Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 27 – Eromenos

Seleucus, King
To the high priests at the Temple of Cybele
at Kaleh on the Euphrates

Do not lift your hand against the Abij-hah or the other attendants to the Oracle of Kaleh. If the Oracle perishes from her illness, her attendants must be spared. This is my irrevocable command. Beware – If Jeet is harmed, your deaths will not be easy ones…

Jarus rushed into the room, unannounced. It was early afternoon. Jeet and the Oracle were still in her bed from their afternoon nap. Jarus glanced over at Rem’s pallet where the younger boy had rested with the two serving girls. “Get the other eunuchs,” Jarus ordered.

Rem jumped up without bothering to put on his breechcloth. “Yes, holy one,” he said. With a quick bow, he dashed for the nearest stairway down into the eunuchs’ quarters. The boy’s swinging, finger-length member barely registered in the mind of the Most High Priest.

In moments, the other eunuchs filed in to the Oracle’s chamber, and Jarus, scroll in hand, stepped to the center of the room. “I’ve received this from the King,” he said, and proceeded to read aloud the King’s proclamation.

When he finished, Jarus dropped his hand and glared down at the Oracle and Jeet on the Oracle’s bed. “He can’t do this. Jeet,” the priest protested. “You must convince the King to not meddle in temple business – things cannot be done this way.”

For a priest, Jarus was not a particularly religious man, but he was a product of his times. Like the Oracle and the boys in the room, he had been taught one view of life, and of death – one view of gods and the afterlife. There was little doubt in his mind that he could face the wrath of Cybele herself if one of her Oracles came before her from this life unattended. It angered him that the king would choose to meddle in affairs of higher realms, where priests were to hold sway.

He waved the scroll angrily. “For the Oracle to go into the afterworld without her attendants is unthinkable. By the gods – she is The Great Oracle of Kaleh! How would the gods receive her, coming before them without her retinue? Who would serve her? And what about all of you?” he asked with a scowl and a sweep of his hand. “What place would you have in the afterlife if you so ungratefully and shamefully deserted your mistress like so many cowards?”

The eunuchs shifted uncomfortably.

Jeet didn’t answer right away, but got up from the bed while the Oracle covered herself with a sheet. He fastened on his breechcloth and then sat back down beside the Oracle, taking her hand. Anda was still weak from her illness, and Jeet studied her face briefly, concerned for her.

Then he looked up at the priest. “How did this message come so quickly from the King?”

With a deep frown, Jarus sat down into a chair. “I don’t know, Abij-hah. I suppose the governor sent word to the King, and I imagine the King was urgent about getting this to me – the rider who brought it, looked exhausted – but, Oracle, Abij-hah, you must not let the King do this thing.” The priest quickly held up his hand. “Not that it is important to deal with right away; not since the Oracle is returning to health – the goddess be praised – but the King is thinking only of his own desires, and not about the Oracle and what is important and right for her. No Oracle has ever left for the afterlife without her attendants.” Jarus appealed directly to the Oracle. “You don’t want to go before the gods without them,” he pointed toward the eunuchs. “They are the most famous and renowned attendants of all time, and you shall be esteemed as the greatest Oracle.” His eyes met Jeet’s. “Abij-hah, you wouldn’t want the Oracle to face the gods without one, single attendant. You must talk to the King!”

Jeet squeezed Anda’s hand. “The Oracle will never face the gods alone,” he said, for Jeet, too, was a product of his times. His was a society where how a man died was fully as important as how a man lived. A noble and brave death was no small thing. Jeet knew of the gods. He had been blessed by them; perhaps by Judah’s Great God, himself. Death would not frighten Jeet from the Oracle’s side when she most needed him. He would face the Great God with her and show himself worthy of his earthly charge. He loved Anda… he loved her more than he feared death.

The Oracle sat up, the cotton bed covering falling from her breasts. With a furrow of her brow, she studied Jeet’s face.

The eyes of the other eunuchs riveted on Jeet’s, but Jeet kept his eyes on the priest. “I am the Abij-hah,” Jeet said simply, “I will never leave the Oracle… in this life or the next.”

“Jeet,” Anda said, squeezing his hand, “don’t tell him that.”

All of her attendants belong to the Oracle,” Jarus said with a stern frown at the others. “You have all been pampered and richly provided for in this life, just as you will be in the life to come. But you must be faithful to the Oracle and not listen to the King.” Jarus suddenly rocked back in his seat. “Of course, that’s it! No priest or guard would need to raise a hand against you. You could fall on your swords. Or Jeet, you could send each of the others on to be with the Oracle and send yourself last.”

“Jarus,” Jeet growled angrily, scowling.

The priest replied with a frown of his own, because Jeet had addressed him by his name.

“Leave us,” Jeet said. “We will talk among ourselves.”

The priest’s jaw set. He didn’t like the boy’s tone. Jeet had never spoken to him so disrespectfully. Jarus looked around the room at each of the eunuchs. They were leaning on each other, naked or in their breechcloths, watching him. Reluctantly, he got to his feet, and carrying the King’s message, left the room.

Jeet slid his arm behind Anda’s back and glanced at the other eunuchs. “Tazaar, you have Cyndur,” he said. “Aruli and Jin, you have each other; the same for you, Bantu and Ptolemy.” Turning to the Oracle, Jeet gazed into her eyes. “I have Anda, and with Anda I will stay, in this life, and in the next life.”

Jeet rested his forehead on the Oracle’s. “I was given to you by the gods, Oracle. We were destined for each other. I have promised to do whatever it takes to stay together, and I will. I won’t ever leave you. Ever. When you leave this life, you will not go alone.” He smiled, sadly. “And if I am Attis, reborn, then the gods should honor you with only a demigod in attendance, yes?”

For Anda, who was so recently close to death, the discussion was far from theoretical. She felt she had eluded death only because of Jeet’s presence. As she thought of death now she could not pretend a willingness to face it alone. The thought of dying with Jeet – that he would willingly come with her when the time came, and be with her in the afterlife – that was too comforting to argue against. But that would also mean Jeet’s death. She hugged him. “I don’t want us to die,” she whispered, squeezing him hard. “I don’t want us to ever die.”

Jeet wrapped his arms around her. “Then let’s not do so.”

As Anda hugged Jeet, Tazaar was sitting in her line of sight. She saw him look away. “What about the others?” she asked Jeet. “They mustn’t die… if something happens to us, they mustn’t die.”

Tazaar’s eyes returned to hers. He lowered his eyes and came forward to kneel beside the bed. “Oracle,” he said, softly. “The night you were sickest, we were going to escape. We were about to leave when your fever broke.”

The Oracle started. She stiffened in Jeet’s arms.

Tazaar noticed, and paused.

It was one thing for Anda to say that she didn’t want her attendants to die when she did. It was quite another to think of them deserting her. Her head turned slightly against Jeet’s, her eyes darting toward him.

“Not Jeet,” Tazaar quickly said. “He never left your side, Oracle.” Tazaar’s eyes dropped. “Forgive us, Oracle. We wanted to live.”

The Oracle’s gaze returned to Tazaar’s bowed head before she turned from him and buried her eyes in the nape of Jeet’s neck.

“Oracle?” Tazaar gently said.

She shook her head without lifting it.

“Oracle… Alexander,” Tazaar repeated, laying his hand on her back. “We love you, too.” He looked around for support, and the other eunuchs nodded in agreement. “We do, Oracle,” Bantu said from beside Ptolemy. “You know that.”

Though Anda truly didn’t want her eunuchs to die, she didn’t want to die alone either. Her emotions were mixed and confused. And she felt bitterly betrayed because, while she had been lying helpless, her eunuchs, who had promised to do whatever it took to stay together, planned to abandon her. “Go,” she said in an emotionless voice. “All of you go away.”

Jeet nodded his head at the others. “Go,” he said. “Let me talk with the Oracle.”

Tazaar frowned. “But Oracle, you just said that you didn’t want us to die.”

“Shssh,” Jeet said with a quick shake of his head.

Reluctantly, Tazaar and the others left. Jeet made a small motion with his head and his eyes, and Rem left with the serving girls as well.

Then he simply held Anda, and stroked her back.

“That night, you didn’t stop them?” she asked quietly.

“Anda,” Jeet answered, just as quietly. “All I could think about that night was you. My heart was heavy to breaking, and I could barely think at all. They asked about leaving. I just wanted to stay with you. And I thought that you wouldn’t want them to die.”

She lifted her head and looked him in the eye. “Didn’t you feel like they were abandoning us?” she asked bluntly.

Jeet bit his lip and bowed his head. He nodded. “Yeah.”

It suddenly occurred to Anda how alone Jeet must have felt. With her unconscious, it must have felt like she had left him, too. Anda leaned her head on his shoulder.

He kissed the side of her hair. “Notama didn’t leave your side either,” he told her. “Nor did Rem or Maracee.”

Anda rubbed her forehead into the nape of his neck. “Did you truly mean it? That you would die with me?” she asked. Her chin quivered, slightly. She was still weak.

Jeet pulled back to look at her, and he smiled, sadly – an incredibly gentle smile – and his eyes glistened with tears. “I will always stay with you, Oracle.”

Her eyes filled with tears as well, and Jeet lightly kissed her lips.

She hugged him, and laid the side of her head against his. She could live her whole life, counting on Jeet. She knew that now, more than ever. With a soft sob, Anda kissed the nape of Jeet’s neck. To be loved the way Jeet loved her, with determination even to death – to be loved that way by someone you love that way, or hoped you could love that way… Anda’s heart surged for him.

“Did you know that I made love to you one last time that night?” Jeet asked in a whisper. “I thought you were dying, and I didn’t know if we could make love in the afterlife, or if it would be the same if we did, and I wanted to make love to you, Anda, one, last time.”

“No,” she said. “You were planning on dying with me, even then?” Then she laughed softly, and sobbed. “You made love to me?”

Jeet nodded.

She loosened the embrace and kissed his tear-dampened cheek.

+ + + + +

Jeet kept his arm behind the small of her back as they walked along the river side of the courtyard. She walked with a hand resting on his shoulder, leaning against him. Anda was growing stronger, day by day, and she wasn’t leaning against him because she needed to for support.

She glanced at him. The evening breeze lifted Jeet’s unbound hair in long strands behind him. It glinted in silver as light from a half moon caught its sheen. His face was almost white in the moonlight; so stark against the black of his hair, but beautiful. She ran her fingers over his bare shoulder and smiled at him when he turned his large eyes to her. His eyes glistened in the moonlight.

Jeet smiled. Anda’s eyes were almost level with his now. The first time he had gotten her back onto her feet after her illness, it surprised Jeet how tall she had grown. He hadn’t noticed until she had been off her feet for a week. The Oracle had had a growth spurt, more at the age a boy grows fast, than at the younger age a girl does.

He liked that the Oracle was tall. Weak after her illness, she had been like a long-legged fawn. He pulled her waist sideways against his as they walked. Jeet knew why Tazaar had no trouble seeing Anda as a boy. Besides being tall, Anda had wide shoulders and narrow hips for a girl. She had a slender V shape and long legs. Even her butt was shaped more like a boy’s than a girl’s. To Tazaar, Anda was a boy with small, firm breasts and a vagina – something Tazaar found marvelous in a boy’s body, particularly when his cock was inside it.

But to Jeet, the Oracle was… the Oracle; perhaps more Anda than Alexander because of the way she related to him, yielded to him, depended on him, and called him ‘husband’. He was fond of… no, he was in love with every inch of her unique body. That uniqueness excited him, still and always. Her height and frame and phallus excited him as a boy’s would; her breasts, vagina, and silky labia, as a girl’s would. Boy and girl, Anda and Alexander, the Oracle was his mate. She had been the center his life since he met her. Their recent brush with death had made her a very large center of his life.

They paused in the shadow of the high priests’ bathhouse and leaned against its stone wall, facing each other. He stroked her blond hair; pale in the reflected moonlight. She rested a hand on his shoulder and leaned in to kiss him.

It was a warm evening. Anda pulled open her gown and took his hands, placing them on her breasts. He caressed them, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him closer, pressing her naked loins to the front of his breechcloth, and grinding. Her face drew close to his. They opened their mouths.

Jeet dropped a hand from her breasts and untied his breechcloth, letting it drop to the ground. Then he pulled their growing erections up between their bellies, and tugged on Anda’s bottom to pull their pelvises together.

They broke their kiss to take a breath, and rubbed their cheeks against each other. They reached between their bodies, grabbing each other’s erection with one hand and roaming over their sides with the other. They stroked the skin up and down their rigid shafts. Their breath grew ragged. Anda’s gown fell from her shoulders, and Jeet turned her back against the wall.

He grabbed her bottom and held her against himself as he ground their erections together. She grasped his shoulders. Their mouths opened hungrily to each other, their tongues probing. Jeet worked his legs between hers and she spread her feet wider. Bending his knees, Jeet angled his cock up, rubbing it in the slit between her labia.

With a hungry murmur, Anda lifted a leg, giving him better access.

Jeet felt dampness between his crown and her labia. He tested with his fingers to see if it was hers or his; it was both. He straightened his knees slowly, guiding his crown up into her, feeling her warm, moist sheath slide slowly down over his glans and shaft… all the way down, all the way down until they were tight at their joining.

Anda set her foot back down, standing on her toes with her legs outside his. They pumped their hips, both Jeet and Anda, adjusting, bumping pelvises. He lengthened his thrusts, moving inside her while she rubbed her erection on his pubis and taut abdomen. Jeet clutched the sides of her buttocks, and they looked down between their bodies. Anda’s foreskin pulled back against Jeet’s belly with each upward thrust of her hips. Her damp crown thrust up, the small slit looking like an open, almost hungry mouth. Her sparse pubic hair was barely visible in the dark shadows between their pelvises.

Jeet kneaded her bottom, and she sought his mouth once more with hers. He pulled on her buttocks as he thrust, and their pelvises came hard together, again, and again. She wrapped her arms over his head and thrust into his mouth deeply with her tongue while Jeet ground up into her and lifted her higher on her toes with his thrusts. She made sideways grinds with her hips, and Jeet moaned.

The guards watched them return to the shrine, hand in hand, laughing, gazing at each other the way lovers do. “Abij-hah,” Tanaka, one of the guards, called softly. He bowed. “Abij-hah, will you pray over my son?”

Jeet stopped and Anda pressed behind him, kissing the back of his shoulder.

“Your son is still sick? Is he still with Ono?” Jeet asked.

“Yes, Beloved One,” the guard said.

“I shall go to him, very first thing in the morning,” Jeet promised.

The guard stayed Jeet with a hand on his arm. “Abij-hah, forgive me.”

Jeet stopped.

“He is very sick, Abij-hah.” The guard raised his eyes to Jeet’s. “Please, pray for him tonight – the way you prayed for the Oracle when she was sick.”

Jeet hesitated. He was cringing inside. He cringed because a child had died in his arms once, late at night, and he always cringed at the memory of Eppi whenever he visited sick children at night. He cringed because the Oracle almost died only two weeks before, and he simply wasn’t ready to face death again. He cringed because people expected him to have power over death, and all he knew to do was pray to a god whose name he did not even know. He cringed because those who give themselves to others, over and over, sometimes run out of self to give.

“Abij-hah,” the man said, pleading quietly, “he is my youngest, and my only son.”

Jeet sighed and nodded. He kissed the Oracle. “I’ll be up soon, Oracle.”

She turned him to face her and threw her arms around his neck once more. She held him tightly. They had talked about it. Jarus and Anda had both asked Jeet to stay away from the sick children. In fact, Jarus wanted the sick little ones out of the temple. “We may not be so lucky the next time one of you becomes sick, because we have brought disease into this place,” he warned.

“I will cleanse myself in the river before I come to you,” Jeet promised, sensing her concern. He didn’t want any of them sick either, but it was not in his nature to turn away a sick child or a distressed parent.

With a last, reluctant kiss, Anda went into the shrine and Jeet walked across the courtyard to the children’s sick ward. One of the servants was there; one that Jeet had gotten to help Ono. “I’m here to see Tanaka’s son,” Jeet said.

The young man motioned to a pallet in the corner. Jeet went to the sick boy who was about twelve, and sat down beside him. The boy was feverish, but awake. He started to sit up, but Jeet gently pushed him back down. The boy looked frightened.

“Will you save me, Beloved One?” the boy asked in a dry, raspy voice. “Will I die?”

Jeet took the boy’s hand. “I will pray to the Great God to save you,” he said. “That is how I prayed for the Oracle when she was sick, and she became well. I will pray for you the same way.”

The boy relaxed, visibly. He even closed his eyes. Then shivered.

Jeet felt the boy’s forehead. It was hot. He motioned the servant over. “Go to the shrine and bring me some of the Oracle’s spring water. And bring me a damp rag for the boy’s forehead.”

Tanaka’s son opened his eyes.

“I want you to sip some of the water when it comes,” Jeet said. He pulled back the boy’s cover to look for spots. He explained what he was doing as he looked. The boy’s thin body had no spots. Jeet covered the boy again, because the boy shivered.

His pallet was clean. Ono insisted. “Never put a sick child in a squalid bed,” he told them all, over and over; and to Ono, the bed was squalid if another sick child had even slept in it. Some of the children who stayed were from wealthier families who provided fresh bedding, but Ono showed no preferences, and made sure every child had a fresh bed.

Jeet smiled, as he thought of the older eunuch. Ono was the one who really loved and cared for the children. Jeet tried to think of some kind thing he could do for him.

The servant returned with water, and Jeet helped the boy take a few sips. Then, holding the boy’s hand, Jeet prayed to the Great God. Though Jeet didn’t know or love the boy the way he loved the Oracle, he tried to pray as sincerely as he had for her. He told the, that though he, Jeet, didn’t know the boy well, the boy had a mother and father who loved him fully as much as Jeet loved the Oracle; and he asked for the boy’s life with a great pleading in his spirit.

When he finished, the boy appeared to be resting, and Jeet started to pull away his hand, but the boy’s eyes flew open and he clung to Jeet. “Please don’t leave,” the boy said. “I… I will not die if you are here.”

Jeet didn’t think the boy was about to die anyway, but he understood the boy’s fear, and stayed beside him, holding the boy’s hand, bathing the boy’s forehead and shoulders with the damp rag when the boy grew hot. In the early hours before dawn, Jeet startled awake, and then noticed that the boy was wet with sweat. He called the servant over. “The fever has broken,” Jeet said. “Dry the boy and move him to rest on a dry pallet.”

He stood up stiffly. Truly, he wanted no child to die, and yet, each time he prayed and one lived, others would come, wanting him to pray. He was very tired. It was late, but he promised the Oracle he would bathe. Stiffly, he returned to the shrine.

Tanaka watched him coming, worried.

“His fever has broken,” Jeet said, reassuringly. “He will be alright.”

The guard dropped to his knees, blocking Jeet’s path, and he grabbed Jeet’s hands, kissing them, gratefully. Pulling a hand free, Jeet patted the man’s shoulder, and stumbled on past him and into the shrine.

+ + + + +

Rufus came into the Oracle’s chamber while they were all still eating a morning meal. He bowed. “I wanted to tell you, Abij-hah, that the son of Tanaka is well this morning.”

Jeet nodded. “His fever broke last night.”

Rufus nodded in return. “I wanted to thank you, Abij-hah. I wanted to tell you… ” He hesitated.

Jeet paused, about to take a bite. He looked up at Rufus. He had never known Rufus to be shy about speaking his mind.

“Abij-hah,” Rufus said. “The guards love you. To a man, they would lay down their lives for you or the Oracle. If it is true that the Great King will take you with him to Antioch, some of the men would wish to go with you as your personal guards.”

Jeet noticed exchanged glances between the other eunuchs when Rufus said the guards would lay down their lives for Jeet and the Oracle. An awkward distance had been developing between the eunuchs and him and the Oracle since the night the others had planned their escape, and the afternoon that the Oracle found out about it. Jeet was distracted by their exchanged glances; had it touched a nerve for the eunuchs to hear that shrine guards would be willing to die for the Oracle when they had not? He turned back to Rufus.

“When the time comes for us to go to Antioch,” Jeet said, “I will see if the King will let the Oracle bring some of her own guards, but that will probably not be for at least a year.” He smiled. “If you did not have family here, Rufus, I would wish that we could take you with us.”

The guard grinned. “My children are grown, Abij-hah. My wife and I have talked about it. She will come with me, and I will come with you. I would not let you go to Antioch unprotected.”

Jeet smiled in surprise. Anda smiled as well. “I must meet your wife sometime then, Rufus,” she said.

There was an uncomfortable silence after Rufus left, and Jeet thought to himself that he should probably do something to work a rapprochement with the eunuchs. He was in no hurry, though – not while he was so focused on the Oracle; not until his own feelings were less… tender.

The twins arrived and the mood in the room instantly shifted. “We’ve had word from Antioch,” Obenedes announced as he and his brother sat down to the table. “Some boys from our own gymnasium will be coming for the gymnopaedia and games.” He leaned forward over the table, grinning widely. “Letradoisan and I can’t wait to see what happens when they wrestle you shrine eunuchs.”

Letradoisan laughed. “They are going to be so surprised.”

+ + + + +

Those next few days, it was easy for Jeet and the Oracle to avoid thinking about the distance that had opened between them and her other eunuchs. The eunuchs had the twins to keep them busy at night, while Jeet and the Oracle were finding a new depth and tenderness to their lovemaking.

Those times when they were all together, many things demanded their attention. Besides the routines of the shrine, there were lessons and workouts, and they were all involved with preparations, not only for the gymnopaedia and games, but also for the coming of the King.

Yet when they were alone and away from the Oracle and Jeet, her eunuchs grieved quietly together over their loss of intimacy and favor with the Oracle and Abij-hah. They tried to think together of ways to return to things the way they were.

In the end, it was Rem who began the reconciliation, one afternoon when Jeet was blessing children. Rem sat behind him as he always did, but he clung to Jeet’s back more closely than usual. He ran his hand over Jeet’s spine and long back muscles, and rubbed Jeet’s shoulders between children. When they finished, Rem took Jeet by the hand and led him back into the shrine.

The other shrine eunuchs were outside, having begun afternoon workouts with several boys who were staying at the shrine, but Rem tugged Jeet toward the back hallway of the shrine. Bemused, Jeet followed. Governor, the dog, trailed behind.

Rem led him into the hallway to the bathhouse, and down to the bathhouse itself. Governor ran on ahead and was watching minnows at the edge of the steps as Rem led Jeet in. Only after they were inside did Rem turn to face Jeet. He laid his hands on Jeet’s pectorals, and with an earnest look, pushed Jeet back against a wall. Holding the taller boy there, Rem stepped up, belly to belly with the Abij-hah, and looked up into his eyes. “It has been weeks since we have made love; you’re always with the Oracle now.”

Jeet smiled and ran his hands over Rem’s curly hair, smoothing it back.

Rem pressed Jeet’s body back against the wall with his own, and took the older boy’s face into both his hands. “Jeet-hah,” he said, nose to nose with him. “I didn’t leave you that night when the others were going to. I’ve never left you.”

Eye to eye with Rem, Jeet’s countenance softened. “Rem-hah,” he explained, “it’s just that after what happened, the Oracle and I have been very close.”

“Because the others were going to leave you?” Rem asked.

Jeet frowned. “No. Well. Some. Maybe. But mainly because Anda almost died, and I wasn’t going to let her go without me. We’re stronger together now.”

“How about you and me?” Rem demanded quietly. “We almost died together. You promised to never let me far out of your thoughts, Jeet-hah, but your thoughts are only on the Oracle.”

Jeet’s brow knitted more deeply. It wasn’t because of the promise that Rem quoted back to him. It was because of the love behind the promise. It was because, belly to belly with Rem, looking into his upturned face, Jeet remembered how much he loved the younger boy.

Rem saw it in his eyes. “Jeet-hah,” he said softly, “you’ve barely noticed me.” Then he smiled slightly and stepped back. “You haven’t even noticed that I’m getting muscles.” Rem tensed his arms and belly, and tight, juvenile muscles popped up. “Look, see? Look at my gut, and my arms, and my legs,” he said, flexing each in turn. “I’m getting older, Jeet-hah, and all the working out that we do is making me strong. Maracee has noticed, so have all the other eunuchs, but you’ve said nothing.”

Jeet’s eyes traveled over Rem’s lean body, and he smiled. The top of the younger boy’s head still came only to Jeet’s chin, but Jeet had grown as well. Rem was taller. And though Rem lacked testicles, he was twelve now, and his body had indeed gained muscle.

Jeet suppressed a smile, and affecting a serious demeanor, he ran his hands over Rem’s shoulders, squeezing them appraisingly. He ran his hands down Rem’s biceps and forearms. He circled the younger boy, tapping, squeezing, back, butt, thighs – Rem tensed each in turn. Returning to Rem’s front, Jeet grinned. “Damn, Rem-hah, you are a little Adonis!”

Rem grinned happily, and threw himself into Jeet’s arms, his face upturned, his lips parted. Jeet kissed him lightly, but Rem wanted more. His eyes closed and he pulled Jeet’s head down, Jeet’s lips down to his own. Jeet closed his eyes as well and returned Rem’s kiss. His love for the younger boy, and Rem’s familiar body, stirred Jeet’s gut and tightened his loins. Their arms encircled one another, and their mouths opened to each other.

Rem ran his fingers into the back of Jeet’s thick hair. Jeet caressed the smaller boy’s back. Their mouths parted. “I love you, Rem-hah. You know I do,” Jeet told him.

“I’ve missed you, Jeet-hah,” Rem whispered, holding the back of Jeet’s head down and brushing the side of his face against the older boy’s.

Jeet smiled and rubbed the side of his face back against Rem’s. “Thank you for not letting me far out of your thoughts.”

They kissed again, and Rem dropped his hands to the back of Jeet’s breechcloth. He unfastened it, while they were yet kissing, and Jeet unfastened his. They stepped together, pulling their cocks up between bellies, and they grabbed each other by the butt, kneading, pulling, grinding.

Rem turned his back to Jeet and faced the wall. He leaned forward onto one hand, and spit into his other hand. He rubbed the saliva into his butt crack and looked back at Jeet in invitation. Stepping behind him, Jeet spit into his own hand and spread it over his crown. Then he stepped up with his legs outside Rem’s, bent his knees, and angled up into Rem’s bottom.

He grabbed Rem by the hips, and his eyes dropped to his cock, which looked unnaturally thick, as the crown split the crevice between Rem’s small buttocks. He watched the crown and then the shaft disappear slowly inside the younger boy until his own naked pubes flattened against Rem’s bottom. He stayed there a moment, deeply buried. He knew how long his cock was, and now imagined how far it must be extending into the twelve-year-old under his tailbone. They were deeply joined.

Jeet ran his hands up and down over Rem’s sides and back. “Rem-hah,” he said in a thick voice, “you do have a nice body.”

Rem had both hands on the wall. Behind him, Jeet grabbed Rem’s hips and pulled back his own to watch as his shaft slowly slid out almost all the way, and then slowly in… out... and in. His eyes moved over Rem’s narrow little bottom, up his slender back – Rem did have muscles; tight little muscles – up to his curly, brown hair.

Jeet pressed the insides of his thighs to the outsides of Rem’s, and bent over the smaller boy, folding his body over Rem’s. He wrapped his arms under Rem’s belly and chest, caressing them with his hands while he kissed the side of Rem’s neck. He slid his palms lower over Rem’s taut stomach and down between his legs. He closed a hand over Rem’s long, thin erection and stroked it. “You are growing here, too,” Jeet whispered.

Rem moaned softly, eyes closed. He dropped a hand from the wall and reached behind himself, and felt Jeet’s flank. He rubbed it. He pushed his butt back firmly against Jeet’s grinding, and Jeet stroked Rem’s cock, sucking on the back of Rem’s shoulder at the same time. The quiet murmurs and kisses of their lovemaking echoed softly in the empty bathhouse.

Jeet slid both hands up under the fronts of Rem’s shoulders and grabbed on. Rem returned both hands to the wall to steady himself, knowing that Jeet was ready to thrust. And Jeet did, pumping from the hips, driving up while pulling Rem back. He closed his eyes in concentration, and his mouth opened for air. Occasionally Jeet gnawed the side of Rem’s neck, but he kept pumping.

He pumped fast, and the slapping of his loins to Rem’s bottom echoed. He slowed. He dropped a hand to Rem’s cock and stroked it, then grabbed onto the fronts of the boy’s shoulders and pumped faster again.

Rem stayed hard. He loved the feeling of Jeet’s body draped over his back. He loved the way Jeet’s cock rubbed pleasant places inside. He loved Jeet.

After Jeet came, he slowed, but stayed inside Rem. He slid his hands down Rem’s belly, closing one around the younger boy’s cock and sliding the other under it. He fondled and stroked Rem, and then slowly pulled his own cock out. He dropped to his knees, and grabbing Rem by the hips, turned the boy to face him.

Jeet hadn’t lied. Rem’s cock had grown. It was thicker than a big man’s thumb and curved up, long, from between his legs. Jeet pushed it up against Rem’s stomach. It reached almost to his navel. Jeet closed his hand around it and skinned it back. Then he pulled the foreskin back up. Then down. The glans was crimson and wet. Jeet grabbed Rem by his smooth-skinned, little buttocks with his other hand, and closed his mouth over Rem’s wet crown. Rem moaned, and clutched Jeet by the sides of his head.

Jeet slid his hand down to the base, skinning back the shaft all the way, and then took the crown down his throat as far as he could. He bobbed once, twice; his eyes rolling up to look at Rem’s flushed face. The boy’s eyes were tightly shut. Jeet pulled off a moment. “Rem-hah,” he said, quietly, “thanks for bringing me back here.”

Rem’s eyes opened, and he nodded, glassy-eyed, before shoving his cock slightly forward, and toward Jeet’s lips.

That evening, Rem brought the serving girls to the Oracle’s bed. “Notama has missed the Oracle,” he said, simply, as Notama crawled in beside the Oracle. Then he and Maracee crawled in on either side of Jeet.

Later in the night, Anda shook Jeet gently awake and pulled him up by the hand from between the sleeping forms of Rem and Maracee. She led him to the other side of the bed, where Notama lay waiting on her back. “It is time,” the Oracle whispered in Jeet’s ear. “Notama would like you to know her.” She kissed his neck. “And I will know you from behind.”

+ + + + +

The very next evening, after their meal had been cleared and the others had left the Oracle’s chambers, Rem took Jeet by the hand and led him from the room.

“Where are we going?” Jeet asked.

“You’ll see,” Rem told him, leading Jeet around the back of the shrine and toward Prekendra’s suite on the other side.

Jeet let himself be taken, but frowned because he had no idea what Rem was up to. He wasn’t sure he’d like it.

Rem stopped outside the room. “You are the Abij-hah,” he told Jeet. “You are kind to children and to servants. Should you not be kind to your friends as well?”

Jeet’s frown deepened and he pulled his hand from Rem’s. “What are you up to?”

Rem took Jeet’s hand again and tugged on it, pulling Jeet into the room. Tazaar was there in a simple loincloth. He was kneeling with his forehead pressed to the floor. His long, brown hair with its streaks of gold was undone and lying about his neck and shoulders.

Rem let go of Jeet’s hand, and pointed to Tazaar. “Aruli is like this before the Oracle,” he said, “So you do not need to hurry back.” He stepped close and leaned near Jeet’s ear to whisper. “You made promises to Tazaar, too, Jeet-hah. You promised to stay together.” Rem patted Jeet’s butt, and left.

Jeet glanced down at Tazaar, unsure of what to say. He looked around the room. A dozen lamps had been lit and scattered about. The bed had been sweetly scented; he could smell it. A bath had been drawn, and passion flowers floated on the surface.

Tazaar got up from the floor. Eyes downcast, he stepped to Jeet, and taking him by the hand, he led him beside the bath. There, he removed his own loincloth, and then removed Jeet’s breechcloth and loosened the Abij-hah’s hair. His eyes still down, Tazaar grabbed up a sponge in one hand, and took Jeet’s hand with his other. He stepped into the bath.

Grabbing up a second sponge, Jeet followed him in. The two youths dipped their sponges and applied them to each other’s chests and necks.

“Do you remember the first time we bathed each other?” Tazaar asked softly.

Jeet nodded.

Tazaar gently scrubbed in the hollow above Jeet’s left collarbone; his eyes focused there. “I never had a friend before that,” he said. “Not since I was little.”

They scrubbed under each other’s chins, and Tazaar’s eyes finally met Jeet’s before dropping away again. “It wasn’t wrong for me to not want to die, Jeet-hah” Tazaar said, quietly. “It wasn’t wrong for me to want to stay alive with Cyndur.”

Jeet said nothing, but he nodded slightly as he used the sponge behind Tazaar’s ear.

“Maybe we should have waited longer to talk about leaving,” Tazaar said. “Maybe we shouldn’t have been so afraid that night.” He smiled sadly. “They took away our balls, Jeet-hah. It isn’t always easy to be brave.”

“I don’t blame you for being afraid,” Jeet said quietly.

“I’ll tell you this,” Tazaar said, and his eyes met Jeet’s, defiantly. “If you or the Oracle were in danger, I’d lay down my life quicker for you than any of the shrine guards would. I would, and you know it. We all would.” His eyes dropped again and he scrubbed down Jeet’s belly. “You have many friends, but you are my best friend, Jeet-hah.” He swallowed and his voice grew even quieter. “I would die for you.”

Jeet’s eyes studied Tazaar’s beautiful profile, and his heart softened toward his friend. He scrubbed over Tazaar’s shoulders and kissed him on the cheek. Tazaar scrubbed over the back of Jeet’s shoulders and kissed the inside of Jeet’s neck. Jeet slipped his arms around Tazaar’s shoulders, pressing the side of his face against Tazaar’s, and Tazaar slipped his arms around Jeet. They held each other and rocked gently.

Rem leaned back from where he had been peeking in from the doorway. He smiled down at the dog, Governor, and patted him on the head. Then he headed for the other side of the shrine to see how Aruli and the Oracle were doing.

Laying on his side, Jeet ran his hand over the slight bump of Tazaar’s hipbone and onto Tazaar’s thigh muscles. Leaning in, he took a deep breath from between Tazaar’s legs. At the same time, Tazaar pressed his face into Jeet’s crotch and took a deep breath. They were laying head to crotch.

Jeet drew his fingers along the inside of Tazaar’s thigh, admiring the smooth perfection of the other eunuch’s taut skin. Tazaar cocked his top leg to give Jeet access, and Jeet slipped the flat of his hand between Tazaar’s legs and onto Tazaar’s empty scrotum and the thick root of Tazaar’s erection.

“You would be beautiful with your balls, Tazaar-hah,” Jeet said softly. “You would have had big, egg-shaped ones that would hang low and loose in your soft scrotum.” He ran his palm over Tazaar’s erection. “Your cock would be thicker.” He ran his open hand over the long quadriceps of Tazaar’s cocked leg. “You would have golden hairs on your legs, and you would have strong legs like Cyndur.”

Tazaar pushed Jeet’s upper leg up so it was cocked like his. He laid the flat of his hand on Jeet’s scrotum and the thick root of Jeet’s erection, and rubbed. “Your cock would be like that of a horse, Jeet-hah, and you would have the balls of a male lion.” He slid his hand up the inside of Jeet’s soft-skinned thigh. “You would have fine black hair on your legs, and I would tickle them with my fingers, and they would be soft.”

Jeet nuzzled between Tazaar’s legs, rubbing his face over Tazaar’s perineum and empty scrotum. He pulled Tazaar’s top leg down onto the side of his face so that his head was nestled in the warmth and scent between Tazaar’s long-muscled thighs. Then Jeet wrapped his arms around Tazaar’s waist, and shook his head between Tazaar’s legs, rubbing his nose in Tazaar’s scrotum. He took a deep breath. At the same time, Tazaar did the same things to him.

It was a ritual that he and Tazaar started over a year earlier; one that all the eunuchs frequently did together now – rubbing their faces in each other’s scent. It excited them to do it, and then afterward, when they kissed, each would become excited again by his own scent on the other boy’s face. It was comforting, too; having one’s head between a friend’s legs while that friend’s head was between one’s own; arms around waists, rubbing faces between legs, mouthing empty scrotums, licking perineums… intimately.

They nuzzled for a while, murmuring pleasantly between each other’s legs, taking deep breaths; sucking and licking sounds in the quiet room. Then Tazaar pushed Jeet’s hips back a couple of inches, and rubbed his face on the underside of Jeet’s cock. He took its length in his fingers and gently skinned it back. Jeet’s glans was wet, the skin of his crown as smooth as the skin inside the Oracle’s vagina. Tazaar licked the wetness, and at the same time, felt Jeet’s hand close around his own cock. They adjusted for better angle, closing their mouths over each other’s crowns. They adjusted again to take in the length. They opened their throats, and rocked their hips.

An hour later, Jeet lay on his stomach atop the bedding, and Tazaar sat straddling the rounded globes of Jeet’s butt. Tazaar’s cock had begun to stiffen, and he pulled his hips back so that it lay in the crevice of Jeet’s butt before resuming his massaging of Jeet’s back and shoulders.

Tazaar always admired Jeet’s backside; he admired Jeet from almost every angle, but Jeet’s firm little butt sat high atop his long legs, in a particularly beautiful way, and Tazaar was fond of it. In addition, Jeet’s slender torso always looked long from behind. There was a grace to the upward curve of his spine and the symmetry to his shoulders. Jeet’s back was hard-muscled, which was always a surprise because of the smooth softness of his skin. Tazaar loved to run his hands over it whether they were face to face, or he was sitting over Jeet’s butt, like now.

Tazaar bent down and kissed the back of Jeet’s neck. “Time to roll over,” he whispered, before backing slightly and rising on his knees to allow Jeet to roll over beneath him. He smiled when he saw that Jeet’s cock had stiffened like his own.

He reached to the side for more oil and poured a small amount onto his hands before setting the vial back down. He scooted forward so that his cock lay with Jeet’s and then he bent forward, rubbing the oil over Jeet’s pectoral muscles. Jeet’s eyes were closed and his luxurious, black hair lay splayed out behind his head. Tazaar watched Jeet’s face as he worked, and his eyes were drawn to the red of Jeet’s lips. He’d always liked Jeet’s lips.

Silently, he lay down onto Jeet, pressing their cocks between them, and he brushed those red lips with his own. He rubbed his soft cheek against Jeet’s. He took a deep breath of him, and exhaled through his nose.

The air blew down the inside of Jeet’s neck, and the young eunuch stirred under Tazaar, murmuring comfortably. He laid a hand on Tazaar’s side.

“Before Cyndur came,” Tazaar murmured, pressing his lips beside Jeet’s ear, “when Aruli and Jin were already together and Ptolemy was sort of with Bantu, I was glad I was going to be with you.” He circled his hips, giving a gentle rub to the cocks between their flat bellies.

Jeet stroked Tazaar’s side. “I hoped we would be lovers,” he whispered.

Tazaar nodded his head beside Jeet’s, brushing their cheeks.

“But you’re glad Cyndur came,” Jeet reminded Tazaar.

Tazaar nodded again, giving a gentle pump to his hips. “And you’re glad Alexander came,” Tazaar said, referring to the Oracle. He slid his fingers up into Jeet’s hair on both sides of his head and turned it to kiss the hollow under Jeet’s ear.

Jeet turned his face back toward Tazaar’s and their open mouths met. With a contented moan, Tazaar stretched his legs on the outside of Jeet’s and squeezed their legs together. The two boys ran their fingers into one another’s hair, holding each other’s head, probing into mouths with tongues. They slowly ground their hips.

Prekendra’s suite was on the side of the shrine which normally received less of the breeze off the river, but a sudden puff of cool air blew in off the balcony, followed a moment later by a silent flash of lightning, announcing the approach of a still distant, summer storm.

Tazaar sat up on Jeet’s lap and reached once more for the vial of oil. He slathered a generous amount onto Jeet’s cock, and then while Tazaar applied some to his own bottom, Jeet slid back from under him so that he was halfway sitting up against bed cushions.

Tazaar came forward to straddle Jeet’s hips once again. Rising on his knees, he reached under his bottom and grabbed Jeet’s cock, holding it upright. He backed onto it, wiggling the crown into his crack and onto his sphincter. He pushed back with his hips and felt the crown pop in. He held Jeet’s shaft as he guided half the length inside. Then he settled into Jeet’s lap, wiping the last of the oil from his hands onto Jeet’s chest.

He fondled Jeet’s nipples, and Jeet fondled his. Jeet pulled his knees up so that the tops of his thighs came up against Tazaar’s bottom. Tazaar smiled as their nipples grew hard. Jeet smiled back. Tazaar wiggled his bottom, settling as far down Jeet’s shaft as he could. He reached back on either side, grabbing under Jeet’s thighs, and he rocked forward and back.

Jeet closed his hands around Tazaar’s narrow hips, moving his hands with Tazaar’s rocking. Their eyes closed and they moved together.

Eunuchs can take a long time to climax, especially after having climaxed shortly before. Tazaar and Jeet moved languidly, making occasional adjustments to rhythm or angle. Their hands explored where they could easily reach, and even where they could not. They took turns stroking Tazaar’s erection as it wobbled over Jeet’s stomach. From time to time, they grabbed on to each other by the sides or the corners of their shoulders, and moved together more forcefully. From time to time, Tazaar leaned forward and they kissed.

They heard the first thunder, and then later, the rain. Tazaar gasped in the midst of it as his issue spewed up onto Jeet’s flat chest and under his chin. Jeet followed with gasps of his own, grasping Tazaar’s shoulders and planting his heels to drive up into his friend.

They sat, shoulder to shoulder afterward, against the outside wall of the chamber, but back from the edge of the balcony. They ate brined olives, spitting the seeds over the railing as the storm abated and the lightning moved away.

“I wish I was smart like you or Ptolemy,” Tazaar said, after a particularly brilliant flash of lightning. “Ptolemy told us – that night that the Oracle was so sick – he told us we should wait.” He glanced at Jeet, and then away. “I’m sorry we didn’t listen. If I was smart like Ptolemy, I would not make so many mistakes.”

“Ptolemy is not my best friend,” Jeet said simply. “You are.”

Tazaar glanced at Jeet and smiled.

Jeet popped an olive into Tazaar’s mouth.

Tazaar leaned closer, grinning. “I’m prettier than Ptolemy-hah.”

The corner of Jeet’s mouth turned up. “You’re prettier,” he confirmed.

Tazaar leaned even closer, laying his forehead on the side of Jeet’s head and the flat of his hand on Jeet’s belly. “And we make great sex together,” he said, grinning.

Excellent sex together,” Jeet corrected, patting inside Tazaar’s thigh.

Still grinning, Tazaar leaned back against the wall and chewed on the olive. Jeet popped an olive into his own mouth.

“Other than the Oracle,” Tazaar asked, taking another olive, “who do you like to fuck with the most? Rem?”

Jeet spit the olive seed out over the railing, and took an olive into his fingers. “You know that’s a hard one to answer,” he said. “All of us are damned good lovers.”

Excellent lovers,” Tazaar corrected with a grin.

Jeet smiled and chewed off a bit of olive flesh with his front teeth. “All right,” he said thoughtfully, “other than the Oracle, I do like fucking Rem the best.” He glanced at Tazaar. “Rem and I just fit really well, you know, and well… he loves me and I really love him.” He took another little bite off the olive. “But for the one who does the absolute best job sucking, I’d have to pick Bantu or Aruli – they both really like doing it, and I like the things they do, like Aruli and the way he twists his head… ”

“What about the King?” Tazaar interrupted. “When he sucked our cocks… ”

“Oh, yeah,” Jeet quickly agreed. “When a grown man does it, it’s different, right? I mean, with the big hands and the beard and mouth, it’s different… and the King… he… ”

“He’s a damn fine cock sucker,” Tazaar completed for him.

“Is an excellent cock sucker,” Jeet corrected with a grin. He leaned his head back against the wall. “But you know whose cock I most like to suck – other than the Oracle’s, of course?”


“Yours,” Jeet said with a smile. “You’ve got the most beautiful cock, of all of us.”

“Not more beautiful than yours,” Tazaar said. He bumped Jeet’s shoulder with his own. “Other than Cyndur, I like sucking your cock most of all.”

Jeet smiled and patted the inside of Tazaar’s thigh. He left his hand there. “You know what else, Tazaar-hah?” Jeet asked. “Other than the Oracle, you know who I liked getting fucked by the most?”

“Who?” Tazaar asked with a hopeful grin.

“You, of course,” Jeet said with a squeeze to the inside of Tazaar’s thigh.

“Better than Ptolemy or Amnon or the King?”

“Better than any of them, even Prekendra with his big cock.”

Tazaar laughed. “Especially better than Prekendra with his big cock.” Laying his arm across Jeet’s he squeezed the inside of Jeet’s thigh. “You know who I love fucking the most?”

“It’s gotta be Rem or Aruli,” Jeet said.

Tazaar shook his head. “Asshole, it’s you. We fit together damned good, too, you know.”

Excellently good,” Jeet said with a twinkle in his eye.

“I owe you a good fuck,” Tazaar told him, sliding his hand up the inside of Jeet’s thigh.

“Yeah, you do.”

“Love knot?”

“Hell, yes.”

+ + + + +

There was an abundance of rain that late spring and early summer. Crops did well in the countryside around Kaleh. The governor’s wife delivered a baby son to the governor, and Weela delivered twin boys to his son – one boy with black hair like Weela’s, the other with brown like Jason’s. People assured one another that the presence of the Oracle, and more particularly, the Abij-hah, made the countryside around Kaleh, and women, fertile.

When the governor invited Jeet and the Oracle to the citadel in order to bless the newly arrived infants, Anda chose to go late in the afternoon, and to walk so that she might enjoy the day as well as freedom away from the shrine.

Immediately, the streets and passageways filled with people.

Though the Oracle, and especially Jeet, could be seen every day at the temple, it was usually in a formal setting or when Jeet was blessing children, and there were always guards and priests around to keep people distant. This day, though, the Oracle and her eunuchs were venturing into Kaleh, and as the owner of a home hurries to welcome a guest, the people of Kaleh rushed out to welcome the Oracle, and to catch a closer glimpse of her, her eunuchs, and the Abij-hah.

They called the eunuchs, including Jeet, by name, but with the “hah” endearment. It had become a de facto title for the shrine eunuchs. “Jeet-hah!” “Bantu-hah!” “Tazaar-hah!” they cried, along the other eunuchs’ names. A few even called out for Rem, and all crowded their path, wanting to get close and possibly touch one of them. Rufus, and the guards accompanying them, had difficulty keeping the press of people back.

When finally they made it to the gates of the citadel, Jeet and the Oracle looked back on a large throng of people. They waved, and went inside.

As the crowd dispersed, people talked about how graceful and beautiful, and gracious, the Oracle and her eunuchs were becoming.

+ + + + +

Preparations for the games and gymnopaedia, along with preparations for the arrival of the King, grew fevered. The governor, Jason, and the twins directed the overseers, though Jeet and the others helped in whatever ways they could from the shrine. “Your main responsibilities will come with the games and gymnopaedia themselves,” the governor told Jeet and the others. “The twins have quite a bit planned for you.”

Initially, they called the peninsula, the site where the games were to be held, The Fields of Ganymedes, but it was quickly shortened to Ganymede. No detail in its preparation was overlooked, and as the final stages of work neared completion, everyone other than the workers, was kept away.

One of the busiest people in those last weeks leading up to the King’s arrival, was Cyndur’s father, Anchises. At Jeet’s urging, the governor had placed Anchises in charge of all merchants and vendors for the games, and by default, that meant Anchises was given chief rights to everything sold there.

The peninsula that was Ganymede ran mainly east to west. A large hill came down to the mouth of the peninsula on the north side, and its pine forest extended two-thirds of the way across the mouth. The remaining bottom third, was a grassy knoll. That was where the entrance to Ganymede was set up – in front of the knoll. That was where Anchises set up the booths and tables for all the vendors.

+ + + + +

The first boy athletes arrived in Kaleh, fully two weeks before the games were to begin. Jeet noticed them when he was blessing children – eight boys with long hair, wearing long, cotton loincloths and various pieces of jewelry. They appeared to range in age from pre- to mid- teen, and with them was a man in his thirties. They were watching Jeet with something close to awe.

Jeet saw Bantu, Aruli, and Ptolemy go over to talk to them, and then, after the last child had been blessed, but before Jeet could make it over to visit children in Ono’s sick ward, the eunuchs brought the boy athletes over to Jeet.

“Our first athletes for the games,” Bantu said, enthusiastically. “They’re here from Seleucia, and this is their wrestling master.” Bantu introduced them each by name, and Jeet was pleased that all the eunuchs were becoming better at remembering names. The boy athletes were all distracted however; their mouths hanging open. To them, this was the great Abij-hah, the Beloved, Attis reborn, healer and raiser of the dead. Every boy bowed low as he was introduced.

Jeet was also distracted by something. Each of the boys had a small vial tied around his neck on a leather string, and he wondered what the vials were for.

“They’re going to watch our workout this afternoon,” Aruli said. Then he leaned close and whispered in Jeet’s ear. “They have no place to stay yet. Can we invite them to spend tonight in the shrine?” Aruli kissed Jeet’s cheek. “They’re cute, Jeet-hah.”

Jeet smiled and nodded and swatted Aruli’s behind.

Aruli and Bantu led the boys and their master off around the side of the shrine to the workout area in the rear. Ptolemy hung back. “Did you see the vials hanging around their necks?” he asked.

Jeet nodded.

“I think they hold oil,” Ptolemy told him with a grin. “I think it’s for fucking.”

Jeet’s mouth dropped and his eyebrows rose. “Truly?”

Ptolemy nodded.

“Bold,” Jeet said, with a glance at the retreating group.

That evening, the boy athletes dined with the Oracle. The boys from Seleucia slowly overcame their initial awe of Jeet, the Oracle, and the eunuchs, but not completely – laughing too loudly at quips, openly staring at Jeet and the Oracle, or at the others. Afterward, the eunuchs danced, primarily as practice for when they would dance at the games.

Jeet and the Oracle retired to her quarters, along with her serving girls. Cyndur, Rem, and the other eunuchs stayed downstairs with the boy athletes.

The next morning, Cyndur described to his father the vials of oil that the boys wore around their necks. “The Oracle’s eunuchs wondered if I could get a few for them.”

“To wear in public?” Anchises asked in surprise.

“I don’t think so,” Cyndur replied, shaking his head. “I think they just wanted to have them, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Bantu and Ptolemy wore them at the games.”

Anchises considered that, and later that morning, ordered several dozen to be made for sale at the gates to Ganymede.

+ + + + +

Seleucus, King, arrived at Kaleh with a guard of several hundred, a party that included boy athletes and dignitaries from Antioch, and dozens of servants, five days before the games were to begin. By that time, scores of other athletes had also arrived.

Leaving most of his armed escort outside the gates, the King entered the city to the sound of trumpets and drums. Thousands of people lined the broad street that led from the main gate to the agora. The crowd cheered and waved brightly colored pieces of fabric or cattails, which they had brought from the river. Instead of going up to the citadel, however, the King and his party turned down toward the river and the temple and shrine. The crowd followed.

At the shrine, the King dismounted. He was wearing costly and fine garments, and on his head was a crown, a thick band of gold and fine jewels. He ascended to where the Oracle and her attendants waited on the portico in their finest silk breechcloths and jewelry of gold, silver, and precious stones. They all bowed deeply to him, but not before Jeet’s twinkling eyes met the King’s. The boy was obviously glad to see him, and that pleased Seleucus greatly.

To one side stood the high priests and priestesses in rows. To the other side stood Judah and the other tutors, along with ranks of shrine and temple guards. They all looked on as the temple gongs sounded and the deep bellows of the long, ceremonial horns echoed around the courtyard.

Greetings were made. Formalities were attended to. Jeet’s eyes frequently met the King’s, each time, happy and expectant. Jeet’s love for the man was genuine, and their affection had grown in the exchange of their letters. But beyond that, the King represented safety, security, and peace to Jeet; protection for him and the others… protection and the promise of a good future.

In frequent glances at Jeet, the King saw a slender eunuch of fifteen, taller and truly more beautiful than he remembered him, but with the familiar scars on his belly and hip confirming that it was indeed the same boy he had slept with, and fallen for so profoundly. Clad only in a low hanging breechcloth of brilliant white silk and adorned with golden jewelry, Jeet was breathtakingly exotic, and yet for the King, the warmth in the boy’s pale eyes was human, real, and honestly affectionate.

The courtyard had filled completely with people and now the King turned toward the mass of faces. He raised a hand for silence, and then motioned forward two servants carrying boxes of polished, dark wood. He called for the Oracle to step forward to the edge of the portico.

“Citizens of the great city of Kaleh,” the King called out. “I honor you.”

The crowd cheered, and the cheer became a roar.

Seleucus raised a hand for silence and the crowd quieted.

“I also honor your great Oracle, who is known across the empire for her wisdom and her ability to see shades of the future.” He motioned one of the servants with boxes forward, and he opened the box. From it, Seleucus removed a circlet of gold with ornate inscriptions and designs of rare and mystical creatures. Holding the circlet between his hands, he lifted his voice to the crowd. “I proclaim the Oracle, friend and daughter to the King, a member of my household, here in Kaleh.” He took the circlet of gold, and stepping behind the Oracle, he lowered it onto her head.

The roar from the crowd was explosive, thundering off the great stones of the temple wall. Many still carried cattails and colored fabric, and they waved them wildly.

Anda was stunned, and stood transfixed as a statue in a storm of noise and motion.

The King motioned Jeet forward to stand beside her and the crowd quieted once again. The other servant carrying a box stepped forward, and from it, Seleucus took into his two hands a second circlet. This one was fashioned like a wreath of laurel leaves, only the leaves were silver and the stems were gold.

“I honor your Abij-hah, who is beloved by you all,” Seleucus called out to the crowd. “I love him, too, and I proclaim him the King’s Eromenos, Beloved in Kaleh.” He stepped behind Jeet, and even before lowering the wreath of silver and gold onto the boy’s head, the crowd erupted in noise once again.

From somewhere in the back, it began; “Jeet-hah! Jeet-hah!” It swelled into a chant… thousands of voices… “Jeet-hah! Jeet-hah!” echoed off the temple walls and out across the river. The temple horns bellowed again; spontaneously, first one and then the others.

The King dropped his hands to the boy’s shoulders and squeezed. Jeet leaned back into the solid strength of the man as the chant shattered into a roar that shook the ground under their feet. The King kissed the back of the boy’s head, just under the crown he had placed there.

Then Seleucus stepped forward and waved another servant up beside him. The King took from him a ring of gold and held it high in his hand. Slowly, the crowd grew silent once again.

“This ring,” Seleucus called out, “bears the emblem of a lion; the lion of Attis. It shall be a seal for the Abij-hah. What he commands in Kaleh, he commands in my name.” He lifted Jeet’s hand, and slipped the ring over the second finger.

The response from the crowd this time was mixed. While some cheered, a few in the front dropped to their knees. And then others dropped to theirs, and soon the entire courtyard of people had dropped to their knees and an eerie silence settled over them.

Jeet looked uncertainly at the Oracle and then glanced back at the King, on whose face Jeet saw an encouraging smile. Turning back to the people, Jeet raised his clear reed-like voice. “The Oracle and I bless you. May the good god who protects me, bless Kaleh.” He raised his voice, louder. “And may Kaleh welcome the King!”

The people rose to their feet, once more cheering.

The Oracle leaned toward the King and yelled. “Are you ready to go inside?”

The King, grinning, nodded.

Taking Jeet by the hand, Anda turned them toward the shrine and the doorway inside. The King followed the two of them. Behind them came the governor, Judah, and in the governor’s party, Jason and the twins.

The King followed Jeet and the Oracle, closely, and once they were all inside, he laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder, turning him to face him.

Instantly, Jeet was hugging the man, tightly, his arms around the man’s neck. Seleucus wrapped his arms around the boy, holding him close, treasuring him, rocking him, and growing aroused by the press of the boy’s body.

Leaving an arm behind Jeet’s back, he swept his other under the back of the boy’s knees, picking him up off the ground. Ignoring the others, he looked into Jeet’s eyes. “Where?” he asked simply.

Jeet pointed to the side of the shrine hall, and to the stairs up to Prekendra’s quarters, and smiled happily.

+ + + + +

The next afternoon, Jeet and Tazaar bathed the King. Jeet bowed in front of Seleucus as Tazaar continued to scrape the King’s back with a strigil. “Let the King not be angry,” Jeet said, “but if I have found favor in your eyes, O King, grant that I may ask a favor.”

The King smiled, amused at Jeet’s solemnity after the intimacy they had shared the previous afternoon and evening, in the night, and again in the morning. “What favor would you ask, Jeet-hah?”

“Let the King not be angry,” Jeet repeated, applying a sponge to the King’s chest, but keeping his eyes down at the same time. “The Oracle enjoys children; she likes children as much or more than I do. But the Oracle has been told that to have a child might be dangerous for her. She’s also been told that she is probably barren.” He scrubbed down the King’s stomach, still keeping his head down. “When she nearly died this year, it saddened the Oracle that she would leave this life without a child.” Jeet swallowed. “She would like to have a child, Great One, if she can,” Jeet said. “She has never slept with a man who has balls, mainly because I am her husband. But you are my erastes, and we were thinking,” his voice rushed on now, anxious to get out the request. “We were thinking that if we slept with you, together, and if you were willing to plant your seed inside the Oracle, then she would like to try to bear a child by you, for me.”

The King stayed Jeet’s hand on his stomach, and the boy looked up to see the King’s questioning eyes. Behind the king, Tazaar watched for the King’s reaction.

“This would be dangerous to her?” the King asked.

“Perhaps, Great One,” Jeet said, nodding. “But she has the heart of a boy and she is not afraid of the pain or being split when the child comes out. We have seen women whose openings tore in childbirth. Anda is not afraid.”

The King frowned. “And if she dies?”

Jeet’s eyes dropped. “I have not been able to dissuade her, Great One. She is determined, and if she is to lay with a man, and not one of her other attendants, I too, would wish it to be you.”

The King frowned, perplexed, and a man who normally knew his answer in every situation, was unsure how to answer in this one. “I would want to see how she is made,” he said. “I would like to see what she looks like in her loins before I answer.”

Jeet nodded. “I will bring her to you tonight, Great One.”

+ + + + +

Jeet led the King by the hand into the shrine hall that evening. Already at table were the governor and his wife, Jason and Weela, Obenedes and Letradoisan, Judah, Jarus, Eustace, Cyndur, and three of the King’s courtiers, including Heliodorus. Standing behind the table, with other servants, were the Oracle’s attendants, Rem, and the serving girls. The Oracle and Jeet had even, graciously, invited Stycus, but the priest had declined.

The King glanced, speculatively at the Oracle. Her eyes met his, steadily as all the others stood and bowed. And then, Anda bowed as well.

Jeet sat Seleucus between himself and the Oracle, and during the meal, Seleucus and the Oracle exchanged frequent glances. The King felt a growing expectation.

That evening, Jeet left the King alone in his chamber, and then returned a few minutes later with the Oracle, dressed in a sheer wrap of white silk, through which the King could see the shape of her breasts, the small, dark patch of her pubic hair, and even the unmistakable outline of a phallus.

Seleucus was sitting in a chair, and Jeet brought Anda forward to him, standing her directly in front of the King. Seleucus watched as Jeet slowly removed her wrap.

His first reaction was one of complete surprise. He certainly knew about hermaphrodites, but Anda was not what he expected. She’s a boy! he thought to himself as his eyes swept from her wide, angular shoulders down to her tight hips and heavily hanging phallus. Even while he was watching, the Oracle’s phallus lengthened more, and began to rise, just as much a cock as any Seleucus had seen – thicker than some, even longer than some. A boy with small, firm breasts, he thought.

Then as her phallus rose with each heartbeat, and started to curve upward, Seleucus saw Anda’s labia, puffy and flushed. Her phallus rose from between them. He looked up at The Oracle. Her eyes were closed.

With an upturned hand, Seleucus slid his fingertips between her legs, and on to her soft, very warm labia. He probed between them and found her opening. She widened her stance, eyes still closed, and he probed in with a finger, moving his face closer. A boy with a vagina, he thought to himself as he slipped his finger inside her opening and found that the membrane lining her vagina was as warm, damp, and smooth as any girl’s.

Beside him, Jeet removed his breechcloth and stood nude, watching Anda’s face.

The King rose, and let drop his robe. Seleucus was erect; as erect as Anda.

He caressed her breasts, appraising them, appreciating them. Anda opened her eyes. They dropped to the King’s long, thick cock, and she reached for it. It was thicker than she was used to, and felt hot and fat in the palm of her hand. She stroked it; it was rigid as wood.

Jeet drew her from the King and led her to the bed where he laid Anda back onto it. The King followed, and knelt between her legs when she spread them. Seleucus looked down at her; at the erection that curved up over her belly so perfectly from her between puffy labia, phallus and vulva both flushed. He looked over her long limbs and perfect flesh, and he thought her as beautiful as a fifteen-year-old boy, or a fifteen-year-old girl.

She pulled her knees up and out, opening herself to him, displaying the erotic construction between her legs. The bottom of her labia parted, just slightly, and he could see a sliver of pink vagina at her opening. Seleucus leaned forward over her, angling his cock downward. Jeet grasped it by the shaft and pulled until Seleucus’ crown was at Anda’s entrance.

He watched the King’s thickness enter her, watched Anda tense for a moment, then watched as the King’s thick shaft disappeared inside her, and Anda felt a testicle laden scrotum rest beneath her labia for the first time.

The King settled onto her and Anda laid her open hands on his back. He gazed down into her eyes, and then slowly lowered his mouth to hers as he made the first small thrusts with his hips. She was narrow inside, and Seleucus closed his eyes, savoring the feel.

Jeet lay beside them, and laid a hand on Anda’s hand on Seleucus’ back. She took his hand, squeezing it. Jeet squeezed back, and he prayed to the god who protected him that this would indeed not bring death to Anda and himself.

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