Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.
Chapter 34 – Theia
To my king and patient mentor, Seleucus, greetings from Jeet, who loves you. I write to tell you of the success our Aruli had in finding his family. He and Jin convinced Aruli’s parents and brothers to move their household to Kaleh. We found good land for them along the river between Kaleh and Ganymede. This spring, we will provide them with seed and with instructions as to which crops we will purchase from them for the shrine and temple. Though his family wanted Aruli’s youngest brother – who is called Sytaya – to help with the construction of their new dwelling place, we have decided that Sytaya will stay this winter at the shrine with us. Aruli wants to spend time with him and look after him, and we would like him to get lessons in writing and numbers. However, the boy is pretty like Aruli and it has created some problems in that the Oracle’s younger serving girl, Maracee, likes him. But Maracee is Rem’s lover. And to complicate things even more, Aruli’s younger brother seems to be smitten with Rem; the way one young boy loves another. Bantu has suggested we lock the three of them in a room together for a few nights and let them work things out. The only problem with that is that Maracee is coming into childbearing age…
To the Great Oracle of Kaleh, her Abij-hah, and all her beloved eunuchs [at this point in the letter, a line was drawn up from the text to the words, “eunuchs endowed by the gods” followed by “Letradoisan wrote that”], greetings from your friends and servants, Obenedes and my brother, Letradoisan. We miss you all, and we miss the peace of the shrine and of Ganymede. We miss the pleasures we shared. I have had many dreams at night of Aruli and Jin, and I long for the time we will be together again. [In the margin was written, “I, Letradoisan, dream about all of you. But especially Jeet and Rem.”] But I must tell you, Antioch is an exciting place to be right now. The city prepares for the arrival of Perseus of Macedon who is taking the King’s daughter as bride. Preparations are also being made for your arrival next fall. They are laying the foundations for a great Musaeum and Library for you. People say that the empire is about to rise to its greatest glory. But a few are not happy with the King. Antiochus is out of favor with Seleucus and he has been banished from Antioch for the winter. And Antiochus has powerful friends, including our uncle, who serves the King as minister. Antiochus has not even tried to contact us, but my father considers that a good thing. He is pleased that we are intimate friends with you. He is anxious to meet you when you come. All of the city is for that matter. And they have heard about Ganymede. Every boy at our gymnasium is planning to join the games when you hold them here…
To my king and beloved father, Seleucus, greetings from Jeet, who loves you. It has only been two months since you left to return to Antioch, but it seems much longer. I miss you. I miss being with you. I miss the strong peace of your presence. I miss your instruction and direction. And I miss the comfort of your bed. You have chided me more than once for saying that I miss our lovemaking. You said I have so many lovers that I couldn’t possibly miss you, and yet I do honestly miss you, Seleucus. Anda and I both do. You know of my love for the Oracle and Rem, but I miss your strong arms and the feel of your masculine body. When we are together, there are times when you sleep that I run my fingers over the outlines of the muscles in your legs and your chest. You have the body of Zeus, and it is beautiful to me. You have the endowment of a god as well – that is why I call you Great One – I am smiling as I write this…
To my king and honored erastes, Seleucus, greetings from Jeet, who loves you. When we returned from Ganymede and told Old Judah of your plan for a great library and musaeum in Antioch, and that it would be overseen by the Oracle, he grew very excited, and since then, has given much thought to your ideas. At his urging, we have held three symposia at the shrine, mainly for youths and their erastoi. He wants us to become orators and learned men. Yesterday, two erastoi approached the Oracle and offered to pay the costs to have their eromenoi sit in the classes your tutors provide for the Oracle and us. Now Judah is excited about establishing two academies. One would be held in the winters when we are in Antioch, beginning next year when we arrive there. The other would be here in Kaleh, when we are here in the summers. Most of the boys who would attend are not needed for summer farm work because of the wealth of their families, though many would have to leave for harvest time…
To my king and patient friend, Seleucus, greetings from Jeet, who loves you. Two physicians from Parthia and three from the Sungan Empire have come as a group to winter with us. Along with the physicians you have sent from Antioch and a few from our own region, we now have an academy for healing arts. Old Judah says he has never heard of such a thing and that, at this moment, more medical knowledge is represented in Kaleh than anywhere else in the world. The physicians are teaching each other, each from his own knowledge and experience. Anda and the other eunuchs and I sit in on their discussions as often as we can, and we have watched them when they treat our sick children. Please don’t be angry with me, O King, but I do still spend time with the children. We all do. Ono says that visits from us are like medicine to the little ones and their families. And we are learning many good and important things…
To my king and longed for lover, Seleucus, greetings from Jeet, who loves you. Do you remember the boy who won the gymnopaedia at Ganymede? He is called Plycon. Certainly you will remember my dance with him afterward – I am smiling as I think your cock might remember. He has come to stay at the shrine for a month. He is the first athlete to come specifically for dance, and he desires that we teach him our various dances as well as gymnastic dance. We have promised to teach him the dances we learned from the Sunga prince as well…
To my king, my father in spirt, my lover, Seleucus, greetings from Jeet, who loves you and misses you more and more, daily. The sculptors and craftsmen you sent work very quickly. It is a mild winter so far, even though it is already two weeks after the solstice. Workers have been able to set the seven foundation blocks for your design. All of Kaleh was greatly excited when they saw those foundation blocks. As you instructed, they have been set in a broad arch out in front of the shrine. Now people can envision the seven large statues that will sit upon them. The first statue will be the Oracle’s and then they will do mine. The chief sculptor wanted to put a child at the feet of my statue because of something that happened down on the river once, and because I bless children. Many parents offered to pay money to have their child be the one with the statue. But since Rem will not have a statue of his own, I asked that your artisans put Rem with me in my statue. The lead sculptor showed us an idea, with Rem, short like a young boy, behind me, arms around my waist like I’m protecting him. I am sure you will like it. We all do. Oh, and there is good, white marble in the hills not far from here. It is across the river, and there is concern over bringing stones across that would be as big as what the chief sculptor wants for the statues – he says he wants them to be twice life size. Bantu has asked that they be three times life size in certain places. I am smiling as I write this…
To my king, my wise Seleucus, greetings from Jeet, who loves you. A new supplicant came to the Oracle last week. He came disguised as a Scythian, but the Oracle had a dream and we know from it that he is a Roman. He gave the Oracle a talent of gold that he might learn about his future, but he did not ask about his people. The Oracle told him, from the dream, that he would become a great general. The dream was not clear, O King, but from it, the Oracle is greatly troubled for us.
To my king and strong example, Seleucus, greetings from Jeet, who loves you. There are now so many activities and people at the shrine and in the city of Kaleh that the demands on the Oracle and me make it difficult to keep up with our regimens of dance, workouts, and swims. But I know you want us to stay lean and strong, so we stay faithful to them. And since I know that you want us to be fit in all respects, we make sure to get in all our workouts – all our workouts – I am smiling as I write this, because I know you want us keep up our sexual vigor. There are times, however, O King, when we are very tired…
To my king and most precious lover, Seleucus, greetings from Jeet, who loves you. There have been many children to bless this spring, Great One. I am embarrassed to say that more than one has been named Jeet. But I am glad to say that every one of my eunuch brothers has also had at least one child named after him. The first time I dragged Aruli from the shrine to meet a baby named after him, he wept, and then made me bless the child twice, because he thought the first blessing wasn’t good enough for a boy name Aruli. It looks to be a good spring, O King. We have already had good rains. And yet, my heart is troubled. Perhaps it is only because it will be so many months before we see you again. But do remember the Oracle’s warning to you, Great One. Be vigilant…
Seleucus, King, to Jeet, whom I love without measure. Before this spring has ended, I will be in Kaleh. Perseus of Macedon has agreed to meet us there before we escort him down to Antioch for his wedding to my daughter. I wish Perseus to come before the Oracle so she can advise me for good or evil concerning him. I will bring Laodike, my daughter, and I wish for you and the Oracle to bless both my daughter and her husband do be. It would be good for my daughter to sleep in the shrine, for fertility. Perseus should do so as well. But neither is to sleep with you, Jeet. We know that it is enough for them to sleep in the shrine. Sleeping with you is reserved to me, and I believe Jeet-hah, that I will spend all of my first three days there, locked away with you and the Oracle. I miss you more than you can imagine…
+ + + + +
Jeet moaned in his sleep. Spooned behind him, Anda squeezed his chest and rubbed her palm over its smoothness, helping him wake. His breathing became shallow.
“Same dream?” Anda asked.
Jeet nodded. “The darkness over Antioch,” he murmured, “gathering like evil.” Jeet closed his own hand around the back of the hand Anda had on his chest. He clutched it to him. “If I could, I would talk Seleucus into moving his capitol here, to Kaleh.”
The Oracle said nothing, but kissed the back of Jeet’s neck.
“We need to move to Antioch as soon as possible, Anda. He needs us to protect him.”
“And who will protect us?” Anda asked quietly. “Will your dreams always warn us of danger? Do you even know from where the danger is to come?”
“No,” Jeet said. “The dream was like before. I only saw darkness.”
+ + + + +
“Let them stay here,” the governor told the King on the afternoon of Seleucus’ arrival in Kaleh. The two were on a balcony overlooking one of the interior courtyards of the citadel. Below them, the King’s two young daughters, along with their four serving girls, were sitting with the governor’s wife and daughter-in-law. They were all admiring the governor’s youngest son and his twin grandsons. The toddlers were nine months old and the three were crawling between the girls.
“Your daughters are about Weela’s age,” the governor pointed out. “They seem to like her. You know they would be welcome here.”
The King shook his head. “Hector, look at your son and grandsons, conceived when Jeet was under your roof. Remember as well that I have a newborn son, conceived right after I returned to Antioch from being with Jeet. And remember how many children have been born after one or both of their parents slept at the shrine.” He glanced at the governor and smiled. “I want Laodike to sleep at the shrine before her marriage. I want her to bear many children. Someday, then, it will be my grandsons who sit on the throne of Macedonia.”
Hector nodded, thoughtfully, and looked down upon his own wife and the girls. “But do you want Theia to sleep there as well?” he asked, referring to the younger of the King’s two daughters.
Seleucus shrugged. “Theia will be of an age to marry soon enough.” He frowned, “I would never marry her to a foreign prince. I’m keeping Theia close.” He leaned nearer to the governor. “She is a treasure, Hector. She’s got my intelligence and her mother’s beauty.” He laughed out loud. “Bless the gods it wasn’t the other way around.” He smiled down benevolently at his younger daughter, who at that moment was lifting one of the babies into her lap. “I’ll marry Theia to some worthy young man in Antioch and keep her close.” His jaw set. “I want Jeet to bless both my daughters. Jeet and the Oracle. I want them to do so at the shrine, where I know the blessings of the gods dwell.”
+ + + + +
Theia wasn’t like her older, half-sister, Laodike. Laodike decided that she didn’t like the Oracle and the Abij-hah long before she met them. Laodike resented them because they were a source of embarrassment for her mother, the Queen. That embarrassment was only compounded when Seleucus ordered his wife to stay in Antioch to care for his infant son while he brought his two daughters to Kaleh. He said it was so Laodike and Perseus could be blessed at the shrine, but everyone knew he wanted to see the boy, Jeet.
Theia’s mother was not the queen. She had been handmaiden to the queen before she departed this world while attempting to deliver a son to Seleucus. That had been when Theia was only two years old. Since that time, Theia enjoyed her father’s favor, which the Queen and Laodike offset by treating her as a servant. Because of her birth, that was more truly her status. But Theia had a naturally bright spirit, buoyed for all of her thirteen years by the love of her father.
Her sister, Laodike, was pretty, and at fourteen, her breasts had blossomed. But Theia had her mother’s dark eyes and thick, black hair, and she did not envy Laodike’s full breasts. Theia was smarter than her as well. She envied Laodike for only one thing – they were both virgins, and soon, Laodike wouldn’t be.
That wasn’t to say that Theia had any idea what Perseus looked like or that she would have preferred to be the one given away to him – not that a child of a concubine would ever be given to a king as wife. Theia didn’t envy Laodike becoming a queen at all. Nor did she envy her having to move far from her home. It wasn’t some foreign king that Theia dreamed of abandoning her virginity to. It was the pretty boys of Antioch who Theia dreamed of on her bed at night. She had seen them naked, in only their chlamys, with their black shorthairs and the growing cocks they were so proud of. She had also caught glimpses around the palace, of servants making love, and she had seen sex depicted in art. Theia would lay on her bed at night, caressing her small breasts and firm labia, and she would imagine it was a boy doing those things.
Unlike Laodike, Theia was prepared to like the pretty boys at the shine of Kaleh. She had looked forward to seeing them.
Theia was accustomed to the pomp of royalty and to grand entrances. Nevertheless, the cacophony of trumpets, horns, pipes, drums, and temple gongs as they descended toward the shrine from the citadel were exciting. She enjoyed the thousands of faces looking up at her from the crowd.
Theia was accustomed to large buildings as well, and those at the temple, in fact, didn’t particularly impress her. What did was the multitude that had thronged inside the large courtyard. The high walls trapped the roar of the crowd like a bowl full of noise. Following her father, hand-in-hand with Laodike, soldiers holding back the crowd on either side, Theia was at the center of a storm of sound and color and movement. She was glad her father was beloved by the people of this city, but it was frightening, nonetheless.
The sun was almost at midday, and it was warm. The air was redolent with the smells of close-pressed, human bodies, of temple incense, and grilling meat on the altars.
They passed through a ring of statue bases without statues except for one… at first glance, a beautiful youth. But then Theia noticed breasts on the statue, and long hair. Looking closer as they neared it, Theia decided the statue was of the Oracle, and that what she first assumed to be testicles on the statue, were in fact, labia. She and Laodike slowed as they passed it.
And then they were there, at the bottom of the steps to the shrine portico. Theia lifted her eyes and saw them all, arrayed on the portico, nude except for jewelry and long breechcloths which barely concealed anything… well one thing. The figure who was clearly the Oracle, was as bare-chested as the others, and it was to her that Theia’s eyes first went. At the distance of only two dozen feet, she studied the girl-boy, standing erect, arms at her side, her chest out as if proud of her firm, bare breasts. Golden jewelry in her long hair and on her body glittered in the sunlight. There was a large ruby in her navel, and in the sunlight, her white breechcloth was blazingly white. She was… magnificent.
They all were.
It was almost as though, instead of their bodies displaying the gold and silver jewelry, the jewelry displayed their bodies… lean-muscled, smooth limbs, beautiful skin, glorious hair.
The one next to the Oracle had to be the Abij-hah. The stories about him were true. His beauty was indeed unearthly, especially his eyes. His body was as resplendent with jewelry as the Oracle’s – it looked to Theia like a large white quartz in his navel instead of a ruby – even more in his case than any of the others, the jewelry was a mere setting for the display his smoky-skinned body, beautifully proportioned, flat belly, naked limbs. If it hadn’t been for his wide smile and his eyes so happily on Theia’s father, the Abij-hah’s beauty might have frightened Theia. As it was, because Jeet was so obviously glad to see her father, Theia liked him; instantly.
Then her eyes traveled to the Oracle’s left side, to one who must be Tazaar. He was also smiling, and also striking, but in a slightly more human and faintly more masculine way. Her eyes took in the taper of his torso, the smooth curve of his small bottom, the long muscles in his legs, and then returned to his face, and his deep blue eyes met hers. And in that moment, seeing Tazaar’s beauty, full on, Theia fell prey to her hormones. She felt a sudden weakness in her knees and a flutter in her heart. She realized that her mouth had fallen open, and she closed her mouth. She tore her eyes from Tazaar’s. She looked over the others, including the younger boy and girls behind them… in all their beauty and glittering array. But her eyes kept returning to steal glances at Tazaar. She tried to not look like she was staring.
Jeet raised his hands for silence, and quickly, the roar of the crowd receded. He bowed – all of them except the Oracle, bowed deeply from the waist, then up again. “Welcome, Great King Seleucus Philopator,” he called out in a high, clear voice. “Beloved of Phrygia, welcome to Kaleh and the Shrine of the Oracle.”
The crowd roared again.
When the people quieted, Theia’s father did something that surprised her. He bowed deeply to the Oracle. “Greetings, Great Warrior Oracle of Kaleh,” he called out loudly.
The Oracle returned his bow.
“Greetings Abij-hah, beloved of Kaleh,” he said, and Jeet nodded. Then her father turned to the crowd. “Greetings,” he said, lifting both hands high, “to Kaleh, the great city on the river.”
The crowd roared again.
Her father waved at the crowed, and they cheered louder. Then he motioned downward with his palms, for silence, and once more, the people quieted. “I have come here to meet Perseus, King of Macedon, and escort him to Antioch. He is to marry my beloved daughter, Laodike.” He motioned for his eldest daughter to come up the steps to join him.
Laodike did, as the crowd cheered. He turned her to face them, and Theia thought her sister was quite beautiful in her simple, white gown, with her black hair piled on her head and adorned with silver clips and combs.
Theia’s eyes drifted once more to Tazaar, and lingered on his slightly mounded pectorals and the flat muscles of his belly. He was strong looking for one so slender. Her eyes drifted down to where the V of his abdominal plate dove to his bald pubic mound at the top of his breechcloth. His belly undulated, suddenly. Theia glanced up at his face in surprise, only to find him grinning at her. Had she been so obvious? She grinned back.
Seleucus held up his hands again. “I have brought Laodike with me so that she can receive the blessings of the Oracle and the Abij-hah, and… the blessings of the great and generous people of Kaleh.” The crowd started to cheer, but the King forestalled them with a raised hand. “And we have come to bless you,” he said. “For each of the next seven days, I will sacrifice twenty bulls and a hundred sheep and goats that the gods may bless Kaleh while we are here.”
The crowd cheered loudly.
Seleucus motioned for Theia to join them, and she came up to them on the steps. The crowd grew quiet. “This is my second daughter, Theia, whom I have brought as well. Let both my daughters find favor in your eyes.”
The crowd cheered again, and this time, the noise built to a roar as the King and his daughters waved to them. Then Seleucus turned his daughters around and they ascended the remaining portico steps. He embraced first the Oracle and then Jeet, pulling them both into a hug, while the roar of the crowd washed over them.
Taking Jeet and the Oracle under each arm, Seleucus turned them toward the shrine entrance. Ptolemy and Tazaar stepped up to the King’s daughters from the sides and bowed. Tazaar was on Theia’s side, and with a nod, he indicated that she was to accompany him into the shrine. Behind them came the Governor and his family, along with some of the King’s entourage. The other eunuchs followed, and behind them came the principal servants of the King and his daughters. Finally, all were inside, and the doors closed against the noise of the crowd. It grew quiet outside, and Theia looked around.
A large square of tables were set up in the center of the shrine hall. The tables and other furnishings were made of fine dark woods. Cushions and draperies of silk, fine cotton, and quality leather appointed the room. The walls and columns glittered with gold and silver leaf and inlay. Shields of gold were on the walls, and golden lamp stands surrounded the tables, as did many, many servants. Food was laid out on golden plates and in silver bowls. The air was rich with the aromas of meat and other savory dishes.
“Mistress,” Tazaar said diffidently, “may I lead you to your seat? I will serve you if you wish.”
Theia regarded him a moment. His voice reminded her that he was a eunuch. His offer reminded her that he was a slave. But his body and beauty reminded her that he was a boy… a lovely boy. She nodded with a smile.
Something about the smile, and the good-humored nature it hinted at, reminded Tazaar of Bantu’s smile. He grinned back at the thirteen-year-old girl and led her toward the head of the tables.
The Oracle sat to the King’s right, Laodike to his left. Jeet served the King and the Oracle from behind. Theia sat on Laodike’s other side, and Tazaar served both sisters. During the meal, while the others engaged in conversation, Theia looked over the shrine hall, and the shrine eunuchs, stealing glances at Tazaar’s body whenever he bent over her to serve. She asked him questions about the shrine and the life at the shrine, and Tazaar knelt behind her from time to time to answer her questions. His eyes were close then, and she found it hard to look away from them, or to breathe when she looked into them.
The heart of a girl Theia’s age can be easily stolen by the right boy, even when it is not his intention to do so. And though it was not Tazaar’s intention to capture Theia’s heart, it happened so quickly that he was unaware until the feat was accomplished. It was accomplished before the meal was complete.
The Oracle’s eunuchs had not eaten, for reasons other than service. At mid afternoon, after the meal was finished, the King, Oracle, and guests were escorted out to the portico. Cushions had been placed on the steps, and the guests reclined on them, facing out to the courtyard. The area in front of the shrine had been cleared all the way out to the arc of bases set up for the boys’ statues. Beyond the arc, people crowded forward to watch.
For half an hour, the eunuchs performed acrobatics. For another half hour, they performed various dances, including those they learned from the Sungan prince. Then they disappeared into the shrine and returned moments later with oiled bodies. They had stripped to tasseled breechcloths which were little more than strapped on cod pieces, and for a final half hour they danced as they had learned at the temple.
Theia’s eyes stayed primarily on Tazaar’s slender body and movements, oil glistening in the bright afternoon sunshine. She focused on his lean loins when he bent backward, on his long-muscled legs as he turned and swayed, and on the smooth, oiled globes of his tight bottom whenever his back turned to her. She grew damp between the legs as she imagined being entwined with his body; dancing with him… as she dreamed that it was Tazaar she lost her virginity to. By the end of the performance, Theia’s pulse was racing, her face was hot, and it was difficult to conceal the rapidness of her breathing. But then, others around her seemed to be having the same problem.
The eunuchs returned inside the shrine a final time, and the crowd dispersed. The King, Oracle, and others continued to recline on the cushioned steps. Food and wine was brought to them. Some of the guests ventured out into the courtyard for a closer look at the temple compound.
Theia quietly stole inside the shrine in the hope of seeing more of Tazaar and the eunuchs. The hall was alive with servants, cleaning and preparing for the evening’s banquet. Not even the guards seemed to notice her, standing inside the doorway.
Theia caught a glimpse of the smallest eunuch, Rem, as he vanished into a hallway. She followed.
It was a long hallway toward the back of the shrine. She saw Rem disappear around a corner at the end of it, and she followed. Around the corner, the hallway dropped away, and she followed it downward, coming at the end to a bathhouse on the river. Theia stopped at the doorway, unseen. The guard normally posted there had been sent out during the eunuchs’ bathing, and all seven boys were nude, in the water, washing one another.
The cocks on the redheaded one and the smallest boy were erect, pointing up from their bodies. The cocks of the others were in various states of arousal. Tazaar was bathing with the Abij-hah, along with Rem. His and the Abij-hah’s cocks were long, and swung thickly. Quietly, Theia watched, her breath growing short.
She had never seen any of the naked boys in Antioch with erections, but it struck her that none of them could have been as well endowed as these. She was pleased that Tazaar’s cock was so long. She couldn’t take her eyes from it.
Then the albino boy saw her and caught the attention of the others. They all turned her way.
“Don’t mind me,” Theia said, trying to affect a casual voice. Her face felt hot, though, and she imagined that she looked deeply flushed.
Jeet bowed. “We are bathing before this evening’s meal, princess. We shall be out, shortly.”
Theia nodded. “I’ll just watch,” she said, intending to stay. After all, she was the King’s daughter and few ever contradicted her. She grinned. “You should do this for an audience.”
Jeet bowed his head. “We have been watched before, princess. We won’t mind you doing so.”
Tazaar glanced at her and smiled. She smiled back. “Why don’t I bathe with you?” she suggested, stepping farther into the bathhouse.
Jeet laughed. “They’ve already taken our balls, Princess. I hate to think what else they might take if they found us bathing the King’s daughter.”
“You might wish to sit over there,” Jeet said, pointing to a bench.
Theia moved to it, and watched, hugging her knees, with her dress pulled down over them. Two Nubian slaves came in, carrying fresh breechcloths. They glanced at Theia, then left.
The eunuchs refrained from sex because of her presence, and soon came up from the water to the top steps, close to Theia. She watched as they dried each other’s backs, bottoms, chests, and legs, their long members dangling almost close enough to reach out and touch. The long muscles and tendons in their smooth-skinned legs were clearly visible. Each one of the boys was so lean that all his muscles showed with the least movement. Even the youngest, Rem, was superbly lean. She wanted to reach out and pat all that hard musculature as one might pat the flanks and rumps of stallions.
Theia got up from the bench and came to Tazaar as he fastened on his jewelry. “Will you show me around the shrine?” she asked.
Tazaar nodded, smiling. “Certainly, princess.”
Jeet, standing close by, gave Tazaar a little slap on the butt and an amused smile.
Tazaar began the tour with the eunuch’s quarters, since it was on the way.
“Where do you sleep?” Theia asked, looking over the pools of bedding on the floor.
“Bantu and Ptolemy sleep there,” Tazaar said, pointing to the bedding on the north side. “Jin and Aruli sleep there,” he said, pointing to the middle bedding. “My lover and I sleep there,” he told her, pointing to bedding in the far back corner.
“Your lover?” Theia asked with a lopsided smile, walking casually over to Tazaar’s bed. “Which eunuch is your lover?”
Tazaar shook his head, following. “Not any of the eunuchs. My lover is a young athlete from Kaleh,” he smiled. “His name is Cyndur. We’ve been together for over two years.”
“Oh?” Theia asked, feeling a pang of disappointment. She comforted herself that at least Tazaar’s lover was a boy. “How old are you and how old is your lover?” she asked casually, dropping to her knees on the bedding. Just as casually, she ran a hand over the soft fabric of the bedding. “Is he handsome?”
“I’m sixteen. He’s eighteen,” Tazaar said with a smile. “And he’s very handsome.”
“Eighteen?” she asked, taking a seat on the edge of the bedding. “Is he married?”
“Not yet,” Tazaar told her with a slight frown. “His father wants him to marry someday, but Cyndur isn’t anxious to do so.”
“Does he not like girls?” she asked, looking up at Tazaar.
Tazaar shrugged. “He likes me.”
“Do you like girls?” she asked as nonchalantly as she could manage.
Tazaar smiled again. “I like boys,” he said honestly. “But the Oracle has taught me to also like girls.”
“Do you have sex with the Oracle?” Theia asked, making no move to get up from her seat.
“Sometimes,” Tazaar said. “We all sleep with each other.” He frowned slightly. “We love each other, Princess. We are bound together by vows.”
Theia nodded, considering. “Have you slept with other girls?”
“Only once,” Tazaar said. “Ptolemy and Bantu usually sleep with girls when it is required.”
“Required?” asked Theia with a lopsided smile. “That one time… did you like it?”
Tazaar nodded. “It was alright.”
“How about your lover? Has he slept with girls?”
“But I love Tazaar,” Cyndur said, his deep voice causing Theia to jump as he came into the room. He stepped up beside Tazaar, wrapping an arm behind his lover’s waist. They kissed.
Theia’s eyes took in the newcomer. He was quite handsome, in a thoroughly masculine, eighteen-year-old way. Theia decided she shouldn’t have been surprised. Any lover of Tazaar should be handsome. For a moment, sitting on their bed, she imagined the two of them together, and she wondered if there would be a way to see that some time. Cyndur stirred her thirteen-year-old heart in entirely different ways from Tazaar.
Theia asked for Tazaar to serve her again that evening, and so they sat Cyndur next to her at the table. She liked Cyndur, and he liked her perkiness. Despite the five-year difference in their ages, they were instant friends. Each time Tazaar bent over them to serve, or knelt behind them to talk, Theia saw Cyndur grin, and his eyes always went immediately to Tazaar’s face. Her’s went to Tazaar’s body.
After the other guests and dignitaries left that evening, it was a matter of moments before Theia saw her father leave for his chambers, with Jeet and the Oracle tucked under each arm. It gave her a slightly odd feeling. She noticed that Laodike frowned as she watched them leave.
The girls were quickly distracted, though, by the other eunuchs joining the two princesses at the table. The eunuchs were curious about Antioch, the palace, and life at court with the king. The princesses were curious about the shrine, the Oracle, the Abij-hah, and Kaleh. Tazaar sat between Theia and Cyndur, leaning back against his lover, but whenever Theia laid her hand on his bare forearm or leg to lean close and talk, he smiled and sometimes leaned close to her to answer.
She was disappointed to learn that Tazaar and Cyndur were not planning to come to Antioch with the other eunuchs. “The King has agreed to let us stay in Kaleh whenever the others travel to Antioch,” Tazaar told her. “Because of his family, Cyndur needs to be here, and I’ll take care of the shrine while the others are gone.” Theia nodded, considering immediately how she could convince her father to require Tazaar and Cyndur to come to Antioch.
The young eunuchs brought out various treasures of the shrine to show the princesses; that is – those treasures that weren’t in the King’s chamber – and they talked far into the night. Neither girl had ever spoken much, directly with boys, before; certainly not boys like these boys, so relaxed, outgoing, happy. It was into the early morning hours before they all departed for their separate chambers. Theia watched Cyndur and Tazaar leave hand-in-hand, and she envied them their love… and their bed.
That night, Theia thought about the two boys as she shared a bed with her sister in a side chamber of the shrine. On pallets around them lay their serving girls. They all had teased each other that they would be the world’s most fertile virgins after sleeping the next few nights at the shrine.
Theia thought of the boys, and how restless her next few nights might be.
+ + + + +
Seleucus woke briefly as Jeet shifted in his sleep and nuzzled into the side of Seleucus’ neck. He patted the boy’s back and stroked Anda’s back on his other side. They were used to sleeping on each other, but he would have to get accustomed to it again. It wouldn’t take but a night or two; he felt so content, so happy between the two of them. Yes, he thought. That’s how he felt… happy.
He thought again of Jeet’s concern, of the boy’s request for Seleucus to change his capital to Kaleh. Impossible, of course. But he agreed with Jeet. He wanted the boy and the Oracle in Antioch as soon as it was practical. Having the Oracle close by to warn him of danger would be invaluable.
But there were many reasons for wanting them in Antioch. He had dreams for them. Seleucus took a breath of Jeet’s scent, and sighed. He wanted these two in his bed for many years to come. The original timing for their arrival was still good. The wedding first, see Perseus and Laodike off, and then prepare Antioch for the Oracle’s arrival. It would be an event worthy to stand on its own. It would signal a new age for the empire. Though it was only a few months away, autumn suddenly seemed a long way off.
+ + + + +
It was understood that Cyndur never needed an invitation to include himself in any event of the shrine or activity of the Oracle. Nevertheless, since it was to be with the King, Cyndur was grateful that, in the presence of the King, the Oracle asked Cyndur along for the barge ride that took place two days later. A few minutes after asking him, the Oracle pulled Cyndur aside in a hallway off from the shrine hall.
With a grin, she squeezed Cyndur’s arm. “You better come, Cyndur, to keep Theia from stealing your Tazaar.”
Cyndur laughed. For the two days since the King’s arrival, Theia had been Tazaar’s shadow. Everyone noticed, except perhaps for the King who hadn’t even stirred from his chambers the first day, but kept Jeet and Anda with him. The second day, Seleucus had been too busy with other matters to notice his daughter’s infatuation with the eunuch. Cyndur was actually glad. He liked Theia and didn’t want her relationship with them prematurely ended.
Theia was clever, and quick-witted; not silly like other girls. Despite her infatuation with Tazaar, or perhaps because of it, she flirted and teased with Cyndur as well, and he enjoyed it. She made it clear that she liked him, and he figured she could tell that he liked her.
“She’s quite smitten with Tazaar,” the Oracle observed, watching Cyndur’s face.
He grinned. “I don’t mind, Oracle. I enjoy her being around. She’s smart… ”
“And cute,” the Oracle observed.
“You think so?” Cyndur asked, casually.
The Oracle nodded. “You like her, too, Cyndur. Don’t pretend you don’t. I’ve watched you.”
Cyndur smiled. “I do Oracle.” He shifted uneasily and his face grew flush. “May I confide in you, Anda?”
The Oracle frowned. “You know you can.”
Cyndur nodded. “It’s just that… you know that my father wants me to marry someday, and Tazaar and I have talked about me fathering sons for the two of us.” He grinned and looked down. “We joked about me getting a wife and keeping her in a back room somewhere just to bear children.” He shrugged. “I never really thought much about it. I suppose I’ve always thought my father would eventually quit pushing me, and Tazaar and I would just grow old together. But… ” his eyes rose to the Oracles. “But after meeting Theia, I think that if someday we found a girl like her; a girl we both like and who likes both of us… ” Cyndur paused, looked down, and exhaled sharply. “It wouldn’t work, would it?”
“It is something you must talk to Tazaar about,” Anda told him. “You know how eunuchs see themselves as less than men. Tazaar flourishes in the security of your love. I do not think he would fare well if he became unsure of it.”
Cyndur nodded. “I would never let him be unsure of it.”
The Oracle cocked her head. “Why not Theia?” she asked. “Why wouldn’t you consider her for a wife?”
Cyndur laughed. “Oracle, she’s the King’s daughter, and she’s only a young girl.”
“She’s thirteen,” Anda pointed out. “Jeet’s sister married at thirteen. And even if not this year, there’s always next year or the year after. Theia is daughter to the King’s concubine, and not in the royal line. The King acknowledges her as his daughter, but it doesn’t mean she’s beyond your reach, Cyndur, not if Jeet were to intervene on your behalf.”
Cyndur shrugged. “Theia would laugh at the idea, and the King would be angry.”
The Oracle shook her head slowly. “I don’t think so, Cyndur. I don’t think so at all. Theia has fallen in love with Tazaar, and she likes you. And the king would not be angry.”
Cyndur looked down and shuffled his feet. “If I ever did marry, Oracle,” he said, quietly. “I would want to buy Tazaar from you. I cannot lose him.”
Anda patted his arm. “If such a time comes, you will not buy Tazaar from me. We will free him. One way or the other, we will free him.”
+ + + + +
“Well done!” Seleucus called out, when Bantu’s head appeared above the water.
Bantu slicked his long, red hair back on either side of his head, and then waved at the barge, grinning. The Oracle, the King, his daughters, and Cyndur, all sitting together close to the edge of the barge, turned their attention back to the rope swing as the next eunuch grabbed the rope. It was Jin. He waited until Bantu cleared out of the way, and then swung out over the river, letting the rope and momentum carry him into a high, double back flip. The other nude eunuchs, lined up on the river bank, waited their turns for the rope swing.
Servants passed among the spectators on the barge with food and spring water. Theia and her sister watched the eunuchs with unconcealed delight. The boys’ lithe bodies were controlled and graceful. Neither girl had seen anything quite like their performance on the rope swing, either athletically or visually.
Theia glanced at Cyndur. “Can you do that, Cyndur?” she asked, with a grin and a nod toward the rope swing. “Or do all those muscles of yours get in the way? Do they just load you down and sink you to the bottom of the river?”
Cyndur laughed. “I’m not as good as most of them,” he said, “but my muscles don’t get in the way, Princess, and they don’t sink me to the bottom of the river… at least, not so that I can’t swim out.”
Because of the order in which they were sitting, the Oracle, the King, Laodike, Theia, and then Cyndur, her father didn’t see Theia’s eyes travel up and down Cyndur’s body with a sly grin. “Well?” she asked.
Cyndur chuckled, thought about it, and then stood up. He stepped to the side of the barge and with his back to Theia, stripped off his clothing. Watching from behind, Theia smiled. Cyndur’s backside was pleasing.
He dove into the water, and she watched him swim for the bank, waiting for him to climb out. She wanted to see if he was as pleasing from the front. He was. The young athlete was both strongly built and well-endowed.
Tazaar came down to him, grinning, and joined him in line. Theia watched them as they stood together, laughing, enjoying each other; both beautiful in such different ways. She imagined them once again, in bed together, loving each other. Then she imagined herself with them; between their bodies, in their love. It seemed terribly unfair to her that men could have many wives while a woman could have only one husband. But then she thought about the Oracle and how her eunuchs were like husbands to her. With a sigh, she imagined how perfect it would be to have both lithe Tazaar and muscular Cyndur as mates.
Cyndur and Tazaar sat side-by-side on the edge of the barge for the return to Kaleh. Theia came up behind them and insinuated herself between them. They made room for her, willingly, and Theia sat comfortably between them, asking questions about their lessons at the shrine, Cyndur’s athletics, his father, and his father’s plans for Cyndur’s future.
Dusk settled on the river, and in the growing darkness, Theia laid her hands casually on the muscled thighs of both boys as they talked. They let her, and continued talking as though her hands weren’t there. It excited her more than she could have imagined. She had never actually touched a boy – not this way. Their constantly-oiled skin was smooth, and even Cyndur’s was soft. Yet it was skin that stretched taut over lean muscle. She rubbed their legs lightly as they talked, and stole glances into their laps in the dim light. She thought she saw swelling in Tazaar’s breechcloth and under Cyndur’s tunic. Though she was tempted to touch them there, she didn’t, but neither did she take her hands away from their legs.
+ + + + +
Theia was restless. Twice, she had started to fall into sleep only to drift into dreams of Tazaar and Cyndur and the feel of their legs on the barge. In her dreams, they touched her as well, their hands on her legs and breasts. She rolled to her back on the bed and gazed up at the ceiling, lit faintly by one lamp. Except for the sounds of the girls sleeping with her, the shrine was quiet.
Theia sat up. As fast has her heart was beating from her dreams, it beat even faster as she resolved to do what she had dared to imagine from the first night. Silently, carefully, she got up from the bed. Barefoot, in only her gown, she stepped carefully past serving girls to the door, and looked out.
There were no guards in the hallway or in the shrine hall, though she knew there were a company of them outside, and that several were posted in the hallway outside the King’s chamber. Quietly, she stole across the shrine hall to the hallway on the other side. She found her way to the eunuchs’ quarters and paused at the doorway, peering inside.
The only light came from moonlight reflected through high, narrow windows, and torchlight that made its way in from the hallway. She let her eyes adjust. She struggled to control her breathing. Inside the quiet chamber, her every breath sounded deafening in her own ears.
None of the eunuchs were stirring. She could make out their nude bodies, lying in pairs.
Theia picked her way through them to Tazaar’s and Cyndur’s bed. Cyndur was asleep on his stomach and Tazaar lay sleeping with his right leg cocked over the older boy’s bottom and his right arm across Cyndur’s back.
Theia stood for a moment, looking down at their naked bodies. Her face burned. Her skin felt hot. It was hard to breath, almost like a weight was on her chest. Her labia felt wet and swollen. Her thirteen-year-old body almost trembled.
With nervous fingers, she removed her gown, setting it aside. She lay down behind Tazaar. Her eyes dropped to the dim outline of his rounded bottom, and she watched it as she laid her hand lightly on the side of his hip and very, very carefully tilted her body onto his and pressed her loins against the soft skin of his buttocks. They were firm. Theia held her breath, pressing… feeling.
She eased the front of her legs to the back of Tazaar’s and folded her body to press her stomach and breasts onto his back. His skin was cool to the touch, and she wondered if that was because hers felt so hot. She molded her body to the back of his and kissed high up between his shoulder blades. She ground her pelvis against his bottom, and it felt immeasurably better on her vulvae than her hand had ever felt. She held Tazaar’s side more tightly, and ground harder; she could barely breathe with the pleasure of it.
Theia slipped the palm of her right hand from the side of Tazaar’s hip and onto his flat belly, sliding it into the warmth between the two boy’s bodies. With the back of her hand, she could feel the hardness of Cyndur’s back muscles and the smoothness of his skin. She gently rubbed the tops of her legs against the back of Tazaar’s; feeling his skin with her skin; and still, she ground on with her pelvis, the hardness of her clitoris rubbing into the smooth crevice between Tazaar’s firm buttocks.
Tazaar stirred. He rolled back against her and onto his back as she gave him room. But then she pressed him again, instantly, hungrily; the lips of her wet labia on his right hipbone, her side pinning his right arm, the inside of her right thigh on the top of his. She pressed her forehead against the side of his face, not wanting to see his eyes if he rejected her. She groped for his cock and found it; thick and tubular. She held it, excited by its feel, wanting it to grow hard. “Please, Tazaar,” she whispered breathlessly. “Please.”
She felt the side of his face turn against her forehead. His hips rotated, just perceptively, under her hand and against her vulva. And then she felt his left hand on her right shoulder; a gentle squeeze and caress. His cock was rapidly growing warm and rigid in her hand. She rubbed her vulva oh his hip, and then felt the backs of his fingers, the fingers of his pinned, right arm, gently press against the skin inside her hip.
He pushed her shoulder back slightly, and she tried to resist, clinging to him. But then the side of his face was moving against hers and she realized he wanted to kiss. She pulled her head back and their lips met. His left hand dropped to her right breast, cupping it, squeezing it as they kissed, and she almost whimpered aloud.
He pressed her onto her back with his body, and his tongue probed into her mouth. His tongue surprised her, but in her hunger, she responded instantly, sucking on it and wrestled it with her tongue. The thumb and fingers of his hand found her hard nipple and squeezed it. She shuddered. She tugged at his now turgid erection, trying to pull it toward her vagina, while at the same time she tried to move her vagina closer to his crown.
While his tongue continued to probe inside her mouth and his breath grew warm on her face, she felt Tazaar respond to her tugging. He moved up over her. Theia opened her legs to him, and pointed his cock into her labia. She felt its tip, wet in her crevice. She pulled with her hand and thrust up with her hips, and he was inside her. For one, frozen moment, she held him there, their mouths together, the weight of his body on hers. And then she pulled away her hand and Tazaar’s cock jarred against her hymen.
Theia stiffened and grasped the sides of his waist as Tazaar pulled his hips back and drove them forward again. She pulled her mouth away to gasp at a tearing, burning sensation and then at the press of Tazaar’s pubic mound on her small patch of pubic hair, and the feel of his loins pressed between her legs.
He covered her mouth with his once more, and she felt him slide his upturned palms under the backs of her shoulders. He settled his weight onto her. He moved his hips and she felt it inside. His body was lean and firm and felt so good on her and between her legs. She hadn’t anticipated the sensations of that, the totality of it, all the exquisite sensations. She grasped the back of his angular shoulders, feeling their hardness. He thrust and she whimpered into his mouth. His hips pumped and she clamped them between her thighs, defensively. But he kept moving and the pain crossed some line into intense pleasure.
She ran her hands over his hard back and onto his bottom, feeling. Muscles flexed under her palms… everywhere. She slid her legs down the outside of his and moved with him. Her responses were instinctual now, driven by pleasure. She rocked her pelvis against his, pressing the penetration. They broke their kiss and rested the sides of their faces together as they clung to each other and pumped and breathed.
The dimly lit room swayed before her eyes. She was aware of Cyndur beside her now, running a hand over Tazaar and then along her side. She felt his hot lips against her cheek and his hardness against her hip.
She clutched the back of Tazaar’s shoulders the way he was clutching hers. She began whimpering with each impact, louder and louder. Both Tazaar and Cyndur tried to shush her, but she barely heard them. Tazaar covered her mouth with his again, and ground down into her with his hips.
She arched, her fingers digging into the back of Tazaar’s shoulders. He fast pumped his hips and she arched higher, tearing her mouth from his to gasp and then cry out. Cyndur tried to cover her lips with his fingers, but Theia needed breath and turned her head away. And then she felt new wetness, down where Tazaar was inside her. Did eunuchs have seed? Did he plant his seed in her?
Tazaar slowed. He relaxed on her, but she kept moving under him. She felt a little soreness now, but Tazaar still felt incredibly good inside her. Then Cyndur’s lips were beside her ear. “Let me, Princess,” he whispered.
She looked at him. There was desire in his eyes. His nostrils flared with his breathing. And yet, his whisper had been a request and he waited patiently. Theia nodded, and Cyndur gently patted Tazaar’s butt.
Tazaar kissed Theia a last time and then moved off to the side. Before she could feel his absence, Theia felt Cyndur’s large, strong hand between her leg, covering her vulva. He bent over her and kissed her, rubbing her mons gently with his palm. When her hips started to move up against his hand, he moved over her, and entered her. He felt bigger inside than Tazaar. She felt the eighteen-year-old press in deeply and wrap his arms under the back of her shoulders. She felt cocooned in his strength.
The thirteen-year-old girl ran her hands over his arms, shoulders, and back, surveying his hard body. And then he started moving his hips and Theia’s eyes rolled up. Her mouth dropped open and her eyes closed as Cyndur buried his mouth in the side of her neck and pumped.
Cyndur took longer to come than Tazaar had, and Theia was well on her way to her second climax when he pulled out. She was grateful that Tazaar immediately returned to between her legs, and refilled the sudden emptiness with his own cock. He started fast-pumping right away. Under his lighter weight and more lithe body, Theia moved more freely. Her legs thrashed; her body writhed, and Tazaar took a mercifully long, long time.
“Princess,” Cyndur whispered beside her ear.
She stirred comfortably between their bodies.
“It’s almost dawn. You must return to your chambers. It would go badly for us if you are missed.”
Theia’s eyes opened, sleepily. She nodded. Then she smiled, tiredly, and kissed Cyndur. She turned backward to kiss Tazaar, and felt the soreness between her legs. She groaned softly.
“Are you alright, Princess?” Tazaar asked in concern.
Theia grinned, grabbed his face, and kissed him. “I will return tonight,” she promised.
Then she sat up, looking for her gown. She worried about blood and checked inside her legs after standing. In the dim light, she thought she looked alright. She glanced around. The other eunuchs were sleeping.
Cyndur spooned in behind Tazaar, loosely hugging Tazaar’s butt back into his lap as they watched her put back on her gown. Then she knelt beside them once more and kissed them each before she left, walking stiffly.
“Oh, shit,” Cyndur whispered behind Tazaar’s ear. “We’re in danger if she walks around today like that.”
“Or if she become pregnant,” Tazaar murmured.
Cyndur groaned, quietly.
The two settled back down on the bedding. Cyndur pulled Tazaar back to himself and whispered behind Tazaar’s ear. “Tazaar?”
“What if she were to become pregnant?” he whispered. “You know how my father wants me to marry. You know we talked about me fathering sons for us. What if I was to marry her? She likes us both. She likes you more than me. Look at Jeet, the Oracle, and Rem. There are three of them, aren’t there?”
Tazaar was quiet a moment. “Would the king let you have her?” he asked.
“I could ask Jeet to try to arrange it.”
Tazaar nodded slowly, and then pulled Cyndur’s hand more tightly around his chest. “Just don’t leave me,” he whispered very quietly.
Cyndur rolled Tazaar’s shoulders back, pinning them to the bed, and his eyes bored down into Tazaar’s eyes. “How can you say that?”
Tazaar smiled sadly, and laid the side of his hand on Cyndur’s face. “She would give you sons. She would change things.”
Cyndur gathered Tazaar into his arms and hugged him tightly. “She would give me sons,” he agreed in a whisper. “She would change things. But she would never, ever touch my love for you.”
Tazaar rubbed his cheek against Cyndur’s, and wrapped an arm behind Cyndur’s strong back. What Cyndur proposed would be more difficult if Theia liked Cyndur more than himself, Tazaar thought. At least for now, she seemed to like Tazaar more. Would it stay that way? If Cyndur were husband to her, would it stay that way? How long would they love Tazaar, especially as he grew older? And then Tazaar had another thought… If the King found out, and didn’t give Theia to Cyndur, things could go very wrong for them.
+ + + + +
Theia did return to their bed the next night, but she was sore, and only Tazaar made love to her, and then held her, spooned back to himself, as Cyndur spooned him from behind, in turn, and spent on Tazaar’s bottom, the excitement that had built in the athlete’s loins while watching Tazaar and Theia. They slept that way afterward. Before dawn, Theia returned reluctantly to her bed.
+ + + + +
Tazaar drew Jeet to the bathhouse just before the midday meal, while the King and the rest of the shrine were occupied elsewhere. He led him down the last few feet of the hallway by hand, and then taking a seat on the top step into the water, he drew Jeet down into a seat beside him. Then he told Jeet about Theia’s visits to their bed and Cyndur’s suggestions.
Jeet laid an arm over Tazaar’s shoulders, and leaned the side of his head to Tazaar’s, and the two sat quietly after Tazaar finished.
It was a cloudy, windy day, and small waves made it past the colonnades and into the gray light of the bathhouse, lapping quietly on the steps.
“You will always have us,” Jeet finally said, in a quiet voice. “After hearing this, I will never let the Oracle sell you to Cyndur. You will belong to us all your days, Tazaar. And if Cyndur ever treats you poorly, he will have me to answer to.”
Tazaar shifted and opened his mouth to speak, but Jeet went quickly on. “I know Cyndur loves you. And it’s obvious that Theia has fallen for you.” Jeet sighed. “In my spirit, Tazaar, I can see this thing happening. If Cyndur asks, I will seek out the king on his behalf.” Jeet hugged Tazaar’s shoulders with his arm. “But whatever passions come and go, Tazaar, we are with you. We will always be with you. And if the rest of the world falls away, our passion for you and our vows to you will never fail.”
Tazaar said nothing.
Jeet lifted the side of his head from Tazaar’s, and taking Tazaar’s chin into his hand, Jeet turned Tazaar’s face to his own. “My passion for you will never fail, Tazaar. It is a choice of my will. You are my best friend, and I love you with a whole heart.” His eyes were steady. “I always will.”
Tazaar smiled and tears formed in his eyes. “Dream for me Jeet-hah. Dream what way we should go.”
Jeet nodded. And then he kissed Tazaar. He pressed his lips to Tazaar’s and then pressed them more firmly. He kissed Tazaar, long and open-mouthed, warming Tazaar. And then because he felt Tazaar needed it, and because he very much wanted to, Jeet made determined, comforting love to Tazaar… as one friend to another, one young man to another, as one who would never abandon his friend.
+ + + + +
Though she was still sore, the third, and last night, was much like the first, with both boys. Then Theia slept between the two lovers, their mixed semen in her young womb, until Tazaar woke her. This time, he led her by the hand back to her chamber, watching for guards or others who might be stirring. He paused with her, inside the shrine hall.
Theia assumed he wanted to kiss, and she wrapped her arms around his neck before pressing her lips to his. He held her sides, and when the kiss ended, he rested his forehead on hers. “Theia,” he whispered, “What if Cyndur approached your father to ask for you in marriage?”
She nodded, unsurprised, then frowned. “I fear that my father will not answer him favorably.”
“If Jeet-hah and the Oracle intervened for us?” Tazaar asked. “Would he then?”
Theia smiled slightly. “He might. And I will beg him to.” She kissed Tazaar and embraced him tightly. “Cyndur would share you with me?”
“Would you share Cyndur with me?” Tazaar asked, quietly.
She nodded. “I have thought of these things, Tazaar. Since the first night, I have considered them. I am not a foolish girl.” She rubbed the side of her face against his. “I would serve you both, and love you both, and I would let you enjoy your love together. But truly,” she said, pressing the side of her lips to his cheek, “I love you, Tazaar. From the moment I first looked at you, I have wanted you as a girl wants a boy.” She laid a hand on his chest. “If you had balls, I would beg my father for you, and marry you and you alone. And I wouldn’t mind if you spent all your days with Cyndur. It is the way of men.”
“But I don’t have balls, and your father would never give you to me. I am not a man, Theia. I have been more wife than man with Cyndur… I want to be so to him, all my life.”
Theia nodded. “Marry me,” she whispered. “Let Cyndur marry me. I will be wife to you both.”
+ + + + +
Antiochus paced impatiently while Heliodorus watched from a chair. “I’ve told you,” Heliodorus repeated. “Timing is everything.”
Antiochus wheeled on him. “I’ve waited a year already.”
“Four more months, maybe five,” Heliodorus told him. “It has to be after the wedding and after Perseus has left for Macedon. I’ve convinced your brother to wait that long to bring the Oracle for a reason, Antiochus. You know that. She’s too dangerous to us once she’s in Antioch. She must never get here. No, while the Oracle is on the road to Antioch, that is when they will be most vulnerable.”
“She can die,” Antiochus said, nodding. “But none of the eunuchs.”
“We’ve been over that,” Heliodorus said, with an impatient flourish of his hand. “If you don’t trust me, maybe you should lead the men yourself.”
“Perhaps I will. You would be very happy to see Jeet dead. I know you. You would tell me that his death was unavoidable for some reason, but you would never have intended for him to live in the first place. I’ll tell you right now, Heliodorus… if the boy dies, you die. Nothing’s to happen to Jeet or Tazaar or any of them.” He stopped his pacing and gazed across the courtyard. “You don’t need to worry about Jeet. I’ve told you that. The eunuchs are for my bedroom, not my court.”
“The boy won’t be loyal to you, Antiochus. He’s infatuated with your brother. He cares nothing for you.”
Antiochus continued to stare across the courtyard. It was a moment before he replied. “When Seleucus is gone, the boy will love me,” he said, as if sure of it. “And if he does not, I will still own him. If his heart turns against me, or if he does not please me, I will still own him. If it takes a collar around his neck, he will be mine.”
The other man shrugged. “Fine, as long as he is away from Phrygia. He has too much power there. With Seleucus and the Oracle both out of the way, and him here instead of in Phrygia, I won’t care what you do with Jeet.”
Antiochus was barely listening. His mind was still on a vision of Jeet’s naked body with a collar around the boy’s neck. A collar of gold, Antiochus thought to himself.
+ + + + +
In the spring of the year 175, before the current era, Seleucus Philopator, King of the Seleucid Empire, met Perseus, King of Macedon, outside the gates of the city of Kaleh and escorted him to the citadel where they dined with the governor and the great men of Phrygia. The following morning, Seleucus brought Perseus before the Great Oracle.
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