Documenting the dream I had last night about two kings warring over something and a visitor trapped between them.
Main character is a guy. I’m not clear on what he looks like, except he’s medium height, not too tall. He is a guest in a beleaguered court, though I don’t think he knew it was beleaguered when he walked in.
The king–a tall, handsome and strong man, dark-haired, elegantly trimmed short beard, with beautiful flowing embroidered clothes reminiscent of Chinese dramas–is under attack. What he’s the king of, exactly, isn’t entirely clear, but it seems to include some level of magical domain.
His wife the queen is a small, lovely woman with long, light brown hair. She is unfailingly polite, full of integrity, and deeply focused. Each night she barricades the parts of the palace that lie beyond the public areas of the court, because the frozen people invade.
The frozen people are alive, but they’re like zombies. They have a strange bluish light in their eyes reminiscent of the reflection of sun off ice, and they single-mindedly invade. Where they’re able to get hold of someone, they often infect them with the same condition. Many members of the frozen people are ex-members of the court–servants and soldiers, mostly, since most of the nobles have stopped coming, or at least leave promptly in the day when they still can.
Another prominent figure is the queen’s retainer. He’s her sworn knight, a huge and aging man who is utterly faithful to her and the king.
The guest cannot leave, because the frozen people wait outside and unlike the nobles, with their guards and transport, he has no protection. He comes to realize pretty quick that there’s more going on here than the king is letting on, but he doesn’t know how to find out. He wants very badly to learn, however, because he has little power here and no way of escape
The guest comes to learn that the frozen people are under control of the king’s brother, his fellow king. Also not clear what he’s the king of, except that the frozen people are due to his power. The brother king picked up and moved his court to this area, across from the king’s court, in order to beseige him. The guest is unable to learn where this enmity between them comes from.
The guest would like to talk to the queen, but she avoids him. She seems to know secrets about what’s going on, but she won’t talk about it. And the guest doesn’t dare push her, because the king is possessive and might get jealous. He wonders if she avoids him because of her fidelity to the king, or if she’s afraid to share what she knows.
So it stands, until the brother king visits
The guest is standing in the antechamber when the entourage begins to enter. Frozen people, some of them, in the middle of day. But they aren’t acting like the semi-mindless zombies of the night attacks. They’re organized, focused, although they seem oblivious to everything they aren’t meant to be paying attention to.
And then the brother king enters.
He’s beautiful. He looks much like his brother, with hair leaning more toward chestnut than raven. His clothes are rich embroidery on white and light-colored cloths, whereas the king of this court favors similar embroideries on dark fabrics. Both kings have dark, sparking eyes with a hard, intelligent glint. But this one is more…animated? He watches and moves in a way that’s less proper and high strung. He seems good-humored. The brother king is…seductive. The way he touches people, stands near them, talks to them. He’s blatantly, openly seductive, and it’s clearly a way in which he turns people to him.
He glances at the guest as he goes past, with a look of sort of impersonal promise.
The guest watches him go, and wonders if there could be any way to use this event to learn more. At least it’s a disruption and distraction, and maybe he could take the chance to talk to someone he normally can’t get anything out of. Thinking hard, he heads inside, slinking along the wall to take a seat in a chair not too far from the royal dais, in an unobtrusive spot. As an honored guest of the court, he has a right to be there, but no formal role to play, so he just stays out of the way and watches.
The two kings spar with words. The brother king–I’ll call him the pale king–seems to have come to see if his presence could force some kind of concession? Or otherwise just to see how the king of this court, the dark king, is getting on with being beseiged. The dark king is stiff, cold and formal with him. The pale king is amused and observing. He says things that hint faintly toward more of what’s really going on between them.
He seems…reasonable, is the most notable thing, from the guest’s perspective. The guest doesn’t trust him–doesn’t assume he’d hear the truth even if he got the pale king to talk about it–but at least hearing his perspective might offer some clues. And he seems much more talkative than the dark king does.
The formal confrontation ends and things become something a bit more relaxed, if still somewhat tense because of the rival factions. The guest startles as the pale king slips up to perch on the wide, padded arm of his chair. His hand brushes along the nape of the guest’s neck and the touch is electrifying. The pale king seems to notice the effect it has, and leans in.
He says things that don’t really matter much, which effectively are tests of the guest’s fidelity to his host.
The guest feels it when the pale king tries to make him into one of the frozen people…but it doesn’t work. Having experienced it, the guest realizes why. They aren’t really zombies at all. They’re just people who’ve been enchanted by the pale king’s power–which is allure. He works the magic on them by exploiting the cracks of doubt in their mind, turning them against the dark king when they have begun to waver in their loyalty.
The guest repelled it, because he stands on his integrity regarding the rules of hospitality. It doesn’t matter if he doubts the dark king–and he has realized it would be dangerous to trust him too much–because that isn’t the point on which his conviction stands.
So, he tells the pale king this, that he won’t turn against the dark king because he respects his obligations. But he also tells him he has no personal loyalties in this conflict. But that he’s caught in it nevertheless, so what is it about?
For each question he asks, the pale king takes a touch, or a kiss, till the guest is shuddering. He isn’t the first person in the room who’s gotten this treatment since the pale king arrived, but he feels it like he’s being ransacked. It’s embarrassing in its potency and publicness.
The pale king explains that he’s doing this in revenge for a personal matter between him and his brother. In between answering, he tips the guest’s head back and kisses him at the base of his throat, in the hollow of his collarbones, with sucking, promising kisses that rack his body with desire.
When he opens his eyes, he finds the dark king watching him from the dias, with a blank face that the guest has a feeling is weighing him on how he reacts to the pale king.
Based on the pale king’s answers, he realizes: the pale king has been stealing the dark king’s associates and allies, turning them against him one by one so that loss and betrayal by those he trusts becomes his constant companion. The dark king is watching to see if the guest is going to be one of those who’ll turn against him. If he decides that the guest can’t be trusted, is likely to throw him over for his brother, then things could become very ugly for the guest indeed.
Moreover, he begins to realize what sort of pain the dark king must be carrying inside him, and his sense of gratitude to his host and his compassion begin to dig their heels in.
He pushes the pale king back a little. It’s surprisingly difficult to do. The sensation of those kisses to his throat haunts him, and he has to resist the desire to seek more. The pale king’s touch is almost supernaturally attractive, and the guest knows that if he showed willing, the king would bed him. But that would be a terrible mistake.
He ruthlessly quashes the impulse in his mind to seek more of this attention. As good as it felt, he also realizes the pale king isn’t doing this for the guest’s benefit. In some way the guest feels barely seen, as if he’s only an object for the pale king to use to meddle with his brother.
So he threads the needle. He doesn’t quite stop the encounter, but he keeps the touches and kisses to a more decorous level. He tells the pale king that he won’t be the one to break the rules of hospitality, when his host has treated him with nothing but generosity (which is true; the dark king has been very generous to him). But he also won’t take the dark king’s side in this war, and act against his enemies, because it isn’t his fight. And that the pale king isn’t his enemy, unless the pale king decides it’s so.
The pale king seems amenable to this logic (although the dark king would not be, if he heard it). He seems intrigued by the possibilities. He asks, “What would happen, then, if I invited you to my court?”
This is, maybe, close to an opportunity to get out of here. The guest hadn’t been able to leave before because he thought the frozen people who lingered outside the palace at all times would take him as an enemy and attack him or turn him into one of them. But if the pale king takes him as a guest, then they’ll be no threat to him and he can leave.
But the guest is coming to realize some things as this conversation goes. One is that the dark king is possessive of his things, and most particularly he gets possessive over those things his brother the pale king wants. If the guest isn’t careful, then he might become one of the things they fight over.
If he accepts the pale king’s hospitality then the dark king may well declare him an enemy, regardless of the guest’s desire for neutrality. And he doesn’t trust the pale king enough to be sure that he’d let the guest walk away if he wanted to go.
He also realizes that the pale king’s invitation would still be an attempt to use the guest as leverage against his brother. And he wants neither to be a weapon, or to be used to hurt someone who, for all his flaws, has only treated him with courtesy.
But he also notices that the pale king hasn’t actually killed anyone. And also, given how unbending the dark king is, he begins to wonder: is this an unresolvable conflict? Or is it a matter of unyielding pride? Compassion for the man who has been nothing but courteous and hospitable toward him makes him wonder: could there be some way to fix this?
The pale king’s hand wanders along the guest’s throat. Again he presses the pale king back, setting his hand to the king’s elbow in a grip that is clearly meant to inhibit but light enough not to risk offense at restricting him, and turns his face away from the black king and drops his voice. “If I asked for a meeting with you alone, away from here, would you grant it? Would you help me come and go without detection or threat or hindrance?”
If the pale king were willing to grant him a private audience, then he would have the time to ask the questions he wants to know. The guest clarifies that he has no intention of changing his mind on working against the dark king, but that he sees no conflict with being cordial with the pale king as long as he remains neutral in their conflict.
And the pale king IS willing to grant him an audience.
The dark king calls the guest to have a word. The pale king lets him up, but not without a brush of his fingers down the nape of his neck that makes the guest shiver.
The dark king wants to know what that was about. The guest freely admits that the pale king tried to suborn him, and that he due to his duty to his host. He tells him of his resolution to remain neutral in their conflict and to respect the dark king and not work against him, and also not to be used against the pale king. He admits that the pale king invited him as a guest to his court, and that he didn’t take it up, but he didn’t turn it down either. But that rather than allow himself to be used in any way in whatever is between them, he would simply walk away if he was allowed.
The dark king isn’t exactly thrilled to hear all this, but he seems to respect the honesty and integrity of it. He asks the guest if he desires his brother.
The guest admits with a little reluctance that he does. It would be difficult not to; he has something about him. But he tells the king that a man may desire many people through the course of his life and by itself it’s an empty thing. If he were given the chance to bed the pale king with no strings attached, then he might take it, but he certainly wouldn’t compromise himself for a sexual liaison.
He says also that he sensed the pale king didn’t really even see him as a person, but was only trying to use him against the dark king. And that he’s not foolish enough to be seduced by that.
The dark king asks, “And what of my wife?”
The guest had been glancing toward the queen, wondering again about his chances of getting her to share her story, but he’s surprised because he hadn’t thought he was being weird about it. Apparently the dark king has his hackles up and it’s making him paranoid and possessive. Somewhat offended that the king would doubt him in that way, he replies stiffly that she seems like a strong and faithful woman, and he respects her but he has barely spoken to her and hardly knows her well enough to say anything beyond that. And also he states flat-out that he’s offended that the king would bring her name into this conversation, and that he would never be party to adultery.
The king eyes him for a moment, and then asks him if he prefers men.
The guest pauses for a second, startled and weighing whether the king might be offended by his reply, then admits “Yes, since you mention it, I do.”
“And if I propositioned you?”
The guest is quite sure the king is testing his response and not suggesting anything, but he’s committed to being honest, so he tells the king he does find him attractive, but that he wouldn’t accept such a proposition from him unless the queen agreed, because he would never willingly lead someone into breaking their oaths. If she allowed it, though, then he might, in the same way as the pale king–a dalliance, with no additional meaning or expectation attached to it.
The king dismisses him. The guest reluctantly abandons his hopes of talking to the queen for another time.
The pale king makes good and helps him slip out of the palace, either that night or not long after. They meet somewhere discreet, not near either palace.
The pale king’s allure continues to work. The guest can’t keep a look of desire entirely off his face. When the king tips his head up to kiss him, the guest lets him, and shivers under his touch. The pale king laughs, and asks if he wants more.
The guest hesitates, then admits that yes, he’s thought about the way the pale king kissed his throat ever since he did it. The king laughs and tilts the guest’s head back to kiss him there again, and doesn’t stop till the guest is quaking under his hands.
But when the pale king propositions him, the guest says he hasn’t changed his mind.
Instead, he says, he wants to know what happened between the brother kings. The pale king answers again that it’s a conflict arising from a personal issue between them. They discuss it, and the guest learns that–at least as far as the pale king is concerned–yes, the dark king’s pride is what’s getting in the way of resolving this. Somewhere in his demeanor, there’s an undercurrent of condescending amusement at this person who’d ask him these things, and the guest knows the pale king still isn’t taking him seriously. He isn’t sure he wants the pale king to take him seriously. But he begins to play on his hunches regarding what’s between them, and discovers increasingly that his intuitions are right. The pale king is aghast at the idea that he would want to kill his brother, but he wants to teach his brother a lesson, and push him till he is willing to show some humility.
The pale king is somewhat familiar with the dark king’s queen, and verifies that she’s a strong woman, with unbending integrity. She can be kind but she’s driven foremost by her fidelity and propriety–to her husband, to her people, to her oaths, etc. The guest asks after the dark king’s pain–that he feels hurt and betrayed by his brother and the people his brother has suborned.
It comes to him that if the pale king’s power is allure, then the dark king’s power is oaths. No wonder the dark king appeals to him somewhat, he thinks.
When he says this aloud, the pale king looks at him differently, and the guest realizes that he has just caught the king’s attention personally rather than just as a tool or amusement. He isn’t certain he’s happy about it, but it is what it is.
“You’re observant,” the pale king tells him, with a thoughtful tone. He invites the guest again, more clearly and not in hypothetical terms this time, to be his guest in his own court.
The guest replies the same way he did last time, but now he understands more about his own motivations. The guest’s hunches have been driven by his compassion, and the sense of character he gets from each of the players in this situation. His sense of duty to his oaths is driven largely by that compassion. It isn’t just that he is bound by a guest’s duty to a host, but that it’s the kind and right thing to do–and also that the dark king needs someone who may walk away, but can be trusted not to betray him. This same compassion is what’s really driving him to see if he can find a way to resolve this.
The pale king seems to see this, and the guest wonders if it’s going to catch him in a trap.
The pale king, who has continued to flirt with and touch the guest throughout their conversation, propositions him again. But this time, the guest realizes, it’s about him and not about the dark king. This time, he pauses, and then asks if the king is married.
The king says he is, but that he and his wife have an agreement.
The guest tells him he won’t agree to anything with strings attached. “I’m not yours, and you are not mine.” But for a simple sexual encounter, he would say yes.
The pale king agrees, and pulls him close to kiss him again. The guest moans into his mouth as the king pushes his shirt up and cups a hand around his pec to play with his nipple. The king steps around behind him and the guest lets himself be tipped back against him to be kissed over his shoulder. The king’s other hand slips down beneath the waistline of his trousers.
He thinks of being sore tomorrow and having to hide it every time he sits.
He realizes the pale king never entirely answered him about what happened between the brother kings.