by Michael Arram
THE GREAT UPRISING
The sight of Henry taken aback was a rare one. He was however utterly gobsmacked.
‘I’ve fucked up, haven’t I?’
Helen shook her head. ‘It was with the best of intentions, Henry. And maybe you have time to find a way round it.’
‘Leo can’t be human again ... ever?’
‘Turn him back after he’s acquired such a bond and take him to Earth, and it would be like depriving him of his sight and hearing. All his emotional life as a meledh is wrapped up with his usakamaradhij: he feels their every emotion and lives in their love, and they in his. You have no idea how intense life is for our young people. It’s not all about sex, as you appear to have assumed; it’s not even principally about sex. Our final stage meledhij are exploding with creativity, ideas and affections. The sex for them is just another art form they’re exploring. In many ways our adolescents don’t need an education; they’re on a wild roller-coaster ride through a world of aesthetics a human could barely comprehend.’
‘They grow out of it?’
‘Not ever entirely. Yes, it’s swamped by the breeding and parenthood stage that follows for most of us, but we think it’ll emerge again for us adults, as our kids in turn become meledhij. We all live within the Great Family, a sea of empathy, and it’s focussed on my Daimey there.’
Henry stared at the king. ‘How come your head doesn’t implode?’
‘I sometimes wonder that myself, Uncle Henry. This royal armlet appears to filter and direct a lot of it, like some sort of empathic buffer. It’s pretty handy ... in a manner of speaking.’
Henry brooded for some moments before continuing. ‘I’m not going back without Leo … Rudi would butcher me, and Harry would stamp what little was left of me into the mud.’
Davey was smiling. ‘Understood. So, Outfield, since you’re going to be in residence for a while working things out, there’re things you can help us with.’
Henry was intrigued. ‘Go on, Bounder. Do tell.’
‘We have a habitable moon we call Selene. We had a competition to name it, believe it or not. The other one’s Leto. The moons have to be female cos everyone reckons our planet is male. Helen officially named it Rodinija.’
‘That’s clever,’ Henry remarked. ‘Sort of like Rothenia, where the avians began, but actually from the Rothenian word for home.’
‘Helen earned her pay as queen that day. But Gussie is deeply intrigued to know more about it. The kid half hopes there’ll be sentient inhabitants. We’ll never be able to reach it by wing power, but there’s nothing to stop you heading there. Do you want to boldly go where no petakh has gone before? I know what a Trekkie you used to be in Medwardine.’
‘Wow! A flight to the moon! Do I get to plant a flag?’
Damien rolled his eyes. ‘No, Henry. The Petakhij have no national flag, or at least not yet.’
‘Can I take a team?’
‘If you think you can get them there safely and back,’ Davey responded. ‘I see no reason why not. I’d suggest a flight of warriors, with Gussie and Reggie obviously. They’ll want to take equipment; you’ll need to ask them how much.’
‘Great! This sounds like the sort of thing that’ll make being Mendamero worthwhile.’
Leo fluttered into his Petakhrad meledh-lodge. To say he was abstracted was an understatement. The heads of those of his wing-mates present shot up, immediately picking up on his troubled state of mind. They looked anxiously at each other, none of them bold enough to break in on his abstraction.
Some sort of alarm went out, for Lucacz arrived at speed in a blur of white and sea green. He ran over to Leo, took him by a shoulder and stared deep into his eyes. ‘Alright?’
Leo came back into focus, but couldn’t find the words to reply.
Now Lucacz’s two hands gripped his shoulders and he pressed in close. ‘What happened, Leczu? Please tell me! Has someone hurt you?’
A surge of confusion and trouble made Leo shake free of his friend. When he saw the hurt in Lucacz’s face he promptly seized the boy’s hand and dragged him wordlessly into the air, flying up and away from the city at speed.
High in the upper air above the mountains, they paused and hovered, cloud below them. Then Leo shot away south, Lucacz pursuing him. Now Leo plummeted down through the clouds as if seeking to extinguish the burning in his head by a speed dive. He pulled up above the treetops of the southern forest, breathing heavily now. Lucacz eventually caught up and together they came to earth in an anonymous clearing, Leo slumping on a fallen tree trunk. He offered his hand and pulled his friend down beside him.
‘What is it, Leczu!’ Lucacz had tears in his eyes.
Leo found his tongue. ‘I’ve … learned something about myself I wish I hadn’t.’
Leo sighed and gave a full and frank account of his mistake with Karol Tsernatov, and the orgy of male-on-male sex in the myelhei.
‘Wow!’ Lucacz breathed. ‘You’re scared you’re gay?’
‘Yes … no! What the fuck. I have no idea. Taking it up the butt makes me gay?’
‘Not in this world. Straight guys do it if they go up in the myelhei … so I’m told. There’s no refusal up there. Not that I’ve ever flown myself.’
Leo was surprised. ‘So what do you do for sex?’
‘Hand jobs in the lodge. Some of the guys like helping me out. I don’t ask the girls. I never asked you … I thought you might be offended.’
‘So you’ve not done anal?’
‘Yeah, of course I have, usually with Igor when he’s feeling needy. It’s not special though. It just scratches our itch’
‘Why don’t you go up with the myelhei?’
Leo caught a certain irritation radiating out of his friend. ‘It’s got to be special for me and special is something the myelhei is not. I’ve never found anyone for it to be special with together. Hadn’t you noticed how we’re the only meledh lodge in the capital city? There are so few meledhij of our generation. In four years there’ll be a dozen lodges full of kids, but just now there are only two, ours and that scruffy lot of punks down in Antonsberh we cream in fly-ball … all straight before you ask.’
‘So you and Igor …?’
‘The only gay petakhij aged seventeen or eighteen in this entire world.’
‘Limits choice for sure.’
Leo sought Lucacz’s shoulder and pulled him close. ‘That is serious shit. You’re such a special guy, Luczu.’ He kissed his friend’s cheek. He noticed how hard Lucacz had got, clear lubricant pulsing out on to the blue glans of the boy’s penis as he watched. ‘So, will you let me join your hand-job team?’
Lucacz laughed. ‘Only if you want to, Leczu.’ Luczu and Leczu had become their affectionate private names for each other.
Folding his wings tight, Leo got off the tree and knelt between his friend’s legs, looking up into the boy’s eyes as he took his cock in both hands. He’d never done this before. He squatted up and on an impulse forced the big head of Lucacz’s penis into his mouth, licking off the pre-cum and teasing the slit into leaking more of its sweet liquid.
Lucacz gasped. ‘Oh! That’s new.’
Leo backed off and looked up. ‘Was that alright?’
‘Awesome brilliant, it’s just I never had a guy use his mouth on me. Petakh boys don’t do it.’
‘I’d never get much more of it in than the head. You’re big, Luczu.’
‘You’re bigger, Leo.’
‘So you look?’
‘There’s a lot to see, sweetheart.’
Leo grinned, for his concern for his friend was relaxing him out of his own inner preoccupation. He kept his grip on Lucacz’s cock and began squeezing and manipulating him to ejaculation. It didn’t take long. It was fascinating to be close up as the boy’s balls contracted dramatically and the urethra pulsed and swelled as Lucacz came, six white shots spraying out and spattering them both. Leo’s face was covered. He kept his grip on Lucacz’s still erect cock.
As Lucacz came down off his high, their eyes met. Lucacz bent down and began licking his cum off Leo’s face. Their mouths met and it was at that point that Leo’s gut did a flip-flop. His own cock swelled and his zharpulavnij surged to new heights.
The two youths rose together and their eyes met. Leo noticed that Lucacz’s were blazing brighter. ‘What’s … happening?’ he whispered.
Lucacz fought to get words out, seized by as violent a passion as was Leo. ‘Fly … now … please … get away! It’s the millenij. You don’t want .... Whatever you do, don’t ….’
It was too late. Leo pressed his mouth hard and fiercely on to Lucacz’s. Something avian in him knew now what it wanted. What he got was way different from the lodge bonding. Their minds opened fully now and folded into each other. The kiss broke and each stared rapt and devoted into the other’s eyes as their minds were rebuilt from within. They were one; every feeling and thought now shared.
It was Lucacz who eventually spoke, stunned and in wonder. ‘You are my lord and my husband, Leopold Elphberg.’
He dropped to his knees and clasped Leo’s legs. Apparently there was a ceremony which went with the occasion. ‘I do you homage. You are the lord of my life; it is yours, my prince.’
‘What do I do …?’ Leo asked.
‘Kneel down facing me, my lord. That’s right. Take both my hands. Now you kiss me, my husband, and you accept me as your own.’
‘What words do I use?’
‘You say, “I am your husband, Lucacz Adranicz, your lord and your protector. You are the blood in my veins, the light in my eyes. I have no life without you. We are one till death and beyond.”’
Solemnly, like the young prince he was, Leopold Elphberg accepted his life’s fate and rejoiced as he did so. Then the married pair took to the skies, for physical consummation was now the only thought in their shared mind.
Henry was still in conference with Damien when the man gripped his armlet, which gave off a noticeable glow, even though they were in full daylight.
‘What’s up, Daimey?’ he asked sharply, somewhat concerned at the look on the king’s face.
‘Something good, Henry. There’s been a millenij.’
‘Oh right, that’s like a marriage isn’t it?’
‘A bit more than that, really. It’s a mental fusion between a couple.’
‘Any idea who?’
The king’s eyes lost focus and then he came back to Henry with a grin. Henry never quite liked that particular grin amongst Damien’s repertoire. ‘Your life just became even more complicated. A gay kid called Lucacz Adranicz made the bond, the first of his lodge and of his meledh generation to do so.’
‘He bonded with Leopold Elphberg.’
Flowers in their hair and wings tight to their backs, the meledhij of Petakhrad and Antonsberh danced their joy at the union of their usakmaradhij, Leo and Lucacz. The blushing pair stood hand in hand within the circle as song swelled around them. Avians could dance complicated measures like no other species, for their minds were meshed. Soon the dance swept up the newly-weds too. They were teasingly separated and then reunited as the lines formed and reformed, grabbing laughing kisses as they passed close to each other.
More avians arrived as news spread. Food was piled up, fires were lit and lamps hung as the evening came. All the time the dance went on, more avians joining. Barry Hignett, warden of the meledhij, was in amongst them.
Henry had hitched a lift from Helen. ‘You guys can throw a pretty cool party.’
‘Millenij are special,’ the queen responded. ‘They don’t happen that often, but when they do everyone gets excited.’
‘Does this make things even harder on Leo?’
Helen smiled. ‘It’ll be the greatest thing that ever happened to him in his life, believe me. He’ll never be lonely or sad ever again. Look at him!’
Henry did. Leo was radiant amongst his friends, his partner clasped to his side, surrounded by congratulation and applause. Henry tried to remember Lucacz as a child at Kaleczyk, and seemed to recall a terribly-damaged waif, with tragic dark eyes and a scarred face. As a human, the boy had been sallow and malnourished, his hair lank and thin. Now he was the most beautiful being Henry could imagine, offering his adoration to the new husband he had found and who had completed him.
There was a rush of wings at Henry’s side. It was Maxxie, a musical instrument strapped to his back. ‘What the fuck’s happened, Henry? They told me to get here as fast as I could.’
Henry told him.
‘Ohmigod! I mean, Leo, gay? Not just gay, but married and gay! Awesome wicked, as he would say.’
‘You’d better go say hello to your new brother-in-law.’
Maxxie was straight in there, hugging and kissing his brother and his brother’s partner. There was no disguising Leo’s delight, or Lucacz’s at being accepted into his husband’s family so freely and joyfully. Henry was prouder of Maxxie at that moment than he had been for quite a while.
Maxxie then unshipped his instrument and began to play. He was inspired, and the meledhij danced and sang now to his music. He played the whole evening long, joined by more and more musicians and singers till an extraordinary symphony of voices and instruments filled the night under the Elphberg king’s direction.
Henry sat with Damien and Helen in the branches of a tree, and just enjoyed the show. As the fires burned lower and the songs became softer, Leo and Lucacz approached the avian king and queen and knelt before them. They were blessed, kissed and raised up, Leo by Damien and Lucacz by Helen. Then they took wing hand-in-hand and disappeared into the starlit sky.
‘So where have they gone?’ Henry enquired.
‘Who knows?’ Damien said. ‘They won’t be back for a while. Newly-weds go into the wilderness to fly far from the rest of the people and be alone in each other’s minds as the bond becomes part of them. They have a lot to think about, and to learn of each other.’
‘So do I have a lot to think about, sunshine. So do I.’
Reggie grinned at Henry and winked. ‘Ready for blast off, Houston?’
‘Stop hamming it up, kid. You okay, Gussie? Where’s Danny?’
The golden-haired avian flexed his amber wings absentmindedly as he seemed to make an internal check. ‘Just giving the last instructions to the deputy head of his school.’
Henry’s new knowledge of the nature of mated avians allowed him to realise that bonded couples like Gus and Danny were in constant low-level telepathic communion.
The flight of four avian warriors travelling with them were heavily loaded with equipment and armed to the teeth: heavy crossbows, sheaves of javelins and wicked-looking sabres. They had shed their dress armour and were decked in more practical blackened steel plate and green-plumed helmets. They had insignia on their arms which Henry must ask Lance about. He wasn’t quite sure who was the officer in charge.
As they waited for Danny to appear Henry again asked Gussie what he knew about Selene. It was patiently explained once more to him that the moon was half Earth-size with a particularly dense inner and liquid outer core, thus its gravity was near Earth standard and it had a magnetic field. It was four times the distance from the Petakh planet that Earth’s moon was from its primary. It was marginally too small to form an obviously dual planet system, so it circled round their planet rather than the two orbiting around a common axis between them. Its effect on the Petakh planet was balanced by that of the other moon, which circled the planet in a closer orbit.
‘What makes you think there’s life there?’ Henry asked.
Gussie pondered. ‘I’ve had it under long-term observation since we arrived. There’s no artificial light we ever see at night, but as we slowly mapped the surface of the principal continent it became apparent that there were curious grids and craters which had the look of artificial structures. We are limited by the power of our telescope, the only one we brought from Earth. To build more powerful ones without an industrial base is beyond our avian capacity for now. Your arrival was therefore a gift and I made representations to the lord Davey to ask him if you would enable an expedition. Are you able to take us there, Henry?’
‘I think so. It won’t even need a rift, though hauling all this heavy equipment with us may be a strain.’
‘Could I ask you about these rifts you create? They fascinate me.’
‘Some other time, Gussie. Here’s your Danny.’
‘Ready everyone? Okay Danny. You pick me up and take us as high up in the atmosphere as I can go comfortably.’
‘Will you be warm enough?’ Danny enquired.
Henry had been swathed tightly in heavy blankets to allow him to ascend with them above cloud level. The avians were not overly bothered by such heights, but Henry’s still human body would be vulnerable to the cold and lower air pressure. Apparently Selene’s pressure and air was Earth-like.
Many avians rose with the expedition to see it off, including Lance and Maxxie. Both were annoyed they had been omitted, but Mikey had forbidden it. As the explorers rose above the cumulus gathered over the northern range that day and their well-wishers fell back, Henry concentrated and expanded his consciousness the way he did when he took his continental hops. This was a new experience however, as his seraphic consciousness easily ascended out of the planet’s gaseous envelope and homed in on the moon he could see gibbous in the morning sunlight. Henry gathered his party in his mind and made the leap. He definitely felt the effort involved, but in a blink he was being held by Danny in a different sky above different clouds.
The avians with him shouted in surprise, and then they were all struck silent to look back at the dim bulk of their home planet hanging in this alien sky.
Gus Underwood alone was focussed and his precise voice called them back to the main task. ‘Excellent work, Henry! We’re approximately forty kilometres south of one of the larger grids. My word, isn’t this fun?’ A broad grin was plastered over his face.
Reggie issued instructions to the military party which swooped down, scouting the landscape and looking for a secure landing place. When they signalled, the rest followed them down to land on a bare hilltop where a camp was already being set up by the warriors. Naked once more, Henry felt the cold and hugged himself as he shivered. The officer commanding the squad smiled and handed over a tailored and padded tunic, with the information that Queen Helen had imagined he might need something to keep him snug in a cooler climate. Henry gratefully fitted himself into its warmth. His soles had toughened over the past weeks so that being barefoot didn’t bother him that much.
Reggie and Gus busied themselves taking samples of flora and sealing them in containers. There was nothing like grass, but a rather attractive carpet of fragrant herbs covered the open ground. There was a wood just down the hill, its trees rather resembling Scots pines. When Henry and a warrior escort penetrated it, it was to find a dark and aromatic space under the black canopies of the trees. Creatures like bats flitted in the gloom and bright insects danced in the shafts of sunlight which penetrated within. Henry was pleasantly impressed at his first sight of this alien environment.
A scouting party returned to report they had found no animal life of any size greater than that of a large rodent, and no bird analogues at all. The moon’s skies were empty ones, the bat creatures seemingly confined to the trees.
The initial scouting and collecting was done when the sun went down, leaving the landscape uncannily flooded with a bluish light from the Petakh planet, a huge glowing crescent that eclipsed the stars.
Henry felt called upon to ask if the petakhij maintained any empathic contact with their people back home. They looked at each other and shook their heads. The warriors made a sentry rota and Henry huddled into his blankets, while the avians made themselves comfortable, arranging themselves in the foetal position they adopted for sleep.
Leo and Lucacz had flown as far north as the great mountain range the petakhij called the Dragons’ Teeth. They settled down for their fourth night as a married couple, Lucacz snuggling into Leo and impaling himself on Leo’s rigid cock, a position they would maintain all night. Leo would climax inside his lover several times during the dark hours, for their shared dreams were intensely erotic and the zharpulavnij burned higher within both boys than it ever yet had. Their lust for each other was truly unslakeable. They had spent days doing nothing other than flying, rutting and sleeping.
As they awoke, Leo’s wings covering them both, Lucacz turned in his arms and kissed his mate. ‘Good morning, my lord and my husband,’ he said with a sweet submissiveness that almost set Leo off again. He was beginning to see why the millenij had happened between them. Lucacz’s sexuality demanded exactly what Leo could give, an ability to take charge of, and yet cherish him.
‘Do I call you my wife, Luczu?’ he wondered aloud.
‘Sounds odd in Rothenian, sweetheart. We only have a petakh term for what I want to be to you. It’s zhenskamijc, or zemec for short.’
‘What does it mean exactly?’
‘I guess it means “boy-wife”. A boy who adores and serves his lord and husband and submits to him totally. Does that bother you, my Leczu?’
‘Only if you stop talking back to me and become all girlie. I love you as my own Luczu with his big cock in my ass, so stick it up there hard, baby. My turn to be fucked. Let’s do it on the ground. Awesome kinky! Ooooh!’
Intelligent conversation was over for the rest of the morning. About midday they were thirsty, so they rifled through the packs they carried and found an empty water bottle. Lucacz went to fill it from a mountain spring. It was as he looked up that a shadow crossed the sun. He stared and squinted, then rushed back to Leo, pushing him hard to the ground.
‘What the ...! What’s up, baby?’ Leo struggled to rise, but was pulled back down behind a boulder.
‘The shadow!’ Lucacz hissed. ‘It’s been seen only a couple of times.’
Leo was impressed by the boy’s suppressed panic. ‘What is it?’
‘When we arrived on this planet and I was novachek, I heard stories that a black shadow had been seen by our first scouts flying in the north, which they followed but did not challenge. It headed beyond these mountains. Then there was the destruction of Emilija and Ruprecht’s farmholding over there, down the valley a couple of years ago. Their house-tree was burned as were their crops. They were never found and they are gone from the mind of the Great Family. Since then, the sentinels in the border posts back there have reported distant sightings of a dark sky creature in broad daylight.’
‘So you don’t know what it is.’
‘Well ... no.’
Leo cautiously pushed his head above the boulder. The sky was clear. ‘Whatever it was, baby, it’s gone now. Let’s pack up.’
‘I love a mystery.’
‘You’re going north?’
‘Damn right, my babe.’
‘Er ... is that wise?’
Leo looked down at his mate and offered his hand, pulling him upright. ‘I am Leopold of Radelngrad, son of the Red Elphberg, a prince of the lineage of Henry the Lion of Rothenia. You need to know what that means, Luczu. If my pleasure is to seek out this beast and confront it, that is what I shall do. You are my chosen mate and great love. What I am is what you are called to be also.’
The noble words rang in Lucacz’s head and moved his heart. He bowed to kiss his lover’s hand. Then he solemnly made his oath in response. ‘Where you go, my lord and husband, I go also; to the world’s end if need be.’ Silently they took to the air, the sun on their backs and their shadows scouting the ground ahead of them.
It amused Henry to refer to their extraterrestrial mission as ‘Apollo 18’. His fellow explorers put up with it because they had to. ‘Oh come on, people! Get in the swing of this. It’s interstellar exploration. Okay, it may not be the way you people think it should happen. It’s still exciting!’
Day 2 of the Apollo 18 Mission, as Henry named it, involved him mounting on Danny’s shoulders and flying north to seek out the grid, whatever it was. Two warriors flew in escort. The flight was uneventful until Danny shouted and pointed below them, some ten kilometres away from base camp. His superior avian eyesight had caught from far up something significant which was invisible to Henry, and at a nod from the warriors the party circled downwards.
As they neared the ground it became obvious to Henry that what they were seeing was the shattered line of a stone highway, visible as it traversed a cutting and embankment before disappearing under the turf and canopies of trees. Then, when it reached a shallow river, Henry could see the road reappear to end in the broken abutment of a collapsed bridge.
‘Do you need to get closer?’ Danny called.
Henry declined. Where it could be glimpsed, the line of the road was heading the same way as they were. He instructed his party to carry on and follow it so far as they could.
They flew on, the road arrowing straight north with only the occasional diversion. At a line of hills they lost it, but picked it up once again as they breasted the ridge and flew out above an open plain. It was a barren dust bowl where the road was soon lost in the sand.
Henry craned forward as dark lines appeared ahead of them in the plain, with the occasional bulky stump shouldering up out of the ground like a broken tooth. Here had been a city, though how long ago was impossible to say. What was possible to deduce was that it had ended its days in fire and violence. A large crater a kilometre wide consumed a good quarter of its original extent, and the land around was pocked with other craters, the ancient relics of devastating explosions.
A civilisation had once occupied the moon, and it had been ended abruptly, but was it catastrophe, suicide, or perhaps murder?