Soulbound ‡ clash

by Wes Leigh

Chapter 3

Fear is the mind-killer.

-- From Dune by Frank Herbert

Diego couldn't move. He needed to run. To escape. But his feet were tangled in tree roots.

He couldn't scream. Tree limbs were wrapped around his face, squeezing, cutting into his cheeks, scratching his ear, covering his mouth so he couldn't utter a single word.

He couldn't look away from the scene before him. His house was breaking apart in front of him. The home where he'd lived all his life. The place that meant safety, security, comfort. Gone in a few moments. Roof torn off. Walls knocked down. Family possessions thrown all over the ground.

And standing next to the ruins of his family home was a tall, pale man. The man stood with his back to Diego. Diego couldn't see his face, but he knew who the man was. He'd seen him before, and he knew the man was Death for all who met him. The man slowly turned. His long silver hair blew to one side. The man saw Diego and smiled evilly, showing long, dripping fangs. His eyes glowed bright red, and they flashed ominously when the man stared at Diego.

Diego struggled to get free. He tried to move his feet. He opened his mouth wider, but only a muffled scream came out. He tried to yank his arms up, but they were pinned to his side.

The pale man strode toward Diego, taking his time, walking slowly with his mouth opened and his head tilted slightly to one side, anticipating.

Diego fought against the branches holding him, but they tightened even more. He couldn't breathe. His heart began pounding, hammering. His lungs burned.

The man stopped in front of Diego and reached up to pull a branch away from Diego's mouth. Diego gasped and sucked in air. He started to scream, but the pale man placed one finger against his lips.

"No need for that," the man whispered. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Diego whimpered. His eyes darted from side to side, hoping to see his father or grandfather or someone, anyone coming to his rescue.

"They can't help you now," the pale man said, smiling. "No one can."

The pale man reached down to a branch encircling Diego's neck and tugged it aside, exposing Diego's neck. He leaned down and sniffed. Apparently satisfied, he opened his mouth wide and licked his lips. "Now … you can scream," he said.

"Diego! Please answer me!"

Diego blinked away the tears and focused on the face in front of him. It wasn't the pale man. It was Daniel. Next to Daniel was Xavier. Both looked scared.

Diego felt strong arms holding him, hugging him. He blinked again and looked down. The arms had to belong to Connor. He felt warm breath on the back of his neck and Connor's broad chest pressed against him.

Diego released the breath of air he'd been holding in and sobbed, "What … what happened?"

Daniel reached down and took Diego's hands in his own, squeezing them gently. "I don't know. You spaced out on us for a few seconds."

Diego looked around and saw the fire crackling nearby, the rough wooden walls of the cabin, the bed where he and his lovers slept. He turned back to Daniel and Xavier and began crying again. "It felt like I was back there again. Just like before."

"Back where?" Daniel asked.

Diego shook his head. "No. I can't say. I'm not supposed to say. I can't tell anyone."

Confused now, Daniel asked, "You can't tell us? Why not?"

Diego swallowed hard and the tears started again. "Please don't ask me, Daniel. I promised. I had to promise I wouldn't tell. Not even you and Xavier and Connor. I had to promise. Don't make me tell."

Daniel frowned. We're your soulmates, Diego. Why can't you tell us?

Xavier placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder and pulled him aside. It's okay, Diego, Xavier mentally whispered. Just sit there and let Connor hold you, while Daniel and I talk for a moment. We'll be right back.

Xavier tugged Daniel to the door of the cabin and motioned for Daniel to come outside with him. Xavier closed the door behind him and spoke softly to Daniel. "He's suffered some form of serious trauma, Daniel. Making him talk is hurting him more."

"But we're soulbound. If he can't tell us, who can he tell?"

Xavier nodded. "He needs to tell someone, and we're the best ones to talk to, but we need to approach this carefully. We need to give him a chance to open up to us. We must be patient and ready to encourage him when he finally does tell us what happened."

Sighing, Daniel replied, "Okay. So how do we do this?"

"Follow my lead." Xavier opened the cabin door and led Daniel back inside.

Diego and Connor were on the bed, stretched out face-to-face together. Diego snuggled against Connor's chest, and Connor held him in a gentle hug, caressing his back.

Xavier sat on the side of the bed next to them and motioned for Daniel to lie down behind Diego. Daniel began gently rubbing Diego's shoulders while Xavier stroked Diego's naked leg. Are you doing better now, Diego? Xavier's question was the softest of mental whispers he could manage.

Diego nodded his head the barest bit. Sorry, guys, he whispered.

It's okay, little buddy, Connor replied, pulling Diego against his chest. We got you now.

Xavier climbed into bed behind Daniel and all three of them held Diego in a warm, protective hug. Diego sighed and closed his eyes. In seconds, he was asleep, breathing deeply as his soulmates cuddled him.

His dreams were agitated, but somehow he sensed his lovers holding him secure, and gradually his frantic thoughts calmed and he began to realize he was no longer fighting for his life. With a long sigh, he woke up and felt arms and legs wrapping him in a warm cocoon. He blinked his eyes and saw Connor watching him with a gentle smile on his face.

Connor reached out a finger to stroke Diego's nose. "We got you now," Connor whispered.

Diego giggled. "You already said that. I remember hearing you say it before I fell asleep."

Xavier's mental voice sounded a bit amused. Then perhaps it's true.

Daniel squeezed Diego from behind. We're with you now, and we aren't letting you go.

Diego's voice quavered as he said, "I know you do. I know I'm safe, and I don't know why I freaked out like that. I guess I realized he's back and coming for me and my family again."

Daniel started to speak, but Xavier shook his head quickly in warning.

They all waited until Diego sat up in bed and turned to face his soulmates. "I guess I owe you guys an explanation. But you guys have to promise me that you'll never, NEVER tell anyone else."

They nodded, unsure why Diego, who had always been a joker and a clown, was suddenly so intense and serious.

"Promise!" Diego emphatically insisted.

"We promise," Daniel replied. Connor and Xavier nodded in agreement.

Diego swallowed hard, then piece by piece, his story unfolded.

In Brazil, generations ago, in a mountainous region with thick jungle growing around a tributary of the Amazon River, twin siblings, a brother and sister, founded the village of Raiz Antiga.

The brother discovered gold in the mountains and dug deep, earning a fortune with the precious ores he pulled from the earth. He was a powerful warlock, an expert in earth and air magic. He used his earth-shaping skills to carve mines in the side of the mountain and to remove the valuable gold. His air magic he used to keep intruders away, summoning ball lightning to dance on the mountain peaks and to frighten off the curious. He married and had children and grandchildren. His clan became known as A Ordem da Pedra Dourada, the Order of the Golden Stone.

His sister didn't care for the mountains. Her love was the land and the river and all that grew along it's mossy banks. She moved just down the mountain and built her house in the treetops, crafting a beautiful home where her family could live. She taught her children to harness the magic of life itself, to animate trees and vines, to command water to rise up and protect. She called her clan A Tribo do Rio Ancestral, the Tribe of the River of the Ancestors.

For generations, the two clans existed in harmony. They didn't mingle, for the Tribe never ventured from the river and the Order, of necessity, traveled far from their mountain to establish trade routes for their gold.

The Tribe became isolated, wild, tall and strong, with the women dominating the Tribe and becoming powerful practitioners of life and water spells. They crafted exquisite jade amulets called muiraquitãs, which they embued with magical power. When strangers ventured into the Tribe's territory, those strangers were quickly frightened away by tall, wild-haired women who clutched the jade amulets at their necks and commanded vines to entangle and wild beasts to give chase.

And so the legend spread across the land. Don't go into the jungles, for they are protected by the Icamiabas, tall, powerful women who protect their lands jealously from all intruders.

Other legends were told of the Mãe-do-Ouro, a powerful and lethal entity that guarded the gold ores in the mountains. Nobody had survived seeing it, so no description existed. The few who dared to venture near the mountains told of seeing from afar globes of flashing light that flew from mountain to mountain.

There were nomadic traders who did little to dispel the legends of the Icamiaba jungle women and the powerful Mãe-do-Ouro living in the mountains nearby. These traders sold gold they had somehow acquired in the mountains, then left quietly. The traders watched to be sure no one followed them, then returned to their village in the mountains, to Raiz Antiga, where they used their magic spells to shape the stones themselves into stately homes. And they taught their sons and daughters to do the same.

Generations passed, and two young boys were born, one in each clan.

Paulo Costa was born into the Tribe and quickly learned all the nature spells his mother and grandmother could share. And more. He was a changeling, the first to be born in many years. He could take the form of any creature he knew well. A flamingo, bright pink feathers flashing in the sun as he flew through the air. A kinkajou, a fuzzy golden-haired creature that could scamper up the side of a tree and cling to a branch with a long, muscular tail. A manatee, a pale wrinkled beast that was clumsy on the land but agile and quick swimming in the river. Paulo was a joy to his family and a delight to the Tribe, who considered him a special gift from the Ancestors.

Paulo's best friend was Diego Lourenço Luís, the grandson of João Luís, the head of the Order of the Golden Stone. Diego, like Paulo, was trained in the magical arts of his family. He learned to summon wind to carry him through the sky, to cast lightning to protect himself, to carve stone into whatever form he desired. He was an excellent student and his family was proud of how quickly he learned.

Though the children of the Tribe rarely mixed with the children of the Order, Paulo and Diego became the best of friends at the age of thirteen.

They were complete opposites in almost every way. Paulo was tall, strong, slightly chubby, and a natural athlete. Diego was short, thin, thoughtful, and studious. Paulo was emotional, tending to fits of temper whenever he was frustrated by something he couldn't do. Diego was disciplined and controlled, but he also had a quick wit and used humor to distract Paulo whenever he was raging. Paulo was a wild and free spirit, roaming the jungles looking for adventure. Diego was often deep in study, learning the spells the Order expected him to master as a future leader of their clan.

Paulo often interrupted Diego's studies by appearing at his window, an overweight toucan, flapping its wings and settling into place before transforming into the chubby naked body of Paulo. "You've studied enough for one day," Paulo said one day, his voice cracking with the onset of puberty.

"I haven't mastered this spell yet," Diego replied. "Give me a few more minutes."

Paulo swung his legs over the windowsill and sat cross-legged in the floor next to Diego's desk. Picking at the fine black hairs beginning to grow above his cock, Paulo mumbled, "I have more than yesterday. It's starting to get thicker down here."

Diego glanced over and grinned. "You should trim that jungle back before it grows too thick to find your pau."

Paulo smirked and began fondling himself, making his cock fill out to its impressive five-inch length. "I can always find my pau. You want to lick it for me?"

Shaking his head and giggling, Diego replied, "I told you I'm busy. I'll lick it later. And you can lick mine."

Paulo jumped up and walked on his knees to Diego's desk, pushing himself between Diego and the desk. With his hands sliding up Diego's legs to fondle his groin, Paulo said, "I'm horny now, Diego. Can't you finish this another time?"

Diego could never resist Paulo's advances. He leaned back and closed his eyes, allowing the other boy to unfasten his pants and tug them open. Diego wasn't growing as fast as Paulo. His cock was only a bit over four inches now, and the hair on his belly was sparse and thin, but he was always as hard as Paulo, throbbing with each beat of his heart as Paulo bent down and licked from his hairless balls up the front of his cock to the tip. And when Paulo reached the tip, he sucked Diego into his mouth, mumbling, "I love the taste of your pau, Diego."

The only reply Diego could give was, "Stop playing with yours, Paulo. I want to taste you next, and I don't want you squirting on my leg."

And so it would go most afternoons. Studies would be interrupted by boyish lusts, and there would be nothing more learned until both boys had found orgasmic release in the mouth of a friend. They decided early on that they weren't boyfriends. They loved each other, but they weren't in love. They were best friends, blood brothers, two boys learning to master the magical abilities they had inherited from their ancestors, two young men learning to master the sexual urges that seemed to overwhelm them every day, two friends who laughed together, entertained and challenged each other, and drained one another of the sweet juices of youth, often three or four times every day.

Their favorite pastime was chasing each other around the mountain and river and jungle. They each used their unique magical abilities, inspiring one another to come up with creative ways to win the contest. Paulo would complain that it wasn't fair when Diego used magical spells to create wind to carry him through the air. Diego would laugh and reply that Paulo was cheating when he turned into a manatee or an otter and hid in the depths of the river. They would wrestle and laugh and inevitably end up head to tail with their mouths eagerly sucking the other's cock until both shook and quivered as an orgasm sent cum into their best friend's mouth.

The adults of both clans never objected to the friendship. The two boys were expected to become leaders of their clans one day, and it was good for them to spend time together. Although the Order and the Tribe didn't mingle, they weren't enemies.

Until the stranger came…

They called him Corpo Seco, the Dried Corpse. In Brazil, he was said to be a man so evil that the earth would not rot his flesh upon his death. And legend said the devil refused to keep his soul, but returned it to his undead body. He was condemned to wander the world until Judgment Day, for he could not die.

He arrived late one day at the village of Raiz Antiga, walking slowly on the road winding up the side of the mountain. He paused and looked around, taking in the fine stone buildings, the terraced gardens, the expensive decorations on the outer walls. He didn't covet the riches of the Order. He wasn't a man who desired or needed creature comforts, but he did have hungers that the villagers of Raiz Antiga could satisfy.

João Luís met the stranger at the ornate gateway leading into the village. João's dark brown eyes studied the stranger, squinting slightly as he took in the tall, powerful body, the long silver hair, the eyes that glowed with a sullen bloody hue, the pallid, colorless skin.

"We don't welcome visitors," João said, his gravelly voice cracking with age. He used a staff to get around, easing the arthritis in one hip, but the staff was more than a walking stick. It was a focus for his magic, and he was prepared to summon a storm if necessary. Obviously this stranger had ignored the lesser magics the Order had placed around the mountain. The glowing lights. The darting balls of lightning. The sudden wind-devils that sprang up and threw dirt. If he had failed to heed the clear warning to stay away, stronger magic might be needed.

The stranger focused on João and chuckled. "Visiting is not encouraged. That much is obvious. But I'm not one accustomed to being told where I may and may not go." He smiled and opened his mouth in a snarl, revealing long fangs. "Do you not recognize me?" he hissed. "I am Death, walking in your midst. I take what I wish, leaving behind Decay." His eyes glowed bright red as he stared intently at João. "You cannot resist me. You desire to bare you neck before me and give me your life's blood as my proper tribute."

João struggled, shaking slightly as he fought against the stranger's words. 'I must resist,' he told himself, fighting to call upon all the years of disciplined study, the many hours spent honing his focus and self-control. With a final shuddering breath, João threw off the strange man's mental suggestions and muttered, "Not this day." João lifted his staff and struck the ground three times. Sparks danced beneath João's feet and climbed up his body, sending his dark gray hair in every direction, creating a bright nimbus around his head. "Be gone, demon!" João shouted, pointing a finger at the stranger. Lightning leaped from João's hand, quickly spanning the gap between him and the stranger, but the pale man with the glowing eyes disappeared before the lightning could strike.

João looked around, searching. He found Corpo Seco standing on the roof of a nearby house, kicking the slate shingles with one foot. "Well constructed," the fiend observed. "But it won't protect those inside from me."

João spun the staff and pointed the tip, casting a wall of wind at the stranger.

Corpo Seco allowed the wind to lift him into the sky, laughing. "I'll be back tonight. To feast to my heart's content." Then he disappeared again.

João wearily lowered his staff and leaned on it. His clan came out of their homes, surrounding him, asking him questions he couldn't answer. All he could do was instruct them on what to expect and how to prepare. And then he sent his grandson Diego to warn the Tribe that Corpo Seco was here.

"Corpo Seco?" Diego asked.

João placed one hand on Diego's shoulder. "Yes, my brave Diego. Tell the Tribe that Corpo Seco is here. They will know what I mean, and they will prepare in their own way. Hurry, Diego. Fly quickly, deliver your message, then return at once. No side trips."

"Yes, Papa," Diego replied, gathering the magical energies he would need to summon winds to carry him down the mountain to the river where the Tribe lived.

Diego was afraid, but he wouldn't admit it to anyone, especially not Papa João. He would be brave and fly fast, warning Paulo and the Tribe of the danger, and then return home to help his family prepare for Corpo Seco's return.

Winds lifted Diego into the air and he turned to face the jungle growing at the base of the mountain. The winds swirled around him and carried him swiftly down the face of the mountain, over the burgeoning undergrowth and above the deep jungle that surrounded the river. When he was directly above the home of his friend Paulo and the rest of the Tribe, Diego commanded the stormwinds to slow and lower him to the ground, but he heard a voice speaking that made him decide to hesitate and hover where he was, listening.

The voice was dry and cracked, filled with malice. "They detest you. Secretly. They despise you. Covertly. They plot to destroy you, to steal your magic, to ruin you."

Diego gestured to the winds and dropped himself lower still, passing silently through the foliage. Just ahead, he saw Paulo with his mother and grandmother and all the other people of the Tribe. They sat in a circle, staring into space, as if under a spell of some kind. In their midst stood the pale man with the long silver hair. His eyes glowed bloody red, and his voice dripped with venom. "They must be wiped out before they destroy you. It is the only way to keep your clan safe."

Diego watched, his eyes wide with fear, as Corpo Seco strolled casually up to Paulo's grandmother and snatched the muiraquitã amulet from her neck. Laughing softly, he studied the jade figurine, then held it casually in one hand. His eyes glowed brighter. "The Order of the Golden Stone is not satisfied with the riches they have pried from the depths of the earth. They have invaded your home and stolen your most powerful muiraquitã. You have no other option. You must attack them and annihilate them."

He turned in a slow circle, his bloody glowing gaze landing on each of the Tribe members in turn, then he laughed and slipped the muiraquitã around his own neck.

The Tribe's women stood to their feet, eyes slowly refocusing, and looked around in alarm. When Paulo's grandmother realized her muiraquitã was missing, she screeched and raised her fists in anger.

Diego backed away slowly, then wove his hands rapidly, summoning the wind he would need to carry him home and warn the Order that war was coming.

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