then reluctantly slipped upon it, brushing dirt from his bare feet. Would the man take him now? Ilamaych didn’t even know his name! His shoulders ached with tension.
The man stood before the fire a time, then banked the coals. He stripped and washed with the same water, his movements swift and certain. It was Ilamaych’s turn to stare. Even in the dim light the man’s body bore evidence of hard life. He had scars everywhere. His wiry muscles were well defined, as if he’d been laboring since he was young. There were a series of bizarre scars on his back; they looked like brands. Ilamaych licked his lips. Were they serf marks? Ilamaych had made a study of Ventris two years ago. He remembered the smell of rain and Goldenrod’s low-pitched voice, instructing him in languages and etiquette, the cultures and customs of Mother Earth.
The man blew out the oil lamp and climbed into bed, still damp. Ilamaych wedged himself against the wall. Waiting. Waiting upon his master’s pleasure. Would the man find him out? How would he react to Ilamaych’s abnormality? Ilamaych’s breath betrayed him, rapid and uneven. The man aired the quilt then draped it over both of them, pulling Ilamaych down beside him. Ilamaych did not resist. Maybe it would be easier this time if he were passive, yielding everything.
The man’s hands—calloused and rough—began traveling over Ilamaych’s body. They never lingered in one place. It was as if he wanted to know him through touch, trusting his hands more than his eyes. Ilamaych waited to be crushed and impaled, but the man continued exploring him, his pace steady. Ilamaych couldn’t breathe, wondering when the man would make his discovery. The man hadn’t touched his genitals yet.
After a time Ilamaych dared look over his shoulder into the darkness. “Why did you buy me?” he whispered.
Silence. Ilamaych could hear the man breathing. Then, “Not sure myself. Recognized something in your eyes, maybe. Lucky I’d sold the lystros shoats this morning. Don’t usually carry coin.”
“You have brands on your back,” Ilamaych ventured. Would the man grow angry at the observation? But there was only silence and Ilamaych tried again. “Are you a freed serf? A houseman?”
The man barked an acerbic laugh. “Am a serf still. You’re very knowledgeable for a coterie slave, young man. You know my language and can read household marks. Did they truly fish you out from Palister?”
“I… I… had a good teacher,” Ilamaych stumbled over the past tense. He didn’t want to remember what had happened to Goldenrod. His Flame teacher had been the most important person in his life. Now Ilamaych would never initiate in fire, never be Flame himself. His loss was unbearable.
The man rumbled low in his throat. “I belong to the Ywen Coed household over the hill. Always have, probably always will.” His tone sounded resigned and worried, though Ilamaych couldn’t see his expression in the dark. “Mmph. Haven’t talked so much in a week. Been making hay over in the slough. Enough.”
Ilamaych gasped as the man seized his penis. He stroked it energetically and Ilamaych’s muscles contracted, his breath quickening with excitement and fear. The man couldn’t miss his secret. His fingers were too cunning. Even now he cradled Ilamaych’s ill-formed scrotum, his fingers tracing the unevenness Ilamaych had been born with. “Huh,” the man whispered, his fingers slowing down. “You have… oh. Oh!”