“Here,” Corrin said, waking Shadow from his wool gathering to hand him a cup of tea.
“You really should get some sleep. Teal will be up in a couple of hours and he will be displeased if you haven’t rested like he told you to,” Corrin advised, taking a chair opposite Shadow.
“I know, but right now I don’t think I could sleep even if I wanted to. I’m so tired, I’m awake, not only that I feel uneasy with this, Corrin,” Shadow said, sipping his tea.
Shadow nodded, wincing at the memories of the look on the man’s face when he had told him that he would be spending two days secluded in the healing hall to perfect his healing magic. Even though he had made sure to spend a lot of time with Sunhawk since their argument, it still hadn’t set well with Sunhawk to hear that he wouldn’t be coming home for two days. To make matters worse, it was so he could work with his magic, something that Sunhawk still had problems accepting.
Sunhawk had said nothing to him at all except to say that he would be leaving the compound for the next three days to field train some of the newer recruits. Shadow knew with absolute certainty that Sunhawk was just doing it to run from what was happening. His cool, calm rejection had hurt Shadow, along with his leaving without touching him, let alone kissing him. It frustrated Shadow that Sunhawk seemed so unreasonable about his magic and about Teal.
“I don’t understand, Corrin, most of the time I can get him to at least talk to me, but lately it is like trying to break a granite wall to get to him. I got him to tell me that he was bothered by my absence so I cut back on my training, making Teal irritated with me, but he still seems angry. I know not coming home for two days is extreme, but so is what I’m learning. It had to be done this way. It’s because I love him so much that I have to be away from him, he is a distraction. A wonderful, amazing distraction, at least when he isn’t being mad at me, but still a distraction,” Shadow complained in frustration.
“Shadow, sometimes you have a knack for amazing me. If it were anyone else I would believe they were being disingenuous, but I truly believe you don’t truly get it. Do you remember last winter when Marissa came to you about Garth?” Corrin asked, eyeing the young man.
“You mean when he was accusing her of sleeping with her second Boyd? She was about to break their relationship because of it,” Shadow said after a moment of musing.
“Exactly and what did you tell her?”
“That Garth was being a idiot but he was an idiot that loved her. Jealously wasn’t an emotion born of reason and logic but of strong emotions,” Shadow said instantly.
“Exactly,” Corrin said, calmly sipping his tea.
“But we aren’t some new couple starting out, after what we have been through he shouldn’t doubt me. Besides that, Teal had never once made any sort of move that could be considered sexual. Sunhawk was never this way about you,” Shadow retorted, feeling a little angry.
Corrin laughed setting his cup down on the table, and Shadow looked disgruntled at his teacher’s response.
“Of course he not, I’m a wrinkled old man, but Teal looks about your age even if he is older than Sunhawk. It isn’t about logic, remember? Sunhawk sees a young handsome man that has more than a little in common with you. A man you look up to and is more than a little hostile to Sunhawk, for whatever the reason,” Corrin said, holding up his hand to forestall Shadow’s protest.
“No Shadow, I know Teal’s story as well, and I know why he is so hostile toward the Captain, but Sunhawk only knows that Teal only has eyes for you. In this, Sunhawk does have a right to be worried. Teal might not be jumping on you like a dog in heat, but at the same time I know the man. If he hasn’t asked you to leave the Hawks yet, he will eventually,” Corrin continued.
“He hasn’t and I can’t believe that he will. I don’t feel that kind of feeling coming from him, Corrin,” Shadow argued.
“It isn’t about sex Shadow,” Corrin sighed, looking down at the remains of his tea.
“It’s about you being a healer and a mercenary. A healer with the gift. Teal can’t accept that you could possible be happy here, or truly love someone like Sunhawk. I hesitated asking him, despite his gifts, to come here because his hatred of mercenaries borders on madness,” Corrin said slowly.
“Corrin, I know part of his story, but I know I’m missing some of it. I would ask him but I don’t want to bring up bad memories,” Shadow said, hoping that Corrin would tell him more.
“You know he was the next in line for the post of head priest at his temple? No, well he was despite the fact he was in his early twenties. He was a genius born with the gift, and unlike you he didn’t have his god’s blessing. He just had intelligence far beyond most men, combined with a charisma much like Sunhawk’s that made people want to follow him.
“Then his country was plunged into war. He was from the west, where there wasn’t city states like around here, but a whole land ruled by a king, and his land got involved in some sort of border struggle that pulled in Teal’s city. As a temple devoted to Keilth they healed enemy and allies alike. Their king, angered by this choice, decided not to defend the city when the mercenaries swept through the land. The guild doesn’t govern that far west and these men were in the hardest, truest sense of the word mercenaries. The city was completely gutted, as was the temple.
“Teal only escaped because some of the older priests hid and returned as the temple burned. Teal back then was very much like you see him now, young and exotically attractive, so of course he was a prime target. To say he was raped is an understatement of what he endured before his temple was set ablaze. He was quite vain of his looks, but the fire ruined them and scarred him horribly. Between the emotional and physical shock he was sick and delirious for months after. When he finally pulled through, he put a blade to his wrists only to be denied by his careful watchers,” Corrin explained with a sad expression on his face.
“I couldn’t imagine going through that. What happened to me seems like a stroll in the meadow compared to that. But how? I mean, if he was burned that badly, and not only that how does he look so young? Is it our healing powers?” Shadow asked, subdued.
“He made a pact with Keilth, but like all gods he got what he wanted at a price far higher than he imagined. The double edged sword of the gods’ blessing,” Corrin mused.
Shadow nodded, knowing exactly what Corrin meant, having been sliced open by that same blade. Knowledge at the expense of his childhood, and in a sense his innocence.
“Keilth gave him his beauty until the day he dies. He will look like he did when he was twenty forever, but the price was total and complete servitude to his god. To become a wandering priest and dedicate himself to healing whoever needs him, never staying in one place long. The longer Teal stays in one place without healing, the more uncomfortable he becomes. The only exception is when he is working on an outbreak of a deadly disease; he is allowed to stay as long as it takes to get it under control. Not only did he lose the comfortable, powerful life of a head priest, but he will never have a family or close friends since he is always compelled to journey. Right now Teal is paying the price for staying here, Shadow. He says it is like a pressure building inside of him, slowly causing unbearable headaches that can not be assuaged with any medicine. By spring he will be forced to leave or the headaches could kill him,” Corrin said seriously.
“But then why did he agree to stay here?” Shadow asked, shocked that the man was willing to stay the winter with hated mercenaries and pay a heavy price for it as well.
“Because you have the gift, Shadow. It is rare gift, although more common where Teal comes from. Teal, I’m sure, came to try to convince you to leave the Hawks. I told him that you had only been with us a year and were almost completely untrained, using your gift with only the instructions found within books for guidance. He was sure he could convince you to leave, especially when he heard you were a priest. He was certain you were only staying because of some misplaced sense of dedication to Sunhawk,” Corrin answered.
“But Teal has never once tried to get me to leave the Hawks,” Shadow pointed out.
“Of course not. Not when he saw how devoted you were to Sunhawk. It wasn’t something he expected, but knowing Teal I doubt he will give up easily. He has patience and he is waiting. Like Sunhawk, Teal works on instincts and he will wait until they tell him when to push,” Corrin said, shaking his head.
“I can’t believe it. He doesn’t seem that way. Has he ever tried to get you to leave?” Shadow asked.
“Every chance he gets,” Corrin laughed. “I meet up with him when I was around thirty, about a year before I joined the Fist. We traveled for a while together, but eventually I decided I wanted more of a challenge in my work, beyond the common cold. That’s why I joined the Fist, and when Teal found out he exploded. It was the first and only time I have ever seen the man lose his temper,” Corrin said, lost in his memories. “That is when he told me his full history, trying to convince me what I was doing was wrong. The thing was, I knew that mercs weren’t all bad. I knew Daras pretty well before I joined up and I thought him an honorable man,” Corrin shrugged. “Teal eventually stormed off, vowing never to speak to me again.”
“He obviously did.”
“Yeah, our paths cross from time to time and each time he tries to convince me to rethink my decision. I’m absolutely positive the only reason he came here was to try to convince you to leave, otherwise he wouldn’t have agreed. I knew that your bond with Sunhawk was too strong for Teal to break, but I hadn’t expected for you to be so dense, Shadow,” Corrin said reproving.
“Yes you! You are so good at dealing with other people’s emotional hurts I didn’t expect you to be so oblivious to Sunhawk’s feelings. It is very obvious that he is unsure of himself and afraid, but you are completely brushing off his feelings as paranoia. Sunhawk works on instinct and he can feel Teal’s intentions,” Corrin said sternly, making Shadow shrink a little in his chair.
“But that still means he doesn’t trust me, that he thinks that I will leave him.”
“Yes, but when something that has never been important to you suddenly becomes one of the most important things in your life, logic doesn’t always rule. Shadow, to the best of my knowledge Sunhawk has never loved anyone like you since Daras died. You know how much it affected him to lose Daras? He can’t help but feel worried that you might leave him. You talk about all you have been through, well for Sunhawk he remembers that as well. But unlike you he was the one in the wrong, the one that hurt you. He looks back on that and thinks how could you not want to leave him? How could you possibly forgive him? You might have forgiven him, but I doubt Sunhawk has forgiven himself, and that guilt and doubt still linger inside of him,” Corrin said, getting up.
“Look, Sunhawk loves you, and he is afraid of losing you. He himself is more aware of his failings than anyone. It doesn’t help that neither one of you are facing the one major problem that continues to show up, and that’s your magic. Teal isn’t afraid of your magic, he hasn’t hurt you like Sunhawk has, and he wants you. It makes Sunhawk nervous, and you constantly brushing off his worries isn’t helping, Shadow. You normally are very good at thinking about what others are feeling, but this time you have completely shut your mind and heart off to Sunhawk,” Corrin said, looking down at Shadow.
“What am I suppose to do?” Shadow asked quietly.
“Listen to him, really listen Shadow. Stop saying Teal isn’t a problem, because obviously he is, if he is making one of you unhappy. At least acknowledging Sunhawk’s worries would be a start,” Corrin advised.
“Now I’m off to bed and I suggest you do the same. If nothing else rest, so you can work when Teal wakes up,” Corrin said as he walked off, leaning heavily on his cane.
Shadow sipped at the last of his tea, feeling the soothing herbs Corrin used pulling him slowly into sleep. Yawning, he got up and headed to one of the patient rooms to lay down. Teal was only giving them four hours to rest before continuing on with his teaching. As he closed his eyes he thought about what Corrin had said. The old man had some very valid points, but for Shadow he found it hard to take Teal’s supposed conquest of him seriously. He couldn’t get passed the fact that Sunhawk and even Corrin thought for a moment Teal could get him to leave the Hawks, that he would abandon Sunhawk so easily. That doubt stung and made Shadow angry. What more did he have to do to prove his love, and why was it so necessary for him to do so? Shadow let sleep pull him under with no answer to his question.
Shadow felt a mental shove unbalancing him, making him stop his gathering of energy. Opening his eyes he saw Teal looking at him sternly. Blinking, he tried to think of what he was doing wrong to produce such a face on his teacher.
“Too much, you are pulling in too much. If I had not stopped you then you would have died. Remember what I said: an even steady flow of power,” Teal reprimand.
“It is harder than I thought. How can you do it so effortlessly?” Shadow asked, brushing a sweaty lock of hair back from his face.
“I cannot. Just like you I am expending huge amounts of personal power to control that which I pull in. That is why this technique is only used rarely, you can heal anything short of a death blow even if it is beyond your personal energy, but the price to control that energy comes from you. Also bear in mind pulling raw energy from the earth, if not used properly, can kill the patient as well. The concentration to control and manipulate earth energy has to be seamless,” Teal lectured.
“Then that means that it will be easier when I actually need to use it,” Shadow commented.
“I do not understand. For me it is extremely harder,” Teal replied with a frown.
“When I’m healing, everything disappears from my mind except the patient, it has always been that way, since I received my blessing for Mith,” Shadow said with a shrug.
“Ah, I understand then. It was necessary I suppose. A child could never focus his mind enough to use our powers consistently. Most healers aren’t able to control their powers consciously until they are at least thirteen, and true control comes later. The focus given to you by your goddess probably also helped with your studies as well,” Teal said, looking intently at Shadow.
“You have been doing this much more than I have. Yet you seem less exhausted then I am,” Shadow commented.
“No, I am at my limit, that is why I have been directing you more than showing. I will not be able to continue your instructions for much longer. We might have to extend this training for yet another day. I had hoped that you would be able to catch the fundamentals in two days, then we could build on that at our leisure, but three have already passed,” Teal sighed, gazing at Shadow silently. “Now I know that it will take much longer than I thought. Your main control comes from Mith, and unfortunately for training that blessing seems not to work.”
“You mean I can’t learn it unless it is an actual patient?” Shadow asked worriedly.
“No, not exactly. It is just that because of the nature of the blessing received, you have never had to really work on focusing before, Mith takes care of that for you, allowing you to focus your healing gifts on your patients. Focus is a skill that, like any skill, takes time and dedication to learn normally. For you it has come built in so you have never had to work on it, in an emergency it is there. Right now it isn’t an emergency, you are consciously trying to use your gift, and so the focus is coming from you. The mediation exercises Corrin set you to last year combined with your natural instincts have given you a good enough base to work most healing technique, but this is on a whole other level,” Teal sighed again, his brow furrowing.
Shadow looked at his teacher worriedly, remembering Corrin’s words about the pain caused by staying in one place. Shadow had often seen his teacher’s face lined with what he thought was concentration, but now wondered if it was pain.
“Are you ok?” Shadow asked. “We can stop.”
“I think it might best if we take a break, yes.” Teal said.
“Does your head hurt?”
“I see Corrin has been talking once again. Yes, but it will pass, I can control it to a certain extent, but right now I’m tired and tense,” Teal replied.
“I’m sorry,” Shadow said, looking down, knowing it was ultimately his fault.
“It is my choice to stay here, and it is a pleasure to train you,” Teal responded instantly.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Rubbing my shoulders and loosening the knots of tension will help some. I usually have Corrin or Kelas do it, but I know both are away today,” Teal said calmly.
Shadow got up and helped Teal to his feet and guided him to one of the work rooms. Teal took off his shirt and lay down on the raised table as Shadow got a bottle of fragrant massage oil from one of the cabinets lining the wall. It wasn’t unusual for the healers to give massages to the men after a hard practice, especially when they were recovering from an injury. Corrin had taught him well last winter and he was confident that he could help his instructor, if only a little.
At the first touch Shadow sensed the knots of tension in Teal’s shoulders. He wasn’t surprised that the man was suffering from a headache, and would be surprised if he wasn’t. As he worked he observed the dark brown skin under his hands with fascination. He had never seen anyone as dark as his teacher and wondered if where he came from it was common. He could feel the tension slowly leaving the man as he worked, and Shadow hoped that some of the pain was lessening.
“You have made remarkable progress in the past month Shadow. It is hard to believe that so much time has passed so quickly,” Teal said after a while.
“Yes, I’m glad that you could stay here and I’m grateful that you would,” Shadow said, working on a tough spot between the man’s shoulder blades.
“Despite your amazing degree of learning, I’m afraid I will only be able to teach you a fraction of what I know, especially since part of our time will be taken up with staff work. In a year or so I think I could truly teach you more than just the basics,” Teal observed carefully.
Shadow remained quiet, not liking the way the conversation was going. Corrin’s words came back to him and he wondered if the offer to leave was coming. He had never thought that Teal would suggest he leave until he had talked to Corrin, but now the thoughts pervaded his mind.
“I don’t think I have ever regretted the price of my blessing more than I do now,” Teal sighed softly to himself.
At those words he felt the tension flood out of him and he berated himself for thinking something bad of Teal. Despite everyone’s words the man had never once tried anything suspicious or tried to come between him and Sunhawk. He shouldn’t judge the man on his past, he had been through far more than most. Shadow felt a surge of pity run through him for Teal.
Teal moaned in pleasure as Shadow finally worked out the tough spot of tension even as the door opened, revealing Sunhawk. Shadow looked up in surprise to see the man standing in the doorway looking very much like the man Shadow had seen on the campaign, cold and deadly.
Without a word Sunhawk strode into the room as Teal sat up on the table. Sunhawk’s eyes flashed as he saw a playful smile on the man’s lips, while Shadow stood behind him and the table. Rage exploded through Sunhawk at that smile and he charged the man, punching him in the gut. He crumpled, the grin of triumph on the dark man’s face.
Suddenly Shadow was between him and Teal, his arms outstretched, absolute anger and disgust on his face as he looked up at Sunhawk.
“Enough Sunhawk. Stop it,” Shadow screamed.
“What the hells are you doing in here with him half dressed?” Sunhawk asked in deadly calm voice.
“Trying to help a friend get rid of his headache. Giving him a massage like I have done for half of your men, including you. Damn it Sunhawk, that’s it, I can’t take this anymore. Teal are you ok?” Shadow asked, looking over his shoulder at the man that had straightened himself, his face a showing signs of pain.
“It is of no matter. If you will excuse me, I think I will sleep for a while. Lessons are cancelled for the rest of today and tomorrow, your concentration and focus are gone,” Teal said, straightening and walking around the couple and heading for the door.
“That’s it Sunhawk, you just assaulted an innocent man because you can’t TRUST me. I’m your lover and your partner, Sunhawk, you are the most important person in my life, but you can’t dictate my life for me. I need you to trust me, if you can’t there is no future for us,” Shadow said coldly, walking around Sunhawk toward the door.
“Shadow wait,” Sunhawk said as he followed the boy out the door and towards their house.
Sunhawk followed behind the stiff young man, trying to think of what to say. He didn’t regret hitting Teal, the expression on the man’s face said it all, he was trying to steal Shadow and the boy was just too blind to see it. When he had come home from field training expecting his lover to be home and found that Shadow was not he had lost what little self-control he had left. When he seen Shadow with his hands on the half naked man he had reacted without thinking. If it hadn’t been for the expression on the man’s face he might have regretted it, but Teal enjoyed the pain he was causing.
“Shadow please let me explain,” Sunhawk said as Shadow entered their house and went into their room, pulling his clothes from closet.
“Explain?!” Shadow yelled, whirling around to look at Sunhawk, throwing his clothes on the floor angrily. “Explain that you can’t trust me. That you would think I would willingly let anyone touch me except you. Do you have any concept…”Shadow stopped, unable to continue as tears started to leak out of his eyes.
“Shadow, it isn’t that. I swear it isn’t…” Sunhawk said, trying to wrap his arms around Shadow, only for the young man to back away, anger and pain showing on his pale face.
They were both shaken when a loud knock came on the door. They looked at each other as the knocking continued. Sunhawk growled with frustration and walked out, opening the door, surprised to see a man and woman dressed in red and gold robes standing in front of his door along with Gretch.
Sunhawk gazed at the couple in complete shock and dread, recognizing the long flowing crimson robes and golden trim as robes of priests. Both of them looked in their early thirties, well old enough to be full priests, and with Gretch accompanying them could only mean they were from Mith.
“Shadow, I think we have company,” Sunhawk said quietly.
Sunhawk felt Shadow come up next to him, knowing without even looking that the young man was afraid. Without thinking he wrapped his arm around Shadow, feeling him tremble.
“Priest Shadow-hawk? You are hereby summoned to the grand temple of Mith. You have six months to answer this summons or you will be declared oathbreaker and be subjected to Mith’s wrath. The council of elders has revoked the right of free love for you and your partner. You have six months to seek Mith’s guidance within the Temple grove. Only her will can overturn this decision,” the woman with short red hair and startling blue eyes spoke in a gentle tone, looking with pity at the two.
“Is the ban in force now?” Shadow asked in a shaky voice.
“No, Mith did not answer the oracle. In six months time without her voice it will become law,” the short, balding man answered softly.
Sunhawk felt Shadow crumple, sliding to the ground. He quickly knelt by the young man, feeling pain and fear radiate out from him. Sunhawk had very little idea of what was going on, but one thing was for sure, Shadow was in trouble with his goddess.
“Do you know the consequences and rules?” the woman asked, kneeling down in front of Shadow, looking at his tear streaked face.
Shadow nodded as the woman smiled sadly.
“May Mith’s eyes watch over you as you walk your own path. May you find love and kindness in your life as Mith’s hands shelter and protect you,” the woman said, gently cradling Shadows hands. Sunhawk watched transfixed as she rose and walked away with her fellow priest, wondering what in the seven hells of Argoth was happening.