Jerrith is running. Kissed by an elf, he can't remain in his hometown of Althos any more. Not that he wanted to stay.
Caspian still hasn't figured out why he kissed Jerrith, but he's running too. Since he was exiled from the Autumn Lands, his past has been hazy, and his future uncertain.
But when a stray memory brings things into focus, the two decide to run toward something together. What they uncover will change how they see the world, and themselves, forever.
Jerrith Ladner ran down Dyer's Alley in Althos, winded but not daring to stop. He swung left down Chaplain's Lane where the lanterns cast a crazy patchwork of light across cobbles, uneven enough to give even the Night Guard pause. His lungs hurt, but he didn't slow down and didn't dare glance back.
The occasional passerby stared at him as he flashed past, but he ignored them. Several times he stumbled and fell, and blood dripped down his bare leg from a skinned knee. The outskirts of town were silent, with almost everyone already indoors for the night.
His recent past was a blur, with snatches of it flitting by in his head like birds, flapping and confusing him with their unsteady rhythm:
The unexpected shock of it.
The glimpse of the Autumn Lands through the Nevris man's golden eyes.
At last, exhausted, Jerrith ducked behind a low wall that ran along the fields just outside of town and looked back.
It was quiet. There was nothing but blackness crisscrossed by lamplight at even intervals.
Almost sobbing, he sat down with his back to the wall and curled up into himself, scarcely noticing the pain that traced the lines of his rib cage or even the bright line of red on his leg.
Ever so slowly, his heavy breathing eased and his jumbled mind began to sort things out.
He had been walking to the Smithy in the early morning when the Nevris caravan had passed him by, six wagons of merchandise from the Autumn Lands covered with heavy tarps, crossing through town on its way to the stables on the far side of the village. A stranger had drawn his attention—an outrider for the caravan.
Tall and slender where Jerrith was stocky and muscled, he was a young man, more or less Jerrith's own age. His blond hair had been pulled back behind his pointed ears, the mark of the Nevris. He moved with a quiet and restrained grace.
His eyes were wide and golden, and they'd met his as Jerrith crossed the town square on the way to 'prentice to the blacksmith. The man's gaze had filled Jerrith with something hot and impulsive, a sense of anticipation. Something that he had no name for.
Then he'd been gone.
Jerrith had spent the long, dizzying hours of work in the Smithy, hammering out heated metal into a new plowshare for Farmer Angus, the hot breath of the bellows tempered only by the cool springtime air from outside. Trying to forget those eyes.
The heat of the oven only served to fuel the heat he felt inside, until he thought he might explode.
Sent home at last well after nightfall, he'd heard a whispered voice from the dark alleyway between the Alchemist's shop and the Rutting Crow. Jerrith had looked around to see if anyone was watching, then slipped into the alley, his heart beating faster and the bulge in his pants stiffening.
The man had kissed him hard and rough, and he'd returned the kiss passionately as the Nevris man pulled him close.
COVER ARTIST: Freddy MacKay