I wish to retain all rights to this story. However, I am delighted to grant permission to any person to publish this story as long as there is no charge to the reader and as long as no changes are made to the story.

Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 4 – The Oracle

Attis, a life-death-rebirth deity, was both the son and the lover of Cybele, her eunuch attendant and driver of her lion-driven chariot… – Wikipedia

Agdistis initially bore both male and female attributes. But the Olympian gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ and cast it away. There grew up from it an almond-tree, and when its fruit was ripe, Nana who was a daughter of the river Sangarios picked the fruit and laid it in her bosom. It at once disappeared, but she was with child. In time a boy [Attis] was born and exposed on the hillside, but the infant was tended by a he-goat. As Attis grew, his long-haired beauty was godlike, and Agdistis as Cybele, then fell in love with him. But the foster parents of Attis sent him to Pessinos, where he was to wed the king's daughter… Just as the marriage-song was being sung, Agdistis/Cybele appeared in her transcendent power, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals. Attis' father-in-law-to-be, the king who was giving his daughter in marriage, followed suit, prefiguring the self-castrating Corybantes who devoted themselves to Cybele. But Agdistis repented and saw to it that the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay. Attis was reborn as the evergreen pine. – Wikipedia

From the first day, the acrobatic practices of the six, young eunuchs had drawn onlookers, and the number of onlookers had grown. Nester led the boys in their workouts on dirt behind the Shrine where he initially thought they would have some privacy. But onlookers came from the town, as did priestesses, servants, and prostitutes from the temple – each forming their own small group of watchers.

The prostitutes were most vocal, but their brazen comments on the boys’ bodies and acrobatics were simply more honestly spoken than the others. Though all came to see the athleticism of the boys, most also came to watch the boys’ bodies.

For workout, the young eunuchs pulled their hair back in tails and wore short, triangular breechcloths. Two of the three points of the triangular shaped fabric tied together around their waists. The third point of the triangle, dropped down between their legs and was pulled back, twisted to lay up their butt cracks, and joined to the knot in back. The effect was that little more than their pubic area was covered. They would have worn nothing, but for the onlookers. Eunuchs rarely want to be seen naked by others.

The first afternoon after Jeet spent the night in Jarus’ bed, there was a new face among the boys and young men who came from the town to watch their workout. He was young, and he was well-dressed. They all saw him, with his dark eyes, smooth cheeks, and black eyebrows that arched over his dark eyes like the wings of a raven. His eyes were on Tazaar, entirely.

After a tumbling run, Tazaar edged close to Nester. “Who is that?” he asked, nodding in the direction of the youth with dark eyes.

“The one watching you?” Nester asked with a grin. “I know of him. I know one of his father’s servants. The youth is Cyndur, and his father is a rich merchant.” Nester glanced at the youth. “Cyndur is an athlete… a runner. He spends his days at the gymnasium.”

Cyndur was watching them. Nester turned to Tazaar. “How old are you?”

“I am fourteen years old,” Tazaar answered.

“I think Cyndur is sixteen,” Nester said. He slapped Tazaar on his bare buttocks. “It’s your turn for a run. Show Cyndur how many handsprings you can do.”

Tazaar ran to the other end of the open ground. Then with a running start, he launched into a series of handsprings that almost took him into the group of watchers. A couple of them cheered. Tazaar’s eyes met Cyndur’s, and the son of a rich merchant smiled.

+ + + + +

Stycus sat at a small table in his room, eating dates with one hand while he ran his fingers over Jeet’s naked body with his other. Nearby, the high priest’s small dog watched Jeet from beside the high priest’s bed. There were several dogs at the temple. They kept rats and mice down. Most were friendly. This one wasn’t.

Stycus saw Jeet’s eyes on the dog. “He knows you,” Stycus said with a grin.

Jeet’s eyes came back to the man. Stycus slipped his hand between Jeet’s legs and rubbed the boy’s empty scrotum. “He knows what was here.” Stycus' grin was cold. “I feed him the balls we cut off eunuchs.”

Jeet started to pull back, but Stycus had anticipated the move and grabbed Jeet by his flaccid cock. He twisted it and Jeet stifled a gasp.

Stycus stared hard into his eyes. “It will be good for you to remember who rules in this temple.” He looked down at the hand he had around Jeet’s cock. “I can remove other things as easily as I removed your balls.” He stretched Jeet’s cock downward. “That’s what they used to do, you know… cut off everything. It was fine for one’s conquered enemies, but we lost too many slaves that way. Long ago, we learned that a little incision or two... pop out the testicles, cut them off… It accomplishes most of what we want.”

Stycus’ face softened and he relaxed his hold on Jeet’s cock. “If you become the Abij-hah, we can be allies, you and me.” He stood up and held a date to Jeet’s mouth. “It’s after sunset. You can eat. Try one.”

Jeet shook his head slightly.

“Suit yourself,” Stycus said, eating the date himself. Standing there beside Jeet, he removed his robes to reveal a soft, hairless body and a big belly. He had large balls. They reminded Jeet of the balls of a bull. They were almost bigger than Stycus’ small cock.

Stycus stepped up to the boy, running his hands over Jeet’s slender shoulders and down onto his chest. He pinched one of Jeet’s nipples hard and the boy winced. “You can enjoy this,” Stycus said, “or you can not. Your choice, young Abij-hah. As for me,” he said, kissing the soft nape of the boy’s neck and letting the boy feel his teeth, “As for me,” he said, pressing his growing erection against the boy’s side. “I’m going to enjoy this very, very much.”

+ + + + +

“He did it on purpose,” Aruli said, examining the bruises around the base of Jeet’s neck. “He did it so the Oracle would see them and reject you.”

“Whoever the Oracle picks,” Tazaar said, as they walked toward the softer ground behind the shrine, “I’ll just be glad to be away from Stycus. When the Oracle comes, we all sleep in the shrine.”

Just then, from beside the shrine, someone stepped forward. It was the youth from the day before, Cyndur. He held a white lily in his hand, and, when the young eunuchs stopped, he handed it to Tazaar. “I watched you yesterday,” the youth said in a gentle, deep voice. “You are… wonderful.”

Tazaar looked down at the lily and took it, his hand brushing Cyndur’s. The other eunuchs exchanged glances. Tazaar smiled. “Thank you.”

The young man stepped back timidly, as if he had exhausted some small courage in the gesture. The eunuchs continued on and Tazaar followed with a backward glance at Cyndur.

Jeet leaned close to Tazaar to whisper. “The front of his tunic, Tazaar… he had an erection.”

Tazaar grinned and nodded.

+ + + + +

That night was Jeet’s first in the shrine, and Tazaar’s as well. Ptolemy was with Stycus, Aruli was with Jarus. and Jin was with Eustace.

The Oracle’s attendants shared one, common room; a long one on the river side of the shrine. Open stairs at either end of the room led to the Oracle’s quarters, directly above. Unlike the Oracle’s chamber, which led out to a balcony in the portico overlooking the river, the attendants’ chamber had only the same high openings in the walls common to ground floor rooms all around the temple.

They had fully explored the shrine by then, but Bantu still insisted on showing Jeet and Tazaar the pallets that had been set aside for them, each in their own, small, private area – the two closest to the front doorway. The bedding was new, for them; it had never been slept on.

They took off their breechcloths and stretched out on their pallets. Tazaar, a little older than Jeet, was a little longer and more developed. His dark blond hair lay curled about his head. Jeet’s straight, black hair lay splayed behind his. Bantu’s pallet was across the room, and he extinguished the single oil lamp when he lay down. Moonlight from outside found its way in through the high wall openings to give the room faint illumination.

Jeet lay awake, thinking about all that had happened; thinking about the Oracle coming. Across the room, Bantu’s breath grew regular in sleep. Tazaar stirred on his bed. Then quietly, he came to Jeet.

He stretched his naked body alongside Jeet’s more slender one. Silently, he slid his hand over Jeet’s chest and down over his small, firm belly. He drew his fingertips up the soft skin of the younger boy’s thighs, and then through the seam between Jeet’s left leg and his pubic area. He leaned close to Jeet’s cheek and kissed it lightly as he closed his hand around the younger boy’s stiffening cock.

Jeet reached a hand up to run his fingers over the older boy’s strong shoulders. And then he did something he had not done with the other young eunuchs. He took Tazaar’s face in his hands and pulled the other boy’s mouth to his own. He showed Tazaar how to kiss the way Ono had shown him - open mouth.

Tazaar responded immediately. Their tongues worked back and forth from one mouth to another. With a murmur, Tazaar moved over Jeet, and the younger boy opened his legs to him. Tazaar’s hips settled between Jeet’s slender legs and their cocks flattened between their bellies.

Praxis had moved over him countless times. Ono had moved over him. But neither of them had felt to Jeet like Tazaar did… the solid weight of the slightly older boy’s body, slender and firm and tight; another boy, not a man… a boy with warm skin… soft skin and hard, flat muscles… a friend, a peer… a brother.

All that passed through Jeet’s mind as feelings more than thoughts, and all in a moment as he ran his hands over the hard muscles in Tazaar’s shoulders and sides. Tazaar lifted his mouth from Jeet’s, looking down into Jeet’s eyes as they each caught their breath. He smiled, slightly, and then he plunged his mouth back down over Jeet’s.

Jeet pulled up and spread his legs, grabbing the older boy’s firm butt with both hands. Tazaar wrapped his arms over the top of Jeet’s head. They rubbed their faces over each other. They kissed, their tongues working slowly, sensuously, and they ground cocks together. They caressed and nuzzled and moved together until Tazaar pumped his spermless semen between their bellies, and Jeet’s body shook silently with an answering, dry orgasm.

They held each other and rested the sides of their faces together as they relaxed. Jeet was still hard, and Tazaar’s cock was still thick. They moved their hips casually, rubbing Tazaar’s cum between their bellies. Tazaar kissed lightly under Jeet’s ear. “I still want to be Abij-hah,” he whispered.

Jeet nodded, sliding his hands up Tazaar’s lean back and up to his tight shoulders. “I do too,” Jeet whispered.

And then Tazaar covered Jeet’s mouth once more with his own.

Tazaar woke in the morning when he heard Bantu walk past them on his way out for the day. Tazaar lay on his back. Jeet was laying with his head on Tazaar’s shoulder, his arm and leg across Tazaar’s chest and legs. The older boy stroked Jeet’s back, enjoying the feel of Jeet’s slender, naked body on his own.

Jeet stirred and lifted his head.

“You like sleeping together?” Tazaar asked with a smile.

“Yeah,” Jeet said, resting his chin on Tazaar’s chest. He studied the older boy’s mouth and then his eyes. Then he laid the side of his face once more on Tazaar’s shoulder. “I’ve always slept with someone. For a long, long time, I slept with Praxis and my sister. Since I’ve been here, I’ve slept with Ono every night… except for last night.”

“What are you going to do if you get picked as Abij-hah? You’ll have to sleep by yourself at the foot of the Oracle’s bed.”

Jeet shrugged. He had begun to wonder if perhaps Tazaar was the ‘someone else’ of his dream. He lifted his head and smiled at the older boy. “If the Oracle doesn’t pick either of us, I can sleep with you every night.”

“Oh, you think so?” Tazaar asked with a grin. He rolled Jeet to his back and pinned his arms over his head. “Guess what I learned how to do last night?” he asked, as Jeet pulled up his knees and spread his legs, and Tazaar settled between them.

“What?” Jeet asked with a smile.

Still grinning, Tazaar brushed his lips on Jeet’s before covering the younger boy’s mouth with his own.

Jeet giggled into their locked mouths and hooked his ankles behind Tazaar’s legs.

+ + + + +

Cyndur was waiting beside a column as they headed for the rear of the shrine. He was dressed in new robes, and when the eunuchs saw him, they paused. He motioned Tazaar over, and when he was close, the youth held out to the boy another flower – a large yellow one. He held it out, but seemed at a loss as to what to say.

They were screened there, from the rest of the temple grounds, and with only the other eunuchs to see, Tazaar laid his hand on Cyndur’s cheek and leaned up to give him a long, gentle kiss. Then he smiled and backed away with the flower.

“You gave him an erection again,” Jeet whispered, as they continued on.

Tazaar nodded and looked back.

Jeet wasn’t the type to be jealous, but after the previous night and morning with Tazaar, he was uncomfortable with having a rival for Tazaar’s affection. “You belong to the Oracle,” Jeet reminded Tazaar. “We can’t even leave the grounds.”

Tazaar nodded. “In here,” he said, pointing surreptitiously at his breechcloth, “I have an erection, like he did.”

+ + + + +

That night was Jeet’s turn with Eustace. “I don’t do this,” Eustace told him in an effeminate voice as the priest dropped his robes. “I like men, not boys. I like lying in a man’s arms. I like being under a man.” He stripped off his tunic and stood naked before Jeet. Surprisingly, the priest’s body was tightly muscled and lean; the body of an athlete… or in Eustace’s case, a dancer. He leaned close to the boy. “I like the feel of a man’s big cock and balls.” Then he smiled and drew his finger along Jeet’s chin. “But you are a beauty.”

Eustace dropped his hand to Jeet’s belt and loosened it. “Come on, Nester,” he called back over his shoulder to his attendant. “Help me do my priestly duty with this boy.”

Eustace didn’t take long, and when he was done, Nester took Jeet back to his own bed. At seventeen, he wasn’t much bigger than Tazaar, though much stronger and much better built. He smiled at the boy, and laid Jeet back on the bed. Then taking a vial of scented oil, he poured it onto his hand. He put the oil down and, using both hands, rubbed it into the skin of Jeet’s left forearm. “Just relax, Jeet,” he said. “Let me take care of you.”

He rubbed the oil up Jeet’s arms and over his shoulders and down his chest. He oiled the boy’s legs and belly, then turned Jeet over and oiled his back and butt and then down the back of his legs to his feet. He massaged the boy’s feet and then rolled Jeet to his back once more.

Kneeling between Jeet’s legs, Nester smiled down at the boy and gently rubbed the underside of Jeet’s cock with the flat of his hand until Jeet’s cock was fully hard. Then he lifted Jeet’s legs out and to the sides. With hands under Jeet’s knees, he pressed them back and the boy’s bottom came up under Nester’s cock. Letting go of one of Jeet’s legs, Nester pointed his cock down, placing the crown at Jeet’s entrance. He pressed in, finding Jeet’s opening still slick from Eustace’s semen and scented oil. He pressed all the way in, watching his cock disappear into the boy, and then he lowered himself down onto Jeet and wrapped his arms under him.

Jeet felt the weight of the youth on him, much like the weight of Tazaar the night before, pressing his cock between their bellies. Only this was different; Nester’s cock was inside him. And because eunuchs have prostates, it felt good to Jeet. He pulled his knees up and wrapped his legs around the older boy. They made a tight ball together, a gently rocking tight ball.

“Jeet,” Nester whispered in the boy’s ear, rubbing his cheek against Jeet’s. He liked the boy’s name. “Jeet.”

Earlier that day, he teased Ono because of Ono’s secret crush on the boy. But that was partly because he, too, loved the boy, or wanted him… not so much sexually, as eunuchs didn’t have much of that kind of drive; but emotionally, to have and hold the boy, to be intimate with him.

Nester had teased Ono, but now Nester tasted Jeet himself. He covered Jeet’s slender, young body with his own. He lay belly to belly on the boy, slowly pumping his hips and sliding his cock in and out of the boy’s tightness… pressing all the way in until his bald pubic mound pressed against Jeet’s perineum… rubbing the boy’s face with his, the boy’s lips with his. His senses filled with the boy. And he could imagine that someday men might fight over Jeet. In two or three years, the boy would have the kind of beauty men might kill to possess.

But men with balls; not eunuchs. At least not this one. He moved gently with Jeet, and thrilled to the feel of the boy’s slender arms wrapped over his shoulders. He would enjoy Jeet tonight, and simply hope that there would be other nights… sometime.

+ + + + +

Jeet found Tazaar the next morning, taking a piss down by the river beside the shrine bathhouse. Tazaar’s breechcloth and cord belt were over his shoulder and he was pissing out into the water.

Jeet came up behind him, wrapping his arms around Tazaar to hug him from behind. “Jeet,” Tazaar smiled, and patted his arms. “How bad was it with Eustace?”

“It was good,” Jeet answered simply.

“With Eustace?” Tazaar asked, surprised.

“With Nester,” Jeet corrected.

“Really?” Tazaar asked, surprised. “I slept with Nester, and we didn’t do anything.”

“Well, I did,” Jeet said, and he described how Nester made love to him, complete with sensations, as Tazaar shook off after his piss and then put on his breechcloth.

“It was like we did when you were on top of me and we were rubbing cocks,” Jeet said, helping to straighten Tazaar’s breechcloth. “Only his cock was up my butt and it felt good… I mean really good.” He leaned close, laying the flat of his hand on Tazaar’s sternum. “We will have to try it tonight.”

Tazaar shook his head. “Tonight is my turn with Stycus; my last night with the monster.”

“Oh,” Jeet said, his eyes dropping. “I am sorry.”

Tazaar smiled and, turning them back toward the temple, he patted Jeet’s bottom. “He won’t bruise me like he did you. He wants the Oracle to pick me for Abij-hah.”

+ + + + +

Cyndur was waiting once more, behind the same column. Tazaar went to him immediately. From the folds of his cloak, Cyndur pulled a slender bracelet of silver and slipped it over Tazaar’s wrist.

Tazaar stared at it, his eyes large, and, while he was staring, Cyndur pulled him into his arms. He held the nearly-naked, younger boy tightly to himself and kissed over his face. Tazaar stood numbly at first, but then wrapped his arm around the youth’s neck and kissed back.

“Tazaar,” Aruli called. “We need to go.”

The pair continued their embrace.

“Tazaar,” Bantu called. “They’ll come looking for us.”

The young eunuchs glanced at each other. In some ways, their hearts toward males were not unlike the hearts of young maidens. Like all boys, they naturally admired older youths and athletes. But their admiration was amplified because youths and athletes had a strength and masculine form they would never have. Other than Jeet, none had known the love of women, and it was beyond consideration that they ever would; it was the male form that captured all of their admiration.

They looked at Tazaar in Cyndur’s embrace and imagined what it would be like to be pulled into Cyndur’s strong arms and to feel the hardness of his body and heat of his passion. To be held like that – to be desired like that – was beyond what they could ever imagine for themselves. Not even Jeet would deny this opportunity to Tazaar.

Jin stepped close to the embracing couple. “I have an idea, Tazaar. No one guards the inside passage from the bathhouse back to the shrine,” he said. “After our practice, I can show Cyndur the way in. I can bring him to you.”

Tazaar and Cyndur broke their kiss and turned to Jin.

“I can bring him to you,” Jin repeated. “I can bring him to our chambers.” He turned to Cyndur. “After the practice, go down to the last bathhouse, closest to the shrine. Make sure no one is there and wait for me.” He looked from Cyndur to Tazaar. “Well?”

They both nodded. The other eunuchs had closed around the couple, and they tugged at Tazaar to come away. “After the practice,” Jin called back, as they dragged Tazaar with them.

Jeet did poorly at practice that day. His emotions were confused. Was Tazaar his ‘someone else’ or not? Didn’t Tazaar feel for him the same tender feelings that Jeet felt for Tazaar? The same inexplicable fondness for every little thing about him… nose and eyes and eyebrows and ears and a hundred other intimate places they touched and washed for each other daily? Jeet watched them; Tazaar stealing glances at Cyndur and Cyndur watching no one but Tazaar. And he felt sad.

+ + + + +

The inside passage from the bathhouse came up to a rear hallway in the shrine. Increasingly, temple guards and servants had left the shrine to the eunuchs. There were guards controlling the front accesses to the shrine, but that was mainly to protect the boys, and, when the Oracle came, they would be there to protect her as well. But with preparations for the Oracle almost complete within, the boys had the interior of the shrine almost completely to themselves.

By the time Jin pointed the way into the chamber and Cyndur walked in, everything was ready. Tazaar stood quietly in the center of their bedchamber, dressed in his fine silk breechcloth and sheer silk cape. The young eunuchs crowded up to the door to watch as Cyndur approached him.

The two ignored the boys crowded at the door as Tazaar, with a smile, held up his wrist to show the bracelet. When he did, his cape fell open. Cyndur came right up to him then, placing his hands onto Tazaar’s bare waist, and he pulled the younger boy to him. They kissed, and Tazaar slid his arms around Cyndur’s neck.

They stood kissing for some time, hands exploring under cape and cloak. Then, as they kissed, Cyndur unfastened Tazaar’s cape and it fell to the floor. He pulled Tazaar against his body, and reaching behind the smaller boy, found and untied the knot in his belt. The belt and Tazaar’s silk breechcloth fell to the floor. Then Cyndur spread his cloak and pulled Tazaar into it.

Their bodies pressed. They rubbed their faces. Cyndur buried his mouth in the nape of Tazaar’s neck, and Tazaar unfastened the older youth’s cloak, dropping it to the floor. He pulled up Cyndur’s tunic and the older youth stepped back to pull it off over his head.

For one magnificent moment, Cyndur stood naked before them. He was tall and well-built, with a musculature they would never have. He stood solid as a young tree. Each muscle in his powerful legs stood out clearly. His butt was high, rounded, firm, and smooth. Long muscles rose up along his spine like satin-covered steel. His shoulders were hard-muscled and strong; his black hair fell down the back of his neck to his shoulders. His brow was broad, his jaw strong, his cheekbones high. The muscles of his neck stood out like a stag’s in rut, and his muscled chest and lean belly rose and fell as his nostrils flared.

It was as if he sensed their admiration and envy, standing still before them. All their eyes fell to his long, thick, upward-curving cock and low-hanging balls. From a dense patch of pubic hair, a single trail of dark hair ran up to his navel. Across his chest, fine, dark hairs lay flat.

And then he pulled Tazaar once more to him, holding the slender eunuch’s body tightly to his own, their erections pressed out to the sides. Tazaar placed his hands on either side of Cyndur’s face, and opened his mouth to Cyndur’s. In moments, he teased Cyndur’s mouth open with his tongue and their kiss grew impassioned.

And then Tazaar drew back, and lay down on the bedding, holding his arms open to his lover. Cyndur dropped to his knees between Tazaar’s legs and lay down on the younger boy whose legs splayed out to the sides.

Cyndur closed his arms under Tazaar's shoulders; Tazaar’s hands explored Cyndur’s strong back and flanks. Silently, Bantu and Ptolemy carried a jar of scented oil to Tazaar’s bedside. Bantu grasped Cyndur by the shoulder and tugged gently until the youth knelt up. Then Bantu applied oil to his thick cock while Ptolemy applied it to Tazaar’s bottom.

Tazaar pulled his knees up and out, laying the way Jeet had described his lovemaking with Nester the night before. And for a moment, Jeet felt disappointment because he had told Tazaar about it so that they could do it together. But then, he couldn’t blame Tazaar, especially after seeing Cyndur’s splendid body.

Bantu pointed the youth’s cock down toward Tazaar’s opening, and then guided him in as Cyndur leaned forward. As the young athlete’s shaft slid in, he and Tazaar once more wrapped each other up in arms and legs, and Bantu and Ptolemy returned to the others at the doorway.

From there, the young eunuchs watched as Cyndur made love to Tazaar the way a young male makes love. They watched the flexing of his back and leg muscles and the clenching of his tight butt. They could see his balls slapping Tazaar’s bottom, and then his balls tightened up to his shaft, and they could see Cyndur’s thick cock pull back from and then re-enter Tazaar’s opening. They could hear the wet slap of Cydur's loins and the soft moans of both lovers. They could smell the scented oil and the heady aroma of male sex.

And Jeet’s confidence was absolutely shaken. Not only was Tazaar not the ‘someone else’ he had dreamed of, but, also, if such a remarkable person as Cyndur chose Tazaar over all the rest of them, wouldn’t the Oracle do the same? Was there ever going to be a ‘someone else’ for Jeet after all? Was it simply a dream?

Jeet stayed to stand guard at the door while the others went to evening sacrifice and meal, and made excuses for their missing fellow eunuchs. Jeet leaned against the door and watched the couple as their lovemaking slowed, resumed, and slowed. He watched them, in each other’s arms, legs entwined as their eyes roamed each other’s face and their hands explored each other’s bodies.

“I've never seen anyone like you,” Jeet heard Cyndur tell Tazaar. “You are more beautiful than any other boy... or girl... or woman I have ever seen.” He kissed Tazaar’s shoulder. “You are more beautiful than a god or goddess. The way you move, the way you run, the gold in your hair when the sun hits it.” He rubbed his cheek on Tazaar’s and spoke softly. “I haven’t slept at night. I haven’t had a thought that wasn’t of you. You have been a fever for me.” He embraced Tazaar tightly. “In my arms, you are more exciting than I ever imagined. Your body moves with mine as though we were one. Even now, after making love, I still burn for you, Tazaar.” He whispered in the boy’s ear, “Tazaar, Tazaar, Tazaar… you fill me with fire.”

In that instant, Jeet caught a glimpse of Tazaar through Cyndur’s eyes… a creature unlike any other; neither male nor female, boy or youth; a long-limbed, gentle creature with a beauty to stop a heart, or start it beating again. Jeet saw Tazaar smile happily, and he thought that Tazaar really was extraordinarily beautiful.

He felt badly because it made him sad. Sad that Tazaar had a lover other than himself; a real lover. Sad that the Oracle would probably choose Tazaar. And he was sad because he knew what he must do now because of his love for his friend, and he greatly dreaded doing it.

Jeet went to the couple and knelt beside them. He couldn’t resist laying a hand onto Cyndur’s strong shoulder, and marveled for a moment at the hardness of the youth’s muscles.

“This is my best friend,” Tazaar told Cyndur. “This is Jeet.” He smiled at Jeet. “He is my brother; my partner. We even bathe each other, every day.”

Cyndur glanced at Jeet. “I would like to watch that,” he said, and then smiled. “I would really like to watch that.”

“Sometime,” Tazaar said, stroking back a lock of Cyndur’s hair, “I will bathe you.”

“Tazaar,” Jeet whispered. “I will go for you tonight.”

Tazaar glanced up at him in surprise, and Cyndur pulled Tazaar possessively to himself as if Jeet was trying to take Tazaar away.

“I will go for you to Stycus' chambers tonight,” Jeet repeated. “So you can stay here.”

Tazaar’s mouth dropped open. “I forgot.” And then his brow furrowed. “No, Jeet, get one of the others to do it.”

Jeet shook his head. “Stycus might not accept one of the others instead of you. He will accept me.”

“No,” Tazaar said, shaking his head. “I will have to go then.”

But Cyndar clutched Tazaar even more tightly and buried his mouth in the nape of Tazaar’s neck. “No, Tazaar, don’t go,” he pleaded. “Not tonight.”

Tazaar’s body melted to the older boy’s and he looked up at Jeet helplessly. He reached for Jeet’s hand. “Jeet-hah,” he whispered. “You will do this for me?”

Jeet nodded, and Tazaar kissed his hand gratefully. “Thank you.”

Cyndur squeezed Tazaar hard and growled happily into the nape of Tazaar’s neck. Tazaar laughed in the high, rich tones of a young eunuch.

The others returned with food, and set it beside Tazaar’s pallet. As Jeet left to go to Stycus, Tazaar was feeding Cyndur, bite by bite.

+ + + + +

“He is sick, holy one,” Jeet explained. “The fast has been hard for him.”

Stycus frowned.

Jeet took a deep breath. “I am here in his stead.”

Stycus showed surprise. “Who sent you? Did he ask you to come?”

I said I would come, holy one.”

Stycus cocked his head, studying the boy. Jeet wore his silk breechcloth and the silk cape Rallot had made them. The boy had dressed in the best he had. The priest stroked the boy’s long hair. “You liked what we did when you were here before?”

The boy shook his head.

Stycus pulled off Jeet’s cape and walked around the boy. It always excited him to see long flowing hair on a boy’s body, and Jeet’s was luxuriously thick. He stroked it once again, then drew his fingers across the soft skin of the boy’s shoulders. There were incredibly small, fine golden hairs that fanned out from the boy’s spine; out across the back of the boy’s shoulders. Stycus bent to blow softly on them and the boy shuddered.

“Why did you say you would come if you didn’t like it?” Stycus asked, running his hand over the boy’s small, rounded bottom.

“Because Tazaar is sick and you would want someone else,” Jeet said in a shaking voice. He had dressed to please the priest, hoping that he would not insist on seeing Tazaar, but now he wished he hadn’t tried so hard, as the priest ran his hand over Jeet’s flat belly.

“Not just anyone else would do,” Stycus said, unfastening Jeet’s loincloth. “You knew I would want you?”

Jeet nodded.

Stycus paused a moment, frowning. It would have been much better if he had called for the boy; better if the boy had shown a little fear. And yet, perhaps he could work with this boy after all. If the boy was willing to trade with his body, Stycus knew how to handle him. He removed the boy’s breechcloth.

Tonight, he decided, though it would give him far less pleasure, he would hurt the boy less. It was a cold calculation; an investment toward bending the boy, one way or another, to his will.

Jeet didn’t dream in the night; not at all, which was unusual for him. He barely slept, feeling a heavy darkness in the room.

+ + + + +

The next day, Ono, Nester, and Benwal led the six, young eunuchs to the temple treasury. There the treasury stewards outfitted them in necklaces of rare stones and gold and silver; in earrings, brightly colored armbands, bracelets, ankle bracelets, earrings, combs and bands for their hair.

“After the Oracle comes,” the chief steward explained, “these things, and the gold and silver furnishings of the shrine, along with all the treasury of the Oracle, will be moved back to the shrine. More guards will be posted there, day and night. But you will be responsible to maintain a strict accounting.”

The high priest’s attendants and the steward worked with the boys to show them how to help each other with their hair and jewelry, working out what they would wear for the Oracle. Tazaar chose a collar of gold and white opal for Jeet that would hide bruises left by Stycus. Jeet chose two golden combs for Tazaar which would highlight the gold in his hair. They studied each other and smiled.

+ + + + +

That evening, Cyndur slipped into their chamber as they all knew he would. They hid him from temple servants who were there to help them make final preparations for the arrival of the Oracle.

When it was time for sleep, Jeet lay alone, listening to the sounds from Tazaar’s bed. Finally, he slipped from his pallet and moved to Aruli’s. “May I sleep with you?” Jeet asked.

Aruli smiled and nodded.

Jeet laid the side of his face on Aruli’s shoulder and wrapped an arm and a leg over his friend. Aruli stroked his back and nuzzled the top of his head. “Jeet-hah,” Aruli whispered affectionately.

“Aruli-hah,” Jeet whispered, and kissed inside Aruli’s neck.

Jeet dreamed that night. He was standing in the middle of the shrine and he knew he belonged there. He was waiting for the Oracle. Outside, he could hear voices cheering and he knew the Oracle was coming. She was coming for him. But then the voices began calling Jeet-hah, and he woke.

The temple gongs were sounding. There was more noise than normal from the courtyard. “Jeet-hah,” Aruli said, patting his butt. “It’s today!”

+ + + + +

The triple gong in the temple courtyard began a slow tolling the moment word arrived that the Oracle was at the gates of the city. To the blowing of rams horns, the beat of drums, and the clash of symbols, the high priests in their robes (except for Eustace who dressed as the goddess), along with a retinue of priestesses, musicians, temple guards, and the young eunuchs went out to meet the Oracle.

Many of the temple prostitutes went as well; most – male, female, and eunuch – had painted their faces and dressed as the goddess. As the entire company moved toward the temple gates, many came alongside the young eunuchs for a closer look.

Jeet, Tazaar, and the others were dressed in long breechcloths of fine linen. Their hair was pulled back in beaded leather strands. They wore brightly colored leather bands on their arms, and their eyes were painted in striking black and white stripes that fanned back to their temples.

The sky was clear and the sun was bright. A cool, dry breeze blew down from the hills, bringing the scents of pine and cedar. The entire city, thousands of people, lined the route, waving pieces of colored fabric and long cattails from the banks of the river. Many had brought food and, occasionally, the aroma of grilled meats or baked bread wafted past on the crisp air. The city people shared their food with each other and offered it to those in the procession.

No one enjoyed the celebration more than Jeet. He was elated. He had decided that his dream could only mean one thing; the Oracle was the ‘someone else’. He knew it was assuming a lot from only a dream of him waiting in the shrine, but he remembered the feeling of the dream, and the thoughts he had with it. The Oracle was The someone, and now he and the Oracle would soon be together.

When the procession went out through the city gates and came to the Oracle’s party, Jeet was mildly disappointed to find that sheer white curtains around her litter screened the Oracle from view. He tried to peer inside, but could only make out the shape of a young person, close in size to himself. After a few moments, bearers picked the litter up and the procession to the temple began, led by two servants with rams horns, priests, priestesses, and musicians.

As they walked, the horns sounded before them. The musicians clashed cymbals, beat drums, and blew on pipes. Dancers, including Eustace, followed the musicians and priests. Many, young men included, had dressed as the goddess.

When the passage way was wide enough, the young eunuchs and Nester did cartwheels, handsprings, and backsprings alongside and past the litter. Two youths, whom they didn’t know, joined them for a while in their acrobatics. Others from the city joined the dancers.

As the dancing, cartwheeling procession approached the agora, they could hear brass trumpets from the governor’s palace echoing down the hills. They were answered by the deep bellows of five-foot long, ceremonial horns from the temple walls and by the rhythmic sounding of the temple gongs.

When they neared the temple, the young eunuchs ran ahead to change into their silk garments and jewelry. Then they hurried to array themselves on the temple steps as the sounds of the procession drew close to the temple.

Jeet knew that each of the six young eunuchs harbored hope in his heart, however slight, that the Oracle would choose him as Abij-hah. But Jeet had more than hope. He was certain. As the lead dancers came in through the temple gates, his pulse quickened; it was his destiny that was approaching.

The temple gongs were sounding continuously now, first together, then in sequence. The bellows of the long horns sounded from the walls; the horns turned inward now. From the procession came the clashing of cymbals and the beating of drums. The dancers came past the altar from which rose the smoke of sacrifices that would be continual for the next thirty days, and the head of the procession came closer and closer to Jeet. There was a moment, as Jeet watched them approach, when he felt like the whole procession was coming to bring the Oracle to him, and that all the celebration was because he and the Oracle would finally be together.

Most of the people stopped at the foot of the temple steps, but the priests, priestesses, and the litter with the young eunuchs alongside, continued into the temple. All the priests and priestesses, high and low, processed in and lined the long sides of the great sanctuary of the temple. At the far end, through a haze of incense, Jeet saw for the first time the statue of the goddess herself.

The litter was set down inside, and, when all of the priestesses had made it in, the doors to the temple were closed. Jarus pulled back the curtains of the litter, and the young Oracle came forth.

Jeet and the other young eunuchs bowed to her. For a moment, it was absolutely quiet inside the temple, even while the noise continued outside.

The boys straightened back up and got their first good look at the Oracle. She was in a young girl’s dress, but without head covering. Jeet was surprised to see that she had golden hair. It wasn’t completely rare among the Greeks; he just hadn’t expected it.

That golden hair hung down to the middle of her back. Her skin was pale, and her eyes were a deep blue. She was shorter, and looked no older than Jeet; and she looked a little frightened.

Jeet liked her face; an intelligent face. Her wide set eyes met his for a moment, and he gave her a smile he hoped was encouraging; he hoped his painted eyes wouldn’t frighten her. She saw the smile, and the faintest of smiles crossed her lips.

The high priests stepped behind her then, and they removed her clothing. Her eyes dropped to the floor and she flushed deeply red as she stood before them naked. It was required before she could be seated as Oracle – it must be demonstrated to the priests that the Oracle was a true hermaphrodite.

Every eye in the temple was on her body. She had the beginnings of small, firm breasts, and her hips had the soft curves of a girl. But her shoulders were wider, like a boy’s, and she stood erect, with her arms down to her side like a boy. Between her legs hung a limp penis, a real penis that was as long as many normal boys’. Even though she was completely without pubic hair, it took a second look from the eunuchs to realize that, instead of a scrotum and testicles behind her penis, the Oracle had labia… smooth labia.

Jeet heard one of the older priestesses murmur approvingly. “Not just a nub like the last Oracle. That’s a real cock. I wonder if it gets hard.”

Jarus motioned and the eunuchs led out in front as Jarus slowly took the Oracle down the line of priestesses along one wall. A chorus of four younger priestesses began chanting in monotone, and one struck cymbals at a slow rhythm. As if on signal, it grew quiet outside the temple.

The inner procession of eunuchs and high priests moved across to the other wall and down that line of priestesses, and then back to stand in front of the statue of the goddess. There, Jarus poured oil over the head of the Oracle as the chanting built in volume and the cymbals were struck more loudly.

They walked her back to the litter and the priests stepped back to let the eunuchs dress the Oracle. As they finished, Jeet gave her hand a quick, surreptitious squeeze. Aruli saw, and gave her a soft pat on the back. She glanced up at them and back down.

When they carried the litter out through the temple doors, the crowd in the temple courtyard cheered and their thousands of voices echoed off the temple walls. Once more the gongs and long horns began to sound, and the Oracle’s procession made its way across the length of the courtyard to the shrine at the other end.

The litter was set down in front of the shrine steps, and the high priests led the Oracle inside, followed by the eunuchs. They placed her on the Oracle’s seat at the far end of the great hall of the shrine, and the young eunuchs arranged themselves around her, with Jeet and Tazaar closest to the Oracle, the way they had been instructed to do by Jarus and Stycus – each placing his favored pick to the front.

There were more ceremonies. The governor came with his family. Jeet had not expected that or that Weela would be among them, but she was. She was standing beside the governor’s son, and she was dressed in fine clothes. She smiled at Jeet as if to say all was well with her.

Jeet’s gut tightened and his eyes grew damp because he missed her, but he was glad for her.

Musicians played, and the young eunuchs sang and then danced for the Oracle and her guest, the governor. Weela smiled when they were done and nodded her approval to Jeet.

And then, when the governor and other dignitaries had left, the boys cleaned their faces and put away their jewelry and silk clothes, changing back to cotton breechcloths, leather hair bands, and sandals. They served the Oracle and high priests at the Oracle’s table with grilled meats from the altar braziers, along with fresh fruit and freshly baked bread. The high priests introduced her to her new servants, Jarus motioning Jeet forward first. “This is the one I spoke of, Oracle,” Jarus told her. “This is Jeet.”

The Oracle had been sitting with her head down through much of the afternoon. Now she glanced at the priest, then at Jeet and, and then dropped her head again.

Stycus motioned Tazaar forward. “This is Tazaar,” he said. “He is oldest and their leader.”

The others, including Jarus, glanced at Stycus, surprised by his claim that Tazaar was their leader. But then Eustace brought Aruli forward and introduced him, and the others followed.

Afterward, as the young eunuchs cleared and cleaned the table, the priests talked to the Oracle about what would happen during the next thirty days of celebration and dedication as well as how her daily schedule was to go. As the young eunuchs filled a large metal bath with water for the Oracle, the priests explained to the Oracle that she would have to decide at the end of those thirty days who would be the new Abij-hah.

Evening had fallen by then. The Oracle said a tearful good bye to the servants who had accompanied her from her father’s household. They would stay in pilgrims’ quarters outside the temple grounds overnight and leave with sunrise in the morning.

“Now your attendants will bathe you, Oracle,” Jarus told her. “They will prepare your chambers. Then you will pick one to sleep at the foot of your bed.”

“No,” the Oracle said, her head hanging once more. “I don’t need help bathing.”

“But Oracle,” Jarus said, “You needn’t be modest. These are your personal attendants. They are eunuchs.”

The barely-thirteen-year-old Oracle shuddered inwardly as she rejected the thought of being bathed by half a dozen thirteen and fourteen-year-old boys. She held up her hand and glared defiantly at the high priests with damp eyes. “I let you take my clothes off in front of a whole temple full of people. I’ve had enough of that today.”

Jarus frowned. “But it isn’t right to leave the Oracle alone. It just isn’t the way things are done. Take at least one attendant with you.”

The Oracle’s brow furrowed, and Jeet had a glimpse of her male side as her jaw set. She glanced from priest to priest. Then, with a sigh, she looked her attendants over. Her eyes lingered on Jeet and her look, for a moment, softened. But then Jeet saw her glance up at Jarus. Her frown returned. She turned and pointed at Tazaar.

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