by Michael Arram
THE GREAT UPRISING
Gavin beat fast through the warm air rising from the valley of Petakhrad. Henry was clasped in his arms against his chest, his own arms tight around the avian’s neck. They kissed.
As he broke the liplock, Gavin asked ‘So my Henry, why didn’t you turn avian for this trip?’
Henry shrugged. ‘Just too complicated. Doing it to others is one thing. Doing it to myself, well that would be something else. It would mean a complete restructuring of my physical body, and I would first have to entirely dematerialise to become pure seraph. That is seriously scary and a step beyond where I want to be; I can’t get comfortable with the idea of being immaterial, I set a lot of store by my solidity, such as it is. Anyway, this way I have to be carried everywhere. I feel more wanted as a result.’
‘You are wanted. It’s amazing to have you here. We missed you so, all of us. Nice you’ve got into the spirit of things.’
Henry sniggered ‘It appeals to my kinky side, wandering round in the buff; even if everyone else is too. Remember when we did it in the open air in the back garden at Finkle Road? It made me so horny. Besides, I didn’t bring a change of clothes with me, just the suit I was standing up in. Helen’s promised to get it pressed for me in my absence. It needed it. You know me.’
‘You’ve changed physically. It’s obvious to me you’re regressing in age. Your face could pass for thirty maybe at most, but your body … it’s the body I made love to in Cranwell, yet somehow better proportioned, sort of perfected. It’s hard to pin down precisely how it’s happened, but it has. You’re as beautiful as a petakh. Apart from the petiteness you don’t look out of place among us.’
‘Dick’s the same size.’
‘Thicker though, and I should know. How can Ed have not noticed?’
‘Well, a lot of the time he’s on active service, reconstructing the Near East for the Oecumene. He’s been trying to do something with the chaos around Damascus for months. Stamping out the Horde and its satraps was only the first step. He rarely gets back to Strelzen, and when he does mostly he sleeps. So I hop over to see him when I can. Hence the all-over tan. Like it?’
‘Very sexy. But then you always were. Have you met Davey’s mate, Cornelius? No? You should. He’s an angel-born who has a fixation on you.’
‘Davey pulled him out of the Great River when the kid fell out of the sky. He has a lot of Henry traits and physical ineptititude is high among them. When the boy asked him for a name, Davey couldn’t remember Icarus for the life of him, so he went for the first Roman name he could think of. He remembered Cornelius because it can be translated as “horny”.’
Henry laughed. ‘That’s Davey: erratic academic memory. He was useless with biblical names when we did Religious Studies together at Medwardine. He dropped it at A2. But then he was only doing it so he could sit next to me and get in my pants. I’ll be going on to Davey’s place after the family reunion.’
‘Mike and Marky are flying down from the north to their home in Petakhrad tonight, so their messenger said. Yuri, Lance, their partners, and the twins with their brood will meet us at New Piotreshrad tonight. You know that Rafe and Gabe have a full-time job raising your six grandchildren.’
‘I’ve met little Henry Gabeson, the eldest. He’s super-cute.’
‘To reproduce, the twins had to be females for three years on and off. First Gabe got pregnant by Rafe, and had to stay female until he gave birth and suckled his kids, but he took a brief break as a male so as to get Rafe pregnant, who then had to be female while it was necessary for the kids’s welfare. But they’re back male now, and they seem to prefer it, apart from being run ragged by the family. They’ve matured so much, the pair of them. Incredibly nice guys utterly devoted to their kids. Rafe’s are two years younger than Gabe’s, so the elder majalath helps take care of the younger. A fantastic, loving family. Me and Max occasionally feel envious.’
‘Weird that the angel-borns can adjust their sex like that.’
‘It’s very advantageous for the petakh population, as you’ll see when you meet Cornelius. He and Davey decided on kids last year, and Cornelius is currently a very pretty avian girl who is heavily pregnant. Davey said it took a lot to keep it up when he and Cornelius tried for it. He finds girls a total turn-off.’
Henry took time to survey the alien landscape below him as they flew down the valleys and on to the lowlands which spread to the south. Soon they were passing low over rounded and forested hills. The avian realm was close to the northern subtropical belt of the exoplanet, so being naked in mid-air was no trouble to Henry, clasped as he was close to the heat of an avian torso.
They encountered a river course and Gavin flew along it for many miles until it opened out to a wide lake the avians nostalgically called Maresku. There was a lakeside village they had named New Piotreshrad. It took a moment or two for Henry to realise why the settlement looked odd, and then he observed the absence of boats. Avians needed none, naturally, any more than they would ever need much in the way of land vehicles. Their power and speed in the air made mechanical transport mostly unnecessary and uneconomic.
As he watched, a flight of four avian females took to the skies above the village then swooped above the lake surface lowering what Henry recognised as a drag net into the water. They turned back to shore, effortlessly lifting their catch of lake life – whatever it was – on to tables set up on the beach, where more avians were waiting to prepare and preserve the food.
Gavin carried on over the waters to a wooded island a mile or so off shore, and there they landed near the beach at a very large house-tree built on many levels with a staircase going up into the branches, presumably for the benefit of children, though it was also very convenient for Henry. The complicated roofs among the tree boles were bright shingles set in many patterns of colour. Some walls were solid and painted, others were light screens or simply gauze curtains occasionally billowing in the breeze from the lake. The rooms open to his gaze had cupboards, beds, stools and tables, all handsomely crafted. ‘It’s absolutely gorgeous, Gav!’ Henry marvelled.
Gavin blushed. ‘It’s mine and Max’s dream home. Anton Tsernatov sent a special team to erect it two years ago. They were brilliant. They much improved on our ideas. Hey, come see this! We have hot water and a seriously cool shower room made of local slate: the very latest from the Tsernatov workshops. You can freshen up.’
A glorious golden avian descended the steps to greet them. It was Max. Henry had forgotten how striking a figure he made. They hugged, and then chatted as they found their way up to an airy lounge with an open outlook over the beach and lake, a glassy calm now tinted milky blue in the afternoon sunlight. There were even soft furnishings.
Henry snuggled on to a sofa and put his knees up to his chin. ‘So how’s it going, Max? Gavin tells me you’re faculty at the university.’ Max gave his same happy laugh. ‘Yup! I’m the department of avian and terrestrial languages. Just me, and I teach Rothenian, French, German and English, language and literature.’
Henry was intrigued. ‘How big’re your classes?’
‘Avian U isn’t a large concern as yet. Our kids breed at the time when human kids enter higher ed and that’s them out of the running for ten or more years, basically until their own kids enter the meledh lodges. Even the gay ones aren’t that keen on uni till they’re way past twenty, too busy having fun of course. So the rule is no enrolment allowed before human age twenty-three.
That means our cohort is tiny as yet, just those kids the Horde enslaved whom we liberated and older guys and angel-borns who want to catch up, like Kurt Osterwelle and his mate Klement, remember them? Kurt teaches German to a group of six as my adjunct, while Klement stares at him in adoration, and hopefully learns a bit of German himself. No angel-borns in that group, of course, languages are one branch of human knowledge they have no need to acquire.’
‘What do they pay you with?’
‘Money of course.’
‘Money? Where do you put it for heaven’s sake? You have an economy?’
Gavin replied. ‘That’s my job. I’m Director of the People’s Exchange. King Damien and Davey decided that we had to introduce an economy based on units of currency rather than simple exchange. So I was asked to devise a system, which I did. Everyone earns credits and we offer them to buy things we need. You’re thinking cash and cards aren’t you?’
‘No pockets and you can’t keep them up your butt.’
‘The way it works is that each avian settlement has an exchange office, and every adult goes there to settle up the transfers at the end of a week either for himself or his business. They just reel the transactions off from memory and the new credit total is agreed for the coming week. For government posts, the salary is transferred automatically at the end of an exo-month.’
‘Henry, we’re avians not humans. We don’t forget transactions and we can’t lie, we’re empathic. No coins or notes need change hands. We carry our credit total in our heads. The national exchange takes a fee annually from every account to fund its business and maintains the records in hard copy.’
‘So avians can get rich?’
‘Relatively speaking, we can. I don’t like to think what Anton Tsernatov is worth. His girl Dana is much sought after for a mate as a result, but she won’t give her heart to anyone. It’s major gossip when she takes flight with any boy, but she stopped joining the myelhei as soon as she became fertile. It seems that she swings towards other girls, but there’s no sign of a partner from that direction either.’
Henry marvelled at the idea of such a new society coming into being, run for the benefit of the common good by people of integrity and imagination. This, he fervently hoped, would be the future fate of the rest of humanity, as it changed and grew on an Earth dominated by the Oecumene.
As the evening approached the sky filled with winged Atwoods. Lance and Reggie helped carry Lance’s nephews and nieces, the six offspring of the twins. The little ones were soon excitedly crawling over their new granddad and Henry was utterly charmed as he kissed, hugged and was kissed back with enthusiasm by the gorgeous avian novachekij who were his grandchildren. They all had his brown hair. Everyone agreed that little Lance Rafeson was his absolute spitting image, and the memory of Henry’s handij camera, which he summoned from his suit pocket back in Petakhrad, was rapidly filling.
The reunion with Lance was particularly affecting to Henry, and tears rolled unstoppably down the cheeks of both men. They embraced long and hard while all stood around and applauded.
‘Dad, I am not going to let you return to Earth,’ Lance choked. ‘We missed you so bad.’ .
‘Well, I’m here now, and the rules have changed. You’ll be seeing me more often from now on I think. We’ll no longer be strangers. Not only that, but I think I may be able to bring others with me sometimes, as I did Maxxie and Leo. Ed’ll kill me for coming without him. What are the Elphberg boys up to, by the way?’
‘The female population of Petakhrad, mostly.’
‘Excellent. That’s one aim fulfilled then. Maxxie, and to a lesser extent his brother, can never have a normal life on Earth, but here they can be themselves without consequences, and if it means them shagging till their dicks fall off, I’m fine with that. Maxxie needs to explore his libido with women who won’t use and abuse him.’
Lance gave a little smile. ‘They’ll still use him, never fear.’
‘Cynic. But yeah, I realise that. What, you think some may want Elphberg babies?’
‘It’s possible. Avian women are not that different from human, and the idea of offspring with royal Elphberg genes will appeal to some of them. Our women breed just the once, and the fertile lesbians have homed in on Leo and Maxxie both. There’s a chance they may be leaving several Elphberg majalaths behind them when they go.’
‘Including Dana Tsernatova?’
‘Definitely Dana. She can’t bond with a male, but she needs one to reproduce with; she and her gay brother are desperate for a majalath to bring up between them, as is her dad. He wants grandkids to pass his business on to, and a House Elphberg-Tsernatov would be beyond his wildest dreams. He has objections to any resident male with claims on the kids. This way everybody will be happy. She and Leo have been rutting together for two days solid.’
‘Er ... has this been mentioned to the boy?’
‘Surely his empathic sense would pick it up when they’re copulating, there’s a partial mind meld.’
‘Lance, he was probably a virgin before he came here. The power of his hormones as a rutting meledh would block anything else out. Shit.’
‘Oops. Better talk to Maxxie then.’
Henry decided now was not the time to worry about such things. Instead, he blissfully curled into his eldest child on Gavin’s sofa. He observed how Lance was subtly changed by his surrender of his angelic office and powers. He still had his dark good looks, but seemed somehow to be less intimidating, and built on the scale of other avians. He and Reggie looked more of an equal couple than they had ever done before.
‘You gonna have kids, baby?’
Lance guffawed. ‘What? Me?’
‘You’re angel-born, you can shift gender.’
‘I guess, but my sexuality is too masculine. I can’t surrender it like Rafe and Gabe did. They were only meledhij when they bred and were sexually unfixed at the time. They’re totally guys now.’
Reggie was cuddled up on the other side of Henry. ‘I can’t shift even if I wanted to,’ he added. ‘But it’s not an issue, dad. Really. We’ve discussed it and we’re not interested.’
Henry let the subject go. ‘What are you doing then, my babes?’
Lance ruffled Reggie’s pale hair. ‘My pet brainbox here is teamed up with Gussie Underwood as the founding members of the Petakh Research Institute, with offices at the University. Go on, my babe, tell our dad what the High Chancellor did.’
Reggie blushed. ‘I’ve been appointed director and full professor. Shit Henry, I’m not thirty yet!’
‘Don’t Gussie mind?’
Lance laughed. ‘You know Gussie, these things don’t register with him. ‘Sides, he’s a prof too.’
‘And what about you, Lance? Have you found a role?’
His son nodded. ‘Me and Mikey are in the military. Mikey is Commander of our Winged Host, as is right and proper, and me and Marky are his deputy commanders. Actually we call it the Petakh Militia.’
‘And what is there to fight on this planet?’ Henry raised his eyebrows high.
‘Well ... we’re a bit like Starfleet. Mostly we explore, but this planet has a wild side, believe me. What’s a little alarming is that we’re finding evidence of some sort of hostile life. Last year a farm we’d laid out on some choice land beyond the northern range was destroyed, and the couple running it have not been found.’
‘Have you investigated?’
‘We have, and there’s been no sign of either them or who did it. We’ve now placed a couple of garrisons along the mountain ridge. Damien reckons we’ve been warned not to expand north.’
‘That’s the question we still can’t answer.’
Leo Elphberg was mostly living in a daze. He’d been assigned a meledh lodge in Petakhrad, and his new usakamaradhij proved to be fantastic, fun guys. They were out for a laugh and couldn’t give a fuck about anything other than each other and where the next fuck was coming from, girls or boys. They were way better mates than any he had in school back in England. There was awesome love between them all.
Leo was a meledh deeply in the grip of zharpulavnij and it was accepted by everyone that sex and sport would fill most of his waking hours. Yet there was way more to avian adolescence than Maxxie had told him. The evenings were awesome fun too. Euphoric after a day of physical and sexual activity, the guys would lie around content with the world and each other.
The avian kids valued music highly. They sang as unselfconsciously as they fucked. Voices would strike up, drums, flutes and guitar-like instruments would appear and their music would filter out into the night: sometimes a primal beat that set their blood racing, sometimes delicate anthems to love, friendship and sex, filigreed with the beauty of a male or female solo or duet. The third night in the lodge his usakamaradhij made a song for Leo, and he lay nestled amongst them as they kissed and stroked him, singing of his beauty, his magical lineage, his strange journey from Earth and their love for him.
It only gradually dawned on Leo that there was more to what was going on than simple fellowship. As they sang, his wing-mates entered his mind, empathically bonding with him, creating an indissoluble emotional link which was going to be with him for the rest of his life.
That night when he fell asleep he shared dreams with them, and Leopold Elphberg awoke as an avian boy who belonged in their world of wind, wings and true freedom. As he got up to greet the sun and his friends stirred, his new nature awoke and he launched into his own song to his wing-mates, telling them of his love for them and swearing eternal fellowship. Where the words came from he had no idea, but tears ran down his cheeks as he sang them and in tears they listened before coming each to him to embrace his body hard and kiss his mouth.
Avian adolescence knew no alienation, anger or guilt. It offered only openness, acceptance and creativity at an incredible level. This was freedom and friendship beyond anything Leo had ever expected in life. He began to pity his Medwardine peers, who would never experience anything remotely like this.
The daytime was spent burning off the huge levels of energy pumping through Leo’s frame. There were times he felt as though he was actually vibrating. The avian recreation of fly-ball was awesome epic, and he was a natural. Then there were the chicks in his lodge, who – since they were not yet fertile – were utterly hot for his cock and ready to take it up either chute at a moment’s notice. Once he got used to it, the mating was particularly hot when you did it in the lodge or in the air with everyone watching. Usakamardhij lived in emotional union the one with the other, so the ecstasy and libido of one spilled into the minds of the rest.
Leo was taken by surprise that the bonding included the feelings of his two gay lodge mates, with one of whom he found a really close fellowship. Lucacz was seventeen too, an avian of sea-green skin, white hair and wings, a lithe and delicate boy. He had been one of the Horde victims and his nightmares not infrequently disturbed the dreams of the lodge. But when they came, his usakhamaradhij would reach out to him and feed calm and security into his fear-wracked and tortured mind. The first night after Leo’s bonding with the lodge the memory of the black men of the Horde entered Lucacz’s dreams and he moaned in fear, turning and twisting next to Leo. As the lodge-mind responded to his distress, Leo embraced his neighbour, wrapping his wings round them both. They clung together the whole night.
Waking, Lucacz saw who was comforting him and the boy’s artless gratitude flooded Leo’s head. He had no trouble joining in a long kiss with Lucacz and he disregarded the erection pressing against his own. Avian boys in zharpulavnij were more or less permanently hard when associating in lodge groups. From that moment onwards Leo and Lucacz were best friends.
The down side of the meledh lodge was that it stank of rancid spunk and hormones. It was a tip, and no one cared much unless the Warden announced an inspection.
Leo had two reservations only about his new life. Dana had disappeared after just two days and he had really valued what they briefly had with the gorgeous avian woman. He blushed as he admitted to himself that it was the facts that he and his brother had taken turns with her and sometimes took her at the same time which was the massive turn on. The look on Maxxie’s ecstatic face as they were coupling with the same body was awesome kinky.
The other was the myelhei. He knew the rules and was leary of joining it on those terms. He talked it through with Lucacz and was relieved to discover that quite a few meledhij preferred coupling in lodge rather than taking off in the avians’ sexual dance. Also he said that some couples even of their age occasionally bonded exclusively, in what Lucacz called the millenij, which sounded to Leo like a sort of marriage ritual. Though Lucacz said it wasn’t, he was unable to explain what exactly it was in any way clearly. None in their lodge had experienced millenij, for which Leo was a little grateful. It sounded like the end of freedom to him.
That particular morning, fifteen days after his arrival on the exoplanet, Leo was seriously hot for Dana. He took to the skies trying to spot her lavender colouring amongst the circling avians. His zharpulavnjahzc was that day in violent overdrive. Lucacz had grinned to see the state of Leo’s cock. Pressing into his back and putting a hand on his friend’s hip, Lucacz had said archly, ‘Leo love, you look like you’d fuck a lace curtain. Can I handle it for you? We gotta game in a couple of hours and you’ll never focus.’ Leo had laughed, turned to kiss his friend on the mouth and taken to the skies.
A glimpse of carmine wings and a lithe body ignited his libido like a forest fire. His superb meledh reflexes sent him into a perilous and rapid dive, swerving through the petakhij and then rising over a ridge. Before he knew it he collided with a strongly beating avian and, blind with a raging lust, thrust hard up between its buttocks. His cock was smoothly swallowed and gripped. It was only after he began fucking he realised this muscular lavender body was not Dana’s but her brother’s, who was responding with enthusiasm to Leo’s sudden invasion of his rear. Leo could not stop, coming quick and hard inside Karol Tsernatov, who clamped tight on him to prevent his withdrawal from the hot and welcoming home Leo had trespassed into.
Leo began fighting and twisting in midair with Karol, but he had met his match. Though he pulled out, he was being gripped hard by a more powerful adult who dragged him back and held him front to front, their straining erections duelling and adding insensibly to Leo’s rekindling lust. For a moment he stared into the beautiful male face in front of him and then a barrier fell. They were kissing furiously and, as Karol shifted him, Leo’s legs were forced wide, his entry open to the older male, Karol’s wings beating a storm as they supported both avians. There was a huge something swelling in Leo’s rectum and his anal virginity was gone. The intensity of the orgasm that followed was entirely unexpected.
Breathing hard, the two males separated, Leo staring into Karol’s face unable to say a word, so far gone was he in amazement at what he had allowed to happen. The two kissed again, Leo in no way unwilling, and their erections meshed. Then the older male took the boy’s hand and dragged him further down the mountainside to land among a small group of males; from the state of them, a myelhei of men ready to ascend. They were all over him, fingers in his ass, hands slicking his cock with its own juices and their tongues in his mouth. Delirious with lust Leo took to the air with Karol and his friends. He never made the fly-ball match with Lucacz.
Damien, Helen, Davey and Henry were in council in a high chamber of Petakhrad, a tower fashioned out of the mountain. The floor was a map of the petakh realm figured in coloured stones and jewels. Around it wooden stools were set, on the largest of which sat the king.
‘So Henry,’ Damien asked, ‘How are you going to explain to their parents your abducting the king of Rothenia and the duke of Radelngrad?’
Henry shrugged. ‘Not going to need to. I think I have this wormhole thing figured. It’s way easier then the time travel I tried back in the Eschaton days. I can reconnect with the original rift when I decide to return and I’ll be back when I started. No one will know they’ve been gone. But don’t tell them that.’
‘Maxxie needs to think he’s escaped his fate, but sooner or later his sense of responsibility will surface and I think he’ll start to feel guilty. He loves his parents and will miss them, for all the fun and freedom running away has bought him. For the time being he is not the One, and the Creator has willed it that he has the choice to stay that way rather than have him live in pain. I’ve taken the burden away from him and will keep things in balance, if need be. The down side for him will be the loss of his sense of mission in life. He has to rediscover all these things. He can only do that here. And I’m happy to stay on this planet with my family till he has.’
Helen interjected, ‘And what about young Leo? Where does he come into it?’
‘He’s got the same problem, if not in such a severe form. How can I give Maxxie this opportunity, and not him? How’s he doing?’
‘Barry reports a new adjective has entered the meledh vocabulary – orsum. Leo’s been a major hit with every girl in his lodge and he’s all the rage with the boys. His lodge decided to make the bond with him. He’s avian now, Henry. Had you thought that might cause a problem?’
‘Isn’t Maxxie too?’
‘I think you may not quite get the finer points of avian life, Henry. Maxxie’s past the meledh stage in the body you gave him. He can’t bond with his usakamaradhij, as he has none, but Leo can and has. He’s been taken fully into the Great Family. He’ll never be human again, not without serious mental distress and probable damage.’
‘Oh! Oh dear.’ Henry’s jaw had dropped. ‘Er ... oops.’