Flames in the air and steel in his hands, he moves as if he has mastered both. The constant heat enwreathed the workshop in a similar sensation as a sousland pleasure parlour – of intensity, proficiency, and purpose. No bigger than a wagon, between the entrance and the furnace lay a strewage of raw materials, sacks of sand, and flasks of oils labelled with penmanship teetering on the brink between logographic and proto-language, providing little in the way of comfort or an atmosphere conducive to decorum and posture. The blacksmith cocks his head at a small chairless table used for conducting awkward business and which, upon closer inspection, is just two anvils not even placed neatly together.
“With you in a sec.”
“Blacksmith Tewfik, I come on urgent business.”
“Yeah, and I’m runnin’ an urgent business. Be with you. In a sec.”
His manner of speech is blunt and much too crass to address a royal. Coarse as it is, however, anyone listening finds themselves… listening. His voice contains an element of command to it. An alloy of knowledge and experience with trace elements of control. He exerts ownership over this space, and that includes anyone in it.
No tongue sears more than that of the sur-prince, having trapped it between his teeth, something he does whenever dealing with the useful insolent. A tongue bitten, he reasons, keeps me from swallowing my pride. He preludes his introduction with a strong ahem, audible even above the crackle of fire and the ringing of steel: Adelheid the Undenied, Commandant-Exodant of The People of Cel D’altura, Who Ordered the Skies to Open. No fanfare meets his arrival, only derisive laughter.
“You always introduce yourself in third person?”
Adelheid’s eyes widen in insult. He releases his tongue from his grip and prepares it once more to speak. Before mustering a punitive retort, however, he is interrupted.
“There, I’m done.”
Tewfik turns around and the two meet eyes for the first time, a sooty gaze with flakes of dark dust outlining his eyes with alternative mascara. Eyes that had been fixated on applying precise and hard, mighty blows to frail and simmering steel were now equally attentive to Adelheid. He gives the royal a noncommittal wave before standing opposite him behind the anvil-table, a comical, disarming gesture.
“So, prince Adelheid, what can I do you for?”
“Ah. You have heard of me after all. Our congress thus far seemed to lack the proper hailing.”
“You’re here for me, aren’t you? Don’t see why I have to be the lesser man.”
“The sur-prince requires your talents and you react with the same uncouthness as a souslander?”
He roars another laugh, a full-bodied motion, and for a brief second, Tewfik’s tectonic pectorals sneak out from under his apron. For an even briefer second, Adelheid is overcome with that unmistakable wash of heat and stocking of breath: shame. He recognises that in this place, this man is the one wielding condescension; he also recognises he does not necessarily dislike it.
“This may be the lower capital, but everything down here’s still the souslands to you high folk. ‘Sides, you showed no respect when you cracked open the clouds and claimed everything beyond them.”
Adelheid’s face twirls into a frown as a tooth draws blood. He did not come here to discuss the politics of suzerainty with a direct subject, much less be insulted by one. Yet, his requests and requirements outweigh any effort he wants to put into backtalk.
“Anyway, do you want my respect or my services?”
“Choose: I get all humble and bend the knee. Or… I give what you need.”
This whisper invites silence – it takes Adelheid aback, takes him back, to the trysts in the antechambers with Mergal, his first, with whom he, for once, was never the one in charge. Growled in the same, low way he had – and though there were two anvils of distance between them, he could feel as if lips brushed his ear.
Again does an incisor reach down, though to inhibit a different score of feelings this time.
“I am here to commission you.” His voice does not betray the wavering beneath – at least, he hopes it doesn’t. In a last-ditch effort to reassert his dominance, he slams down an embellished coffer on the anvil – two cupped hands below an antler’s horns, a single feather above the surroyal. Adelheid’s personal heraldry. He opens it, revealing the glowing stone inside.
“Wow, got your hands on some go-inon, eh?”
Adelheid bats an eye. “What is… go-inon?”
“Not much. What’s going on with you?”
All Adelheid can do is stare in disbelief at Tewfik’s wide, proud smile. This man is completely unpredictable. The blacksmith does not wait for Adelheid to give permission or for him to recover from that really good joke and grabs the coffer, letting his index finger move over the prince’s thumb, marking it with soot.
Tewfik whistles. “This is… Scoria of the Heavens, right? Never seen it myself, but I read about it while studying in Hűtő Vödör. Didn’t think it would give light, that’s special. You ever been to the Vödör, prince? Probably not, I bet you hardly ever leave Ascens.”
Adelheid uses his divine right in the best way possible: getting the conversation back on track. “Its luminosity is the least impressive of its qualities. Enhancing a blade with the Scoria produces a sword nigh unbreakable, aside from an ever greater side-effect.”
“What would t—“
“It turns the metal into a colour which has never been seen before.”
The excitement on Tewfik’s face could be accurately recorded with all of the imperial units of measurement. It were the offers like these that made the craft worthwhile, when the control over fire and steel – already arcane in its exigencies – bordered on the magical by adding the rarest of materials. Something in the glint of Tewfik’s eyes, however, messaged that this alone would not satiate hands.
“Why do you need me to do it?”
“Simple: your reputation precedes you. And this task I cannot entrust to my personal smiths.”
“Picking strangers over staff, huh? You must be planning something big. I’ll do it, because I wanna see this new colour. On one condition.”
“Which would that be?”
“You’re going to wait here with me till I’m done.”
It was the most practical solution, as Adelheid could not be seen returning to his post missing his family sword, but the immediacy in his response forewent any claims to natural social conduct; the mouth outruns the mind, and it seems no trapped tongue will stay still.
Perhaps the heat had molten away his icy demeanour, but the prospect of spending time with an impressive craftsman who refused to recognise his authority didn’t seem unappreciable. It helped that Tewfik was exceedingly ruggedly handsome –light brown hair brushed over his scalp and kept in place by the permanent abundance of sweat, thick lips and a crooked nose, shoulders that looked perfected by another blacksmith.
“Mind if I take this?” the blacksmith grinned as he drew Adelheid’s blade from its scabbard, the underlying suggestion drawing his breath as well. Look at that fool.
It was the one thought that perpetuated Tewfik’s mind as he toyed, teased, and dealt with his oppressor. Commandant-Exodant – commander of the exodus – as if leaving the cloud kingdoms wasn’t the most disastrous thing to happen to the earth. There were no ‘sousfolk’ till your armies rained from the sky ten years ago. The memory of brown wings, white skins, and bloody spears, still as fresh as the scar above. Your ego matches your wingspan, vulture, going around like you truly own the place. Trying to involve me in your machinations like I hadn’t just finished a sword that will end in the throat of one of your troops.
For someone who belongs to the folk closest to the sun, Adelheid is unnaturally pale. This uncanniness occurs in the behaviour and faces of royalty as well: stainless, featureless in how unflawed they are, ever looking down. Vultures compare themselves to angels, a monster they invented. Their armour bears iconographies of the right to rule: the eye of an eagle above a horizontal wing for the infantry, birds of prey upon a rat for the winged cavalry.
Tewfik is well familiar with the symbolism and the construction of Alturan armours. After all, he was forcibly sent to Hűtő Vödör, where the new Alturan smithing school had replaced The Buildings, to learn their crafting techniques, as he’d be in their service from now on. The Alturan history of metallurgy is a military one, written and put to good use by a nation of predators. However, conqueror and subjugated both exist in the same binary; like a clock it will strike back like a pendant. Weapons will mark any flesh, and if knowledge is power, then what the smith knows will kill.
“For repair jobs and enhancements like this, we don’t melt down the blade and reforge it: that’d be too wasteful and too time-consuming. Instead, we put it in the bloomery. This heats up the metal to a temperature where it doesn’t melt, but it does start to soften – blooming – making it easy to work with.” Tewfik’s voice is instructive and deceptively friendly, like a trader spinning stories to increase the price of an antique for the interested buyer.
“I do not know of such a process in my homeland. Fascinating.”
“Oh, for sure. Altura’s got sunspots to do the melting for you. Down below, we take things slow.”
Tewfik adds a wink to the last sentence, Adelheid responds in kind by biting his tongue. Heh, sucker.
In Minden Ugyanazon – the name for the lower capital before branded Ascens –, there is a saying that goes: “the strangest rituals guarantee the strongest swords.” Any smith will yell till dawn about why their furnace is the greatest, though no explanation actually lies in the furnace itself, but in the way it is prepared.
All smiths tame the same flame and bend the same steel, but superstitions, idiosyncrasies, and folktales will determine if a wool, silk, or hemp cloth is used for cleaning, or at what angle the hammer should land. Tewfik, for instance, believes striking the fire with a wet towel prevents cracks from running too deep when the smelt hardens. Afterwards, he inserts the blade into the furnace, making sure it slots into the grooves, and emits a sigh. He puts the towel on the anvils and begins to remove his apron.
Covered in soot and sweat, his chest is a rippling field of water and work and it is approaching Adelheid. “You should undress, too.”
“E-excuse me?” Still standing behind the anvil table, it barely succeeds in hiding the new heat travelling through his hips.
“Oh, blooming raises the temperature by a lot. That shining princely armour of yours will turn you into dross if you decide to leave it on. You can try and tough it out, but this will take a few hours.”
Adelheid is unsure what Tewfik means with ‘this’. Nevertheless, he concedes that he has nothing to be ashamed of, nor that he is opposed to the route things are going as they are. He gingerly undoes the clasps keeping his flat breastplate to him, and the two halves crash to the floor. Covering the chest of the mightiest man in two skies was nothing more but a flimsy, gold-hemmed tunic. And when two dirty hands ripped and tore it asunder, nothing anymore was.
Adelheid’s tongue produces no sound, as no protest could be found behind it. The prince waited for the taller man to say anything, mouth open to receive. Tewfik’s eyes travel across the grounded vulture before him, his brown wings wrapped around like the most brittle shield. He brushes them aside with ease, exposing his lithe, alabaster torso, and lets his grip find home on his jaw.
“I’d much prefer primmer hands touch me.”
“You’re way too clean. You haven’t experienced anything.”
“Kiss me already.”
“I will dirty you.”
Their mouths come to lock and all keys have been thrown out. The smith’s tongue dominates the prince’s with a ferocity spurred by retribution – he tastes the blood drawn earlier, and he thinks Good. There is no battle for control, no dominance to be wrestled; Adelheid is powerless to mount any defences, all he can do is relish in the bittersweet taste of subordination’s onset. Tewfik explores the confines of his mouth like a jailor inspecting a prisoner, the fallen monarch’s once-silver tongue has been turned into the gold of silent moans. He breaks away a bare inch, and Adelheid’s tongue hangs from his lips in desperation. Tewfik’s eyes look down at him – condescend him – and he can only grovel in his gaze upward.
I have him where he deserves to be. I have him where I want. He wants it.
“Know fully well, vulture, that this is retaliation. This is humiliation, I will make you humble.”
Adelheid nods, panting like a hound, and feels the drool pouring from above. Into his mouth, lapping it up like a dog. He swallows, his pride cascades with it, the last impediment before his lust. Drips overflowing land on his bare chest, and he instinctively scoops them up to drink. Tewfik takes note of the pleas in his golden eyes and spews into his mouth. The spit he is given becomes Adelheid’s own. The soot-covered hand on his jaw belongs there, the thumb sliding into his mouth must be sucked. Then. like a hook, it pulls him in for another kiss. The bite on his bottom lip sends thunder through his feathers, the rainstorm overwhelms him, his mind clouded, he cannot weather the elements.
“Good boy.” Tewfik playfully slides his free hand over the monarch’s heaving chest, leaving black trails of where he’d been touched, revealing where he will be touched next.
“Ha… Ah…. I…”
“I want… to accept you…”
“I thought all dominions were accepted in the commandant-exodant’s realm.”
“I’m not… hunh… talking about that…” Adelheid’s attempt at interlocution comes as a last stand before the full surrender – they both know what he’s talking about, but for someone as he, there is a shameless vulnerability in stating it outright. That, however, is exactly what Tewfik wants him to do.
“I want to suck your cock.”
“Good boys ask for permission.”
“….let me suck your cock.”
The muscular man takes a strident seat on the anvil table and gestures widely at his pants. “In Minden Ugyanazon, we have a saying: ‘Those who want, must work.’” Taking the jab and the hint, Adelheid drops to the floor and crawls before him, beginning to pry off his workboots. Satisfaction briefly turns to surprise as Tewfik feels a foreign wetness over his toes. He looks down to see Adelheid kissing and massaging his feet, and chuckles.
“So, the prince becomes a dog. You won’t be able to lick off the soot, but feel free to try.”
The kowtowed royal rises to his knees and rests his face on the crotch of Tewfik’s pants. He rubs his cheeks against him, feeling the warmth and the girth and the excitement. His breath clamours for his cock. He moans into the fabric, licks it, as his long fingers slide off the pants to free his new lord. In this moment, he is given the unknown: submission. To step down from his throne as ruler and fawn beneath it as servant is apocryphal to his dynasty, to what he has achieved – a cloudless empire – and it feels so fucking good.
His cock springs free, not yet fully hard. Adelheid places himself beneath it, attending to it as it lays upon his face. The smith, towering from above, looks at quite the amazing sight: the lord-conqueror of his homeland, kneeling beneath him, his wings that normally span the podiums he speeches from now folded neatly behind his back, his face in ecstasy as he kisses and licks his dick. The heaviness of Tewfik’s breath grows along with his cock until it stands at full attention. Eight inches tall and, apparently, bigger than a handful for Adelheid. He grasps it with both gloved hands and begins to stroke, mesmerised by its girth. He is encouraged to rapidity by the low moans above him.
Tewfik feels everything the prince does to him and the purpose behind them – his movements over his topography, intent on finding out how far they can go. He feels his dedication to the play waver; wanting to put him in place and wanting more are opposite sides of the same coin, and it stops to matter on which it lands. Politics become subject to pleasure. The silk over Adelheid’s fingers tickle and conduct him and he groans in tandem with the strokes. Hungry hands start at the base and rise to the very top, an ascension leaving crumbs of carnality in their wake, then come back down for more.
A trickle leaves the tip. Adelheid’s thumb, still stained with the first touch between the two men, moves to soak it up. Such gentle fabric over the sensitive head draws a loud moan from Tewfik’s throat. Looking away from his cock for the first time in minutes, Adelheid sees Tewfik’s tectonic chest, rising and falling and wet; his hair, dishevelled by hands going through it; his eyes, hotter than any forge, demanding he come up here. He does so.
“Wouldn’t you say I’m at a disadvantage?”
“Am I not exactly where you want me?”
“There are other places you can take me, prince.”
The temperature of the room forms no objection to the closeness of bodies – writhing against each other, a desperate exchange of heat and fluids to create more. Adelheid’s hands pushes on Tewfik’s cock as if slowly inserting a blade into a scabbard, similar to the tongue pushing down his mouth. Two deft hands remove the last obstruction, the prince’s longskirt undone and cast aside, his modesty revealed.
“Ah, so this is the royal sceptre.”
“Ha, fair enough. Go grab the clove oil. It’s on the shelf.”
As Adelheid turns to browse the different jugs of oils, he suddenly feels his accidental lover’s body between his wings, length pressed against his back, his hand on his ass, and another sneaking around to his yet-unattended cock. The lips pressed against his jaw tell him “don’t mind me”, which he absolutely does not, but it makes reading labels substantially harder. Distracted by the fingers circling back and front, the letters on the labels become an ineligible blur, he has a tough time finding the correct vessel. Then, as if in realisation, Adelheid chuckles.
“Your handwriting is awful.”
The kissing in his neck turns to a muffled laugh.
“Fair enough. Fair enough. It’s this one,” Tewfik points at the second jar from the left. Adelheid proudly presents it as a gift, a tribute, a next step, and Tewfik rewards him with a slow stroke across his lips. Tewfik picks up the man and sits back down with him, placing him atop his lap, his cock, leaning against his, both sticking out from his thighs. Like how a tributer is paid back a portion of the ore raised, so is Adelheid given his share of the resource.
And share, they will. Oil fuels fire, which returns to Tewfik’s voice: “Begin,” he commands. Pouring oil on both their members, Adelheid fails to stifle a gasp at the sudden, slick sensation. Putting the jar aside, he leans forward and reserves a hand for Tewfik and for himself, resuming the handjob, though this time much more included in the movement. Being on display while serving Tewfik is an entirely new though welcome sensation, a private performance turned interactive. The sounds they make – the wet slicking, their ragged moans and loud sighs – do not outdo the crackling of the forge, the last silencer on their louche activities keeping the outside world uninformed. Then, one sound does. Adelheid’s fixation on their cocks distract him from Tewfik dipping his index and middle finger in the jar of oil. He notices too late when he reaches around and presses into his ass, elating a pleasurable yelp.
The artisan moves carefully and precisely, as if a potter spreading the insides of clay. The massage on his prostate won back any head-start (heh) Adelheid might have had on bringing Tewfik to his peak, the most explicit iteration of the old Alturan tale about the hare and the turtle warning against hubris. Pride comes before the fall, making way for pleasure, and the imminent lapse is most welcome.
Perhaps he had hoped too soon, as it is Tewfik’s hips that begin to buck and spasm, meeting the delicate prince’s grip in welcoming finality. He grunts, loudly, and holds on for dear life on and in Adelheid’s ass.
“I… shite. Ah, ahhhh…!!”
Adelheid needs no clearer signal to the approaching orgasm, sacrificing his hand to which he drew in his own to better pleasure the subject before him. Massaging the head with his left and applying a rolling pressure to the base of the shaft with his right, a technique which had he been taught personally by Mergal in his boudoir, he causes Tewfik’s eyes to widen and his breath to stop. Voicelessly, he cums, into Adelheid’s receiving cupped hand. Seven seconds of this impressive display – one man was counting, the other lost track of time –, of cum splashing against hands, against hips, one strand even slips through his hand and landed on Adelheid’s chest. It softens against him, still hard, he regrets they couldn’t have come together, but goading him to ecstasy is a task that rewards itself. A new kind of noblesse oblige he could come to like.
A low, sobering sigh comes from his opposite – he meets Tewfik’s return to the conscious world with wide eyes and licking fingers.
“Did I do well?”
“You can say… and do that… again…”
“If you are good for a second time, I shall!” The eagerness he so desperately had tried to hide is now audibly earnest and everywhere.
“Not so fast, prince… Look at you, you’re all messy. I think you’ve earned a bit of cleaning. Wait, hold on, that was clever but it’s the complete opposite of what I said I’d do to you. Ugh. Never mind.”
Any enjoyment Adelheid could have chuckle at after this kooky tangent is replaced with a sense of immediate disappointment as he feels – or stops feeling – Tewfik’s fingers inside of him. Seeing him grab the wet towel next to him pouring it with the remainder of the jar’s contents, however, fills him with a sense of curiosity and excitement, tasting a new food, inundated into new ways of bliss. Like a bowtie on a present, he wraps it around Adelheid’s verticality, tying a loose knot with one-hand.
“That was the last of my clove, so you better enjoy this.”
“I have to say, you souslanders are a much inventive bunch.”
“Vultures live their life eating scraps – I’ll show you a real meal.”
The euphemism of spur climbing is invoked here – a lumberjack wraps a wire around a tree and uses it for balance, shimmying it up along as he climbs it. Pulling at the ends of the cloth, Tewfik guides it up and down the trunk of his temporary attendant while adjusting the tautness with a pleasurable rhythm. The short-lived resurgence of Adelheid’s colonial haughtiness turns canine once more. Overloaded with stimulation, his head shoots back, his chest shoots up, tongue escapes his mouth. His pelvis becomes uncontrollable as pleasure reservoirs in his cock, dams waiting to burst.
“There’s a reason smiths use silk for their cloth.”
“U.. Uhn…. Mmmhrah… Ahhh… AHH…. I’m… I’m… Going to…”
Before Adelheid finishes his thought, before his eyes roll back into his head, before the onset of orgasm can wrack the remains of his coherence, the coquettish smile on Tewfik’s face preludes the Loki-like mischief, the cloth tightens, interjecting him.
“Wh… Oh… No.. Please… Oh please I need to.”
“I won’t let you. Until I hear you beg for the same mercy you failed to show my countrymen.”
Still in their roles, but the sentimentality – and history – is clear in Tewfik’s voice. They are monarch and marginalised in an occupation, fucking enemies in a fake peace.
“…Before I beg, I am sorry.”
“Don’t ruin the mood with meaningless diplomacy.”
“Haha, you are quite right…” Let us enjoy this moment before we return to resenting one another.
Another tug on his cock shakes Adelheid out of his reverie, his orgasm bashing against the obstruction.
“Please… I need to cum. Make me cum.”
“I need to cum. Please. Please. Oh my wings please please please please.”
The cloth releases and Adelheid is immediately brought back to the precipice of pleasure. Hours of revelling in the feeling of being subordinate sublimates as a mental, perhaps psychic addition to raw physical pleasure. Hands free again, Tewfik brings both to ushering out the best his conqueror has to offer – one hand cupping and massaging his balls, the other fingering his mouth. Even in the midst of what feels like an earthquake in the heavens, Adelheid remembers his duty and gives his fingers the blowjob he never got to properly apply. He moans, turning into a yelp, becoming a scream, as he empties over Tewfik’s chest. The prince has fallen; he falls on his chest.
“Clean up. We’re done here.”
“Oh. Yes, right.”
He begins to lick Tewfik clean, but is promptly stopped.
“I gave you what you needed. We’re done here, prince.”
Both men return to their original roles, backing away from the grand spectacle of sexual theatre like you’d see in a sousland pleasure parlour, onto the original, despondent tragedy of an Alturan amphistage. Tewfik silently imbues the bloomed metal with precious material as Adelheid sadly, but knowingly, dammit does he know, looks on. If this seems anticlimactic, it wasn’t; this tryst amidst inward war was a surge that happened because of it, but did nothing or can do anything to remove it. Both men know this, and they made use of it, and now it’s over.
His brown wings spread wide across the podium, he brandishes his colour-new blade before his people. A beam of sun refracts against it – equally unique in colour. An act of divinity, the popularity and legitimacy of Adelheid the Undenied, Commandant-Exodant of The People of Cel D’altura, Who Ordered the Skies to Open, is concretised further, much to the dismay of his political opponents. Adelheid, however, experiences a feeling as unknowable as the hue his sword has taken on, untranscribable into any proper emotion. Adjacent to loss, below regret, above duty, who knows where in the field his mood is situated. He wanted more, but what he desired was sexual intimacy, supremacy, untenable in the long scheme of things. Adelheid, the heightest in a hierarchy he governs, misses someone above him.
The morning after Tewfik returns to his workshop, he is welcomed by a newly bought flask of clove oil. A note reads “From your dog”. He lets out a chuckle without a smile and heats up his beloved forge, forced to produce weapons for whom he hates, working overtime for those who will rise up against them.