The Centurion Cycle - 1. Book I: The Centurion
A child of love and hate be born
A child above a city of white
A maze through which the darkness fights
To claim its love and with love unite
Together the two will force the fight
The force of hatred and death unite
Two worlds of man a war will make
Till Angel, Demon, Man must fly
From Ares red to blue star nigh
The song of Armageddon...
Part I – Qul Tos
The Boy in the Tower
This foul seeds
The rot that grew within me
Nine months of shame
Its only gift the pain of birth
Giving life to one of no worth
A curse I spit on man that walks the earth
All I see in he
Is something that should not be
The words of the Queen Mother on the birth of her son, Jason the IX.
Out on the balcony of the tower that had been his only home, a small pale-skinned boy watched the busy movements of the people far below in the white walled and blue tiled capital city of the kingdom of Qul Tos. It was the very city from which the kingdom gained its name famed for its silver and gems. Here, the Labyrinth Tower, the greatest achievement of the Tosian people, a fortress that had never fallen, was nothing more than a gilded prison for the unhappy prince.
The five-year-old boy had already learned his name, his letters,
and his numbers, the small library inside the towers walls his only
escape from his prison’s confines. Besides being very precocious, he
was also remarkable in his appearance, with long brown hair, emerald green eyes, and skin perfect and smooth, the color of milk, a rare sight among the olive-skinned Tosians.
Unfortunately, he was also an incredibly sad child, for under the rich white and blue robes he wore was a broken heart and a bruised body, living in a near loveless existence.
Still, by the age of five, he had found something to help him escape his own suffering... his books. From them he learned of the words... mother, father, brother, friend and most importantly... love.
Love... it was as if the boy lived in a desert with no oasis to offer him relief. His mother hated him... despising his very existence. His father... he had never seen any man, let alone his own father, but he knew he had to have one. For even while the books he read told him about the nature of man, the very sight of his fellow “men” was kept away from him by Eleanor, Queen Mother, and Regent of the Kingdom of Qul Tos.
While being born the crown prince, he was without a crown, a
secret kept from the people. In his place his mother used a small pretty
girl whom the people readily accepted as their future Queen. Still his mother dared not to kill him. She would torture him both emotionally and physically but could not bring herself to killing him yet, just in case his father and his “evil” Centurions ever came for him.
At least that was what his mother told him... “Watch out or the ‘Centurion’ beasts will come to kill you.” It was repeated to him so many times that the prince, knowing no better, believed it.
Little did the true heir know that today, was to be the turning point in his mother’s plans. After five years without his father coming to claim him, Eleanor felt safe that now was the time to make the girl she had stolen from her peasant parents the official heir to the throne and rid herself of her defective spawn once and for all. That joyous event Eleanor had planned for this very day.
So, for the first time he could remember one of his mother’s
female bodyguards came for him and took him out of the Labyrinth
Tower and through the maze that protected it. For the young child this
was his first adventure. Little did he know what was waiting for him.
A young maid, her black dress covered with a light blue apron, saw one of the Regent’s bodyguards holding the hand of a small boy. The maid found the frail child with an excited expression on his face, his hand shaking so much that it caused the armored left arm of the guard to clatter against her breastplate.
“What is wrong, child?” the maid asked, trying to comfort the boy.
“I’ve never been here before. Am I really supposed to be here?” Jason asked, his face red with joy.
“Why do you say that? The regent asked for you herself,” the guard replied with false cheer; she knew quite well what her mistress intended to do with her son.
Seeing that she could not comfort the boy, the maid’s attention shifted to the guard, wanting to learn if the rumor was true. “Is it possible?” she asked in an excited voice. “Is the Regent finally going to show the people the royal heir?
The guard did not say a word, but she didn’t push her way past the curious maid either.
The maid, reaching into her leather pouch, took out a small silver coin. She held up the shiny piece up to the bodyguard’s face and watched as a large smirk grew on what had been the guard’s cold, hard glare. Letting go of the boy’s hand, the guard took the coin with her gloved fingers. The guard then moved in closer so she could whisper into the maid’s ear, “The Regent is introducing the heir to the nobles as we speak.”
The maid jumped up and down with joy, hands joined together in prayer. “I wish I could see the princess... her beauty is said to even rival that of the Regent.”
The bodyguard burst into light laughter. “Never let her ladyship know you think that.”
Suddenly the two women were interrupted by the sound of a child’s laughter. “Mommy!” was heard being shouted down the hall. It was a young boy’s voice.
The guard, her eyes now wide with shock and fear, searched the halls for her young charge but found no one but the maid next to her. “Who was that boy next to you? A very pretty child is he not?” the maid asked innocently.
The guard gave the maid a hard look and, before she could make any response, cut her throat.
“Your taste for gossip has finally cost you more then you could afford,” the guard spat, dropping the silver coin on the ground. Hearing the sound of more laughter, the guard did not even bother to sheath her knife but ran with it still in her hand, sticky with blood, as she followed the boy’s joyful laughter.
The Regent’s eyes gleamed like blue lighting across the throne room at the nobles bowed before her, her back straight up against the cold metal silver throne. Along her spine she felt a near sexual rush, brought on by the feel of the hard grip she had over her subjects. “Bow lower!” Eleanor commanded. Laughing, the Regent watched as the conical hats of the ladies and the iron circlets of the lords came falling off their heads as she kept them genuflected before her. Turning her gaze to look down at the small girl sitting next to her, the Regent let her face take on a kinder expression. “See my daughter... see how funny they all look.”
“Yes mother,” the girl giggled.
“Now, which one do you want to be your maid?” The Regent snickered as she turned her eyes on the well-dressed ladies. “Do you want a baroness, a countess, or maybe even a duchess?”
“I want the prettiest one!” The little girl laughed.
“Now now dear, you do not want to pick a servant whose beauty
will receive more attention than your own.”
“But I don’t want an ugly one!” the girl pouted, near to tears. Seeing a single drop of water fall down the girl’s face the Regent
was suddenly filled with anger. Raising her hand, she slapped the tear flat on to the girl’s face, leaving a red handprint. “Never cry! You will
one day be queen and a queen never shows weakness in front of those who could threaten their rule!”
“I’m sorry, Regent!” the little girl sobbed, more tears streaming
down her face.
Furious that the girl once again forgot to call her “mother”, Eleanor, pointed to one of her bodyguards. “Take her away!”
“Yes Regent.” The guard bowed, taking a firm hold of the little girl’s hand.
The guard was just opening a side door when a young boy darted in, running straight for the Eleanor. “Mommy!” The boy laughed.
For a brief second the Regent was stunned into silence as Jason tried to jump into her lap. Her eyes then moved toward the nobles looks of confusion on their faces. Eleanor knew they would soon realize the truth... “Clear the room!” she screeched at her guards.
While the members of the royal court were forcefully ushered out, Eleanor paced the room, the rare look of fear growing on her face. Today had been planned for over four years. It was to be the day she would have fooled her nobles and peasants alike into believing a country whelp of a girl was the Regent’s true child and heir to the Silver Throne. Not her pathetic son. Regardless of his attempts to gain her attention and love, to her his very touch was like that of a leech, sucking away not her blood but something she valued more... her power as Regent. If only she dared to kill him sooner, as she had planned since his birth. Taking her son’s thin left arm with both hands, she tried to snap it apart with all the strength her rage and fears could muster.
“Mommy no!” Jason screamed as his arm wracked with pain. “Mommy... mommy...” he yelled, his heart tearing apart as much as his arm.
As she pulled on her son’s arm, Eleanor remembered the events that had led to this day, the worst day in history, not just for her and Qul Tos, but all the Eastern Kingdoms as well.
The Ice Queen
“One legion of Centurions is always worth three of ours... but it took only a single woman to make peace with them.”
A quote from a conversation between Eleanor Queen Mother and the Tower Captain, Melissa
It had been meant to be the greatest day in the Confederacy’s history, the day the East defeated the Domus at the very gate to the despised Centurions’ empire. After centuries of being forced to pay tribute in grain, gold, and slaves, the Eastern Kingdoms, led by King Daslan of Qul Tos raised their armies and marched westward with every intention of freeing themselves from their hated foes.
Such had been the Confederacy’s foolish confidence in their
victory, that Eleanor, wife of King Daslan of Qul Tos, had come to the
battlefield expecting to watch the Empire’s defenders, the Centurions,
slaughtered at the hands of her husband and his men. Instead she had watched the armies of the East destroyed, Daslan beheaded, and herself captured, taken to the personal tent of the commanding Centurion
general, and held by his guards like a captured battle standard.
“Do you know who I am?” Eleanor remembered the Centurion General asking, his face wearing the smug grin of a hunter who had just shot an arrow into the heart of a prized deer.
Just thinking about that smile today caused Eleanor to tighten her grip on her son’s arm, the memory of that common soldier enraging her as she recalled trying to struggle free of the two guards who had brought her to the tent of the general. “Do you know who I am!” she remembered retorting coldly as she glared at the general. “I will not be spoken to like some common serving wench. And I will not answer anyone’s questions until I have bathed. I presume you know what a bath is?”
“You will not speak to our Lord Agamemnon in such a manner!” A guard had raised his hand to strike her, but the more imposing Centurion, the man who had killed King Daslan with his own two handed sword, the one who had hunted Eleanor down with his soldier dogs, the infamous General Agamemnon himself, intervened.
“Leave her be, captain. I am pleased she shows some spirit. More than Daslan, eh? Did you see him, my Lady, on his knees bleating like a girl before me? I can only imagine the pitiful performance he gave in your bed.”
“A dead man is easy quarry for such insults. Can you find no better man to prey upon, Centurion boy?” she had replied while sitting herself down on a small stool as if it were a throne. While she had used all her charm and guile to become Queen of Qul Tos, even back in those days she had no love for the man who became her husband. He, just like the son she was hurting had been only tools to be used and discarded.
“Boy...? I find a more appropriate title is ‘Victor’, don’t you
think? Your army was like a six-headed snake, all wanting to go in
different directions at once. Not even the scouts we captured could
agree on what their orders were.” “But all our scouts returned and reported nothing.”
Agamemnon snapped his fingers and within moments, a man dressed in Qul Tos blue and silver was brought in. “Is he not one of your scouts?”
“Yes...” Eleanor found it hard to admit. She examined every inch of the man until her eyes caught a red and black armband over the
man’s left bicep.
Filled with sudden rage, Eleanor tried to stand up but was stopped by a heavy armored hand. “Traitor!”
Seeing that the fire of rage could warm the Ice Queen, Agamemnon waved his hand to have the turncoat removed. “Take him away. He did indeed betray you but his only reward will be donning the black as one of our Famulus slaves.”
After the Queen stopped struggling, Agamemnon stood, his massive body towering above her. He let her eyes look him over and see that he was both beautiful and terrible in all his muscular strength and glory, his hair a platinum blonde that had its own glow. She shrank from him even as she tried to deny a stirring inside her. But when he placed a hand on her slender shoulder and gently tilted her flawless face towards the lamp light with a thumb and forefinger, she had not
been able to keep her eyes from his handsome face. “The rumors of your great beauty were not amiss, Eleanor,” he
said softly, “but be careful how you speak to me.” He let go of her and
turned away. “They call you the Ice Queen, did you know that? They
say that you can chill a room with one look from your magnificent blue
eyes. So how can you expect me to believe that the old king could stir
the flame of passion in one such as you?”
She ignored the compliment and watched him in stony silence. The truth was that until she had found herself trapped in the tent of the greatest general of the age, no man had ever stirred her, as she had preferred only the company of what others would call her own soft sex though few would find any tenderness in her.
More than her bed partners, male or female, it was the person’s aura of power that had always stirred the Queen most. So on the day of Agamemnon’s greatest victory, no one had as much of a presence as the towering general. Yet to admit such would be a sign of weakness, something Eleanor could not stand in others let alone in herself. She therefore used her anger to mask her growing desires.
As she let the scowl on her face grow, Agamemnon turned his back to her and went to the table, picking up the larger of two ornate flagons there. He poured wine into both but kept the larger flagon in his hands gazing at it with his grey eyes.
“Qul Tos silver. Your pretty little kingdom produces the purest. It is also the easiest to work with, but you must still be proud of your artisans. This is beautiful work. The Empire is delighted you will be paying us tribute again.”
“We never shall!” Eleanor said defiantly with forced anger, trying her hardest to build up the will to fight what was coming.
“Don’t be stupid, Eleanor. You are not a stupid woman. The kings of the Confederacy, however, were fools to think they could attack the Centurion Empire of Domus with mere 150,000 half-starved men. I had forty legions under my command in the Centurion Home Guard, 200,000 well armored, well trained and, at the very least, well fed men. Did the kings not know that? They should have. Did they not look at the surrounding mountains and see that they were littered with caves where we could hide from your scouts? It was child’s play to employ the hammer and anvil, to keep my archers and infantrymen safe in the mountain pass behind the Gate while our cavalry hid in the tunnels. As a result, your Confederacy host was hammered by our cavalry and crushed against our walls to be impaled by arrow and spear,” Agamemnon boasted while he raised a crushing fist with his
free hand in front of Eleanor’s face. He then looked back to the table where, in addition to the small
silver goblet, were five highly decorated helms. “Five kings out of the
nine died in today’s slaughter, and for what? The tributes we demand from your kingdoms were a small price to pay for keeping the peace in your so-called Confederacy.”
Agamemnon then brought the goblet to his nose as he inhaled the fragrance of the amber wine. “Exquisite. Huron’s finest, I believe, from the King’s own cellar. Your husband would have done better to have stayed home to drink his wine, and not have listened to the King of Huron. They all would have. Did they believe we Centurions are but ordinary men? Did they think that because of my youth, my reputation as Domus’ finest general was unfounded?”
He looked back sharply at the queen, his grey eyes picking up
a bluish tint as they feasted off the defeated expression on the queen’s
face. “Ah, I see that you are surprised at the extent of my intelligence? Then let me surprise you some more. I know you argued against this
war. Bitterly, I’m told. As bitterly as you tried to hold off your husband’s
advances in your tent last night even as he drank from the same lover’s cup I now hold – both futile of course.” He watched again as the queen’s icy gaze melted. She still maintained her disdainful silence however.
Agamemnon, now seeing the near collapse of the stoic wall the Queen of Qul Tos had so long ago built around herself, nodded to the guards at the entrance to his tent. In moments a man dressed in a black robe walked in, bowed to the general, and then proceeded to remove his heavy and bloodstained black and red armor. After all the armor had
been removed and placed on its stand, the man continued to undress the general, removing his cloth padding and his other undergarments
until Agamemnon was left wearing only a white loincloth.
During the undressing, Eleanor remembered succeeding in maintaining a level and hard gaze at the Centurion but as more of his body was revealed, not even lowering her eyes to the ground could stop the quickening of her heart and the red blush growing on her cheeks. Her attempt at denial of her lust eventually reached the point where she turned herself on the stool, placing her back to the general. At the same time she tried to replay the bloody carnage that had happened just hours ago, hoping to feel disgust, anger, fear... anything other than the desire to yield to this man.
Agamemnon, angered that she was still fighting the inevitable, glared at the back of her head. With his deep commanding voice he spoke. “Face me.”
Eleanor, had long known the power of her beauty. She had charmed many a man in her climb for power... including the King of Qul Tos himself. The feat was made even more remarkable in that she had achieved the throne without ever having to give herself to any of her admirers. Now, however, she found herself in their role, being the one seduced instead of the one seducing. Turning ever so slowly she let her eyes gaze on the nearly naked body of the general, soon feeling hot tears of desire run down her eyes.
His long body was perfectly muscled. A narrow trail of blonde hair slightly darker than what was on his head led up his chiseled stomach to spread into a light coat across the bulk of his chest. Agamemnon’s hands were large with long fingers that could wield a sword as well as caress. Only the lower arms had a coating of blond hair, while the biceps, wide in diameter but not disproportionate to the body, were perfectly sculpted and hairless. All of his body was colored a rich brown, except for some pale white near the edges of his loincloth. What froze Eleanor’s eyes, however, was how every muscle rolled and flexed in its own seductive dance as Agamemnon took in and released each breath.
When he was sure Eleanor had seen enough, Agamemnon let his arms slip into a white robe that the black-robed man had been holding and that she had not noticed. “Leave us,” he told the guards and servant. “See that a fitting bath is brought in for the lady. Set it in my sleeping tent and see that we are not disturbed.” The guards saluted while the black-robed man bowed before leaving them, conspiratorial
smiles on their victorious faces. Once the flaps of the tent were closed, Agamemnon picked up the second, smaller goblet and offered it to
She kept her hands by her side. “Those goblets are lover’s chalices, meant for a wedding night. There are strong spells of fertility woven into the runes engraved on them. I will not drink out of such a cup with you.” In addition to what she said, Eleanor also knew they were used among wealthy nobles desiring an heir... and in seductions.
“Indeed?” He set the goblets on the table by a handsomely
carved settee and beckoned her to sit with him. He sat slowly, watching
as Eleanor’s eyes could not help but look for the white robe that he
wore to shift and expose his body to her again. When she joined him,
he covered her small delicate hands with one of his own while the other smoothed back a stray tendril of her golden hair.
“Let us be honest. You married Daslan for power, my Lady,” he said quietly. “Power is your bread and butter and, with his death, you will soon find yourself hungry since you have few supporters of your own. One of his kin is sure to claim the throne and you will be forced to marry whichever of his underlings he chooses – that will be your fate... unless Daslan left you with child last night when he came to take you.”
Agamemnon held her gaze and raised both hands to her shoulders and begun slowly untying the blue ribbons which fastened her gown. “Of course, we both know he didn’t; you would never have him in your bed. But who is to know that? According to my spies, he was in your tent for a very long time. Did you drug him as usual?” The lack of anger in her blue eyes and her silence was all the proof he needed to know it was true. As reward he let her feel the strength and warmth of his hand as he played with her soiled dress.
The gown rustled in a whisper of silk as it slid from her shoulders and fell to her narrow waist. Her naked breasts were bathed in trembling golden light as he bent his head to kiss them. “Who is to know it is my child you carry in your womb? Daslan’s surviving officers think you lay with him last night,” His eyes went to the lover’s goblets. “You would be the Queen Mother, the Lady Regent of your people. The sole ruler of Qul Tos, – left in peace, without the nuisance of the king’s relatives.” He then suddenly flashed her a boyish grin while his hands
cupped her breasts. “And I am hardly ugly.” She lowered her eyes demurely as he guided her back up onto
her feet, the gown slipping to the floor. Eleanor, now fully naked, was
defenseless under his avid gaze.
Having talked to the queen, finding her will strong, and seeing her bare and finding her beautiful, Agamemnon let whisper what he lusted after, and it was not the queen. “By the gods, you will give me a beautiful child.”
With those words the spell Agamemnon’s voice and body had weaved was broken. Her lust and willingness to yield to the general had been based on her belief that he wanted her. She thought that through a union in bed there would be a union of power for, as always, power was her only true lover. It had been at that moment that she realized that it was a bastard he wanted, causing her mind to change from hungering for his touch to what he could give her. “And in return, Agamemnon?” she asked, with a hint of growing distance.
Agamemnon expression became as cold as the steel of his sword. He picked up the goblets and held the smaller out to her. “And in return you shall pay tribute and never again bring war on us, and you will tell us if you hear of any plan against us – in YOUR own kingdom and in the Confederacy of Kings,” Agamemnon boomed, listing demands instead of gifts.
Her shoulders rose when she took the goblet. Yes, he had made it clear that Qul Tos would be her kingdom but that things were to go back to the way they were before the war with the paying of tribute and slaves. Knowing, however, this was not a game she could win, she held back from protesting too much. “And the catch?”
Both their bodies had been bare at that moment, the spell that Eleanor had just broken fell back on her with full force. She looked up at him, locked into his gaze, her lips trembling, not knowing how he was going to take her. Having witnessed how Centurions treated their enemies; Eleanor feared the same violence from him in bed.
Seeing the growing terror on her face, Agamemnon shook his head. “I am a Centurion Warrior, a man of honor. I will not hurt you, nor take you more than this once. One night is all I ask.” He touched her face, putting a stop to her shaking. “If you have a daughter, you will never see me again.”
“And if I bear you a son?”
“Then under imperial law, you will return him to his kinsmen. As is my curse, I will not live to see him fully grown. My time has grown all too short already for me to try and have a child,” Agamemnon said with both bitterness and regret. He then dropped his hand from her face to pick up the large goblet. “Will you drink with me, Eleanor?”
The Regent recalled raising her small sparkling silver goblet to her lips and smiling coldly. “To our daughter,” she had whispered Even though Eleanor still remembered how sweet the Huronite wine had tasted that night and how gentle the general had treated her
in his bed, it did nothing to remove the bitterness she now felt as she continued to twist her son’s arm even as the city’s bells began to fill the
palace with their alarm.
The Return of the Father
Amid the Tosian Mountains,
Lies a great city
A city of white and blue...
And near this great city
The mighty river Qulos
Qul Tos, Qul Tos,
Our city of silver and gems
Qul Tos, Qul Tos
The city of the Labyrinth we praise...
First stanza and chorus of the Tosian Anthem
A blue and silver clad guard ran toward the white stone palace, he could not shake off the look of fear on his face. Three legions... — three! — were approaching the walls of the capital city of Qul Tos. Fifteen thousand of the most dangerous men in all of Ares were coming.
While the city’s garrison of over thirty thousand was mostly made up of barely trained conscripts, the army approaching the walls was not made up of normal warriors... they were Centurions, trained from birth to kill. After only six years, the memory of how the Tosian army had been slaughtered at the Battle of the Gate was still fresh in the minds of everyone in the East.
Running the entire length of Labyrinth Way, the main road that lead from the city’s gate to the royal palace, the guard passed the gigantic, white stone blocks of the outer palace, the deeper into the areas where the walls and floors were as pink as the granite mountain they had been carved from. Having once been a marble quarry, it had long ago been chiseled out into hallways and chambers, colored with large stained glass windows in shades of blue.
As he approached the open doors to the throne room, he did not notice the stream of nobles being led out of the vaulted chamber, nor the loud scream coming from within the chamber.
Rushing halfway up the grand hall, with its decorated blue and
white marble floors and pillars, the guard went down on one knee,
his body trembling. “Lady Regent... I beg of you...,” he gasped as he waited for the glint of steel to end his life.
He did not get a response before the Queen Mother’s female bodyguards slammed him down fully on the floor, his nose breaking on the blue and white stones, splattering it with blood.
“What is the meaning of disrupting me in this fashion?” the
cold-eyed Regent fumed, the firm hands that had been gripping the
arm of her son suddenly released.
Tall and slender, her blond hair pulled in a tight bun, her skin as pale as the white marble that decorated the hall, Eleanor was more than an imposing figure. She dominated those around her with her cold blue eyes, taking the very warmth from the room.
His voice was now a nasal buzz, owing to his bloody broken nose, the guard stammered; “My Lady...three Centurion legions are approaching the city.”
The Regent slowly lowered herself on the silver throne, her face even more pale and clammy. Tapping her long talon like nails on the polished metal, the chamber filled with an ominous clicking sound. “Kill him,” she finally decided, pointing to the guard who had foolishly entered unannounced.
“But Lady?” the guard shouted as two of the female bodyguards took hold of him and started dragging him away. A few minutes later they came back with his head.
“Never let a man in my presence like that again or it might be your heads I take next,” Eleanor warned her guards as blood dripped on the white tiled floor from the head of the now dead guard.
Jason was still screaming uncontrollably, his eyes filled with
fear as he cradled the arm his mother had tried to snap.
Out of all the stories he had read... it was supposed to be the wicked stepmothers who treated their child like this, not one’s birth mother. That was why Jason once again imagined that the Regent was not his real mother. Any other child would start thinking that, but Jason also believed he had somehow deserved the foul names his mother called him by.
His eyes, however, were on Melissa, captain of queen’s guards. She had been his protector and at times the mother Jason wished he had. Whenever his real mother would lose her temper with him, Melissa was always there to protect him. In many ways, the guard was the closest thing to a mother or a friend he had in this world.
“Your majesty... this is not the time to harm the boy,” Melissa warned. With the Centurions on their way, the captain felt a special urgency in stopping any harm to the prince. Eleanor shoved her son in Melissa’s direction, still ignoring his cries of pain as she handed him over to her chief bodyguard. She did not notice how Jason clung to Melissa as if his life depended on it, his tears wetting her neck.
“Take him to the Tower! I never want to see him in the palace again!” Eleanor ordered, her once perfect face now splotched with red, spit shooting from her mouth with each syllable.
“Yes Regent,” Melissa bowed meekly as she wrapped her own arms around the boy, cradling him gently.
Climbing the stairs behind the throne, Eleanor left the throne room for the balcony above. The Regent cursed as she watched fifteen thousand Centurions march in perfect formation toward the walls of her beautiful city.
Now that the nobles knew the truth, without her son the people would revolt and either send her back to Tal Sith in humiliation or have her blood join the large stain that marred the chopping block in the
courtyard. No... she dare not kill Jason now. For better or for worse
their lives were now entwined.
Light and Dark
“The prince, having passed through much danger, ran to the tower and freed the princess, taking her into his arms. With their single kiss all became well in the world...”
The ending of the Adventures of Prince of Ralsat... the favorite book of Prince Jason XI
As she carried the prince up through the miles of tunnels, Melissa cooed in his ear, trying to calm the five-year-old boy, “My poor little Prince.”
Jason responded by planting a soft kiss on her neck.
“A boy... oh why did Eleanor have to give birth to a Legatio boy of all things?” Melissa sighed. Still, Eleanor had tried every trick she knew to give birth to a daughter. Even so, nothing would have stopped Jason from being born; his birth was a part of destiny. Melissa was sure of that.
Even with his mother’s anger and abuse, the child still had an aura of innocence about him and a heart that radiated love or more like... the need for love. He gave his affection both freely and eagerly to
those who accepted him, which were only too few.
Still, Jason would run up to each of his mother’s guards in the Labyrinth Tower and talk about the animals in the pens outside, the books he read, and the imaginary friend he had made with his shadow.
Except for Melissa and a handful of her most trusted guards, most of the Regent’s guards tried to earn Eleanor’s favor by mistreating the boy, but... as the guards were under orders never to hurt him, Jason took their thin tolerance for love.
“If only you had been a girl,” Melissa sighed. If he had been, the captain was sure Eleanor would not see her child as another man... a filthy disgusting beast.
Looking down on Jason, his eyes red from his tears, she saw him look up to her with a confused and pleading gaze. “Why?” the boy begged.
“You were disobedient again. You ran away from your guard
and disturbed your mother,” Melissa listed off for the prince.
Jason, his lips trembling, burst into tears again, “I’m sorry.” He cried, pressing his face against the cold metal of Melissa’s breastplate. When his face came back up it was a patchwork of white and red.
Lifting Jason up, the captain took the small boy to the bed and tucked him in. “You have to try harder not to make your mother angry. I know you can be good,” Melissa insisted with a weakness in her voice that showed how untrue her words were. She knew nothing would stop the abuse except the boy’s death or his rescue by the Centurions.
“I will be good!” Jason pleaded, sitting up with a jerk, so desperately wanting to be believed, misreading the lack of confidence in Melissa’s voice as a judgment on him.
“I know you will try, my prince...” Melissa replied as she settled
him back down.
“My arm still hurts,” Jason whimpered after a long moment of
silence. “I will take you to the healers.” Seeing that the pain was keeping
the prince from sleeping, Melissa lifted the boy up, carrying him down to the lower floors of the tower.
While the captain watched as Jason’s arm was coated with a soothing cream and bandaged, another of the Regent’s bodyguards arrived with a message from Eleanor. The sergeant, Rachel, was wearing a superior scowl on her face. Melissa looked on the woman with disgust, knowing the woman had gained her position not for her skill as a soldier but for her vocal sharing of the Regent’s hatred.
“The Regent wants to know why her ‘captain’ is not with her during this time of crisis,” the sergeant demanded.
Melissa then gave the woman such a glare that it wiped the smirk off Rachel’s face. “I was instructed to take his highness back to the tower.”
The guard, having long coveted Melissa’s position, was stubborn and refused to be intimidated by the more skilled swordswoman, giving her own chilling gaze in return. “He seems to already be ‘in’ the tower.”
“His injuries need to be looked after.”
“The Regent demands you return to the palace... unless you wish to disobey her...” Rachel grinned, daring her captain to disagree, while she gripped the hilt of her sword.
Taking a deep breath, Melissa walked toward the troublesome
sergeant, the moisture of her breath wetting the tip of the shorter
woman’s nose. “I will return to the palace as soon as the prince is back to his room!”
“No, you will go now!” Rachel shouted, pulling her sword. Before it was out even halfway, Melissa’s own blade pushed against the fatty skin of the sergeant’s large neck.
“Remember, I am the Captain of the Regent’s guard. You obey me! Do not presume, ever, to give me orders again... Private.”
“These orders come directly from the Regent,” Rachel’s voice trembled, her confidence fading. “You can’t demote me for that.”
“And I will obey them, in my own way. Now return to your post, private.”
“Yes... Captain,” Rachel hissed, walked backwards away from Melissa’s sword and out of the room. She would see that one day she would have her revenge, “her” sword point at the captain’s throat.
It was only after Jason was returned to his room and well asleep that Melissa started her long journey back through the miles of tunnels that made up the Labyrinth. It was in the middle of the dark maze that Melissa let herself break down into tears. “Oh please, Eleanor... please let the boy go.”
It was too much to hope for.
Hail Agamemnon hail... Hail the Defender of the Gate
Hail the Master of the East
Hail the General... never beat
Love Agamemnon love...
Love the sword master who would fight with his men
Love the man who would defend our lives to the end
Love our lover... and his mastery of the bed
Honor Agamemnon honor
Honor his love Honor his son
Honor his men who died for his cause
Written by Jonathan, last lover of Agamemnon Argot and recited during the
harvesting of Agamemnon’s body as dictated by traditional burial rites
Eleanor twisted her kerchief as she stepped into the carriage to meet with the leader of the Centurion host, whom she was sure was the father of her brat son. “To the gates of the city!” She ordered her coachman.
“Yes, my lady,” the man in blue and sliver livery replied from his perch atop the carriage.
The Centurion army, now only a hundred yards from the city’s gate, stood at attention, their red and black war masks hiding any show of emotion. The drums were now silent, allowing the panicked screams and shouts coming from within the city to fill the valley beyond the city’s walls. At the gates, thousands of Tosians were trying to get past the guards and escape before what looked like an approaching siege began. Just as the sun was setting, however, a blare of trumpets came from within the city and the people gave out collective sigh of relief. They even cheered when the royal carriage came down Labyrinth Way, not a common practice for an unpopular ruler. The people watched with anticipation as it raced out the gate escorted by two horsemen, each carrying a banner. One was the white banner of peace. The other was the blue and silver royal standard of Qul Tos.
While Eleanor wished that the people were cheering for her, she was not such a fool. She knew that the commoners were really cheering for the hope of a peace settlement; for they did not call her the Ice Queen out of any kind of love.
Looking out her carriage window, Eleanor saw rank after rank of Centurions while they stood stoically, spear and sword in hand, no sign of the blood lust they were famous for but only their sharp discipline.
Eleanor did not let a sense of false security overtake her, however. She knew that with the raising of a flag, or the lighting of a torch all fifteen thousand men would move like a tidal wave and destroy her city as if it were a sand castle.
“Tact” was the word of the moment. With Agamemnon’s temper just as famous as her own, she would have to watch her words with him. The archers that she had lined up on the city walls did not give her much confidence, as an enraged Centurion could become a porcupine of arrows and still continue fighting.
The only sure way to kill a Centurion was decapitation or a fatal stab to the abdomen, past his heavy armor. No, her thirty thousand soldiers would not last long against such warriors. Riding until she was behind the Centurion lines, the carriage came to a stop in front of a large red and black tent. Stepping down onto the green grass, she noticed a battering ram on wheels to the side of what had to be the command tent. Eleanor was sure that Agamemnon had placed it there on purpose to serve as a warning to her. As she walked toward the tent, she saw the emblem of two crossed double-bladed swords—the coat of arms of the man known as the Conqueror of the East—on the tent. Inside, Agamemnon waited, sitting on a leather stool, his gray eyes alight like sulfured fire from the light of the torches, showing the anger that was growing on seeing this cold woman again.
The Bond Oath between a Centurion and a Famulus.
With our bond I free you... may you never feel the sting of a Centurion’s blade.
I accept my freedom and give it back to you.
With this ring I give you my bond, The right to my bed, The power of my voice. With my love I claim you.
“I, a Famulus, accept the bond of my Centurion. I give him the right to my body, And my services as his servant. With your love I am claimed.
Together we are one in battle.
I, the sword, protect my love from harm.
I, the shield, I care for my Centurion’s wounds.
Together we are one in peace.
I, the master
I, the servant
Till our deaths break this bond, we are one...
Agamemnon looked up at Jonathan, the man who he captured at the Battle of the Gate. The man who had become his lover, the one he
would soon be leaving. Not that he wanted to, but his 39th year of life was almost over, with death waiting for him on the other side.
Jonathan, wearing the black robes of an imperial slave, the robes of a Famulus, looked at Agamemnon with love and a sense of nervousness.
Agamemnon reached over and stroked his lover’s back. “Do not worry, Jonathan... I have time enough to see to what must be done. Eleanor will soon see she has no choice but to surrender my son over to your care.”
“But your time is so short...” Jonathan replied... close to tears. It had been a slow seduction that had led to the two becoming lovers. Jonathan had been a Tosian soldier captured at the Battle of the Gate, but since that time Jonathan had known nothing but happiness, even while wearing the title of slave.
“From you, Jonathan, the boy will have to learn right from wrong... and in the world of Domus... morality is a tricky business for any Legatio youth, not to mention for us Centurions.” Agamemnon chuckled softly.
“But what if I fail? What if the boy...”
“You will not fail, my love. This is the time of prophesy, you cannot fail to do what is foretold.”
“As you say my love,” Jonathan said as he moved in to let his lips brush against the deeply tanned face of the Centurion but stopped short when out of the corner of his eye saw the flap of the tent move.
“My lord... she’s here.” When Eleanor stepped in, her hard gaze fell upon the lovers, giving them a look of pure hate. Jonathan for his part could not help but return the look with a flash of anger of his own. Having no time for a fight between his lover and the woman
with whom he mated, Agamemnon dismissed his servant. “You may go now, Jonathan... the Regent and I have many things to discuss...
matters that are best left between us alone.”
“As you wish my lord,” Jonathan bowed before departing, a scowl still on his face.
Seeing the blond woman standing in front of him with a
confident expression on her face amused Agamemnon greatly. Once his
servant was gone, he walked over to greet her with all the formality of meeting an old friend. “Eleanor... you seem well,” he said to the mother of his child with false cheerfulness.
“Lord Agamemnon,” Eleanor curtsied. “I see you have taken on a new lover... congratulations. May he last as long as we did.”
Brushing aside her barbed comment, Agamemnon continued being pleasant. “Have you enjoyed your regency, your ladyship?”
Eleanor took a seat on the beach in front of the general. “It has had its moments.”
Seeing no reason to delay what he had to say, Agamemnon went right to the point. “You know why I am here?”
“To see your daughter?” Eleanor feigned ignorance.
On hearing her say such an obvious lie, Agamemnon’s remaining patience was blown away. He pounded on the table, cracking the wood with his fist as he shouted, “I am here for my SON!”
“But you have no son,” Eleanor continued to deny, talking to the mighty general like she had seen Melissa talk to Jason, as if he were a child.
Seeing that a simple request would not work on one equally as stubborn as he, Agamemnon decided a threat was what was needed. “If I have no son you will have no head to wear that pretty sapphire crown,” he finished with a snap of his fingers.
On cue, one of the Centurion guards in the tent drew his sword and walked behind Eleanor, the edge of his sword pressing hard against her neck. It took all the courage the Regent could muster to dare to even speak again, her heart beating out of control. “Shall we trade?” she stammered. “A trade?” Agamemnon asked, raising an eyebrow, waving the
guard off. He then handed Eleanor a white towel, which came back
bloody when she wiped the back of her neck.
With the sword withdrawn, Eleanor’s confidence returned.
“Yes... I will give you Jason... if you in return lend me a few legions of
your Centurions to kill off my rivals. I think we can both agree that will
cost fewer lives on both sides.”
“Jason... that is my son’s name?” Agamemnon said. Impressed that she had at least given him a Legatio name, not knowing it had been the queen’s chief bodyguard, Melissa, who had so named him.
“Yes,” Eleanor nodded.
“Agreed...” Agamemnon said after thinking about it. The cunning Regent was right. It would be easier to kill a few nobles and their supporters than try to take the Labyrinth Tower by force. “Clear the gates so my army can claim its prize and we will see to your future as queen.”
Seeing the eager look on the general’s face, Eleanor knew she could set one more condition. “No... only you can enter. I do not want your entire army knowing the secrets of the Labyrinth.”
The general nodded but remained wary. “I hope you are not planning a trap. You know my men will level your city if I do not return.”
Eleanor gave the general a look of disbelief as if an ambush had been the last thing on her mind. It fooled no one. “Yes... I understand. Shall we now go?” she asked with nervous impatience.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. The sooner the better,” Agamemnon said as he marched past her out of his tent, into the red light of the setting sun, making the white walls of the city look as if they were covered with blood.
As the two left the tent, Eleanor waved to her gilded carriage. “May I offer my hospitality?”
“In Domus... carriages are for the weak and infirm... not even a Legatio rides one unless he must.” Agamemnon replied roughly as he went to where Jonathan was holding the bridle of a black stallion.
Racing ahead of the carriage, Agamemnon rode his horse hard, his head held high as the wind blew through his blond hair. Always a lover of horses, he would miss the thrill of the cavalry charge with the thundering sound of thousands of hooves. Out of hope that his love of animals would pass down to his son, Agamemnon had already written in his will that the horse would be his final gift to his son. Agamemnon again regretted that he had not come sooner for the boy.
Arriving at the palace well before Eleanor, Agamemnon handed the bridle to a stable boy and marched his way into the royal palace till he arrived at the iron doors to the Labyrinth.
While he waited, Agamemnon felt a sharp pain inside his chest that caused the general to bend over. “Please not now,” Agamemnon sighed. “Not till I have seen my son.”
By force of will alone, he pushed the pain back and stood up to
find Eleanor looking at him with an amused smile.
“Shall I call for a healer, Lord Agamemnon? Or is my hospitality
still too belittling for a man as noble and proud as yourself.” “I am fine,” Agamemnon said darkly, trying desperately not to
gasp for air in front of the queen.
“As you wish, my lord.” Eleanor said with a mocking bow of her head.
Feeling his strength quickly return, however, Agamemnon pulled out his sword and ran it down the iron door with one fell swoop, sending sparks everywhere. “Shall we see if your corpse will also sparkle? Open the gate!”
“Open the gate!” Eleanor shouted, her voice unable to hide a tremble of fear.
Just as the doors were opened and the Regent and general took their first steps inside, the last rays of the setting sun disappeared, bringing along the shadow of dusk.
Led inside the maze, Agamemnon walked through a series of tunnels, chambers, and ramps, leading higher up the mountain. Even while he could only see by the light of a single torch, he knew that any attack would have resulted in a blood bath. It was after feeling he had been underground for hours that they arrived at a dead end.
“What is this?” Agamemnon grunted, suspecting a trap.
“It is all part of the secret.” Eleanor smiled broadly as she waved the torch she carried in a circular pattern above her head.
Agamemnon was then startled by a sudden creaking sound. Looking up he saw a large wooden platform bound by chains descending to the ground where they stood.
“Shall we go up?” Eleanor grinned, loving the look of surprise on the general’s face.
Boarding the primitive elevator, it took them up thirty feet to stop at the final tunnel that finally led out into the open air atop the plateau. Impressed by what he had seen, Agamemnon knew that even if his men could make it through most of the maze, he didn’t know how they would make it up the cavern shaft.
When they emerged from the tunnel it was to see the white stone
Labyrinth Tower aglow under the moonlight, bonfires and torches lit
around it. Built in a semicircle around the tower, Agamemnon saw a large cistern, several warehouses, a large garden, herds of sheep and
goats, and the red fire and smell of a nearby blacksmith’s workshop.
A master of war, Agamemnon let his calculating mind try to determine how long the place could survive, besieged. If the warehouses were full, Agamemnon suspected that the Tower could last against his army for well over ten years. That was a fact that disturbed him.
At the entrance to the Tower was an oak door, banded with steel. Two of Eleanor’s female bodyguards stopping them with crossed spears.
Seeing Agamemnon reach for his sword again, Eleanor spoke. “Now now... let us show some respect for our guest.”
She waved her hand and they put their weapons back to their sides, letting her and Agamemnon pass.
“No tricks now...” Agamemnon warned, not taking his hands
off the hilt of his blade.
“Tricks... you were the one who tricked me.” Eleanor spat. “You knew I wanted a daughter but gave me a son.”
“Hahaha... did you not know? Centurions only father sons!”
“There are no Centurion women?”
“Have you ever seen one?” Agamemnon chuckled.
“No. I just assumed...”
“That we kept them locked away like prisoners... like you did with my son?” Agamemnon said half in jest.
The regent, though her face was now red with anger, kept silent, leading the general up a spiral stair to the topmost room of the tower. There she stopped, and before opening the door turned to face Agamemnon. “I have to warn you... he has never seen one of your kind.”
“What do you mean by one of my kind? A Centurion?” Agamemnon asked suspiciously.
Eleanor took a deep breath before explaining. “He has never seen another man.”
“What?” Agamemnon shouted, his already dark face turning darker.
Eleanor’s cold eyes focused on the general. “If you have not noticed, all my bodyguards are women. ‘They’ have been the only ones to enter my tower or seen my son. I have killed to make sure of that the taint of men in my tower has been limited to one exception... your brat.”
“I am sure he will adjust quickly,” Agamemnon grunted as he pushed past Eleanor.
Inside, Agamemnon’s eyes fell upon a child-size bed where a small, pale boy slept, his arm in a sling.
“My son...” Agamemnon smiled, tears of joy running down his face.
On hearing the deep voice of his father, Jason’s eyes opened to see a giant walking in with a determined look, but instead of becoming frightened Jason giggled, stood up, ran over, and hugged Agamemnon’s armored leg.
“My son...” Agamemnon repeated, lost for words.
The Drums... They Beat
Jason did not know what the armored creature was but he felt an immediate bond. It was as if he were the princess in the fairy tales, his knight finally coming to rescue him. His father, having thought he was only coming to retrieve a political weapon... found his hard heart melt, the instant love of his own son warming it, the thaw leaking from his eyes in the form of tears.
“He knows who I am!” Agamemnon laughed, the years of weariness from endless wars falling from his face and replaced with joy.
“Filth knows filth and he is definitely your filth,” Eleanor said bitterly. She had hoped her son would have put up a fit, screaming with fright, having never seen a man let alone an imposing Centurion
before. She had tried to fill her son’s head with enough nightmares. Agamemnon tear filled joyous eyes could not hold back from
approaching his son. “No... it is the way all the Legatio are with Centurions and us with them... at least when they are young. We are
their protectors and they are our memory. We fight great battles so they
can sing of them to us. We know each other from birth. We cannot be separated. That was why you could never make me believe you had a daughter,” Agamemnon said as if reciting a poem.
Eleanor had enough. “You have what you want. Now take him out of my sight!”
Agamemnon lifted Jason up into his arms, nuzzling his nose
against his son’s cheek. “Yes... he needs to be with his own people.”
“Good,” Eleanor said with disgust, glad to be finally rid of the
Jason, his eyes wide open, a giant smile on his face, wrapped his small arms around his father’s muscular neck. He then planted a kiss on Agamemnon’s cheek before resting his chin on the general’s shoulder. He had never felt so safe in his, so far, short life.
The joy and happiness was nearly overwhelming for the general.
His son, a child of his own blood, was finally where he belonged. The
tears pouring from Agamemnon face trickled down on top of his son’s long brown hair. In his excitement Agamemnon hugged Jason closer to him, triggering a scream, tears of pain on his son’s face. It was then
that Agamemnon finally noticed the sling around his son’s right arm.
Lowering his son back down to the ground, Agamemnon turned his now dark gaze toward Eleanor. “Why is his arm in a sling?”
“Your ‘son’ is a disobedient, insolent brat,” Eleanor spat, not seeing the danger she was in.
Agamemnon, his heart now beating rapidly, drew his sword. “I warned you to at least care for him if not love him!”
“You will not dare kill me! Not here! Not away from your men!” Eleanor laughed hysterically, the room filling with her guards.
“Never ‘dare’ a Centurion,” Agamemnon snarled, moving in
closer, his face flushed red.
Jason, scared by his parents’ behavior crawled under his bed and closed his eyes.
“Guards!” Eleanor shouted, now trapped between the Centurion and the balcony.
Jason watched as Agamemnon walked backwards to the thick oak door, killing Eleanor’s bodyguards like a scythe to wheat. After reaching and bolting the door with only he, the Regent, and their son left alive, he walked back toward Eleanor, his breathing heavy.
“You will never make it out of here alive,” Eleanor threatened as Agamemnon raised his sword to strike.
Just as he was about to swing his sword at Eleanor’s slender neck, a sharp stabbing pain from his chest shocked him into dropping his blade as he fell down to his knees. In sudden realization Agamemnon knew what was finally happening. The heavy breathing and rapid heart
had not been from his anger but were the telling signs of his death,
reaching the end of his forty year lifespan.
“No...” Agamemnon exhaled as his strength melted away.
Jason, on seeing the tall man fall to the ground felt an unrecognized pain of sadness. “NO!”
Crawling out from under the bed, he hurried toward his father, who was now flat on his stomach. Taking hold of the general’s neck, he tried to turn the giant man’s body onto his back.
So weak was Agamemnon now he only had the strength to turn his head on its side and call his son’s name. “Jason... please listen to me.”
Joining his father on his stomach, Jason looked into his father’s grey eyes and saw only pain.
Giving him a reassuring smile, Agamemnon gave his son a final promise. “Jason... you must live... they will come for you. They will love you.”
At the moment Agamemnon’s heart stopped, there came from outside the beat of drums...
The drums, the drums they beat, they boom,
Of doom, of doom
The drums, they beat of Centurions who come
The horns and flutes, they blare, they wail
Of doom, of doom They blare the call of war to come.
The Swords they clash, they strike, they spark
The armies of their foes must fall
We cheer, we shout, we yell, of doom,
Of doom,of doom,
Of victories won. …
The Centurion War Chant.
As written by the Legatio Dolfus Vex in the year 1021 of the Domus Empire
Sitting down on a chair, Eleanor glared at the open balcony where the sound of the Centurion war drums was the loudest. “Boom... Boom... Boom!”
“Agamemnon’s officers are demanding to see their leader,” Melissa explained.
Eleanor let a small smile grow on her face as she tapped her cheek with one of her long fingernails. “Show them their general.”
“Regent, that will send them into a frenzy!” “tap... tap... BOOM!”
“I know... there is no way we can escape this fight now, however an enraged army will make more mistakes than an organized one.” “What about our citizens.”
“Let them flee. They will run out of the city and get in the way of the Centurions. I want all the storehouses seized however, their goods brought up to the tower. Our soldiers must hold out at least that long. This will be a long war.”
Out from the valley the drums stopped, the sudden silence then broken by the loud roar of angry men. “We cannot win this!” Melissa warned.
Standing up the Regent walked right up to her captain so their noses were almost touching. “We will win. The Labyrinth Tower has never fallen. You will conduct yourself as if you plan on winning. Do not forget, we have the son of Agamemnon.”
Picking up the general’s discarded sword Eleanor struck with all her strength and fury at Agamemnon’s neck, hacking the head from its body with the splattering of blood that stained her face and her regal white dress. Going down on her knees she picked up the decapitated head of the general and glared into the dead man’s gray eyes with a look of triumph. “No man is a match for me.”
“Yes Regent,” Melissa sighed.
Eleanor pulled her captain into a deep kiss, the blood on her face slipping into both women’s mouths. “Now remove this man’s body from my home and give him to those animals outside,” Eleanor ordered.
“At once, Regent,” her captain bowed.
As her bodyguards worked to lift Agamemnon’s headless body,
Eleanor turned her hard gaze on her frightened son. It was as if she was seeing him for the first time as the man he would one day become.
That did not please her. Knowing how she had used her beauty to sway men, Eleanor could see how her own son’s charisma would grow over
time until it surpassed her own. Going over to the dresser filled with
Jason’s clothes, the Regent held each article up, examining each with a look of hatred.
Why, why hadn’t she given birth to a daughter. The midwives and witch women had assured her that potions and remedies and ice baths would give her a daughter. They had all failed her, however, and for that she had taken their lives.
Pulling out a long tunic that looked more like a girl’s dress, Eleanor hit on a solution. Jason was a boy but here in the tower he had no contact with any men. There was no reason she could not raise Jason as a girl, put him in dresses and give him dolls to play with. She would emasculate him, making him a freak of nature, as twisted as the tunnels of the Labyrinth itself so that no man or army would follow him on reaching adulthood. The more Eleanor thought on this, the more it amused her, let her son be a girl while she and her bodyguards acted as the real men.
Looking around the room, Eleanor found a sergeant guarding the door and waved her over. “I want all these clothes burned. Once you are done with that, have my seamstress report to me. We need to give the prince clothes fitting his station.”
“Yes Lady Regent,” the sergeant bowed.
Once the guards were gone and she was alone with her son, Eleanor made her way to the bed where Jason was trembling, sucking on his thumb. This time Eleanor gave her son a comforting smile, gently removing his thumb from his mouth. “Jason... must I need to tell you again about the monsters that have come to kill you, the beasts called Centurions.
So began the 15-year siege of Qul Tos... While it only took three months for the city and palace to fall, no matter how hard the Centurions fought, they could not solve the secrets of the Labyrinth.
Melissa, middle aged and still Eleanor’s captain regardless of the strands of gray mixed in with her black hair, made her daily inspections of the Labyrinth Tower on this the 5832nd day of the siege. The food warehouses, never meant to last more then ten years were almost exhausted. Where there had been three large barn-like buildings there was now only one, the two others having long been emptied and torn down for firewood.
Walking into the remaining structure Melissa counted the
meager stores, finding only five hundred pounds of grain, two
hundred pounds of beans and potatoes, a hundred pounds of dried
meat, and four crates filled with jars of pickled vegetables. Even with
the warehouse under constant watch, food was slowly being stolen, a jar here, and a cup of grain there. It was not enough to make much of a
difference but it was proof to the Captain that discipline was slipping.
Making a mental note to increase drills and inspections, Melissa
made her way back to the tower and up to the top floor; to the only place she felt safe from Eleanor’s eyes. Entering Jason’s room she found
the now 20-year-old prince sitting at a table with his dolls.
“Hello captain.” Jason smiled on seeing his caretaker enter.
“What is this... another tea party?” Melissa asked, replacing one of the dolls to sit down.
“No... I was reading them a story.” Jason said, holding up a book.
“The Prince Ralsat.”
“Is not that one your favorite?” Melissa asked. It centered on a princess trapped by her evil stepmother, the queen, in a tower high in the mountains. Till one day a prince comes to the princess’s rescue and saves her. Melissa often suspected that Jason saw himself as that princess... still waiting for his prince to rescue him.
“Would you like to read it to me?” Melissa asked, knowing it would make the young man happy.
Jason nodded his head. “Would you like some tea?”
Melissa lifted a cup with a delicate butterfly wing carved handle and offered it to Jason. “I would love some.” Jason took the teapot and poured; only hot water coming out... the supply of tea long exhausted. “Thank you.” Melissa said as she sipped the warm liquid.
Looking at Jason, Melissa could not help but feel guilty for the way he was treated. After years on short rations, Jason was dangerously thin; the gray woman’s dress that had been made from old bed sheets, hung loose on his body. Still, Melissa was amazed that the bearded man always seemed to have a smile on his face.
After listening to Jason read a chapter of his book, Melissa
excused herself to make her report to Eleanor. She found the Regent in
the same place as she always was, in her office, handing out meaningless
“I want those taxes paid! Tell the nobles that if they don’t I will start stripping them of their titles!” Eleanor shouted at one of her bodyguards.
“But Regent!” the guard tried to protest.
“Do as the Regent says,” Melissa said sternly. She knew why the guard was protesting and it had nothing to do with the fact that the nobles would just ignore Eleanor’s demands. Two months ago Eleanor, long tired of beans and dried meat, had demanded something fresher. Their own lives threatened if they did not produce such a meal, the only thing the cooks could come up with were the messenger pigeons. Against all of Melissa’s pleas to the Regent to limit her diet to what rations they had, Eleanor soon ate the entire roost in a matter of
“But...” the guard once again protested.
Seeing Eleanor reach for the knife on her desk, Melissa quickly slapped the guard hard while her other hand took the scroll away. “You will not disobey the Regent again. If I ever hear you argue with her ladyship you will be thrown over the cliff’s edge.”
Shocked, the guard went down on one knee. “Forgive me, Lady Regent.”
Eleanor, holding the knife tightly in her shaky grip looked as if she was about to cut the guard’s throat. It was only Melissa’s quick action that saved the guard’s life. “She is to be flogged and her rations cut in half.”
“I will see to this and her punishment at once.” Melissa saluted holding up the scroll.
Once she and the terrified guard were beyond Eleanor’s eyes and
ears, Melissa slammed the woman through one of the open doorways
and onto her back. Walking in after her, Melissa saw that they were
alone and slammed the door shut. “What were you thinking? Did you
believe you could make the Regent see reason?”
“But...” the guard pleaded.
“But what... that there is no way we can deliver the Regent’s message,” Melissa said as she tore the scroll in half and threw it into the nearby fireplace. “Do you think I need you to tell me that?”
“The royal seal!” “It is just a piece of wax and will melt like a normal candle.
There is nothing magical about it. In fact this little bit of wax has been reused five or six times since we ran out four years ago. It is only the
power that it represents that makes people think it is sacred and while her ladyship likes to pretend she still rules all of Qul Tos, her power goes no further than this tower.”
“Then why do you...”
“Why do I still bow and fawn over her ladyship? I don’t know how many of the guards are still loyal to her. Why would I want to risk my life like you have just done?”
“Why did you just tell me that?” the guard asked nervously.
“Because you dared to stand up against the Regent... no one loyal to her would have made such a foolish mistake. Now that the Regent has her eye on you, if you call me out as a traitor, my word would outweigh yours,” Melissa explained.
“I understand.” The guard nodded, seeing she had no other choice. “Tell me what to do.”
“I shall... but I will not tell you until I know you can follow orders.”
“What would you have me do to prove myself?”
“I want you to go into the kitchen and steal a bowl of soup and three rolls of bread.”
“You will do this or I will see that you do not survive your flogging.”
Lowering her head in submission as if to the Regent herself, the guard relented; “What do you want me to do with the food?”
“You will give it to the crown prince.”
“The Regent’s orders!” the guard said, still easily shocked by the captain’s daring.
“The Regent would have his highness die from starvation but he not her ladyship is the key to our survival,” Melissa said curtly.
Leaving the guard, Melissa returned to Jason’s high tower room. The dolls were put away on a low shelf and Jason was in bed. Melissa had noticed that as Jason became thinner and thinner, he spent more time in bed sleeping, lacking the strength to do much else. Sitting on the side of the bed, Melissa ran her fingers through Jason’s long dark brown oily hair, wishing she could take him now and escape the tower but she still lacked support from the other guards.
Years ago she found she no longer took any enjoyment from being Eleanor’s lover. Now, Melissa only pretended in order to keep the Regent from suspecting her of treachery. It had not been Eleanor’s growing madness that had soured their lovemaking but how the Regent treated her own flesh and blood. Melissa could not block out the image of the hands that would caress her body were the same ones that would s1ap about and beat Jason for the no other reason than he was born a man.
Looking down to where Jason’s head rested on a thin pillow; Melissa saw the skull, Agamemnon’s skull. Another of Eleanor irrational commands, the skull was never to leave Jason’s room. The Regent hoped it would terrify her son instead; it had become another imaginary friend out of the young man’s desperation for unconditional love.
After an hour had passed, Melissa’s new coconspirator arrived with the tray of food. Taking it and dismissing the guard, Melissa brought the meal over to Jason’s bed. Just the very scent of hot bread and soup awakened the young man, rising up on his elbows.
Tearing one of the warm dark rolls in half, Melissa handed it to Jason. “Time to eat your highness.”
“Thank you,” Jason replied, accepting the food but only nibbling on it, having long since learned that eating slowly would leave him feeling fuller.
“How is your friend?” Melissa asked the boy, pointing to the large skull.
“She told me she loved me again,” Jason replied, patting the top
of the white bone. Once Jason was done with the roll, Melissa spoon fed him the
thin soup, made up of a few slivers of potato and only the flavoring of
meat but it did have a large slice of boiled turnip. Still. It warmed Jason up enough that his pole-thin body was able to come out from under the blankets. Having now eaten more food than he had had all day, Jason had a peaceful smile on his face as he lay back down on the bed and fell
asleep. Taking the final roll, Melissa stuffed it inside the skull to hide
it. Leaving to go back on duty, Melissa wrapped Jason back up in his
blankets and gave him a final kiss.
Just as she was walking through the door, Melissa turned around and looked back at Jason. “Please your highness... please survive.”
Jason looked at the skull. He could still remember how the
flesh had changed to dust, not rotting away to his mother’s great
“Did you like your dinner?” Jason asked the bread-stuffed
The skull stayed silent, Jason had long ago forgotten the sound of his father’s voice, but that did not matter to the young man. He gave the skull its own voice, a gentle warm one. “Yes Jason... thank you for sharing your inner,” Jason imagined the skull replying.
“Do you think we will be able to go out and play? I have not been outside since...since forever it seems,” Jason asked the skull.
“Don’t worry, Jason... if you can’t go outside you can stay here with me.”
“Thank you,” Jason said as he hugged the skull.
“I love you.”
“I love you too,” Jason cried, wishing it was true.
“Shhhhhhh... now you know Melissa would be sad if she saw you crying.
“I know. I will try harder.”
“No... my poor boy, you try hard enough. Cry if you need to. Just remember that we love you.”
“I know.” Jason wept as his tears ran down the skull.
“There there now... your prince will come one day.”
“Just like the stories...?”
“Yes, and he will love you,” the skull replied, Jason remembering Agamemnon’s last words.
Walking into the Regent’s office, Private Rachel found Eleanor asleep, her head down on the desk next to one of her precious bottles. Moving closer Rachel stepped on a weak floorboard, sending out a loud creak. At once Eleanor jerked awake grabbing hold of her bottle almost empty of its fermented sugar beet concoction.
“Pardon me, your ladyship,” Rachel bowed respectfully, “There is something you need to be aware of.”
“And what would that be?” Eleanor spat before taking a swallow from her bottle.
“Your captain has been usurping your authority.”
Eleanor glared at the corporal. “Melissa is the only one among you I trust.”
“Then why does she spend more time with the brat than you? Why does she go against your orders and see that his highness gets extra food? Why do you order the guards punished but she never sees to it?” “If I remember correctly you have not been promoted in a long time,” Eleanor snickered.
“The captain has her own way of judging loyalty,” Rachel said,
not able to hide her anger as she gritted her teeth. Seeing the frustration on Rachel’s face triggered a fit of laughter
from the Regent. “And what would that be?”
“Rewarding those loyal to her instead of you... your ladyship.” Rachel seethed.
“Is that what you would like me to believe?” Eleanor asked coldly, now serious.
“It is the truth your ladyship.”
“You will have to prove it to me,” Eleanor said as she tapped one of her once long fingernails against her cheek. Her fingernails had long been bitten away by the stress of the siege.
“And if I am right?” Rachel asked hopefully, hoping to be rewarded, for that was the only reason she was there.
“Then I believe I will have a new captain. But if you are wrong... I will see to it personally that you take a small jump off the cliff’s edge,” Eleanor warned.
“Yes Lady Regent... I understand.” Leaving Eleanor’s office,
Rachel went down to the lower levels of the tower where her own circle
of allies waited. “We don’t have much time.”
“The Regent did not believe you?” one of the guards asked.
“I think she does but will not act without proof,” Rachel said as she paced about.
“What is the problem with you then?” another of Rachel’s co-conspirators asked, noticing the former sergeant’s nervousness.
“If we do not find the proof we need, the Regent will see to it that we all take a jump off the mountain.”
“What do you mean ‘we’? You did not tell the Regent about all of us?”
“No... but I will not be the only one to take that ‘jump’.” Rachel warned.
“How much time do we have?”
“Until Melissa finds out that we are trying to remove her from
her comfy post in the Regent’s bed,” Rachel scorned. “Then we do not have long,” a guard pointed out.
“Not long enough to find real proof against that bitch,” Rachel
cursed in agreement.
“Then we will just have to come up with our own,” the same guard suggested.
“Such as?” Rachel asked the private.
“We hide food in her room, leave notes that show she plans a conspiracy, and start spreading rumors that there is a plan to surrender,” the private replied.
“If the Regent ever finds out that we are lying to her...”
“Without Melissa, the Regent will believe what we want her to believe. We will control the guards and, therefore, the Tower.” Rachel replied, silencing everyone.
“When will we start?”
“Now... begin writing incriminating letters. I will see that food items are hidden in Melissa’s room. Then we will start spreading word that the captain is trying to convince the Regent to surrender,” Rachel ordered.
“That would make the Regent furious!” One of the more nervous guards replied. Rachel would have to keep a close eye on that one.
“That is the point,” Rachel grinned, knowing well how paranoid her ladyship had become during the long siege. The only risk she could see was Melissa finding out the truth and warning the Regent before the Captain of the Tower took that small step over the tower’s edge.
Turn right Death will surprise you in a cave darker than night. Go up Go down
You will soon find there is no way out.
Bring sword Bring torch Doom is lurking all about. So boy So girl Be good or lose one’s self to the Labyrinth’s might
A Qul Tosian folksong sung to naughty boys and girls up to no good
It had started off like any other day. Jason sat in his room, reading to his dolls. The skull of his father by his side, the roll Melissa had hidden in the Centurion skull eaten long ago. Then, for the first time since the day he had been taken down to the palace, something unexpected happened. Melissa came bursting into the room, her sword out and a thick cloak in her other hand.
“Your highness put this on and come with me!” Melissa shouted, a look of panic on her face.
“What is wrong?” Jason asked nervously, crawling under the table. “Are the Centurions attacking?”
Seeing that she was scaring the young man, Melissa took a few deep breaths to calm down. “No, your highness, I thought you would like to go outside.”
Having been trapped inside the tower for over a year, Jason jumped up with excitement. “Go outside!”
“Shhhhh, but we will have to be very quiet... your mother is sleeping. You would not want to disturb her now.”
“No...” Jason whispered as he put on the oversized cloak.
Just past the door were three other guards, their swords out as well. Where are your clubs?” Jason asked, he knew that the guards were not supposed to have sharp weapons around him.
“It will be alright, Jason... we will be careful that you don’t get cut,” Melissa promised.
Except for the women with Melissa, the tower stairs were empty of guards. Melissa did her best to shield Jason’s eyes when they passed the dead women lining the way down, covering his eyes with her free hand. Once outside, the guards with Melissa all started to run, the Tower Captain pushing Jason along. Jason though, with his weak legs was unable to keep up. Soon he and Melissa were far behind the others.
“We need to hurry, your highness,” Melissa said as she put away her sword to try and carry Jason over her shoulder.
Now realizing that Melissa had to be doing something very wrong... something he was sure his mother would punish him for, Jason pushed her away. “Why are we running? Where’s my mother?”
“Your highness... you are no longer safe here. I am taking you down to the city.”
“But the Centurions control the city!”
“Jason... you are the son of a Centurion!” Melissa yelled, the words long in coming.
“No...Centurions are monsters! I am not monster! I’m a good person... you told me so,” Jason said walking away from Melissa.
“Jason you are not a bad person. Most Centurions are not bad. Those are just lies your...” Melissa tried to explain when from out of the tower the Regent, Rachel, and a dozen armed women poured out.
“That will be enough, traitor!” Eleanor shouted; her once pale
face now flushed with rage.
Melissa seeing Jason walk further away from her dived to catch him only for a single arrow to hit her right thigh, blood landing on the prince. “Get away, Jason... run into the cave!”
Jason, his eyes frozen on the blood staining his grey dress, went into shock, believing it was his own blood he saw.
“Jason, you will go back to your room now or else!” Eleanor warned, marching over to where her son stood paralyzed. Jason, however, did not move in either direction.
“JASON!” the regent shouted again, triggering Jason to dart his eyes away from Melissa and toward his mother.
“Mother...was my father a Centurion?” Jason asked almost whimpering.
“Yes he was, making you the most disgusting pathetic man I have ever seen. I wish you had never been born. But if you do not go back to your room now I will see that the mistake of your existence is corrected!” Eleanor barked as she drew General Agamemnon’s old gold dagger.
Seeing that there was no way that the frightened boy would dare oppose his mother, Melissa stood back up and drew her sword. “Jason... go back to your mother.”
“But...” Jason protested.
“Jason, if you do not go back with your mother now she will hurt you,” Melissa said as she slowly walked backwards toward the entrance of the cave where her comrades were waiting.
Turning around, Jason walked back to his mother but instead
of allowing him back into the tower, Eleanor handed him off to her
new captain... Rachel. Jason watched as Melissa turned and staggered
deeper into the cave as his mother’s loyal guards chased after her.
Looking up at his mother, Jason saw her eyes glaring into the cave. With each scream or yell, her scowl would change to a momentary grin that would quickly disappear.
After nearly ten minutes of fighting, the guards began to slowly
return, many of them wounded. “Well?” Eleanor demanded.
“They are all dead, Lady Regent,” one of the guards reported.
This time the smile lasted a little longer... that was until she noticed something missing. “Where is Melissa’s head? I told you I wanted it!”
“We cannot retrieve it, my lady... the former captain jumped down the cave shaft to the lower level when we surrounded her.”
“Then go down there and retrieve the body!”
“Wait!” Rachel shouted, as the guards were about to return to the cave.
“Yes, my captain,” Eleanor asked, brushing the woman’s cheek with her long thin fingers.
“Let me take the traitor’s head.”
“Yes... yes I like that idea. You have my permission and blessing to retrieve it.” Eleanor smiled before she placed a kiss on her new captain’s cheek.
Now alone with her son, Eleanor’s smile turned into a look of disgust. Grabbing her son by the wrist she dragged him to the smithy near the almost empty warehouses. “You will come with me. It looks like I will have to punish you myself.”
“No... please mother... don’t,” Jason begged.
“Don’t ‘please mother’me,” Eleanor seethed as she entered the hot workshop. “I can’t cut you, but there are plenty of other things I can do.”
Dragged inside, Jason was taken to an anvil. Eleanor then
lifted one of his legs onto the hard metal, and held there by a female
blacksmith. “Your father used the hammer and anvil to crush the
Confederacy’s armies. It is fitting that I do the same to you.” His mother
then picked up an iron hammer and slammed it down on her son’s calf, breaking the bone. This was done to both legs, leaving Jason on the dirt
floor crying, unable to stand up. It was not the first time she had broken one of his bones, but it was the first time it left him so crippled.
Dropping the hammer onto the floor, Eleanor spat on her son’s head. “Take him back to his room,” she ordered the blacksmith.
The first thing Melissa could remember after jumping from
the tunnel to the level below was the jangle of chains as the elevator platform started making its way down toward her. Trying to stand, the now former captain felt a sudden pain in her thigh where an arrow was still sticking out.
Since pulling the arrow out would only make the bleeding worse; she snapped two thirds of the shaft off, leaving the arrowhead in as she staggered back onto her feet. Painfully she walked deeper into the Labyrinth, while behind her she could hear Rachel’s voice cursing after her.
Leaning for support against the dry cavern walls, she stumbled in the pure darkness as she passed the open pits, crawled across the narrow bridges, and made her way beyond the narrow choke points long since fought over. It was only her considerable knowledge of the secrets of the Labyrinth that kept her ahead of her foe.
Hours later and once past the halfway point, the first sign of salvation came into view, lit torches lighting the pink granite walls. Knowing she was now in the areas patrolled by the Centurions, Melissa began shouting, not for help, but surrender, least they kill her by mistake. “I surrender! I surrender!”
Refusing to give up, Melissa followed the torches, continuing to shout but as time passed she weakened from loss of blood, while her voice became hoarse.
Suddenly the loud sound of armored feet came from behind and before the former captain knew it Rachel was right behind her.
“Melissa!” Rachel roared, spittle dripping from her mouth. She had been so frustrated by the twists and turns of the maze that by the time she caught up with the wounded former captain, she was half mad with rage.
Melissa, knowing that she lacked the strength to offer much more of a chase, turned around to face her rival, only ten feet behind her. If she was going to die at least she would not die with the dishonor of being backstabbed. “I see you have let things become personal.”
“What of it!” Rachel spat, her eyes wide with anger.
“You should never let things become personal,” Melissa said
calmly, the weight of over fifteen years of war melting away. For Rachel, however, fifteen-years of poisonous jealousy boiled
out of her mouth. “Why? You seem to have. You promoted women many years my junior when you knew that I am one of the best!”
“The only thing you were best at was looking out for yourself.”
“So...I could never trust you,” Melissa said as she shook her head slowly.
“Yes... but look at us now. Soon your head will be on a pike and I will be in the Regent’s bed.”
Feeling her life slowly leave her, Melissa leaned against the stone wall and slid down. “You can have both... I no longer need either.”
Dropping her torch, and drawing a sharp blade, Rachel moved in. “I WILL take both!”
Not wanting to let fear show on her face, lest Rachel decided to stretch out her death just to see the former captain cower; Melissa closed her eyes and let weariness take over.
Wondering why Rachel was not taking this last chance to torment her, she pulled away from the cold darkness of death wrap around her when the spark of curiosity brought her back into the world of the living.
Carefully she opened her eyes, ready to shut them at the first sign of sharpened iron. What she did see shocked her into opening them the rest of the way. Rachel was indeed standing in front of her, her sword ready to strike, but against the woman’s stout neck was a dagger held by a man whose lower face was covered by a black and red mask.
Gathering what strength she had, Melissa attempted to stand
but was stopped when a knife was placed against her own throat.
And in the great City There was a great fortress both underground and above And in that great fortress There was a tall tower A tower that will never fall Qul Tos, Qul Tos Our city of silver and gems Qul Tos, Qul Tos, City of the Labyrinth we defend
Third Stanza and Chorus of the Tosian Anthem
“Please don’t kill me yet... you must save his highness,” Melissa begged at a near whisper, the cutting edge of the dagger scraping her neck with each syllable.
“Take us to him,” the deep muffled voice of the armored Centurion demanded.
“I can show you, but I do not have the ability to take you all the way.”
“She is a traitor!” Rachel shouted, answering as if believing the Centurions would kill any traitor regardless of which side they were on.
“So I assume you are not.” The masked Centurion chuckled, his gray eyes darting over to Rachel. “Guess we do not need to keep you alive then.”
“No wait... we need her,” Melissa gasped, her breathing becoming shallow.
“What we need is to get you to a healer,” the Centurion insisted.
“No... What I need to do is guide you to the shaft. You can then force Rachel to order the elevator down.”
“Yes... it is the only way to the upper tunnel that leads to the top and the Labyrinth Tower.”
“I see... but that can wait... we need to see to your bleeding.”
“It is too late... I’ve lost too much blood. I am only hanging on by the hope that you can save his highness. Please, I need to do this.”
“I understand.” The Centurion nodded, removing the dagger from her neck. “Is there anything we can do for you?”
“Just save his highness and...”
Melissa looked deep into the Centurion’s gray eyes and found the kindness that not even all the years of adventure Eleanor had given her matched up to. “Kiss me...”
“May I ask why?” the man asked a sense of awkwardness in his voice.
“The last person I kissed was Eleanor. I do not want to die knowing it was her bitter lips that last touched mine.”
“But...” the Centurion protested.
“I don’t care if you’re a man... it does not matter anymore. Just
kiss me so we can be on our way!”
Nodding, the Centurion moved aside as one of his comrades replaced him in guarding Rachel. He then untied the leather strap holding the metal mask covering his mouth. On the other side Melissa saw a gentle smile, something she had not seen in years. The man took both of his large calloused hands and held her both sides of her face before he moved in for the kiss. It was both long and soft and for Melissa it was the first kiss given out of kindness that she had had in
many years. She would have been happy if that last kiss took away her
final breath but she knew she needed to live just a little bit longer.
“Thank you,” Melissa said as a tear fell from her face.
“It is I who should be thanking you. This war will finally end because of you,” the Centurion replied as he put his mask back in place.
“This war should never have started.” Melissa sighed as she was lifted up into the Centurion’s arms. Now able to see further down the tunnel she saw an endless line of men dressed in black and red armor, their weapons in hand.
As Melissa guided the Centurions through the Labyrinth, the Centurion who kissed her talked to her to make sure she maintained consciousness.
“I would like to apologize for that kiss... you are the first woman I have done that with.”
“A virgin Centurion,” Melissa weakly chuckled.
“I am no virgin.” The Centurion replied as if he had just been insulted. “I’ve not been one since I was seventeen.”
“So it’s true...”
“Yes,” the Centurion nodded. “Is what they say about the Regent true?”
“Yes... she finds the very sight of men to be abhorrent. As for me... you are the first man I have let kiss me since I left my husband to join Eleanor on her grand adventure.”
“Did you hate him so much?”
“No... to be honest I actually liked my husband even if I he could be boring at times. I was just never meant to be a wife. The Regent promised me an adventure and that is what she gave me.”
“And how was it?”
“The sex was different... you men always tend to be in a rush. I enjoyed it and have no regrets. It was liberating not having to depend on a man... and for a while it outweighed the Regent’s faults.”
“I guess she has many of them.” “Only two, but they will be her undoing.” “What are they?”
“First... she is very insecure. It became worse after she was made
Regent. Even being ruler of Qul Tos, she did not feel she had enough
power to be safe from her enemies.”
“What is the other?” the Centurion asked.
“She hates men... all men, including her son. Her hatred has such a hold over her that it has made her irrational.”
“Why hate men in the first place?”
“Her father raped her, King Daslan treated her like an ornament, Agamemnon used her to produce a child she never wanted, and his highness... well.”
“Each time her ladyship had sex with a man she felt as if she were being invaded, poisoned almost. The very idea that a male child grew inside her for nine months was too much for her emotionally; it twisted her to the point of insanity.” It pained Melissa to admit this last.
“Is his highness safe?” the Centurion asked concerned.
“With me no longer able to protect him... no.”
“You have been protecting him?”
“He is the only child I’ve ever raised even though I abandoned my own daughter to serve as the Regent’s bodyguard. I and my comrades were attempting to escape with him. Her ladyship found out and killed all my friends... all thanks to an old grudge,” Melissa said as she gave Rachel, now tied and gagged, a hard stare.
“I promise you will be remembered. I will see your name in the Legatio’s songs,” the Centurion swore.
“Then you will need to know my name.” Melissa chuckled.
“True.” The Centurion laughed.
“I am Melissa Arkridge, former captain of the Regent’s bodyguard.”
“Arkridge... that is indeed a famous name.”
“If you think you know who I once was let it fade from your mind,” Melissa pleaded. “I will not have my husband learn the cost of my decisions.”
“If that is what you wish,” the Centurion nodded.
“And what is your name, warrior?”
“I am C-5-7.”
“C-5-7.” Melissa laughed before going into a fit of coughing.” “I better stop talking or else you will never make it,” the
Centurion apologized. “No... I know I will not make it. Talking helps keep my mind on
the present. You need to turn left here.”
“Why do you keep saying that?” C-5-7 asked while he led his
men up the left tunnel.
“Because there is something you need from me to get the other guards to lower the elevator.”
“What is that?”
“My head... Rachel will need to prove she has it before they will send the platform down.”
The Centurion stopped walking and stared hard at Melissa. “There has to be another way.”
“There are other ways but they will take more time. I do not believe his highness has that time.”
“Please... I would not have revolted against the Regent if I were not willing to die for his highness. Do not make me live to find out you
were too late.” “As you wish,” the Centurion agreed as he continued walking.
The two remained silent the rest of the way until, finally, they arrived at the last turn before entering the elevator shaft. “Stop here,” Melissa commanded just as if she were still Captain of the Labyrinth Tower, even though she was now very weak.
“Are we close?”
“Yes. You should do it now,” Melissa said, not able to say the words.
“I understand.” C-5-7 nodded, lowering her down to the ground. As he unbuckled the giant double-bladed sword from his back, two other soldiers helped Melissa onto her knees.
Melissa looked up to see the large weapon in his hands. It was six feet in length, almost as tall as the 6’7” warrior. On both ends were double-edged blades joined together by an eighteen-inch bronze handle. It was clearly a versatile weapon, and could be used as a sword, staff, or short spear. While it was a formidable weapon, it was also extremely heavy, requiring great strength to weld. Only in a Centurion legion was the double-bladed sword ever commonly used.
“Are you sure?” C-5-7 asked, his sword gripped in both hands.
“Yes...” Melissa said, her head bowed.
As soon as her lips closed from saying that one word, C-5-7 let one blade of his sword fall down, severing her neck. Not having her wait for her death was the only gift he felt he could give her. Picking Melissa’s head with both hands as to not disturb her hair, C-5-7 brought it to the Centurion guarding Rachel.
He removed her gag before speaking. “If you want to live longer than your comrades you will have them lower the elevator for us.”
“What if I refuse?” Rachel snickered.
“You saw how Melissa died.”
“Yes, you killed her like a chicken.” Rachel laughed, sure in her own self-importance.
“If the elevator does not come down or you warn your friends I will see that you will die slowly, be it days, weeks or months. I will see you do not have a moment of peace until the tower falls.”
Rachel, her eyes now frozen on the blood dripping from
Melissa’s head, nodded in understanding. Satisfied with her response
the Centurion untied her and handed her the head of the former captain as well as a torch. Rachel was then allowed to walk the rest of the way, followed by a Centurion archer into the dark elevator chamber.
Waving the torch she had been given, Rachel shouted toward the high chamber ceiling. “Send the platform down!”
“You have the traitor’s head?” a voice shouted back.
“Yes!” Rachel called back, bringing the captain’s head closer to the torch.
“Good... what took you so long?”
Hearing the sound of a bowstring being pulled back, Rachel took a deep breath before replying. “It turned out she had a little fight left in her. Gave me a good chase!”
“Sounds like her... we all knew she would put up a struggle!”
“No fight left in her now.” Rachel laughed nervously. “Send the
A few seconds later Rachel heard the creaking sound of the platform slowly being lowered. At nearly the same time she felt a sharp pain in her back while the torch was taken out of her hands and extinguished.
“What happened?” the same guard’s voice came from above.
Feeling the point of a knife jab harder at her Rachel replie quickly. “Torch finally burned out!”
“Do you want us to send another?”
Feeling another poke Rachel replied quickly; “No, no reason to waste them!”
Now in total darkness, Rachel could still sense the movement of air as the chamber was filled by the enemy. However, when the platform touched the ground and she was guided by the knife to step on it, only the sound of her own feet were heard touching the wood boards.
Still she knew she was not alone on the platform as the knife to her back had followed her onto the platform. “Send it up!”
By this point Rachel’s heart was almost beating out of her chest. What would happen when the guards found out she was not alone? If the guards succeeded in pushing the Centurions back, Rachel was sure that the Regent would take her head just as she had demanded Melissa’s for her treachery. If the Centurions won, however, would they let her live and, if so, what would happen to her in the future?
Before she was able to dwell long on those thoughts, the platform came to a jerking halt. Now, all that was between the Centurions and the tunnel leading outside to the Labyrinth Tower was a thick black curtain that blocked out the torchlight on the other side. This time Rachel heard the sound of dozens of Centurions’ feet as they rushed past her, tearing down the curtain as they poured into the tunnel, surprising the guards beyond it. After the sound of fighting died down, Rachel felt herself pushed forward into the tunnel. In the light of the torches she could see that all the guards were dead, the Centurions examining the controls to the elevator. It did not take them long to find out how to lower and raise it. In less then an hour a thousand Centurions were crammed in the upper tunnel... numbers that Rachel knew the Regent’s bodyguards did not stand a chance against.
“You see it, don’t you?” C-5-7 whispered from behind.
“We will all die,” Rachel whimpered.
“Yes,” he replied just before jabbing a knife into her side and before leaving her to join in the fight. As she slid to the floor, watching the Centurions charge out of the tunnel, Rachel tried to figure out where she went wrong. She did not find the answer before death finally took her.
The Prince of Ralsat
“And the prince, having fought long and hard defeated the evil witch atop the tower where she had kept the princess her prisoner. Now, just
outside the princess’s door, all Prince Ralsat had left to do was open the
door and give his princess the kiss that would break the witch’s spell.”
A line from the last chapter of the Prince of Ralsat.
The bones had been set and bandaged but the pain was still incredible. Jason, his whole body shaking with agony, prayed that the next person to enter his room would be Melissa, his mother having forgiven her. All the poor young man wanted was for everything to go back to the way things had been. But as time passed, nobody came.
Then the sound of fighting reached the top of the tower, right when the red sun began streaming onto the balcony outside Jason’s window. Hearing loud shouts outside, Jason used his arms to crawl out of bed and make his way to the open balcony, jutting out of the tower 60 feet above ground. Looking down through the railing he could see the
three dozen of his mother’s bodyguards fighting off an endless stream of creatures dressed in black and red armor. They appeared much like the burning ants found in the Desert of Flames he had seen in a picture book, only giant in size.
Jason watched as the women were quickly overwhelmed, pushed back to the tower, their escape already closed off, the thick oak door bolted shut least lest a single Centurion slip through. By dusk, the fighting outside the tower was over; the tower surrounded by what Jason assumed were the monstrous creatures known as Centurions.
Even as arrows rained down from the tower, a loud banging rang throughout the structure, the oak door rammed by a heavy plank. By the seventh strike the door broke open. It was at that moment that Jason heard his mother bursting into his room, looking ragged, with her white blond hair in total disarray. As quickly as she entered she closed and bolted the door, a gold knife in her hand.
“This is your fault, filth,” she accused her son, shaking the gold
dagger in his direction.
Scared that his mother was going to hurt him more, Jason’s body shook. “What did I do?” he asked, as the sound of the women’s screams could be heard from below.
“You are a Legatio. I see that now. If you had been a daughter none of this would have happened.”
“But I’m your son.” Jason asked confused. He did not think he was a monster.
Eleanor pushed back her long blond hair from her face with the hand holding the dagger, scratching it with the knife’s sharp tip. “You were born one of those filthy bureaucrats, you fool. I should have cut it off the moment I saw it. I ‘will’ cut it off before the Centurion’s get their hands on you! Let’s see if they want you then!” Eleanor shouted as she moved in closer to her son with the dagger.
The sound of heavy footsteps could be heard racing up the tower stairs, the clash of metal only bringing short intervals.
Seeing the sharp object approach him, Jason became filled with fear. He tried to crawl away but could only go as far as the balcony rail.
Eleanor gave her son a syrupy sweet smile as a trickle of blood fell from her scratched cheek. “Don’t worry, Jason... it will be painful, but once it’s over you will never have to worry about being a man again.”
“But if you cut me I will die.”
Just then the door to Jason’s room began to crack and buckle as
the door started to break off its hinges.
His mother burst into hysterical laughter. “We are all going
to die! They have almost broken through! I have offered them you in
return for my life but they refused. They are willing to let you die so they can get their revenge against me... curse you, you are more than worthless!”
Jason, not wanting to see what his mother was going to do to him closed his eyes waiting for his mother to strike him dead, — it never came. Instead, Jason heard a sudden whoosh pass over his head and felt something heavy fall on top of him.
Instead of the sharp pain of a dagger, Jason felt the weight of his mother’s body on top of him. Slowly opening his eyes Jason found his mother dead, an arrow in her neck. Struggling, he was able to push her off, but in doing so she became a barrier over which he could not climb. The way back into his room was blocked.
So out on the balcony he waited. As he waited to find out his
fate, there was one thing he did not understand; why was he not upset
that his mother was dead? Yes, she had often humiliated and hurt him,
but as her son he should be crying right now. The tears would not come... nor would they ever... not for his mother at least.
Hearing the remainder of the door ripped away as well as the sound of heavy armored boots, Jason shut his eyes tight while his whole body shook with terror and pain. He wished to go asleep and wake up with the events of today never happening. He wanted Melissa back.
At first the Centurions did not notice Jason, only seeing the corpse of the regent, the target of several crossbow bolts, but once they saw the young man, bearded and in a woman’s dress alive under her, they all began to laugh.
“I can’t believe it... he is alive,” one of the men in armor chuckled.
Another moved in closer and took the old gold dagger out of the dead Regent’s hand. “Seems like he wasn’t going to be for long.”
“It looks like her ladyship was out to get him with Agamemnon’s own knife,” another agreed eying the blade.
“Come along, little fellow... you started this war so you should al least open your eyes to see your rescuers,” the first armored man said, his voice a warm and friendly baritone. Slowly Jason opened his eyes, and to his disappointment, the
“Centurions” did not look much different then his mother’s bodyguards
except for the small masks covering their mouths and the black and red color of their armor.
“There, now I can see those beautiful green eyes of yours,” the Centurion said cheerfully. “Can you stand up?
“I can’t,” Jason said embarrassed. He was surprised that he didn’t feel any fear towards these metal giants. There was something in the “man’s” voice that he found even calming.
“Why can’t you get up?” the man asked as he began to work off
“My legs... they’re broken,” Jason admitted.
“Now are you going to tell me how that happened, little fellow?” the man said as he removed his mask and his face was finally revealed.
Jason looked, amazed at the face in front of him. It looked rougher, stronger than any he could remember. The “man” had dark blond hair, cut short and gray eyes that sparkled. His skin was deeply tanned while his mouth had such a friendly wide smile that it made Jason feel warm inside. Suddenly the young man was filled with an urge to be held.
“You alright, little fellow?” the man asked when Jason didn’t respond right away.
“Centurion...” Jason whispered.
“That’s right, I’m a Centurion, and you are a Legatio.”
Confused, Jason had to ask, “A Legatio...?”
“Our envoys, ambassadors, poets, and historians, and most importantly our children. You have never been told this?”
“No... I don’t even know what a ‘Centurion’ is.”
“Hahahahaha... well, I’m a Centurion and you’re a Legatio.”
“I know... mother told me before she... before you... killed her. But I still don’t understand,” Jason said with tears running down his face.
“I’m sorry, little fellow, but people die in war. Tell me, what is your name or would you like me to keep on calling you little fellow.”
Jason giggled. The Centurion was the most warm and openly friendly person he had ever met. It was a great relief to see that the nightmares his mother had planted in him were not all true . “My name is Jason, son of Daslan of Qul Tos, son of Elanor OF Tal Sith, prince of all Tosians but I don’t mind being calling a little fellow. As I am shortest person I have ever come across its more honest name than that of my title..”
The man reached down and tousled Jason’s long unkempt hair. “Well, I like Jason better. So tell me, Jason, why are your legs broken?”
“Punishment,” Jason replied nervously looking down to the ground at his dead mother in shame, afraid that the Centurion would hate him if he learned what filth he was.
“Punishment?” the friendly man asked concerned.
“I tried to run away with Melissa, so my mother broke my legs. That way I would be a good person because I would not be able to do that again.”
“I’m sorry, Jason. Things must have been very hard for you here,” the Centurion said sadly.
Jason did not understand that comment, how it could be hard, the tower and his mother was all he knew. “Hard?” “Well, Jason, you know that we will not hurt you.” “Yes...” Jason replied, knowing for some reason that what the
man said was true.
“I’m going to lift you up now and carry you to your bed. Is that
alright?” “Yes...” Jason agreed eagerly, he wanted so much to be held
after all that had happened today. “Are you the Prince of Ralsat?”
“The prince of what?” The Centurion chuckled as he held the young man close to his towering frame.
“I wish you were...” Jason said disappointed. For a brief moment he thought that his favorite story was coming to life, that the Centurion was really the Prince of Ralsat, coming to save him.
The Centurion raised Jason’s bearded face up to his own clean shaven one and nuzzled against him. Jason responded by quickly wrapped his thin arms around the warrior’s neck, hugging him tightly as fresh tears fell down onto the man’s armor.
For a long moment the Centurion just rocked the young man
in his arms, trying his best to comfort him. After Jason’s sobbing died
down, he placed him on the bed, allowing the other warriors to see the condition Jason was in, bearded with hair that went halfway down his
back and dressed in a gray woman’s outfit.
“Don’t a single one of you dare laugh,” the unmasked Centurion warned. “Yes commander,” all of the others barked as one, snapping to attention
“First, get rid of this corpse. I think there is a head we promised to put on a pike,” the Centurion started ordering. “I want the Famulus, Jonathan, brought here... it is about time he met his master. Tell him I have a young man who needs a haircut and shave. He will also need to bring one of my old uniforms. It will be too large but he has always been handy with a needle and thread. Also bring up some warm food. Finally, one of you needs to go tell General Darius that Agamemnon’s son is alive.
“Yes sir...” the men saluted, right fists over their chests before
turning around and leaving.
“That will take them awhile.” The Centurion grinned. “We’ve not even had time to set up camp yet. Since we learned of the secret to the Labyrinth we have been on the move.”
Feeling guilty, Jason turned his head away from the man. “I am sorry.”
“Do not worry about it. I’ve lasted over a week with no sleep or food. But I have to admit I am tired.” The man grinned as he stretched out in his armor.
“What is your name?” Jason asked, wondering if “Centurions” even had names.
The Centurion snapped his armored legs together producing a metallic ring, his right fist hitting the steel plate over his heart with a clang. “My name is Commander of the 5th unit seventh legion in the service of the great Domus Empire, mightiest of all nations. C-5-7 for short.”
“That can’t be your real name,” Jason laughed. Given
“It is my professional name. If you want my birth name you have to promise me something.”
“What is that?” Jason asked, curious.
The man gave Jason a wide grin. “You have to promise to never call me C-5-7.”
“Deal!” Jason readily agreed.
“Good... I think we will get along fine then. My name is Philip
Helios, but I would prefer it if you just called me Philip.”
“Alright... Philip.” Jason grinned.
Philip gave his body a sniff and wrinkled his nose. “Gosh I hate this armor... do you mind if I take it off.”
“No.” Jason smiled. He was very curious to see what Philip looked like underneath all that metal, unsure if he was indeed a “man”.
It took awhile for the Centurion Commander to undo all the
leather straps and metal clasps, but Philip, with dexterous finger’s made relative fast work of it. In ten minutes he had the heavy plate
mail and chain greaves off. That only left only the thick white padded
shirt and leggings underneath.
It was at that moment that a man dressed in a long black robe came in. Jason was able to take his wide stare away from Philip’s undressing long enough to say hello to the gray-haired man. The man, however, acted like he didn’t hear the prince. Instead he went down on his knees and bowed his head to the Centurion.
Once Philip finished pulling off his padding Jason eyes went wide, focusing on the broad-shouldered “man”, his chest covered with a dark blond fuzz in deep contrast to his dark skin, that narrowed into a small trail toward his loincloth. Jason still did not know if he was a man... for the Centurion was nothing like anything he had ever seen in his life... and it excited him.
Philip, stretched out his body in front of Jason, knowing very
well what effect it was having on the young man. He wanted to show
the prince there was nothing to fear from a man’s body.
Finally, however, the Centurion turned and acted with bemused surprise on seeing the Famulus on the ground before him. “You may get up, Jonathan, and meet your master.”
“Jason, I would like you to meet a Famulus – your Famulus. Do you know what a Famulus is?”
“A slave?” Jason asked uncertainly. There was so much his mother had told him that he was now finding to be untrue.
“You Tosians might call him a slave but your Famulus is more akin to being a servant as well as a companion. Right now he’s here to cut your hair and shave your face and fit you into some of my old clothes. Then we will see the fine young man that the son of Agamemnon has grown into,” the Centurion said, trying hard to remain cheerful while his urge was to kill... kill any of the female prisoners for what they had allowed done to the thin frail boy... clearly starving for both food and love.
That look of anger did not remain hidden long from Jason, who looked as if he were about to cry from it. For Philip to look so angry and to talk about cutting his hair, something that would never be allowed while Melissa had watched over him... least he be cut. “But... I thought you... you were my...” his lips quivered.
“Why... do you even think I could hurt you?” Philip asked, his anger replaced by curiosity and no little concern as he lifted the young
man back into his arms and rocked him gently while Jason’s tears ran down his bull-like neck and chest.
Jason looked at the sharp pair of scissors Jonathan had in his hands and gulped. “My mother said if I was ever cut I would die.”
“Trust me, it would take something more serious than a razor cut to kill you. Still, I promise you Jonathan is an expert. He’s not cut me in over a year,” Philip said encouragingly, trying his best not to laugh at Jason’s fears.
“Alright,” Jason said with a weak smile. He still felt apprehensive.
Philip, now out of his armor, carried Jason over to one of the chairs and left him in Jonathan’s care while he continued to undress. It turned out to be a good distraction for Jason. Instead of worrying about what Jonathan was doing with his razor he watched Philip’s body move and flex as he worked off the remainder of his clothing.
It was while Philip’s back was turned to him that Jason noticed strange markings on both of Philip’s shoulders. “What are those marks?”
“On my back?” Philip chuckled as he moved closer so Jason could get a good look at them. “They show my life marks.”
“Oh...?” Jason said, still not understanding.
“You see the ones on the left deal with my accomplishments; while the ones on the right show my deaths... or better said the men I have killed.”
Jason saw that both shoulder blades were filled with marks. “You’ve killed a lot of people?” he asked nervously.
“Yes I have... I’m a Centurion. That is what we Centurions do.”
Jason tried to count how many tally marks were on the right shoulder but gave up after 102. So instead he went back to looking at the left shoulder. There, the marks were more elaborate, and while they were fewer they were also larger. “What do the left marks show?” Jason asked while Jonathan clipped away at his hair.
“Well, the first one celebrates the day I was circumcised.”
“Circumcised?” “Let me show you.” Philip laughed as he turned around to face Jason. By this time all he had on was his loin cloth. Letting it to fall to the floor, he turned around to face Jason, his manhood hanging loose.
“You see?” Jason was taken aback by what he saw, standing in front of him was the strongest person he had ever seen. Then there was Philip’s manhood... surrounded by a trimmed bush of dark hair.
“Yes...” Jason said as he felt something stir inside him.
“Don’t you notice that it looks different than yours?” “A little... it is larger than mine.”
“Yes, but look at the head,” Philip said as he took hold of his sex and moved in closer to Jason.
“It looks funny?” Jason asked, unsure.
Philip pulled on the short skin, looking down on it with pride. “My foreskin is shorter than yours because mine was cut off.”
“Why did you do that?” Jason asked, confused, sure that it had to have hurt.
“Tradition... to show that we are men and can handle pain among other things.”
“It must have been painful.”
“Trust me it was... but I survived.” Philip grinned, not yet ready to tell Jason the celebration that happens after a circumcision.
“Will I have to do the same?” Jason asked nervously.
“Oh no... the Legatio do not undergo the ceremony,” Philip said as he turned back around so only his back was facing Jason.
“So what do the other marks mean?” Jason asked.
“Well, one of them shows the first time I held a sword, another, my mastery of the double blade. Another one tells about my first time I bedded a man, I don’t have one for being with a woman. The largest one in the center celebrates my acceptance into the seventh legion. So the only ones missing are my wedding, bonding, parenthood, and death, but that last one will go on my skull.”
“What did you mean by being with a man?” Jason asked, confused.
“Well... have sex with him.”
Jason knew that he should know what Philip was talking about but he just didn’t understand. “What is sex?”
“You mean you don’t know what sex is?” Philip asked, flabbergasted.
“No...” Jason replied, feeling embarrassed.
“Don’t feel bad, Jason. You’ve lived most of your life locked up in this tower with only your mother and her bodyguards for company. You’ve not been with your own people.”
“My own people?” “Yes... us Centurions and Legatio. You were supposed to have
joined us at age five, but your mother refused and killed your father.
That is what caused this war,” Philip explained.
Learning this upset Jason greatly. “Then my mother was right... the war was my fault.”
Seeing tears growing in the boy’s eyes, Philip turned back around and put a strong, comforting hand on Jason’s shoulder. “No it was not, Jason. The war and all its death was your mother’s fault, not yours... Do you believe me?”
“Yes,” Jason said half-heartedly as he tried to wipe his tears away while he leaned his head on Philip’s arm.
“Good. I know that all these things are new to you so I will try to ease you into it slowly,” Philip said sympathetically as he lay down on Jason’s bed, curled up so as to fit on the small mattress and fell asleep.
Jason nodded. So many things were changing that he felt as if reality had turned upside down.
The King of Ruin
I loved my husband
I just did not love his bed
I wanted adventure N
ot just to knead bread
Eleanor, dear Eleanor Y
ou swore all these things to me You gave me your bed
You offered the world
While no harm was ever done me
I loved your son more than I ever loved thee
Such cruelty I could not stand
So I decided to take him and leave thee
You may kill me where I stand
But my heart you will never have
For poor Jason, sweet and pure
I have given it as a sacrificial calf
So I will die to save my true beloved
The son that was never mine but in love
May you find the solace you need As Jason and I flee to the Centurions like a dove In peace...
Melissa’s parting letter to the Queen Regent: In Qul Tos tradition, poems were written to commemorate important events as in the Empire. This was due to how close Qul Tos was to the Domus Empire and the influence from Legatio and Famulus traders
After he was shaved and his hair cut Jason was stripped down and washed. When done, he felt cleaner than he had in his whole life. His thick brown hair had been like a heavy blanket, causing him to sweat all the time. It was all gone now, his hair bristling short. He could now feel the cool breeze coming from the balcony against his scalp. While his smooth cheeks felt naked, at least they did not itch for the first time in years.
While Philip continued to sleep on Jason’s bed, ever quiet Jonathan had Jason try on some of Philip’s old uniforms. They were large and baggy on Jason’s near-skeleton frame, as 15 years of rations had not allowed the twenty year old to fill out properly. But by the time the Famulus was done altering the clothes, they fit adequately.
Wearing the white wool uniform, Jason felt he was wearing
“proper” clothes for the first time in his life. The dresses his mother had
made him wear had always felt... wrong. The pants and shirt he now wore allowed him to be more himself and that ‘self’, Jason realizing, was a man. Jason liked his clothes so much that he had to wake Philip to show his gratitude.
“Philip, want to see my new clothes?” Jason whispered from his chair.
Philip’s eyes, popping open before Jason even finished saying his name, stood up, noticing how the young man was now dressed and giving him a thorough inspection. “Well, Jason, I have to say you look much improved.” Philip grinned as he played with the young man’s short hair. “What do you think?”
“I feel much better... thank you.” Jason blushed.
Good... and here comes dinner!” Philip grinned as he watched one of his men arrive with a basket full of food.
“The general is on his way. He too wants to see the son of Agamemnon,” the Centurion said behind his mask as he placed the basket on the table.
“Jason is as ready as I can make him.” Philip grinned, completely unconcerned that he was standing naked in front of one of his men. “If you are heading back, tell the General I would like to discuss the option of guardianship.”
“I think there are several officers already asking for the privilege,
Commander.” “Jason, would you like to come home with me?” Philip asked
his eyes not leaving the officer’s face.
“Can I?” Jason replied excitedly. “Make sure you stress that with the General,” Philip pressed while Jason’s eyes were glued on Philip with adoration. “I will do my best, sir,” the masked man said before saluting and heading out the door.
After the man was gone, Philip took the basket and brought it over to the bed. “Jonathan, can you carry Jason over to the bed for me?”
“Yes sir,” the servant replied, lifting Jason off the chair and putting him down on the bed.
Philip took the basket and brought it to the bed, taking out two loaves of bread, a string of sausages, some cheese, and a wine skin. “Here you go,” Philip grinned as he handed Jason a chunk of bread.
“Thank you.” Jason smiled as he started nibbling on it.
“I see it will take some time but soon we will have you fattened up.” Philip laughed as he watched Jason eat.
As he stared at the boy, Philip was amazed by how much the young man had grown in his heart. He was such a simple person to please, some fresh clothes, a haircut, a little food, and a friendly grin was all it took to make the young man smile. Jason was unlike any Legatio Philip had ever met in his life. That of course just showed how far the Legatio had drifted from their cousins.
After eating until his shrunken stomach couldn’t hold anymore,
Jason became tired and fell asleep on the bed. Philip continued to eat, while keeping a close eye on the young man. Philip was coming to realize that Jason, while twenty, was still very much the child he had
been at five. He was in need of the same love and protection such a child
demanded. This view was reinforced by the look of total innocence the
prince had as he slept. Even after all the trials and tribulations the poor
“boy” had gone through, he was still an innocent, and innocence was something the Centurions prized most.
Putting the remaining food away, Philip left the bed to build up the fire for the night. That was when General Darius, still in his armor, stepped in. “How is the boy?” the general asked.
Standing naked, Philip stiffened his back to attention and saluted his superior. “He is a little starved for food, and more so for love, but he will survive.”
Having heard rumors about the boy’s condition, Darius pressed for more information. “His legs are broken?”
“Yes, it looks like it happened recently,” Philip replied.
“Then I will have the Famulus build a litter for him. That will
take no longer than noon tomorrow,” the General decided. “We will be leaving then?”
Darius stared at the burning fire, finding hidden meaning from it. “Yes... we have made our point here. No matter how long it takes, we Centurions always win in the end. The city has been leveled, the surrounding towns burned, and the wells fouled. No one will be living here any time soon, so there is no need for us to remain. After we crown the boy king of this now dead kingdom, we will return to Domus and leave the place in the hands of the Legatio.”
“Home? So Field Marshal Gorr has decided to let us come back?”
“Yes... for a time. It would be good to return home. Time I had a child. I also miss my steward. You know how fussy he can get if I don’t pay attention to him.”
“Yes... all the Famulus are like that.” Philip chuckled. “Except Jason here.”
“Life in Domus will change that,” Darius said knowingly but sadly.
Philip looked back to where Jason was sleeping peacefully. “I hope not... he is pretty innocent for his age. I was the first man he had ever seen face to face, I think. He knows nothing about Centurions or Legatio or even manhood.”
“He will need someone to look out for him then.” Darius smiled, seeing where his commander was leading the conversation.
“I can volunteer,” Philip said in a noncommittal fashion. He did not want to seem too eager.
“Agreed... from now until we return to Domus I leave him in your care but once we reach the capital he will go to the Academy.”
“But is he not a little old for it?” Philip asked. “Usually a child is expected to go to the Academy at age fifteen, not twenty.”
“If he is ever going to fit into our society he will need to be trained in our ways.”
“I understand. I was just hoping...”
“That you could train him by yourself... how old are you, Philip?”
“32...” Philip replied, knowing what the general was hinting at.
“You only have 8 years left. They will be good years but you need to let the boy not face another tragedy so soon.”
“I understand that, General... I do have a brother however.”
“You have several brothers. Your father has been an excellent breeder.” Darius chuckled.
“I have one who is 20 right now, from the same mother. I was thinking of introducing the two of them.”
Darius laughed at that. “Ahhh, looking out for him, are you?”
“Alex is a good student. He already has his marks for the double-bladed sword and quarterstaff. He is just a little shy, but still young.”
“So you are hoping Jason will help him out of his shell?”
“Help him see that there is more to life than just training,” Philip said with a hint of annoyance.
“Oh he is one of those...” Darius grinned.
“Yes... he wants to become the next Agamemnon.”
“Not everyone can be an Agamemnon. He didn’t need anyone in his life other than the troops he commanded. He never took a wife and had only two lovers, one of them sitting right there.” Darius pointed at Jonathan, who was pretending to be asleep. He did have a son, however. We all respected his wish that Jason be raised properly. That was why we were willing to stay here for 15 years. I had just joined the 7th legion when we were sent to claim Jason. None of us suspected that it would turn into such a long conflict.”
“But we won,” Philip pointed out.
“Yes we did, but when do we ever lose? Now it’s time to return home, bask in what glory we can and wait till we are needed again.” Darius sighed.
“The way things are going that won’t be long.” Philip nodded.
Darius remained silent for almost a minute, deep in thought, before speaking again. “Let’s see if I can get you assigned to teach at the Academy. You are now a war veteran. They would be more than glad to have you. That way you will be able to keep an eye on Jason and that shy brother of yours.”
“Thank you sir!” Philip saluted, a wide smile on his face. A position at the Academy was one of the highest honors a person could receive.
“Now I will leave you, commander, to your charge,” Darius said, returning the salute. “He will need a lot of care before we reach Domus.”
“And I will do my best to give it to him,” Philip replied, impatient to prove himself.
After the general left, Philip put on the white, clean, sleeping robe Jonathan had left out for him. He then joined Jason in bed, wrapping his arms around the young man. Before joining the prince in sleep, Philip kissed the back of Jason’s neck.
It turned out Jason needed to be held for he flailed about all during the night, his mind filled with the carnage that had happened that day and the guilt he felt about it. Philip held him tight just to make sure the young man didn’t hurt himself. In the end Philip woke Jonathan and had a potion made to put Jason into a deeper, dreamless, sleep. Only then did Jason calm down enough for Philip to fall asleep as well. Tears of amazement and joy poured from Jonathan’s face... It was the first night and Jason was in the arms of a Centurion, the bonding was already beginning.
Our kings have ruled wisely And given us plenty Protecting us from any harm Our Queens are great beauties All kind and warm loving Her children, just the same To the King, To the Queen We shout our praise To the King, To the Queen Our loyalty we pay
Final Stanza and chorus of the Tosian Anthem
Snce the birth of the cores and the anima they hold, blue for Centurion, red for Legatio, the two were meant to meet and join to form the perfect anima... that of a bonded Legatio and Centurion in true love. Yet while many have tried, none have succeeded in bonding such a pair... the differences between a Legatio and Centurion too large
...A History of Legatio and Centurion Relations, written by Melkior, first High Ambassador.
You brat... come over here!” Jason’s mother ordered from across the room.
Jason, his body shaking with fear, tried to stand up but fell, his legs still broken.
“You stupid child... You come over here now or else I will cut
it off!” Jason, in pain from falling on the floor began to cry. “I can’t!”
“You know why you can’t... you let a filthy man touch you.”
“But I am a man!” “You are nothing but a boy and always will be. No one can love
a thing as dirty as you! Now crawl over here so I can cut it off!” his
mother ordered waving a gold knife.
Slowly Jason crawled over to his mother, the tears streaming from his face. His mother then raised the dagger as if to strike...
When Jason awoke, it was to the feel of a warm weight against his back and around his waist. The very touch sapped the fear out of him, leaving him feeling safe for the first time since he could remember. He enjoyed it so much that he was afraid that moving would break the moment.
Philip, having been awake for almost an hour, shared the prince’s fear. But when he noticed a change in Jason’s breathing, he knew the young man had awakened however. “You sleep well?”
“Yes...” Jason lied. He didn’t want Philip to feel blamed for his nightmares.
Letting go of Jason’s waist, Philip stood up and started to get back into his uniform. “It’s time for us to get going. We have a busy day ahead of us.”
Jason smiled as he sat up, watching with curious eyes as Philip got dressed. The room was filled with the smell of toasted bread, eggs, and a slab of bacon that Jonathan was cooking in the fireplace. Once back in uniform, Philip helped the prince to the chamber pot to relieve
himself before setting him down at the table.
As the three of them ate breakfast, Philip explained to Jason what the plan was; “As soon as I’m back in my armor, I will carry you out of the tower. We have built a litter to take you through the Labyrinth to the palace. Once there, you will be crowned King of Qul Tos... not that it will mean much now.”
“Why?” Jason asked. He had known he was a prince, but he never considered that he would one day become king.
“The war has not left much of the kingdom, but it’s yours and your responsibility. After that, you will ride in a carriage to your new home.”
“Where is that?” Jason asked.
“Domus,” was Philip’s one word answer.
“Is that another tower?” Jason asked nervously.
“No... not at all. It is a city with parks, fountains, theaters, arenas, museums... many places for you to explore.”
“Does it have a library?” Jason asked hopefully.
“Yes it does... several in fact.” Philip laughed, reaching over to tousle Jason’s hair.
Afraid that Philip would abandon him after arriving in Domus, Jason looked up at the Centurion with pleading eyes. “Will you be there?”
“I hope to be one of your teachers,” Philip said, waiting eagerly to hear Jason’s response.
“I would like that.” Jason smiled, afraid of sounding too eager.
“Good... you will love the city. You will be around other boys your age.”
“Will they be my friends?”
Philip stood up from the table and began to put on his armor. “You’d better believe they will be. You don’t know this, but your father was a very famous man... you are famous as well.”
“I am...? But I have not done anything.”
“You survived, Jason. If there is one thing that earns a Centurion’s respect, it is a person’s ability to survive against the odds.
Jason wished that Philip didn’t have to put his armor back on. He looked so cold in his red and black metal casing. Still, even with all that weight, Philip was able to carry Jason easily down the seven flights of stairs to the bottom of the tower. There, the litter waited with an honor guard of fifty armored Centurions and four black-robed Famulus.
Thick blankets of furs and several of the Regent’s goose-feather pillows
lay on top of the litter to keep him warm and comfortable for the two-
hour journey to the end of the Labyrinth.
As soon as Philip tucked Jason in, he took position by his side. “Wait!” Jason shouted, suddenly remembering he forgot something.
“What is it?” Philip asked.
“The skull under my bed. I cannot leave without it.”
“A skull?” Philip raised an eyebrow. “Jason... is the skull a Centurion skull?”
In his excitement Philip left Jason and ran back into the now empty tower, taking the stone steps two at a time till he was once again in Jason’s room and there he saw it, the large skull. Going down on his knees, Philip took it, his hands shaking. He was certain that this had to be the long missing skull of General Agamemnon. Nothing had enraged the Centurions more then Agamemnon’s body being dumped over the city’s walls without his head. It was the only part valued after
a Centurion’s death. Walking more slowly then he had when rushing into the
tower, Philip carried the skull to the litter where he handed it to one
of his men. “Take this to the General Darius. Tell him it is the skull of Agamemnon.”
“Yes... yes commander. I understand.” The Centurion replied, his eyes wide.
Jason, watching the skull being taken away, became concerned. “Where are you taking it?”
Philip suddenly realizing that Jason did not know the significance of the skull, became hesitant to answer. “It might fall off the litter. My man will see that it arrives safely to Domus,” Philip lied, — Centurion skulls would not break from a simple fall.
“But it had fallen from my bed a lot of times,” Jason pouted.
“Jason...” Philip growled, he did not like lying to the young man but also did not want to upset him by telling Jason that the skull was his father’s.
Jason, suddenly frightened, covered his head with one of fur blankets. “I’m sorry...”
Remembering again how Jason must have lived in fear of making a mistake, Philip mentally berated himself. “No Jason... I am the one who is sorry. I should control my temper more,” he said, knowing that was almost a joke to ask such of a Centurion. Even after Philip apologized, Jason remained covered.
“Now Jason, do not force me to beg.” Philip laughed as he pulled on the fur blanket.
Jason let the blanket fall just enough so that his eyes were showing. “I’m sorry.”
Sighing, Philip leaned down and kissed the top of the boy’s head. It was the only thing he could think of to show that he was not mad at him. It did the trick, Jason let the rest of the blanket fall off his face.
Philip reached over and cupped Jason’s hollow left cheek in his hand, feeling himself warming the pale skin. As a Centurion, he had two central forces in his life. One was to kill. The other was to protect. Right now nothing else seemed to matter more than to protect this poor fragile young man. When a drum took up a slow beat, signaling the start of the march, the litter was lifted up by four black-robed Famulus
servants and carried toward the cavern entrance. The deepest Jason could remember going into the Labyrinth
in recent years was to the elevator shaft, and that was back when his
mother still controlled most of the Labyrinth. It all looked the same, the smooth pink granite walls lit by torches, the taint of long dried
blood spackling the floor. When he took the elevator down, he had hoped to see something different, but to his great disappointment the
Labyrinth remained the same, the same pink stone, the same torches every twenty feet, and the same amount of dried blood on the walls.
With the combination of boredom and the rocking of the litter, he soon
He did not awaken until Philip lifted him off the litter. Now...
with sunlight streaming through the high, broken, blue stained glass
windows, Jason saw he was finally someplace new. He was in the
ruins of a long hall, broken white marble everywhere. The blue drapes
looked frayed and rotten on the edges, while the floor was stained by
the dropping of birds that had chosen the ruins of the Qul Tos throne
room to nest. The only thing left undamaged was a silver throne and a
silver crown rimmed with blue sapphires that rested on it.
Philip took the crown off the throne. With only the fifty honor
guards, and four servants watching, Philip handed the crown to Jason. “What am I to do?” Jason asked nervously. He had seen the crown before. His mother had always gotten angry whenever he tried
to touch it. Even with his mother dead, the crown burned in his hands
as if his mother would rise from the dead and catch him with it.
“You are to put it on your head, your highness.”
“But this was my mother’s crown.”
“No... it was the king’s crown,” Philip corrected. “You are now the King of Qul Tos.”
“So I am to put it on my head and that will make me king?” Jason asked.
“In the eyes of the Centurion’s and, therefore, the rest of the world you will be.”
Scared from all that Philip was telling him, the crown shook in Jason’s hands. “But I don’t know how to be a king?”
“Jason, I know you don’t feel ready, but you will not be expected to rule until you are. Another Legatio will come to take over the restoration of Qul Tos. You don’t even have to come back here if you don’t want to,” Philip said calmly.
“Then why should I put on the crown?”
“Because it is a symbol... a symbol of your responsibilities,” Philip said patiently but sternly. Even though Jason was still four years away from being viewed as a full adult by Legatio standards, Philip wanted to press into the young man the need to live up to one’s responsibilities as a man.
“Alright...” Jason agreed.
Very carefully Jason lifted the crown up over his head. The cold circlet of silver and jewels seemed to weigh more than such a small piece of metal should. Slowly, as if fearing the crown would come crashing down, Jason lowered it till it rested on his head.
“There... you are now King Jason the IX, Lord of Qul Tos and Master of the Labyrinth Tower, Grand Duke of Qul Hoth, Guardian of the Qulos River, and Guild Master of the Silversmiths.
“I don’t feel any different,” Jason said, confused by Philip’s
“You’re not... titles mean little among us Centurions. Except in battle, we are all equals.” Philip smiled, happy that Jason had not changed like most people did when given power.
“Can I take the crown off now?” Jason asked, still feeling
nervous about wearing it. “Yes you may.” Philip laughed.
Good.” Jason sighed with relief. He lifted the crown off his head but this time it lipped from his grip, falling to the floor. “I’m sorry!” Jason said, panicked. He could clearly see that two of the sapphires had been knocked out of their settings.
Jason stood up and tried to recover the broken crown, but he instantly collapsed into Philip’s arms. He was so worried about the crown that he forgot his legs were broken.
“Don’t worry about it, Jason. It is just a piece of metal.”
“But it was my mother’s. She is going to kill me,” Jason said in hysterics, his eyes darting around the room as if she would rise from the broken tile ground to punish him.
“Jason! Your mother is dead. She can’t hurt you any more,” Philip said, shaking him.”
“She will break my arms!” Jason said still in fright, Philip’s hard grip hurting him.
Giving up trying to convince Jason that his mother was dead, Philip saw he was doing more harm than good and let his hands relax their grip. “I won’t let her hurt you, Jason. I will not let anyone hurt you ever again.”
“She will hurt me,” Jason sobbed as he was rocked in Philip’s arms.
“Not if I have anything to say about it, Jason.”
“But the crown?” Jason murmured as he slowly relaxed.
“This piece of junk?” Philip laughed as he picked the crown up and tossed it over his shoulder.
“The crown!” Jason panicked again as he saw several more sapphires pop off the band of silver.
“It’s not important, Jason.” Philip whispered. “I’m sorry if I scared you. I never wanted to do that. Given the way your mother tried to emasculate you I hoped that by getting you to crown yourself king
you could reclaim the part of your manhood your mother stole.” To press his point Philip picked up the two sapphires that Jason
had knocked off. They were five karats each, cut into perfect squares.
“You know what I’m going to do with these?”
“No...” Jason sniffed.
“I’m going to make a pair of rings out of them... for both of us. Would you like that?” Philip asked with a hopeful smile.
“For both of us?” Jason asked, lifting his head from Philip’s
chest. “Yes... one for me and one for you. It would be like the tattoos on my back, a life accomplishment just like your crowning. What do you think?”
“I would like that,” Jason agreed. He would not have minded getting a tattoo on his shoulder if Philip was getting the same thing, but he had read that tattoos required needles, and sharp objects still scared him.
“Good... I have some gold coins in my pouch. I can ask our blacksmith to use them to make the rings. I promise by tomorrow I will be able to put a ring on your finger.
Having calmed Jason down and given him something to look forward to, Philip lifted him up and put him back on the litter. Soon they were on the march again, the silver crown left broken on the marble floor.
The First Temptation
Rules of Challenge: A death challenge can only be made Between Centurions of the same rank,
Unless a superior officer intercedes,
Or between a student and a teacher if the teacher feels the student represents a threat to the empire. It must be held at sundown on the day the challenge is given. If one or both fail to enter the circle by sunset then that person(s) life is forfeit. The match lasts till one or both are dead,
Or if one attempts to flee the circle, in which case his life is forfeit.
The winner has rights to the person’s anima. The bones belong to the Legatio except for the skull, which belongs to all Centurions, to be entombed under the Grand Hall of the Field Marshals with all honors.
The carriage stood waiting outside the broken city walls, the Famulus having converted the passenger compartment into one large
bed. After tucking Jason in and leaving him a water skin, Philip climbed
onto his black horse but remained nearby while the rest of his men went
into their formation. After ten minutes the sound of 30 trumpets and 60 drums filled the mountain valley. The army of 15,000 men then let out a final cheer of victory before turning their back to the city, starting their
long march back to Domus.
Philip remained by Jason for as long as he could, telling him of the three Field Marshals, the Legatio Senate and the Council of Famulus Elders; the three branches of government connected together by the superior authority of the Three Field Marshals: Gorr, Field Marshal of the East, Lukas Field Marshal of the West, and Xavier Field Marshal of the Home Guard.
However much he enjoyed being with Jason who seemed to absorb everything he was told like a dry sponge, Philip could not let his responsibility to his men go unattended. Two had been wounded in the final battle while three others were involved in a lover’s quarrel.
It was while he was trying to break up another one of their
fights that he lost control of his temper. “I have had enough, Horn...
Ged wants nothing to do with you, so you will leave him alone.”
Horn, his face red with anger, was not going to let the issue go that easily. “I risked my life to save his. He owes me!”
“If you want to claim a debt, that is between the two of you but the law is clear... you cannot even order a Famulus to your bed.”
Feeling he had been made a fool, Horn saw only one choice... “I demand that Ged meet me in the circle. He has to fight me to regain the life he owes me.”
“No,” Philip said sternly.
“It is my right!” Horn shouted, nearly insane with anger.
After a long silence during which Philip glared back at Horn, Philip reached his decision. “I am Ged’s commander, so it will be me you will face in the circle.”
“I don’t want to fight you, sir,” Horn said, a hint of nervousness in his voice. Philip was a master of the double-bladed sword while Horn had only mastered the spear.
“If you issue a challenge to Ged, then it is my right as commander to act in his place.”
“I challenge Ged,” Horn repeated in a more somber tone.
“Then you will face me in the circle tonight. Now get back to your ranks. I don’t want to have to come back here again,” Philip ordered as he took his horse back to Jason’s carriage. “Damn fools.”
On returning to the carriage Philip took out a silver coin and tossed it through the open window of Jason’s carriage. In a matter of moments, Jason pale, thin face popped out and grinned at Philip. “You’re back!” Jason laughed.
“Yes... just had to straighten a few of my men out.” Philip sighed, unable to hide his frustrations.
“I’m sorry,” Jason said guiltily.
“Why are you sorry?” Philip asked, embarrassed that his emotions showed so easily.
“You should be with them, not spending your time with me,” Jason replied.
“You have to be joking. They prefer me not being around.” Philip laughed.
“I see...” Jason said, not understanding.
Seeing the stress leave Jason’s eyes, Philip too began to relax. “Anyway... I prefer being around you a lot more than them anyway.”
“I like you being with me as well.”
“So tell me ... how old are you?”
This took Philip aback. A twenty-year-old Centurion would be over 6’4” in height and over 230 pounds of muscle. Even the Legatio would be 6’ by this age. If Philip had to guess, Jason was only 5’2”, malnourished, and below 100 pounds.
“When is your 21st birthday?” Philip asked.
“Three seasons from now,” Jason replied.
“Good... that will be plenty of time for us to fill you out. For
us Centurions the 21st year is very important. It is the year you enter
adulthood and pick your first bond-mate.”
“Bond-mate?” Jason asked, curious. “Lover,” Philip explained. “A lover?” Jason asked innocently.
“Hahahahaha... I keep forgetting that you have been living in a nunnery.”
“I read about nunneries...I don’t think my mother’s bodyguards would have like the Labyrinth Tower being called that.” Jason frowned. “I bet they wouldn’t. But none of them are alive to complain.”
“What about Melissa?” Jason asked concerned, suddenly worried for her.
Philip took a deep breath before answering. “I am sorry, Jason, but she died shortly after we found her,” he said, not willing to let the young man endure the whole truth.
Unlike the death of his mother, the death of the only person who seemed to care about him triggered wave upon wave of sadness and fear. Jason was only now realizing that all the people he had known in his life were now dead.
Philip, seeing the sadness and fear on Jason’s face, jumped off his horse and climbed into the carriage. “Jason, it’s alright.”
“They are all dead,” Jason cried as he hugged Philip tightly.
“I know,” Philip cooed as he rocked the young man in his arms before lowering him on the bed.
“You killed them all?” Jason asked hoping it was not true.
“Yes we did,” Philip said honestly.
“Why... what did they ever do to you?”
“Your mother killed your father and was hurting you.”
On hearing that, Jason began to wail. “So it WAS my fault! All those people had to die because of me!”
“Shhhhhh... it was not your fault, Jason. You are completely innocent.”
“Why do people have to kill each other?” Jason asked, his hot cheek cooling against the cold metal of Philip’s armor.
“Because of hate... fear... and love... all the emotions that make us human.”
Not wanting the one person who seemed to care about him to be associated with death, Jason started to beg; “I don’t want you to kill anymore.”
“I’m sorry, Jason, but I am a Centurion... it is what we do.”
“Please...” Jason asked again.
“Shhhhh... I promise. I won’t kill again... if I don’t have to,” Philip said.
Jason was not fooled. “You are going to kill again.”
“Only because I have to,” Philip said quickly. “I don’t have the luxury of not killing.”
“Then promise you won’t kill me,” Jason whispered. “Ohhhhh Jason... I would never ever hurt you. How can you think such a thing?”
“I don’t know... I still don’t know why people kill, so I don’t know why you would not kill me. You killed everyone else I know.”
“And I hope you never have to kill,” Philip said as he hugged Jason gently. “I want you to meet my brother when we reach Domus.” Philip said to cheer Jason up.
“You have a brother?” Jason said, surprised.
“Yes I actually have dozens, my father is very conscious of his duty to produce us warriors.”
“I don’t understand?” Jason said, confused not just by what Philip was saying but how his own body was responding to Philip’s touch.
“Well, in Domus there are three types of people... the Famulus, our servants and women... Centurions like me ... and the Legatio, our poets, historians, and bureaucrats. When a Centurion sleeps with a woman, a Legatio is born. That is how you were born. Your father was the General Agamemnon, a Centurion. When a Legatio sleeps with a woman though, a Centurion is the result.”
“What happens if a Legatio sleeps with a Centurion?” Jason asked when Philip didn’t say more.
“Since all Centurions and Legatio are male, no child is born... but the bond is said to be the strongest any two men can experience, emotionally and physically.”
“Sex?” Jason asked, guessing at the mysterious word was what Philip was hinting at.
“Hahahahaha... how can I describe it... sex is the physical showing of affection and the giving of pleasure. It is the bonding of two people, however, that makes it special.”
Seeing Jason adjust himself in the carriage Philip realizing that he needed to also, looking down at his abdomen. There he saw the deep blue glow coming from his rippled abdomen and he knew what it had to mean... his body wanted to bond to Jason, to claim him as a lover; yet looking down at the frail man, Philip knew that now was not the right time. Still that did not mean he could not let Jason enjoy himself. “Our talk has excited you.”
Blushing deep red Jason didn’t dare to reply, covering the front of his pants with both hands.
“I hope you don’t find this question embarrassing but, in the Tower did you ever let yourself... find pleasure in your body?” Philip asked, covering his mouth as if to cover coughing.
“Melissa said never to talk about it.” Jason replied nervously.
“I’m sure she had her reasons. To further hide your maleness from your mother most likely. Now that you’re among other men you need to know that taking pleasure from yourself is completely normal.”
“Then why does it feel different now?” “How does it feel different?” Philip asked.
“I...” Jason stammered, turning his gaze away from Philip.
“I understand,” Philip chuckled. “New experiences can trigger new feelings. I think it would be best to leave you now.” Going back on his horse he spurred it forward, moving away from the carriage but not beyond earshot of Jason. When he didn’t hear any of the sounds he had expected he felt an urge to return to see if Jason was alright.
“Remember he’s a King.” Philip reminded himself. It would be
humiliating if he returned to find Jason with his pants down. He also
had to remind himself that unlike Centurion youths who took pride in impressing their comrades with their vocal expressions of pleasure, Jason had most likely learned to pleasure himself in total silence
Part II: Domu
Chapter One: The Circle
A Study of Law and Customs in Domus... by Melkior, first High Ambassador.
While Domus has a society built around war, it protects its children from that reality until they reach the age of 21. Domus, with its massive Home Guard to police and protect it, is a place of innocence compared to the outside world. Those customs also applied to sex. As custom dictated, enforced by the harshest of punishments, no Centurion adult was allowed to initiate intimate contact with an uncircumcised male. Since a young man does not undergo the ceremony until his twenty-first year, that became the age of consent. That did not mean that men younger than twenty-one reached that age with their virginity intact. Centurion youths were notorious for their sexual adventurism when they began their training at one of the Empire’s many military schools and even at the Academy where future Centurion officers and Legatio youths are schooled.
Arriving back to his men just as the sun was setting, Philip found they had already built a circle made up of small stones. Horn, already in his armor, had his pike in hand. “It’s time!” Horn demanded as he walked into the circle of stones. “I need my armor,” Philip said not able to hide his nervousness as he watched the sun disappear under the horizon.
Horn grinned as he saw the last ray of the sun disappear behind the mountains. “No... the sun has set. By law you must face me now or forfeit your life.”
“Horn!” Ged protested. He did not like the idea that he had put his commander in this situation.
“It is the law,” one of the other men, a sergeant, grunted. “The commander must face Horn now.”
“So be it...” Philip grunted as he tore off his uniform, leaving only his loin cloth
“Your sword,” a sergeant said as he handed Philip his double-bladed sword.
Philip took hold of the weapon, a cross between a quarterstaff and a sword. On both ends the three-foot long blades shone orange from the light of the torches, held together by a foot and a half of handle. The weapon was extremely heavy, requiring a great deal of strength and dexterity to use. Philip had both, but without his armor he would have to be careful not to cut his arms, as he was used to having it to deflect his own swings, a fact everyone knew.
Philip stepped into the circle, twirling the seven and a half foot long weapon over his head. Horn wielded a six-foot pike but, as Philip could only hold his weapon in the middle where the handle was, Horn had the advantage of reach.
The two men bowed to each other and waited for the challenge to begin. They did not have to wait long. With a torch being thrown into the center of the circle by an officer, all the men in Philip’s unit began to beat their swords against their metal shields making a racket that spread across the camp.
Philip, unsure how to handle his sword without his armor made a few practice swings and regretted it. Instead of the armor he usually wore stopping the opposite blade, the sword cut into his skin. On seeing Philip’s predicament, Horn laughed and moved in with confidence.
As his foe walked gingerly closer, Philip knew what he had to do, he had to make a fatal stab at Horn’s abdomen. The problem Philip was facing was that even with his great strength he could not change his sword’s direction easily or quickly. So it was a race... could he deflect Horn’s pike and make a fatal blow before Horn could recover
and make one himself.
As he circled his opponent, the wound on his side slowed him down, as the area swelled. Philip tried three times to break through Horn’s defenses, but each time he either missed or had to jump back to avoid a deadly jab by Horn. Philip knew that if he did not change his tactics soon he would eventually end up on the wrong end of Horn’s pike.
This required him to do something drastic. After deflecting another of Horn’s jabs, he let his hands slip down the sword till he was gripping the sharp edges of the opposite blade he had pointed at Horn. He then used the extra reach to make a final, long stab, breaking through Horn’s armor and hitting him in the chest.
Horn, as he fell back, tried desperately to return the attack, thrusting his pike towards Philip’s stomach. It only managed to scratch the skin, however, before falling out of his hands.
Philip quickly took up the pike with both hands and took hold of it, pointing the pike at Horn’s own abdomen, ready to give the fatal thrust.
Seeing his own death was at hand, Horn made a final request.
“Please... make it quick.”
Philip nodded. He aimed the tip of the pike to a spot just below the diaphragm and made a hard stab. There was a crunching sound as if something hard had been cracked and when Philip removed the pike it was coated in a luminescent blue fluid.
“Thank you...” Horn sighed with his last breath.
Then, there was silence. Two men came into the circle and took Horn’s now lifeless body away while another two came in with a bucket of water and some bandages. Philip, finding he had to use the pike to remain standing, let his men clean and bandage his wounds. They were deep, but due to his Centurion heritage Philip knew they would be healed by morning.
After the commander’s wounds had been cared for, a lieutenant
went up to Philip. “What do you want done with his remains.”
“Collect Horn’s anima... Sell his bones to the Legatio healers, the money to be given to his children. Be sure his skull is saved for proper burial, however... He died with honor.”
“Yes sir.” The man bowed. Philip called for a stool to be brought to so he could sit while
the healer extracted the blue fluid from Horn’s body. When it was done, they handed it to him reverently in a large crystal vial that gave off a
faint blue glow. “I will be at the carriage,” Philip told his lieutenants before
leaving, the vial still in his left hand.
“Sleep in, sir. We will make sure the men get up on time,” the lieutenant said.
“No... the men need to see that I am fine. Any weakness on my
part might tempt another one to challenge me.” “As you wish, commander,” the man saluted.
My Legatio I give my years to thee For the preciousness of your love For the touch of your skin To bond with you and make myself yours.
My Centurion. I accept my living after you are gone.
My one and only bond I hand to you May you protect me from all harm
May our love sustain me past the years after you depart
A Centurion love poem to a Legatio
Using Horn’s spear as a cane Philip hobbled toward the luggage train until he was halfway back to the carriage. By that time the Centurion gift of fast healing allowed him to walk without it. When he finally reached the carriage, the only light was from Jonathan’s campfire. Not wanting to scare Jason wearing obvious signs of injury. Philip took off the dressings. Jonathan, seeing the blue crystal in Philip hand, hurried through his bags and came back with two silver goblets... a lover’s pair.
“Why are you taking those out?” Philip demanded. He knew well that those so happened to be the ones Agamemnon had used when Jason had been conceived.
“The legend, sir,” Jonathan replied.
“You think that I am the Centurion who will reunite Domus?” Philip laughed.
“No... but I believe with all my heart that Jason will be the other half of that legend...
“There shall be born a man who is not a man,
“But Man should love him just the same.”
“Don’t you see? Jason was a man who was raised not to be one... he was forced to remain a child.”
“Yes... yes I agree with that,” the commander nodded.
Jonathan then went to the next lines of the legend...
“A prince shall come to save him and in his arms suckle him into manhood.”
Is that not what you are about to do... give Jason Horn’s anima, knowing full well what it will do to him.
“Yes... I have no choice. I can’t stand seeing him so thin and frail.”
“And you love him... I heard you say the words.”
“You snoop! You are trying to arrange the prophecy. Have you no faith?” Philip asked, angrily. He knew the Centurion Prophecy...
A man who is no man will be born
Rescued by a prince who will suckle him into manhood
Together they will battle their own souls
Trying to deny what fate has said must be Till love’s spiritual kiss they share...
That was the first page of the prophecy, and the only pleasant part of it, the rest of five hundred pages were filled with how Domus would fall and the world comes to an end... Still every Centurion secretly dreamed that they would be the one to fulfill the prophecy, for the legend spelled doom for all but the two lovers and their offspring. Philip, though, did not want to be the one to signal the end of the world.
“It can’t be... it can’t be so simple as sharing a kiss.”
“No... But you are about to give him a kiss of anima... is that not a spiritual kiss? Is not anima the living essence of a Centurion’s and Legatio’s soul? “But...”
Philip tried to protest but already his body had taken up a deep blue glow, not just from his abdomen but all over his body... showing that Philip was now at the peak of his sexual state. Still he fought it off again. Jason was too young, especially mentally. “No... I
won’t bond with a man who is still so young at heart.” Jonathan looked at Philip with anger in his eyes... “You will...
you may be able to fight it for now but I saw a purple light last night. It
is your destiny, Philip, and is the last wish of my lover.”
“That may be... but not till Jason is grown. Now put those cups away!”
Philip’s curt order put Jonathan back into the role of the meek Famulus, and bowed low, submitting. Still, neither would forget this night.
Philip left Jonathan bowed and knew with confidence that he would wake to find Jonathan still bent over in the morning... a just
punishment for a Famulus to dare order a Centurion to do anything. Seeing Jason sleeping peacefully, Philip almost felt bad in
waking him, but Philip had a gift that needed to be given. “Jason...
Jason... wake up.”
“Hmmmmmm... Yes?” Jason murmured as he slowly opened his eyes.
“I have something for you.” Philip chuckled.
On hearing that, Jason’s green eyes went wide with excitement, shimmering from the pale moonlight streaming into the carriage. “What?”
“Something that will heal your legs faster than anything the healers could do for you... anima,” Philip said as he took out the glowing vial.
“Anima?” Jason asked while his eyes focused on the blue fluid.
“It is a Centurion’s life force. With it we can add to our own strength, cure illness, and heal wounds. Look... I will show you.”
Philip grinned as he took Jason’s hand and put it on his bare stomach. Jason’s eyes went wide when he saw Philip’s skin pick up a blue glow. “It is inside you?”
“Yes... it is what makes a Centurion a Centurion. It gives us our strength and ability to heal fast.”
“Do I have a blue glow inside me as well?” Jason asked hopefully.
“No... let me show you,” Philip said. He lifted Jason’s shirt and placed his hand on Jason’s stomach, causing a red glow to appear.
“Why is mine red?” Jason asked.
“Yours is red because you are a Legatio. Your anima will keep you young and give you a long life.”
“I see... so how did you get the anima in the bottle?” Jason asked.
“One of my men died.”
Concerned, Jason asked; “How?”
“I killed him,” Philip said as he steeled himself for Jason’s anger. Instead, Jason hugged Philip tightly.
“What!” Jason shouted, surprising Philip by the sudden anger in his voice.
“He challenged one of my men in a duel. If I had not killed him more of my men would have started fighting each other,” Philip replied defensively.
“I don’t want you killing people,” Jason insisted.
“I am a soldier, Jason. If I weren’t one I would have never been able to save you from your mother.”
“But killing is wrong.”
“I promise you Jason, once we reach Domus and you’ve become a student at the Academy and I a teacher, I’ll be free of my duty to kill in the name of the Empire.”
“How many more will die before that happens?” Jason demanded, not relenting.
“We’ll reach Domus in a month, no more.”
“How many will die,” Jason repeated.
Letting out a deep sigh, Philip fingered the vial in his hands before replying. “None, I swear. You must do something for me however. You must accept the life of the Centurion I killed.”
“And become a part of the murder you committed?”
“There is nothing that can change the fact that I killed one of my men. To you any killing is evil. One day I hope you see the world is not like the stories you’ve read. Sometimes to save the lives you care about you must kill those who threaten them.”
“But why must I take his life?”
“If the Field Marshals could hear you say that,” Philip laughed. “You do not know what an honor it is for a Legatio not on his deathbed to be offered the anima of a Centurion?”
“If that vial has the life of another person, should it not be the man you took it from who decides what should be done with it?”
“Not if his life is lost in a duel. By tradition I should be the one drinking the man’s anima to heal my wounds and gain his strength.”
“Then why are you offering it to me?”
“You need it more than I do, with your broken legs and frail body.”
“Are you saying I don’t look normal?” Jason asked, confused and a little hurt.
“You’ve been around us Centurions long enough to know what a man is supposed to look like. You’ll even find your fellow Legatio towering over you. The anima can help fix that. You’ll need all the strength you can muster when you go to the Academy.”
Jason, feeling his resolve weaken let his eyes follow the blue vial Philip was swinging in front of his eyes. “You promise you won’t kill, ever again?”
“I won’t have to, I’ll have you to protect me,” Philip joked, removing the glass stopper from the vial.
“Am I to drink it or do you spread it over my body like an ointment?” Jason asked, lying back down.
“Now there’s a thought,” Philip said with a grin, joining Jason on the bed inside the carriage. “You drink it.”
“And then what happens?” Jason asked as the vial was brought to his lips.
“You’ll just have to wait and see,” Philip winked before pouring the sweet fluid into Jason’s mouth.
As soon as Jason drank the last drop he felt Philip’s callous hands ripping away the clothes Jonathan had made for him just yesterday. “Why did you do that?”
“You’ll see,” Philip chuckled as he removed the last stitch of Jason’s clothes before quickly covering him with a fur blanket even though the young king’s body was already covered with sweat. A few minutes later Philip saw veins of purple light crisscross on the parts of Jason not covered by the blanket, including his eyes.
“What’s happening?” Jason asked nervously.
“The blue anima you drank has mixed with the red anima inside your core, the elixir is now spreading throughout your body, healing and strengthening it at the same time.
Within seconds of Philip saying those words Jason felt a jolt of pain in both his legs as they mended themselves.
“Growing up is never painless, but I think you already knew that,” Philip said calmly as the anima continued to have its effect on Jason, the young man curling into a ball for several minutes. By the time he uncurled himself his was several inches taller, the skeleton frame that had been his body replaced by a still thin but much healthier one.
Jason however didn’t notice. His energy spent, he had fallen asleep before the transformation was complete.
Philip however did witness it all. Where a starved man had laid now slept a Legatio youth looking almost the twenty years Jason truly wore. Seeing the young man restored to health both tempted and taunted the Centurion. If one vial could do this, what would giving more anima to Jason do? Such ideas made Philip wish he had not given his oath not to kill. Such thoughts however only stayed in Philip’s mind for the briefest of moments. The Domus Empire has a name for a Centurion who kills for the sake of obtaining anima. They’re called demons, the most cursed name given to ones with such corrupt souls.
The First Lesson
Jason awoke alone to the smell of porridge and sausage cooking just outside the carriage. As soon as he pulled the sheets away he noticed he was naked but saw a loincloth hanging on the edge of the carriage window strung though a gold ring with a blue sapphire. It was the ring Philip promised him and it fit perfectly on his right hand. The loincloth was a little large for him however, but forming a knot at one end solved that problem. He then climbed out of the carriage, a little unsure that his legs were really healed, but after taking three steps without falling he relaxed and walked with more confidence toward the campfire, where Jonathan was stirring the pot.
“You hungry, master?” Jonathan asked as he ladled some of the porridge into the bowl.
“Yes... thank you,” Jason said eagerly as he took the warm bowl from Jonathan’s hands.
After Jason had eaten his bowl clean from a growth-spurttriggered hunger, the Famulus took three small sausages off the fire and added them to the bowl. Jason thanked Jonathan again but then left to go looking for Philip. He found him a little way off, a dark black shadow against the rising sun. Jason watched with fascination as Philip practiced with his double-bladed sword, fighting as if he were against a slew of imaginary opponents. It was like a cross between dance and combat, and Jason had never seen anything like it before. He watched as Philip stretched and moved his massive body across the empty spaces. He was mesmerized by each swing, stab, and strike Philip made and how each move sent his muscles rippling.
When finished, Philip turned around and noticed he had an audience. “Jason, you’re awake and walking I see!”
“Yes... what were you doing?” Jason asked, curious.
“But what is that thing?” Jason asked, pointing at the double sword.
Philip walked closer to Jason, balancing the weapon with both hands. “This is called a double-bladed sword... one of the Centurion’s traditional weapons.”
Eager to hold it in his own hands, Jason reached out to it. “Can I touch it?”
“Can you touch it?” Philip chuckled nervously. The weapon was not just heavy but very sharp. It could give Jason a fatal cut if he could not handle it properly. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you can wield it... yet.”
“Alright...” Jason said, clearly disappointed.
“I have an idea...” Philip said, coming up with an alternative. “Follow me.”
Philip led Jason to where he had left Horn’s spear the night
before. “Jonathan, hold the tip of the spear while you, Jason, you hold
the shaft.” When both were in place Philip “circumcised” the spear, making a clean cut below the metal tip. It was not a perfect quarterstaff,
but Philip was not planning to make Jason into a “master”.
After examining his handy work Philip threw the weapon over
to Jason, only to be surprised when Jason made a perfect catch right
on the middle of the staff. “Why, you just might be a natural!” Philip
laughed. “Is it too heavy for you?” “No... it’s alright.” Jason smiled as he ran his hands down the
smooth wooden shaft.
“Good, now let me show you a simple exercise you can do to practice,” Philip said, beginning Jason’s first lesson.
After half an hour Philip taught Jason the start position, three blocking maneuvers, and four attacks. He was astonished at how fast Jason learned and mastered each technique. When they finally stopped for the morning, Jason could perform the first twenty-step exercise of the one hundred exercises it takes to master the quarterstaff.
“Philip... will I get a tattoo if I master the staff?” Jason questioned while Jonathan tried fitting him for new clothes once again.
“Hahahahahaha... only Centurions get tattoos, Jason.” Philip laughed.
Not understanding, Jason pressed further. “Why?”
“Well, only Centurions are warriors,” Philip said, thinking that would explain everything.
Jason though, on having found his first role model, did not understand why he couldn’t follow in Philip’s footsteps and surprised himself in saying... “But I want to be like you. Why can’t I be a warrior?”
Philip, on hearing this, went to the carriage window and took Jason’s hand in his. Jason you are a Legatio... Legatio can’t be warriors. Do you know why?”
“Because if we bleed, we die?” Jason said bitterly, clearly feeling
cheated. Seeing that Jason at least understood that reality, Philip explained
further. “That is right. I can train you with the quarterstaff though.”
“But I want to learn how to use your sword,” Jason pouted.
“Maybe one day I’ll let you use it... after you have mastered the quarterstaff.”
“How long will that take?” “It took me three years to master all one hundred of the exercises
of the quarterstaff and another three years for my sword.
“Six years!” Jason said in disbelief as Philip continued to hold his hand.
Philip smiled, finding Jason’s frustrations amusing... so untypical of a Legatio. With their long life spans, one thing most Legatio were was patient. “Yes... six years, almost one sixth of my life spent on mastering two weapons. But don’t worry you will have plenty of time to learn how to use the quarterstaff.”
“Will you keep on teaching me?” Jason said hopefully as he rested his head on Philip’s arm.
“You better believe I will,” Philip said as he gave Jason a quick
peck on the top of his head.
For the next three weeks the army slowly made its way through Qul Tos, until reaching The Gate, a fortress carved out of the mountainside that protected the only road to the Domus Empire. On either side of The Gate were the mountains that did not end till they reached the sea. At the entrance to the Gate was a solid sixty-foot wall guarded by multiple watch towers and a wide trench. The only way to the gate was across a twenty-foot wide fifty-foot long wooden ramp held up by thick iron chains that led thirty feet up the mountain wall to a large gap blocked by a door made out of solid granite and guarded by two giant black stone gargoyles, their mouths wide open, their fangs bared.
At the bottom of the ramp, Jason could not see how the door would open, but then, out of the gargoyles’ mouths blasted water, feeding the large ditches below that led into small ponds. As more and more water poured forth, the granite door slowly began to sink down into the floor below, revealing the passage into the mountains. Once the water stopped and the door disappeared underground, the army started to march inside.
As soon as the carriage passed the Gate Jason saw how the gate worked. High up in the mountains were two giant iron vats both tipped over to feed two giant stone troughs that Jason was sure led to the mouths of the gargoyles. Once the army had passed The Gate, the vats were moved toward two giant pipes, which soon began flooding the vats with water. As the vats began to fill, the weight of the water began lowering the iron containers, pulling on the chains to which they were connected. Through the movement of the chains, the stone door rose back up from the floor, blocking the passage again.
The road down the mountain pass, known as The Road of the Dead, was well paved with cobblestones made of the same black granite as The Gate. Jason, gazing up, could see rows of watchtowers all flying the white field with gold sun banner of the Empire. Every five miles there was another fortress blocking the path but with conventional gates of wood and iron. Each time Jason’s carriage would have to stop and wait till the gates could be opened before the army could continue marching. At this slow rate the legions came to a final halt at the third
fortress they had reached that day. “Impressed?” Philip asked as he climbed into Jason’s carriage for the night.
“Why did you build such defenses? What do the Centurions have to be afraid of?” Jason asked.
“We were not always a strong nation. Long ago we were a hunted people and it was only behind these mountains that we found safety. Still, those hunting us tried to reach us here and continue the bloodshed. It was in these very mountains we made our stand and forced the enemy back, allowing for a long period of peace. That was how the empire was founded—with the first thing built being these
barriers against future invasion. “How much longer before we are out of the pass?” Jason asked.
He had found the dark fortresses to be a little frightening, as if hundreds
of eyes were on him that he could not see.
“There are only two more gates after this before we reach the final and grandest of the fortresses.”
“Greater than the Labyrinth Tower?”
“Where the tower achieved its greatness through deception and cunning, the Gate works by its shear size.”
“What does it look like?” Jason asked, curious.
“Look up.” Philip grinned pointing beyond the walls of the third fortress.
Jason looked past the walls at the growing twilight and the solitary mountainous pillar in the distance. Then just as the mountain disappeared in darkness, small fires began to appear like fiery dragons circling in the night sky. In less then an hour the entire stone pillar was alight with spirals of flames.
“Is that? ” Jason asked, his mouth wide open.
“That is the final gate, The Tor, the flames that guide us
home.” “How does it work?” Jason asked.
“We pay the desert nomads to fill the giant vats at the base of
the mountain with the oil found in the Desert of Flames. The oil is then
taken up to the top, where it is fed into a series of gutters, which spiral
down the mountain, lighting it up. As we make our way closer to the
final gate you will start to smell the oil and smoke.
“But why? Why do such a thing?”
“Because it was at the Tor that the last battle was fought against the people hunting us. Lighting up the mountain reminds our people of the souls of those that died... rising into heaven. That is why the mountain is lit each time a Centurion army returns home, for only then can the souls of the Centurions we lost outside Domus reach peace.
“Is all the Empire like this, filled with symbols?” Jason asked. “Domus is our home so over time we have built it to reflect our
past.” The next morning Jason awoke to the smell of smoke, the
carriage now closer to the Tor, still aflame. On either side were three
series of walls, each one progressively higher than the other. Passage was only possible by way of guarded ramps and bridges, but once through the black granite that had marked the Road of the Dead, there was a green valley.
Looking at the expansive fields filled with life, Jason saw that the valley was divided by giant stone aqueducts feeding the rich farmlands with water from the Jasper Mountains behind him. As they continued to travel, Jason watched hundreds of men and women, dressed in Famulus black robes, working the fields and repairing the roads. Men dressed in white and gold armor patrolling the area, both on foot and on horseback. Philip told him that those men were the Home Guard, protectors of Domus and its surrounding lands. Rarely, Jason would catch the eye of a man dressed in red clothing. That, Philip explained, was one of Jason’s fellow Legatio, supervising the work of the Famulus.
100 by 100 squares
Mark the senate floor,
100 by 100 years
Have stood its ceiling and floors,
100 by 100 laws Have made Domus strong, 100 by 100 Peoples brought into empire’s sun, 100 by 100 Senators Buried under, its tomb hard and cold, 10 by 100 by 100 by 10 Legatio have served us well And will since then
The reading said at each opening of the Senate.
The day finally came when the army arrived at the walled city of Domus, capital of the same-named empire. The walls were over twenty feet high and wide enough to allow chariots run atop them while six stone aqueducts entered the city from six different compass
points. As they approached, Philip pointed out to Jason the features that could be seen from inside the walls: the giant arenas, the long roof of the Grand Hall, the shining gold tiles of the Senate Building. All those things marked it not as the largest, but the wealthiest capital in the world.
Just outside the gates, an escort of white-armored Home Guard and red-robed Legatio waited for them. Jason, who had been walking by the side of the carriage for several days now, strengthening his legs, was taken by Philip to the men in red robes.
“Greetings, son of Agamemnon. May I be the first of your
Legatio brothers to welcome you home?” The man with the gold lining
on his red robes grinned with a wide, but toothless smile.
“Thank you.” Jason bowed.
“Oh, such manners for one so young.” The elderly man laughed. “My own sons run wild and never think to show respect to their elders. Come now, you may call me Perils, son of Godsin. I was chosen by the Senate to greet you.”
“Thank you. I am... I am Jason... son of Daslan.”
“Oh you have so much to learn, my boy.” The senator laughed but keeping his lips almost sealed. “You are Jason, son of Agamemnon of Argot. He was your father and a father worth having, not like that silly and very dead ruler of Qul Tos.”
“...” Jason remained silent, not sure how to respond.
Perils wrapped an arm around the boy’s shoulders, his long fingernails clawing into Jason’s white shirt. “Well, come now. It is time to see to your bath. After such a long journey it will take hours to get the dirt and filth off you.”
“Can Philip come with me?” Jason asked hopefully. Not since the day the Tower fell, had Philip been away from him for an extended period of time.
“I’m afraid not... the Legatio bathhouse permits only those privileged to wear the red to pass through its doors,” the Senator sniffed.
“Don’t worry, Jason. We will see each other soon,” Philip said to cheer Jason up.
Jason nodded, but still felt uncomfortable leaving Philip.
“Alright... but can I bring my staff?”
On hearing this, Perils once homey smile turned sour, not liking how close Jason seemed to be to the Centurion commander. “Your
staff... The reports I read said that your legs had healed.” “My quarterstaff,” Jason grinned, proud of it.
“A weapon... what is a Legatio doing with a weapon?” Perils demanded with great distaste while he glared at Philip. “We should have sent one of us to claim the boy the moment the Qul Tos fell. Leave it to a Centurion commander to confuse the boy. Be confident, Philip son of Helios, that the Senate will hear of this.” Perils then returned his attention to Jason. “No, Jason, you may not bring your... staff. I see you have a lot to learn when it comes to being a Legatio. Now follow me.”
Jason seeing that his request had gotten Philip into trouble gave him a guilty look, but Philip just smiled and pointed to Perils, who was already passing through the city’s gates as if he had expected Jason to automatically follow him without question. “Hurry up, Jason, or you
will be left behind,” Philip warned. Feeling a little reassured, Jason nodded. “Yes Philip.”
“Goodbye.” Philip waved as the boy ran to catch up with the Senator.
Past the city gates, thousands of people moved through the wide, clean, brick streets. Perils smiled on seeing Jason mesmerized. He was sure the boy had never seen such chaotic activity or grand a city, black-robed Famulus outside their shops, trying to tempt customers inside, red-robed Legatio sitting outside patio cafés holding intense and lively debates. Centurions, some equipped in the white and gold armor of the Home Guard, patrolled the streets, while others walked around only in plain white tunics, laughing, and drinking.
“Legatio-dogo!” Not just a few of the Centurions spat at Perils as he passed by with his head held high, ignoring them.
“What are they saying?” Jason asked confused. At that moment he wanted nothing more then to be back with Philip, at least with him the people did not seem so angry.
“They are calling me a Legatio... well I would not want to offend your ears with what they said. I know they don’t mean it so do not concern yourself about it.”
“Then why did they say it?”
Perils burst into laughter; “Hahaha... you don’t understand. Centurions like their dogs more than me and my fellow senators. What the Centurions refuse to understand is that the Empire would be stronger if we Legatio were just allowed to do our jobs.”
Leading Jason through the Famulus portion of the city, they passed the main market, where a road divided the city in half by running from wall to wall, stretching for four miles. From there the city opened up into the giant square of the Grand Hall of the Field Marshals and the inner walls separating the Famulus part of the city from the Legatio and Centurion. It was to the gate of the Legatio District that Perils led Jason. It had its own high wall and a single small gate guarded by the ever-present white-armored Centurions.
“Welcome home,” Perils tried to say with his friendliest of smiles, leading him into a maze of mansions, public buildings and parks.
Jason looked at the tall marble buildings gilded in gold with carvings etched into their sides with the shapes of plants and animals. The Legatio city within the capital was more impressive than anything Jason had ever seen.
On seeing the awe struck look on Jason’s face, Perils grinned
slyly. It would only be a matter of time before Jason became like most
Legatio his age, hedonistic, spoiled, and corruptible, making him easier to manipulate, just like any Legatio.
Continuing to lead Jason through the city, Perils finally stopped at a large domed building, clouds of steam and smoke pouring from its chimneys. “This is the public baths... public only in the sense that any Legatio over the age of seventeen can enter. You are older than that?” he asked, noticing Jason’s short frame.
Dazed by all he had seen, Jason did not return Perils’questioning look, instead his eyes stuck on the white clouds of steam coming from the building. “Yes... I’m twenty.”
“Good... I think you will find this new experience very enjoyable”
Perils said as he moved Jason along.
The building was made of white marble; statues of Legatio covered in red robes towered over the stairway leading into the building. Jason could not help but feel as if they were all staring down at him, making him nervous. As soon as Jason entered the building, a fat bald man dressed in black and sitting behind a marble desk jumped up in alarm. “You can’t bring him in here!”
Perils, enjoying the panicked look on the sniveling Famulus’ face almost made Jason’s improper appearance worth all the annoyance it had caused him. “Horace, sit down, he is a Legatio.”
“But he is dressed in white!” the fat man said as he pointed to the altered white Centurion uniform Jason was wearing, keeping his distance, his hand over his mouth as if the young man were diseased.
Putting on a fake smile once again, Perils introduced Jason to the fat man. “Horace, I would like you to meet Jason Argot, son of Agamemnon. Jason this is Horace, Keeper of the Baths here in the Legatio District.”
Horace immediately went down on one knee, his face going pale. “The son of Agamemnon... My pardon sir.”
“Sorry,” Jason blushed, feeling out of place.
Moving in closer, Horace picked at the fringe of Jason’s white shirt. “But your clothes, sir... something must be done. We can’t have you walking through the baths as if you were a Centurion barbarian,” Horace continued.
“What are wrong with my clothes?” Jason said as he cringed away, backing into the taller Peril. Compared to what his mother had him wear, Philip’s old uniforms were princely garments.
Perils saw that Philip had left much out of Jason’s education. “There is nothing wrong with them Jason, they are just the wrong color. Here in Domus we Legatio only wear red. Therefore, if you want to be accepted... you must wear red as well.”
“I’ll go bring the tailors,” Horace offered as he clapped his hand, summoning a fellow black-robed Famulus to him. “Go to the shop on Circuit Street and tell the shop owner that the son of Agamemnon needs fresh clothes.”
“Yes.” The servile man bowed before running off.
“Jason... now show us the manners you learned as a prince and say thank you to the Master of the Baths,” Perils chided.
“Thank you... I want to have friends.” Jason said at a near whisper. Falsehood reeked from both men like the camp latrines Jason used on his journey to Domus. He wanted to be away from these “men” and back with the “real” men: Philip and the Centurions.
“Well, since you are Perils’friend, that makes you mine.” Horace fawned.
On those words Jason shuddered. For while he wanted to be friends with everyone... for some reason he knew that he did not want the Keeper of the Baths as one of them.
Just thinking of Philip made the tears build back up into Jason’s eyes. He did not know why but Perils, even though he was a man, reminded him of his mother... and that frightened him.
With the other Famulus gone to the tailor’s, Horace returned his attention back to Jason. “Now, let’s get the young master to the changing room. There are some nice red robes that I am sure will fit him nicely,” he said with a toothless grin as he led both the Senator and Jason deeper into the chamber.
Horace stood next to Jason like glue as he undressed, increasing
the young man’s nervousness. After he had slipped off the remainder
of his white clothes, Jason quickly wrapped a red towel around his waist to hide his nakedness from the peering Bath Master. But instead of the man looking disappointed, a giant grin grew on Horace’s face as he picked up his discarded clothing by their fringes. “I know where to take these... things,” he said with distaste.
“Where is he taking my clothes?” Jason asked worriedly.
“My guess is the furnace,” Perils chuckled just as he wrapped a towel around his own waist. For a man well into his eighth century he looked no older then a man in his late sixties.
“He is going to burn them?” Jason said panicked.
Putting a reassuring hand on Jason’s shoulder, Perils gave him another one of his closed-lip grins. “Don’t worry, Jason. You will soon have new ones.”
“Alright...” Jason said, but once he saw that Horace was gone, Jason had to ask a question. “Why does Horace not like the Centurions?”
“Well, it might be that Horace’s people were captured and enslaved by them, making them Famulus, but that was generations ago. No... the reason he hates the Centurions is because he gets paid to,” Perils said honestly, seeing no reason to hide the truth from the young man.
That confused Jason more; “I don’t understand. How can you pay someone to hate another?”
“I think you will find that the Centurions are not as popular
as you were made to believe... at least certain ones are not. But don’t
worry about that now. You have plenty of time to learn the difference
between the Home Guard and the killers that make up the Eastern and Western armies.” Perils grinned. Jason did not know how to respond, leaving him stunned. Maybe
his mother was right... the Centurions were monsters. Letting Peril’s
hands guided him to the exercise room. There, one of the Famulus, wrapped in a black towel, led Jason through several exercises with a
series of weights before letting him soak in a large pool filled with cool water. Jason then was given his first lesson in swimming by the same
During the lesson, Jason learned that the man’s name was Caleb, that he too was from Qul Tos but had been captured during the war and made a Famulus. He did not have the reek of distrust that Jason found with Horace. The man had hazel eyes and hair that was turning gray while his chest was covered with a trimmed coat of gray and black hair.
While Jason practiced his kicks on the side of the pool, Caleb supported him by his stomach. The feeling of another person’s hands on his body at first made Jason nervous but the longer they were there the more relaxed he became. Once done with his kicks, Jason felt Caleb draw him in closer so that they where now front to back. Caleb’s hands massaging Jason’s neck and shoulders.
“May I pleasure you, master...” Caleb whispered.
“What...?” Jason sighed. He had not been so relaxed since waking up in Philip’s arms that morning.
“Would you like me to make love to you, your majesty?” Caleb replied again.
“I don’t understand...” Jason said even as his manhood was answering for him.
Caleb spun Jason around so they were now face to face, Jason’s back up against the tiled walls. “You have never been loved before your majesty?” Caleb asked as he nuzzled his face against Jason’s.
Jason let out a deep sigh as he felt Caleb’s tongue lick the side of his face. “Love me please.”
At that moment Perils reappeared. “Now don’t work yourself too hard, Jason. You had a long journey,” Perils said with false concern, laughing as he watched the young man jerk away from Caleb’s arms.
Jason blushed as he said, “I’m alright... Philip had me doing exercises during the whole trip.”
“I’m sure he did.” Perils snickered.
“I see you even have your quarterstaff with you,” Perils laughed on seeing Jason had been excited by the tenderness of the Famulus servant. If the young man was so easily aroused it would not be hard for him to seduce the handsome young man himself.
“The quarterstaff?” Jason said happily, not understanding what
the Senator meant.
Letting out a deep sigh, Perils decided Jason needed a better understanding of reality. “Jason you are new here, you don’t know our ways, but a Legatio must never be seen carrying a weapon or sleeping with a Centurion. It is considered very distasteful.”
“Philip and the other Centurions did not mind,” Jason insisted.
“But they are Centurions, not Legatio. They give my children swords by the age of five. You, on the other hand, are to use the pen and your voice. They are the only weapons you should have need of.”
“But can I still practice?” Jason asked hopefully, his eyes almost taking on a pleading look.
“First rule of being a Legatio... do what makes you happy. I’m sure Philip will see to your training. Just remember that while we Legatio live long lives, our bodies are very fragile. Do not throw your life away on a frivolous hobby when you will one day have to rule over Qul Tos. Now follow me... I think you are ready for the pleasure of a steam bath,” Perils ordered, closing the subject.
Led to a different room, filled with a hot thick mist, Jason
entered apprehensively, only to have his feet burned on touching the
hot tiled floor inside. “Ouch!”
“Sandals, my dear boy... we would not want you to burn your feet now,” Perils laughed. “You must always wear them before walking into a hot room,” Perils said sternly, his own feet already covered by brown leather thongs.
Stepping back into the cooler hallway, Jason found a pair and put them on, but they were too big for his small feet. After trying on three pair to find ones that fit, Jason was finally able to walk into the steam room. Perils then guided Jason to a wooden bench with Caleb in tow.
Caleb’s scrapping of the dirt, oil, and dead skin from Jason’s body with a dull strigil left the king drowsy and relaxed. Seeing this, Perils took advantage of the young Legatio’s state to start asking questions. “What has Philip told you about Domus?”
“That it is a military empire,” Jason replied.
“Yes, but do you know who leads the empire?”
“The three Field Marshals.”
“That is what the Centurions would like you to think. In truth it is the Senate that controls Domus. We write the laws, set the taxes, and own all the land. We are the merchants, bankers, officers of the courts, and the academics. The Centurions might be the sword of the empire but we Legatio are the mind that directs it. Never forget that, Jason.”
“Yes,” Jason replied, with Caleb now scraping away at his lower thighs Jason was too occupied to argue.
Come now, it’s time for your massage.” Perils grinned as he stood up naked, leaving his towel behind.
Jason, keeping his towel tightly wrapped around his body, followed into a room that was warm but not as hot as the steam room. Still tired from the heat, Jason almost leaned against one of the walls.
“Be careful Jason, you don’t want to be burned,” Perils warned.
What!” Jason jumped.
“Let me show you,” Perils said as he pulled off Jason’s towel from his waist. He then placed the damp cloth on the wall. Soon there was a cloud of steam and a sizzling sound.
“The walls are heated?” Jason asked shocked.
The walls and floors both.” Perils laughed.
“How are you able to do that?”
“That is a Domus secret. In your last year at the Academy you will be able to take a class on engineering.”
“What is the Academy?” Jason asked.
“The Academy is the top center of learning in the empire for boys your age.”
“Centurion boys too?” Jason asked hopefully as he was guided to a marble table.
“A few select ones. The Centurions have their own schools, but as their future officers will have more contact to us Legatio than the average Centurion grunt, the most talented Centurion students will be at the Academy with you,” Perils said, annoyed that the boy was still fixated on Centurion culture.
While both he and Jason were massaged with scented oils, Perils took this time to try and put a wedge between the boy and Philip. “Jason, do you know what Centurions are?”
“They are great warriors and my friends,” Jason replied proudly.
Perils, already having a good grasp on Jason’s gentle nature, knew how to progress. “But you know they love killing... it is a part of what they are?”
“Yes...” Jason whispered, not wanting to say the word.
“That is the main difference between Legatio and Centurions... we Legatio do not take part in such blood baths.”
“They only do it because they have to,” Jason replied, coming to Philip’s defense.
“That is what they would like you to think. In truth they enjoy what they do. Show a Centurion an enemy to be killed or a person like you waiting for him in his bed and he will always pick the sword.”
Now upset, Jason stood up from the table. “Why are you telling me this?”
Calmly, Perils stood up and began walking to the exit. “Because when I saw you with Philip I saw love in your eyes. Better for you to clear such thoughts from your mind, for he will never lay down the sword for you, and even if he returned your love, it would be short lived.”
“I don’t understand!” Jason shouted again at Perils’ back.
Stopping, Perils turned and faced the upset boy, a look of surprise on his face. “Why... are you telling me that Commander Philip did not tell you? He will be dead in eight years.”
The Field Marshals
“Where it takes the Centurion’s three Field Marshals and 400,000 men to rule over Domus, we Legatio require only our voice to change the direction of the Empire.”
Senator Perils addressing the Domus Senate
As the tailors fitted him for his new wardrobe, Jason tried to hold back the tears. Why had Philip not told him all this. The Centurion Commander had promised to be with him forever. Not to die like Melissa had and the rest of the people who had been a part of his life..., including his mother.
When the final stitch was made in the thick red wool robe, Jason’s now wet eyes looked up to see two delegations coming to claim him. One person was also dressed in the deep red of the Legatio and followed by at least a dozen black-robed Famulus, the others, however, wore the white of the Centurions.
Perils had expected his fellow Legatio senators, but not these Centurions, these man beasts, as Centurions rarely dared to venture inside the walls of the Legatio quarter, where they were not warmly welcomed.
Seeing Philip among the troublemakers, Perils grabbed Jason’s hand just as the young man was about to dash toward his Centurion rescuer. The Senator then dragged him toward the plump, fleshy Legatio and his large entourage of servants. “Jason... I would like you to meet Senator Brakis. You will be living with him until you join the Academy,” Perils said in a rushed tone as he watched the Centurions approach.
Jason, though, completely ignored both Senators as his eyes immediately fell upon his protector. “Philip!”
“Jason.” Philip laughed as he ran over and hugged Jason right out of Perils’ hands. “Ready to go home?”
“Yes!” Jason said eagerly. With Philip back with him, the young man forgot completely the words of Senator Perils.
“Wait a minute, commander,” Perils said as he raised his hand in protest, his palm, outward.
“Yes Senator?” Philip stopped, trying to hide the annoyance on his face.
Preparing himself for a verbal battle, Perils took a deep breath before speaking. “I know you care about Jason, but don’t you think it’s time that he learned about his own people?”
Philip lips curled and eyes hardened. “He will be with his own people... We Centurions are also citizens of Domus even though you Legatio tend to forget that.”
“Yes you are...” Perils said with false calmness; “but there is
a lot the boy does not know... He needs to learn the proper etiquette
expected of a Legatio, not how to dance with a piece of wood against imaginary enemies. Don’t you see that will only lead to the young man’s ruin?” Perils asked, mocking the Centurion form of weapons exercise.
Philip gritted his teeth as he struggled to control his temper. “I do know how to act in public, believe it or not, Senator.” Philip seethed. He took a deep breath before looking down at the center of the disagreement. “Jason, who would you rather go with... me or the Senator?
“I’m sorry, Perils, but I would rather go with Philip,” Jason said,
feeling bad that he had caused this conflict just as he had caused others
in the past.
Red-faced, his authority challenged, the Senator had only one
option left. “See what you have done... you have frightened the poor
boy. I demand that this be brought to the Field Marshals! Your behavior, commander, is just unheard of.”
“Fine... let’s see what they have to say.” Philip laughed, more to relieve the stress he was feeling than from finding the irate Perils humorous.
The two groups, with Jason between them, walked almost a mile till they reached the heart of the city, where the seventy-foot-tall, triangular-roofed building of the Grand Hall dominated the massive square it was in the middle of. Hand in hand, Philip led Jason up the fifty marble stairs leading to the entrance of the Great Hall of the Field Marshals, the way lined with the white-armored Home Guard.
Inside the colossal building, oil lamps and fire pits lit the
cavernous chamber making the Qul Tos throne-room look like a warm
sitting room in comparison. At the end of the chamber Jason saw three
large stone thrones, each facing inward, forming a triangle in the middle
where the tile floor changed into the pattern of the sun, the symbol of
Perils marched right to the middle of that triangle and took up an indignant look, arms crossed on his chest. Philip too entered the middle of the triangle but bent down on one knee. Jason, following Philip’s lead, almost did the same but was lifted back up by Philip. Looking down at his protector, Jason was relieved to see Philip looking up, giving him a wink and a smile. While that took away some of his nervousness, Jason still put a hand on Philip’s shoulder for support and comfort.
After several minutes had passed, a gong could be heard echoing throughout the chamber. All the Centurions who had come with Philip then went down on their knees as well, while Perils’ Legatio allies and Famulus remained standing.
Three men, one wearing black and red, another white and gold, and a third blue and green marched into the room. Each went to one of the thrones and sat down, the metal of their armor sending out a harsh clang.
“What is the meaning of this, C-5-7?” the man in black and red armor demanded.
Philip answered the supreme commander of all eastern forces with a deep and respectful baritone. “Field Marshal Gorr, I was attempting to bring Jason to his home. Senator Peril, however, saw things differently. As the law states, all conflicts between a Centurion officer and a Senator must be handled by the Field Marshals. So I have
“Senator Perils, is that true?” the Field Marshal demanded.
Perils, daring to glare at Field Marshal Gorr, only received an amused smile in return. “I was only looking out for the boy’s interests. He has just arrived and knows nothing about his heritage. I thought that arranging for him to stay with Senator Brakis would give him a chance to learn what needs to be learned,” Perils said in a cold logical voice that hid his anger.
“Oh yes, I’m sure Senator Brakis would do a good job of that... when he is not having the young Legatio in his bed.” The Field Marshal of the West, Lukas, dressed in blue and green, chuckled.
“I take offense to that comment!” Senator Brakis shouted from within the crowd, but was stopped when one of the white armored guards reached over and grabbed him.
“Silence!” Field Marshal Gorr demanded. You are not inside the triangle of the sun so you may not speak, Senator. Not here... not in the Hall of the Field Marshals. Save your debate for the Senate floor.”
Senator Brakis dropped his shoulders in surrender and made a nod of his head that he understood before he was let go. The Field Marshal in white, Xavier of the Home Guard, then spoke. “Senator Perils has a point. The son of Agamemnon knows nothing of what will be expected of him as a Legatio. I have also heard reports that C-5-7 was teaching the son of Agamemnon how to use a weapon. Is this true, C-5-7?”
Philip was ready for that question and smiled. Everyone knew that Xavier was Perils’ toady. “The boy asked me to teach him how to use the double sword. I thought the quarterstaff was a more appropriate weapon... don’t you think, Field Marshal Xavier?”
This sent a trigger of chuckles from all three Field Marshals, enraging Perils. “Don’t you see what risk Jason is in with the son of Helios! Weapons, fighting, anima... if Jason is not taught our ways he will be dead before his 21st birthday.”
“From my understanding, Jason was weak with both legs broken when C-5-7 found him,” Gorr brought up. “Instead of using P3-5-7 anima to add to his own strength, he gave it to the young man in his care. Very admirable.”
Seeing that Perils was about to lose his dispute with Philip, Xavier, Field Marshal of the Home Guard, the man in white and gold armor, spoke up. “It was nothing that time could not have fixed, Gorr, and you know that. You also know that giving a Legatio our anima always makes them eccentric if not erratic.”
“Regardless... the boy is very popular among my men,” Gorr voice boomed. “He goes home with C-5-7!”
“He needs to learn restraint and proper behavior. He needs to be with the Legatio!” Xavier grunted coldly, hating that he had to share power with the other two Field Marshals.
The Field Marshal of the West, in his blue and green armor aglow from the light of the lanterns, remained silent while his two fellows continued to verbally spar with each other, his eyes on Jason. When he had finally reached a decision, he gave Jason a wink before speaking. “Yes... the boy needs to learn what being a Legatio means but there will be plenty of time for that, centuries in fact.
“What our society needs more is a Legatio who can act as a bridge between his own people and ours. I can think of no one more suited for that than the son of General Agamemnon. Yes, his desire to learn how to use a quarterstaff is unusual for a Legatio. Some might find it scandalous. I, on the other hand, find it endearing. I have full trust that C-5-7 will supervise him carefully. Since I am the deciding vote... the son of Agamemnon will go home with Commander Philip.”
On hearing those words, Jason wanted to run over and hug the Field Marshal. Philip must have feared the same thing, as he wrapped an arm around Jason’s legs while he remained bowed, keeping the young man by his side.
With both the Field Marshals of the East and West in favor of Jason going home with Philip, the debate was put to an end. Soon, the sound of a gong echoed through the Great Hall again. The three Field Marshals then stood up and left the chambers.
Once they were gone, Philip stood back up and gave Jason a proper hug. “Let’s take you home now,”
A New Home
While the Legatio lived in the grandest of mansions, the Famulus lived in what housing they could afford or find, and the Centurions lived either in the barracks outside the city or in their own quarter of the capital. There, men, based on their rank, lived in houses that were like miniature fortresses, with thick walls, food to last a year’s siege, and a cache of weapons to fight with. Living in such an environment ensured that the Centurions would never forget the ever present danger of war and the need for discipline.
A study of Domus architecture
Together with Philip’s Centurion friends, Jason and Philip left the Grand Hall and made their way to the Centurion District of the city on the opposite side of the square from the Legatio District. Perils was left to lick the wounds to his pride. The Centurion quarter
also had its own walls, but unlike the Legatio section of the city, the buildings themselves had a fort-like look to them without gold or
Philip, not able to contain his happiness on having Jason back, lifted the man off his feet and carried him from the Centurion Gate for half a mile till they arrived at a block-shaped building with a wooden gate of its own. To ring a bronze bell, Philip lowered Jason back on the ground and pulled the rope to the bell three times, sending out a loud ringing sound.
“Commander Philip!” An elderly woman wearing black said, on opening the gate.
“Hello mother.” Philip grinned as he gave the woman a hug.
“Philip... this is your mother?” Jason asked confused. She looked so warm and friendly, nothing like his own mother.
“She is as beautiful as the day my father bought her.” Philip grinned as he played with the woman’s long gray hair.
“Who is this!” the woman asked, her blue eyes sparkling at Jason.
“This, mother, is the son of Agamemnon, the King of Qul Tos, Jason the IX,” Philip grinned as he wrapped a strong arm around the young man. “He will be living with us ‘till he goes to the Academy.”
The woman laughed before scolding her elder son. “Oh good. And you did not even bother to write that we would have a guest? The house is a mess and your brother is brooding again. What am I ever going to do with you, boy?”
“I’m sure it will be better than the tower where Jason was kept
prisoner.” Philip blushed, embarrassed by his mother. “Well... you will have to tell me all about it then. Alex will enjoy
your stories as well. So come on in. A roast is on the fire and I baked
some of those pastries you love. I want you well fed before tomorrow’s parade to celebrate your return.”
“Yes mother,” Philip said obediently. “Follow me, Jason. I want to show you your room.”
“Alright,” Jason agreed. At first Jason had been scared on
learning that Philip’s mother lived with him. Philip’s mother, however,
was nothing like his own. She seemed cheerful and kind and a little
funny. There had been nothing funny about his mother the Regent.
“Are all Centurion mothers like yours?” Jason asked as he followed his protector.
“Hahahaha... I bet you have never met a mother like mine.” Philip grinned as he kissed the top of Jason’s head. “Many Famulus mothers are very kind... only in the rare case are they cruel. My mother lived with my father in his harem. She loved me and my brother Alex, but was hated by the other mothers because Alex was my father’s favorite. That is why when she was past her child-bearing years, she left my father to live here with me. As a commander, I live about as well
as the average Legatio.
“This place is wonderful,” Jason replied as he continued to follow Philip into the house. Anything that was not another tower was fine with him.
Philip led Jason past a large courtyard, dominated by a fountain
and rows of potted plants surrounding it, and up a set of stairs. From
there Jason was taken to a room at the western corner of the house. Inside was a small bed, a desk, a wardrobe, a table and three slit-like windows that let beams of sunlight in.
“This used to be my room. Some of my old clothes are still in the closet if you want to change.”
“Thank you... I do not think I like wearing red, reminds me too much of blood,” Jason said as he peeled off his shirt.
“I know... but that is the reason the Legatio wear it, lest they forget their fatal weakness. You, on the other hand, should have been born a Centurion.” Philip chuckled as he handed Jason a white tunic from the wardrobe.
“Thank you.” Jason smiled as he slipped the clothes on.
“You will have to get used to it though... wearing red that is,” Philip warned.
“Why?” Jason asked. He had gotten used to being able to choose what he wanted to wear during the long journey to Domus.
“You are a Legatio. Legatio have to wear red. It is tradition.”
“So I will get in trouble wearing white?” Jason asked nervously
“No...not here. Legatio almost never come to our part of the city. I am actually flattered you preferred our white over Legatio red. I am sure the other Centurions will think the same thing.”
“I think I like Centurions more than my own people.” Jason sighed, thinking about his experience with Perils.
“Well, you are one of the few who feel that way?” Philip said sadly.
“Oh?” Jason asked confused. “I thought Legatio and Centurion’s were friends.”
“We are... We are just not as close as we used to be.” “Why not?” Jason asked. “I think you need to sit down before I tell you,” Philip said, a
little unsure how he was going to explain the realities of Centurion
Jason, seeing the worry on Philip’s face, became nervous himself, but he did as he was told and laid down on the bed.
“Do you know why we Centurions are warriors?” Philip said, thinking that was a good starting point as he lay down on the small bed, wrapping an arm around Jason’s waist.
“Because you are the best?” Jason replied as he snuggled in closer to Philip.
“Yes, but do you know why we are the best.”
“It is because we are very difficult to kill. We can sustain wounds that would be fatal to a normal man and are able to recover from them quickly. We also enjoy the act of killing.”
“I see,” Jason said, pulling away and not because of Philip’s touch.
Philip pulled Jason back to him possessively. “Yes... but there is a cost... while we are almost impossible to kill, we live a half life.”
“A half life?”
“What I am trying to say is that we don’t have many years to live and enjoy life so we make the most of them,” Philip said with great difficulty, fighting his growing urges.
“How short a life?’ Jason asked, his fear causing his heart to pound.
Philip took a deep breath before replying. “No Centurion has ever lived past the age of forty.”
“And how old are you?” Jason asked, scared to hear the answer.
“I am thirty-two.”
“Eight years...” Jason said as tears stung his eyes. What Perils had told him had been true.
“Yes, eight years,” Philip said as he too began to cry.
“But I don’t want you to die!” Jason wailed as he turned around to cling to Philip tightly.
Philip held on to Jason with his own desperate embrace. “It’s not my choice, just as it won’t be your choice that you will live many years beyond me,” Philip said.
“I don’t understand.”
“You see while we Centurions live short lives, you Legatio can live for centuries.”
“So I will live long after you have died,” Jason realized.
“Yes... that is what has caused us and the Legatio to drift apart. You see we Centurion have an attraction to you Legatio. We don’t understand why. We just do. For a long time you Legatio loved us as well, but as time passed the Legatio had to watch their Centurion lovers die. One by one the Legatio steeled their hearts against us. Why fall in love with a man who will soon be dead.”
“I see. I’m sorry, Philip.”
Philip lifted Jason’s chin up from where it rested on his chest. “Hey... why are you sorry? You are always sorry when you have no reason to be.”
Jason returned Philip’s stare. “I know. I just wish you and the Legatio still loved each other.”
“You love us Centurions... don’t you?” Philip asked with a lopsided grin.
“Yes.” Jason laughed. “I think I do”
Philip on seeing the happiness on Jason’s face wanted nothing more than to take the young man into his arms and show him how much he loved him as well. It was not the right time, however. “I don’t want you to worry about me. We still have plenty of time. General Darius has just transferred me to the Academy so I will be one of your teachers.”
Feeling more hopeful Jason smiled again. “Really... but what will I be doing at the Academy?”
“It is where you will be trained to be a senator, ambassador, historian, artist, or whatever best suits you.”
Jason still did not understand but he nodded his head anyway. “I see...”
“You will love it there, Jason. Some of the best years of my life were at the Academy. It is where you will make the friendships that will last a lifetime. My brother is a student there right now.”
“Your brother lives with you?” Jason asked, curious.
“I have dozens... most of them only half brothers. The one I am referring to is my true brother, Alex, and yes, he lives with me.”
“So do the Legatio and Centurions go to the same school?”
Jason asked hopefully, wishing that Perils had told him the truth.
“Yes... it is probably the last thing that keeps us together.”
“Can I meet your brother? Will he like me?” Jason asked rapidly... if Alex was anything like Philip then Jason was sure he would soon have a new friend.
“Yes.” Philip laughed. “The Academy is on break, so he is here with us.”
“Why did he not greet you when you came home?”
“Alex is a bit of a loner. The only thing that makes him happy is practicing.”
“What weapon does he use?” Jason asked curiously.
“The double-bladed sword like me,” Philip said with pride.
“You have a place to practice?” Jason asked hopefully.
“Yes we do. Do you want to get out the quarterstaff?”
“Yes I would... I did not practice this morning,” Jason said a
little nervously. He was afraid of getting Philip into trouble.
Philip easily guessed the source of Jason’s anxiety and so tousled his hair reassuringly. “Don’t worry about Perils... he is more of a traditionalist than most Legatio. As for my brother, he’s is going to love you. Both of you can’t go a day without practicing.” Philip grinned as he led Jason out of the room.
“No... you are already sixteen...
You cannot live here a day longer.
Why do you think I sent your brothers away when they became fourteen?
Do you think you are a Legatio!
You are too old to be living with me... Now go!”
Alex’s father Helios, sending Alex away on his 16th birthday.
Philip directed Jason out of the bedroom and to a ladder that took them to the roof of the house. On top was a garden, as well as a covered wood platform. Under it, completely lost in his practice was Philip’s brother working with a pair of swords.
Alex was just as tall as Philip but less bulky. Still, he was well muscled and handled the heavy weapons as if he were playing with a pair of broomsticks. Making his final strokes, Alex brought the swords up to his face and kept them there as if he went into a trance, each blade over an eye.
Philip, grinning, went over to where a bucket of water stood.
Picking it up, he tossed it on his brother. Alex, though, remained
unmoving. “Is this how stiff you are in bed? No wonder I get complaints
about you.” Philip laughed while Alex remained still.
Jason, now confused, walked up and stared into Alex’s gray eyes. He could see how hard Alex was trying to keep a straight face. It made Jason laugh. That broke Alex’s concentration, triggering a brief grin from his otherwise stoic face.
Seeing he was beaten, Alex let out a deep sigh before glaring at
his brother. He then turned his attention to Jason. “Who are you and
what are you doing here?”
“He is Jason, son of Agamemnon,” Philip said proudly.
“The Legatio King of Qul Tos?” Alex said unemotionally
“Yes...” Jason smiled. He did not know how a man the same age as he acted so differently from his brother.”
“You are a Legatio... no?”
“I guess I am.” Jason grinned.
Alex looked at the white tunic Jason was wearing with confusion. “You should be wearing red.”
“But I don’t like red.” Jason laughed.
“Why are you laughing?” Alex asked confused.
“You act older than your brother,” Jason replied.
“That is not saying much. Philip still acts like a child,” Alex smirked.
“It keeps me young.” Philip chuckled. “You should try it sometime.”
“So now I know who you are. Why are you here?” Alex pressed, his face returning to a forced serious expression.
“He is going to be living with us,” Philip explained as he brought both boys into a hug. Jason eagerly joined the hug, but Alex remained unresponsive.
“Should he not be with his own kind?” Alex sighed as he escaped both men’s grasps, heading over to the weapons stand to put up the swords.
“I don’t like the other Legatio... they are not very nice,” Jason said honestly.
“Well... I see living away from Domus has some benefits. It gives you a clear enough mind to see that most Legatio are a bunch of overfed pigs,” Alex grunted as he turned to face his brother and Jason. “So why are you up here on the practice roof?
“I wanted to practice with the quarterstaff,” Jason added as his
eyes went to the row of weapons on the stands.
“Quarterstaff?” Alex said with raised eyebrows as his mouth
formed an amused smile.
“Yes... believe it or not, he really wanted to learn the sword.” Philip chuckled. He was so proud of his student and was happy that Alex was not rejecting Jason just for being a Legatio. But than again, Jason was no normal Legatio.
“The Senate would never allow one of their own to use such a weapon.” Alex smirked.
Knowing that his brother had a bad relationship with a particular Legatio, Philip added; “I know... that is why I have been teaching him with the quarterstaff.”
Now curious, Alex wanted a demonstration. “Let me see what you can do.”
“Alright...” Jason said nervously as he went to the weapons stand and picked up one of the staves.
“Use this one... it has better balance,” Alex suggested as he took a different quarterstaff and handed it to Jason, allowing his body to press against Jason’s back.
“Thank you.” Jason grinned, turning to face him. Happy that Alex seemed to be relaxing, Jason went to the middle of the platform and began the exercises Philip had taught him, going from one to the next without stopping. When he had finished the last one he knew, the twenty-third out of the one hundred, Philip clapped while Alex frowned.
“He did a good job!” Philip grumbled when his brother did not clap.
“He made a lot of mistakes,” Alex said analytically.
“He made every move correctly,” Philip defended.
“What did I do wrong?” Jason asked, slightly hurt.
“You hold the staff wrong. You let your elbows lock into position. They need to always be bent so you can recover faster. You made every move correctly but you take too long to do them. The moves need to flow like water.”
“Can you teach me?”
“Teach... I’m still learning myself,” Alex said, a little
“What about the tattoo on your back?” Jason asked. He was sure it was one that showed Alex a master of the quarterstaff.
“I see my brother has been teaching you more than just the
staff.” Alex chuckled softly.
“He has been telling me all about Centurion life,” Jason said proudly.
“Well, you never really master a weapon. There is always something to learn but I guess I know a lot more than you do,” Alex said with false modesty.
Jason asked; “So will you teach me...? I think Philip is too nice to tell me what I am doing wrong.”
Seeing that he just might be stealing his brother’s student from under his nose, Alex burst into laughter. “Hahahahahaha... You are most likely right. So yes... if you think you can handle my criticism, I will teach you till we get to the Academy.”
“Hey!” Philip protested only to be ignored. Looking at the two young men he could not help but see that the two had an immediate attraction to each other.
“Thanks... Alex,” Jason smiled as he went over and hug him.
“You’re welcome.” Alex blushed, actually relaxing in Jason’s arms. As he felt Jason’s arms leave his side, Alex came up with an idea. “I’m going to the baths now. Do you want to come?”
“I already bathed today,” Jason said, but quickly regretted it as Alex’s face took on a look of disappointment.
“Alright... I will see you at dinner then. We can practice tonight,” Alex said, his voice returning to a serious tone.
After Alex left, Philip went over to Jason and hugged him. “I think my brother likes you.”
“I take it he does not have many friends,” Jason said sadly.
“He does not let people get close to him,” Philip agreed, as he lowered Jason onto the practice floor to rest.
“Why?” Jason honestly wanted to know.
“It has to do with something that happened long ago. Our father was not the warmest person in the world. He has multiple wives and dozens if not hundreds of children and since all his children are Centurions, who will die well before him, he does not let himself show love to us,” Philip said as he joined Jason on the straw mats snuggling behind him.
“My mother was the same way,” Jason sighed as he rested his head on Philip’s stomach.
Philip nodded sympathetically before continuing. “Well, our father did let himself fall in love with one of his children once. That child was Alex.”
“Why is Alex so cold then?”
“Because of what happened later. Alex was father’s favorite. Everyone knew it, and many of my half-brothers gave him a hard time over it. But, as Alex grew older, our father began to fear his loving Alex was a mistake.”
“How can love be a mistake?”
“Because when you let yourself love a person, you also give them the power to hurt you. Our father is only 323 years old. He can live to almost a millennium. He knows that one day he would have to watch Alex die. That knowledge was too painful to him so he decided to cut off his feelings for Alex. He started ignoring him, which led to him kicking Alex out of the house just to avoid him. I was an officer then and had a house here in the Centurion quarter. Our mother had passed her child-bearing age and was living at my home, so when she sent me a letter at the war front telling me what happened I told her to take Alex in. Later I came home on leave and saw the change in my brother. He was no longer the fun-loving boy I had known growing up. He was instead bitter and mistrusting. You are the first person to get
him to smile besides mother and myself.” “I’m...”
Knowing what Jason was about to say, Philip cut him off.
“Don’t you dare say sorry, Jason. This is not your fault. Alex could have
decided to look for new friends but he chose not to.”
“Do you think I can become his friend?” Jason asked seriously.
“He agreed to train you, didn’t he?” Philip chuckled.
“Yeah...” Jason said, not getting Philip’s point.
“Trust me... Alex wants to be your friend. He is just afraid you will turn him away like his father.”
“Then I will tell him that I am his friend.”
“I think it will take more than that. He needs to see you being a friend more than hearing you say you are.”
“...But I’ve never had a friend my own age before.”
“Just be yourself... I think that will work,” Philip said encouragingly... it was how he came to love Jason.
“Alright... but I don’t know what I am. Perils says I am a Legatio, but I don’t feel like one, you say I am a man, but I still don’t know what that means.”
Philip pulled Jason closer to him so the young man’s head was pressed against his chest. “I know. That is what makes you so charming. You were not raised with our prejudices. Your father was highly respected by his men. While all of them are now dead, the poems and songs the Legatio wrote about him still bring out feelings of love and respect from us. Western Field Marshal Lukas was right... you can bring us and the Legatio closer.”
“I hope so. I would like everyone to be friends.” Jason sighed.
Perils did not want to be friends with the Centurions. He wanted to enslave them. Jason had been a part of that plan, but it now was clear that he was going to have to be an unwilling partner in it.
With the arrival of Jason Argot to Domus the main problem facing Perils now was what to do with the Eastern and Western Field Marshals, as usually the generals fought the wars while the Field Marshals ruled from Domus. They tended to vote together as a block, making Xavier a useless but expensive ally. Still, as useless as Xavier was, Perils was betting his future on the leader of the Home Guard.
“I would prefer you come to me. I don’t appreciate your people snickering each time I come to your house,” Xavier grunted as he entered Perils’ study.
“How is your health?” Perils asked instead of answering Xavier’s question.
“I am fine... but that does not change that I turn 39 next
I know... that is why we need to act now. Gorr is only 36 and Lukas is 38. I don’t want those two selecting your replacement when
you finally die.” “Well, unless you find a way for me to live longer there is
nothing we can do.”
“We can kill them,” Perils said bluntly.
“Kill... how?” Xavier asked, his interest peaked.
“There are ways to kill them...accidents can happen. If both of them die close enough to each other before replacements can be found you will be able to choose whomever you want.”
“I see... you will give me full control?”
“Yes,” Perils said with a slight smile as if it were just a minor prize.
“But you know if the Eastern and Western armies were to ever find out that we killed their leaders we would have a civil war on our hands?”
“We better make sure that no one finds out then,” Perils warned.
“Do you have a plan?” Xavier asked as he moved in closer.
“Don’t I always...” Perils sighed, seeing that Xavier was either too stupid or too greedy to turn against him. “Tomorrow the Eastern army will march through the city. You and the other two Field Marshals will be in the grandstand watching as General Darius presents his troops. As leader of the Home Guard it will be you who will leave the stand to hand the general his baton of victory. At that moment Jadoorians, disguised as Famulus will attack, killing both Field Marshals.”
“How will Jadoorians even get close to the grandstand?”
“They will be the Famulus serving them,” Perils said with a straight face.
“But that means they will have to be my servants!”
“Yes... who else but your servants would do such a thing, since you are well known for abusing them. The public would not be surprised to see them revolt. Your Home Guards have also been told to be slow in coming to the Field Marshals’ defense.”
“But my men will be executed!”
“No...” Perils smiled wickedly.
“No?” Xavier asked confused.
“Your men will not be punished because you will take personal responsibility for your men’s action.”
Then I will be executed!” Xavier said shocked. “No you won’t.” Perils said patiently. “I will make sure that the Senate shows mercy. You will only receive a public flogging.” “And why should I agree to this?”
“Because after you are punished you will be free to pick
whatever sycophants you want to be Field Marshals. You will be the
one with the power,” Perils said as he took a seat.
“Yes, but only a year or two to enjoy it.”
“Count yourself lucky. Most Centurions never rise above being a grunt. You, on the other hand, will have the power to bring Domus to its rightful place in the world. If you do this, I promise the Legatio will be writing songs and poems about Xavier the Great for generations to come.”
“Fine... I will agree to your plan, but remember once I have the power I will no longer be your stooge. I will have your respect, Legatio!”
“Of course... your imperial majesty.” Perils laughed, giving the Field Marshal a mocking bow.
The Rage of Revenge
Jason was awakened by the feel of Philip’s warm body joining him in his bed. “Morning, your majesty.”
Jason did not like being called that and looked for a way to make that clear to Philip. “Morning, C-5-7”
“Hey... You promised!”
“Don’t call me ‘your majesty’ then.” Jason laughed.
“I see... you are in a good mood this morning.”
Jason wanted to say he was always happy so long as Philip was with him, holding and comforting him, but he did not feel ready to say those words.
Concerned by the long silence Philip asked; “What’s wrong?”
Jason, afraid Philip would disappear like Melissa from his life, replied; “I hope the parade goes well.”
“As General Darius led the final attack on the Labyrinth Tower he has the right and privilege of having the main spoils from the war, you and your father’s skull, with him in the chariot. As I was the one who saved you, Darius has given me a spot in the chariot as his banner man. Then...” Philip began explaining while helping Jason to dress.
The parade went as expected, the fifteen thousand soliders marching through the city gates, circling the market square, passing the Senate before reaching the Grand Hall of the Field Marshals. There, General Darius stopped the chariot, handing the reins to Philip before climbing the stairs to the grandstand. Next, Field Marshal Xavier left his fellow Field Marshals, heading down the stairs to meet the general.
That’s when the fighting started. Jason, from the bottom of the stairs, saw a scuffle at the top of the parade stand with Field Marshal Lukas literally jumping out of the box, two swords sticking out of his body. The white-armored Home Guards near the parade stood frozen in place as if in shock, not responding to what was clearly an assassination attempt.
For a while no one knew what had happened until a voice shouted from the grandstand, “Field Marshal Gorr is dead!”
As Gorr had been the leader of Darius’ men, a loud groan came from all of them. “Who did it?” General Darius demanded as he climbed up the steps to the top.
“Famulus!” one of the Home Guard shouted, holding the bloody rags of a black robe.
As word spread through the Eastern army, robed Famulus began to make themselves scarce, but it was not long before the Centurions went into a bloody rage.
Philip, while furious, kept his cool – if only for Jason’s sake. He did not want the young king to see the mindless carnage that was about to spread all over the city. Taking over the chariot, Philip sent the horses racing toward his home in the Centurion quarter. Luckily for him the Main Square was not clogged yet, giving him a free path away from the developing riot.
As soon as he arrived back at the house he pounded on the main gate till his own Famulus servants opened it. “Shut the gates and bar them,” he ordered as he dragged Jason deeper into the house. He did not stop till he led Jason into a small windowless room, protected by a thick iron door.
“Stay here,” Philip ordered before leaving a frightened Jason.
Soon after Philip was gone, his mother, brother, and Jonathan joined Jason. “What is going on, Philip?” Alex asked confused, when Philip came back. “O1e of the Field Marshals has been assassinated by Famulus. The Eastern Army is going on a rampage killing anyone wearing black on sight.”
“But our servants!” Philip’s mother asked panicked.
“All I can give them is a painless death,” Philip said sadly.
“Do you need my help, Philip?” Alex asked.
“No... you are not a Centurion of age yet... I don’t want our Famulus’ blood on your hands.”
“What do you mean?” Jason asked panicked, held by Jonathan tightly to his chest. “Why are you going to kill your servants?”
“I’m sorry, Jason, I have no choice. Please explain it to him, Alex, even though I am sure he won’t understand. Sometimes I myself don’t
understand,” Philip said as he left. “What is going on?” Jason demanded after the heavy iron door
was closed and locked. “The Centurions will be going from house to house killing any
Famulus they find,” Alex replied.
“Why!” Jason asked, shocked.
“Because they killed a Field Marshal,” Alex said sullenly.
“Then they should punish only the guilty.” Jason insisted.
“In a just world, yes, but we are Centurions. We don’t distinguish the crimes of one from those of the group.” Alex said as he led Jason to the lounge chair in the corner of the room.
“But why is Philip killing his own servants?”
“Because he can kill them mercifully. If other Centurions get their hands on them... their deaths will be slow and painful,” Alex replied stoically while his mother cried.
“He should not be doing this!” Jason said as he made a dive for the door but was tackled by Alex, and the skull was knocked out of his hands.
“Jason... Philip put us here for a reason. He does not want us to see what he is going to do,” Alex said as he held Jason tight.
“But he should not be doing it. He promised me he would never kill again.” Jason cried, the skull ignored.
“Shhhhh... I know, Jason. You might want to learn our ways, and although you are not a Centurion, you are also not like any Legatio I have ever known,” Alex said as he lifted Jason up and rocked him in his strong arms. Jason continued to cry but no longer struggled. Alex held Jason tight, nuzzling against the back of his neck. Jason was so innocent, so naive, so unlike any of the other Legatio. Jason was what a Legatio was supposed to be... a person in need of protection.
Feeling the desire to express love for the first time in years, Alex kissed the side of Jason’s neck. Jason responded by raising his neck higher, exposing more of it. Alex let his tongue run down Jason’s pale skin, leaving a wet smear.
“Jason... has anyone ever loved you,” Alex asked, between kisses.
“Loved me... no. I think Philip likes me though.”
“No... what I am trying to ask is has anyone made love to you?”
“Sex?” Jason asked, remembering that strange word.
“No...” Jason said embarrassed.
“Well I guess we have that in common. Neither have I.”
“I know,” Jason sighed as he felt Alex hug him tighter.
“Yes... I saw the tattoos on your back. You don’t have the ones
“Hahahaha... he is pretty proud of those marks.” Alex chuckled while his fingers explored Jason’s stomach, knowing that underneath the red robe Jason’s anima had to be glowing.
“Yes... but I still don’t know what sex is?”
Alex nodded in agreement. “Not sure how to describe it as I have never done it myself.”
“I just want to be in love with the person I do it with,” Alex sighed as he kissed the top of Jason’s head.
“Is that not the way it’s supposed to happen?” Jason said as he slowly stopped crying.
“Not amongst us Centurions. Oh we do fall in love from time to time but it never lasts long... a battle, a war, while students at the Academy. Very few of us bond to another and even fewer get married to a woman,” Alex said.
“What is the bond?” Jason asked as he was lowered down on the lounge chair.
“It is when two lovers exchange their anima fluid,” Alex said as
he climbed up on top of Jason resting his head on his chest, his hand reaching down to where Jason’s anima fluid was stored.
“How do they get it out?”
“I’m not sure... it is sort of a secret. It is passed down to the Field Marshals. When two Centurions want to bond they go to their Field Marshal and they tell them how to do it.”
“Can a Legatio and a Centurion bond?”
“Yes they can, but it has never happened in the history of Domus.”
“Why?” Jason asked.
“Because a Legatio can bond only once in his life. Why would a Legatio bond to a person who will be dead within a few years,” Alex said with bitterness.
“Oh...” Jason said sadly.
“Yes... That is why it is sort of the ultimate expression of love for us.”
The way Alex was smiling at him and rubbing his stomach Jason knew what Alex was hoping for. “You want to bond to me?”
“I think both my brother and I would like to,” Alex smiled.
“Alex!” his mother shouted in surprise.
“Yes mother?” Alex laughed as he continued to hug Jason.
“Jason is Philip’s friend,” she reminded him.
“Philip is 32 years old... I’m only 20,” Alex almost pouted.
“It’s just an idea, mother. I don’t really think that Jason would give his bond to either of us,” Alex said matter-of-factly.
“I would like to give it to everyone,” Jason said honestly.
“I know. That is what makes you special.” Alex giggled as he reached under Jason’s robe and tickled his sides.
“Alex!” his mother said, not understanding why her usually stoic son was acting like he was some love-starved man.
“He is with a Legatio who was not raised on his people’s prejudices.” Philip’s voice came from the now open door. He was dressed in fresh white clothes but looked very tired.
Alex on seeing his brother jumped off Jason quickly as if caught stealing something that did not belong to him.
“Keeping my spot warm, Alex?” Philip grinned, going over to Jason only for the Legatio to pull away
“Now I don’t want the two of you to fight,” their mother warned as she left the room.
“We won’t fight... right, Alex?” Philip said with a wink. “Duel?” Alex offered. “Oh no... I already know you are better than I am,” Philip
replied. “You broke your promise to me Philip. I don’t want you two
fighting over me.” Jason said worried. He then got off the couch and left.
“I won’t if Alex won’t,” Philip called after Jason.
“Then how will we tell who wins?” Alex asked confused, not understanding why Jason was upset. Having two Centurions fight over you was considered one of the highest forms of flattery.
“You don’t win a person by fighting off all your rivals.” Philip laughed.
“Then how?” Alex asked curious.
“It is a seduction. You draw in your love’s interest, like an opponent into the reach of your sword... taking a few steps back, forcing him to follow. Then when he least expects it, you move in closer to surprise him with a trapping blow that keeps him close to you.”
“So love is like a duel,” Alex said intrigued.
“Yes, but the goal is to keep the fight going as long as possible.”
“Why not just defeat him.”
“Well you could, but it would not be as much fun. How interested are you in dueling with an opponent you’ve already beaten?” Philip pointed out in terms that he knew his brother would understand.
“I see your point, but still, which one of us is going to pursue Jason?”
“I want to talk to you about that,” Philip said as he went over and closed the iron door.
“Well...?” Alex pressed when Philip did not speak up right away.
“Alex how old am I?”
“Yes, 32. At best I have eight more years of life left. You are 20. When I die, you will only be 28 and have 12 more years to live. I also just broke my promise to Jason by killing our Famulus.”
“I know Legatio look at our killing as proof of us being less civilized than them but Jason couldn’t have really expected you to keep that promise? We are Centurions after all.”
“That is something I think I will never be able to get Jason to understand, that we live in a world where people are forced to take the lives of others just to survive. Now let’s go find Jason and tell him we won’t fight over him before he starts to wonder if we’ve killed each other,” Philip said as he patted his brother on the back.
They found Jason on the roof practicing with the quarterstaff,
not showing any awareness of them. He was also showing remarkable
improvement. His elbows didn’t lock up, his swings flowed more
smoothly and he went from exercise to exercise at a much faster rate than before.
Philip gave Alex a wink and waved him over to the weapons stand, giving him a quarterstaff as well as taking one himself. The two
of them then went to either side of Jason. Jason, as he went into the next exercise, was shocked when his
staff made hard contact with Alex’s staff. “Continue.” Alex grinned. Jason went to the next position, only to hit Philip’s staff.
“Continue!” Philip said excitedly.
Slowly at first but then faster, Jason continued his exercises meeting another staff with each move. It was like a three-person waltz as Jason, Philip, and Alex moved all over the practice floor. After Jason made his last move he burst into laughter.
“You are getting better!” Philip grinned as he tossed his quarterstaff aside and lifted Jason off his feet.
“You are almost ready to spar,” Alex agreed.
“I don’t think I am any match for the two of you.” Jason laughed as he hugged Philip back.
“Don’t worry... we will be real easy on you,” Philip said cheerfully but giving his brother a warning gaze. If there was one thing Alex never did halfway, it was sparring. Teaching Alex how to duel without wanting to defeat his opponent was going to be interesting.
“When can we?” Jason asked excitedly.
“How about tomorrow? My men will be coming by to celebrate coming home. They would love to see your sparring debut.”
Bread from the Rooftops
Unfortunately the city was still consumed by chaos the next day. Once the rioting had died down a period of mourning was declared, placing the entire city under curfew and all forms of trade forbidden. With the markets closed, it was not long before the rioting Centurions were replaced by desperate Famulus who had long depended on using their wages to purchase food one day at a time, the sounds of their begging pleas falling on the deaf ears of the Centurions and Legatio both.
Philip, required as an officer to keep a large store of food in his house, had yet to suffer the pains of hunger. Nothing seemed amiss, therefore when Philip woke late near the middle of the first week of mourning to the smell of baking bread. Thinking his mother was busy making breakfast, he went down to the kitchen to find it filled with stacks and stacks of rolls, with more baking in the large brick oven.
“What is going on?” Philip demanded to an otherwise empty room. The only sound he could hear were the begging pleas of the mob. But there was something different today. Mixed with the wails of sadness were shouts of joy. Perturbed, Philip went to the roof to see what was happening.
One special feature of Philip’s home was that the western side of it was part of the wall protecting the Centurion quarter. It was, therefore, to his disappointed surprise that he found his mother and Jason throwing loaves of bread down to the hungry Famulus below. Alex was also there but did not participate. Instead he had a worried look on his face.
“You better stop them,” Alex said to his brother as Philip approached.
“What are they doing? Philip demanded.
“Torturing those poor people. There is no way we have enough food to feed them all,” Philip’s brother replied.
“Jason... Jason!” Philip shouted as he ran over to the young king.
“Yes, Philip.” Jason smiled, looking totally innocent.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Philip demanded.
“I’m trying to help them. They are starving down there,” Jason said as if it were that obvious and simple. He grabbed another half dozen rolls and threw them off the roof.
“Why are you throwing the food over my walls?”
“I tried to take the bread through the gates but the guards wouldn’t let me”
Right on cue Philip heard a loud banging on his gates. It seemed that the guards had noticed what Jason was doing and were not happy about it.
“I’ll be right back... don’t throw another roll off my wall!” Philip
shouted as he ran back down to the courtyard.
As soon as he opened the gate to his house, a platoon of soldiers marched in, spears in hand... at the end of the line stormed in Field Marshal Lukas, walking with the help of a cane. “What do I hear that you are feeding those traitors?” the Field Marshal demanded coldly.
Going down on one knee, Philip replied; “I am sorry, Field Marshal, my charge did this without my knowing.”
“The son of Agamemnon?” Lukas asked.
“Yes, Field Marshal.”
“You will inform the son of Agamemnon that he will...” Lukas stopped when he saw the offending youth climbing down the stairs with an empty basket. “Arrest him!”
“Field Marshal!” Philip said panicked.
“Arrest everyone else as well,” the Field Marshal fumed.
“On what charges?” Philip demanded as two guards grabbed him.
“Consorting with the enemy... misuse of military supplies... and insubordination. Is that enough for you, commander?” Lukas said as
he turned and left. Soon all five of them were in custody and marched to the main
square. There, instead of being taken to the Grand Hall, they were taken
to an adjoining building and lead down several flights of steps. They
were separated and put into small, dark, dank cells. They would not be let out or fed until the end of the period of mourning.
“I feel so cold...have I died? Did my mother kill me and all I have experienced was heaven? But now that they know I am a bad person, maybe they sent me to hell. I want Melissa... Melissa would tell me what to do... Why has Philip not come back for me? Does he love me? Do I love him? Do I love me?”
Jason: an internal debate while in the dark void of his prison cell.“Interesting... interesting.” Perils smiled as he read the report one of his spies gave him.
“What is it?” Xavier demanded. Yesterday he had been flogged in front of his men and was still sore from it. Even with his quick healing, his back was now a mass of scars.
“Field Marshal Lukas... who should have died, mind you... has arrested Commander Philip and his whole household, including the boy in his charge, Jason.”
“Good, so the boy will be out of your way sooner than you hoped.”
“You idiot... I need that boy if I am going to get the army to invade the Eastern Confederacy. This story that he was arrested for feeding our slaves opens a new field of opportunity, however. Not only
is he now very popular with the Eastern Army, but he is becoming a hero among the Famulus... all for a few silvers worth of bread. A
profitable investment I should say.”
“So how do you plan to take advantage of all this?” Xavier asked as he took a seat.
“Simple... I am going to get the charges against him dismissed.” Perils grinned.
“And how will you do that? Lukas did not die. I don’t control the Council of Marshals.”
“No, you just control one vote.” Perils nodded. He then handed the Field Marshal a large glass of Huron wine, laced with anima. “What happens when there is a split decision?”
“I don’t know. I have always assumed that there have always been three.” Xavier replied before sipping on the sweet liquid.
“Not always. Twice in our history we have been short one Field Marshal. When that happened and there was a split vote, it was the Senate that would break the tie.”
“You truly are a Legatio if you know all that history.” Xavier laughed
“I was a junior senator back when it last happened,” Perils corrected as he swirled his wine goblet.
“So Lukas will vote for punishment, I will oppose it, and the Senate will break the tie by getting Jason off the hook.” Xavier grinned, playing the scenario in his mind.
“Yes... Jason’s status as a hero among the Famulus will rise, we Legatio will be praised for our leniency, and you will have put Lukas in his place... making him the irrelevant voice in the council. It will just be a shame when we have to kill the boy eventually.”
“Speaking of High Command... who do you want to replace Gorr?”
“It might surprise you, but the person I want is General Darius.”
“Darius... but he knows nothing about our plans!”
“No, but he is the only General with a major victory under his belt. He is also very popular, but most importantly he has an attachment to the son of Agamemnon. When Jason dies, I want a Field Marshal who will be so enraged that he will go to war over it,” Perils explained.
“So you think Field Marshal Lukas will agree to the posting?”
“Put a war hero on the Council? He will be thrilled, but more importantly he won’t be suspicious.”
“But what if...” Xavier was about to say.
“Darius and Lukas form an alliance. I very much doubt that. If you have not noticed, the attempt on his life has made Field Marshal Lukas a little unbalanced. He sees enemies everywhere now. I have already taken steps for evidence to show that the Federation Kingdom of Jadoor arranged the assassination attempt. Soon I expect Field Marshal Lukas to order the Western Army to punish them by invading.
“The Federation will be a strong opponent. They are made up of islands. We have never been strong on the sea.”
“Yes, but all we need to do to defeat them is to land an army on their shores. Their ground forces are nothing to fear.” Perils smiled.
“Except for the Kingdom of Jadoor.”
“The Kingdom of Jadoor is made up of barbarians. They don’t even bathe.”
“Still, they succeeded in conquering that not so small island of theirs.”
“Barbarians defeating barbarians... they have never had to face a Centurion army.” Perils smirked.
“Nor us them,” Xavier warned before draining his glass, his lusting eyes falling on one of Peril’s young Famulus servants.
The power of the Legatio Senate derives from the fact that all laws are
written by that esteemed body. That power is restricted, however, by
the ability of the Field Marshals to pass laws by decree. Only when the
three are divided among themselves can the Senate use its influence
and act to bring about a resolution...
An excerpt from “The Legatio’s Sword”, written by Senator Perils
When Jason was finally allowed out of his cell, he was cold, wet and running a fever. Taken to a Legatio healer, he was force fed a white chalky potion, which soon put him into a deep sleep. Awakening, he found he was in a different cell this time, dry and well lit. Alex, and Philip were there, hovering over their mother, who was coughing. Standing next to him, touching his face with a cool cloth was Jonathan.
“Philip?” Jason called out as he stood up, his body still shaking with fever.
“Yes Jason,” Philip said as he walked to him. He looked tired,
dirty, but otherwise fine.
“Where are we?” Jason asked as he wrapped his arms around Philip for comfort.
“In a holding cell,” Philip said as he put a hand on Jason’s forehead. “How are you feeling?”
“Sick, but not as bad as before.”
“Good, the healer did his job then.” Philip sighed.
“All he did was give me something to drink,” Jason replied.
“And do you know what was in that potion?” Philip asked.
“No...” Jason admitted.
“It was milk mixed with ground Centurion bone. It is the only thing we know that can heal a Legatio other than using anima,” Philip explained while his mother coughed.
Jason looked worriedly at Philip’s mother, she did not seem to be well. “Is she sick?”
“Yes she is,” Philip said sadly.
Jason stumbled onto his feet. “Can’t the healers help her?”
“No they cannot.”
Not understanding, Jason replied; “Why can’t they give her the same potion I was given?’
“No... only Centurions and Legatio are allowed to consume the bone, blood, and anima of a Centurion.
“I’m sorry, Philip,” Jason said as his face burst into tears, his cheek brushing against Philip’s unshaven face.
This time Philip did not stop Jason for saying he was sorry. Instead he hugged Jason close to him.
“Philip... bring the boy over here,” his mother said in a weak, hoarse voice.
Philip took Jason over and lowered him to his knees, Philip’s mother grabbing hold of Jason’s hands. “Take care of my children.”
Jason did not know how to respond to this. Until that moment he had felt that it was Philip and Alex who had taken care of him. But it was what she wanted, so he agreed. “I will.”
“Now give me a kiss and go rest. I need to talk to my sons alone.”
“Yes,” Jason replied before depositing his kiss on her forehead.
Jason went back to his bunk and watched as Philip and Alex listened to the last words their mother. Then both of them stood up, crossed their mother’s arms over her chest before walking over to Jason.
Jason stared at both of them as they went on their knees, resting their heads on his stomach and chest. Jason took his hands and placed them on top of both their heads. They cried against Jason and he cried with
them. Then Philip, his face red with tears, lifted Jason off the bunk and brought him down on the floor. With Alex snuggled behind him and
Philip nuzzling him from the front, Jason let the two brothers mourn their mother, using him for comfort.
It was another two days before they were brought before the surviving Field Marshals for trial. This time it was Lukas who looked angry and Xavier with the cheerful smile. Outside the Grand Hall the sounds of loud shouting could be heard.
“You three stand accused of insubordination, misuse of military supplies, and inciting a riot. How do you plea?” Lukas said darkly.
“Innocent,” all three of them replied, just as Philip had told them to.
Lukas’s face went even redder with rage. “Innocent... INNOCENT! You are all guilty!” Lukas fumed, almost getting out of his massive chair.
“Let them present their case,” Xavier said calmly.
Lukas sank back into his chair. “Fine!”
“Who will speak for the defense?” a voice called out into the Grand Hall.
“I will,” Perils replied as he stepped in with a sly smile on his face.
“Senator Perils... why are you inserting yourself into this,” Lukas demanded, suspicious of the politician.
“Looking out for the innocent, Field Marshal,” Perils said with a mocking bow.
Lukas gave the three defendants a look of pure hate. “These men are not innocent.”
“That is the first mistake of this case, Field Marshal. I only see one man charged.” Perils smiled.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, are not Alex, son of Dosa Helios, and Jason, son of Agamemnon Argot, minors and Jonathan, Jason’s servant? Not to mention that Jason is also a Legatio and Jonathan was General Agamemnon’s last lover. How can they be charged with insubordination if they are not part of a Legion? They are not under your command or that of any officer.”
“They live in C-5-7’s house,” Lukas pointed out.
“Yes... but then they would have been insubordinate against Commander Philip, not you. Philip, were Alex and Jason being insubordinate.”
“They were being reckless, yes, but they did not go against my orders,” Philip replied.
“So you admit that you told them to feed the traitors!” Lukas pointed, this time getting out of his chair.
“No, I did not, nor did I tell then they could not feed the Famulus,” Philip said adamantly.
“What about the misuse of military resources,” Lukas demanded, moving on to the next charge.
“I think the period of mourning explains that. With the curfew and the Famulus at the gates, could it not be said that Philip’s house was under siege?” Perils said more to the audience than to the Field Marshals. “What is the law dealing with command during a siege?”
“The ranking commander has final say over the use of resources,”
Xavier recited. He himself had not known that law, but Perils had made
him memorize it.
“Is this true?” Lukas said as he glared at the Legatio law clerk.
The man picked up one of the large books on Domus law, looking up the requested information. After five minutes, he was able to reply. “Yes, Field Marshal.”
“But it was not a real siege!” Lukas shouted, frustration adding fuel to his anger.
Perils, seeing Lukas moving that much closer to losing control could not hold back a chuckle. “That is for you Field Marshals to decide, but the situation Philip was under could have been viewed as such from a legal perspective.”
“Still... they incited a riot!” Lukas spat, pushing forward with his last accusation.
“Did they start a riot...? I think I can fairly say that there was already one before they threw a single crumb off their roof,” Perils said, making a waving motion with his hands as if he were pushing away the accusation.
“Enough... This trial is over. I find all of them guilty!” Lukas said, clearly agitated.
Knowing ahead of time what was going to happen, Xavier took great pleasure in announcing his own opinion. “I am sorry, Lukas, but I must say that I find all of them innocent.”
“Then it is a tie. They will have to stay in prison until we can reach agreement,” Lukas declared pounding on his iron throne, thinking he won a victory.
“No...” Perils smiled again. “In the case of a tie, the Senate makes the deciding vote.
“What?!” Lukas said, jumping up from his chair for the second time. He turned to look at the law clerk that had the great misfortune to tell the Field Marshal that Perils was right.
Perils waved toward his fellow red-robed senators. “That is why I asked all my colleagues to come today.”
Lukas knew he was beaten even before a single vote was taken, but still he pursued the charges but not without a threat. “Vote... but remember that I will judge each one of you Legatio on it.”
The outcome never came close to being in doubt. Only three of the one thousand senators voted guilty and that was only to the charge of the lesser crime of misusing military resources. As soon as it became clear how the vote was going to turn out, Field Marshal Lukas left the Grand Hall, grinding his teeth.
After the law clerk declared the final tally, Xavier stood up. “This court finds Philip, son of Dosa Helios, Alex, son of Dosa Helios, Jason, son of Agamemnon Argot, and his Famulus innocent of all charges.”
Jason on hearing those words went down on his knees, wrapping his arms around Philip and held him tight.
“I can’t wait till you are at the Academy... I’ll be able to punish you for all the trouble you caused.” Philip chuckled as he hugged the young man back.
“Really...?” Jason asked worried.
“No,” Philip grinned as he spun Jason around to the cheers of the Centurions.
Perils, witnessing Jason’s popularity among the onlookers, decided to grab some for himself. “Come, Jason, you have others who want to see you,” Perils said as he tapped him on the shoulder.
Just on cue, a series of unison cheers came from the Main Square. “Jason... Jason... Jason!”
Curious, Jason let Perils guide him outside of the Grand Hall to be confronted with a sea of black robes held back from the Grand Hall by a thin line of Home Guards. On seeing Jason appear, a sudden hush fell upon the crowd. “Well, Jason... it looks like you have a following.” Philip grinned, wrapping an arm around Jason’s waist. “Let’s get them something to really shout about.”
“What?” Jason tried to ask, but was stopped when Philip pulled him into a mouth-to-mouth kiss.
On seeing a Legatio being kissed by a Centurion, they all assumed that Jason was taking on a Centurion lover, the first in centuries. Famulus and Centurions alike went mad with excitement while the departing Legatio Senators grimaced.
This time it could be said that the two of them incited a riot. General Darius, with an escort, had to clear a path for them to get back home, the mob following them the whole way.
As soon as they arrived home, Jason ran back to the kitchen and started pouring flour into a mixing bowl. Philip, his hands on his waist, gave Jason a serious stare. “What do you think you are doing?
“Making bread for the Famulus,” Jason said, not aware of Philip’s warning look.
“Jason, the period of morning is over, the markets have been open for days now. The Famulus do not need you to bake their bread for them.”
“But...” Jason protested weakly, his face already covered with a
fine layer of flour.
“Whatever am I going to do with you?” Philip laughed. “How about we only bake a dozen rolls for the Famulus elders?”
“Alright...” Jason said, with a slight pout on his face.
Wanting to cheer the young man up, Philip went behind Jason and wrapped his arms around his waist, letting Jason lean back against his body. “After you finish here I want you to go to the baths with Alex.
“Do I smell bad?”
“You smell worse than you did back in Qul Tos.” Philip laughed as he let go.
“I’m...” Jason tried to apologize but was stopped by Philip covering Jason’s mouth with his hand.
“Shhhhhhh... no more being sorry. You are going to bake the rolls, I will see that the elders get them, and you will go clean yourself up. That is unless you can think of something else you would rather do.” Philip said, receiving a nod in return. “While you do all this I never want to hear the word ‘sorry’ pass your lips. Do you understand?”
Jason nodded his head. He did not know if he could but he would try. In the Tower everything had been his fault. He had always had to say he was sorry. Now his rescuer was asking him to stop being sorry. Forgiving himself was not so easy.
When Jason awoke the day after the trial, he found himself warm and snuggled up against both brothers. Philip was spooned up against his back, while Alex rested in his arms. He tried to get out of the bed, but as soon as he moved both brothers hugged him tighter and gave out complaining moans. So Jason remained in their arms even while his stomach grumbled. Then, starting with Alex, both men began kissing him, Alex on Jason’s chest and Philip on the back.
“Morning, Jason,” Philip said between kisses.
“Morning,” Jason sighed as he felt himself harden, poking against Alex.
“MORNING!” Alex nearly shouted when he noticed what was poking at him.
“What?” Philip asked confused.
“Ummmm.” Alex blushed.
Philip, curious, reached over and found both Jason and Alex hard. “I think I will leave you two to take care of yourselves.” Philip chuckled. He got out from under the quilt, exposing himself as he headed out of the room.
“Why did he leave?” Jason asked confused.
Alex chuckled, enjoying how Centurion traditions were giving him an edge against his brother when it came to Jason. “Custom... Philip is an adult. An adult Centurion cannot be in the company of uncircumcised men whose manhoods are...
“Manhoods are what?
“Are erect while still having their foreskins.” Alex chuckled.
“Why?” Jason asked curious.
“It is seen as unclean. A Centurion can face serious punishment if he is found doing so.”
“Would they kill him?” Jason asked nervously.
“No... but he could face exile and have his marks removed.”
“How can they remove his tattoos?” “Simple enough, they cut the skin off.”
“But won’t that kill them!” Jason asked panicked.
“You forget, we are fast healers.” Alex laughed.
“Yours is not cut?” Jason asked, curious.
Alex grinned and turned around so his back was facing Jason. “Do I have that mark?”
“No,” Jason admitted. “But if I want to be with Philip, will I have to get cut?”
Alex struggled hard to hide the jealousy Jason’s question stirred in him. “So you want to sleep with him?”
Jason saw the flash of anger on Alex’s face and it made him nervous. “I don’t know. I know Philip would like for us to when I am older.”
Sighing with relief, knowing that he had some time, Alex’s face relaxed. “Alright... then you might have to be circumcised.”
The thought of getting cut scared Jason. “But won’t I bleed to death?”
“That is where powdered Centurion bones come in handy. It is very expensive but they can stop a Legatio from bleeding to death.”
“What do Legatio bones do?” Jason asked, curious.
“Yes, if Centurion bones can heal, what can my bones do?”
“Jason... you might be a Legatio but to say such a thing is near heresy,” Alex said shocked.
Jason did not understand why his question was taboo. “Why?”
“To mutilate a Legatio body is considered a crime punishable by death, one’s names removed from the songs, and more importantly, your skull shattered after your death so nothing will remain to remember you. Fewer than 30,000 Legatio have ever died and their bodies are kept in the Tomb of the Second Warrior under the Senate.”
“I see... sorry.”
Alex laughed... he could see why his brother would get annoyed with Jason always saying he was sorry. He would apologize for almost anything. “Don’t be. You have not had a chance to learn our ways. You don’t know what is forbidden.”
Jason, on hearing his stomach grumble again, tried to stand up
but was stopped by Alex grabbing his loincloth, pulling it off.
“Why did you do that?” Jason asked embarrassed. “I just thought...” Alex blushed looking down. Jason noticed it as well, the blood rushing into his midsection.
Alex looked at Jason with pleading eyes... so he gave Alex a gift, another
piece of a childhood held too long. Any normal Centurion would have laughed at their awkward attempt to make love but still the love was clearly evident in every
action they made.
“Is this sex?” Jason asked as felt his whole body tingle as Alex’s hands explored him.
“Of course it is,” Alex grunted to hide that he did not know what he was doing either.
Regardless of their inexperience... both found their way to being sated. Alex rolled over so Jason was on top of him, stomach to stomach, the young Centurion’s chin resting on the top of Jason’s head while his hands played with the Legatio’s hair. Both boys’ anima glowed on contact with each other’s bodies, blue to red. Alex felt his mouth drool, so he wiped it clean but was surprised to find what came away was blue... anima blue. Shocked, he jumped off Jason and ran out of the room before Jason had a chance to see or respond to his sudden departure.
Alex knew what it meant. Somehow he had stumbled on the secret of how to transfer his anima to Jason. What remained a secret was how did a Legatio pass his to a Centurion. Alex soon went from excitement to dread. He knew that Philip wanted to be the one to bond with Jason. He wanted to do the same... Yet, was it fair to take the chance away from his brother. If the situation had been a duel the answer would have been no. The rules of conduct were clear; one did not perform sneak attacks. Another issue was that Alex had not seen red anima fluid on the lips of Jason. Could a bond form with only one person exchanging their anima fluid? Did something else need to happen to trigger the release from Jason? The only ones who knew that were the Field Marshals. Alex would have to be careful. He did not want to give his vital anima fluid to Jason if he would not receive Jason’s in return. Once the fluid is transferred he could not get it back. He could be left weaker with nothing to show for it.
“Alex... are you alright?” Jason asked, interrupting Alex’s thoughts.
“Yes, I’m fine. Sorry if my leaving worried you,” Alex said seeing Jason’s handsome reflection in the mirror.
Jason blushed as he put as warm hand on Alex’s shoulder. “You
scared me a little. I was afraid you didn’t like what we did.”
“I... I enjoyed it!” Alex laughed nervously. “You?”
“I liked it too.” Jason smiled before kissing Alex on the lips.
Alex grinned, but only kissed Jason on the cheek, least his bond be passed to Jason. “Time for some breakfast,” he changed the subject.
Naked, the two of them went to the cool cellar and took out a slab of salted pork and a pair of onions. These they brought to the kitchen and cooked them with a pound of dried beans. While breakfast was cooking, Philip came into the room with an arm wrapped around a redheaded man.
“I hope the two of you do not plan to remain undressed?” Philip laughed.
“Sorry...” Jason said embarrassed, turning his face down to the ground.
“No more being sorry, just get dressed,” Philip chided.
After they returned from the master bedroom dressed, they
went back to the kitchen but stopped at the door when they heard
moaning coming from inside.
“I think we should stay out,” Alex warned.
“Philip is...?” Jason asked curious.
“Yes... can you blame him? We made him leave in an awkward position.”
“Who is he having ‘sex’ with?”
“Most likely one of his men. He has had sex with almost all of them at least once. It is expected because he is an officer.”
“I see. Will you do that when you are an officer?” Jason asked.
“That is why I don’t want to be an officer. If I become one, I will have to sleep with my men.”
“Because I would be their leader and as their leader it would be my job to see to their needs are met, including their physical ones.”
“I don’t understand?” Jason asked as he leaned against the pine door.
“It’s to increase their loyalty and trust, you see,” Alex explained.
“And why don’t you want to do that?”
“You will laugh,” Alex sighed.
“No I will not,” Jason said, already giggling.
“It is considered a Famulus custom... which means it is looked down upon by most Centurions.”
“I don’t know anything about Centurion, Legatio or Famulus customs, so how would I know if it is wrong or not.”
“True...” Alex grinned, hesitating before speaking, but when he did he had a dream-like smile on his face. “The Famulus have a custom called marriage... where one man marries one woman. I don’t know why, but it seems so right to me. I understand when my brother tells me that I can be attracted to more than one person, but love? Love I feel should only be given to the one person you love most and loves you just the same.”
Jason sighed with relief. At least a subject came up that he felt he knew more about than the person he was talking to. “I know about marriage. My mother always told me I would have to marry for political reasons, whether I loved her or not”
“I know that happens in other lands. People marry for position, wealth, and power. It is supposed to be about love, however. I want to find the one man who will devote his whole life to me and me to him. I
don’t want other men to be part of that.” “What does your brother think?”
Alex’s face took on a frown. “He thinks I’m selfish... Philip feels that love should be freely given. It is the responsibility of an officer to love his men. How else can one expect his men to follow him even to death if they feel the man leading them does not care about them?”
“So you want to be a private,” Jason guessed.
“Yes, but my teachers believe I will make a better officer. In the
end it is not my choice. If the Field Marshals think I am needed as an
officer, an officer they will make me.” Alex sighed.
“Will you love your men?” Jason asked.
Alex did not answer for a few seconds, his brow furrowed deep in thought. “I will take care of them... that is a form of love.”
“But not like your brother?”
“No... my brother loves his men. When he sleeps with them he is expressing that love. If I became physically involved with them it would only be because I know they need to think I love them.”
“I see,” Jason replied.
Deep in these thoughts, the boys did not notice when the kitchen door was opened by the bright redheaded man with a silly grin on his face. As all Centurions and Legatio had either black or blond hair, his appearance made him stand out like a red flame.
“Hi.” The man blushed.
“Who are you, Famulus?” Alex demanded, angrier that he let himself be surprised than at the man’s presence
“I am Commander Philip’s new major domo.” The man grinned.
“Major domo?” Jason asked confused.
“Chief servant... runs the house for Philip,” Alex explained, still giving the man a suspicious look.
“With your mother sadly gone, the Famulus Elders felt Commander Philip needed someone to run his house. They offered me the job. I just finished my interview.” The red-haired man blushed even deeper.
Knowing quite well what Philip must have just done, Alex struggled not to show his disgust with his brother’s sexual exploits. “And your name?”
“Erik.” The man grinned.
“Erik... what region do you come from?” Alex asked not recognizing the name.
“I don’t know. All I know is that my mother was captured by Jadoorian slavers when she was pregnant with me or at least that is what my first owner told me. She was sold off soon after I was born. I was then trained to be a servant with special attention given to the running of a household. On my 17th birthday my training changed, adding the skill of bed-warmer.”
“Bed-warmer?” Jason asked, having never heard the term.
“A prostitute.” Alex smirked.
“No...a companion. Mostly it is the wives or husbands who called me a prostitute, not my owner.” Erik sighed, seeing Alex was not going to warm up to him. “Sooo... what are you gay men up to today?”
“Gay?” both Alex and Jason asked confused.
“Gay, men who sleep with other men. Is that not what all Centurions are... a giant gay army?” Erik laughed.
“Love is Love... who cares if it is with a man or a woman,” Alex grunted. Actually he felt that the only real sex was between men. To him and most Centurions, lovemaking with a woman was only for breeding.
“Hey, I agree.” Erik laughed. “I think sex between men is better. A Duchess who once owned me had me do things I would not wish on any man. You have to admit though; Domus is just one big gay fest.”
“Still, I don’t understand why there is a word for what we men do with each other. Is there a name for what men do with women?”
“Yes... they call it straight.”
“Straight... I don’t understand,” Jason said, confused, not understanding all of the redhead’s dialect.
“Well, the joke is that your personality has to be a little ‘bent’ to
want to sleep with someone of the same sex,” Erik laughed “It must be some weird Jadoorian belief,” Alex said, as if that
explained it all. “Western humor has always been a little primitive. They worship their mothers after all.”
Erik burst into laughter. “They worship THE MOTHER, not their mothers. The Mother is their primary goddess. When it comes to being weird though, trust me, Westerners feel the same thing about you gay Centurions.”
“And what do you think?” Alex asked, getting a little annoyed
with the term “gay”.
Erik burst into laughter. “Hey, when I was finally sold to the Centurions it was like a dozen birthdays crammed into one... all those men and all of them gay!”
“So I take it you are happy here.” Alex sighed, wishing the man would lose his wide smirk. He was also starting to wish he could sell Erik back to the Jadoorians.
“Yes I am, and I promise to run your house to the best of my ability.”
“Fine... one rule though,” Alex said, about to give up on getting
rid of this clown. “Yes,” Erik said eagerly.
Alex, moved in closer to Erik, letting his voice drop an octave, “I never want to hear the word ‘gay’ pass your lips ever again.”
“Yes sir!” Erik said with an elaborate bow.
Having had enough of Philip’s new servant, Alex grabbed
Jason’s hand, dragging him into the eating area, a pit filled with pillows
and a low wood bench to place plates and cups on. “Come on, Jason... I think my brother hired a jester instead of a steward. Time we knocked some sense into him.”
In the kitchen was Philip, lying naked on the table, a satisfied
smile on his face. “Have fun?” Alex smirked.
“He is definitely different,” Philip said with a silly grin. “He is definitely something,” Alex agreed, not hiding the fact
he was not happy with his brother’s behavior.
“What can you expect? He is a wilder from beyond the frontier. I can’t even tell what country he comes from,” Philip said in Erik’s defense.
“I told him I didn’t want him saying the word ‘gay’ ever.” Alex grunted.
“Ahhhh... I see you are getting your first taste of the outside world,” Philip said knowingly.
“So you have heard the word gay before?” Alex asked, wanting to know how much more his brother knew.
Philip raised his back off the table, propping himself up. “You will soon find out that it is the Empire that is unusual, not the other nations. In a few countries outside our influence it is actually forbidden for two men to share a bed. I am sure that not a few of our Western and Eastern neighbors would do the same if we were not to prevent it.”
“Are you sure?” Alex said, surprised.
“They will teach you all about how the outside world sees us in your last year at the Academy,” Philip said as he slid off the table, back onto his feet.
“I see...” Alex said, now feeling a little unsure about how the
world really worked.
Philip went to the basin, picking up the washcloth next to it to wipe himself clean. “Come, breakfast will be ready soon. I want all of you to help in selecting our new Famulus servants. Because of Jason, some of the best in the city are going to offer their services.”
With breakfast over, Erik came in dressed in a black tunic with a white sash across his chest. “Master, I have gone through the candidates and have selected the ones I felt would fit this household best,” he said
with a bow and a formality he had not shown before. “Let’s see them.” Philip grinned as he stood up from the table.
In the courtyard was a line of men dressed only in black loincloths. All of them looked to be in prime condition. Starting on the
left, Erik began describing their roles. The first was a brown-haired man, 6’2” in height and as well
muscled as Philip. “This is Claude. He comes from one of the Western Isles. He is to be your body servant, dressing you, bathing you, and tidying your bedroom. He gives excellent massages and has very good taste in clothes.
Claude gave a bow and a wink of the eye before stepping back.
The next person was older, with gray hair but still had a body like a horse. “This is Caleb... from the Eastern Kingdom of Qul Tos. He was captured early in the war when the palace fell. As the palace’s chief chef, he is skilled in several styles of cooking, including native Domus dishes.”
“Can he be trusted?” Philip asked, concerned.
“He was the personal chef for General Issa before he was replaced by General Darius.”
“Fine, but...” Philip said, not fully convinced.
Caleb, noticing his new master’s wariness bowed again before speaking. “Sir... I have no ill feelings for what happened to my home. The Lady Regent was running the kingdom into the ground. My loyalty was always to his majesty.” Caleb finished his little speech with a bow to Jason.
Jason, remembering Caleb from the baths in the Legatio quarter, blushed on seeing the man again.
“Next.” Philip waved, saving his judgment for later.
“Here is Gerick... from the Northern Wastes.” Erik pointed to the blond man. He is a blacksmith and not a bad carpenter. His job will be to do repairs on the house, make furniture, and maintain the household armory.”
Gerick, with his large arms, flexed them in front of everybody.
“That’s my boy!” Erik laughed to the frowns of both Philip and Alex.
Next was a dark-skinned man with black hair and hazel eyes, Herrick, from the southern tribal lands of Qopo, across the Inner Sea; he was to be the house gardener. After him was a very pale man, Kristen, with green eyes but a well-built body; he had been captured as a child by slavers. He almost looked like a Legatio. He was to be the
housekeeper. “Finally, I can certify that every single one of these men is gay... I
mean... are open to a little male bonding,” Erik corrected himself when
he saw Alex gave him a hard glare.
“Good...” Philip grinned. He walked over to his new servants, squeezing each of their asses through their loincloths. Then as if on cue, all of the new servants circled around Philip and began to undress him.
“Come, Jason... let’s go practice,” Alex sighed as he dragged Jason toward the stairs.
“What is happening?” Jason asked. He could not take his eyes off the men as they undressed.
“Introducing themselves to Philip,” Alex grunted as he took two steps up at a time, totally sick of his brother’s hedonism.
“Uhmmm, I think they are having sex,” Jason corrected. “They seem to know what their doing at least.”
“It is how some Famulus chose to introduce themselves to their masters. They think it will prevent them from being sent away,” Alex said as he walked across the second floor balcony to the ladder that led to the roof.
“What about Jonathan?” Jason asked.
“Jonathan is not owned by Philip. He is your servant. He can live here or your house in the Legatio quarter.”
Jason then remembered the killing rampage... ”Why did he leave Jonathan alive?”
“Because he is your property not his own. It would have been stealing for him to kill Jonathan.” Alex explained. “Do not worry, Philip would never have killed him. That would have been like killing our mother... she was a Famulus as well.”
“I did not know that,” Jason replied.
Alex chuckled at Jason’s naiveté. “She wore black, didn’t she?”
“Yes... I just thought that as your mother she was a Centurion.”
“No... You are Centurion, Legatio, or a Famulus. All women are Famulus, so all women are part of the servant class. As a Legatio you are part of the nobility, while we Centurions are the warriors. We each have our specific roles,” Alex explained.
By this time they were on the roof, but even that high they could still hear moans coming from the courtyard.
“Why can’t he find himself a wife?” Alex sighed as he made his
way to the practice platform.
“What is so wrong with what Philip is doing?” Jason asked innocently.
This time Jason’s lack of knowledge was annoying instead of endearing to Alex, “There is nothing wrong with it... at least by Centurion standards. I just wish he would one day bring someone home that he is in love with.”
“Alright...” Jason said, still not understanding.
Seeing that his point was not being made, Alex decided to be more blunt. “I mean... he did bring you home so I guess he has, but he still sleeps around like a slut.
“That’s mean!” Jason protested.
“I’m sorry, Jason. I know you look up to my brother. I just feel that there has to be more to a Centurion than how many men he has killed or slept with.”
“How good a lover he is, how well he raises his children, how faithful he is to his partner... There are no marks for that. Instead, it is how early you make your first kill, how soon you sleep with a woman or a man... nothing about how good a person you are.” Alex sighed.
Thinking Alex was saying his brother was not any of those things, which Jason felt he was, came to Philip’s defense. “Philip is a good person.”
“Yes, he is... I never said he wasn’t. He is a little hedonistic but
he is a good person.”
Just on cue there was a loud moan coming from below. Jason, curious, began to move toward the railing so he could look down into the courtyard but Alex pulled him away.
“What?” Jason said, looking annoyed.
“Don’t go looking, Jason... please,” Alex said in a begging voice.
“Alright...” Jason agreed, letting Alex lead him to the practice
“Let’s duel,” Alex said as he tossed Jason a staff.
“But I don’t know enough yet.” “Yes you do...” Alex encouraged. “Don’t worry. I’ll even use my
“I would appreciate that...” Jason laughed, not sure if he believed
that it would make much of a difference.
The two went to opposite corners of the platform. Alex bowed and held it till Jason did the same before rising back up. Jason at once took up a guard position but did not move forward, as if he expected Alex to leap across the room to attack him.
Seeing Jason almost cowering in the corner, Alex decided he would have to guide the Legatio through the whole process. “Jason... move to the center. You will have nowhere to fall back to if you stay in the corner.”
Jason nervously took a few steps forward.
Deciding that Jason was not going to move in any closer, Alex closed the distance between them in a side-step fashion. With a sudden swing, he made to strike Jason against his left thigh but made such a show of it Jason was able to react in time and block it.
“Good... now try to hit me,” Alex said encouragingly.
Jason stalled for a second, his eyes darting all over Alex’s body. Alex knew that it was a habit of Jason’s he would have to break. An opponent could read his eyes and know where to block. But as this was Jason’s first time, Alex held back his criticism. Finally Jason’s eyes froze on his opponent’s right arm and Alex moved quickly to block it... a little too quickly. Jason had not been holding his staff tightly nor did his attempted blow have any real force behind it. As a result Alex’s block knocked the staff right out of Jason’s hands.
“I’m sorry,” Alex quickly apologized as he went to pick up Jason’s weapon.
Jason blushed, a little embarrassed. “I’m ok.”
“You need to hold the weapon firmly and strike hard,” Alex said as he handed the staff back to Jason.
“I didn’t want to hurt you,” Jason explained.
“Trust me, Jason, you will not be able to hurt me.”
“You’re that good or am I that bad?” Jason laughed.
“No... I will show you,” Alex explained as he went to the weapon rack and picked up a dagger. “Watch,” Alex said as he ran the knife down his left arm
Jason watched in shock as Alex cut himself, blood dripping down his arm. Then he watched amazed as the wound healed itself up.
“See?” Alex grinned.
“That is why Centurions are so hard to kill?” Jason asked, remembering what Philip had told him.
“One of the reasons,” Alex grinned. “But still I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Here... we need to get you used to hitting hard,” Alex said as he took up a guard position with his staff
“What do you want me to do?”
“Hit my staff.” Alex smiled encouragingly.
“Alright...” Jason said, but when he hit it, it was more like a tap. “Harder, Jason... you would not have even hurt a squirrel with that blow.” Alex laughed in hope of rising Jason’s anger.
“Grrrr...,” Jason grunted. He hit harder, but still the hitting of the staffs only made the noise of a loud handclap.
“HARDER!” Alex shouted.
“Using both hands, Jason raised the staff over his head and
slammed it down on Alex’s making a thunderous sound. He hit it so
hard that the staff slid down and rammed onto Alex’s fingers, causing
Alex to drop his.”
“OUCH!” Alex shouted, sucking on his injured fingers.
“Are you alright!” Jason asked worried, quickly standing up.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Alex grunted. “Good job... not the best style I have ever seen, but you are improving.”
“So do you want to practice more?”
“Not right now... I think I see what the problem is... You are not strong enough yet to hit hard consistently. Let’s go to the gymnasium. I think we need to work on strengthening your body. That is if Philip is done with his fun,” Alex said as he looked down in the courtyard.
“Well?” Jason asked when Alex came back.
“I don’t see my brother down there. It looks like first introductions
are over. Let’s go before it starts up again.”
Jason agreed. They headed to the ladder only to be stopped by Jonathan, who had been watching them. “You did a good job back there.”
“Thank you.” Jason blushed as he continued to the ladder.
As soon as he was on the second floor, Jason looked down into the courtyard. It was littered with black loincloths, Philip’s white tunic, and two men lounging in the fountain. When both Alex and Jason reached the bottom the two men looked up, the gray-haired one getting out of the water.
“Your majesty.” The gray-haired man bowed.
“Ummmm?” Jason said, not remembering the man’s name.
“The cook,” Jason remembered. “You were also teaching me how to swim at the Legatio baths.”
“Yes...” The man actually blushed, the water running down his chest to stream off his body.
“Please don’t call me your majesty. I’m not really a king.”
Caleb raised his eyebrows on hearing that. “You were crowned... were you not?”
“Yes I was, but I still don’t feel like a king.”
“Then I think you will make a good one.” Caleb chuckled softly.
“Thank you.” Jason blushed, not sure what Caleb meant.
“Come Jason... let’s go to the gymnasium,” Alex said as he pulled Jason to the gate.
“You two are leaving?” Caleb said concerned.
“Yes...” Alex said warily.
“Before you go both of you must pick which of us will be your body servant.” Caleb insisted.
“We can take care of ourselves,” Alex insisted.
“We Famulus would take it as an insult if you didn’t,” the second Famulus, Kristen said.
“Can’t my brother choose?” Alex sighed.
“He has chosen for you Alex. I’m to be your servant.” Kristen said.
Alex arched an eyebrow. “You?”
“You’re brother said you are attracted to men with green eyes,” Kristen chuckled, batting his emerald eyes at Alex, causing the Centurion youth to blush.
“Why did Philip pick Alex’s and not mine?” Jason asked confused.
“You are both a Legatio and a king. It would not be right for him to make such a decision for you,” Caleb replied.
Scratching his head Jason became flustered. “But I don’t know
who to pick.”
“I would like to offer myself then. Like you I am a Tosian. If you are to rule there is much you will need to know about your people, things your mother wouldn’t have wanted you to know. Also, if I remember, you didn’t mind my swimming lessons.” Caleb finished with a wink.
“Swimming lessons?” Alex frowned, suspiciously.
Seeing Caleb standing naked and wet in front of him Jason felt
that inner stirring that had become frequent ever since he had left the
Labyrinth Tower. “What would be your duties?”
“To dress and feed you, bath you, and run any errands you might need done. I’m also to be your bed warmer.”
“Bed warmer?” Alex asked outraged.
“That is the Legatio custom. Unlike you Centurion, Legatio tend to be cool blooded. From the day they are born until the age of five they are kept in their parent’s bed. After five they are given their first bed warmer, usually a Famulus boy who is also five.”
“You and Jason are not the same age.” Alex pointed out. “None of the servants are. I am not trying to force myself on the
young man. I am only offering my services. The choice is his.”
“I still don’t understand what the purpose of a bed warmer is,” Jason said.
“It’s simple really, as a bed warmer it is my duty to see you never become cold at night.” Caleb said while puffing up his hairy chest.
“You mean sleep with me?” Jason guessed.
“If that is what you desire. I can also watch the fire in your room
and see it never goes out.” Closing his eyes Jason tried to imagine what it would feel like to
be held every night in Caleb’s arms. While Alex seemed to find the idea
disgusting, Jason thought it sounded like a very good idea, so long as he didn’t embarrass himself with his inner stirring. “I accept you as my body servant Caleb.”
“You will not regret it your majesty,” Caleb swore before making a deep bow.
“I’ll be keeping an eye on you,” Alex threatened.
“And I’ll be keeping an eye on you Master Alex.” Kristen said, batting his eyes, causing Alex to blush again.
Seeing that they were not going to be allowed to leave without being escorted, Alex waited for the two body servants to get dressed. This did not take long as all the clothes they had were their black loincloths and sandals. Together, all four of them left the house, Caleb marching proudly in front, while Kristen walked in the back. Alex looked totally embarrassed, thinking they looked like some rich Legatio parading their wealth around. Jason felt nervous as well. He did not understand why Alex was so upset.
The Centurion gymnasium was a multipurpose building, serving both as an exercise yard and a bathhouse. Columns of smoke and steam were coming from the many chimneys poking out of the red tile roof.
When they arrived, Alex was finally able to get Jason away from their two supervising adults as the Famulus had to go through a separate entrance. As soon as they passed the curtain, Alex hugged Jason tight.
“Curse Erik and my brother!” Alex said clearly upset.
“What’s wrong?” Jason asked.
“Kristen... My brother knows I find pale skin and green eyes attractive.”
“I have pale skin and green eyes,” Jason said.
“I know... but Kristen has them as well and he is so... almost Centurion in strength.”
“Yes...” Jason agreed, looking at his scrawny arms.
“I’m sorry, Jason... it’s just that I had a crush on a Legatio who looks a little like you. My brother knows that.”
The idea that Alex had been in love before triggered a smile on Jason’s face. “I did not know you had been in love before.”
“His name was Felix... he knew how I felt but took advantage of me.”
“He had me fight a friend, Gideon.”
“Why did you do that?” Jason said, not understanding.
“Felix had been with Gideon for a long time. I was jealous and Felix knew that. One day he took advantage of that knowledge. He came into my room telling me that Gideon had raped him. Believing him I went right up to Gideon and challenged to a duel,” Alex said... stopping to take a deep breath.
“Did you kill him?” Jason asked nervously.
“No... but it was bad. I was like an enraged animal. From my first blow to my last he was barely able to block me. In my final blow I struck him so hard his sword broke, and my blade sliced off his arm at the elbow.”
“...” Jason remained silent, finding it hard to see Alex as brutal.
“When I saw what I had done and heard Felix’s hysterical laughter I knew I had been used. It turned out that Gideon had caught Felix with another student and had ended the relationship. Felix was never raped. He had used my skill with the double-bladed sword to get revenge. Now that Gideon was maimed, Felix has no need for him or me.”
“Alex...” Jason sighed as he hugged him.
Alex could feel the tears growing in his eyes. He hated being so weak. “Nobody likes me... they all think I’m a madman.”
“You’re not,” Jason whispered as he rocked Alex in his arms like Philip had done with him.
“Thank you, Jason... I think you will be my only friend when we go back to the Academy.”
“They will forgive you, Alex,” Jason said encouragingly.
“I don’t know... eight students issued challenges to me, but the Commandant put a stop to them. You are not supposed to kill or maim in a challenge until you are a full adult. As a result I was lashed as punishment for what I did to Gideon. But it made no difference to the
other Centurion students; they still hate me.” “Then I guess it will just be you and me.” Jason smiled, giving
Alex one final squeeze.
“Yeah...” Alex said, unsure.
After Alex regained his composure, they dressed in white
shorts before heading into the juvenile area of the gymnasium. The
very moment Alex entered, his face went pale.
“What is it?” Jason asked confused but Alex did not respond.
Jason, on following where Alex’s eyes were looking, saw a young blond man, around 20 in age, lifting a dumbbell with his left hand. Jason could not see what could have upset Alex until the young man walked over to the weight stand, revealing his right side. Compared to the massive muscles of his left arm, the right look thin and weak. It was also cut off below the elbow. Looking up and seeing them, the young man began to make his way over.
“Gideon?” Jason asked taking hold of Alex’s shaking hand.
“Yes...” Alex sighed.
“Do you want to go back home?”
“No... he has seen us. I won’t run away from him.”
“Alright...” Jason said, giving Alex’s hand a squeeze.
“Legatio...” Gideon bowed to Jason, completely ignoring Alex.
“Centurion Gideon.” Jason returned the bow.
“Hahahahahaha...” Gideon burst into laughter. “You’ve not been a very good teacher, Alex, if he thinks the son of Agamemnon is supposed to bow to the son of a senator like me!”
“He has a lot to learn,” Alex said through closed teeth.
“Well, I think he needs someone who can really teach him,” Gideon said as he tried to pull Jason away from Alex.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Alex demanded.
Gideon looked at Alex for the first time since approaching them, giving Alex a hateful glare. “Getting him away from a mad demon like you.”
“Alex is not insane!” Jason shouted as he pulled away from Gideon.
“Do you see this?” Gideon said as he waved the stump of his right arm in front of Jason.
“Yes... Alex told me. It was an accident.”
“Yes, an accident...” Gideon snickered before turning around to show his back to Jason. “You see the mark on my left shoulder, the one of a broken spear. Do you know what that means?”
“No...” Jason said, knowing it can’t be good.
“Tell him, Alex! Tell him what the sign of the broken spear means!”
“It means...” Alex began at a whisper. “It means he is a cripple and can’t serve in a legion.”
“It means that I am almost a Famulus. Yes, the Commandant is letting me finish at the Academy, but what’s the point? I will never be selected by a legion and enter manhood. I will forever be treated like a child... all because of you, Alex!”
“I’m sorry,” Alex said, looking down at the ground.
“What was that?” Gideon mocked.
“I am sorry!” Alex said louder, but still looking down.
For Gideon, Alex saying he was sorry did not pay back a fraction of what he felt was owed him. “Alex... son of Dosa Helios is sorry! I’m sure my arm will now grow back on hearing that!”
“Stop it!” Jason shouted, having heard enough. “Can’t you see that Alex is sorry? He was tricked into dueling you. What if someone you were in love with told you he was raped? Would you stand by and do nothing about it.”
“I never raped Felix!”
“We know that now, but how was Alex supposed to know back then!” Jason said, speaking more forcefully then he had in his life.
“My arm!” Gideon repeated again, waving it like a bloody banner.
“You lost your arm, but you are still alive. Everyone I grew up with is now dead. Do I hate the Centurions for killing all of them? Do I keep on reminding Alex and Philip how they destroyed my world? No, I don’t!” Jason said, very upset over the whole affair.
Gideon looked like he had been struck before speaking. “I... I’m sorry, Jason. I respect you, and not just because you are the son of Agamemnon, not just because you don’t act like all the other Legatio, but for what you tried to do for the Famulus. If you want me to forgive Alex, I will, but don’t ask me to be his friend again.”
“Please forgive Alex,” Jason said in a near begging tone.
Gideon looked back at Alex, without the anger in his eyes. “Alex... I... I forgive you.”
“Thank you,” Alex said with a deep bow, rising up to face Gideon this time for a brief moment before lowering his eyes again.
There was a moment of awkward silence before Gideon spoke again. “I’d better leave. I’m late for my writing lessons. I have to get my penmanship up to par before going back to the Academy,” the blond man said before leaving.
“Alex?” Jason asked after the young Centurion didn’t raise his head even after Gideon had left.
“I’m fine... thank you, Jason. I’m not sure if the others will be as forgiving, but at least Gideon will stop cursing me.”
“Do we still want to exercise?”
“Yeah... it will help me work out some of my frustration.”
Jason looked at Alex with a weak smile, staring into his gray eyes until Alex returned the smile. “So let’s get to work.”
Before they started, a pair of Famulus servants came with jars of olive oil and coated their skin with it. Leaving the servants, Alex took Jason to a heated sand pit, where he led him through a series of stretches to relax his muscles. He then took Jason over to the weights, where he greatly overestimated how much the thin Legatio could lift. When Jason swore that he could not lift another thing, Alex took him outside to a dirt field where several men were wrestling. Jason was already tired, but Alex insisted on throwing him to the ground a few times while teaching him a few moves and holds.
By this time their bodies were caked with dirt, oil and sweat. At the door to the wading pool, a Famulus servant scraped the dirt and oil off their bodies using a small, dull, bronze strigil. They then went swimming in the common pool where they met up with Caleb and Kristen.
Caleb led Jason through his swimming exercises until Jason was able to swim from one end of the shallow pool to the other without stopping. Caleb rewarded Jason with a deep kiss on the lips that both excited and terrified Jason, for he did not understand why the Famulus stirred such feelings inside him.
At this point Alex pushed Caleb aside. There was no jealousy in Alex’s face, only the look of a hungry wolf. He too kissed Jason deeply but he also let his hand slip under the water to stroke Jason’s maleness. By this time Jason was too tired and relaxed to return the favor... but that had not been Alex’s goal. To give and not receive was considered a gift when done willingly. Alex, however, found the calm smile on Jason’s face a gift in itself, for it helped confirm how deeply in love he was already.
Caleb lifted Jason out of the water, and the group made their
way to the steam room, where the marble massage tables also stood.
Caleb placed a towel on the table and then lifted Jason on top of it. “Lay
Jason lowered himself onto his stomach, resting his head on his arms. Soon he felt Caleb’s large, but smooth hands rub his back and shoulders. For the first ten minutes both of them remained silent, but eventually Caleb spoke up.
“I have to tell you something, Jason, but you have to promise to keep it a secret.”
“...” Jason said nothing, unsure.
“Jason, please...” Caleb begged and he rubbed deeper into the young man’s shoulders, but Jason still refused to answer. “Fine... but understand, your majesty, it is my life in your hands. I was not just a cook at the Qul Tos palace, at least that was not the role I was born into.”
“What role was that?” Jason asked as his muscles tensed up.
Caleb stepped to the end of the table and lowered his head to the young king’s so he could whisper into his ear. “I was the crown prince of Qul Tos... your mother’s brother-in-law, Calebos.”
“...” Jason did not know how to respond other than fear.
“Do not worry, Jason, I have no resentment against you. It was my father and younger brother I hated, and thanks to the Centurions I had my revenge.”
Jason body shook with fear. “Why did you not become king?”
Caleb remained by Jason’s side as his hands massaged out the soreness from his biceps. “As I said I was the crown prince. When my father caught me sleeping with one of his captains, he put me in prison and had the captain killed. The people were told that the captain had assassinated me. Not until the day of my father’s death was I allowed out of my cell. My brother, the only person left who still knew who I was, gave me a choice... be his cook or be killed. I chose to be his slave. I think it amused him knowing that his older brother, the rightful king, was the one polishing his shoes and preparing his meals. He also selected the son of the captain I had been in love with as his food taster. How could I dare try to poison my brother? Then my brother finally died at the Battle of the Gate, with your father’s sword beheading him. I hoped then that I could make claim to the throne, however Eleanor announced she was pregnant. So I was blocked again.
Jason tried to remain tense, but it was hard, with Caleb working constantly to relax his muscles.
Caleb continued... “But then General Agamemnon, your father, came to claim his child, you. I knew at once that the girl the Regent had me cook meals for could not be the real heir. Agamemnon would not be interested in a girl. It was also clear that you could not have been the son of my brother. That meant that I was the only one with the right to wear the sapphire crown. I knew Eleanor was aware of this as well. I had to go into hiding until the palace finally fell.
“When I was captured I was an angry man whose only goal was to claim the throne. General Issa taught me otherwise. He dressed me in black and declared me his Famulus servant. I was rebellious and arrogant. I burned his food on purpose, but he still kept me by his side. Every night he would ask me to join him in his bed but I always refused. That is how it was for five years.
“I don’t know when I fell in love with him but one night he
joined me on the floor where I slept and I cried like a child. He lifted
me up and took me to his bed where he made love to me. I climaxed three times but he never did once. His only goal had been to help me. I became his lover that night and remained so for the two years of life
he had left.”
“I did not see you at the camp,” Jason said, trying to think of all the faces he had seen on the journey to Domus.
“No, I was not there. After Issa died, I was taken to the capital.
I helped raise his two Legatio children. They didn’t care for me very
much, but I tried to teach them about their father. After they finished
at the Academy and took positions as ambassadors in Freen and Tal
Sith, I offered my services at the Legatio bathhouse. I was there until I learned that Qul Tos had finally fallen, and that you were alive. You
might not be my brother’s son, but you are the closest thing I have to
connect me to my past. When the elders came to me offering a job in
your household, I accepted eagerly.”
“What are you going to do to me?” Jason said, scared.
“I’m going to try and take care of you as if you were the son of the captain that had been my lover,” Caleb said in a warm voice.
“But what about the throne?” Jason asked, still unsure.
“I do not care about that anymore. What would be the point of ruling a people who would think my sexual preferences are a perversion? I would have to worry about assassination all the time. I actually love being a Famulus.”
“Alright,” Jason said, still unsure.
Sensing that Jason was still uncomfortable, Caleb went down on his knees so he could look into his “nephew’s” green eyes. “Jason... how can I prove to you that I wish you no harm.”
“I don’t know,” Jason said as he rolled onto his side so he could return Caleb’s gaze. There was longing in Caleb’s hazel eyes but also pain. Jason could sense the man greatly desired his approval.
“There is something I can tell you that might work.” Caleb sighed.
“What is that?”
“There is a plot to have you killed.”
“I don’t know who is involved, but I was approached by a fat Famulus named Horace. He is master of the baths in the Legatio quarter,” Caleb said rapidly as the others looked in his direction.
“I know who he is,” Jason said, dread growing in his heart.
Seeing that he didn’t need to describe the type of man Horace was, Caleb continued. “He offered me a small fortune if I would kill you.”
“Why!” Jason sat straight up. This being the second time Jason shouted, Alex and Kristen rushed to his side.
Caleb looked like he wanted to shut up, but Alex pressed forward. “What is going on?”
“Caleb?” Jason asked.
Caleb took a deep breath before answering, knowing that doing so could mean his life... but that was how important earning Jason’s trust was to him. “A person has paid me to kill Jason.”
“I knew it, an Eastern Confederacy plot.” Alex said as he tried to tackle Caleb.
“I was never going to harm him!” Caleb struggled.
“How can we believe that?” Alex demanded. Caleb easily outweighed him, making it very difficult to pin him down.
“Would I tell you about it if I really intended to kill my nephew!” Caleb let slip.
“Nephew!” Alex said shocked into releasing him.
Caleb took advantage of Alex’s surprise to push Alex off him. “I am Calebos, the former crown prince of Qul Tos.”
“Is this true, Jason?” Alex asked.
“It is what he has told me and I believe him,” Jason said as he got off the massage table, making his way between Alex and Caleb. “Why are you telling me this and why did you accept the offer,” Alex
asked Caleb, “I am telling you to gain your trust. I accepted Horace’s money
so that I would know the plans the conspirators were making. Better
they hire me, one you know and who will never do you any harm, than
someone you don’t know who will.”
“I see your point,” Alex agreed. “Jason, what do you think?”
“I don’t know... I want to trust you, Caleb.”
“But you don’t,” Caleb sighed.
“Not yet,” Jason admitted.
“Then I will just have to do more to prove it. If I find out who is really behind the attempt to kill you, will that be good enough?” Caleb offered.
“It would help. Should we tell Philip about this?” Jason asked.
“If I tell Philip I know what will happen. He will run off and kill Horace before I learn who is really behind the plot,” Caleb warned.
“HORACE! That piece of horse dung!” Alex shouted, causing other people in the steam room to look at him strangely.
“Shhhhhh!” Caleb said, bringing a finger up to his mouth.
“I don’t know who is behind the plot, but if Horace is part of it I bet a high-ranking Legatio is pulling his strings,” Alex hissed.
“You are probably right. The Famulus who work in the Legatio quarter consider themselves better than the rest of the Famulus
population if not the Centurions themselves. So I doubt this is a Famulus plot,” Caleb agreed.
Having met the Famulus Elders and seen the respect the other Famulus had for them, Jason asked a question. “Do the Famulus Elders
have any influence over their people in the Legatio quarter?” “No, they don’t.” Kristen spoke up for the first time.
“How do the Legatio hire Famulus?” Jason asked.
“They go to the market and pick them out themselves,” Kristen replied.
“Is there anyway we can get a spy into one of the prominent households?” Alex asked hopefully.
“It would be hard to do... The Legatio indoctrinate their servants before they let them actually serve,” Kristen warned.
“Alright... we will have to think about it then. What do we do about you though?” Alex pointed to Caleb.
“Let me protect Jason. Unlike most Famulus I have training with weapons.”
“You could also use that skill to kill Jason easily,” Alex said, suspiciously.
Caleb was starting to get angry that no one trusted him, even in the face of the information he gave them. “I would never do that. How can I convince you?”
After a long moment of silence Alex spoke. “With which arm do you hold a sword?”
“My right,” Caleb said.
“Follow me then,” Alex said as he went over to one of the heated walls.
Not knowing what Alex had in mind made Caleb nervous. “What do you want me to do?”
“Put your right hand here,” Alex ordered, pointing to the marble wall.
“What?” Jason said, thinking what Alex had just asked as insane.
“Put your hand on the wall,” Alex ordered again.
“Fine...” Caleb agreed.
The moment he put his hand on the heated wall he tried to jerk away but Alex and Kristen were ready. While Alex used both of his hands to slam Caleb’s right hand back on it, Kristen put Caleb into a
bear hug, lifting him off his feet. Caleb screamed in pain but still Alex
held it against the burning hot wall.
When Jason saw a small red puddle grow on the floor, he pushed into Alex, forcing him to let go of Caleb’s hand. “Why!” Jason demanded.
“I had to be sure he will not hurt you,” Alex said sternly.
“But you hurt him,” Jason said. Caleb was now on the floor
staring at his burned, blistering hand.
“It’s ok, Jason,” Caleb said through gritted teeth.
“No, it’s not!” Jason shouted. “Jason, listen to me... I only had two choices, burning his hand
or cutting it off. If I cut it off it would have raised Horace’s suspicion.” “But why burn his hand in the first place.”
“So he cannot kill you!” Alex yelled into Jason’s face.
“But he said he wanted to help,” Jason insisted.
“And why should I believe him. You should be happy, Jason, that I did not have Philip kill him!”
“But...” Jason said as he went over and hugged Caleb.
“Jason, I am a Centurion... the only person’s word we accept is that of one of our own because we know if we lie our lives are forfeit. No Famulus or Legatio, not even you, Jason, are taken completely on their word, because unlike us Centurions, your life does not depend on trusting others.”
“Yes it does!” Jason said, now shouting into Alex’s face. “I had to trust Melissa to get me food. I had to trust Philip that he was not going to kill me when the tower fell. I had to trust you, Alex, that you really wanted to be my friend. I have had to trust a lot of people, and so far I have been right in giving my trust.”
“So you say you trust Caleb?” Alex asked... disbelieving.
“I trust that he wants to help protect me.”
Alex sighed, frustrated that Jason trusted so easily. “Jason... you are too important to risk.”
“Alex... I trust Caleb. I want you to trust him as well.”
“I will, but under strict conditions. I want us to switch body servants. Kristen will take care of you while I keep an eye on Caleb.”
Jason thought about this for a second. “Alright... as long as you promise not to hurt him anymore.”
“Jason... if it ever comes to me hurting Caleb again it will be to kill him.
“Don’t kill him without asking me first,” Jason demanded.
“Jason, you will never agree to kill him. Just as you want me to trust Caleb, I want you to trust me.”
Seeing he had no choice, Jason nodded. “I will.”
“Now let’s get back home before my brother sends out a search
party,” Alex said as he made his way to the final series of baths. “What about Caleb’s hand?” Jason asked as they left the steam
“I will say it was part of a bet,” Caleb replied.
“Good idea,” Alex agreed.
“If it is a bet what did you win?” Jason asked, seeing a hole in Caleb’s idea.
“Switching masters. Of course I lost.” Caleb sighed.
“Sorry.” Kristen blushed.
“Don’t worry about it,” Caleb said as he cradled his hand, as he lowered himself into the hot water.
Kristen took a sea sponge to scrub Jason’s back. Caleb did the same for Alex, keeping his burned hand high above the steaming water. After scrubbing their bodies, the body servants went over to the side of the pool and grabbed bars of soap made from animal fat, which they used to wash their masters’ hair and body. When done, all four of them left the hot bath to take a final dip in a pool of cold water. Caleb left his hand in the water to soak, giving off a sigh of relief as it helped with the now acute swelling.
“We need to get Caleb to a healer,” Jason said as he squirmed while Kristen dried him.
“I’ll take him to one as soon as I get you home,” Alex said as Caleb struggled to dry him off with one hand. Eventually Alex had enough with Caleb’s fumbling attempts and took the towel away from him. Jason, embarrassed by all the attention Kristen was giving him, tried to do the same but each of his attempts to take the towel away from Kristen was met by fierce resistance. He was not able to get free of his tormentor until after Kristen wrapped the towel around his waist and gave him a pat on the rear.
“Go get dressed now, master.” Kristen smiled at Jason. “Or do you want me to help you with that as well.”
“No... I can dress myself, Kristen.” Jason blushed, hurrying back to the changing rooms.”
“Cute boy.” Kristen giggled. “A very innocent child,” Caleb agreed. “You better take good
care of him.” “I will, sir...” Kristen bowed as if his fellow Famulus was one of the three Field Marshals.
“Why you!” Caleb shouted, squeezing his right hand into a fist
before realizing what he was doing. “Ouch!” “Come, Caleb, let’s get the children home so you can see a healer.” Kristen grinned. It turned out that Caleb did not need to walk all the way to the Famulus district. Erik was not only skilled at managing a household
but was a healer as well. After examining Caleb’s hand, Erik went to his
room and brought back a black case. From it he took out an ointment, some bandages, and two small capsules.
After wrapping up Caleb’s hand he took the two pills in his hand as if it were difficult to part with them but in the end he handed them over to Caleb. “I want you to take one now and one after dinner.”
“What is it?” Caleb asked suspiciously, sniffing the two red
capsules “You would not understand even if I told you. Let me just say it
will prevent your hand from rotting and falling off.” Erik grinned.
Caleb, impressed, took one of the pills and swallowed it dry. “I
don’t feel any different.”
“It will take some time.” Erik laughed. “But I recommend you get some food in your stomach.”
“Alright,” Caleb said a little unsure. “You didn’t just poison
me?” “No... now get into the kitchen and get something to eat. You
might as well get working on lunch when you are done.” “Yes sir!” Caleb saluted with his now bandaged hand. “Get out of here,” Erik laughed.
The Legatio and the Famulus
Tired from exercise and the baths, Jason quickly fell onto his
bed when he entered his room. Kristen followed after him, carrying a cot. After placing what would be his bed at the foot of Jason’s, Kristen began to undress his tired master. He first took off his sandals and placed them under the bed. Then he lifted Jason as if he were a rag doll and lifted his white shirt off before helping Jason get under the sheets.
“Were you always a Famulus?” Jason asked in a sleepy tone. “Yes.” Kristen smiled. He joined Jason on the bed, resting on
top of the sheets. “I’m sorry,” Jason said as he turned his face to look at Kristen. “Why...?” Kristen asked as he played with Jason’s short hair. “You have always been a slave. You’ve never known
freedom?” “No... not really. From what I understand you’ve had less freedom than I or any other Famulus.” “The Labyrinth Tower?”
“Yes... from what I was told it was a pretty dreadful place for
you.” “Was it really that bad?”
“The starvation, the beatings, your mother putting you in a dress?” Kristen asked with raised eyebrows.
“There was a library, and Melissa was nice,” Jason said.
“Yes, but you were trapped in that tower for most of your life... a prisoner.”
“I suppose,” Jason replied.
“We Famulus might be regarded as slaves but we can choose what kind of life we want to live, unlike you Legatio and Centurions,” Kristen explained further.
“What do you mean?”
“I can be a farmer, a healer, a cook, and blacksmith, whatever I want, as long as it is not a warrior or a senator. You Legatio on the other hand have to be in politics, while your Centurion cousins all have to be warriors.”
“We don’t have to be,” Jason said... a little unsure if he was right.
“Yes you do... the law is very clear. All Centurions must serve in the army while almost every Legatio must one day join the Senate.”
“But it gives us all the power.”
“It also makes you responsible. If Domus falls it will not be the Famulus who are blamed but you, the Legatio, and the Centurions.”
“They massacred your people though... Philip had to kill all of his Famulus servants,” Jason said, starting to become upset.
“That is because a few of us killed a Field Marshal,” Kristen said as if that explained it all.
“But not all of you!” Jason cried against Kristen’s chest.
“They broke their oath never to do harm. As a result my people share part of the guilt and responsibility,” Kristen said calmly
“No you don’t,” Jason cried. “Innocent people died.”
“No one is innocent, Jason.”
“They did not deserve to die though.” Jason insisted tears streaming down his face.
“Shhhhhh... I know, Jason. Now you better stop crying or you
are going to get me in trouble,” Kristen said as he tried to calm Jason
“I’m sorry,” Jason apologized as he wiped his face.
“No need to. You get some rest. Jonathan will bring up lunch and a bowl of water to wash your face.” Kristen smiled as he pulled off his black robe to show himself naked but for a narrow piece of cloth in front of his groin. After folding the robe, Kristen joined Jason on the
“Alright...” Jason agreed, curling up into a ball against Kristen and fell asleep.
An hour latter Jonathan came with a bowl of water, half a roasted chicken, a loaf of bread, and a sliced orange. To wash it all down was a mug of cold milk. The smell of the food coming from downstairs woke Jason up a few moments before Jonathan came in with the tray.
“Did you rest well?” Kristen asked in a soft voice.
“Yes, thank you.” Jason nodded. “Would you like to eat in bed or at the table?” Jonathan
offered. “Eating in bed would make a mess.” Jason laughed, getting out
of the bed, not even bothering with the fact that he was almost naked.
“Let me get you your robe then,” Jonathan rushed as he put the tray down on the table and went to the dresser, pulling out a white robe. He brought it to Jason and helped him slip it on.
“I can dress myself.” Jason blushed.
“I know you can but it is my job to dress you... you would not want me to be out of a job... would you?” Jonathan teased.
“No... I just feel embarrassed.”
“That’s because you were not raised as a Legatio. I know some Legatio older than you who still can’t dress themselves.”
“That’s silly.” Jason laughed.
“Yes...it is part of a joke amongst us Famulus that the whole Senate would die of a cold if we Famulus weren’t there to light their fires,” Kristen joined in.
“Hahahahahaha... but can I dress myself?” Jason asked, not wanting such jokes be made about him.
“Yes you can, except when you have to dress for formal occasions. Then you have to let me do it. I do have a reputation to maintain and if you left the house improperly clothed I would never live down the shame,” Jonathan said in a bemoaning voice.
“You’re funny.” Jason laughed.
“And you are about to have a cold lunch if you don’t get moving.” Jonathan grinned as he pointed to the empty chair at the table, where he was soon joined by Kristen.
Midway through lunch Philip came by, causing Kristen to stand up. “Are you ready to show my men how good you have become with the quarterstaff?” He grinned.
“I think I will just embarrass myself.” Jason blushed.
“No... there is no way you will be embarrassed.”
“Why do you say that?” Jason asked.
Philip went over to Jason and tussled his hair. “Cause I’ve seen you and you are good, especially for starting so late in life.”
“I’m no match against you or Alex,” Jason pointed out.
“The men are not looking for you to beat us. They are already impressed that you want to learn about our culture. Even the new Field Marshal will be there.”
“New Field Marshal... who?”
“General Darius... for once Xavier and Lukas were in agreement.”
“Good... I like him.”
“And he likes you. That is why he is coming here – to see how much you have improved.” Philip grinned.
“Now I am nervous,” Jason said, worrying.
“You don’t have to duel if you feel you’re not ready” Philip said.
“But you think I’m ready?” Jason pointed out.
Walking over to Jason, Philip pulled him into a bear hug. “That I do.”
“I’ll duel then,” Jason nodded as Philip patted his back.
“Yes sir.” Kristen bowed just as there was a ringing at the gate. “Ahhhh... they’re here. Have him ready in ten minutes.” Philip
grinned, looking at the water clock as he left to greet his guests.
Knowing it would take some time to get Jason into the leather armor, Kristen and Jonathan began to hurry the young Legatio to finish his meal. “We better get going. Eat quickly and drink your milk.” Jonathan grinned as he lifted the cup to Jason’s mouth. “I put a little extra something in it for you.”
“What?” Jason asked as he put down the now empty cup.
“Two spoons full of Centurion bones, just in case you get hurt.”
“Where do they get the bones?” Jason asked as Kristen pulled his chair back so he could stand up.
“The bones come from the Centurion dead. When a Centurion dies, the only part of him preserved is his skull, on which all the markings the Centurion has on his shoulders are etched, the rest are sold to the Legatio merchants, Senator Perils family being one of the major buyers. The skull is then placed under the Grand Hall where all the dead of the Centurions are buried.”
“How many are buried there?” Jason asked as he was helped out of his robes.
“My guess is hundreds of thousands, maybe millions. A human skull does not take up much space.”
“Have you ever seen them?”
“No... only the Legatio poets and historians are allowed down there. History, songs and stories fascinate the Centurions. Supposedly the Legatio use the skulls to write them.”
“I see. Do the Legatio keep their skulls?”
“They keep their whole bodies, mummified, in tombs under the Senate building.”
“So who writes their stories?”
“There is no need, since so few Legatio have died. And those who have are still remembered by their friends. A Centurion, on the other hand, can be forgotten in a few decades without the songs and poems since they die so young,” Kristen explained.
“It is the only way they can remember their history,” Jason realized as he put on the red shirt Jonathan handed him.
“Yes. That is the purpose the Legatio serve, other than being senators. They are the living histories of the empire.”
After Jason was dressed in Legatio red he let Kristen put the hard black leather armor breastplate on him as well as matching pairs of arm and leg guards. Jason was sure he looked like one of the animals he had seen in a book... a turtle, if he remembered the name right. As a result, it was a little harder to climb up the ladder to the roof where everyone was waiting. Still, at least his arms were free.
When he reached the top, Jason saw at least three dozen men dressed in full Centurion uniform, wearing their red and black masks. Except for the chirping of birds and noise from the street below, the place was completely silent. Seeing that Jason did not know what to do, Jonathan took Jason’s hand and led him to the practice platform before leaving his side.
From somewhere in the crowd a drum began to beat. One of the armored masked men joined Jason on the platform carrying two staves with him. He handed one to Jason and then marched to one of the sparring corners. Jason, seeing that the duel was to start at once, went to his corner and waited.
When the drum beating came to an end, Jason’s opponent walked out of his corner. Jason, remembering that he did not want to get trapped moved quickly to the middle of the platform. There the two of them circled each other.
Jason did not know the custom that a boy going through his first duel had to make the first blow. It took his opponent to stop moving and letting down his guard before Jason got the hint. Jason made a swipe at the left calf but was blocked easily by his opponent. Then the much taller man made to hit Jason on the side of his ribs, but the blow was half thrown, as if not meant to cause pain. Jason, though, remembering Alex’s lessons, blocked his opponent’s staff hard the next time, allowing him to quickly counterattack right at his opponent’s head.
His attacker stepped back, shaking his head, drops of blood falling onto the white bleached wood of the practice floor. The onlookers seeing the blood, broke their silence and made a loud cheer before rushing the practice floor, lifting Jason up into their arms.
Jason turned his head and saw his opponent remove his mask,
revealing the face of Philip, his lip cut from the mask hitting his face due to Jason’s blow. Before Jason knew what was happening, his armor
and red shirt were taken off. He was laid down on his stomach on a
wood bench, a man at each of his limbs, holding him down.
“Wait!” Darius’ voice shouted, bringing the men to silence. “Jason is a Legatio, not some Centurion youth... he should have a choice before we mark him.”
“Alex, Philip!” Jason called out, nervous on hearing the word mark.
“Yes,” both asked as he came to Jason’s side.
“What are they going to do to me?” Jason asked worried.
“They are going to put your first duel and first blood mark on your shoulder.” Alex said, his face beaming with pride.
“I didn’t know Legatio received such marks.”
“They don’t but Legatio also don’t play with weapons and duel with Centurions,” Philip reminded Jason, laughing.
“Will it hurt?” Jason asked worried.
“A little...” Philip agreed. “You don’t have to go through with it if you don’t want to.”
“But it will make me more like you Centurions.”
Philip moved in closer so he could whisper into Jason’s ear. “You are a Legatio. They will not be pleased to see you marked. You should make your own choice however.”
“No... I might be Legatio, but the Centurions are my family. I want the mark,” Jason decided after thinking about it.
“Good...” Philip grinned broadly. “Wine skin!” “Wine skin!” several of the men near Philip cheered.
“So he is going to do it!” Darius laughed as he patted Philip on the back.
“He called us his family.” Philip grinned, trying to hold back his tears.
“He did?!” Darius said in disbelief. “Then we’d better make sure that our ‘son’ is well taken care of. I will talk to the Academy Commandant so that in addition to his Legatio lessons he is still able to practice weaponry. The Legatio teachers will be sure to give him a hard time, but Commandant Oktor knows how to keep them in line. It was a wise decision to make him Commandant when he was only 25, the Legatio teachers had been used to the Commandant dying three years into office... too much corruption.”
“Yes... thank you again for allowing me to transfer to be a teacher there.” Philip smiled with a bow.
“No... it is something I need to see changed at the school. For too long we Centurions have allowed our weak and lame to teach the students. None of the Legatio respect them. I’m sending you and five other of my commanders to impress on those spoiled brats that a Centurion is to be respected. I want a new fitness program and I am thinking that all Legatio should do the same. It has done a great deal of good for Jason. He is actually loveable,” Darius said as he wrapped his thick arm around Philip’s armored waist. He grinned as he looked at Jason with affection.
“Yes general... I mean Field Marshal... but Jason wanted to learn. I don’t think the other Legatio will be as eager,” Philip warned.
“They are not going to be given a choice. I know Field Marshal Xavier will oppose me, but Lukas is on such a weak footing he might want to even arm the Famulus in spite of the fact that they attacked him.”
“Field Marshal Lukas worries me. I hear he is thinking of invading Jadoor.” Philip sighed.
“Yes... he has already summoned the fleet to Aquanos,” Darius
“The Western Federation will not stand aside if their strongest
member is attacked. Together their fleet outnumbers us two to one.”
“You are including their larger merchant ships.” Darius grinned.
“So I am, but those ships don’t need much modification to be turned into war galleys,” Philip explained.
“I am starting to think that I assigned you to the wrong post. I do need an observer to keep an eye on Lukas.”
“No thank you, sir... the last thing I want is to be saddled with a mad man who has reasons not to be fond of me.”
“Calling a Field Marshal mad can be viewed as treason.” Darius chuckled.
“Only if I was under his command, sir. You are my Field Marshal,” Philip said with a wink.
“Then take your Field Marshal’s advice... keep your comments on the sanity of my fellow Marshal to yourself until Lukas is well gone on his crusade.”
“Yes sir.” Philip smiled before returning his attention on Jason. “How are you doing... have they gotten you drunk yet.”
Jason pushed away the dripping wine skin so he could speak, but all he could make was a slurred yes.
“He’s ready.” Philip laughed.
All the men made way for the tattoo artist, who went to work
on Jason’s back. When done, he had drawn a small tear-shaped drop
of blood and a pair of small crossed swords. To finish it off he covered the marks with a fine layer of powered Centurion bone. The men then cheered. Jason was lifted back up onto his feet, supported by Philip and Darius. One by one the others came and examined the tattoos closely
before kissing each one. Each time their lips touched Jason’s back he cringed with pain but as Philip explained to him it was all part of the ceremony.
After all the men had examined the marks to their satisfaction, Philip handed Jason over to Kristen to take him back down the ladder. Already the men were starting to undress to prepare for the orgy... Darius making sure to take Philip for himself.
The Weapon Smith
While the law bans the use of weapons by Famulus, nothing prevents
them from forging them. In fact, some of the finest weapons are not
made by Centurions, but by their servants. So is the balance of power maintained.
Melkior: First High Ambassador
Jason, drunk for the first time in his life, had to be handed down to Alex at the ladder. Together, Kristen, Alex, and Jonathan took Jason downstairs to the small bath on the first floor. The room
was always kept hot and was almost as hot as any steam room. Alex and Kristen placed Jason on one of the wooden benches in the room, where they undressed him. Next they threw a bucket of hot water on Jason and started to scrub him down. Twice they had to start over as Jason spewed out the lunch he had had hours ago. They let him soak in the hot wooden tub for a while but with Jason’s drunken state, he had to be watched constantly by Alex and the two Famulus. Jonathan and Kristen then dressed Jason in a white robe and with Alex following carried him back to his room.
“I’m never going to drink again,” Jason sighed as Alex, having dismissed the Famulus, tucked him into bed.
“Oh you will have to, sometime... soon you will be celebrating your first weapon mastery, your first time with a man, then with a woman, maybe even your first kill.” Alex grinned.
“I hope I never get that mark,” Jason replied.
“Sorry, I got a little too excited...” Alex apologized, “but you should be happy. I’ve never seen a tattoo ceremony like yours. You even had a Field Marshal.”
“Who was at yours?” Jason asked Alex.
“Just three of my teachers. If my brother had not been away at the war I’m sure more would have come.”
“Next time I think I would like a smaller one. Those kisses...”
“Yes. I bet they hurt.” Alex laughed.
“Why are you laughing?” Jason asked, not understanding.
“Because you didn’t yell... you impressed everyone by not making a sound.”
“Did you make a sound?”
“The first time... yes. I was only 12 though.”
Jason’s eyes went wide on hearing that. “Twelve! What was the mark for?”
“My first weapon mastery... the quarterstaff.” “You mastered the quarterstaff before you even dueled?” Jason
“Then I should not have dueled.”
“No... you were good. All the men thought you were ready for it. When you have your first duel you have to face a grown adult as they can make sure you do not get hurt. There is no way a twelve-yearold child can face a fully grown Centurion and win. You, on the other hand, did a good job against Philip. He was not expecting you to block him hard.”
“Thanks to you,” Jason smiled, as he felt sleep approach.
“You are welcome. Now get some sleep, you are going to need it. Tomorrow you will have to deal with your first hangover.”
“A hangover?” Jason asked confused.
“You’ll see.” Alex laughed as he left Jason alone. After Alex was gone, Kristen came back in and changed Jason’s
bandage, putting on a fresh salve of Centurion bone.
“Goodnight, Jason.” Kristen smiled as he joined Jason under the sheets.
“’Night,” Jason sighed as his drunken weariness put him into a deep sleep.
As he slept, Jason’s dreams were filled with nightmares... of demons wandering the earth, of men with wings blocking out the sun, all moving away from the ruined city of Qul Tos. In the middle were Philip and Alex, fighting, double-bladed swords in hand.
In the background was Jason’s mother, snickering.
When Jason awoke he saw two men standing over him, Field Marshal Darius and Philip. Both men were stripped down to their loincloths and had their arms wrapped around each other.
“I think he’s awake.” Philip smiled as he nuzzled up against Darius.
“Good... I want to give him my gift before we finish up our
business.” Darius smiled as he kissed the top of Philip’s head. “Jason, can you sit up?” Philip asked, trying not to get too
caught up in Darius’ attentions.
“Yes,” Jason said, his head hurting.
“I want to give you this,” Darius explained, as he took out a dagger in a gold sheath. “I know you are not supposed to have anything sharp, but in your father’s will he wanted you to have this.”
Jason took the dagger from Darius’ hand, not sure what to do with it.
“Take it out,” Philip encouraged.
Carefully Jason drew the blade out. Unlike the gold sheath it was in, the dagger was plain and coated with dried blood.
“It is the weapon your father drew his first blood with. Even though he knew you were a Legatio, he wanted you to have it,” Darius explained.
“Do you remember my father?” Jason asked, his eyes glued to the knife, looking for any clues about his father’s past.
“I do, but I was only a student at the Academy when he was alive. He was a good man and a great general. Only three other generals have had more poems and songs written about them.”
“Can I read them?”
“You will be studying them at the Academy and will most likely have to recite a few of them for class. I hope you can sing,” Darius teased.
“I don’t know. I have never tried,” Jason said as he put the knife back into its sheath.
“Jonathan has a very good voice. I will have him help you,” Philip offered.
“Thank you.” Jason yawned, sending a sharp pain up his skull.
“I will also ask Erik to see to you.” Philip laughed, seeing that Jason was very much hung over.
While Philip and Darius went off to be with each other, Erik came in with his black bag. “Now what seems to be the problem?”
“My head feels like a knife is stabbing it,” Jason complained.
“That should teach you to drink too much.”
“They didn’t give me much of a choice,” Jason insisted.
“I know. That is why I am going to treat you, otherwise I would just let you deal with your hangover as a lesson,” Erik warned, but smiled at the same time.
“What are you going to do?” Jason asked worried. He did not know what Erik could do, but was afraid it would take opening his skull.
Erik opened up his case, took out a stained glass jar and pulled out a small round pill. “Swallow this... it will take care of your headache.”
“Thank you...” Jason said as he swallowed the pill.
“Now get up out of bed... Kristen needs to take you shopping for school.”
“When do I go to the Academy?” Jason asked.
“In two weeks,” Erik told him
“Is the Academy inside the city?”
“No, it is about 60 miles away, closer to the mountains. We will have to get you some warmer clothes for it, your school books, and a few other things.”
Jason hopped out of bed, and hurried to relieve himself in a small closet-like room down the hall. When he came back, Kristen was there waiting for him, red shirt and pants in his hands.
“I prefer white,” Jason said with a pleading look.
“You are a Legatio... you have to wear red,” Kristen insisted, shaking the red pants at Jason.
“Why? Philip does not mind me wearing white.”
“Inside the Centurion quarter you can wear white, but we are going to the market today. I can’t have you running around in white. My own honor is at stake.”
Seeing that Kristen was not going to let him leave unless he wore red, Jason gave up. “Fine...”
After getting dressed, Jason went downstairs to have breakfast. Caleb was busy stirring a pot of oatmeal while Alex sat at the table with a peculiar look on his face. Caleb smiled at Jason and handed him a large bowl of oatmeal covered with raisins, honey and pecans.
“How do you feel?” Alex asked, not taking his eyes off his
“I still feel a little sick to my stomach but my headache is going away.”
“Good,” Alex sighed.
“Did you sleep?”
“I was barely able too... Caleb snores like a bear,” Alex complained.
“I told you, Alex, that I only snore when I sleep by myself,” Caleb laughed.
“You are just making that up,” Alex accused.
“No, it’s true. When I sleep alone I tend to sleep on my back, but when I have some one to snuggle up to I always sleep on my side,” Caleb explained.
“Then how about you do both of us a favor and just sleep on your side all the time.”
“I would but unless I have someone to hold I can never stay on my side.”
“You are not getting in bed with me, Caleb,” Alex insisted.
“Then you will just have to put up with my snoring,” Caleb laughed.
“I’m starting to think switching body servants was a mistake,” Alex whispered to Jason.
“I can tell you that Kristen doesn’t snore.” Jason grinned.
“Then after I’m sure that Caleb is not going to kill you do you think we can switch back?”
“You could always ask Gerick to be your body servant.” Jason laughed.
“He looks like he could break me in two just dressing me,” Alex replied.
“I would not!” Gerick’s voice boomed as he came in. “I made you this, master Jason,” the large man said as he handed Jason a dark polished wooden flute.
“How do I play it?” Jason asked as he took the delicate instrument in his hands.
“You blow across the large opening here.” The man pointed with one of his massive fingers.
“Alright...” Jason said. He blew across it, making an airy whistle.
Gerick gave Jason a hearty pat on the back. “Good... I will make a musician out of you yet.”
“Thank you, Gerick.”
“You’re welcome.” Gerick smiled as he ruffled Jason’s hair. He was just leaving when he turned his attention to Alex. “I could sleep with Caleb and keep him in line for you.”
“Won’t the cot get crowded?” Alex asked.
“I can make a new bed. I am a carpenter, you know.”
“Anything to let me get a good night’s sleep.” Alex sighed.
“Don’t I get a say in any of this!” Caleb complained.
“No...” Alex cut him off.
“Want to arm wrestle to see who gets the outside spot on the
bed?” Gerick laughed as he pulled up his sleeve, showing off one of his
massive biceps. “No... I know when I can’t win,” Caleb sighed.
“Come, Jason, let us leave the two of them settle this on their own,” Alex said as he finished off his porridge.
“Alright...” Jason agreed, rushing to finish up.
Leaving the kitchen for the courtyard, Jason and Alex ran into Erik and Kristen. “Are the two of you ready to go shopping!” Erik asked eagerly.
“Yes!” Alex said excitedly.
“I guess so,” Jason said nervously. With his mother’s obsession over taxes, money was something he understood all too well.
“What’s wrong?” Erik asked.
“I don’t know how I can pay for my school things. I don’t think it would be right for me to ask Philip.”
“Philip would have been more than happy to pay for you, but don’t worry, as King of Qul Tos you inherited the country’s wealth, minus the Centurion pillage tax of twenty percent of course.”
“I don’t understand,” Jason said confused. “From what my mother had told me, the whole country was burned and looted.”
“Yes... most of the rest of the world does not understand as well, but it is the way the Centurions do things. When they invade a land, they collect all of its wealth, but once the war is over they return all but a fifth of it... a sort of tax. It is sort of like having your meat without killing the calf. Since you are the only person left who can receive the
wealth of Qul Tos, you have inherited it all.” “How much money does Jason have?” Alex asked, curious.
“Three million, two hundred sixty three thousand, five hundred and twenty three gold standards.”
“What! That must make him the richest man in Domus,” Alex shouted.
“Almost... Qul Tos is famous for its silver and gem mines, making it one of the richest kingdoms in the world. Senator Perils’ family, as a whole, has more wealth, but it is divided among several people. There are also the Field Marshals who control the Centurion treasury, which is several times larger than what Jason has.”
“So he is the second wealthiest man in all of Domus.”
“Yes.” Erik nodded.
“Jason... why are you living with us... I mean you could build yourself a palace in the Legatio quarter if you wanted to,” Alex asked.
“He already has one.” Erik laughed,
“I didn’t know I had so much money and a house, but if you let me I would like to stay. Your home is the nicest place I’ve ever lived.”
Alex raised his eyebrows on that. “You do know you could do a lot better.”
“I don’t think so... you can’t buy friends. I couldn’t pay Philip and you to like me.”
“Well, I wouldn’t mind getting paid.” Alex laughed. “But you’re right; a true Centurion would see that as an insult.”
“Then can I keep living with you and Philip?” Jason asked nervously.
“Yes you can.” Alex grinned as he hugged Jason. “Just remember that I turn twenty-one soon...”
“A birthday gift?” Jason laughed.
“Yes,” Alex blushed.
“Come, young masters, it is time we arrived at the market.” Erik nudged them along.
“Don’t I still need some money?” Jason asked.
“I already took care of that for you.” Erik smiled, taking out what looked like two necklaces. They were made up of hundreds of identical gold coins, one side with the letter L stamped on it the other with a C. “I think 500 gold standards will be enough for Master Jason.”
“500...! Alex exclaimed. “How much did Philip give you for me!”
“60 gold standards and 20 silver pence,” Erik said as he took out two smaller necklaces.
“I’m sorry, Alex,” Jason said embarrassed.
“Sorry! Philip is giving me 10 more standards than last year. He must have already received his victory pay.”
“Yes... a portion of what is looted during a war is paid to the Centurions who fought it as soon as the war is ended. Philip was a commander so his victory pay must have been high.”
“I see,” Jason said still embarrassed by the amount of money he had compared to Alex. “Do I really need to spend that much money?” he asked Erik.
“Don’t worry Jason... unlike Alex, Legatio students’ school expenses are not paid for by the Domus treasury. All that Alex needs to buy are some extra clothes, his writing materials, and a few other things. You, on the other hand, have to buy your uniform, your winter clothing, and all your books. You will also need to buy the furniture for your apartment, a supply of paper and ink, as well as a few other things that a normal Legatio would need to have to be comfortable.
“What other things?” Jason asked curious.
“Well, Philip sent a message to the Commandant asking permission for you to continue training with the quarterstaff. He wants me to find the best weapon smith and have one commissioned for you. We will also see a tanner about getting you perfectly fitted for a set of armor... so you’d better not grow on us any more, young master.”
“I grew a lot on the trip here.” Jason laughed. “Yes, you did, but you were given Centurion anima... it has
the effect of not only stimulating growth but also speeds up physical
maturity. When you arrive at school most of the other Legatio will look
younger than you as most of them don’t finish growing till their mid
twenties.” “So I might be mistaken as a Centurion!” Jason laughed. “You just might.” Erik grinned.
While on their shopping expedition Jason was stopped several times to receive the thanks of several Famulus. A few of them even claimed to have eaten the bread that Jason had thrown over the wall, more than he remembered ever baking. At the shops, however, it was completely business, for while the Famulus shop clerks were very friendly and polite, pricing was strictly controlled by their Legatio masters. Very quickly the gold started to come off their chains as the purchases mounted. Erik even had to rent a mule and wagon to carry it all.
The last stop was the weapon smith. Alex still had 12 gold standards left and was eager to see what he could get for them.
“Hello, masters.” The shop clerk bowed.
“Is weapon smith Logan available,” Erik asked.
“He is working in the smithy right now, shall I tell him he has customers?”
“Yes... but do not let it interrupt his work.” Erik smiled.
As they waited for the weapon smith, Alex went over to a stand of double-bladed swords, lifting each one in his hands to test their balance. On a separate stand another sword caught his eye. It was a double sword but with the curved blades of a scimitar. Alex took it into his hands, and felt its perfect balance. Then, as if afraid to be caught with the weapon, he put it back on the stand.
“Go ahead... do a few exercises with it,” a deep voice came from the back room.
Alex almost jumped on seeing he had been caught.
“Go see how smoothly it swings in your hands,” the gray-haired weapon smith encouraged.
Slowly at first, but then faster, Alex went through all one hundred exercises of the double-bladed sword. Alex could hear a whistle as the sword cut its way through the air. The weapon felt so perfect in his hand that when finished with the final exercise he found he could not
relax his grip from the handle. “Beautiful...” the master weapon smith cheered. “That sword has been waiting for a master to take hold of it for three years.”
“You mean no one has ever used it?” Alex said amazed.
“No,” Logan replied.
Alex found he could not take his eyes off the perfect weapon. “Why... the sword is a piece of art.”
“Yes, but how many double-blade masters do you know?”
“My brother would love this sword,” Alex replied.
“But could he afford it.” Logan grinned.
“How much?” Alex asked, knowing it had to be way out of his reach.
“200 gold standards.”
“200 gold standards!” Alex said in disbelief. “No one would buy a sword for 200 gold standards.”
“No Centurion would,” Logan agreed.
“Why did you make it then?”
“I wanted to see if I could. It was a challenge... something I think a Centurion could appreciate.”
“I will never be able to afford it.” Alex sighed as he put the sword back in its stand.
“How much money do you have?” Logan asked curious.
“12 gold standard and 32 silver pence,” Alex replied glumly.
“Then may I recommend this?” Logan said as he went to where the other double-bladed swords were kept. He selected one with a blood-red handle and copper hilt. “Try this one out.”
Alex took the sword in his hands and did a few exercises with it. “It has almost the same feel.” Alex grinned.
“It should, it was one of my failed attempts at making my masterpiece.”
“A failure? It is near perfect,” Alex exclaimed.
“Almost, but not perfect,” Logan sighed as he took the sword back from Alex. “Let me show you.”
Alex handed the sword back to Logan. Logan put a single finger under the hilt of the sword, letting it balance. It swung up and down a few times but eventually settled nearly balanced with only a small dip
to one side. “See?” Logan said with a disappointed look.
“It’s just a little off,” Alex said, not seeing the problem.
Logan sighed again, seeing that the boy was too young to understand the true meaning of the word ‘masterpiece’. “Yes... just a little off... still too much for me.”
“How much is this sword?” Alex asked, still expecting it to be high.
“For you, 12 gold standards.”
“What... why so little.” Alex said in surprise.
“You are a double-sword master, I always give a discount to a weapon master.”
“It must be a large discount.” Alex laughed.
“Not at all... I priced this sword at 15 gold standards.”
“Why?” Alex said, still surprised.
“Well, the handle is made of wood and the hilts are made of copper. And yes, the blades are made of iron, not the fine steel of my masterpiece. My masterpiece has a steel grip and gold hilts... that adds a lot to the cost.”
“I see.” Alex smiled. “Only a Legatio would care for such a frivolous decoration .”
“Yes.” Logan smiled knowingly. “But what Legatio would buy a weapon in the first place. So I think I’m stuck with it for now.”
“I guess so.” Alex grinned. “Will you be purchasing the sword?” Erik asked.
“Yes... most definitely yes,” Alex said eagerly.
“Then here you go, weapon master.” Erik smiled as he tossed Alex’s remaining gold coins over to the weapon master.
“Thank you for your business.” Logan bowed as he pocketed the money and started to head back to his smithy.
Seeing that Logan was leaving without Jason taken care of, Erik called after him. “We have more business with you, weapon master.”
“Oh...” Logan smiled broadly, turning back to face his customers.
“We need a quarterstaff for the young master here.” Erik pointed
On seeing the red-dressed youth, Logan burst into laughter. “A Legatio! Hahahahahahaha... what you want is a walking stick. I know a good carver who can make you one.”
While Alex did chuckle, Erik’s face took on a serious look. “No, weapon master, you are very much mistaken. The son of Agamemnon wishes to learn the quarterstaff... as a weapon.”
“The son of Agamemnon... I think I understand now, but still I don’t believe it. Show me what exercises you know,” Logan insisted, pointing to where several iron-clad staves rested.”
“Let me help you with your shirt,” Kristen offered, lifting the red fabric off Jason’s body.
“By the demon!” Logan exclaimed as he saw the tattoos on Jason’s back. “Never mind... I believe you now.”
“Still, you need to see how the boy holds a staff if you are going to make him one.” Erik snickered... enjoying the weapon master’s surprise.
“Go ahead!” Logan said, eagerly wanting to see how a Legatio handled a weapon.
Nervously, Jason went through the four-dozen exercises he knew. The iron-clad staff was a lot heavier than the pure wood ones he was used to, but then his swings now had some real power to them. When he finally finished, his arms were tired and a sheen of sweat covered his body.
Logan did not say a word for a long moment, but all could see the wheels in his mind were turning. Finally though he gave his opinion. “I think I will need to make two staves... a wooden one for him to practice with and another, heavier one for dueling. I must say he does have talent though... more than I expected from a Legatio.”
“Good... how long till the weapons can be ready.” Erik asked.
“The practice staff I can have done in a week, his dueling staff I
want to spend some real time with. I will need a month for it.”
“Fine, I don’t expect Jason to be dueling in his first few months at school. What of the cost?” Erik chuckled.
“Sixty,” Logan said with a straight face.
“Sixty!” Alex said in disbelief.
“Yes... I will need to have special wood brought in from Aquanos, but it is not so simple as having a single piece of wood brought over and that being that. I will have to buy at least a dozen logs before I find one with just the right wood. Then I will want to clad the staff in thin steel instead of iron, protected from rust with gold leafing. All of that
costs money.” “Sound’s like a very heavy weapon,” Erik said concerned.
“It will be heavy... at least forty pounds. I am not making a staff that I expect him to be able to use from the start but the one he will use when he is stronger and a master.”
“Looks like you will be spending a lot of time at the gymnasium.” Alex laughed.
“Will I ever be able to use it?” Jason asked Logan nervously.
“If you work hard, one day you will, and with it you will be almost invincible in a duel. Not even Alex’s sword will be able to block your staff.”
“I hope he never has to!” Erik sighed.
After leaving the weapons shop, Erik led the party back home, driving the wagon while the boys walked beside it. Gerick was waiting for them at the gate and started unloading the wagon as soon as it stopped. Alex went upstairs and changed into a pair of shorts and a clean white shirt to head over to the gymnasium. He asked Jason if he wanted to go, but Jason’s arms were still sore from handling the iron staff so he excused himself and went to his room. He was just closing his eyes when there was a knock at his door.
“Jason... you have a visitor,” Jonathan whispered.
“Who?” Jason asked sleepily.
“The son of Senator Perils... Gideon.”
“Gideon!” Jason said in surprise. He had not remembered that Perils was Gideon’s father.
“Shall I tell him you are resting?”
“No... I’ll see him,” Jason said eagerly.
“Where shall you greet him?” Kristen asked.
“Why not my room?”
Once again Jonathan found himself shaking his head. “That would not be appropriate... not on a first visit, Jason,” he explained.
“Why not,” Jason asked, not seeing the problem.
“You are a Legatio, he is a Centurion... custom dictates that when a Centurion shows interest in a Legatio they must meet in the open.”
“Why?” Jason said, not understanding.
“It is part of a dark past, but in the early history of Domus there was an epidemic of Centurions raping Legatio. To put a stop to that, rules were put in place dictating how a Legatio and Centurion were to be introduced to each other.”
“I didn’t have to with Philip and Alex.”
“That is because Philip is your acting guardian... that makes him and Alex family. They are not bound by the rules or customs,” Kristen explained.
Jason sighed... “What other rules do I need to know?”
“I think you can ask Gideon that... it will give you something to talk about. Shall I tell him to meet you in the courtyard?” Jonathan dictated more than suggested.
“Yes,” Jason agreed.
“Good... now wait here for a few minutes... you should always keep a young Centurion waiting... let him stew in his own worries for a while,” Jonathan said with a wink.
Jason waited for a few minutes, looking down on the clothes he was wearing. He really didn’t like red. It made him feel uncomfortable as it reminded him of all the blood he had seen during the war. So he started changing... pulling off his red shirt and put on a white one. He was about change his pants as well but was stopped by a knock on his door.
“I know I told you to keep him waiting, but you should not really let him suffer too long.” Jonathan laughed from the other side of the door.
“Coming,” Jason called out, giving up on changing his pants. Opening the door, Jonathan let out a deep sigh of disappointment on seeing Jason in a white shirt but did not stop him from walking down the stairs to the courtyard.
“Jason!” Gideon smiled on seeing Jason enter the courtyard.
“Hello Gideon,” Jason grinned, a warm feeling growing in his stomach.
“It is good to see you again,” Gideon said while offering his one
and only hand to shake.
Jason took the hand and felt its hard grip. “How are you?” He asked.
“I am well... I was just leaving the gymnasium and saw Alex going in. It reminded me that you are living with him.”
“I was feeling a little tired so I didn’t go,” Jason apologized.
“That’s understandable,” Gideon said knowingly.
“What do you mean?” Jason asked, not understanding.
Gideon struggled with answering that one as he knew his response was based on old prejudices. “You are a Legatio... Legatio get tired easily.”
“We do...?” Jason said in surprise, not offended at all.
“Yes... that is why you need us Centurions to protect you,” Gideon grinned as he took a seat next to the fountain. Jason joined him, sitting on the side of Gideon’s cut off arm, triggering a deep sigh from Gideon.
“What’s wrong?” Jason asked, seeing disappointment in Gideon’s face.
“Can you sit on the other side of me?” Gideon asked with a pleading look.
“Alright,” Jason said, quickly getting up and sitting on the other side of Gideon. As soon as he sat down Jason felt Gideon’s arm wrap around his waist, the massive strength of his arm equal to one of Philip’s.
Jason, having now gone without Philip being so close to him for some time, leaned his head against the right side of Gideon’s shoulder. Gideon responded by pulling Jason closer and rubbing his back with his rough hand.
After a moment of silence, Gideon spoke up again. “I like your outfit.”
Jason looked down at his red pants with disgust. “Why... I really don’t like red.”
“But it shows your character. You are a Legatio who wants to be a Centurion.”
“I guess... I have an idea what a Centurion is but I do not understand what it means to be Legatio except that they tend to be mean.”
“No... cold-hearted best describes them,” Gideon corrected. “Did you even know that you Legatio are also cold blooded while Centurion blood is hot? Sort of makes us a perfect fit.”
“But we’re not. Why are they like that?” Jason asked turning his head to face Gideon.
“It might come as a surprise to you but it is because of all the death they have to deal with... more than us Centurions.”
“What do you mean? Centurions are the ones trained to kill.”
“Yes, but because we live such short lives we don’t ever have to deal with as much regret as a Legatio. You Legatio live nearly forever. You have to watch your non-Legatio friends, wives, and Centurion children die. As a result Legatio tend to form only friendships with their fellow Legatio. Legatio children are also taught at an early age that the only friends they can depend on are Legatio.”
That confused Jason. “What about their fathers... they are Centurions.”
“That might be part of the problem. We Centurions love our children but we die before they reach manhood. After we die they are then forced to live in a Legatio household. I think that is why you hate us so much.”
“I don’t hate you!” Jason said shocked, straightening himself up away from Gideon.
“I’m sorry... when I said you... I meant the Legatio.”
“I guess so...” Jason calmed down. “The idea that Philip, Alex, and even you will be dead long before I die scares me. I don’t want any more people to die. Too many people I have known have already died.”
Gideon took a deep breath before replying. “I know... but you have to be strong. One day you will start fathering Centurions and will have to watch them grow up and die.”
“Then I will never have children,” Jason declared.
“You have to... Domus is dependent on you Legatio to father us Centurions. If you all stopped having children there would one day be no Legatio. We need each other in order to survive.”
“There has to be a way to keep the Centurions alive. If the bones of a Centurion can be used to heal a Legatio, why can’t the bones of a Legatio be used to keep a Centurion alive.”
“Jason! What you are saying is dangerous! If that were true, then the Centurions might go on a killing rampage against the Legatio. That is why when a Legatio dies, his body is kept under the Senate floor, where no Centurion is allowed on penalty of death and his skull shattered.”
“So no one has tried to see if the bones of a Legatio can help the Centurions?”
“No... Jason and you must never suggest that again. For a Centurion to mention it is considered treason. If the other Legatio heard you asking these questions... it could mean your death as well.”
“Sorry...” Jason sighed. There was a long moment of silence before he spoke again. “You never told me your father was Senator Perils.”
“Well, it is not much of a secret,” Gideon grumbled.
“What’s wrong?” Jason said, seeing anger in Gideon’s eye.
“My father expected me to get him greater access to the military. He wanted me to rise to Field Marshal one day. When Alex cut off my arm, Alex ruined my father’s plans. He abandoned me after that.”
“Where do you live?” Jason asked concerned.
“At the Academy’s Commandant’s house here in Domus.”
“He has a house here?” Jason said surprised.
“Yes... He only lives here when school is out. Would you like to meet him?” Gideon asked... seeing a chance to escape Jonathan’s observations.
“Of course!” Jason said eagerly.
“Good!” Gideon laughed. “Follow me.”
Just as Gideon was leading Jason out of the courtyard, Kristen came in with a tray. “Where do you two think you are going?”
“Uhmmmm...,” Gideon said, looking suddenly guilty.
“I was just going to Gideon’s home to meet the Commandant,” Jason said innocently.
“On a first visit... without an escort?” Kristen said in disbelief. “I thought a son of Perils would be drilled in basic customs!”
“Sorry.” Gideon blushed.
“Never mind... just let me put these treats away and I will come with you,” Kristen said as he took the tray back inside.
“I take it he is your body servant?”
“Yes.” Jason blushed.
“He might be a mother hen, but I have to say he’s cute.”
“Looks like Felix,” Jason remembered.
“Yeah... damn that bastard. I would challenge him to a duel if I could.”
“No... he’s a Legatio.”
“Then I will have to duel against Centurions?” “You duel?” Gideon said in disbelief. “Yes...I even have the marks to prove it,” Jason said as he pulled
off his shirt. “Amazing... you even have first blood!”
“Excuse me!” Jonathan’s voice shouted from behind the two boys.
“Sorry!” Gideon shouted, jumping back.
“That’s better... Now Jason put your shirt back on. You are not
supposed to show your body to the Centurion until the ‘revealing
ceremony’ on the sixth visit.”
“I don’t see why not,” Jason sighed as he put on his shirt.
“I told you to ask Gideon about the rules... it was mostly to help remind him about them but it would not have hurt you to hear them as well.”
“What are the rules?” Jason asked Gideon as the three of them
left for the Commandant’s house. “On the first visit between a Legatio and Centurion you have to
meet in a public space where others can see you. There is also supposed
to be no touching but I could not help but wrap my arm around you.”
“What about the other visits.”
“Well, on the second visit you are supposed to come visit me, but with an escort.”
“So right now we are on our second visit.” Jason laughed.
“Yes, we are,” Gideon agreed.
“What about the others?”
“They involve a lot of meals with each other’s families, going to public events and finally bathing together and being allowed into each other’s bedroom.”
“So all these visits are supposed to lead to sex?” Jason asked with raised eyebrows.
“Sex is part of it but what it is really supposed to lead to is the bonding between a Legatio and a Centurion. But as you can imagine, it takes so long that most Centurions don’t live long enough to finish it.”
“Can’t the steps be skipped?”
“I don’t know... no one has ever tried,” Gideon sighed.
“We seem to be doing a good job of it?” Jason laughed as they walked down the street on what was to be their second date.
“I guess we are.” Gideon laughed before going on to a more serious issue. “What is going on between you and Alex?”
“Alex and I are friends.”
“We...” Jason blushed.
Gideon understood what the blush had to mean... “Does Alex want to be your lover?”
“I think he does. He says that he only wants to be with one person and he wants me to be that person.”
“Then yes, Alex is in love with you. The question is... are you in love with him?” Gideon asked.
“I love him... I just don’t know if I love him like he loves me. Philip loves me too and I am beginning to think that you might like me as well.”
Gideon pulled Jason into a hug as they continued to walk. “Well I do... you are a very interesting not to mention desirable person.”
“...” Jason did not know how to respond to that.
“Well, here we are!” Gideon said with forced cheerfulness as they arrived at the gate. Jason’s silence was not a strong vote of confidence for him.
Gideon had just rung the bell when the gates opened wide by
the efforts of two black-robed Famulus. Inside the courtyard several
white-clothed Centurions wrestled against each other, while one man
“Gideon!” The man waved them over.
“Come on, Jason.” Gideon pulled. “Jason, I would like you to meet Commandant Oktor... Commandant Oktor... Jason, son of Agamemnon.”
“Jason!... so I finally meet my most famous new student.” Oktor grinned as he pumped Jason’s hand hard as he shook it.
“Nice to meet you too, sir.” Jason smiled.
“Commandant... always refer to me as your Commandant.”
“Good boy!” Oktor said giving Jason’s back a good pat. “So what do you think?”
“Think of what, Commandant?”
“My hand-to-hand combat lessons... I hear you want to learn how to fight!”
“Jason is learning the quarterstaff,” Gideon spoke up.
“A simple toothpick... real fighters use their fists. What would you do if you were somehow disarmed? You would be helpless,”
Oktor said excitedly as he pointed out different pairs of Centurion’s
sparring. “I guess so,” Jason replied.
Oktor laughed at Jason’s noncommittal answer. “You guess so... I’m telling you so. If you don’t learn how to use your fists and legs in combat you will find out how helpless you are at the most inopportune moment. Learning the art of the fist is as basic as learning Mord... our native tongue and the root language for the entire Eastern Confederacy. Only the barbarians in the west speak Jadoorian.”
“I guess I will have to learn...” Jason said, confused by what he had just heard, never having known that there was such a thing as different languages before.
“How about it?” Oktor grinned.
“About what?” Jason said, confused, still stuck on the language issue.
“How about I add hand-to-hand combat to your schedule in addition to the quarterstaff?” Oktor suggested, finally getting to the point of the whole discussion.
“Alright...” Jason said, not sure if Oktor would accept a different
“That’s my boy! I always wanted to train a Legatio in handto-hand combat... someone to teach those other lazy ass Legatio a lesson.”
“I don’t understand,” Jason replied.
“Simple... once I heard that you wanted to learn combat I asked the legal scholars to do some research for me. While the rules are clear that a Centurion can’t challenge a Legatio... it seems that a Legatio can challenge one of his fellows. So... I’m going to train you to teach your Legatio brothers the value of combat training.”
Jason felt he was being set up to play the role of bully. “But will that not get me into trouble with them?”
“Who cares... you will have an army of Centurions behind you.” Oktor laughed, lifting Jason up into a hug. “And we have never lost a war yet! “Gideon... why don’t you take my future student up to the practice platform. Teach him how to use the punching bags. Kristen, you can go rest in the kitchen.”
“Yes Commandant.” Gideon grinned before leading Jason up the stairs. “Punching bags?” Jason asked confused.
“Yeah... they are just bags for you to practice hitting against.”
When they arrived on the roof, Jason noticed that there were none of the weapons as found on Philip’s practice platform. Instead, there were bags hanging from the ceiling of the practice pavilion.
“Alright... let’s get started!” Gideon grinned.
By the time Jason was done kicking and punching the different
bags, there were small cuts on his knuckles. Gideon did not notice it till
he saw the blood being smeared on the bags.
“Jason... you are bleeding!” he said, panicked.
“We need to get you to a healer!”
“Why... they are not bleeding too bad.” Jason said with surprising calm.
“No, but they will keep on bleeding if we don’t do something,” Gideon said as he ran over to the ladder.
When they entered the courtyard, all the men were sitting on the floor, their legs crossed while they meditated. Gideon hurried Jason to the gate but found it barred. In the process of unlocking it, a pair of large hands grabbed both boys.
“You know better than to open the gate during meditation.” Oktor glared at Gideon.
“I’m sorry, Commandant, but Jason is bleeding,” Gideon said in a near panic.
“Let me see,” Oktor asked, examining Jason all over. “I don’t see where he is bleeding.”
“His fists, they got cut on the bags.”
“Oh I see...” Oktor chuckled, looking at Jason’s knuckles. “Don’t worry, Gideon, these are not fatal cuts.”
“But he is bleeding.”
“Yes he is.” Oktor grinned. He then licked both fists with his tongue. “See... the bleeding has already stopped.”
“You mean that is all he needed?” Gideon said in disbelief.
“Yes, Gideon,” Oktor smiled as he wrapped an arm around his student.”
“I didn’t know our spit could do that.”
“For minor cuts and abrasions it does. Anything serious though needs our bones. If it is a life-threatening wound they might even need our anima. You would know this if you paid attention in class,” Oktor scolded.
“I see the children are causing problems,” Kristen sighed as he came into view.
“No... to be honest with you I have never had the chance to lick a Legatio’s wounds clean. Thank you for the opportunity.” Oktor grinned.
Kirsten looked at Jason and Gideon as if they would get into
more trouble if he ever took his eyes off them. “Thank you for being
understanding, Commandant, but I think it’s time I took Jason home.”
“If you must... but promise to have him here more often. There is a lot he will need to learn before going to the Academy.”
“I promise, Commandant,” Kristen said with a bow.
“Bye, Gideon.” Jason waved.
“Goodbye, Jason,” Gideon smiled.
Just before Jason passed the gate, Gideon pulled Jason back to him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“Custom!” Kristen shouted. “You are not supposed to do that till the seventh visit!”
“You better get going.” Gideon blushed as Kristen pulled Jason
away. As soon as they were walking down the street, Kristen sighed.
“What am I going to do with you? You flirt like a Centurion private.” “I was not flirting.”
“Oh yes you were,” Kristen giggled. “Just you being you is
flirting enough... at least by Centurion standards.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I will tell you then. When a Centurion...especially one of lower rank, is interested in another Centurion he will act interested in whatever the person is doing. If the other Centurion accepts this role, he will take the man as a student or little brother. You, Jason, with your innocence and unfamiliarity of Domus culture are a student in everything. Against all custom you want to learn about Centurion life. Philip, Alex and now Gideon are all intrigued and attracted by that desire. You just don’t know that part of the custom of being a student is to become your teacher’s lover.
“So because I ask questions and want to learn how to fight, the Centurions think I want to become their lovers.”
“That is the custom,” Kristen sighed.
Now beet-red with embarrassment Jason asked Kirsten for advice. “What should I do?”
“Well I think it is too late for them to not be in love with you. I think you will just need to be careful.”
“I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“I know, Jason, I know.” Kristen hugged him. “Come on, you smell like you need a good bath. I think I’ll give you a massage before dinner as well, but right after you eat I want you to go to bed. You have had a long day.
“Yes...” Jason yawned.
“Now don’t fall asleep on me just now,” Kristen said as he moved Jason along.
As soon as they passed the gate, Alex’s voice shouted down at them from the second floor. “Where have you been?”
“He was visiting the Commandant,” Kristen explained.
“Oh...alright. I bet he made you work out on those punching bags of his.” Alex laughed as he ran down the stairs. “Was it fun... did you join in on one of his meditations?”
“No,” Jason sighed.
“Why not?” Alex asked curiously.
“Jason did not want me carrying him all the way home.” Kristen laughed.
“You look tired,” Alex said disappointed.
“Yes...” Jason said, feeling his eyelids getting heavy.
Kristen looked at Jason’s eyes struggling to stay open. “I’m going to give Master Jason a bath and then it will be a quick dinner before bed.”
“I’ll be up late practicing with my new sword.” Alex laughed as he ran back up the stairs.
“How can he have so much energy,” Jason asked as he was almost carried to the bathing chamber.
“He is a Centurion. They can go weeks without sleep or eating.”
“And I’m just a Legatio,” Jason sighed.
“Hey... you are very lucky to be a Legatio; you will live a long life.”
“I will have to watch everyone I know die. I HAVE watched everyone I’ve known die.” Jason burst into tears.
“I’m sorry Jason... life in the Labyrinth Tower must have been very hard,” Kristen said as he sat Jason down on the wood bench.
“I don’t want to see Philip and Alex die.”
“Do you see now why the Legatio do not let themselves love their Centurion cousins?”
“Yes...” Jason wept. “But I love them anyway.”
“And they know it and love you that much stronger for it. Philip, Alex and even Gideon know how painful it will be for you to love them. They want your love desperately though. All the Centurions want your love.”
Jason tried to relax as Kirsten ladled hot water down his back. “I want to love them... I just don’t want to watch them die.”
“That is the burden of being a Legatio,” Kristen said with sympathy as he washed Jason. “Now you see why I am happy being a Famulus.”
“Yes.” Jason sniffled. “It’s time to get you in the bath,” Kristen said as he lifted Jason
up and lowered him into the constantly heated pool of water.
Jason looked up at Kristen with a pleading look. “You will not die on me... will you?”
“Me? Not for a long time. I promise I will still be with you after Philip and Alex die and many years after that. But Jason... one day I will die as well. You need not close your heart, but you must be strong.”
“I understand. Thank you for agreeing to stay with me as long as you can.”
“I am your body servant... it is my job to be with you for life.” Kristen smiled gently. He then reached over and kissed Jason on the cheek. Jason responded by wrapping his arms around Kristen and resting his head on his shoulder.”
“There, there, my master... everything will turn out fine. I
promise you,” Kristen cooed.
After bathing, Kristen dressed Jason in one of his new red sleeping robes and led him upstairs to his bed. Knowing that Jason was too tired to eat dinner he let the boy sleep, Kristen resting by his side. During the night Erik came by with a bowl of rice and a few slivers of beef.
“I thought you would be hungry.” Erik smiled.
“Thank you,” Kristen said getting out of bed and tiptoeing to
the table. Erik quickly replaced Kristen, lying next to Jason. “Poor boy,”
Erik sighed as he brushed Jason’s face with his fingers.
“What we want from him is not fair,” Kristen sighed before he started eating.
“The project has definitely taken a wrong course,” Erik agreed. “Jason, though is our only hope to fix it... the bonds must be restored. We should have engineered the Legatio to love the Centurion as much as we designed the Centurion to love them.”
“But you see what it is doing to Jason. Knowing that all the people he cares about are going to die is tearing him apart.”
“There is a way around it... and Jason is the key,” Erik said.
Kristen let out a deep sigh before replying. “Some of the other Legatio know that too, but they know that it has to be kept secret. If the Centurions find out that the Legatio are the key to extending their lives, there would be a civil war. It would not be hard for the Centurions to destroy their own future.”
“That is why we are here... to keep Jason safe.”
“And how safe is he with us?” Kristen said bitterly. “Are you getting attached to him already?” Erik asked.
“Will you remove me if I said yes?”
“No... but I need to know if you can make the hard decisions when it comes to Jason.”
“I can,” Kristen sighed.
“Good... now who should we bond him to?” Erik said, having gotten Kristen’s word that he would stick to the plan.
“I think we should leave that choice to Jason.”
“If we leave the choice to Jason, nothing might happen,” Erik pointed out.
“Maybe we should give up on the whole project,” Kristen grunted, hating being sneaky.
“This project has been running for over a millennium. It would take too long to start over again, the Dominus are getting impatient.”
Kristen shuddered on hearing that word. “We have less choice than a Famulus slave we pretend to be.”
“Yes...” Erik agreed. “And Jason has even less choice than we do.”
“Erik... I want your word that you will do whatever you can to see that he is not hurt.”
“I promise. I don’t know what I can do to prevent it from happening, but I will try,” Erik swore.
“Thank you,” Kristen said as he finished off his dinner. “It is
good to eat real food again.”
“Yes it is... enjoy it while it lasts,” Erik said as he slid off the
“It is so hard watching these people live their lives not knowing the reality of the world they live in,” Kristen said as he rested his head against Erik.
“It is better this way.” Erik hugged Kristen.
“I know... I wish I was like them... clueless.”
“I do as well. Take care, Kristen,” Erik said as he began to leave.
“Take care,” Kristen said as he went back into bed with Jason, wishing there was more he could do for the young man.
Since Philip was moving into one of the homes provided for the instructors on the Academy grounds, the household Famulus would be coming with them. Since Oktor was doing the same, they had all agreed to caravan as a group.
All together, there were five wagons with twelve guards on horseback, the Commandant, Philip, Jason, Alex, Gideon, and all their Famulus servants. Philip, Alex, Gideon, and Oktor rode with the guards. Jason wanted to ride with the guards as well, but knowing that after one long day’s ride, Jason would never want to be near a horse again, Philip insisted that Jason ride on one of the wagons with Kristen and Jonathan.
Now Jason... I want you to sing this...“Beyond the lake...” Jonathan sang in ascending notes.
“Beyond the lake...” Jason copied, but in a high, rich tenor.
“Perfect...” Jonathan cheered.
“Beautiful...” Kristen agreed.
“Now sing... Behind the falls”
“Behind the falls...” Jason replied, now with a growing audience of Philip, Alex, Gideon, and Oktor.
By the time Jonathan’s lesson was over, Jason was able to sing the Academy’s anthem...
Beyond the lake
Behind the falls
After the cave
The Cube stands tall With pens and swords We learn our lesson’s well
To one day fight
To one day write For glory of the Academy... For glory of Academy...
The Centurions all demanded that Jason sing it that very night with Erik playing the flute that Gerick had made. Jason’s voice was so perfect, so flawless, so filled with both the melancholy of life in the Tower, and the joy of his new found life with his Centurion friends and not a face was dry by the end of the performance.
After the three boys had gone to bed under the wagons the adults gathered around the camp fire to talk. “That boy is something special I tell you... and not just because he is the son of Agamemnon,” Oktor declared in an awed voice.
“The prophecy...” Jonathan started.
“Damn the prophecy... I would not be surprised if the boy is not made the first High Ambassador in centuries.”
“Wait a minute... does Jason not have a kingdom to rule one day... let’s not talk about adding more pressure to his life,” Philip spoke up.
“Philip... Jason might be king in name but it is up to the Field Marshals as to what he will do with his life, as it is with all of us,” Oktor replied.
“And there will a child of light be born...” Jonathan spoke up again.
“Shut up... enough with your superstitions!” Philip demanded.
“Go to bed, Famulus,” Oktor agreed.
“Very well... but you can’t stop what’s coming... nothing can. And I tell you, be it Alex, Gideon, you Commander, or you Commandant, one of you will become the demon of darkness and bring about the end of the world,” Jonathan said before leaving.
“Stupid fool... believing in such a legend. What Agamemnon saw in him I will never know,” Oktor sighed. “Whenever people start talking about the prophecy trouble is never far behind.”
“Yes... but he is right, I believe Jason will fulfill a prophecy... our prophecy.”
“That a Legatio and Centurion will bond?”
“Yes and the two animas united,” Philip replied. “But who will it be?”
“Don’t you want it to be yourself?” Oktor asked.
“Of course I do... and if it is Jason, so much the better. That young man still believes that the world hates him but he is the most loved person in the Empire. Oktor... as the Commandant you have the right to mentor Jason. I would like permission to be the one, however.”
“You know I can’t do that... you are his guardian. You cannot be both.”
“But...” Philip tried to protest.
“The law is the law, Philip. I will, however, give you the right to pick Jason’s mentor for him... There is Lacitus, Varrus, Yogar, Amster, two other Philips, Aegis, and Zophar.
“Is it true that Varrus is your lover?”
“Varrus... my lover? I wish... No, that man is too handsome for my taste. We are only good friends.”
“I remember seeing him once... he is handsome... too handsome for being a Centurion.
“Why do you think he was sent to the Academy... he always caused too many good soldiers to become heartsick. That man is trouble, I warn you.”
“If you say so...” Philip grinned, now curious to personally meet this Varrus.”
“I see that my warning will not be heeded,” Oktor sighed as he left the grinning Philip at the fire alone.
“Jason... are you awake?” Alex asked as he poked Jason on the side.
“I am now.” Jason smiled through the darkness.
“So am I, if you are wondering,” Gideon groaned from the other side.
“Good... I want to try something out.”
“What is that?”
“Well, we did camp by the river... why not go for a midnight swim?” Alex suggested with a great deal of eagerness. There was something he wanted to do and needed done before they arrived at the Academy.
“Is Jason a strong enough of a swimmer?”
“That is what we are here for!”
“Alright,” Jason agreed, having never swam at night before. They got up and left for the river.
As they made their way to the river bank, Gideon took Alex aside to see what was up. “You know that Philip will kill you, brother or not, if Jason drowns.”“Gideon... think about it. Once we arrive at the Academy Jason will be surrounded by snot nosed Legatio... do you think that he will remain the person we have come to love unless we do something about it?”
“What are you suggesting... that we kidnap him and take him
far away where we will live happily ever after? That still involves your
brother hunting us down to kill us.”
“No... I suggest we give Jason our anima.”
“What?” Gideon said shocked, his eyes darting to where Jason was by himself undressing.
“We are Centurions... we can bond as many times as we want. If we give Jason enough... he might get his wish and become a Centurion himself. Then he can bond to as many people as he wants.”
“I agree.” Gideon nodded. “But why include me in this?”
“Because this might not work and if I am going to have a bond mate and it can’t be Jason, I would like it to be you.”
“You’re serious?” Gideon said, surprised.
“Yes. Let us form a pact... we will be the blades of a double-bladed sword with Jason as our grip, holding us together.”
“Nice imagery but will Jason agree to it? He knows that we love him... I just don’t know if he loves himself enough to accept what we want to give him.”
“Just follow my lead?” Alex grinned, his tanned body aglow under the white moon’s light.
“Jason... my Jason,” was all Philip could say on seeing the change that had taken place. While his eyes remained a deep green, Jason’s wet hair was now a mix of dark brown with strands of blond mixed in. The boyish look was now completely gone, replaced by one more fitting of Jason’s age, broad shouldered, narrow waist, built abdominals and pectorals. Arms were now wide... a good fourteen-inch bicep. With strong calves and thighs, Jason walked out of the river, streamlets of water running down his body.
“Am I a Centurion now?” Jason asked with hope in his eyes.
“There is only one way to find out,” Oktor declared, glaring
at Alex and Gideon who both looked ashamed They had planned it
to be like a seduction but the resulting growth spurt had left Jason so exhausted he had almost drowned.
With a dagger in hand Oktor took hold of Jason’s arm running
the tip of a dagger across it, letting thick red blood ooze out. Then came the waiting... and after an hour had passed, and
Jason face becoming pale from loss of blood, Erik pushed his way forwards and smothered the wound with the white powder of ground Centurion bone. At once the bleeding stopped, only to be replaced by another form of bleeding, Jason’s tears.
“But I want to be a Centurion... I was supposed to become like you, Philip.” Jason sobbed as he fell into his guardian’s arms.
Philip gave his brother and Gideon a hard stare before lifting Jason up and carrying him away to the nearby woods.
“I’m sorry...” Alex whispered, while the adults looked at him with disdain.
In a meadow deep in the forest, Philip laid Jason down on the
soft green grass.
“I’m so cold...” Jason said, tears still running down his face.
“I’ll warm you up,” Philip promised as he proceeded to undress himself till he too was naked.
Philip then did what was forbidden, he lay himself down with an uncircumcised man, sharing his warmth with Jason.
It was not just that Jason now had the perfections of a Legatio and a Centurion physically, it was Philip’s deep and abiding love for the young man. Each moment he held him were perfect moments of joy.
More than the anima given to him by Alex and Gideon, Jason absorbed that love. While he wanted so much to be a Centurion, it had been a desire for love that had guided it.
He still wished he could have been born a Centurion, but now that Jason knew — knew for certain that he had the love of others, it no longer mattered... from Philip’s love he found he was able to forgive himself. He was not the filth his mother had claimed him to be. He was a man and as one he had the right to both happiness and sadness as well as the choice of choosing which would control his life.
As he slept in Philip’s arms the last remaining hold his mother had over him faded away.
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