His own fathers fist met with his cheek and knocked a tooth nearly out of place “you tell your lord where they have gone Zaid! You tell him now! Do you not understand how you shame your mother and I turning against the very man who speaks to the gods on our behalf!”
“You’re a fool father, you and everyone else. There are no gods he and his men speak to. It’s a lie passed down generations..it’s all a fucking lie to control us” Nicretus stood “Move back Garet, go to your wife. I forgive you for your sons transgressions. It is not always the parents fault when a child becomes so…so infantile” Zaid scoffed when his father bowed and thanks him. When his father scampered out the room like the spineless man he was Nicretus said “regardless of weather you believe I and my family before me speak to the gods Tara is my daughter. I want only what’s best for her”
“No, you want her to listen you to mindlessly and continue your lies, lies that have been passed down from generation to generation. Your pride in needing her to obey your every command will be your downfall. Don’t you see it’s better if you let her run away with the man she loves? She’s not willing to continue the lie. If forced back she will tell more than just me and her boyfriend the truth”
“She wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand if it weren’t for you you annoying little rat. She was born with a strong will but it could have been a great asset. You are the one who ruined it, who turned my daughter against me”
“she hated you long before we became friends”
“she’s nearing the end of her teenage years, her head will clear”
“Her head is clear now”
“she has run off with a farmer” he said farmer with tremendous disgust “that is not a clear head to me boy! Where is my daughter!”
“You might as well kill me. I know you want to. It will save us all time because I will not betray her. I could act completely noble but I must admit I love this, the fact you actually don’t have control of something you so desperately want to” They stared eachother down for some time before Zaid was knocked unconscious and thrown into a cell. They kept him there for almost a week before he was guided to another room “what’s going on?”
“The gods need another sacrifice and have asked our great leader for you” Zaid actually chuckled “Oh of course they did”
“Do not mock our great leader or the gods!” she yelled and he sighed, shaking his head. Everyone was so completely brainwashed he knew nothing he said was going to matter. If Nicretus said the gods wanted him as a sacrifice thats what would happen. Everyone in this insane place would gladly slit their own throats if Nicretus said the gods wanted it. He didn’t understand how the people didn’t see through this farce.
It took them hours to prepare Zaid for sacrifice and then he was forced to walk for hours more where everyone was waiting and Nicretus was giving some speech he couldn’t be bothered to listen to. His last moments alive would not be spent listening to that horrible mans voice. All he could think about was his friend Tara. He prayed more than anything that she and her boyfriend wouldn’t be found and could be happy. He didn’t mind dieing if it meant his best friend could be happy and away from her parents and all the other crazies she was related to.
Zaid found his parents in the crowd but they couldn’t look him in the eyes “of course” he thought to himself. When that fateful moment came where he was pushed off the clif and into the black void that looked as if it must go on for eternity Zaid was ready. This was the end and if he was being honest with himself, dieing was better than living among his people at this point. Zaid fell and fell, continued falling for what felt like an eternity. Zaid wondered if sacrifices simply fell forever. His people thought this was a direct portal to the gods which now had him laughing “gods my ass” he yelled into the nothingness.
He suddenly felt strange and next thing he knew he was sitting in a field with horses. He stood, confused but not enough to not be smart ass “why hello gods, does thy grass pleaseth thee?” he heard someone erupt with laughter and turned around. “Um..hi” he said with a blush “hey” the man said through his laughter. Wiping at his face he said “I know everyone that comes through that portal think they are being sent to gods but they aren’t. You’re just in another world”
“I knew it!”
“I’m Vecente.” He held out his hand.
“Zaid.” They shook hands. “So do you just sit out here waiting for people?”
Vecente chuckled. “My home is close by so I can see when someone falls through.”
“Where did the others go?”
“I took them to the closest village and asked some people to help them. After that, they went where they wished.”
“I wish I could show everyone this place and wipe the look off that smug bastard’s face.”
Vecente let out another laugh. “You’re the first to react this way, the others were mostly confused and upset and relieved not to be dead. It’s hard convincing someone they aren’t dead and you’re not a god, especially when they’ve been so…”
“Yes, for lack of a better word.”
“I knew it was all crap.”
“Well if you’d like I can show you to my home and we can discuss how you knew and get to know eachother a bit over a hot cup of tea”
“sure” Vecente smiled, glad Zaid had accepted the invitation. He was already incredibly amusing. Vecente definitely wanted to get to know this handsome new man in his world. As Zaid began to walk at Vecente’s side he asked “so do you live alone?”
“Yes, My parents passed about two years ago but I already was good at our family trade and old enough I didn’t absolutely need a guardian so nobody bothered me about living on my own. I’m seventeen by the way since I’m sure that would be the next question”
“I’m seventeen aswell but not for much longer, next month is my birthday”
“I will keep that in mind.” Zaid’s heart did a little flip due to the way Vecente had glanced at him when he said that. He wanted to keep talking to avoid blushing so he said “I hope at least your parents had a peaceful death..as peaceful as they go anyway”
“It was fast but still hard to talk about if that’s alright with you. I miss them quite a bit, we were very close”
“are you going to miss your parents?”
“Yeah, I mean, I’m angry at my dad for the very end of me being where I came from but I love him and my mother. They weren’t brave people but I loved them all the same” Vecente nodded and in just a few more strides they were at Vecente’s door. He pushed it open and asked “do you have a preferred tea?”
“as long as you have some honey I’m not picky”
“alright, you should go ahead and sit.”
Vecente hummed as put water on to boil and grabbed matching cups out of the cupboard. He found the honey and sat it on the table in front of Zaid who was looking at his surroundings. “You have a beautiful home.”
“Thank you, my father built it.”
“It’s cozy and inviting.”
“That was the plan. He wanted visitors to feel at home.” He took a tin and a beautiful teapot down then spooned some of the leaves into it. “This is my favorite so I hope it tastes okay.”
“I’m sure it will.”
Vecente smiled as he sat down across from Zaid. “So, how was the trip here?”
“It was, odd. I didn’t think I’d ever stop falling.”
“Some people get sick when they come through.”
“I’ve never had any trouble with motion sickness.”
“That’s good, it must make things easier.” The water started boiling and Vecente got up and slowly poured it into the teapot.
“May I have a spoon?”
“Of course.” He quickly retrieved one then handed it to Zaid as he sat back down.
“so, how did you know what that leader of yours said wasn’t true”
“it just all seemed like crap to me at a young age and then when I was thirteen I became close friends with the leaders daughter. He didn’t really mind me playing with his daughter since my parents were always doing so much for him. I don’t know if you’ve gathered from others who have come but he was extremely picky about who could be close to her”
“was? Is she not well or are you using past tense because you don’t live there now?”
“She’s better than ever, see she fell in love with a farmer and her father explicitly forbid the relationship. He was furious the farmer had even dared to express interest in her and he would have been sent here too if she hadn’t threatened to kill herself if her father harmed him or had him sacrificed. Anyway..she was so sad after her dad forced them apart. She had been hoping he loved her enough to let her be happy and she didn’t want to have to sneak anymore plus I know a bit of her was hoping he’d let her be with him as sort of an olive branch to heal their relationship…I wish she would have listened to me when I told her telling him was a bad idea…I love her like a sister and couldn’t take how heartbroken she was so what got me landed here was helping her run off with him. She wanted me to run off too since her father would punish me over it since he isn’t stupid and I’m not ashamed of helping her but I stayed to give them more time to get farther. He wasted a lot of time questioning me…enough I can relax here certain he didn’t force them apart again.”
Vecente poured some tea in each of their cups. “Do you have any plans to return?”
“I don’t know. I mean for one I have no idea how to get back and if I go back, that ass Nicretus would just find a way to explain my return. He has everyone so conditioned to believe his words that they would just go along with him.” He squeezed some honey into his cup then stirred it, making a little slosh over the edge.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone stir tea so angrily.”
Zaid felt his cheeks redden. “Sorry, I’m just a little ticked. How can someone think it’s okay to use people like that and push his own child around?” He sighed. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine, I understand. It’s practically a cult.” Vecente got a napkin and handed it to Zaid. “Feel free to stay as long as you wish or if you like I can take you into the village.”
“Here’s fine, if that’s really alright. I don’t want to impose.”
“It’s fine, really.”
“Maybe I can even learn whatever it is you do and help”
“That would actually be nice. It’s a lot of work by myself”
“I’m in regardless but what do you do?”
“My family has always been medicine makers and not just your run of the mill stuff. It can be dangerous gathering what’s needed and even when it isn’t it’s a very arduous job but it’s incredibly rewarding and theres not much competition due to the time and work doing what we do takes”
“That sounds cool”
“I’ve always thought so. I was planning go down into a nearby cave tomorrow to gather some supplies. Would you like to come or do you want a bit more time?”
“I’m here, I’m going to earn my keep. Besides, I’m honestly a little excited about this” Vecente let out a breath of laughter and shook his head “what?”
“I don’t know, you’re just different.”
“That’s what I’ve always been told”
They finished their tea then Vencente took him around his home, showing him where everything was and giving him one of the spare rooms. “You can borrow my clothes if you like until we can buy you new ones, though the style may be a bit different.”
“That’s fine, I’ll wear whatever.”
“Are all of your clothes so revealing?”
Zaid blushed. “Well, it’s a bit warm where I come from so we wear less.” He cleared his throat. “It’s comfortable.”
Vecente smiled. “I see, the colors look good on you.”
“Tomorrow when we get back I’ll start teaching you about all of the plants I use and how to decide dosage. I’ll try not to overwhelm you.”
“Thanks, seriously, I’m glad I have someone to help me get started here instead of having to figure things out on my own”
“You are good company already, don’t worry over it a second. I’ll go ahead and grab you something to wear and then would you rather me leave you alone in your room to unwind or do you feel like getting to know eachother a bit more?”
“I’m enjoying your company, I really am but I’ve been locked up for quite awhile and there’s always more than one man in a cell where I’m from. I was locked up with men who actually did bad things so I haven’t slept much in some time.”
“I hope that one day your world wakes up and realizes that family is bad, aside from the daughter of course” Zaid nodded and Vecente walked away to fetch clothes. When he came back Zaid gratefully took the clothes and decided to apologize again “I’m sorry”
“for needing rest after all you’ve been through? Don’t be silly”
Thank you, I’m sure I’ll be better tomorrow.”
“Feel free to bathe, eat, whatever you wish and if you need anything please ask, I don’t mind.”
“Again, thank you.”
Vecente left him and Zaid changed into the clean clothes. He let out a little sigh as he climbed beneath the covers and let his body relax, finally feeling the full impact of his exhaustion and falling asleep immediately. Vecente made sure he had everything prepared for their trip then made himself something to eat. Afterwards, he bathed then checked on Zaid. He was happy to find him fast asleep and pulled the door quietly closed so as not to disturb him.
Vecente went to his own room and got comfortable under his covers. Everything he had been told was running through his mind. With everyone else he had encountered during his life so far from that world he had never learned much. Everyone that came through were so thoroughly convinced they had been sent to gods who had asked for them it took most the time he had with them to break them of that idea and convince them this was just another world and their leader was a phony. Some still weren’t quite convinced even when someone else took over for Vecente. Because Zaid already knew they had just been able to talk and Vecente was glad this Zaids friend had gotten away and that Zaid was finally sacrificed so he could be spared any more time in prison.
He only let himself dwell on these things a short time longer before he forced himself to rest. He would be teaching Zaid tomorrow and he needed to be alert. The next day, when both men were ready they headed out to the caves. They began talking on their way. Vecente had this need to learn more about Zaid and his life. “How was finally sleeping?”
“amazing, I was worried I’d still be waking up all the time out of habit but I didn’t”
“good…did any of those other prisoners ever hurt you?”
“No, I think they were scared the daughter would return and if they had she’d make her father do something about it. Our leader was a horrible man but he did have softer spot for her daughter. She did have some sway which I needed growing up there. I probably would have been sacrificed long ago if I wasn’t her friend. I think that is part of why she wouldn’t listen to me when I told her she shouldn’t tell her father about her boyfriend. I just knew that was different than the other situations she had been in with him.
“While I feel sorry that things turned out the way they did, I think it’s best they have a fresh start away from her father. I’m also happy I got to meet you, as terrible as that might sound.”
“It’s not that terrible.” Zaid replied with a smile.
Vecente chuckled. “So, I take it you didn’t leave anyone back home then?”
“Just my parents.”
“Nothing, just curious.”
When they made it to the caves Vecente said “Please ask me about things before you touch it. I’m not sure of the differences between your world and mine and I don’t want you getting hurt or obtaining an uncomfortable rash.” When Zaid agreed to that they entered. Vecente just began talking about what they would be making and what the ingredients he needed looked like. Zaid actually spotted them on his own which impressed Vecente “you’re a good listener”
“I really do want to be able to help” They gathered what they needed and returned to Vecente’s home where Vecente began working, explaining everything he was doing to his guest. “when did your family start teaching you all this?”
“Them teaching me this is one of my first memories. They began right away incase anything ever happened to them. There are other medicine makers in other places but my family is the only one near this village. They count on this family”
“Do you plan on settling down and having children then?”
“Or maybe I’ll just teach you everything then you’ll have to stick around.”
Zaid blushed. “Really?”
“Of course, it’ll be fun.”
They continued mixing ingredients, Vecente amazed at how fast Zaid learned and how interested he was in the over all process. To most people, it might seem boring, but Zaid seemed genuinely happy about it and smiled proudly when he finished his first vial. “So what does this do?” He asked.
“That is a fever reducer and pain reliever, but if you mix it with some of this…” he pointed out a container of yellow powder, “it also helps with vomiting. Each plant you add or take away changes the composition so we have to be careful not to add too much or too little or the wrong thing. Some of the stuff I make is actually used to induce vomiting so you want to make sure there’s not a mix up.”
“How do you make sure that never happens?”
“I’m just that familiar with it and you’ll be too eventually. When you do this long enough the smell and how it looks. More importantly the ones that are used less often I make sure are labeled. Anyway, it’s a little after lunch now. I’m sure you’re hungry and it would be nice to learn more about eachother if you’re going to be around”
“alright” they made lunch and went back to talking about their lives. Zaid marveled at how adventurous Vecentes childhood had been while Vecente enjoyed hearing of all the mischief Zaid caused back home. None of it was terrible, he just seemed to really enjoy flustering their leader.”I envy your childhood Vecente”
“I’m sorry your parents weren’t better. If it makes you feel better it really does just seem they are brainwashed”
“Oh yeah, I know”
“So, nearly eighteen, is there anything you would like for your birthday?”
“Yesterday you said it was next month, so is there anything you want?”
“You’ve already done enough. I have a roof over my head, clothes, food in my belly, that’s more than I could ever have dreamed of getting from a stranger.”
“Hmm, I don’t think that’ll do. After what you’ve been through you at lease deserve a cake.”
“I want to so let me. It’ll just be us, but I’ll make it special.”
Vecente reached over and squeezed his hand, making Zaid’s heart dance. “Thank me by being happy.”
Over the next month they grew closer and closer, going between teaching and talking about their lives and sharing little moments that set fire to their souls. It’s now only days away from Zaids birthday and Vecente was struggling on what sort of cake to make him and especially worried over the fact he still didn’t have a gift for Zaid. They were always together so he hadn’t had much time to plan what he wanted to do for him. He finally decided to make strawberry shortcake since Zaid had mentioned how much he liked them during one of their conversations
He found an excuse to go shopping on his own and decided to use this time to also find a present. He wanted Zaids face to light up so it had to be an extraordinary gift. Vecente picked up the ingredients first then started on what seemed like an impossible task. Absolutely nothing he saw seemed like a good gift for Zaid. He started to wonder if confessing he was developing feelings for him would be a good present. It made him feel vain but he definitely hoped that would be a gift to Zaid. That thought didn’t stay long before he decided that was a bit too vain and began thinking of something he could possibly make Zaid for his birthday.
When Vencente came home Zaid was making dinner and looked up, giving Vecente a warm smile. “I was hoping you’d get back before I finished.”
“I hope so, it’s a new recipe. Would you mind making some tea for us?”
“Sure.” An idea sprung into his head as he put water on to boil. He had all of these herbs for making potions and Zaid loved his tea. He would mix him up something special, something Zaid would really enjoy.
“Are you alright?” Zaid asked, making Vecente snap out of his thoughts.
“Absolutely, just thinking of something I have to mix up after dinner.”
“Do you want help?”
“No, you’ve been working hard and besides you’re making dinner so you can just take it easy.”
“Okay, if you’re sure” Vecente tried to stay present during their meal while he also thought of precisely how he’d mix the tea leaves, thinking about Zaids reaction to everything and what he thought the perfect tea would be for him. Once the table was cleared Zaid decided to soak in the bath so Vecente had all the privacy he needed. Vecente was trying different things long after Zaid had gone to bed for the night but when Vecente went to bed himself that evening he fell asleep peacefully, truly feeling he had made a tea perfectly suited for the man he hoped was falling for him too.
The morning of Zaids birthday Vecente was up with the sun and quickly got to work on the cake and pulled out the special glass container he had put Zaids tea in. It was Vecente pulling the cake out the oven that woke Zaid but it took him so long to get dressed and out there he walked out to the cake and his gift already on the table “perfect timing” Vecente said cheerfully. Zaid felt touched that Vecente had actually gone through effort for him. The two were close but this was actually the first time anybody had made him a cake for his birthday, let alone his favorite. His best friend had been a nightmare in the kitchen and his parents were too busy being up the leaders ass to do much of anything for him.
“Thank you so much. Is that tea in the container?”
“Yeah, it’s a special blend I created just for you”
Zaid felt himself tear up and quickly wiped at his eyes. “Sorry, thank you so much. You went through so much effort, this is just amazing.”
Vecente slowly took Zaid’s hand, gathering up his courage. He opened his mouth and the words spilled out much faster than he had intended. “I love you and I wanted to make you happy, I couldn’t think of anything else, I’m not good at anything else. So…so I thought hey he likes tea.”
Zaid felt a blush warm his cheeks and his heart stuttered in his chest. “You love me?”
“Yes, I do. If you don’t feel the same, I’ll understand, but I do, I love you.”
Zaid hugged Vecente then surprised him with a kiss “I love you too…you’re amazing. This party means so much to me” Vecente took Zaids face in his hands, kissing him again then saying “You’re perfect Zaid. You falling through the sky was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never quite been happy since I lost my parents but you’re starting to light up my life again..That is something I can never quite thank you enough for.” They stood in a long embrace, both feeling truly lucky to have eachother. Vecente finally saw a life where he could honestly be as ebullient as he was before losing the only people that mattered to him. Zaid hadn’t known what future laid ahead when he went against their leader and helped his friend run away. He had expected nothing but pain and hardship, maybe death by sacrifice but doing what he did set all this in motion. It lead him to the love of his life. He wished there was someway to tell her that they both had love now and could finally live peaceful lives but all that really mattered to him was this, this man and the life they were starting together.
~ The End