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Stern Duty

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Stern Duty
by Scorpio


King Kheva of Drasnia, Lord of the Northern Marshes and Guardian of the Eastern Reaches of Aloria stretched his sleep warmed limbs luxuriously for a long moment before he once more cuddled up against his lover Unrak, Heir of Trellheim and hereditary Protector of the Royal Rivan Line. Unrak, still deep asleep, murmured softly and pulled the younger man tighter against him.

A sleepy smile turning up the corners of his lips, Kheva slowly peeled open one eye to gaze at the tender _expression_ on Unrak's face. The older of the two, Unrak's long red hair was out of their customary braids and his still short beard had recently begun to fill out and thicken, lending him an air of maturity belied by his normally sparkling and mischievous blue eyes. Eyes that were hidden by sleep at the moment and only added to the seeming serenity of the morning. For truly, when Unrak was awake, those sharp eyes were usually the first indicator of whatever crazy scheme the young Cherek had come up with, for Unrak - like his honored father before him, was a Cherek to the core; a sea faring pirate and berserk warrior with only the thinnest sheath of civilization over him. And Kheva loved him all the more for his wild side.

He had, in fact, loved Unrak for all of his life. The bigger man had been a baby just learning to walk when Kheva had been born and they had known each other since they were very young. Unrak's father Barak, the great and famed Earl of Trellheim was close friends with his own cousin; Prince Kheldar of Drasnia and had been one of the confidants of his dearly departed father, King Rhodar of Drasnia. As such, they had often times in their childhoods found each other to be suitable and delightful companions for play and mischief while the adults conferred on matters of state. The friendship had not only endured to their adulthood, but had deepened greatly with each passing year.

They had first become lovers during the celebration of Kheva's sixteenth birthday. The Queen Mother had been slowly introducing him to matters of state for some time and had been grooming him to be able to take up the reigns of the kingdom, so she had decided that a large Gala Ball to celebrate the occasion would be an excellent way to introduce him to those dignitaries that he hadn't, as of yet, met. It was also a way to begin to change the people's image of him as a young child, for many had not spent much time in his presence since his coronation as a six-year-old child.

The whole affair had started out as tedious, filled with much planning and decorating by fussy butlers and servants. Things didn't improve much during the welcoming ceremonies as noble after noble was presented before him. He had been forced to endure long-winded speech after long-winded speech. The only respite had been the brief meetings with his brother King's of the Alorn Alliance, for they responded to him more like a member of their family then as another head of state. Unfortunately, that diversion was only a brief interval in the formalities. The banquet was long and tiresome and the ballroom dancing scheduled for afterwards was something that he had approached with dread.

It wasn't until halfway through the entire mess that a slightly tipsy Unrak had rescued him from the clutches of a young Drasnian maiden who had trapped him in a corner to talk. His young Cherek friend had then spent the remainder of the night at his side, pouring vast quantities of wine down his throat and fending off all of the young ladies that might have wished to court the young King. Kheva had awoken the next morning sick as a dog from his hangover and in the bed of his friend Unrak. The two of them spent the better part of that morning and afternoon getting well again, but then that night with both of them sober, they had fallen into bed together once again. They had been lovers ever since.

While their relationship was not kept secret, although if the truth were to be told, secrets of this nature were impossible to keep in the spy infested Drasnian palace in Boktor, it wasn't in any way official. It never *could* be official. Kheva was the King of Drasnia and some day Unrak would take up the title of Earl of Trellheim, Clan Chief of his family's clan. As such, both of them *needed* to marry and produce an heir. It was their duty.

And that hurt. Deep down inside where no one could see and no one would dare touch; Kheva mourned the necessity that even now dictated his life. His life was not his own, and it never had been. So many times he had wished to be able to set sail over the open ocean aboard the 'Seabird' with Unrak and just live his life to the fullest at his lovers' side, but that was not to be. His life was circumscribed by tradition, duty and necessity. It did not matter in the least that he loved Unrak with all his heart, soul and body. It did not matter in the least that he felt somehow empty and incomplete when the bigger man was not around. It did not matter in the least that his heart was slowly breaking, one piece at a time.

Unrak was to marry a lovely Alorn girl in one month. The betrothal arrangements had been made between Unrak's father Barak and the girl's father sometime last year. And now the time when Kheva would lose his lover was approaching fast. Barak had gathered up Unrak and set sail aboard the 'Seabird' and come here to Boktor ostensibly to "avoid all of the fuss the women-folk were making in preparing for the wedding", but everyone knew better. He was, in truth, giving his son one last chance to be with Kheva before they would forever part.

Kheva didn't *want* to hate the girl who was to marry his beloved Unrak, but he couldn't help himself. It was beneath him to feel that way since he had known from the very start that this...relationship with Unrak must end this way. He had known that and gone into it with his eyes open, but he had not realized how deeply he would come to love and cherish his fiery friend and lover. That childish resentment was even more absurd in the face of the fact that his mother was, even now, in negotiations for a bride for him.

That didn't stop the hurt, though. Soon, Unrak would sail back to Cherek and marry his bride. Kheva would be left here in Drasnia, alone. When that day came, Kheva could only hope that his heart wouldn't shatter completely.

With a sigh, Kheva tried to push those swirling thoughts from his mind and focus on the here and now. He didn't have that much longer to hold onto his love and he wanted what little time he did have to be filled with love and laughter and joy, not with brooding sadness. Slowly, Kheva reached out with a sleep warmed hand and ran his fingertips gently down the side of Unrak's face and then through the soft and luxurious red beard that covered his cheeks and chin. A low baritone hum of contentment rumbled in Unrak's chest and he snuggled closer even as his bright blue eyes opened to peer at Kheva sleepily. Slowly, a gentle grin grew on the red-haired man's face.

"Morning, Kheva." Unrak whispered. "I love you."


END: Stern Duty