Chapter IV

Return of the Merchant

Lumi runs past the reflecting pool, his mind a mixture of concern and excitement over being summoned by Amani. Is she calling me to punish me, I’ve barely spoken a word to her in weeks. Gods, I should have just kept to myself. Maybe Khimi arrived! He thinks, suddenly growing more excited by the second. He passes under the arched entrance of the temple while Several acolytes turn to look at him. Walking into the Sanctum, he turns away, avoiding the gaze of his peers, hastening his pace to the inner chambers. The heavy scent of incense wafts from beneath the closed doors before him. He pauses with his hand on the door, his heightened sense of hearing picks parts of the conversation within the room. His curiosity is piqued at the mention of his name. He brings himself closer to the door, attempting to remain calm. Instantly, he can recognize the voices of Amani and Nina. The door is cold against his ear, his hand wrings the hem of his chiton nervously while he listens.

“You know what I say is true,” Amani says, her voice echoing angrily throughout the saint’s chambers. “Only the Chosen may speak with the Gods, and if what he says is true, then he is either not of our order or he is a liar!” She exclaims. “I have high hopes for him, but we’ve allowed it too long!”

Nina sighs, “There has been precedent before of an acolyte speaking with the Gods,” she replies. “There is a chance he still belongs to our order.”

Amani scoffs, “If you mean Durin, I think you will recall that people in equal measure call him Durin the deceiver!” She spits. “The world hated him, people even whispered that the angel who spoke on his behalf was under a geas[1].”

“People often look for other truths when they find it difficult to believe in something. Just as you are now,” Nina says. “There have been instances when two Chosen presented themselves at the same time.”

Amani breathes heavily, ignoring Nina’s words, “HOW LONG, how long before another Saint catches word of this? How long before you bring ruin to our temple because you harbor someone like him?” Amani asks, nearly shouting before she sighs. “It could be that he is a Saint from one of the other domains, Nina. Then you have more worry on your hands than you do now. They could accuse you of keeping their voice[2].”

Nina exhales sharply in protest, “Would you truly ask a mother to cast her children out of her home?”

“I would ask it of you. You’re supposed to see reason, saint. He’s a danger to our order…people may even suspect you of being a negligent Saint if you allow this to continue,” Amani says. “I-I myself believe him, but for the sake of our order, Nina…we cannot keep him here any longer!”

Lumi presses his body firmly against the door to hear more clearly, a loud creak erupts from the wooden door when he does.

“Quiet! Someone approaches,” Nina exclaims.

“Saint Nina!” Lumi exclaims once he enters the room, attempting to hide his disgruntled expression. “I was told that Amani has summoned me. Did you have a need for me, High Priestess?” He asks, his brow pinched in fury.

Nina acknowledges him with a nod.

“Lumi, I just sent for you to help me with some errands. I almost forgot I had requested you,” Amani says with a deep frown. “For now, it may be better if you just head back to your quarters. The saint and I are in the middle of discussing something important.”

“Right, I’ll give you peace” he says, looking quizzically at Saint Nina. “I-is everything alright, Nina?” He asks, his ears lower in worry.

“Just fine, Lumi. Please return to your chambers,” she says with a sigh.

Amani turns back to Saint Nina, “Run along, Lumi.”

Lumi exits the room, confused as to why Amani would have summoned him only to send him away. He finds himself lost in a maze of thoughts while he rushes back across the temple, nudging past flocks of acolytes. Before the reflecting pool, he stops to take in the beauty of the mosaics lying just below the water’s surface. He peers at his own reflection, a moment of revulsion takes hold of him. His fingers tense tightly to the breast of his tunic, feeling moist tears drip across his hand from his cheek. Amani would have had me sent into the desert if it weren’t for Nina…now even Nina seems like she may be forced to listen to her. He kneels before the still water, swiping his hands back and forth, distorting his reflection. The ripples form across his shape. Nothing to do about it then. Wouldn’t be the first time no one wanted me. The tears come to a sudden halt, and he finds himself smiling back at his shaky form. You’re better than that, aren’t ya, Lumi?

“Is something humorous, Lumi?” a familiar voice asks behind him.

Lumi turns abruptly to see Keira, “Aye, there was just…some sand got in my eye. I couldn’t help but laugh,” he lies, turning and wiping the wet lines from his cheeks.

Keira eyes him suspiciously, “You’re a shit liar, always have been” she says, scowling. She crosses her arms, “I’ve shared that room with you for years…I can tell when something is wrong.”

He wipes his eyes clear of any tears. “I just had a moment. I was thinking about home.”

Keira looks at him with a moment of recognition, “Oh…so you’re feeling homesick?” She asks, moving quickly to embrace him. “Let’s make something that makes you think of home,” she says during her crushing embrace.

“We typically just eat whatever we come across…we do enjoy heavily spiced foods, though,” he says, enduring the taller woman’s tight squeeze.

Keira chortles, “Why don’t we make you something spicy?” She asks, pressing the aslan’s face against her bosom.

Lumi’s face wrinkles against her, “Fine, Keira…you’re squishing me!” Lumi exclaims, attempting to pull back from the woman.

“Alright, let’s go raid the kitchens,” she says, releasing him from her grip. “I heard your man may be coming soon,” she adds.

Lumi lets out a lengthy sigh, “I’ve been waiting for him to come back,” he says between sniffles. He tosses his hands in the air, his tail stands up on end. “I feel I made an ass of myself last time he was here, and he was still kind enough to send me a letter.”

“From what you told me, you may have come on a bit strong, but…sometimes that’s what we need,” she says while they walk to the kitchen. “And it seems your forcefulness paid off!”

Lumi glances at her out of the corner of his eye, “I can only hope you’re right, Keira,” he says quietly. “Hells…if I could have had some privacy with him.”

Keira palms her face at Lumi’s words. “Is that all you think of, seriously?”

Lumi smiles and tilts his head to the side. “There isn’t really anything else to think about out here…the desert, the ocean, the Gods… and Khimi,” he says with an excited lilt.

“I’ve been speaking to Hasim about you and Khimi…he says he’d like to have a word,” Keira laughs lightly. “Since we’re on the subject.”

“About?” Lumi inquires with a hint of suspicion. “Hasim hates me!” He grimaces. “And everyone in the temple says that Hasim is a cannibal like the other snake-men. AND someone else told me that he was a concubine.”

“The second part…is true. Hasim was a concubine in Dolmas, an honorable position in the Dolman Empire, and many of the men that traveled with him were also concubines as well. Followers from the temple who fled with Nina and Amani.”

“W-Wait, like….actually?”

“Aren’t you from Dolmas?” She asks before tilting her head and sighing, “don’t worry about it,” she replies, ruffling the aslan’s blond hair.“Just go speak with him later,” she adds when they enter the kitchen.

The sandstone pillars lining the inner sanctum are always accompanied by several of the temple guards. Their black loincloths and chest wraps reveal the status of those vigilantly standing watch. They were all part of the group that traveled from Dolmas with Hasim. Lumi approaches Hasim, an uneasiness inside of him. Not only had Keira refused to tell him what Hasim needed, but Hasim always had an air of superiority about him. The yilan’s[3]black snake-like tail trails behind him with such grace and poise, his alluring eyes, are almost hypnotic. His darkened features are far more handsome than the majority of the other figures in the temple, and many rumors surround his mysterious nature. One thing Lumi knows for certain – Hasim was by far the most skilled person with a spear he ever met. Even back at the tribe, there was no one who could match Hasim’s skill.

 Whenever Lumi would get into disagreements with the other acolytes, it was often Hasim who would put Lumi in his place. Scolding, reprimanding him, and forcing him to spend dozens of hours training in the heat. Though he was glad to be more skilled with the spear, he always loathed the hours he was forced to whittle away with the angry yilan.

Lumi mutters to himself once he spots Hasim. He waves from across the reflecting pool, “Hasim!” He shouts over the rippling waters. “I heard you needed to talk.”

Hasim eyes Lumi with an annoyed look, his lips turning into a thin line, “Talk. Not shout,” He replies, shaking his head. “Get over here!” He shouts back.

“Fine…just don’t beat me or anything,” Lumi replies, walking around the edge of the pool. “I don’t want to fight again.”

“Fight? Who said anything about fighting?” Hasim inquires with a perplexed expression. He brushes his chestnut colored hair from his face. “I just want to talk. And there are acolytes in prayer, it’s rude to shout, Lumi.”

Lumi narrows his eyes in suspicion, “Right. Last time we talked…you made me practice with that stupid stick for nearly nine hours in the sun. My skin got so burnt it hurt to sleep!”

“What can I say?” Hasim laughs. “I had to do something to keep you out of trouble.”

Lumi stares in defiance, “I have managed to keep out of trouble for the most part,” he replies.

“I’ve heard otherwise, Lums,” Hasim laughs again, cocking an eyebrow in disbelief.

Lumi taps his foot impatiently, his tail shaking with annoyance, “So…why am I here? Khimi should be here soon,” he asks, his ears twitching when he mentions Khimi’s name.

“Well, about that,” Hasim begins. He closes his eyes, sighing loudly. “You sure this man is…what you want? I don’t know. I am awkward with these things,” he says, and he taps his hand against his head.

“Hasim!” Lumi exclaims, his mouth open wide in shock. “Do you have…feelings for me?”

W-What?!” The yilan chokes. “Gods be good! You’re so dense,” he groans. His black scaly tail flails behind him across the sandstone tiles. “Gods no.”

Lumi cocks his head to the side with a shrug, “Then what is it?” He asks, biting his lip.

“Just…come take a walk with me to my room,” Hasim whispers, his cheeks flush. He walks past Lumi and mutters under his breath, “This isn’t something I want to talk about in public.”

Lumi laughs, “I knew it! You’re finally going to confess!” He replies, doubling his speed to keep up with the tall yilan’s stride.

Hasim turns back with an angered look, his tanned cheeks burning bright, “Lumi, you’re really not my type.”

“I don’t believe you.”

The two walk quickly past the acolyte chambers into a much wider and nicer area of the temple. The passage opens into a large, rounded chamber with several arches, each entering into separate rooms. Hasim beckons Lumi to follow him, walking through one of the arched doorways and shutting the wooden door behind him. The room inside feels barren except a fairly large bed and a few tapestries hanging from the wall. A strange writing, sewn with a reflective fabric, stands out brightly from the tapestry. Lumi admires the tapestry before turning towards Hasim. The yilan rifles through a large chest near the bed, retrieving a sandalwood box, before he sighs and sits on the bedding.

“Lumi,” Hasim begins. “I know there are many rumors about me in the temple.”

Lumi fakes a shocked expression, “Honestly, most people don’t even talk to me,” he adds with a laugh. “Though,” he begins, raising an eyebrow while he leans closer. “I know you’re into men,” he teases with his hands on his hips.

Hasim snorts, “Gods! W-why do I even try with you? You’re a damned fool, you should take up the role of an entertainer, it would suit you.”

“Do you think I coul— Anyway! What’s in the box?!” Lumi inquires, drawing closer.

Hasim places his hand on top of the small box, “If you’re gonna…be with this man,” He whispers, his tone trailing. “You’ll need to know a few things.”

“Hasim…wha-” Lumi begins, a blush rising in his cheeks, “…the sex talk?”

“You’ll need to use some type of oil to prepare yourself. You can’t just let him stick it in without preparing,” Hasim instructs, ignoring Lumi’s question. “I mean, he could, but it would hurt like you’re being stabbed.”

“Heavens, Hasim…is this happening?” Lumi asks in shock. His tail flits behind him nervously.

“Look, I wish I had someone to tell me about this stuff when I first started…you know,” Hasim murmurs quietly.

Lumi sits on top of the wooden chest, “What am I supposed to do?”

“So that’s where these oils come in,” Hasim begins, opening the sandalwood box. “Personally, I think this olive oil one is my favorite…though I am certain there are many other types of oils out there that will do the job,” Hasim adds with a quiet laugh.

“Wait… Hasim. I had no idea you even had sex still. Keira just told me that you used to be a concubine.”

“I took a vow of celibacy when Nina asked me and the other yilan to leave Dolmas with her,” Hasim whispers. “So, it was never really something that was going to come up. I overheard the conversation some acolytes were having about you and this lord, so I thought it was important to share this with you.”

“A vow of celibacy? Why…? Hasim, you should have sex, it’s good for the soul. I heard someone say it once.” Lumi looks at Hasim in embarrassment, “and Khimi is more than a merchant.”

“There is more to life than sex, but I have never had a singular partner…so things may be different for you,” Hasim clarifies, “but I just didn’t want you to feel any sort of embarrassment…when you’re with someone you like.”

Lumi’s eyes shake with emotion, “Hasim…” he begins, near tears. “That is…really kind of you…kinder than I thought you could ever be. You were always s-such a jerk.”

Hasim laughs. “I just thought I would do something to help you out. Shall I continue?”

“Please, by all means” Lumi replies, leaning onto the bed. He watches Hasim show the small collection of oils.

Lumi listens carefully to the guidance of Hasim. His view on the yilan begins to change while Hasim continues explaining the ins and outs of intercourse. Though, he is quick to question each and every detail, causing Hasim several moments of embarrassment. A newfound camaraderie forms between them, laughter erupts from the room repeatedly throughout the conversation.

Lumi begins to ponder over how many of the people from the temple he would miss, whileHasim whispers his careful explanations. His train of thought waivers, and he begins to count on his fingers the names of those he’d miss: Nina, Hasim, and Keira… Hells maybe Amani? I’ve barely made any friends in the last couple of years.

Hasim pauses his explanation, looking over at Lumi counting on his fingers. “Everything alright?”

“I just realized…how few people here actually care about me,” Lumi sighs, looking into the yilan’s garnet colored eyes.

Hasim sighs, “Don’t say that,” he replies softly. “Sure…you’ve gotten into a lot of fights…like an unconscionable amount,” he adds with a gentle laugh.

“That isn’t funny!” Lumi grimaces, “It wasn’t that many!” He says, covering his face with his palms in embarrassment.

“It’s okay, I am sure everyone here cares about you…even all the other acolytes you beat to a pulp,” Hasim says, laughing again.

Lumi sighs, shaking his head from side to side. His ears flatten. “I don’t think I am going to stay with the temple.”

Hasim looks at Lumi in shock, “What? Why? You have to stay!”

“I plan on asking Khimi to take me back to Rhaz with him. We’ve written to one another.”

“Lumi, that’s just really quick. I don’t think it’s a good idea. You don’t understand what it’s like for us. Beastkin…in some places just aren’t treated the same,” Hasim begins. After a lengthy pause, he sighs deeply. “It’s not like I don’t have faith in you, but you were never raised in a city or seen how some of these other races treat our kind. In some cities, beastkin are traded as slaves.”

Lumi cocks an eyebrow, “I thought that was in Dolmas? And I am sure that will change!” he asks.

“There are slavers everywhere, Lumi. Especially across the Desert Cities,” Hasim replies in a serious tone.

Lumi smiles abruptly, “I’m sure it won’t be that bad,” he replies in an attempt to assure Hasim.

“Just promise me that whatever you do…you won’t wander around on your own,” Hasim whispers. He places an arm on Lumi’s shoulder, giving him a small nod. “Now…can I continue?”

“Right, of course! Sorry!” Lumi exclaims before he picks up a small jar of oil. “Please continue!”

[1] Geas, a hex or spell which compels one to act outside their normal means. A compulsion.

[2] Sometimes those who speak with the Gods are referred to as “voices” of the Gods.

[3] Beastkin with the traits of snakes. Hasim in particular has the traits of a Red-Bellied Black Snake

 Khimi’s Arrival

Lumi sits on the stairs of the temple, his eyes trained down the canyon, while he waits for the moment when Khimi’s caravan comes into view. It can not be much longer, the dust stirs just beyond the bend in the canyon. Maybe he will take me with him. He won’t though, it’s too soon. He’ll think I am desperate…but I AM desperate, he contemplated to himself. His palms press against his eyelids, he leans back on the top of the stairs, his back resting flat against the yellowed sandstone. The steady warmth of the sun radiates against his skin. Anytime now, Khimi, he thinks to himself.

The grandeur of the temple stands behind him and with a quick glance back, he begins to remember his first moments being brought here as a child. Eustes, the acolyte who had brought him, had long since left the temple, spreading the Faith through the Desert Cities. But the first moment that he walked up these stairs, he knew that a new chapter in his life was about to begin. Yet he never expected that his time here would be so short-lived. Yips and calls from the canyon bring Lumi bolting upright to scan the canyon. Several wagons pulled by dappled stallions work their way through the canyon, men ride on camels flanking either side of the caravan. Lumi stands once the wagons lumber their way closer to the base of the stairs. Several acolytes make their way to meet the wagon drivers, beckoning them towards the carved cavern ahead.

Overly excited, Lumi rushes in his descent down the stairs. He halts, crossing his arms near the bottom. Deciding not to appear eager, he slows his stride. He wonders where he might find Khimi and as he searches, he immediately spots the more ornate wagon Khimi had arrived on previously. The wagon passes, Rashid peeks his head from the back canvas. There they are, he thinks, picking up his pace. Wait…you’re going to seem too eager! He growls at himself, allowing the remaining wagons to pass him. He turns, making his way steadily up the stairs, his thoughts consumed on how best to approach Khimi again. Once he reaches the center of the stairs, a voice calls out to him.

“Weren’t you coming to greet me?” Khimi’s voice asks with a cool lilt. “Surprised to see you turning away.”

Lumi pulls at the hem of his chiton, “I didn’t expect a lord to come looking for me,” he says mockingly and turns to face Khimi. A heat rushes across his body the moment he sees him.

Everything about Khimi arouses him, from the way his hair falls about his brow, to the scars on his face. There is nothing that Lumi does not admire about the man. His cerulean blue eyes draw him in like the dark waves of the ocean. He is speechless. Utterly helpless, his knees wobble before he regains his composure.

Khimi paces before him on the stairs, “I have taken some time to think on your words,” he says with a slow and measured nod. “Are you okay?”

“Uh, yeah!” Lumi’s ears wiggle in excitement, “And?” He asks playfully, his tail flailing behind him.

“That maybe…if there is something that I want, that– well, I should pursue it,” Khimi hums, his hand reaching towards Lumi’s waist.

Lumi flattens his feathery hair anxiously. “Those few months away were too much to bear, were they?” he asks with a taunting smile while he looks up at the man towering over him.

Khimi purses his lips, “My, my, aren’t you confident in yourself?” He smirks. “But I suppose you could say that they were a little much,” he says, his fingers squeezing Lumi’s waist. “I just needed to see you. Writing letters isn’t enough anymore,” he whispers. His thumb presses along Lumi’s pelvis through the clingy linen chiton. In careful measure, he draws Lumi closer, his thumb traces down the line of his hip.

Lumi bites his lip in excitement, “You’ll do much more than see me, I hope. Though your letters did keep me entertained…even if Nina had to help me read them,” he says cheerfully. “I was told that you were going to have some private space this time?” Lumi asks, raising his eyebrows.

Khimi sighs, “Well…I think I should share it with Rashid,” he says bluntly, closing his eyes. He pats Lumi’s waist apologetically.

Lumi closes his eyes in embarrassment, “Forgive my forwardness, I—”

“It’s a joke!” Khimi interrupts, laughing while he watches Lumi’s torn expression. “Your expression!”

Lumi’s face wrinkles, “You’re the worst,” he sighs and places his arms behind Khimi’s waist. “Perhaps I can show you to your chambers?”

Khimi itches at the scar on his cheek, “You’re more than welcome to lead me there…though I fear I will be missed by my retainers,” he ponders aloud with a glance back over the caravan.

Lumi stares in disbelief, “Your men can wait, I am sure.” He blushes and takes Khimi’s hand, his tail wagging excitedly behind him.

Khimi tries to hide the smile on his face, “Lead on, aslan. It was only another jest,” he says, staying close on Lumi’s heels while he leads him up the stairs.

“Full of jests today!” Lumi groans, yanking him by the arm impatiently.

Khimi chortles, “I’ve been known to tell the odd joke here and there.”

Lumi snorts.

The two walk in silence, Lumi speeding Khimi towards the temple, his bare feet making silent footfalls on the sandstone steps. Several acolytes turn to Lumi while he walks arm in arm with Khimi into the temple. They rush past the reflecting pool and down a small set of stairs leading into a small but comfortable seating area. Four arch shaped wooden doors line the walls of the large round room. Lumi pulls him past several floor cushions, and places his hand on a beautifully crafted wooden door. His hand trembles over the wooden door before he pushes it open and yanks Khimi into the room with him. With a massive grin, he looks up at Khimi and shoves the door closed. Unable to contain himself, he forces Khimi back against the door, thrusting his leg between his. Khimi, initially startled, reaches down and grabs Lumi by the thighs, lifting him against his body. Lumi wraps his legs behind Khimi and brings his lips against Khimi’s cheek. He’s strong…really strong, he thinks to himself.

Lumi brushes his lips against Khimi’s. “What are you waiting for, Milord?” He teases in a whisper.

Khimi’s lips curl in a smile, “You.

Lumi closes his eyes. Khimi’s lips move against his own, his tongue, heavy and wet, shoves against his inner cheeks. The taste of alcohol and smoke is heavy in his mouth, but Lumi savors each taste. He winces at Khimi’s harsh stubble pressing against his chin, then opens his eyes. His balance shifts. Khimi drops him flat on his back on the feathered mattress, and he dips his hand between Lumi’s legs, fingers running along the soft inner thigh and make their way up his chiton. Touch me. Lumi’s body tingles while Khimi’s fingers caress his arousal, the callused digits brush over Lumi’s soft skin. Fuck me. He tenses his wrapped legs, drawing Khimi closer. It’s just like my dreams.

A giddy laugh escapes Lumi’s lips, while Khimi’s bulge nods against him through his sarouel. Hells what is this? It’s huge. With haste, Khimi pulls back from their kiss, taking a moment to unbuckle his jacket, his hand fumbling over the clasp in his excitement. Lumi watches, tail twitching excitedly. Khimi throws the cloth onto the floor and sits up before him in a sleeveless linen shirt, his muscles tight against the fabric. Panic nearly takes Lumi, his eyes scouring every bit of Khimi’s musculature. He’s…like a God. In Lumi’s eyes, Khimi is equally perfect as the statues of the Gods.

A lust-filled glaze forms in Lumi’s eyes, “You’ve had a long journey, Milord” he says, pulling himself to his knees in front of Khimi. “You should let me do the work.”

“So the Kitten wants to work?” Khimi asks mockingly. He situates himself beside Lumi, his head resting on the thin, silk pillow.

Lumi places his hands over Khimi’s abdomen. “Maybe,” he mutters, his hands moving along Khimi’s copper skin, pausing over his hardened muscles.

Lumi’s tail swings behind him while he straddles Khimi and pushes him onto his back. His nakedness beneath the chiton rubs across Khimi’s stomach. His heart thrums in his chest like an oud, a cacophony of emotions swells through him. He had never experienced sex first hand, he had only seen it in his tribe. Everything about it had seemed so invigorating and liberating that he salivates at the thought.

Lumi scrambles forward, his lips gnashing back against Khimi’s. His hardened arousal brushes against Khimi’s abdomen, the coarse abdominal hair tickles his sensitive thighs. Khimi’s mouth opens slightly, giving Lumi a chance to press his tongue inside. Their tongues dance rhythmically, saliva slips from between their mouths. Khimi reaches behind Lumi to pull him closer. Arching his back while they kiss, Lumi moves his hips, grinding his body forward and backwards, his cock rubbing against Khimi’s musculature.

Khimi’s nose wrinkles, a pained expression on his face, his leg twitches, and he quickly kicks off his trousers, releasing his girthy cock from the restricting breeches. Lumi’s eyes widen the moment Khimi’s cock rests between his soft, fleshy cheeks. He reaches back and pulls at his cheek, allowing the length to lay rigid between his ass cheeks. Lumi’s tongue continues pressing against Khimi’s, his body rocks back and forth more vigorously, wanting the hulking girth inside.

Lumi’s hands hurry to his hips, clumsily tugging the fabric from around his waist, and in one swift movement he rips the chiton over his head, tossing it to the floor. Is this too much? Biting his lip in anticipation, he looks down at Khimi beneath him with an insatiable hunger in his eyes. Who cares? Khimi grabs Lumi’s jaw with his hands and draws him back in for another heavy kiss. Lumi struggles to breathe, their lips held together. He pulls away, strings of saliva trail from between their lips.

Lumi’s skin flushes deeply, “Ya can touch me, ya know…” Lumi instigates, he pushes his naked body on top of Khimi. “Ya can fuck me if ya want too,” he whistles merrily and grabs Khimi’s hand, then places it gently against his abdomen. “I want you to.”

A desperate sense of desire fills Lumi while he sits atop Khimi. Having never been with anyone he cared for, anxiousness wells within him. Gods, he’s so quiet. Only his hunger for Khimi keeps him pressing on. His swollen tip drips heavy beads of precum across Khimi’s dark skin. Uncertain of Khimi’s interest, Lumi averts his gaze, feeling embarrassed by his forwardness and Khimi’s silence.

“I-I’m sorry…I didn’t m-mean,” Lumi whispers, rushing to dismount.

“Wa-Wait!” Khimi whispers hurriedly, his hand rushes along Lumi’s body. “I want to look at you,” he demands and pulls himself up on his elbows. His hand reaches below Lumi’s chin, turning Lumi to face him.

Lumi pulls away from Khimi’s hand, “Why?” He asks as he sits up straight. His fingers dig into Khimi’s sculpted chest.

Khimi smiles, “It’s just…that you’re beautiful,” he replies, looking up and down at Lumi’s tanned and nearly hairless body. “You’re so smooth,” he adds, his hands brushing along Lumi’s tender sides. “I’ve never touched anyone like this before.”

“Beautiful is a word normally reserved for women…isn’t it?,” Lumi questions. He puffs his cheeks, “You’re far better looking than me anyway,” he whispers, his ear shaking.

“Either way, I’ve never seen such a treasure,” Khimi says with a sweetness in his voice, his fingers running along Lumi’s waist. His eyes focus on Lumi’s aroused cock, dripping precum over his abdomen. “I can honestly say, you’re the most precious thing I’ve ever seen. I mean it.”

Lumi tries to hide his excitement after hearing Khimi’s words, his heart leaps bounds. He takes hold of Khimi’s hand, “I want you to touch me, K-Khimi,” he stammers, listening to Khimi’s name leave his lips. He guides the hand towards his arousal. “Please,” he begs, sounding helpless.

“Don’t worry. I plan on touching you plenty,” Khimi rasps, his hefty fingers move against Lumi’s length, his fingers dwarf Lumi’s cock. The slightest movement of his fingers, enough to draw out whimpers of pleasure.

Lumi squeezes his thighs against Khimi’s waist, teasing and wanting. Khimi strokes him, precum dripping heavily over his slickened fingers. Lumi’s body responds to Khimi’s touch with deep but gentle purrs. The rough fingertips work gently and dutifully against Lumi’s pink member. Khimi sits up slightly, stroking Lumi more rapidly. Sweat drips from Lumi’s brow, his face pinched in pleasure. He moves his hips along with Khimi’s stroking, desperate to cum. Lumi drags his nails across Khimi’s chest, digging deep into the muscles as he nears climax. He whimpers, his thighs tightening over Khimi’s sides. His back arched in pleasure, cum shoots across Khimi’s covered abdomen with a burst of heat. He groans, his entire body shudders from the intensity, his nails dig deeper into Khimi’s chest. Lumi chuckles softly, his head tilted up. Gods. While he attempts to catch his breath, he sighs with satisfaction. Khimi stares up at him, a lustful look in his eyes.

“You’re going to leave me with a few more scars, are you?” Khimi teases, his eyes motioning to his chest.

Lumi licks his lips and meets Khimi’s eyes. He releases his grip on his chest, “I want to leave you something to remember me.”

Khimi’s tongue runs across his teeth, laughing at their exchange. “Need to ruin this beautiful body so no one else can have it, eh?”

“Cocky sod!”

Lumi purrs more fiercely, while Khimi reaches behind him and pulls them together. Lumi’s body presses through his freshly spilled seed, his tail brushes against Khimi’s swollen and eager cock, precum soaking into the coarse fur along his tail. Instinctively, Lumi feels the urge to stop and clean his tail. He had never considered what it would feel like to have cum in his fur, but the thought is swept away while he impatiently grabs Khimi’s hand and places it on his waist.

Lumi bashfully looks down at Khimi, “Now, It’s my turn to make you feel good,” he says with a nervous desire.

Khimi drums his fingers anxiously before squeezing Lumi’s soft mound, “Are you sure you’re an acolyte?” He teases.

Lumi scoffs, “Not all acolytes take vows of chastity ya know,” he replies. “A-And I’ve dreamt of this…from the very moment we met,” he adds hastily. “Quite a lot,” he finishes in embarrassment, covering his face.

“So you dream of me?”

Always, it’s like…you’re all I can think about,” Lumi replies, peeking his aetherial eyes through his fingers back into Khimi’s deep blues. “I’ve dreamt of you before we even met, ya know?”

Khimi raises his brow, “Almost sounds like an obsession.”

Lumi tilts his head in response, “Maybe, but you’re an obsession that I’d happily welcome time and time again,” he says with a playful tilt of his head.

Khimi leans forward, his teeth clack against Lumi’s painfully. Lumi giggles between kisses, his mind becomes numb. Lost in the passion of their kiss, he moans when Khimi’s tongue presses against his own. He wants nothing more than to lie there forever, naked atop Khimi, indulging in his embrace. Their mouths move together on their own, their lips pressed together like hands do in righteous prayer, the creases of their mouths slotting together, each trying to devour one another. Khimi reaches past Lumi and strokes his girth, occasionally slapping the swollen head against Lumi’s tanned ass. Thick strings of precum drip from the flared head as it slides across Lumi’s backside and presses against the base of his tail. No longer worried about his cum soaked tail, Lumi writhes his hips. The length rubs between his supple cheeks, bobbing flush against him. Khimi’s leg begins to twitch, and he groans from beneath their kiss. Lumi greedily grinds his body against Khimi’s, his spilled seed rubbing between their glistening bodies and into Khimi’s linen shirt. Khimi grunts, his face pinched in ecstasy. The sudden warmth of Khimi’s seed splatters across his lower back, several thick, warm streams in quick bursts cover his tanned skin. Lumi sucks Khimi’s lip and pulls back from their kiss. His tongue moves across the curve of his lips, the cock throbbing between his ass cheeks bringing out an uncontrollable smile.

“It’s a shame to let all of that go to waste,” Lumi taunts with a lusty smile.

Khimi purses his lips. “Such a shame,” he says in agreement, his hands squeeze Lumi’s soft ass, his fingertips slide through his freshly sprayed seed.

“You’re right, such precious milk shouldn’t be wasted,” Lumi simpers, grabbing Khimi’s wrist and bringing the cum soaked fingers to his mouth.

Lumi steadily draws each finger into his mouth, one after the next. He glances up at Khimi, his coarse tongue runs along the length of each digit. Savoring each taste of the salty substance, he finishes sucking the bits of cum from Khimi’s fingers. Working his way down Khimi’s body, he breathes in his scent. Along Khimi’s abdomen, Lumi begins lapping up the pool of pearly cum pouring from the tip of Khimi’s cock. His coarse tongue runs in long strokes, lapping up the salty, pearlescent liquid. Khimi groans while the prickly tongue sweeps across his hardened muscles. The tip of Lumi’s tongue brushes against his musculature, flicking the remaining cum into his mouth. It tastes better than mine. He finishes, swallowing hard. His eyes meet Khimi’s, and he becomes more aroused when he notices the lust in his eyes. Tucking his body further down Khimi’s, he halts while he moves over Khimi’s cock. Once between Khimi’s legs, he pulls himself to his knees and slides Khimi’s boots from his feet.

 Lumi stops to take in Khimi’s perfection, his eyes being drawn to the odd assortment of scars that riddle his form. Along Khimi’s thighs and legs, there are dozens of scars. His left thigh has a scar which appears to have been made by a deep puncture and poorly sutured shut at some point. At the front of his right calf is another grisly mark, a cut nearly several hands in length. More can be seen along the length of his arms, less grievous in nature but just as telling of his past. Lumi fingers glide along the scars, touching them with a gentle fondness, before he places a kiss against Khimi’s abdomen.

Lumi’s face draws near to Khimi’s groin, his nose pressing into his coarse dark hairs. With a deep breath, he takes in the musky scent of Khimi’s manhood, his urges take over him with each breath. Sweat, smoke, cum. Khimi’s scent is alluring. More, he wants every bit of Khimi he can get. His lips part gently at the side of the shaft, planting gentle kisses on his cock. He works his lips across its size. Khimi’s eye roll back into his head, he reaches down to pinch Lumi’s thick, rounded ears. Lumi’s tongue slides along the length of the shaft, reaching the moist head. Khimi trembles from overstimulation, his leg shakes when the tongue laps against the sensitive tip. With utmost care, Lumi delicately rubs back the thick foreskin, leaving the swollen tip exposed. His tongue flicks across the bulky head before he presses his lips over the moistened slit, sucking gently. The taste of Khimi’s seed fills his mouth. He’s so salty. The tip slides from his lips with a loud POP.He continues to kiss along the shaft.Veins along the length pulsate eagerly with each of Lumi’s tender kisses. The fingers of his free hand caress Khimi’s sack, gently rolling the eggs between his digits.

Lumi begins to stroke Khimi, his hand unable to encompass the entirety of the shaft. Khimi moans when Lumi begins to work the tip between his lips, the warmth of his mouth bidding Khimi nearly to climax. Khimi sits up, his arms wrapped around Lumi’s head. He presses him over his length, his cock hardening further as Lumi wriggles his hips with glee. Excited by Khimi’s eagerness, he begins to purr even louder. Urging Lumi to continue, Khimi pushes at the back of his head, guiding Lumi’s mouth over his girth.

Lumi’s eyes dart up to Khimi, drawing more of the length into his mouth. Khimi groans quietly while his length slides past Lumi’s fangs. Lumi’s head begins to bob up and down excitedly, his tail wagging behind him, slapping against Khimi’s legs. Lumi hungrily forces more and more of Khimi’s shaft into his mouth, finally forcing it as far down as he can manage without choking. Khimi’s fingers coil into Lumi’s hair, and he groans again, his leg twitching in response to the pleasure. Lumi feels the quickened pulsations of Khimi’s cock in his throat, and suddenly Khimi pulls his face back. A shocked expression crosses Lumi’s face, ropes of warm seed shoot into his mouth and over his cheek. Lumi’s tail stiffens happily behind him while he drowns himself in the warm milk. He slurps loudly, hungrily returning to sucking at the length, a string of saliva and cum dripping from his lips. Lumi gives a coy grin, and he slaps the bulky head against his plump lips before he sucks at the leaking slit.

“You’re like a kitten with milk,” Khimi groans, sucking his teeth.

Lumi’s hips sway, his eyes stay focused on Khimi’s, “Wouldn’t want to let any go to waste,” he replies, pressing his tongue along the shaft. “I rather like this milk.”

Khimi winches, closing his eyes, “W-Was it as delicious as you made it look?” He asks, tousling Lumi’s blond hair.

“Oh, it was more than delicious,” Lumi replies, smiling gleefully. He climbs onto Khimi, pushing him onto his back. “Want a taste?”

Lumi watches the look of realization cross Khimi’s face as he presses his lips against his. Without warning, he slips his tongue into Khimi’s mouth, swirling it about. Their tongues brush against one another. Lumi stares at Khimi, noticing his brow furrow a moment before it relaxes once more before he allows Lumi to have control. Khimi tries to speak, only to be interrupted by Lumi rolling onto his side, tugging against Khimi, encouraging him to lay against him. He presses his forehead against Khimi’s and breaks away from their kiss.

Lumi beams, his nose pressed against Khimi’s “how do you taste?” he asks while he pushes his legs between Khimi’s, feeling the warmth of his body.

“Saltier than I was expecting,” Khimi replies bluntly. “I’ve never tasted…it before,” he says with a grimace.

“You mean to tell me you were never curious enough to taste yourself?” Lumi asks, tilting his head curiously. “Really?”

“I’ve thought about it, but have always stopped myself before going through with it…”

Lumi purses his lips, “It’s a shame, I like the salty taste,” he says in a lively tone. “At least you’ll know that none will ever go to waste,” he adds, and snuggles his head against Khimi’s chest. “I like your fat balls too.”

Khimi bites his lip and his legs caress Lumi’s, “I wanted to discuss something, but we can discuss it later if you’d like,” he says quietly, running his finger along Lumi’s small form.

Lumi places his lips against Khimi’s bare chest, “What is it?”

“It’s going to seem really sudden,” Khimi says sternly. He frowns and drums his fingers over Lumi’s side. “You should come to Rhaz,” he says bluntly. “I think that it would be better for both of us.”

Really?!” Lumi shouts, unable to contain his excitement. A million questions burst through his mind. He sits up, the questions pouring out, “I thought you thought I was odd? Or that you didn’t like me? Where am I going to live? Do I need to work?”

“Well, you are odd,” Khimi replies solemnly. The frown crossing Lumi’s lips causes him to panic, “D-Don’t take that the wrong way, I realized I was wrong about you…between the letters, I’ve had time to think,” he adds quietly. “I shouldn’t have judged you so hastily, and if what you believe is true. Then we will find out, won’t we?”

Lumi places his head back against Khimi’s chest. “I think I was going to have to leave here soon anyway. This place isn’t for me anymore from what I have been hearing.”

Khimi huffs, “Well, you can share my home, Lumi. You can do whatever you like, as long as you don’t get into too much trouble,” he begins before he presses his soft lips against Lumi’s brow. “I know I sound like the odd one now, asking you to live with me…” He says plainly and then lets out a lengthy breath.

Lumi purrs softly, his chest vibrating gently against Khimi, “As long as you don’t toss me out…”

Khimi scoffs, “I can’t imagine that,” he says and kisses the top of Lumi’s head. “I mean, I just— things should work out.”

Lumi, unsure of himself, sits up suddenly, “They’re going to ask me to leave the temple soon,” he confesses, anguish in his tone. “I just thought you should know before you decide.”

“Is it something you did?” Khimi asks, his brow creasing. “I’ve already been told of some of your troubles here…”

“Something I’ve said, or shouldn’t have said,” Lumi begins, then rolls onto his back. “All I did was speak my truth, and now I’ll be punished for it. It feels like…my whole life has been nothing but punishment.”

Khimi leans over Lumi, his expression difficult to read. “It doesn’t matter.” His lips press against Lumi’s. After a momentary silence, Khimi continues, “I can give you a new home…if you’d like?” Sounding almost unsure of the question he is asking. His fingertips brush across the scars on the bridge of Lumi’s nose.

“A new home?” Lumi asks himself. He turns away from Khimi. It’s not going to work…he’ll grow sick of me. He glances at the circular window, the curtains drawn. “Until something goes wrong, or you grow tired of me, or you replace me,” he whines, his eyes beginning to fill with tears.

Khimi sighs, “Calm down. I am not so quick to give up on something,” he whispers and presses his cheek against Lumi’s soft blond hair.

“You can’t,” Lumi mumbles, pulling himself against Khimi, his fingers tracing along his muscles. “You’ll have to keep me forever,” he whispers, his sobs turning into a chuckle. “Forever,” he sounds slowly, pronouncing each syllable.

“Forever is a long time,” Khimi replies, squeezing Lumi against himself. He pushes Lumi’s head against his chest.

Lumi purrs more fiercely against Khimi’s embrace, “I know that,” he cries, and he pushes his feet between Khimi’s legs. “I know,” he whispers under his breath, his forehead pressed against Khimi’s chest. I know.

After several hours of quiet slumber, Lumi awakens beside Khimi. His thoughts wander. I guess I should have told someone I wasn’t going to show up today…not like it matters much anyway…not anymore, he thinks ashe looks over at Khimi, watching his slow and steady breathing. Pulling himself from beneath Khimi’s arms, he slips from the bed. In his nakedness, he walks across the room and shivers uncontrollably in the cold of the desert night. A small pile of ironwood logs rests beside a large copper tub. He quietly places the logs beneath the tub in the corner of the room. Lumi closes his eyes a moment, whispering an incantation, many of the pieces burst into flames. He scoots closer on the floor, warming his hands and feet against the newly ignited wood. The cold desert air blows through the circular window, the curtains shimmer, the golden threads catching the light of the fire. The surrounding tiles slowly warm while the fire grows in intensity. He stretches, pressing his hands against his back. Khimi ambles behind him, draping the blanket across his shoulders. Lumi glances up in surprise, noticing Khimi standing behind him, staring into the flames. He’s really quiet for being so big. Lumi can normally pick up on the softest of sounds, yet he failed to hear Khimi stir.

Khimi itches the scar on his cheek, “Looks big enough for two,” he says, his eyes trained on the warm glow of the flames.

“Yah, but it’s gonna be a while before it’s hot enough to use,” Lumi replies softly, enjoying Khimi’s muscular features. He blushes when Khimi looks down at him.

Khimi smirks, “Like what you see, kitten?” he asks with confidence.

Lumi rolls his eyes, “Y-Yeah, I suppose you are easy on the eyes. You know…you’re the only person I’d ever let call me that,” he replies, his hand reaching up for Khimi’s.

“That so?” Khimi asks, taking Lumi’s hand in his own and sitting beside him on the cold stone floor. He sucks his teeth the second his bare skin touches the frigid tiles. “I…I feel I have to call you, Kitten. Your erratic energy. The way you went after that…milk.

“You’re joking, right?” Lumi’s face wrinkles, “I’ve almost gouged the old cook’s eye out for calling me that. So…consider yourself lucky,” he whispers. He places part of the blanket around Khimi, then rubs his fluffy hair against his shoulder. “Besides…if anyone finds out that you call me Kitten because of that…”

“Why would they? You’re making me feel lucky already…” Khimi laughs. He places his hand on Lumi’s head. “By the way, I… I thought I heard you purr earlier?” He asks, gently stroking Lumi’s hair.

Lumi chuckles, “Most feline beastkin can purr. It’s just an emotional reaction. I don’t purr for just anyone, though!” He says in response, his eyes still watching the flames flicker beneath the copper tub. “I don’t think I can remember the last time I purred.”

Khimi maintains a stern face and makes an inquisitive hmm. He contemplates aloud, “Interesting, then, that I have that effect on you. I’ve heard you purr several times today already,” he says, hiding his smile and pushing his chin against Lumi’s head.

“T-Today has been really special,” Lumi croaks, placing his hand on Khimi’s thigh. “It’s been cloudy, like a dream!”

Khimi brushes his lips against Lumi’s golden locks, “I’m glad to have brightened your day then,” he whispers. His fingers run along the length of Lumi’s arm.

Lumi’s hair stands on end at the touch, his lips stumble over words unspoken.

Khimi’s fingertips continue to brush along the bumps rising on Lumi’s skin. “Should we speed up this process then?” He asks.

Lumi turns, looking into Khimi’s eyes fixed on the flames, “I don’t think we can make a bonfire here if that is what you mean…”

“Nothing so dangerous,” Khimi replies quietly.

Khimi glances about the room before pulling Lumi under his arm. Lumi’s heart races, tucked beneath Khimi’s arm. Khimi raises his other hand towards the copper tub and recites a quick incantation in an unfamiliar language, for a brief moment Khimi’s eyes flicker with the reflections from the flames. Lumi leans forward, the flames pulse then roar, the water in the copper tub releases steam within seconds of Khimi’s incantation. Just as quickly as he began, Khimi stops abruptly and lowers his hand.

“You’re a mage!” Lumi says excitedly, staring at Khimi with awe.

Khimi stares at the steam forming above the tub, “Not really a mage…just a parlor trick I picked up along the way,” he says with a wry smile. He brushes his hand against the sandstone floor, bits of dust stir at his touch.

Lumi stands, the blanket cast aside, “I’ve never seen much magick outside of restorative magick here really,” he says excitedly. “Some traveling clerics know other magicks…but it’s not taught here. I’ve seen one shoot bright lights from his hands, and another make plants grow.” He walks over to the tub, dipping his hand in the warm water, splashing it back and forth. “I know some magick, but I was told I shouldn’t use it.”

“Hot enough for you?” Khimi asks, his voice quiet and thoughtful.

Lumi glances back, his tail shaking behind him, “Plenty, that trick will see plenty of use in the future…I’m certain!” He exclaims, flashing his teeth with an ear to ear grin. He places his hands on either side of the tub and leaps into the steaming water. “Are you gonna join?” He asks before dipping his head below the cloudy water’s surface, his wiggling ears just above the surface.

Lumi slowly emerges from the steaming tub, tilting his head to and fro. He shakes his head, water splashing across the sandstone. Khimi stands, leaving the blanket behind, and faces Lumi.He cautiously climbs into the bath. Lumi hides his smirk beneath the water, unable to control his giddiness, he takes in the sight of Khimi’s scarred and muscular form. He’s got so many scars. Khimi slowly leans back into the tub, the steam obfuscates Lumi’s view. Khimi closes his eyes, laughing while he relaxes with Lumi’s eyes boring holes through him.

“You don’t have to stare.”

“But I do,” Lumi whispers and leans forward. “Have you ever considered healing them?” He asks while he moves tauntingly across the tub and onto Khimi’s lap.

Khimi looks pensively at Lumi, his hand slides across Lumi’s hip, “I like my scars. They remind me of past battles…and many close brushes with death. It must be nice though—,” Khimi says, feeling along the length of Lumi’s upper legs. He smiles, then jerks Lumi tighter against himself.

Lumi cocks his head to the side with a taunting grin, “What do you mean?” He laughs and locks his feet under Khimi’s knees.

“You’re so—soft and—“Khimi begins, clearing his throat. He continues to take in Lumi’s form.

Lumi bites his lip, “And?” He asks, grinning while he awaits Khimi’s words.

“Unblemished— perfect—there isn’t a scar on you,” Khimi responds, his eyes scouring Lumi’s small, untouched body.

Lumi cowers in embarrassment and blows air between his wet lips, “Well…” he says, blushing brightly. He sits up slightly straighter. “I do have scars. Right here,” he points to the marks crossing the bridge of his nose. “In our tribe, each family bears different markings. My father made these when I was a child,” he says, crossing his fingertips against the rougher patch of skin. “I don’t remember getting them, but I’ve always had them.”

“Looks painful,” Khimi whispers while he places a hand on Lumi’s cheek, his thumb brushing gently across the two lines. “You really don’t remember when they happened?”

“I-I couldn’t really remember it if I tried. I was really young.” Lumi replies, placing his hand over Khimi’s. “So then, how did you get all of your scars?” He asks and folds his fingers over Khimi’s, holding them against his cheek. “I’m surprised you have any, Lord Zeybek.”

Khimi looks across his arms and shoulders, “Why? Don’t think someone of my status should be engaging in combat?” He asks with a raised brow. He takes in Lumi’s bewildered expression. “Am I wrong?”

Lumi pulls himself against Khimi, his arms sliding under Khimi’s. He presses his embrace, “Just curious,” he whispers, nudging his face from side to side against Khimi’s chest, teasing his nipples with his soft lips.

 Lumi’s body trembles. For the past months, this was the only thing he could think of — being alone with Khimi, sharing stories and learning more about him. The heat of the tub makes him melt against Khimi.

“I don’t recall all of them,” Khimi says bluntly. He blushes as Lumi’s body wriggles against his own, writhing seductively. He leans back in the copper tub slightly, Lumi’s weight pressed against him. “Some of them weren’t from combat…as a boy I was quite adventurous,” he adds, tilting his head back in thought.

“Adventurous?” Lumi asks, his breath gently caressing Khimi’s chest. “Sexually?” He gasps.

Khimi coughs, “No, nothing like that. I was fairly…tame in that field.”

Lumi chuckles, his wet hair laying flat against Khimi’s chest. “Go on.”

“I always found a way to get into trouble…much to Rashid AND my mother’s chagrin,” Khimi says, laughing as he thinks back. “This one,” he points to a scar on his arm. “This was when I fell from my horse in Sidi after my father and I had a particularly nasty argument,” he adds as he tilts his head back in recollection. “I took off from the estate and made my way towards the coast. I tried to get the horse to jump a fence…I was dumb, and the horse brayed and tossed me. The bone stabbed through the skin, but I wasn’t far from the city and a cleric was nearby to help.”

Lumi closes his eyes, the warmth from the tub enticing him, “Are many of your scars gifts from your father?” Lumi asks quietly.

Khimi gently strokes Lumi’s wet hair, brushing loose strands from his face, “A fair few, but I have engaged in a fair few fights with sellswords, bandits, and thieves,” Khimi replies with a proud smirk. His fingers move to Lumi’s thick, rounded ears, pinching the cartilage as he massages them with his thumb. “I spent some time away from my family.”

Lumi whimpers softly, his legs tensing at Khimi’s touch. “S-So that sword you carry around isn’t just for show, then?” He asks tauntingly, placing his lips against Khimi’s chest. “Though, I can already tell that your other sword isn’t for show,” Lumi says in a smooth whisper, meeting Khimi’s eyes.

I want him…more than anything!

Khimi’s eyes widen, recognition forms on his face at Lumi’s touch. “Oh,” he sounds quietly.

This,” Lumi whispers and reaches between them, his fingers gently fondling Khimi’s girth. His fingertips brush over the covered head and thick veins. He presses his lips against Khimi’s neck. I want him inside of me. Khimi tilts his head back against the rolled edge of the copper tub. Lumi’s prickly tongue strokes against the vein pulsing in Khimi’s neck, lapping against his copper skin.

Khimi’s heartbeat is almost audible to Lumi just from being this close. The low thrumming is mesmerizing.

“If I wasn’t sure before, I am certain now – you aren’t an acolyt-te,” Khimi stutters, sucking his teeth while Lumi’s tongue caresses his skin. “Your tongu— Hells. Help me,” he murmurs to himself.

Lumi growls, “Then pretend I’m not an acolyte if it makes it easier,” he whispers seductively, his hand moving slowly from the resistance from the water, his grip tightening on Khimi’s shaft. Hells, it’s bigger than the dough pin, he thinks, becoming more ravenous by the moment. “I have to say, I wasn’t expecting anything of this size. Maybe you’re gifted by the Gods…this must be,” he adds with a kiss on Khimi’s neck, his hand stroking the length beneath him. Certainly…thicker than the dough pin.

Khimi scoffs, “Must be what?” He asks, suddenly tensing at Lumi’s squeeze.

“A gift from the Gods,” Lumi grins. “It’s huge!” He exclaims happily, his cheek against Khimi’s shoulder. His hand moves deftly along his cock, his fingers rubbing over the soft skin, the water forcing him to slow his pace.

Khimi moves his arms to the sides of the tub, “I’ve seen a few cocks in my life to compare it to, but I never considered it that large…well maybe it is a bit bigger than most. Certainly glad it gets your approval, though,” he says, glancing down at Lumi with a flash of his teeth. “Maybe we should return to the bed,” Khimi adds, his cock pressing between Lumi’s cheeks.

Lumi nudges his head against Khimi’s chin, “But… the water is so warm,” Lumi whispers between kisses against Khimi’s chest. “Just relax, you had such a long journey.”

Khimi massages his brow, “Kitten, you’ve already made me feel good enough…if we keep on I don’t think I can stop myself—I don’t know how I feel about—” He says, closing his eyes while the bulky head presses against Lumi’s smooth ass. “We shouldn’t have sex in the temple. Isn’t that some sort of…sacrilegious thing?” He adds quickly with an anxious glance to gauge Lumi’s expression.

Lumi deflates. He pushes himself back from Khimi and stares back into his eyes, “We don’t have to have sex,” he whispers. “I-I’m certain many have had sex in the temple, though,” he adds in a pleading voice. He turns his cheek in embarrassment, “But we can wait, if it pleas—”

Khimi sits up in haste, water splashes over the sides of the tub, “You’ve got it wrong,” he says hurriedly. “I want to have sex with you, believe me…there is nothing more I would rather do than pin you down on that bed and…”

Lumi’s cheeks fill with color, “Fuck me with that massive cock?” He asks, pulling himself back over Khimi’s body.

Khimi covers his mouth to hide his grin, “I would have used…kinder words,” he replies. Hands slide along the length of Lumi’s body, and he rests his chin atop Lumi’s head. His fingers explore Lumi’s body, pausing to grip the base of Lumi’s tail, causing the aslan to begin purring once more. “Don’t purr that often?” Khimi asks mockingly.

“I already told you,” Lumi whispers, reaching beneath him to continue stroking Khimi. “Today was a good day,” he grumbles through clenched teeth.

Khimi narrows his eyes in amusement, “How can I make it better?” He asks, thumbing the base of Lumi’s tail.

Lumi trembles at Khimi’s touch, “Let me see it again,” he instructs, blushing at his own demand.

Khimi smirks. “Really? My cock?”

Lumi nods eagerly.

“If seeing my cock makes you that happy,” Khimi replies mockingly.

Khimi places his hands on the edges of the tub. Lumi releases Khimi, then moves off of his lap. Water splashes across the floor, the fire sizzling from the spill-over. Khimi uses his strength to pull himself upright and stands from the steaming water before Lumi, his hardened cock nods in anticipation. Godsdamnit. Fucki–

Lumi stares at his size, instantly aroused, “That does make it better,” he croaks. “It’s… huge.”

Lumi melts against the back of the copper tub, hiding his smile beneath the steam and murky water. Not only is Khimi absolutely gorgeous in Lumi’s eyes, but he is gifted no less. Every part of Lumi hungers to touch, to feel him. He wants to familiarize himself with every bit of Khimi.

Lumi draws himself closer to Khimi, his hands grip the back of his thighs. He positions himself on his knees before him. Admiration fills him at the sight of Khimi’s virility, of the beautiful, scarred body standing before him. Khimi’s cock throbs, seemingly desperate for release. Lumi straightens himself on his knees, placing a kiss against Khimi’s inner thigh and looking up with hungry eyes. His hand moves swiftly to the base of Khimi’s cock, his small hand unable to wrap around its entirety. He gently brings the tip of it to his lips, opening them slightly to press the foreskin wrapped tip into his mouth. Lumi looks up, locking his eyes with Khimi’s and closes his eyes. His body shakes with desire. Even without touching himself, Lumi edges on the precipice of orgasm. He slowly works further past the tip into his mouth, gagging slightly while he presses it in. He wants more from Khimi, more than even he can bear. Lumi’s tongue swirls and swishes around the tip, his hands pulling against the skin to expose the swollen head. He feels Khimi’s fingers lock into his hair, his head pressed aggressively over Khimi’s cock.

Lumi opens his eyes, looking up at Khimi. Satisfaction washes over him as he watches Khimi’s head tilt back in ecstasy. Khimi bucks his hips, pushing his cock deeper into his mouth, slowly edging into the back of his throat. Desperate to please, Lumi angles his head back, allowing Khimi’s girth to slide deeper into his throat. The full girth jamming into the back of his throat burns, but he still wants for more. Cum for me. He wants Khimi’s cum, to taste the salty seed once again. He knows now, just once would never be enough for him.

Desire fills Lumi, his fingernails scrape across Khimi’s muscular buttocks and Khimi thrusts his hips against Lumi’s soft lips, his cock sliding in and out his throat in quick succession. He’s going to break my jaw. Lumi’s prickly tongue brushes against the heavy vein along the base of Khimi’s shaft. A loud groan erupts from Khimi, and he pulls back, his moist head against Lumi’s lips. Lumi looks up with pleading eyes, wanting nothing more than to taste Khimi.

“Is this ok?” Lumi asks, his lips brushing against Khimi’s cock.

Khimi places a hand beneath Lumi’s chin. He offers him a smile in response. “Perfect.”

“If you change your mind…you can fuck me, I have somewhere else you can spill your seed,” Lumi taunts, his flushed skin darkens further.

“I just want to savor this,” Khimi groans, watching Lumi hungrily lick along the length of his shaft. “When we get back to Rhaz…I’ll fill you with everything I have. Trust me, there is nowhere else I’d rather cum.”

Lumi blushes at Khimi’s words. Hungry and wanting Khimi’s seed, his tongue presses against the slit, flicking against it. Lumi brings the tip into his mouth, listening to Khimi’s restrained moans. Khimi bucks his hips eagerly, his heavy testicles slap against Lumi’s chin. A mixture of saliva and precum rolls from Lumi’s delicate lips, his fingers clasp like talons into Khimi’s ass. The girthy cock throbs inside his mouth. The sound of Lumi’s suckling echoes against the sandstone room, the lusty sounds arousing them further.

“I-I’m close,” Khimi stammers. His hands shake and tense. “L-Lumi?”

Khimi glances through narrowed eyes at Lumi. The fingertips dig deeper into his rear in response, Lumi’s grip hardening. I want all of him. Lumi greedily presses himself harder against Khimi’s cock. Khimi’s hands dig into Lumi’s blond locks, his warm, thick seed gushes into Lumi’s mouth. In a moment of bliss, Khimi tugs against Lumi’s hair, his cock thrusting deeper into Lumi’s throat. Unable to manage the size, chokes suddenly, his sharp fangs scraping against the sensitive skin. Khimi holds Lumi’s head between both his hands while Lumi sucks enthusiastically, his lips pressed securely to his groin. Whatever words Khimi says are lost, Lumi is deaf to his senses. His undulating tongue laps against the cock, his lips nearly flush with the base. His jaw aches, the corner of his lips hurt. But none of that matters. He’s delicious. Lumi has always enjoyed salty flavors, and he has found his new favorite treat. He slowly withdraws the cock from his mouth and Khimi releases his grip. A stream of saliva and ejaculate trailing from Lumi’s plump lips.

Khimi’s eyes flutter, “I am excited for our return to Rhaz,” he croaks happily. He smiles gleefully, and he watches Lumi lick the remaining bits of cum along his length. “A-Are you always like this?”

Lumi’s focus remains fixed on servicing him, “What do you mean?” He asks between amorous licks along Khimi’s shaft.

“Are you always this ferocious?”

Lumi laughs, his eyes flicking up to Khimi. “Usually…but I don’t have anyone to enjoy it with…so I just touch myself. A lot,” he replies, flashing a smile. “You’ve certainly awakened something more in me.”

Khimi steps back and lowers himself back into the copper tub. He laughs when Lumi begins to lick his fingers, “Glad I could bring that out in you. Come’re,” he murmurs, leaning back against the copper wall.

Lumi’s tail rattles through the water, “I hope you enjoyed it?” He asks and draws himself back into Khimi’s lap, shivering suddenly.

“Of course I enjoyed it…I’ve never experienced anything quite like it…truth be told. I’ll heat the tub again,” Khimi mutters, pulling Lumi against himself.

Lumi looks up and sounds a quiet Hmm, “So…you’ve never been with anyone before?” Lumi asks while he leans back on Khimi’s chest.

Once again Khimi whispers the incantation, steam begins to trail across the top of the water’s surface, heat permeating the tepid water.

Khimi moves his hands along Lumi’s chest in an embrace. “I’ve had people who I thought I fancied…a serving hand and a stable boy when I was younger, though nothing ever came of it. And then again, in my time as a mercenary, I had offers to spend the night with many people…but I admit I never have.” Khimi falls silent for a moment. “Do I seem to be lacking experience…?”

“Not at all,” Lumi replies, his hands moving over Khimi’s. “Honestly, it makes me happy knowing I am not the only one without any. I was so worried I would be a disappointment,” he sighs with relief. He lays his head back, closing his eyes while Khimi’s arms wrap around him.

Khimi purses his lips, “Don’t take this wrong, but you seem to be plenty experienced,” he replies, planting a kiss between Lumi’s ears.

“I’m just horny! I always have these really strong dreams where I have to wake up and…relieve myself to go back to sleep,” Lumi replies, clapping his palms over his face in embarrassment, “besides, you seem experienced!” He retaliates.

“I’ve just been reading.”

“Reading, huh?”

“A friend lent me a book,” Khimi whispers between Lumi’s ears.

Lumi smiles, “You’ll have to show me sometime!”

“Not that I doubt you…but you’ve truly never been with anyone?” Khimi questions thoughtfully.

Lumi shakes his head gently. “Along the coast…where our tribe is from. Aslan aren’t very shy about these kinds of things. Sometimes they would have sex in open areas or during celebrations. I never participated, but you can learn a lot from watching. But it seems that in other places…sex is more private or behind closed doors only.”

Khimi clicks his tongue, “Doesn’t have to be private.”

Oh,” Lumi sounds, sitting up in surprise.

“I’m sure we can manage outside the bedroom,” Khimi whispers, his chin brushing through Lumi’s hair.

Lumi melts at Khimi’s words, “Yes…please,” his words trail.

Lumi listens to Khimi’s quiet breaths and he closes his eyes. His thoughts return to the last time he rested close enough to someone to hear their breathing. It must have been back when he was with his tribe. No. He racks his brain, only to realize that he had never experienced such a sensation. With his head against Khimi’s chest, he finds himself slipping in and out of consciousness, the warmth of Khimi’s breath against his hair lulling him to sleep.


 The sun shines through the small circular window. Lumi opens his eyes upon hearing the sounds of the sparrows singing outside. Did he carry me to bed? Rolling in the bed, he turns, only to be met by Khimi’s steely blue eyes. Lumi cannot help but think about the events of the previous night. Never has he felt this happy in his life, and yet he feels fear. Fear that this happiness would be like any other happiness he had experienced – fleeting.

“Morning, kitten,” Khimi whispers, studying his expression.

Lumi places a hand on Khimi’s chest. “Did you carry me to bed?” He asks, yawning while he entwines his legs between Khimi’s.

Khimi clears his throat. “You looked so peaceful sleeping. I didn’t want to wake you,” he replies, running his hand along Lumi’s waist. “Will you come with me to talk with Nina?”

“I-” Lumi groans, pulling the pillow over his head. “Give me a moment,” he laughs. “I just woke up… and you’re already asking me to have life-changing conversations!”

Khimi squeezes his thighs over Lumi’s legs, “Didn’t mean to startle you,” he responds with a gentleness in his voice. “I should let you catch your bearings. But we only intend on staying at the temple for a few days.”

Shock crosses Lumi’s face, “You’re planning to leave already?!” He asks. “Maybe I should just get it over with, OR maybe I can just stow away in your caravan and not say anything!”

“That won’t work. How obvious it would be…since she read our letters anyway,” Khimi says bluntly. “Besides, it won’t do to have Saint Nina be wroth with me. Though, I think it would make it more pliable if you spoke with her.”

“Maybe we can wait another day or two,” Lumi says, peeking from beneath the pillow, his radiant eyes gleaming in the morning light. “It would be nice to have you with me. And Nina…is really kind to me,” he whispers.

Khimi grabs Lumi’s hand. “I suppose I can put it off for another day,” he says. After a quick squeeze of affirmation, he whispers,“I don’t think it would hurt anything.”

Lumi pushes himself to his knees, “You’re in such a rush…you’re really ready to go, aren’t you!?” He asks, sliding from the bed onto the tile floor.

“Imagine,” Khimi begins. “How much more freedom we’ll experience back in Rhaz. Besides…I believe in my heart, I only came here for you anyway.”

“Oh…well then,” Lumi chirps, quickly pulling his chiton over his head and tugging it straight.The wrinkled fabric refuses to straighten. He turns to Khimi. “And you were the one harassing me for being horny,” he scoffs.

“Just stating facts here,” Khimi shrugs playfully. “The sooner we get to Rhaz, the more we get to explore…one another.”

Lumi turns away, hiding his sudden arousal, tapping against the linen fabric. “Am kinda shocked to hear you say something like that.”

Khimi runs his finger over his stubble, “Do you disapprove?” He questions, his brow raised.

“Not at all!” Lumi roars happily, “glad to see you take such an interest in our rela–f-friendship-thing,” he says, stumbling over his words.

“Friendship-thing is it?” Khimi questions with a smirk.

Lumi’s tail shakes nervously behind him, wrapping around his thigh, “I wanted to say relationship…but I don’t want you to think…that I would force you,” he replies while he watches Khimi finish adjusting his kaftan.

“I would have been fine if you said relationship.” Khimi says in a plain tone without turning back to Lumi.

Lumi glances out the window, “I’ll keep that in mind,” he says, trying to gauge the time of day by the light.

A small flock of sparrows gathers outside the window. They chirp together, pecking the cracks between the large yellowed stones. An acolyte ventures down beyond the window with a handful of bread crumbs. She tosses a handful across the sandy path, the flock swarms about her in a frenzy.

Will I miss this place?

He knows the truth: this place would never be his home. The Gods of Life are not his Gods, his Gods beckon him somewhere else. Somewhere far, far away. He places his cheek against the windowsill, his nerves getting the better of him while he thinks of the conversation to come. The acolyte looks at him, a brief smile on her shrouded face, before she continues along the path.

“Ready?” Khimi asks, crossing the room and embracing Lumi from behind, while he stares out the window with a longing expression.

Lumi maintains his silence. He peers out the window as Khimi’s arms wrap around him. A mix of emotions surges through him.


“Just give me a couple more days,” Lumi replies, turning in his arms and grabbing Khimi’s waist. “Please…I know I’m not welcome here, but I want to remember it…I’ll talk to Nina with you in a few days.”

“A couple more days,” Khimi repeats, taking Lumi’s hand. “How about you show me around?”

“I still have to do my chores…but I can show you what the temple is like during the day now!”

They depart from the small room, Lumi takes a long look back at the small bed and copper tub. I wonder if I will ever come back here.

The Coast

The sun slowly slips behind the canyon’s edges, casting a warm orange glow on the walls as palm fronds sway in the gusts from the coast. Small streams trickle along the sides of the canyon, following the aqueducts down towards the shoreline.

As they reach the final stair leading to the base of the canyon, Lumi playfully takes Khimi’s hand and spins in front of him, flashing a bright smile up at him. The day had been like any other, filled with tedious tasks after his morning duties. But knowing he would see Khimi at the end of the day made time fly by.

The sand beneath Lumi’s bare feet is softer than the coarser sand around the temple. During storms, the coastal waters would rise, the waves would bash against the canyon and push into it.

“What’re you so chipper about?” Khimi asks in a whisper, his eyes surveying their surroundings.

Lumi leans in, his weight against Khimi. “Seeing you,” he admits excitedly. “Since I couldn’t show you everything earlier…I wanted to show you somewhere special.”

“In the canyon?”

“You’ll see,” Lumi whispers, twisting back around and rushing through the sandy canyon.

Lumi pulls against Khimi with all his might, barely affecting Khimi’s urgency at all. His boyish laughter echoes through the canyon while he runs. Occasionally he glances back to study Khimi’s expression. He’s like a stone. The path gradually widens, the light in the canyon growing darker. Then, rounding a bend in the canyon, the path opens wide to a stunning view of the coastline before them. Yellow sand, sparkling as far as the eye can on either side of the canyon’s edge.

The sun is an orange ball in the sky, falling beyond the horizon of the endless expanse before them. The view, the endless water, had always reminded Lumi of his childhood. The beautiful coastal waters of the Dolman coast. While the water is not as brilliant as Dolmas, the view is just as beautiful.

“It’s much more beautiful up close,” Khimi mutters, his hand tightening on Lumi’s.

“It really is…” Lumi whispers while he walks through the soft sand towards the water.

The sounds of the coast are so clear. The waves lapping against the shore, the sound of the breeze whistling through the canyon, and the sandpipers scratching through the sand.

“It’s so peaceful here,” Lumi murmurs, his hand still joined with Khimi’s. “I used to come here to clear my head when they first brought me to the temple.”

Khimi remains silent until he releases Lumi’s hand. “I heard you had issues with other acolytes here…was that always the case?”

Lumi matches Khimi’s silence and approaches the coast. The waves lap against his bare feet. “Ever since I first came to the temple, I never really fit in. I wasn’t sure if that’s just the way things are outside the aslan tribes. But even the other beastkin didn’t seem to like me. It only got worse over time,” he whispers. “I thou–well, I don’t know what I thought. But I hoped that things would change, or people might treat me different. But they would always push me or say things to make me angry. When I mentioned that the Gods spoke to me…everyone started to call me a liar. Saint Nina separated me from the others until things calmed down.”

“Someone mentioned…never mind,” Khimi says under his breath.

“Say it.”

Khimi sighs and steps forward beside Lumi, “Not that it matters. Rashid heard that you had violent tendencies.”

“I guess,” Lumi whispers. “There were some incidents before. When I first came to the temple, one of the older acolytes kept calling me a demi-human. I didn’t know that it was an insult until a guest told me. At first, it didn’t bother me…then I thought about it more, and I j-just got so angry.”

“What did you do?”

Lumi groans, plopping into the sand beneath him. “You may second guess your decision to bring me to Rhaz if I tell you.”

Khimi slowly lowers himself beside Lumi, then removes his babouches. “I think it’s a bit late to take that offer back,” he grunts, “We’ve all done things that we regret. Whatever you’ve done couldn’t be that bad.”

“I pushed him down the stairs,” Lumi whispers. Stretching his legs before him, he continues, “The big ones.”

Khimi grows quiet, the edge of his lip pulling up into a smile. “Did he survive?”

“Hardly,” Lumi whispers, “If it weren’t for Amani he may have died…then after that things got worse. There were rumors that I was out of my mind. Then people started accusing Saint Nina of being partial to me, which made me more angry. Saint Nina kept telling me I needed to learn to control myself, but it’s always so hard. Especially when people insult her.”

“Is it still like that?” Khimi asks while he claps the silk babouches together. “Do you still feel that angry?”

“All the time,” Lumi admits. He brings his knees up to his chest. “Anger just comes to me so quick…I just feel like my mind goes blank and everything goes white.”

“I know how that feels,” Khimi responds. “I try to keep myself calm, but there are times when I find myself blind with anger. Were there other times like this…?”

Lumi’s words come quickly, almost running together, “Are ya sure you wanna know?”

“Might be nice to know what kind of menace I’m taking into my home,” Khimi says while he leans over to Lumi. His calloused fingers brush against Lumi’s chin, guiding his face towards him. “Unless you don’t want to tell me.”

There would be no denying those deep cerulean blues, they lure Lumi in just like the coastal waters. He drowns in his desire. Lumi’s lips begin to move to strangled words, unable to form a coherent thought.

“Lumi?” Khimi whispers. A smug smile on his lips.

Lumi shakes his head, breaking the trance. “After that incident, there were a few times when the acolytes would tease me and though Saint Nina told me to ignore it…I couldn’t. I just would get SO mad that I couldn’t help it. Sometimes I think they wanted me to fight, because I seldom won those fights. It was like they were prepared for me, and sometimes it would get really bad.”

“How many fights did you get into?” Khimi asks, trying not to laugh at the revelation.

“Oh, a number,” Lumi croaks. “Not all of them were my fault. But because of that, Nina decided to have Hasim be in charge of my discipline. At least he understood that it wasn’t always my fault…and he taught me to defend myself. But eventually I kinda just kept to myself, then they put me with a buncha old ladies.”

“Your roommates?” Khimi questions, his thumb strokes Lumi’s chin with a slow touch.

Lumi nods, “Yeah, and I got along with them out of necessity…but I think they might be scared of me too. I’ve heard Cara whisper about me to other acolytes before.”

Khimi whispers, “If you’re really able to hear the whispers of the Gods, then perhaps they’re just envious.”

“I would rather have never told anyone if I knew it was going to bring me so much trouble,” Lumi responds. A wave reaches his toes and Lumi pulls away from the water.

Lumi sighs and lets his back fall flat onto the sand. Khimi follows his lead and lies beside him, the tips of their fingers tap together in the narrow gap between them.

“Do you really believe in all of this, then? The Gods, fate, our souls calling to each other?” Khimi asks in a whisper, his eyes rest on the starry sky appearing overhead.

“If it’s not a God speaking to me, then I am mad as sin. Either that or it’s some sort of benevolent spirit. I don’t think I would know any magick at all without the Goddess. Sometimes I hear her voice and I just…repeat what she says and things happen.”

“Bad things?”

“N-No, not necessarily,” Lumi begins in a whisper, his tail slaps in the sand. “But she taught me a lot…or tried to anyway. Spells, incantations. Sometimes she just appears and teaches me. She said I would learn more with repetition. But she also told me about you, she showed me that you would come for me one day,” he chuckles, his little finger wraps around Khimi’s. “So as far as fate and our souls are concerned…I believe with all of my heart. With all of my heart, Khimi,” his tone is serious, but he laughs all the same. “I barely know you, but I think I’m already in love with you.” The words flow from his mouth with ease.

Khimi’s finger tightens around Lumi’s, but he maintains a long silence before he speaks, “There is a lot that I am unsure of, but I know that right now…I am happy to be here with you.”

Lumi rubs his hand over his chest, his heart thrumming in his chest. His tail rattles with Khimi’s words. “Do you mean it?”

“I’m not the type of person to lie,” Khimi whispers.

Lumi takes Khimi’s hand and lurches it over his chest, pressing his fingers into the fabric of his chiton. “Feel my heart,” he whispers, turning to face Khimi.

His heart feels as though it will burst through his chest at Khimi’s touch. Their eyes meet and almost immediately, he feels tears well in his eyes.

Khimi moves slow and deliberately over Lumi. His legs and hands on either side of Lumi while he looks down at him. “Why are you crying?” He questions in a whisper.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than when you’re with me. I mean it, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this happy.”

Khimi’s lips meet Lumi’s, his hand moves along to Lumi’s waist, then dips beneath him, pulling at the small of his back. Lumi explores Khimi’s body, feeling his abdomen then chest, pushing back the linen shirt and moving across the hair on his chest.

Lumi’s back is arched from the ground, his abdomen pressed against Khimi’s. His arms move beneath Khimi’s attempting to hold himself up. There is no thinking that he is in love with Khimi – he is in love with Khimi.

Their lips move together, their tongues exploring every bit of one another’s mouths.

“I can’t wait,” Lumi breathes between kisses, “To be with you in Rhaz every day.”

“It’ll be perfect,” Khimi says, his breath hot against Lumi’s cheek.

Nina’s Farewell

The day of their departure, the meeting concludes almost as quickly as it had begun. Khimi has offered to transport wares produced at the temple across the Desert Cities in exchange for a hefty percentage of the proceeds. Nina agreed to his wishes but warned of the acolyte’s inconsistency in production. Throughout the meeting, her eyes would set on Lumi’s with an uncomfortable foreboding. He catches her gaze, keeping his eyes on hers as long as he can until he forces himself to break contact — a staring contest, he thinks. Immediately after all parties finish outlining the details of the agreement, Nina stands; a sign the meeting had reached its conclusion.

Lumi waits beside Khimi, a desire to reach out and grab his hand for support, instead opting to tug on the hem of his chiton anxiously. The room disperses and Rashid chuckles alongside the High Priestess Amani while they exit. The room grows silent, only the sound of crackling fires and the scent of jasmine infused incense remains. Saint Nina stands before them, cool and collected. A hint of aggravation hangs on her sharp features. An otherworldly grace emanates from her when she glides toward them, her delicate bare feet drift over the sandstone tile. Lumi tenses uncomfortably, scared of Nina’s anger. Khimi places a reassuring hand on his shoulders.

“You know I am loath to see you leave,” Nina whispers with a touch of sadness. “You’re like my own child, Lumi.”


Nina turns abruptly to Khimi, “Am I to predict the reason you brought him with you today? I don’t need the divine to see the truth of it,” she mutters with a straight face. “You’re taking my son.”

“I intend to tak—”

“I’m going to Rhaz with Khimi!” Lumi interrupts, his cheeks puffed and red. “I can’t be here anymore— I overheard your conversation. I-I don’t wa—“

Nina sighs and holds up her hand, “You needn’t have worried about that. I will always protect you, Lumi. Even had you chosen to stay, I would have protected you.”

Lumi growls, “But, you’ve already done so much!”

Khimi shifts uncomfortably, a silent giant beside the small aslan.

“Have I?!” Nina asks, “I’ve not done enough!” She insists and reaches her hands out to him.

“N-Nina, I’m sorry.”

Nina sighs, her expression softening, “Lumi, once you leave this temple…you won’t be under my protection. I can’t stop what the world has in store for you.”

“I can protect myself,” Lumi insists, stepping forward, he grasps her hands. “I promise!”

Nina’s attention flickers to Khimi, “There will be…dangers that you’ll face in your time ahead, Lord Zeybek. Are you prepared to take on more responsibility? More responsibility other than the duties you have as Lord Zeybek?”

Khimi offers a quick bow, “I’ll do everything within my power.”

Nina scoffs, her hands tightening on Lumi’s, “You had better. He’s important, Khimi. Should harm come to him…I’ll see you are made to pay. Though my wrath is seldom…it is unrelenting.”

Lumi’s eyes shift to glance at Khimi’s pinched lips, “Stop…you’re going to scare him!”

“It takes more than that,” Khimi says, a swift smirk forming while he looks at Lumi.

A touch of anger reaches Nina’s soft voice, “I’m hopeful you understand what you are doing and not following some sort of foolish whim. This journey will not be easy for either of you. Especially you, Khimi.”

Khimi smiles, “I assure you, Saint Nina,” he begins with another bow. “I’ll care for him.”

“See? He’s already great!” Lumi says enthusiastically, “Just like I dreamed!”

Nina frowns, “I hope so, Lumi. I really hope so.” She pauses and takes a deep breath. “Please understand, Lord Zeybek,” she says, addressing Khimi. “I mean no harm with my words. But, I have a strong fondness for this one. He’s grown so much in such a short time.”

“Not in height,” Lumi groans, his rounded ears lowering.

Nina chuckles, “Not in height, but in character. I hope the time he spends with you will serve to foster him.”

Khimi runs the finger over the scar on his cheek, “Saint Nina, I can’t quite explain it,” he begins, his words faltering. “T-There is something inexplicable. I-I felt it when I first met him. It felt like I knew him.”

“Me too!” Lumi insists, nodding his head. His tail swings behind him excitedly. “It was like my heart broke and mended itself at the same time.”

Khimi raises a brow at Lumi, “Though I couldn’t quite describe it before…it would be just the same Lumi describes.”

Nina looks between the two of them, “It’s a curious thing, the meeting of two fated souls. It has been said by Talman scholars that not even the Gods could stop the meeting of a fated pair.” She sighs quietly, “I have faith that what you speak is the truth, and you aren’t taking advantage of my Little Lion.”

Khimi places his hand over his heart, “I swear by my honor as a Zeybek.”

Lumi’s ears twitch, she’s going to scare him. “Sai—”

Lumi,” she interrupts coldly. “You’ve still got much to learn. Though our Gods may not be part of the same order, I won’t allow you to give up your life as a servant of the Faith. In Rhaz, you’ll be welcomed with open arms at one of the sanctuaries.”

Lumi purses his lips, “But it’s as you said…my Gods are not the sam—”

“I won’t let you forget the importance of worship and duty. Sanctuaries are places where anyone of the Faith, regardless of their order, can pray.”

Khimi chuckles to himself at Lumi’s unwillingness, and Lumi shoots a scornful glance at him.

Lumi releases her hands and looks back at Khimi, “Could you give us a moment?”

“Khimi,” Nina begins. “The path Lumi walks…it won’t be easy, he’ll need you. Should he falter, you must be there for him. If you are his animae dimidium meae then this should be a given. Just as Lumi will always be there for you when you need him, and you will need him.”

Nina…” Lumi whispers.

Khimi’s brow furrows, “I swear it.”

“Then it is understood.”

“Yes,” Khimi whispers with another deep bow before he walks from the room with a clenched jaw.

“Shall we take this conversation outdoors?” Nina asks softly. She places her hand on the heavy wooden door.

“If it pleases you,” Lumi replies, his body still facing Khimi’s direction.

They walked in silence through the temple, acolytes and clerics stop to bow in respect. Though he normally felt confident, Saint Nina had a way of making Lumi feel weaker than he already was. Lumi thinks to himself that perhaps that is the truth of it, I am weak. The hem of Lumi’s chiton rips, his nervous hands tearing at the linen fabric. The saint halts in her tracks, kneeling before Lumi. She places a hand on the ripped cloth. A smile crosses her lips while a faint light radiates from her palm, the fabric mending itself back together.

“T-Thanks,” Lumi stammers. “I was gonna fix it.”

“Isn’t the first time you’ve torn your tunic.” Nina turns back to the mirror like water, standing in front of the reflecting pool, “Do you understand, Lumi?”


“Things will only become more difficult for you from here on out,” she says sternly. She crosses her arms, her lilac silken shift clings tightly to her form. “I want to tell you that things will be easy, but they won’t.”

Lumi steps closer, “What do you mean?”

“Things are… complex, Lumi. You’ve never been to a city, not for long anyway,” Nina whispers. “This temple has protected you from the worl—”

“I’ll be okay!”

Nina sighs and turns to Lumi. She claps his face between her hands, “I’m sure you will, Little Lion.”

Lumi’s eyes begin to brim with tears, matching the tears trickling from Nina’s eyes. “W-Will you come see me in Rhaz?”

Nina scoffs, “Unbelievable,” she says, brushing the tears from her red eyes. “You’re supposed to come to the saint, remember?”

“Y-Yeah bu—”

“No buts,” Nina laughs, “Just promise me…that you’ll live your life to the fullest. Don’t let that little lord hurt you. I’ll kill him if he does.”

Lumi looks up into Nina’s eyes, “I’ll come visit you someday, I promise!”

Nina’s arms wrap around him, her thin frame tightens in a bear-like squeeze. “You’re too good for their world,” she mutters under her breath.

“What do you mean?”

Nina nudges her sharp nose between Lumi’s rounded ears, “It’s nothing. Just don’t let them change you. Don’t let anyone change you,” she whispers and places a kiss on his forehead.

Uncontrollable wails leave Lumi’s lips as Nina embraces him. Heavy tears stream down his cheeks with her motherly embrace. Nina was the first person to have ever shown him true kindness and compassion. She had given him a home when he was homeless, tried to teach him to read and write when no one would, and loved him when everyone else turned on him. Despite all the trouble, the fights, the years of grief and tears. Nina loved him, she was like his mother. No, she would always be – Mom.

“Mom!” Lumi cries aloud, holding himself against her.

Tears drip from Nina’s chin in response, her body shaking violently with her muted sobs.