Kah’len was kept busy during the day as he organized most of his army for the return to Draemin City. It seemed Lahn was avoiding him as he spent every waking hour with his family. Kah’len tried not to resent it, but he missed his husband with a bone-deep ache. He missed making love to him, tasting his kisses, and their late night conversations. He did his duty and bedded Ajla on a nightly basis, leaving her bed when his duty was performed. He no longer cared if he pleased her or not. She was demanding, haranguing, and unpleasant to be around. She accused him of preferring her brother to her, of being something less than a man, and threatened to have their marriage dissolved. Finally, after several days of her demands, he visited King Fael Obeli at his inn room.
When he stepped into the tavern where the King was being housed, the Southern guards snapped to attention and allowed him to go up the stairs to the second floor. Once before the King’s room, one of the guards outside the door announced him, then allowed him entrance.
He found King Obeli and Lahn in the room.
Kah’len bowed to them. “Good morrow, your Majesty, your Holiness.”
Lahn mumbled something and dropped into his armchair.
King Obeli stepped forward and grasped Kah’len’s forearm. “How is my son-in-law this morning?”
“I am well, your Majesty, but I need to speak to you about your daughter’s behavior.”
Lahn snorted before he smoothed his features into a bland mask.
The King gave his middle son a withering glare before turning back to Kah’len. “Have a seat, Warlord.”
Kah’len sat down across from them.
When the King sat down, he said, “Do you wish to speak in private?”
“Lahn is my advisor, your Majesty, I do not mind if he remains.”
The King gave a pleased nod and crossed his legs. “Then speak your mind, Warlord.”
Kah’len cleared his throat. “I’ve done everything to please Ajla, your Majesty. I bed her each night, as is my duty and responsibility. I’ve tried to befriend her, but she does not want a friend in me. She simply wants a child from me and naught more. Then she turns around and accuses me of preferring Lahn to her and threatens to annul our marriage. I am a busy man, your Majesty. At the end of the day, I don’t want a daily argument with your daughter.”
The King sighed. “This whole matter has gone to her head. Let me assure you, I will not allow your marriage to be dissolved. How you discipline your wife is your business, not mine. I give you full authority to discipline her, as she belongs to you now. Take a firm hand with her, Warlord. She was always a sweet girl, but I don’t know what has happened to her. She has become willful and proud. We certainly can’t control her.”
“As long as I have your assurance that the marriage will remain intact,” Kah’len stated. “Then I will go ahead and take disciplinary action.”
Lahn shifted. “Let me speak to her before you discipline her, my lord. Please.”
Kah’len glanced at his husband. “If you think you can help, Lahn, I welcome it.”
“We are heading to Draemin City tomorrow,” Lahn murmured. “Your other wives will be there. I would that Ajla not be a thorn at your side. You already have difficult women to contend with, specifically Sjanita. Let me try to reason with Ajla, to put the fear of the Goddess in her. She will need to befriend the other wives if she knows what is good for her. One can die of loneliness, you know.”
The King made a sign to avert evil, which Lahn echoed.
Kah’len smiled at Lahn. “I’ve missed your friendship and counsel, Lahn.”
Lahn blushed. “I’m sorry, Warlord. I’ve wanted to see as much as my family as I could. Goddess only knows when I’ll be able to again.”
“I know,” Kah’len assured him. “That is why I’ve not taken your absence personally.”
The King cleared his throat. “Do you love my son, Warlord?”
“Yes,” Kah’len answered without hesitation. “He is a friend to me. A valued friend, I assure you.”
The King smiled. “That is good to hear.”
Lahn rose. “I will go and talk to Ajla now. She is with mother in her room. Excuse me, Father, Husband.”
Kah’len rose and watched as Lahn made his way out of the room and into the quiet hallway.
“Sit, please, Warlord,” the King said.
Kah’len sat down.
The King signaled for a servant. “Serve some mi’disj, please.”
Kah’len watched as the servants poured two glasses of the fiery, sweet liqueur. He took his glass and thanked the servant.
The King took his glass and sipped from it, sitting back with a satisfied sigh. He gazed at Kah’len with a weighty glance. “I would that your family and mine vacation together every two or three years, my lord. The idea of not seeing Lahn, Bhar or Ajla for long years does not sit well with me.”
“That can certainly be arranged, your Majesty. I certainly do not relish the idea of having a child and not giving you access to him or her.”
The King’s face broke out into a pleased smile, making him seem years younger. “Thank you, my lord. That means a lot to my wife and myself. With Bhar and Ajla gone, our house is empty of children. I have grandchildren from my heir, Nhove, but our children mean the most to us. We see our grandchildren irregularly, since running the government keeps me so busy. My wife is busy as well, with her charity work and her art.”
Kah’len returned his smile. “I had heard your wife is an accomplished artist.”
“So is Ajla. Did you know?”
Kah’len grimaced. “The girl does not share her accomplishments with me.”
The King sighed. “That is a tragedy. I, too, will speak to her as soon as possible, my lord. It would behoove her to behave better.”
Kah’len smiled again. “She seems to forget there are three other queens to share her role. I cannot hold one favored among the others, for the sake of peace.”
The King nodded. “I know. How will you choose your heir?”
“That is a good question. I have thought long and hard about this conundrum. I don’t think age should be a factor. I’d like my heir to share my perspective and mores. My heir will be a person of strong character, a military man, a person of compassion and faith. That I can assure you.”
“And you won’t consider your daughters as heirs?” the King prompted.
“No. For myself, I care naught the gender of the heir, for my mother is a strong woman, as is my sister. But North Torahn’s aristocracy is not friendly to women and not open to one ruling. It would mean a civil war and I will not plunge my nation into chaos.”
“I see your point,” the King replied. He shook his head. “Then I’ll pray Ajla gives you a son.”
Kah’len chuckled. “She is strong enough that I do not worry on that account.”
The King laughed, too. “Yes, I daresay.” He rose. “I bless you, Kah’len Tjashensi, in the name of my god. May you be blessed with many sons and daughters.”
Kah’len rose and bowed. “Thank you, your Majesty.”
The King surprised him by hugging him.
“You are a delight, Warlord,” the King said in his ear. “A man of high principles and strong character. I could not have wanted more in a son-in-law.”
They stepped apart.
Kah’len took his leave and went out into the hall then down the stairs and out into the overcast late morning. The air tasted of rain and he welcomed the cool, moist breezes on his skin.
That night, Kah’len did not visit his wife’s room at the inn. He went drinking with his two commanders and Lahn in a tavern in town. The tavern was less crowded than it had been previously, for many of the aristocratic visitors had departed that same day. Kah’len and most of the army would be headed back to Draemin City the following day. The rain had returned with a vengeance, falling in torrents, obscuring distances and soaking into cloaks. Kah’len entered the tavern ahead of his friends and his husband, removing his cloak and shaking it to release moisture. A serving lad led them to an open table, taking their damp cloaks to hang them near the fireplace to dry. Kah’len ordered a decanter of ekila and the tavern’s special for the evening. They took their seats as the serving lad went to place their order for food and drinks.
Kah’len leaned forward and placed his forearms on the table. He looked pointedly at Lahn. “How did your conversation with your sister go?”
“I put the fear of the Goddess in her,” Lahn replied smugly.
Kah’len sighed. “I suppose that was necessary?”
Lahn shrugged. “She wasn’t listening to reason. I threatened to curse her if she didn’t start to behave in a civilized manner. She absolutely loathes me right now.”
Kah’len said nothing as their decanter of ekila and four glasses were set before them. He studied Lahn’s beautiful face as he poured drinks around the table, serving himself last. Kah’len felt his heart full to brimming when he beheld his husband. He swallowed a sigh and glanced away. There were plenty of obstacles in their way, he was sure. There were four queens, each proud and strong in their own way, each vying to take center stage in Kah’len’s life, vying for his attention, his love, his seed. Lahn would be his anchor in the storm, his confidant and advisor. Despite his youth, he was wise in his way, calm and centered beyond his tender years. Kah’len would lean on him, despite his frayed trust in the youth. He would have to trust him and the Goddess with his life and his children.
He threw back his first drink and set his glass down with a thud, picking up the decanter to refill his glass. Goddess help him. The journey was merely commencing.
Later, when they had dined and drank a goodly amount of alcohol, Kah’len took Lahn’s hand and ran with him under the rain to his tent. They giggled like children as they ducked under eaves and jumped over puddles until they were ducking into Kah’len’s empty pavilion. They looked at each other and laughed as they removed their wet cloaks and Kah’len spread them out each near a brazier. Kah’len’s tent was so large, it required at least two braziers to send warmth into its four corners.
Kah’len yawned and stretched, kicking off his muddy boots.
“You’ll be retiring now?” Lahn asked timidly.
Kah’len turned. “Take those muddy boots off and remove your clothes. Yes, I am going to bed and you’re coming with me.”
Lahn smiled with relief. “Right away.”
Kah’len turned away and began removing his sword belt and knife belt, setting them near the bed. He doffed his tunic, his undertunic and thick trousers, dropping them on the floor for the servants to pick up. Lust made him desperate and messy. His kaoun was already engorged and damp from precum. He could smell his arousal and sighed. Unbraiding his hair, he parted the curtain in front of the bed and tied it back. He climbed under the bedclothes and turned to face Lahn.
Lahn removed the last of his clothes and folded them, setting them on a chair, before picking up Kah’len’s discarded clothing and folded them as well.
“Leave that,” Kah’len barked impatiently. “Come here.”
The youth blushed and ducked his head, but did as Kah’len asked. He dropped the folded clothes on a chair and made his way to the bed.
Kah’len watched him hungrily. The youth was not aroused, but his gorgeous kauon was a feast for Kah’len’s eyes. Lahn was slender and firm, with just enough musculature to please Kah’len.
He slid under the bedclothes and turned to face Kah’len.
Kah’len cupped his face. “Don’t look so frightened, lad. I’m not devouring you tonight.”
Lahn blushed. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Do you smell how much I want you?”
Lahn ducked his head and gave a shy nod.
“Good. My body cannot lie to you, Lahn. I may have four wives, but you are my home. And this is my return home.”
He pulled Lahn to him and kissed him, nipping at his lower lip. Lahn opened his mouth and Kah’len delved in, tasting the smoky flavor of ekila on his tongue.
Lahn kissed him back and Kah’len moaned, pressing his erection to the youth’s thigh.
They parted and Lahn’s gorgeous eyes looked deep into Kah’len’s. “You are my home, too. I love you, Kah’len Tjashensi.”
“And I love you, Lahn,” Kah’len said softly, caressing his face and soft dark hair. “Unbraid your hair.”
Lahn did as he asked, releasing the dark strands of his hair. They gleamed blue-black in the light from the oil lamps.
Kah’len stroked his hair. “I may be aroused, my love, but all I want is to hold you until morning. Let my heart heal and my desire for you strengthen.”
Lahn cuddled near, resting the top of his head under Kah’len’s chin and wrapped his arms around him.
Kah’len smiled as he closed his eyes. Let tomorrow wait. For now, he was home.