Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 19 – The Epidemic

Divination (Greek, from "seer")… is the attempt of ascertaining information by interpretation of omens or an alleged supernatural agency, either by or on behalf of a querent.

Astrology (from Greek: "star", and (lógos, lógou), "treatment", "theory", "study": lit. study on the stars) is a group of systems, traditions, and beliefs in which knowledge of the relative positions of celestial bodies and related details is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing information about personality, human affairs, and other terrestrial matters. A practitioner of astrology is called an astrologer, or an astrologist.

The word physician comes from an ancient Greek noun (physis) and its derived adjective physikos, meaning "nature" and "natural".

The Greek word (iatros = doctor or healer) is often translated as physician. - Wikipedia

The King lifted his chin, and the two boys patted his neck dry. The three of them were standing beside the bath in the King’s chamber, all still naked, and the boys still wet. “I like your beard,” Tazaar said, toweling it with a drying cloth. “Of course, if it were long like the priests’ we could braid it like they do, but I like it short like this.”

Jeet brushed his hand over it, and the King’s cock began to rise because of the boys’ intimate attention, and because of the closeness of their naked bodies.

“I like that it’s soft, and not all ‘brushy’,” Jeet said. He smiled. “Sometimes it tickles.”

The King grinned back. “I have used it to tickle wives, but never to tickle boys. I can correct that!” He grabbed them, picking one up under each arm. He tossed them, laughing and howling, onto their backs, and jumped on them with his arms and legs out over them like some great spider. He pulled them together and rubbed his beard under their necks.

The boys laughed and squirmed, and the King’s cock grew fully erect, pointing up under his body. He backed up, brushing his beard across their bellies, and laughing as the boys clutched at his hair, their stomach muscles clinching tightly at the tickling and their own laughter.

He rubbed his beard lower, just above their cocks, going back and forth between their two lower abdomens. Their cocks rose. He brushed his beard on them, and under them… down between their legs.

And then he took Jeet’s cock into his mouth. The boy gasped. A Greek man never performed fellatio; or at least he would never let it be known that he did. And yet, the King next closed his mouth over Tazaar’s cock and sucked on it.

Tazaar gasped the way Jeet had done.

The King lifted his head, grabbing a boy’s cock in each hand. “Not a word of this, or anything we do, is to ever leave this room,” he said with a frown at each boy.

They nodded. “We would never say anything,” Jeet promised. “Never,” Tazaar agreed.

The King smiled and then, grasping the bases of both cocks, began to suck alternately between them.

“The King is very good at this,” Tazaar murmured, watching the King swirl Jeet’s crown, watching Jeet squirm, and moving his own hips to slide his cock in the King’s large hand.

The King lifted his head. “Am I good? Sometime I will tell you about a friend I had at your age.”

Jeet lay panting, his belly heaving and his hips pumping mildly, reflexively. With a grin, the King closed his mouth once more over the boy’s cock.

+ + + + +

The day had been unseasonably warm, and the King instructed his servants to set up his bed on the roof. He ordered no torches or lamps, and when evening fell, he made love to the two boys under the stars.

Afterward, as he lay looking up at the night sky, a boy tucked under each arm, he thought about his plans for them. “Have either of you learned to write?” he asked.

The boys told him of the lessons Jeet had arranged for the Oracle and her attendants at the shrine. That led into them telling the King about their swimming and running lessons, which in turn, lead to them telling him about their acrobatic, dance, and song practice, which finally lead to Jeet telling the King he could play the harp.

“You must play it for me tomorrow,” the King said.

“I will,” Jeet promised, kissing the King’s collar bone.

They grew quiet, and eventually, Seleucus, the King, fell asleep.

Somewhere, an owl hooted. A puff of breeze blew through trees close by, rustling leaves.

Jeet stole from under the King’s arm and from under the covers, and walked to the balustrade at the edge of the roof. There, he gazed down on the city, the river, and the temple which was spotted with the golden light of many torches.

Tazaar came up behind him in the cool night air, and pulled Jeet’s naked body back to his own. He hugged Jeet to his belly and rested his chin on the younger boy’s shoulder. “Thinking about her?” he asked.

Jeet nodded, leaning back into Tazaar.

“I’ve been thinking about Cyndur,” Tazaar murmured. “I miss him… I miss him so much. I miss his laugh. I miss his strong arms. I miss his firm lips, and the way he holds me as we sleep in the night.”

Jeet nodded.

Tazaar’s hand slid down Jeet’s taut belly and closed around his dangling cock. It was thick. “Did you come earlier?” Tazaar asked in a whisper.

“No,” Jeet said, shaking his head. He turned inside Tazaar’s arms and closed his arms over the taller boy’s angular shoulders. At the same time, Tazaar dropped his hands to cup the small, firm globes of Jeet’s bottom. “I’m glad you are here, Tazaar-hah,” Jeet whispered, brushing Tazaar’s cheek lightly with his own.

“I am glad you are here, Jeet-hah.”

They kissed and felt the exhalation of the breeze, of the other boy’s body, of his closeness, and his breath. They opened their mouths to each other and probed with their tongues. Jeet lifted their stiffening cocks upright between their bellies.


Stycus looked up from his table and the note that he was writing. At his door, accompanied by a temple guard, stood a short, stout man who appeared to be in his forties. He wore a robe of the finest, white cotton, bordered in scarlet, and around his neck was a heavy golden necklace.

Stycus quickly stood to his feet.

“Holy one,” the guard said, “this is Heliodorus, minister to the King.”

Stycus bowed. The guard left.

The minister glanced at the table. “Writing another of your daily messages to the King’s brother?” he asked.

Stycus quickly reached for the parchment, putting it away.

Heliodorus took a seat across the table. “You wish to be set free from this place?” he asked, looking around the priest’s quarters.

“From confinement in the temple, yes, Great One,” Stycus answered, remaining on his feet. “I have been unjustly…”

The minister raised his hand. “I’ve heard all about it. We all have. You let your balls rule your head, and now you’ve lost them.” Heliodorus smiled, amused at his phrasing. He looked up at the priest and cocked an eyebrow. “It was you who sent word to Antiochus about the boy?”

Stycus nodded.

Heliodorus eyed him, thoughtfully. “Despite what happened, it is said that you aren’t stupid.”

Stycus returned his gaze and nodded again, slightly.

“Kaleh is an important city,” Heliodorus said. “We could use a good set of eyes and ears here.”

Stycus frowned slightly, and cocked his head, considering the man’s words. “Certainly the King has the governor and others who correspond with him from here,” he said, with the beginnings of a shrewd smile.

Heliodorus was pleased. The man did have some brains. “The King is not the only one interested in this region,” the minister said. You will find that there are others in powerful positions who appreciate friends in far places.”

Stycus bowed. “I can be a valuable friend.”

Heliodorus pointed a finger at the priest. “Of course you’ll have to forgo getting revenge on the boy; at least for now.” He waved the finger away dismissively. “The King will be taking him back to Antioch anyway. Later, if you serve us well, the boy will be dealt with.”

Stycus nodded. “I can wait.”

Heliodorus stood. “Write no more to Antiochus. With the boy gone, it should not be difficult for me to have your confinement relieved.” He turned toward the door. “Tomorrow, I will send you a servant who will tell you how to stay in contact with me. You will write to me only.”


The Most High Priest, Jarus, bowed low before the King. “Let the King not be angry,” he said, “but it has been eight days now. May the King tell me when the Abij-hah and the Oracle’s attendants will be returned to the shrine?”

The King motioned a servant over and pulled the man’s ear down to his mouth. “I left the two boys bathing each other in my quarters. Make sure they do not come out until I am finished with this man.”

The servant nodded and left.

The King turned back to Jarus. “They aren’t coming back,” the King said. “I have decided to take them back with me to Antioch.”

Jarus glanced desperately at the governor, who stood to one side, hoping for support. The governor frowned in shared concern, but said nothing.

“But Great King,” Jarus said, turning back to the sovereign, “Jeet is the Abij-hah. He belongs to the Oracle and the shrine. They need him. They cannot function without him. For almost three hundred years, no Abij-hah has ever left the side of the Oracle.”

“Nonsense,” the King said, dismissively. “I’m not leaving boys like these in the hands of priests like you. And I’m not leaving quality like I see in the boy, Jeet, to languish in these backwaters. He and Tazaar will serve me in Antioch.”

“Please, may the King not be angry,” the governor said, venturing forward. “I am your servant, and I must be faithful to you. I must tell you that the Abij-hah is beloved by the people of this city… your people, O King. They literally worship the boy. Today, the spirit of this city is most favorable to the King. But if you take the boy from Kaleh, O King, it could cause a major disruption to the peace.”

“He is not just a boy, Great One. He is the Abij-hah,” Jarus protested. “The Oracle, the other eunuchs, the whole life of the shrine and even the temple depend on this boy.”

“Enough,” the King said, raising his hand. “Don’t tell me how important he is to you. You priests castrated the boy. You took turns fucking him. You prostitute him out. And you’ll likely kill him if I leave him here. Jeet and Tazaar return to Antioch with me.”

+ + + + +

For days he had been waiting. Finally, Antiochus saw his chance. It was early morning, and Jeet was walking alone in the hallway. Antiochus grabbed the boy by the arm and pulled him inside the doorway of his own chambers, where he stepped close and ran his hands over the boy’s bare shoulders.

“Beautiful Jeet,” he whispered, pressing the boy back against the wall with his body and taking a deep breath of the boy’s scent. “To look at you is to be filled with desire. To be this close…”

Jeet started to move away, but Antiochus held him to the wall and kissed the nape of the boy’s neck. “You are a child of the gods,” He murmured, rubbing the side of his face against the boy’s soft cheek. “You’ve even stirred my brother’s heart for boys again.”

Jeet ducked under Antiochus’ arm and dodged out to the side, but the man caught him by the hand. “Come to my bed, beautiful Jeet. My brother knows nothing of making love to boys. I do.”

Jeet held back, but bowed his head. “Great One,” he said, “I cannot.”

“Why?” asked Antiochus with a frown, not letting go of Jeet’s hand. “Am I so ugly?”

Jeet immediately shook his head. “Oh no, Great One. You are a most handsome man. But the King has forbidden that I sleep with anyone else in his party.”

Antiochus’ frown deepened. “Selfish bastard. I should have expected as much. You’re his concubine now, I suppose.” He smiled then and squeezed Jeet’s hand. “But no one else is around. The King need never know.”

Jeet shook his head, pulling his hand from Antiochus’ and bowing backward toward the door. “I cannot, Great One. The King has ordered it.”

“If not here,” Antiochus warned, “then in Antioch. I will bed you, lovely boy, and when I do, you will be sorry to have kept me waiting. Ask your friends, the other eunuchs. They will tell you that I know how to give a boy great pleasure.”

Jeet stopped at the door. “What do you mean, Great One. What did you mean when you said, ‘if not here, then in Antioch’?”

Antiochus stepped toward Jeet, but Jeet backed a step. “Hasn’t he told you, boy?” the man asked with a frown. “He’s taking you and Tazaar back to Antioch. You will attend him in court.” He reached out a finger and touched the center of Jeet’s bare chest. “And I will see you every day.”

Jeet shook his head emphatically. “I cannot go to Antioch!” He dashed from the room.

+ + + + +

Breathing silent prayers to the ‘good god’ who protected him, Jeet waited for the King to be alone in his chambers. Just after midday, servants brought the King a small portion of food. When they left, Tazaar was the only other one present.

Jeet had been warned, of course, and vaguely, he knew something like this could happen. But he didn’t really think it would come to this… the King wanting to take him away. He wasn’t sure what words to use to appeal to the King, but he knew how to begin. Jeet prostrated himself at the King’s feet.

“What is this?” the King asked, looking down at the boy in surprise. “What has happened?”

“Great King,” Jeet said, his forehead pressed to the floor. “Please do not take Tazaar and me away. Do not take us from the Oracle.”

Tazaar glanced from Jeet to the King in alarm.

The King frowned. This was not how he was going to break the news to the boys. “Get up,” he ordered.

Jeet rose.

Taking Jeet by the hand, the King moved to a chair and pulled Jeet into his lap; sitting him on one leg. He motioned Tazaar forward and the second boy knelt beside them.

“Do not be afraid,” he said, smiling, rubbing Jeet’s bare back. “I will be taking you into my own household. You will attend me, but I have more planned for you two than for you to be simple attendants. I will have you trained as I would my own sons. You will be educated to serve me in court.”

Jeet shifted uncomfortably in the King’s lap. “You do not understand, Great One,” Jeet said. “We are not afraid, but we have promised ourselves by oath to the Oracle and our brothers.”

“You made those promises when you thought you would serve together for life,” the King pointed out. “That was when you thought you would live and die together. But you will not die together. I would forbid that in any case. I’m sure that the Oracle and your friends will release you from your promises when they find out the great things I have planned for you. If they love you the way you say they do, they will be happy for you.”

Jeet and Tazaar exchanged frowns. “Great King,” Jeet said quietly, his eyes cast down. “The Oracle is my wife. I cannot leave her.”

The King frowned deeply. That the boy and the young Oracle considered each other as husband and wife mildly surprised him, but he didn’t consider it humorous. Because the boy was young, he would take such things seriously. The King patted Jeet’s butt for the boy to get up, and then he rose, himself… and paced.

The boy cared for the Oracle. That had been obvious when they were together. Jeet would not easily part from her. Perhaps he should take the girl as well.

If taking the boy could potentially cause an uproar, what would taking both the boy and the Oracle cause? As tempting as it might be to take the whole lot of them, he could ill afford unrest in any of his provinces. His Kingdom rode a fine edge with the Romans. Even though the exorbitant indemnity they demanded from him every year kept the Kingdom impoverished, Rome had soldiers poised on his borders. They would be only to happy to expand into a weakened Kingdom.

Taking Jeet and the Oracle from Kaleh could be a mistake.

He glanced at the boys. Jeet had taken Tazaar’s hand and they were watching him. The King walked over to them and pulled the boys into his arms. He kissed Jeet’s forehead, and then rested his own forehead on Jeet’s. “I love you,” he said quietly. “I love you as I would my own son.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Come with me, Jeet. Ask of me anything, even up to half my Kingdom, but come with me.”

Jeet laid his hand on the King’s chest. “I love you, O King. Ask of me anything but to leave the Oracle or my brothers.” His pale eyes rose to the King’s. “The gods made me Abij-hah. They gave me to the Oracle, and she gave herself to me. She is my mate by solemn oath, and I love her, Great One. I would not leave her, even for half a Kingdom.”

Anger, like a sudden storm rose in the King’s heart. No one told him ‘no’. No one had told him ‘no’ for a long, long time. He stepped back from the boys and turned away angrily. “Leave me. Leave me before I do or say something I’ll regret.”

The boys turned toward the door.

“You will return with me to Antioch,” the King said evenly. “You both will.”

When the boys were gone, he slammed his fist on a table. He would win this boy’s heart. They would come with him, and Jeet would forget the girl. Even if he, Seleucus, had to supply the boys with a dozen girls, he would see to it.

+ + + + +

It was an hour later, still early in the afternoon, while the King was hearing a matter between two local landowners, that the governor’s chief steward came in to the hall and bowed low. “Forgive me, O King, but there are people outside who wish to see the Abij-hah.”

The King frowned. “What people?”

“Parents with a child, Great One,” the servant answered, his head still down. “The Abij-hah blesses children, but he has not been at the shrine.”

The King started to order that they be sent away, but then he paused. Jeet would never be back at the shrine. It would be harmless to let the boy go outside to bless a child.

Jeet stepped forward from where he and Tazaar had been watching from the side of the room. “I can go, Great One,” he said, bowing.

Impatiently, the King waved him on. “Go,” he said. Then he remembered hearing about the way Jeet blessed children, and he rose from his chair and followed the boys out.

At the foot of the front steps to the citadel, stood a young couple. In their arms was a small boy. Jeet took a seat on the bottom step and the couple brought the child forward to lay in Jeet’s lap. The little boy, who was no more than three or four years old, felt hot to Jeet’s touch, and Jeet saw that the boy’s face was flushed, and his eyes were red.

Jeet glanced up at the couple.

“His name is Eppi,” the father said. “There has been sickness in the city since the King has come, and it has fallen on my son. Please, bless him that he will be well.”

Jeet glanced up at Tazaar, and then at the King, who had come up alongside Tazaar.

The little boy coughed. It was a thick cough.

The King frowned. “You should not have brought a sick child to the Abij-hah,” he said. “Take him away.”

“I will bless him first,” Jeet said, turning his gaze back to the boy. He wrapped his arms around the toddler. “May the good god who protects me, make you well, Eppi. May this sickness pass quickly.”

He bent and kissed the boy’s brow. It was quite hot. Jeet frowned, and stood up with the boy in his arms. “Maybe Ono can help him. I need to take this boy to Ono,” he said to Tazaar, and then turning to the King, “At the temple, there are servants who know the healing arts. Let me take Eppi to them.”

“I don’t like this,” the King said, shaking his head. “You don’t know what sickness the child has. You could catch it from him.”

Jeet held the boy more closely to himself. “If I am going to catch what he has, then I may have caught it already. Please, let me take him to Ono.”

The child’s mother took her husband’s hand and looked hopefully toward the King. Seleucus was a parent as well, and not without compassion. He glanced at Jeet and shook his head at the boy’s stubborn willfulness. But the boy’s strong spirit was part of what Seleucus admired. “Alright,” he said. “Take the boy, but I’m coming as well.” He wasn’t about to let Jeet out of his sight. Not after the morning’s discussion.

The King turned to one of his guards. “Bring horses.”

Horses were fetched and mounted. The boy was handed up to Jeet while Tazaar climbed up behind him. Leaving the parents to make their way down on foot, the party – comprised of the King, half a dozen retainers, several guards, and the boys – trotted out of the Citadel gates.

As they descended to the temple, the boy’s coughing became worse.

+ + + + +

“Fetch Ono,” Jeet told one of the Nubian servants as he rushed into the shrine. Looking for a place to set the boy down, he crossed the shrine hall, carrying the boy, and disappeared into one of the extra rooms off to the side, opposite the Oracle’s quarters. Moments later, Ono arrived and went into the room.

Jeet reappeared, without the boy. “Ono has Eppi now. We set him down on some bedding.” Jeet frowned. “Ono says you all should leave. The little boy has spots in his mouth, and Ono isn’t sure what that means.”

“Jeet-hah!” Rem called from across the shrine hall. Jeet barely had time to react before the younger boy threw himself onto Jeet, wrapping his legs around Jeet’s waist and hugging his neck tightly. “We were afraid you wouldn’t come back,” he said, squeezing Jeet’s neck tightly. “We were really worried.”

Holding Rem up by his butt, Jeet cleared his throat and turned so that Rem could see the King.

“Oh,” Rem whispered, and climbed down from the older boy. “I’m sorry, Great One,” he said, bowing to the King.

Jeet patted the boy’s bottom affectionately. “We’ve brought a sick child for Ono to look at.”

“Jeet-hah,” the Oracle said softly, coming up from behind him. She bowed to the King, first, and then embraced her lover. They kissed, and she nuzzled into the side of his neck while he rocked her in his arms.

“Jeet!” Ono called from the side room where he had been left with the sick little boy.

Stepping from the Oracle, Jeet went to Ono.

“Bring me a damp cloth,” Ono said. “We’ll try to cool the boy down.”

As the others waited in the shrine hall, Jeet ran for a damp cloth and returned to Ono. Avankur arrived and went into the room with Ono and Jeet.

A few minutes later Jeet emerged from the anteroom. “Avankur says it’s probably not the deadly pox, but the lesser pox.” Jeet forced a smile and shrugged. “He says we may not know for a day or two.”

The King glanced around the shrine. He wanted to get Jeet back to the citadel, but now he worried that Jeet might have whatever the boy had, in which case, it would be better to not take him until they knew how serious it was.

At that moment, Rufus, captain of the shrine guard came into the hall. He bowed to the King. “May I speak to the Abij-hah, Great One?” he asked.

The King nodded.

Rufus turned to Jeet. “Can you come outside? We need you.”

Jeet nodded, and followed Rufus out the shrine doors. The King followed, and the others followed him.

Outside the shrine, several families had gathered with sick children. More could be seen, coming from the temple gate. “Word has gotten out that you’re back,” Rufus told Jeet. “Sickness came to Kaleh with the King’s party. At first, it was just a few people… three, four days after the King came. In the last two days, more have fallen sick.”

Rufus looked out over the crowd. “I have heard that one or two have died. These people are afraid for their children, Jeet-hah. They come to you because they know you bless children and the gods favor you.” He gave the boy a sympathetic glance and laid a hand on Jeet’s bare shoulder. “They want only for you to pray for their little ones.”

Jeet’s brow furrowed.

“Abij-hah,” the old guard said, squeezing the boy’s shoulder, “I have seen you bless scores of children. Do as you have always done. Bless them, and pray to the ‘good god’ who protects you. Your words will comfort the parents and perhaps your god will hear you.”

Jeet glanced at the gathering crowd. Taking a deep breath, he nodded, and walked over to take his customary seat on the shrine steps. Rem quickly followed, taking his place at Jeet’s side. Tazaar stepped into the crowd to organize the supplicants.

The parents of the first child didn’t wait for Tazaar, though. They shoved a small girl toward Jeet. She had red spots over her face and neck. Jeet tensed and glanced at Rufus.

The guard frowned. He hadn’t heard of the spots.

“Stay back,” Jeet said to Rem, but when the girl crawled into his lap, he didn’t stop her. For better or worse, he was in it now.

He blessed the girl and prayed over her. Children were brought forward to him one by one. He blessed them all and prayed over them to the god whose name he did not know. The weakest and sickest, he sent inside to Ono and Avankur, and he told Rufus to throw open the shrine doors so that parents could accompany their children.

After an hour, the waiting crowd thinned. But Jeet had sent a total of fifteen children inside to Ono, and as the crowd outside diminished, the crowd inside grew. The Oracle sent out all but one parent for each child, and then she remained inside to assist Ono and Avankur.

Meanwhile, the King’s retainers begged him to come away from the sick children and return to the citadel. He was about to go with them when Tazaar approached him. The boy bowed. “Great King, The Abij-hah asks if the Oracle’s other attendants can be returned to the shrine to help us.”

The King gestured to one of his guards. “Bring the other boys back from the citadel.” He turned back to Tazaar. “Tell Jeet that I will leave you two here for now. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Tazaar bowed.

+ + + + +

An old physician from the city showed up before dark. He had a long, gray beard and wizened features, and he immediately joined in the work, competently moving among the hastily set up pallets in the shrine and stopping at each child. He saw Ono, and pronounced, confidently, “lesser pox.”

He found the Abij-hah in a side room with the little boy, Eppi, and his mother. The old man looked the boy over carefully, frowning. When he left the room, Jeet followed.

The old man shook his head sadly. “Pneumonia,” he said.

An evening meal was set on the table in the Oracle’s chamber, but it was several minutes before the eunuchs arrived singly and in pairs. Ono joined them. Jeet sat down on the Oracle’s right, giving her a kiss. Rem dropped into place on Jeet’s right, and he laid a hand possessively on the inside of Jeet’s right thigh.

Just as they began eating, Tazaar’s head jerked up. He heard familiar footsteps outside of the chamber and jumped to his feet just as Cyndur entered. Tazaar flew to the older boy’s arms.

“I was afraid I’d never see you again,” Tazaar murmured happily into Cyndur’s neck as the athlete rocked the younger boy in his arms. They kissed, and then Tazaar took Cyndur by the hand, pulling him, with a huge smile, toward the stairs down to the eunuchs’ chamber.

At the table, the Oracle leaned close to Jeet and kissed the nape of his neck. “Us too,” she whispered. “Before the King comes to try to take you back.”

“Let’s not talk about that, now,” Jeet said with a frown.

The Oracle patted his arm, and laid her head on his shoulder.

They ate quietly, and Jeet kept glancing toward the doorway. “I ought to go see if Avankur and that old physician have gotten anything to eat,” he said. “And the Nubians and other servants… they may be hungry as well.”

The Oracle closed her hand over his arm. “I need you, too. Tonight, I need you, too.”

He nodded, and got up from the table. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

After he left, Rem leaned across the empty space. “I haven’t seen him for even longer than you, Oracle. Please let me be with him, too.”

Anda shook her head. “Not tonight, Rem.”

It was over two hours later when the Oracle found Jeet downstairs. The many children and their parents had needed water, bread, attention… preferably from the Abij-hah. The servants needed direction and instruction, as did the guards, who were unaccustomed to an open and crowded shrine. Jeet had dealt with all those.

Where Anda found him was in the side chamber, sitting with the boy, Eppi, and his mother. Jeet was singing softly to the boy while his mother held him. The Oracle waited for him to finish the song, and then pulled Jeet away and up the stairs to her chamber.

She made him drink a little wine while she combed out his hair. Then she brought him to her bed and undressed him. She rolled him onto his stomach, and undressed herself before kneeling astride his butt. She poured a small amount of oil onto her hands, and leaning forward, she worked it into his shoulders.

Jeet murmured his appreciation, and relaxed for the first time that day. And yet, he still worried about the children downstairs; especially Eppi. He could still hear the little boy’s labored breathing.

Anda sensed that he was distracted, but her phallus still grew erect. When she finished his back, butt, and the back of Jeet’s legs, she oiled her erection. Then straddling the back of his legs once more, she angled her crown down into the crevice between his mounded buttocks. Jeet lifted his hips to help her with the angle, and she found his opening. Anda-Alexander eased in, patiently working Jeet’s tightness down her shaft.

The Oracle laid down on him, pressing her breasts to his back. She threaded her arms under his shoulders, and sucking in her abdominal muscles, she ground downward with her phallus. She sucked on the back of his neck and murmured her appreciation at being with him. She began to move in him with long, delicious slides. As she did, she felt dampness ease from her vagina and lubricate the lips of her labia. She would come inside him, but hoped when she finished that he would come inside her.

+ + + + +

Jeet slept only fitfully. Careful not to wake Anda, he rose from her bed in the middle of the night, pulled on a short breechcloth, and headed downstairs.

There, in the light of the shrine hall torches, he saw Ono, with one of the Nubians, moving from pallet to pallet with damp cloths and drinking water. Avankur was helping a mother clean her child’s soiled bed. Parents were sleeping with their children, but many of the children were not sleeping well at all. Most were coughing. Most had fevers, runny noses, and red, watery eyes.

Jeet stopped to kiss Ono and give his back a friendly rub. Then he glanced at the side room where the little boy was. He was almost afraid to go there, worried for Eppi. But he wanted to… needed to. Steeling himself, he walked over to the room.

Besides Eppi, there was one other child in the room; a girl. Both mothers were there, sitting back against opposite walls, holding their children upright in their laps. The old physician was burning something acrid over the flame of a small lamp in the corner. It looked like a small stick, and it had filled the room with a pungent smell.

Eppi’s breath was labored, and Jeet could hear rattling in the boy’s chest. The little boy’s large eyes were open, and he noticed Jeet, but had no energy beyond what it took to breathe. Jeet knelt beside Eppi and his mother, and touched the little boy’s fevered forehead.

“Abij-hah,” the boy’s mother said softly. “Please, pray over him again.”

Jeet glanced at the mother, swallowed, and then placed his hand on the boy’s chest. Jeet wished he were a god. He wished he could simply will the boy’s chest to clear. But he wasn’t a god, and Jeet was unsure, even how to pray. He was afraid. He was afraid the boy was dying, and he didn’t know how to move the heart of a god to save the boy’s life. “Please,” he whispered, bowing his head, “may the good god who protects me, please make Eppi well.” He swallowed again, searching for words, a sudden ache in his heart, and then he whispered more quietly. “If I have found any favor with you… if there is any more blessing yet meant for me… give it to Eppi, good god. Let him live.”

The little boy took another struggling breath. Then another. Jeet stared at his hand on the boy’s chest. If only there was some way to grab this sickness and pull it out. If only it was some adversary Jeet could fight by hand.

“Abij-hah,” the mother softly said, “would you hold Eppi for me? This man…” she nodded toward the old physician, “says I should hold Eppi upright to help his breathing, but I have been waiting a long time to relieve myself.”

Jeet nodded, and sat down beside the woman against the wall. She transferred the boy to his lap, leaning Eppi back against Jeet’s chest, and Jeet wrapped his arms around the little boy to hold him upright.

The woman left the room, looking for a chamber pot or place to relieve herself.

The boy laid his head back on Jeet’s chest and closed his eyes. His mouth hung wide open, and each breath rattled. Jeet held him, wishing he could give the boy some of his own strength, wishing there was some way he could help the boy fight his illness.

Eppi’s mother returned. She knelt beside them, and smiled at Jeet. “He is resting,” she whispered. And so, tired herself, she lay down beside them, laying a hand on Eppi’s calf.

The old physician finished burning his stick. He went to examine the girl, then came to Eppi. He knelt beside them, listening to the boy’s breathing. He glanced at the mother, and saw that she had drifted off to sleep. Then he leaned close to Jeet’s ear. “Get the boy through this night, Abij-hah,” he whispered.

Jeet glanced at the old physician, wondering what he meant – what could Jeet do to get the boy through the night? But the physician rose and left.

The boy’s body was hot against Jeet’s belly and chest, making Jeet warm as well. He kissed the top of Eppi’s head, wishing he could take Eppi’s fever from him. But there was nothing to be done unless a god did it, and Jeet had run out of words to pray. He could only wait.

He lay his head back against the wall, and eventually, drifted in and out of sleep.

Shortly before dawn, Jeet had a vivid dream of a high meadow like the one to which the King had taken Jeet and the others. However, the sky was a deeper blue than Jeet ever remembered. The grass was softer and greener. The air was clearer. There were children there, all dressed in tunics of a brilliant white, soft fabric. Eppi was with them, laughing and playing. And over them all, Jeet sensed an incredible benevolence.

In the dream, Eppi and the children ran over to Jeet. The little boy tugged down on Jeet’s arm until he knelt. Then Eppi kissed Jeet’s cheek and smiled. And Jeet was happy for the boy.

But then Jeet woke, and his lap was warm from Eppi’s released urine and relaxed sphincter. The foul odor filled the room. The boy was lifeless in Jeet’s arms. Eppi had taken his last breath.

The mother woke at the silence. She sat up, her brow furrowed. But then her mouth twisted, and her eyes suddenly filled with tears. With incredible gentleness, she softly touched her little boy’s chest. She looked up at Jeet’s face and saw that he was biting his lip and that tears streamed down the Abij-hah’s face. She bent forward to kiss Eppi on the top of his head. Then she kissed the top of Jeet’s head before lifting her lifeless son from his arms.

When she left the room carrying Eppi, Jeet collapsed onto the pallet and sobbed bitterly.

+ + + + +

It was barely dawn when Jeet made his way to the Oracle’s bathhouse. He was alone as he stripped off his breechcloth to wash it and himself in the water. He thought of Eppi again, and tears once more filled his eyes. And Jeet thought it a very evil world where a little boy like Eppi could die.

He returned, naked, to the Oracle’s chamber, and crawled into her bed beside her. She stirred and rolled onto his side, nuzzling into his neck. He put an arm behind her, and was comforted by her body. Eventually, he slept.

+ + + + +

The old physician came out onto the shrine portico to stretch and breathe fresh air. Though it was only midmorning, four new sets of parents had gathered in front of the shrine, with five children.

Rufus, the captain of the guard was talking to Ono. “I told the Abij-hah that they were out here,” Rufus was saying. “He said he didn’t want to ‘do it any more’. He said he won’t ever bless children again.”

“Rufus,” Ono said, “a little boy died in his arms last night. It devastated him.”

Rufus shook his head. “Jeet slew a man with his own hands. He saw his own family cut down before his eyes. He has seen death.”

Ono shook his head sadly. “His future is uncertain, Rufus, and he is tired. He loves children, and he has a kind heart. Maybe this boy’s death was one death too many.”

Rufus’ frown deepened. “He is stronger than that. He is the Abij-hah. At times such as this, he must be strong. The people of this city have as good as saved his life before. I reminded him of that. He is in their debt, and blessing their sick children is a small thing for him to do.”

“But he would not come?” Ono asked.


The old physician glanced back at the doorway of the shrine, and with a tired sigh, he returned inside.

He didn’t ask where the Abij-hah was. He had a good idea where to find the boy. He ascended the stairs and followed the sound of a harp to the Oracle’s chamber. There was a guard at the door. “I’m here to see the Abij-hah,” the old man said.

The guard nodded and led the old man inside. Jeet was sitting alone, cross-legged on the balcony, the harp in his lap. He stopped playing and looked up when the old man came in. He started to stand, but the old man waved him back down. So Jeet remained seated, and the old physician leaned on the balcony railing, close beside the boy.

He gazed out over the river, thinking it was a nice view. But he didn’t envy the young Abij-hah for having it. The old man studied the distant hills and considered what he wanted to say. At his age, he rarely hurried.

Jeet watched him, waiting, thinking the old man wanted to talk about the children downstairs. But when the old man didn’t say anything, Jeet decided that maybe the old physician only wanted to get away for awhile, and perhaps was drawn to the harp. Jeet started to play it again.

The old man listened for a while. The boy played well, and his melody suited an autumn day on which a little boy had died. Two boats worked their way upriver below. Sunlight glinted on the water.

“I talked to the boy’s mother,” the old physician said, gazing out over the bathhouse and the river. “I helped her carry her little son out to her husband.” He glanced at Jeet, who had ceased playing the harp and was watching him. “You were a comfort to her, boy.”

Jeet frowned.

“She told me that her little one had died in your lap. She was grateful, Abij-hah. Though she was grieving, she was grateful. She told me that you had made sure that her son made it safely to the Isles of the Blessed. With tears in her eyes, she told me that you made sure her little boy didn’t get lost on the way.”

Jeet’s eyes suddenly whelmed with tears. A quick sob caught in his throat, and he turned away.”

“It has been put into your hands to do great kindnesses, Abij-hah,” the old man said. “You bless children, and it blesses their parents. You speak kind words and you give poor families hope. And this morning, a mother whose heart would have been crushed beyond bearing, was comforted because you held her son in your arms for his trip to the afterlife.”

“But I can do nothing,” Jeet protested bitterly, keeping his face averted. “I’m not a physician. I know nothing about how to help these people.”

“You do far more than you can imagine, Abij-hah. I have been a healer since my youth, and I tell you that the health of a person’s body depends on that person’s spirit. Hope is important. You give them comfort and hope for their children. You are more than a mere boy to them. You are a child of the gods, and when you speak comforting words, it’s as if it comes from the gods themselves.”

“I wish I could speak for the gods,” Jeet said. “If I could, no one would die.”

The old man smiled and looked back out across the river. “We are allies, you and me,” he said. “We both hate death.”

“But you can do something about it,” Jeet said. “You know how to fight death. You know how to step between it and a little boy like Eppi.” His voice dropped. “I wish I knew how to do that. Maybe I could have done something to protect Eppi sooner.” Jeet balled his fists. “If only death was something I could fight, face to face…”

The old man smiled. “You are the warrior people say you are. Not many would dare fight death itself.”

“You do,” Jeet said, looking up into the old man’s eyes.

The old man smiled. “And so can you, if you wish to. I can teach you healing arts. But I tell you again, Abij-hah; you already have at your hand great power to strengthen and heal these people. Go down and bless their children. It will help if you do like you did yesterday, and send the sickest in to us. Bless and send away the healthier ones. Then later, as we have time, I will teach you things. Even after this epidemic has passed, I will return here and teach you… if you have the heart for it.”

Jeet frowned. “I can’t do like I did last night… holding Eppi,” he said, shaking his head. “That was too hard.”

The old man sighed. “It always is. Do you think I came here because I like sickness or death? I hate them, too.” He smiled sympathetically. “Come, Abij-hah. There are no other children downstairs as sick as the little boy was. So do not borrow evil before it comes. Deal with what you must when it has come upon you, and not before.” He stepped beside Jeet and extended his hand. “All that is needed now, is that you bless sick children, and maybe later, play your harp for those that lay sick inside.”

Jeet sighed, and then set down his harp. He took the old man’s hand and rose to his feet. He was tempted to tell the old man the whole truth – that he would have no strength for this if not for the dream he had of Eppi. Instead, he struck out for the door and the old man followed.

+ + + + +

Jeet sent more than two-dozen more children into the hall that day. The eunuchs went among the children, passing out to them the many gifts that children had given Jeet over the summer – gifts that had been put away when the King came.

Jeet played his harp for them, and the eunuchs, clad only in short breechcloths, passed among the beds, comforting, cleaning, feeding, giving drink, wiping brows, and talking to the children and their parents. The Oracle also moved among them, holding children, accompanying Ono and Avankur.

They worked through the night; none wanting to lose another child. And no child was lost.

The King and his party stayed away that day.

The next morning was clear and slightly cool. The old physician came out at midmorning to see the day, to stretch, and to get fresh air.

Jeet was sitting on the portico steps once again, and was blessing and praying over children. The old physician watched Jeet bless three children in a row, and he was about to go back inside when suddenly, a father came running to the Abij-hah with a small girl in his arms. He pushed to the front of the line and as soon as Jeet’s lap was free, he thrust the little girl into Jeet’s lap.

The old physician stepped closer. The child was limp. From the looks of those around them, it was clear that everyone could see that the girl was dead.

Jeet look down at the child’s innocent face; as peaceful as in sleep. He looked up at the father, then around, helplessly. He saw the old physician and the old physician came to him, kneeling beside him.

“I am not a god,” Jeet protested to the old man, his eyes desperate. “I cannot bring the dead back to life. Only a god can do that.” He looked down at the little girl’s lifeless form, and still grieving from the loss of Eppi, he clutched the little girl to himself. Tears whelmed in his eyes – tears of raw sorrow… and rising, frustrated anger. “Who do I pray to?” he demanded loudly of the old physician. “Name a god who cares one bit about a mortal child? Tell me!”

“Jeet-hah,” Rem reprimanded softly from beside him. He squeezed the Abij-hah’s shoulder. “Pray to the good god who protects you.”

“The good god?” Jeet asked bitterly, tears streaming down his face. “If he were good, he would hate death!” Clutching the girl to him, he turned his face to the sky and yelled. “A good god would hate death!”

The little girl in his lap moaned and pulled up her legs.

There were gasps from those close by, followed by a deep silence that spread out from Jeet and the girl like ripples in a pool.

The father dropped to his knees with a small cry, reaching a hand to his daughter.

The old physician bent over Jeet’s lap, feeling for a pulse in the little girl’s neck. No one spoke a word as they waited for the old man.

The physician pulled the girl up from Jeet’s arms. “This one is not dead, Abij-hah” he said, taking her into his own arms. He rushed the little girl into the temple and the father ran in after him.

Every eye turned on Jeet.

“She was dead,” Rem whispered.

Jeet wanted to get away. Everyone was looking at him as if he had done something.

But before he could get away, another father rushed forward and thrust another little girl upon Jeet’s lap.

And more came.

+ + + + +

In the three days since the King left Jeet at the shrine, he had heard stories. Rumors came up from the city and the temple to the citadel. Seleucus wanted to go down to see things for himself, but though they heard that the sickness was the lesser pox, the King’s advisors urged him to wait to see the boy again.

But the King grew impatient to return to Antioch, and he was frustrated that his plans to take Jeet and Tazaar had been fouled by the children’s epidemic. On the morning of the fourth day, he rode down to the shrine. But there, he grew even more frustrated.

The great hall was full of recovering children, grateful parents, and ministering eunuchs. Over the previous days, these people had suffered together, and they had grown closer, as people who share hardship often do. That closeness included Jeet. He was back among them now ¬¬– the local people, the eunuchs, the Oracle and priests. The King felt like an interloper.

Jeet moved among the beds while several of the more ‘recovered’ little children clung to the thin tail of his breechcloth and followed after him. The boy, Rem, walked alongside, and a dog, a puppy, followed closely.

The King pulled the Oracle aside to talk to her. Not only had she discarded her public mask, but she was also less perfectly kept than usual. Like her eunuchs, she had been busy.

But now she rested against a side wall and told the King about the death of Eppi, and about the little girl who they thought was dead, but wasn’t, and how they both affected Jeet – how they affected them all, and filled them with the determination that no other child should die.

The King rested against the wall beside her while the governor and the King’s retainers waited outside, and she told the King about the long nights and tireless efforts of the eunuchs, Ono, Avankur, and other servants. “Even the high priest, Jarus, has come,” she told him. “Each day he brings servants from the temple and they have brought all the food and drink we need.” She nodded toward the back of the shrine hall. “We even have some sick adults… a few very sick ones.”

Looking over the hall, the King shook his head. “It is strange,” he commented, “that, even though the children were ill, they brought so many toys and dolls.”

The Oracle looked up at him in surprise, and then smiled, realizing he didn’t know. “Those all belong to the Abij-hah,” she said with a tired chuckle. “Before the epidemic, children brought gifts to Jeet when he blessed them… they brought toys, dolls, favorite possessions. We began passing them out to these children when they started recovering so that they would play quietly.”

“So many toys?” the King asked quietly. “He has blessed many children.” His eyes fell again on Jeet, out among the children. “The Abij-hah seems different this morning. Is it because he is tired?”

The Oracle followed the King’s gaze. Jeet had dropped to his knees beside a sick child and his mother. He was smiling at the child; a kind, benevolent smile. “He’s tired,” she confirmed. “But he’s also changed these last couple of days.” She looked over the many pallets. “All this has changed him.” She glanced at the King, and then away. “After the incident with the little girl who wasn’t dead, people started saying that Jeet could command the gods.” Her brow furrowed. “They love him, you know… the gods.” Her voice grew soft as she watched Jeet move to the next pallet. “He is like some lost child of a gentle god.”

Seleucus frowned. He had noticed it in the boy right away that morning; something intangible… something peaceful… serene… otherworldly. “Have you been making love together?” the King bluntly asked the Oracle, wanting to reassure himself that Jeet was still the same mortal boy.

Anda glanced at the King with a small frown, not unmindful that he was a rival. She nodded.

“And has he made love again with the others?” the King asked.

“Only the boy, Rem,” she said, nodding toward the boy who was leaning over Jeet’s back. “Jeet loves him.”

“As much as he loves you?” the King asked.

The Oracle frowned. “Jeet is not one to measure out his love, Great One. He loves easily.” Her eyes darted to Rem. “He loves the boy.” Then she smiled, just slightly. “But not more than me.”

The King watched Jeet, wondering about the boy’s heart for himself.

The Oracle was watching the King. “He loves you, Great One,” she said. “He loves Rem one way. He loves me another. He loves the others,” she said, waving an arm at the other eunuchs scattered around the shrine hall, “another way. And he loves you, yet another way.” Her eyes met the King’s. “Please don’t take him from me,” she said.

The King frowned and looked away. “I thought about taking you both,” he said. “I thought about it after I offered Jeet whatever he wished when he came with me – even up to half my Kingdom – but all he wanted was to stay with you. Did he tell you that?”

He glanced at her, and Anda shook her head.

He turned to watch Jeet again as the boy moved on to another child. “I wonder if the boy realized what I was saying; that I would give half my Kingdom for him.” His voice grew quieter. “I will get him the finest instructors in philosophy and poetry and music and government and history. I shall make him my eromenos, and when he grows older, he will be my counselor and companion. The boy deserves that.” He glanced at the Oracle. “He will be great in my Kingdom, Oracle.” He looked away and shook his head. “But to take you both… how would the people of Kaleh react?”

“I wouldn’t care,” Anda replied flatly. “He is my husband; if he goes, I should go.”

The King frowned, his jaw working. Then he pushed off from the wall. “I will think on these things. Tomorrow, I shall come for the boy, and we will talk then.”

Anda watched sadly, as the King strode across the room to Jeet. The boy looked up with a smile and the King embraced him. They spoke a few moments, and then the King left. Jeet searched the room with his eyes then, and when he found Anda, he came to her. He embraced her tightly, and she clung to him.

+ + + + +

By the next morning, though most of the children from the city were recovering well, both Rem and the Abij-hah fell prey to the sickness. When word reached the King, he angrily threw a drinking cup against the wall. “Another delay! Must I fight the gods for this boy?” he demanded angrily. And then the thought flashed through his mind that he could very well be fighting some jealous god. Seleucus wasn’t a big believer in gods, but why were there were so many circumstances conspiring against him?

And now this. The boy was sick. How seriously was Jeet sick? Did the gods intend to take him for themselves? They’d have to fight him for the boy.

His advisors urged him to stay away from the shrine, but Seleucus ordered them away from him. He rode down to the shrine before noon. Paying no attention to the crowd in the courtyard, he left his horse to his guards and dashed inside.

He found the ill Abij-hah in the Oracle’s chamber, sleeping with the Oracle at his side. The boy, Rem, was there, laying on Jeet’s other side; awake and coughing. Another of the Oracle’s eunuchs, Aruli was apparently ill as well, and was being examined by the old physician.

Anda rose and came to the King, drawing him out onto the balcony. “The old man says Jeet will be fine. Rem and Aruli, too. He says they are very healthy and will fight off the disease just fine. In a couple of days, they will be on their feet again.”

The King looked back into the room. “I should have brought my physicians with me. I usually travel with one, but I had no idea I would be gone so long, or that I would need one.”

Anda patted the King’s arm. “The old man is very good. He will take care of Jeet.”

The King looked down on Anda’s hand on his arm, and placed his other hand over hers. He smiled at her, and in that moment, determined that even if it meant an uprising, he would bring the girl with him as well.

He stayed with them until Jeet awoke, and he spoke with the boy until the old physician told the King to let Jeet rest. It was mid afternoon when the King walked back out onto the shrine portico and suddenly stopped in surprise. The vast temple courtyard was full of people. Quietly, they had gathered from the city, high and low, and brought offerings for the gods, or flowers and gifts for the Abij-hah. Those in the crowd who were closest to the shrine saw the King walk out, and they knelt. Others behind them saw and knelt, and then like a wave going out from the shrine, people in the crowd descended to their knees.

The governor came up onto the portico steps beside the King. “Great One,” he said, bowing. He nodded toward the crowd. “They believe that it has been a miracle. They believe that because of the Abij-hah and the Oracle, only one of all the children brought here died. My agents tell me that only one child in the entire city died – the one who died in the Abij-hah’s lap.” The governor looked out over the crowd. “The mother of that little boy told others that the Abij-hah guided her son who died, to Elysium, by his own hand. They say,” the governor said, turning back to the King, “that the Abij-hah even raised one little girl from the dead. All these hundreds of people,” he said with a sweep of his hand over the crowd, “have come to beg the gods not to take their Abij-hah. They have come to show the gods… and the Abij-hah… and you, O King… how much they love him.”

The King noticed eyes all over the courtyard watching him in hopeful expectation. “Damn it, Hector!” he said, angrily. The King stormed down from the portico and off to the side where his guard waited with horses. The crowd parted quickly from before him as the King rode through them and out through the great gate.

That afternoon, the King sulked. There was no peace in his spirit. That night, his sleep was troubled. In the morning, he did what Kings do when troubled in their spirits; he sent for the astrologers and soothsayers.

He knew it was ironic to send for them when he was in the same city as a great Oracle, but he could not trust her for an unbiased answer. Though he did not travel with a physician, and though he normally put no great store in the guidance of astrologers, he nevertheless had traveled with two in his party, and he had the governor send for more.

Meanwhile, he rode down to visit Jeet, but the boy was too sick to talk much, and Jin along with Ptolemy had both fallen ill as well. The Oracle’s chamber was busy, and the King noticed that several of the mothers whose children had been attended to by these same boys only days before, were now attending the boys themselves.

That afternoon, the astrologers and soothsayers gathered in front of the citadel, and the King put his questions to them… “Shall I take the boy? Shall I take the Oracle?”

“You shall speak to no one about these questions, on pain of death,” he warned them. “And you will give me a true answer.”

The astrologers and soothsayers knew the answers the King wanted, and one by one, those who read stars, or cast lots, or studied the entrails of animals, came before his seat on the citadel steps and answered him favorably. Finally, there remained only an old hag, who cast sticks and read how they fell.

“Who is that one?” the King asked uncomfortably. “She has a wild look to her.”

“She is a hermitess,” the governor answered. “She lives in the forest outside the city, and it is said she prays continually to the gods and gives wise answers.”

Frowning, the King waved her forward.

She bowed. “Great One.”

“How do you answer?” the King asked. “Yes or no?”

“Neither,” she replied. “I have cast and read three times, and the answer is simply, not this year.”

The King sat up. The hag’s answer was unexpected. And yet, of them all, her answer seemed good, and his mind quickly unfolded all the possibilities that arose from simply waiting.


The King ordered a feast that night. The governor’s son had returned with his new wife, and the King finally met Jeet’s twin sister. “Truly,” he said to Jason, “you have married the daughter of a goddess.”

True to his word, he gave to the young couple gifts, including male and female servants. His largess was even greater than he had earlier intended because of his love for Jeet.

And on his bed that night, the King made plans.

+ + + + +

“I will send you teachers and artists,” the King told Jeet the next day as the boy lay, still recovering, on the Oracle’s bed. “I will send you the finest physician in Antioch to teach you healing arts… all of you,” he promised, glancing around at the other eunuchs. “You will receive training to some day be counselors and stewards for me. I will return in a year to see how you have progressed, and,” he said with a stern look, “I will expect you to have excelled in all that you are instructed.”

From the afternoon that the boys had returned to the shrine, Antiochus busied himself with hunting and riding in the forests and hills around the city. Now the King joined him as he waited for Jeet to fully heal.

And then finally, after four more days, the old physician pronounced the Abij-hah as fully recovered. That day the King sent a messenger. “The King asks that you come to his table tonight, Beloved One,” the messenger said, bowing before Jeet. “He promises to return you to the Oracle tomorrow.”

Jeet turned to Anda, who gave him a soft kiss, a gentle smile, and a nod.

+ + + + +

A King can never be sure of the sincerity of the love or adoration of those closest to him. Those closest to him usually had self-serving motives, and behind their smiles, there were always plots, politics, and intrigues. But when Seleucus climbed naked onto the bed beside Jeet that night, and looked down into the boy’s eyes, he saw honest love and adoration. No son ever gazed at his father with greater admiration. No lover with more open affection.

He bent to kiss the boy’s lips, and thought to himself that for this boy, and the way he gazed up into Seleucus’ eyes, he would give more than half a Kingdom. He could almost give it all.

Jeet ran his long fingers up into the King’s hair and opened his mouth to Seleucus’ probing tongue. Seleucus moved over him, lowering his weight onto the boy’s, and he wrapped his arms under the slender eunuch.

Jeet returned the King’s kisses, and when the King ground with his cock, Jeet ground back. Then he pulled his knees up and out to the sides, and reaching down, grabbed the King’s shaft. He guided the thick erection into his opening, which he had oiled when he bathed. The King entered him, and their bodies entwined.

+ + + + +

Seleucus Philopater, King of all the Seleucid Empire, knelt on the shrine steps before the Great Oracle of Kaleh. At his instructions, his advisors and the crowd were held back several feet.

“O King,” the Abij-hah said softly for only the King to hear. “Hear the words of the Oracle: Do not go to war against the Romans, or rebel against their demands for tribute, as you have considered doing.”

The King looked up in surprise. Who had told Jeet or the Oracle about that?

Jeet continued. “They will not lower the tribute they require, and if you make war, you will lose your son. Be careful of those close to you, O King. Trust no one but your wife. The queen is true to you.”

The King pondered Jeet’s words and glanced up at the Oracle. “Truly, you know these things?”

She nodded.

With a nod of his own, the King rose. Then he embraced Jeet. “This time next year,” the King said. “I will be back.”

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