Season 3, Episode 1: Dirt
Written by Tof Eklund
Read by Tawn Krakowski
Geoff pulled his longsword free of the other man’s gizzard with an effort. His muscles ached and he had to take a step back to avoid the next soldier’s swing, a wasted effort in the narrow confines of the secret tunnel under the palace. You could have had me, if you’d lunged instead of flailing like a gods-forsaken idiot, he thought.
Even so, he was losing ground. He’d fought the invaders back into the tunnel, but old wounds and creeping age were undermining his efforts. Besides, he thought, sooner or later I’ll face a man who knows something about blindfighting in close quarters. Time to end it.
There was a rustle of chainmail and Geoff stabbed into the inky darkness at it. The point of his blade struck armor and slid sideways, failing to pierce through, but buying him enough time to fall back. He slid a hand along the dirt wall…there. This tunnel had gone a long time without maintenance, and many of its supports were succumbing to dry rot. This one was splintering, almost ready to give.
Geoff buried his sword deep in the support. He then drew a deep breath and threw his whole body against the hilt. The timber screamed like a dying man, and as it gave way, the tunnel collapsed with a deafening roar. For the briefest of moments Geoff felt relief. He’d done his duty and now he could rest. It was over.
Then the measureless weight of the earth fell upon him. It yanked his sword from his hands, smashed him facedown into the dirt, pummeled his head, back, and limbs brutally, and then began to squeeze. There was dirt in his ears, eyes, mouth. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t fight, couldn’t think. He’d never wavered in battle, never run from a foe, had expected to face his death, when it came, with calm resolution, but now as his lungs burned and muscles spasmed ineffectually, he panicked.
A scream rose in his throat, choked on the lack of air, died. Not like this, Geoff thought, not like this. Then the earth shifted, fell out from beneath his legs. Strong hands gripped his ankles and pulled. The hard-packed dirt beneath him trembled, shook, slid, and he was hauled backwards into an open space. He collapsed to the floor in a cloud of dust, spitting and hacking, but there was a floor, and above it, air. Air!
“Yew did that, dinna ye?” A voice like pebbles tumbling came out of the darkness. “Brought it down on yer right silly head.”
Geoff had never heard anything like that rocky voice before, and the accent was archaic, like that of countryfolk but more pronounced. Nonetheless, there was something familiar about it, a tickling amidst his shattered thoughts. On instinct, he reached for it.
A hand, thick fingered and hard as stone, met and gripped his own. That hand could crush his bones to powder, he was sure of it, but its touch was tender, careful.
“Anythin’ broken? Ken I turn ye over?” the voice asked.
Over? Geoff thought, then realized that he was lying prone. “Yes,” he whispered.
The hand let go of his, then he felt both of his rescuer’s hands on him, at his waist and shoulder, and he was gently rolled over onto his back.
Those hands, he thought. I know them. They used to be slender. It didn’t make any sense.
“Here, drink,” a wineskin was pressed to his lips and out of it flowed rich, dark stout. Geoff gulped it down, cleansing his mouth of dust. After a long draught, he belched, then stretched, feeling the strength return to his limbs.
He felt, rather than saw, his companion lean in close. He had a clean scent about him, like mountain heather, and beneath it something that sparked memories and sped Geoff’s pulse.
“How?” he asked.
“Geoff,” came the reply, “I can feel ye in me bones.”
Geoff raised an uncertain hand and touched a face that was too wide, too hard, to be the one he remembered. The face was wrong, the hands were wrong, the voice was wrong, but something about all those things was right.
“Vivus?” he whispered.
The figure leaned in even closer and kissed him. The lips, the tongue, the beard were all strange, but the kiss, that was ever so familiar. It was Vivus. It couldn’t be, yet it had to be.
Geoff didn’t question it, didn’t even think about it. He pulled his long-lost lover in close and pressed the kiss. They rolled in the dirt, hands in each other’s clothes, fighting to free themselves, fighting for closeness. A boot clunked against an earthen wall and a scalemail apron slithered to the floor. Hands yanked body hair, clutched muscular buttocks, slid along throbbing cocks, and pulled them close to open, panting mouths.
This foreplay only whetted their appetites like a bellows worked over a smelter. Before long, and with only a smearing of spit and a few drops of precum for lubricant, the old soldier was deep inside the dwarf. They were filthy, rutting in the dirt and their own sweat, yet, as if in apology for its earlier behavior, the earth was kind and no gritty unpleasantness marred their coupling.
The world above forgotten, they grappled and strained like the fabled giants of the underworld. If the roots of the world were not shaken by the rolling and pounding of their passions, it was not for any lack of effort.
When at last they were both spent, raw, and achingly sore, Geoff still couldn’t make sense of it.
“Vivus,” he said, “what happened?”
“Ye left. I changed.”
“Met one of the mountain folk, I did, out by Talhome. He shewed me kindness an’ I went with him, joined them.”
“You’re a Dwarf.” It was a statement, an admission of the impossible.
“They changed you.”
“Nae. I discovered who I was.”
“Even the way you speak is different.”
“Aye. Oh…” There was a pause before Vivus spoke again, and when he did, his voice still sounded like tumbling stone, but the archaic accent had been replaced by something more familiar. “That’s how everyone speaks down there, Geoff. I didn’t pick it up immediately, but I’ve spent longer under the earth now than I lived up above. They’re all like us, an entire city of men who love men, without fear or killing. I love them all, but I never forgot you.”
“Nor I you, Vivus.”
“Geoff, I still love you.”
“And I you.”
“Then you’ll return with me? There’ll be a party to welcome a lost brother, and you’ll love Kaenath and Argus. Argus made the stone wheel at Talhome, and there’s a story there, but it’s his to tell, not mine—”
“No? It’s her, isn’t it? You’re choosing her over me again.”
“Theobel is your sister.”
“You love her, don’t you? More than you ever loved me.”
“I do love her, but not in the same way I love you, and it’s not just about her. It’s about your nephew, Kaye, and his child.”
“I’m a great-uncle?”
“You will be soon enough. You’re still the same, Vivus, but the years have changed me.”
“That’s not true. I’ve learned a lot about brewing and math and…” he paused and made a whistling noise like birdsong. “Sorry, there’s no word for it in Thrycaen. It’s a little like astrology, and a little like architecture.”
“Vivus, you are just beginning. I’ve made decisions I need to see through. I can’t turn back.”
“You always put duty first.”
“It’s more than that.” Geoff drew in a deep breath. “I never should have left you, but I did. Since then, I’ve tried to make my life worth that mistake. If I leave with you now, all those years and effort are for nothing.”
To Geoff’s surprise, Vivus kissed him, gently.
“You haven’t changed much,” he said, “you’re as stubborn as ever. Geoff, what is it you want?”
There was a long pause before Geoff spoke.
“I want to see Theobel hold her grandchild. She deserves that much and so do I.”
© 2014 Copyright Tof Eklund
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