Dragon Knights Fan Fiction ❯ Inside Tetheus's Head ❯ The Trouble With Love ( Chapter 16 )
Anyhow, ever since the bottle was first mentioned, way back in chapter two, you knew that this was going to happen eventually, right?
warning: Tetheus remains a pervert.
italics are his thoughts.
The day started like any other: Tetheus prowled the corridors, weeding out perversion; Ruwalk wined and dined diplomats from far flung regions of the continent; the Dragonlord closed all resulting deals; Kai-Stern notarised the agreements; Cernozura did all the real work; Raseleane napped and Alfeegi ... he was found cowering under the stairs.
That prompted a war council, which was attended by all the senior dragons as well as delegations from the kitchens, the administration staff and the fighters union. The meeting was conclusive: the Dragonlord told Cesia to find a solution to their problem. She locked herself in her room to work on it and everyone else returned to their previous duties.
Oblivious to the ructions in the castle, the Dragon Knights argued. Tetheus found them while going through the bushes with a stick. Their raised voices had scared off the courting couples who usually took advantage of the dense undergrowth in this part of the grounds. Spoil my fun, will you? Still, I didn't get where I am today by ignoring opportunities like this. He moved into the thickest patch of shrubbery surrounding them and made his way to a good viewing spot, where there was already a Tetheus-shaped hollow in a comfortable posture.
Though the shadows of the leaves screened him, Tetheus could clearly see Rath, Thatz and Rune, the three Dragon Knights. As he settled in, Rune went for Rath's throat and clamped on.
"You promised me that we could come home!"
Thatz was slouched against a tree, throwing small stones into the air and catching them. He watched the fight, but didn't get involved.
"We are home." Rath just managed to get the words out, but his face was turning red. He grabbed onto Rune's thumbs and tried to pry his hands away.
"I want to stay," Rune shouted. "We've spent seven months on the road. Seven months! I wanted to come home five months ago, but you kept running off to fight demons."
"That's just the way Rath is and we're here now," Thatz stated. "Calm down, Rune. Isn't your throat tired of shouting yet?"
The elf let go of Rath and thrust his finger at Thatz, stamping up to him. "You're just as bad! Treasure? Stealing from wishing wells? How long did you spend begging in Luwa while convincing us that you were investigating Rath's demons?"
"It was good cover. How did I know that I was staking out the wrong pub?" he shrugged.
"In the wrong city?" Rune's head snapped back to Rath. "I'm tired of traipsing around the country. I'm tired of killing demons and sleeping in a different bed every night." He fixed the green-haired thief once again. "I'm tired of running from sheriffs, militia and sarky inn-keepers. I want to stay at home, for once. I want a nice, quiet, relaxing break. I want to forget that the two of you exist. So behave! The last thing I want is to be sent on yet another wild-goose chase, babysitting you two infants!"
Thatz sighed, then smiled warmly. "Of course, Rune. I wouldn't think of causing any trouble. The food here's good and even though breaking into the vaults is frowned upon, I shouldn't get too bored. I have enough loot stashed away for at least a few months' gambling."
Thatz tossed the stones up again and caught them. "I'll be good, Rune, don't worry." He then threw them into the undergrowth - one flew through the bushes and rapped Tetheus smartly on the head. He gasped, staggered and started to fall. Thatz hefted his last stone and though he never saw it, Thatz made a perfect shot that landed sweetly in Tetheus's open mouth.
Rune turned to Rath, who held up his hands helplessly. "Rath, you promise too," he shouted, covering up the crash of Tetheus's tumble.
Rath's response was lost as the Dragonlord, grinning from ear to ear, and Cesia arrived.
"Ah," Lykouleon said, still smiling broadly. "I'm glad we've found all three of you together, as we've got a little mission for you."
Rune collapsed and the dragonlord's smile faded a little. It grew back as he noticed Rath giving him an obvious snub. "Cesia will give you the details."
Cesia clasped her hands together and looked at the three knights, waiting until she had all of their attention before speaking carefully. "We want you to find Nadil."
"Nadil?" asked Thatz, standing up, every muscle turning instantly rigid.
"Yes," she replied.
"The demonlord Nadil?" Rune exclaimed.
"The most powerful yokai on Dusis?" he continued, his eyes bulging out from his face.
"The one that kidnapped the lady Raseleane and did things to her?"
"Yes, but don't worry, we're not sending you to kill him." Cesia smiled and Thatz relaxed, his muscles returning to his previous slouch. Rune sat down.
"You're not? Thank goodness," he muttered, taking a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiping his brow.
Rath, who had grown steadily more fevered and who had begun to drool, now sank back into himself.
"We just want you to cut off his head and bring it back," Cesia said quickly. Rath smirked, an evil gleam in his eyes.
"And that won't kill him?" Rune gasped, holding onto his side as though he'd a stitch in it.
"No," said the dragonlord, shifting uncomfortably, his smile fading again. "I tried that, but he just stuck it back on ... Shlouk... and was grand."
Thatz was stunned, Rune looked ill, but Rath just grinned.
"Oh yeah, the most important part," Cesia continued. "Bring it straight back here when you've got it. Even bodiless, Nadil's dangerous and every demon in the country's going to want that head, even those that aren't in his army. The hardest part may be getting it home."
Rune's mouth opened and closed as he desperately tried to think of a way to get out of this assignment. A glassy stare broke out as the argument retreated to a private part of his brain. Concerned, Thatz waved his hand in front of Rune, but got no response. Meanwhile, Rath looked directly at Lykouleon for the first time since he'd been thirteen years old.
"Finally, we get something good. I don't know why you didn't send us after him before, Old Man." He took Rune by the elbow and gently guided him out of the clearing. "Come on, Rune. It'll be a piece of cake, one step at a time, back in the saddle and all that."
They walked slowly away, Thatz following. When they were out of eyeshot, Lykouleon turned to Cesia and burst out with laughter. While he wiped tears from his eyes Cesia stood unmoved, politely waiting for him to finish. He finally stopped with a shake of the head and looked at her. "Well, we've lost three knights but by golly, what an exit."
"Actually my Lord," she said with a cough, "they will succeed."
"They'll get Nadil's head?" he asked, the humour gone.
"Where I failed?" His voice turned up significantly at the end of that sentence.
"Yes." Cesia continued to give the simple answer in a measured tone.
"I'm a bit miffed about that," he said, noticeably subdued.
"Look at it this way: they'll be out of your hair for at least a year, maybe two." She smiled at the Dragonlord.
"Are you sure they even survive?" he asked, looking away from her.
"I'm a very good fortune-teller, sir," she said, clasping her hands behind her back.
"Pity," he muttered, shuffling his feet.
"My Lord?" Cesia asked, emotion finally colouring her voice, even if it was just a faint trace.
"I mean, it was a life or death struggle." He raised his hands, ducking and weaving as he relived the vicious battle. "I was fighting for my wife; My land was in ruins; I'd the narrative imperative on my side and yet still failed. Now you're telling me that three wet-behind-the-ears kids are going to just waltz in and cut off Nadil's head?"
"Well, if it's any comfort to you, my Lord, you obviously loosened it for them."
"I still don't believe it," Lykouleon said tossing his head away from the fortune teller. His eyes suddenly narrowed and he leaned forward. "What's that?"
Cesia turned and followed his gaze. A pair of black boots protruded from the shrubbery. The Dragonlord stalked up to them and grabbed a hold of the left one. He nodded at Cesia and she hurried up after him and grabbed the other. On "three" they pulled, plucking Tetheus's prone body from the brush. Both stared at the unconsious Dragon Officer, until Alfeegi ran up to them.
"So, have you done it? I mean, either they're going to break apart the castle or they're heading off. I hope it's for at least six months, but until they're fifty would be good... what happened to Tetheus?"
The three of them stared at the black dragon officer and Lykouleon prodded him with his toe. When Tetheus didn't react, Alfeegi knelt beside him and felt for a pulse.
"He's alive," he said, before lightly slapping the unconscious man and calling to him. "Tetheus, Tetheus wake up."
A grunt came out of Tetheus and Alfeegi continued his ministrations. His patient groaned, shook his head, then opened his eyes. Alfeegi? What the fuck did I do to wake up to Alfeegi? What did I do last night? He took a huge gasp of air, - I have got to get out of this somehow - and shuddered. What? Where's the air gone? Where? He tried to gasp, but nothing came out. Alfeegi grabbed him and lifted him to a sitting position. Crap, oh crap. He clawed at his chest, then started to thump it. Can't breathe. He scrabbled at his coat. Help me. Help me. He clutched onto Alfeegi's shirt and stared into his frightened eyes. Alfeegi, please.
Cesia screamed as he collapsed again. All three shared terrified glances while Alfeegi mouthed "What do I do?"
"Thump him!" Lykouleon shouted.
"No, check his pockets!" Cesia yelled, hopping from foot to foot, but unwilling to step any closer.
Lykouleon threw her a puzzled glance as he dropped beside Alfeegi and went through his trouser pockets.
"His inside pocket! In his jacket!" she yelped. "That's what he was trying to get to."
Lykouleon nodded and dipped into Tetheus's chest pocket. He breathed again when he found a small bottle, with an unmarked label.
"How much?" he asked.
"All of it," yelled Alfeegi. He grabbed it and pulled the stopper out with his teeth. Then he forced Tetheus's mouth open and shoved the bottle half down his throat, spilling most of it on his clothes. Tetheus twitched violently as the potion took effect, wrenching himself from Alfeegi's grasp and rolling to the side. His chest heaved and horrendous noises came from his body, until, with a mighty HURRK, a slimy, green stone was expelled. Tetheus lay back, breathing harshly, I'm alive.
"Tetheus?" Alfeegi asked, easing Tetheus into a more comfortable position and forcing open his eyes, so that he could check them out. "How do you feel?"
Tetheus stared at him. The wind whistled overhead and the cawing of a lone crow echoed through the tree. Tetheus reached up, his breathing slow and easy and grasped onto Alfeegi. He pulled himself up and Alfeegi leant down to him, cocking his ear to hear Tetheus's laboured words, when Tetheus skipped his ear and gave his answer directly to Alfeegi's lips.
The sun shone on an almost frozen tableau: only Tetheus moved, his hands stroking Alfeegi's hair and his lips and tongue softly caressing Alfeegi's. His fists clenched and unclenched as Tetheus gently licked and kissed - his fierce grip holding Alfeegi in place. Finally Tetheus released him and lay back to regard his kissee. The sun shone strongly above him, giving Alfeegi an aqua halo and Tetheus smiled. "Heya," he said, as the smile stretched to his eyes and gave them a happy glint. "How are you?"
"Good. Fine. I'm fine. You're alright? That's great." Alfeegi placed an unsteady foot under him and pushed himself up. "You had a nasty shock, you should go and lie down. I was shocked. It was a shocking day," he said, extending a shaky hand to Tetheus and helping him to his feet. "Let's go."
He wobbled off, somehow supporting the weak Tetheus and leaving Cesia and Lykouleon behind. They stared at the unholy site of Alfeegi's first kiss with Tetheus until an evening mist fell and Cesia sneezed. Lykouleon woke from his daze and reached out for her. They embraced and holding tightly to each other, unsteadily walked back to the castle.
Draqueen was silent. Tetheus felt peace and harmony permeate through every layer of the city and flow up to his bedroom. A loving laugh danced through the room and swirled around the bedposts. Alfeegi, it's all so obvious. He wriggled under the sheets, relishing the feeling of the soft and sensuous silk as his naked body flowed over it. Why have I spent so many days and nights unhappily? A restless sigh escaped as he twined the blankets around him. All along, all I needed was one kiss and I would have been completed. Alfeegi. I treated you so badly and now I'm going to have you. He stared off into the dark, towards that part of the castle that contained Alfeegi's room. You won't evade my love. I'll show you exactly why we should be together and give you the realisation that I've found. He giggled in the dark. It'll be wonderful!
The following day Tetheus bounded through the castle, stopping every guard he came across and asking them if they knew where Alfeegi was as he'd a most important thing to tell him. He left frightened guards behind. Kim, the dragon fighter on duty at the vaults groaned the most.
"There goes any hope of kids."
His partner, Sangi, looked confused. "What does his mood have to do with children?"
Kim sighed and looked away. "Every time he gets like that, it means a new uniform. Our winter outfit used to have a full-length coat, but he got rid of that seven revisions ago. The shirts get more revealing every year."
Sangi blanched, then frowned. "What does that have to do with children, though?"
"What? We all know that the infertility of the Dragon Tribe is caused by our tight trousers."
Tetheus smiled from around the corner. Despite his sudden change of heart, old habits remained. Don't worry silly, little, dragon fighter. Soon there'll be enough loose fitting boxers to fill the castle with the lovely yells of adorable children. Alfeegi would like babies - he'd be such a good mum.
Tetheus carried on with the game, poking into every corner for his beloved and laughing when he realised that Alfeegi was still on the loose, until he ran into Cernozura at the laundries.
His smile hit her like a fist and she stepped back to figure out if Tetheus was really the one who stood before her.
"Cernozura, my dear, ah yes, I should talk to you. Have you seen Alfeegi?"
She shook her head and blinked several times. "You're actually looking for him? I thought you avoided him most of the time?"
Tetheus answered her with a wink. "I think he's hiding on me, which makes it more interesting. Ah Cernozura." He swept into the room and grabbed her hands, raising them to his mouth for a kiss. She pulled back. "Where did we go wrong? We did waste an awful lot of time on each other, didn't we?"
She nodded, but said nothing. Tetheus smiled, took a pile of clothes from the clean pile and shoved them into the dirty bucket. When Cernozura opened her mouth to complain, he stopped her lips with his finger.
"I'm happy to help and I really need borrow you for a moment. Can you spare some time for me?"
She eyed the clean pile of clothes and he stepped towards them.
"Yes, loads of time," she said, pulling him back. "What do you want?"
He grabbed her hand and led her through the twisty corridors of their home and opened his bedroom door with a dramatic flourish. She gasped as she stepped through. The curtains had been pulled tight and almost every available surface had been filled with candles, some of which had burnt dangerously low. The areas that were free of wax were covered in vases of flowers, which lent the room a bewildering scent. The bed itself was coated in rose petals. Looks a bit different doesn't it? Oh well, here goes. Time for a heart to heart.
"Cernozura, we've danced around each other for so long. We drift apart again and again, but we always flow together once more. I've spent more nights in your arms than I've spent with the rest of the castle combined. It's not just a comfort thing, I've sought you out, because I think my heart knew that you were meant for it. You soothed me and scolded me and matched me - giving me what I needed, but not always what I wanted. I showed something to you that I've never shown to anyone else. I gave you my thoughts, my real thoughts. I normally stay closed, so that people think the best of me, but with you I've talked and talked and developed, finally, as a person."
A single tear formed and rolled down her cheek.
"With you, there wasn't a great passion; it grew slowly. I just realised one day that you made me smile and that I was happy when you were around." He smiled gently and love shone through every pore of his body. Cernozura bit her lip and waited. Tetheus shook his head and pulled a black cloth bag from beside the bed. He squeezed it tightly. "I've never had such a good and honest and open friendship. I was confused but it struck me today. How could that be love? You never consumed me. Alfeegi is everything and it's hit me now, suddenly and I don't know why it never hit me before."
A second tear joined the first one, then a third. Tetheus wiped her face dry with the cloth bag, then gave it to her.
"Here are your things, Cernozura. There's no real point in me holding onto them, now. Not when I've found true love and I'll never stray from him. Please, don't tell him about us. I'm sure that there are things that you don't want to be generally known." Tetheus put a finger to his lips. "I'll be quiet if you will."
She nodded and he pushed her gently out the door.
"I'm really glad that this has been sorted out. I'd love to spend more time with you - I have so much to talk about with my best friend, but I need to find him."
Where haven't I checked? Tetheus turned and missed Cernozura running off. If I was Alfeegi, where would I be?
I'm never going to be able to use the version of Nadil that I'd worked out for this story. It's a pity, but eh, it can't be helped. I don't know if he'd fit in anywhere else. Again, this is the last episode of Inside Tetheus's Head. There was a long gestation period and I'm really pleased with how it worked out.