Chapter 6 - Streets Made of Desire
Streets Made of Desire
Oudjat was amazing, Tommy had to admit. It was buzzing with life despite the scorching sun over the desert. He and Adam were walking down the streets in their light clothes and sandals, two guards following them, but it seemed they didn’t have much to do as the people whom they passed all smiled and bowed to them and offered their wares in the market. It was one of the biggest squares in the city filled with all kinds of goods. Expensive drapes, silk, spices, fish, sweet roots, vegetables, incents, jewels, gold, silver, copper and everything else one could need. The colors, noise and scents were overwhelming, but Tommy enjoyed himself as they walked in a comfortable pace, Adam explaining him how the vendors come from all around the country and from further to sell their wares.
Tommy was listening intently as they stopped here and there and he smiled at a few bowing men and women. He inspected the merchandise on their stands while they were moving deeper into the heart of the market. As Tommy looked at the surrounding imposing buildings with all the paintings, carvings and statues on them he had to admit that this kingdom really was much more richer than theirs – and he haven’t even seen most of the palace yet. But he could already imagine the grandeur the rest held.
The blond felt calmer in this environment as it reminded him of the market at home that he sometimes visited, although the strong smell of fish and the salty sea were missing from the air. He slowed his steps as they neared a jewelry stand. He always liked those, it wasn’t a secret, and once he stopped in front of the gorgeous ware a small smile appeared on his face. He forgot about the slight discomfort he felt while walking or the flashbacks from last night and focused on what was in front of him. The vendor, of course, bowed and started babbling about the jewels but one subtle move of Adam’s hand stopped him.
“Is there something you like?” Adam asked standing next to Tommy, but he wasn’t looking at the sparkling goods. He was examining the blonde’s profile which he still found very beautiful along with the discrete excitement burning in the brown eyes.
“Everything looks stunning, but…” he ran his slender fingers on the edge of a container that held different kind of earrings displayed on a soft cloth “I like the earrings the most,” he admitted and took a look at some silver ones. His eyes got caught by a long earring that was made from a black loop and three silver disks were attached to it. Each disk was smaller than the one above it. He picked it up and put it to one of the four silver loops he had in his ear already. He could see in a mirror that it reached under his chin.
“It looks good,” Adam commented too and Tommy nodded, setting it aside before he started digging through another container. “You seem to like jewels like me.”
“Not that much, I’m usually interested in earrings,” he shrugged and picked up a thin silver bar that had two small balls on each end. “Where does this go?” he asked the vendor. The man quickly explained that it’s not his most popular piece and that people usually drive it through the top of their ear then a spot a bit lower on the lobe across. Once the man finished his explanation Tommy looked down at the bar and nodded. “I like that,” he said and turned to Adam, his gaze lingering on the stretchers in the dark-haired man’s ears. “Do you have someone to do that for me?”
“Yes. We have a very skilled barber who is good with piercings like these too,” he nodded smiling. “Let me buy you the earrings as a ‘welcome to the Desert’ gift.”
“No,” he shook his head but softened his voice “thank you, but I want to purchase them for me from the same reason,” he offered a small smile and Adam returned it, waving towards the stand as he slightly bowed with his upper-body, making the vendor gasp for air as the members of the royal family only bowed in front of those whom they respected. Tommy caught the reaction of the vendor but didn’t comment on it. “Thank you,” he nodded and handed the jewels to the tanned man. He took the small purse from one of the hidden pockets of his tunic and offered him a golden coin.
“No, my king, I cannot accept such generosity,” he shook his head holding out a small velvet purse with the chosen jewels inside.
“Please, just take it and give the rest away to the poor then,” Tommy said and after a second of hesitation the vendor nodded and took the coin, telling him how grateful he was and that he’d do exactly that.
“I’m not sure he’ll do that, you know” Adam commented when they were already on their way through the crowd, guards following close behind.
“I know, but it doesn’t matter. I did it because people have to get used to my presence just as much as I have to get used to this new culture and them,” Tommy said looking around and noticed that they were nearing the end of the market. “Don’t you want to buy anything?”
“I see. You are already wise, it seems,” Adam smirked and Tommy had to suppress a smile of his own. “And no, I don’t need anything.”
“My father thinks that I’m wise only at times. Maybe this was one of those times,” he shrugged.
“Maybe. By the way, we sometimes give feasts to the poor or go out among them for alms-giving. It usually happens before the bigger celebrations to win the favor of the gods and because we simply care about our people’s well-being.”
“That’s very noble of your family.”
“They are now your family too, Tommy.”
“I know. I just have to get used to that still.”
“True. Come on, let me show you one of my favorite spots in the city,” he took Tommy’s hand in his to pull him to the right direction through narrow alleys.
The blond man didn’t protest and tried to calm his heart feeling his hand get lost in the much bigger palm as he followed Adam through the maze of streets. He was starting to contemplate about being dragged along like that but the second he wanted to say something about it they got out of the semi-dark alleys into the bright sunlight. For a few seconds Tommy couldn’t see anything as his eyes tried to adjust to the light then he gasped softly from the sight. They were on top of a staircase that led down to the riverbank. There were palm trees and lush bushes on each side of the stairs and the path that curved towards the river. Adam kept his hand in his and Tommy forgot to free himself from the grip as they walked down on the stairs much slower this time, the guards following them like their shadows.
“My mother had this small oasis done when we were small with my brother. She liked to take us down to the water where we could bathe in a small bay. I thought you might like it,” Adam said as they followed the shady path and finally stopped at the edge of the sandy bank. “What do you think?” the dark-haired man asked rubbing the back of Tommy’s hand a little nervously.
Tommy looked around then up into Adam’s slightly flushed face. He could appreciate the way he was trying and noticed the slight nervousness to indulge his new husband. Tommy lightly squeezed his fingers and tilted his head to the side, the warm breeze ruffling his long fringe. “It is beautiful here. Do you think we can take a dive? It’s a very hot day,” he asked pulling his hand out from Adam’s hold and stepped towards the water, hands already loosening his belt. This time it was gold over the white fabric.
“Sure,” the other man nodded watching him and the surprise was clear on his freckled face. He didn’t expect something like this from the usually closed up blond. He wanted to say something else too as Tommy took off his sandals, but his words got stuck in his throat when the white tunic landed on the ground too. All the revealed pale skin made the young king’s mouth dry, especially when Tommy turned his back to him and took off his undergarment too to head naked into the water. Adam willed his body to behave, but the sight of the slim male’s naked body being licked by the water was very tempting.
Once the nice water was deep enough Tommy disappeared for a few moments to wet his hair too. Shaking the water out of his fringe he turned towards Adam, who had a strange dazed expression on his face. “Aren’t you coming in?” he raised a brow, unaware of the reason why he was staring at him like that.
“Right,” he mumbled and started undressing to follow his new husband into the water. He tried to mask the lust he was feeling for him and he hoped he succeeded as he didn’t want to scare him off or ruin the nice mood between them. Tommy looked less withdrawn, which was a pleasant surprise as Adam thought that after last night things would be weird between them. He was glad he was wrong about that.
The other man was waiting for him in the water that was nice warm but still could cool him off a little. He felt goose bumps rise on his skin and he wasn’t sure if it was caused only by the water or watching the naked man walking into it. He had to admit that Adam was a very handsome and attractive man with a beautiful body. All those freckles… Tommy had to quietly take a deep breath and concentrate on swimming instead of the pictures from last night when that body was towering over him, moving in a perfect rhythm, sweat glistening on the nicely toned muscles. The situation put the blonde in a turmoil, because a part of him still wanted to resist his current position and Adam, but another part just wanted to give in to the dark-haired man and the pleasures he was offering to Tommy. Maybe everyone was right and he should try it. After all Adam proved to be trustworthy enough last night and Tommy didn’t feel any ill will in him.
“Have you ever thought that one day you’d swim in this bay with your husband instead of your brother?” Tommy asked instead once Adam swam close to him.
“Not really, but it’s nice. I’m glad I showed you this place,” he smiled warmly and Tommy already felt less tense from that smile. There was something radiant in it and the blond liked the way it lit up Adam’s whole face and being.
“I’m glad too. I like it here. As you know I’ve been raised next to the sea. I’m glad your city has a river at least. I love to swim,” he said.
“Our city,” Adam corrected him still smiling as they were swimming in circles in the bay “and it fills me with joy to know you like this place and the river too. I thought you’d appreciate the closeness of the water. Did you ever sail on sea?”
“Our city,” he nodded tasting the meaning of it. “Yes, numerous times. As a young boy my father thought that it was necessary for me to learn what hard work is. To become a good prince and later king. I used to sail with merchant ships and war ships alike. My personal bodyguards of course made sure nothing bad could happen to me, but I loved it. Going out on the sea to fish were my favorite trips,” he admitted.
“Why is that?” Adam asked curiously.
“Because it meant the amount of fish we caught would provide food for the people in our kingdom. I’ve learned to value food. I know how important it is to be able to feed your subjects, especially at the time of war.”
Adam nodded as they stopped for a while and were just keeping themselves afloat with moving their arms and legs, facing each other. “That’s true. And your kingdom is rich of good fish. That’s why we’ve always been trading with you. Most of our fish supply comes from there as River Sesen isn’t enough to provide the amount of food our land needs,” he said softly. “You see, our lives have been interwoven even before we were born,” he smiled.
Tommy thought about that for a second then finally nodded with a small smile. “I can see that, you’re right. I’m trying to get used to it… to get used to you. I haven’t even thanked you for last night… for keeping yourself to your word,” he said after pausing for a moment and feeling a light blush creep over his pale skin.
“I always try to keep my given word and I’ve told you before that I don’t want to hurt or exploit you. You are not just a lover but my husband. We are equal and I want to keep it that way. I won’t force anything on you that you don’t want. But… can I be honest with you?”
“Yes, I’d love it if you could be honest with me at all times and in exchange I’ll try to be honest with you as well,” he nodded seriously.
“I find you very attractive and hot… and last night… it was amazing to me. I hope for you too… and I’d like to… repeat it some time. Maybe it’s too early to confess, but you make me all hot and bothered,” he whispered and if Adam wasn’t blushing just as much as Tommy, the blonde would have gotten pissed, but seeing him just as insecure about his confession and talking about this, made Tommy think and finally smile.
The smaller man swam closer to him and feeling bold he put his arms around Adam’s shoulders, keeping his head over the water only with the movements of his legs now. He slid a hand to the back of Adam’s neck and tilted his head up so their lips could meet in a slow and sensual kiss that left both of them breathless by the time the blonde pulled back. “I hope for the same,” he whispered looking up into Adam’s eyes and the little surprised smile he got in return filled him with satisfaction. He gave his husband a lopsided grin then he started swimming towards the shore, leaving him behind.
By the time they were walking back into the castle with the silent guards at their heels Tommy’s hair was drying in soft waves. He preferred his fringe to be flat, but now it didn’t bother him. They weren’t holding hands or anything, but they were walking closer after the kiss and words they’ve exchanged in the river. Tommy was thinking about how appropriate its meaning was – rebirth – in their situation too. After last night he felt like he was somehow different. Maybe he really was starting to open up for Adam seeing how caring and kind he was with him and the people around. He should’ve been a fool not to see how much people loved him and Tommy liked that. He knew he could’ve ended up in a much worse situation and besides… he had to admit to himself that he was starting to like it here.
They were climbing the endless stairs the next time Adam talked, bringing him back to the here and now.
“I want to show you another important place before we have a late lunch in our chambers,” he said and Tommy got curious right away.
“What kind of place?”
“You’ll see,” Adam winked at him and they climbed the rest of the stairs in silence.
The air was hot but no sand this time. Still, by the time they’ve passed the level where their chambers were and reached the top of the stairs Tommy was thirsty and slightly out of breath. Now he had an idea where they were headed as two servants offered them fresh water. They drank it slowly while Adam explained what was going to happen. Tommy’s eyes were on the great painted dome towering over them. The temple.
“I often come here to talk to our gods and seek their guidance and we do the important ceremonies here. Like offering up sacrifices… food, animals, wine or our blood. Depends on which god’s favor we want to win,” he explained as they were walking towards the huge two-winged door. It was black and the figures and symbols were painted with gold just like on the main doors of the palace underneath.
“Does it usually work?”
“Not always but most of the time,” Adam nodded. “In the dome over the temple we often study the stars and constellations too, trying to determine all kinds of things from them,” he continued as they waited for the doors to be opened for them.
Tommy just nodded, wondering if that was a part of the legendary wisdom the family of his husband passed down since centuries. Adam went silent on his side as they entered the temple and the same high priest who wed them came closer to greet them. They slightly bowed to each other, said some words on a strange language Tommy didn’t know and Adam let the priest draw something between the king’s eyes with his thumb which he wetted in scented water held by a servant boy. Tommy guessed it was the eye symbol and once the priest did the same to his forehead he was pretty sure about it. After that the priest retreated and left them alone.
“It’s for opening your eyes and mind,’ he explained pointing at his own forehead. “Come,” Adam took his hand and they walked further into the richly decorated temple. It was round like the dome above and light flooded its black marble floors through tall arches between painted columns. In the middle of the round temple seven steps ran around and led down to a golden altar in the middle. The structure of the steps reminded Tommy on the amphitheater near their castle where his father took him a few times to watch plays. Of course this was much, much smaller though. He looked curiously at Adam who returned the look with a soft smile then walked down the stairs which were filled with black and gold pillows.
“During rituals or just praying priests and the members of our family sit on these pillows to pray and participate. I often come here to meditate too.”
“What is that?” he asked only having a vague idea of it.
“I usually come here to meditate when a problem clouds my mind and I can’t see a way out of it or make the right decision about it. It helps to clear my mind and get more in touch with myself,” he answered and sat down on one of the black pillows waving for Tommy to follow his example. Once he took a seat on a golden pillow Adam turned to the direction of the altar. “We present our offerings or let the high priest do the rituals there,” he nodded towards the center of the circle slightly below them.
“So you, your family and people are very religious…” Tommy wondered sitting cross-legged on his pillow.
“Yes. I used to serve here in the temple for years when I was younger. It was a part of my and my brother’s training as princes and the next keepers of the wisdom our family holds,” he explained. “Is that a problem? Aren’t you and your people religious? I mean you have different kind of gods too.”
“Yeah, we do and my family and people are religious too. I’m not so much. I mean… I believe there must be something that’s bigger than us but I’m not sure about giving them human faces and attributes,” he shook his head and made sure that he kept his voice just above a whisper as he didn’t want any of the priests or servant boys shout ‘heretic’ at him and get him into trouble. He hoped Adam wouldn’t do that either.
Something must have shown on Tommy’s face as Adam’s thoughtful expression softened. “Don’t worry, I accept your point of view even if mine is different from yours,” he put his hand on Tommy’s which was resting on the blonde’s knee.
“Thanks. I was scared for a moment. I’ve always been more interested in the mythology my people created around these gods. The adventurous stories, trips and the scary monsters intrigued me as a boy too,” he smiled down at his tattooed arm.
“I can see that,” Adam chuckled softly and rubbed the back of Tommy’s hand with his thumb. “Speaking of which, I have something for you once we get back to our chambers,” he announced grinning at Tommy and somehow it made his heart leap. The blonde turned his attention back to the golden altar but he was smiling.
“You made me curious. We can go once you answer one more question.”
“And what would that be?” he whispered sliding a tiny bit closer to his husband.
“When would you start teaching me about your culture and the secret wisdom your family holds?” he asked a little hoarsely. He could feel the air getting filled with electricity between them as Adam leaned in and pressed a soft kiss against Tommy’s flushed cheek. Tommy blamed the tingling feeling on his cheek on the magical atmosphere of the temple, but he knew it was just his still resisting part talking. He turned his head to the side to be able to look into Adam’s piercing blue eyes from close.
“Once harvest time arrives at the end of next month,” he whispered on Tommy’s lips and lightly brushed his freckled ones against them before he pulled back smiling on the blonde’s dazed expression. “Come now, husband, let’s get something to eat. I’d like to hear your opinion about the things we’ve discussed with father in the morning,” he stood and pulled Tommy up by his hand.
They never let go on their way down to their chambers.
The southern kingdoms were a threat they always had to count with, but ever since they’ve joined in an alliance in an attempt to conquer the Land of the Sea and the Land of the Desert for their food supply and all the natural resources made the threat more real. The way they’ve started gathering a huge army made the former kings Eber and Ron take the step of marrying their sons and uniting their kingdoms. Their enemy consisted of two kingdoms. One was the Islands of Gorgo, led by a fierce and ruthless warrior queen called Thalia. The other the Land of the Volcanoes. Their leader was a feared pirate captain, Vito who raided the waters between the kingdoms and often the shoreline too as their homeland was not much more than raging volcanoes, ash and fire and very little food source. However, the weapons they managed to forge there were legendary. As their fleet grew, worry overshadowed the careful kings’ minds, too.
“So what do you think? Is it wise to gather our armies too? You think there really will be an attack on us soon?” Adam asked while they were eating their late lunch next to the pool and under the shade.
“I believe so. I trust my father’s instincts and well… spies and your father seems like a reasonable and careful man too,” Tommy nodded eating some more of the spicy rice which he found delicious. “I think being cautious can’t do harm. You know well that our kingdoms are the gateway into the kingdoms deeper on the mainland. If we fall, the rest will follow soon. I still think we should send word about the threat and ask for aid from the other rulers,” he added thinking back about the council this morning where he suggested this option and Eber told him that he’ll consider it.
“You know why my father is reluctant about that. Those kingdoms aren’t as strong as ours. They mostly consist of nomads and farmers. Their warriors are fierce but few and they are reluctant to aid us because of the past our countries share with them. But yes, maybe our message could open their eyes to the danger. As you’ve said, if we fall, they will be conquered too,” Adam agreed raising his golden cup to his lips to sip from his wine. “They are willing to trade with us, but the peace is fragile with the Desert. I assume the situation is the same with the Sea?”
“As far as I know it is. But I still think that we should at least try to reason with them. I’m sure though, as small that kingdom is, the Land of the Caves where my sister is queen would aid us. But even with their help we’d face a difficult war with the southern nations. I’ve heard stories both of Thalia and Vito. They’d either kill everyone or enslave them. I don’t want our people to suffer from that. It took long enough to stop slavery in my home and I’ve heard you had some difficulties regarding that in the past too.”
“That’s correct. Although my family had banished slavery nearly a hundred years ago, it wasn’t an easy change. But it worked out in the long run and I don’t want to see our people on chains either,” he frowned shaking his head.
“Well, let’s just hope that your father will agree with us. If I may say so, it kind of still feels as if we need his approval to act as kings.”
“You may. It’s just natural, I think. He’s still getting used to the idea that the real power is in our hands now, but I like him as our consultant. He’s been a wise king so far and I value his opinion.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I value it too,” Tommy looked at Adam drinking from his own wine too “I was just saying. My father has it easier as he stayed back home and practically still rules the Sea while waiting for our orders. We’ll have to step soon though. I have a bad feeling about the southern kingdoms.”
“Yes… I can feel it too. It’s the wind of change,” Adam nodded looking past the pool and the palm trees which were lightly moving from a breeze coming from the direction of the far sea. “Oh, I nearly forgot!” Adam suddenly stood up and made a gesture with his hand to signal Tommy to stay. The blond looked confused until he got back with a rectangular package wrapped in a soft cloth. “I believe this belongs to you,” he smiled bright as he handed it to the smaller man.
Tommy frowned and took the package, opening it. He recognized the cover of the book immediately and a smile crossed his lips. “I was wondering what happened to this,” he glimpsed up at Adam, remembering the day of their first kiss at the beach and how he’d left this book behind in the sand. He nearly forgot about it.
“I took it with me after you left. I know I should’ve given it back much earlier, but to tell the truth, it intrigued me and I wanted to wait until I had the chance to read it. I know it probably means a lot to you, a piece of your homeland and I hope you’re not angry with me.”
“No, don’t worry. I’m just glad that I have it here with me,” he stroked along the elaborate leather cover depicting sea monsters and gods. “So you read it?” he raised a brow smiling a little.
“Yes,” Adam said and was still fighting with the slight color on his face after his previous confession.
“I didn’t know you could read in this old dialect of my language,” he blinked surprised. He knew Adam was sophisticated but he didn’t expect this. They both had different mother tongues but there was a common language they and everyone else coming in contact with him used. It was spread and used all around the kingdoms to make communication easier. But now Tommy was impressed knowing that Adam could read the old dialect of his language which was sometimes difficult to understand even for the blonde.
“There are a lot of things you don’t know about me yet, Tommy…” he said mysteriously.
Tommy agreed with a nod as he set his cup down and watched Adam for a long moment before his eyes caught movement behind him as a tall female figure emerged from the direction of the corridor.
“Excuse me, your Majesties. King Adam, you’ve sent for me?” the woman asked and Tommy found it difficult not to stare at her. She had black and blonde two-toned hair shaved on one side of her scull. She had brown eyes and full lips, and despite her height just the right curves which haven’t stayed hidden under her short black floating tunic that was held together by a golden belt under her breasts.
“Yes…” Adam paused for a second looking at Tommy who was still eyeing her. “I… or rather King Thomas requires your services. Tommy, let me introduce you Ashley, the best barber and tattoo artist in Oudjat. She did my ears and most of my tattoos too. Being a spiritual woman, on her spare time she’s also a priestess of the temple which we just visited,” he introduced his husband to her and Ashley slightly bowed.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you in person too, King Thomas,” she said calmly.
“The pleasure is mine,” he said then turned to Adam, not really understanding his expression “Thank you.”
“What will it be today, your Majesty? Another tattoo?” she asked eyeing the nearly full sleeves on the blonde’s arms “Shaving? Or piercing?”
“I’ve bought a bar for my earlobe down the market. I’d like you to put that in and then a shave would be nice too, thank you.”
“Very well. I’ll set up inside. You can join me in a few minutes,” she said and bowed to both of them before she left.
“You like her, don’t you?” Adam asked amused once she was out of earshot.
“What makes you think so?” he raised a brow and picked up his cup to finish his wine.
“The way you sized her up,” he shrugged.
“She would’ve been my type back home. But now I’m married to you. Does it bother you?”
“Just a little. I’m aware of the fact that you like both men and women. I’ll probably always be a little bothered by women around you as they can give you something I can’t.”
Tommy smiled softly under his nose and lightly shook his head “As I just said, I’m married to you,” he repeated.
“You say it as if that explains everything.”
“Well, I won’t go around chasing skirts, if you are worried about that. Even if I barely know you yet, I’ve made a commitment to you, which I plan to honor. Or you don’t think the same way, Adam?” he raised a brow looking at his husband.
“Oh I do think the same way about our marriage. Just wanted to make sure,” he smirked then followed Tommy inside once Ashley told them that she was ready.
Tommy sat down in one of the lithe armchairs after giving Ashley the piercing and let her clean his earlobe and disinfect the bar over a candle. Tommy knew now why she was the best. It hurt a little but she was quick and soon showed him the result in a hand mirror. Tommy was pleased and let her clean his ear once again before foaming up his face and throat to shave him with steady moves. Soon Tommy fully relaxed closing his eyes and letting his guards nearly fully down as the sharp blade ran on his pale skin. It was an eventful but good day and by now he couldn’t wait to learn more about this nation and his husband.