Warnings: Rape/Non-con, Sibling Incest, Dubious Consent
Summary: Veli’s magic has been uncovered and, with it, his heretical connection to an ancient God at odds with that of the royal family. Koyit is ordered to punish him, but he does so in his own way. He won’t hurt the one he has promised to protect.
They say a long time ago, the Sleeper and the Nameless God clashed. Perhaps it was in the World Before, or perhaps it was later, when the Nameless God was only a memory. It is said that whatever the Nameless God did to anger her, they ran and hid from the Awakened Sleeper, for they were too cowardly to face her. She was beautiful, and she burned so brightly in her anger that those who saw her fell dead where they stood, bruised with the force of her majesty. Even from further away, many folk who looked upon her sickened and died. Some were burned; they were those who worshiped the Nameless God. The Nameless God’s marks appearing on their skin in strange patterns revealed them to the Sleeper, and she came for them, and strange fires burned around her.
They fought in the cleared place that is a forest now, but for a long time after the battle it was a wasteland. The Nameless God was cunning and clever, and they changed from form to form again and again—first a tiny bird, now a leaf, now a breath of air, but no matter what form they changed into they could not escape the wrath of the Sleeper, nor her beauty. In the end, they were cast to the ground and there in the clearing the Sleeper overcame them.
Their coupling burned the Nameless God so badly that they slipped once again into hiding, but everywhere across was scattered their tears, black and frozen. The Sleeper’s power secured, she once again became still, and the land slept.
Koyit had always been the ordinary one. He was tall and strong, good at hunting, good at farming, good at combat training, but Elina was the Crown Princess, the Sleeper’s sacred maiden, and Veli was the scholar and the mage, working out solutions to strange problems from old books that made no sense and sometimes finding ancient marvels that occasionally he could even get to perform magic. Koyit was the ordinary one, but sometimes—once in a great while—he had feelings, or he had dreams.
The night before the Sleeper woke, a week before Elina went into the blaze, giving her life to quench it, he had dreamed of roaring flames and Veli’s voice sobbing. So when he woke from a dark, horrible dream, of rising black water all around him and Veli’s blank-eyed body floating on its surface, Koyit’s first, blind, panicked response was to go and find his little brother.
Veli’s bedroom was empty, though his bed had been slept in. Koyit quieted his rising unease with the thought that he woke early as often as he slept in and could be found meditating at the top of the dome. Koyit ran lightly down the passage, but he was stopped by a solemn hunter in soft tunic and leggings, who told him quite politely that his mother requested he not leave. Koyit’s heart thudded in his chest. “I’m going to fetch Veli,” he said, and he watched as the hunter’s eyes widened and her face turned sorrowful. “What’s happened?” he demanded, the fear rising to choke him. “Is he ill? Has there been an accident?” He never spoke so much, and he watched the confusion rising to her face as the terse phrases tumbled from his mouth, one after the other.
“He—Prince Veli—” She paused and frowned. “Veli has repudiated the Sleeper,” she said, and Koyit felt his entire world turn over.
It didn’t make sense, he thought, numbly. Veli wouldn’t. He opened his mouth, but the words simply didn’t come out, and he shut it again. The world seemed faded, as if the colors had drained out of it. Veli. Veli. What would happen to him? What would Mother—
“Where is he?” Koyit heard himself demand, and somehow he didn’t even sound perturbed. He didn’t think he sounded of anything.
“They’ve taken him to the summit of the Dome,” the hunter told him meekly. “I am told there will be a ritual. I am told the queen was going to send for you soon, Prince Koyit.”
“Send for me,” Koyit echoed, blankly at first, then with dawning horror. The only way Veli, a prince of the royal bloodline, could have repudiated the Sleeper was if he had somehow dedicated himself to the Nameless God, and the old myth rang in Koyit’s head. There in the clearing the Sleeper overcame them.
It was all so far away. “I’ll go to the Dome,” someone said in Koyit’s voice, and he turned from the hunter before any more words could be exchanged.
He heard Veli’s voice before he saw anything. He was halfway up the Dome when he heard his little brother scream, raw and hoarse and desperate, and he started to run, not knowing what he was doing, not even certain if there was anything he could do. The scream died away into low, gasping sobs, and as he came into the clearing at the top of the Dome he saw Veli, and he saw Mother.
The queen was still, her face blank. She looked very like Elina, but Elina’s face had always been open and mobile. She could not keep the expressions from her face. Mother’s face looked like she was wearing a wooden mask of Elina’s as she stood in her flame-colored ruffled skirt in the clearing, with her veil pulled back from her face, and stared without blinking at her youngest child. Veli’s long hair had been ragged shorn, and it fell in a jagged dark line diagonally across his face. He was naked, on his knees, with several of the warriors holding him down, and there were tear tracks on his cheeks. Even from yards away, Koyit could see the black lines of the tattoos across his skin, but in the center of his chest, where there must have been something else, there was only red, inflamed flesh—and one of the warriors held in his hand a burning torch.
Koyit’s breath tore unpleasantly in his lungs as he reached the summit of the hill. If the situation had been anything other than it was—if someone other than their own mother and her warriors were the ones hurting Veli—Koyit would already have killed them. But, no, it was Veli who had done something terrible, and Koyit did not know how he could protect him. Even so, the rage swelled in his chest, terrible, implacable, and horribly directionless.
Veli raised his eyes and saw Koyit standing their and for an instant, he smiled, breathtaking, beautiful—trusting. And then Koyit gained the summit and went to stand by their mother, and Veli’s gaze went distant and fell away. Koyit did not know what to say, the words lodged in his throat.
“My child,” the queen said, and for an instant she sounded faint and terribly ancient, and in that single, awful heartbeat, Koyit knew that she meant my only child, the only one that remains.
When one disaster follows another, beware a trinity, whispered an old saying in his ear, and it left him wondering what the third would be.
“Mother,” someone said, in Koyit’s voice, and it did not tremble. “My queen.” And he went down on one knee. Veli made a soft, sad little noise, and Koyit tried not to look over at him, tried not to see the tears running down his face, the hurt, the anger. The betrayal. It wasn’t on Koyit’s part; it wasn’t Koyit who had turned his back on everything that his family was. Veli had no right to feel betrayed.
“He has turned from his dedication to the Sleeper,” the queen said, her voice soft and deadly. “He is a creature not meant to exist. The Nameless God lies hidden in his bones, and the Sleeper will burn and consume us if they are not pacified.”
Koyit said nothing; he only stared down at the leaves and the black glass scattered all around.
“And you are the last of the Sleeper’s line,” his mother said, and somehow Koyit did not flinch, though he thought all the little shards of glass shivered. He knew how the Sleeper had pacified the Nameless God. He knew how the Sleeper had overcome them. He knew what she was instructing him to do to Veli, and he wondered what anyone would say or think, if they knew it was not the first time he had touched his brother in such a way.
Some distant little part of Koyit whispered that they would think what he had done before was strange, perhaps even wrong, but that what he was being told to do now was the only rightful thing, even though now it would be a battle when before it was—he felt his throat throb with pain—before it was love. No, he told himself, bowing his head. It wouldn’t be a battle. Veli wouldn’t be permitted to fight back.
Many of their folk had accompanied the queen to the top of the Dome, and Koyit knew all of them were watching him, but with his stomach twisting inside himself, he only had eyes for Veli. Veli, who was even now being flipped over and pressed down on his back, his legs pulled roughly apart. He didn’t struggle, Koyit noticed; he was quite limp, biting his lower lip in a way that was horribly endearing, as tears slid slowly down his cheeks.
“Do you understand what you have done?” Mother asked, cold and quiet. Her voice rang through the whole clearing all the same.
“Yes,” Veli whispered.
“No one of the royal blood may be dedicated to the Nameless God. You must be stripped of your allegiance.”
“Do whatever you like,” Veli said softly. Then his voice rose, “You might as well kill me! Like you killed Eli—” Mother had taken one of the ceremonial knives from her waist and struck him, hard, with the flat of the blade. Koyit raised his hand to protest, but the words stuck in his throat. He didn’t know what to do. They needed Elina. Without Elina, it was all broken. Veli subsided with a sob.
“Koyit,” Mother said. “Rise and do what you must, as the only remaining child of the Sleeper’s blood.”
No, Koyit wanted to say, but he didn’t know what would happen if he refused. Would the Sleeper herself flame up once more? Would he waste Elina’s sacrifice? He got slowly to his feet and walked across the clearing to the trembling form of his little brother.
Veli was trying to look as if he weren’t terrified, as if he weren’t in agony, but Koyit knew him too well for it work on him at all. He stared down, wondering if this was supposed to be easy for him. Wondering if he wasn’t supposed to feel anything. Why was he even thinking about himself, his brain continued, miserably. Veli was his little brother. He was supposed to protect him. He was supposed to—
He paused for a moment, and then reached for the hem of his shirt and stripped it off, then did the same with his trousers. A low, surprised murmur went through the crowd. Koyit knelt beside his little brother, running a hand carefully down his heaving side. “Shhh,” he whispered. “Hush. It’s all right. I’ve got you.” Then, raising his voice, astonished at how steady it was, “Is there any oil?”
“What are you doing, Koyit?” his mother asked him, cold and distant, and he matched her icy look with his own.
“If I am the Sleeper’s heir, I will interpret the Sleeper’s will in this matter,” Koyit said firmly, and beneath him, he felt Veli’s trembling abate just a little. “Unless you would prefer to attend to this matter yourself, Mother?”
For one horrible moment, he thought he had gone too far—he thought she would. Her hand gripped the pommel of her knife, and he could see it now, could see the unyielding metal forced in and out of Veli as he struggled and screamed and tried not to cry. But the white knuckles relaxed, and his mother frowned, but bowed her head. “Oil,” she ordered coolly.
He didn’t see who handed it to him. It wasn’t Mother. She didn’t take a step nearer, though he could feel her gaze on the back of his neck. There was a strange, weighty feeling in the clearing; everything was silent except for Veli’s soft, ragged breaths. Koyit took the oil and knelt on the ground. Something sharp dug into his knee, and he winced and shifted, then realized he had knelt on a piece of black glass. It had cut him neatly open, and he was bleeding, the earth already stained. Veli looked at him mutely, pleadingly, and Koyit kept stroking his hands along his little brother’s sides, gentle, careful. “Let him go,” he said to the warriors who still held Veli pinned to the ground. “He’s not going to go anywhere. Are you?”
For an instant, something dark flashed in the depths of Veli’s eyes; then he shook his head and murmured softly, with a voice rendered breathy by pain, “Not if you ask me not to, brother.”
The words pricked Koyit’s heart like the glass had pricked his knee, but he stooped and kissed the top of Veli’s forehead. “I do ask you not to.” Veli lay back, and the warriors released their grip.
Koyit thought, perhaps, he should not kiss him; thought, perhaps, it would be far more shocking to the onlookers than what his mother purposed for him to do. He didn’t care. “Just look at me,” he said to Veli, quietly, and he pressed their foreheads together as he slipped his first finger inside his little brother. “All right?”
He had expected a smart remark, probably about the fact that he’d been less careful last time. He’d half-expected it to be loud enough he would be forced to slap his hand across Veli’s mouth to avoid laying them both even more stripped and bare in front of the onlookers. He got nothing of the sort. Veli swallowed, and tightened around him, and whispered, “It’s all right if it’s you.” Koyit’s eyes brimmed with tears, while his cock hardened suddenly, which—at least took one worry away, he supposed.
In the end, Veli kissed him instead, putting his arms about Koyit’s neck far too sweetly and far too trustingly, a slow, soft kiss that deepened moment by moment until they were both breathing raggedly and Veli was rocking back against him. There was a soft murmur of surprise and confusion, but Koyit ignored it, adding a second finger only when he was certain it would not cause distress, and kissing his little brother’s sweaty forehead again. Veli panted and shivered, making soft little whimpering noises as he canted his hips and fucked himself on Koyit’s fingers. A red flush appeared on his dark skin. He was the most beautiful thing Koyit had ever seen.
His blood rushed in his veins, hot—too hot, as if he were burning. Veli felt almost cool around his fingers. His eyelashes fluttered, and he looked up at Koyit, still too motionless, still too trusting. The humor, the suspicion, the normal lines of Veli’s face had all seemed to smooth out. “I’ll take care of you,” Koyit told him, and Veli nodded.
“Feels—good?” he said, breathlessly, questioningly. Koyit probed, carefully, gently, and saw the moment he touched the little bundle of nerves, because Veli’s eyes rolled up in his head and he trembled and moaned and clung to Koyit, as if he’d never felt anything like it before. Koyit swallowed, trying to forget their audience, though he could hear the breathing all around them, some of it too harsh, too ragged. Mother’s breaths—how could he tell?—Mother’s breaths remained, thankfully, serene.
“Are you ready for me?” Koyit asked, and Veli’s eyes fluttered, hooded. He nodded, hesitantly. “All right.” He positioned himself at his little brother’s hole. “Relax,” he murmured, reaching out to stroke his hand slowly down Veli’s cock. Veli buried his face in Koyit’s shoulder and hissed as he was breached. Koyit knew he was large, and he knew, too, that lying on a bed of leaves and glass could not be a comfortable bed. The worst part was that despite everything, it still felt good. Too good. Koyit couldn’t stop the moan that fell from his lips, although he went slowly, gently, carefully, with Veli shuddering in his arms. When he was finally fully seated, Veli pulled back slightly, looking at him with a strange darkness still lurking in his gaze, or so it seemed. But there was still that tenderness, as well, and Koyit did not understand. The air seemed heavy, as if a storm were in the offing, but above them the sky arched clear and blue and distant.
Veli made no sound as Koyit began to move, rolling his hips in short, gentle little thrusts, but he matched the motions, and oh—it was—so much. The feel of him, welcoming Koyit in, not just not resisting but actively participating—if it weren’t for the silent audience, it would be the best thing Koyit had ever felt.
He thrust shallowly, trembling with the effort of keeping it slow, when some strange fire in his veins was urging him to pin Veli down and fuck him until he was screaming. He saw Veli’s eyes widen slightly, saw him flinch and then smile strangely, bittersweet sorrow twisting his mouth up as if he had drunk of the Spider’s bitter water. “It’s all right,” Veli panted, “if it’s you. Whatever you have to do.”
“No.” Koyit put a hand on his little brother’s face. “No, Veli. You’re my little brother. You’re safe with me.” Safe and writhing on his brother’s cock, but never mind. He groaned a little at the heat and the slick of him, but no matter how the thing inside seemed to burn, he was Koyit. He might be ordinary, but he knew who he was, and he would not be the vessel that Elina had been. He would not abandon his brother. He felt the strange presence even more strongly, coiling in his belly, pressing at him, stoking the lust inside him even more strongly. He could not deny Her wholly, but he could channel Her.
He changed his angle a little, remembering what had been desirable before. “Is this good?” Veli gasped and nodded. “Can I—”
His little brother’s eyes went glassy and vacant, his face flushed. “More. Harder. Please.”
Interest coiled inside him, not Koyit’s interest, but the strange, terrible too-great interest of the presence. A strangled grunt fell from his lips as he began to thrust harder, hands on his brother’s lithe hips, driving himself into Veli’s heat again and again. His head dropped forward, and his brother’s hands scrabbled at his shoulders. Veli was gasping and murmuring something, but it didn’t sound like words.
“Nnnn—feels good,” Veli whispered, the next moment, his voice breaking a little. “More.” He rocked insistently back, tightening around Koyit. He was lovely like this, even with his poor shorn hair, but his dark eyes distant, his body flushing and sweaty and pliant for Koyit. Yielding and lovely in his submission. Koyit ran his thumb along Veli’s plush lower lip as he continued to thrust, watching how it parted, then gasping in his turn as Veli sucked the thumb into his mouth and lathed his tongue around it. It was too much, abruptly—he pressed Veli down into the ground, listening to the little noises he was making, “Yes, yes, yes, like that, feels good—oh—oh—”
“I’m, I’m going to—”
“Yes,” whispered Veli, in a kind of susurrous singsong. “Yes, yes, inside me, yes.”
The flames surged almost out of Koyit’s control as a helpless grunt dropped from his lips, and, with sparks bursting in front of his eyes, he spilled himself inside Veli.
He panted, holding Veli still and careful, and then slipped his hand down to jerk at Veli’s cock. It took only a stroke or two more between his little brother was shuddering and coming across his hand. Slowly, Koyit remembered where they were. Slowly, he felt the flames receding from his mind and his body, and he pulled out roughly, reaching for his shirt to hand to Veli. His brother’s eyes flashed with some nameless emotion, and then his eyes went to the patch of Koyit’s blood from his broken knee, a dark stain on the pale ground, like a spatter of ink—
That strange smile flitted across Veli’s face. “Thank you,” he said softly, and then Koyit realized he was not speaking with Veli’s voice. “I have often wondered what it would be like—to be loved—” He put his hand onto the ground, onto the blood, and Koyit reached towards him—and then, slowly, he seemed to pour into the ground, as if it were a white page and Veli were a droplet of colored liquid—red liquid—and Koyit’s hand closed on nothing at all. Upon the ground was only the triple banded Eye of the Nameless God, but its colors inverted, with the usually-dark pupil light and open, like a door, with a small figure leaving through it.
Koyit looked up mutely at his mother, his eyes blinded with tears.
There was no emotion in her eyes. “Well, he is gone,” she said slowly. “Does the Sleeper still lie?”
The earth was still. Koyit bowed his head. “Yes,” he murmured.
“Then you have succeeded.”
“No,” Koyit said, shaking his head. “No.” The blue sky arched empty overhead, and across the ground, he could see the sun glittering upon the black glass tears of the Nameless God.