Disclaimer: Wholly original work.
Summary: Tula goes home.
Tula looked up at the sky, watching the sun begin to fall past the horizon. He'd been walking northward for the better part of the day, leaving his already skittish horse in Kenic to be cared for properly.
Smoke carried through the trees, taunting him along. But he did not pick up his pace. He was returning to a city barely his where he no longer had kin and likely would meet with resistance to his very existance.
Half Animan and half human, Tula had never felt particularly at home with either race, even as he met more and more halflings traversing the streets of his adopted hometown, Ruame.
It had been decades, though, since he'd made the trip to Torpona. He did not know the state of the town, nor the sentiment towards his kind.
Even with the hood of his cloak pulled low, he could not pass for a full blood. At least with his ruddy red ears showing, he would not be mistaken for human. He could not help his coloring, though, quite pale on his human-looking face and darker on his hands, blending to red there and lower on his body. Though youthful, his hair hung grey over his shoulders as it always had, a sign of more mixed blood.
He wasn't sure if he could find board with the Elder by his name alone. Any noble or tribe leader on all of Agassia likely knew his name, but few knew his face. And even fewer actually spoke of him as anything other than a shadowy figure veiled in the blessings of the gods.
The gates of the village rose high before him as he came out of the woods, almost surprising him. Even after a few hundred years, things didn't change much in Torpona. Vines had snaked further up the stone parts of the wall, and the guarding statue of Ko'al James looked a bit more weathered, but besides the cosmetic, things felt the same.
The far end of the village used a mountain as a wall, protecting Torpona from harsh north winds and keeping it invulnerable from attack in that direction. And in the shadow of the mountain, Tula saw a spire rising over the other buildings, a gem at the tip reflecting the fading light of the sun to make it sparkle.
"Ah," Tula said, knowing that he would always be able to find lodging in a temple of the Death Goddess. Legends never explained why the foxes of Torpona were beloved by the dark goddess, though Tula had a few theories he dared never mention to anyone other than the baubles kept in his shop.
A pair of men on the street looked coldly in his direction, their ears belying their emotion. They didn't trust him, not that they had any reason to be anything other than suspicious.
He himself wasn't sure why he'd decided to come on this journey, save that he'd been in Ruame for the last few centuries and had mostly forgotten what the rest of Agassia was like. He had been born in Torpona, after all, a bastard child of the most respected family at that time.
Passing another statue of Ko'al, Tula bowed and offered the traditional prayer, the words rusty on his tongue.
"Kin," he finished, wishing he had some sort of offering to leave with the statue. Already trinkets dangled from its arms and flowers surrounded the feet.
A woman came out of one of the shops, her hair light against the dark red of the rest of her fur. Tula knew that she was watching him, but made no move to confront her as she followed him the distance of the main road through town. Each statue of Ko'al received the same prayer, each time followed by a gesture he wasn't sure had survived as tradition.
"Kin," he said under his breath, walking on. The woman was still behind him, clutching a bag of purchases that knocked against her leg as she stepped quickly to match his strides, staying still a good dozen steps behind him.
Finally, just before the temple, Tula stopped, turning to regard her in the fading sunlight. A few shopkeepers had stepped out to light the street torches, but none paid much heed to the pair as they stood in silence.
"You are someone who has come home," she said, stepping forward and attempting an awkward curtsey, nearly off balance save for the swishing red of her tail.
"Perhaps," Tula replied, offering one of his hands in greeting. She took it, her gaze lingering on the coloring.
"The Elder... And just a few of the priests and priestesses greet Ko'al like you do," she said. "I'm sorry that I followed you. You must be someone..."
"I am of no particular importance," Tula replied softly, waiting for her to release his hand.
"Traveler, I do not believe you," the woman said sternly. "But if you are seeking sanctuary for the eve in the temple, the young priests will welcome you, I'm sure. There is one with hair like mine, my twin."
And then Tula knew exactly the woman's interest. She, too, was not full-blooded. While certainly a more fox-like mix ran through her veins, she and her brother were still outsiders to a degree. That a halfling had been accepted as a priest even at such a small temple as Torpona's was quite strange though.
"I bid thee well, miss," Tula said, finally pulling his hand away from hers. "May Ko'al's courage continue to inspire you."
"Oh!" the woman couldn't help but bring a hand to her mouth, shocked at Tula's proclamation.
"Good evening, then." Tula turned, his pack growing ever heavy on his back.
"My name is Kisha!" the woman cried suddenly. "Ask for Kalin!"
As Tula turned to thank her, though, she was already running back in the other direction.
"Kalin," Tula said softly, deconstructing it as an homage to Ko'al and smiling. At least some traditions hadn't faded.
In Kenic, he had picked out a stunning dagger with a handle crusted with dark jewels. While he knew he would have to offer it to Daria, it had a slightly different destination. But the scrap of paper mentioning that had been tucked into its sheath, waiting to be discovered when one of Daria's own came for the offerings. For Daria he had wine, two bottles, his best vintage. And in another bottle was a good ounce of a very rare powder, the sort of thing not available in the Northland.
But the journey was not for the offering. That he could have made just a block from his shop in Ruame. No, this was something more. This was something instinctual that he couldn't even begin to explain. He wanted to put flowers on his father's grave after he cleared it of moss. And he wanted to feel at least a little more like an actual being, not a molding piece of his own shop.
The door to the temple pushed open easily, revealing the altar to the goddess already piled high with offerings.
"Ah, Daria," Tula said aloud. "I feel the call of the dead after many centuries, after I'd thought I had stopped caring about anything and everything. You and your devoted ones have brought me a spark of hope in a rapidly darkening existance. I do not ask for clarity, nor for a revoking of my gifts. But thank you for the secrets of Torpona, so that I might return home."
Kneeling, he slung off his pack and reached to add his own offerings to the altar, slowly and deliberately placing the dagger and bottle apart from the rest. He wasn't sure anymore if the youngest god still dwelled with Death, but he could be hopeful.
"Sir..." The voice was unsure, wavering.
Tula looked off into the shadows, to where a hallway led to the rest of the temple, where the handful of priests lived. They were both Daria and Ko'al's priests, he knew, shared between the Death goddess and a man regarded as a god by the foxes alone.
He smiled at light hair as it reflected the light of the candle held by a statue of Daria.
"Kalin?" Tula asked, buttoning his pack again and getting to his feet.
"Y...Yes?" Kalin stepped forward, bowing.
"I met your sister in town," Tula explained, walking over and greeting the young priest properly, submitting himself before Kalin to show obediance and loyalty to those served.
"You are?" Kalin asked, resting a hand on Tula's head. Tula wasn't surprised to feel raw power in Kalin. At leas the head priest for the temple had chosen well.
"Spetulin," Tula said. "I was born in Torpona in the year 111, though I moved to Ruame as a young man and saw little reason not to stay."
"111?" Kalin squeaked, apparently doing the math in his head. "You're... Did you know Ko'al?"
"Yes," Tula replied, wishing instantly that he'd lied. "Though he had little time for a half-breed like myself. I was just a child anyway, when he fought the great last battle."
"Are... Are you here for a room?" Kalin glanced at the altar. "You left an offering to the goddess."
Ah, that's because she never comes for tea anymore, Tula wanted to add, knowing that he was already likely pushing the limits of the young priest's belief.
"Yes," Tula said simply, thankful that Kalin removed his hand and motioned for them to both head deeper into the temple.
On his feet again, Tula stretched. He could feel a light radiating from Kalin, a power.
"Kin," Tula said softly, a little surprised that there were still descendants of his family lingering on in Torpona, just as diluted as he was.
"What did you say?" Kalin asked, glancing back. The light robes did little to hide Kalin's form. He was young, but not a child.
"Thinking aloud," Tula said, cursing his own tongue. "Where is the head priest on this eve?"
"Busy," Kalin replied, not elaborating. "Do you need a meal, Spetulin?"
"Call me 'Tula'," Tula corrected, wishing he'd mentioned that little fact sooner. While his nickname had a very feminine sound to it, he preferred it to his given name by far. "And no, I would be good with just a bed and perhaps a glass of wine."
"No entertainment?" Kalin asked, the words making Tula shiver. He'd forgotten just what serving Death entailed. Obviously Kalin was no stranger to the orgies marking Daria's Festival.
But Tula had always thought himself repulsive to his kind and little more than a kink to others. His bed was not often shared, no matter how he often played up his irregular encounters.
"Wine," Tula said firmly, pausing as Kalin reached to open a door to a small, workable bedchamber.
"I shall bring your wine and some water to wash with," Kalin said, bowing his head once more and heading off down the hallway.
His pack on the floor, Tula pushed the door closed as he sparked the room's candles with one chant. Kalin had to at least have been testing him on that one. With the sun nearly set, the room was dim at best. And sadly, his eyes were more human in skill than he wanted them to be.
Peeling off the clothing he'd been wearing for the last few days of travel, Tula stood only in the towel he always carried when he travelled, a time-battered gift from the goddess of the rising springs.
There was only a quick knock before the door opened again, revealing Kalin precariously trying to balance a basin of water and a bottle of wine, a glass tucked beneath his arm.
"I'm sorry!" Kalin exclaimed, trying to avert his eyes from Tula while not dropping anything.
"It has been a long journey," Tula said, reaching to take everything from Kalin. "And I'll admit that despite the dirt, I savoured every minute."
"Why do you live in Ruame?" Kalin asked, uncorking the wine and pouring a glass.
"You didn't bring a glass for yourself," Tula noted, wishing he was in his home where he only needed to reach behind him to have one from thin air.
"I'm not staying," Kalin said.
"But you asked a question like you were," Tula replied, gesturing for Kalin to sit upon the edge of the bed. "And truthfully, I'm quite gainfully employed in Ruame so there is no reason to leave."
"But you're here," Kalin stated, slowly gliding over to the bed and sitting.
There was already a cloth in the water basin and Tula was thankful to be able to at least rinse off his body. He could feel Kalin's eyes on him, taking in features both human and fox.
"Yes, I suppose that every few centuries one cannot help but want to see what has changed in the world and what is the same," Tula said, washing lower. He desperately wanted to do something with his hair, but he knew the thick tangles would have to stay for a bit longer.
"You knew Ka'ol," Kalin said softly. "I guess... I forget that he was only mortal."
"If he is a god to you, worship him as such," Tula said, reaching for the wine. He took the bottle in his hand, looking at the handwritten label. "Go ahead, drink the glass."
"You're a half-breed too, aren't you?" Tula asked, diverting the conversation as best he could. He didn't like to speak much about himself, after all.
"Yes," Kalin admitted, sipping at the wine and sliding up higher on the bed, resting against the headboard and holding the glass at his lap when he spoke.
"But you are passable as a fox," Tula continued, smiling as he unwrapped his towel and started to clean his abdomen. Kalin was still watching him, intently, between swallows of sweet wine.
"Kisha more so than I am," Kalin admitted, taking one last gulp to empty his glass. "My fur isn't thick and I... I am not so graciously endowed."
Tula shook his head, knowing full well enough that little bit of trivia was simply a story told in taverns. And for one who served the goddess, he certainly seemed a bit more inexperienced than originally thought.
Walking, still naked, over to the bed, Tula refilled Kalin's glass, bringing one of his betraying hands up to feel the soft fur of Kalin's muzzle.
"You are chosen of Daria and Ka'ol," Tula said softly, following his hand with soft kisses. "That must mean something."
"Yes," Kalin agreed, downing the wine quickly and letting the empty glass drop softly to the floor as his hand slipped over the side of the bed.
"And you know of Festival?" Tula asked, reaching to push up those priest robes and feel the soft fur that Kalin found so unacceptable.
"Yes," Kalin said softly, reaching to stop Tula's hand. "But Tula, you must let me do this. I am... your pleasure."
Wishing he'd been gifted with the genetics to growl, Tula could only gasp as Kalin slid halfway down the bed and took his barely stirred cock between jagged teeth, careful of each point. Kalin's tongue wasn't so inept at this as it was with words, drawing him to full arousal quickly.
"Let me," Kalin said, pulling away just enough to speak before dipping down for more, spreading his saliva over the length of Tula's erection.
"But..." Tula felt tongue-tied now, unable to utter more than the most incidental of words as moans tore at him instead.
"Chosen and Chosen," Kalin said, sliding up to straddle Tula's hips, positioning himself for penetration without preparation.
"Kalin!" Tula was overwhelmed by the heat of Kalin's body as he pushed down, pausing when Tula's arousal was fully impaling him.
"Doesn't hurt," Kalin said, shifting a bit in a teasing manner as Tula reached to pull Kalin's robes away. "Used to it."
"Damn," Tula muttered, reaching to grab Kalin's hips and just move him. He needed motion. But his hands caught only material as Kalin moved anyway, slowly and deliberately. He'd been taught much too well.
Finally, in a barely coherent movement, Tula caught the final tie of Kalin's robes and pulled them down, revealing Kalin's slim form, rising and falling in an ecstasy Tula was thankful to be sharing.
With one hand sliding down to guide Kalin's hip, the other he wrapped around Kalin's own arousal, noting its color for just a second before he stopped worrying about anything of his body or Kalin's body that didn't directly involve pleasure. He just didn't care anymore.
"Ah, Tula!" Kalin cried, arching back to change the target of each of his downward thrusts. Tula wasn't surprised by the spasms of Kalin's body, orgasm overtaking him quickly and furiously.
His hands both covered in Kalin's seed, Tula reached to guide the panting priest down to him, to lay on his chest before leading his hands lower, holding Kalin's hips as he thrust upward, just enough to find his own release.
Clinging to Kalin, Tula just wanted to lay there and bask in the moonlight now pouring through the small window of the small bedchamber. But he knew Kalin likely still had work to do and he was nothing more than a traveler.
"Tula..." Kalin smiled, a wide and toothy grin.
"What?" Tula asked, reaching for the wine bottle and trying to figure out how he could drink without moving Kalin.
"No one has ever taken off my robes before," Kalin admitted, his eyes sparkling with the sort of adoration that Tula didn't quite want to see. "But you..."
Tula gave up on his wine. Seemed like solving one of his problems had only created one more. Not that he'd really mind having a priest around, at least until he made it back to Kenic.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!