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The Centurion Cycle - 6. Book VI: Sins of the Demon

Five years have passed since Jason Argot, King of Qul Tos, ascending the Domus Imperial Throne, bringing about a golden age for all those under his rule. But as with all things, nothing may last forever, for the wheels of time does not stop for any man...

Chapter One: Fear of Shadows




Across the city of Domus, bells of alarm could be heard from every corner of the great marbled metropolis. For the third time this, year a plot against Emperor Jason Argot had been caught while still in progress. On every street, Philip’s Demon Spawn were hunting the men who had attempted to kidnap Patrick, Jason’s five-year-old son.


“Where’s Philip?” Caleb asked Geoff from outside the nursery.


“Hunting down the perpetrators.”


“And Jason?”


“Inside the nursery with Queen Amanda.”


“How did they get into the palace this time?”


“It seems they came through the Sithian Embassy,” Geoff replied


“The ambassador? But he’s the queen’s cousin.”


“I doubt that the ambassador was in on it. Most of the nobles in Tal Sith can get a pass into Domus from the royal court, and not all of them are friendly to the Empire.”


“Then we should stop giving out passes,” Caleb said, breathing deeply to calm himself. He had never imagined that someone would try to hurt Jason’s children.


“But that would only make things worse. Most Sithians are already uneasy with Jason being their Overking. If we start treating them like our enemies, the insurgency will only grow.”


“Then what do you suggest we do?”


“Leave it to Jason. He wishes to handle this matter personally,” Geoff said.


“If Philip lets him. Jason’s Demon has murder on his mind.”


“Rest assured; Jason’s leash will prevent any untimely deaths. He is, however, concerned…”


“They tried to take his son,” Caleb said in agreement. “What does he plan on doing?”


“He is sending you back to Qul Tos.”


“What? Whatever for?” Caleb demanded. “Have I done something so wrong to anger Jason?”


“You know Jason is not angry with you but, given the situation, he needs you there.”


“Why? The reports say things are fine there.”


“Yes, that should make things easy for you when you replace Varrus as High Chancellor.”


“I’m to become High Chancellor? For some reason I do not feel this is a reward.”


“Varrus is Jason’s mentor. It’s not that he doesn’t trust you, but he cannot make a Tosian Speaker of the new Senate when it opens next month. That is not why you are leaving, however.”


“Why, then?”


“Jason has sent word for Louis to come with Varrus as well.”


“But Louis is king?”


“Now you will be Calebos.”


“But I don’t want the throne.”


“It is yours by blood and by imperial decree, none the less,” Geoff said, handing Caleb a scroll sealed by Jason’s gold seal.”


“What if I refuse?”


“You can’t refuse, Caleb. Given Louis’ special talents, he is the only one who can ferret out the insurgents before they do serious damage to the Empire.”


Pacing up and down the hall a few times, Caleb stopped. “Let me speak with Jason. Maybe I can change his mind.”


“Try if you must, but know that Jason is not doing this because he wants you to leave. He’s doing it because he has no other choice.”


“That seems to be the common theme lately.”


“They tried to take his son, Caleb. Do you think Jason won’t do anything to keep his family safe?” Geoff demanded as the door to the nursery opened.


“Can you please stop shouting? You’re waking the babies,” Prince Benjamin of Forstine, now eight, whispered.


“I beg your pardon, your highness,” Caleb bowed. “May I speak with his Majesty?”


“Papa’s telling us a bedtime story right now. You can come in and listen.”


“Thank you, prince.” Caleb bowed again as he stepped inside the dimly lit room. There, in the nursery, were three beds and two cribs the four of Jason’s birth children and Benjamin, his adopted son. On the largest of the three beds, at the back of the room, Jason sat with an arm around his son, Patrick. Gavin, the three-year-old, was in the bed as well, holding his older brother tightly while Jason read from a small book. In each of the four corners of the room, a black-winged Saint stood silent watch.


“So you see, the Prince of Ralsat beat the bandits and reached the palace safely, just like you did.”


“Was the prince scared?” Patrick asked his father.


“I’m sure he was,” Jason nodded, “but he was also brave, just like you.”


“Am I brave, papa?” Gavin asked.


“Yes, very brave,” Jason chuckled, patting the top of each sons’ head. “Isn’t that right, Lord Caleb?”


“Almost as brave as their father,” Caleb chuckled.


“No, I’m not so brave,” Jason sighed as he closed the book. “Ready for bed, Ben?”


“Yes, papa,” Benjamin nodded, letting Jason lift him up and place him next to Patrick on the bed.


Once he had covered the children with a blanket, Jason took Caleb’s hand and led him out of the nursery. “They love you, you know,” Caleb whispered as Jason quietly shut the door.


Jason let out a soft chuckle before replying. “Yes, for some reason they do.”


“For lots of reasons. Most fathers don’t spend so much time with their sons.”


“They’ve given me happiness I’ve never known before.”


“They’ve given you a chance to correct the mistakes of the past,” Caleb said knowingly.


“I just wish things could remain this way forever. They’re growing so fast. Soon they’ll be old enough to be kings themselves.”


“But you will still be Emperor.”


“Of course, but I promised the Forstines to give Benjamin back to them when he’s old enough. Around that time, Patrick will become King of Qul Tos, while his brother Gavin serves as Archpriest.”


“And the twins?”


“The twins will join the army like any other Centurion officers. They will be kept together, whatever happens, however,” Jason said, a small smile growing on his face. Down the passageway a monstrous sized wolf was walking slowly towards its master. Behind the animal were a dozen smaller, but still gigantic, wolves. Going down on one knee, Jason embraced Jacob. “Thank you for saving your brothers,” he whispered into the animal’s furry gray ears. While he petted Jacob, the other wolves made their way into the nursery. The sound of children laughing soon followed.


“To think you’re already a grandfather,” Caleb chuckled.


“I know, but please don’t remind Philip. Jacob’s children are about as fond of him as their father is.”


“Jacob is an extraordinary creature.”


“He is, indeed,” Jason agreed. Though now fully grown, Jacob’s fur was still as soft as when was a pup.


After bidding Caleb farewell, Jason went down the hall and knocked on a thick oak door. Slowly the door opened, revealing a pair of glowing white eyes. “Hello, Jason,” the Demon, Kyle, grinned on seeing the angel.


“And how are you?” Jason asked, as Kyle used his tail to draw Jason inside the bedroom.


“Oh, more than happy now that you’re here,” Kyle laughed.


“Is James here?”


“He’s in a meeting, with the other Field Marshals, discussing your security. I am sure he will be here soon,” Kyle said as he nuzzled against Jason’s right arm. “How are the babes… doing alright now?”


“The children are fine. Jacob and his pack caught the kidnappers before even one of them could touch my sons. Still, every worker in the palace is going to have to be questioned. That’s why I am asking Louis to come here to ferret out spies.”


“Yes, a most useful talent,” Kyle nodded. “Almost as useful as my tail.”


“You’re very proud of your tail, aren’t you?” Jason chuckled.


“I’m very proud of both of them,” Kyle laughed as he led Jason to the bed. “How’s Philip?”


“He is well. I keep him busy seeing to the rebuilding of the Western Centurion Army.


“But he still doesn’t know anything about us, or I should say that you had James.”


“Do you think it would be wise for me to tell him?”


“Of course not… still, I’m surprised he hasn’t figured it out on his own. After all the time you spend with James and me, he should be a little suspicious.”


“Philip sees what he wants to see. It is not like I don’t still love him. He remains at the center of my heart.”


“Of course… it’s just that you need something more than a slut for a husband.”


“Philip is not a slut… a whore maybe.” Jason chuckled as he collapsed on top of Kyle. “To be honest, I’m surprised you’re taking things so well.”


“Two angels are better than one,” Kyle replied as he embraced Jason tightly. “Anyway, I get the best of both worlds… you and Philip.”


“Philip does love his imp,” Jason agreed.


“I wish I never got that nickname.”




“I hate being the smallest of the four of us.”


“But that’s what makes you so cute,” Jason insisted.


“I’m a demon. I’m not supposed to be cute.” Kyle whined.


“But you are.”


“Well maybe. It doesn’t seem so bad when you say it.”


“And what about James?”


“Let me worry about James,” Kyle whispered as Jason nuzzled against him. “By the Mother, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you two.”


“Do you want me to leave?” Jason asked in a pained tone.


“Of course not. I just worry about Philip. Not too much, mind you. It’s not like he ever spends a night alone.”


“He has his lovers, and I have mine,” Jason agreed.


“Philip doesn’t know about us though, does he?”


“He knows we sleep together. Anyway its’ not like he’s introduced me to all his lovers.”


“That’s because he has too many to count.” Kyle laughed, not able to hold back feeling a rush of joy from Jason’s caresses.


“If only James would warm up to Philip, things wouldn’t be so awkward.” Jason sighed as he rolled off Kyle.


“You know why he doesn’t like him? James hates the way Philip treats you.”


“He doesn’t treat me badly.”


“He takes you for granted.”


“I’m the rock he leans on.”


“As another man sucks him off,” Kyle grumbled. “You could have done a lot better than him.”


“I could have had Alex,” Jason whispered.


“Do you ever regret that?”


“Sometimes… when I wake up to fine Philip missing from our bed. When I have enough time to think about it, however, I know Alex would have never accepted you or James or even Varrus. I would have been his property.”


“You could have leashed him.”


“That would have destroyed everything. At least Philip recognizes the fact that I am a king and must be free to rule. In Alex’s eyes, I remain forever a helpless Legatio in need of guidance and instruction.”


“At least you would have his love.”


“I have Philip’s love, but he is a man, worse a Demon. He is a creature of passion. It is my failing that I cannot join him in his pursuits.”


“I would hope not… I’ve been inside the den Philip’s spawn have made their home. Some of what they do even frightens me, and I’m a demon too.”


“Then, where do you sate your passions?”


“I have James and, if I can be so bold, you. I also have my own Spawn, but I was not born a Centurion nor am I quite the Demon Philip is. I know you still love the fool, even as you find comfort in the arms of my angel. I just wonder what Philip would do, if he knew the truth.”


“He would be angry, mostly at himself, but also at me for hiding things from him. Right now, the truth can only hurt him and send him into despair. I have enough problems keeping this new empire together. I don’t have time to worry about a moping Demon. He knows I love him, that’s all that matters. I’m just glad he tolerates me loving you and the others as well.”


“That’s only because he doesn’t know how much you love us.” Kyle sighed as he brushed his clawed hands over Jason’s feathery wings.














Chapter Two: More Than a Bargain



“Lord Field Marshal, I welcome you to my home.” The thirty-nine-year old Centurion officer bowed.


“I’ve come because I’ve heard you’re expecting a birthday soon, Commander Ravit.”


“Aye, my fortieth, which, I guess, is why you are here.”


“Aye, unless you would like me to leave?” Philip chuckled as he wet his black lips.


“No, please come in,” the Centurion said, stepping back inside the courtyard of his house. Gathered there were a half dozen Famulus servants.

“Is this your entire household?”


“It is, my lord… my gift to you if you will save my life.”


“Very generous of you. Of course, once you enter your new life, all this will become unimportant to you.”


“I understand,” Ravit nodded nervously.


“You do shame yourself commander. You are afraid.” Philip purred as he used his claws to cut away the Centurion’s white tunic, letting it fall to the stone floor.


Turning around, Ravit revealed the scars on his back where his marks had been removed. “I’m not an innocent man,” he whispered.


“Like almost every member of the Home Guard. Yet you must not have killed any Legatio, or you would not have asked for me.”


“I killed Legatio in the name of the false emperor, but I never consumed their anima. This I swear.”


“Of course not… you were too unimportant to receive such a foul gift. Yet, there is blood on your hands, so a price must be paid,” Philip said as he eyed a female servant.


“Name it, Field Marshal, and it is yours.”


“I love children, did you know that commander? And not in the way the sour look on your face proves you believe. My emperor has five children, as you should well know, and each one gives me great joy to watch. While I love each of Jason’s children, a pain has entered my heart, for I cannot have children of my own.” Philip paused, for a brief moment, before continuing. “I should say that I should not have any children, for my seed is a maddening poison. Any woman or man I might lie with, be they not Saint or Spawn, would go insane if he or she spent too many nights with me. I thought I could endure such a burden, but with each child Jason has fathered, I find the pain of my jealousy grows.”


“Is it a woman you desire, Lord Field Marshal? My household has three.”


“So I have noticed, but I am no rapist. Any woman who comes to my bed must come willingly, and know the consequences of our union. I will not have someone unwilling be the mother of my child.”


“But who would willingly agree to fall into madness?” the commander whispered.


“You must find me such a woman, and a place where I might keep her until the child is born.”


“And then…”


“And then I will take her as one of my Spawn. I must have the child first, however, for as you know it is folly for any woman to taste a man’s anima.”


“Aye, such tales have long been favored as tragic comedies among the Legatio poets.”


“This union must also be kept from Jason as well… at least until the child is born.”


“I believe I can find such a woman, Lord Field Marshal. I must warn you, she will not be a woman of quality like you would find among the wives of the Legatio.”


“I know what kind of woman would be willing to mate with me… a harlot, a slutty whore who would see past my demonic features to the passions of my sexual hunger.”


“Then I will see such a woman delivered to you. We can keep her here in my house,” Commander Ravit promised.


“See that it’s done before your fortieth birthday, commander, or it will be too late for you,” Philip warned before leaving.




“Well?” Jason asked, sitting on his golden throne in the grand imperial throne room, the ambassadors of several nations joining him.


“This is the only one we managed to capture alive,” James, Field Marshal of the Home Guard, said, Philip by his side. “Each of the kidnappers carried with them a poison pill, which all but this one used before we could capture them.”


“I see, yet you bonded to him,” Jason remarked, examining the man’s pale skin and glowing blue eyes, proof that he had received the anima of a Saint.


“I felt that is what you would want of me, your majesty. How better to get to the truth of the matter, unless I were to leave the issue of the man’s questioning to Philip and his spawn?” James asked, not hiding his distaste.


“This man tried to kidnap a prince of the Empire. Are you saying he didn’t deserve my tender treatment?” Philip demanded with a growl.


“I must agree with Philip. This kidnapper did not deserve your blessing, James. I therefore thank you for sparing me the choice. Tell me now, what have you learned from your newest Disciple.”


“Much,” James replied, giving Philip a satisfied grin. “He is not what we first assumed. Though he is of Jadoorian blood, that is not where his adventure began. Nor was he following King Aidan’s orders when he entered the Empire.”


“Then who commanded him to try to steal my sons?”


“Emperor Calis of Lahore,” James said, causing the gathered Legatio and ambassadors to whisper in shock.


“Emperor Calis is still quite young. How can he give such an order?”


“He can because, though he is still young, he has grown into adulthood from the anima his priests are secretly purchasing from the false emperor, Xavier.”


“Xavier sold anima to Lahore? Do his crimes have no limit?” Philip hissed.


“Why would the priests of Lahore do such a thing? From what little we know of their history, the priesthood prefers their emperors weak. Also, how did they get their hands on a Jadoorian to do the deed for them?” Jason demanded.


“Because this Jadoorian was once an Inquisitor. After his fall from power, High Inquisitor Warren fled Jadoor, across the Desert of Flames. There, he brought word of the rise of Angels and Demons in our lands. It seems the Lahorians share our belief that the coming of our kind signals the end of times. They believe we are the final enemy preventing them from entering the kingdom of heaven. They are, therefore, preparing to make war on us. While the priests of Lahore pull the emperor’s strings, Lahore’s armies will only follow the commands of their emperor. That is why Warren suggested to them that they acquire stolen anima from Xavier, to shorten the time for when Calis will have the strength and power to make war on the West.”


“So it was my son’s anima Lahore was after?” Jason said, his temper rising.


“No, your majesty. To make war on the West, the priests and Calis need a justified reason. By kidnapping your son, they hoped to declare him the rightful emperor of Domus. They could then come as an army of liberation, to free the West of you,” James explained


“I see, luckily they failed,” Jason sighed.


“For now at least, for you can be sure they will try again,” Philip replied.


“Then we must give them reason not to. Isn’t that correct, Ambassador Toran?” Jason said, eying the Ambassador of Isil.


“Every man in the kingdom now stands watch over the Desert of Flames. What more can you ask of us?”


“I beg your pardon, your Majesty, but the Jadoorian kidnappers did not enter the West through Isil. They came through Huron, taking the longer rout in order to escape the eyes of Isilian patrols,” James interjected.


“That puts us in a difficult spot. We can’t patrol our entire eastern border,” Philip said.


“Then security around the capital must be improved.”


“Security, here in Domus, is as tight as I can make it without overburdening the Famulus,” James replied.


“Then what would you have me do? They tried to kidnap my son, and turn him against me.” Jason pounded a fist against his cold throne.


“I suggest we follow the plan we already agreed to. Jacob and his kin protected the children once. I do not see why they should fail on a second attempt. When King Louis arrives, he and Geoff can begin questioning the palace staff to find out how it was that these Jadoorians snuck into the palace. Until we know more, I suggest you and the imperial family remain here in the palace,” James said.


“The new Senate opens tomorrow. I have to be there,” Jason insisted.


“And you will be, but under heavy guard. I also recommend closing the Senate Plaza to everyone who doesn’t have a pass for the event,” Philip replied.


“Very well, see to the arrangements. What is next on the agenda?”


“That would be me, your majesty,“ the Isilian Ambassador said, raising a nervous hand. “There is the matter of the terms of the treaty we both agreed to, recognizing you as Overking of the East.”


“Three legions of Centurions from the Eastern Army will join you in the defense of your nation against Lahorian raiders.”


“That we have no doubt. It is the issue of your selection of your next consort.”


“I am certain Celia would be more interested in marrying one of her own people.”


“Then you do not know our Celia… as King Arkridge's only child, she must marry and have a child soon to prevent instability in our kingdom. This presents her with two choices… marry one of her father’s generals, a group made up of tired old men whose white beards are taller than your sons, or marry you, the Overking of the East.”


“And she’s insisting on me?” Jason asked skeptically.


“She is practically pleading that you summon her to the imperial court, your majesty, anything to escape marrying a man who’s old enough to be her grandfather.”


“You do understand there are other kingdoms asking that I take one of their own for my next consort.”


“I do, but given your relationship to Princess Celia’s mother, I thought…”


“Well, you thought wrong. There are several things I’m not looking forward to, one of them being telling Celia how her mother died. As Melissa practically raised me, I see that I have no choice but to grant her request. I will send an escort of six of my Saints to her… shall we say rescue?” Jason chuckled.


“Most gracious of your majesty.” The Isilian ambassador bowed.


“If that is all of today’s business, I need to see that I leave all remaining matters in the hands of my Field Marshals,” Jason said as he stood up from the throne. Going through a side exit, he made his way to his personal quarters and then to the nursery where his children were already up and about.































Chapter Three: Parenthood


“Papa,” the three oldest boys shouted as Jason entered the room.


“And how is my favorite threesome?” Jason asked as each child grabbed him by his legs.


“Papa, can we ride Jacob?” Ben asked.


“If he will let you.” Jason chuckled as the three boys ran over to the giant wolf. Jacob was so big that all three were able to ride on him as he carried them around the large nursery. After giving the children a long ride, Jacob laid down, letting the three climb off. The wolf then went over to Jason and tackled him, his tongue giving Jason a face bath. “You crazy wolf,” Jason said, as Jacob sat on top of him proudly.


“Mind if I interrupt?” Philip asked from the doorway.


“Why interrupt, when you can join in?” Jason replied, as the three boys ran to their Uncle Philip, surround him with their hugs.


“And how are you Ben?” Philip asked, picking the five-year-old up into his arms.


“Practicing my growl,” Ben replied, demonstrating his cat like purr, sounding more like a kitten than a lion.


“Keep on practicing,” Philip laughed, as he went to pick Patrick up. “And how are you, my prince?”


“I am well, Lord Field Marshal, though Ben beat me again.”


“Did he now?” Philip said eyeing the Forstine prince.


“He’s getting better,” Benjamin insisted.


“Why don’t you two get your practice staves and show me what you’ve learned so far?” Philip said, putting Patrick down. “And what of you, Prince Gavin?”


“I’m too small to play Centurion, or so papa says.”


“Wait a few more years,” Jason said, ruffling the boy’s fair hair.


“Well, luckily your papa isn’t too small to play with me… though he once was.”


“Papa be too small for you?” Gavin asked, looking at his towering father with confusion.


“Once I was smaller than you, Gavin.”


“See what you get to look forward to when you get bigger?” Philip said giving Jason a wink.


“You devil,” Jason laughed, as Philip pulled him closer with his tail.


The princes’ practice staves were a pair of thin sticks covered with cloth and stuffed with a good two inches of wool to soften their blows. While Ben and Patrick sparred against each other, Philip led his lover to an overstuffed chair and placed the Emperor firmly in his lap. “Amazing, aren’t they?” he whispered into Jason’s ear.


“I’ve always thought so,” Jason sighed, as he allowed himself to relax in Philip’s massive arms.


“Makes me wish we had the chance to experience the same thing… you know grow up together.”


“That would have solved a few of our problems.” Jason sighed.


“Problems?” Philip asked confused.


“Never mind.”


“You think I’m still too pushy, don’t you?”


“There are times you are,” Jason nodded.


“You also think I’m a big slut.”


“You saying you’re not?” Jason chuckled as Philip tickled his sides.


“Maybe I am both of those things, but you must admit I am a good father.”


“To all of us,” Jason nodded, leaning back so his head could rest against Philip’s.


“I wish I could be a father… a real one.”


“But you are.”


“I’m your children’s uncle. They’re not of my blood, though I do not love them any less for it. I just wish…”


“I know Philip, but some things must remain out of reach, even for you. No one gets their way all the time. It wouldn’t be fair to the woman if you were to have a child with her, only for her to be driven mad by the experience.”


“But wouldn’t it be grand for a son of Helios and a son of Argot to meet and fall in love?”


“Well since my children are already born, that would make them the older man. Quite a reversal don’t you think?”


“Uncle Philip?” Ben asked interrupting the two.


“Yes nephew?” Philip grinned, showing off his sharp teeth.


“Will I grow to be as strong as you?”


“Why would you want that?”


“So I can protect my brothers,” Ben replied, wrapping an arm around Patrick’ shoulders.


“Why? I’m going to be the one to protect you.” Patrick insisted.


“But…” Ben protested his face frowning.


“You two will protect each other,” Jason replied.


“Why, you don’t have to protect Philip?” Benjamin replied.


“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Philip chuckled. “If anything, your father protects me more than I do him, at least where it comes to me doing something stupid.”


“Papa’s smarter than you?” Ben said surprised.


“Your father might be a little naïve, but he’s always been smarter than me,” Philip said, embracing Jason tightly.


“I just don’t reach for a sword whenever a problem arises,” Jason replied.


“Reaching for one’s sword is what a Centurion does best,” Philip winked.


“Later,” Jason replied as he slipped out of Philip’s arms.


“Soon,” Philip grinned, brushing Jason’s face with his tail.


“You heard your uncle… I have business to attend to,” Jason said, as he gave each of his children a parting hug.


“When will you be back?” Gavin asked.


“After your lessons, and again at bedtime.”


“Will you read to us again?”


“Don’t I always?” Jason said, kissing the top of Gavin’s head. “You watch over them until I get back, Jacob.” he said as he prepared to leave. Jacob stood on his hind legs to give Jason a parting lick on his face.


“So where are they?” Jason asked as he and Philip headed for their bedroom, hand in hand.


“Two are standing outside your window, pretending to be a pair of gargoyles, while another four are just outside your quarters.”


“You would think Jacob and his children would be enough protection.”


“Not for me… Jacob might not be into eating little boys but I don’t know if I trust his pups.”


“Trust me. His children won’t hurt my sons… they belong to the pack as much as I do.”


“And what about me?”


“You’re the lone wolf Jacob is worried about.” Jason laughed as they entered their bedroom, Philip locking and barring the door. “Plan on keeping me prisoner, are you?”


“Now that I have you to myself, I’m not going to let you get away so easily.” Philip grinned, as he began unbuttoning his black silk shirt.


“You can have me anytime you want,” Jason replied as he crawled on top of the bed.


“If it were only so. Both of us seem to have run into the same problem.”


“What’s that?”


“A shortage of time.”


“I could always pass a law adding more hours to the day.”


“I wish you had not placed me in charge of rebuilding the Western Army. You don’t know how hard it is to assemble twenty legions from scratch.”


“From what I’ve been told, you’re doing a wonderful job,” Jason replied as Philip removed his boots, before kicking off his pants. “You’ve already put together six new legions in only five years.”


“But I’m having to take fresh graduates from both Academies, and make them commanders and lieutenants, without letting them have much of a chance to gain real battle experience.”


“We’re not at war with anyone.”


“Yet,” Philip replied as he lay down next to his lover. “It’s only a matter of time before we are forced into a war with Jadoor. I just hope the Western Army will be ready when the time comes.”


“So do I,” Jason sighed as Philip skillfully undressed him. “James is building a new fleet as fast as he can.”


“This goes against our treaty with Jadoor.”


“That treaty was signed by Xavier, and is not worth the ink it was written with,” Jason replied heatedly.


“I agree, but if King Aidan learns we have already broken the treaty he might use it as an excuse to go to war before we are ready.”


“The new Imperial Fleet is being built in Tal Sith and Forstine, and has done much to help rebuild both kingdoms’ economies. Aidan can send as many spies as he wishes to Aquanos; he will find very few warships there.”


“Yes, sending the work to the other kingdoms was a brilliant idea, but it doesn’t change the fact that both kingdoms have sworn fealty to the Empire, and to you. Technically, they might be considered independent, but Aidan wouldn’t be wrong in labeling the fleets there as a part of our own.”


“Very soon matters will get worse. I’ve not told you this, but James has been in contact with the king of Fu Dor, down in the Southern Isles. Fu Dor, as you know, is the main port where most of Jadoor and our own traders buy silk and spices. It is the most profitable trade rout in all of Ares.”


“What is James trying to do?”


“He is trying to form an alliance with the King of Fu Dor that will give the Empire exclusive trading rights, cutting out Jadoor and the rest of the Federation. That would prove disastrous for them for, without their profits, the merchants of Jadoor’s Guild will soon be unable to pay King Aidan’s high taxes. Without taxes, Jadoor cannot pay their armies. Without his armies, Aidan cannot go to war against us. ”


“But he will… the moment trade with Fu Dor is cut off.”


“If he does, he will have to sue for peace as soon as his treasury is emptied. After the last war, Jadoor’s economy was nearly destroyed by its cost. Even now, they have not fully recovered.”


“You have really thought this out, haven’t you? Why have you kept it a secret from me, though?”


“Because I am going to have to leave you again, for a time. For the treaty between with Fu Dor to have any value, I must make an appearance before King Ran Boro to show I value him as an equal.”


“You are no one’s equal,” Philip said, as removed Jason’s white and silver robe, leaving him only in his white loincloth.


“Says you,” Jason laughed. “Anyway, the Fu Dor is a very superstitious country. If I were to appear with you by my side, it might scare them.”


“Am I really so terrifying?”


“Not to me, but others see you as such,” Jason said, as he rolled onto his side. “Kyle will also be staying behind, so you will not be completely alone.”


“Who will command the Home Guard while you two are gone?”


“Varrus, with Louis’ help. Together, the two can ferret out almost any plot against the Empire.”


“And what if Jadoor declares war against us in your absence?”


“Then I have misjudged Aidan’s ability to see reason, and will need you to come to my rescue. If Aidan learns where I am, he will send his entire armada south to prevent my return,” Jason said, laughing in the hope of easing the worried look on his lover’s face.


“How many ships will you be taking with you?


“Twenty warships, and thirty merchant vessels. I will also be taking fifty of my Saints with me, including Geoff. He thinks I’m more fun when we go off on these little adventures.”


“I think it would be best if you were to allow me to go, as well,” Philip replied.


“I need you here, Philip. Personally, I don’t want to go because it will upset the children, but they are too young for me to take them with me. You are their uncle, and they look up to you. Together, you and Amanda should be able to care for them while I’m away. Oh no…” Jason then sighed, looking at the open door. Standing there, with his ears pulled back in submission, was Jacob. “It seems we have a spy.”




Chapter Four: The Change



“That mangy mutt,” Philip growled, as he threw one of the bed’s many pillows at the wolf.


“Stop that Philip. He’s upset,” Jason said, rolling Philip off him so he could crawl to the foot of the bed. “There, there, Jacob. I thought you would want to stay with the children.” Letting out a soft whimper, Jacob rested his head on the edge of the bed, looking up at Jason with sad blue eyes. “Since Geoff is coming with me, I really do need you to watch your brothers.”


When Jacob whimpered again, Jason reached over and began scratching him behind his eyes. “It’s almost time, isn’t it?” Jason whispered sadly.


“Time for what?” Philip demanded, angry that Jacob was once again ruining what had been a pleasant moment.


“Time for change,” Jason said softly. “My poor, poor Jacob.”


“I do not understand a word you’re saying.”


“Get a heart, Philip,” Jason said as Jacob jumped on the bed. “Jacob was never meant to be only a wolf, forever.”


“What do you mean?” Philip said, swatting Jacob’s tail as it hit him in the face, triggering a powerful sneeze.


“Jacob is growing up, that’s all. He’s afraid I won’t like him afterwards.”


“Well I don’t like him the way he is now,” Philip replied, Jacob growling at him in response.


“There, there, everything will be alright,” Jason said, patting Jacob on the back. “I will love you, no matter how you turn out. I did the same with Philip, didn’t I?”


“Hey!” Philip protested.


“Well didn’t I, my demon?” Jason asked his lover.


“Yes, but…” Philip was about to protest more, but was cut off by Jason.


“You two make nice. By the time I come back, I expect you to be on better terms with each other.”


“Maybe if you were to muzzle him,” Philip suggested, only to get pounced upon by the wolf as soon as his mouth closed.


“You two have fun,” Jason sighed, as he left the bed, slipping his robes back on. Going back to the nursery, he saw that Amanda was busy teaching the children their letters.


“Ah, Jason, you’re just in time, Gavin is going to recite the alphabet for us.” Amanda smiled.


“Good,” Jason said. As soon as he sat down, both Ben and Patrick were attempting to climb into his lap. “Most impressive,” Jason said, once Gavin was done.”


“I can recite it backwards,” Ben boasted.


“But, can you pronounce it backwards?” Jason asked, causing a confused look to grow on the Prince’s face. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to.”


“I was going to try,” Ben insisted, looking up at his adopted father, searching for approval. Seeing Jason smiling down at him, he relaxed.


“So, what brings you here to visit us?” Amanda asked as she wiped a long chalkboard clean.


“I’m afraid I have bad news. Jacob is going to be sick for a while, so he won’t be able to visit.”


“Is he going to die?” Patrick asked with wide blue eyes.


“No, he’s not going to die. He’s going to grow up.”


“Will he be as big as you, papa?” Gavin asked.


“He is already larger than I,” Jason laughed. “Have you three ever heard stories about werewolves?”


“Jason, you’re going to give them nightmares.” Amanda scolded.


“You three aren’t scared of Jacob are you?” Jason asked.


“Jacob is our friend. He protects us,” Ben insisted.


“And he will continue to protect you, once he’s better,” Jason replied.


“What is a werewolf?” Gavin asked.


“A werewolf is a creature that can change shape. Jacob is just reaching the age when he will be able to do that.”


“What will he turn into?” Patrick asked.


“I really don’t know. He will look more human, that’s for sure, but he still might look very much like a wolf and, if we’re lucky, he’ll be able to talk to us.”


“But he does talk to us,” Patrick replied.


“In your dreams, but there is a chance he will learn how to talk people-talk,” Jason replied, enjoying the look of wonder growing in the three boys’ eyes.


“Can we see Jacob, just to make sure he’s alright?” Ben asked.


“Of course, he’s in the bedroom,” Jason said. Ben and Patrick jumped off his lap and ran for the nursery door, three of Jacob’s children following after them down the hall.


“Is what you said true?” Amanda asked, as she lifted one of the twins out of his crib.


“Yes, Jacob and I have known this day would come for a long time. It is his destiny.”


“Then I don’t know whether I want such a monster around the children.”


“Jacob is not a monster, and he’s as much a part of our family as our other sons.”


“Our other sons… you can’t mean you see Jacob as if he were one of your children?”


“But he is… he was born differently, but he is of my blood. That makes him my son, no matter how he appears on the outside.”


“And here I thought your wolf looked upon you as a mate.” Amanda laughed as she handed the baby over to Jason.


“No, Jacob is a concerned son, who thinks I could have done a lot better than Philip.”


“He might be right.”


“Oh, Amanda, let’s not get into that again. Philip has his flaws, but I accept them.”


“Is that why you spend so much time with Lord James?”


“Philip is a wonderful man, maybe not the perfect husband, but he remains the man I love above all others. My relationship with Lord James is a different matter. No matter how much time passes, Philip will always feel the need to guide me. Add to that my ability to put a leash on him, and you can see we can never be true equals. With James, I can be on equal terms, just as I was with Alex and Gideon.”


“Losing those two really hurt you, didn’t it?” Amanda asked in a sympathetic tone.


“They were my first true friends, and I lost them both,” Jason sighed.


“But James is so much older than you.”


“Yet, we are both Angels, so age doesn’t really matter to us. When we first met, we were rulers of our own kingdoms and we saw each other as equals. When Philip first saw me, I was half starved and wearing a dress. I was a disaster in much need of guidance. As I’ve come to understand, first impressions are almost impossible to change.


“Let’s have another baby,” Amanda said after a short silence.


“Another… I thought you had enough after giving birth to the twins,” Jason laughed.


“I know, but I curse you for having prodigious seed. I seem unable to have sex with you without becoming pregnant.”


“We could always try it the other way.” Jason said half jokingly, remembering the first time they had tried to make love, and the fool he had made of himself.


“No, one time was more than enough for me. You should be thankful I eventually forgave you, or we would have no children.”


“I did prove to be a quick learner, didn’t I?” Jason winked.


“Don’t look at me like that. I’ve only been able to wear my old dresses for a month, now.”


“You’re the one who brought up babies,” Jason pointed out.


“I know, but I do miss having you in my bed.”


“It seems everyone does,” Jason sighed.


“Maybe I should go with you on your journey south.”


“And leave the children without a mother, or father?”


“Most kings and queens don’t have time to raise their own children.”


“But I insist that at least one of us do so,” Jason replied sternly. “As soon as they are old enough to leave the nursery, I plan on having them join me in my study.”


“Ben is almost ready.”


“He is ready, but I would hate to pull him away from Gavin and Patrick. He feels very protective of them.”


“He is the eldest,” Amanda replied. Samuel is the same way with Louis and me.”


“So, when would you like me to visit your quarters?”


“Just sometime before you leave for Aquanos would be fine. I am sure Philip will be pressuring you to spend as much time as he can before you leave.”


“I half suspect he will try to follow me, no matter what I say.”


“You could always leash him to the palace.”


“You know I don’t enjoy doing that to him. I really do need him here, in case Jadoor takes advantage of my absence. But, if he really is so worried about me, I shouldn’t try to stop him from following.”


“Are you going to tell him that?”


“If I do, he won’t even bother chasing me down. He’ll be aboard my ship before I even reach Aquanos.”


“He does really love you, doesn’t he?”


“In his own way.”


“But not necessarily the way you want him to.”


“We both should know by now that no relationship is perfect.”


“I am happy with my choice,” Amanda said, as she rested her head on her husband’s shoulder.


“Though I can’t make you Empress.”


“I understand the politics behind it. If you were to make me Empress, it would only serve to endanger my own family. As your priestess, I am more than happy with the role you’ve given me. By the way, have you heard anything from Julian?”


“He has gone into the wilderness to spread the faith to the kingdoms of the Federation.”


“Very daring of him. Jadoorian priests are known to burn unbelievers.”


I couldn’t convince him to do otherwise. It shames me that he is so confident in me, while some days I’m almost too afraid to breathe.”


“You have the ‘sight.’ You know, better than anyone, the future that awaits us.”


“I know what will happen years from now, but if you ask me about today or tomorrow, I know nothing. At this moment in time, everything is a void to me.”


“For how long?”


“I do not know, only…”


“Yes, Jason?” Amanda said, hearing pain in his voice.


“Nothing, I shouldn’t worry you about it,” Jason said, letting a small smile form on his face. “Let’s put Adam and Lance to bed, and join our other children for dinner.”




Chapter Five: The Question


“…And the Prince reached the top of the tower and saw the sleeping princess. Sheathing his sword, he silently approached her, bent down on one knee and gave her true love’s kiss. Thereby, he broke the curse of the evil witch,” Jason said as he closed the book.


“Papa?” Ben yawned. He and his three brothers were snuggled together in Prince Patrick’s bed.


“Yes, my son.”


“Will I be rescuing a princess one day?”


“Maybe,” Jason chuckled softly.


“Can I be the princess then?” Gavin asked. “That witch scared me.”


“She scared me too, when I was your age,” Jason admitted.


“And did a prince rescue you?” Gavin asked.


“Yes, a prince rescued me.” Jason smiled, placing a kiss atop each boy’s forehead.


“Will you rescue me?” Gavin asked Benjamin.


“Of course,” Ben said, as he tried to kiss Gavin like in the stories.


“When both of you are older, the two of you can rescue each other as much as you want,” Jason said as he started blowing out the lantern by the bed.


“Papa?” Patrick whispered as his father started to leave.


“Yes son?”


“Will you rescue me?”


“Of course,” Jason said as he closed the bedroom door, leaving his children in the safe hands of four Winged Guards and a half dozen of Jacob’s children.


“Jason,” a rich voice whispered in the dimly lit hall.


“James,” Jason replied, a warm smile growing on his face. “How are things with the fleet?”


“Everything is ready. We can leave for Fu Dor any time you want.”


“Let’s wait. I need a few days to say my goodbyes.”


“How did Philip take the news?”


“About as well as can be expected. Do not be surprised if he decides to come running after us.”


“Sailing,” James corrected as he stepped into the light revealing his grinning face. “We will be at sea most of the time.”


“Whatever will we do?” Jason chuckled.


“We can spend weeks on end in our cabin. I can think of nothing more I would want than to spend eternity in bed with you.”


“You were always such a romantic.”


“Someone has to be… Philip’s idea of a pleasant evening is a long drawn out duel followed by an orgy in the baths.”


“That can be enjoyable, at times.” Jason winked.


“I’m going to make a sailor out of you yet.” James laughed.


“Just so long as you remember who you’re dealing with, Field Marshal,” Jason warned, half jokingly.


“No, I won’t forget, your majesty. Would you have me prove my loyalty?” James asked grabbing hold of the silver belt around Jason’s waist to pull him closer to him. “I would be more than happy to serve you on my knees.”


“Not here.” Jason jumped, feeling James reach to lift up his robe.


“Why not here… everyone is either busy or gone to bed,” James insisted as he pulled off Jason’s loincloth, letting it fall to the floor.


“Please, James,” Jason moaned as he felt his sex become engulfed by James’ warm mouth. “Please…” he whispered, as he felt himself being brought down to the floor.


“Of course,” James chuckled, as he spread his large wings before wrapping them around both their bodies. “I love you, you know.”


“I know,” Jason smiled.


“Enough to bond with me?”


“Maybe,” Jason whispered coyly.


“I’ve been asking for over five years now.”


“When we’re along on your ship, we just might…”


“We might? I’ll tie you to the mast if you think I’ll wait a moment longer.”


“I’m sure Kyle would be willing to help you do that,” Jason laughed.


“I’m sure he would, too. You know he’s incredibly fond of you.”


“And I’m very fond of him.”


“So… why don’t we hide him in the luggage and sneak him aboard. I’m sure I can talk him into it.”


“Put him in that sea chest of yours?”


“At least that’s all I’m taking. I saw Caleb packing for you. Do you really need to bring so much along?”


“I am the emperor. If I don’t’ look the part, no one will take me seriously.”


“Everyone here takes you seriously.”


“That’s because I have Philip standing behind him.”


“He can be intimidating, can’t he?”


“As fierce as a kitten,” Jason replied.


“With you, maybe, but I’ve seen him get into fights with his Centurion officers. Pretty bloody affairs, aren’t they?”


“It’s not just him… Centurions, in general, prefer fighting out their differences rather than talking. At least Philip doesn’t take their challenges seriously, or else they would be dead.”


“Your lover does enjoy the time he gets to spend in the arena.”


“He just likes knowing he is unbeatable. Sort of takes the fun out of the betting halls though.”


“Maybe I can change those odds, and challenge him myself. I wouldn’t mind being the arena champ.”


“So you say,” Jason said, in a warning tone. “I, however, know better than to challenge a true demon.”


“But you’re challenging him now, just by letting me wrap my arms around you.”


“I do not have to tell you how many men Philip has embraced.”


“I know, but does that make our love making just revenge, or…?”


“I said I love you.”


“But you also love Philip. Do you think he wouldn’t be hurt by what we do, regardless that he deserves it?”


“I don’t want to hurt Philip. That is why I haven’t bonded to you.”


“Yet… it is still my intention to court you into submission,” James laughed.


“So you’re not afraid of Philip?”


“Why should I be? He knows better than to harm me.”


“What are you saying?”


“I’m saying he already knows.”


“You told him!” Jason shouted as he tried to pull away.


“Of course not. Not even I am that bold. He can smell me on you, just as I can smell him. I’m so deeply in you, Jason, that you will never pull me out of you. For that is how deep you’re in me.” James cooed, as he touched Jason’s panicked face affectionately.


“James,” Jason sighed as their lips met. Soon he tasted the sweet, light flavor of James’ anima sliding into his mouth and down his throat, spreading deep warmth throughout his entire body.


“There, I’ve done it,” James whispered, a hint of surprise in his voice.


“James, you shouldn’t’ have,” Jason exhaled as he experienced an uplifting rapture.


“Oh, but I did, no matter what Philip might do to me.”


“But why?” Jason asked, as he felt his body begin to change.


“My visions said I had to,” James said as he started kissing his way down Jason’s body. “I think you know the power they can have over us.”


“But Philip…” Jason said, breathing deeply as his snow-white wings turned a glimmering silver with fringes of brightest gold.


“Now, now you are complete, my most precious angel.” James laughed before burying his face against Jason’s manhood, letting the hardening sex slip inside his mouth. When he took a break to catch his breath, the Field Marshal had a silly grin on his face. “Can you feel it now? Can you feel how deep I’m inside you, my angel?”


“Yes,” Jason whimpered in ecstasy.


“I love you, my angel, and I will never let anyone hurt you, not even Philip,” James swore, before passion overcame them both. Outside the cocoon of their wings, a demon wept.





















Chapter Six: Debate



“Philip,” Jason whispered as he entered their bedroom, His demon was looking out the large, marble framed windows at the moon.


“You never answered James’ question. Is what you have with him true love, or your attempt to get back at me?” Philip whispered.


“I never wanted you to get hurt.”


“That is not an answer,” Philip growled softly.


“Very well then. Are you not a husband?” Jason said sharply.


“Are you divorcing me?”


“No,” Jason said heatedly. “Look at us, Philip. What kind of relationship is this, where both of us find the need to sneak around?”


“Do you not love me?”


“Of course I love you, but I’m tired of you making a fool out of me.”


“It seems it is I who is the fool,” Philip grunted. “Thinking a Legatio could ever love a Centurion.”


“Philip, I just said I love you.”


“But it wasn’t enough,” Philip replied, turning around to face Jason, his white eyes burning.


“But I want it to be. I want to be able to depend on you, but I can’t, not with you sleeping around like a whore. Philip, don’t you understand. You can’t hide anything from me!”


“Why, you’ve been spying on me? You can’t trust me?”


“The bond Philip… remember, we are bonded. Every time you sleep with another person I feel it.”


“Then you should enjoy it.”


“But I don’t. How can I, knowing how meaningless sex is to you? All you care about is the pure physical pleasure of it, not the love. How do you think I feel when you touch me, knowing with how many men you’ve done the same? Do you know what it does to our lovemaking? How can it mean anything, when it is so meaningless to you?”


“And you think it means more for James?”


“Look at me, Philip… could he have done this to me without love,” Jason said, extending his wings and filling the room with a brilliant light that made Philip’s glowing eyes appear dim.


Stunned by Jason’s aura, Philip sank down to his knees and covered himself with his wings to hide from the light as he wept. “For… forgive me. I don’t deserve you.”



“Philip, I do love you, but this foolishness has to stop. You are not a Centurion anymore; you’re my Demon, my husband, my bond-mate. Can’t we be enough for each other?”


“You will let Centurions die, when they don’t need to?”


“Of course not, but I didn’t save the Empire so it can become overwhelmed by your spawn. Fate is something not so easily escaped. That is true of the Centurions, as well. Not all of them can become your Spawn, or even one of my Saints.”


“I do not know if you will be enough for me. When I see a man…”


“You see another person waiting to be conquered,” Jason chuckled as he slowly folded his wings, letting the light dim. “I understand, Philip. If it could be so, you would keep me tied to our bed in an eternal act of love making.”


“That actually sounds quite nice.” Philip chuckled softly as he let his wings fall back behind him.


“But it can’t be that way, Philip… at least not for a long time,“ Jason said as he walked slowly to his lover.


“Then what can we do to make things right between us?”


“You can start by promising you will never sneak out of our bed, ever again… unless there is a true emergency of course.”


“Of course,” Philip nodded with a grin on his face.


“Don’t give me that look, Philip,” Jason whispered. “You make it sound as if it will be so easy for you, but we both know it won’t be.”



“I will try,” Philip insisted as he stood back up.


“Promise me you will do more than try.”


“You could always leash me to the bed,” Philip offered.


“But I don’t want to. It is not right that I have to leash you as much as I do now. Do not force me into turning it into a nightly event.”


“It would be the simplest solution.”


“It would also earn me your resentment, something I do not want.”


Biting his lower lip, Philip crossed his arms over his broad chest. “Then what do you suggest?”


“You can start by making it a habit to wear some real clothes, for a change. I’m not saying that I don’t like being able to see you half naked, most of the time. It’s just that I’m tired of all the other men having that same pleasure, as well.”


“Jealousy,” Philip chuckled.


“As your husband, only I have the right to give you a lustful look.”


“Really? So what about the thousands of Centurions whose mouths fall open every time you show yourself to them?”


“I am their Emperor, so it is to be expected.”


“But it is not, for a Field Marshal?” Philip chuckled.


“That is the difference between you and me… when someone gives me that certain look, I take is as flattery. You, on the other hand, see it as a challenge.”


“I like challenges,” Philip grinned, as he wrapped his arms around Jason. The anger he had sensed through their bond was now wonderfully gone.


“Then you will accept my challenge to not leave our quarters without a full set of clothes and, if possible, heavy armor.”


“Heavy armor?” Philip pouted, his nose wrinkling. “Do you know how difficult is it to get out of?”


“Exactly why I want you wearing it.” Jason laughed as Philip lifted him up off the floor. “I’m hoping that if it takes you an hour, each time you undress, you will be less willing to do so every time the opportunity arises.”


“Like now?” Philip grinned, his body rising on its own.


“Seriously, Philip,” Jason admonished, as his Demon spun him around.


“I am being serious. Very well. I won’t leave the bedroom without being in full dress armor. I hope you can stand the smell.”


“You can bathe.”


“And what about you? What promise are you going to make me?”


“What is it you want from me?”


“James,” Philip growled.


“You wish that I not see him anymore?”


“No of course not. You are right about me… I do enjoy sex, just for the pleasure of it… except when it comes to you. You were wrong to suspect that. What you also don’t know, is that I also know when you are making love to another person… even Amanda. I was mistaken, however, in thinking my sexual acts give you the same pleasure as your lovemaking gives me. The moment James bonded to you, I had to hunt you down. After all the pleasure the admiral was giving you, I didn’t want to be left out. It was when James’ bond to you became stronger that I learned my danger, for his bond is one that can, possibly, challenge my own.”


“That will never happen.”


“It could, if I don’t change my ways. Still, having felt James’ love for you, I am not the sort of man to deny it to you. All I ask, is you try to convince James to share a little of his love with me, as well.”


“That might be difficult, for he is not overly fond of you.”


“Which is a mistake, I must say. After all, we are both Field Marshals. Would it not be in the best interest of the Empire, if the two of us got along better?”


“Philip… I ask you for some sign of fidelity, and you ask permission to sleep with another angel.”


“You didn’t ask my permission.”


“You didn’t ask mine when you made it your goal to sleep with every Centurion before he reaches his fortieth birthday.”



“True, but promise me you will try.”


“Very well, but let it go unsaid that I didn’t try to warn you,” Jason laughed, as he was lowered down on their bed.


“Now, about this trip of yours down to the Southern Isles…is it a purely diplomatic mission? Or is it how you two plan to celebrate your bonding?”


“You can’t come, if that’s what you’re hinting at.”


“But why?” Philip growled.


“For the good of the Empire.” Jason laughed. “We can’t both leave Domus. That would leave only Marcus, and he’s busy fighting the remains of the rebellion in Huron.”


“You are willing to trust the entire Empire to me?” Philip laughed, as he climbed on top of his lover.


“I’m willing to let Varrus keep an eye on you.”


“Not to mention entertained.”


“I’m leaving that job for Kyle,” Jason replied.


“You’re leaving me the imp? You think you can trust the two of us?”


“Can you trust James and me?”


“It seems I have little choice.” Philip growled as he licked his lips. “When will you be leaving?”


“As soon as Varrus is installed as Speaker of the Senate.”


“That won’t be for another three days. Very well, you can have your honeymoon with James, but for the next three days you’re mine.”


“And what is it you wish from me?”


“That you don’t leave this bed until I let you.”


“What about the children?”


“I’ll tell them you’re sick, and need to stay in bed. At the very least, I hope to make you too tired to leave,” Philip promised before running his tongue over Jason’s neck, and up his chin until their lips met.


“You forgive me?” Jason whispered as Philip continued to make love to him.


“You were willing to forgive me, or would you rather we duel over it?”


“I accept your forgiveness,” Jason smiled.


“Do you accept that I’m flawed?”


“It’s not like the stories, is it?” Jason replied, a hint of sadness in his voice.


“What do you mean?”


“Like the Prince of Ralsat. He had no flaws, and got his happy ending.”


“We might still get our happy ending.”


“Not for a long time.”


“But we’ll get there,” Philip insisted, stopping anymore protests from Jason with a kiss.
































Chapter Seven: Lover’s Return


“Lord Varrus,” Jason said from his bed, an exhausted tone to his voice.


“I heard Philip was keeping you prisoner here. I hope he has not worn you out too badly,” Jason’s mentor chuckled.


“How are things in Qul Tos?”


“They are well, given the circumstances. You’re people miss you terribly, yet they are also immensely proud of you. As far as they care, you are still their king.”


“What of Louis?”


“Oh, he’s serving well enough, keeping your religious followers on a tight leash. As for the new capital on Doro Island, the land has been cleared and the foundations laid. Still, it will be a good ten years before you will be able to move the government there… if that’s what you still want to do?”


“It would help end the unease the East feels about being ruled from Domus,” Jason replied.


“That it would. Qul Hoth is also being rebuilt, though you would not recognize it with its thick walls and protected port. It’s a military city now. We both see the irony in that, given its history.”


“And what of you, Varrus? Have you found any joy in the task I set for you.”


“Making me the head of the Senate… sounds more like a punishment than anything else. Still, I understand why you did it. You needed someone you could trust and I must say that I did an excellent job as your High Chancellor.”


“Yes, that is why you will make an excellent Speaker.”


“To be honest, I don’t see why you are forming a new Senate. You have arranged things so well that they’ll never be able to pass a law without your full support. Even if they try, I can always veto it.”


“Sometimes the appearance of democracy serves as well as the real thing. In the Senate, the different factions well be free to express their concerns.”


“They will also be too busy fighting each other to really oppose you,” Varrus laughed.


“At least in the beginning. One day, I hope I will be able to trust the fate of the Empire to them, but not until they can see past their own selfish desires…”


“Jason, Jason, Jason, you need not justify your actions with me. I whole heartily agree. The politicians can’t be trusted to do what’s in the best interest of the Empire. I will do my duty as Speaker, and keep them from getting in your hair. You’d just better keep your promise and not avoid me, as you have these past five years.”


“I have missed you, Varrus.”


“And I you but, unlike you, I didn’t have such a fine replacement as Field Marshal James. I see by your wings that the two of you have bonded.”


“He has bonded to me, but I have yet to do the same to him. I was planning on waiting until after we reach Fu Dor.”


“And Philip is fine with this?”


“We’ve both have made mistakes. He promises to behave himself as long as I don’t try to keep any more secrets from him.”


“But you are still keeping secrets from him, aren’t you.”


“None of the romantic nature,” Jason said defensively.


“But your visions… you still keep those from him,” Varrus said knowingly.


“If I told him, he would not give me the freedom I still enjoy.”


“And is freedom so important to you?”


“There are things I must see to before my time is up. The truth would only serve to hurt and worry Philip. The very least I can do, is spare him that pain. Isn’t that what you and he were doing, when you kept the fact that he will die while I will not?”


“He will not die, but merely sleep.”


“What use is a sleeping Demon to me?” Jason asked jokingly.


“I couldn’t agree more,” Philip said as he came in carrying a tray. “Your breakfast, your majesty.”


“Pretending you’re a Famulus now?” Varrus laughed.


“I left strict orders. No one is to enter our bedchambers but myself and you, Lord Varrus,” Philip said with a mocking bow, even as he slapped Varrus on the rear with a snap of his tail.


“I see,” Varrus grinned, wetting his lips as he sauntered over to the bed. “Then you won’t mind if I have my way with your husband.”


“Only if you let me have my way with you,” Philip laughed, as he tackled the taller man. “How’s Marcus, by the way?” he asked from atop the Saint.


“He’s doing well. He has his soldiers combing all of Huron, searching for Lord Sirrus, but so far he’s had no luck catching the bastard,” Varrus replied.


“They won’t’ find him, at least not in Huron,” Jason replied.


“Does his majesty know where he is, then?”


“My guess is either in Jadoor or at the Federation capital of Sol.”


“That would make sense, if he is getting aid from Jadoor.” Varrus agreed. “So far, we have no proof that is actually what’s happening.”


“The proof is out there somewhere. Next time you send a letter to Marcus, tell him to widen his search to the north.”


“How far north?” Philip asked as he stood up off Varrus.


“Into the Desert of Flames, if possible. My guess is that is how Sirrus is being supplied,” Jason replied as he looked at the two men, a silly smile on his face.


“The Desert of Flames is vast… larger than all of Ares, both East and West. It will be very difficult to search.”


“Then speak to the Isilian ambassador. His people know the desert better than any others,” Jason suggested.


“I will just have to do that,” Varrus nodded as he climbed on top of Jason, on the bed. “But can’t it wait until later?”


“How much later?” Jason said coyly.


“Oh… much, much later,” Varrus said before lowering himself into a kiss.


After their lips parted, Jason took in a deep breath. “I’ve missed you, Varrus. You’re still the most handsome man I know.”


“And I’ve missed you, my precious angel,” Varrus said, tickling Jason’s sides.


“Don’t forget me,” Philip said as he joined to two on the bed.


“Hard to forget you,” Varrus laughed as Philip’s tail curled around him.


“Hard to forget any of you,” Jason replied as he wrapped his arms around Varrus, a gray tear running down his pale face.


“Now, don’t you start crying on us,” Varrus lightly chided.


“I’ll try not to,” Jason said, even as more tears appeared.


“There, there, now… everything is going to be alright,” Philip said reassuringly as the three of them began to make love.





Much later that night, Jason managed to slip out of his quarters and make his way to James’ and Kyle’s bedroom, where he found the two in the middle of a fierce pillow fight.


“I’m not that short,” Kyle said as he threw a pillow at James.


“I’m not saying you’re short. I’m just trying to prove that it might work,” James insisted, ducking behind a large barrel in the middle of the room.


“What’s this?” Jason asked with an amused grin.


“Nothing,” Kyle said as he threw another pair of pillows at his lover.


“It’s not nothing and, anyway, you were the one who said you wanted to come,” James replied. “So get over here, and let’s see if I can fit you in this barrel.”


“I’m not going to let you stuff me inside a barrel like a bunch of apples. I’m a delicate thing, after all,” Kyle insisted in a pouting tone.


“What’s this?” Jason asked again, thinking he knew the answer.


“Kyle said he won’t let me go to Fu Dor without him,” James replied. “I told him the only way he could come is if he snuck aboard.”


“So you’re going to try and cram him into a barrel?” Jason asked skeptically.


“It sounded like a good idea, at first,” James said now looking sheepish.


“Trust me, there’s no need to put Kyle into a barrel,” Jason said calmly.


“Thank you,” Kyle said, sticking his tongue out at James.


“What do you mean?” James asked.


“Kyle can go with you, if he wants to. Someone will need to keep you company, after all.”


“What about us?” James asked, looking hurt.


“I can’t go, James. It took a long talk with Varrus to realize it, but right now I’m needed here. How am I supposed to fix things with Philip, if I’m an entire ocean away?”


Going to the edge of the bed, James sat down, his shoulders slumping. “I see. Well, it’s not like I don’t understand. After all, I was just about to cram my own demon into a barrel, just so we could stay together.”


Sitting down next to James, Jason put a hand on the man’s leg. “There will be other chances for us… I promise.”


“I know there will be. I caught sight of Varrus before he reached your quarters. He’s quite an eyeful, isn’t he?”


“That he is,” Jason laughed. “Shall I arrange for the two of you to meet?”


“Not now… not until I come back, at least,” James said as he began kissing Jason along the arch of his neck.”


“Oh James…” Jason sighed as he rested his head on James’ bare shoulder.


“Forget this… why should I get married anyway? We both know it will only lead to war with the Federation.”


“You’re an Admiral, just like your father, and his father before him. It’s a legacy you can’t let die with you.”


“From what I’ve been told, I will never die.”


“But you do want children of your own,” Jason replied. “Don’t tell me you don’t.”


“I do, but does it really need to be the daughter of the King of Fu Dor? We don’t even speak the same language.”


“But I do,” Kyle spoke up, standing on his knees behind the pair. “Come on, Jason, come with us. We will have loads of fun together.”


“I know we would, but right now I need to be a faithful husband, no matter how big a lecher the fool is.”


“He’s taken you for granted, that’s for sure,” Kyle agreed, slipping his head between the two so their lips met on his face.


“You dastardly devil,” James laughed as he pinned his lover to the bed.


“You know how it is between Demons and Angels, Kyle. Philip is my Demon, and therefore my responsibility. You didn’t really like the idea of James and me going on a romantic voyage together.”


“Actually, I did. I’ve always been sort of a voyeur. Of course, I really wasn’t going to let James run off with you, without me along. But if you’re going to stay…”


“You two need this time together, just like Philip and I do,” Jason insisted, seeing the looks the pair were giving him.


“Then I must insist you properly see us off… that should take no more than three days of your time,” James replied while Kyle let his tail slip under Jason’s robe.


“If you insist, but Varrus must come as well. After five years, he feels I’ve been neglectful of him.”


“The more the merrier,” Kyle replied. “Philip can come too, if he wants.”


“No… I need to give Philip those three days to finish off whatever loose relationships he has left over.” Jason sighed.


“There’s something you’re not telling us,” James guessed.


“Yes, and I’m not going to tell you what it is. You wouldn’t leave if I told you.”


“If that’s the case, maybe we shouldn’t. I must say, I don’t like the idea of leaving you like this.”


“Philip is preparing to do something terrible. He doesn’t know I know and, given the facts, I really don’t have the right to stop him. But, it would be best if I wasn’t here when it happens.”


“Jason,” James said in a lightly scolding tone. “Don’t think about trying to keep such a secret from me.”


“If you must know, I will tell you, but only after we reach Aquanos,“ Jason whispered as he lay down on the bed.


“And your bond?” James asked as he lay down next to Jason.


“You will have it, when you come back from your wedding, that is.”


“May the winds favor my ships, then,” James whispered before kissing Jason on the lips.































Chapter Eight: The Crushing Moment



“You’re in love with him,” Varrus chuckled after he, Jason, Kyle, and James stopped at a Centurion garrison, on their way south to Aquanos, later that week.


“I’m also in love with you,” Jason said, as he took a dipper out of a bucket to drink.


“You know what I’m saying,” Varrus said, as he gave Jason a playful nudge. “You’re actually in love with him.”


“James was very kind to me when I needed a little kindness. The same is also true about Kyle.”



“Well, I don’t have to tell you, then, that he’s also madly in love with you as well.”


“I know,” Jason sighed sadly.


“What’s wrong, Jason? You’ve been drooping your wings all day.”


“Am I doing the right thing?”


“If you want to get Philip to behave, you are. You need to keep an eye on him, if you want him to behave.”


“Then why am I here?”


“To see James and Kyle off,” Varrus replied, slightly confused by Jason’s pained tone. “What’s the matter? Is Philip misbehaving already?”


“You might say he is,” Jason nodded, as he led Varrus over to a nearby oak tree, away from Kyle and James.


“Well?” Varrus asked once they were alone.


“Philip is sleeping with someone… right now, as we speak.”


“I see… and who is he?”


“That’s the problem… it’s not a he.”


“What do you mean, not a he? You can’t mean…?” Varrus said, half in shock.


“I do,” Jason said as he slumped against the tree.


“What woman would agree to something like this?” Varrus asked, squatting next to Jason.


“I don’t know, but he found one.”


“Well, it can’t be for love.”


“Do you think that’s what I’m worried about?” Jason laughed dryly. “That he’s going to leave me?”


“Well, what are you worried about, then?”


“That he’s going to drive the woman insane.”


“That is a real possibility,” Varrus agreed.


“Do I really want a crazy woman as a part of my family?”


“Is that what you’re worried about… getting a mother in law?” Varrus laughed.


“Does it make me crazy, if I am?”


“That depends on what kind of woman he picks.”


“Trust me, she’s not a very nice person,” Jason grumbled. In the distance he could see Kyle pointing at them, while talking animatedly to James. “Oh no…” he sighed. “Remind me again how good a Demon’s hearing is.”


“Philip’s hearing is quite excellent…almost as good as Jacob’s.”


“That is what I was afraid of,” Jason moaned, as James took one giant flying leap in their direction, landing in front of Jason.


“You’re lover is doing what?” James demanded through gritted teeth.


“He just wants to have a child,” Jason said, looking fairly embarrassed. “How can I, as a father of four, tell him he can’t?”


“Very easily. You grab hold of his leash and give it a very hard yank,” James replied. “Is this what you were afraid of telling me?”


“Yes,” Jason said meekly.


“Well, you were right. I am surely not going away to Fu Dor, while you deal with Philip’s mess. How, in all of Ares, you put up with him is beyond me.”


“But, the wedding,” Jason insisted.


“If you are really going to insist on this wedding, you have to let me do it my way. First of all, why should I have to travel for three months to get to Fu Dor, and then travel another three to get back? Wouldn’t it be faster if the princess would just come to me?”


“I guess it would,” Jason nodded nervously.


“Of course it would,” Varrus said, jumping back up onto his feet.


“Varrus, what are you doing?” Jason asked, as Varrus wrapped a friendly arm around James, while giving Jason a wolfish grin.


“Just pointing out what would be best for all concerned,” Varrus said looking at Jason like a fox would a helpless rabbit.


“But Philip…” Jason tried to protest.


“What about Philip… he’ll have his own family to deal with from now on. Wouldn’t you like some help raising yours?”


“Philip loves the children,” Jason insisted.


“What about his woman?” Varrus pointed out. “If she’s really going to be the nightmare you think she’ll be, wouldn’t you rather have James here to support you while all this nonsense is going on?”


“This is not about what I want,” Jason replied evasively, knowing better than to lie to his mentor.


“But shouldn’t it be?” James asked, jumping in. “Unlike you, I really don’t see the need to get married, unless it is to you. I love you, Jason, whether you like it or not.”


“But I do like it,” Jason said guiltily.


“Then, what is the problem? While Philip deals with his little succubus, you and James can keep each other happy, and make Philip jealous in the process,” Varrus said.


“I don’t want to make Philip jealous.”


“Do you want Philip to start behaving?” Varrus demanded.


“I do, but…”


“No, trust me; the best way to get Philip to behave is to scare him into it. Let him clean up his own mess for once. No reason for you and James to be unhappy about it.”


“But weren’t you the one telling me I needed to stay.”


“That was before I met James,” Varrus said, pulling the Angel closer to him. “It was always my intention to make Philip jealous but, seeing the way you two look at each other, I must say that James can do a much better job of it than I.”


“You were going to make Philip jealous?” Jason asked, not able to hold back a laugh.


“You don’t think I could?” Varrus demanded.


“Varrus, you and Philip have fooled around so much with each other over the years, it would be near impossible for him to feel left out by anything you and I might do.”


“As I said, James is a much better candidate, as I don’t think Philip has ever ‘had’ him.”


“Is this what you advise that I do?” Jason asked, in a tone pleading with Varrus to disagree.


“As your mentor and Speaker of the Senate, it is my duty to force you to do this. Of course, I don’t think I need to pull at James’ wings to get him to stay.”


“He’s right about that,” James said in a stubborn tone that dared Jason to challenge it.


“Philip is not going to be happy about this,” Jason felt the need to point out.


“Of course… you coming back with Jason will be a slap in the face, almost as bad as the one you just got from Philip sleeping with his woman,” Varrus replied.


“This is not about revenge,” Jason insisted.


“Yes… this is more of a vendetta for me,” James said, crossing his arms over his chest.


“There is one thing you will have to do, of course, Jason,” Varrus said, his grin growing impossibly wide.


“Please, don’t make this worse for me,” Jason begged.


“No, this is something I think you will greatly enjoy,” Varrus said, as he gave James a quick peck on the cheek, causing the other man’s face to turn gray.


“The both of you?”


“I was thinking more of the three of us,” Varrus said, as he pulled Kyle forward. The small Demon had been using Varrus’ tall frame to hide behind.


“Now that will make Philip jealous,” Jason sighed.
































Chapter Nine: Moving Out



“What in all of Ares is going on?” Philip demanded, as a half-dozen Famulus servants busied themselves about his quarters, with Varrus looking on.


“Just giving you some more space to work,” Varrus replied, doing his best to sound cold, instead of laughing at his friend’s predicament.


“I don’t understand. Why are Kyle and James back?”


“We talked it over with Jason, and we all agreed it would be a waste of time for him to make this six month journey. Jason already has three Saints in Fu Dor, acting as his ambassadors, so all he really needed to do was ask them to tell the king of Fu Dor that the wedding will be here in Domus. Saves three months, at the very least.”


“That’s not what was agreed to,” Philip fumed.


“Funny, I remember a few of the oaths you made on the day you became prince consort. Strange, but I think you’ve broken most of them.”


“Jason and I were trying to work things out.”


“I sure you were, but that’s before you went out and got yourself another lover,“ Varrus said clapping his hands. Within seconds, both men could hear the high-pitched tones of a woman shouting.


“Oh no…” Philip groaned as he slumped into the nearest chair.


Going behind the chair, Varrus squeezed the Demon’s shoulders as his female lover stormed into the room. “When are you ever going to learn, Philip? You can’t sneeze without Jason knowing about it.”


“Oh Philip… my love, my new moon, my most precious, my….” the woman, Sasha, said as she went down on her knees before Philip.


“This is his idea of revenge, isn’t it?” Philip asked Varrus, as Sasha kissed his feet.


“No. Jason specifically said this wasn’t to be about revenge. James, on the other hand, did say he was planning a sort of vendetta against you.”


“I thought you were here to protect me from James?”


“I changed my mind. I am Jason’s mentor, after all, not yours, though you surely could use one about now. Jason loves you, Philip, there is no doubt in my mind about that, but he also has come to love James. Right now he needs a kind, considerate lover, more than he needs your antics. I think you can understand, with a baby on the way and this new love in your life, that Jason would want to give you some space.”


“I don’t want space. I want Jason here, with me,” Philip grumbled as Sasha’s kisses began moving up his legs.


“Oh Philip, don’t worry about Jason. You have me now.” Sasha said, looking up at the demon with her round hazel eyes, a possessed look about them.”


“Well, that’s everything then,” Varrus said, as the last Famulus left with Jason’s things. “If you need me, I will be in the west wing with Jason and James.”


“Don’t leave me like this!” Philip shouted when Varrus left him alone with Sasha, the woman’s face now in between his legs. “Watch your teeth,” he soon squealed.






“You wished to see us your majesty?” Geoff and Louis said together, both raising a fist to their hearts as they went down on one knee before Jason.


“Please, you are my friends and this is not the imperial throne room,“ Jason said, insisting that they stand.


“You are still the emperor,” Geoff replied, as he and Louis stood.


“I’ll remember that the next time you enter my bedroom.” Jason chuckled, tapping his face with a rolled up scroll.


“It is good to see you again, Jason,” Louis said, running a hand through his curly red hair.


“I hope you’re not upset that I summoned you here.”


“Why should I be? Like Varrus, I prefer serving you at your side, rather than hundreds of miles away.”


“Then I am afraid you will be displeased with the task I have for you two,” Jason said, as he threw the scroll at their feet. “That arrived, by secret messenger, today.”


Picking it up, Geoff opened the scroll, his eyes catching sight of the royal seal of the western kingdom of Dorsa. “Now this is unexpected,” he chuckled, handing the scroll over to Louis after reading it.


“Can you understand now, why I must act?” Jason replied.


“Unless it’s a trick,” Louis said. “If it’s true, I must say it’s better for us. To think Julian would dare bring his crusade to the kingdoms of the Federation.”


“The other western kingdoms have never liked being under the thumb of the Jadoorians, any more than the Empire,” Jason replied. “That Julian is preaching a religion different from that of the Church of the Mother, would naturally gather a great deal of attention, both good and bad.”


“The message says the king of Dorsa wishes to convert. Do you believe that’s true?”


“I believe the king of Dorsa thinks he will be given more freedom to rule as he sees fit from the priests of the Tosian Church, than he does from Jadoor. After all, the priests collect all the taxes, and take a good portion of the people’s crops, for the greater glory of the Mother.”


“It has gotten worse over the last half decade,” Louis agreed. “The last war between the Federation and Domus almost bankrupt Jadoor. King Aidan has been forced to pillage the kingdoms of his allies, just to keep the angry mobs back home under control. Of course, all that will become worse once the treaty with Fu Dor is signed. Any word on when Field Marshal James’ bride will arrive?”


“The King of Fu Dor saw her off yesterday, so the treaty is already in effect.”


“The longest we have, then, is three months before Jadoor learns what we have done. Without trade with the southern isles, the Merchant Guild will soon run out of gold. Without funding from the Guild, Aidan’s government will be brought to its knees,” Geoff said. “How unfortunate that it will be winter before Aidan is able to act.”


“Which means Jadoor will soon be squeezing the other western kingdoms even harder. I don’t have to tell you two what a boon it will be if we can add Dorsa to the Empire without a fight.”


“No, you don’t,” Louis chuckled. “Of course, if Dorsa leaves the Federation, so will Rapa, maybe even Freen.”


“Well, right now the king of Dorsa has Julian in his dungeons.”


“Hard to imagine he wants to be friends with us, then.” Geoff said.


“Think about it,” Louis spoke up. “Julian has been wandering all over Dorsa, converting the people as he goes. That is a direct threat to the Church of the Mother, and Jadoor. Most likely, the king had to put Julian in jail just to save him from being burned alive by Jadoorian priests. Given the amount of control the Church has, I don’t know how long he can protect your High Priest, however.”


“Which is why I need the two of you to go rescue him,” Jason said.


“I can understand why you would want Geoff, but why me?”


“Because rescuing Julian is only part of your mission. I need you to look into King Avin’s mind and tell me if he is sincere about joining the greater empire. Since you’re still officially the king of Qul Tos, you can go there as my ambassador with Geoff as your bodyguard.”


“I see… I guess that makes sense,” Louis agreed. “Once we get Julian, what do you want us to do with him?”


“Just bring him back home. He has given us an opportunity in Dorsa, but I can’t have him stirring up more trouble than I can deal with at the moment.” Jason sighed.


“Can we get that in writing, in case he refuses? If anything, the man is stubborn… especially when it comes to you,” Geoff said.


“Julian knows what I want of him, and will be expecting you two. Also, while you’re in Dorsa, see if you can find out from where Sirrus is getting his support. I sent Marcus to Huron to fight Hurons, not to fight the entire Federation Army.”


“We’ll see what we can find out,“ Geoff said as he went over and sat down on the edge of Jason’s desk. “Now what about you? How are you handling things?”


“Philip is begging that I forgive him.”


“More like rescue him… I didn’t think there could be a woman as bad as he is, but he somehow managed to find one.” Geoff laughed.


“That woman scares me.” Jason shuddered. “Anyway, Celia will be arriving soon. Have her quarters been prepared?”


“They have been, though I must disagree with giving her a third of the palace. Queen Amanda, after all, uses only four rooms,” Geoff said.


“I can’t understand why you would marry an Isilian, in the first place,” Louis laughed. “I mean, you know their women…”


“I am well aware of the particularities of Isilian society, considering I spent most of my life among women who see each other as lovers,” Jason said.


“But to give a third of the palace over for her and her women?” Geoff asked.


“It is the custom that she be given half, if she were to be my queen. As it is, she’s to be my consort… not because I want to be, but because the Legatio and the Centurions expect it. Her highness has also specifically asked that I marry her, out of debt to her mother. That is a request I cannot refuse.”


“So how are you going to tell her?” Louis asked.


“About how Philip beheaded her mother, in order to save me? I don’t know,” Jason said, resting his head in his hands.


“She will want to know,” Geoff said.


“I know,” Jason sighed. “I still have a few more weeks before having to worry about that. Her ship left Isil nine days ago.”


“My poor Emperor,” Louis whispered, as he walked behind Jason’s desk to rest a caring hand on the Angel’s shoulders.


“Be careful while you’re in Dorsa… Aidan’s agents will be everywhere,” Jason whispered back.


“That’s why you asked me to go,” Louis chuckled. “There’s not a spy in the palace that I don’t know about.”


“Any I should be aware of?” Geoff asked.


“I’ll tell you later… over dinner.” Louis winked.


“You two have fun,” Jason said when he saw Philip’s dark shadow at his doorway.


After the two were gone, Philip entered and sat down in front of Jason. “How long is this going to go on?” he asked in a begging tone.


“How soon until your relationship with her is over?” Jason replied sternly.


“I don’t like her anymore than you do, but she’s carrying my child.”


“So you’re stuck with her. Philip, I don’t want her anywhere near our children.”


“Is that why you moved the boys out of the nursery?” Philip asked, clearly hurt.


“Yes,” Jason nodded, clasping his hands in front of him as if in prayer. “What do you plan on doing with her?”


“Well, after the baby is born, probably bond her.”


“Give her your anima, Philip?” Jason scolded. “Do you have any idea what that will do to her?”


“No, but neither do you,” Philip said stubbornly.


“Philip, I’ve read tales of what happens to a woman given anima. You think she’s bad now… just imagine her with a beard.”


“What would you have me do… leave her insane?”


“You should have never slept with her, in the first place,” Jason spat.


“You’re really angry.” Philip laughed.


“I am angry… I wanted you to help me raise my sons. They are supposed to be ours.”


“They still are ours,” Philip insisted. “I don’t love them any less. After watching you have four boys of your own, can you blame me if I came to want one too?”


“But what kind of child will you have, Philip?”


“A beautiful child, that I will love as much as yours,” Philip insisted. “Are you saying you won’t?”


“No, Philip, I’m not. But I don’t want you getting your hopes up.”


“Why not?”


“Because, Philip, he is your child,” Jason said, as tears began running down his face.


“You can feel him… sense him, just like you can with me?” Philip asked, suddenly understanding.


“Yes Philip, I can,” Jason whispered.


“Is there something wrong with him? If there is, you need to tell me.”


“He is weak is all… so weak he would make a Legatio seem strong. He’s also tainted.”


“What do you mean ‘tainted’?”


“The same poison driving Sasha insane, is also affecting his unformed mind.”


“I… I… Are you sure?” Philip stammered.


“Yes,” Jason nodded.


“Please don’t say that, Jason. Please say you’re wrong.”


“I’m sorry, Philip,” Jason said, slowly leaving his chair to stand beside his lover. “As it is, unless one of us acts, the child and his mother will both die before he is born.”


“What do you mean…act?”


“The poison must be purged from Sasha… only our anima can do that.”


“But won’t that cause…”


“Yes,” Jason nodded. Standing behind Philip, he cradled his Demon’s head in his arms. “It will accelerate the birth, and the child will be born a demon… a Centurion demon, addicted to the elixir.”


“I understand why you’re mad at me, now. Either you, or I, will have to bond to Sasha. Given your position with your own children, that is the last thing you could possibly want.”


“A father should not be bonded to his son,” Jason nodded.


“But you can’t stand the idea of bonding to Sasha yourself,” Philip guessed.


“I doubt I could summon the anima,” Jason replied.


“Would you rather have them die?” Philip asked bitterly.


“No, Philip, no… neither of us wants that particular pain. Your child’s life must be saved, but you are the only one who can do it,” Jason whispered, as he kissed Philip’s white hair. “I am sorry Philip, but I cannot bring myself to love Sasha. Do you hate me?”


Hearing the pain in Jason’s voice, Philip stood up with a start and embraced his lover. “Of course not, Jason. I could never hate you, no matter how mad you get at me. I’ve been an immature fool since the first day I saw you. It is I who needs forgiveness, for putting you in this situation.”


“It’s alright, Philip… most Centurions are immature fools.” Jason sighed as he rested his head on Philip’s armored chest. “It’s good to see you wearing clothes, for a change.”


“It’s the only way I can protect myself from Sasha,” Philip chuckled softly. “How much time do I have?”


“Not long… a few more weeks,” Jason replied.


“Don’t’ worry. I’ll take care of this,” Philip said as he rocked Jason in my arms. “How you’re going to forgive me for all I’ve done, I don’t know.”


“And I don’t need to be forgiven. I’m the one who married Amanda, and will be marrying Celia soon.”


“You’re a Legatio, it is expected of you.”


“But it’s not what I wanted,” Jason replied. “Yes, I wanted children, but I could have adopted them like I did Ben.”


“Why, how many princes are you willing to kidnap?” Philip chuckled.


“I didn’t kidnap Ben. I save his life,” Jason insisted.


“I know you did. I also know you love him as much as Patrick, Gavin and the twins.”


“And they love you, Philip.”


“Not as much as you,” Philip whispered, as he kissed the top of Jason’s head. “I know you’re scared for them.”


“I just wish I knew how much time I still have with them. Will it be forty like a usual Centurion or less?”


“There’s always the bond,” Philip replied softly. “Not yours or mine, but maybe Varrus’.”


“No, not Varrus’… not someone I’ve made love to. When the time comes, I will have to find some young and handsome Centurion to be their mentor. As their father, it is my right to pick the lucky man.”


“I believe Varrus has a younger brother, who just entered the Academy.”


“Maybe, but let’s not talk about that, right now.”


“What should we talk about?”


“How you and James are going to get along with each other.”


“Doesn’t he have his own Demon?” Philip grumbled.


“Philip, I really need you and James to like each other. It’s important to me.”


“The man doesn’t like me… and for good reasons, but I’ll try if it’s that important to you.”


“Thank you, Philip. That’s all I can ask.”








Chapter Ten: The Binding of a Woman




Going back to his quarters, Philip found Sasha lying down on the bed, looking pale and sick.


“I don’t feel so well,” she moaned, before retching over the side of the bed.


“That happens when one is pregnant,” Philip sighed. “I will summon a healer for you.”


“That’s alright. I feel better just seeing you,” Sasha said, as she tried to leave the bed.


“Stay there, and I will come to you,” Philip said calmly as he reached for the straps holding his breastplate in place.


“I don’t see why you bother wearing all that armor. No one can hurt you, my love.”


“You would be surprised by what can get past my armor,” Philip said sadly, thinking of Jason’s words. Once he was naked, he went to the bed and lay next to Sasha. “I know you don’t understand, but I want to say I’m sorry for what I’ve done, and will do, to you,” he whispered.


“I love you, Philip,” Sasha said, her voice drunk with the feeling of elation Philip gave her.


“Forgive me, both of you,” Philip said, before giving Sasha the critical kiss.




Sitting in the old nursery, Jason could hear Sasha’s screams, as her pregnancy accelerated at an unnatural rate. Half the palace healers were crammed inside the bedchamber he had previously shared with Philip. He tried to imagine how his own children would react to Philip’s child… so weak, so fragile, just as he had been at birth.


When silence came, it was short lived. Jason heard the door to his bedroom burst open, and Philip running down the hall towards him with his newly born child. Appearing in the doorway, Philip was cradling his son in his arms, gray tears pouring down his face. “Please?” Jason’s Demon begged, holding out the child.


Going to Philip, Jason looked down at the babe in his arms. Like Philip, the infant had obsidian black skin. His eyes however glowed red, like a Demon Spawn. Those features did not concern Jason in the least, however. It was the child’s skeletal appearance. He had none of the baby fat all newborns usually had. Through his bond with Philip, Jason could feel his connection to the child, and knew it was indeed a demon, hungering for anima. “This will not solve anything,” Jason whispered to Philip as a warning.


“I know,” Philip sobbed.


Taking the child from Philip’s arms, Jason rocked the infant gently against him, summoning all the love he could muster for the deed his lover was begging him to commit. Finally tasting the sweet aroma of his own anima, Jason kissed the child ever so gently on the lips, passing his anima on to him. Knowing the need of the child was great, he held on to that kiss for a very long time, exhausting his reserves of anima until his core was almost empty. Having given all his strength over to Philip’s child, it was all Jason could do to return the babe back to his father’s arms before collapsing on the floor, unconscious.




Waiting in the hallway, James and Kyle had seen everything. It was all Kyle could do, to prevent his lover from attacking Philip then and there. As it was James, not Philip, who carried Jason out of the nursery, and back to his own quarters where he personally gave Jason his bond for a second time, to return some of the strength Jason had so willingly surrendered.


“James…” Jason whispered, when he finally had the ability to open his eyes.


“You shouldn’t have done that,” James whispered, tears running down his face. “You almost killed yourself.”


“I can’t die,” Jason chuckled softly. “You know that.”


“You gave too much of yourself, Jason. And for what? To feed that monster’s addiction?”


“It’s the only thing I could have done. He’s Philip’s child,” Jason replied softly.


“Foolishness,” James insisted, as he kissed the cold palms of Jason’s hands. “What will happen the next time the child needs feeding?”


“That won’t happen for some time. I saw to that.”


“Yes but you can’t do it again… I won’t let you.”


“I just need some rest, is all,” Jason insisted, as he fell asleep again.


“Watch him,” James told Kyle, in a deadly serious tone, before leaving the room.


Going back to Jason’s quarters, he stormed into the bedroom where he found Cecilia asleep on the bed. In the middle of the room was a cradle, where Philip stood, looking down into it. “Do you realize what you’ve done?” James spat. “You could have killed him.”


“I know, but I had no choice… I tried to give him my bond, but I couldn’t. That is the first time my anima has failed to obey me,” Philip whispered, rocking the cradle with his foot.


Going over to the cradle, James was shocked to see it empty. “Where’s the child?” he demanded.


“Child…” Philip chuckled with sad irony. “There is no child… not anymore.”


“I don’t understand.”


“He is a man… a fully grown man. Confused, bewildered, he’s below in the dungeons. It’s the only place I could think of putting him, where he couldn’t hurt himself,” Philip said, his own words baffling him. “You see, he’s upset. He’s a demon, in the Centurion sense, but he’s also bonded to Jason, so he knows what my husband sacrificed for him. He’s not even a day old, but already understands he’s a monster,” Philip said as he broke down into sobs.


“This madness has to stop. I won’t let Jason feed him again.”


“You think I will?” Philip said, his white eyes glowing with sudden anger. “I didn’t know Jason was going to do what he did. If I had, I would have killed the infant before taking him to Jason.”


“Then what is stopping you from doing so now?”


“Because I can’t… I can harm him any more than I can any of Jason’s Saints. That is another one of Jason’s leashes I will never be able to break.”


“Nothing is stopping me though.”


“Then go… kill him if you want. Yes, he is a monster, but he is an innocent filled with remorse over what happened, and hating his very existence. Kill him, if you feel you must, but know that will make you the monster in Jason’s eyes.”


Knowing what Philip said was true, James struck out in the only direction he could. Closing his right fist, he struck at Philip, hitting the man in the jaw. Such was his blow, that not even a mountain like Philip could remain unmoved. Staggering, Philip fell backwards, collapsing on top of the crib, shattering it into a thousand splinters. James then stormed out of the room, making his way down to the dungeons where he could hear the baritone wails of Philip’s adult son.


Looking inside the cell, Philip saw the child. Though the fully-grown son of a Centurion, the man was shorter than Kyle by a good three inches. His skin was a swirling mix of black, gray and white. His eyes were still mostly red, but now a pair of black pupils showed. Philip’s child still looked incredibly thin, the ribs of his body clearly showing. It was his wails, however, that shook James the most… there was an inhuman, cat like, pitch to them as the man sobbed continuously.


“Look at me,” James hissed from his side of the barred gate.


“What am I?” the man demanded in a hollow voice.


“You’re a bastard,” James replied.


“I didn’t mean to do it,” the man sobbed, slumping in the chains that held him. “Please father, forgive me.”


“You hurt the man I love more than anything. Do you realize that?”


“I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it.”


“No, Jason did. Not that Philip gave him any other choice. You are a sin, a mistake that should never have happened.”


“Is that your name for me? Father won’t name me.” The man wept.


Consumed by his anger James agreed. “Yes, that is your name. From now on your name is Sin.”


“Thank you,” Philip’s son replied, confusing James with his grateful tone.


“You shouldn’t be thanking me. I hate you. I despise you. You represent all the pain Jason has had to endure loving your father.”


“I didn’t mean to,” Sin replied, going back to his sobbing.


The mixture of confusion and rage James felt toward Philip’s pathetic child only served to enrage him even more. Seeing a whip on a hook, he almost reached for it when he heard a deep growl coming from deeper in the dungeon. Following the sound, he reached the very last cell, its interior barely lit by the light of distant torches.


“Don’t, Field Marshal… father wouldn’t want you to do that,” a growling voice said from inside.


“Who’s in there?” James asked, as he tried to peer inside.


“Don’t look, Field Marshal. It’s not over yet. You will see me soon enough. Then we will both be able to plot our revenge on Philip.”


“I don’t understand.”


“It’s me… Jacob,” the creature inside the cell replied, before letting out a painful whimper.


“Jacob? It can’t be.”


“Ask my father. He knows the truth. Now go… my father will wake soon, and will need you, but do not come down here again. My father didn’t save Sin’s life for you to kill him.”


This time, confusion won out over anger. How could Jacob, as extraordinary an animal as he was, be Jason’s son and why was he in the dungeons? Bewildered, James left the dungeons and returned to his quarters where he found Kyle cradling Jason in his arms. “Are you feeling any better?” he asked Jason, trying his best to cover the marks of his recent experience.


“Why did you give him that name?” Jason whispered weakly.


“What do you mean?”


“Sin,” Jason replied.


“I didn’t know I was really naming him. I was angry, and not really thinking. I can go back…”


“Don’t. It’s already too late. Sin, you named him, so Sin he will be.” Jason sighed. “You saw Jacob while you were down there, didn’t you?”


“So it’s true?”


“Yes, he is my son, or at least that is how we relate to each other. I can’t say I understand how it was done, but the Dominus in Mordel used my blood to create Jacob.”


“If that’s true, how did Jacob end up here with you?”


“He was meant to be a spy,” Jason chuckled softly. “And a protector. I imagine he is quite angry with Philip, right now. The two have never gotten along.”


Feeling the need to be honest with Jason, James nodded. “He wants me to help him get revenge.”


“Well, I hope you won’t do that.”


“Only if that is what you want.”


“It is. I’ll talk to Jacob as soon as we’re both up to it.”


“What’s happening to him? And why is he locked up in the dungeon?”


“He’s changing… shedding one skin for a new one and, like any animal which sheds its skin, he is in a very irritable mood right now. That is why I put him in the dungeon. He’s too dangerous to be around.”


“What about later?”


“Oh, he’ll calm down, eventually. What he is most concerned with, right now, is what his brothers will think of his new body. He loves them dearly, after all, and sees himself as the protective older brother.”


“Any other secrets you’re keeping?”


“More than several,” Jason winked. “Can you forgive me for that?”


“Can you forgive me?”


“You were angry and, just like Philip, you weren’t thinking. I’m used to it.”


“I don’t think I like being compared to Philip,” James grumbled.


“That is something you will have to get used to. After all, I love you both.”


“I don’t see why,” James said softly.


“But I do, and that’s all that matters,” Jason whispered back.
























Chapter Eleven: War Council



“You seem awfully pleased with yourself,” Amplexor said as Aidan entered his quarters.


“I just received a pleasant bit of news. The so-called emperor and Overking of the East is said to have fallen ill.”


“That’s impossible. You and I and, especially Jason, can’t get sick.”


“But that is what is being said, in the imperial court, in Domus. Emperor Jason is sick, and won’t be holding court for at least a month,” Aidan said, as he handed the newly arrived message over to Amplexor. “Of course, you know what this means.”


“That you will finally heed my advice, and declare war against Domus before it’s too late.”


“Another war… just as things were starting to return to normal.” Aidan grunted. “We haven’t had a riot in six months now. If I were to announce another war, though…”


“I’m sure Dorian’s Demon Spawn can handle any riot.” Amplexor chuckled.


“What about the Emperor’s own Spawn? How are we to handle them, if our own must remain here in Jadoor?”


“With these,” Amplexor said, pulling a red cloth off of a table and revealing a quiver full of arrows.


“These look like Centurion arrows,” Aidan said, as he examined the arrowheads’ jagged edges.


“They are but, more importantly, they are each tipped with a poison capable of killing Demon Spawn.”


“It will take more than one quiver… Philip is rumored to have several legions of Spawn.”


“And I have prepared thousands of arrows for the task of killing them.”


“You’ve been busy, then.” Aidan chuckled as he twirled one of the arrows with his fingers.


“Someone needs to see to our future. While you’ve been appeasing the rioters, I’ve been preparing for war. With Jason weak, now is the perfect time to attack.”


“Even if I gave the order today, it will still take months before the army can be assembled and sent southward. I will also have to call a meeting of the kings at Sol. I cannot attack Domus without their aid.”


“It would not take you so long to summon the Armada and attack Aquanos by sea.”


“Attack Aquanos?”


“It is the only point in Domus not protected by mountains and sea cliffs. It is the sole weak point in the entire empire.


“I was not thinking of attacking Domus directly.”


“What were you planning to do then, kick some sand in their direction?” Amplexor said with contempt.


“No, this,” Aidan said, as he went to the map of Ares on the wall. “As you well know, we’ve been supporting Lord Sirrus’ revolt, in Huron, by using desert nomads to guide our forces across the Desert of Flames. Right now, at our secret camp, we have twelve thousands soldiers waiting for the order to invade Huron.”


“Twelve thousand soldiers would do little against the entire Eastern Centurion Army.”


“I do not plan to use them to fight a direct battle against Field Marshal Marcus. Instead, they will be broken up into forty-eight companies of two hundred and fifty men each. They will live off the land, attacking villages, drovers, and merchantmen, sowing the seeds of chaos over all of Huron and, maybe, into Norgoth as well. One of its three ruling dukes, Duke Abe, has agreed to support Lord Sirrus in his revolt. While Field Marshal Marcus is occupied, putting out my little fires, I will amass an army in Dorsa and march on Qul Tos. As for the Armada, I have Arch Bishop Galen busy in secret negotiations with the Qopo trader, Dodofan. When the time comes, I will send the Armada into the Inner Sea and, with the aid of Qopo pirates, we will ravage the eastern fleets until none dare travel in open water. With the sea closed off, and the Gate besieged, the eastern half of the Empire will be cut off from Domus proper. Then we will see how loyal the Kings of the East are to their false Emperor.”


“A very nice plan, but none of it gets you any closer to killing Jason and his Demon.”


“It is not they that I wish to kill, at the moment. It is that traitor, James, and that imp of his. If they had paid me the tribute due me, I would not have become besieged by my war veterans over the past five years, in my own capital.”


“That is all good, but what of Mathannon? The war there is still at a standstill.”


“It is to General Zophar’s credit that the Austorlians have not been driven into the sea by the Matriarchy. Still, I am disappointed that I have not heard word from Aegis. I sent him into Mathannon in the hope that he would discover the secret of their explosive powder. With such a weapon, the stone door of the Gate would no longer pose a barrier to my armies.”


“That is not what concerns me. I am more worried that the Mathannons might discover worse weapons of war. I have my resources, so you should not fear, but if the Mathannons find a way of wakening the Daughter of the Mother, then our situation will become most dire.”


“The Daughter of the Mother… isn’t that just a heretical myth?”


“The Daughter of the Mother does exist, though it is an object of terrible power rather than a person . I’ve searched for it for years, with no luck of finding it, but I do believe it is in the possession of the Matriarchy, somewhere in Mathannon. I therefore ask that you send more soldiers to Austrola, as General Zophar has requested. Only when the Matriarchy has been totally defeated can I search their lands freely.”


“Why, Amplexor, I might be wrong, but you actually sound afraid of them.” Aidan chuckled, enjoying the hint of desperation in the Angel’s voice.


“So should you, your majesty, for, in addition to fleeing Jadoor with the Daughter of the Mother, the Mother’s priestess took a pair of daggers with them… Banes that can kill both you and me in the proper hands.”


“But, didn’t you say only an Angel and a Demon can wield the Banes?”


“So far, that is true. What I fear, however, is that the priestesses of Mathannon will be able to wield the Banes themselves, if the Daughter of the Mother is awakened.”


“And you are only now telling me this?”


“Until now, I had no reason to believe the Daughter would ever awaken. But news has reached me that has made me see otherwise.”


“And what news might that be?” Aidan asked skeptically.


“The Great Barrier is failing. Within a few years, maybe a dozen, the Mother’s sisters, the Dominus, will be able to cross into Ares and it is they that I fear will awaken the Daughter of the Mother.”


“What is the Daughter of the Mother? You said it is not a person.”


“It was part of a person, a part of the Mother herself. It is her core, her animus core.”


“Animus?” Aidan frowned.


“Yes, where men of the Empire carry the spirits of their Anima inside them, the Mistresses of Mordel gain their power from their Animus.”


“What kind of powers?”


“Great strength, long life, incredible intelligence… but no love. Unlike Anima, Animus is not intended to be passed on to form a bond, quite the opposite. How shall I put it… it devolves a person, changing them from a normal human to a more primitive animal hybrid, a wolf for instance.”


“Why would they want to do something like that?”


“Because of the war, the Great War that turned Mordel into a wasteland and created the Desert of Flames.”


“A war did all that?”


“You cannot imagine the kind of power that was once used… makes Mathannon’s explosive powder seem as effective as throwing stones. Suffice it to say, one of the more common weapons used were diseases, great plagues that killed millions. So deadly were those weapons that the Dominus in Mordel found only one way to survive, and that was to join their bodies with that of more simple animals. You see, a plague that can kill men will most likely not kill animals like rats, lizards or, in the case of the Dominus, squid. So that’s what they did, turning themselves and their followers into creatures that once only existed in fantasy.” Amplexor played with one of the poisoned arrows, twirling it around between his fingers.


“What sort of magic could achieve such a thing?”


“Science of course… a magic more powerful than you can possibly imagine. That doesn’t mean mistakes can’t happen. Take the Dominus, for instance. It was never their intention to cast off their human bodies forever, but that is what happened. It is also why they created the Centurions and Legatio, and the Anima they carry. Where animus devolves, anima evolves, and it is through anima that the Dominus hope to become human again, if not super human. It is another reason why Jason and Philip must die, for I will not let the Dominus achieve their goal and enslave us all.”


“I see,” Aidan sighed. “Very well, I will send the Seventh Army to Austrola to support General Zophar. But only if you promise to find out what happened to Aegis, and get me the secret to the Matriarchy’s new weapon.”


“Very well… I will send a few of my Saints to investigate the matter, but I will need to speak with Dorian.”


“But he doesn’t wish to speak to you, Amplexor. He believes you have tricked and misguided me. He wishes for peace between Jadoor and Domus, his home.”


“Dorian is a sentimentalist and doesn’t have the kind of mind needed in this day and age.”


“He is a romantic,” Aidan said in his lover’s defense.


“I know, but we will still need his support in the days to come. Let me speak to him, and I will see if I can’t soften his view of me.”


“As you wish,” Aidan nodded. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have messages to write if we are going to win the coming war. Have your ‘special arrows’ sent to the palace garrison so my Saints can begin training with them.”


“It will be done,” Amplexor bowed. An hour after the king had left, Dorian walked into his chambers. “Oh Dorian… beautiful, beautiful Dorian.” The angel sighed on seeing the Demon enter.


“What is it you wish of me, Lord Amplexor?” Dorian asked sternly.


“Just a little of your time, and your company,” Amplexor said, as he filled a pair of lovers’ goblets with Huron wine, a gift from Lord Sirrus.


“Speak quickly and plainly, Lord Amplexor. I have pressing matters to attend to. It seems Emperor Jason’s High Priest has been arrested in Dorsa, but its king refuses to hand the heretic over to my priests.”


“Oh come on, Dorian… you don’t believe in the Mother any more than I do.” Amplexor chuckled as he handed the larger of the two goblets to the High Priest.


“That is not the point. Aidan made me his High Priest, so I have a duty…”


“Forget duty, Dorian, and think about yourself for a change. Do you not find me attractive?”


“You are indeed a handsome man,” Dorian agreed. “But…”


“But… Please, Dorian, try to remember your Centurion heritage. When has a Centurion ever used the word ‘but’ when describing a handsome man? At least act like a Centurion.”


“And how would a Centurion act?” Dorian asked, taking a sip from the goblet.


“Why, a proper Centurion would have his way with me, right here and now,” Amplexor said before drinking from his own slender cup.


“Aidan is my Angel,” Dorian insisted.


“But he doesn’t have to be your only one,” Amplexor replied. Putting his cup down, he moved toward the demon and rested his pale face on the man’s dark chest. “Do you know how long I have wanted you, Dorian… to have the arms of a living, breathing, Demon around me again?”


“I am sorry for your loss, but my answer must still be no.”


“But it shouldn’t be, not when there is so much I could do for you and Aidan if I were properly wooed.”


“Such as?”


“Such as that explosive powder Aidan so desperately wants. I know the secret to it. I always have. I could share it with you and your king, if you would just be a little nicer to me.”


“You should have given that secret to us in the beginning. Many of Aidan’s soldiers have died in Austrola, over the past six years. You could have saved their lives.”


“What are the lives of mere mortals to me? Are not most citizens in Jadoor considered nothing more than slaves? By sacrificing their lives, the men in Aidan’s armies win the freedom of their families. Who am I to deny them such a noble goal?”


“What is it you want of me, Lord Amplexor?”


“As I said at the beginning, just a little of your time…”


“And company,” Dorian added.


“Yes,” Amplexor chuckled. “Please Dorian; try to imagine where I come from. I am an Angel without a Demon. Pretend you didn’t have Aidan. Wouldn’t you become as desperate and as lonely as I?”


“I would go mad,” Dorian nodded.


“Then please, ease my own madness, if not for my sake then for your own. I know you feel lonely. Dorian, and that Aidan is not the man you wish he would be.”


“That is your doing.”


“Then let me fix it by offering myself to you,” Amplexor said, in an almost begging tone as he embraced the Demon tightly. “I am so lonely, Dorian. Please don’t leave me.”


“Very well, but you must promise to give Aidan your full support from now on.”


“If that is what you wish of me, my Demon.”


“It is,” Dorian chuckled. “This is a very fine wine,” he said before draining the goblet.


“The finest in all of Ares,” Amplexor smiled. It had been very painful, but he had managed to extract a portion of his anima directly from his core… the only way he could summon it, now that his Demon, Gladius, had entered the Long Sleep. As the effect of the anima-laced wine took its effect on Dorian, Amplexor closed his eyes and tried to imagine it was his old lover who was ravishing him in the middle of his study. For the first time, in over a thousand years Amplexor almost felt whole again.































Chapter Twelve: Family Meeting



Walking with the help of a cane, and James’ arm, Jason hobbled his way down to the dungeon to visit his son, Jacob. As he walked down the dimly lit tunnel, he passed Sin’s cell and, to his surprise, found Philip there, spoon-feeding his chained son and whispering to him.


Pressed onward by James, Jason took out an iron key and unlocked Jacob’s cell door. With the aid of a torch James carried, he saw his son with his transformation complete. There, lying on a straw mat, was Jacob. He was a thin, gangly man of incredible height. His short hair was a salt and pepper gray. On his hand were the five fingers of a man but each ended with long, sharp, and thick nails. His feet were hairy, and there were two long strips of gray fur on either side of his back. Otherwise, he was hairless except for his ears. They still looked like they belonged to a wolf, pointed and covered with short gray fur. In Jacob’s ice blue eyes, Jason saw an expression of confusion and sadness. While Jacob’s body was fully grown, his face made him appear quite young… a young man in his late teens.”


“Jacob,” Jason whispered in a warm and caring voice.


“Father,” Jacob replied, just as softly. “I’m… I’m sorry.”


With James’ help, Jason sat down on the cold stone floor. “Sorry for what?” he asked, slightly confused.


“For changing like this. I know you loved me as a wolf.”


“Do you think I don’t love you now?” Jason asked, widening his smile for his son’s benefit.


“I, I don’t know.”


“Oh, Jacob… you should not doubt yourself so. My love for you has not changed.”


“Really? That makes me happy,” Jacob sighed, his face forming a small smile that revealed his sharp teeth.


“Your brothers miss you.”


“They do?” Jacob said, his eyebrows rising in hope. “Did you tell them about me?”


“I told them only what they needed to know, which is about as much as I can tell them. What I mean to say is, I don’t really understand all that has happened, myself.”


“But you’re not mad at me, are you?”


“No, Jacob, I’m not. I was very worried about you. I know this change was painful and difficult, but I am glad to see you are better.”


“I love you, father.”


“And I love you, Jacob.”


“Can I leave the dungeons?”


“Any time you wish. I can have clothes sent down to you, if you wish.”


“I…” Jacob stammered, his face blushing with embarrassment.


“I understand, Jacob. I will be sure to explain to the Famulus that you will need help being taught how to dress yourself. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed. After all, most Legatio don’t know how to dress themselves, either.”


“Thank you, father, but that’s not the problem. I… I don’t know how to walk.”


“Then I will just have to teach you,” Jason promised. “In the meantime, I will have a litter brought down here so you can be carried to my quarters. But I need you to make me a promise.”


“Yes, father?”


“You must promise you will try to be nice to Philip.”


“But, father,” Jacob protested.


“Jacob,” Jason said in a warning tone. “Philip is my husband, which makes him your father as well. You will, therefore, show him the respect that is his due.”


“As you wish, father,” Jacob said, his face now wearing a sour expression.


“Good,” Jason said, smiling at his son again. “I need to talk with Philip and Sin now, but you and I will see each other again, soon. I want to discuss how soon you think you’ll be ready to start your weapon’s training.”


“Weapon’s training, you mean…?” Jacob asked, becoming suddenly excited.


“Yes, I intend to make you a staff master myself. Would you like that?”


“Oh yes, very much, father,” Jacob said, nodding his head eagerly.


“Good, so will I,” Jason said as James helped him stand back up. “The Famulus will be here soon.” He said before leaving.


“I love you, father,” Jacob called out as Jason reached the cell door.


“And I love you too, my Jacob,” Jason replied, turning his head slowly to give his son a wink.


Going back to Sin’s cell, Jason stopped at the barred door and listen in as Philip talked to his son.


“You seem to like the scrabble eggs,” Philip whispered in a low voice as he continued to feed his son.


“They taste good,” Sin replied in his hollow voice.


“I’m glad you like them,” Philip said, a deep sadness in his voice. “We need to fill you out and get some meat on your bones.”


“If I do, will I be able to leave the dungeons?”


“That depends on you. Will you promise to stop hurting yourself?”


“But I do hurt… I hurt all the time,” Sin whimpered.


“I know. I wish I could take your pain away. It’s my fault, after all.”


“No, it was my fault. I was the one who hurt your Angel.”


“Your uncle Jason is doing a lot better.” Philip said as he starting to peel a banana.


“Will he ever forgive me?”


“I’m sure he already has,” Philip replied, as he tried to hold back his tears.


“He Saints haven’t forgiven me. They hate me.”


“No son, they hate me, not you.”


“I shouldn’t have been born, should I?”


“Don’t say such things,” Philip pleaded.


“But it’s true. I’m your sin… that’s why Lord James named me so.”


“I made mistakes, but they’re not your fault,” Philip insisted. “Now open wide… I think you’re going to like bananas.”


“Taste good,” Sin soon agreed.


“Have you heard enough?” James asked Jason.


“Tell Philip I want to see him, soon.”


“As you wish, but I won’t leave you alone with him.”


“I understand,” Jason sighed. Since becoming ill, Varrus and his other Saints had all become very cold toward Philip and did not trust him any longer. Jason wouldn’t be surprised if Philip came with an armed escort of his Winged Guards.


Going back to the upper floors of the palace, Jason went back to bed, to rest while he waited for Philip to arrive. Kyle kept him entertained with his fife. When Philip did come, it was with four members of the Wing Guard and Varrus in tow, all of them wearing cross expressions on their faces.


“This isn’t the proper time,” Varrus insisted. “You should be resting, to regain your strength.”


“I am still Emperor, Varrus,” Jason said, mustering as much strength as he could.


“He is dangerous, Jason. Right now, you don’t have the power to leash him.”


“He is my husband, Varrus. Neither you, nor James, can deny me the right to see him,” Jason replied, looking sadly at Philip’s defeated expression. “Please, Philip, come closer.”


“I do not know if I should,” Philip muttered. “Your Saints all believe I’m a danger to you.”


“Don’t repeat that nonsense to me,” Jason demanded. “Come over here, Philip. I want you close to me.”


“As you wish,” Philip said, his shoulders slumped.


“Please,… I don’t like seeing you so unhappy.”


“Forgive me, but I cannot hide the pain I feel for what I did to you.”


“I will recover. I am more concerned that you won’t. I saw you feeding Sin breakfast earlier today.”


“I’m trying to be a good father, but it’s so difficult. I can’t even look at him without seeing the pain I’ve caused you.”


“That’s not his fault.”


“I know,” Philip said, going down on his knees before the bed.


“What of Sasha?”


“She is with my other Spawn. It seems her new sexual appetites have no limits.”


“So long as she’s happy,” Jason sighed.


“Don’t you mean as long as you never have to see her again?”


“No… I blame myself for hating her. It’s not really fair that I become jealous over a woman, considering I also have a wife.”


“You are a Legatio. I am a Centurion. The same rules don’t apply. It was my own jealousy that caused this mess. You shouldn’t blame yourself for my actions.”


“That’s right, he shouldn’t,” James agreed.


Reaching over the bed, Jason placed a hand on Philip’s head. “I want things to get better between us.”


“So do I,” Philip nodded, as he started to cry.


“I also want to help you raise Sin,” Jason added.


“But…” Philip tried to protest, only for Jason to cover his mouth with his hand. “He is our son, Philip, just like the other children. It makes no difference how he came into this world.”


“But Sin is terrified of you. He knows how much your Saints hate him.”


“I’ll worry about my Saints.”


“On top of worrying about Sin and me?”


“Yes,” Jason nodded. “Please, Philip… I miss you.”


“And I miss you,” Philip said his lips trembling.


“Come into bed with me.”


“Jason!” Varrus protested.


“Don’t interfere,” Jason said sternly, as he rolled over so Philip could lie next to him. “There, there, my Demon, everything will be alright,” he whispered as he stroked Philip’s face, while his lover sobbed against him.


It was about that time that Jacob was carried into the room. When the Dalf saw Jason in Philip’s arms, he jumped up and tried to run over to the bed, but his gangly legs tripped him up, causing him to fall.


“Jacob, your promise,” Jason warned.


“But, father,” Jacob protested, as he crawled the remaining distance to the bed.


“Jacob?” Philip frowned on seeing the tall, thin, man.


“Yes, Philip,” Jason said as he waved Jacob to them.


When Jacob lay down on the other side of him, the Dalf gingerly wrapped his arms around his father. “I like this,” he sighed as he nuzzled against Jason.


“I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” Philip said, amazed by Jacob’s new appearance.


“But you will need to,” Jason replied. “He is my son, Philip. For the sake of my own sanity, I need the two of you to get along.”


“But!” both Jacob and Philip protested at the same time, the two glaring at each other.


“Please!” Jason begged. He was so tired, and so weak, but he could not rest as long as these two important people remained at war with each other. “Philip is to be your mentor, Jacob. You will respect him as such.”


“But, father…” Jacob whined.


“No,” Jason said sternly. “You two have fought long enough. I will have peace between you and Philip, even if I have to lock you both in a room, together, until you can learn how to behave.”


“Jason,” Philip grunted.


“Enough… I’ve told you both what I wanted. Now you two will do it,” Jason said sternly. “Now please let me rest.”


“You heard his majesty… out you two,” Varrus ordered.


“But…” Jacob protested, as he clung desperately to his father.


“I will see you after I’ve rested,” Jason promised, planting a kiss atop Jacob’s head.


“No, no, no, no, no,” Jacob wailed, refusing to let go.


“Shall we?” Varrus asked, as he summoned two members of the Winged Guards.


“It’s alright,” Jason replied. “Jacob can stay with me for a little longer. He’s waited for this day for a long time.”


“When will I see you again?” Philip asked as he stood out of the bed.


“The next time you go visit Sin, send for me and I will join you.”


“Seeing you will upset him.”


“But it will also help him. He needs to see that I hold no animosity toward him,” Jason replied.


“Very well.” Philip nodded.


“I love you, Philip, never doubt that.”


“My love for you is the only thing I do not doubt, right now,” Philip replied with a weak smile. “Until I see you again,” he said before bending down to give Jason a kiss. Behind Jason, he could see Jacob sticking his tongue out at him. “Why you…”


“Enough,” Jason said wearily. “One of these days I will need the pair of you to get along. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later.”











Chapter Thirteen: Story Telling


Poking his head out the nursery door, Ben checked both ends of the passageway before stepping out. His brothers, Gavin and Patrick, followed behind him. Like thieves, they snuck through the palace, avoiding the guards and servants until they reached their goal. Carefully opening the bedroom door, they crawled through the darkness to the bed, where they pounced on their father, to his great surprise.


“By all of Ares, what are you three scoundrels doing out of bed?” Jason shouted as the boys clung to him.


“You didn’t tell us our bedtime story,” Ben replied.


“I didn’t?” Jason replied, suddenly noticing how dark it was. “I must have been more tired than I thought.”


“Papa, who’s that?” Patrick asked, pointing to the mound that was quivering under the sheets.


“Do you want to see a real surprise?” Jason asked, giving his sons a wink.


“A surprise?” all three said eagerly.


“No… no surprises,” a frightened voice said from under the blanket.


“Oh come on, now.” Jason laughed as he pulled the sheets off Jacob. “Surprise!”


“Who’s that?” Gavin asked, amazed by Jacob’s furry ears.


“Why, this is your brother, Jacob,” Jason said.


“Jacob?” all three boys said, clearly impressed.


“He wanted to spend more time with you so badly, that he went and shed his skin,” Jason explained.


“Why is he hiding, then?” Patrick asked as he gave Jacob a poke.


“I know. Let’s give him a belly rub,” Ben said.


“No, no belly rub,” Jacob pleaded, but it was already too late. The three boys pounced on their brother and began tickling his stomach, causing Jacob to let out a joyful whimper as James and Kyle darted into the room.


“Is everything alright?” James asked.


“Just three midnight visitors,” Jason replied over the children’s laughter. “You forgot to wake me up so I could tell them their bedtime story.”


“I thought you needed your rest, so I told them their story for you.”


“You did?” Jason said impressed. “So, you three already had your story tonight,” he told his sons.


“But Uncle James isn’t very good at it,” Patrick insisted.


“Not a very good story teller, are you?” Jason chuckled.


“It put them to sleep. Isn’t that all that matters?” James replied.


“Next time, let Kyle tell the story,” Jason said.


“Would you three like another bedtime story?” Kyle asked them.


“Yes!” All three and even Jacob agreed.


“Very well. Go back to your room and I’ll meet you there.”


“Can I come too?” Jacob asked hopefully.


“Of course you can,” Kyle said.


Once they were alone, James slipped into the bed next to Jason. “Today’s been a long day.”


“It has, but it was a good one,” Jason said, resting his head on James’ chest.


“Do you think Jacob and Philip will ever get along?”


“I don’t know. I think they will always be jealous of each other, but I hope one day they will respect one another, as well. I have the same hopes for you and Philip.”


“I respect Philip as one of my fellow Field Marshals… I just don’t like him.”


“But you love Kyle,” Jason pointed out.


“They are totally two different people.”


“No, they’re not.”


“They are… every day I have to convince Kyle that I still love him. It’s as if he believes he’s not good enough for me.”


“And Philip feels the same way about me. Why do you think he slept with so many men? It was partly to prove he was lovable.”


“Not a whore?” James snorted.


“He’s a Centurion officer… certain things are expected of him. Kyle, however, started off as your subordinate so he will always look up to you. When I first met Philip it was very much the other way around.”


“I don’t see how. He still acts like an immature child.”


“So do most Centurions. They use their short lifespan as an excuse to never grow up. I never had that luxury, but I did have you.”


“Don’t say such things. You are still too weak to be able to withstand what such words would awaken in me.” James grinned as he rolled on top of Jason.


“See… you’re just as bad as Philip.” Jason chuckled.


“Hold me, please. Let me believe you will never leave me,” James whispered.


“Bad dreams again?” Jason said as he put his arms around James.


“Yes. How you can stand them, I will never understand.”


“Because I still have hope,” Jason replied.


“I have to tell Kyle… at least warn him.”


“You know what will happen if you do.”


“Isn’t there anyway to stop what is going to happen?”


“If there were, we would never have let things go so far between us.”


“I shouldn’t be here… we shouldn’t. We were both supposed to be far away, on our way to Fu Dor.”


“It is what we planned,” Jason nodded. “We could send Kyle away and hope…”


“We both know what will happen if we do that. I feel so powerless…”


“I do, too,” Jason nodded. “We could always run, go into hiding.”


“And see the empire you’ve work so hard to build collapse… causing the extinction of both the Legatio and the Centurions.”


“I did not say it would be the right thing to do.”


“And you wouldn’t do it, even if I asked you to.” James chuckled. “Let’s face it, we’re trapped. For the good of all Ares, we must accept what will happen. At least the children will be saved.”


“Please… let’s not talk about this,” Jason pleaded.


“Not talk about what?” Kyle asked, from the open doorway.


“What do you think? Philip, of course,” James quickly lied.


“Right,” Kyle said skeptically. “The boys are asleep.”


“Thank you, Kyle,”


“No, thank you for sharing them with us. You know I would do almost anything for them.”


“I know you would,” Jason said, a hint of sadness in his voice.


“Cheer up, or are you going to make me tickle you with my tail?” Kyle threatened.


“Hey, I’m sick,” Jason protested when Kyle jumped on the bed.


“So?” Kyle smiled wickedly. “Get my bag from the bedroom, will you James? I think his majesty could use a proper massage.


“As you wish,” James said, sliding off the bed.


“You don’t have to do this.”


“But I do,” Kyle insisted. “I don’t know what you and James have been whispering about, but I’m sure it has to do with me. You think I’m upset that you’ve stolen my husband.”


“I…” Jason stammered.


“Don’t be. I’m not the kind of person who’s going to begrudge the Admiral his happiness.”


“I’m sorry, Kyle, I never…”


“Please, Jason, let me finish. I know something has been bothering James for a long time, and I know it has to do with me. You don’t have to tell me what it is. It’s probably best that I don’t know, or else you or James would have told me what it is by now. I just want to thank you, is all.”


“Thank me for what?”


“For being here for James. Before you came, our lives had become a tug of war. Half the time James wanted to keep me close to him, while the other half he would send me away, sometimes for weeks. That all changed when you showed up. I know the same things are still bothering him but, since he has you, he no longer feels the need to shut me out.”


“Oh, Kyle…” Jason wept.


“Now, don’t start crying on me or I’m really going to start worrying.” Kyle laughed nervously. “Let’s just admit that you two have had a dream about me, but can’t do anything to stop it from coming true. Am I right?”


“Yes,” Jason nodded.


“James had this dream even before we met you?”


“Y-Yes,” Jason stammered.


“And that’s what has him so scared. He’s afraid this dream will come true or, worse, has to come true, or something horrible will happen.”


“Yes,” Jason cried.


“I see… and your seducing my husband? It is also part of the dream?”


“It’s the only way he’ll survive what will happen.”


“I… I understand now. Thank you for telling me the truth. You don’t have to tell me what will happen. As I said, it is probably best that I don’t know. I never took you for a husband stealer, Jason, but now I understand why you did it. You love James. I don’t doubt that, but you also need him for some great purpose. I always knew I was not as important as James, but at least I know now that I, too, will do something important before I depart,” Kyle managed to say before breaking down into tears. “But I don’t want to die…” he cried, clinging to Jason desperately.


“I wish I could save you, Kyle, but too many other people will die if you are not here to do your great deed.”


“Is that why you and James were going to sail off to Fu Dor?”


“I felt it would be worse for him, if he was here when it happens.”


“So it’s going to happen soon.”


“Yes,” Jason whispered.


“Who will die if I don’t?”


“Philip, James, and the children,” Jason replied honestly.


“You just had to throw in the children, didn’t you?” Kyle chuckled as he continued to weep. “Right after I said I would do almost anything for them.


“I’m sorry, Kyle, but it has to be this way. Amplexor…”


“Amplexor?” Kyle jumped. “What does that bastard have to do with this?”


“He is the man you have to kill,” Jason replied.


“Die, save a bunch of lives, and take Amplexor down with me. I must say you drive a hard bargain. I think I’ve changed my mind. I want to know everything… every last detail of your dream. If I’m to go down fighting, I at least want an idea about how to do it right.”


“Are you sure?” Jason asked.


“Yes… just leave out the exact date, or else I’ll just spend my remaining time staring at a calendar.”


“Very well…” Jason said as he began. He didn’t just tell Kyle the dream of his death, but all of what was going to happen… right up to the very end.


“That’s all?” Kyle whispered when Jason was done. “You don’t know what will happen after you are sent to Mordel?”


“I don’t,” Jason replied.


“I can’t say I really envy you. Does James know all this?”


“He has had most of the same dreams I’ve had,” Jason replied.


“But he didn’t dare tell me any of them,” Kyle sighed.


“If you were in his place, would you?”


“And scare him to death? Not on your life, but I thank you for telling me the truth, all of it. It’s not an easy road ahead of you, is it?”


“It is a terrible one.”


“What about Sin… did you dream of him as well?”


“No, this is why he took me completely by surprise. I have no dreams of him.”


“Does no dreams mean he has no future?” Kyle asked curiously, looking up to see where James was leaning against the doorframe, watching them both.


“I hope not,” Jason whispered.


“Maybe he needs to be given a future, before he can have one,” Kyle replied, a plan beginning to form in his mind.


Catching on to what Kyle was hinting, James did his best not to shout with excitement. Whatever his lover was planning, it was bound to be mischievous. “Why don’t you go down and talk with him, Kyle. Sin hasn’t met you, yet.”


“Alright,” Kyle said, giving Jason a kiss and a caress of his tail before leaving the bed.


“Be patient with him,” Jason said as Kyle slipped on a black silk robe. “It is very easy to upset him.”


“I promise to be gentle,” Kyle winked, giving James a kiss before leaving.


“I hope he knows what he’s getting himself into.” Jason sighed as James undressed in front of him. The moonlight streaming into the room gave the Angel’s skin a bluish tint.


“I think he does,” James nodded. “If he’s right, I think I might one day come to love Philip’s son.”


“Right about what?” Jason asked, sitting up.


“I don’t know yet, and neither does Kyle. But I think he’s found a solution to our little problem.”


“Oh,” Jason said, as James slid under the sheets and climbed on top of him.


“You still feel cold.” James shivered as he wrapped his warm body around Jason.


“So long as I’m better before Celia gets here,” Jason replied.


“Do you really want to marry her?”


“No,” Jason sighed. “And I wouldn’t, if she didn’t insist on it.”


“Why not marry her off to someone else, then? I am sure Amanda would be more than happy to find a suitable candidate.”


“But, I promised…”


“A promise you were forced into making, carries no weight with me,” James insisted as he warmed up Jason’s arms with his hands.


“Why, do you want to marry her?”


“Marry an Isilian… no thanks.” James laughed. “They’re almost as bad as the Mathannons.”


“There’s nothing wrong with what they do,” Jason insisted.


“You forget. I was raised in Jadoor. Women are burned as heretics for sleeping with one another.”


“So are men,” Jason pointed out.


“Not that we couldn’t do with a little fire right now,” James replied as he continued to warm Jason up. Deep inside both men, something even more powerful was happening. Where Jason’s true bond had only lain with Philip, it now also reached out to James. To Jason’s surprise, however, his bond with Philip did not weaken, but grew stronger as the wounds of the past began to heal on their own, rekindling his anima core.


“I love you, James… just as much as I love Philip. Do you accept that?” Jason whispered as he felt the new bond grow stronger.


“What?” James asked, confused.


“Do you accept it? Think carefully, James,” Varrus said from the doorway, a pleased smile on his face.


“Of course I accept you,” James nodded eagerly. With those words, James felt threads of coarse dark shadows bind to his newly formed bond with James. Where there had been three strands there was now a wide and continuous band.


“What’s happening?” James whispered, as his mind felt as if a wild animal had just been set loose.


“He’s coming for you, James,” Jason whispered, his face now hidden by his own glowing light.


“Me?” James asked, looking at Varrus.


“This is what I hoped would happen. I feared Jason’s bond would break if it included you, but I also hoped it would be like other Centurions, and grow stronger when your threads were added to it. There is a price, however. You and Jason are now as one, just as Jason is with Philip.”


“One with Philip, does that mean?”


“Yes, though you are a mere twinkling star compared to Jason’s sun, you are now a bond-mate of Philip’s. There is nothing left for me to teach my pupil, and I surrender the title of mentor with a glad heart,” Varrus said, as he threw off his robes and crawled on his knees toward the bed. “Jason, I beg of you, do not leave me out in this darkness without you,” the Saint cried.


“Do you accept him?” Jason asked James.


“What?” James asked bewildered.


“I, alone, cannot bring him into the light. Only together can we do that. Do you accept him?” Jason asked again, now a glowing pillar of light.


“I know how much Varrus means to you, so yes, I accept him. Will you accept Kyle?”


“I already have,” Jason said in a calm but distant voice. “He and Philip are racing here to join us.”


“I don’t know if I can ever forgive Philip.”


“You don’t need to. All he needs is your love,” Jason said, and the bond that joined them all together grew even stronger, as more threads were added. “He is ‘our’ responsibility now, James.”


“I understand,” James said as Kyle and Philip entered the room. The white veins on their bodies were glowing like white lightning, dancing wildly on their skin. “Philip, stand next to James and take him in your arms.” Doing as he was told, Philip embraced James, while Kyle wrapped his tail around both men. “The feud between you two is now over, understood?”


Closing his eyes, James nodded his head. “I do,” he said with great difficulty.




“Yes, it is over.”


“Then both of you will do what is necessary to see that it remains so,” Jason said in a commanding tone. “From this day forth, we five will stand together as one. That means no more outside adventures, Philip. Understand?”


“I do,” Philip nodded, tightening his embrace around James.


“James, will you love Philip as you love me?”


“I…” James stammered. Ending his vendetta against Philip was one thing; loving him as much as Jason, however, seemed impossible.


“Let me handle this,” Philip said, pulling James into a hard kiss, his tail entwining both their bodies together.


When their lips parted, James gasped for air. “That was…” James was lost for words.


“That is the passion of a true Demon,” Jason replied. “If you can surrender yourself to it, love will come.”


“Well, my fellow Field Marshal, shall we seal our new alliance in my bed chamber?”


“Kyle?” James whispered. Feeling a portion of Philip’s strength, he could see how he could easily be overwhelmed.


“Don’t look at me,” Kyle said, his eyes locked on Jason’s.


“Go with him, James,” Jason encouraged. “I think you will understand much better through this experience.”


“But,” James replied, as he felt himself lifted off his feet by Philip, as the Demon carried him away.
























Chapter Fourteen: Shadow of Hope



“Are you sure you want this?” Varrus asked Jason, once they were alone with Kyle.


“I am sure, Varrus,” Jason said, as Varrus and Kyle lay on either side of him. “I hope this will solve all our problems.


“It might,” Varrus agreed. “I meant what I said. It’s been an honor being your mentor.”


“I feel blessed for having you as my teacher.”


“While I am happy with the end results, I hope this never happens again,” Varrus said as he nuzzled up to Jason.


“James will keep Philip’s leash short,” Jason replied.


“Are you sure that’s what you want?” Varrus asked, concerned.


“The dreams…” Kyle answered for Jason. “If the Grau come and take him, someone will need to remain behind to keep Philip under control.”


“I see,” Varrus nodded. “I still think we must work to prevent that from happening in the first place.”


“So do I,” Kyle agreed in an overly cheerful voice.


“You have a plan?” Varrus asked, curious.


“I don’t know if I have a plan, but I think I know of someone who might be able to save my life, at least.”


“Who?” Jason asked eagerly.


“Why, Sin of course.”


“Sin?” Jason said, confused.


“You’ve never had a dream about him. You didn’t even know he was going to be born, correct?” Kyle asked.


“Yes,” Jason nodded.


“Then it stands to reason that, whatever prophecy you’re following doesn’t take Sin into account, either. What I am trying to say, is that he has sort of messed things up.”


“I wouldn’t say that.”


“But you understand what I’m trying to say. If the prophecy didn’t predict Sin’s birth, maybe the prophecy can’t predict anything to do with Sin.”


“I think I understand,” Varrus said. “You think Sin is an anomaly that can change the course of Jason’s visions.”


“Exactly… like, for instance, saving my life.” Kyle said, beaming with pride at his own cleverness.


“I wish there was a way we could prove that your theory is correct. It’s not something I wish to gamble your life on.”


“It’s a risk I’m willing to take,” Kyle said.


“At the very least, it’s a theory we need to test,” Varrus agreed. “If Sin can break the chain of events that will lead to your capture, then I say we give him that chance. If Kyle turns out to be right, I might actually thank Philip for being such a hedonistic bastard,” he laughed.


“We must be very careful, then. If the Dominus learn that Sin represents a danger to their plans, they might try to kill him,” Jason whispered.


“Then we must keep Sin safe until Louis returns. He is the only one who can take on the Grau directly,” Varrus said. “Where is he, by the way?”


“He’s a day away from reaching Galantor, Dorsa’s capital.”


“Is Julian still safe?”


“He is, for the moment. I do not know how much longer that will be the case. From what Geoff has seen, King Avin is preparing for war.”


“How soon?” Varrus asked.


“My spies tell me there is to be a meeting of the kings, in Sol, before the end of autumn. If the purpose of that meeting is to declare war against the Empire, then, as soon as winter ends, we should expect their armies to move against us.”


“Will we be ready in time?” Kyle asked.


“I don’t know. The Western Centurion Army is still in shambles; the Home Guard is still under strength; and Marcus is reporting increased rebel activity in Huron. As for the new Centurion fleet, only three hundred warships have been completed so far, but we have the ships from the Eastern Kingdoms to support us. I guess it all depends on where they attack us first… by land or by sea.”


“Knowing Aidan, he will most likely try to do both at the same time,” Kyle replied. “Send his armada into the Inner Sea while his armies besiege the Gate, and invade the Eastern Kingdoms, either through Huron or Dorsa. That would succeed in cutting us off from any support from our allies.”


“That it would,” Varrus agreed. “Is that your thinking, or James’?”


“We’ve talked about the possibilities, and we agree that is what Aidan would most likely do. The flaw in Aidan’s plan, however, is that he doesn’t yet know about our alliance with Fu Dor. When the merchant fleets return from the Southern Isles empty, the Merchant Guild will have no choice but to cut off Aidan’s funding. That will force him to turn to the church.”


“Which in turn will squeeze the other kingdoms into open revolt,” Jason nodded. “I will have to tell Louis all this, the next time he contacts me. It makes a possible alliance with Dorsa that much more important.”


“I would also send a message to Caleb. If the Federation is thinking of invading Qul Tos, he needs to begin fortifying the border immediately,” Varrus added.


“I will see to it. Right now, most of my Winged Guards are preoccupied, welcoming James’ Saints into the family.”


“I see,” Varrus chuckled. “What about Kyle’s Spawn?”


“They’re preoccupied too.” Kyle chuckled nervously.


“Then I guess we should be also,” Varrus murmured, as he pulled the blankets over all three of them.


“Have you ever made love to Varrus?” Jason asked Kyle, before their lovemaking began in earnest.


“No, but I’ve heard plenty of stories,” Kyle giggled.


“Want to see if they’re all true or not?” Varrus dared, as the bed began to creak.


“I don’t see why Philip and James should have all the fun,” Kyle replied, before a pair of lips silenced him.
























Chapter Fifteen: King Avin



“King Avin,” Louis bowed, dressed in the formal blue and silver armor of the Tosian kings.


“King Louis,” Avin nodded. “It has been a long time since an eastern king has graced us with his presence. I see you have brought the Lord of Ingral with you, as well. His reputation is well known here. I am surprised you would have such a chaperon in your company, however.


“My Overking felt the presence of the captain of his bodyguard would help convey the importance of which he values this meeting,“ Louis replied. “Of course, this is not a formal embassy from Domus. That would go against Federation law. I am here only as an envoy of Qul Tos, here out of my concern for one if its citizens.”


“You mean that false priest, Julian?”


“High Priest Julian,” Louis corrected.


“Maybe in Qul Tos but here in Dorsa he is mere heretic.”


“To call him a heretic would suggest that his beliefs originally stemmed from the Jadoor Church. Nothing could be further from the truth.”


“Do not listen to him, your majesty,” a Jadoorian bishop, standing beside the throne, said. “His lies will taint your very soul.”


“Maybe they are lies. I know, for a fact, that Emperor Jason denounces his divinity at least three times a day,” Louis laughed. “If his majesty is a false god, at least he is an honest one.” That comment triggered a large amount of laughter from the gathered Dorsan nobility.


“The only true gods are the Holy Mother and her sons. Everyone knows that,” the bishop shouted, his face turning red with anger.


“Are you saying divinity is the sole right of the Jadoorians, such as yourself? I might be wrong, but I don’t believe I saw a single Dorian in priest’s garb my entire way here,” Louis said, this time setting the nobility to grumble.


“Heretic!” The bishop shouted, half expecting the palace guards to seize Louis and Geoff. When they didn’t, the priest set his eyes to glare at King Avin.


“King Louis and his companion came to us under a flag of truce. I will not destroy my own honor by arresting them,” Avin told the bishop.


“You have been listening to the lies of that false priest. He has tainted your soul. Beware, you majesty, for the grace of the Mother, which placed you on your throne, can also remove you if you earn the animosity of the gods.”


“Oh, enough… leave, your grace, and save your words to the mob outside. I dismiss you.”


“And leave you at the mercy of these heathens?”


“I do not think my life, or my soul, will be placed in danger by these two men,” Avin said as he waved a pair of his guards to him, to drag the bishop out if necessary.”


“I will be informing the church of this heresy,” the bishop said, as he pulled away when one of the guards grabbed him by his black robes.


“Report away,” Avin laughed, as the priest was led out of the throne room. Once the doors were closed, however, his face went deadly pale. “What have I done? I will have all the might of Jadoor falling on my kingdom before the season is through.”


“That was most brave of you, King Avin,” Louis said. “I hope we can prove ourselves worthy of the risk you just took.”


“You’d better, your majesty, or all three of us will be burned as heretics,” Avin said as he fanned himself to dry his nervous sweat.


“Is Julian well?”


“More than well,” Avin laughed. “I swear, nothing can scare that man.”


“He does put a lot of faith in the Emperor,” Louis chuckled.


“That he does. He has almost half my court believing that your Emperor is not just a god, but the only path to salvation. Is that what you believe?”


“I don’t know about Jason being a god, though he does have a god-like presence. As for being Ares’ only path to salvation, yes, that is true.”


“What of King Aidan? Is he not a god himself?”


“He is, but a gray stone being called a diamond. Jason, on the other hand…” Geoff said.


“I understand what you’re trying to say. I must say, I was very impressed by how he defeated the armies of the old Confederacy. I was even more impressed by how he got every king in the east, except for Huron, to recognize him as their superior.”


“Jason is a very easy Emperor to serve, as long as one does right by his people,” Louis replied.


“Will I find him so easy to serve?” Avin asked, going to the heart of the matter.


“Tell me what Julian has been up to in your lands,” Louis said, changing the subject.


“Sowing the seeds of chaos,” Avin sighed. “For three months he wandered my lands, preaching the goodness of his Emperor. He has converted a great number of people, as well. In some villages he’s been to, the people even chased out their Jadoorian priests.”


“Then who preaches to the people once Julian moves on?” Louis asked.


“Why, the fool appoints a member of the village to serve as priest.”


“He’s making Dorsan priests?” Louis laughed for effect.


“Yes, he has,” Avin nodded, first laughing but then becoming quite serious. “I must say that my people find the idea absurd, like you do at first, but many have become quite keen on the idea. After all, for the entire history of our kingdom, our priests have come from Jadoor. We’ve always resented it, but had no other choice unless we wanted to be burned as a heretic. I still remember the first time I smelled a man being burned alive. It’s a scent that never disappears once your nose has caught it. Does your Emperor do that by the way… burn people who disagree with him?”


“Jason order someone killed for disagreeing with him?” Louis laughed. “The worst Jason would do is scold the person, but you’ve met Julian so you know how little good that does.”


“Julian fights with his god?” Avin said amazed.


“All the time. As I said, Jason hates being viewed as a god.”


“Then why did he make Julian his high priest?”


“In order to prevent burnings, and the like, in the first place. If anything, Jason is a pragmatist. He knew there was nothing he could say or do that would stop people from secretly worshiping him. He also knew that, if he ignored the matter, his people would start religious disagreements and fights about him on their own. That is why he made Julian High Priest. He needed someone, who wholly loved him, to keep his other followers from fighting with each other. That is why I laughed when your bishop declared me a heretic, because the people who worship Jason know there is no such thing.”


“No such thing as a heretic… no burning, no inquisitors, and no religious courts?” Avin asked, his excitement growing with each question.


“None,” Louis said with a wide grin.


“And taxes… no church tax?” a member of the nobility asked.


“No taxes, and almost no hierarchy. Julian is High Priest, but he has no official authority.”


“Then how does he control it?” Avin asked.


“He controls it through respect. Since Jason chose him to be the head of his church, the other priests tend to listen to what he has to say.”


“And salvation?” a woman in the crowd asked.


“Jason is too concerned with the suffering of this world to involve himself with life in the next,” Louis replied.


“If he is so mighty, what does he plan to do about Jadoor?” Avin asked.


Louis grinned, having already searched the king’s mind for Jadoor’s plans. “His majesty is aware that Jadoor prepares for war and that you are about to leave for Sol to discuss that very matter. Even as we speak, however, eight Jadoorian battalions are crossing the Desert of Flames for Huron, while your armies are moving toward your border with Qul Tos.”


“You are very well informed, but you didn’t answer my question. What does your emperor plan to do about it?”


Louis waited for Jason to give him his answer before replying. “He is recalling the Centurion army from Huron, to meet your invasion from the west.”


“So he is going to leave Huron at the mercy of his raiders?”


“As of now, Huron doesn’t exist,” Louis replied sternly.


“What do you mean? Huron is one of the oldest and largest kingdoms in the east. He can’t just erase it from the map.”


“Of course not… he’s redrawn it. Western Huron is now a part of Qul Tos. The central lands have been divided between Tal Sith and Ortha, while the east is now part of Norgoth. Since the other kingdoms have long looked with envy at Huron’s rich lands, you can rest assured that the other kingdoms will do their best to defend their new lands from Jadoorian raiders.”


“Something like this cannot be done,” Avin said, stunned.


“It has been done,” Louis said sternly. “By giving the other kingdoms a vested interest in Huron, Jason can leave its protection in their hands. That frees him to send his legions westward to meet your planned invasion of Qul Tos. Have you ever faced Field Marshal Marcus in battle? I am sure you will be more impressed by him, than you were Field Marshal Lukas.”


“Your emperor is quick to respond to changing events.”


“You could say he has good foresight, but that would understate the truth.”


“He knows the future?”


“Yes, or I should say, he knows the path the future must take if we are all to survive it.”


“Then he knows what I must do…” Avin sighed.


“He believes he knows what’s in the best interest of our people.”


“And that is for me to betray the federation, and the holy church, to follow you emperor.”


“There are a lot worse things you could do… send your armies into Qul Tos, for starters,” Louis replied. “Jason is a kind ruler, but he also knows that the best way to save lives in war is a swift and merciless victory. Better to be his friend, than his enemy, on the field of battle.”


“There is wisdom in what you say, your majesty,” Avin agreed. “But I am not so free as to be able to change sides as fast as your emperor carved up Huron. My kingdom is filled with Jadoorian priests and the Templar guards. Even if I were to denounce the church and expel the priests, I cannot guarantee that my nobles and generals will not side with Jadoor and revolt. Many of them truly believe in the Holy Mother.”


“That’s understandable,” Louis agreed. “I remember a time, however, when Dorsa saw itself as a kingdom of the east, and not a part of the Federation.”


“That is ancient history, which very few remember.”


“Only because of the concerted efforts of the Jadoorian Church to stamp out such memories. The loss of your kingdom to Jadoor, however, is well remembered in the east. It has long been the source of our suspicion towards any religion, until recent history. In Tal Sith, one can still hear the old songs of Dorsa’s losing fight to keep its independence. Maybe it’s time your people heard the old songs again.”



“I would love to hear the old songs again,” Avin sighed with a nod.


“That can be easily arranged,” Louis said. “Not just in your royal court, but throughout your kingdom.”


“I didn’t know your lands had so many minstrels.”


“Tal Sith does not, but Domus has thousands. Centurions do love their tales, after all, and do not care where the story comes from. Give the word, and I can have an entire legion of bards in your lands stirring up the old memories of the time before Jadoor and the Federation.”


“You are willing to risk so many lives to the Jadoorian Templar?”


“They will be well protected. The emperor has no intention of letting anyone be burned. By the time the winter snows melt, your people will be ready to revolt against Jadoor and you will be free to act.”


“Send your legion of minstrels then… send as many as you want. I will send word to the local garrisons that they are not to let your people be harmed. If Jadoor feels threatened by a few harmless songs, it will just prove what cowards they really are.”


“Not all songs are harmless, your highness.” Louis chuckled. “We will, of course, be willing to take Julian back with us, a token of good will on your part. That way, you won’t have to keep on making excuses to the bishop as to why you will not surrender our High Priest to him.”


“Yes, take him before he causes anymore trouble, and give your emperor my warm regards. We might all end up tied to a stake, but I’m sure we will make quite a merry fire before all is said and done.” Avin laughed.




























Chapter Sixteen: Princess Celia



Sitting in his throne room with only Philip, Varrus, James, and Kyle present, Jason opened his eyes when the meeting between Louis and King Avin ended. “It’s done,” he whispered.


“That was easier than I thought it would be.” Philip laughed.


“It was an easy offer for him to accept,” James replied. “Jadoorian priests are not the kind of men to frequent local taverns. Doing so would sully their reputations. Even if they notice what our minstrels are singing, they will only come across as tyrants if they try to burn the man.”


“But I don’t want anyone to get burned,” Jason insisted.


“And none of them will. After all, each one will be accompanied by finest students the Tosian Academy has produced.”


“Speaking of which, King Samuel is pressing me to open a similar school in Tal Sith,” Jason sighed.


“He’s jealous. He saw firsthand, in Huron, the skill and discipline of the Tosian regular army.” Philip laughed.


“How soon until Tal Sith and the other kingdoms are able to move their armies into what’s left of Huron?” James asked.


“King Samuel already knows what to do. My ambassadors in the other kingdoms are informing the kings as we speak,” Jason replied.


“That was very quick thinking on your part,” Varrus said.


“It’s the only thing I could have done. Twelve thousand soldiers from Jadoor could pose no real threat to Marcus’ legions, but they could cause a lot of chaos. The other kingdoms don’t have armies as good as Qul Tos, but they should be able to handle Jadoor’s small force. They have always hated the Federation more than Domus, and should be eager to join the fight.”


“Of course you are aware that King Aidan is bound to have a few spies in King Avin’s court,” James said.


“And, by now, Louis knows who they are. Geoff will see that no word of what was said reaches King Aidan’s ear,” Philip said, beaming with pride at his husband. “That is why you sent Geoff along, right?”


“It’s one of the reasons,” Jason nodded. “I’m going to have to scold Julian again, once he is back here.”


“He won’t listen to you,” Philip said. “He’ll attribute whatever you say to your divine humbleness. At least that’s what he tells your believers.”


“I need to find him something to do, to keep him from getting into trouble.”


“How about have him build you a temple?” Kyle suggested. “That’s what the Kings of Jadoor would do if they had to deal with a bad High Priest.”


“Where would I have it built?” Jason asked, skeptical of the idea.


“How about in the old Legatio quarter? You did turn the entire area into one large garden,” James suggested, getting a frown from Jason in reply. “Make the church so large and grand that it will take him forever to finish it.”


“A giant temple in honor of me?” Jason said, horrified by the idea.


“To the bond,” Philip suggested.


“What?” Jason asked confused.


“Build a temple in dedication to the bond between Centurion and Legatio… a towering monument to stand against the culture of Legatio cynicism.”


“Very well, I can live with that… only so long as you don’t design it as a giant bathhouse,” Jason replied.


“Why would I ever want to do that?” Philip said, trying to sound innocent. The thought hadn’t occurred to him, but he liked the idea.


“I didn’t grow up in the west, Philip, but I know enough about religion to know I don’t want a sex cult worshiping me. I made that plain to Julian long ago.”


“Why, did he want to start one?” Philip asked, giving Jason a wicked smile.


“You’re hopeless,” Jason sighed.


“At least I’m now faithful.”


“Given that you have the choice of the four of us, I would hope so,” Jason laughed, as the door to the throne room opened and a Winged Guard appeared.


“Her highness, Princess Celia, has reached the palace. She’s with her majesty, the queen, inspecting her quarters,” the guard reported.


“Is there anything else, Darius?” Jason replied.


“Yes, there is the matter of her personal guard. She’s brought a hundred armed women with her into the city. It’s caused quite a commotion.”


“I’m sure it has.” Jason nodded. Armed Famulus were one thing. For a Centurion to see a woman bearing arms, however, bordered on insult. “I will discuss the matter with her highness,” he promised.


“You’d better,” Philip grunted. He, too, was not pleased with the idea of having women guards in the palace.


“I will make it clear to her that her guards are to confine themselves to her portion of the palace.”


“Just so long as they don’t dare enter ‘our’ portion,” Philip insisted.


“James…” Jason said, looking for help.


“Don’t look at me. I’m from Jadoor, remember? They only armed women I’ve ever seen are soldiers from Mathannon, and I was raised to see them as heretics.”


“I will discuss the matter with her,” Jason promised. “You did see that she has her own private bath?” Jason asked Varrus.


“It was one of the first things I saw to. Amanda is one thing, but I don’t think our men would understand having two hundred naked women wandering around the palace,” Varrus replied.


“Well, if that is all, I will go see to the matter of Princess Celia at once,” Jason said, as he stood and left the throne room.


“I won’t have him marry an Isilian, especially that Isilian,” Philip hissed.


“Because you killed her mother?” Varrus replied. “Jason is not doing this out of love, Philip, at least not for Celia, so you shouldn’t be concerned.”


“Then why is he doing it?” Kyle asked, hopping onto one of the throne’s gold armrests.


“Out of the debt he feels toward Melissa,” Varrus replied. “The closest thing he ever had to a real mother, or a friend, for most of his life.”


“That doesn’t change the fact she’s an Isilian,” Philip insisted.


“And what is so bad about that? At least she can’t complain about Jason’s sex life, not unless she wants to look like a hypocrite,” Varrus said.


“Just the very idea of it gives me the shudders,” Kyle replied, as he quivered. “My mother told me about what Mathannons do in bed. I think that’s what turned me gay, now that I think about it.”


“Mathannons are not the same as Islians.” Varrus insisted.


“How so?” Philip demanded.


“For starters, you would be hard pressed to find a young Isilian woman with an eighty year old crone as her lover. In Mathannon, women are arranged in houses, where its eldest member has total control over the other women’s lives. In Isil, women are grouped together by age, skill and lineage. Celia is head of a house, but her women should be nowhere as subservient as those you would find in Mathannon. For example, Celia’s women are not bound to her, and can leave her service whenever they wish. Most women in Mathannon can’t do that.”


“I would still prefer it if Jason would not marry her,” Philip insisted.


“He might not have to,” James chuckled, eyeing Varrus.


“Don’t look at me like that,” Varrus grunted.



























Chapter Seventeen: Women Talk



“Why are you here?” Amanda asked Celia, after showing the princess her spacious quarters.


“To serve as consort to his Imperial Majesty, of course.”


“That’s not what I heard.” Amanda laughed, as she pulled aside the blue curtains overlooking the balcony.


“And pray tell, what might that be?” Celia replied.


“I’ve heard you came here searching for your mother.”


“My mother is dead. Everyone knows that.”


“Your mother’s ghost, then,” Amanda replied. “You will not find what you’re searching for here.”


“I do not see why not. His Imperial Majesty is the only one, left alive, who knew my mother after she abandoned my father.”


“I didn’t know you had such anger toward her.”


“I do not hate her. How can I hate a woman I never knew?”


“By listening to the words of your father,” Amanda replied.


“My father was greatly hurt when she left him.”


“And he made your life miserable, out of revenge. Do not think of lying to me, Celia. I have my own spies, after all.”


“Well, I don’t have to have spies to know you will never be Empress,” Celia retorted.


“I don’t need to be empress and, given the political situation in Domus, I would never be accepted as such.”


“Does it not anger you?”


“Why should it? I never had any illusions about the kind of marriage I would one day enter. My marriage to Jason is political, but that does not mean he does not love, or that he’s any less of a father to our children.”


“I understand you have five sons.”


“Soon to be six,” Amanda said, patting her stomach. “I hope you have had some experience with men before coming here.”


“Unlike you, I have not been a harlot.”


“All the more reason to pity you,” Amanda said, turning around to face Celia. “Do not worry, Jason will not harm you. But I doubt he will bed you properly if he sees a frightened doe.”


“I have had more experience than you might imagine,” Celia said curtly.


“With your servants, women whose only purpose is to please you,” Amanda replied.


“Why do you hate me?”


“I do not hate you, Celia, but I don’t trust you either. You’ve come here with revenge in your heart, and I’m warning you that it is a waste of your time.”


“All I want are answers.”


“But what if you don’t like the answers you get? Jason holds your mother up as a hero, but I don’t see her that way. If she had truly cared about Jason, she would have rescued him the day he was born. I do not believe she was so naïve as to think Eleanor could ever be a good mother to him.”


“Yet, from the letters I’ve received from Jason, she gave her life to save him.”


“Only when her own life was in danger,” Amanda replied. “I’ve read the Legatio histories on the Fall of the Labyrinth Tower, so I know what happened. Melissa didn’t try to save Jason for his own sake. She wanted to use him as a bargaining chip, to escape the Tower.”


“That’s not what Jason believes,” Celia insisted.


“Jason doesn’t know the truth, and has the habit of believing the best of people. I love him for that. I won’t let you take advantage of his false belief that Melissa was indeed a good person. She wasn’t. First, she abandoned her husband and you, just newly born, for Eleanor. Then she watched Jason suffer for twenty-one years at his mother’s hand. Only when Eleanor turned against her did she dare have the courage to help Jason escape from the hell he’d been living in, and then only so the Centurion wouldn’t kill her.”


“But how do you know what you say is true, and what Jason believes is a lie?” Celia demanded.


“Because, not all of Eleanor’s Isilian guards were killed when the Tower fell, at least not right away. Those few who survived were put to the question, until all the facts leading to the fall of the Tower were learned for the sake of history. Rachel, a woman who had long been jealous of Melissa’s position as Eleanor’s lover, planted evidence that incriminated your mother as a traitor. When she learned of this, she knew she had no choice but to flee. There was the matter of the Centurions besieging the tower, however. Even if she surrendered to them, she knew she would most likely be tortured until the Centurions were sure every ounce of truth was extracted from her. She therefore needed something to ensure her safety… Jason. Eleanor, however, acted sooner than she expected and attempted to stop her as she was trying to make her escape. Your mother made it deep into the Labyrinth, but Rachel caught up to her and killed her, just before they were discovered by a Centurion patrol.”


“Rachel killed my mother?” Celia gasped.


“And the Centurions killed Rachel. So you see, you will not find what you’re looking for here,” Amanda lied. She had long ago found out that it was Philip who beheaded Melissa. And, while most of what she said she believed to be true, she also knew that, in the end, Melissa had done the right thing and saved Jason’s life. It was out of her love for Jason, and her desire to spare him the pain of admitting that his lover had killed her mother, that she lied to the princess. She had not counted on Jason hearing her make her accusations, however, so when he appeared in the doorway it was all she could do not to faint.












Chapter Seventeen: The Truth



“That’s enough, Amanda,” Jason said calmly, but with a sternness he had never used with her before.


“Jason I…” Amanda said, feeling her face go cold as the color drained from it.


“I understand what you’re trying to do, my queen, but there is no need to protect me in this fashion. Celia deserves the truth, and I am the only one who can give it to her.”


“I…” Amanda stammered, lost for words.


“Go see the children. I believe Ben is helping Patrick and Gavin with their letters,“ Jason said.


“As you wish, your majesty.” Amanda curtsied, looking down to escape Jason’s hard glare.


“I am sorry you had to hear that,” Jason said, once he was alone with Celia.


“You shouldn’t be here. These are my private quarters,” Celia said. She felt intimidated by Jason’s presence.


“But this is my palace, in my city, in my empire,” Jason replied. “But, most importantly, this is not Isil.”


“Customs dictate…” Celia replied, looking down at the marble floor.


“Isilian customs, not Domus’,” Jason said before she could say anything further.


“Is what the queen said true?” Celia whispered.


“That depends on who you ask. Be it a man, or a woman, we each have our own flavor of truth. Is what most of what Amanda said was true? From a certain perspective, yes. Is it the way I saw things… no, most certainly not.”


“I don’t understand,” Celia said, confused. “How could my mother have done all those horrible things, yet still be remembered by you as your savior?”


“Because she did save me, in many small and a few great ways. Most of my life to that point, was spent as a prisoner in that tower, Celia, and yes, Melissa was my jailor. She was also the only one who would not talk to me with scorn. While I mostly starved during the long years of the siege, she kept me alive by stealing food from the kitchens. She would spend her free time with me, when no one else would. Did she know that her fate was tied to my own? Most certainly, but she was kind to me when kindness wasn’t needed to keep her alive. That’s what saved me. Those small scraps of kindness were what gave me the will to live during those terrible years. Could your mother have done more? Could she have saved me, even before the siege began? Yes, but that does not mean I do not owe her an un-payable debt.”


“Did Rachel kill my mother?”


“No,” Jason whispered. “My lover, Philip, did.”


“And you forgave him?”


“If I had known from the beginning, I might not have, but I got to know him and experience true love and caring from him. So, when I did learn the truth, I couldn’t hate him for it. Know however, that it was what your mother wanted.”


“My mother wanted to die?”


“She had been shot by an arrow while escaping the tower. By the time the Centurions found her, she knew her wound would prove fatal. In the end, she faced the choice of dying while the Centurions tried to heal her in vain, or sacrifice what little time she had left to save me. She chose to save me. That is why, no matter what her original motives, I will always see her as my savior.”


“Amanda was right. I came here out of a desire for revenge.”


“I know, which is why I didn’t want you to come here, but you insisted, and I owed your mother my life. As Amanda said, however, you will not find what you’re looking for here.”


“Why did she lie to me?”


“To protect me. She knew I was not looking forward to having this conversation with you.”


“She must truly love you.”


“She does… I am a better husband than she thought she would have, though I know she wishes I would spend more time with her than I do. I have let her live out her ambitions, though. I gave her the money she needed to establish Domus’ first proper bank. She’s now one of the wealthiest women in all of Ares.”


“So what is to become of me? I have no real ambitions.”


“I do not know, Celia. I know your father would force you to marry one of his old generals, but I do not wish to marry you.”


“Am I so hideous?”


“No, you are quite beautiful, just like your mother before the years of siege took its toll on her. That is why I can’t marry you.”


“Because I remind you too much of my mother?”


“Yes. I could never love you properly, Celia. Don’t’ you think you deserve that, at least?”


“But I must marry… without a male heir, my father’s kingdom will fall into chaos when he dies. His generals will fight among themselves. It would be the end of Isil.”


“Now, we can’t have that,” Jason chuckled. “My palace is filled with unmarried men. Any member of my Winged Guard would make an excellent husband and father.”


“I cannot marry below my station,” Celia replied.


“You shouldn’t see one of my Saints as being beneath you,” Jason said chidingly.


“I am sorry… I do not know the customs here.”


“Yes. One of the flaws of Isil is that its customs tend to make marriages outside the kingdom very rare. For starters, I will have to disarm your guards.”




“Please hear me out first. It’s the Centurions, you see. They get upset if a Famulus carries anything larger than a knife. It’s an insult to them. It’s as if the Famulus is saying he doesn’t trust the Centurions to protect him. It is worse with your guards, since they are all women.”


“I can’t ask them to give up their swords. It’s not a matter of protection, but pride.”


“Yet this is Domus, not Isil, so the pride of my Centurions must take precedence. If it will help you, tell your guards that they must be disarmed because my Centurions feel threatened by them, which isn’t far from the truth.”


“I think they would get a good laugh out of that.” Celia laughed.


“Good,” Jason said, finally letting a smile form on his face. “I do want you to be happy here, Celia. You deserve that, at least.”


“Can I ask you one question, before you go?” Celia said when he saw Jason starting to leave.


“Of course,” Jason nodded.


“If you were me, who would you suggest I marry?”


“Why, the most handsome man I can find,” Jason replied.


“And who might that be?”


“Why, the Speaker of the Senate, Lord Varrus,” Jason chuckled.












Chapter Eighteen: Religious Discussion


Taken directly to the palace, Julian was bathed, had a haircut, and dressed in a clean blue robe, before he was taken to the throne room to face Jason’s wrath. When he was within ten feet of Jason, he went down on his knees and prostrated himself before the emperor, much to Jason’s annoyance.


“Enough, Julian, I’m not going to talk to you with your face pressed to the floor. Anyway, it hasn’t been cleaned in two weeks.”


“As you command, your holiness,” Julian said, standing back up, but keeping his eyes on the marble floor.


“Look at me, Julian,” Jason sighed, only getting a quick glance before Julian went back to looking at the floor.


Since Louis was standing behind Julian, Jason turned to him for answers. “What is going on, Louis?”


“I don’t know. He’s been acting weird ever since we left King Avin’s palace. Would you like me to investigate the matter?” Louis asked tapping his head.


“Please,” Jason nodded.


“There is no need for that,” Julian insisted. “I am only trying to show proper respect toward you, your holiness.”


“By not looking at me?”


“It is how one shows proper respect towards one’s god.”


“According to who?” Jason demanded.


“Why, the Jadoorians,” Julian replied.


“You’re taking religious lessons from the people you’re supposed to convert?” Philip laughed.


“They do seem to have more experience with religion than I,” Julian said sheepishly.


“Well, I’m telling you to forget whatever nonsense they told you,” Jason replied.


“As your holiness wishes,” Julian said, slowly raising his face to meet Jason’s dark eyes.


“Now, isn’t that better?”


“If your holiness says so,” Julian said meekly.


“Why are you acting afraid of me, Julian?”


“Because one is supposed to tremble before one’s god, and I know you’re mad at me.”


“And why am I mad at you?”


“Because you told me not to go into the Federation.”


“And why did I tell you that?”


“Because they would try to kill me.”


“Which they did.”


“But I made lots of converts.”


“And that might be the cause for war between Domus and Jadoor, a war I didn’t want.” Jason scolded.


“But you will prevail.” Julian insisted.


“I hope to win, but that doesn’t mean I will,” Jason said, letting out another deep sigh.


“If I have done wrong, than surly you must punish me.”


“And I will,” Jason said giving Julian a hard look, causing the man to cower. “Oh, enough of this, Julian,” he said. He stepped down from his throne and embracing his foolish High Priest. “What am I going to do with you?” he chuckled as he patted Julian on the back.


“Love me, I suppose,” Julian replied, leaning his head on Jason’s chest.


“And I will…no matter how much trouble you cause me.” Jason rocked the priest in his arms. “How are things in Dorsa?”


“Going as planned. I heard a few interesting songs on my way back.”


“I’m sure you did. How were the Jadoorians reacting?”


“Like they’re on the wrong end of a tawdry joke,” Louis laughed.


“Good,” Jason said as he went over to Louis and hugged him as well.


“I hope you don’t plan on sending me away again, anytime soon.” Louis chuckled as he held Jason tightly to him.


“Louis,” Jason grinned, he could feel the man hardening against him. “Didn’t Geoff provide you with ample company?”


“He did, on the way there. But I’ve spent the last two weeks flying with Julian. He was so eager to see you he would try to fly in his sleep. Scared the wits out of me.”


“But now you’re back,”


“And here to stay,” Louis laughed, spinning Jason around the room. “Never again will I let you send me away.”


“At least for now,” Jason agreed. “There is something I need your help with.”




“Yes, as you might know Philip had a son.”


“I have heard that rumor, was told it greatly upset you.”


“That’s now in the past. We believe that since neither James nor I predicted Sin’s birth, that his destiny lies outside the prophecies, and that he might have the power to even change them.”


“It could be possible, but I would hate to test that theory.”


“But we need to. Kyle’s life is at stake.”


“If we have to, we have to. I’m not arguing against it. I’m just trying to warn you of the risks. The Dominus and Grau will be most displeased if their plans for you fail.”


“This is why I need your help. If Sin can really change the path of the prophecies, then the Dominus might try to kill him so he can’t ruin their plans. I know of no one better suited for the task of protecting Philip’s son than you, since you can sense an approaching Grau from miles away.”


“I know… there are already three inside the city.”


“When Geoff gets back, you two can take care of them. Just don’t let them get to Sin.”


“I will do my best,” Louis nodded.


“You always do,” Jason smiled.


“Then you should have no problem rewarding me,” Louis said as he pressed himself against Jason’s body.


“Go talk to Philip and James. If they’re willing to accept you, then I have no problem with bedding you.”


“You require interviews now… I leave for several weeks and come back to find an entire bureaucracy guarding your bedchambers? Louis laughed.


“Philip and I have decided to trim the list of our bed companions.”


“Well, I hope I didn’t get cut.”


“That is why you need to talk to Philip and James.”


“So they now hold the keys to your bedchamber, aye? Mayhaps that’s for the best, so long as I’m included on that short list.”


“I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you.” Jason laughed as Louis reached over to tickle him.


“I’m sure you can do a lot more than that,” Louis said with a wolfish grin.


“Now, don’t give me that look,” Jason warned.


“Why, you’re afraid I might eat you?” Louis laughed as he chased Jason around the throne room.


“Papa?” A voice interrupted.


“Jacob,” Jason laughed, just as he was tackled by Louis.


“Jacob?” Louis smirked on seeing the tall slender man.


“More than a few things have changed since you left,” Jason said as he got back onto his feet.


“Is that a quarter staff I see in your hands, Jacob?”


“Yes,” Jacob replied nervously.


“Out to challenge your old man, eh?”


“No, papa is too good for me to ever beat.” Jacob blushed.


“You mean your pa won’t let you win, even once?” Louis laughed, slapping Jason on the rear.


“That would be cheating,” Jacob whispered.


“He gets mad if he thinks I’m not trying my hardest to beat him,” Jason explained.


“A feisty son you have there, Jason,” Louis said giving Jacob a sly wink causing Jason’s son to look down in embarrassment.


“He tries to be,” Jason nodded, going over to embrace Jacob.


“Father loves me,” Jacob whispered, his eyes giving Louis a suspicious glare.


“Father has always loved you,” Louis replied.


“I’m going to find father a good husband some day, and we’ll live together and be happy.”


“But I have a husband,” Jason chuckled softly.


“You deserve a better one,” Jacob insisted, stubbornly.


“What about James? You like him.”


“I do, but he’s Kyle’s husband. I wouldn’t want to break them up. That’s why I’m going to find a new husband for you, a better one.”


“But I’m happy with the one I have,” Jason laughed.


“I’m not,” Jacob grumbled.


“Can’t you try to like Philip, for my sake?”


“I haven’t bitten him or clawed his eyes out, yet.”


“But that doesn’t mean you haven’t thought about it,” Jason said chidingly. “Shall we go out and practice?”


“Just so long as you don’t let me win,” Jacob murmured as he nuzzled up against Jason.


“Go now… I’ll meet you in the sparring room.” Jason whispered as Louis closed in on him.


“By the Saints… I think he’s in love with you,” Louis whispered, placing his large hands on Jason’s shoulders.


“Not the way you think,” Jason replied in a soft tone.


“He doesn’t want you to ravish him?”


“Of course not, he’s my son. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like a nice cuddle.”


“What about this husband he’s searching for?”


“Knowing Jacob, one day I’ll find a real wolf in my bed,” Jason laughed.


“He wouldn’t.”


“He would,” Jason replied, as he took hold of a gold staff, resting on a rack by his throne. “Wolves are a lot more faithful to one another than men are… at least according to Jacob.”


“He must really hate Philip.”


“No. It’s not hatred, but jealousy. Both he and Philip are constantly testing me to see which one I love the most.”


“And which one is it?”


“I really can’t tell you. Philip is my husband, and I love him as such, just as I love Jacob as my son. It would be like comparing a sword to a bow and arrow.”


“Neither of which I am any good at.”


“You’re a spy, not a warrior,” Jason agreed as they left the throne room.


“Speaking of spying… you’re playing a dangerous game, my Emperor,” Louis warned.


“When the game involves life and death, it is always dangerous.”


“Still, I’m doing my best to protect you from the Dominus and their Grau slaves.”


“I know you are, Louis, but there is only so much you and I can do.”


“War is coming, Jason, and I’m not talking about this minor distraction from Jadoor. I’ve seen your dreams. I know of the storm brewing in the distant east. How do you plan to stop it?”


“I don’t know how,” Jason said in an angry tone, upset more about his own failings than Louis’ questions. “I will find a way, believe me I will.”


“And if the Grau offer you a way out?”


“Then, if it is the only option left to me, I must take it. I would give my life for Domus, Louis. That, I swear.”


“And Domus would give its life for you,” Louis whispered, a deep desire for Jason in his pale eyes.


“Not right now, Louis… later, after you’ve talked with my keepers,” Jason pleaded, feeling Louis’ lust through the bond they shared.


“Very well, later it will be. Until tonight then?”


“Yes, guardian of my dreams,” Jason nodded.

“Keeper of my soul,” Louis whispered back, planting a soft kiss on top of Jason’s forehead before departing.



















Chapter Nineteen: Father and Son



“Why do such men love me?” Jason sobbed once he was alone. “I don’t deserve them.”


“Because you love us,” Jason heard Jacob’s voice say, from down the hall.


“You’ve been listening?” Jason chuckled softly, as he wiped the tears from his face.


“I am always watching you, papa,” Jacob whispered as he came into view.


“You mean spying?” Jason asked with a wry smile on his face.


“Maybe,” Jacob said, tapping his staff against the one his father was holding.


“Shall we begin?” Jason asked, as he flung off his imperial robes.


Through the halls of the imperial palace, father and son dueled against each other. Jacob was constantly pressing his father to fight even harder against him, until they found themselves atop the palace’s central tower, the marble walls of the city of Domus in clear view.


“Had enough?” Jason asked, after he pinned his son to the ground.


“Never enough,” Jacob insisted, as he made a low swipe of his staff in an attempt to knock his father off his feet. Jason, however, was too quick and jumped away.


“You’re going to have to do a lot better than that,” Jason laughed, as his son jumped back onto his feet.


“You’re not fighting hard enough. You should have beaten me by now,” Jacob insisted.


“You need the practice,” Jason said, blocking a series of hard blows from Jacob.


“I’ll never beat you.” Jacob growled, as he slumped against the tower’s railing, exhausted.


“You have never wanted to,” Jason replied, as he sat down next to his son.


“I will, one day. Then I’ll pick a new husband for you.”


“But I already have one,” Jason laughed.


“That’ one’s no good,” Jacob said stubbornly. “I’ll find you a better one. Philip is far from perfect.”


“There is no such thing as a perfect husband.”


“You don’t think I can find someone better?”


“I’m sure you can, but that won’t change my feelings for Philip. Would you like it if Philip found me another wolf?”


“He wouldn’t dare!”


“True, Philip likes cats better,” Jason joked. “Would you like a cat for a brother?”


“No… I like the brothers I already have.”


“And they like you,” Jason said as the tousled Jacob’s gray hair. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you looked older than me.”


“You think I should dye it?”


“No, I like it just how it is,” Jason replied as he stood back up. Just then, the palace bells began to ring. “What a pretty sunset.” He sighed, looking at the red and orange horizon.


“Will it always be like this?” Jacob asked, a hint of fear in his voice.


“No, Jacob, it won’t always be so nice,” Jason replied honestly.


“I love you, papa,” Jacob whispered, as he rested his head on his father’s shoulder.


“I know you do… I just wish you could love Philip as well.”


“Will I fall in love someday?”


“I hope so. There has to be some girl out there who’ll be just right for you.”


“Papa…” Jacob said in a chiding tone.


“Oh, so it’s a boy you’re after,” Jason chuckled as he hugged Jacob tightly.


“You think you can find me such a boy?”


“You don’t think you can find a young man on your own?”


“I just want to be sure you like him too.”


“If you love him, and he treats you well, I’m sure I will love him.”


“Just be sure to keep Philip’s claws off him,” Jacob laughed.


“I’m sure that won’t be a problem,” Jason said, kissing the top of his son’s head.


“I don’t ever want to lose you, papa,” Jacob whispered as the sun began to disappear over the horizon.


“I know you don’t. I promise I’ll think of something,” Jason replied in a soft voice, as darkness fell over the city of Domus.

























Chapter Twenty: Choosing a Mate



“So, Jacob wants you to find him a lover?” James laughed when Jason told him the story. He, Kyle, and Jason were soaking in the palace’s bathhouse, while Philip was entertaining Louis in the shower room.


“It’s very important to him that I approve of his lover.”


Squirting a steam of water out of his mouth, Kyle leaned backwards and floated on his back in the middle of the pool. “So who are you going to pick?”


“I have no idea. Jacob won’t even tell me what kind of lover he wants.”


“Well don’t send Philip to him. The two would claw each other’s eyes out,” James said half jokingly.


“No fear of that,” Jason laughed.


“You could always send him to me,” Kyle said as he continued to swim on his back.


“You sure you’re up to the challenge?” James asked.


“He can’t be much more difficult than you,” Kyle insisted, standing back up to give his lover a wink.


“Thanks all the same, but I think Jacob will want someone of his very own… someone he doesn’t have to share,” Jason replied.


“Too bad Alex is gone… he would be perfect for Jacob,” Philip replied as he came into view, Louis following behind him.


“Well there is no rush. I sent Varrus to teach Jacob his letters.”


“Among other things,” Philip chuckled.


“That’s between them,” Jason insisted.


“You’re not the least bit curious?” Kyle asked as he swam over to Jason’s side, wrapping his leathery tail around the emperor’s waist.


“I’m curious to know if Jacob enjoys being with his new tutor. Other than that, I don’t need to know the specific details,” Jason replied.


“Do any of you believe him? I don’t.” Kyle laughed.


“Jacob is my son. He deserves a little privacy.”


“If Jacob were my son, I would want to meet his mother,” Philip grumbled, as he slid into the heated pool.


“Why?” Louis asked.


“So I could know what, in all of Ares, went wrong.” Philip roared with laughter.


“Jacob is a good son,” Jason replied.


“Except for the fact he wants me dead, you’re right,” Philip said half jokingly.


“He just wants what’s best for me,” Jason said smugly, as he wrapped his arms around Kyle’s narrow waist, while the little demon giggled. “Louis,” Jason said, offering a wet hand to his friend.


“I thought you would never ask,” Louis chuckled in a deep voice. Diving into the pool he did not surface until he was standing directly behind Jason. “Your guardian is here.”


“Your guardian?” Philip smirked.


“Of my dreams,” Jason replied, a soft smile forming on his face as Louis and Kyle kissed him all over.


“And what of the imp?” Philip asked, sliding into the water.


“Do you not love him?” Jason asked, as he and Kyle nuzzled against each other.


“I love him greatly,” Philip agreed, as he waded closer to Jason. “But he is James’ husband.”


“That’s never stopped you before,” Kyle laughed, as Jason played with his wavy white hair.


“Jason?” Varrus’ voice spoke from the entry to the bath.


Looking towards Varrus, Jason saw his Saint, all scratched up, and with a few bite marks on him. “I’ll be back,” he whispered to the others, as he slipped away from Kyle and Louis. They did not miss a step as they wrapped their limbs around each other instead.


“What happened, Varrus?” Jason asked as he followed Varrus into the changing room.


“Your son got a little excited, is all.”


“Jacob did this to you?” Jason asked, shocked.


“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be healed by morning. Jacob, however, is a bit embarrassed. He’s sulking in his room.”


“Let me guess. He won’t come out, and is only willing to talk to me.”


“I see you understand perfectly,” Varrus chuckled, a wry smile on his face.


He stopped briefly in the kitchens. Going to Jacob’s room, he found his son curled up on the bed, soft sobs coming from under the pillow. “Go away,” Jacob whimpered.


“It’s me, Jacob,” Jason said, as he sat down on the bed next to his son.


“Leave me alone.”


“Very well… I guess I’ll have to eat this steak on my own,” Jason said as he placed the steaming plate next to Jacob.


“Steak?” Jacob asked, letting his pug like nose peek out from the pillow.


“Nice, juicy, rare,” Jason said as he cut a thin slice.


“But you don’t like steak,” Jacob said, as the rest of his head popped out.


“Then, I guess someone is going to have to eat it for me.” Jason laughed as he ruffled his son’s gray hair.


“I guess I could,” Jacob said, as he sniffed around the plate.


“Then you better get started,” Jason laughed again as Jacob dug into the meat.


Halfway through, Jacob noticed the bloody juices on his hands and face. “Oh, I forgot…” he blushed as he picked up the silverware that he had knocked off the plate. “How do you use these, again?”


“Don’t worry about it,” Jason said. “Feel any better?”


“A little,” Jacob said, as he let a clawed finger play with the remaining shreds of meat on the plate.


“Good,” Jason said, patting Jacob on the back.


“I’m sorry about Varrus,” Jacob whispered, after a long silence.


“Don’t worry about Varrus. He’ll be better by morning. You just got a little excited, is all.”


“I almost ripped him open.”


“No, you didn’t.”


“But I could’ve,” Jacob whimpered, as he snuggled next to his father.


“We’ll find the right man for you,” Jason insisted.


“Maybe I should have stayed a wolf.”


“Could you have, if you wanted to?”


“I tried… I really did,” Jacob said, resting his head in his father’s lap.


“We all have to grow up one day.”


“But, what will I grow up into?” Jacob asked, examining his sharp nails.


“Into the same kind and charming person you’ve always been.”


“Would Philip agree?”


“Do you really care?” Jason laughed as he tickled Jacob’s sides.


“No,” Jacob laughed.


“We will find the right man for you,” Jason promised, again.


“Just so long as he’s cute,” Jacob said with a smirk on his face.


“I did send Varrus,” Jason replied.


“I said cute… not a god.”














Chapter Twenty-One: Missions



“Varrus, Geoff,” Jason said when the two men entered his study that evening.


“We’re almost ready to leave,” Geoff said, after giving Jason a Centurion salute, his fist over his heart.


“I wish luck to both of you,” Jason said, leaving his desk to embrace both men. “Promise me you’ll be careful.”


“We have every reason to come back safe,” Geoff said, as he kissed Jason on the cheek. “Philip promises to hunt me down if I’m not back by the end of winter.”


“You’d better be very careful, then. He still means to have you,” Jason chuckled.


“I’m only one man, Jason,” Geoff smirked. “Yet Philip thinks my place is in his bed.”


“That’s what Philip thinks about all of us.” Jason laughed.


“I will miss you, Jason. A small part of me thinks you should join me.”


“I’m no assassin,” Jason replied with a soft smile.


“True,” Varrus laughed. “But you would make a useful distraction on a cold night.”


“You are a distraction on any night.” Jason laughed. “You don’t have to go.”


“But, as you know, I am the best man for the job.” Varrus insisted. “Don’t worry, I should be back before spring.”


“As should I,” Geoff added. “From what my contacts have told me, Sirrus is hiding in the Desert of Flames, north of Huron. “I should be in the region within two weeks.”


“And you, Varrus?”


“Julian has been kind enough to contact his followers in Freen. They will be meeting us at Austrola. With me, I am taking twenty Saints and two hundred Demon Spawn. They are already waiting for me at the port of Aquanos.”


“And how do you plan to avoid Jadoorian patrols?” Jason asked


“Our fleet succeeded in capturing three Austorlian ships… attempting to flee the war, I believe. They should get us past any Jadoorian ships.”


“Just promise me you will be careful. I cannot stress enough, the danger the Daughters of the Mother represent to us.”


“I understand,” Varrus nodded. “I’m sure I can get General Zophar to do his duty.”


“Then that’s that… there’s nothing left to be said,” Jason said sadly.


Going to Jason, Varrus embraced him, “Be strong for us, Jason.”


“I will. Just promise you both will come back to me.”


“Not even death will keep us from you,” Geoff promised, as he joined the embrace. For a long, silent, moment they held each other.


“Go now with my blessing,” Jason whispered with tears running down his face.


“We will come back, Jason.” Varrus promised one final time


“I know you will,” Jason whispered, as he felt the others let go of him.


“Do not cry, Jason, but be glad, for our parting is only a temporary sorrow,” Geoff said as he gave Jason one last kiss.


“I will try,” Jason promised.


“Go see Philip,” Varrus recommended as he left.


“I will, after I check on Sin and Jacob.”


“Be careful around those two,” Geoff chuckled as he too left.

















Chapter Twenty-Two: Familiar Complications



Leaving his study, Jason first went to the kitchens and picked up two plates loaded with roast beef and potatoes. He then made his way down to the dungeons, letting the guards open the gates for him. “Hello, Sin.” He smiled as he entered the cell.

Wrapped up in a blanket, Sin was hunched over in a corner of the room. “I’m so cold.” He shuddered.


“Then, maybe this food will help warm you up,” Jason said, as he placed the steaming hot plate on a nearby stool.


Walking on all fours, Sin knelt at Jason’s feet. “I need you, Uncle. Please let me have some more anima.”


“You’ve had too much, as it is,” Jason replied. “Don’t worry; soon the pains will go away.”


“But, Uncle, it hurts too much.”


“I know it does, but we have to be strong, Sin. Try and eat a little.”


With a swipe of his hand, Sin knocked the stool over. “But I don’t want food. I want you.”


Moving back to the cell door, Jason shook his head. “I’m sorry, Sin, but I can’t help you that way. Philip would never allow it.”


“My father?” Sin spat.


“He will see you soon, Sin. Just give him some more time.”


“Leaping toward Jason, Sin opened his mouth wide revealing his razor sharp teeth. “I want to see him now!” Before he could reach Jason, a shadow intercepted him, knocking him to the floor.


“Don’t you dare think about hurting my papa,” Jacob snarled, as the two wrestled on the floor. Eventually, Jacob flung Sin back to his corner, where the young man cowered.


“Jacob?” Jason whispered.


“Papa, you should go.” Jacob bowed as he turned to his father.


“We should both go,” Jason insisted.”


“Not until I teach Sin a lesson.”


“No, son, let Philip handle his own child.”


“Philip?” Jacob said with scorn. “I should tear his heart out.”


Reaching over, Jason placed an arm over his son’s bare shoulders. “You know I can’t have you do that,” he laughed. “Look, I brought you a pot roast.”


“Meat?” Jacob said with interest, as he sniffed the plate Jason was holding.


“Come; let’s leave this place so you can eat.”


“I guess I could go with you,” Jacob said coyly as he took the plate from his father.


Leading his son from the dungeons, the two made their way to the baths. Taking a white towel from a bench, Jason wiped away the brown gravy from his son’s face. “Let’s rest here for a while. It’s not good to swim on a full stomach.”


Jacob let out a loud burp before replying. “Alright… but do I really need a bath?”


Giving Jacob a sniff Jason’s nose curled. “Yes son, you do.”


“Alright,” Jacob sighed, as he sat down on the bench. “Will you bathe with me?”


“Would you like me to?” Jason asked.


“Yes, I would,” Jacob nodded, resting his head on Jason’s arm.


“So what do you think about being human?”


“Humans are so clumsy. Took me forever to learn how to walk.”


“You’re not doing so bad,” Jason said encouragingly.


“I miss being able to run.”


“Not for long. I plan on taking you out to the park, with your brothers, tomorrow.”


“Can my sons come?”


“You mean the pups?” Jason chuckled.




“Of course they can come, as long as they behave themselves.”


“They will, as long as I’m with them.”


“I’ve never asked you this, but where’s your mate?”


“She’s with the rest of the pack in the Jasper Mountains.”


“Been eating old man Rondus’ goats?” Jason guessed.


Jacob put on an innocent look. “It would be a shame to let them go to waste.”


“Now that you’re human, do you think you’ll want to meet girls?”


“Papa,” Jacob blushed.


“Well?” Jason pressed.


“I really don’t like girls that way.”


“Does that mean you like boys?”


“Men, papa, I like men… nice, tall strong men,” Jacob said, as he nuzzled against Jason’s robe.


“Are you trying to flirt with me, Jacob?”


“Maybe, just a little,” Jacob said sheepishly.


“But you’re my son,” Jason pointed out.




“So, father and son don’t do that sort of thing.”




“No, Jacob, unless you want Philip to tear your heart out.”


“He can’t beat me,” Jacob said smugly.


“Until you learn how to run and pounce like a human, he can,” Jason laughed.


“You’re still the most handsome man I know.”


“And you think you’re not?”


“I don’t know. No one has tried to flirt with me yet.” Jacob winked.


“And I’m not about to,” Jason said, giving a wink back. “We’ll just have to find you a boyfriend.”


“I’m sorry about Varrus,” Jacob said sadly.


“I know. You’ll have to be more careful, the next time. And, anyway, Varrus is taken.”


“If I had a man like Varrus, I would never let him leave the den.”


“If we all had men like Varrus, no work would ever get done. How about Louis?”


“He’s all skin and bones.”


“And you’re a meat eater.” Jason joked.


Jacob licked his lips. “Yes.”


Feeling Jacob wrap an arm around his waist, Jason coughed uncomfortably as he felt Jacob give him a squeeze. “Jacob,” he chided.


“But papa…”


“’But papa’, is right.” Jason insisted.


“Can I at least have a kiss?”


“Just a kiss?” Jason relented. Before he knew it, however, he was flat on his back on the bench with Jacob on top of him, their lips locked. And Jacob bit his tongue, just enough to draw a little blood.


“Ow,” Jason said. Not able to escape Jacob’s iron grip on him, or his bemusement at the situation, Jason laughed. “Jacob, and here I thought you didn’t know how to pounce yet.”


“I’m a quick learner,” Jacob replied resting his head on Jason’s chest. “I choose you papa.”


“You choose me?”


“As my life-mate.”


“But, Jacob…”


“It’s already too late. It happened when I bit you.”


“Is that how you gave me your bond?”


“Yes… Kristen told me. He said when a Dalf is born he is given a master, like I was given to you. If a Dalf loves his master, he gives him a love bite, giving him a little of his animus.”

“Funny that Kirsten didn’t think of telling me that.”


“I told him not to.”




“Because I knew it would upset you.”


“What about your sons? Are they Dalf like you? Will they give my sons a love bite?”


“Yes, papa, my sons are my gift to you. I told you not to worry about them.”


“I don’t understand.”


“I’m like you, papa. I will never die. My sons will make sure my brothers never die either. We’ll be one happy family, forever.”


“Oh, Jacob,” Jason whispered, as he ran his fingers through Jacob’s grey hair.


“I love you, papa, more than anything in the entire world. I know you love me.”


“And I do, Jacob… I just never imagined that you loved me like this.”


“But I always have, papa.”


“But papas don’t sleep with their pups.”


“Dalf do,” Jacob insisted.


“You don’t know that,” Jason laughed.


“But you don’t know that they don’t,” Jacob retorted.


“Do you think Philip will allow this?”


Jacob frowned. “Philip will never let me have you. He hates me.”


“No, he doesn’t, and neither do you. Both of you recognized each other for what you are, even when I didn’t.”


“But Jason…”


“Jacob, you’ve been planning to seduce me ever since you were a pup. All that tail wagging and whimpering, was just trying to burrow your way into my heart.”


“And didn’t I.”


“Of course you did. In his own way, Philip was doing the same. I guess that’s why you two have never gotten along. Only a scoundrel feels threatened by another scoundrel.” Jason laughed.


“If you can’t be my mate, can you be my mentor?”


“Like Varrus is mine?”


“Yes,” Jacob said looking at Jason with sad gray eyes.


“If you can get Philip to agree, I would happily be your mentor.”


“But Philip hates me,” Jacob whined.


“I will have a talk with Philip,” Jason said calmly. “In the meantime, I think we should move on to your bath.”


“Will you let me wash you, mentor?”


“If you let me wash you,” Jason nodded.


“I… I would really like that,” Jacob said as he climbed off Jason. When Jason joined him on his feet, Jacob went down on his knees to help Jason remove his leather boots.


“Hey that tickles,” Jason laughed as Jacob massaged his feet.


“I know… I used to lick your feet all the time, just to hear you laugh,” Jacob said with a wicked grin.


After removing his shirt, Jason raised Jacob back to his feet. “Come, you really shouldn’t be on your knees.”


“But I want to serve you, mentor,” Jacob insisted.


“The role of a mentor is to serve his student,” Jason replied calmly. Undoing his belt, Jason let his pants fall to the floor, leaving only his loincloth.


Once naked, Jason took Jacob’s sweating hand in his and led him into the next chamber where steam rose from the heated pool. Once on the edge of the water, Jason let go of Jacob’s hand and dove into the water. “Come on in, the water’s perfect,” he called out.


“But…” Jacob whimpered, daring only to dip a single toe in the water.


“Oh, I forget. You don’t know how to swim.” Jason laughed as he wadding back to the edge of the pool. “Come on in. I won’t let you drown.”


Sitting down at the edge of the pool, Jacob let Jason hold him by his sides and lower him into the water. Jason barely got Jacob’s legs in the water when the Dalf panicked, wrapping his legs tightly around Jason’s waist and wrapping his arms around the back of Jason’s neck. “I’m glad you no longer have claws, or I would be a bloody mess.” Jason chuckled as he slowly lowered Jacob down into the water.


“I’m all wet,” Jacob pouted when they resurfaced.


“Did you think you wouldn’t get wet?” Jason asked.


“I’m used to licking myself clean, thank you very much.”


“That’s why you need a bath.”


“I need a bath… I remember licking your face when you were all dirty.”


“That you did,” Jason said, just before he dunked Jacob’s head under the water.


“Do you need help your majesty?” a Famulus servant asked.


“Bring me some sponges, and a lot of soap. This is going to take a while,” Jason said before letting Jacob resurface.


“Stop doing that,” Jacob protested.


“Stop what?” Jason laughed as he dunked Jacob a third time. This time, Jacob retaliated. Grabbing Jason’s legs, he flipped him over. He then pounced on Jason. The two ended up spinning in the water as they wrestled.


When Jason got Jacob well and truly pinned against the wall of the pool, Jacob went very submissive, resting his head on Jason’s chest. “Got you,” Jason whispered, as he stroked Jacob’s wet hair.


“You got me, alright,” Jacob whispered back.


“Jacob,” Jason chided as two Famulus joined them in the water.


“But I want to,” Jacob insisted.


“You’re not even circumcised.”


Pushing away, Jacob covered his groin. “You wouldn’t dare.”


“It is tradition.”


“Maybe in Ares, it is but I’m a Mordelian,” Jacob said proudly.


“Don’t worry, Jacob. I won’t let anyone cut you, if you don’t want it.”


“Maybe he could do with a little convincing,” one of the Famulus said as he swam over to Jacob.


“He is handsome, in a hirsute way,” the other Famulus agreed.


Panic grew in Jacob’s eyes. “Papa?”


Going to where the soap and sponges were, Jason began to wash himself. “Consider this part of your education.”


“But, papa,” Jacob yelped as the Famulus began to fondle him.


“He is most ticklish, isn’t he Slev?”


“Most ticklish indeed, Oscar,” the other Famulus agreed, as they tickled Jacob mercilessly.


“Help, papa, help,” Jacob pleaded as he was led away from Jason.


“Have fun, Jacob,” Jason said, before washing the soap out of his hair. He left the pool for the steam room, where he laid down on a flat marble table while a different Famulus massaged his back. From the passageway, he could hear Jacob yelping and laughing as the servants tormented him mercilessly.


“Feeling better?” Jason asked when Jacob flopped down on one of the other stone tables.


“Yeah…” Jacob giggled. “I still won’t let you cut me though.”


“I told you, I won’t make you. It’s just a shame I can’t find you a nice Centurion husband.”


“No Centurions…” Jacob pouted.


“No Centurions? They’re very strict about who they sleep with.”


“I still won’t let you cut me,” Jacob said stubbornly.


Jason sat up from the table, letting his servant wrap him in a towel. “Don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll find you a boyfriend, somewhere.”


“Just make sure he’s cute.” Jacob sighed as a Famulus massaged his tired body.


“We’ll see,” Jason chuckled, as he left for a final dip in the chilled pool. Philip was waiting for him in the changing room .


“There you are,” Philip chuckled as he yanked the towel from Jason’s body.


“Philip,” Jason yelped.


Philip grinned as he trapped Jason behind a wall of lockers. “I’ve been looking for you.”


“Philip, I just took a bath.”


Raising a hand, Philip ran a clawed finger down Jason’s cheek, down his neck, chest and stomach, to curl around the trimmed hairs of Jason’s pubes. “Afraid of doing something dirty?”


“You’re terrible.” Jason laughed as he tried to pass Philip.


“Come, I just finished reviewing the men. How about we go back to the pool and help me wash up.”


“I just finished getting clean.”


“Afraid of wrinkling?” Philip asked, taking hold of Jason’s smooth hands.


“I’m with someone, Philip.”


“Who, James? Where is that scoundrel?”


“Not James, but Ja…” Jason was about to mention his son, when Jacob suddenly appeared and jumped on Philip from behind.


“What in Ares?” Philip growled as he tried to shake Jacob off.


“You can’t have my papa,” Jacob shouted.


“That’s enough, Jacob,” Jason scolded.


“You can’t have him,” Jacob insisted again, just before Philip managed to fling Jacob off into a row of lockers, causing them to fall over.”


“Philip!” Jason shouted, his anger now directed at his Demon. Racing to Jacob’s side, he helped his son stand up.


“I was the one who was attacked,” Philip said, as he glared at the gray haired man.


“Jacob is a Dalf, remember. He was only trying to protect me.”


“I see it hasn’t done anything to change his temper,” Philip said as he glared at Jacob.


“Please, both of you, can’t you try to get along?”


“I didn’t attack him,” Philip said defensively.


“Jacob?” Jason said elbowing his son.


“I’m… I’m sorry,” Jacob said grudgingly.


“Philip?” Jason said, giving his lover a demanding look.


“Sorry if I hurt you,” Philip replied.


“Your majesty, your clothes are ready,” a nervous looking Famulus said as he entered the changing room.


“Alright… now you two behave while I get dressed,” Jason said as he followed the servant out of the room.


“So you can talk,” Philip smirked, once Jason was gone.


“I can do a lot of things,” Jacob said, puffing up his chest.


“I’m sure you can, but you’re not getting Jason. Not without going through me first.”


“Is that a threat, or an offer?” Jacob replied, crossing his arms over his broad hairy chest.


“You are cute. I’ll give you that much.”


“If you think I’m going to sleep with you…”


“I have no interest sleeping with someone with so little experience.”


Jacob was about to protest, but bit his tongue instead. “I…”


Seeing a weakness, Philip decided to taunt Jacob further. “That’s right; you have nothing to say at all. You might look like a man, but you’re just a boy, not even circumcised.”


“I…” Jacob stammered as his face flushed red.


“That’s enough, Philip,” Jason said, entering the room in a blue and gold robe. “I promised Jacob that no one will push him into getting circumcised.”


“Don’t coddle him, Jason. If he wants to be a man, he needs to prove it. Until he does, I insist he stay out of our bedroom.”


“Philip, just promise me you will be fair,” Jason said, planting a kiss on Jacob’s head before leaving.


For a long moment, Jacob and Philip glared at each other until the same Famulus servant entered the room. “Your clothes are ready, Lord Jacob.”


Grabbing the servant’s arm, Philip pulled the Famulus toward him. “He can dress himself. I, on the other hand, do need your services.”



























Chapter Twenty-Three: Friendly Advice



“Whore,” Jacob snarled, before looking toward his clothes. Having never dressed himself before, he didn’t even know where to begin. He ended up wrapping the robe around his waist like a towel, before going in search of Jason. Before he made it to that part of the palace, he ran into Kyle.



“Oh my… now that is new Fashion statement.” Kyle chuckled. “You must be Jacob. Jason sent me to find you.”


“I’ve never dressed myself before,” Jacob said nervously.


Reaching for the nearest door, Kyle guided Jacob into a guest room. “Well, I can help you with that. Shall we step in here?”


“I must look like a fool.”


Kyle licked his lips. “A very handsome fool.” Undoing the knot, Kyle let Jacob’s robe fall to the stone floor.


“Why are you looking at me like that?” Jacob said nervously.


“I’m a Demon. I look at most men like this.”


“Philip is a whore.”


“Can’t complain; I’m one too. Jason said Philip was picking on you.” Kyle said, as he walked behind Jacob and wrapped his arms around the man’s body.


“It’s not fair. I’ve only been on my feet a short while, and I can’t even dress myself.”


“Dressing isn’t hard… it’s getting undressed that’s important.” Kyle chuckled as he wrapped his tail around Jacob’s bare right thigh.


“Are you flirting with me?”


“Are you complaining?” Kyle whispered in Jacob’s ear, as the tip of his tail brushed against Jacob’s groin.


“I’ve…, I’ve never done anything like this.”


“But don’t you want to?”


“I don’t want to be cut.”


“Neither did I. I have to admit I miss the extra skin. If the Centurions weren’t so stubborn about their silly traditions, I never would have done it.”


“You did it because the Centurions made you?”


“They didn’t make me… well, they pressured me into it, I’ll admit that. Do I look like a boy to you?”


“No. Philip called me a boy.”


“He would. He’s more stubborn than any other Centurion I’ve ever met.”


“If we have sex, will I have to get cut?”


“I’m not a Centurion, am I?” Kyle chuckled.


“No, you’re James’ Imp.” Jacob laughed.


“You’re not much taller than me, pup.” Kyle said, as he curled his tail around Jacob’s sex. “How does that feel?”


“More,” Jacob said eagerly.


“At least you know what you want,“ Kyle laughed as he led Jacob to the bed. After they made love, Kyle rested his head on Jacob’s furry chest. “Did you enjoy it?”


“Yes I did. Was I any good?”


“As nervous as you were?” Kyle chuckled.


“Oh, sorry. All this is new to me.”


“I know, but you’re learning fast.”


“Did papa tell you to make love to me?”


“He told me Philip had hurt your feelings, and that I should do whatever I could to make you feel better. Did I succeed?”


“Yes, you did.” Jacob laughed.


“May I ask you a personal question?”


“I guess so.”


“Why do you want to sleep with Jason?”


“Because I love him.”


“There are many kinds of love.”


“Jason is unhappy.”


“And you think you can make him happy?”


“He makes me happy.”


“He makes me happy, too. Do you know why?”


“Because he makes love to you?”


“Well, that’s one reason, but not the main one. He makes me happy because he has made my Angel happy.”


“Doesn’t James love you?”


“Of course he does, but he and Jason have the same problem.”




“They both fell in love with the first men who loved them.”


“You mean Philip,” Jacob said with disgust.


“And me,” Kyle added. “First loves are very powerful, Jacob, but they don’t always make the best relationships. Sometimes we stay in those relationships longer than we should, because we fear no one can love us as much as our first love.”


“Don’t you love James?”


“I do, and I’ve been with many men in my life. I was, however, James’ first.”


“I didn’t know that. I assumed he was always gay.”


“He has always been gay, but he was also raised with a sense of duty. So was Jason. That is why those two understand each other in ways I can’t. The children, for instance. I never knew James desperately wanted to have a family. With Ben, and the other children, I saw joy in James’ eyes I had never seen before.”


“He could always marry a woman.”


“I beg your pardon, but he married me.” Kyle laughed. “He might want to have a wife just to have a family, but he would never go out and marry one. He is a traditionalist… one wife for one man. Jason, however, was born a Legatio and was expected to follow a different tradition. As it is, it is all Jason can do to stop the Senate from forcing him to marry a dozen women.”


“Why aren’t you jealous of Jason?”


“Because Jason as been more than fair to me. He made it clear to James that he is not to leave me. Jason has even gone out of his way to make love to me, and me alone. You might think you know what making love to Jason will be like but, believe me, the experience is much more than your virgin mind can imagine.”


“What about Philip?”


“Philip is a great man, and a great lover. It is just unfortunate that Philip knows what a great lover he is, and feels the need to show off.”


“He hurts Papa.”


“And Jason has hurt him. Even in the best of relationships that happens. If they didn’t really love each other, they wouldn’t be able to hurt one another as they do.”


“Then why hasn’t Philip killed James?”


“He might have, if Jason hadn’t force James to sleep with Philip.”


“I don’t understand.”


“It’s the Centurion way… love and sex are blurred lines with them. Because James had refused to make love to Philip, Philip felt scorned, and was jealous of the attention James was showering on Jason. Now that they have made love, it is as if they are now brothers. At least that’s how Philip sees it.”


Jacob frowned. “But that doesn’t make any sense.”


“Who said Centurions were logical?” Kyle laughed. “They are men of passions, passions that are only kept at bay by their strict traditions.”


“Will Jason ever make love to me?”


“Is it really that important to you?”


“I gave him my bond.”


“When you were a mere pup, the first time. How like Jason you are in that way. He gave his love to the first man he saw, Philip. Now, if I had rescued him I would have kept Jason in that tower so no other man could have him.”


“I wish I could do that.”


“Sometimes Philip wishes he could do the same. As I said, though, Philip is a bit of a showoff, so he likes showing his men what a lucky bastard he is.”


“You have that right; he is a bastard.” Jacob grumbled.


“Only because you hate him so. If you convinced him you actually like him, even if grudgingly, he would warm up to you… maybe even sleep with you.”


“But only if I get circumcised.”


“Not if you seduce him properly. Look at James, he’s not circumcised.”




“But James is a Field Marshal… can’t get manlier than that.”


“So, I have to prove to Philip that I’m a man.”


“You have to prove to Jason that you’re a man. You forget, most of him still sees you as a cute little puppy he found in the woods one day.”


“But I’m a father… I gave Jason’s children my six sons.”


“Don’t tell me how you managed that,” Kyle pleaded, half jokingly.


“It wasn’t that hard… all I had to do was beat the alpha male of the pack.”


“There you go. Now you know what you need to do.”


“But who’s the alpha male?”


“Jacob, I thought you were smarter than that. It’s Philip, of course.”


“Sorry. I should have known that. How do I beat him? He’s bigger and stronger than me.”


“Well, I have an idea about that. I think you should have a chat with your old friend, Oktor.”





















Chapter Twenty-Four: Quick Seduction



Oktor was in a foul mood. He had been for the past three years, ever since he was forcefully retired as Commandant of the Domus Academy. When Jason had freed Domus from the grasp of Emperor Xavier, Oktor had believed he would be allowed to return to the Empire and retake his post as Commandant. The Centurions, Famulus, and Legatio in the Senate, had seen things otherwise. As one of Jason’s Saints, Oktor wasn’t really a Centurion anymore and, according to the Academy charter, only a true Centurion could lead the school. Jason had offered to let him continue on as Commandant of the Tosian Academy but, since most of the Centurion and Legatio students had returned to Domus, Oktor could not stomach the idea of teaching at an all Famulus school.


Left with the options of either joining the Winged Guard, or becoming a priest, Oktor had picked the former. Still, Oktor found himself bored. Yes, there had been plots to kill Jason and other members of the royal family. But most of those situations were handled entirely by Jason’s assassin bodyguard, Geoff. Other than escort duty, and hanging around the massive palace complex, there was really nothing for Oktor to do.


Oktor had just been ready to call it a day and drink himself into a self-pitying stupor, when there was a knock on his door. “Enter,” he growled, as he filled his clay cup with a fiery whisky.


“Hello?” a gray haired man with a youthful face whispered, as he poked his head inside.


“Come in, or stay out,” Oktor demanded before draining his cup, which he quickly refilled.


“Commandant Oktor?” the man asked nervously.


“Former Commandant. I’m only a lieutenant now.”


“I’m Jacob.”




“Don’t’ you remember me?”


“Can’t say that I do.”


“But it’s me, Jacob. You used to run me through the obstacle course, back at the Academy.”


“I’m sorry, but there were so many of you Famulus at the school it is hard for me to remember you.”


“But I’m not a Famulus. I’m Jacob. You know, small, furry, very cute, caused all sorts of trouble for the Legatio Academics.”


Oktor squinted his eyes at Jacob. “Jason’s pet.”


“Yes,” Jacob said excitedly.


“Is this some sort of joke?”


“No, it’s really me.”


“Well, you’ve definitely done a lot of growing since I last saw you,” Oktor said, still not believing the man.


“You don’t believe me,” Jacob frowned.


“If you were me, would you?”


Seeing an empty chair, Jacob sat at the table. “But I really am Jacob.”


“Let’s say you are. What do you want with me?”


“I want you to teach me how to fight.”


“I’m no longer teaching at the Academy,” Oktor said bitterly.


“But you’re still the best hand-to-hand fighter in all of Domus,” Jacob insisted.


“Thank you for thinking that. I was beginning to think no one remembered. Can I pour you a drink?”


Jacob’s nose curled on the smell of hard liquor. “No, thanks.”


“Suit yourself,” Oktor said as he poured his third cup. “So, you want me to teach you to fight. May I ask why?”


“So I can beat up Philip.” Jacob blushed.


“Beat up the Demon Lord himself?” Oktor laughed. “Now that I think about it, you and he never got along.”


“We still don’t.”


“Let’s say I do train you. You’ll never beat Philip through sheer strength.”


“I know, but I’m fast,” Jacob replied.


“And what will I get out of this?” Oktor asked. Before he knew it Jacob gave him his answer in the form of a hard kiss. “Well, I didn’t see that coming.” He chuckled when their lips parted.


“I’ve always liked you, sir.” Jacob said, as he walked around the table to sit on Oktor’s lap.


“I can tell.” Oktor chuckled, seeing the tent in Jacob’s robes. While he knew where to go if he ever wanted company, he hadn’t been in the mood for any real bonding since he had left the Academy. All it took were a few kind words from an admirer to change all that, however. Lifting off Jacob’s robes first, Oktor slid his pants down to his knees and freed his manhood from three years of celibacy, letting it slide deep inside Jacob. With the room dimly lit, Oktor didn’t even have a chance to glance down before Jacob buried the man’s face against his hairy chest, and rode the former Commandant’s sex like a horse. This went on throughout the night, well past the melting of the final candle. Only when the rays of the morning sun streamed into the room, did Oktor realize what he had done, his heart sinking into despair. “How could you have done this to me?”


“Done what?” Jacob said coyly, as he rolled on top of Oktor’s broad body.


“You’re not circumcised…”


“Is that a problem?” Jacob asked, as he massaged the man’s temples.


“Yes, it’s a very big problem… you’re not a man.”


“You knew that.” Jacob laughed. “I am a Dalf.”


“A what?”


“A werewolf.” Jacob grinned, showing off his sharp teeth.


“That’s not the point… you’re still a boy.”


“I beg your pardon?”


“You’re not circumcised,” Oktor repeated.




“So I can be sent into exile, my name dishonored.”


“Is that what happened to Varrus?”


“Varrus is a special case. He has Jason to protect him.”


“And you have me to protect you,” Jacob said as he wiggled his body against Oktor’s muscular frame.


“I shouldn’t have had so much to drink.” Oktor groaned.


“Now that… is something… I agree with you… on,” Jacob said between a half dozen kisses.


“You don’t know when to stop.”


Reaching between their bodies, Jacob grabbed hold of Oktor’s hardening sex. “Like now?” he asked, giving it a squeeze.


“Not now… maybe after breakfast,” Oktor said as he rolled on top of Jacob. “You’re a very naughty beast, you know.”


“I learned from one of the best.” Jacob chuckled, silently, giving thanks to Kyle.





























Chapter Twenty-Five: The Attempt



Entering the Emperor’s study, James saw Jason rubbing his temples as if he had a headache. Knowing his news wouldn’t help, his voice had a nervous edge when he finally spoke. “King Aidan has summoned the other kings of the west for a gathering at Sol.”


“He must want to ensure that he has their support for the coming war,” Jason said as he read the report.


“Do you think Amplexor will be there?”


“Possibly, he will want to keep Aidan on a tight leash.” Jason nodded.


“This could be the chance we’ve been waiting for,” James said.


“Kidnap Amplexor from the heart of the Federation?”


“Geoff could have gotten it done.”


“Geoff is busy tracking down Sirrus, and Lance is with Varrus.”


“Julian does have followers in Sol.”


“Julian is overreaching. Converting the people to worship me is distasteful enough. To let them be slaughtered by the Templars is just reckless.”


“Yet, he has succeeded in converting several members of the nobility in Dorsa and Freen, people who will be our allies in the coming war.”


“It’s not worth the death of the innocent.”


“One way or another, the innocent will suffer. That is the nature of war.”


Jason exhaled sharply. “So I am constantly told.”


“You know you’re too good for this world.” James said in an attempt to cheer Jason up.


“I wish I wasn’t, maybe someone better would come along and replace me.”


“Let’s go see the children. That always cheers you up.”


“They leave me no other choice but to be happy near them,” Jason chuckled as he stood to leave. Going to the nursery he found the four boys running around the room, the wolf pups chasing after them.


“Papa,” Odin laughed, running to Jason to be lifted up into his father’s arms.


“Me too, me too,” Gavin said, jumping up and down until Jason picked him up with his other arm.


“What have you four been doing?” Jason asked, as James followed him inside.


“We’re sheep,” Gavin laughed.


“And the wolves are hunting you?” James asked.


“Yes,” Gavin said, his own wolf jumping into the air in front of Jason.


“Would my little sheep like to go to the park?” Jason asked.


“Can we, papa?” Ben asked excitedly.


“Yes,” Jason nodded.


“Can Sam come too?” Patrick asked, hugging his pup.


“Yes, so long as you don’t let him wander off.”


“You hear that Sam? No running off,” Patrick told his pet.


“Does the wolf understand anything he says?” James asked.


“Sam is Jacob’s son, so I’m sure he does,” Jason responded.


Knowing how much Jacob hated flying, Jason decided to walk everyone to the park. Parading down the broad streets of Domus, the children were amazed at how many people waved and smiled at them.


“Do they know us?” Ben asked.


“Of course they do,” Jason said, ruffling the boy’s brown hair.


“Are we famous, papa?” Patrick asked.


“Papa is the one who’s famous,” Gavin said knowingly.


“You’re all princes of the Empire.” Jason laughed. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a pair of window shutters slam open. Before anything else could happen, he spread his giant wings and wrapped them protectively around the children. With a loud twang, he felt a crossbow bolt strike him harmlessly in the back, as James flew like a missile toward the open window, Dozens of Jason’s Saints flew down and surrounded the royal family. Safe inside his wings, he could hear the children laughing, and the pups yelping as if it were all another game.


“Bring the assassins to me,” Jason told Lieutenant Koltus, as his Winged Guards stormed the building. Three men in black cloaks were led out of the inn, their arms already tied to their waists. “Strip them of their cloaks,” he ordered. Grabbing one man by his hair, he bent his head down to see the triangle mark on the back of the man’s neck… the mark of the Templar. Each corner represented one of their three gods; the Mother, the Angel, and the Demon.


“What do you want done with them?” James asked.


Knowing these men had been prepared to die in the name of their faith, Jason gave the worst punishment he could think of. “Give them to Julian.”


“Are you sure? Philip would want them tortured and killed.”


“Destroying a man’s faith is torture,” Jason replied, his eyes on his children.


“Shall we go back to the palace?” James asked.


“No, we will continue on to the park,” Jason replied.


“But, there might be more assassins.”


“We’ll fly the children there. Just warn the guards to watch out for the pups’ teeth, should they panic.”


“Are you sure, Jason?”


“Yes, I’m sure. I don’t want my sons to think they need to hide in the palace in order to be safe. I ‘will’ protect them,” Jason said sharply.


“As you wish,” James bowed, going to the children and picking Ben up.


“Papa, your feathers tickled me.” Odin laughed when Jason picked him up.


“I’m sorry if they do,” Jason said, forcing a smile on his face.


“It’s alright. I actually liked it,” Odin said, wrapping his small arms around Jason’s neck.


Coming in to the park, Jason could see that Philip and five hundred of his Spawn were already patrolling the green lawns, while another hundred Saints hovered in the sky. Landing near Philip, Jason let Odin go so he could rejoin his brothers.


“That is the last time you go out of the palace without a full escort,” Philip growled.


“Nothing happened that I couldn’t handle,” Jason replied stubbornly.


“How about you let me be the judge of that?” Philip said, as he ran a hand down Jason’s spine.


“Nothing more than a bruise,” Jason said after Philip finished inspecting him.


“Jason, you know quite well it wasn’t you the assassins were aiming for.”


“I’m not going to scare the children,” Jason said, his eyes going to where Patrick was skipping stone on a small pond.


“I agree, but with the coming war these attempts are only going to get worse.”


“What do you suggest I do?”


“I think you and the children should leave the city. It’s just too easy for an assassin to hide among the Famulus here.”


“Flee the city? Where would we go?”


“I was thinking about the Labyrinth Keep, in Qul Tos. No assassin will get past my Demon Spawn there.”


“I won’t hide.”


“Not even for the sake of your children? At least until the war is over.”


“I can’t govern the Empire from Qul Tos.”


“Yes, you can. All you need to do, is leave a few of your Winged Guard in key positions, and you will know everything that’s going on.”


“If the city is dangerous, then the open road will we worse.”


“Not if no one knows you’re gone,” Philip replied.


“So, now I’m not just hiding, but I’m sneaking away in the dark.”


“Pride, Jason?” Philip chided.


“Domus is the children’s home.”


“But so is Qul Tos. The Tosians have missed you terribly.”


“I know. I’ve meant to visit, but I haven’t found the time.”


“There is one other thing… James must remain here.”




“Jason, at least one Field Marshal must be here to protect the Empire. He can also keep the Senate in line, while you’re gone.”


“I understand… you’re right, of course,” Jason nodded.


“Anyway, there’s something you should see,” Philip said, pointing to the park trail. Walking together, they reached a raised white platform where two men were sparring in the fist fighting style.


“Jacob?” Jason laughed, seeing his son fighting against Oktor.


“Papa,” Jacob waved, turning his head away for the briefest of moments. That was all it took for Oktor to punch him in the ribs, causing him the bend over.


“Not fair!” Jason shouted as he ran to Jacob’s side.


“I told him not to get distracted,” Oktor said in his own defense.


“It’s alright, papa. He didn’t really hurt me,” Jacob said. Dressed only in a pair of white

Centurion pants, his body was covered with a sheen of sweat.


“Looks like he’s bruised you up pretty good, though,” Philip replied with respect.


“I’m a fast healer,” Jacob insisted, as he stood back up.


“He’s also fast to learn,” Oktor said. “He’s already learned the first one hundred exercises of the fist, and this is only his third lesson. Never had a student like him.”


“It’s good to see you out and about, Oktor,” Philip said, knowing full well that the former commandant had been sulking for the past few years.


“Well, I couldn’t feel sorry for myself forever.”


“You picked a good time to sober up. We’ll be escorting the royal family to Qul Tos soon.”


“You’re leaving the city?” Oktor asked Jason.


“There was another attempt on the children’s lives. The capital has become too dangerous for my family.”


“We’ll be coming with you, of course, papa,” Jacob said, causing Oktor’s jaw to fall open.


“Good. The children will love having their older brother with them. So Oktor, how long have you been sleeping with my son?” Jason asked.


“Your son… I didn’t know. I mean, well, only six days, but he was the one who seduced me.”


“You let my son seduce you?” Jason laughed.


“If I might say, he has your stubborn streak,” Oktor replied.


“You know he’s not circumcised,” Philip said sternly.


“According to Jacob, he’s not from Ares, so our customs don’t really apply to him,” Oktor stuttered.


“I’ll be sure to tell Varrus that,” Philip laughed.


“I would prefer you didn’t,” Oktor said in a pleading tone.


“We’ll keep your secret, for now,” Jason said, to set Oktor’s mind at ease. Taking Philip aside, he whispered into his Demon’s ear. “We will have to leave Sin behind.”


“Good, I want nothing to do with him.”


“He’s your son, Philip.”


“Who almost killed you!”


“You’re going to have to forgive him someday… sooner than you think.”


“Why, had another one of your visions?”


“No, and that is why I want Sin to remain here.”


“I don’t understand.”


“Sin is my blind spot, the only major event in our lives I haven’t foreseen. Something is about to happen, but I believe, I hope, Sin can stop that future from happening.”


“You’re being pretty vague.”


“You’re right, there are going to be more attempts on my life, and on the lives of people I care about. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be alright. It’s Kyle I’m worried about.”


“Someone is going to kill him?”


“Might kill him. I’m hoping Sin can stop the assassination from ever happening.”


“Maybe Kyle should come with us to Qul Tos.”


“No, his place is with James,” Jason insisted.


“Then, maybe we should stay, or do your visions say otherwise.”


“They won’t be killed. That is not to say they won’t get hurt, though.”


“I guess them getting hurt is not considered a major event,” Philip growled.


“That was hurtful.”


“Sorry. I just don’t like jumping at shadows.”


“Just promise me you will talk to Sin before we leave for Qul Tos.”


“Because it is important to you, I will,” Philip relented. “What should I tell him?”


“That you love him.”


“But I…” Philip began to protest, but was cut off by his lover.


“You love him, Philip. Deep down, I know you do.”


“I will try to love him. Should I tell him about Kyle?”


“No, let James and Kyle handle that.”


“How long have they known.”


“James has his own visions. He knew, even before I met him. We’ve been trying to find a way to save Kyle for years, even purposefully delaying the approaching war. Sin is the only hope we have for saving Kyle, and maybe saving me as well.”


“I don’t need Sin to protect you.”


“Against the Dominus… you just might, Philip.”


“I will never let them have you, Jason… never.”


“Let’s go back to the children,” Jason said.


“I’m interested to see what they think of Jacob,” Philip chuckled.


“Admit it, you like him.”


“I admit he’s much more interesting to look at as a human. I also don’t have to worry about his claws anymore.”


“For now, at least.”


“You mean he’s going to change into a wolf again?”


“No, the way Kristen has explained it to me, he’ll only stay fully human for three months before turning into a half man half wolf for three months, before turning back to human for another three months. And so it will go.”


“Will he be dangerous?”


“The transformation is very painful. That is why Jacob hid himself in the dungeons. He didn’t want to hurt anyone accidently.”


“I know you love Jacob.”


“I do, Philip.”


I’ll try to be nicer to him.”


“Thank you.”























Chapter Twenty-Six: Sources



In the distance they could see Jacob on all fours, giving Odin and Gavin a ride on his back. “Papa, papa, have you seen Brother Jacob?” Patrick asked as he ran to his father.


“Yes, I have,” Jason said as he lifted Patrick up.


“He told us we’re going on a long journey.”


“That’s also true.”


“Will you be coming with us, papa?”


“Of course I am. So are mother, and Uncle Philip.”


Turning to Philip, Patrick waved at him. “Hello, Uncle Philip.”


“Hello, Patrick. Are you excited about the journey?”


“No, I’ve never been outside the city before. Isn’t that where the bad men come from?”


“No, they’re from much further away. But just in case they come, I’ll be there to protect you.”


“Will you protect papa, too?”


“I will especially protect your father.”


“Is that true, papa?” Patrick asked Jason.


“Yes. Uncle Philip is very good at protecting me.”


“I wish I could protect you.”


“Spoken like a true Centurion,” Philip said proudly.


“I’m not a Centurion. Mama says I’m a falcon.”


“Can I hold him?” Philip asked.


“Can Philip hold you?” Jason asked his son.


“He won’t hurt me with his claws, will he?”


“Of course not… see?” Philip said as he retracted his claws.


“Alright,” Patrick said, and he reached for Philip.


“Here you go,” Jason said as he handed Patrick over to Philip.


“You’re warmer then papa,” Patrick said, as he rested his head on Philip’s bare chest.


“I’ve been told I’m warm blooded,” Philip chuckled as Patrick wrapped his arms around him.


“Me too, me too,” Ben said, as he ran over to Philip.


“You think you can handle both of them?” Jason asked Philip.


“I’m sure I can,” Philip said, as he knelt to pick Ben up.


“Those two are a pair of criminals.” Philip laughed, when he let the two boys down so they could play again.


“They’re very fond of each other,” Jason agreed.


“Will they become lovers?”


“Do you really want to know? It would ruin the surprise.”


“Actually, I do.”


“Then yes, they will,” Jason whispered. “They already share the same bed, most of the time.”


“What about Gavin and Odin.”


“They will always have a special relationship, but they won’t become lovers.”


“Must be comforting to know that.”


“Against all the horrible things I know, it almost makes my foresight worth it.” Jason sighed as he watched the children play.



“Thank the Mother you came,” Count LaSalle, ruler of the city of Porren in Austrola, shouted when he saw Varrus and his escort leave their ships.


“You were expecting us?” Varrus said surprised.


“Expecting, no… praying is more like it. We’ve begged King Aidan for the aid of his blessed Saints and great demon warriors. General Zophar is a great man, but there is only so much even he can do against the Mathannons.”


“Where is General Zophar?”


“I can’t say for sure. Moves faster than the wind, he does. It was his idea to use heavy cavalry against those demon women. You see, horses are not native to our island. The Mathannons preferred using slave labor over animals. Since Zophar took over, he’s been bringing in horses by the thousands. With them, we’ve been able to move faster than the Mathannon army, attacking it from the rear.”


“Yet the war has continued on for six years,” Varrus pointed out.


“Yes, well, as I said, he’s a genius but he can only do so much. Now that you’re here, we can finally deal a death blow to the Mathannons.”


“But only if we can find General Zophar,” Varrus said as he turned to Lance. “Do you have any contacts in this town?


“The innkeeper at the Whale Tail’s Inn,” Lance replied.


“Then we should start there,” Varrus said, before looking back at the count. “We thank you for your greetings, lord, but we should be on our way.”


“Of course, understandable. If you have need of me, my house is in the old quarter of town,” the count said as he hurried off.


“Tell the men to stick to the harbor. This shouldn’t take too long,” Varrus told another one of his Saints before following the Sithian agent, Lance, deeper into the city.


The Whale’s Tail was actually a fairly large inn. Varrus had guessed rightly; it was the largest one in Porren. Stepping inside, he found the room lacking the smoky haze found in most seaside inns. The floor was hardwood, well polished and clean. The customers, for the most part, were fairly well dressed. “This inn keeper seems to be prosperous,” Varrus told Lance.


“He should be, given what I’m paying him.” Lance replied.


“Where is he?”


“How should I know? I’ve never have met the man personally.”


“Then how will he recognize you?” Varrus asked.


“Don’t worry, we have our ways.”


By the Mother… our salvation has come,” the man behind the counter exclaimed when he saw Varrus and Lance.


“Are you the innkeeper?” Lance asked.


“That I am. What can I do for you, masters? Don’t worry about money… just the sight of your kind is worth any price.”


“That’s mighty kind of you. Mayhaps we’ll take you up on your offer,” Lance winked.


“Mayhaps…” The innkeeper laughed. “I haven’t heard anyone say ‘mayhaps’ in my place in an age.”


“Mayhaps this will jog your memory,” Lance said as he handed the innkeeper a wooden coin.


“Mayhaps you’d better join me in the back,” the innkeeper said under his breath, as he walked into the back room.


“What was that all about?” Varrus demanded.


“I can’t give away all my secrets,” Lance said, as he jumped over the bar to follow the innkeeper.


“Sorry for not recognizing you from the start, my lord. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a man from Tal Sith in my inn.”


“No problem at all, as long as you have the information I need.”


“Mind if I ask my own question first?”


“If you’re quick about it,” Varrus replied.


“You two really are a pair of Saints? Just like General Zophar? It’s just that I’ve never heard of your kind living in Tal Sith.”


“We are,” Lance replied.


“So the rumors of another god in the east are true.”


“Jason doesn’t really see himself as a god, but he is the one you’re thinking of. Why do you ask?”


“It’s just, we’ve been hearing all sorts of rumors… that this new god has no Templars and no Inquisitors. He doesn’t even want to charge us taxes.”


“That’s true.” Varrus nodded.


“That’s mighty nice to hear. The Federation is nice, and all, but the church is a heavy burden to bear. We hear it’s caused all sorts of trouble in Freen. There’s even word that some villages have cast their priests out, in favor of the new god.”


“That’s all nice to know, but it’s not the information we’re looking for,” Varrus replied sternly.


“Well, ask away. I don’t have all day.”


“Do you know where General Zophar might be?” Lance asked calmly, while Varrus looked like he was about to strangle the innkeeper.


“Ah, our great savoir… wouldn’t have lasted this long against the Mathannons without him. He never stays in one place for long. Always on the move, he is. He does, however, often stop in the town of Salis, on the edge of the Great Woods, to pick up fresh horses and men.”


“Can you show us on a map, where that is?” Lance asked.


“Its’ not that hard to find. Just go down the Western Highway until you reach the end of it. Salis is the last large town in Western Austrola. Everything west of that is just hamlets and villages.”


“Thank you, innkeeper,” Lance said, as he tossed a small purse to the man.


“Wait a minute, these are imperial coins. Do you want me to be burned as a heretic?” The innkeeper protested.


“Melt them, for all I care,” Lance said, to Varrus’ great enjoyment, as they left the inn.


“If I had to listen to that man rattle on for much longer, I would have made him swallow those coins, and pray he choked on them.”


“Unfortunately he’s like most of my contacts… big talkers.” Lance laughed as they made their way back to the harbor. After gathering the men together, they headed out the western gate. With the Spawn running at a fast pace, and Varrus and his Saints flying overhead, it would take them less than a week to reach Salis.



























Chapter Twenty-Seven: Unfortunate Son



Young Lord Owen looked down at his dirty clothes, as he pulled on a rope for the well bucket. To think he was the son of the great Lord Sirrus, one of the king’s most trusted lords. How the mighty had fallen over the last seven years. When he had last seen his father, he was leading a grand army trying to expel the Centurions from the East forever. Instead, that army had been crushed by the might of the Centurions and their young King, Jason. It did not take long for King Joparro to lay the blame for the Confederacy’s defeat on Lord Sirrus. When he was captured, the king had placed him in a giant gilded cage filled with birds, letting the animals peck at his face and cover him with their droppings.

At the height of the Centurion invasion of Huron, his father had managed to escape, fleeing into the Desert of Flames. Since then, Huron had fallen, King Joparro was slain, and the serfs were set free. Now, all Owen had was his title, his mother, and his father’s castle, which was quickly falling into disrepair.


“Hello, young Owen,” a baritone voice said from behind the young man.


Spinning around, Owen saw a tall man with curly blond hair, and a pair of brilliant white wings on his back. Still, he recognized the man’s face. “Lord Geoff… we assumed you had died, when you did not succeed in your mission.”


“As you can see, I’m alive and well. Go tell your mother I’m here.”


“But you wear the wings of our enemies.”


“Go, Owen. Bring her ladyship to me,” Geoff repeated.


“Have you turned traitor? Are you here to kill us?”


“I’m here to settle unfinished business. If you will not help me, I’ll find your mother on my own.”


“No, I’ll take you to her,” Owen offered. “I just need to get some water first.”


“Have all your servants abandoned you?”


“No. They still live here, stealing the fruits and grain of my father’s lands, all thanks to King Jason of course.”


“Things are better this way,” Geoff said calmly.


“For who?… not for my mother and I.”


“You’re alive.”


“The life of a pauper is no life at all.”


“I wouldn’t say that. Where there’s life there’s hope.”


“Why have you been gone so long Geoff? My mother needed you.”


“I found a new master.”


“King Jason?”


“Emperor Jason,” Geoff corrected.


“Well, I guess you can say you chose the winning side.”


“I’ve come to help you, Owen, if you will let me.”


“If you want to help, carry this bucket for me.”


“To the kitchen?” Geoff asked.


“Yes, do you still remember the way?”


“Of course I do,” Geoff chuckled. “You’ve grown since I last saw you.”


“You look different, too,” Owen said bitterly, as he led Geoff into the castle.


“Mother, we have a guest,” Owen shouted, his voice echoing through the empty dark halls.


“Guest? But we are in no condition to entertain. Send him away.”


“Is that anyway to welcome me Felicia,” Geoff shouted.


“Lord Geoff… by Ares red, you’re alive!”


“I know. It seems both you and Owen thought me dead.” Geoff laughed.


Appearing atop a spiraling staircase was a middle-aged woman with long flowing white hair. “I should have known you, of all people, would survive.”


“At least someone is happy to see me. I am sorry to hear of your misfortune.”


“We were fools to think we could defeat the Centurions, at Qul Tos of all places. I see you have changed sides. The wings suit you. If you’ve come expecting payment, I’m afraid there is nothing I can do for you.”


“But there is something you can do for me Felicia.”


“And what might that be?”


“Leave this place and come with me.”


“You gave me that choice once before, and I said no. Huron is my home. What life would I have with you, a vagabond?”


“Things have changed,” Geoff said, ruffling his wings.


“And some things haven’t. You always do what’s in your own interest.”


“I fell in love.”


“Killers like you fall in love?” Felicia laughed hysterically.


“Felicia listen, you’re no longer safe here. Sirrus…”


“Sirrus, you have news of my husband?” Felicia asked, her mood suddenly changing.


“Aye, he is the man leading the present revolt here in Huron.”


Touching her wild white hair, Felicia tried in vain to rid herself of its disorder. “I knew it… I knew he would never abandon us.”


“You’re not listening to me Felicia. Your husband is going to kill you, and Owen, when he bothers to take the effort.”


“My husband would never kill me. I am the king’s niece.”


“The king has been dead for four years now. He can no longer protect you or your son. Sirrus has already found a new wife… married her in fact.”


“Married who?” Felicia said angrily.


“The old king’s granddaughter, Marie.”


“Marie… that fat cow.”


“She might have been fat once, but hard living has slimmed her down. Sirrus has made her the symbol of his rebellion… a true queen of Huron, with him as ruling prince regent. Only two things stand in his way; the Centurion army and his marriage to you. With war coming between Domus and the Federation, the Centurion army cannot stay here. So all he really has to do is kill you, my lady.”


“Sirrus would never kill me,” Marie insisted.


“But he killed your uncle,” Geoff replied.


“Sirrus killed the king? How?”


“Have you ever wondered how Sirrus escaped his gilded cage?”


“My husband is a clever man.”


“Aye, very clever. When he fled Qul Tos with the remains of his army, he escaped with a large chest of jewels, a chest he hid before being captured. In return for the location of the chest, the king’s own captain helped Sirrus escape. Sirrus, of course, killed the captain before he even got to the jewels. With the gems, he hired a small army of men. One of these men is a skilled sniper named Oliver. It was he who killed your uncle as he fought against the Centurion army.”


“But why should I believe you?”


“Because I come with proof,” Geoff said as he stormed out of the castle.

“Mother, why are you entertaining this mad man,” Owen asked once they were alone.


“Geoff might be many things, but he’s not a liar.”


“But he’s betrayed us. He not only failed to kill King Jason, but he has clearly joined the side of our enemies.”

“What would you have me do? Send you out to challenge him? Geoff is the best assassin in all of Ares. He would make mince meat of you before you could draw your sword,” she said, just as Geoff returned carrying a large brown sack.


“You’re ladyship, may I present Oliver the Sniper,” Geoff said as he opened the sack. The unshaven, battered, and bruised face of a man stuck out.


“Did you kill our king?” Felicia demanded.


“Yes, your ladyship, I did, may the gods forgive me. I only did it because I was under orders to.”


“Was it my husband, Lord Sirrus who asked you to do the deed?”


“Yes, my lady, he was. Gave me a nice blue sapphire as payment too.”


“Do you know the punishment for even threatening our king, my kinsman?”


“To be garroted and quartered.”


“Good…” Felicia said before looking back at Geoff. “Do it. You’ll find the iron collars in the castle’s dungeon.


“Not until you’ve heard everything,” Geoff said as he gave his prisoner a kick. “Why were you stalking outside this lady’s castle tonight?”


“Lord Sirrus ordered me to kill the woman and her brat son.”




“Because no one will follow a man with two wives, I guess. He wanted me to use jagged arrows for the deed, you know, like the ones Centurion use.”


“You were to kill the mother and her son and make it look like it had been the Centurions who killed them?”


“Aye, master.”


“Tell her about Sirrus’ women,” Geoff demanded as he stared into Lady Felicia’s gray eyes.


“That’s not proper talk to say in front of a lady,” Oliver replied.


“Tell her,” Geoff said through gritted teeth as he kicked the sack again.


“Lord Sirrus has always had a taste for pretty ladies, but most of the men can’t stomach what he does to them.”


“What does he do?” Lady Felicia asked, holding a slender hand to her neck.


“Why, some times he strangles them… other times he cuts them up good to watch them bleed to death. One time he chopped a woman’s head off and slept with the body.”


“Sounds familiar Felicia?” Geoff asked sternly. “How many times did he take you down into the dungeons for such games?”


“Silence,” Felicia spat, her eyes darting to her son.


“My father would never dare hurt the king’s niece,” Owen insisted, his eyes darting between Geoff and his mother.


“Oh Sirrus dared, alright… I think your mother’s lineage is what made it so exciting for him… all that royal blood you see.”


“Mother, tell me it’s not true?”


When Felicia didn’t reply Geoff spoke up. “She can’t. Under that faded dress of hers she wears the scars given to her by her husband.”


“Why have you come back to us Lord Geoff… is it to taunt us?” Felicia whispered.


“I offered once to help you escape, even to kill your husband. This time, I won’t even ask. I will see you safely to Qul Tos, but not before I kill Lord Sirrus.”


“So you’ve come to betray our father after all he did for you.”


“He did nothing for me boy… It was I who killed his enemies, letting him get close to the king. It was I who also protected your mother, whenever I could.”


“Owen, do not hate Lord Geoff. He is a good man.”


“He’s an assassin… little better than a monster.”


Walking down the stone steps, Felicia embraced her son. “He’s your father,” she whispered into Owen’s ear.


“No,” Owen gasped shoving his mother away.


“How dare you,” Geoff snarled as he raced to Lady Felicia’s side.


“No Geoff, it’s alright. I just told Owen the truth.”


“But that’s impossible,” Owen said, reaching up to touch his golden locks.


“You are my son, Owen. I was just a foolish youth at the time, but I am your father, which makes Sirrus my responsibility.”


“I don’t understand.”


“It was a forced marriage, son. When the King discovered I was with child, he forced me to marry Lord Sirrus to hide the pregnancy. That is why I never protested when he would beat me.”


“Did Lord Sirrus know Geoff was my father?”


“He suspected, but what was he going to do? He knew what Geoff was, and knew better than to cross the best assassin in all of Ares.”


“Now he’s going to kill Sirrus,” Owen whispered.


“Before he kills you and your mother… this sniper is only one of your father’s men. Now that he’s failed, you can be sure he will send others.”


“I don’t trust you Geoff. If you had killed King Jason none of this would have happened.”


“Believe me Owen. As skilled as I am, not even I could kill His Majesty.”


“So he is a god?”


“A human god,” Geoff chuckled as he moved closer to Owen.


“I don’t understand. Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Because, I have a gift for you my son… your inheritance,” Geoff said as he placed his slender hands on Owen’s hips, pulling the young man towards him. “Will you accept my blessing?”


“I…” Owen stammered, his eyes locked on Geoff’s sky blue eyes.


“Do not fear,” Geoff whispered, as he leaned over and kissed his son on the lips, passing a part of his anima on to Owen.


When the kiss ended, Owen felt an inner warmth encompass him. Resting his head on Geoff’s head, he humped his groin slowly against his father’s leg. “Papa.”


“No Owen… not with me,” Geoff replied as he gently pushed his son back.


“Owen?” Felicia whispered. Her son’s eyes were now a pair of bright blue orbs.


“He is now a Disciple, a servant of my master, Emperor Jason. His life will be much easier now.”


“Papa,” Owen replied a deep yearning in his voice.


“Soon Owen, soon,” Geoff promised. “Come Felicia, we must flee from here before more of Sirrus’ men come.”


“My son…” Felicia whispered.


“It is for the best my lady,” Geoff insisted. “He will love and be loved now.”


“Papa…” Owen whispered, kissing Geoff’s black shirt.


“Very well, I will come with you.” Felicia relented.




















Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Cathedral




“Papa… is that the city?” Odin asked, pointing at the blue and white city built into the mountainside.


“Yes, Odin. That is Qul Tos.” Jason nodded. Around him, two hundred of his Saints flew in a sphere of protection while, on the ground, a legion of Demon Spawn raced to keep up. Landing before the gates of the city, Jason found Field Marshal Marcus and Louis there to greet him.


“Hail, Overking of the East. Welcome home.” Louis saluted as he and Marcus went down on one knee.


“Do not bow before me, friends,” Jason said as his Saints and Spawn formed up into parade formation.


“The people of Qul Tos have been most excited when they learned of your return,” Louis said.


“Is everything prepared?”


“Yes, your majesty,” Marcus said as he stood back up. “The warehouses are filled, and the servants vetted. On my life, I swear every man in the Labyrinth Keep is loyal to you. You will be safe there.”


“Thank you, Marcus. I know you’ve been busy preparing for the coming war.”


“Aye, I have already recalled our legions from Huron. The new Huron army is inexperienced, but should be able to handle a few raiders.”


“Do not worry about Huron. I’ve have already taken steps to neutralize that threat,” Jason replied.


“That is a relief to hear,” Louis chuckled. “Any word from Geoff?”


“He needed to take care of a personal matter first, but it’s been dealt with for the most part.”


Hearing a loud cheer from within the city’s gate, Louis stepped aside. “You’re people are waiting for you, Jason.”


“Passing through the gate, with Odin riding on his back, Jason was hit in the face by a storm of blue and white petals being tossed from every window and tower in the city. All along the Silver Way, people were dressed in blue Tosian robes, cheering and shouting as Jason and his entourage passed by. Mixed in with the crowd were hundreds of blue-eyed disciples, dressed in the robes of the priesthood.


“It seems you have been busy,” Jason chuckled to Louis, his Archpriest in Qul Tos.


“The people do love you. For some, that’s all they want. Most, however, are disciples of Julian’s making.”


“I can tell,” Jason said, looking back to where Julian was greeting a dozen disciples.


“He would give his life for you.”


“Which worries me,” Jason replied.


“Don’t worry. You’re safe here.”


Darting past the row of silver helmed Tosian soldiers, a small boy and girl ran up to Jason, holding a dozen blue and white roses each. “For you, your majesty.” The girl curtseyed as she and her brother handed Jason the flowers.


Going down on one knee, Jason kissed each child on the head before taking the flowers from them. “May you only know happiness, in this life and the next,” he whispered to the children.


“We will,” the boy promised.


“Forgive me, your majesty,” a tall man with bright blue and glowing eyes, standing next to his wife and another male disciple, said as he picked up his daughter.


“Not a problem at all,” Jason smiled. “I take it these roses came from your garden madam?”


“I’m afraid so. The two destroyed my bushes, but they insisted you would like them.”


“They are very beautiful.”


“Not as beautiful as you,” the father’s fellow disciple said.


“Forgive my friend. Jorge is quite a good painter, but none of his works compare to you, your holiness.”


“And you are?” Louis asked.


“I am Michael the sculptor, though I doubt you have heard of me.”


“You are working on several statues for the temple.” Louis replied.


“So you have heard of me, your grace. I cannot tell you how that honors me.”


“This man is quite skilled at shaping marble. His statues of you and Philip are almost life like,” Louis told Jason.


“They do not compare to your true beauty, your majesty,” Michael said.


“Maybe your majesty would like to pose for these two men,” Louis offered, licking his lips.


“Louis,” Jason laughed, knowing full well what was on the man’s mind.


“Just look at Philip,” Louis said, pointing to where Philip was showing off his body to a pair of red-eyed disciples.


“He will never change,” Jason said, shaking his head. Going over to his lover, he wrapped an arm around his bare waist. “Met some friends?”


“Just a few admirers. I’ve never met my own disciples, after all.”


“Nor have I,” Jason laughed. “But don’t think I’m going to let you use it as an excuse to fool around.”


“But Jason…” Philip pouted. “I just want to see our temple.”


“That all?” Jason said skeptically.


“Well there are a few rituals I’m interested in taking part in.”


“Let me guess… an orgy?” Jason smirked.


“It’s how we express our love for you, your majesty.” The Demon disciple, William, bowed.


“It is one of our duties, as their gods,” Philip insisted, giving Jason a cute grin.


“We’ll talk about this later,” Jason replied sternly, as he went back to his children.


“Don’t worry about Jason. I’ll handle him,” Philip said as he winked at William.


On reaching the main square, Jason found that a compound of temples and spires had replaced the park at its center. Bells were ringing from its dozen towers.


“Behold the Cathedral of Heaven.” Louis said proudly.


“If that’s Jason’s temple, where’s mine?” Philip asked.


“Beneath the temple,” Louis said pointing to a semicircular archway that led to a flight of descending stairs. “We call it the Pits of Hell.”


“I wonder why?” Jason chuckled, seeing the clouds of steam rising from atop the twelve spires.


“Shall I show you around?” Louis offered to Jason while Marcus led Philip down into the pits.


Inside, the temple was filled with a blue mist resulting from steam rising from grates in the floor and the three-dozen circular blue stained glass windows in the ceiling. In the central dome were statues of each of Jason’s Saints. In the center was a gigantic white marble statue of himself, holding a golden spear. In the shadows of the temple’s many alcoves, Jason could see several men caught up in the act of lovemaking. Feeling a tug on his heart Jason could not stop his face from turning red. It seemed Philip had been met with a similar scene down below.


“Is something wrong?” Louis asked Jason.


“Oh, it’s nothing. Philip has never gotten used to the idea of being seen as a god. Most Centurions don’t look at him as one.”


“But don’t you two have an understanding.”


“We do, but there’s no reason why he can’t have his fun once in a while. With Varrus, James, Kyle, and Geoff gone, the number of playmates he can count on are few.”


“That’s very generous of you,” Louis said as he moved closer to Jason.


“I can afford to be. Philip’s been on his best behavior this last month.”


“As have you,” Louis noted, as he brushed his right hand against Jason’s white face. “I wonder if you can be so generous to yourself.”


“Keep talking.” Jason chuckled as, from behind the largest statue, a dark shadow appeared.


“Well, there’s no reason why Philip should be the only one to enjoy himself,” Louis said as the shadow walked up behind him.


“Did you enjoy yourself, Philip?” Jason asked the shadow.


“It was most educational.” Philip chuckled from behind Louis.


Louis let his shoulders slump in defeat. “Darn…”


“Why so glum, your grace?” Philip said as he grabbed Louis with his large clawed hands. “You weren’t trying to poach on my territory, were you?”


“Philip,” Jason laughed.

Philip winked at Jason. “Your pardon. It is I who am Jason’s property. To get to him you must pass through me first.”


“Jason?” Louis whispered, his green eyes wide open.


“You heard Philip,” Jason replied, as he turned to leave. Philip had already slid his tail inside Louis’ silk shirt. “Have fun you two.”


On leaving the temple, Jason took in a deep breath of cool mountain air, letting a gentle breeze dry the sweat from his forehead.


“Where were you, papa? Is that the palace?” Odin asked when he saw his father walking towards him.


“Just doing a little exploring,” Jason said. “Shall I show you the real palace?”


“Yes, papa.” Odin said as he jumped into Jason’s arm.


Continuing up the Silver Way, they reached the walls of the palace where the Prime Minster and the royal court waited. “We are greatly honored by your return, your majesty.”


“Prime Minister Corlin,” Jason nodded. He had never met the man, but knew him by reputation. He led the faction of nobles who had remained loyal to their king when the Confederacy invaded Qul Tos. Seeing the man’s solid blue eyes, Jason knew that loyalty was as strong as ever.


“High Chancellor Varrus spoke of you often, but never of your beauty.” the handsome, middle-aged man said with another bow.


“We will have plenty of time to discuss matters while I’m here.”


“You will be here for some time?”


“Until next summer, at least,” Jason replied.


“Then we are even more blessed,” Corlin said, smiling at Jason.




“The spring festival... you will be here to personally give us your blessing.”


Not sure to what the Prime Minster was referring, Jason made a mental note to ask Louis about it later. By the way the man was looking at him, Jason sensed the Prime Minster was looking for a personal blessing from his king. “The palace seems larger,” he remarked, as they made their way through its granite halls.


“We’ve added Parliament House to the west wing, a chapel to the gardens, and improved bathing chambers where the dungeons used to be.”


“We built a new prison in River Town, outside the city’s walls,” Louis explained.


“I saw River Town as I was flying toward the city. It’s quite large, isn’t it?”


“During the last census we counted sixty thousand souls,” the prime minister said. “Plans are already underway to expand the town to the other side of the river.”


“What about defenses?” Jason asked.


“We intend to build more walls and several forts along the river, but with the masons guild occupied with laying the foundations for New Qul Hoth, we are suffering from an extreme shortage of skilled labor.”


“But don’t you worry, Jason. The Tosian Academy will solve that problem soon,” Corlin promised. “Now that we’ve trained enough army officers, we’ve been expanding the school into other areas of study. Give us a dozen years, and we will have the finest artisans in the world.”


“I’m sure you will,” Jason chuckled.


“I’m just surprised you haven’t done the same in Domus.”


“Open up the Domus Academy to Famulus? Not even I am that bold.”


“Why not? You did it here in Qul Tos?”


“I was able to get away with it here, because the Centurions and Legatio were our guests. Domus, however, is their own home, with their own traditions. I might be Emperor, but my power only goes so far.”


“You mean the Senate,” Corlin chuckled.


“Aye, the Senate. They even tried to open up an investigation into Felix’s death.”


“You had no choice but to kill him. You don’t think you could have gotten away with just crippling him, do you?”


“You don’t cripple a Legatio… they’re too fragile. I should know. It was done to me often enough, as a child.”


“Yet, you lived.”


“Only because my mother feared what the Centurions might do to her, if I died.”


“I wonder what would have happened if old king Daslan had married a good Tosian woman instead of that Sithian tramp.”


“My Queen is Sithian,” Jason said, as he noticed Amanda’s face turn red.


“I beg your pardon, your majesty. I was only referring to Queen Eleanor, and not the entire Sithian people.”


“Do not worry, Prime Minister. I won’t behead you over such a small insult,” Amanda said, making a quick recovery.


“I wasn’t worried for a moment.” Corlin coughed as he led Jason into the crowded throne room. Inside were dozens of members of the nobility, as well as several of the Legatio whom Jason had appointed as governors. Once he had given them his blessing, he quickly left for the gardens, where his children and their wolves were playing.”


“Papa,” Jacob said, leaving Oktor’s arms for his father’s.


“Remember this place?”


“Of course I do… I even remember where I buried a few bones,” Jacob laughed.


“I see your children are already looking for them,” Jason said, pointing to where Odin was watching his wolf, Gamble, digging under an elm tree.


“Now, don’t do that, Gamble, you’ll ruin papa’s rose bushes,” Jacob said, running over to the pup.


“Aren’t you going to go help him, Oktor?” Jason asked his son’s lover.


“Me, go searching for bones?” Oktor said as if insulted.


Jason gave the former commandant a chiding look. “You made your bed…”


“Your son was the one who seduced me.”


“Like that was much of a challenge,” Jason smirked. “Get digging, Oktor.”


As Oktor grumbled off, Amanda approached her husband. “That was nicely handled.” She wrapped an arm around Jason’s waist, pulling him closer.


“Ah, let me guess, you feel I’ve neglected you.”


“Clive is growing as expected. I actually enjoy being pregnant. You must admit, our sons are very well behaved, even as mere babes.”


“You don’t mind me picking out the name?”


“After James’ grandfather?” He’s been good for the boys,” Amanda agreed. “Unlike someone else in their lives.”


“Philip is getting better.”


“Then where is he… off fooling around, no doubt.”


“Philip will never change. That doesn’t mean I can’t.”


“He’s beneath you,” Amanda replied.


“Only when he’s not on top of me,” Jason joked.


“Right now, all I want is for you to wrap yourself all around me.” Amanda smiled.


“Stay here in the palace. Corlin will see that you’re well taken care of. After dinner tonight, I will come.”


“A promise is a promise,” Amanda laughed.


“Papa, look what Gamble found!” Odin shouted, running to his father and carrying a battered silver crown.


“So that’s where it went,” Jason said, giving Jacob a chiding look as he took Qul Tos’ royal crown from Odin’s wolf.


“You never liked it,” Jacob said sheepishly.


“Varrus had a fit when it disappeared.”


“But…” Jacob whimpered.


“I’m not mad, Jacob. I just wish you had told me you had hidden it.” Jason laughed.


“Can I wear it?” Odin asked.


“First, let me wash it for you,” Jason said. Going to a fountain, Jason washed the dirt off the crown. “Here you go,” he said, and planted the crown on Odin’s head.


“Now I’m king,” Odin said proudly, going back to play with his brothers.


“One day, my son… one day,” Jason said, as he watched the boys chase each other around.


“You’re not going to put a crown on my head, I hope,” Jacob said, as Oktor hugged him from behind.


“You already are a king, king of beasts,” Jason said.


“Well, at least king of wolves,” Jacob said smugly as he nuzzled against Jason.


“And prince of my heart,” Jason said, ruffling Jacob’s gray hair, which produced a satisfied whimper.





















Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Stealing of Bonds



On hearing that another Saint had arrived in Salis, Zophar let himself hope that his lover, Aegis, had returned to him. When he saw Varrus, however, hope and dread swelled in his heart. Having been a teacher at the Academy before the war, he could only confess that the passing years had been more than generous to the handsome man. “Varrus… I must say I didn’t expect you to be my guest.”


“It’s Lord Varrus, now. I come in the name of his Imperial Majesty, the Holy Emperor.


“The Legatio boy?”


“He is a boy no longer, nor is he just a Legatio.”


“So the rumors are true. The Empire is being ruled by an Angel.”


“One much greater, and more worthy of your loyalty, than King Aidan.”


“Is that why you’ve come, Lord Varrus? To convince me to change sides? How many times must I turn traitor?”


“I know your story well, Zophar… a tragic tale indeed. Still, there is a chance you might regain some honor if you will listen to my words.”


“Honor? Only death can restore my name.”


“Not any death,” Varrus replied. “If it is honor you wish, you must seek it in the name of the Empire.”


“In the name of your toy Emperor, you mean.”


“Jason is no toy. By his hand, alone, was the traitor Xavier slain.”


“A Legatio killing a Centurion?” Zophar scoffed.


“It is the truth,” Varrus insisted, taking a step toward the general.


“Maybe, but that does not change the fact that the Empire I betrayed no longer exists.”


“It couldn’t, not after Xavier,” Varrus said, as he moved even closer.


“I never intended to betray the Empire.”


“What you did, you did out of love,” Varrus said, now less than a foot from Zophar.


“Love, something I’ve been without for the last six years,” Zophar sighed, as he let Varrus caress his face.


“I can give you love,” Varrus whispered.


“Love turns me into a fool.”


“This love will make you wise,” Varrus promised, as he leaned in for a kiss.


“Love,” Zophar sighed as their lips touched. Tasting Varrus’ sweet anima, he let it consume him. As Jason was a true Angel, Varrus was a true Saint, his anima more potent than that which he had received from King Aidan. Even as Varrus held him in a tight embrace, Zophar felt sharp pain as his black Saint’s wings fell from his body.


“What have you done to me?” Zophar sighed, as he collapsed into Varrus’ arms.


“I have freed you… you are no longer a Saint of King Aidan, but a disciple of Emperor Jason.”


“I’ve been demoted?”


Reassigned. Is there a problem?” Varrus asked, as he ran his hand down Zophar’s back.


“I used to fantasize about you, back at the Academy.”


“And you never knocked on my door?” Varrus laughed.


“Aegis…” Zophar grunted.


“He always was a sly fox. I have orders to bring him back, if possible. I take it you don’t know where he is?”


“Somewhere in Mathannon.”


“Good, that’s where we need to go.”


“Into Mathannon? Are you mad?”


“No, for it is the will of our Emperor that we do this. Can’t you feel that?”


Closing his eyes, Zophar searched his feelings. “Yes, I do,” he whispered. “Something terrible is about to happen in Mathannon. That is why his majesty sent you. We are the only ones who can put a stop to it.”


“Yes… Jason’s will is strong is it not? Strong but gentle.”


“Nothing like Aidan’s,” Zophar nodded. “If we invade Mathannon, many of us will die.”


“But if we succeed, we save all of Ares.”


“Then we must not fail.”


“And we won’t,” Varrus replied, before giving Zophar another kiss.


“Then I will do what I must. All I ask, is that your Emperor let me cast aside my sword when all is said and done.”


“If that is what you wish,” Varrus promised.


“It is,” Zophar said sadly. It was a short-lived sadness, one replaced with great joy as Varrus made love to him.


















Chapter Thirty: The Sons of Mathannon



On her knees, naked before the Supreme Matriarch, Bethany did her best to hold back her tears. Her back was a burning pain from the twenty lashes she had received from Ashella’s guard “Sister Bethany, what shame you have brought on us,” Ashella spat as she glowered at the pregnant woman. “How can a woman, who was once a Matriarch herself, let a man defile her?


“I did it for the good of the sisterhood, Supreme Matriarch,” Bethany replied in a subservient tone.


“You let yourself be fooled by a pretty face. You thought you could be the mother of gods, but all you’ve given birth to are swine.”


“That is not true,” Bethany insisted. “The children are strong… true warriors.”


“They are still men. I ask you, dear sister, when have we, the true followers of the Holy Mother, ever depended on men except for the lowest of tasks.”


“It is men who have resisted us in Austrola, these past seven years,” Bethany dared to say.


“To call those annoying gnats resistors, is to give them too much credit,” Ashella replied coldly. “We are the Holy Sisterhood of Mathannon, swore protectors of the true faith, and guardians of the sacred Daughter. Did not the Holy Mother, herself, speak of the day when we would rule all of Ares?… a day when women all over the world would be freed of their husbands and fathers, and allowed to follow their own destiny in the light of the Mother?


“Are not the Centurions also children of the Mother?”


“How dare you say such blasphemy? The Centurions were her lesser creation, and betrayed our Holy Mother to her death. It is we, Bethany, who will come into the Mother’s true inheritance, for only we have been true to the faith. When the day of the Daughter’s birth comes, we will cleanse the world of the false Jadoorian faith and exterminate Domus’ unholy empire, once and for all. We will do all that without the help of your bastards.”


“Forgive me, mother… my faith is nothing compared to yours,” Bethany said, as she groveled on the cold stone floor.


“Forgiveness only comes to those who rectify their mistakes,” Ashella replied, as she played with the hilt of a dagger on her belt.


“Tell me what I must do then, Supreme Matriarch.”


“Kill the children.”


“What?” Bethany balked.


Drawing her dagger, she tossed it at Bethany’s feet. “Kill the bastards.”


“But they’re just children.”


“I’ve seen them. Some of them are already taller than my own guards. Kill them, Bethany, before they, too, start to breed.”


“No,” Bethany spat.


“What was that?” Ashella asked in a tense voice.


“I won’t kill the children. How can we claim to preach the true faith, if we resort to killing the innocent?”


“They are not innocent. They have the touch of foul anima on them. Can’t you understand the danger such children pose? In the breeding pits they will sow the seeds of revolt. Are you willing to put our entire sisterhood in danger, for the sake of your brats?”


“If they pose such a danger, why don’t you kill them yourself?”


“You know why we can’t. Only you know the identity of all the children. I would kill you for your insolence, but I dare not, lest a single child escape the knife. Their anima must be purged from the pits if we are to remain safe.”


“I will never tell you who they are,” Bethany snickered, enjoying this small victory.”


“Then you leave us little choice. We will have to kill everyone in the pits.”


“You can’t do that. You need them for slave labor and future sisters.”


“I am not saying my solution doesn’t bear a heavy cost, but for the sake of the sisterhood I will see it done if you leave me no other choice. You said the sisterhood should protect the innocent. Prove it. Sacrifice your children, and save the lives of thousands. Do this, and all will be forgiven.”


“No, you’re bluffing. Such an act would cause a revolt in the pits, maybe even a civil war. You wouldn’t dare put Mathannon in such danger over a few children.”


“You would be surprised by what I’m willing to do for the sake of the sisterhood,” Ashella said as she waved her hand. “Give her to our Questioners. They are free to use whatever means they deem suitable, to get the names of the children from her, as long as they don’t kill her. I will be most unhappy if she dies before realizing the folly in opposing me.”


“You will never get them,” Ashella spat, as she was carried away.


“We shall see, dear sister,” the Supreme Matriarch whispered, her eyes going to the large black sphere, resting in a gold cup, in the middle of the black altar: the Daughter of the Mother.




Sitting in the opening of a shallow cave, dug in one side of the breeding pit that had been his home for the past six year, Aegis watched the flow of half starved people busy making mud bricks for their masters. When he had first arrived, the smell of human filth had almost overcome him. Now, he didn’t even notice it in his meager food. After so many years of plotting and waiting, his plans were about to bear fruit. All that he needed was a sign of weakness from the Mathannon witches.


Seeing Glover, a former sergeant in the Austrola Army approaching him, the wingless Saint rose to embrace his disciple. “Aegis,” Glover whispered, as Aegis held him close.


“What word?” Aegis asked, as he led him into the cave.


“Sister Bethany has been arrested.”


“So, the witches finally know what we’ve been doing. Good. I was getting tired of waiting.”


“If they know, then they will surely act soon to rid themselves of us.”


“They will try. Do not worry. Bethany will not betray us.”


“I wish I had your confidence in her. She was a Matriarch, once.”


“But I’ve been her lover for the past seven years,” Aegis snickered. “She will never act against me, just like you won’t, my disciple.”


“I would do anything for you, Aegis.” Glover bowed. It had taken some time, but the sergeant had finally stopped calling Aegis ‘sir’.


“I know you would. What of the children?”


“They’ve been scattered, as you asked. Even if Bethany tells the witches what she knows, it won’t do them much good.”


“Good. They’re sure to make new friends wherever they end up. Our numbers will continue to grow,” Aegis said, very pleased with himself. Not even Centurions grew as fast as his children, and the children of his disciples. Many of them were already as tall as a man. By giving each child a taste of his own anima, Aegis had developed an elaborate web of followers, each one guided by Aegis’ own desire to increase their number. In seven years, Aegis and his followers had bedded hundreds of women, and their children had bonded thousands of men. All those bonds led to Aegis, making him stronger than ever.


As he looked out of the cave, he could see the women standing guard on the edge of the pit. Each one wore a circular bronze emblem in the middle of their breastplates, a squid etched into the metal. Since the founding of Jadoor, the squid had been regarded as a sacred animal, its image often used to depict the Holy Mother herself. With all the men now tied to him, Aegis felt a similar kinship. In his growing army he was known as the octopus, with thousands of men desiring his many-limbed touch.


It was in the midst of his love making to Glover, that he felt a sudden pain in his chest, as if one of his many tentacles had been ripped off. “Zophar…” he hissed, as he jumped off the sergeant.


“Is something wrong?” Glover asked as he sat up.


“Zophar, what have you done?” Aegis said, as he tried to think through the pain of having his most precious bond ripped from him. He wasn’t dead. Aegis was sure of that. The death of a bond would feel like a cold lump in his chest. What he was experiencing now, was burning pain. Someone had taken his bond to his lover, and ripped it away, leaving only torn fragments that ached to be whole again.


By the time he recovered, he knew enough to know his time was short. If his bond was gone, he was sure King Aidan’s was gone as well. That could mean only one thing. Events in Mathannon had attracted the attention of the false Emperor, Jason. Knowing Aidan would quickly realize the same, Aegis feared the head-strong king would do something rash to prevent more of his follower from switching sides. King Aidan’s interference in his plans for Mathannon was the last thing Aegis wanted, at this moment. Knowing he would now have to act sooner than he had planned, he sent out a mental summons to his disciples. It was time he set his final plans into motion.




Screaming, King Aidan jumped from his throne. And, as a shocked royal court watched, he flailed about in pain. Something had happened, something he had never experienced before, but it reeked of treachery. Zophar, that had been the Centurion’s name, the general who lost the city of Sol out of love. It seemed treachery was more than a onetime occurrence for him. Thinking back, Aidan remembered he had sent Zophar to aid the hapless Austorlians in their battle with the Mathannons. Two questions bugged the king… first was how did the Centurion break the bond? Second, was why? Knowing only one man who could answer, Aidan excused himself from the court and made his way through the dark passages beneath the castle. There, he passed Dorian’s Spawn to burst into the dark bedchamber of Amplexor.


From the torchlight coming from the open door, Aidan saw Amplexor, stripped naked and bent over, as Dorian pounded lustfully against him “By the Mother…”


“Your majesty…” Amplexor snickered. “For what do we owe the pleasure?”


Angry at seeing his lover in Amplexor’s bed, Aidan grabbed hold of his Demon’s leash and used it to force Dorian to his side. “Dorian is my lover, Amplexor. Do not do this again.”


“I’ll do what I want. It’s not like your Demon put up much resistance.”


“Amplexor…” Aidan seethed.


“Really, your majesty, what is the problem? It’s not like I am keeping Dorian away from you. You can even join us, if you want.”


“I do not need your invitation to sleep with my lover.”


“Of course not, your pardon.” Amplexor bowed. “Can’t you forgive an Angel who has been without his Demon for so many years?”


“You may sleep with his Spawn, but not him.”


“As you wish,” Amplexor replied in a flippant manner. “What do you want from me this time?”


“Something has happened… one of my Saints is no longer bonded to me.”


“Did he die?” Amplexor laughed.


“No, he was stolen from me, if that is possible.”


“It is, but not by me. You and I are equals. Both of us were given our gifts in the tanks. Emperor Jason, on the other hand…”


“Jason is in Austrola?” Aidan demanded.


“No, but you can be sure one of his agents is… most likely another Saint.”


“But why… why is that boy king sticking his nose in Austrola?”


Amplexor tapped his chin with a long, slender finger, as he thought. “I can’t really say… unless.,,”




“He must fear the Daughter of the Mother.”




“I’m afraid not, dear king. The Daughter of the Mother is quite real, and in the possession of those Mathannon bitches. How Jason learned about it is a mystery to me. The fact that he has sent men to Austrola is cause for worry, however.”




“Because if the Daughter awakens, we’ll all be in danger.”


“Maybe you should explain who this Daughter is,” Dorian said.


“Of course, but let’s not stand about. Come to the bed, both of you, and we’ll talk.”

“No,” Aidan said coldly.


“Oh come on, your majesty… I don’t bite.”


“You’re after my Demon.”


“Like I have the power to steal him. I do admit that I take pleasure from his company, and his body. If it will make you feel better, I will offer myself to you as well.”


“Why would I want that?”


“How do you think Jason and that traitor James became such quick friends.”


“Aquanos needed an ally after betraying the Federation.”


“They’re lovers, Aidan,” Amplexor said, laughing at the king’s naiveté.


“But what of his Demon?”


“Lord Philip is a notorious lecher,” Amplexor replied. “I don’t think he is the kind of man to protest his Angel’s choice of bed partners, as long as he’s willing to share.”


“Do you think he sent James to Austrola?” Aidan asked. “He would love a chance to take his revenge on his former ally.”


“No, he wouldn’t send a Field Marshal for such a task. For certain, it is one of his many Saints.”


“So a mere Saint is able to break my bonds?” Aidan asked in disgust.


“As I’ve warned you before, Aidan… we three are mere forgeries. Jason and his followers are the legends, made reality, with all the power that entails. Being able to steal our bondmates is only one example of their superiority over us.”


“All the more reason to rid ourselves of them,” Aidan replied.


“All in good time. First, we must decide how we’re going to respond to what’s happening in Austrola.”


“And what do you recommend?”


“If Jason thinks the Daughter of the Mother is about to awaken, we must assume he is correct. We, therefore, have only one choice. And that’s to send a force of our own, to make sure Jason succeeds.”


“Ally ourselves with our enemy?”


“I wouldn’t use such a strong term as ally. Instead, see it as us positioning ourselves to take advantage of the situation as it unfolds,” Amplexor said as he slid on top of Aidan.


“I don’t like you, Amplexor, and I was a fool to ever trust you.”


“Yet you still find me useful.” Amplexor chuckled, waving Dorian over to join them.


“Not for much longer.” Aidan grunted as he felt his clothes being removed.


“Maybe we can change your mind,” Amplexor said as he massaged Aidan’ chest.




“Two is always better than one,” the demon said as he licked his black lips, wrapping his tail around both Angels.







Chapter Thirty-One: The Son’s Desire



Taking his son to the nearest Centurion outpost, Geoff watched, from across the bathing chamber, as two Famulus servants started dotting over him. Now he understood why Jason had sworn never to give his bond to his own children. The way Owen was looking at him sent a shiver down his spine. The young man wanted him, wanted the sexual act that would make the bond complete. Though Owen was old enough to make such a decision on his own, Geoff didn’t want the power, or the responsibility, that would come with it.


“Centurion,” Geoff sighed, as the garrison commander slid into the pool next to him.


“Lord Geoff. A fine boy you’ve got there.”


“A fine man,” Geoff corrected.


“Not until he’s circumcised. Would you like me to do the honors?”


“I don’t think my son is ready for that.”


“He’s not ready for a lot of things. Word is, he has only now learned who his real father is.”


“I shouldn’t have bonded him. Yet how else could I gain his trust?”


“Considering we’ll soon be off to kill Lord Sirrus, I don’t think you had much choice.”


“Look at the way he’s staring at me.”


“I know the look,” the Centurion chuckled.


“I’m sure none of your people have ever faced such a problem.”


“True… very few Centurions have children, and those that did died before their children reached adulthood. That’s where younger uncles come in.”


“I don’t understand.”


“Most Legatio never know a brother. We Centurion, however, come from large families filled with rowdy boys. A Legatio’s first experience with a man is always with one of his young uncles, not much older than he.”


“Like Felix and Gideon.” Geoff remembered.


“A tragic pair that.” The Centurion nodded, his tone matching Geoff’s with sadness.


“What am I to do with Owen?”


“If he were a Centurion, we would leave it to him to decide.”


“By the look of him, he’s already decided.”


“I think you’re right, but what are you going to do? What would you do, if you could do anything?”


“Send him to Jason… he’s always been good at healing hearts.”


“Aye, the Emperor is good at that. Look at what he did with the Legatio. For a while, they cringed at the very sight of a Centurion. Now, they’re back to their old games in the Senate.”


“The wounds haven’t fully healed. Fewer children are being born.”


“Fewer Centurions,” the Commander agreed. “But more Legatio are being born and raised in Centurion households. Jason showed the right of that.”


“That he did. How do I tell Owen no, without him thinking I’m rejecting him?”


“Very hard, since he doesn’t really see you as father… more like an older brother.”


“I was younger than he is now, when I slept with his mother.”


“So, a brother. For a young Centurion, it’s almost seen as a game to try to seduce one’s older half brothers. It’s just like students at the Academy trying to find a teacher to be their mentor.”


“I will not sleep with him.”


“Then you must find someone to take your place.”


“I want that person to be Jason.”


“This will not wait. Your son is confused. His world has been destroyed. You are going to kill the man he believed to be his father. That is something you will never fully be, in his eyes.”


“I know. I just want to do the right thing.”


“The right thing would be to leave Lord Sirrus to us, and take your son home.”


“I can’t. I swore that I would kill Sirrus with my own hands. I want to kill him.”


“Then you must find a way for young Owen to understand why, or he will hate you for it.”


“He knows how Sirrus abused his mother,” Geoff said bitterly.


“Yes, but he still feels some loyalty to him, or you wouldn’t have need to bond him. Trust me, Lord Geoff, the last thing you want is to make an enemy of your son.”


“I do not wish it, but I cannot leave him behind, can I?”


“He would see that as abandonment… proof you do not trust or love him.”


“He is not battle tested, but a gentle man.”


“That is more unfortunate. Gentle men do not survive long in harsh Ares. If you kill Lord Sirrus, your son will fear you. Yet you swore an oath to do just that.”


“How soon until your men will be ready to move north?”


“As soon as you wish,” the commander replied.


“See to it then,” Geoff said, looking across the pool at his son.


“I’ve never taken a bath like this before,” Owen said, when father and son were alone.


“Are you enjoying it?”


“Yes,” Owen said his face blushing.


“What’s the matter now?”


“It’s just… I can see why mother likes you so much. You’re very handsome.”


“Compared to my master, I am quite plain.”


“You know the Overking?”


“I am his bodyguard.”


“Then, why are you here instead of with him?”


“Before I was his bodyguard, I was an assassin. You know that, Owen.”


“So the Overking has sent you to kill my father… I mean Lord Sirrus?”


“He is an evil man. The world will be a better place without him.”


“Remember when you lived with us, I asked you if you would teach me how to kill?”


“I remember I told you no.”


“But, if I’m your son…”


“You are my son and, as a father, I wish for you to aspire to be a better man than I.”


“If I am your son, why did you abandon me?”


“You were the grand nephew of the king, I a mere assassin. What kind of life could I have offered you and your mother?”


“We would have been happy.”


“No, Owen, you and your mother would have been miserable. With all the enemies I’ve made over the years, you two would have always been in danger.”


“Lord Sirrus…”


“Is a horrible man. I should have killed him years ago. Can you forgive me for that?”


“Do you really need to kill him?”


“If I let him live, more people will die and suffer because of him.”


“Can’t you just put him back in his cage?”


“Like the one the king put him in?” Geoff chuckled. “He escaped once. He might escape again. That is a risk I can’t take, if only for your mother’s sake.”




Knowing what was bothering Owen, Geoff let out a chuckle. “Do you think I won’t get him? Do not fear, Owen, he won’t escape me. Once he is gone, you and your mother will be safe.”


“Are you sure? As you said, he’s escaped before.”


“I promise,” Geoff replied.




“You still don’t believe me?”


“No, it’s not that.” Owen blushed.


“Oh that…” Geoff sighed. “I swear, Owen, once I get you home I’ll introduce you to the most wonderful man I know.”


“Is he your lover?” Owen whispered.


“Yes… yes he is,” Geoff replied softly, as his son wadded toward him.


“And he will love me?”


“I don’t see why not.”


“Do you love me, Geoff?”




“Then why don’t you...”


“I’m your father.”


“Are you? I thought you were my friend.”


“You know why I had to keep it a secret from you. Your father would have killed you and your mother, both.”


“There, you said it.”


“Said what?”


“That Sirrus is my father.”


“Owen,” Geoff chided as the young man reached him.


“Well, am I wrong?”


“I might not be the man who raised you, but I won’t become your lover.”


“I know. I just want to understand what you did to me.”


“I gave you my bond… that might have been a mistake.”




“Because you now have these feelings for me.”


“But I’ve always loved you, Geoff.”


“As a brother.”


“More than a brother. You were my hero. With you, I felt safe. With you, I felt loved.”


“And you still feel that, after so many years?”


“More than ever.”


“You were pretty angry when I showed up.”


“Because I thought you’d abandoned us.”


“I did. I should have come for you sooner.”


“But you have come for me,” Owen whispered, as he rested his head on Geoff’s chest.


Not able to hold back, Geoff wrapped his arms around his son. “I am so sorry. I promise I will make it better, but I can’t do what you want.”


“You can’t hold me?”


“I can do that. Anything more, you need to wait for another.”


“I don’t mind,” Owen whispered.

























Chapter Thirty-Two: Sin’s Fate



“Do you like it?” Kyle asked hopefully, as he showed Sin his new quarters.


Going to a tapestry, Sin ran his fingers down it. “So many colors.”


“Yes, much better than that dark, dank, dungeon,” Kyle said, wearing a pleased grin on his face.


“Are you sure papa wants me to have such a nice room?”


“Of course he does. He wants you to be happy, right?”


“I don’t know. I think he hates me.”


“Philip… Philip doesn’t hate anyone. He does have a temper, but he doesn’t stay mad for long.”


“He’s still mad at me,” Sin insisted.


“No, if anything, he’s scared of you.”


“Scared of me?” Sin asked, turning around to face Kyle.


“Of course. He thinks you don’t love him.”


“He doesn’t love me.”


“He does. He just doesn’t know how to show it.”


“Then, how am I to know if he loves me?”


“You have to look very hard,” Kyle said, wrapping his tail around Sin.


“I don’t know if I can.”


“You will just have to trust me. Do you trust me?”


“You’re nice to me, like Uncle Jason.”


“Jason is a nice person. So is Philip, in his own way.”


“He doesn’t look nice. He looks scary.”


“I’m also a Demon. Do I look scary?”


“No, you look funny.” Sin laughed.


“Thanks a lot,” Kyle smirked, as he swatted Sin in the rear with his tail.




“Teach you to make fun of your Uncle Kyle.”




“I forgive you.”


“When will papa come back?” Sin asked after a long silence.


“Not for some time.”


“Why did he go? Did he leave so he wouldn’t have to see me?”


“No Sin, not at all. A mean man tried to hurt Uncle Jason’s children, so Jason took them someplace where they will be safe.”


“Why did papa go?”


“So he can scare away the bad men.”


“I could have gone with him.”


“I know, but your papa wanted you to stay here, in case more bad men come.”


“Papa wants me to scare away the bad people?”


“You are Philip’s son,” Kyle said, forcing himself to laugh.


“Am I that scary?”


“No, you look funny.”


“You’re making fun of me,” Sin pouted.


“I don’t mean to, it’s just…”


“Yes, Uncle Kyle?” Sin asked, seeing the worry on his uncle’s face.


“The bad men… they’re going to try and kill me.”


“Kill you, Uncle Kyle!? Won’t Uncle James stop them?”


“He will try, but he’s nowhere as good as Uncle Philip at scaring people.”


“What about me? I’m Philip’s son. Do you think I can scare the bad people?”


“Maybe, but you’ll need to be extra scary.”


“I’ll try, I promise.”


“Then let’s go out and practice.”




“How do you think Philip learn how to be so scary? He practiced at it, a lot,” Kyle replied.


“Will you teach me?”


“No, you already said I’m not very scary. One of Philip’s Spawn will teach you.”


“What if I’m not scary enough, and you die? Will Uncle James hate me?”


“James will never hate you, Sin, but we’ve got to try our best to make sure I don’t die, or Uncle James will become very sad. We don’t want that, do we?”


“No, I like it when Uncle James smiles at me.”


“So do I,” Kyle said, doing his best to hide his self-revulsion. He didn’t like manipulating Sin like this but, if Jason was right, they didn’t have time to waste. If any of them were going to stand a chance, Sin had to be ready when the time came. Kyle just prayed Jason was right about Sin, the deifier of fate.































Chapter Thirty-Three: Celebrated Birth



Sitting on the edge of the pool with Amanda, while Philip played with the children in the water, Jason let out a chuckle when Prime Minister Corlin entered, wearing a loose fitting blue robe. “Prime Minister,” Gavin waved.


“Your majesties,” Corlin bowed to both Jason and Amanda. “Rumor has it congratulations are in order.


“Word must move quickly, then. We’ve only just told the children,” Amanda said with a pleased smile on her face, as she placed a hand on her naked body.


“I did tell Jacob about it, yesterday. Somehow, he already knew,” Jason said.


“Jacob must have told Oktor. You know that man likes to boast,” Amanda said in a chiding voice. “I wonder if Jacob will be bringing a new pup home soon.”


“You would be shocked at how many children Jacob has,” Jason chuckled.


“Strange, given how much he loves Oktor.”


“Jacob likes girls,” Jason said in his son’s defense. “He just finds wolves to be a lot less fussy.”


“So I’m fussy, am I?” Amanda demanded.


“No, I just said Jacob doesn’t like fussy girls. Jacob likes you, doesn’t he?”


“Will it be twins again?” Corlin asked.


“No, just the one this time.”


“How unfortunate. Aren’t twins looked upon with favor in the Empire?”


“They are, especially Legatio twins.” Jason nodded. “There are only three pair in all the Empire.”


“Have you only come to confirm court gossip, or do you have official business with my husband?” Amanda asked.


“Now that the rumors have been confirmed, I do have a small matter that needs the king’s attention.”


“Oh?” Jason asked.


“Yes… the temple always holds services to celebrate the coming of a new prince. Since his majesty is here, can we expect his attendance?”


“It depends on the nature of the service,” Jason chuckled.


“To be honest, it’s an orgy.”


“An orgy?” Amanda laughed. “I will have to have a chat with my brother,, about the expression of his faith, if that is the case.”


“It wasn’t your brother’s idea. Since the founding of the Overkingdom, the number of traders from Aquanos has greatly increased. It seems they have a tradition of celebrating the wedding of Lord James and Kyle with an orgy of their own. Somehow, our people got the idea that to have a child near the birth of one of your own grants special blessings on them.”


Jason sighed, shaking his head. “Corlin…”


“The people do it out of love and respect for you, my king. Would you deny them that?” Corlin chuckled.


“This is your entire fault, Philip. Ever since I made you the prince consort, everyone seems to think I’m the god of sexual indulgence.”


“No, your majesty. The people know that that title properly belongs to your lover.” Corlin coughed.


“Then what am I?”


“The god of love of course. Who else would have the god of lust as a worshiper?”


“See, this is your fault,” Jason said, pointing an accusing finger at Philip.


“Blame me all you want. I can endure being the god of lust.”


“You mean the god of debauchery,” Amanda laughed. “Maybe you should attend this ceremony in the king’s place.”


“I think we should both go. I’ve never had people worshiping me before,” Philip grinned.


“That’s the last thing you need,” Jason said, shaking his head.


“But Jason…” Philip pouted.


“We’re not attending an orgy,” Jason said sternly, his eyes catching Corlin’s flicker of disappointment. “That is all, Prime Minister.”


“As you wish, my king,” Corlin said as he left.


“That was harsh,” Amanda replied, surprised by Jason’s curt dismissal.


“Our Prime Minister has been after me since the day I arrived.”


“You can’t blame him. He’s the highest-ranking official you haven’t slept with,” Philip said, his face wearing a wicked grin.


“Philip,” Jason scolded.


“The children, Philip,” Amanda chided.


“They don’t know what we’re talking about,” Philip replied, as he lifted Gavin out of the water and placed him on his shoulders.


“And let’s keep it that way,” Jason stressed.


“They’ll hear a lot worse, once they get to the Academy.” Philip laughed as he raced around the pool with Gavin.


“Let’s keep them innocent until then,” Jason said as he slid into the pool. Like a school of sharks, his sons swam in a circle around him. Taking Ben and Patrick in each arm, while Odin clung to his back, he carried them over to Philip.


When Jason was close, Philip leaned into his ear. “There’s nothing stopping us from having a little ceremony of our own.”


“As you wish.”


“Really?” Philips said, surprised by Jason’s quick agreement.


“Just because I won’t let you have your orgy, doesn’t mean I will stop you from having any fun,” Jason replied.


“Papa, what’s an orgy?” Odin asked.


“You said it,” Philip grinned as Jason rolled his eyes.


























Chapter Thirty-Four: Matters of Heaven and Hell



On entering the temple, Corlin made his way to the private offices and the room given to the High Priest. On entering the chamber, he went down on his knees and bowed his head. “Your grace.”


“Prime Minister… I must say this is a surprise.” Julian laughed as he rose from his desk. “Rise, there’s no need to bow.”


“I’m afraid I must,” Corlin said as tears ran down his face.


“Why? Have you done something wrong?”


“Terribly wrong, your grace.”


“Explain,” Julian said sternly. If the Prime Minister had done something wrong, the person he should be talking to was Jason, not his High Priest. This could only mean that, whatever Corlin had done, he feared approaching Jason. Little did the Prime Minister know that, underneath Julian’s smile, was a man ready to destroy anyone who threatened his god.


“My son, do you know my son?” Corlin asked.


“No, I do not.”


“He was always getting in trouble, gambling, whoring, and petty theft. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to free him from jail. Three years ago, I had enough, and cut him off. Thing were really bad for a while… until he decided to become a disciple. It is something we did together. I’d never seen him so happy as during those first few months.”


“But something happened?”


“Yes, not all of our disciples agree with Archpriest Louis.”


“Louis is fairly open minded.”


“That is the problem. These disciples believe Louis, and for that matter you, your grace, are not aggressive enough in converting the faithless.”


“It is Jason’s will that we don’t force our beliefs on others.”


“My son, Gregory, thought that is because our god is a modest one. He believed a true follower of Jason would do what their god could not.”


“What did your son do?”


“He and his friends went to Dorsa.”


“So have many believers.”


“But not to kill,” Corlin whispered.


Julian arched an eyebrow. “Kill? Kill who?”


“The leaders of the Federation.”


“And how does he plan to manage that?”


“I told him about the planned gathering of the Western kings at Sol.”


“Why did you tell him that?”


“He asked me.”


“But your son is not a member of the government. As Prime Minster, you should have known better than to discuss state secrets with outsiders.”


“It seemed harmless.”


“When did your son leave for Sol?”


“About a month ago.”


“For a month you’ve known your son’s plans?”


“I wanted to believe he would succeed.”


“Pray that he doesn’t, fool. If your son succeeds in even harming one member of the delegation, it will ensure that the total might of the Federation will fall upon us.”


“But, isn’t that what’s going to happen anyway.”


“No… except for Jadoor, none of the kings of the west want this war. Jason’s entire diplomatic aim has been to reassure the western kings that he has no intention of attacking them. Your son’s insane ploy will make Jason a liar. A god that lies is no god at all.”


“What can we do? By now, my son and his men are already in Sol.”


“So that is why you’ve been throwing yourself at Jason… you imagined that, if he made you a Saint, you would not be punished for your folly.”


“Lord Geoff…”


“Lord Geoff never harmed a hair on Jason’s head, and confessed freely. If your son isn’t stopped, countless innocent lives will be lost.”


“But how can we stop him?”


“You leave that to me.” Julian said as he put on his outer robes.


“You’re going to Jason, aren’t you?”


“No… this kind of matter is for hell not heaven.”




“So what is it you are asking of me?” Philip said darkly, from the secrecy of the Labyrinth maze.


“I know you’ve sent men into Jadoor, Demon Spawn and Famulus both. I know you’ve managed to keep them a secret from Jason.”


“They’re not my Spawn, but Kyle’s, and yes, I did send them north.”


“Using Kyle’s men was how you were able to avoid having Jason find out, correct?”


“Yes,” Philip nodded.


“And their purpose?”


“Revenge,” Philip grunted. “If anything were to happen to Jason or the children, my agents would see that justice is done.”


“So, they are close to King Aidan?”


“They are his personal bodyguards.”


“Will they be at the conference at Sol?” Julian asked.


“Yes. Shall I have them take action against Gregory and his people?”


“I do not want them harmed, if it can be helped.”


“That might be hard. My men have no proof that they are our own Spawn, and not Dorian’s.”


“I’m surprised Dorian hasn’t noticed,” Julian replied.


“Dorian is an unhappy man, in an unpleasant marriage. He’s too occupied, wallowing in sex and misery, to notice. It had been my hope to convince him to join our side.”


“Do you think that will happen?”


“Not with Amplexor watching his every move. Rumor has it that they’re lovers,” Philip said.


“Amplexor… he’s the heart of the problem.”


“He will be dealt with, eventually.


“Not soon enough.”


“There is only one person who can kill him and that’s me,” Philip grunted.


“Kyle could.”


“Kyle is a sweet man, but not a killer. If I were to leave Jason, to chase Amplexor down with Angel’s Bane, you can be sure Dorian would use my absence as a chance to kill Jason. As Jason says… let them come to us where we are strong, instead of following our enemies into lands where we are weak.”


“Jason is the paragon of wisdom,” Julius said, raising his head.


“No, he just has more common sense than your average emperor,” Philip replied.


“Given who the last emperor was…” Julian chuckled.


“I have never been more proud of Jason, than the day he freed Domus of Xavier all on his own.”


“Yet, it is something he’s not proud of.”


“Because he had to kill Felix, not that they were ever friends, but for a Legatio to kill a Legatio…”


“For Jason to kill at all,” Julian whispered. “Tell your men to be gentle with Gregory. The man only wishes to bring greater glory onto our god.”


“That doesn’t change the fact that he is a fool.”


“Also, if it’s possible, see if you can arrange an accident to befall Amplexor.”


“He cannot be killed.”


“I did not say kill. Just see that he suffers.”


“I think I can manage that.” Philip chuckled. “Jason and I are having a small party tonight. Would you like to attend?”


“There’s the orgy I need to see to.”


“Do you really want to go to it?”


“Well, if Jason isn’t going to be there, then no, not at all.”


“Good… then I will see you later,” Philip said, as he slapped Julian on the rear with his tail.




















Chapter Thirty-Five: The Missing Pieces



All through the rest of the day, Philip busied himself supervising the preparation for the party. Knowing Jason would be busy attending the royal court, he had almost every Famulus servant in the palace and Labyrinth Keep cooking, decorating, and setting up tents and pavilions atop the cliffs, while he went about giving out dozens of invitations to the finest men in the city. Soon, word spread throughout the capital that there was to be a party at the palace. Not wanting to be left out, entire blocks put out streamers and lanterns, as booths and food stalls were set up. The dozen bathhouses, spread out across the city, were filled, as many men and women wished to look their best before the festivities. The temple in the center of the city opened up its doors, its twelve towers sending out clouds of scented steam.


By the time Jason had finished with his meetings for the day, he knew something was up. As it had grown later, the dress among the nobles went from thick robes of fur and wool to barely anything at all, and the crowd became increasingly young.


“Caleb, what’s going on?” Jason asked his Regent, as he let his servants remove his dress robes.


“Just getting ready for the party.”


“Party?” Jason frowned.


“Why yes, Lord Philip has been keeping us busy preparing for it all day. He said he had your approval.”


“I told him he and I would spend the night together. I said nothing about a party,” Jason said, as he handed a wreath of golden laurels, decorated with black pearls, to a blue-robed Tosian.


“Well, the guests are already gathering,” Caleb said as he handed Jason a tiny loincloth.


“What is this?” Jason asked, as he held up the small bit of red fabric with two fingers.


“Why, it’s your costume,” Caleb said as he began to remove his own robes.


“It’s almost winter, and Philip wants me to walk around in this?”


“Like you will catch a cold,” Caleb said as he revealed he was wearing a similar skimpy loincloth.


“It’s not even covering you.”


“Don’t be such a prude. You have no problem being naked with your children.”


“Don’t bring my sons into this.”


“Do it for Philip,” Caleb replied.


“All he wants to do is show me off.” Jason sighed as he slipped the tiny thing on.


“And why shouldn’t he?” Caleb said as he placed a hand on Jason’s pale chest. “Are you not the most beautiful thing in creation?”


“Do not think of flattering me,” Jason warned, as he tried to storm out. Outside the room, he found four handsome youths, dressed as he was, kneeling down on one knee before him.


“Your majesty,” all four said before rising.


“How may I help you?” Jason asked, as the men’s blue-in-blue eyes shimmered at him.


“Commandant Darren sent us to be your escorts for this evening,” the tallest of the four said.

“You are students at the Tosian Academy?”


“All in our 24th year,” another said.


“Congratulations,” Jason said, trying his best not to blush.


“Shall you follow us, your majesty?” the first asked, offering his arm.


“Very well,” Jason said, taking the man’s strong arm.


“I would like to thank you for opening the academy… third sons, such as I, usually don’t have many options.”


“You are a member of the nobility, then?”


“No, a Free Farmer. My father’s lands are not so large, however, that they can be divided into thirds.”


“So your father sent you to the Academy.”


“It was the village priest’s idea. By the way, my name is Tanner Picket.”


“And your friends?”


“Chad Wellington, fourth son of a Sithian Duke. Brask Hogar, the second son of a well to do trader, and Hector Falsoth.”


“Son of the Earl?” Jason asked.


“You know of my father?”


“He is one of the Senators that represents Qul Tos in Domus. You are his eldest?”


“Yes, your majesty. My father felt an education here in the capital would best prepare me for my future duties,” Hector nodded.


“And he is right,” Jason agreed. “Are all of you planning to become military officers?”


“Chad and I will. Brask will become an apprentice in the masons guild, while Tanner will enter the service of the Imperial Bank,” Hector said.


“All are in need of good men,” Jason replied. On reaching the back of the palace, the four guided Jason through the stone doors of the Labyrinth. On reaching the first large chamber, he saw that a number of large tables had been set up. On them, many of Philip’s guests were being oiled and massaged.


Going to one of the few empty tables, Chad tapped it with a hand. “Your majesty.”


“Well, this is a surprise,” Jason chuckled as he lay down.


“May we, your majesty?” Brask asked. After Jason nodded his head, Brask opened a crystal vial and poured a line of the scented oil down Jason’s spine. While Chad worked on the king’s back, Brask and Hector each took a foot to massage. Tanner, on the other hand, retrieved a lute and played light melodies while the others worked. Asked to turn over so they could do his front, Jason could not escape the eager look each man was giving him.


“Here, drink this,” Tanner said, handing Jason a sliver goblet. As Jason took it, the others lifted up goblets of their own, only smaller.


“I am confused,” Jason said on seeing the cups.


“You are our king; surely you should drink from the larger cup,” Hector said, holding his goblet up in salute.


“But these are lover’s goblets.” Even in the faint torchlight, Jason could see the familiar runes on the cup.


“To our king,” Hector toasted, before he and the others drained their goblets.”


“To me…” Jason whispered, before drinking the spiced wine. “What wine is this?” he asked, not recognizing the flavor.


“It’s a vintage made by the Qopo. Varrus’ betrothed, Celia, had it sent here as a gift for your majesty. In her letter, she promises it will keep you warm on cold nights.”


“It’s a very warm wine,” Jason said, drinking more from the goblet. It was also a very strong wine, flavored with exotic southern spices that had their own unique effects on the five of them. Before Jason could finish his wine, Hector took the goblet from his hands and the others formed a circle around him. Soon, Jason felt warm lips touching his slicked skin, and four sets of hands exploring his body. He knew he was falling into one of Philip’s traps but, on this night, with these men, he didn’t care. They were only a few years younger than him, the expressions on their faces showing playful grins. Such attention brought back sweet memories to Jason, days when he was the favored student at the Domus Academy.


“We should continue,” Chad whispered between soft kisses.


“I’m happy right where I am,” Hector grunted his manhood jutting out from his tiny blue loincloth.


“Not until we reach the top,” Tanner sighed, as he forced himself to pull back.


“Then we’d better hurry,” Brask replied.


“Yes, we should hurry,” Jason nodded as he got off the table.


It seemed Philip had gathered many of the famed aphrodisiacs from the far corners of Ares: incense from Fu Dor, treasure fruit from Lahore, and oysters from Austrola. Each chamber, on their long walk through the labyrinth, held a surprise that served to tease Jason’s senses mercilessly. On exiting the caves atop the cliffs, Jason saw that pink silk canopies covered the path, and flower petals carpeted the ground. While his journey through the Labyrinth had left him slightly giddy, his mind was quite clear and well aware of its surroundings. As for his four escorts, they were singing joyfully, arms around each other’s shoulders.


“So you’ve finally arrived,” Louis greeted, a wide grin on his face.


“Philip really shouldn’t have gone to such trouble.” Jason laughed.


“Even the ruler of half the world must find time to enjoy himself.” Louis winked.


“Still, he shouldn’t have,” Jason insisted, as Louis guided them down the path. Along the way, they passed over a dozen circular tents. The sounds of laughter and moans filled the air. “I told Philip, no orgies.”


“No public orgies,” Louis chuckled, as they passed through the main gate to the Keep. On either side of the courtyard were two square tents, one white the other black, a large bonfire burning between them.


Leading Jason to the white tent, Louis made an opening allowing Jason and the others to enter. Inside, the floor was covered with thick rugs and pillows, and low circular tables covered with food evenly spaced about. Waiting for him inside was half his winged guard, High Priest Julian, and a nervous looking Prime Minister Corlin.


“Where’s Philip?” Jason asked.


“In the other tent,” Louis replied, as he flopped himself down on a pile of pillows. “Relax and enjoy yourself. It’s going to be a long night, after all.”


Sitting down on a large pillow in the middle of the tent, Jason quickly found himself the center of attention. Eating a few tidbits of food, he tried his best to remain focused on his annoyance with Philip. His Saints, on the other hand, had different plans.


As each one let lust and passion fill him, Jason found it increasingly hard not to be consumed by their joined desires. Where Jason could control each and every one of Philip’s Spawn, he could not deny the united will of his Saints. “I shouldn’t’ have picked so many Centurions.” Jason sighed, thinking about his Saints as he lay down on his back.


Going to Jason, Julian lay down next to him. “Be calm, my god. Let the love of your people flow through you.”


“But they’re being such bullies.” Jason moaned. Closing his eyes, his mind became filled with images of his Saints’ lovemaking. Feeling hands touching him, he jumped up and ran out of the tent. There, by the bonfire, Philip stood naked, his white eyes gazing up at the stars. “Philip,” Jason said in a chiding tone.


“Ah, there you are, Jason. Enjoying yourself?” Philip asked with a bemused grin.


“No. I told you no orgy.”


“No public orgy.”




“I know… you were hoping for a quiet night with me. When did this stop being fun?”


“You’re not enjoying yourself.”


“At first I did, but after awhile it gets tiring. Those four men I picked for you. Did you like them?”


“They are very nice.”


“They would give anything, just to be with you.”


“They shouldn’t have to make such sacrifices,” Jason said, as he leaned his head on Philip’s arm.


“You’re sweating,” Philip said, feeling Jason’s wet skin.


“If you had the passion of a hundred Saints flowing through you, you would be sweating too.”


“Let them have their fun. They were once Centurions, after all,” Philip said as two men approached from the white tent.


“Are you alright, your majesty?” Chad asked, Hector standing next to him.


“I’m fine. Why aren’t you two inside, enjoying yourselves?”


“We would rather be with you, my king,” Hector replied.


“See, true and loyal men,” Philip said, as he touched each man’s face with his tail. “Shall we take them and retire.”


“Haven’t you had enough?”


“Yes, but you haven’t. You still miss Alex and Gideon, don’t you?”


“Of course I do.”


“And, as Emperor, you’ve not had much time to be in the company of other young men.”


“I really don’t mind.”


“You need friends, Jason,” Philip insisted. “These two are more than happy to fill that role.”



“You know I’m right. I’m not saying it has to be these two, but I did go to a great deal of effort picking them.”


“Tomorrow, Philip… tonight, all I want is you,” Jason insisted, giving his lover a smile that he knew would melt any resistance.


Philip chuckled softly. “If you insist. As for you two, go see the Chamberlin. He will see that you’re given proper quarters in the Keep.”


“Thank you, your lordship,” Chad said excitedly as he elbowed his friend.




The next morning Jason laid spread out on the bed as he watched Philip put on his armor, the Demon humming merrily. “You seem happy.”


“Why shouldn’t I be happy?” Philip chuckled, as he bent down to strap on his shin guards. “I slept well didn’t I?”


“If you want to call what we did sleeping.” Jason grinned.


“So, you enjoyed it as well.”


“I always enjoy being with you,” Jason insisted.


“When I’m not making an ass of myself,” Philip smirked as he stood up. “What do you have planned today?”


“I need to finish settling a land dispute that’s been before the Senate for the past month and a half. After Xavier’s rampage, much of the Empire lacks Legatio overseers. I’m even running out of skilled governors.”


“Why, are they all resigning?”


“They all want to get into the banking business.”


“It is very profitable.”


“Yes. The problem is that most of them are too greedy. I’ve had to send several into exile for loan-sharking.”


“Sending them off to their country estates is not much of a punishment. If there is one virtue Legatio excel at, it’s patience. They know you can’t keep them in exile forever.”


“What should I do, then?”


“Give them a real punishment. Send them to the Tosian Academy.”


“And let the students suffer?” Jason laughed.


“Speaking of students, there are four young men waiting for you.”




“Jason…” Philip replied in a warning tone. “Your happiness is my happiness, and you can’t be happy not having any friends your own age.”


“But Philip…” Jason protested.


“Yes, my love?” Philip said feigning innocence.


“I’m alright with the way things are… really.”


“Nonsense,” Philip grunted, a sour expression growing on his face.


“This is about Gideon, isn’t it?”


Going to the bed, Philip sat down on its edge. “And Alex.”


“You still feel guilty about them, don’t you.”


“It was my decision to leave Alex at the Academy when we fled. It was I who forced my bond on Gideon.”


“And you think these four men can replace them?”


“I wish you would at least try to get to know them. The Commandant only had good things to say about each.”


“You can’t arrange this like a plan for battle. Friendships happen spontaneously.”


“Maybe for you, but most of my first friends were my barrack mates, back when I went to the Academy. Living so close together, we sort of had to get along.”


Jason sat up and took hold of Philip’s shoulders, massaging them. “So, friendship through captivity?”


“I wish you wouldn’t look at it like that.” Philip pouted.


“Very well, Philip, I’ll do as you ask.”


“Good, and I swear I’ll never touch any of them,” Philip said, raising his hand as he gave his oath.


“You don’t have to promise that.” Jason chuckled as he climbed out of bed, two black-robed Famulus quickly joining him, in front of a long mirror, to dress him.


“Take the day… no, week off. I will deal with the Senate, and Caleb can handle the court.”


“I can’t take a week off. The Empire needs me.”


“The Empire will survive. Word is that snow is already falling on Gladmore and Drakor. That gives us three more months before we’ll need to worry about war.”


“Why are you so worried about me, Philip?” Jason asked as his loincloth was tied off.


“Because I love you.”


“No, you’re worried. Something is wrong, and you’re not telling me about it.”


With a wave of his clawed hand, Philip dismissed the servants. “The attack on the children scared me,” he whispered, as he went to the dresser, taking out one of Jason’s blue tunics.


“It scared me as well,” Jason replied while Philip dressed him.


“What kind of monster would try to kill such sweet boys? If King Aidan is willing to commit such a crime, his capacity for evil surpasses my imagination.”


“You fear he might try to kill us in a way you cannot predict or protect against.” Jason whispered as Philip placed a jeweled silver belt around his waist. “Do not worry, Philip. I will protect you.”


“Protect me, but…” Philip scoffed at the idea that he was the one in need of protection.


“You want those four young men with me for protection.”


“They would give their lives for you, Jason.”


“And I would give my life for the sake of the people.”


“Not if I have anything to say about it,” Philip said, as he placed a gold circlet on Jason’s head.


“Come, Philip, we’re late. If we hurry, we’ll be able to see the children before their lessons start.” Jason smiled calmly.




Chapter Thirty-Six: The Saving of Fools



“What happened?” Zophar asked. Last night, Varrus had taken him in a heat of passion that lasted almost until dawn.


“Did you not enjoy it?” Varrus chuckled as he strapped a sword around his waist.


“I did, I just don’t know what caused it.”


“Sometimes, Jason’s Saints like to enjoy one another’s company.”


“You mean all his Saints.”


“All five hundred of them.”


“Five hundred… I don’t believe Aidan has more than fifty.”


“Trust me, it wasn’t Jason’s idea to bond to so many men. His lover, Philip, however has three legions of Demon Spawn. You need more than a few Saints to keep that many in line.”


“Fifteen thousand Spawn… Dorian would need years to catch up.”


“We have no intention of giving him that chance,” Varrus said as he looked over the hill. Beyond the next valley was Mathannon proper.


“Dorian is not a bad person…”


“He’s just in love with a crooked man.”


“No, you’re wrong about Aidan. He’s not evil, just scared.”


“Scared men make the worst kind of leaders.”


“True… but you can’t blame him. He has been forced out of power, once, already. Lord James betrayed him. His people despise him. He has to be a tyrant just to stay in power.”


“It doesn’t have to be that way. Even now, he can make peace with Jason.”


“He can’t make peace with a man he must kill,” Zophar replied. “Jason’s people have declared him a god… that poses a direct threat to the Jadoorian Church. The church is the source of Aidan’s legitimacy to the throne, as well as his leadership over the entire Federation. There is the issue of Jason’s anima as well. Amplexor has convinced Aidan that his love will die without it. The thought of losing Dorian, no matter how bad their relationship has become, terrifies Aidan.”


“Then Aidan is doomed, for if he were to ever harm Jason, Philip would not stop until the King of Jadoor was dead,” Varrus warned.


“You know Lord Philip better than I do, so I will trust in your judgment. Beware Amplexor, though. He is the puppet master, controlling things in Jadoor. He, too, is out for revenge.”


“One thing at a time. Right now we need to ensure Mathannon doesn’t become a threat to the Empire.


“We’ve made it this far.”


“That’s what’s worrying me. The main Mathannon army is still fighting in Austrola, but surely they’ve not left their entire frontier unprotected.”


“Mathannon has never had that large an army. They’ve only been able to beat us with better weapons and equipment.”


“Good thing we came across that supply caravan, then.” Varrus chuckled. In the center of the camp were two dozen barrels of Mathannon’s mysterious explosive powder. “Here come our scouts.”


“General Zophar, Lord Varrus,” the cavalry man saluted.


“What is the situation in Mathannon?”


“Slave revolt sir. The whole country is in disarray.”


“A slave revolt… the sisterhood actually let one happen, while at war?” Sir Lancaster said, shocked.


“It seems the Supreme Matriarch feared a revolt, and ordered the death of every man in the pits. The slaves, however, were ready for such an attempt and overcame their guards, though they took heavy casualties. It also seems that the Jadoorian Navy has arrived. The capital city of Othan is under blockade.”


“What of Mathannon’s own fleet?”


“Most of their ships are trapped in port. The rest have fled to the city of Dalina, to the south.”


“King Aidan moves fast when needs be.” Varrus chuckled. “My guess is that he felt his bond to you break,” he told Zophar.


“So, he sent his entire fleet?”


“To stop Jason from gaining a foothold here, yes.”


“What are we to do now? The Daughter is either still at the main temple in Othan, or has been moved for safe keeping to Dalina.”


Closing his eyes, Varrus let his thoughts drift toward Jason, seeking his Angel’s counsel. “It’s still in Othan. The Matriarchs won’t risk their most prized relic on the open road when the slaves are revolting.”


“And Mathannon’s main army?”


“Just started to retreat back home, as of yesterday. Heavy infantry moves very slowly, however, and it has started to snow in the mountains. They pose no risk to us.”


“So we ride north towards Othan?”


“With all speed. Even with all that’s happened, time is still against us,” Varrus said as he jumped on his horse.




Dressed in a black doublet with white hose, King Aidan entered the domed chambers of the Federation’s Grand Council. To his left walked General Darren, the man who defeated Field Marshal Lukas in the last war. On his right was Archbishop Galen, dressed in black robes and miter. Behind him, Dorian and Amplexor followed. Going to the central throne-like chair at the crescent shaped table, Aidan gazed around the room. Gathered there were all the rulers of the west, except for Mathannon. Their ambassador, Aidan had had arrested the moment he arrived. By now, Dorian’s Spawn were putting her to the question. On none of the rulers’ faces could a smile be found… this summoning of the council had taken them away from their palaces on the eve of winter.


“This meeting of the Grand Council is now called into session,” Galen said in a booming voice. “We will open with a prayer, seeking the gods’ guidance.”


“Which ones,” King Miguel Hex of Dorsa, demanded. When Dorsa had been overrun by Lukas’ army during the last war, Miguel’s father, Marco, an elderly man in poor health had been forced to flee to the frozen lands of Drakor ,where his health failed him. It was, therefore, the son, and not the father, who made a triumphal return to Haspar, Dorsa’s capital. Aidan had long thought the young king should have been more grateful to Jadoor, and to him personally, for freeing his lands of the cursed Centurions. So did Galen, by the angry expression that formed on his face from being interrupted.


“Which gods are we to worship? In this room alone, I count three, if god you be,” King Hex demanded.


“You would be wise to watch what you say, youngling,” Galen warned.


Standing up, Miguel placed his fists on the table. “Are you threatening me, priest, I, a king?”


“He is only showing concern for your soul, your majesty.” Amplexor chuckled.


“One of the gods speaks. If only he would give us words of wisdom,” Miguel spat. From the balcony overlooking the council, two Demon Spawn leapt, landing only a few yards from the King of Dorsa.


“Not even a King of the West may speak blasphemy,” Aidan said, giving the upstart a warning glare. Miguel, however, would not back down.


“Another Son of the Mother speaks. Please tell me, your majesty, how can there be three Sons, when we all know the Holy Mother only had two.”


Raising a hand to stop Dorian’s Spawn from tearing the man apart, Aidan let a stern but calm expression cover his face. “I am a direct descendent of the first King of Jadoor, Amplexor, that is where my divinity comes from.”


“But what of your Demon… rumors have it he was a Centurion before you made him High Priest.”


“Are you denying the greatness that is your god?” Amplexor demanded, while Dorian’s face soured.


“No, I am not. I am just confused. The teachings of the church are clear. There is but one Mother and two Sons worthy of our worship. The Holy Mother watches us from the heavens, but her two Sons were supposed to have remained here, to teach and guide us. That has always been the reasoning as to why this council has been led by a King of Jadoor. Now look at what we face, my fellow rulers. Not two, not three, not four, but five, FIVE gods now walk the lands of Ares. Three of them are not even sons of the west, including our so-called High Priest. Who then can tell us which gods we should worship? Is not this meeting set to discuss plans to go to war against a pair of gods? All I ask, is that this council think with clear and open minds, before we send our men into harm’s way.”


“Is that all you have to say?” Aidan said coldly.


“For the moment,” Miguel said, before sitting back down in his chair.


“You doubt me?” Aidan asked, looking accusingly at the other rulers. “If one of you is willing to say it so boldly, then all of you must think it.”


“Of course not,” Raspen Vas, head of the League of Nobles in Uul, spoke up. “But you must admit, these are confusing times we live in. Is it wise for us to go to war during such uncertainty?”


“We have no choice!” Aidan shouted; any attempt at remaining calm blown away. “After we defeated the Centurions in the last war, it was supposed to be us, the Federation, who became masters of all Ares. It was supposed to be us who achieved greatness. Look at us though, we can’t even agree on which gods to worship. We’ve become divided and weak. Yet, to the east, what has happened? The Confederacy we long scorned as clumsy, inefficient, and headless, has been replaced by the Alliance, led by their so-called Overking of the East, a weak Legatio who also claims to be Emperor of the Centurions. If we do not act soon, brothers, the power that is growing on our borders will overwhelm us, and lead us down the path of damnation.”


Except for the clapping of a single pair of hands, the chamber was silent. Searching the room for the source of the mocking sound, Aidan’s eyes fell on Queen Pasha, the ceremonial ruler of the Rapa Free States. “So, big king Aidan, that’s what you want from us. You think your crown isn’t big enough for that small head of yours.” She laughed as she rose. “Can’t you see why he’s brought us here, my brothers? He is jealous, jealous of a simple title. He, too, wishes to be known as Overking, and rule our people in our stead.”


“I wish for you to confirm me as your leader, nothing more. Can’t you see how divided we are? If we do not unite behind strong leadership, we won’t stand a chance against the new Alliance. Do any of you wish to go back to the days of paying tribute to Domus, having our best men and women carted off as slaves? Even if Jadoor has to stand alone, we will not let such things befall our once mighty Federation.”


This time, it was Miguel, King of Freen, who rose, speaking in a slow and calm voice. “What you said is true. Our Federation has become weak and divided. Is not the seat of Mathannon empty? Is not Austrola a mere shadow of its former self? Do not priest and disciples from Qul Tos roam our lands, preaching the words of these new gods, if gods they be? If we are weak, however, is it not from weak leadership, King of Jadoor? Your interference in the war between Mathannon and Austrola has left both kingdoms weakened. Your Jadoorian Templars and priests have always been welcome in our lands. But now, anyone who dares even to listen to the words of Emperor Jason is called a heretic, and is killed. By making martyrs of them, you have sowed the seeds of civil war in our lands. So forgive us, your majesty, Son of the Holy Mother, we are weak, divided, and mistrustful, but only because of you.” The king said the last sentence pointing a long accusing finger at Aidan.


“I am your god, and I will have your obedience,” Aidan said in a booming voice. All the nightmares, spun from his paranoia, came to life before him.


“We do not want this war,” Pasha said, standing up again. “We want peace, and our freedom. For long enough we’ve bowed down to the will of Jadoor, but no more.”


“Is that how all of you feel?” Aidan asked, looking around the room with arms outspread.


“Now is not the time for conflict, your majesty. Even your own kingdom has yet to recover from the last war,” Avin replied.


Flabbergasted by his allies’ refusal, Aidan walked behind his throne to seek the council of Amplexor. “What am I to do? I can’t go to war without them.”


“If you don’t go to war now, you never will. Backing down will only be seen as a sign of weakness, not just by these fools but by your own people as well. Who knows, in a year’s time these cowards might declare war on you. You have no choice. You must arrest them.”


“On what charge?”


“Heresy, of course.”


“I don’t see how arresting them will aid me.”


“Simple. You just make sure whoever replaces them is someone loyal to you. Surely there are nobles eager to sit on thrones of their own.”


“That could work, but I’ll need to move quickly,” Aidan hissed.


“You let Dorian and me worry about the details, your majesty. You have enough to worry about, as is.”


“That I do,” Aidan nodded, as he nervously started biting on a nail. In the chamber, more Demon Spawn began to appear, encircling the rulers and their entourages.”


Going to his king, Galen gently took hold of his arm. “Come, your majesty, you’ve had a tiring day.”


“Yes, a nap would be nice right now,” Aidan nodded, dead to the shouts and protests filling the chamber as Dorian’s Spawn struck.
















Chapter Thirty-Seven: Desperate Rescue



“Your majesty, are you alright?” Chad asked, when Jason had remained silent at one of Hector’s jokes.


“Yes,” Jason quickly nodded, only to change his mind. “No, something terrible has happened,” he said, as he stood up and started pacing the room.


“What has happened, your majesty?” Tanner asked. All four men had their eyes on Jason, worried looks on their faces.


“An abomination… to think that is what I will become.”


Blocking Jason’s path, Chad embraced him. “Your majesty?”


“There’s another angel… one much older than I, one so old that he’s lost his Demon,” Jason said as tears ran down his face. “You see me as a creature of love and joy. So long as I have Philip, I pray that will always be the case. Amplexor, though, is not like that. He’s filled with so much sorrow, pain, and hatred, that it’s all he has to give to others.”


“Give?” Chad asked as he held Jason tightly.


“Imprisonment,” Jason whispered. “His bond is not one of love or passion, but a chain made of pain, and he’s giving it to others, the kings of the west, so he can force them to obey him.”


“How do you know this?” Brask asked.


“Because I knew it would happen,” Jason replied. “Geoff, dear Geoff, he has spread my eyes and ears across all of Ares. What my followers see, I see. What they hear, I hear.”


“So you saw us peaking into your bedroom last night?” Tanner asked, as way of a joke.


“Tanner,” Hector scolded.


“It’s alright, and no, I didn’t notice that. For it to work, a disciple or Saint has to want me to see and hear what they witness. I do not spy on my own followers.”


“That’s a relief,” Tanner sighed.


“So the Kings of the West are now Saints of Amplexor?” Chad asked as he led Jason back to his chair.


“Not Saints. A true Saint follows his Angel out of love. Amplexor doesn’t want their love, only their obedience. Pain is all he needs.”


“So it is to be war?” Hector asked.


“Yes, but not all is lost. There is still some hope for some of them. I must speak with Philip, at once.”


Just as he said those words, a powerful wind blew into the room from the Keep’s balcony and there was Philip, his white eyes shining with an intense light. “Jason, what has happened?” Philip asked worriedly as he rushed to his lover’s side.


“There’s no time. I need you to send orders to the men you have in Sol.”


“You know about them?” Philip said surprised.


“I do now… they practically scared Gregory and his friends half to death.”


“Good. They deserve a good fright, considering what they were about to do. But if you knew about the Prime Minister’s son, why didn’t you tell me?”


“I didn’t know, not until your men jumped him. It scared him enough to open himself to me. He has confessed everything, and didn’t do any real harm. Now there’s a chance he can do some good with the help of your Spawn.”


“What is it you want done?” Philip said eagerly, as he prepared to listen.




“Queen Pasha, how unfortunate that you spoke against my king,” Amplexor chuckled, as he gazed at the chained woman.


“Keeping me here will do you no good. My people will not follow a scared boy.”


“I know, which is why your situation is most unfortunate. Still, you do have some value to the right people. The Qopo, for instance.”


“The Qopo…” the Rapa Queen spat. Though both people had the same dark skin and appearance, the two had been dedicated enemies since the beginning of time. Though Amplexor was sure Pasha didn’t know the true reasons for their animosity, he did.


“Qopo pirates have been making an annoyance of themselves of late, more than usual. Rumor has it this is because Emperor Jason has taken one of their queens as a concubine.


“What of it?” Pasha demanded.


“You are of royal blood, are you not? Of the same bloodline that all rulers of Rapa have descended from, since the founding of the Free States? Haven’t the Qopo offered a blood price for your pretty head?”


“You would give me to the Qopo? My people would rip off your wings, tear off your lips, and brand the insides of your ass for such an offense.”


“Strong words from a powerless queen,” Amplexor snickered. “Too bad you’re not a man, or I would show you what real pain feels like. Then again, maybe you would like being a man. All it would take is a kiss from my bitter lips. What is it to be, queen of the Rapa, the Qopo or me?”


“How about neither,” one of the Demon Spawn guards grunted, as he thrust his sword into Amplexor’s back. The blade made it barely two inches inside the Angel, before it came across a barrier harder than bone. The next thing the attacker knew, Amplexor had swirled around and slashed his knife across the Spawn’s throat.


“Well, this is a surprise,” Amplexor chuckled, eyeing the six other Spawn in the room. Rolling his shoulders back, he prepared for their attack, as their comrade lay on the ground, his head almost severed.


Stepping forward, a Spawn wielding an iron staff engaged Amplexor’s swift hand. While Amplexor was fast and deadly with his knife, the Spawn was a Centurion master with his staff. While he quickly was covered with deep gashes, the Spawn managed to land a heavy blow on Amplexor’s wrist, shattering it and brining the Angel to his knees.


“It’s good to see you Centurions still know how to fight. Do what you want with me, but know you can’t kill me.”


“It is not our intent to kill you, Lord Amplexor. That is a pleasure Field Marshal Philip wishes for himself.”


“I’ll look forward to it,” Amplexor snickered; already he could feel his arm healing.


“Free the queen,” the Spawn told Gregory, handing him the keys.


“You’ll never escape alive. Already, my followers have summoned the guard. You should flee now, while you still can.”


“Not until one final matter is seen to,” the Spawn said, as another stepped forward, this one wielding a heavy axe. With one swift swing, the ax chopped off one of Amplexor’s white wings, causing the Angel to scream out in pain. “Now, we’ll leave,” they said as they led the queen out of the cell.


“King Miguel, King Avin,” Pasha said, surprised when she saw the other two monarchs in the hallway. “Is everyone safe?”


“Only us three, it seems,” King Avin replied.


“We should hurry,” Gregory said, the sounds of Amplexor’s screams echoing down the hall. As they raced through the complex of buildings, they eventually reached one of the many canals that lined the city’s streets. “Well, jump in,” Gregory said as he sank into the river.


“You can’t be serious,” Lanyon said, touching his heavy iron crown. “The water must be freezing.”


“Would you rather be dragged back to Amplexor?” Miguel said as he followed the others into the canal.


“Sometime it’s better to escape with your life than to die for the sake of one’s dignity,” Pasha told Lanyon, as she stripped off her furs and jumped into the water.


“But, I am an old man,” Avin insisted.


“You will be a dead man if you don’t hurry,” the leader of the Spawn said, as he pushed the king into the water.


Following the current of the canal, they floated out to where a wooden barge waited outside the city’s walls.


“Good, you made it,” one of Gregory’s friends said, as he helped Pasha onto the boat. “I thought we were going to kill the royals, not kidnap them.”


“As it turns out, they’re on our side.” Gregory laughed as he climbed aboard.


“I wouldn’t say that, young man,” Avin replied, shivering.


“Well, we’re not on King Aidan’s side, that’s for sure,” Miguel said. “But, what do we do now?”


“You can’t go back to your kingdoms. King Aidan is sure to send word to his Templars that you three are to be killed on sight,” the Spawn Commander said


“If we don’t go back, then surely a usurper will be placed on our thrones,” Lanyon replied.


“King Aidan will try but, even now, Jason’s missionaries are spreading the word of what has happened. Your people will resist,” Gregory said.


“I do not believe I am saying this, but will Jason send his Centurions to free our kingdoms?” Miguel asked.


“Not right now, at least. He doesn’t want to be the one to start this war, so he will let Aidan act first. If civil war breaks out in your kingdoms as you suspect, Jason will support any faction you wish.”


“What if Aidan doesn’t act, but uses this time to consolidate his rule over the entire Federation?” Avin asked.


“He has all winter to do that. You can be sure he is landing soldiers all along the western coast.”


“Which is why your Emperor should attack now, while Aidan’s forces are spread out,” Miguel said


“If we attack now, Jadoor will claim we are the invaders, and that he’s only there to protect the people. Jason doesn’t want to just win the war. He wants peace, a peace that will last for generations. For that to happen, the people must see Aidan for what he is… a bully, desperately clinging to power. Only through suffering will the people see Jason as the savior he is.”


“So, our people must suffer in order to make your Emperor a hero?” Avin said.


“Unfortunately, yes,” Gregory nodded. “If you were him, would you rather be seen as an occupier or a liberator?”


“All I care about is smashing that tyrant,” Miguel said pounding a fist on the deck of the barge, as he began to sail away from the city.


“We are all tyrants. It is our misfortune that Aidan is no good, either as a king or a leader,” Avin replied. The barge made its way slowly upriver into the kingdom of Dorsa.




Chapter Thirty-Eight: Preparing for War



“Well, Jason?” Philip said, when his lover opened his eyes.


“They’ve made their escape. Only three kings out of ten.”


“Which three?”


“Dorsa, Freen, and Rapa.”


“Then we should count ourselves lucky. Those three all lie close to our borders. I take it that was not by accident?”


“You make me sound like a stoic pragmatist.” Jason grunted as he sat up on the bed. “Anyway, they’re not safe yet. They have to cross the width of Dorsa, without getting caught by Aidan’s Templars.”


“What of your other spies?” Louis asked.


“Aidan troops have already began to land all along the western coast of Ares. In the cities, Templars are on the street in greater numbers. It is only a matter of time before Aidan will have firm control over every western kingdom… except Rapa, that is.”


“Rapa isn’t even a kingdom.” Hector laughed. “It is a confederacy of independent states, based on clans and family.”


“They have also never truly embraced the Jadoorian faith,” Chad added.


“They are stubborn, strong willed, and very protective of their independence, both as a nation and as a clan.” Tanner chuckled as he sat down on the edge of the bed.


“And their Queen?” Brask asked?”


“A figurehead only, though they will be most displeased on learning that Aidan attempted to arrest her. The point is, short of a full invasion, Aidan will not be able to subdue the Free States.”


“Unfortunately, our alliance with the Qopo will make it nearly impossible for us to reach an understanding with the Rapa, unless we’re willing to turn the Qopo into our enemies. Even offering Pasha protection could be seen as an affront to our ally,” Philip warned.


“I’m not going to let her fall into the hands of Aidan’s men,” Jason said sternly.


“I’m not asking you to, but it might be best if Pasha were to escape back to her own lands, where she can lead the resistance.”


“That would mean fewer Spawn to protect the two kings,” Louis said.


“I have people in Dorsa. They will see that our guests arrive safely,” Jason replied.


“Then it is settled,” Field Marshal Marcus grunted. My legions, and the Tosian army, will move west and take positions in those forts we’ve been building for the last six years. Are you sure you don’t want us to invade Dorsa and Freen?”


“No, the people must decide on their own if they want our help,” Jason replied.


“The common people are fools,” Marcus replied.


“Still, the choice must be theirs,” Jason insisted.


“As you wish, my Emperor,” Marcus said, giving Jason a salute before leaving.


“You know my Demon Spawn could make quick work of the Jadoorian army,” Philip remarked in a casual fashion.


“I’m not so sure about that,” Jason whispered. “Amplexor killed one of your men with ease.”


“Amplexor is but one man.”


“Who gave King Aidan and Dorian blades that can kill even you and me. Who’s to say he doesn’t have an entire arsenal of weapons designed to kill Spawn and Saints? Sending your legions against Aidan is something Amplexor must have taken into account. I will not risk them until I know what it is that mad man is planning.”


“You really hate him,” Philip said, surprised.


“For all the pain and suffering he’s caused, yes, I do.”


“No, this is more personal. It’s me you’re worried about. Amplexor is an Angel, and therefore can wield Demon’s Bane, and you now know he is a skilled killer. You’re afraid.”


“He is a monster,” Jason whispered, as he felt Philip lay down next to him. Spooning up in front of his lover, he let out a sigh as Philip wrapped his legs and arms around him.


“Maybe I should ask Kyle for Angel’s Bane,” Philip sighed, as his nuzzled his face against Jason’s black hair.


“Not yet… he might still need it.”


“So, you still sense he is in danger.”


“Yes,” Jason said as he felt Philip pull away. “Where are you going?”


Demon’s Bane is a dagger, no? My two-bladed sword can cut a man in two, but it is too slow against a knife. A few of my Demon Spawn are knife masters, so I’m off to see them for training.”


“Be careful,” Jason warned when Philip reached the doorway.


“I will, my love,” Philip promised, giving Chad a light swat with his tail before leaving.


“Is there anything we can do, your majesty?” Hector asked, a deep yearning in his voice.


“I just need to rest… hopefully without any dreams,” Jason said as the four approached the bed.


“We will watch over you. If a dream comes, we will wave it away,” Chad said as he slid onto the bed.


“What am I to do with you four?” Jason chuckled softly, as all four joined him on the bed.


“What are we going to do with you?” Hector chuckled as he began to unbutton his loose fitting shirt.

Jason tried to sit up, but was stopped when Tanner and Chad put hands on his chest. “But…”


“Relax, Jason, relax,” Chad cooed.


“I am just so tired,” Jason whispered as the four undressed.


“You feel cold,” Hector remarked, as he lay on his side pressed against Jason. “Let us warm you up.


“Legatio are born cold blooded,” Jason explained, as the others wrapped their bodies around his.


“Sleep now, Jason… we will protect you,” Hector whispered into Jason’s ear. “Sleep.”


“Sleep,” Jason mumbled as he closed his eyes.


“So beautiful,” Tanner sighed as he kissed Jason’s left side.


With these four handsome men wrapped around him, so close that he could feel their hearts beating, he knew what they felt toward him was real and true love. Against such emotion, Jason could not hold back, for he had been born for the very purpose of returning the love of others. As they touched his pale skin, warming his body, he reached out with his own hands to touch their sweaty bodies and hard Academy-forged muscles. Each one gave out an ecstatic shout of joy and pleasure, as Jason returned their affection.


It was Chad who gained the honor of mounting Jason first, his pale, long Tosian body dusted with a thin coast of blond hair. Taking hold of Jason’s manhood he slid it inside him, letting out a deep moan as he was penetrated. “My god…” he sighed, as he let Jason’s sex slide in and out, and in again. There was a possessed look in his and the others’ eyes, each one committed to the passions that burned in them.


Rolling Jason and Chad on their sides, Hector moved behind Jason. Going down to Jason’s ass, he pulled the cheeks apart and let his tongue flicker out at Jason’s rosebud, giving both pleasure and teasing torture at the same time. When he sensed Jason was ready, he pushed his manhood inside the Angel, its cool interior tickling his engorged sex. For a while, Hector did not dare move, in fear of breaking the perfect moment. It was Jason himself, therefore, who pressed his ass harder against Hector, causing the man’s sex to slide deeper inside him. That extra inch of contact triggered a deep moan from the noblemen and he tightened his embrace on Jason, licking and nipping the Angel’s broad shoulders.


Not wanting to be left out, Tanner sat up on his knees and made his way to the head of the bed. He offered his manhood to Jason’s welcoming mouth. Brask, for his part, was taken away from the bed and bent over a large chair. Louis was pounding his sex inside him.


At some unseen signal, Jason pulled out of Chad and tackled Hector. Rolling on top of him, he raised Hector’s legs into the air and slid deep inside the Sithian noble, moaning throughout it all. Now without a partner, Chad went over to Louis and Brask, all three ending up in a triangle on the floor, their manhoods in each other’s mouths. At the end, only Jason and Louis remained un-sated, the four others lying in a happy pile at the foot of the bed.


“Well Jason… I saved you for last.” Louis grinned, his thin body rippling with taunt muscles.


“Boastful, are we?” Jason chuckled as they met on the bed, hands exploring their sweaty bodies as they kissed each other deeply, both with their mouths and their gifted minds. With their hard slick manhoods dueling between their bodies, the real sexual experience was between their minds. Over the years, as Louis came to understand his Grau heritage, he had become quite skilled in the arts of Mordelian lovemaking. More of an emotional than physical experience, it involved the exchange of pure truths. In the case of Jason and Louis, that truth was the love they had for one another. Compared to a physical orgasm, experiencing unquestionable love in the mind was many times more powerful.


After reaching their emotional climax, Louis and Jason collapsed on the bed, physically and mentally sated and exhausted. “It’s been too long since you last let me in,” Louis sighed, as he ran a hand through his curly red hair.


“Sometimes it scares me.”


“I’m the one who’s afraid of becoming lost inside your beautiful mind.”


“I just might keep you,” Jason laughed as he rolled on top of Louis.


“I’ve missed you, my king.”


“You had Varrus, Caleb, and Kristen to keep you company.”


“And I’ve enjoyed their company. Still, I missed you. Other than another Grau, you are the only one who can touch me like you do.”


“The time is coming when I will need to keep you close,” Jason whispered, resting his head on Louis’ chest.


“You haven’t told Philip, have you?”


“Safer for him that he not know.”


“When is your next meeting with the Grau?”


“Not until the present crisis is over. I pray Varrus succeeds. The Daughters can only strengthen the Grau’s hand.”


“You still think it’s wise to negotiate your surrender with them?”


“If surrendering myself can change the future, I have no choice.”


“Still, I don’t understand. Why me?”


“You are a son of the Grau. In Mordel you will have status, a voice with which you can speak.”


“And Jacob?”


“My wildling son is also a child of Mordel. He should meet his own people, so he can better understand his own nature.”


“But why not Philip?”


“The Grau and Dominus are not fools. Philip might be an unwanted byproduct of their grand experiment, but he’s also dangerous. You and Jacob, on the other hand, are not really seen as a threat to them. I hope to prove them wrong on that, one day.”


“Do you still see your death?”


“I see the end of my visions. Does that mean I will die? I don’t know. I know what the Dominus want from me… taking it will most likely kill me. Yet I still have hope, a faint hope. For now that’s all I need.”


“Let us hope it never comes to that,” Louis replied wrapping his arms around Jason to hold him tight.


“Hope and love are all I have left,” Jason whispered as he closed his eyes.









Chapter Thirty-Nine: A Son’s Revenge



Having spent the last six years camped among the sandy dunes of the Desert of Flames, Sirrus had shaved off his beloved waxed mustache. He had grown weary of the taste of sand in his mouth. Even so, the dust was ever present in his clothes, his food, his hair, and even in the crack of his ass, leaving it chapped and sore. Still, he was alive when even the old king was dead. He had an army, reinforced with Jadoorian Templars, and he had women to sate both his sexual and blood lusts. Come the end of winter, he would have much more… the crowns of both Huron and Qul Tos, if fate sided with him. Of course, there was a cost to Jadoor’s help. He had to prove his faith in their gods, and swear that, as king, his first act would be to petition for membership in the Federation, an act that the other Eastern Kingdoms would see as worse than treason. Yes, it would mean more war and suffering, but not for him. Once he had the city of Qul Tos in his hands, he planned on keeping himself away from future battles to enjoy the wealth of the kingdom. The serfs Jason had so unwisely freed. were to return to the fields, under the careful eyes of Jadoorian Templars, who would purge the people of their faith in their god king.


He was returning to his tent, just after giving his men another one of his inspiring speeches, when he felt the tip of a blade at his back. “Hello, Lord Sirrus, it has been a long time, hasn’t it?”


“I know that voice,” Sirrus snickered, as he slowly turned around. “Lord Geoff, it has indeed been some time since our last meeting. Can I offer you my tent? It is not as comfortable as the palace in Qul Tos, but it keeps the wind out.” Geoff was dressed all in black, his face and hair darkened by ash, but still Sirrus recognized the man.


“Why not, as this is a private affair. Let us be civil about it,” Geoff said as he followed the man inside.


Removing the scarf from around his face, Sirrus sat himself down on a pile of pillows, all of them stained with the blood of his victims. “I was most disappointed when I learned you failed to kill King Jason, but not as much as when I learned you switched sides. An assassin of your caliber switching sides is so bad for business.”


“I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse.”


“And what can that boy king give you that I could not.”


“Love and forgiveness.”


“Love… if I had known you were a boy lover, I would have offered you my son. As for forgiveness, when have our kind ever had need of something so worthless?”


“Given all you’ve done, I can imagine you don’t sleep well.”


“Actually, I sleep very well.” Sirrus laughed.


“At the cost of how many innocent lives?” Geoff grunted, as he kicked a blood stained pillow at Sirrus.


“What is wrong with killing a few worthless bitches? It is not like they will ever amount to anything.”


“Not after you get your hands on them.”


“Now, Geoff, don’t act so superior. Not with all the blood on your hands,” Sirrus said, clicking his tongue at the assassin.


“As I said, I’ve gained forgiveness and peace of mind. I only have one regret… that I didn’t kill you the first chance I had.” Geoff played with his assassin’s knives.


“Kill me? Who was it took you in after you slew your master, Sir Landon? If I hadn’t protected you, you would have died years ago in a filthy gutter. I saved you, Geoff, but how did you thank me? By sleeping with my wife and siring a bastard.”


“So, you know Owen isn’t your son.”


“With his blond, pretty looks, I knew he couldn’t be mine,” Sirrus said, touching the dark locks of his own ragged hair. “But what was I to do? Even though he was not my son, he was still Felicia’s brat. To disown a child of royal blood would only have hurt my standing in the royal court.”


“That didn’t stop you from killing your king, or sending men to kill your wife and child.”


“He put me in a cage, filled with vultures. He made me, the Supreme Commander of the Confederacy Host, into an object of mockery. A quick death by poisoned arrow was better than he deserved.”


“Yet, you didn’t make a move to kill Felicia until a month ago.”


“She is still of royal blood. I thought I could use that to legitimize my claim to the throne. My alliance with Jadoor changed that. King Aidan doesn’t care who I’m married to as long as I bend my knee and offer him prayers. I take it my wife still lives?”


“Safely on her way to Qul Tos. I plan on marrying her when I return.”


“So, you haven’t turned into a complete faggot,” Sirrus smirked.


“I love Jason more than anything in this world. I love many of the men who are close to him. Yet, if I am ever to be seen as a father by my son, I must do the right thing in his eyes.”


“I hope the two of you find happiness in this life, or the next,” Sirrus said sarcastically.


“You seem very flippant for a man who is about to die.”


“Maybe I am,” Sirrus said. He stood and undid his belt, letting his brown robe fall to the sandy ground and revealing a pair of black raven wings. “I too have come to know the pleasures of men. My time with his majesty, King Aidan, was quite educational.


“Do you think being a Saint will stop me?”


“It might. As you well know, we do not die easily.” Sirrus chuckled.


Hearing the sound of a sword being drawn behind him, Geoff ducked just in time to avoid the blade that almost beheaded him. Outside the tent were a dozen Demon Spawn, their red eyes glowing in the dusky night.


“I should have known,” Geoff chuckled. Before the Spawn could reach him he struck the tent down, letting it hide his escape out the other side. He then jumped into the air and flew, racing south. He had wanted to do things quick and quietly but, if Sirrus had more Spawn with him, Geoff knew he would need help. Reaching into his mind, he felt for the bond that tied him to his son.


“Are you alright, father?” Owen asked when he noticed his father’s touch.


“I am fine and will be with you soon. Tell the Centurion commander to begin his attack.”


“What of Lord Sirrus?”


“Don’t worry, I won’t let him escape,” Geoff swore as he circled around the enemy camp. With his sharp eyes, he caught sight of his target, shouting orders to his men as a company of Centurion cavalry stormed into the camp, a legion of heavy Centurion infantry not far behind. Reaching into his belt, he took out one of his small poisoned throwing knives and sent it flying deep into Sirrus’ spine. The wound would heal quickly, but the poison would leave him numb and his muscles weakened. For the next hour or so, Geoff would not have to worry about Lord Sirrus flying away.


Seeing his son under guard at the edge of the camp, Geoff flew towards him, his landing sending up a cloud of sand. “Enjoying the battle so far?”


“It’s so dark I can barely see a thing. Are we winning?”


“We are winning. Sirrus’ men don’t really have the stomach for a real fight. With them fleeing every which way, it’s making it hard for the Jadoorians to take control of the situation.”


“I heard there are Demon Spawn in the camp.”


“Yes, a nasty shock that was to me as well, but we outnumber them. The Centurions will take care of them. I just need to make sure that Sirrus doesn’t escape, so I’d better get back into the fight,” Geoff said as he flew off again. Sirrus was not too hard to find. With the Centurion cavalry circling around the camp, to cut off any escape, Geoff found his lordship surrounded by black-cloaked Templar guards, and his few remaining Demon Spawn. He could see Sirrus frantically trying to flap his wings but, with the poison in his veins, he could hardly blow a grain of sand.


“Surrender, Sirrus… it’s all over,” Geoff shouted.


“It will never be over,” Sirrus shouted back. “Even now, my master strikes at the heart of the Empire.”


“What do you mean by this?” Geoff asked, landing just out of the reach of the Templars’ swords.


“While you and Varrus have been off chasing shadows, my master moves to destroy your so-called Alliance. By the time you return to Domus, your boy Emperor will be dead.”


“You lie,” Geoff laughed.


“You think so?” Sirrus snickered. “You just wait and see.”


“Archers!” Geoff shouted.


“You’ve failed, Lord Geoff… your master will die, and from his death Lord Gladius will be reborn.


“Launch,” Geoff shouted, just before cocooning himself behind his wings as a storm of Centurion arrows filled the sky. When he relaxed his wings, only Lord Sirrus remained standing, the front of his body a porcupine of shafts.


“You’ve failed,” Sirrus spat in a bloody gurgling voice.


“No, you and your master have,” Geoff said, as he drew one of his assassin blades. “Jason is not in Domus, but back home in Qul Tos.” With that last syllable he thrust his blade into Sirrus’ belly, right into the Saint’s anima core. The dark purple ichors oozed out with the rest of Sirrus’ life.












Chapter Forty: Approaching Doom



As he cleaned his blade in the sand, Geoff reached out to Jason. “Assassins are making their way to the imperial city.”


“I know,” Jason replied in a worried tone. “Do you think me a coward for fleeing?”


“You had your reasons. Is there any danger?”


“Yes, James and Kyle.”


“You did not bring them with you?”


“I could not leave Domus without a Field Marshal. Believe me, the danger would be worse if we had all left,” Jason said in a pleading tone.


“I believe you, but what do we do now?”


“Pray to luck. Pray that I was right about Sin.”


“I’m coming home. Sirrus is dead. Aidan made him a Saint.”


“All the more reason why he needed to be killed,” Jason replied, though sadly. “Come home, Geoff. We all miss you.”


“And I miss you. I made a promise to my son that I need to keep.”


“I will be waiting for you, then.” Jason promised as they broke contact.




James had been comfortably resting, with Kyle in his arms and listening to his lover’s soft purr-like snores, when he was jolted by Jason’s presence in his mind. “They are coming.”


“I understand,” James sent back, fear causing a sharp stab in his heart. This was the day of his nightmares, the day he had dreamed he would lose everything. Now all he had was Jason’s faint hope.


Sensing his Angel’s pain, Kyle woke up. “Something is wrong, isn’t it?”


“The day I feared would arrive, has reached us.”


“Are you sure it is today?” Kyle asked worriedly.


“Jason just told me.”


“I would feel better if he were here to tell me himself,” Kyle sighed, as he sat up, the early light of dawn creeping through the windows.


“He has his reasons for not being here.”


“I know, the children.”


“Yes, the children,” James whispered. He could not tell Kyle the true horror of what would have happened had Jason remained… the loss of Amanda and her unborn child, and the terrible wounding of Philip. Nor could he tell Kyle that Jason had seen him dying, even if he had gone with them to Qul Tos. “Come, we need to wake Sin.”


“I don’t feel right about this, James. He might look like a man, but inside he’s just a child.”


“I know, but Jason believes Philip’s son is our only hope. We can only pray that Sin himself won’t pay too high a price.”


“How much time do we have?”


“They must already be inside the palace.”


“Then, can’t we fly and escape?” Kyle asked.


“No,” a tenor voice said from the corner of the room.


Reaching under his pillow, James drew out a dagger as he jumped from the bed. There, in a black Famulus robe, was a red headed Grau with an angry scowl on his face.


“What are you doing here?”


“Making sure you two don’t escape your fate.”


“You want Kyle to die?” James demanded.


“We want you broken, Lord Field Marshal,” the Grau said, pointing a finger at James. “With you by his side, Jason still has hope he can escape his fate. We wish to destroy that hope, and you.”


“So you’ve been controlling things from the beginning.” Even now James could feel an invisible force freezing him in place.


“Yes you might say that… not that Jason has made things easy for us. He wants so desperately to believe he can escape the future the Dominus have planned for him. It is a foolish belief. None can defy my masters.


“Then our visions, our dreams?”


“Are the dreams and visions of the Dominus, nothing more. They are not, as you believe, divine insights into the future. They are the plans and machinations of my masters. Jason, of course, knows this from Louis. He is wise enough to know, however, that it really doesn’t make a difference as to how you see them. Whatever the Dominus want to happen, is what will happen.”


“What of Sin?” Kyle asked, slamming his mouth shut when he saw James glare at him.


“What is sin? In Mordel, sin is anything that defies the will of the Dominus. In Ares, it is much the same. Sin is defying one’s parents, one’s master, or one’s Emperor. Sin is doing anything that goes against those who hold power.”


“You are wrong. Sin is when the strong take advantage of the weak. Sin is when hatred is allowed to overrule love. Sin is taking the easy path, instead of the right path. Sin is people like you, the bad people.”


“The bad people?” The Grau snickered. When he laughed, however, his mouth spat out blood. Looking down, he was shocked to see a knife in his belly. “What is this?” he gasped as he slid down the wall.


“The sins of the father do not rest on their children,” James said, as he felt himself freed from Grau control.


“But this cannot be,” the Grau sputtered with his last breath, before dying.


“I did it, Uncle James. I killed the bad person,” Sin said excitedly, as he shimmered into view.


“Yes, you did,” James said with tears running down his face, thanking Philip for his marvelous son and Jason for his wisdom in seeing it.


“He couldn’t see Sin?” Kyle asked, his jaw hanging loose with amazement.


“No, he couldn’t,” James laughed, as he lifted Sin up in his arms and spun him around the room. “The Grau can only see what the Dominus want them to. Sin was an accident… an event unforeseen. He lies completely beyond the Dominus’ ability to foresee and shape the future.”


“So, we’re safe now?”


“Far from it,” James said, as he went to his desk to retrieve the Banes. “But at least, now we stand a fighting chance.”


“So why was the Grau here?”


“To make sure you died,” James said as he handed Kyle the Angel’s Bane. “Now that he’s dead, he can’t stop us from defending ourselves, or even fleeing.”


“If we can flee, why are you getting ready to fight?”


“Don’t you know who’s in the palace?” James said, excited. “Dorian and Aidan have come to kill us themselves.”


“What about Amplexor?”


“Jason made sure we wouldn’t have to worry about him,” James snickered.


“And how did he manage to do that?” Kyle demanded. He hated feeling clueless like this. He was sure it had something to do with his size. If he were as big as Philip, he was certain no one would keep secrets from him.”


“Jason had one of your Demon Spawn chop of his left wing.”


“Jason did that?” Kyle said amazed.


“He did it to help protect us, my love,” James said, kissing Kyle on the lips as he tried to lock his breastplate.


“One of my Spawn died that day, didn’t he?” Kyle pouted.


“He died a hero’s death,” James insisted. “When this is all over, you and Philip can go hunt Amplexor down yourselves, if you want revenge.” Just at that moment, screams could be heard coming from outside their chambers.


“James?” Kyle whimpered nervously.


“Don’t worry, my love,” James said as the bedroom door was smashed open.


The first to enter was Dorian, wielding a bloody sword in one hand, and Angel’s Bane in the other. Behind him came Aidan, with Demon’s Bane. From the hall, shouts and the ringing of steel could be heard as Aidan’s Saints tried to hold off James’ and Kyle’s men.


“Where is he?” Aidan said with a sneer.


“Where’s who?” James replied. “Your dignity, your honor, bloody hell how about your common sense?”


“Enough. Where’s Jason?” Aidan demanded.


“He’s not here.”


“What do you mean, he’s not here?”


“He’s in Qul Tos, where he’s safe.”


“Aidan…” Dorian said in a warning tone. The sounds of fighting were getting closer.


“Fine… I actually prefer it this way, me finally getting to see you get your comeuppance.”


“It is you who’s about to face justice,” James replied, as he tightened his grip on Demon’s Bane.


“Do you really think you can defeat my Dorian?” Aidan laughed. “Show him, my love… show him what a fool he is.”


Dorian hesitated. “Aidan… there’s no time.”


“Then, do it quickly. I’ll take care of the imp,” Aidan said, turning his eyes from James to Kyle.


You’ll do no such thing.” Ignoring the threat Dorian represented, James charged directly into Aidan, his quick knife work barely cutting into the king’s flesh.


“James, watch out,” Kyle screamed as Dorian rushed to protect his lover. Leaping into the air, he jumped onto the Demon’s massive back, his stabs with Angle’s Bane not even drawing blood.


For a while, Sin just stood there watching the scene with amazement. He thought that, if he had killed the bad man, everything would be alright and his father would love him. It seemed, however, that there was more than one bad man to worry about. Going to the dead Grau, he retrieved his dagger and walked up to the struggling foursome. Seeing an opening, he reached in and stabbed Aidan’s left thigh. Hit with a jolt of pain, Aidan stumbled to the floor just as Dorian threw Kyle off him, right to the spot where Aidan landed. Before anyone had a chance to realize what had happened, they were all stunned by a long chilling scream. In a flash of movement, Dorian stabbed James in the leg, letting go of the dagger as he grabbed Kyle with both arms and threw him off his lover to the far side of the room. Looking down, he saw Aidan with Angel’s Bane buried in his chest.


When Aidan spoke it was with short gasping breaths. Knowing he was about to, die he felt a wave of sadness cool his moment of rage. “Dorian… I’m, I’m sorry.”


Reaching for the hilt of the dagger, Dorian attempted to pull it out but found only a stump of metal was left. Whatever poison the rest of the knife had been made of was already doing its work on Aidan. “Don’t cry, my king,” Dorian wept, as he lifted the dying man into his arms.


“I was a bad king, and a bad lover,” Aidan whispered. “Promise me you will kill Amplexor for me.”


“No, he can save you, I know he can,” Dorian insisted. Outside in the hall, Aidan’s Saints were also dying, the shock of their master’s death allowing James’ men to make quick work of them.


“Remember when you called me your Famulus?” Aidan asked softly as his voice continued to weaken. “I think it would have been better that way.”


“Don’t worry, my love. Amplexor will heal you,” Dorian said again, as he made his way to the open balcony.


“Sir, are you alright?” one of James’ Saints asked, as six of them rushed into the room.


“Everything is alright… it’s over, isn’t it Dorian?” James asked.


“Aye, it’s over,” Dorian nodded. “I never had anything against you, Lord James. I hope you can believe that.”


“The things we do for love,” James whispered. Dorian’s dagger fell from his thigh.


“Aidan!” Kyle screamed as he rushed to his lover’s side.


“It’s just a scratch,” Aidan insisted as he collapsed on the bed.


“Get a healer!” Kyle shouted at James’ Saints.


“Do not worry, little imp. Amplexor said only a stab to the body or neck will kill.”


“I don’t care. They should have never come here.” Kyle wept as he clung to James.


“True, we shouldn’t have. We will never bother you again… this I swear,” Dorian said, as he spread his giant bat-like wings and flew off.


“Please James, don’t die on me.” Kyle wept as a Famulus healer came in, carrying a case of vials. Each one containing the anima of a Centurion, he poured one over the deep wound while having James drink another. By noon, the wound had healed, leaving only a dark gray scar that was the only blemish on James’ otherwise perfectly white skin. Still, the poison of the Bane was not just in the wound, but also in his blood. Soon, James and all his Saints were sick with a burning fever. The veins of their bodies appeared as a gray web.





Chapter Forty-One: Final Kiss



By the middle of the night on the second day, Kyle was forcing water down his lover’s throat to keep him from becoming dehydrated.


“Don’t worry, Kyle. I won’t abandon you,” James whispered in a dry, hoarse voice on the third day. “Help is coming.”


“It’s not coming soon enough for me,” Kyle insisted, as he placed a cold cloth over his lover’s forehead.


“Jason is coming as fast as he can. Do not worry,” James mumbled, before he fell unconscious.


“He’d better come soon.”


During the first hours of the fourth day, Jason did come, with Philip and his entire family. On entering the room, he found Kyle asleep, his tear stained face resting on James’ chest. “We made it.” Jason sighed with relief, when he saw James take a deep breath.


Waking up with a start, Kyle crawled on his knees toward Jason, hands held together as if in prayer. “Please, Jason; please say you can save him.”


“I don’t know if I can, but I’ll surely try,” Jason promised, as he passed Kyle to reach the bed. Going down on his knees beside the bed, he calmly stroked James’ dark curly hair. “I’m here,” he whispered.


Slowly opening his dark eyes, James let a small smile form on his face. “I knew you would come. I wanted to thank you before the end. You were right… Sin did save us.”


“No more talking about an end that hasn’t come,” Jason said as tears ran down his face. “Are you ready?”


“I’ve been ready since the first day I saw you,” James coughed.


“This will change things.”


“For the better,” James insisted.


“Then accept my bond and my love, for I give them to you freely,” Jason said, just before he let his lips touch James’ dry mouth.


“So it is done,” Philip whispered, as a gray tear ran down his face.


“What do you mean?” Kyle asked.


“Until this moment, there was no one my Angel loved as much as me. That has all changed now.”


“But he still loves you, right?” Kyle asked.


“As much as he ever has,” Philip nodded.


“Then what’s the problem?”

“There isn’t one… at least not one that I can’t deal with,” Philip said, as he wrapped his tail around Kyle.


“What do you think you’re doing?” Kyle laughed, as he dried the tears from his face.


“What does it look like I’m doing? You don’t think I’m going to let those two have all the fun, do you.”


“You’re impossible.” Kyle grinned as Philip lifted him off the ground so their lips could meet.


“Look at those two,” James chuckled as their lips parted, his fever already fading away.


“You didn’t think Philip wouldn’t do that, did you?” Jason grinned.


“Not in front of us,” James said as he sat up, feeling much better. Soon, Jason was lying on top of him and their arms were wrapped around each other.


“What are you thinking?” Jason asked when James didn’t say anything.


“Wondering if it was worth it, or not. I really was ready to die.”


“But you didn’t,” Jason pointed out, tapping James on the nose.


“Because of you, I didn’t. Because of you, I still have Kyle.”


“When Philip is done with him,” Jason chuckled.


“That’s only fair… I got you after all.”


“You’re going to have to share me.”


“I understand. So does Kyle. We both knew this day would come, eventually.”


“I’m very fond of Kyle.”


“And he knows it. What more, he’s getting Philip in the deal. Has Philip been behaving, by the way?”


“There was a little matter of him having an orgy, but it wasn’t that big of a problem. Philip will always be Philip. So long as he’s not sneaking off in the night, I don’t mind him having his fun.”


“And what about you?”


“Philip is right. I need more friends… friends my own age.”


“Tired of us old men?”


“No, just tired of acting like an old man. I never had a real childhood. With Gideon and Alex both gone, I really need friends for friendship sake.”


“Are they handsome?”


“They are very handsome,” Jason nodded.


“I bet Philip is all over them.”


“No, he’s been very careful around them. They’re my friends, not his. He doesn’t want to repeat what happened with Gideon.”


“I see… well I hope they prove worthy of your friendship.”


“And I hope I’m worthy of them.”


“I don’t see why not. What’s going to happen now?”


“I don’t know… the future I saw in my dreams didn’t happen. You, Kyle, Philip, Amanda, and Clive are all safe.”


“Clive?” James smirked.


“Since you and Kyle are so close to the boys, Amanda and I thought it would be nice to name one after your grandfather.”


“Well, I’m honored, but here’s hoping he doesn’t grow up to have my grandfather’s nose.” James laughed.


For a long while, the two just talked and planned for a future that hadn’t been decided yet. After making love, they slept and dreamed, not dreams of the future but dreams of aspirations.




















Chapter Forty-Two: Resurrection



“How could you have failed… at the very least, that imp Kyle should have been an easy kill,” Amplexor shouted at Dorian from his underground laboratory, where Aidan lay dead on a stone slab.


“They were not caught off guard as you predicted,” Dorian growled.


“But the dreams… the dreams said…”


“A dream… you sent us into the heart of the Empire based on dreams?” Dorian roared. “My lover is dead, because of you.”


“An unfortunate mistake, but not a total loss,” Amplexor said as he went to his desk.


“Bring him back to me,” Dorian demanded. Already the madness Aidan had kept in check, was building inside the Demon.


“You don’t really want me to do that, Dorian,” Amplexor said as he silently slipped a hand into an open drawer. “I could bring him back, but you wouldn’t want him.”


“I don’t care. I love him.”


“Can you love a corpse? Because that is all he’ll be if I bring him back.”


“His core… it’s still whole. Let me find someone worthy to give it to.”


“And waste it?” Amplexor spat. “You listen to me, Dorian, I don’t care about your lover. You both have failed me. I am willing to overlook your failure, but only if you swear loyalty to me.”


“Or what?” Dorian glowered.


“Or I will let the madness claim you. You already feel it growing inside you, don’t you?”


“Give me back my beloved,” Dorian demanded, doing his best to sound calm.


“I see you won’t listen to reason,” Amplexor sighed, as he rose from his desk.


“Give him back to me,” Dorian repeated through gritted teeth.


Slowly Amplexor walked toward Dorian and embraced the crying demon. “I can’t give him back to you, but I can help you join him.” Before Dorian could pull away, Amplexor took out Demon’s Bane from his sleeve and stabbed the demon in the abdomen.


“How… how could you?” Dorian sobbed, his spirit completely broken by this final betrayal.


“It is true I took my pleasure from you, my poor demon. But, as you said, Aidan’s core is still whole. Though I would rather have had Jason’s perfect core, your lover’s is all I need to bring Gladius back to me.”


“I curse the day we met you,” Dorian spat as his anima poured out of him.


“So did our mother,” Amplexor chuckled, as he went to the stone slab Aidan’s corpse was on. Taking out a scalpel he slowly cut away skin and muscle that protected the core… a perfect sphere with a dozen or so veins feeding off it. These he cut and clamped before removing the core from Aidan’s body. By this time, Dorian was nothing more than a cold corpse on the floor.


Placing the core in a large mortar, he ground the shell and the anima inside into a paste. This he let dry for several days, until only a fine powder remained. Gathering the powder into a funnel, he poured it into a bottle of red wine.


When all was ready, Amplexor made his way to his lover’s crypt, the bottle of wine in one hand, a gold goblet in another. Placing both down, he had to use all his strength to remove the lead lid of his lover’s sarcophagus. There, inside, his lover slept, looking exactly as he had five thousand years ago. Taking a deep breath, Amplexor first filled the goblet with the wine. He took extreme care as he poured it down Gladius’ throat. The effect was instantaneous. adius' eyes opened wide as he reached up to take the cup from Amplexor, drinking greedily. When the cup was empty, Amplexor quickly refilled it, repeating the process until the bottle was empty. Gladius, however, was not sated. With the wine gone, he reached for his lover and kissed him deeply. At first Amplexor held back his anima, knowing how bitter it had become. When Gladius did not break the kiss, Amplexor had no choice but to pass on his bond. The moment it touched the Demon’s tongue, Amplexor felt him shoved violently He landed on his back, several yards from where he had been standing.


“What is this?” Gladius spat, as he wiped the anima from his lips.


“Forgive me, beloved, but it has been many millennia since you were last awake.”


“Why did it take you so long to revive me?”


“Because I had to wait… wait for the perfect moment. I had to wait until a true Angel arose from the Legatio.”


“And it was his core you gave me?”


“No. Forgive me, beloved, but I failed you. I couldn’t get the core that would give you eternal life. I had to use a lesser core.”


“Why revive me at all, then?” Gladius demanded.


“Because I had no choice. I used up all of the Mother’s remaining materials, to create lesser Demons and Angels to help me capture the true Angel, but they failed me. They failed us.”


“You should have been more careful about those you chose,” Gladius said with displeasure.


“I know, beloved. I have failed you. Still, I managed to revive you with what little I have. Surely that counts for something.”


“You waited too long, Amplexor. Your anima has turned too bitter.”


“Don’t reject me, Gladius. Please don’t turn me away. If my anima is bitter, it is because I had to wait five thousand years for you.”


Walking with slow striding steps, Gladius stood over Amplexor, placing a large clawed hand over the man’s head. “Will you obey me… follow me without question?” he demanded as he put pressure on Amplexor’s skull.


“Yes, beloved. I will do anything for you.”


“Then I will let you live,” Gladius said, as he pushed Amplexor down on his back.


“But, beloved…” Amplexor cried, his eyes stinging from his lover’s clear rejection of him.


“There is no love left in you. What you feel towards me is nothing more than long held lust. That is why your anima has gone bitter, and why I will never trust you again. Yet, you can still serve me. You know of this Angel… this true Angel?”


“I do, Lord Gladius.”


“Capture one of his Saints for me. I don’t care what it takes, but bring him to me, unharmed.”


“That will prove difficult. Most of his Saints are carefully watched by the Angel’s Demon’s Spawn.”


“Surely there is one, not so carefully watched,” Gladius said as he glowered at his former lover.


“We believe there might be some in Mathannon, but that island is consumed by war. The Jadoorian armada is already there so we can land there in force.”


“Why is there war… have you let disorder fall over Ares during my absence?”


“Much has changed since you went into your deep sleep, Gladius. The Jadoorians turned against us after you killed the Mother. The Centurions, Legatio, and many of the Famulus were force to flee to the west. The Centurions now have an empire of their own, called Domus. Those Famulus who didn’t’ settle in Domus founded kingdoms of their own, in the east. As for Mathannon… the Mother’s precious sisterhood settled on that island after they fled Jadoor. Men there are treated no better than cattle. It’s believed they have the Mother’s animus core in their possession, and that it’s about to crack. I suspect that Jason, the true Angel, knows this and has sent several of his Saints to Mathannon to make sure the core is destroyed before it cracks.”


“If that is so, why have you waited so long to act against the sisterhood?”


“During the revolt, I was forced into hiding. By the time the dust settled, a new king and high priest had been proclaimed. The true history of our people was declared heresy, and was quickly forgotten by almost all our followers. All I had left were a few Saints, and after they died I had no one.”


“You could have made new Saints.”


“I did, at first, but my anima was already turning bitter. Those I bonded weren’t tied to me by love, but by the pain and suffering I endured having lost you. Mortal men cannot survive such torture for long.”


“So, you hid yourself down here, doing nothing for five thousand years?” Gladius spat.


“I waited, and I suffered, hoping that one among the Legatio would prove to be the one the Mother sought for… a true Angel.”


“Yet’ you failed to capture him.”


“I don’t understand how. The dreams said…”


“Your dreams are nothing but illusions those damned Dominus plant in your mind, or have you forgotten that?”


“I wanted to believe,” Amplexor wept.


“With age is supposed to come wisdom but you have gained none over the long years,” Gladius said with contempt.


“Everything I did I did for you,” Amplexor insisted.


“From now on everything you do will only be things I order you to do, understand.”


“Yes beloved.”


“No, not beloved, not anymore my one winged slave.”


“It was Jason who had my wing cut off,” Amplexor seethed.


“Good, I’m impressed with him already. I look forward to the day when I can claim him as my own.”


“Your own?” Amplexor said his lips trembling.


“You said he is a true Angel did you not? What finer lover can I have than that?”


“As you say master.”


“Do not weep Amplexor… serve me well and I will make you king of Jadoor once more. Now tell me what else has been happening while I slept. Do not think of lying… I can still smell falsehood a hundred yards away.”


Copyright © 2011 JMH; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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