by Michael Arram
The two Henrys sat at the roadside with the refugee kids from Medwardine, somewhat at a loss. The Welsh troops were clearly suspicious of the winged boy despite what their emperor had said, and the pair noticed that two commandos were stationed so as to keep him under close observation.
After an hour, a red-eyed Rudolf Elphberg returned along the road, escorted by the ranking officer of the encampment.
He had news. ‘High Command has ordered the Welsh units to get me to safety. They’re taking me to Welshpool by road transport. I told the general I talked to about the arrival of the Petakh Militia. I’m not sure he believed me, but at least they’ve been warned.’
‘How’re things out there?’
‘Terrible, but whatever’s happening in England is drawing the Yaahl ships away from the Continent to counter the losses they’ve sustained here. So our troops are in a more equal struggle in Eastern Europe. High Command is in Silesia, and they’ve brought down quite a few of the big alien vessels. There’re battles going on all over the world though. China, the rest of Asia, the Americas, Africa: nowhere’s exempt, though the African and South American cities still survive for the most part. Europe and China seem to have used up the bastards’ stock of big bombs.’
Henry had to say it, though all he could do was blurt it out. ‘Rudi, we’re terribly sorry about your family.’
There was no reply, the other boy just gave his head a little shake and added ‘The troops will look after you and the little ones. I’ve got to go. I hope we see each other again after all this is over.’
The two Henrys, human and avian, looked sadly after Rudi as a squad of guards closed in around him and escorted him down the road.
‘What’ll we do, cuz?’ Henry asked the avian. ‘I can sense you’re not happy.’
His new mate gave a little laugh. ‘The connection’s working just fine then. No, I’m not. My mission here’s finished. The emperor is safe, and apparently I’ve picked up a life-partner. I want to get back to Lord Mendamero. But I have a feeling these soldiers have other ideas about me.’
At that point a female sergeant arrived and began to lead the little ones off. Henry was motioned to join them, but he shook his head. ‘Sorry, but my place is here,’ he declared.
‘Don’t muck me around, kid,’ came her reply. ‘We need to get you youngsters to shelter over the border.’
‘I don’t go anywhere that my … er, friend here doesn’t.’
She looked past the boys and nodded. Clear into Henry’s mind came his mate’s projected thought. Take my helmet and get ready to fly, my little Henry!
Strong hands gripped him under the arms, and the ground disappeared fast below his feet. The power of the avian’s ascent was phenomenal. He thought he heard shots fired after them, and he hoped he was wrong.
Henry Gretason beat back eastwards along the ridge they had traversed, Henry Atwood hanging from his arms. His thought reached his human mate’s mind without being obscured by the wind of their passage, as words would have been. We need to land, my Henry. This is not comfortable. Some kilometres from the border, the avian alighted on an isolated hilltop.
He divested himself of his armour immediately after he put Henry down, relaxed his premenja, and began to piss like a horse; perfectly unselfconscious, not even using a hand to direct himself. Henry stared with interest at the hose that had been up his backside, and which he could still feel. He discovered a similar need, and his avian mate laughed at him as he struggled with his button fly.
‘I really did need that,’ the avian declared. ‘Little Henry mine, I want that fuck now, so will you please get those stupid coverings of yours off.’
The zharpulavnij burning in both of them demanded to be satisfied, so when the avian went on all fours, the human boy promptly mounted him, finding that the avian’s sphincter opened easily to his thrust and that it closed and tightly massaged his cock with enthusiasm as he pounded out his first ejaculation inside another. Hugging the avian’s ribs as he climaxed, he actually heard his mate’s own ejaculation spatter on the ground under them, so hard did he come.
‘Loved it,’ Henry Gretason sighed, as he pulled the human into his warm lap and kissed his nape. Then, with quite remarkable strength, he abruptly lifted Henry on to his shoulders as if he were a toddler and launched himself naked into the air, Henry clinging to his neck as they rose. God, I missed this, came the thought. The wind in my feathers, gliding off my balls. How does it feel to you, my little monkey?
Henry Atwood found he could reply to the avian in his head. Kinky weird, angel-boy. But amazing. I will get cold eventually though. Then he pushed himself up on the warm shoulders of his lover, his legs dangling on either side of the avian’s neck, his mate holding him tight at the calves and the great bronze wings beating on either side of him. He spread wide his arms, exulting in the rush of wind on his own body.
It was awesome as he rejoiced with his mate in the utter freedom of flight, fully sharing the avian’s elation in the beat of his wings and the wind in his hair. Henry’s uncharacteristic indifference to their height from the ground and the dramatic banking and swoop of their flight must, he knew, have been absorbed by him from his mate’s utter fearlessness and confidence in the air.
They landed after all too brief an aerial excursion, and put on their respective coverings. ‘So that’s what being Petakh is like,’ Henry observed. ‘I’m envious.’
‘Climb aboard again, little monkey.’
‘Is that what you’re going to call me?’
‘I’ve never met a monkey, but the pictures I saw in school were seriously cute. I had a set of cuddly Earth animal toys when I was novachek, before I fledged. I loved my little chimp toy. You’re definitely not an elephant, my little Henry. Up you go.’
The pair took off once more, this time beating east, towards Medwardine. The avian kept low, skimming the hill tops. As they came to the final ridge, he alighted on the rise immediately above Medwardine school grounds. Henry Atwood swarmed down from his back.
‘You okay, angel-boy?’
‘A little tired, but you’re not heavy. Things seem quiet below.’
The school grounds were empty, and the school itself was not as badly damaged as Henry had feared. The corpses of Yaahl lay everywhere.
‘Did Mendamero do that?’
‘He did indeed. He was amazing. But where is he now?’
The seraph Mendamero had seen many ruined cities, but this one broke his heart. The shattered cityscape had been the glorious Staramesten of Strelzen, and that pile of debris had once been the site of his media office so many years ago, the place where he had worked, intrigued and laughed as a young reporter. It was the tombstone of his humanity. The broken towers behind him were all that was left of the cathedral of St Vitalis, where the last Elphberg king had been crowned before the monarchy had ascended to the Imperium. But there was more to this place to make it as dear to him as it was, and its destruction so very painful.
He turned and raised his hand in the peremptory style of one who knew beyond question that his will would be obeyed by the material universe, whatever he commanded. Dust rose and the earth groaned, and when the clouds had dispersed the cathedral of St Vitalis stood there once again, Gothic arch and tracery, all as Henry remembered it to have been on that day, the day his lover was buried within, its pattern taken from the stream of time of which Mendamero was now a master.
He walked within the open doors into the still space beneath the high vaults. There were no tour guides, no priest and no worshippers, the place was empty of life, but what had been its stone, glass and wood were so once again. Those at least he could resurrect.
He paced the north aisle and took the downward steps to the lower chapels, and, his pace slowing, came to the particular chapel he sought, the one dedicated to the boy martyr, Hendrik of Esterwicz.
He contemplated the tomb at its west end, facing the altar. There, tall in marble, stood a handsome twenty-first-century warrior, his uniform that of a Rothenian marshal, several stars on his breast. The plaque proclaimed the monument sacred to the memory of Edward Cornish, count of Ebersfeld, marshal of Rothenia, servant of the Empire.
‘Hi, soldier boy,’ Mendamero murmured. ‘They sure made a mess of your place. Still, I tidied it up for you. Had to. No Mrs Willerby to do it for us any more.’ He took a seat, and looked in hopes at the image of the boy saint, but it didn’t cooperate this time.
He had come back to Earth from time to time, just to sit in this place. It was one of his last links to his fading humanity. To begin with he had come to grieve, unable to move on from the loss of a life partner, especially as for him life without that partner would go on interminably. But he let go his grief, and in time he came just to think, and sometimes talk.
‘I met two gay kids. You’d have liked them. Not surprisingly, as they’re both Henry Atwoods. But one’s human and the other’s avian. They’re a cheeky pair of teens and they’ll do well together. The avian’s the top, very much into emperor, noble house and duty, but fearless and free. The human ... well, a bit like me: there to provide a dialogue, to subvert and to make laughter. But he’s brave too, braver than he knows, which is just as well. The pair are going to be pioneers of a new age, the one we began planning for centuries ago.
‘But in the meantime, I have the Yaahl problem. They’ll be defeated I think, and within twenty-four hours. The sky will fill with Petakh militia and the alien hunting ships will fall. They’ve finally been confronted with a civilisation that has transcended their dead-end technology. The Universe will no longer be a pleasure ground in which they can indulge their lust for death and pain. So, question is, what do I do with the ones that don’t solve my problem for me and top themselves?
‘I could let them all die. Frankly, I’d love to. But that’s the easy way out. The Petakhij keep their Rodinijan Yaahl in a northern reservation, the free-range ones that bred there. They live wild, little more than clever and vicious savages without even much in the way of language, preying on each other since the avians are too dangerous even for them to attack. If they ever evolve a society it’ll be millennia down the line; but that’s what the avian Imperium hopes will happen and is willing to foster. They’re good people the avians. The Yaahl survivors of the attack on Earth will be a different sort. They worry me.
‘Well, gotta go, baby mine. Still hope to see you some day.’
Mendamero got up and gave a last, long look at the monument to his one true love, and with a sigh he headed up from the crypt out into the dust-filled air, to look out over the ruins of the great city, once the centre of the human Imperium. There was no sign of human or Yaahl in the desolation below and around him. He looked back. Should he dissolve the cathedral back into dust? No. Fuck it. The new age would begin tomorrow, when rational human and magical Petakh would meet and know each other. It would be the beginning of a miraculous age, so why not kick it off with something entirely unaccountable? He left the church of St Vitalis standing intact to be a sign of hope and wonder for future generations, though in a different way from how it had been intended in the past.
Henry Atwood surveyed with wet eyes the sheet-covered bodies he and his avian mate had located forgotten in various places about the grounds and the school and had laid out in the school chapel as best they could. There were five of them in a line in front of the altar. The boys lit candles and laid flowers, the little symbolic acts that asserted life continuing in the face of death. Two victims were boys of Henry’s year. The other three of the shrouded shapes were heartbreakingly small.
‘There’ll be a lot of this to do over the next months. Poor Rudi.’
The avian took him by the shoulder and drew him close to his armoured form. ‘Then best to get started. It does at least look like Mendamero was here in time to save most of your friends. The survivors seem however to have vacated the vicinity. The town too is empty. They did try to deal with the dead first. There’re signs of a mass grave at the school gate.’
‘There’s been a general evacuation, I’d guess. No sign of … er, the lord Mendamero.’
‘I can’t think of what else to do but wait here. Let’s go find food.’
Henry led the avian through the ancient cloister to the modern refectory. The kitchens were intact and power still running. ‘Ham sandwich do you?’
Henry Gretason chuckled. ‘Your culinary skills don’t rise to anything more complicated, do they?’
The human boy rolled his eyes. ‘Empathy. There’s no escape from it. But it tells me you’re not much more talented in that direction, angel-boy.’
‘True enough, so let’s have sandwiches.’
‘You have them on Rodinija?’
‘Sure. We have indigenous edible plants and meat animals, but the first settlers also brought a lot of crop plants and vegetables from Earth with them. They had to, as they had no idea what they’d find. Some didn’t take, but many did. We have wheat, barley and oats, so we have bread and all the wonderful things you can do with it.’
The avian stripped off his armour and used the refectory loos for a dump. When he returned, the human boy too was naked and eating at a table, his clothes ditched and his eyes hot for the avian. Henry Gretason raised an eyebrow.
‘It’s your fault,’ laughed the human. ‘Clothes seem confining to me now.’
‘Then come cuddle on my lap, little monkey. Somehow, with all this death around us, I need your skin next to mine all the more.’
Henry gratefully swarmed into his mate’s strong arms. He felt much the same as the avian. If the time left to him was short, he was going to get as much physical affirmation out of it as he could.
There was a hard bar of flesh under his backside, which he manoeuvred till it slowly sank into him. Then he sat there happily impaled, shifting, moving and clenching until he heard the sounds of orgasm in his ear and felt his lover’s semen trickle out of his rear, but he didn’t move to lift off the avian cock. After a second avian ejaculation, his own hardness was gripped and he eventually spurted up and on to the refectory table. The pair sought the changing-room showers and then wandered out into the grounds hand-in-hand as they were, both still naked.
Henry Atwood was conflicted; his human side wanted him to cover his exposed crotch, the avian mind he was linked with could not see the problem. ‘Your people will come as a shock to most humans.’
‘They’ll have to get used to it. The nature of our skin is such that clothes and shoes are superfluous. We have different ideas about sexuality and when and where we can enjoy it. We usually fuck on the wing.’
‘Wow! I’d like to try that! Though I’m not sure how I could.’
His mate gave a little grin. ‘I think we’ll manage to find a way. Oops! Hard again. That’s another thing. Zharpulavnij means boys and girls in heat will fuck in the air whoever might be below watching; novachekij, children you would say, or their own parents, they just don’t care. Nor does anyone else. And now, baby mine, your turn this time.’
So Henry Atwood had a massive orgasm inside his serenely gorgeous boyfriend, laid on his back in the open air, wings spread out across the grass on the school terrace above the Mere.
As he pulled out he almost had a seizure as someone said behind them, ‘Ah kids! I was like that once, though never quite as brazen.’
Henry fell on his backside to find his immortal namesake somewhat amused, sitting on a bench under the ivy of the chapel’s south wall. Unlike the two teens he was dressed: jeans, trainers and a shirt, an ensemble the twenty-ninth-century human boy thought as quaint as if the seraph had been in a Roman toga.
Both stood up, but the avian went promptly to bend his shoulders in front of the seraph and kiss his hand, entirely unabashed. ‘Greetings, Lord Mendamero. I did your bidding. The emperor is safe.’
Mendamero in return kissed the avian lad’s handsome head as he knelt in homage before him. ‘Well done, our kid. But I see you found time for other things. Come sit by me, young Atwood, now we’ve been properly introduced.’
Hesitantly, the human boy did as he was invited, while his mate sat cross-legged on the path at Mendamero’s feet, staring up at his ancestor earnestly.
‘Actually, my two young Atwood babes, the main business on which I sent our prince here was not so much to preserve the Twelfth Emperor, but to find you, Henry Atwood of Earth.’
‘Really?’ said the human boy. ‘How can I be that important?’
‘You haven’t worked it out? You soon will, kid. Remember this: as of now the human race knows it is not alone in the Universe and that there are vast forces, sciences and magics it had till now thought belonged in fantasy novels. From now on, their avian cousins will walk amongst them, and humans will themselves walk on Rodinija and Selene. As both races come to terms with this, you two boys, Petakh and human, will be hand-in-hand amongst them, mated in millenij and in love. You’re the first fruits of the reunion of human and Petakh, a symbol of a new golden age.’
The two Henrys caught each other’s eyes, and the human one gave his lover a sheepish grin. The human Henry had to ask, ‘Did you make it possible for me to experience avian millenij?’
The seraph smiled. ‘No, little one, that was all your own doing. You are a very special kid, and it was what you are that made it possible. Your Atwood, super-sap genes had their part to play, but you have a Petakh soul, so you attuned to this young prince whose own soul was seeking just the sort of mate you are. If you can do it, some other humans can too, if the circumstances are right.’
‘But what do we do with ourselves, lord?’ the avian boy asked in turn. ‘I can’t leave my mate in this world. No one can split those in millenij. But I must go home in the end, back to my usakamaradij, my lodge and my family. Will you make my lover Petakh as legend says you did with many humans in days gone by? Will you give him wings so we may fly together?’
‘I’ll think about it. It’s not a thing I’ve done for seven centuries. But if I do, it won’t be for a while. You have things to teach both your races first.’
‘Please lord,’ the avian pleaded.
Mendamero smiled. ‘What do you think, little Henry?’
The human was stunned. ‘You can make me … like my angel-boy?’
‘I think so. But, like I said, if I do it won’t be yet. Now is not the time. You’re neither of you little kids any more. You must be aware that we’re not playing games here on Earth, and that the future of the human race is still in the balance. Look up, lads.’
Both boys stood to stare at the sky above them. The mammoth vessels of the Yaahl armada which had been parked outside the atmosphere had shifted, and three of them were bigger, sharper and darker than they had previously been to young Henry Atwood’s eye. As he looked, light flared about the squadron of giants as they entered the mesosphere.
‘Yes, they’re sending their biggest ships in. I seem to have really pissed them off. I’ve just deposited the last fleet of battlecruisers they deployed against England in a watery grave somewhere off Antwerp. You have to give them credit. The bastards simply do not give in. They don’t know the meaning of surrender, since they’ve never in many millennia encountered any serious resistance.’
‘Can you deal with such mighty vessels, lord?’ Henry Gretason asked, clearly stunned by the size of the threat.
‘I have to say I’m amazed they’ll risk such leviathans in the atmosphere. I can’t believe they’re capable of landing; those buggers are bigger than Lower Manhattan. The power demands they make must be awesome. But they must have weapons mounted that they intend to bring to bear on yours truly.’
‘They know you’re here, er … lord?’ The human Henry was allowing himself to be worried.
‘They know something’s here their armada’s never encountered before, and they’re reacting the only way they know or can, by attacking. Negotiation and withdrawal are both beyond their mental horizon.’
‘It looks suicidal to me,’ Henry considered.
‘I’m afraid you may be right. If one of those monster ships gets out of control in the atmosphere it’ll spoil their fun and games, not to mention kill all on board and possibly devastate the entire northern hemisphere. Now I may not value the lives of the Yaahl that much, but I do have a certain affection for this hemisphere.’
‘What can you do?’
‘It’s times like this when I wish I had better physical coordination. My telekinesis still sucks after eight centuries.’
Young Henry looked uneasy. ‘You’re not inspiring me with confidence here.’
‘Henry!’ objected his mate. ‘That’s not respectful to the Lord Mendamero!’
‘It’s alright, our kid,’ the seraph intervened. ‘I would have said the same if it had been me in your boyfriend’s place, and no doubt my Edward would have punched me on the shoulder for saying it. Now let me concentrate, if you will.’
The seraph got up and put his hands on his hips, staring at the great ships in the sky moving barely perceptibly, but still clearly in motion to position themselves within the atmosphere immediately above the British Isles. Avian Henry moved up from the path to sit on the bench and put his arm round the shoulders of his human mate, who snaked his arm under the avian’s wings and around his slim waist.
The two boys were expecting bolts of energy or at least forks of lightning, but very little seemed to be happening for quite a while. ‘You know you have really beautiful feet?’ the avian whispered in the other Henry’s ear.
‘Small and pointed and so beautifully smooth, I could lick them. No hairs on them, not like under your arms and around your dick. I can’t get used to that. Not many of the People have body hair.’
‘Ah ... now I work out why I’m your little monkey.’
‘No ... I meant ... I’m not sure what I mean.’
‘I’m working it out. You’re trying to distract me, aren’t you.’
The human boy kissed the avian’s cheek, and not long afterwards the pair were inevitably in a major snog, while the fate of the world was being decided three metres away from them.
A cough finally brought them back to their situation. The older Henry was giving them a quirky look. ‘Teenagers!’ he remarked. ‘It never changes: cuddling while Rome burns.’
‘What’s happening?’ the human Henry asked.
‘We’ll know soon enough. I can’t hit those ships with any force, or they might well fall on us. I don’t think I have the ability to smash them together, to do which would lead to the same catastrophic result in any case. Pushing them back up into orbit is just as unpredictable and wouldn’t settle anything.’
‘So what did you do, lord?’ Henry Gretason asked, a little breathlessly.
The seraph gave a considering frown. ‘It occurred to me I’ve never yet tried transmutation.’
‘What, changing their ships into something else?’ Young Henry Atwood gave a grin. ‘How about marshmallow? Let them toast, the creeps.’
‘Something less sticky, I think.’ Mendamero went back to his contemplation of the slowly moving giants in the sky. Finally he let an exclamation. ‘Okay! That’s it!’
The sky flared, a silent flash as bright as the sun. When it cleared there were only two great ships hanging above them.
‘What did you do?’ yelled Henry.
‘Water. I turned that ship’s hull to water. Oops! Debris fall!’
Silent explosions detonated far above them and vapour trails criss-crossed the sky.
‘Could any of them survive that, lord?’ the avian boy queried.
‘Doubtful but possible. The Yaahl are tough, and they can fly. Some might have been equipped to survive the catastrophic implosion of their ship and the very thin atmosphere. Ah! I see the Yaahl have finally learned the meaning of retreat.’
The two surviving leviathans were indeed rising out of the atmosphere. The teenage Henrys gave a cheer and began dancing round the terrace, the avian lifting off to make swooping dives, teasing his mate to run across the grass to catch him. He hovered skilfully just in front of the human boy, only centimetres off the ground, then beat away, flying backwards, just as he was about to be caught and kissed.
Mendamero was entranced by the magical scene of courtship being enacted on those ancient lawns between boys of different races but a common love. He returned to the bench and kept an eye on the sky. He had attempted to understand the Yaahl over the centuries, fitfully following their trail of destruction across the galaxy and trying to salvage what he could from the genocide they had inflicted on the spiral arm; all too little as he acknowledged.
On one level it was easy enough to understand the species, for their motivations were pretty much upfront. But on the level of how their dysfunctional society staggered on down the millennia, he was no further in understanding them than he had been when he first encountered the draconids on Selene, with two other boys he still cherished in his heart: Leopold Elphberg and Lucacz Adranicz. They had been a very different couple, but beautiful too in their love for each other. That at least was a constant in his voyage down the centuries; love was ever fresh and eternal between the young. It helped lighten his great burden.
The Yaahl were another constant. But that would change after the Battle of Earth. Their losses were already far greater than they could ever have experienced before. Somewhere in their armada there had to be a directing intelligence, an alpha-alpha dragon who through deviousness and utter brutality had established himself as supreme over the others. But so far Mendamero had not encountered it. Commands had clearly been given though, and the Supreme Yaahl, whatever it was, had ordered a unique event in their history, a withdrawal. In itself that would be a revolutionary change in the changeless existence of the Yaahl.
‘Lads!’ Henry yelled. The two dancing boys paused in their game. ‘Gotta go! Be careful while I’m gone. You shouldn’t be bothered again by our draconid friends, and the skies will fill with Petakhij soon, but be careful anyway. Trigger-happy humans are just as dangerous as Yaahl.’
‘Where are you going, lord?’ asked the avian.
‘Why, to see a man about a dragon,’ Henry responded, mimicking one of his late mum’s favourite phrases she used when she wanted to head off his childish curiosity.