The first memory that he has is of the color blue. It is always the color blue.
His parents had finally picked a bride for him. It was necessary, he knew that. He sat quietly as his parents finished discussing the contract with her parents. The bride-price and dowry were settled, and it was agreed that within the next three days, he and Lidae would be married. He was lucky, he supposed; Lidae was a very beautiful woman, and he was sure that maybe some day he would grow to love her.
News of their engagement spread quickly around the small village. Many people wished him a happy marriage and many children. After all, making sure that his family line continued on was the most important part of their marriage. Savan ran up to him, his smile so wide that it looked as if it might split his face in half. Even though Savan was nearly four winters younger that himself, the boy was nearly taller than him. No doubt he had heard the news.
"Daennen! Are the words of the people true? Are you and Lidae to be wed?" His excitement was palpable, brimming over and making him look much younger than he was. Daennen grinned, and ruffled Savan's hair fondly.
"Yes. The feast shall be grand and our wedding night true. Father and I will be making preparations for her in my chamber." He was sure that he and his father, Jahn, would work on making space for Lidae and his future children while his mother, Marden, would start cooking food for the feast. It was always a huge celebration when two young people were to be married.
"Does your heart sing praises to her name? Is love as grand as the tales speak of?" Savan questioned, barely able to hold in his excitement for Daennen. The younger man had always loved the stories about true love and perfect couples that their mother had told them growing up. The gods Inanna and Dumuzi had planted the idea of true love in Savan's mind. Ever since he had heard the story of how Inanna had been engaged to the god Enkimdu but loved Dumuzi so instead married him, he was convinced that he would only marry when he found the one his heart desired. It had been a conflict between Savan and their father for as long as Daennen could recall.
"Love may come later. To bear children is most important. Perhaps my heart will grow to sing praises to her as the many winters pass and as our offspring grow." Daennen shrugged. His marriage was set in stone, unless Lidae ended up being barren. In a case such as that, their marriage could be invalidated. He could either return her to her parents, giving them back her dowry as well, or take on another wife or concubine. But that was too far ahead for him to even consider. As far as he was concerned, he and Lidae would be together until they died.
Savan didn't look pleased with his answer. And although he would never say anything, Daennen agreed with his younger brother. He wished that he could marry someone that he truly loved, and not have marriage thrown upon him. But there was nothing he could do.
The next few days blurred by, and before he knew it, he was leading Lidae to his room. He did what was expected of him and bed his wife. They did not leave his room until late the next day, and he was sure that she would be with his child. His father and mother were eating dinner while Savan tinkered with some strange creation of his own making, but all activity stopped when he and Lidae entered the room.
Marden stood and whisked his wife away to seat her beside herself and then dished her up some food, smiling all the while. Jahn gave Daennen an approving look before going back to his meal. Savan was the only one who was not smiling at Daennen, which was strange, but at that moment, he was too hungry to question his younger brother. He was sure that Savan would speak his mind later. He was sure that he already knew what the boy would want to talk about.
It ended up being a quiet meal, even with their slaves playing music in the background. His parents made conversation with their new daughter and began to get to know her. Lidae dazzled them by being smart and pretty and kind. Daennen felt himself a little bit amazed by her, and wondered, not for the first time, if he could truly love her. Even Savan seemed to like her, despite the situation, which was definitely a good thing.
Three months later, Lidae confirmed that she was carrying his child. His family went wild with joy, and he and his father began to build a nursery into the home. Jahn looked so proud, and Daennen couldn't remember ever seeing his father look at him that way. But it was a hollow victory, because even though Daennen found that he cared for Lidae, he was merely doing what was told of him. His life had no true joy, no matter how hard he tried to love his wife like she deserved and follow in his father's footsteps for a happy life.
It was a regular night when their dinner came to an abrupt end as commotion outside caught their attention. They walked out toward the center of their small village, and joined the crowd that had gathered there. In the center of the throng of people, there was a small group of strangers. Daennen had never seen anything like them. Their clothes were dusty and worn, in a state of disrepair that he had never seen before. They wore pieces of cloth that covered most of their faces, and seemed to carry most, if not all, of their belongings with them.
"We come in a friendly manner," one of the group boldly announced, speaking in a strange but somewhat recognizable dialect. He pulled the cloth from his face, revealing himself as a young man, maybe a winter or two older than Daennen's seventeen winters. His hair was a sandy color, even caked in dirt, and it shone in the dim light from the setting sun. "We are mere nomads looking for a place to stay through the cold season. We have food to trade, and are willing to work and support our own."
Jahn watched the scene, his arms crossed and looking rather interested. Being a merchant, owning his own business and all that came with it, Jahn was well off, but he always kept an eye out for new or exotic items that he could sell. No doubt he was interested in what these nomads had to offer. Within minutes, masters had called their slaves to help and make a place for the small group,and as the sun finally disappeared beyond the horizon, they were settled in. Daennen was the only one of his family, including his wife, who had stayed behind to monitor the scene.
Charesh, a redhead slave of Daennen's family, had been helping the nomads settle in, and came over to him as they finished. The girl had only ended up in slavery after her parents had been caught in a flood and their debts had fallen onto her, but she was treated as fairly as anyone else that came into contact with his family. She was one of the few slaves that Jahn had picked upover the years, and one that Daennen considered a friend. She looked excited, and Daennen wondered what she saw over there, but didn't bother to ask. Much like Savan, Charesh spoke her mind rather freely.
"Oh Daennen, the gods have graced us with new faces to share their joy with! What excitement has come upon us? What wonders will these strange travelers bring?" Her eyes were bright with her excitement, and it was nearly infectious. He was about to respond to her when movement to their right caught his attention. He happened to glance over, and what he saw made him come to an abrupt stop.
It felt like the breath had been stolen from his lungs. The rest of the world blurred out around him; everything except for the person who was caught in his sights. The quiet chatter of the people who still lingered around the group became nothing more than whispers, just short of silence. Then the world blossomed into more vibrant colors. Everything seems brighter, as if the gods had graced the world with light that made everything clearer and more beautiful.
But even the brightened colors paled in comparison to the eyes that had locked with his. They were indescribable. They were the color of the dawn sky before the sun was fully shown, they were the purest shade of the river as it rushed by, of the comfort of a warm embrace, of the hottest fire searing into the deepest parts of his soul and binding them indefinitely together.
He turned on his heel, turning to make his way towards the person, and ignored Charesh's confused noise. Nothing mattered more than meeting this person, the one who in just a glance had changed everything he had known, and everything that he would come to know. The stranger dropped what they had been holding and rushed towards him as well. They seemed to be pulled together as if all their will had been taken and there was no other choice but to come closer.
They met in the middle, Daennen's hands twitching almost desperately, and he wanted nothing more that to touch this person who had so profoundly changed him within the matter of moments. Those astounding, breathtaking eyes held his with an intensity that he couldn't fathom. He had never experienced such a gaze before. They stood there for seconds, minutes, hours, days; he was so caught up in this person's eyes. He felt like they had known each other for lifetimes when they hadn't even spoken a single word to each other.
His mouth dried up, and his green eyes dropped briefly to the ground before he looked back up. His heart thumped in his chest, and his body tingled from the sheer proximity. Barely any space was between them. "Daennen." He whispered, glad that his voice didn't crack. "Uh, my name. Daennen." He stumbled over his words like a bumbling fool. But how was he supposed to form words when his whole world had just been flipped?
The stranger's eyes lit up with a mirthful shine, and they carefully reached up to remove the cloth that was covering their face. Slowly, the rest was revealed and Daennen once more lost the ability to breathe.
"Hello, Daennen." His voice was so much deeper than the green eyed man had expected. "They call me Kastiell."
Daennen found it amazing how time seemed to fly by after he met Kastiell. Before he knew it, the winter season had passed, and asthe days grew longer and warmer, the feelings that he held for Kastiell grew and blossomed in his heart. Never had he felt such a connection to another human that was not his family. They had melded together until it was nearly impossible to see one without the other. The townspeople called their friendship something amazing, but that's all they seemed to see. No one noticed the long lingering looks, the physical contact that seemed to always linger just a moment too long. And if they did, they stayed silent about it.
But Daennen knew that what he had with Kastiell was more than friendship. He longed to take the man's hand within his own, pull him close, and push their lips together. He wanted to hold the man close to him and never let him go. He wanted to curl up with him next to a fire and slowly rock into his body until they reached the blinding point of completion. He wanted to mark every part of the man's body and show the world that he belonged to Daennen. They were meant for each other in ways that neither of them could seem to understand. He had found the part of his life that he had so longed for and didn't know how much he needed it until he had it.
And Kastiell knew it too. It was so obviously clear in the way that he would look at Daennen when he thought that he wasn't looking. It was the way he would always hold his body a little too close to the green eyed man. It was the reverence in which he spoke his name, as if he were facing the gods themselves and he could not contain his awe. It was they way he would pull himself away when Lidae came near, in the manner in which he would kindly but distantly acknowledge her. He managed to hide the envy and sadness from his eyes from everyone except Daennen.
He hated that his marriage had happened merely months before he met Kastiell. It wasn't something that they talked about, both ofthem silently deciding that there was nothing they could do, especially since Lidae was carrying his child. Had he waited just a few months more to marry her, he would have been able to call it off and be with the one that he loved so endlessly. As much as he cared for her wellbeing, any romantic feelings would never grow towards her. Especially not when his heart so fully loved someone else.
They sat now, he and Kastiell, in a small grove that Daennen had found long ago. It was his favorite place to hide away, and within days of meeting the blue eyed man, he had shared it with him. It had become their place, where they could be themselves without people looking on. It was somewhere only they knew and Daennen treasured every moment. Even without touching, being in the secluded grove was so intimate, and the warmth of them being together would keep him warm to his core even on the most frigid of the winter nights.
"My people are starting to prepare to leave." Kastiell said quietly, those gorgeous eyes not looking up to Daennen's. It didn't come as a shock, he knew how nomads were. Even though he had known that the cursed day would come, he didn't want to hear it. Without thinking, he reached out and grabbed one of Kastiell's hands with both of his own, and held it to his chest. Panic rose within his ribcage at the thought of never seeing him again, and he gripped Kastiell's hand tighter.
He wanted to ask him, to beg him to stay. He knew that he couldn't do that though. As much as he fantasized about being with the other man, making love to him every night, of loving himin every way possible, it simply was not destined to happen. He had Lidae and their child, along with any future children, to take care of. He could not be selfish and ask Kastiell to stay when he knew that he had his duty as a husband and father to keep him from ever truly being with him. No matter how hard his soul cried out for him to plea for Kastiell to stay, he simple could not do it.
They had so little time left now that the nomads were readying to leave. The winter had passed too quick, too soon, and neither of them were ready to let go and move on with their lives. Their time together had morphed into something that was unexplainable, so perfect, and now it was coming to a close. How long did they truly have left? Hours, maybe days?
Their eyes met, and Daennen knew. He knew that if he was going to lose Kastiell, he had to have him. Even if it was only once. He would never be able to forgive himself if he didn't get to taste Kastiell at least once. He surged forward, dropping Kastiell's hand in favor of cupping his face between his hands and crushing their lips together. All their repressed feelings flooded out, and they kissed like they had been drowning and could finally breathe again. Kastiell wrapped his arms around Daennen's neck and pulled him closer, his whole body starting to tremble from the sheer magnitude of what was happening between them.
It set them ablaze, this fire that their hearts had kindled within them, igniting and burning them from the inside out and melding them together as one. In perfect unison they moved together, hands grasping, tongues dancing, gasps mingling. Touching, kissing, being with Kastiell, it was so much more than Daennen had imagined, and he basked in every single moment of how he loved Kastiell with a passion that he didn't know how to express in mere words.
With a reverence that he had never known before, he mapped out the blue eyed man's body with his hands and mouth, committing it to memory. He would sear it into his being, imprint it into his soul, so that he would never forget that for this one night, they had belonged to one another. Nothing mattered to him more than this encounter which could be their last.
Their pleasure rushed into completion too soon, far before Daennen was willing to even consider letting Kastiell leave his embrace. He curled around the raven haired man, listening to his steady breaths as he mentally started preparing himself to lose the one person who had made his world an amazing place with vibrant colors and joyful songs and life. He knew that the life he had once tried to force himself to be content with would never compare to what he felt in the small slice of time that he had been granted to be with his true love. Life before Kastiell hadn't been truly living, but merely existing, and as guilty as it made him feel, Daennen wished that their bliss would never have to end; he would give anything to stay with Kastiell.
Daennen clenched his eyes shut and clung to Kastiell. He would no longer let himself think about their inevitable end, but instead brand and sear these final moments to his mind and soul as to never forget that he had once had a taste of true love and joy. He would never let himself forget.
The nomads had been gone nearly seven winters since that time, and Daennen still pined at every moment that his love would someday return to him. But as the sun rose and sank beyond the horizon, they never returned. As each winter came and went, the green eyed man accepted that he would never see his blue eyed love again. Long since resigned to this life, he devoted himself to his family, whom he did love dearly. He had three beautiful children with Lidae, and they were expecting their fourth.
Bendair, his eldest son, bore a striking resemblance to himself, and he couldn't be prouder. When they boy was not attending school, Daennen taught him the tricks and trade of being a merchant, much like himself and his father before him. Perhaps his son would succeed where he had failed in his lifetime. It was nothing more than routine for them to venture into the deeper parts of the city when looking for new wares. It was one of those trips that Daennen heard a familiar voice that whispered through his nightly dreams and caused his heart to ache and beat rapidly.
By some miracle, he had somehow found Kastiell again, and his heart began to try to break free from his chest. He followed the voice, one that was as familiar to him as his own was. When he managed to track the man down, his back was to Daennen. But Daennen would know that crazy, wind blown, raven black hair anywhere. He remembered burying his face in those messy locks and smelling the pure scent of Kastiell.
His breath caught just like the first time that he ever saw him. His heart sang it's vibrant joy at seeing him again, and Daennen approached the man, his whole body being drawn towards Kastiell. Anticipation at once more seeing him face to face filled him, and ever so gently, he laid a hand on his shoulder. It sent a jolt of pure ecstasy through him just to finally be able to touch the man again, and he could only hope that the notion would be returned just as strong.
Kastiell jumped, startling at the touch, his head whipped around and those otherworldly blue eyes went wide. At first shock passed through them, then unbridled amazement and finally, the one that made Daennen's heart threaten to leave his chest, pure love. It was as if they never had said goodbye, and their worlds had finally collided once again.
It went back to how it had been before, as if they had never parted. They were once more always at each other's side, always just a little bit too close, and Daennen couldn't imagine being happier. He had his best friend, his true love, the one who made him want to sing his praises to the gods until his voice went raw, back with him. More time that he had never let himself hope for had been granted to him, and he fervently thanked the gods that so graciously brought Kastiell back into his life.
This time though, they weren't able to hold back. At every opportunity, they escaped to their secret place. They kissed and touched and made love more times than Daennen could even count. They became ignorantly blissful, so caught up in each other that they never noticed anything else. Their lives were finally right again. Everything was perfect.
And then it shattered.
A twig snapped as someone stepped into the clearing where Daennen and Kastiell were intertwined in love's duet, the small noise ripping them from their stupor. They didn't even pull away from each other, too shocked to even think of jumping away guiltily. Daennen looked toward where the twig had been broken underfoot, and his heart sank in his chest when he saw Lidae, her brown eyes wide in shock and a sort of knowing despair.
"Lidae-" Daennen stammered, finally able to regain the use of his body, and began to pull away from Kastiell.
"No." She cut him off, her arms wrapped around her swollen middle protectively. Her tears began to fall down her cheeks as she began to become increasingly more distraught. "I've had my suspicions about you two... You are just so close." She stopped, momentarily gathering herself. "You never look at me that way, don't think I haven't noticed. I get it, we were thrown together, there isn't any love. At least not on your part." She looked so broken, her eyes locked on a fixed point in the distance then. "But I still thought that you would at least... At least be loyal."
For the first time since he had gotten his beloved back, he felt a spike of fear in his chest. While his relationship with Kastiell wasn't something people would really react to, even with the two of them both being men, the fact that he had been committing adultery could and would have a very serious punishment. He opened his mouth to say something, but Lidae shook her head, cutting him off before he could even speak a single word.
"I won't say anything. But you have to decide, Daennen. Our children, your family, or him. It's your choice. You can either have the family that you started, or you can have this man who seems to have captured your heart in ways that I guess I will never be able to. I want your choice by the morning." She wiped away more tears, and turned on her heel and left the way she had come in a rush.
Daennen shook as horror gripped his heart tightly in an ice-like grip. The encounter with Lidae had been everything he hadn't known he dreaded. He adored his children, they had been the only thing that had kept him anchored to reality after he lost Kastiell for the first time, especially Bendair, and Lidae had threatened to take them away from him. How was he supposed to choose between his own flesh and blood and his heart's true love?
Perhaps people who only felt a gentle, mediocre love would think that it was an easy choice- family. But Kastiell was more than just a regular love. He was Daennen's other half, the part of himself that he hadn't realized he was missing until he found him. He was the one who made music seem sweeter, the one who gave Daennen's world light and color, the one who made his body burn and crave and feel in ways he had never been able to believe he would be able to.
Wide green eyes met solemn blue ones, and Daennen could see that Kastiell was preparing himself for the worst. He was pulling away from Daennen to protect himself from what he thought was their inevitable end. Daennen could see the resignation in the wondrous blue eyes that he could never accurately describe. The one he loved more than himself was hurting, and it was his fault.
And so he hit the crossroads. Would he stick to his duty, the duty that he had spent his entire life following without question, and remain with his family? Or would he be completely selfish, more so than he had ever been, and choose to follow his heart and soul, and follow his love wherever he would lead him? Daennen looked down, closed his eyes, and silently prayed to any god that was listening for forgiveness.
"Kastiell, grant me one last night. Let me spend a final night with the family I created to give them farewells. And then I'll follow you until the gods take my last breath."
When he returned home, Lidae was nowhere to be found. His three children, his beautiful, innocent children, were sitting and playing in the courtyard. Charesh was watching over them, her smile gentle and loving. Daennen felt his heart breaking within his chest, he had to say goodbye, and his children would never know why he left them. He sat down and played with his children for the last time, and committed their smiles to his memory much like he had done once before when he thought he would never see Kastiell again.
As the sun fell below the horizon, Lidae returned home. The look of surprise in her red rimmed eyes when she saw him sitting and playing with their children was to be expected, but then she gave him a relieved smile. He couldn't meet her eyes, as he knew full well that her relief was premature, and she would soon be alone. He knew that his family would help her and the children, but by leaving, he would destroy their family. Guilt ate away at him, but he had made up his mind, and he would go through with his decision.
He was going to stay with Kastiell until he drew his final breath.
The rest of the night was spent with them playing games and conversing while their musically inclined slaves played soft melodies in the background. It seemed so normal, and Daennen was glad that his children's last memory of him would at least be a happy one. Lidae took them to bed not much later, and he joined her, making sure not to waste one moment. Even if he had never loved her, not in the way a wife deserved to be loved by her husband, he would try for this final night to be that man.
When he crawled into the bed he shared with Lidae, he wasn't surprised when she curled up next to him. As far as she knew, by him being at their home, he had chosen her and their children. Maybe if he was a better man, he would have ended his tryst with Kastiell, but he wasn't. Selfishly, he had decided that he would leave this perfect family and run away with another man. He closed his eyes, and wrapped his arms around Lidae, who he knew didn't deserve any of this, and gave her one last night in his embrace.
He was woken up by the screaming. Screams he instinctively recognized as his children. He sat up faster than he knew he could, and Lidae fell from his arms with a shocked cry. It took her a moment, her eyes still clouded with sleep, to catch on to the panicked cries. Both of them shared a look of pure horror before they were on their feet and running towards the sound.
Flames. They clawed up the walls that were supposed to protect his family. Flames that somehow had made it to the second floor of their house. Did that mean that their first floor, their courtyard, was burning as well? Some small part of his brain that wasn't thrown into full panic mode wondered how it had started, and why no one had noticed until it was on the second floor of their three floor high home. Lidae pushed past him, her natural instinct to protect, and ran straight through the flames to get to her children.
Everything was chaos. Marden and Jahn came out of their room farther down the hall and started yelling, which seemed to wake Savan and his wife Jessrine, even though they were on the floor above them. Daennen focused on getting everyone out, quickly scaling the stairs to check on his brother. He saw that Jessrine had her oldest child held to her chest and Savan had their other child safe within his arms as they ran down the stairs to the courtyard and then out to be out from under the building. Briefly, Daennen saw Lidae make it out as well, two of his children with her. He was sure Bendair had made it out already since Lidae wouldn't leave unless all her children were out safe. Once his parents were out, he followed, his lungs heavy with smoke and ash.
"Daennen!" Lidae cried before he even reached the edge of the courtyard, and when he looked up at her, her eyes were wide with horror. "Where is Bendair? Was he not within your protection? The child said he would be with his father!" His heart stopped and without even a second thought, he lunged back into the burning home, terror filling his body. He thought that Lidae would have grabbed their oldest child, but in the chaos she had gotten confused.
He found Bendair curled by his bed, his eyes wide and scared. The child clung onto Daennen like his life depended on it, and the green eyed man began to make his way back out of the house. Fire had consumed everything, and he had to keep wiping the sweat and ash from his face and eyes, trying to navigate back to the stairs and then once they hit the courtyard, they would be safe.
He heard the crack before he noticed the floor above him caving in, and only barely managed to jump out of the way before it crashed down. It seemed to set off a chain reaction, walls began to crumble down, and he knew that if he didn't get himself and Bendair out soon, they would die within. He ran, avoiding the collapsing parts of the building, until he finally reached the stairs. Lidae was standing at the bottom of the stairs and when she saw Bendair, Daennen could see the pure relief the flooded though her body.
He felt the clay and rock hit his back as he began to descend the stairs, and pain ricocheted through his body before going completely, alarmingly numb. His legs buckled beneath him, and he fell, barely managing to turn his body so he took the brunt of the fall rather than his son. They tumbled down until Daennen's back hit the open ground of the courtyard, knocking the air from his smoke-stained lungs.
Lidae rushed over immediately, and pulled Bendair from Daennen's arms as he gasped and struggled to recover his breath. She dragged the boy out from the courtyard and to the safety of the rest of the family, before she looked back at Daennen. His wife made a move to come back and get him, when Jahn's hand shot out, grasped her arm, and yanked her back. At the same moment, Daennen heard a creaking groan from the house above him.
And then everything went black.
The first memory that he has is of the color blue. It is always the color blue.