For Volume 4, Cecilia shared editorial duties with Lauren Burka. It features an introduction by writer Xan West, and the first appearance of female names in the TOC.
This excerpt is from The Succession of Knoorikios Khnum, by Zachary Jernigan:
Tonight I will get what I want, surely.
In anticipation, I perfume my loins. I dress, sans underwear. I drink a cocktail of aphrodisiacs and insert an oil suppository laced with nerve stimulants. I shave my testicles and legs. As I walk to the Ambassador’s Gala, I am turned on by the hypersensitive skin of my thighs rubbing together, the bounce of my hairless balls against them, the head of my cock brushing softly against my silk pants, the tight oiled skin of my anus compressed and tingling between my legs. The dusk breezes are warm and dry, filled with the sweet scents of the court gardens. Gooseflies, fat with spring nectar, buzz barely aloft in the fig trees.
I arrive late. The court is a riot of color and sound, hectic with dignitaries local and foreign, human and animal and alien. I am recognized and hailed by voice, olfactory chemical and touch. I wave politely and move on, mumbling excuses. My attention is elsewhere. I have a mission. Despite the temptation to excuse myself, to find a chamber to pleasure myself (yes, I am one great erogenous zone by now), I will not be distracted.
I have waited two years. I can wait a bit longer.
On my second circuit along the mezzanine, I spot him. I expect to feel something–having drank enough serriola to drop a rhinoceros–yet the intensity of my body’s reaction surprises me. It is as if all the blood has drained from my head, as if all the air has rushed from my lungs. The world spins. I grip the balustrade to keep from losing my legs beneath me and wait for my heart to stop pounding. I cannot take my eyes from him.
I descend the closest staircase and make my way through the crowd to him, taking my place among the noblemen awaiting his audience. They studiously ignore me. I would rather not wait with them, but the man I desire is expected to address them; to get to him one must rub shoulders with the over-perfumed and obsequious. I imagine on occasion that he grows tired of their constant attentions, their feigned nonchalance–that one day he will delight in stripping them of title and land. I often fantasize that his mind mirrors my own, though I have no evidence of this.
But there is one thing I am sure of: the nobility are no nobler than I–one need only listen to a bit of court gossip to realize this–and I am suddenly impatient, overconfident with aphrodisiacal inebriation. When he finishes with the woman before him I step to take her place, though I know that the circle of dignitaries waiting for his audience moves counter-clockwise. I was last in line, and it is a terrible breach of etiquette to move out of sequence. Tomorrow I will worry about the damage my rudeness has caused.
The sounds of the gala shut off abruptly under the sound barrier he erects in private conversation. My mouth is suddenly dry. My palms break out in warm sweat. I can smell him. We are close, closer than we have been in two years, and though I have seen him every week of that time, his nudity excites me. I stare at his hips, his genitals. I do not meet his eyes. Every pore, every fiber of my being aches with desire.
I open my mouth to speak, and what I say is ridiculous, foolhardy, presumptuous. It makes my initial foul seem small indeed.
* * * *
My name is Muels Denúf. I am a human male, age twenty-nine by the Old Calendar. I was born to my mother, in vivo, a product of random genetic forces. My right eye is blue, my left green. My hair is the lightest blonde, nearly white. I am quite pale-skinned, somewhat taller than human-average, whip thin. Because of this, people assume that I am frail–especially among the celestial elite, where an unaugmented man is a rarity–but a lifetime of back-breaking work and malnourishment does not build a parlor physique. Naked, I am a study in angles and planes, an anatomist’s model. The scars are not artificial.
Earth is home–but my people do not claim that it is the original. No one would believe the claim anyway. The planet is a humid mass of jungle, an inhospitable place, its weather intemperate and dangerously fickle. No one dreams the cradle of humanity like that. No one dreams of such a place, period.
And my people? Restricted by old and failing colonial technology to the driest polar swamps, we have devolved from a cosmopolitan star-faring culture–a heritage so distant in the past as to be nearly meaningless–to match our surroundings. We spend far too much time complaining about our lot in soggy bars and whorehouses. We gossip and scrabble underhandedly for uncultivable plots of land. We breed neither scientists nor poets.
To be blunt, Earthmen are a moldy, wet blanket of a people.
But I imagine this can be said about the natives of any number of undeveloped colonial worlds, and it does not mean that my people have no aspirations. We have a consulate and a small group of ill-trained diplomats who petition among the local systems for assistance. Before my placement, we had a few encouraging leads–one or two vows of economic alliance. Pleasant, imprecise promises which came to nothing. Certainly, none of my colleagues were invited to live on Elephas, to hold court with the rulers of empires alien and human, the likes of which we had only heard stories.
We were destined to fail in our diplomacy. Prior to my appointment, Earth knew nothing of the web that holds worlds together. We did not know that we were owned entirely, but possessed so far below the radar that our fate was not even considered. When I realized this–fairly quickly, as it happened–I had to remind myself of my duty. Though I did not want my fellow men to know in what little regard they were held, I had an obligation. They are my people, regardless of my distaste for them.
I have been Earth’s spokesman for six years now–these last two on Elephas. Though I did not arrive at this high position through a display of skill (I do not delude myself; during the preceding four years I was a sexual plaything, willingly, a curio and erotic anachronism), I have learned much. I have become inured to the cutthroat world of Elephas’ imperial court. My skin has grown thick, my mind sharp to intrigue. I have arranged trade agreements and won respect for my people despite our lowly status. With few exceptions, this has been accomplished without prostituting myself further. There are advantages in withholding.
The desert world suits me, as well. The dry air is curative, the open spaces of sand and ocean exhilarating. To see a great distance! On Earth there are no uninterrupted views, no buildings taller than the tallest trees, no hilltops from which to survey anything at all. Elephas, by contrast….
But there is no room for contrast, no point of comparison. Even when it rains–a near-constant condition on Earth–in the desert it is a gift. After a storm’s brief violence, the wind-blown stretches of red dirt and sand erupt in colors that would be indescribable to my kin, trapped as they are on their cold, gray, fungal world.
I cannot conceive of returning home. My frames of reference have evolved. I would not have the words to explain my loss, and should I find them eventually, no one on Earth would understand their meaning. It is not only that I have given my heart to a man. I have given my heart to another world, my eyes to new vistas.
* * * *
He closes the door behind us. He grabs my shoulders from behind and pulls me against his chest. He reminds me we only made love once and that I would be a fool to think it would happen again. While he says this, his hands are working at my belt buckle. After it is unclasped, he tells me, remember your place. His right hand goes underneath my waistband and his fist grips my rigid member. His chin rests on my shoulder and I moan into his neck, grinding my buttocks into his erection. It will never happen! he says as I pull down my pants, allowing him to slip between my thighs. I grip him there, his length firmly pressed against my perineum–You’re kidding yourself, he groans. He pushes me onto the bed and there is no more talk as his mouth covers mine, his tongue thrusting, his hands urgent, undressing me. I detach myself for a moment, only to grab the lubricant from my pants pocket. We kiss roughly, legs intertwined as our hands move over each other’s erections. Despite the protestations, his eyes are closed, his hands sure. My nose fills with the smell of his sweat, pungent as cinnamontree bark.
I am impatient, hungry. I roll over and throw my left leg over his hip, reaching behind me for his penis. I guide him into me fluidly, taking his whole cock into my rectum. (I have practiced for this occasion.) For a long moment, I hold him there, savoring the immense swell of him inside me–I can feel the heartbeat in his erection; he is breathing quickly behind me; Yes, he whispers. And then we start bucking. Slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, his hard, slick shaft moves inside me. I do not touch myself; I do not need to; the mere proximity of his hands, his fingers digging into my hips with each thrust stimulates me enough. It is only with great self-control that I am able to keep from coming.
I turn my head to look at his left hand, encased as always in the white glove that fits so closely it is indistinguishable from his skin. Smoother, slightly colder than flesh, it does not sweat. I focus on the line where the white meets his skin. It does not move.
I want it to. I imagine the line spreading along his forearms, up his full biceps and onto the hard swell of his shoulder. From there it spreads onto his collarbone, over the heavy muscles of his back and chest, slides down his back. It crawls up his neck, envelopes his face, shrinks down to a point and closes on the top of his head. As the glove passes, details of expression and physique are obscured. Only his eyes remain uncovered. It melts over the ridges of his belly and moves onto his loins. In the back, it slides into the muscular crevice between his butt cheeks; in the front it slips into the heated area where we are joined. A brief hesitation, and then it jumps–and its coolness is enveloping my skin, slithering over my hips, hugging me–connecting us. No longer thrusting, but fused and squeezing, swelling. I feel the warm tumescence of his rigid penis and my bowel’s every nerve as I pull him deep into me, yearning for him to grow larger and fill me. I imagine that he feels my warm, soft interior hugging him, my sphincter tightening rhythmically on the base of his shaft.
Both of us one being, wrapped in a shell of cool, fluid marble, heated and pulsing inside.
“The glove,” I pant. “Please.”
* * * *
His name is Adrash Knoorikios. He is my perfect erotic object.
He is an unaugmented man of middle years, tall and powerfully proportioned, the lines of his body fluid, his muscles full and smooth. Hairless except for the brows and eyelashes, his skin is the fertile black-brown of wet soil, free of blemish or prominent vein. His features are strong, classically masculine, and to my eyes somewhat cruel. I attribute this to his eyes, which are almond shaped and bright yellow, without pupil or white. They seem to shine even in the light of day. His penis, long and thick even when flaccid, is circumcised and darker than the rest of his skin, nearly coal black. His testicles are unwrinkled and large, but do not droop unattractively beneath his member.
He wears little, even in cold weather. Around his neck he wears a broad mail necklace, of gold links so finely worked that it lies like fine fabric on his chest. His left hand is sheathed in the white glove, always. On his wrists he often wears twin brass vambraces, heavy and buffed to a high shine. Larger jewelry of the same design encircles his ankles. For the month of monsoons, he wears a red satin headband that trails to the ground. He never covers his loins with clothing. At war and defense, the glove–grown to cover all but his eyes–is his only attire; in this guise, he is called Knoorikios Khnum, or Adrash Min. I have seen him in the glove only once. It was not during wartime.
He smells of some strong, heavy musk–of an achingly familiar yet unnamable spice–but only when one’s nose is nearly touching his skin. It is as if he causes the air itself to swallow the particles of his scent only centimeters from the pores, in order to save people from being overwhelmed by its intensity.
His voice is deep and resonant, yet he rarely speaks publicly. He is not overly demonstrative in gesture, either, but makes his moods felt easily enough. Ocean-deep calm, seadog focus, tropical storm fury–one feels his moods in the gut, tugging, impossible to ignore. The gravity of his aura forces attention.
We slept together, once, a short time after I arrived. He never spoke of it again, nor have I had the courage to raise the issue until now. To have that man, a man who topples stellar empires only to uplift others–a soul that resounds throughout the void itself–speak my name in furious intimacy once more…. To hear my name spoken, whispered in the quiet moments afterwards….
I love him, which is a foolish thing to do. I am a diplomat from nowhere, and he is the ruler of an empire. He has smashed stars with his fists, set worlds ablaze with the light from his eyes. His is the will of Thor, of Yahweh. Of Maitreya and Ahura Mazda.
I am a man; he is a god. This is no hyperbole.
* * * *
“Please,” I whisper. “Please, please, I beg.”
He does not answer, but tightens his grip on my hip. His thrusts become shorter, faster. A grunt escapes his lips, and he swells greater, stretching me where we are connected. My begging has excited him, apparently. I push and pull on his erection, breathing deeply into my gut as his shaft massages my prostate. I stare at his fingertips, the indentations in my skin, hyperaware of the five small patches of flesh in contact with the glove. I will the material to melt from his hand onto me, to complete the union before I lose myself to orgasm. I long to be a closed environment, joined in our final moments of ecstasy; fused afterwards as his fluid disperses inside me, as my own ejaculate cools and spreads beneath the glove’s membrane to coat us both–to be absorbed into each other’s skin.
“The glove, Lord. The glove. Please.”
He grips my right shoulder. Get on top, he commands. I push myself up and, careful not to lose him, rise on his erection enough to hook my right leg underneath me. I grip his hips with my calves and lower my weight completely onto him. We sigh in unison as he reaches the greatest depth inside me. The angle allows me to rest for a moment and I savor the sensation of fullness in my rectum, the distention of my sphincter as it slowly spasms around the base of his engorged member. My own erection stiffens; my testicles rise, tickling my inner thigh. I breathe deeply into my stomach, trying to reign in my libido and achieve some measure of control over my body. It requires constant attention lest it let go completely. No amount of practice could have prepared me for this.
Yet I am not allowed much rest. He slaps my hips. His fingers dig in as he lifts me up, off of his erection. Slowly, very slowly his head slides free. My heart shudders in despair, thinking that he has decided to end our lovemaking–but he holds me there, his head pressed against my opening. I want intensely to fall back onto him, but my hips are held in a vice grip.
The fingers of his left hand tighten fractionally. I look down. Watch, he says.
I watch. Finally (I believe myself to be imagining it for a moment), the glove begins inching along his wrist.
I gasp as he pulls me down, skewers me...
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