A Harvest of Dreams and Embers

A Harvest of Dreams and Embers

by Belinda Burke

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781786515247
Publisher: Totally Entwined Group Ltd
Publication date: 02/07/2017
Series: Eight Kingdoms , #5
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 196
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Belinda currently lives on the New England coast with her fiancée, their room mate and her cat. When she's not writing, she's working toward degrees in Philosophy and English, embroidering or reading.

Belinda writes in several genres, but a little lust and love always work their way into her stories.

Read an Excerpt

Copyright © Belinda Burke 2017. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.

Sleep had come to Spring, though it did not belong there.

Myrddin advanced alone through the stillness of the Wyrdwood and found even the birds sunk into slumber. Drowsiness had descended, and with it a sacred silence that brought disharmony, reducing the promise of the branches to the ghost of leaves. There had never been such lethargy in immortal Spring before, but the season had traded away its show of splendor for somnolence.

King though he was, even Myrddin was tangled in threads of torpor and his own sudden awareness of the presence that incited them. Why here, why now? Father?

Yes.

With the feeling of acknowledgment came a summons Myrddin could not deny, though he wanted to. No other being was so perilous to him, had ever cost him so much, as his own father. And now, now that he finally had Kas for his own…

Neither the time nor the place of the visit pleased him, but Myrddin could no more deny the summons of the one who had sired him than the buds could refuse the spring.

His heart clenched. Had he regained what he’d lost only to have it taken away? Kas. All his desires were bound up in the single syllable of that name. He would not give his lover up again, no matter what demand the god of the wild had for him.

Myrddin found his father at the heart of the forest, wrapped around its most ancient oak. He knew it was his father, but Myrddin had never seen him like this. As the Stag of the wood, yes, carrying the moon in the spaces between his antlers. As a mist, or in a man’s shape, but like this?

The god of the wood had come to him as a dragon. His father was a moss-backed beast with leafed and feathered wings whose span stretched beyond Myrddin’s sight. He was the wildest and most beautiful of his kind Myrddin had ever seen, but he was a dragon all the same.

Did that mean…he was no longer a god?

There was a shiver in the branching pinions, a sibilant trembling of feathers. A sound like silk being stretched too tight and too quickly snapped through the air as the great wings beat once then settled.

“Father…” The dragon opened his mouth and breathed out the scent of somnolent blossoms, but not a single word in answer. “Father?”

He resisted the urge to go to one knee as he resisted the drowsy pressure of the air, a sudden urge to yawn. Silence greeted him. More than before, stronger the closer he came to the unsteady orb of his father’s eye. He recognized the source of the unnatural sleep with a familiarity that reminded him of his own long-vanished past.

‘My little shoot.’

Not his father’s voice, but the memory of his mother’s, brushed Myrddin with a faint prickling of dread. This sleep was akin to his own lost winter slumber. The sleep that had taken him at Samhain each year, before Spring had had a rite, or a kingdom… When winter had come to him as to the blossoms and dropped him down the well of the sleeping season.

His father blinked one enormous eye, and the flickering facets drew Myrddin in. The eye became a world, a universe in the shape of an ochre orb. “I forget who I was before the birth of this moment.”

Understanding came to Myrddin not in words but image-emotions. Foreign thoughts expanded across his consciousness in a blur that was reminiscent of his Spring vision and the madness that had brought it.

“I have lost the way and from the hollow places of the world, the languor and silence of the sacred spaces, I hear fear and fever, and ever fewer the voices that once were mine.

“Where are the new peoples? Where is the new god who is only a new name, given to what I am and always have been? The land where first I was worshiped has gone under the sea, and now what remains of the old ways has become overgrown in the minds and memories of men.

“The Spring is a harbor of whispers. I hear rumor from the root of the world. I see the shadow of the future casting its long fingers through time, but it is all silence to me.”

Myrddin experienced his father’s awareness in the inner sharing, a hush of rites that quickened the speed at which many things hurtled toward nonexistence. The offerings that remained did not belong to his father under any name. Sacrifice had turned to prayer. The old accords with the land and its gods had become a plea for intercession with foreign power, the Christian God.

“I don’t understand. Why now? Why would you come to me now, when it’s too late for anything to be done?”

The dragon opened his mouth, but this time it was for a panting rumble of laughter.

“You don’t even have speech left, do you? How is that amusing?”

The whole of his father’s presence spoke to one reality, one truth.

Sleep.

The great jaws parted and the flower-scented breath came tinged with iron. “Boy. Must be born. Must be.”

It was a terrifying confirmation of all Myrddin’s hopes and fears. Jade leaves lashed at him. The billion facets of his father’s eyes glinted with immutable silence.

Wild god, dragon, he curled again around the primeval oak. As he did so, Myrddin’s own shape shifted, not under his will but his father’s. Spring stag, Spring son, he went closer and caught a breath of beast-language, neither divine nor mortal, but in between.

“It is in your hands now.”

In the moment after, the silence of the Wyrdwood was returned to its usual chatter. The birds made their endless music, and Myrddin wondered if the stillness had been for him alone.

Already his father was fading into echoes, the shape of him subsiding, feathers into leaves and grass. The roots of the tree were become like the subtle magnificence of his flesh—or was it his flesh, which shared the gnarled grain of the living wood?

Myrddin wanted… He didn’t know what he wanted. To be free of the oppressive suspicion that his whole world was already only a memory. A dead thing. He needed to be anywhere but where he was, feeling his own heartbeat struggle against the pressure of sleep. He hadn’t experienced anything like it since—when had it been?

When mother died. When my mother—

Myrddin turned and ran as the thought came to him, ran like a child from the serpentine whisper coiled in his mind. He ran straight out of Spring and into the soft warmth of Britain’s summer, then over the water toward the wide, dark wood where Autumn waited its turn.

The warmth of his lover’s kingdom embraced Myrddin pleasantly for the first time he could remember. He swept through it in a rush, his thoughts too distracted to appreciate the ease of his passage.

“Kas, where are you?”

The Autumn wood liked to make its roads spiral, lead away from where one wanted to go instead of toward it, but the moment he said Kas’ name Myrddin felt hands on his shoulders and turned into an unexpected embrace.

“Kas. Always sneaking up on me. I missed you, so I came to find you for myself.”

If Kas was startled by his urgency he didn’t show it, only slid his hands up into Myrddin’s hair and pulled his head back so he had no choice but to lift his mouth for Kas’ kiss.

Even that was enough to soothe Myrddin, for the first time since…their golden age. Their summer. But the autumn had already come. They’d had their spring, their strawberry time, and now the summer was past, and the sweet taste that had lingered with it.

His lover bent to scrutinize him as Myrddin dropped his head to Kas’ chest. “Something wrong, Merlin?”

He shook his head, rubbing his cheek on Kas’ chest. “Just looking at you. Remembering. You haven’t changed.”

Kas lifted an eyebrow. “No. Nor you. Even if you might like to.”

Myrddin traced the line of Kas’ torso with his fingertips and watched the muscles contract beneath his skin. “I don’t want to change. I want to be what I am, that’s all. Whatever that is. When I was a child I wanted to grow up, so I did. But all at once, not like boys do, or should. It taught me a lesson.”

The hint of a frown bent the corners of Kas’ lips downward. “I do not like the sound of your sadness. Is it nostalgia that moves you? The way we are together after so long? Is it me?”

Again, Myrddin shook his head. “All those things. None of them. I…was just thinking of what it was like when things began between us. You were innocent then.” He followed the ‘V’ of Kas’ pelvis with his fingers, down to the smooth, soft skin of his inner thigh. “Innocent of pleasure, innocent of pain.”

Warm hands tightened at Myrddin’s hips. “Never that. I was only without words for what I was feeling. To know the name of things, or not to know them, neither changes the things themselves.”

Myrddin traced the curve of Kas’ cock and it stiffened under his touch as Kas reached up and brushed his index finger over one of Myrddin’s nipples. “Even so. I still think you were innocent. The way death is supposed to be.”

“Is that what you think?” Kas closed his fingers around the dark, tight peak he had teased into stiffness, tugged, then rolled it back and forth.

“Yes—oh.”

“But you are wrong. About me and about death. There is no innocence in the ending of things. Only in their beginnings.” He slid the tingling warmth of his hands down, down, down, then stopped. “That is the truth, my hawk. You are the innocent one. So much so that you gaze at me and see what you cannot interpret in yourself.”

“Kas…”

“Perhaps that is why I wanted you the moment we met. Why I was so drawn to you—why I have always been, will always be unable to resist you.” He bent closer so that his breath brushed Myrddin’s ear. “My only selfishness. The one desire I cannot put aside.”

“Kas.” The beat of his heart sped faster, a pounding he could feel in his throat, behind his eyes, in his fingertips.

“Look at you, even now. Innocent. You make work for yourself in the name of your own conscience, but my own duty is only the existence I cannot escape. The being that I am, which is Death.”

‘Cannot. Escape.’ Myrddin shivered then nudged him away, pushed him down to the ground and straddled him. He pressed his mouth against the smooth dip in Kas’ collarbone. “But you can’t escape me, either.”

“Nor do I want to.”

“I can guess what you want.” He slid off to one side and lay flat. The moss was cool and damp beneath the ancient fall of leaves. “You want…strawberries.”

Kas leaned over him, a darting movement. “Strawberries. You know better than that—” But Myrddin sat up, his fingers over Kas’ lips, and only smiled, distracted, when Kas licked at them, sucked the tips into his mouth. “My hawk. Where do you think you are flying away this time?”

“Something…someone is calling for me.” And he frowned. “That Pendragon, I expect. It’s in the wind, can you hear—?”

“Yes.” And though the lust was not disturbed from Kas’ expression, there was a sudden, uncertain sadness behind it. “Is it not what I said? You make work for yourself. Why would you do that, when it wasn’t so long ago that you chided me for my own duty? When you would have refused even the weight of your own power and its consequences?”

Myrddin pulled his fingers away from Kas’ mouth and kissed him instead. “Because I meant it when I said I wanted you forever. And I’ve been bored, and missing something to do in the mortal world. It’s the timing that’s inconvenient, I thought I would have longer, especially since…”

He smiled to himself and shook his head, hearing the memory of Uther’s words. ‘I have no need for sorcerers or omens, boy!’ Not really a lie, but not really the truth, either. The wind brought Myrddin another echo of the summons. Uther, the High King he’d given a red dragon omen and left behind, was not a patient man.

Though Myrddin was not bound to obey instantly, the call came too close on the heels of his worry about which direction the future would take. Was this one of the choices that would change his course, his purpose? He turned his head on Kas’ chest, restless, unwilling to move and uncertain of whether he should.

But this is connected to that earlier thing. My father, the dragon, lost in his own wild. And the memory…of the Spring vision. The tower. The Sword. A meeting—and those words. What else, after those words?

‘Son of no man.’

They had been a summons too, in their own way…but not like this. Eager memories tangled his thoughts in sticky intentions. What did he want, this Pendragon? Why now, so soon?

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