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Terra Incognita

a Chronicles of Amber fanfic

by Serenade

"Remember, we can stop at any time," Brand murmured, as he locked the other cuff. "All you have to do is say the word."

Martin smiled up at him from the pillows, chains clinking when he tugged his wrists. "Why would I want to stop?"

He lay spread upon the white silk sheets, cool air drifting over bare skin, while Brand prowled the perimeter of their bed, testing the restraints. Brand, brilliant and beautiful, who could have anyone he wanted. But he wanted Martin, who had never been wanted at all. Never been desired.

Brand had opened his horizons, and now Martin dared things he had only dreamed.

Brand stepped back to admire his handiwork, eyes mapping every inch of Martin, from the freckles dusting his shoulders, to the birthmark at his hip. Never before had he been known so completely. It was intoxicating and terrifying.

"Delectable," Brand said, with a hint of teeth.

A hot shiver ran through Martin. His throat went dry. "Get on with it."

"So you're giving the orders now? Patience." Brand circled the bed, with the soft footfalls of a tiger. "I like looking at you."

"Do you?" Two could play this game. Martin angled his body into an inviting pose. Brand caught his breath, eyes dark with desire. Martin smiled. "Would you like a closer view?"

"You are a devil," Brand said. He advanced, climbing up onto the bed, to rest his hands upon Martin's knees. "Now, where should I begin, I wonder?"

He lowered his head, and licked a wet stripe along the inside of Martin's thigh. Martin bucked, spilling incoherent words. Brand, merciless, held him down, and traced his tongue across the delicate skin.

It was pleasure and torment in one, Brand coaxing out his responses like a master musician from his prized instrument. His hot breath roused every hair on Martin's body. Brand delved into every hollow, sought out every sensitive place, unearthed every vulnerability. He breached all defences, in his ruthless exploration, as Martin jerked and arched, chains taut. Brand took him through pleasures he never knew possible, until he was wrecked with want.

"All in good time," Brand said, with maddening calm. One last caress, and he withdrew. Martin bit back a cry of frustration.

Brand unfastened his black silk robe, revealing a tantalising glimpse of his lean form. He bent close. "Are you ready for me, Martin?"

"Yes," Martin choked out. "Anything. Anything for you."

"You shouldn't," Brand said, "promise such things."

He sheathed himself slowly, as Martin clenched the sheets and made sounds, all of him filled with exquisite burning. He could barely breathe. Brand halted, stroking his hair, watching his face. "What do you want, Martin? Tell me what you want." His eyes heated, fires held in check, waiting for the word that would end it or begin it.

But Martin was already set aflame, utterly consumed by desire. He arched like a prominence falling towards the sun.

"More," Martin said.


Martin woke in the still hour before dawn, an empty space beside him. Brand stood at the window, a silent silhouette, gazing at the night. He had restless dreams, Martin knew.


"If you could have one perfect day," Brand said, "one day to go anywhere or do anything, what would you choose?"

"To spend it here with you," Martin said, without hesitation.

"Martin. Please. Think about it."

There were things Martin never let himself think about. If his mother had lived. If his father had stayed. Some things were impossible.

But some things were real. He slid out of bed and joined Brand at the window, leaning against his shoulder. The last faint stars were fading. "I already can go anywhere and do anything. This is where I want to be." Inspiration struck. He wrapped his arms around Brand. "I want to know what your perfect day would be."

"Oh?" Brand murmured. "You never cease to surprise me." He traced a hand along the planes of Martin's face, charting his features by touch, committing him to memory.


They hellrode through a barren wasteland, bare of life, bleak as death, deeper into Shadow than Martin had ever ventured. They rode between vast skeletons half-buried in the sand, the petrified bones of creatures extinct for millennia. They rode through arches of stone scoured hollow by the wind, ancient when the mountains were young.

"Is this the end of the world?" Martin said.

"Not quite."

They rode into the mouth of a cave, which narrowed to a tortuous crevice, and emerged into a jewel of a glade, sheltered by stone. Spring water trickled over rock walls and gathered in transparent pools. They dismounted, Brand leading Martin beneath trees crowned with emerald leaves, boughs hung with blushing fruit. Wild deer nuzzled at their hands.

"They're not afraid," Martin said, in startled delight.

"They've never been hunted," Brand said.

They fed each other slices of fruit from the nameless trees, sticky juices staining their fingers red.

"How does this place even exist?" Martin said.

"It shouldn't," Brand said. "It shouldn't exist at all."

"Who else have you shown this to?"

"You're the first," Brand said. "And the last." He brushed Martin's cheek with infinite tenderness.

Martin flushed, heart thundering. He drew Brand down onto the grass.

Brand took his time, gentle and slow, making every moment last, lingering on Martin's hands and lips. No one had ever loved him like this. Brand could lay him open with a glance, analyse every atom of his being, take him to pieces and put him together again. Martin said his name over and over, and then words were forgotten, as Brand cleaved all coherent thought apart.

They lay together after, utterly spent, Martin draped against Brand, not wanting to let go. Brand traced circles upon Martin's chest, making him shiver with sensation. "What do you want, Martin? Tell me what you want."

Martin wanted Brand, wanted to be the singular focus of all his intensity. Brand, with his smiles full of secrets and eyes full of promises.

"Again," Martin said.


Martin woke alone, in the cold hour after dusk. No stars shone overhead. The night was an empty void.

Brand was gone.

The deer watched Martin silently, as he gathered up his clothes, formless dread stirring. Dressed, he fumbled his way back through the crevice, to emerge in the howling wilderness. His horse stood waiting. Martin stared at the desolate landscape, bereft of understanding.

A Trump contact pressed against his mind. Reflexively, Martin opened himself up.

"Where are you?" Brand said, without preamble.

"Where did you go?" Martin said, relief warring with apprehension. "What happened?"

"Never mind. Come through." Brand stretched out his hand. The background resolved into focus: lines of blue fire, glittering and sinuous, inscribing a labyrinth. Brand stood at its centre, exhaustion carved into his face, a thousand years behind his eyes.

Martin knew that shape. He had walked its mirror image in Rebma, its pattern ravelled in his bones. "Is that Amber?"

"I'll tell you everything when you get here. Come through."

Not a denial. Martin went cold. He wasn't ready for this, not ready to meet his family and his father, not ready to be drawn into that vortex of politics and power. Someday, maybe, when he was older, stronger--

"I won't ask again," Brand said.

Martin hesitated, trying to read Brand's closed expression, uncertain if he was serious. If this was some kind of game. Brand gripped Martin by the shoulder and shot out his other hand. Martin had no chance to speak before agony pierced his chest.

He whited out, sagging, and Brand caught him. Martin tried to focus, glimpsed a flash of steel between them--was that a knife?--and made a sound. Brand drove the blade deeper, burying it to the hilt, blood spilling over his elegant fingers. Martin tried to push away, but Brand held him fast, thumb digging into the flesh.

"Hold still," Brand said. "It will go easier if you do."

Blood soaked Martin's shirt. The sight of it dizzied him, surreal as nightmare. He swayed, lightheaded, clutching at Brand for balance. He could barely breathe.

"Stop," Martin choked out. "Please. It hurts."

Brand made no response, only twisted the knife. Martin gasped. More blood flowed, pooling around his feet, staining the Pattern black.

What do you want, Martin?

"Endgame," Martin said, in desperation.

Brand shook his head. Martin stared in helpless horror, as though he had stepped out over an abyss, nothing but darkness all the way down.

"We're not done yet," Brand said.

- fin -

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