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"The tomb waited a long time, its traps unsprung, its treasures forbidden and rare, its monstrous guardians immortal and unsated, yet no heroes came to challenge the fiendish imagination of all too mortal Telkeer Hhaizuth. He had been in his time a necromancer, one who summoned the demons of the East and bound down the darksome trees of the West in unholy pacts. He had created the tombs of kings, and of sorceresses mightier than kings. Renowned most of all for his cunning barrows and terrible mastabas, Telkeer Hhaizuth, Maker of the Houses of the Dead, kept his own tomb undisturbed by any save its guardians."

Kaslan flared his nostrils, staring around at the familiar, expectant faces of House Dzur. He paused for dramatic effect and wished he hadn't. His mouth dried. He bellowed, harsh and loud, thankfully habit made him shout from his diaphragm. "I am the hero who shall find the tomb of Telkeer Hhaizuth, Maker of the Houses of the Dead!"

"To the life-quest of my brother Kaslan, a long and a great one!" Hoary Jazrekan drank and splashed his wine at Kaslan's feet. His lirai lifted as formal as his toast, hailing a hero within the House of Heroes -- then flicked into the gesture of reverence to his lord. "I shall record this as his vrikei. My feats are past, save those of Court and words. The young hero may guard me."

Kaslan nodded, grating his teeth and tightening his hand on the amulet that burned in his fingers. He snapped his own lirai out stiff and harsh, accepting Jazrekan as the bard to his quest. Jazrekan leaped onto the table, twining him hard, taller and broader and grizzled. Kaslan wrapped the full length of his prehensile, telepathic organ around Jazrekan's, trying for a painful grip.

**I hate your fucking face and I wanted to quest so far away from you that I'd never have to see it again.** Kaslan saw the look on their mother's face and kept his projection private. Skin-touch was the most intimate telepathy, lirai to lirai would strain the mightiest and Kaslan was the more psychic. He shielded well.

Jazrekan grinned, fierce. His lirai was a little longer, allowing him the nasty trick of just tickling the base of Kaslan's head. He'd done that since Kaslan was no more than a boy the height of his arm. **That will go into my telling, Kaslan. You won't be stuck with me forever.** He boomed aloud, deep and rumbling as the great cat totem of their House. "I will not upstage him forever, except in the way poets do. Kaslan's chazho is my zhavizho."

"You set the gods against my quest?" Kaslan's fist slammed into Jazrekan's bearded jaw so hard that his amulet drew blood.

Jazrekan staggered back as the great hall of House Dzur exploded in splashed beer and mirth. He rubbed his jaw, making a face as if he put it back in place. He backed a little and slid out of Kaslan's lirai grip with a practiced twist -- but kept the twining hold just at the last few joints. He squeezed hard. He laughed.

"You must want to strive unsung! Hail my lord's modesty!" He bowed without letting go.

**You mock me on my manhood day!** Kaslan growled silent within their mindlink.

Jazrekan laughed aloud, projecting it to the throng. "You mock my deathquest, what of it? I'm only the poet here. I get all the good lines."

"As a poet you make a wonderful gladiator." Kaslan gave up and snarled aloud.

"Then I'm in good company, my lord, for you fight like the greatest of poets." Jazrekan grinned, tweaking his cheek.

Thasra stood, silver-haired mother of both and high in the House of Heroes. She held up her cup with both hands and gestured for silence. "Men of my House, attend!" Her green eyes blazed with pride and an authority that would not be denied. She pointed at Kaslan with her lirai. "Kaslan of House Dzur, may the Demon Goddess Vala guide and protect you upon your journey, and may the Gray Dzur be kind enough to give your vrikei a battle-death fitting to his prowess."

"My lord thanks you, Mother." Jazrekan bowed deep and formal. He moved close enough that he dragged Kaslan's head down whether he wanted to bow or not.

Kaslan swallowed, feeling the weight of what he'd just done settle in him like a shroud around his heart. He shielded, even from Jazrekan. He didn't want to share his fears, and while he'd meant to show his amulet and boast of what it meant, his throat closed and his palms sweated. He didn't want to look at Nadra. He might never see her again, and if he did, it wouldn't be the same.

**Say goodbye to your love teacher, Kas.** Jazrekan projected into the silence of Kaslan's mind shields. **Let her know you'll bring her teachings to the Eastern women.**

Kaslan made himself lift his cup. "Nadra, first and sweetest of my loves, I will return and you will see me with my bride. This I pledge to you, fair one. I will share your teaching with joy and you will lay our cloak around us. Forever friends." He lifted his cup and sipped, looking into her proud dark eyes before splashing it in her direction. "You guarded my heart and gave it strength."

"I will not forget, Kaslan." She smiled, tossing her braided hair and flicking her lirai in a romantic farewell. "I'll make your bed."

Her eyes danced, mischievous, and then she projected the kelevree she'd made, composed from several of their nights together. "Jazrekan, make sure these feats of my hero stay with his epic. He was a virgin of might and glory!"

The first image floated before the throng to roaring applause. Kaslan's penis, large and well shaped, swollen with the insistent craving of a young virgin male. His balls, larger than life, tightened unmercifully, and Kaslan felt himself rise again just at the memory of her first touch.

Soft remembered fingers circled his shaft and half the hall sighed, groaned, stirred and opened their minds to Nadra's full sensory kelevree projection of everything she sensed from him the night they met. Kaslan stiffened and, being Piarran, wasn't embarrassed at all. He grinned and thrust his hips forward as the sensation of that first touch became the feeling of Nadra's mouth sliding down over his glans.

Nadra grinned. "I swallowed him whole that first time. He was not expecting that -- or this!"

Even knowing what happened, Kaslan felt the first wild pang of release as he felt the tip of her lirai questing into his ass, finding the note of joy she wrung from his nerves as her throat pulsed around the shaft of his cock. He grabbed himself and pulled aside his loincloth.

"I'm a barbarian! I have to interrupt your performance with mine." Kaslan jumped off the table, ran to her and threw her back on hers. Nadra laughed and surrendered as she helped him tear away her robes.

"Yes! Let me see you off like the hero you are!" She threw her head back and cried out as Kaslan thrust into her, wrapping her legs around his lean hips and toppling a wine-jug that his cousin Zeedra caught. She projected openly, sharing real, not remembered sensation as Kaslan found her depths. "Thasra, your son is mighty!"

Then she endeared herself to Kaslan forever by flicking her Court fan over her shoulder as she tightened well-trained hot wet muscle around his cock. "Jazrekan, get a good view of our hero's leavetaking." She gasped, her breasts heaving. "I am too busy, to record it..."

***

"What have you got there?" Jazrekan stared at his young brother across the fire. Shadows flickered from the twisted branches of stiff Eastern trees. Woody and immobile, they rattled against each other like bones as no janols trilled. Insects buzzed in the menacing distance.

Kaslan looked up. "Your death, old man." He lifted his beardless chin. "You haven't even asked till now. I know where the damn tomb is. I have something to guide me."

"Thought you did." Jazrekan felt damp chills on the Eastern side of the mountains. They had passed Hellsgate Cliff and he'd looked down. He had wanted it said of him after he was gone that he had looked down past Deathsgate Falls and laughed. His laugh was too faint to carry over the falls, but his brother looked too thin and young to stand where he did and lean out to point, shouting unheard.

The mist of Deathsgate still hung in the air as Jazrekan breathed it out in silent prayer to the Gray Dzur. I am ready to meet you now, and I will give you a fight. You will not have my young brother.

"What do you mean you knew?" Kaslan glowered.

"You have some old map or treasure-trick that says it's a guide to the tomb of Telkeer Hhaizuth. It even stinks of Eastern magic and it's got one of their demons stuck in it. Something of a succubus." Jazrekan grunted, poking the fire to stir a shower of sparks. "I've been fucking her in my dreams to keep her off you, cub. I bind her nightly to her task."

"You don't know any Eastern magic!" Kaslan jumped up, swearing at him. "Valeskra! You've been binding her? Idiot! You'll ruin everything! She's not for you."

"Jealous?" Jazrekan leaned forward. "You can't fight this, for all your strength of mind. I've had succubi before, and the bindings on that one are weak. You don't use one without keeping her down -- and you don't claim what isn't there to begin with. They aren't love. They're lust that kills, and she will have your soul if you let her out, sure as the Sword."

"This is not a succubus." Kaslan displayed the amulet openly, just as Jazrekan hoped. His silver reliquary glittered in firelight, its rubies flashing red as blood. "It's necromancy. There's no spell on it but a lost soul going home. These are the last and only remains of Razaiya Hharif, the sorceress who loved Telkeer Hhaizuth. She married him in a tomb and she bound demons for him. She loves him still and she made this while she lived -- to guide her to her lover's tomb. I will find it and that tomb will open for me because she'll be welcomed."

Kaslan strode around the fire to stand over him and swung the amulet in his face. "You've been making her whore for her passage! I ought to pound you to the dirt!"

"Jealousy's a sin to Vala." Jazrekan's throat tightened. "She's been willing enough in my dreams -- and she's no human wench." He stood, pulling off his tunic. "You look at my back and you'll see the mark of demons' claws."

He turned around, feeling the sting as the Hellsgate mists clawed open those demonmarks. They felt too good when he rode the succubus, when the dreamworld roiled around him and reality melted to the world of her soft thighs and hot burning center, her cleft dripping with unquenchable lust and her fanged mouth screaming her need. He'd fucked her hard, holding her down against the beating of her wings while her taloned hands gripped his back, unwilling to let go, never willing to let go.

"You -- you hurt her with your vile magic!" Kaslan roared as fresh pain sliced across those aching scratches. He cut deeper than the demon. Jazrekan breathed deep and stood, stoic. Spells broke. Jazrekan stared into the darkness and lashed back with his lirai, slapping Kaslan across the face but making contact.

Kaslan cut him again, breaking the last of his ghostly guide's spell. "She's been doing a spell all right -- to give you a succubus to keep you busy! Stupid! You pissed off a dead sorceress!"

**You give her what she wants if you kill me in jealousy of a demon's lust. Your sworn man and your brother. Will you dishonor yourself, Kaslan my lord?** Jazrekan swallowed.

Hard muscled young flesh slapped his lirai down, not cold disfiguring steel. "You insult me, vrikei." Kaslan spat. "You make me sick."

"I spoke truth." Jazrekan turned to face him. "I will not fight you, Kaslan, my lord and brother. I am bound for the Paths of the Dead and we are close to them. A murdered man may yet gain Paradise -- or would you steal my scroll?"

"Gods, Jaz, what the fuck do you take me for? Valeskra! I saw the marks on your back." Kaslan's knife dripped red. He looked larger and stronger by firelight, his furs and leathers gave him bulk. He'd also grown in the time they crossed the mountains. "You do mean to die on this quest. Oh so noble for you to fuck the succubus. You were right there's a demon -- but Razaiya Hharif was a sorceress and her husband a necromancer. She made this when she was alive -- you think an Eastern woman would use a janol for her spell? You're the one fucking death when you do her, and it's not a binding she scrawls on your back. Loose her demon and we'll never make it to the tomb."

Jazrekan bowed, slow and deliberate. He swallowed, fighting the memory of the succubus and feeling the winds of death whistle through the clean sharp pain of his brother's cuts. "You guard me well, my lord. Guard also my dreams. We should sleep in shifts."

"You believe me, then?" Kaslan folded his arms, staring with a cold fierce look that had more confidence than Jazrekan ever saw in the boy.

"You are the sorcerous one, truly a mind warrior." Jazrekan closed his eyes. "When I am fallen, guide me to the Paths. I would not haunt the East as a lost soul."

"I gave my word when I took you for this quest. We will find the tomb of Telkeer Hhaizuth -- but I do not mean to leave you in it." Kaslan pushed him. "Don't you have any sage advice for me now, older brother? Why don't you tell me it's all a fraud and I took off after a cheap trinket with a succubus in it?"

"Because it is not." Jazrekan breathed deep, smelling the air of Paradise too near its gates -- and the Hells. Truth to himself, truth to his lord, truth before the Gray Dzur that soon would judge him. "This is your quest and I will sing it from the Paths when you have won. Guard my dreams, my brother and lord. I will serve you well -- and keep my sage advice for when I return as hasatsyi."

Jazrekan forced a smile. "You can't punch me to shut me up then, Kaslan. I'll have a good three thousand years to jibe and bait you before you try another thrashing."

"Oh you still manage the last word." Kaslan threw his knife into the ground where it quivered point first.

"A poet's prerogative, my lord." Jazrekan picked it up, smiling, and cleaned it before handing it back. "You'll win this one, and it's only the start of your glory. Mine's now in words."


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