Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 32 – Gymnopaedia

The Spartans believed that the love of an older, accomplished aristocrat for an adolescent boy was essential to his formation as a free citizen. The education of the ruling class was thus founded on pederastic relationships, required of each citizen. The ephors fined any eligible man who did not love a boy, because, despite his own excellence, he failed to make a beloved “similar to himself.” Likewise, for a boy it was a disgrace to not find a lover,. By the time they reached the age of twelve "there was not any of the more hopeful boys who did not have a lover to bear him company." – Bookrags

The second to last performance that evening was a song which had been composed at Ganymede by a sixteen-year-old. It was sung by the entire herd of sixteen-year-olds – over one hundred and fifty of them. They filled the raised platform and the area in front of it.

In the light of many torches, the boys’ nudity gave them an overall uniformity of appearance. A few who had won events in the previous two days wore wreaths in their hair. Almost every one wore a black band of cloth tied around his head as well as one low on his waist. But Phrygia held many races, and even in torchlight it was possible to discern a variety of hair color and skin tones. The boys were also a variety of heights and physiques, as boys that age often are – though they were all lean, also, as boys that age often are.

For the men and boys watching in the crowd, all of whom had all been raised to admire the male form, it was a visual feast. The eyes of all, nude boys and clothed patrons alike, roamed the singers attentively.

The sixteen-year-olds had made a discovery at Ganymede, and now the others were discovering it as well; a hundred and fifty boys’ voices, raised in song, made a pleasing sound; a quite pleasing sound. The melody was bittersweet and the words were of good friends, too-soon parted. The young, male voices carried up the torch lit slope and struck the boys there with some poignancy, since the next morning would bring the last day of the games.

When they finished, the sixteen-year-olds returned to the slope to sit with their fathers, uncles, and erastoi, and the shrine eunuchs ascended the platform. It was almost time for the men to return over the rise to their tents, as they did every night, leaving Ganymede to the boys. Most erastoi who missed the sexual intimacy of their eromenoi, had found it with them at some point earlier in the day, in the woods, or in a corner of one of the pavilions. Many sat now with arms over their boy’s shoulders, or holding their hands, or in the case of a few younger ones, with the boys in their laps.

The shrine eunuchs sang Aruli’s song, and then taught it to the men and boys. The night ended with the hundreds of men and boys’ blended voices carrying on the night air, out over the peninsula, past the guards posted in various places, past the few servants who stayed on the peninsula to serve their young masters, and across the river and into the woods beyond.

With a final admonition from the Abij-hah to sleep and rest before the last day of games, the crowd dispersed.

Lycos ran past Aruli to catch up with Rem. At almost the same instant, Aruli felt the impact of Demos’ naked body, landing upon his back. The younger boy quickly wrapped his legs around Aruli’s waist and wrapped his arms in front of Aruli’s shoulders. With a grin, Aruli grabbed under Demos’ thighs to hold him up. He felt the younger boy’s soft cheek pressed behind his ear and the boy’s breath on his neck. Aruli’s cock swung more heavily as he walked.

Only two more nights with Demos, Aruli thought, sadly.

Demos knew about Aruli’s younger brother, and that the eunuch missed him. Demos also knew that somehow, he reminded Aruli of his younger brother, and that it comforted Aruli. The young farm boy didn’t mind at all, especially since Aruli enjoyed it. The two pretended that Demos was a rich boy staying at the shrine, and Aruli tended to him tenderly and intimately. Like Rem was for Lycos, Aruli was a good and patient guide to the new pleasures of sex for Demos. They enjoyed each other, and Demos was instantly comfortable with the older boy. They slept in each other’s arms at night. Now, as they walked, Demos’ cock grew hard against the small of Aruli’s back.

Aruli smiled.

After having met the Oracle at the river for sex for the second straight day – the third day in four – Jentes and Philip were not needing sex. But they were mindful that they had only two more nights together. They stayed on the slope that night after the men returned over the rise to their tents, and the boys headed back to their pavilions. A few other couples remained behind on the slope, mostly boys of differing ages, and at least two men with boys.

A puff of breeze came down from the hill, fluttering the torches across the top of the rise first, and then traveling down the torches along either side of the slope to the bottom. The scent of pine and cedar came with it.

Jentes rolled up on his side, facing Philip, and they entwined their legs, scooting closer. Philip stroked back a lock of Jente’s pale hair. “You must come visit my farm,” he said.

Jentes smiled and stroked Philip’s arm. “And you must come visit me in Kaleh.”

Philip grinned. “Do you think we could visit the Oracle?”

Jentes shook his head, and smiled slightly. “You know better.”

They gazed into each other’s eyes, quietly. A puff of breeze blew through their hair, and torchlight played dimly in the blond and copper strands. Jentes slid his arm behind Philip’s waist and moved close, belly-to-belly. He laid the side of his face against the other boy’s.

Philip wrapped his arm behind Jentes’ shoulders and rubbed his soft cheek against Jentes’. “We must remain friends,” Philip whispered.

Aruli ignored the wrestling beside him as Rem and Lycos playfully rolled back and forth. Instead, he concentrated on Demos. He had the younger boy on his back and was bent over him, holding Demos’ thighs apart while he licked on and around the twelve-year-old’s genitals. Just like a cat cleaning a kitten, Aruli thought, and he liked that thought. Demos sighed contentedly, his fingers working in Aruli’s hair.

Aruli lifted the younger boy’s erection in his fingers, pointing it up from Demos’ belly. It looked big on the boy, the way genitals so often do on twelve-year-olds who grow between their legs first. Aruli skinned back the shaft and kissed the crown. In the dim light, he couldn’t make out much more than the shape, but he knew the glans were pink, just as he knew the damp skin of Demos’ crown was as smooth as the inside of his own cheek. He knew because he had rubbed it there.

Aruli closed his hand around the shaft and his mouth over the crown. He licked and swirled it; then opening his mouth wider, he rubbed the crown inside his cheek because Demos liked that.

Aruli liked having his face between Demos’ legs. Demos liked it as well; he liked it a lot. But with the thought of only two nights left with Demos, Aruli felt a strong desire to hold the younger boy; to make a love knot with him. Leaving Demos’ legs splayed to the sides, Aruli moved up between them, and laid his cock down on Demos’. When he did, Demos looked up with a grin that Aruli could see, even in the dim light, and the younger boy reached behind Aruli’s neck to pull his face down. Kissing was another thing Demos liked.

Their mouths met, and instantly Demos’ tongue thrust into Aruli’s mouth. Aruli wrapped his arms under the younger boy’s shoulders and ground his hips between Demos’ legs. They worked the kiss, and soon Demos’ breath grew rapid and shallow.

Aruli knelt up at the younger boy’s bottom and Demos pulled his legs up and apart for him. Aruli quickly poured oil from his vial onto his cock and then into Demos’ crack. He scooted up to press his crown at the smaller boy’s bottom, pressed the crown in, and then slowly eased half his length inside. He fell forward onto his hands, and pressed his hips forward until he felt Demos’ bottom bones between the inside creases of his legs, and the younger boy’s tightness was snug at the base of his shaft. He lay down onto him, wrapping his arms once more under him. Demos’ hands returned to the back of Aruli’s neck and shoulders as their mouths met again, and opened to each other. Aruli made small circles with his hips, and their tongues began a warm dance.

Marcos broke the kiss, pressing the side of his face to Jin’s as he caught his breath and embraced Jin more tightly. The beautiful, albino eunuch under him, planted his feet and lifted his pelvis slightly, and the stretched tendons between Jin’s open legs gave Marcos a hard platform to rub his cock on. Marcos closed his eyes and ground with his hips.

“Jin-hah,” he whispered, holding the younger boy tightly, rubbing the side of his face against Jin’s soft cheek. “I… I’ve been thinking about something. I can’t stop thinking about it. Something I want to do with you. Tonight, while we still have two nights left.” He closed his eyes more tightly and whispered softly. “I want to fuck you.”

Jin stroked the hair at the back of Marcos’ neck while still holding him tightly. “I thought you couldn’t,” Jin whispered. “I thought it was forbidden.”

Marcos shook his head slightly against the side of Jin’s. “I’m desperate for you. I’ve seen how other boys fuck… the way you call making love knots.” He squeezed Jin tightly in his arms and pressed his mouth to the side of Jin’s neck, grinding his hips in his desire. “I want to be with you that way, Jin-hah.”

Jin’s own arousal deepened with the older boy’s desire for him. He squeezed Marcos’ hips between his thighs and pressed his tongue into the older boy’s ear. “If you are sure,” he whispered, “take the vial of oil from around my neck.”

Marcos’ heart leapt in the darkness; his own pulse was loud in his ears. He didn’t want to let go. He didn’t want to kneel up and take the oil, and have to actually think about what he was about to do. He wanted simply to lift his hips, point his cock in, and be joined to Jin. He hesitated.

It was as if Jin understood. “Scoot down just a little,” Jin whispered. Jin scooted his own body up, and reached down under his bottom. Marcos lifted his hips so that the tip of his cock slid down to Jin’s perineum. The albino boy grabbed the circumcised shaft, and guided it to his hole. “Go slowly,” he whispered. “I’m used to oil.”

Marcos nodded and pressed forward carefully. Though Jin was used to oil, he was also used to being entered. Marcos’ crown was damp, and with a little pressure, it popped in. The two of them froze as Jin adjusted and Marcos fought back a near climax at the sudden tightness around his shaft. And then very slowly, they worked their bodies together until their love knot was tight.

Philip didn’t care if others saw them sucking each other’s cocks. No one seemed to be paying attention to them anyway. Besides, one of the other couples on the slope was doing something similar. Like Philip and Jentes, those two other boys were laying on their sides, bodies reversed, heads between each other’s legs.

It seemed to Philip that each time they had done this, he found Jentes’ scent and taste more intoxicating than the time before. With a hand steadying Jentes’ hip, Philip closed his eyes and rubbed his face under Jentes’ balls, rubbing it on Jentes’ perineum, filling his nostrils with Jentes’ sex. He pressed his mouth there and sucked, working his jaw to give Jentes pleasure as Jentes did the same things to him.

Jentes moaned, and the moan itself gave Philip pleasure. He backed his body slightly in order to lick Jentes’ balls which had begun to tighten in their sack. Philip swept them with his tongue and sucked on one and then the other to loosen them again. He’d learned that Jentes loved that, and it also helped Jentes relax when he was getting too close, too soon, to climaxing.

Philip ran his hand over the soft skin of Jentes’ side. He ran it up over Jentes’ hipbone and down over the blond’s bottom where the skin was even softer. He caressed a firm mound and then slid a finger into Jentes’ crack to find and rub on the blond boy’s sphincter. Jentes liked that.

Jentes did the same to him and each opened his legs wider, giving the other better access, enjoying the feelings between their legs. Then Jentes backed his body along Philip’s a couple more inches, and Philip adjusted; it was time to work on cocks. He slipped his palm between the back of Jentes’ cock and Jentes’ belly and held the upturned shaft while he rubbed his face on it.

Of what they did together, Philip was unsure how much Jentes had learned at the shrine, and how much they had discovered on their own. He only knew that he would miss it; miss it badly. There was no way he could do this with one of the servants, or that he’d even want to.

He skinned back Jentes’ cock and licked the crown just as Jentes did the same to him. And then they closed their mouths over each other’s shaft and sighed contentedly at exactly the same time.

As soon as Seleucus had fallen asleep, Jeet rolled onto her, smothering her face with kisses. Anda didn’t know whether it was because of the fresh air, being out and being active, or simply because of the presence of so many sexually active, young, male bodies, but Jeet had definitely been more passionate at Ganymede.

And it added to her depression.

The fact that Jeet suspected nothing made her guilt seem even more acute. He suspected nothing and kept himself for her every evening.

He buried his face between her breasts, and then holding one in each hand, he went back and forth licking and sucking on each. His taut belly pressed between her legs, pressing her vulva and on her upturned phallus, which was becoming quickly erect. It was becoming erect because even in her guilt, Jeet excited her more than ever, and the possibility of losing even a small bit of what they had, made her feel her love for him acutely.

When they were together like this, the lust that overcame her with Philip and Jentes seemed utterly mad. And yet, today, simply the sight of the two boys had aroused her.

Jeet came back up her body, sliding his erection alongside hers, holding the sides of her face in both his hands as he covered her mouth with his and thrust in deeply with his tongue. She ran her fingers into his hair and kissed him back desperately. She wanted him inside her; his cock inside her, as if Jeet’s presence there would cleanse the violation of others, and as if his issue could wash her vagina clean and reclaim her for Jeet’s own.

Demos hugged Aruli from behind as he spooned Aruli’s bottom. He moved his erection slowly in and out of the older boy’s rectum. He kissed Aruli’s back and gave him a tight squeeze. He and Lycos liked to be together during the day, but they both liked sleeping with their eunuchs at night.

They did think of them that way – Aruli and Rem – as their eunuchs. Like young boys do with their first sex partners, Demos felt a genuine affection for the gentle eunuch. He leaned back from him now, while keeping his lap pressed to Aruli’s bottom, and rubbed his palm over the warm skin of Aruli’s side and the hard muscles of his lean back. It was easy to imagine Aruli as a pony, a strong, gentle pony that he was riding. Demos ground in with his hips and Aruli ground back. He wasn’t asleep yet.

Demos laid his palm on the side of Aruli’s waist and in the dim light, looked down between their bodies to where his loins flattened the slender eunuch’s buttocks. He felt that comfortable intimacy a boy often feels, connected to another, and he thought about the answer he had started looking for; the answer for Aruli. He hoped he would find it for him before the games ended.

+ + + + +

The rain came on a cool wind, two hours before dawn. Boys in their pavilions pulled covering over their bodies. Some moved from under leaks in the roof. Some who were sleeping alone, climbed under covers with other boys who had been sleeping alone, and their naked bodies warmed one another. Others who had been sleeping as couples or threes stirred with the rain, and in all the pavilions, there was a low murmuring of boys’ voices. Some began to move together under their coverings.

The rain continued, heavily, long past sunrise, and messengers went from pavilion to pavilion to say that the final morning of competition – the competition that was to be between all the age groups – would be postponed until the afternoon, or the next day if necessary.

Philip, nestled behind Jentes, overheard the messenger to Jin’s pavilion, and he pulled Jentes back more snugly and they slept on. Jin took out Aruli’s pipes and started to play while Marcos lounged with his head in the albino boy’s lap. Others gathered around to listen and talk.

Over a morning meal in the tent of the King, Seleucus told Jeet about his ideas for a musaeum and library in Antioch, to be presided over by the Oracle and her eunuchs. The conversation continued as the food was cleared away, and they discussed plans for buildings. Seleucus took the opportunity to teach Jeet and the Oracle some principles of architecture and construction.

At the twelve-year-olds’ pavilion, boys wrestled, played games, slept, and talked. Many talked about the cities and villages from which they came. That’s how Demos, moving among them, finally found his answer for Aruli.

Aruli was judging an impromptu wrestling match on some bedding, between a twelve-year-old and a thirteen-year-old who had drifted over from the next pavilion, when he looked up to see Demos dragging a short, solidly built twelve-year-old in his direction.

The short twelve-year-old bowed to Aruli while Demos, grinning, tugged at Aruli’s hand. “Come away with us,” he said.

Aruli looked down at the wrestling boys. The thirteen-year-old had an erection and the two boys had begun to simply roll around, so with a grin and a shrug, Aruli followed Demos to the side.

“This is Ajax,” Demos said. “He knows your village. He says it’s not as far from Kaleh as you think.”

Aruli frowned and he eyed the boy skeptically. “Sometimes different villages have the same names. I do not remember you, Ajax. Nor do I remember anyone from our village wealthy enough to send a son to these games.”

The boy shook his head. “I am not from your village, Beloved One, but my family has an estate close to there, and we have hired servants from your village.”

“He said some of them look a lot like you,” Demos offered hopefully, “including a boy Ajax’s and my age.”

“Truly?” Aruli asked, looking hard into the boy’s eyes to judge whether Ajax was speaking the truth.

Ajax nodded. “I don’t know all their names except for the one who is my age. He was with me this summer, and he’s pretty like you. His name is Sytaya.”

Aruli gasped. There was an almost instantaneous lump in his throat, and his vision blurred with tears. “Tell me,” he asked in a choked voice. “How is my little brother?”

At midday, cooks distributed fruit, dried meat, and left over bread to the pavilions. The rain let up, and most of the boys ate out from under the pavilion to keep from drawing ants inside.

A few of the men drifted over to the pavilions just before a last, heavy downpour, after which the clouds began to clear. By then it was mid afternoon, and messengers spread the word that the last day of the games had been postponed until the following day.

Cooks could finally start their open fires, and the aroma of grilling meat floated on the damp air. Men mingled with boys among the pavilions. There were story tellers among the men, and soon each had a crowd around him. Other men got into discussions of weighty things. In the sixteen-year-olds’ pavilion, men and boys gathered around for a poetry competition. Music came from pipes and harps in several directions, and several boys did dances from their villages and cities. The King ordered the slaughter of extra cattle so that the men could also be fed and not need to return off the peninsula for food.

Aruli, with an earnest look, pulled Jeet to one side inside the King’s tent. Holding Jeet by the hands, he fell to his knees and bowed his forehead to Jeet’s knuckles.

Jeet, though, immediately fell to his knees with Aruli, and kissed the other eunuch’s fingers. “Aruli-hah, what is it?”

Aruli kept his head down. “Grant me what I’m about to ask, Jeet-hah,” he pleaded.

“If it is within my power, I will grant it,” Jeet promised.

Aruli looked up. There were tears in his eyes. “There is a boy here who was with my little brother this summer,” Aruli said. He clutched Jeet’s hands to his chest. “Jeet-hah, I always thought my village was far, far away because of how much the priests traveled with us before returning to the shrine. But my village is less than two weeks from here.” He cradled the side of Jeet’s face with one of his long-fingered hands. “Grant that I may go and see my younger brother, whether he does well or not. Let me… ” Aruli bit his lip and squeezed tears out of his eyes. “Jeet-hah,” he whispered, “grant that I may buy my brother if all is not well with him.”

Kneeling face-to-face with Aruli, Jeet pulled the gentle eunuch into his arms. Jeet remembered a dream he had of Aruli’s younger brother, when he and Aruli first met; a dream of a small boy, crying. “I will talk to the King,” Jeet promised.

Because of the rain, there were no performances that night on the raised platform before the slope into Ganymede. Instead, the men and boys continued to mix in the pavilions, telling stories, singing, holding symposia, watching boys wrestle; and, as it grew dark, many of them made love, and many of the men did not return off the peninsula that evening.

In his pavilion that night, Aruli was fretful and couldn’t sleep. Demos kissed him, and made love to comfort Aruli, with his own, recently learned skills.

+ + + + +

It was cold in the night, but morning came with a clear sky and dry air. With the sunrise, the peninsula came alive with activity at all the venues. Men and boys walked from contest to contest. As the sun rose, the air warmed quickly. By mid-morning, it grew hot.

They saved the best events for last, until finally there were only two events left. One was the single lap, all out sprint around the race oval; a race between champions from all the age groups. For this final race, the two fastest sprinters from each herd were brought to the track. All the rest of the youths and their mentors gathered on the tiered steps around the oval, as well as on the grass in the center of the oval, to watch in the bright sunlight.

When Philip saw that Demos was also in the group of a dozen boys gathering at the starting point, he stepped over to his younger brother.

Demos saw him coming, and frowned, anticipating some brotherly warning, such as, to stay out of the way.

Philip looked around, and then put his arm over his brother’s shoulder. “Listen,” he said confidentially, “I’ve seen a lot of these other runners. You can beat many of them. Don’t think you can’t just because they’re older.”

Demos’ eyes widened in surprise at the encouragement. He smiled.

Philip patted Demos’ bare bottom and took his younger brother’s hand. “Come run beside me, and don’t let the bigger guys crowd you out. Keep up as best you can.”

Demos nodded. “It’s not like I haven’t chased you before.” He grinned, and Philip, who had begun to notice boys more that week, noticed that Demos really was a cute boy. He smiled back, and mussed his brother’s hair.

The raised platform was centered inside the north side of the racing oval infield. Its floor was at shoulder to eye level for most men. When Jeet stood in the middle of it, he could be easily seen from the entire track. He faced south and waved for everyone to gather. Within a few minutes, men and boys crowded the area in front of the platform. Jeet held up both hands for silence.

All the other eunuchs and boys remained nude that last day of the games. But because of Jeet’s ‘duties’, he wore a long, formal breechcloth of fine silk. It was made from pure, white material and hung luxuriously low in front. His hair was loose, but pulled back over his ears, where it fell down his back. It was banded by the crown of gold and silver leaves, given to him by the King. Around his neck was the medallion of gold, given to him by the Oracle. Around his arms and wrists and ankles, and hanging from his ears, were circlets of gold and baubles of jewelry. On his finger was the signet ring the King had given to him.

From where she stood below, beside the King at the front of the crowd, Anda thought Jeet had never looked more magnificent. The low breechcloth, the scars on his belly and hip, the gold, all accentuated Jeet’s body in ways that nakedness alone did not. Every muscle showed in his lean body, including those in his flat belly and tight chest, and somehow, they looked more splendid, adorned with gold and silk. She slept with him every night and spent every day with him, and yet, the sight of him still stirred her pride and desire. Their eyes met, and she smiled at him.

She was dressed almost identically to him, and as Jeet gazed down at her, at the separate mounds of her high breasts, at her golden hair, and at her slim body and long legs, he thought Anda the most uniquely beautiful creature in the world. He smiled back at her, and let her see the affection in his eyes.

Then Jeet looked up and out across the crowd, still smiling. He waved Philip forward from where he’d been waiting at the back of the platform. The copper-haired boy stepped to the front of the platform beside Jeet, and glancing down, he saw the Oracle. Their eyes met briefly before each looked away.

“Today we all discovered that, truly, Philip has wings on his feet,” Jeet said loudly.

There were cheers and laughs among the men and boys.

Rem stepped forward, carrying an olive wreath. Jeet took it and held it above Philip’s head. “I crown you, Philip, fleetest of foot of all the youths of Phrygia,” Jeet called out, and placed the wreath on Philip’s head.

The crowd cheered. Not far from the King stood a wealthy young man from Seleucia who liked to see pretty boys kiss. “Kiss him!” he yelled out. “Abij-hah, kiss the champion!”

“Kiss him,” others called out, taking up the cry.

Jeet turned to Philip with a smile, and Philip looked down. Jeet assumed it was shyness, though, in truth, the copper-haired boy felt guilty to kiss the Abij-hah after having sex with the Oracle.

Jeet took Philip by the biceps and leaning in, pecked the other boy on the lips.

“A real kiss,” protested the man near the King. “Yeah, a real kiss,” others cried out.

Still holding Philip by the biceps, Jeet smiled again and pulled the other boy closer. He pressed his lips to Philip’s, and he held them there until Philip returned the kiss. When they separated, the crowd cheered. Philip’s eyes dropped to the Oracle’s. He blushed and looked away.

The final event that morning was a wrestling match between the best seventeen-year-old, a lanky boy from the south, and a young bull of a sixteen-year-old from Kaleh, the athlete Tenetamon’s younger brother. It was a good match, but the sixteen-year-old was a clear winner. When Jeet placed the wreath on his head, the boy didn’t wait for an admonition from the crowd. He pulled Jeet into his arms and kissed him hard to delighted whoops and cheers.

“Definitely Tenetamon’s brother,” Bantu commented to Ptolemy with a grin and an elbow to the ribs.

+ + + + +

Jeet left the King’s midday table early so he could supervise the final preparations for the gymnopaedia that afternoon and the Dance of the Kurbantes that evening. The Oracle watched him walking away, admiring his body, but with a pang of sadness.

“Oracle,” the King asked, setting down his cup of wine. “You have seemed troubled the last couple of days. Are you well?”

Anda’s head jerked around from Jeet to the King, and her face flushed. She bowed her head slightly. “I am well, Great One. Thank you.”

“Are you sure?” the King asked with a skeptically cocked eyebrow.

Anda chewed her lip, shook her head, and glanced quickly at Jeet’s retreating form.

The King said nothing, but waited.

Anda glanced up, saw him watching, and glanced down again. She exhaled slowly. She glanced after Jeet once more, but he was gone. She looked back at the King, then down. “Let the King not be angry,” she said, “but Jeet and I have had almost no time alone for many days.” She swept her hand at the boys and men milling past the dais. “There are so many boys here, wanting his time. There are always the other eunuchs… “

“And now there is me?” the King asked out loud.

Anda looked up in alarm. “No, not that… I mean, that is different. It’s just that there is no time in the day at all, when he and I can actually be alone. Well, except for the second day we were here.” She smiled then, and glanced at the King. “We snuck away that afternoon, and climbed the hill over there.” She pointed. “You can see very far from the top.”

The King glanced at the high, pine covered hill. He glanced up at the sky, around the peninsula, out at the river; and he imagined Ganymede without all the boys and men. It would be very empty. But for two lovers, it would be a nice setting to be so alone.

“Oracle,” a sixteen-year-old asked from close beside the dais. “When will the gymnopaedia begin?”

Anda glanced in the boy’s direction and then at the sky to judge the time of day. “Probably in an hour,” she said.

“Thank you, Oracle,” the boy called out and left.

“They have all become very familiar with you, Oracle,” the King observed.

Anda smiled. “I don’t mind, really. It’s nice to be away from the formality of the shrine.” Her smile became a grin. “Besides, how formal can we be when they’ve seen me naked all week?”

The King held her gaze. “You are beautiful without your clothes, Oracle. I’m sure that most are still in awe of you.” He smiled. “Though I like the breechcloth you are wearing today. You’re quite sexy in that.”

Anda smiled.

“Oracle,” the King said, thoughtfully. “What if, tomorrow when every one else heads back to their homes and we return to Kaleh… what if I leave you and Jeet here with a few servants to take care of you, and then send your barge for you from Kaleh? That would give you, probably three days here, alone with him, and then another day for your barge to bring you back upstream.”

Anda looked up in surprise. “You would do that?”

The King smiled. “Will your eunuchs attend to me until we’re together again?”

Anda nodded, numbly.

The King smiled and looked away, out over the crowd. “It might do me some good to have a break,” he said quietly, then looked back at her with a grin. “You two are wearing me out.”

+ + + + +

“Beloved one,” the boy said, bowing.

Bantu looked up from where he was sitting at the edge of the raised pavilion floor with two of his thirteen-year-olds. He recognized Tenetamon’s younger brother; the sixteen-year-old was still wearing his wreath for wrestling. Bantu’s eyes traveled quickly up and down the boy and he had the thought that Tenetamon’s younger brother was going to be taller and more slender than Tenetamon, but quite strong, nevertheless. “Yes?” he answered.

“Beloved one,” the sixteen-year-old said again. “My brother has told me much about you, and… ” he paused, and then the words rushed out, “and it’s the last night tonight, and tonight the older boys are raiding the pavilions of the younger boys, that is, not if the younger boys don’t want to be raided, but, if, a younger boy wanted to be raided, by an older boy, and perhaps be carried off into the woods or pounced on where he slept, for fun of course and not anything but fun, and if the younger boy wanted, well he could show the older boy where he made his bed so the older boy could find him in the raid, and I know you’re not younger than me, at least I don’t think so, but… ” The sixteen-year-old blushed. His jaw clenched, working.

“The older boys are going to raid us?” one of the thirteen-year-olds asked in a whisper to the other.

“I know who I want to raid me,” the second boy said.

Bantu smiled. Tenetamon’s brother was no better with words than Tenetamon. Bantu rose to his feet and took the sixteen-year-old’s hand. He led him into the pavilion and over to where his pallet lay. “This is my bed,” Bantu said with a smile.

Tenetamon’s brother grinned broadly.

+ + + + +

Rams’ horns sounded the commencement of the gymnopaedia. Drummers and musicians were at the open areas in front of each pavilion as the boys, in their herds, danced nude.

In rhythm to the drums, they performed athletic moves to show their form and prowess, poses to display their lean bodies and musculature, and stretches to show their flexibility and agility. Among the men, who moved from herd to herd watching, were judges who selected not only those who had the best dance movements, but also those who were comeliest and most beautiful. Those they sent to the infield of the racing oval for the final judging.

“Damn,” murmured Cyndur to Tazaar as they stood behind one smooth-bodied seventeen-year-old and watched him plant his feet wide and bend over more than double from the waist. The boy smiled at them from between his feet. His butt and genitals were fully exposed to them. “Damn,” Cyndur murmured again. He looked down. His cock had begun to rise. “I wonder,” he said to Tazaar, “how many of the men around here have erections under their tunics.”

Tazaar glanced around. Tunics didn’t hide much. “I’d say a lot of them,” Tazaar answered.

After an hour, a second sounding of rams’ horns called everyone to the racing oval for the finals of the competition. Boys who had not been selected, along with all the men, gathered on the tiered steps to watch the judging in the infield. Two large drums were set up beside the raised platform in the middle and they beat a matched cadence. Pipers and harpists strolled among the dancers, playing. Judges moved among them in teams of two and three, stopping to ask shrine eunuchs and their assistants the names of boys they were interested in advancing to the final judging by the King, the Oracle, and the Abij-hah.

Eventually, eight finalists were sent to the raised platform in the center of the infield before Jeet signaled that there would be no more. The crowd gathered into the infield and closed in around the front of the platform to watch.

All the finalists wore their colors around their heads and low around their hips. There were no seventeen-year-olds, two sixteen-year-olds, three fifteen-year-olds, and one each of the other ages. Musicians came up onto the rear of the platform and most of the crowd gathered around the front to watch.

The finalists all had lithe bodies, and each had cunningly artful moves and stretches. The twelve-year-old was loose in the hips and his small butt dimpled easily. One of the sixteen-year-olds was particularly well endowed, which wasn’t always considered attractive by the Greeks, but was appreciated by Phrygians as a whole, and the boy moved in ways that dangled that endowment prominently. But it was a fifteen-year-old who arrested the attention of most.

He was slender but deceptively strong for his appearance, exhibiting that strength through several moves and poses that required a great deal of it. He was also, arguably, the most beautiful among them. He had pretty features, short, tightly-curled, straw-colored hair, and smooth, golden skin without blemish. He was easily the most flexible of the finalists. As they danced, he arched back until his hands, as well as his feet, were on the platform at the same time. Those in front got an offering of stretched thigh muscles and exposed genitals. Slowly, the boy raised one leg straight up, and then he pushed up into a handstand with his legs split forward and back. Next, he brought his legs up together.

There were several cheers, and then appreciative, ‘Ah’s as he folded at the waist and brought his legs down on either side while still supporting himself on his hands. A moment later, he stood on one foot while bringing his other leg up straight and slow to touch his shin to his nose. The crowd cheered, even as their eyes dropped to his genitals, draping loosely to one side.

The straw-haired boy’s lean muscles flexed tightly through the maneuvers, and his body grew hard in appearance. And yet, he was fifteen, and as he danced, many of his moves were youthful, or even charmingly boyish. In the end, it was he whom the King, the Oracle, and Jeet selected.

Climbing onto the platform, Jeet stepped over to him, took him by the hand, and led him to the front. “This is Plycon of Seleucia,” he announced to the crowd. Behind him, the other boys stepped down from the platform and Rem brought forward an olive wreath.

Jeet took the wreath with a smile for Rem. Then Rem left the platform, along with the musicians. Jeet held the wreath over Plycon’s head. “I crown you, most beautiful of form and movement of all the youth in Phrygia.” Jeet lowered the wreath, and the crowd cheered.

Several called out for him to kiss the boy. Plycon turned to face Jeet, expectantly; and with a smile, Jeet kissed him. In the audience, a man who liked to watch boys dance, looked at their two lithe bodies, and he called out, “Dance with him, Abij-hah!”

Others took up the cry as Jeet leaned back from the kiss and the straw-haired boy smiled. Jeet glanced out at the crowd of men and boys who were yelling, “Dance!”

Jeet glanced inquiringly at Plycon who grinned and nodded. So Jeet motioned for the musicians to return to the rear of the platform. The crowd cheered

“Naked, Abij-hah,” someone from the crowd called. “You have to take off your breechcloth.”

“Naked!” others called out. “It’s a gymnopaedia!” another yelled loudly, because gymnopaedia meant ‘naked dancing’.

With a shrug, Jeet unfastened his breechcloth and set it, along with his wreath of silver and gold, down at the side of the platform. Plycon set his olive wreath down beside them. Then they stepped to the center of the platform and Jeet matched Plycon’s pose.

The chief musician carried a staff with many cymbals on it with which he could beat a rhythm by striking the bottom of the staff on the ground. He began a rhythm now.

Plycon began his dance and Jeet tried to mimic him, and because Jeet was an athlete and a dancer, he did well. When Plycon bent over backward, putting his hands on the ground above his head, Jeet managed to do likewise. Standing at the front of the platform where they looked up between the legs of both arched-back boys, Bantu turned to Ptolemy with a broad grin. “We have to put that into our dances.”

Plycon raised one leg and pushed up into his splits-handstand. Jeet didn’t move as smoothly, but with a third try, managed to transition into the handstand, and the crowd cheered.

They continued through their moves. Jeet’s lack of balls only made his cock seem longer as it swung this way and that. The two boys finished, grinning, and bowed to each other. Someone called out, “Dance with him like you do at the shrine, Abij-hah. Dance together.” Others joined in the call.

Plycon took Jeet’s hand and leaned close to be heard over the crowd. The crowd saw, and quieted expectantly, as if to overhear. “Watching you dance at night with the others,” the boy said quietly, “I have wished I could dance with you, Abij-hah. In my heart, I am a dancer.”

Jeet smiled, then glanced at the King. Seleucus gave a quick nod, and Jeet in turn, nodded to the musicians. They started a more rapid beat, but Jeet signaled for them to slow, and then he took Plycon’s hand and faced him. For a moment, they simply looked at each other; Plycon waiting for Jeet’s lead, Jeet deciding how to begin.

Jeet started a barely detectable sway to the music, left, right. Plycon took Jeet’s other hand, and matched him in opposition. The crowd watched silently, as the two nude boys leaned right and then left in counter movements. They stepped, each to his right, then, each to his left; circling, circling back. They stepped through movements and counter movements; many from the eunuchs’ dances, and Plycon remembered the moves. They stepped behind each other, back to back, swaying widely, each to his right and then to his left, but from the waist so that their butts remained pressed back against each other.

They faced each other again, but this time, belly-to-belly. The sun was full on them, and they were sweating freely. Their skin was wet and their bellies slid on each other. They swayed side to side from the waist again, this time, each with an arm around the small of the other boy’s back. One of the pipers at the rear of the stage piped louder, a serpentine melody, up and down. The other pipers followed the sensuous notes. The harpists plucked their instruments in time to the beat of the small drums beside them.

A charge was building in the air as it always did when the eunuchs danced this way; both in the audience and on the platform. Partly because Plycon remembered the eunuchs’ dance moves, partly because both boys were dancers and athletes, and partly because of an instant synergy between their bodies, Jeet and Plycon moved as though they could read each other’s mind. They moved like the youths they were, with the grace of the young and the sexuality of adolescence. Their bodies warmed to each other; they moved, one body against the other. They moved as sudden lovers in a mating dance.

Plycon turned his back to Jeet, and with an arm around Plycon’s belly, Jeet pulled the other naked boy back to him. They swayed right and left from the hips. Jeet took Plycon by the sides of the waist and Plycon placed his hands on Jeet’s. Their knees bent and they circled hips together. Plycon kept his butt firmly in Jeet’s lap. They moved as the eunuchs moved in their dances at night, with a free and intended sexuality. Their cocks lengthened, and now as they moved, the straw-haired boy’s cock began to climb. Two thousand pairs of eyes noticed and watched with interest.

They reversed, Plycon in back, and Jeet felt the other boy’s erection against his butt. Through long experience with his brother eunuchs, Jeet knew how to control his sexual excitement in dance so that his cock only grew heavy, but never erect. However, Plycon was a beautiful youth; one Jeet had never been with. The feel of his sweaty body pressed to the back of Jeet’s own, and his thick erection against Jeet’s butt, stirred the young eunuch’s loins. The crowd saw Jeet’s cock begin its own rise. A few boys cheered, but most men and boys watched with rapt attention, and many cocks in the crowd began a sympathetic rise. “By the gods!” the King heard one man say, “what a cock that boy would have had if they hadn’t gelded him!”

The willowy bodies of the two fifteen-year-olds on the platform moved as one. Plycon wrapped his arms around Jeet’s belly from behind, holding Jeet’s butt back against his erection. Jeet laid his head back on Plycon’s shoulder and slid his hands down behind Plycon’s butt as they swayed and circled their hips. Plycon slid both hands down Jeet’s belly. He grabbed Jeet inside each thigh and pulled Jeet’s butt back hard into his lap. Their bodies writhed together.

Jeet’s cock rose to its full height, and the crowd grew even quieter. Plycon came around and they faced each other with upward pointing erections; Jeet’s a little longer, Plycon’s a little thicker. They stepped together, right legs between each other’s legs, and slipped an arm behind the small of each other’s back, other arm out. Their hips rocked forward and back together – one forward, the other back, then the other forward and the first back – pressing their erections up between them.

Some dance, in its highest form, can look like lovemaking. Some lovemaking, in its highest form, can look like dance.

They wrapped their free arms around the back of each other’s shoulders in a loose embrace. They twisted together, coiling this way and that, cheeks and bellies pressed together. Their heads pulled back and their mouths met in a kiss. They moved their hips once more, forward and back, then circling while they held the kiss. Their hands slid down their backs and grasped each other by the smooth mounds of their buttocks. Keeping their crotches together, they leaned back and swung this way and that. Their twin erections pointed up nakedly from between them.

Jeet was aware that over two thousand men and boys were watching. He knew that the King and the Oracle were watching as well. In one part of his mind, Jeet was performing for them. The fact that he was aroused before them, and that he was being sexual with another boy in front of them, strangely excited him. Another part of his mind, though, was occupied with Plycon, with his smooth, warm skin, damp with sweat; with his lean body and his pretty face, as soft-skinned as Jeet’s own. Jeet was aware of the feel of him and the feel of their cocks and bellies together.

For the men in the crowd, their clothing partially concealed their erections. But for all the naked boys, their various stages of excitement were obvious to those pressed around them. Many of the twelve and thirteen-year-olds had obvious erections. Men and older youths closed in around some of them, arms draping the boy’s backs as hands reached surreptitiously to fondle. Many of the older boys subtly reached for each other.

“Don’t move,” Jeet whispered to Plycon, and then as the other boy stood and held his position, Jeet danced against him the way the eunuchs sometimes did – only without erections – rising and falling on bending knees, rubbing his crotch, and erection, up and down the side of Plycon’s leg with the rising and falling notes of the piper. His palms roamed Plycon’s belly, back, and butt. His lips kissed Plycon’s shoulders. Jeet moved behind Plycon and rubbed his erection over Plycon’s firm bottom. He moved to the other side and rubbed on Plycon’s leg. He moved to the front and backed against Plycon’s crotch, rubbing his butt up and down against Plycon’s erection.

“Hold still,” Plycon whispered to Jeet, and then did to him what Jeet had just done, only faster because the piper’s notes rose and fell faster. He ended, rubbing his butt in Jeet’s crotch. It was a point at which the eunuchs often moved to the finish of their dance, stepping forward in a line with their thick, but limp cocks slapping side to side. But Jeet and Plycon had erections, and Jeet wondered how best to end the dance. Should they boldly wag their erections at the crowd of men and boys? Or should they simply walk away? It was hard to think with Plycon rubbing his butt against Jeet’s crotch.

“Fuck him,” one of the older youths called.

At fifteen, Plycon was still young enough that being fucked by another boy held no significance, good or bad. But to be fucked in front of so many men and boys?

“Make him fertile, Abij-hah,” another youth called.

“Fill him with your magic juice Abij-hah,” called a third. “He won the prize.”

The men were mostly silent, but many of the older youths called for Jeet to enter Plycon. And then Plycon himself looked back over his shoulder and said, “Yes, Abij-hah, do it.” He ground back with his butt as is to emphasize his invitation.

Despite the press of Plycon’s butt, his own arousal, and the sexually charged atmosphere, Jeet tried to think. In that age, public sex wasn’t at all uncommon, primarily at temples like the one to Cybele. And Jeet did sleep with boys at the shrine because they wanted to be fertile or good athletes. Did the crowd really think that if Jeet fucked Plycon, it would be a reward? Did they expect it? Did Plycon want it? But Jeet was the King’s eromenos, and in training to be a minister to the King. What he did mattered. Jeet glanced at Seleucus.

The King, watching the boys’ bodies move together to the music, was as aroused as the rest of the men, and in that moment, if he thought about the reaction of other men at all, it was only to be pleased that Jeet belonged to him. It occurred to him that if these men saw Jeet in sex, they’d be even more envious. Without pausing to consider, he gave Jeet a slight nod.

Anda had that slight frown she always wore when Jeet was about to have sex with some stranger at the shrine, and their eyes met only briefly.

Just then, someone in the audience tossed a neck vial of oil up at the platform. Plycon caught it without missing a beat of his hips. He uncapped it, and turned to Jeet, and the issue was decided. Plycon placed his right leg between Jeet’s and brought their crotches together. Their moving hips slowed and Plycon dripped oil onto Jeet’s cock, and spread it down over Jeet’s crown. Now the issue was decided, firmly. Jeet took the vial and spread oil over Plycon’s shaft, thinking clearly enough to determine that, if possible, he would let Plycon fuck him as well so that there would be less chance the boy would lose any honor before the others.

They capped the vial and tossed it to the side. Plycon turned his back to Jeet once more, and bent over; still moving to the music. They slowed almost to a stop as Jeet pushed his cock downward and inserted it between Plycon’s firm buttocks. He pressed and felt his crown slip past Plycon’s tight ring. He pulled the straw-haired boy back by the hips.

Plycon rose back upright, and they swayed together, again as one. The musicians piped sensuously and the drummers beat more loudly. Jeet and Plycon rotated slowly as they danced and Jeet’s hips moved in and out far enough for those crowded around the platform to see some of his shaft appear and reappear between their bodies. With each press forward, Jeet’s buttocks flexed and Plycon’s flattened. The muscles in their long legs and lean torsos worked. Even those men and boys in the audience who had crowded around to fondle younger boys, kept their eyes riveted to the platform.

Plycon was obviously an experienced lover and well in tune with not only his body, but Jeet’s, too. He rocked his butt back to meet Jeet’s thrusts and ground back when Jeet ground. Jeet wrapped his arms over Plycon’s shoulders and nuzzled behind his ear as they moved together. The responsiveness of Plycon’s body and the tightness of his opening worked quickly to bring Jeet to the edge of a climax.

“I’m getting read to come,” Jeet whispered, sliding his hands down Plycon’s sides to grab him by the hips. Plycon bent forward as Jeet’s hips pumped faster and the music became only a rapid-fire beating of drums. With Plycon bent over from his hips, the men and boys in front of the platform could easily see that the muscles in Jeet’s belly and chest had grown hard and tight beneath his sweaty skin. Those on the sides could see the long muscles in his legs, his mounded butt, and along his back, flexing with the pounding of his hips. And then, his hips stopped and he held Plycon’s butt tightly, his own butt flexing as he pumped out his issue to the staccato beat of the drums.

Plycon came back upright, and leaned back against Jeet, his hips moving slowly. Jeet reached in front, found Plycon’s erection and grasped it as Plycon turned over his shoulder to exchange a kiss. “You now,” Jeet whispered. “For your honor.”

Plycon pulled from him, and turning, pulled Jeet into an embrace and kiss, their upturned erections between their bellies once more. Jeet lifted a leg and wrapped it behind Plycon, over Plycon’s bottom. It opened him to Plycon, and Plycon accepted the invitation, bending at the knees. He angled up into Jeet and they embraced as he entered him.

Jeet heard murmurs from men below the front of the platform. They could see Plycon’s shaft and its entry.

The musicians slowed and the boys moved languidly. Plycon grabbed under Jeet’s thigh to help hold it up, and with the other hand, he caressed Jeet’s butt. They moved to the music, but Jeet was a trained lover, and part of his mind focused on Plycon. He wrapped his arms over the top of Plycon’s head and pressed the side of his face to the other boy’s so that his mouth was close to Plycon’s ear. He let him hear his breath because boys liked that, just as Jeet himself liked to hear the breathing of his lovers.

“Do you like this?” Jeet whispered as their hips rocked to meet each other.

“Oh, yes, Abij-hah,” Plycon whispered back.

“Can you come like this?”

“I think so.”

Jeet leaned his head back and smiled. “Hold my butt tightly,” Jeet whispered, and when Plycon did, Jeet leaned far back from their joining, swaying right and left as he did so – it was still a dance. He leaned back even farther, lifting his one foot from the ground, arching back from his joining with Plycon. Reaching over his head, Jeet planted his hands on the floor of the platform, arched to support some of his weight, and dangled his legs out on either side of Plycon’s hips.

Plycon supported Jeet’s bottom and held it firmly to his loins, with a hand under each muscular globe and his fingers in the crack between them. It surprised him how well Jeet’s buttocks fit in his palms. His eyes dropped to Jeet’s flat belly, naked of pubes, and over his slender torso, arched back. The muscles up the mid seam of Jeet’s stomach were tight, right up to the small, twin ridges of muscle that met at his sternum. Sunlight glistened on the wet skin that seemed so tight over Jeet’s stomach and chest. Jeet’s cock rolled thickly, straight up his belly The backward angle and weight of Jeet’s body pressed Jeet’s bottom hard into Plycon’s lap, forcing his cock deeply in and pushing his balls down. Plycon looked down at where Jeet’s bottom splayed so seamlessly against his own flattened pubis, and for a timeless moment of sunlit clarity and exquisite sensations, Plycon heard and saw nothing but himself and Jeet’s glistening body in their joining, as though the world filled with the wonder of it.

In the next instant, his orgasm hit like a kick to the balls, and all the drums and the pipers were a frenzy in his ears. He threw his head back, gasping, pulling Jeet onto him, and he pushed even deeper.

Those in front saw his legs bow and his long quadriceps ridge up. They saw his arms and chest muscles tighten. They saw him pull Jeet’s bottom hard onto his cock while, head back, he ground his hips up into him. And they saw Jeet lying out from their joined bodies, head upside down, arms above his head, eyes closed, as if in ecstasy himself.

“The ravishing of Ganymede,” one man murmured, and the others knew what he meant; as if the tableau of the two boys echoed the myth.

Plycon, who had looked simply slender when he climbed the platform, now looked to be all lean sinew and muscle. His head came flying forward over Jeet and he clutched Jeet’s butt tightly, suddenly pounding in between Jeet’s legs with his hips as fast as the staccato beat of the drums.

And then he froze… for a long moment, not even breathing.

Almost no one breathed.

Plycon relaxed, slightly, but visibly. He leaned forward, wrapping his arms under the small of Jeet’s back. He straightened his legs, lifting Jeet back upright. Jeet came up with him, closing his arms around Plycon’s shoulders, Jeet’s sleek, black hair falling down his back, almost to the back of his waist.

Jeet slid his legs down the outside of Plycon’s, and slowly, they straightened upright. Plycon’s cock slipped out, drooping under Jeet’s bottom.

It was over. The crowd was silent. Plycon and Jeet turned for the back of the platform, not looking at the crowd. Rem rushed forward to collect Jeet’s forgotten breechcloth and wreath.

The attention of the crowd turned inward. Several of the boys in the crowd, who had been stimulated by those around them, had already come, but others were still being fondled by men or other boys. Circles formed around them to watch.

Cyndur climbed up onto the platform, his own cock still semi-erect. “You have time to eat something before dark,” he announced. “And then the men are to go to the entrance of Ganymede and wait on the slope. Youths are to return to their pavilions to prepare for tonight’s Dance of the Kurbantes.”

A few in the crowd headed for the woods in pairs. Others simply dispersed as their arousal abated.

Jeet led Plycon by the hand toward the King and the Oracle. Boys and men close by paused to get a closer look.

Jeet bowed before Anda and the King. The King was flush. Anda was frowning. “I am sorry, Oracle,” Jeet said, holding Plycon’s hand behind the side of his hip. “The dance took on a life of its own.”

“Something did,” Seleucus said with a laugh, “but I’m not sure it was the dance.” He shook his head. “That is something I would like to see again.”

Jeet’s eyes were on the Oracle’s eyes, and he thought he saw sadness in them. He regretted the dance. “Anda,” he said, releasing Plycon’s hand. “Are you upset with me?”

The Oracle shook her head, stepping from the King’s side. She stopped beside Jeet, laying a hand on his bare chest. “Tomorrow,” she said, “we will be alone.” Her eyes dropped. “Finally alone,” she said, and then walked away in the direction of the King’s tent.

Jeet followed.

The others watched them. Then the King turned to the dancing boy. “Plycon,” the King said, and the youth turned to face him. “Tonight,” the King said, “you must eat at my table.”

Inside the King’s tent, Jeet dropped to his knees in front of the Oracle.

“Don’t,” she said. “Not now.” She pulled him to his feet, and wrapping her arms around his chest, she laid her head on his shoulder. How could she tell him that it wasn’t just that he had sex with someone else; it was that she had? “Just hold me. Pretend that we are alone.” She lifted her head and smiled thinly. “Tomorrow, we will be. The King is going to let us stay here alone for a few days.”

Jeet shook his head slightly. “Anda, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that things got carried away in the dance.”

She covered his mouth with her fingers and shushed him softly. She laid her head back onto his shoulder with her forehead behind his ear. “I love you so much,” she whispered. “You know that I love you, right?”

“Of course I do,” he whispered. “What happened out there didn’t mean anything, Anda.”

“Shssh,” she whispered again.

Jeet stroked her back. Anda was so easily jealous. Was she jealous again? He didn’t know what to do. Instead, he hugged her, and rocked her gently. “Anda,” he whispered. “I love you. You know that, right?”

She nodded her head on his shoulder.

He squeezed her hard. “With all my heart, Anda. Forever.”

She hugged him back.

Jeet rubbed his cheek against her forehead. “Tell me what the King said about letting us be alone together.”

A few minutes later, Seleucus came into the tent and stood for a moment, hands on his hips, looking at Jeet and the Oracle, still embraced. He shook his head, coming to close his arms around their slim bodies. “It may not have been wise for me to let you fuck that boy, Jeet.” He kissed Anda on her head. “Please forgive me, Oracle.” He hugged them. “The things that come upon us because of who we are, sometimes work hardships between us. I am sorry. I will be wiser in the future.”

“So will I,” Jeet echoed.

So will I, thought the Oracle.

+ + + + +

Demos pulled Lycos closer to his side. They had been confronted by two sixteen-year-olds on their way back to Aruli’s pavilion.

“Uh-uh,” Demos told them again. “We don’t want to be raided tonight.”

The cocks of all four boys were still heavy from Jeet and Plycon’s performance. Those of the sixteen-year-olds were growing stiff again. They stepped closer. “Come on,” the shorter of the two said as he reached for Demos and stroked the younger boy’s shoulder. “It’ll be fun. I’ll carry you off into the woods and we’ll ravish each other.”

The older boy had high cheek bones, dark eyes and white teeth. He was pleasantly muscled with smooth limbs, and a very thick cock. The nearness of the older boy, and that thick cock sparked a return heaviness in Demos’ member, against Demos’ will. “We sleep with shrine eunuchs,” Demos said. “It’s our last night with them.”

“You can return to them when we’re done,” the older boy coaxed, while the second boy similarly moved close to Lycos and rubbed his shoulder. The shorter boy stepped even closer to Demos, resting his hand on Demos’ hip. He brushed his lifting cock against Demos’. He leaned close to the younger boy’s ear. “I’ll carry you into the woods, and we’ll fuck each other. I’ll even let you fuck me first if you want.”

Demos cock responded and started to lift under the older boy’s balls. Demos glanced at Lycos. The sixteen-year-old pressing him was a handsome, quieter-looking boy, with not such a thick cock… though it was hard to tell because most of it was between Lycos’ legs. Lycos glanced back at Demos. “Maybe,” Demos said in a breathy voice. “For a little while in the woods.”

The shorter of the older boys grinned and ground forward with his pelvis against Demos’. “Show us where your pallets are,” he said.

Demos shook his head. “We sleep with Aruli and Rem,” he said. He chewed his lip a moment and the older boy ground again. Demos’ eyes popped up to the sixteen-year-old’s. “We’ll wait at the back of the pavilion,” Demos said. “We’ll be standing outside the pavilion in the back.”

+ + + + +

There were things that Heliodorus thought it wise to have others say for him, like now. He stood in a group of men eating near one of the cooking fires and nodded to one of his friends.

The friend saw, and swallowed the morsel he was chewing. “That rather common sex scene this afternoon,” he said. “That’s what happens when you let a temple prostitute run things. Jeet has turned a gymnopaedia into a sex dance like they do for the goddess.”

“Come now, Oradomis,” another man replied. “The boy is hardly a temple prostitute.”

“Shit,” another man spoke up. “Every man out there wished he could be up there with those two. Don’t tell us you didn’t.”

Heliodorus frowned. The disadvantage to having a friend speak for you was that others might disagree with the friend more easily than they would with the King’s minister.

“The boy is extraordinary,” another man said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this afternoon didn’t raise Jeet in the esteem of these boys.” He gestured at boys streaming past. “I remember how randy I was at their age.”

“But these are athletic games,” the first man protested. “The Abij-hah has no understanding of these things. He’s a shrine slave and a eunuch. How could he?”

An older man spoke up. “Don’t underestimate the boy,” he cautioned Oradomis. “I’ve watched him.” He glanced pointedly at Heliodorus. “Jeet is no ordinary boy.”

+ + + + +

“Abij-hah,” one of the King’s guards said, bowing as he entered the King’s tent. “There’s been a fight. I have the two outside.”

Jeet followed the guard out. The King and the Oracle came out after him. Three guards stood between two boys, one seventeen and one sixteen. The seventeen-year-old had abrasions over his face and an eye that was turning dark. The younger boy had crimson marks on his neck. Neither was particularly handsome, but both were well-built.

“They were fighting over a thirteen-year-old,” a guard said. “If it had been a simple scrap, we would have let them go at it, but that one,” he said, pointing to the seventeen-year-old, “was trying to strangle this one,” he said, pointing to the younger boy. “This one had tried to beat him off, but by the time we got to him, he was going limp.”

Jeet glanced at the King. Seleucus raised an eyebrow, crossed his arms, and leaned back in a manner that indicated he would watch to see how Jeet decided.

Jeet turned back to the guard. “Hold the older one. Bring him tonight to the dance of the Kurbantes.”

“Why?” the older boy demanded as the guards led him away. “What are you going to do?”

Jeet ignored him, turning back to the King and to Anda.

“What are you going to do with him?” Seleucus asked.

“Banish him from the games,” Jeet said simply. “Him and his mentor.”

Seleucus frowned. “Why not banish him now? Do you plan to humiliate him?”

Jeet shook his head. “I plan to make a point with him, Great One.”

“Be careful not to make an enemy of him, Jeet. There will always be those who oppose you, but the most bitter will be those you’ve humiliated.”

Jeet nodded, thoughtfully. “You are wise. But he was going to do murder, and that must be dealt with.”

Seleucus grinned and clapped a hand on Jeet’s bare shoulder. “You are wise, also, my young eromenos.”

+ + + + +

The raised platform at the base of the entrance to Ganymede had been removed, and in its place were two large drums. Across the back of the open space, and down both sides, all the way to the entry slope, whole pine trees had been stripped and stacked lengthwise in twos and threes with pitch applied to their lengths.

Toward dark, the King arrived with the Oracle and they took their seats at the base of the slope. Men higher up the slope could see down the peninsula to where boys in their herds, stood in rows in front of their pavilions. In the twilight and the light of torches, they could see that the boys wore crested helmets and carried shields and swords.

The drums began a slow cadence. Rams’ horns sounded from the base of the slope and were answered from horns at the platform at the center of the racing oval, and then from horns at the far end of the peninsula. The boys in their companies, filed toward the slope and the open area at its base.

They came beating their swords against their shields in a rapid, synchronized cadence, many beats between each tolling of the drums. They came in ordered rows, filing from the pavilions on the right and on the left. They carried torches, and in their light, the boys’ bodies glistened; they had been oiled. Advancing from the center, from the racing oval itself, came the Abij-hah, the Oracle, and her eunuchs, all naked and in armor.

From the right – the younger pavilions – the twelve, thirteen, and fourteen-year-olds marched up to the base of the slope and then across, forming three blocks in their herds between the bottom of the slope and the drums in the middle of the open area. Most wore boots. All wore their colors at their waists or low on their hips, and all wore red-crested helmets.

From the left, the fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen-year-olds marched across the open space behind the drums and formed their three companies. Again, most wore boots, and all wore their colors. These older ones, however, had black-crested helmets.

Every boy on the field was naked except for his helmet, shield, boots, and colors. That was true of the Oracle and her eunuchs as well, all of whom stood in front of the entire assembly in white-crested helmets. Those among the younger boys who carried torches, ran with them up the sides of the slope and across the back, lighting the torches that ringed it.

Those among the older boys who carried torches, ran along the pine logs, lighting the pitch. They tossed their torches onto the logs when they were finished and then returned to their ranks.

As the logs ignited, the King rose and walked up to Jeet and the Oracle. He took Anda-Alexander’s hand and glanced up and down her body, shaking his head slowly. “Something about a girl in armor,” he murmured quietly, squeezing her hand. “You look as magnificent as Artemis herself.”

Anda-Alexander smiled.

The King stepped behind them. Laying his right hand on Jeet’s shoulder and his left on Anda-Alexander’s, he turned to face the men on the slope. “As you all know,” he called out loudly, “the Abij-hah of Kaleh is my own eromenos.” He patted Jeet’s shoulder. Then he patted Anda-Alexander’s. “Today, I declare to you that the Warrior-Oracle of Kaleh is beloved by me as well. They will be my right and my left hands. I am proud of them. They are dear to me. We shall see greatness together. All of us,” he said, gesturing around him, “all of us shall see greatness together.”

A cheer came down to them from the men on the slopes. The King turned to face the boys behind him, looking left to right. Then he cried aloud a second time, “We shall all see greatness together!”

The boys cheered even more loudly than the men, and it echoed off the slope behind Seleucus. Many pounded their shields with their swords or swung their swords over their heads.

The King waited for them to quiet, then he turned again to face the entry slope. “This week,” he continued, “we have planted seeds of greatness. Youth gathered here from across the north of the empire. We tested them and have seen their strength and quality. They have formed friendships… friendships that will last into the days of their manhood.” He began turning, to speak to the boys. “Some day, you will tell your children’s children that you stood with the King on the plains of Ganymede on the day when our empire was reborn… reborn for a new generation. You will tell them that you stood with the King on the day that our empire took its first steps back to greatness.”

The boys cheered, raising their swords, thrusting them up to the sky. Flames on the logs began to climb, glinting on the swords and silhouetting the boys far in the back while lighting those to the sides. The cheering continued as the King returned to take his seat at the base of the slope.

Jeet signaled to the guards at one side, and the boy who earlier tried to strangle the sixteen-year-old was brought forward. His father, who had brought him to the games, walked beside him. The crowd quieted as they came before the Abij-hah.

Jeet lifted his voice. “You have lifted your hand against the King’s peace. Against the peace of this place, and the brotherhood we have formed here. Your heart was to take the life of your Phrygian brother; a brother who, like every youth here, is a son to the King.” He paused a moment, and the youth raised his eyes to Jeet’s. “You are banished from these games,” Jeet announced to him, and to all.

The guards took the youth by the arms, but the youth pulled from them, coming closer to the Abij-hah and bowing deeply. “Please, Beloved One, forgive me. I acted in anger, when my blood was high. Let me stay this last night with my friends. Let me dance the Dance of the Kurbantes with them and with the rest of you. I have worked hard all week. I am loyal to the King. I will do anything you require of me. Please.”

He had spoken directly to Jeet, but Jeet answered with his voice raised for all to hear. “You cannot serve the King, and be ruled by your anger,” he said simply. “If you wish to stay, you may serve only the King.”

The seventeen-year-old nodded vigorously. Jeet signaled in the direction of the sixteen-year-olds, and Tazaar brought over the sixteen-year-old with whom the older boy had been fighting.

“Here is the youth whom you tried to kill,” Jeet said. “Shall I let him decide whether you stay or go?”

The older boy looked at the younger, who glared back at him, and the older boy hung his head, shaking it. “If I were him, I would not forgive me.”

“But you are not him,” Jeet said, quietly. He turned to the younger boy and raised his voice. “Will you forgive?”

The boy shook his head. “No.”

Jeet studied him a moment, and then turned to the older boy. “Will you pledge your life for Phrygia and the King?” he demanded in a loud voice.

The boy swallowed hard, and then nodded.

Jeet turned to the younger boy. “You, who will not forgive,” he said loudly. “Will you pledge your life for Phrygia and the King?”

The boy’s eyes went wide in surprise at being challenged, but then he nodded.

“You have both pledged your lives to the same service,” Jeet pronounced loudly. “You are brothers.” He turned to the older boy. “You say you are loyal to the King. In the name of the King, I say to you, put away your anger. Swear to never again lift your hand against another servant of the King. Do you swear it?” Jeet demanded in a loud voice.

The older boy glanced at the younger, and then down. He nodded.

Jeet turned to the younger boy. “You have pledged to serve the King. I say to you, in the name of the King, forgive your brother who offended you. He also serves the King. Forgive your brother and swear to it. Do you swear?” Jeet demanded loudly

The boy frowned, glancing around. Everyone was watching him. He started to say something, but then dropped his head and nodded.

“Look at me, both of you,” Jeet demanded. They looked at him. “You are brothers,” he called out. “Swear to each other. Swear you are brothers.”

The boys looked at each other. The seventeen-year-old said it first. “We are brothers.” The sixteen-year-old repeated it. “We are brothers.”

“Swear to each other,” Jeet said. “Swear to defend your brother.”

The two boys glanced at each other, and then looked down. “I swear to defend you,” the seventeen-year-old said, going first a second time. The sixteen-year-old replied, “I swear to defend you.”

Jeet lowered his voice for just the two boys to hear. “Look each other in the eye and swear it,” he said.

The two boys glanced at him, and then at each other. “I swear to defend you,” they said, looking each other in the eye.

Jeet turned to the older boy’s father, and lifted his voice once again. “This is your son. You mentor him. Will you support him in these pledges?”

The man, startled to be addressed, nodded quickly.

Jeet turned to the men on the slope and put his hand on the back of the younger boy. “Who mentors this youth? Stand,” he called out. In the crowd, a man stood. “Will you support him in these pledges?” Jeet called out to the man.

“Yes,” the man called back.

Jeet stepped out from the boys. Turning, he looked back over all the boys. Jeet lifted his sword. “Youth of Phrygia,” he called out to the assembled boys. “Will you pledge your lives to Phrygia and to the King?”

There was a swell of ‘Yes’s. Jeet called out louder, turning left and right. “Youth of Phrygia, will you pledge your lives to Phrygia and the King?”

“Yes,” they answered as one.

Jeet looked them over slowly, sword raised. “You are brothers!” He called out loudly. “Look left and look right. You are brothers. Will you pledge your lives for each other?”

“Yes,” the boys cried out as one.

Jeet turned and faced the men on the slope, leveling his sword at them. “Mentors, fathers, will you support your sons in their pledges?”

“Yes,” the men called out, several getting to their feet, and then all of them got to their feet.

In that moment, in the light of torches and blazing pine logs, a memory came to Jeet of something very similar on a sunny day; a memory of his father in front of many men, sword raised. Jeet couldn’t remember the words, only the shouts and echoes of exhortation. Jeet held his sword high once more. “Great is Phrygia!”

“Great is Phrygia!” men and boys answered.

“Great is the King!” Jeet called out.

“Great is the King!” they thundered.

“Great is the King!” Jeet repeated.

“Great is the King!” they thundered back.

Jeet lowered his sword and turned to the seventeen-year-old. “Go get your armor,” he said. “Your brothers will wait for you.”

The boy hesitated.

“Go!” Jeet urged, and the boy took off running.

The boy’s father bowed, clasping his fist to his chest in a salute to Jeet, before turning back for the stands.

They waited, men and boys, while the older youth ran the length of the peninsula to his pavilion and back. They waited for him, eyes on Jeet.

Seleucus rose from his seat, and came to Jeet. His eyes were bright. He embraced the boy, squeezing him tightly. He pulled Anda into the hug and squeezed her, too. “We will be great together,” he murmured. “By the gods! We will be great together!”

The King patted their backs, and then he stood beside Jeet, taking Jeet’s wrist which held the sword, and he lifted it high with his own hand. The crowd of men and boys cheered. Seleucus held it high, smiling, and then he lowered it, and returned to his seat while the cheering continued. Anda stepped beside Jeet and quietly took his hand.

The crowd quieted as the seventeen-year-old returned and took his place in the ranks of his herd. The pine logs were blazing loudly. Torches fluttered. Jeet signaled the drummers, and the slow cadence of the large drums began again. Jeet lifted his shield and sword high above his head, waited a beat, and then struck his shield with the sword on the next. With him, almost fourteen hundred boys struck their shields with a resounding crash that volleyed off the slope full of men. The dance of the Kurbantes began.

They moved in ranks, in pairs, in lines. The week of practice was not enough for perfection, but it was enough to ensure that every crash and stomp was loud and resounding. The nude, boy warriors stomped, turned, crashed, stomped, turned, crash. “Ha!” they yelled on each crash with close to fourteen hundred voices, high and low.

Their unified stomps were a heavy thud before the strident crash of hundreds of shields and the simultaneous yell of hundreds of boys’ voices. Their pace built slowly. Anda-Alexander and Jeet danced with each other and the eunuchs, slamming shields, banging swords on shields. Boys yelled out the Phrygian war cry, while others continued the beat of “Ha!”

The oiled bodies of those close beside the fire and the torches, glistened in gold. Those farther back, the older boys, made hundreds of naked silhouettes against the blazing background of fire.

The drummer pounded harder. Rams’ horns sounded from around the group. The men, still standing, began to cheer, and then cheered louder until the clash and ‘Ha!’ from the boys voices formed a strong pulse in the louder din. Quicker and quicker until Jeet raised his sword, and the boys stopped with a final, crashing “Ha!” The approving roar of the men washed down the slope and over them.

Still holding his sword high, Jeet turned to the men, and they grew quiet, though the pulses of most beat hard as though they, too, had been dancing the dance. “Great is Phrygia!” Jeet called out.

“Great is Phrygia,” they cried as one.

“Great is the King!” Jeet cried.

“Great is the King!” they echoed.

Again and again he called out and the men and boys answered. And then Jeet waited, sword high… one moment… two. “These games are ended,” he called out. “May the good god who protects me, protect you all. May your journey home be safe. May your future be prosperous.” He stretched his sword higher. “May our King live forever!”

The men roared once again. And then, after a final moment, Jeet lowered his sword.

The eunuchs gathered around him, patting his back. Rem came forward, grinning widely and threw his arms around Jeet’s neck. “Remember,” he asked over the noise, “when you didn’t even know how to bless a little boy?”

In the stands an older man smiled at Heliodorus with a twinkle in his eye. “I would be very careful not to underestimate this one, Heliodorus,” he said. “If I were you, I’d make friends with him.”

+ + + + +

No one was even close to sleeping in the fifteen-year-olds’ pavilion. Several boys had gathered around Plycon, wanting to hear again what it was like to have sex with the Abij-hah. Most were waiting impatiently for the raid. Only two or three couples appeared to be having sex.

“What about you two?” a boy asked Philip and Jentes in the dark. “Are you going to raid one of the younger pavilions?”

The two were sitting, Philip leaning sideways against Jentes. “We’re staying here,” Philip said.

“You ought to go,” the other boy said. “There are many pretty thirteen-year-olds. I already know which one I’m going for, and he said he’d wait for me. You guys can always go over and get one or two and then come back here together.”

Philip shrugged. He felt Jentes’ hand slide across his belly. “We could do it,” Jentes suggested. “When everybody runs over there, we could just go with them and see if there’s one we’d like to fuck with.”

Philip turned to him. Jentes was grinning. Jentes leaned closer to Philip’s ear and slipped his hand into Philip’s lap. “You like sucking cocks. Have you ever sucked a twelve-year-old’s?”

Philip shook his head, then smiled. “There are a couple of twelve-year-olds that I’ve seen my brother with… ”

“The sixteen-year-olds are going!” a boy called from the other side of the pavilion.

Instantly, almost every fifteen-year-old was on his feet and heading out from under the pavilion. Philip and Jentes sprang to their feet, following.

A full moon had risen over the hill and there were lit torches around the peninsula. Philip could see boys streaming from all three of the older boys’ pavilions, out across the racing oval, up and over the tiered steps, and heading for the pavilions of the younger boys. Jentes grabbed his hand and they headed for the twelve-year-olds’ pavilion. Many of the boys running with them were running with erections. Philip’s own cock was growing rapidly hard and it began wagging uncomfortably.

The front of the pavilion was already jammed with older boys rushing in. “Come on,” Jentes urged, dragging Philip by the hand. They raced around the side. “We’ll come in from the back,” Jentes urged.

In back, there were boys, too; some of them, twelve year olds. And suddenly, Philip and Jentes were face to face with Demos and Lycos. All four boys were hard. Philip’s eyes met his brother’s, dropped to Demos’ thick erection, and back up to his eyes. With a sudden, wild urge, Philip charged forward. He lifted Demos onto his shoulder, and ran off into the woods.

Jentes reaction was instantaneous; he buried his shoulder into Lycos’ gut, lifted him, and ran off into the woods in the general direction Philip had disappeared.

Boys were everywhere; running, embracing, falling down together, sitting down into laps. Philip ran farther, thinking how crazy it was that he picked up Demos, and yet, he could feel Demos’ erection against his shoulder and his own cock was absolutely rigid as he ran. His hand was on Demos’ butt to steady him. Demos’ butt felt fleshy and the twelve-year-old’s skin there was surprisingly soft. There were fewer boys now, and farther apart. Philip finally set Demos down at the edge of a small, moonlit clearing.

They faced each other. Philip’s chest was heaving from the run. Their eyes met, and for a moment, in the moonlight, Philip felt desire for Demos, simply as desire for another boy, another pretty boy. And in the next instant, that desire, like a key, opened Philip’s heart to the affection he felt for his younger brother. In that same moment, in Demos’ eyes, Philip saw things he understood at a gut level… admiration, need for Philip’s approval, perhaps even the need to be held by his older brother, and, yes… desire.

Philip’s mind was a jumble. He acted on an impulse. He dropped to his knees in front of Demos and took his younger brother’s twelve-year-old erection into his mouth. He skinned it back, he swirled the crown, he sucked, he bobbed several times, and Demos’ legs sagged and almost buckled. Demos grabbed Philip’s hair.

Philip’s nostrils filled with Demos’ scent; a tangy cross between that of a boy and that of a youth. He lifted Demos’ balls in his fingers, intimately, and was pleased with their weight. He bobbed his head three times more. But then Philip stood, and the brothers’ cocks pointed up between their bellies. Phillip looked Demos in the eye. “I like to do that, Demos,” he said. “What I just did. I like to do that, and when we get home, I can’t do that with any of the servants.”

Demos eyes searched his brother’s, and then the younger boy lunged forward, throwing his arms around Philip’s neck. They embraced, pressing their erections between their bodies, the side of Demos’ face pressed hard against the side of Philip’s. Philip slid his hands to Demos’ bottom and was surprised again by the softness of Demos’ skin. Demos’ little bottom was fleshy. Philip kneaded it.

Demos pulled his head back from beside Philip’s, and their faces, their mouths, were close in the moonlight. They kissed and opened their mouths to each other. Demos ran his fingers into his brother’s hair. They kissed hard. Philip grabbed Demos’ bottom and lifted him up off the ground.

The younger boy wrapped his legs around his brother’s hips, and Philip dropped to his knees, then laid both of them down. Several boys ran past, laughing. Another pair stopped in the clearing and wrestled to the ground, laughing. The two brothers barely noticed them.

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