Clouded Purity

by Cynus

Chapter 11

Grim wanted to fire Sharis. Prism had arrived an hour ago, and Sharis had kept the information to himself to ensure it did not interrupt their lesson. Grim understood the tutor's decision, especially since Sharis had no idea how important Prism's presence was, but it still annoyed Grim.

But his excitement overrode any negativity, and Grim struggled to contain himself as he headed toward his rooms. Prism would be waiting for him, four months of separation would be over, and they could now spend the rest of their time together.

He opened the door without bothering to announce his presence. Prism stood in front of the unlit fireplace, appreciating a large portrait of Grim done a few years earlier, at Grim's twelfth naming day. Prism turned at the door opening, smiling as Grim dashed toward him.

"Prism, you're here!" Grim shouted, embracing Prism hard and fast, pressing the bodies together with all the energy in his body. Prism did not reciprocate, and Grim pulled back, staring at him in confusion.

"What's wrong, why aren't you—" Grim dropped the embrace immediately, his hands covering his mouth at the discomfort in Prism's eyes. "Oh no . . . they made you swear the oaths, didn't they?"

"Yes," Prism gasped, then continued with heavy breaths, his whole body twitching. "And you don't know how difficult it is for me right now to resist taking you in my arms."

"Blood . . ." Grim said, horrified at his lack of perception. "I'm so sorry. I'll contain myself. We'll figure it out." He stepped back, compelling his hands to remain at his sides, though they clenched and unclenched rapidly as he fought to keep them from reaching for Prism.

Prism coughed awkwardly at Grim's fidgeting, turning from him to look around the room. His gaze took him past the three chairs sitting around a simple table, the fireplace and the portrait, the wardrobe in the corner, and the door which led into Grim's bedchamber. Prism's gaze pointedly avoided the large bed resting beneath the window.

"You're in my room," Prism said, still avoiding Grim's gaze. "I'd have expected to be summoned to yours."

"Actually, you're in mine. You were told to wait here, right? That I'd be coming?" Grim said.

Prism nodded. "Yes. But we're both sleeping in here? That's . . ." he gulped and met Grim's eyes at last, "that's incredibly dangerous."

Grim walked over to the door which led to his bedroom and opened it, giving Prism a view into the much more spacious and opulent room. "This palace is over three hundred years old. Originally, the principal servant for whichever noble child occupied the main quarters would live here, as they were expected to be available at all times. My mother put a swift stop to that archaic practice, making it clear her children would never need constant service. My father agreed." He gestured around their current room and said, "But that means these quarters have remained empty my entire life, so it was about time someone put them to use. I had them cleaned in anticipation of your arrival."

"The only thing separating us will be a single door, which I can enter through at any point?" Prism said. "Sharing the same room would've been impossible, I think, but this is still going to be more difficult than I thought." Prism smiled helplessly and walked over to a chair, collapsing into it.

"Tempted already?" Grim asked with a frustrated laugh, taking another chair and assuming an equally casual position. Prism's robes parted enough to reveal his dark skin above his ankle. Memories of a dance of limbs came crashing back to Grim, for the last time he'd seen that ankle his lips had caressed it as they moved up Prism's leg. Grim's body responded to the memory, and Grim shifted his position to hide his arousal.

"The next nine or nineteen years are going to be agony, but at least they'll be spent with you," Prism said, drawing Grim from his thoughts. He found Prism staring at him, wearing an embarrassed grin.

"Nineteen . . . that's a scary thought, isn't it?" Grim said, groaning. "I guess we'll have to be perfect so your sentence can be renegotiated."

"If we're not perfect, if we do a single thing wrong, I'll be removed from your service," Prism said gravely, "and I can guarantee Master Vinh will prevent me from renegotiating my sentence if that happens."

"Master Vinh is against you now?" Grim said, bolting upright at this unsettling news. "Why?"

"He believes I should feel remorseful for the day I spent in Kobinaru four months ago," Prism said. His smile made Grim's heart dance as he added softly, "How could I be remorseful of that?"

Grim forgot all social propriety and adjusted his crotch through his pants. Horrified by what he'd done, he looked at Prism's tortured face and said. "Oh, this is going to be so hard." He forced his hands to the arms of the chair and dug his fingers into the fabric. "But we'll make it through. We'll just have to find other forms of release . . . Are you allowed to, you know . . ." unable to say the words, he raised one hand and curled his fingers, moving it up and down in the air.

Prism sighed and shook his head, saying, "Only nocturnal emissions, no masturbation is allowed, either." He chuckled helplessly and added, "Though I know many of the masters indulge on occasion. You occasionally witness . . . things."

"Well, the image of some of those masters doing that at least helps kill the mood," Grim said, sticking his tongue out in disgust. He immediately caught Prism staring at his open mouth, and blushed.

"Can we stop talking about sex?" Prism said weakly.

"Yes," Grim said, though several fantasies involving teasing Prism's weakness flew through his mind. He gritted his teeth and forced his way through the tension. "Definitely. Can you tell me about your childhood? What's it like in the Dorram?"

"We're finally getting to know each other, huh?" Prism asked, glad for the mundane question.

Grim nodded and said, "I never needed it to know who you could be, but I've wanted to know more since I met you."

Prism smiled and answered the question. "The Dorram is hot, since it rests on the equator. I'd never experienced cold until I came this far South. The coldest thing I'd ever known was the river near my last village, Choballa, and we'd bathe there during summer. I didn't have many friends, as the man who raised me liked to move around a lot, so I can't say I had a normal childhood, but I did get some chances to experience a lot of different places in the Dorram."

As he listened, Grim found the sexual tension easier to bear. His desire to connect physically subsided through the emotional connection established by Prism's history. Since he couldn't relieve his physical urges, he hungered for more details and asked a follow-up question. "The man who raised you? What about your family?"

"Hey now, I think it's my turn to ask a question," Prism said. "That's only fair, isn't it?"

Grim grinned, glad Prism was willing to state his mind. "All right. What would you like to know?" He asked.

"I met your father, but what's your mother like? Do I get to meet her?" Prism asked. "Is she as charming as your father?"

Sadness seeped into Grim's smile, and he answered Prism's question with his own. "You don't study history, do you?"

"It's not my best subject, no," Prism replied. "I find it interesting, but it's never been a part of my curriculum."

"We'll have to change that," Grim said. "It's one of my favorite subjects, even when it's painful."

Prism's eyes lit up with understanding. "Your mother isn't around anymore, is she?" he asked gently.

Grim shook his head. "No. She died when I was young."

"Mine, too," Prism said.

Grim nodded, and they shared a moment of pure empathy before Grim explained, "Duchess Casthene, my mother, was lovely, and I still consider her the greatest woman I've ever known, despite knowing many other wonderful women. She stood up for what she believed in, no matter what. If that meant speaking up for people at some stuffy nobleman's party, she did so. She was a commoner, the daughter of the shoemaker who made my father's favorite boots. She charmed him instantly, and after they married, they had a son together, Seldorym, who charmed her back more than my father ever could." Grim's eyes moistened with each word, and though he smiled fondly at the memory of his mother, tears streamed down his cheeks as he relived the pain of separation. "You don't get to meet her because they both died in an accident when I was young. My brother was six years older than me, and he was my best friend."

Prism's gaze never left Grim's, and he, too, shed tears of empathy for his love. "I wish you hadn't gone through that, and I wish I had the words to make it better, but I'm sure they don't exist," he said.

"Prism . . ." Grim began, but the pure love in Prism's eyes stopped him. A similar look had regarded him a thousand times before, and he had neglected to appreciate the source. He stood on shaky knees and said, "I . . . I need to go, but when I get back, can we resume this conversation, please?"

"Of course," Prism said, standing and regarding Grim with obvious concern.

"Thank you," Grim said, nodding appreciatively. "I don't know how long I'll be, but . . . I think I'll be back soon."

Prism nodded and Grim walked to the door, opening it and stepping into the hall. He leaned against the door once it closed behind him, breathing heavily as he regained some of his composure.

With emotion weighing every step, he made the short trek to his father's study and knocked on the door. At his father's invitation, he entered and said shakily, "F-father?"

Duke Selfaeth glanced up briefly from the work in front of him and said, "Grimfaeth. Do you need something?"

"Father . . ." Grim said, then closed the distance between them, collapsing against his father's chest and sobbing. He hated himself for the vulnerability but hated himself more for everything which had led to this moment. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"It's okay, Grim," Duke Selfaeth said, wrapping his arms around his son and cradling him against his chest. He shushed Grim with a soothing whisper, kissing his forehead. "It's okay. What happened?"

"What happened?" Grim asked, bitterly choking back his tears. "My mother and brother died, and you took care of us, and never stopped loving us, and you continued to be a father despite the stress of your position and our country being at war. You're amazing, and I rewarded you by being the worst son . . ." He stopped as a sob obliterated his next words, then admitted with a frustrated growl, "I made you sick with worry, time and time again, with my recklessness."

Duke Selfaeth kissed his son's forehead again and said, "Grim, I never minded you being true to yourself, I just minded that you weren't careful. Every father expects their children to go out into the world eventually, and every father dreads it. I promised myself I would never stop you from exploring. Sometimes I wasn't so good at that, and I always worried, but . . ." He choked back a sob and said, "You are my son. You will always be my son, and I will never stop loving you and protecting you, even when you're out in the world."

Grim fidgeted with a button on his father's coat as he considered his father's words. He regained control of his emotions, but he had one more important thing to say. "Thank you, for letting me bring Prism here. It's nice to have him home."

Duke Selfaeth hesitated. "You know you can't make love to him, right?"

Grim closed his eyes and said softly, "Yes."

"You can't even tempt him. Giving in will destroy him," Duke Selfaeth said. "That boy has so much integrity, I think he'd turn himself in, and that means he'd be taken from you. I don't want that fate for either of you."

"I know," Grim replied.

Duke Selfaeth hugged his son tightly again and said, "All your recklessness has brought you here, but now it's time for you to be careful, to make every step both measured and calculated. You will need every ounce of courtly discipline to succeed. I believe you can do it."

"Thank you, Father," Grim said, sighing contentedly and pressing into his father's chest. "I'm so glad I have you here." Duke Selfaeth tensed, and Grim pulled back abruptly. "Wait, what's wrong?"

Duke Selfaeth sighed and motioned for Grim to give him room. Grim slipped to the floor and the Duke stood, pacing the small area behind his chair as Grim slipped into the chair in front of the desk. "Veil will be in charge for the next few months. I have to go back to Xarin," Duke Selfaeth said after a moment. "King Hashayne has called a war council. It could be a long time before I return . . ." he trailed off, his voice thick with emotion.

"Is the ceasefire ending?" Grim asked, his heart sinking at his father's worry.

"Most likely within the next six months," Duke Selfaeth replied. "However, Neredos of Oligan is willing to give us the necessary information to disable Oligan's new weaponry, if we can assure him we won't use it to invade Oligan in return. With any luck, we can end this war without tremendous bloodshed, but we'll be in negotiations with his representative until we can come to an agreement."

"Is Oligan aware of this agreement?" Grim asked. "I would assume not, or they'd speed up their timetable and strike first."

The Duke shook his head. "Not yet. Neredos is sending a Gor to represent his position, masquerading as a representative of one of the Northern Gor tribes so Oligan won't be the wiser. We're hoping they'll think we're trying to form a trade agreement with the Gor instead. Such an agreement wouldn't give us much of a military advantage, after all."

"And so you'll be assisting in negotiations. Since you're fluent in three different Gor dialects, one of which is the one spoken by the delegate?" Grim surmised.

"That's right," Duke Selfaeth replied, meeting his son's eyes. "I'll be heading the team."

Grim smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. He didn't like the news of his father leaving, at all. "There's no better man for the job," he said confidently, while his stomach tied itself into knots of worry.

"Thank you for the confidence," Duke Selfaeth said. "I want this to end peacefully."

Grim eyed the wine bottle in the corner of the room and pleaded, "Leave the wine at home. Please?"

Duke Selfaeth's smile broke and he said, "I actually haven't had a drink since that day. I guess I'm not the greatest father, either."

"Nonsense," Grim said, delighted by his father's sobriety. "You're the best a boy could ask for." He stood again and walked to his father, embracing him again and holding it. He wouldn't have another chance for a long time.

After shedding more tears, the two parted, and Grim moved to leave the room, but stopped when his father said his name. "Grim?"

"Yes?"

"I like Prism," Duke Selfaeth said warmly. "Your mother would've approved, too."

Grim smiled appreciatively. "I love him," he stated.

"I know," the Duke replied. "And that should've been enough even without me meeting him. I'll trust you, and your judgment from here on out."

Grim grinned. "And I'll try and do the same. Will you let me know before you leave for Xarin?"

The Duke nodded. "Of course."


Prism paced every corner of the room, inspecting every detail of the art and furnishings just to occupy his overactive mind. When Grim opened the door and stepped inside again, his mind focused immediately on his lover's tear-streaked cheeks.

"Are you okay, Grim?" Prism asked. He took a step toward him, arms raised and ready to crush him in an embrace before his oaths compelled him to stop.

"No," Grim said. "My father is leaving."

"What for?" Prism asked.

Grim sighed and said, "I can't tell you."

"It's a secret?"

"It has to be," Grim replied. "My father checks his study for surveillance devices every time he enters the room, but I'm not so careful. There could be something in here, and I can't risk betraying the information he entrusted to me."

"I understand," Prism replied. "Do you want to resume our conversation?"

"No, I want to make mad ravenous love to you so I forget about my father leaving," Grim said, smirking.

Prism exhaled sharply and said, "Just putting it out there, I see."

"Oh, I realize I can't, and that frustrates me," Grim replied. "Train me, Prism. That's officially why you're here, isn't it?"

"Of course," Prism said, smiling.

"What do they teach you to do when you want to give into those carnal pleasures?" Grim asked. "If monks aren't supposed to do it, there must be some way of avoiding it."

"We spar, we train our bodies, we exercise our minds in meditation," Prism said. Grim nodded, and lifted his shirt, throwing it over the back of a chair. "You're stripping?" Prism said in alarm.

"Just my shirt and shoes. Do the same. Lose the robe. You wear a short hakama underneath, don't you?" Grim said, as he stepped out of his shoes and started on his socks.

"Very well," Prism said, reaching for the sash which kept his robe tight against his body. "What did you have in mind with this mad idea?"

"We're going to have to deal with a lot more than seeing each other shirtless. If we're going to have to resist temptation, we might as well face it head on," Grim reasoned.

"What happens if I get tempted?" Prism asked, accepting the logic with a nod. "We should have a plan for that, especially since . . ." his gaze lingered on Grim's naked torso, and he sighed.

"You'll attack me, and I'll defend myself," Grim replied. "That will allow you to relieve tension."

"What happens if you get tempted?" Prism asked, throwing his robe back and hanging it over the arm of another of the chairs. "You're not allowed to attack me, as a Fedain."

Grim stared openly at Prism's body, even more lean and toned now than four months ago when they'd met in the city. "I'll go masturbate," he said without thinking. "Maybe I shouldn't have said that."

"No . . . probably not," Prism said, groaning. "But I do like your plan. If it seems like we can't handle it, we'll just stop."

Grim nodded and assumed a defensive posture, his sheer grace and poise sending shivers of arousal through Prism's body. "Let's start. Attack me," Grim commanded.

Prism nodded in determination, beginning with a simple attack stance, coming in with a palm strike at half speed than normal to warm up. Grim caught his wrist and danced to the outside of Prism's arm, using Prism's own momentum against him to send him falling forward.

Although the normal reaction to the maneuver was to roll, Prism's foot caught on the edge of a throw rug and it disrupted his ability to complete it properly. In all his mental haze over being here with Grim, he'd failed to consider the rug as an obstacle, and he regretted it as his roll left him flat on his back.

Since Prism had fallen instead of rolling out of the way, Grim followed the maneuver and moved for a joint-locking pin. He leaned into Prism's body, twisting Prism's wrist in a way which encouraged him to move onto his back. Grim paused there, meeting Prism's eyes as the skin to skin contact registered with his senses.

A familiar tenting rose in Grim's crotch. He pulled away, practically running to his room as he stammered, "I'll b-be right b-back . . ."


Ghayle let the memory fade, sensing Prism needed a moment to recover from the vision. She waited for him to speak, studying the human as his breathing returned to normal.

"The memories are becoming more fluid now," Prism observed. "Sometimes I can't tell if it's me or Grim experiencing those moments, it's like I'm seeing it from both our perspectives."

"It's because you're so close to him, and each time we delve in, you grow even closer," Ghayle explained.

"Those first months were immensely trying," Prism said. "I can't believe we survived. The amount of times I nearly broke my vows number in the thousands."

"It's amazing how I can show you death and physical pain, but it's the moments of love which unnerve you most," Ghayle observed.

"I learned how to endure death and pain at an early age. Heartache is something I'll never master," Prism admitted, laughing at the absurd thought. "They didn't teach that at the Temple."

Ghayle cocked her head to the side, regarding Prism with godlike curiosity, considering the beautifully complex mind of the simple creature before her. "Grim is your biggest regret, isn't he?"

"What do you mean?" Prism asked, eyebrows raised as he turned on her. "Do you mean, did I regret loving him, or do you mean, did I regret not loving him enough?"

"You tell me," Ghayle said.

Prism sighed, eyes closed as he considered the point. His thoughts unsettled him, so he rose to his feet and paced, letting the thoughts fully form before communicating them to Ghayle. "Part of me knows I should've never made love to him in the first place. If I hadn't known how well we fit together, I would've been tempted but I wouldn't have craved it every single moment of every day," he admitted after a moment. Resuming pacing, he let his mind travel down several different paths, considering each in turn, before trying to pull the thoughts together. "Another part of me wonders why I held so tightly to honor and purity, when my thoughts clouded that purity every single moment of every day. Unlike Grandmaster Valkean, I was not born to be a monk, I simply became one because the world required it of me. I was born to be a thief, the rogue whom Kaeral always saw, and so I stole those tempting glances, and I let lust keep me imprisoned."

Ghayle smiled, appreciating the conclusions Prism had drawn. "And like a thief, you exploited every crack in your oaths to show your love, because you couldn't keep it contained."

Prism nodded, confirming her analogy though he wanted to deny it. As much as he'd lived as a monk his entire life, the thief inside ruled his soul. "Every conversation we had drew me in deeper. His body enthralled me, but at least my oaths did not prevent me from loving his mind. The way he spoke about history and legend, blending them together the way only an adventurous youth can . . ." he sighed wistfully and continued, "grand caverns filled with treasures, ancient ruins he wanted to show me. The first words in any Elrok dialect were spoken to me by an excited Fedain Lord, and I only found out much later that he had terrible pronunciation." He laughed, and Ghayle laughed with him, all too familiar herself with the difficulties of the Elrok languages, though she'd long ago mastered all of them. Prism smiled at her mirth and went on, "I listened to every word he said with rapt attention, because I could lose myself in the light of his eyes and forget that I wasn't allowed to touch him, at least for a while."

"Tagren made my soul dance the moment he first stepped out of the water. He looked like a sodden dog, but for some reason that made me smile like I'd never smiled before," Ghayle replied, surprising Prism with her anecdotal wisdom. "Love is a frightening thing, surprising us with a mirror into our own souls. It's as fickle as a ghost, fleeting in appearance yet haunting us forever until we appease it."

"Devotion makes you a living ghost, haunting the object of your obsession," Prism said solemnly. "Kaeral said that to me once. Is that a common philosophy among the Gor? Did you teach them that?"

"It's a truth as old as the world, as far as I'm concerned," Ghayle said. "But I don't know who first phrased it in that way."

Prism nodded, understanding the truth of her statement. But this brought up a new curiosity, and he resumed his position on the log. "Grim was—is—the only one I've ever loved completely. Did you ever love another as much as you loved Tagren?"

"You mean, other than the world itself?" Ghayle asked.

Prism smiled. "Yes."

"There was one," Ghayle admitted. "You'll find her quite familiar. I'd not intended to show you her, but . . ." she raised her hand to Prism's face once more and said, "perhaps it is pertinent after all."

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