Phalar Aluve

“Wait!” Shadowheart cries. “What are you—”

It’s too late. Tav hisses, and she falls silent.

He has cut too deep. Blood gushes from the wound, hot and sticky, dripping on his boots and trickling into his sleeve.

She needn’t tell him he’s an idiot. He figures it out all on his own, standing there like a lost child with his hand full of blood. He should’ve cut the topside of his forearm or something. Even the veins on the wrist would be better than this. The blade has been stuck in here for years, if not decades, judging by the untouched dust layered on the altar. It could’ve waited another minute for him to undo his bracer. Literally everything he does will hurt now, for days, even if by some minor miracle the wound doesn’t get hideously infected. Who knows what he last used that knife for. Carving meat? Cutting saplings from poisonous plants? Digging dried mud out of the soles of his boots? And his hand’s no better. The dirt and sweat sting already. What was he thinking?

He looks sheepishly at the rest of the party. Shadowheart has palmed her forehead. If she refuses to heal the wound, on the grounds that one cannot be cured of stupidity, he will not begrudge her. Karlach hums and hops, already bored. And Astarion—he follows every drop spilling from Tav’s palm with wide, wild eyes.

Tav hurries to anoint the blade, but as soon as he touches the cold steel, letting his blood feed its edge, he knows his sacrifice will be rewarded. The light of Eilistraee shines upon his soul. He kneels and bows his head as tears of awe and gratitude blur his vision.

Liberated from the clutch of stone, the blade hovers above the altar and the inscription on it lights up with a golden glow. The craftsmanship is exquisite, the lettering as thin as hair, elegant and tiny, but clear enough that he knows at once it is in his mother’s tongue. Despair grips him for being unable to read it. But then, by divine intervention, he is all at once given to know the fate of the sword’s last wielder: a young drow, on the run from her family of Lolth’s devotees, made her stand in this place and buried the blade in stone as her final act of defiance, with Eillistraee’s name on her last breath. Much the same fate Tav might face one day, should he live through his current predicament. Although the inscription swims in his teary eyes, incomprehensible, the words ring in his mind: I leave you to the grave.

Never has he been granted such a blessing.

The light fades and the world rushes back into his senses. The sword is in his right hand. Its magic, unknown but familiar, like a place seen in a dream, thrums in a gentle rhythm. Is he hearing… music?

“…a moment,” Astarion is saying. “Clearly he’s having some sort of a… religious experience. You of all people should be able to appreciate that.”

“All right,” Shadowheart replies. “I suppose we could all do with a brief respite.”

“Thank gods,” says Karlach. “There’s a pebble in my boot that’s been driving me crazy.”

Tav rises, a bit woozy, but remains on the altar with his back turned to the others, not yet settled back into himself.

“Well, go on then,” Astarion says. “We’ll join you in a minute.”

Tav closes his eyes, thanking him silently. Only when the footsteps and the chatter of their companions have receded does he turn and step down.

“Let me see,” Astarion says.

Still hazy, Tav reluctantly offers the grip of the magical sword.

“No, not that. Your hand, my dear. And the absolute butchery you made of it with that butter-knife of yours.”

Ah. Tav has forgotten about that. He opens his palm, slick with blood, and winces.

“May I?” Astarion swallows loudly. “I’ll leave it nice and clean and even dress it for you.”

Tav blinks at him, struggling to bridge the gap between his dreamlike, exalted thoughts and Astarion’s down-to-earth—or several feet under—interest in his blood. “Are you truly hungry?” Mere hours have passed since their encounter with Dhourn Ba’Tol, and Astarion had drained him dry.

Something like pain flits over his features. “They call it a curse for a reason, you know. No matter how much I have, I always crave for more. Especially when it’s yours.” His voice turns velvety and he gives Tav one of those sad-kitten looks that get him every time. “Please. It’d be a shame to let it go to waste.”

Tav glances over Astarion’s shoulder to make sure Karlach and Shadowheart are out of sight. “All right,” he murmurs, warming up to the prospect. “Go on—”

But Astarion is at it already, lapping at Tav’s hand. His tongue is shockingly soft, wet and cold. Tav gasps, instantly aroused. He’s never had his palm licked before—not by a person, anyway, and a lover at that. It feels… too intimate, somehow. Too… submissive. It’s strangely embarrassing, and all the more exciting for it.

By the time he latches onto the cut, having licked the rest of Tav’s palm and all fingers spotless, the stinging has mostly faded to a pleasant numbness, but now Astarion teases the edges of the wound with his tongue, awaking a new kind of pain, dull and intensely erotic. The slurping noises he makes and his little moans of enjoyment are driving Tav breathless. Astarion’s fangs prick his skin but he needn’t bite, and the care he takes to avoid making the injury worse winds Tav up to a lightheaded euphoria.

“Astarion,” he whispers.

Astarion lifts his eyes, his lips still sealed around the cut. Nothing hurts anymore, thanks to the anesthetic agent in his spittle. The wound won’t bother Tav for a while, though he might lose feeling in the palm completely. Astarion pins him with his scarlet gaze and makes a great show of  closing his lips into a sucking kiss as he reluctantly lets go.

“That was… delicious.”

“You’re mad,” Tav replies under his breath. “And maddening.”

“I know.” He throws his head back in triumphant laughter. “Isn’t it fun?”

“It would be even more fun if we had some time and privacy.”

Astarion shrugs. “For you, maybe. Myself, I appreciate some sweet frustration.” And with that, he shamelessly reaches between his legs to ease his erection.

Well, at least Tav’s not alone in that predicament. Glancing once more in the direction where Karlach and Shadowheart had gone, he lays the sword carefully on the altar and adjusts himself too with his good hand. No more than a few minutes could’ve passed. He thinks.

“You said you’d dress it too.” He holds the injury out. Blood still seeps from it. He doesn’t dare stretch his palm open.

“Did I, now? Hmpf.”

Tav watches Astarion with relish while he goes through his pockets. His hair has gone a bit ruffled and his lips and chin are stained with blood. There’s some on his nose too. He’s  violently beautiful, especially in rare moments like this, when he’s too busy to pose and put on airs.

At last he produces a kerchief which, in the perpetual twilight of the Underdark, looks almost entirely clean.

“There,” he mutters, tying it fast at the back of Tav’s hand. “All bandaged and ready to go.” He barks out another little laugh. “Disaster averted!”

“My hero.” Tav laughs, unable to resist Astarion’s cheer. Even a—literal—handful of blood is enough to make him tipsy. “Not so fast, though.” Tav grabs him by the elbow as he turns around.

Astarion looks at him quizzically.

“Let me return the favor.”

A question parts Astarion’s lips, but Tav pushes it right back in with a kiss. A bit too fast, a bit too eager, pinching both their upper lips between their teeth, but Astarion holds his ground. And after a moment, he opens up.

“Ah,” he murmurs, and Tav can feel him smile under his tongue, as he licks his muzzle clean. “How sweet of you.”

Tav finishes with Astarion’s nose, sucking the last of his own blood off it with a smacking kiss.

“Save it for the camp, soldiers,” Karlach yells from somewhere below. “Let’s go, go, go!”

“You heard the lady,” Astarion says. His voice is husky and a bit breathless. He clears his throat, avoiding Tav’s eyes. “Thank you, I suppose.”

“The pleasure was all mine.”

“No. Not all.”

Tav smiles and picks up his new sword. It hums a happy little tune—yet another thing only Tav seems to hear. “Come on. There’s a long road ahead.”


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