Chief Manz had planned an official visit to the neighboring region of Renakan. Prince Hammand was expected to travel with his parents and sisters while his brothers were left to man the fort in their father’s absence.
Asgar was more than happy to go along. He knew that the more places he traveled, the better his chances of discovering where he could be from. Any place was better than no place. And it gave him some peace knowing that he was searching, albeit not of his own choice.
The only snag was the extremely uncomfortable ride on the carriage. Despite being bigger and more spacious than the one that carried the rest of the servants and slaves, having to sit on a meager cushion (which Hammand had snuck underneath him when no one was looking) on the floor for the entire ten hour bumpy journey was not his idea of enjoyment. The horses that pulled the carriage were fast and he felt every stop and jerk they made.
At least this told him he was definitely not used to travelling this way. So his previous station couldn’t be too low down the ladder… could he? It was not like his bones were breaking or anything; it was having to sit in one crouched position for so long with no room to stretch his long limbs. There were only two stops made the whole time, not nearly enough to relieve him. Maybe he wasn’t as strong as he thought.
He couldn’t look out of the window to see the various sights they passed but Hammand made sure to describe everything he saw of interest. Asgar knew that Hammand worried about his reaction for he had nervously explained how the trip might be uncomfortable for him on and on until Asgar had had to distract him.
Since they had climbed into the carriage Hammand had remained apprehensive and kept touching Asgar at his feet with as much subtlety as he could. It was only when the big man shifted backwards so that the prince’s legs were against his back that Hammand relaxed a little.
Asgar noticed the princesses were watching them with interest now. A lot of interest. He knew that if they had not guessed there was something between them the night he met them, they probably would be getting there now. He wasn’t sure this was a good thing.
* * * *
They arrived in the city of Renakan late at night and were heartily welcomed by the royal family. There was Chief Ker, his Queen Camarina and their array of four daughters, all good-looking but not overly beautiful.
Renakan was on the lower rung of power amongst the regions, so they had a big impression to make, for Renadi was the third richest in the whole land. The first was Renan, the mainland where the King lived, a most beautiful and wondrous place and the second was Renagoa.
The Renakans orchestrated an entourage of half-naked dancers and acrobats, all dressed in fantastic attires with elaborate decorations covering the carriages that bore them and exotic animals to escort them into the city from its gates. It was as if the entire people of the city were out in the square heralding their arrival.
That was when it irked Prince Hammand a bit; what was all the fuss for? He had visited other lower rung regions in the past and granted, there had always been pomp and pageantry but not like this. It was then that he began to wonder if there was something else going on.
When they were led into the palace, royals first, Asgar got a chance to stretch his long limbs and have a look around. Asgar could see that from the wealth displayed in the palace, that Renakan was a relatively rich place. But it was not nearly as grand or as large as Renadi, you could tell from the small city gate. He felt nothing familiar about the city; it was all strange to him, even the dialect the people spoke. His heart sank, just a little bit.
Soon it was obvious that Prince Hammand was the centre of attention, which was strange considering that he was not the heir to the Renadi throne. Asgar noticed that the red carpet was littered with flowers only when Prince Hammand walked past and he was put to the right of the Chief Ker.
Something was up, Asgar could tell.
Luckily, Prince Hammand was in no mood for entertainment and when they were all in the confines of the throne room, he immediately but politely asked to go to bed. His sisters joined in as well, yawning for good measure. Their hosts understood this and offered them a light supper to be eaten in their respective chambers before slumber.
The girls were shown their bedchamber first and Hammand saw them settled in before he headed for his.
Once they had eaten and were ready for bed, all the servants left. Prince Hammand turned to Asgar apologetically.
“I’m okay my prince…” Asgar said unnecessarily. But his voice was weary. The prince said nothing, just pushed Asgar onto the bed and pulled his slippers off. Maneuvering the huge man onto his belly he clambered onto Asgar’s broad back.
He ignored the feeble protests that the tired man tried to make and began to massage his shoulders and lower back as best he could. He felt so guilty when he got to his buttocks, very sore indeed judging from the subtle catch in Asgar’s breath as he began to knead into them; thinking he would need to ensure that he had his own carriage next time they went on a journey. No way he was putting Asgar through this again, he didn’t care how strong Asgar was. It had been a long tiresome journey in an uncomfortable position. Besides, everyone needed taking care of by the one they… he closed his eyes at this thought and took a deep breath… loved.
By the time he had slowly worked his way down to Asgar’s legs, the big man was fast asleep. Hammand smiled in delight, as he made sure he covered Asgar with the soothing ointment before tucking him in. He snuggled in tight beside him, yawning and falling asleep almost immediately.
* * * *
They were both so tired that they did not awaken at their normal early hour. It was nice that Hammand had no duties for a change and he wanted to make the most of it. He also wanted Asgar to rest a bit more.
His deep slumber confirmed how tired he was when the servant’s tentative knocking did nothing to rouse him at all.
“We are here to ready you for the morning, our Prince.” Thankfully they didn’t dare come in.
The prince called out sternly that he was not to be bothered for the next three hours. Asgar just slept on through it. Hammand joined him soon enough, enjoying the sight of his slave’s relaxed face for a while.
An hour later, his sisters burst in excitedly, eager to start their tour of the place and people.
They found their brother and his slave fast asleep in each other’s arms, lost to the world. Arina and Kitina stared at each other and then at the bed again, both inwardly thankful that it had been them that had burst in and not their mother for they both looked so… intimate.
It was almost like Hammand was in a cocoon. He was curled completely into Asgar, who was tilted sideways yet holding Hammand tight against him. Asgar’s huge frame was wrapped around the prince so you could hardly see him. Their legs were tangled, with Hammand’s little leg thrown over the huge man’s toned thigh.
Even as they awakened slowly, they remained in tune with each other, nuzzling into each other’s faces, bodies stretching and tangling even more before snuggling back again as if to go back to sleep further.
That is until Asgar turned sleepily. And stiffened.
He said nothing, but his body language alerted a sleepy Hammand and he turned as well, eyes widening in shock as he scrambled to sit upright. He grew beet red in embarrassment as he tugged the covers over Asgar’s half-naked body, thankful that he was fully dressed at least.
“Wh-what ar-e you girls doing here?” he managed, looking around helplessly.
“Waking you up Hammand?” Princess Arina said softly. There was confusion on her face.
“You didn’t knock.” He protested half-heartedly.
“Yes we did.” She said, getting a mighty nudge from her sister.
“No we didn’t!” Princess Kitina confessed excitedly.
“Okay fine, we didn’t knock. We wanted to surprise you. But it looks like you’ve surprised us.”
Asgar stood up at that, knowing they needed to talk, preferably without him present. “I’ll go prepare the bath, my prince. Good morning Princesses.” They returned his greeting with a nod, Princess Kitina trying hard not to smile.
“Asgarrr…?” Hammand began with a frown. He didn’t care that his sisters knew about them. It was a relief actually, albeit an embarrassing one. He wanted the whole world to know but he had especially been aching to tell them.
“You need to talk with them, my prince.” Asgar said as he held the bedchamber door open. “I will only be right out here in the bath chamber… if you need me.”
Hammand nodded sulkily, slumping back into the bed. His sisters jumped into bed with him as soon as Asgar was out the door, consumed with giggles and talking over themselves.
“What’s going on?”
“Mother will kill you! In your bed!”
“Have you been with him?”
“You better not have!”
“Stop okay!” he laughed, raising both hands. “We haven’t done anything. I just like to keep him close, that’s all.”
“Very close it seems,” said Princess Arina, the voice of the most reason between the twin girls. “You have to be careful Hammand. It could have been mother who walked in not us. Imagine that. You could get your Asgar punished. You know she wouldn’t hesitate.”
Hammand shrugged off the shiver of dread that coursed through him. “No one comes into our presence without knocking. You know that! The servants were here much earlier and I sent them away. If you had only knocked…”
“Fine, we should have knocked. We apologize. Still this is very serious. I mean I sensed your closeness with him that day we met him but not like this.” Arina scolded, a deep frown creasing her beautiful face. “Hammand…”
“I think I love him.” Hammand confessed, getting it out in the open.
“Oh Hammand. You cannot!” That was very different from simply keeping him close, Kitina thought.
Hammand held his head in his hands and his sisters were at his side at once. “You think I don’t know? But that’s how I feel. I can’t help it. At first I thought it would dwindle away but everyday it feels like I love him more and more. I feel like I’m going to burst soon if we keep hiding it. This secret is such a burden.”
The twins were speechless at his intense expression of emotion, realizing that their little brother must truly be in love.
He went on. “I didn’t choose to fall for him. It just happened. Now I feel like I would die for him.”
“Oh brother.” Kitina whispered soothingly.
“He is so magnificent… Shetna says he may be of royal blood. Honestly now, that is my only hope, because I know mother and father will never let me be with a slave.”
“You want to be with him?” Princess Arina asked tentatively. “You want to be wed to him?”
He didn’t look up.
“But if he is royal and you kept him as a slave that is not good either.” Kitina added. “You know the law.”
“Yes. I know.” He answered their questions simultaneously.
Keeping a royal or nobleman as a slave was a serious offence entrenched eons ago after the Masik War. In Goren, where there are no more royals left to rule a region whether by death or misadventure, the land is shared amongst all the regions it shared a border with.
Due to this, the war saw royals disappearing like wild fire and a good number of regions were lost due to this madness. This was what gave birth to the rule. To keep the regions, whether at war or not, from taking neighboring royals into slavery to reduce their lineage and take their land. And it applied and remained punishable even if there was no such intention.
Punishable by death.
Hammand blinked and pushed those thoughts out of his mind.
“But you cannot!”
“I cannot be without him!”
“You have to be careful brother. No one can know about this.”
“So you will not tell?”
“Of course not! Never! How can you think so ill of us?” they lamented in indignation.
Princess Kitina giggled conspiratorially. “Oh to love like you do would be beautiful.” Her voice was wistful. They had been seeking betrothals for a while now after all. Everyone knew to find love was better. If only.
Hammand smiled at this, blushing prettily.
There came a knock on the door. “Asgar?” Hammand checked.
“Yes my prince.” Came the rumbling voice. “Your bath is ready.” The girls giggled.
Hammand called out for him to come in as he shooed his sisters out, promising to meet them in a short while for breakfast. They made their way out past Asgar, who bowed respectfully. Princess Arina stopped in front of him, a finger on his chest.
“You will protect him?” She stated firmly, not really asking. Hammand hovered behind her, looking apologetically at the huge slave.
Asgar raised his eyes to look intently at Prince Hammand as he responded quietly but clearly. “With my life, my lady.”
Hammand could swear he felt those words before Asgar said them and he thought his heart would burst.
* * * *
Through their one-week stay, the reason Prince Hammand was the centre of attention soon became clear. Chief Ker kept seating Hammand beside his eldest daughter Princess Sava at mealtimes and Queen Camarina kept talking about how good they looked together. This seemed to always bring hearty laughs out of Prince Hammand’s parents.
Asgar felt sick to his stomach, just about managing to keep a straight stern face as he stood behind Hammand and watched it all. It hurt to watch, his heart was wringing in his chest. Asgar longed to be out of sight of all this constant torture so he could get a breath of fresh air. Hammand kept turning to him and making him bend over to listen. He had to eventually ask him to stop as he noticed Hammand’s mother staring daggers at him.
Not that this deterred her; Queen Shila was very sharp. She queried who he was out loud in front of everyone and the prince had to go through a lengthy explanation about where he had come from and why she had not officially met him in all this time. She didn’t seem to like his excuses at all despite all the explanations Hammand tried. He knew she didn’t push it because of where they were.
One evening when they were being shown the palace pets, an array of exotic creatures, Hammand walked side by side with his parents. His sisters walked further ahead, having made friends with the younger of the Renakan princesses. Asgar kept a very respectable distance, intermingling every now and then with the other slaves trailing the royals.
“What do you think of Sava, son?” his father asked Prince Hammand in passing.
He shrugged. “She… is a bit amu-sing,” he offered, not sure what he was supposed to say. “I haven’t really talked to her much.”
“Well, now that we have seen her, I think your mother and I can tell you now that Princess Sava is a possible bride for you. That was the reason for this visit—to test your compatibility.”
“My compati-? Wh-at? You can’t be serious father?” he gasped, turning to his mother who sported a very straight innocent face. “Mother?”
She said nothing.
“Why was I not told of this before now? Do I not have the right to know that I am being considered for marriage? I don’t even see Princess Sava like that! I can’t just marry her!”
He was so upset by this and even moreso by the fact that his parents were not interested in his opinion. He could not believe a girl had already been picked out without them consulting him at all. And to top it all; bringing him to Renakan without any idea of the betrothal.
To think he had been sitting with her all these days, wondering why she was so nervous and jittery. She probably knew what it was all about. Gods, he felt so stupid. At least her parents had the propriety to tell her about it.
After marriage he knew he would no longer be able to have Asgar close to him like he was now; no slave would be allowed to sleep in his bedchamber let alone his bed. The only person allowed such privileges would be his wife.
“Come Hammand. Calm yourself.” His mother spoke finally. “Remember, nothing has been decided as yet so there is no need to be apprehensive.”
“I don’t want to marry someone I do not know or love. You know that mother. I’ve talked to you about this. Why is father-…”
“Time will tell. You never know, do you?”
He still remained unhappy and asked to be excused to use the bathroom as they walked out of the caged area to the fields to watch some performance.
Asgar followed, walking closely behind Hammand as they made their way to the bedchamber. He hadn’t heard what was said but he had a feeling it was not good from Hammand’s tense disposition.
The prince’s emotions escalated as he walked and he had to stop for a minute when they were out of sight of his parents and the princesses to get control of himself with heaving breaths. Asgar said nothing, just pressed his frame against Hammand’s back and let his warmth soothe the hurting prince until he could move again.
Once they entered the chamber and closed the door behind them, Hammand turned to Asgar and was lifted into his arms where he began to cry.
“I don’t want to marry some strange girl…” he sobbed into Asgar’s shoulder. Asgar rocked him gently, rubbing his back to soothe him.
Asgar’s heart clenched painfully at the news. “Ham, you need to talk to them more about this. Make them understand how you feel. They just might listen. After all, there is no hurry is there? A visit is not a betrothal; nothing has been announced or set in stone. You can always marry someone else.”
Hammand slowly calmed down as he listened to the big man. They had no idea that Hammand’s father was marrying him off for a reason, Hammand was the youngest royal after all. Despite feeling better, he refused to go back out to watch the performance, sending a message to say he was unwell.
Instead he clung to Asgar, fearful all of a sudden of losing their connection, their closeness. He couldn’t lose this, not now, not ever. He didn’t want to get married to anyone, except… his proud, big slave.
* * * *
The next day, Hammand could not be bothered to go out for any of the scheduled activities. He feigned an illness and spent the day in with Asgar. His parents knew very well that he was sulking. They let him be, even though his absence was doing little for heir plan.
Asgar was sitting on the edge of the bed, cleaning their sandals and the prince was standing by the window, looking out thoughtfully. You could hear the roaring of the crowds enjoying the festivities that had been planned for them. Normally Hammand would have been very interested in watching it all. Now he was just angry and so very afraid. It upset Asgar to see him this way.
“You said you remember being with women. Did you enjoy it?”
Asgar frowned. “Why do you ask?”
“I was just wondering what it would be like to be… be with a woman. I’ve never – we’re not allowed to sleep with anyone until we get married. My parents say it is against the law for a royal to marry unclean.” He paused in thought, cheeks brightening steadily. “Anyway, I’ve never had the urge to be with a woman but my brothers… Miriam practically implanted it in my brain over the years, I think I might be scarred for life.” He laughed remembering her words, “I can quote her ‘No sex with anyone, no one, not ever. Until the time is right’ I had to repeat it almost ten times a day from when I turned thirteen. It was hell.”
Asgar laughed along with him, unable to resist querying further, “So what would happen if you did?”
“Nothing much I guess, except being a source of shame to the bloodline. I’m not sure if it’s ever happened before in Renadi. But it might have in the other regions.” He thought for a bit
then perked up as he recalled something. “There was one time Jinor got in trouble. He almost bonded with father’s closest adviser’s daughter. There was so much fear in the air while the investigations were carried out, you would have thought someone was going to get killed or something. The adviser was the worst, he kept crying as if it had been him that had been caught with Jinor. Even Father was somber. I’ll never forget it; Miriam didn’t let me forget. I was quite young then but she got a good chance to knock the fear of the gods into me.”
Asgar said nothing even though he itched to tell him what he had discovered. But he could not. Telling Hammand that anyone he was caught bonding with would be slaughtered would only terrify him more than he already was. There was no good in that. Besides, it was not his place to tell him. Prince Hammand would be told when the time was right.
“So you have your eye on someone?”
“No!” Prince Hammand gasped, fearing his emotions were bare. “Of course not!”
“Then why are you asking?”
“I just wanted to know how it was like to make… love to… to a woman, that’s all.”
“You really want to know?”
“Yes,” the prince whispered, “Yes I do.” He really just wanted to know how Asgar made love, so he could dream about it.
“Are you sure?”
Prince Hammand moved away from the window and walked up to Asgar. He settled down at Asgar’s feet like a child listening to a fairytale, resting his chin on the big man’s right knee. Asgar chuckled, dropping the polishing cloth and tousling his prince’s hair.
His fingers gently slid down and stroked Hammand’s lips. “You start with kissing her…” he began slowly, his mind going right back to his vision as it had been doing every day and every night since he had gone to the shrine with Miriam.
“You kiss her face, her neck.” Long fingers trailed round his face and down the sides of his neck. “You can use your teeth on her neck. Be gentle mind, and make sure she enjoys what you do before you continue.”
“How will I know she is in enjoyment?”
“From the sounds she makes when you do it. She might tell you too. But you’ll know.” He paused, watching the small man who gulped and nodded for him to carry on. “Then you move to her breasts. Cup them in your hands…”
“What if she had really small breasts? I mean, almost flat, like a… a man’s?”
Trying not to wince at the specific question, which sounded like Ham really did have someone in mind, Asgar continued. “Well – it doesn’t matter how small her breasts are. You can focus on her nipples.”
“Oh.” I have nipples, Hammand thought.
“You can lick them, suck them, roll them against your palms.” He snickered as Hammand held up his hands in interest. “Come up here.” Despite saying that, he lifted Hammand up like he was a feather and laid him on the bed. “I can show you as well as tell you.”
He climbed over Hammand’s tense body, straddling his hips but not putting his weight on him.
Flattening his palms over the small chest he simulated rolling and stroking without touching the prince.
“Move downwards slowly - kiss her belly and tease it with your fingers.” He shifted down as he spoke, sliding his hands underneath Hammand’s slim thighs and lifting them up and apart. “Open her thighs slowly, stroke them but don’t go between them just yet.”
Prince Hammand’s eyebrows raised in confusion. A shiver went through him as Asgar lifted both his legs up, placing his feet against each cheek so he could feel Asgar’s breath on them.
“Stroke her legs…” Long thick fingers threaded through and over the prince’s toes, making them curl involuntarily. Asgar knew exactly what he was doing. “Kiss her toes –”
“Kiss them?” Hammand’s voice was hoarse at the thought of Asgar doing this to his toes.
“Yes, kiss them one by one. You don’t have to, but with someone you love and want to give as much pleasure as possible to, it’s always good to be thorough. Remember, you need to know every single inch of her so that you know everything she enjoys.”
He continued. “Now, lick her toes but watch for her reaction. If she seems to like it, keep licking them.”
Hammand gulped as his feet were slowly lowered and moved further apart as Asgar crept closer. His heart caught in his throat as the big man stared down at him. He could feel the heat rising in his face as Asgar loomed over his hips. Oh god, not there!
“Kiss down her legs until you get between them. Her opening should be wet and almost ready for you by now…”
“Wet?” He couldn’t get wet. There was no opening to get wet from. That wasn’t good.
“Yes, a woman’s opening becomes moist when she is aroused. It is how her body prepares itself for a man.”
“Oh. What-what if she isn’t wet-moist?”
“Well, then she might be really nervous or you’re doing something wrong. But don’t let that stop you. Lick her down there, all over. Take a lot of time there, that should make her ready.”
He moved up, pretending he did not notice the prince’s constrained erection so close to his face. He was thrilled he was affecting him like this even though deep inside he feared it might be the idea of what he could do to a woman that was getting Hammand so aroused.
He was over Hammand’s face now, their eyes locking. “Your cock should be ready to go by now.”
Hammand gulped. Yes it was.
“You move your hips between her thighs like this.” The pressure of Asgar’s hips against his inner thighs made his cock start to twitch… and he felt something hard and hot twitch right back, right between his legs.
The prince swallowed his gasp, biting his lip as subtly as he could.
“Place your cock at her entrance and then hold her.” He gathered the small man to him, watching his eyes widen. “Then push in slowly –”
This time, Prince Hammand did gasp. “Push into her?” Not good.
“Yes, the moistness comes from the opening where all women give birth. That’s where you go into.”
“I know.” I most definitely have not got that… what was the point? Asgar couldn’t want him that way.
At that moment of realization, he retreated into himself. Asgar noticed the change in his countenance immediately.
“Are you okay?” he asked gently, stroking his hair as he pulled away a little. But Hammand had broken eye contact and wouldn’t look at him anymore.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. It’s just…” the rest of his words were an incoherent mumble. I wish I were a woman. Then Asgar would want me.
* * * *
The next day was even worse. Hammand spent the entire morning in his mother’s chamber like Asgar advised, trying to convince her that he could not marry the princess. He tried to explain that he did not feel even the slightest attraction to her. She did not agree with him and instead seemed very interested in why he was so close to his slave.
He returned back to his chamber even more dejected but he did not have time to talk to Asgar about it as he was summoned for a late banquet. They arrived in the royal court and Hammand was whisked as usual to stand beside Princess Sava. It was as if everyone in the city was in court. The court was overflowing with people and buzzing with excitement.
The royal crier stood in the centre of the great room, on a small podium used for entertainment. His gongs of different sizes and sound streams surrounded him, hanging all over his body. He maneuvered them expertly and they clanged loudly. An announcement was about to be made.
“Noble people of Renakan, hear the joyful tidings. Hear ye all that from this day forward, we shall have a mighty union with Renadi. A union that will last forever! A union that will strengthen our regions! A union that will change the face of all Goren! Prince Hammand of Renadi is to marry our beautiful Crown Princess Sava!”
There was loud applause and screams of delight from the court. Music began streaming in from somewhere at the back of the room.
“The seals of both regions have been placed on the royal agreement! We shall have the official betrothal ceremony after the regional festival! By order of our mighty chief, we are one with Renadi! From now henceforth, we are one with Renadi! All say with me, one with Renadi!”
Hammand stood shocked as the court screamed as prompted, his whole body shaking. The Chief Ker of Renakan was beaming proudly and so was Princess Sava. His parents were just sitting there, looking quite smug but deliberately avoiding his glare. He felt his insides churn.
“With all your heart, one with Renadi!”
Asgar has been watching from his vantage point as he always did and seeing his love’s reaction, stepped towards him. There were loud drum rolls now and the audience of noblemen milled around the royal parents, congratulating them on the praiseworthy agreement.
Asgar knelt before the prince (for the benefit of the crowd), looking up solemnly at his stricken face. Hammand’s chest was heaving and his lower lip was trembling. He was going to cry soon, Asgar could just feel it.
“Your chamber my prince?” He whispered so only Hammand could hear, knowing the prince needed to escape right now before he broke down and shamed himself. And such outbursts were never forgotten; somehow he knew that from his own experience in court even though he could not remember the specifics. Better that the audience have a fleeting memory of a fanciful gesture by a slave than a memory of a shameful act unbefitting of their future chief which was what Hammand would become when he married their crown princess.
Prince Hammand nodded shakily without a word, his hand reaching out for Asgar. There was a disruption of the excitement as Asgar pulled Hammand to him, his arms going round him. The huge man gently lifted the prince shoulder high as if in victorious celebration, his strong arms wrapped round the prince’s small thighs. The buzz resumed and he quietly strode out of the hall with Hammand.
Once they were out of the vicinity of the people, Asgar lowered Hammand to chest level. The prince buried his face in the crook of Asgar’s neck and swung his legs tight round his waist. He was shaking even worse now. The sobs began just as the huge man reached his prince’s rooms.
Thankfully at court, the crier did not stop in his stride, if anything he pushed harder. “Show your support, one with Renadi!” The people were a bit confused at the prince’s departure but thankfully not at the fact that his slave had lifted him up in pride. “Let the heavens hear us, one with Renadi!”
But exhilaration surpassed confusion just as Asgar had hoped. In quick time too.
“For our beautiful princess, one with Renadi!” With that scream, the court burst out with renewed vigor. All was forgotten. They had their princess and she was betrothed.
“Some slave…” said Queen Shila, her usual aloofness shaken by the sight of her son’s departure. She, like her Chief, was glad of the crier’s ability to control the court. He had saved them from embarrassment. But even more, the slave had saved face for the future King of Renakan.
She forced down the guilt at her bad handling of the situation. Her chief had had the same worries as her, that Hammand would refuse an arranged marriage from the start. They had both seen how much of a romantic he was growing up. Doing it this way was the best way. She would deal with him and the slave business later.
Her suspicions were quickening like wild fire. She knew her son was a virgin. That was still checked regularly and would continue until he turned twenty-four as was the law. The healer had his ways of checking if a man or woman had penetrated or been penetrated by another. In fact Hammand had been checked a few days before their trip here so he definitely was not having sex with that so called companion of his.
But still… their connection was obvious from what had just happened. It looked like love… or something close to it at least. Either way, it looked dangerous. She knew she needed to nip it in the bud, for plans were well under way for this marriage. Her son would—must—become the Crown Prince Hammand of Renakan.
Asgar however, was an instant hit. Rumors filtered to them that all of the nobles in Renakan suddenly wanted huge strong “companions”—the more similar to Asgar, the better. Somehow they now believed this was the way of the Renadi people, their new family. It was madness.
* * * *
As soon as they returned to Renadi, Prince Hammand sought Miriam’s counsel.
Hammand had slept quite well the night after the terrible news, maybe because he had cried so much. Asgar of course had been wonderful, taking him out of court before he had started to cry in front of everyone. He loved him even more for it.
The thought of being separated from him had reinforced Hammand’s knowledge that this friendship they had was a lot more to him than that. The first and only thing he had thought of since he was told about the impending marriage was, I can’t leave Asgar. Its Asgar I want to marry.
Of course he could not voice that thought. It was terrible enough to his own ears, much less his family. His parents would probably have Asgar killed for that; even Asgar would be appalled if he knew. He didn’t understand his own feelings at all. He had wished them away so many times that now he was too overwhelmed to bother, for they never budged, only grew more intense with each passing day, fostered by something as simple as a smile or a hug from the big man.
He wanted to talk to Miriam alone, so he had urged Asgar go to Shetna when the big man said he wanted to find out what the advisers researching him had found out so far.
He told her all about Renakan, Princess Sava, the unexpected betrothal and his sad disappointment in his parents’ secrecy. It seemed she could say nothing to make him feel better. She suspected there was more to it.
“Did you know about it?”
“Of course not. You know no one would tell me you were about to be betrothed especially if it was to be kept from you.” She stated with a scowl. “You should know that by now.” His face fell apologetically.
“I don’t see why you need to be married off now. Maybe you should talk to your mother a bit more, ask for a for time to think about it.” She itched to ask what Asgar thought about the whole situation and wondered why he wasn’t here with the prince.
“I have tried that Miriam. But the betrothal date has been set already. Mother refuses otherwise and Father agrees with her. What is the point of having time to think about it when I am already betrothed anyway? That’s as good as married is it not? Have you known of anyone that reneged after a betrothal? I haven’t.”
“It is still better than nothing my son…”
“I wish I were a woman,” he told Miriam. He sounded completely dejected.
Miriam whirled around, still holding the chopping knife. Her face was filled with confusion. “Why in the name of the gods would you want that?
“Asgar…” he whispered, choking on his words and wiping away the lone tear that trailed down his right cheek. “Because then Asgar would want me.”
Oh, she thought, that was it.
“What makes you think he doesn’t want you now?” she asked in surprise, wondering if what she had sensed growing, what she had seen between them that afternoon in her kitchen, was
all wrong. She knew Asgar was not against being with the prince. She had thought Prince Hammand knew this too.
“He wants a woman
.,” Hammand said. When she opened her mouth to ask, he stopped her. “He said so himself.”
“Are you sure he said that?” Miriam pressed, knowing better.
He said enough. “Yes he did,” he muttered as his shoulders slumped even further.
“And how do you feel about him?”
“You know how I feel.”
“I do, but does he?”
The prince shook his head.
“Maybe you should try telling him how you feel.”
He groaned and buried his head in the cradle his arms had made on the table. “I cannot. I do not want him to feel obliged to return my feelings or words. I want him to love me of his own accord. For that I cannot tell him. Ever.”
She understood his fear and longed to tell him what she knew. But it was not her place to do so. He would know when the time was right and if it was the will of Akin Ra.
“It can only get worse. He may meet someone… “ He let out a painful gasp at the thought. “I am such a fool, mother. Why do I hope for something that is impossible? Maybe I should give him his freedom and save myself all this heartache. Maybe I should let him go and simply get married to Princess Sava.”
There was silence for a while. Miriam sat down, her work forgotten in her concern.
“But I’m selfish. I want him.” He looked up at Miriam, with tear-filled eyes. “I need him. I don’t want to set him free. I know it’s selfish. But I can’t help that I don’t want to let him out of my sight for even a second. If he is free, he will leave to find his roots... his life. I know he would.”
“You can’t be sure he would do that.”
“But I can’t let him go!”
Miriam took his arm and pulled him with her over to the large, more comfortable cushion. They both settled into it and he leaned on her shoulder, fighting tears of frustration.
“Time will tell, my son. You are good to him; he is happy with you. There is a strong connection between you. You never know what the future could hold for both of you.”
Hammand snuffled, looking up. “What do you mean mother? What can the future possibly hold?”
“Just that. Be patient my son. Time will tell if he is to be yours and you his.”
“So there’s no way I can become a woman?”
“No my son. Akin Ra has not given me such powers.”
“But can you ask? Pray? Offer a rich sacrifice?”
“Prince Hammand!” she scolded softly.
“Sorry,” sulked the prince. It was worth a try after all.
“Have some patience.”
“Yes mother.” He snuggled against her. “I love him so much.”
“I don’t want to marry Princess Sava. I want to marry him. Asgar. Only him.”
“Patience.” She prayed to Akin Ra that her consoling words carried some weight.
* * * *
Miriam was not surprised when she was called to the presence of Queen Shila some days later. She prepared herself for the assault she knew would come after Hammand had recounted everything that had happened in Renakan. The Queen was at a stretch barely civil to her, she knew this was because of her closeness to Prince Hammand.
It was the sort of jealousy that Miriam never understood but which came from careless mothers who expected the undying love of a son they only looked at for about five minutes in a day. The fact that Miriam had that privilege with her son made Queen Shila dislike her immensely.
“Did you know about this?” the Queen spoke without preamble as soon as she caught sight of Miriam. She was lying on a chaise lounge with her feet up,
attended by two handmaidens. One was cooling
her with a fan and the other was brushing her long hair.
“About what, my Queen?” Miriam asked in feigned innocence.
“Oh, I am sure you know very well.” She paused, looking sternly at the woman who had suckled her child. “Hammand and… this slave of his.”
“I don’t understand my Queen, did something happen? Which of his slaves?”
Queen Shila folded her arms across her chest and with a flick of her head to tell the handmaiden to stop, she sat upright. Daintily placing her feet in her gold slippers, she leaned forward.
“The great big one who Hammand tells me he bought the last time I sent him to the slave market to get me a new slave.” She paused. Her eyes gleamed angrily. “My son bought himself a toy and you did not deem it fit to bring that to my attention!”
“My Queen, you must mean Asgar. He is not anything significant
—aside from his looks, maybe. To your Prince Hammand, he is
but a slave.” She always made sure to use Hammand’s title around the Queen. The
memory of the repercussions for slipping in such a way still reigned clear as
day in her head. She kept her own side of the agreement as always. He was not
her child after all. She was just milk, according to the Queen.
“I hear he does not sleep in the servants’ quarters. Can you give me clarity on this?”
“He is used like a bodyguard. He sleeps at the prince’s inner door. A toy wouldn’t be kept outside my Queen.”
“Hammand has no need for another guard. We have them littered everywhere with nothing to do!”
Miriam played the only card she had left. “It may be that he bought him because he is the vision your son had for himself. It may be that he wishes he were big and strong and magnificent and bought the slave in the hope that some of that strength would rub off on him.”
Queen Shila was quiet.
Miriam knew that the Queen always worried that Prince Hammand was too effeminate, too like her. She always lamented that she wished he were born a woman, as to her all that flawless beauty and loveliness of limb was lost on a man. Had he been a woman, she would have long taken him to be betrothed to the Crown Prince of all Goren. Such beauty. Alas he was a man. To Queen Shila it was like a curse, to have your most beautiful child be a boy.
Thanks to Miriam’s presence and influence, Hammand never felt that way about himself. He was just himself.
Queen Shila was lost in thought for a while as Miriam’s words brought forth old memories and ever growing fears.
She spoke softly this time, her tone regretful somewhat. “I see… You may go.”
Miriam turned, hiding her inward relief and walked to the door, pulling the curtain that hid it aside. As she stepped out, the Queen called out. She turned back.
“Don’t think you have me fooled Miriam. I will be keeping my eyes wide open. You will do well to remember that. If that slave so much as touches my son, I will have him not just hung, but drawn and quartered with all four pieces hung at Hammand’s window to remind him of his misdeeds.”
Miriam nodded respectfully and left the chamber. She nearly wept with relief, as the markings on her back remained painless despite the horror of what the Queen promised. Even though there was no sign of that threat coming to pass, Miriam knew she would need to be on high alert now, with the Queen’s growing interest in her son’s relationship with Asgar.
She hurried to her rooms to pray.
* * * *
Asgar was still asleep so Hammand crept out of bed quietly and went into the breakfast room. He squealed in delight as he saw that the red berries he had requested over a week ago had arrived, all laid out with the rest of his breakfast. He ignored everything else and picked up the bowl of red berries, heading back to the bedchamber.
Asgar had told him he remembered the taste of the fruit from his past life so he wanted him to have another taste of it. He pushed away the niggling thought of danger at the fact that Asgar had eaten the fruit before; that he may indeed be of royal blood.
He sat beside Asgar tentatively, wondering if he should wake his love. Then Asgar shifted, moaned a bit and turned to lie on his back, settling back to sleep again. His mouth was slightly open as he breathed softly. Hammand shifted closer, bit off part of a berry and then let some of the juice drip onto those lips. It trickled in and Hammand held his breath, thrilled as Asgar smacked his lips softly without awakening.
Not very comfortable in this position on his side as it was making his hand numb, Hammand slowly slid over Asgar until he was astride him. He placed the bowl of berries by Asgar’s head and slowly lay on top of him till their chins were practically touching. Much better he thought absently, beginning to feed Asgar the crushed dripping berries one by one.
Asgar appeared to be dreaming for he still did not awaken. He just kept eating what was put in his mouth and seemed to be enjoying it too. Hammand was enjoying himself immensely, being able to do this uninhibited by Asgar’s powerful presence, which always made him too shy.
Some juice dribbled down Asgar’s chin and Hammand licked it off, enjoying the sensation the contact caused. He started to squeeze on the fruit harder as he put it in Asgar’s mouth so that the dribbling increased. He licked at Asgar’s chin and cheeks and then rather than his fingers, began to put the fruit between his teeth to pass it into that mouth, licking at Asgar’s lips once he had dropped the fruit in.
It was so intoxicatingly good that he began to cut up the fruit into smaller pieces to make the experience last longer and also so he could get deeper into that mouth, telling himself it was only in order to put the fruit in. Jolts of pleasure shot through the length of his body as their tongues brushed fleetingly. He never left his tongue in there long; he was too overwhelmed with the intensity of it to do that.
The prince didn’t realize he had begun to grind slowly against Asgar’s stomach. He had subconsciously reached down to loosen the tie of his loose trousers. This had freed his aching cock, now sticking out of his waistband and desperately encouraging the friction against the bareness of Asgar’s warm stomach.
More bits of fruits went in, more licking, more jolts of pleasure shooting down his back and belly to his groin to add to the coiling pleasure already building there.
The fruits finished soon enough and this time he had no excuse for what he was doing if Asgar woke up. At this point he really didn’t care anymore. Caught up in the pleasure of Asgar’s tongue he continued to lash at it with his, feeling a strange fire escalating within him.
He was shaking now; unbeknownst to him it was his impending orgasm. All of a sudden, strong hands slipped into his waistband and grasped his small buttocks, kneading them and taking over the ecstatic grinding more purposefully. That did it.
“Oh… Oh… Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
Hammand came hard, shocked as his body expelled the seed of his pleasure in long shuddering shots all over his chest and Asgar’s.
It took him a while to get himself back from that shock. He could not believe himself. What would Asgar say? There was no way he could clean him without waking him up.
There was no need for too much thought on this for Asgar was stirring. “Ham?” he whispered. Hammand cringed as he noted the surprise in his voice. “What just happened? I thought I was dreaming…?”
Hammand lifted himself off Asgar’s chest, blushing when the stickiness between their bodies almost made that impossible. Shame and humiliation filled him as he met Asgar’s gaze.
“I… I’m sorry…” he scrambled backwards and ran out of the room. Asgar heard the door to the bath chamber slam and lock.
The huge man looked over himself in shock, not so much at what Hammand had done but that he was able to do it in the first place.
At first he had thought it was a dream, that he liked the red berries so much that he was dreaming of his little beauty feeding them to him with his lips and then his mouth. He had loved the feel of the little man licking all over his face but it was the electricity of Hammand’s tongue on his own that had actually woken him up. That, and the insistent grinding. It had taken him a while to absorb the reality but he was grabbing Ham’s bum before he had come fully awake.
Asgar knew Hammand well enough to know that Asgar was not meant to wake up when he did. He was not meant to have seen Hammand in the act. He was meant to stay asleep and let Hammand enjoy him so they could keep hiding what was happening between them, what had been happening from day one.
Well that was going to end today.
Asgar was sick of hiding his feelings from Ham. He understood that others might not view their love as proper, so they could hide it from them until the time was right but they should not have to hide it from each other. He stood up, aching in his loose trousers, and went after Hammand.
The bath chamber was still locked, and he remembered the main chamber door would surely be unlocked. He rushed through the other rooms, checking for any lurking presence. Then he locked the door and returned to the bath chamber. “Ham?”
“Ham, open the door…”
“No… go away… I know you hate me now.”
“I don’t hate you my prince. Ham, open the door so we can talk about this.”
“No! Go away… you think I’m unclean. I saw your face!”
“I was surprised, that’s all. I was sleeping remember? How would you react if you woke up to that. Wouldn’t you be surprised?”
“Ham please, let’s talk about this. There’s nothing wrong with what you did.”
“Ham?” He thought for a while. “You know I need to clean up too right?”
There was still no answer. Asgar leaned against the wall, unsure where to go from here.
To his relief, the lock clicked open. Prince Hammand did not open the door but had obviously unlocked it. Asgar pushed it open gently to find a crying Hammand curled up in a corner with his head buried in his thighs. He seemed to cry harder as Asgar stepped tentatively into the room.
The big man touched the water in the large bath. It was just about warm. He touched the water in the tin bucket set beside the bath and thankfully that was still steaming hot. He lifted it up and poured it into the bath.
Then he picked up a neatly folded toweling cloth and dipped it into the washbasin. Squeezing it off, he went to Ham, sure that he had not cleaned himself yet. Not saying a word, he knelt before his little man and pressed his knees down till they were flat on the bath chamber floor. Hammand kept his head down, sobbing quietly still.
Asgar gently cleaned Ham’s chest of his come, ignoring the hand that feebly tried to stop him. He cleaned himself next, there was more of it on him and he saw Hammand watch him from the corner of his eye, his sobbing subsiding.
He pulled Hammand to his feet, pulling down his trousers and drawing a gasp from the small man. Hammand didn’t stop him though; his shame was too much. Asgar lifted him into his arms and dropped his own trousers in the process, climbing into the bath.
“Asgar…” He had never been inside a bath with anyone before. He liked it though; he was just too ashamed of himself to enjoy it just then. Unable to help himself, the tears began again. “I’m sorry… I should not have –”
“Shhh. You did nothing wrong my prince. Don’t apologize. It is fine.”
They settled into it quietly, chest to chest, and Asgar soothed him by lightly massaging of his shoulders for a while. Hammand’s crying soon stopped. He rested his forehead in Asgar’s shoulder and simply enjoyed the massage. He felt like he would burst with love for this man.
Asgar upped his massage, slipping his hands down over the small back and reaching to knead the tense buttocks underneath the water. Hammand was surprised but he said nothing. However, he went red with shame again as he felt himself hardening and beginning to press heatedly on Asgar’s taut belly. This had never happened to him in the presence of another before, only in his dreams.
“I wish I were a woman.” His voice is almost inaudible.
“Why would you wish that?”
“So that you would want me…”
Asgar’s hands came out of the water and cupped Hammand’s face, keeping it tilted up to his. “You think I don’t want you? After all this time, you would think that?” He was incredulous.
“What do you mean?” Wide eyes searched Asgar’s in question.
Asgar stared at him in realization, and then he smiled. Hammand had no idea. A large hand slid back down to meet the slim cock and gently stroked it for a minute. Hammand squealed in shock, looking up wide-eyed at Asgar who was smiling sweetly.
What was going on? Did Asgar want to touch him that way?
“So much has changed within me since I met you. So much. You’re not the only one that wants this,” he whispered against quivering lips. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of my prince.” He shifted slightly so that Hammand could feel his own erection, loving the strained gasp that tore out of the small man’s throat as Asgar’s thick length burned against his balls.
“Were you not taught the art of consummation?”
Prince Hammand shook his head with a puzzled look on his face.
“You never did the love course?”
Another shake. “Only Jinor did. He-he was the reason we were not allowed to do it… after what happened with the adviser’s daughter.”
“Oh.” Dear Isis, Asgar thought, his prince was even more innocent than he thought.
“Father decided it was not a good idea for us to know about such… relations. He said we would be taught when we were about to be wed. Miriam told me a few things… very little though, only so I knew what to stay away from, w-with maidens…” He blushed, but looked up at Asgar. “How do you know of this course?”
Asgar’s eyes widened as he wondered same. “I don’t know…”
They stared at each other for a while, ounces of surprise and fear intermingling. How could he know of the royal love course, they both thought. Then Asgar shook his head and continued to speak, pulling the little innocent closer to him. He marveled at how Hammand managed to delight his heart every turn.
“I’ve wanted you from the moment I saw you at the market.”
“Really?” There was so much joyous surprise and delight in his voice that Asgar’s heart soared. And to think he had doubted Hammand’s innocence at the start?
“Yes, really.” He whispered to his love. “I don’t care that you are a man Ham. I don’t want you to be a woman because I don’t want a woman. I want you. My little, beautiful man. I want you just as you are.”
“But I’m so tiny… and weak… like a woman. I can’t fight. You said yourself that I’m beautiful. Only women are beautiful.”
“My love,” Hammand’s eyes fluttered blissfully at this. “You may be tiny but you’re definitely not weak. Have you forgotten how good you are with the sword? You beat the trainer slaves the last time we trained remember? And don’t say its because you’re the prince because I know they beat your brother earlier that day.”
The prince smiled at the memory, wondering why he had forgotten that.
“And not only women are beautiful. You are a man after all my Ham. Beauty doesn’t change that fact.”
“So you really want me? You don’t want a woman?” The prince persisted, his doubt fighting the joy with its disbelief.
“I want you. I’ve always wanted you.”
The tears brimming in Hammand’s eyes began to spill and he enveloped Asgar in a ferocious hug.
The big man chuckled, squeezing him right back. Then Hammand’s thoughts suddenly went elsewhere and he tensed in terror.
“But… despite that, I shouldn’t have…” Prince Hammand groaned. “What if I have…? The tests…?”
Asgar knew what Hammand had just done with him did nothing to affect his virginity. But the little innocent didn’t know that of course. He wanted to hear the details of everything though.
“Tell me what happened…”
“I only wanted to give you a taste of the berries. I thought you would awaken, honest. But you just kept eating them and you looked so peaceful and… nice… as you ate them that I couldn’t bring myself to stop.”
“Show me…” The big man coaxed, unsatisfied.
Prince Hammand blushed and ducked his head from sight. “Asgar!”
“Show me.” Asgar urged tenderly as he nudged Hammand’s head with his chin. The prince lifted his head to look at the big man, then his face crumpled in embarrassment and he hid it again.
“C-close your eyes.”
“Ham… its oka-”
“Just for a moment. Please, I can’t show you if you’re looking at me like that…”
“How am I looking at you?”
Like you want to eat me up. “Asgarrrr…”
Asgar chuckled, “Alright, fine. They’re closed.”
Hammand moved tentatively, still bright pink despite the closed eyes. He pushed himself up on his knees, still straddling Asgar. His hardening cock slammed against his belly as he shifted position, already aching in anticipation. Touching the big man’s face lightly, he pulled Asgar’s lips open until he could see his tongue. Delicious tongue.
He pressed his groin against Asgar’s belly and sighed in the temporary relief it brought to that ache. Slowly, he began to lash at Asgar’s tongue exactly as he had done earlier. His catching breaths soon became gasps as the shivers began all over again.
It was growing too for Asgar. He struggled to hold back but with the small hot body writhing against him, the little bottom brushing against the head of his straining cock, the tongue swirling in his mouth, the searching tongue unknowingly electrifying his, he could not.
He took over.
His large hand slid up into his prince’s hair, gripping as leaned in and practically swallowed Hammand’s mouth. The prince squeaked in surprise and held on as his tongue was sucked and teased. A moan rose from his throat as Asgar’s other hand pressed into the small of his back and rocked him up and down so that his cock rubbed into the huge man’s belly. His small hands gripped Asgar’s neck and Hammand found himself moving with Asgar.
Despite wanting this so badly, now that it seemed like it was happening, he was a bit afraid. He pulled back to stare into Asgar’s eyes, beginning to hyperventilate.
Large hands trailed down Hammand’s trembling body as Asgar plundered his mouth again. The sensations were driving the prince crazy. His whole body was on fire. His nipples felt like bullets of electricity as they were teased and tweaked; his cock felt like a boiling volcano.
He had never given his cock as much as a thought until the day he met Asgar. With all the prodding from the regular tests and endless warnings as he grew up, he had never had any interest in exploring the pleasures of the flesh whether on his own or with another like this. There had been no one that had even remotely made him stir down there. Never.
Now he knew what all the fuss was about.
So when Asgar began to stroke his length, he lost his mind. Frantic, he squirmed and tried to push away. The fiery pleasure weakened his fight, instead driving him nuts. He returned the kiss hungrily, the stroking making him grind up to Asgar’s hand and that inadvertently made him push against Asgar’s hardness. His senses were in overload. He didn’t know where to lean to and he couldn’t form words that made sense. He couldn’t think. He was a mess.
Asgar ground against the small thighs, keeping his berserk beauty in place with his powerful arm around the back of his shoulder and that hand in his hair as he drove him madder with the stroking and kissing. He nipped at Ham’s earlobe and grazed down to the slim delicious neck he had been longing to taste for so long.
Ham’s cries were so precious to hear. He was so overwhelmed with what was happening yet it seemed like the pleasure was increasing still. He keened at the stroking and his body began to shake maddeningly.
“Asgar,” he gasped, panicking at the intensity of the sensations. His balls felt unbelievably tight… like they would surely burst. Oh Isis. “Asgar…”
“It’s okay my love. You’re finding your release… let go for me my love.” Asgar murmured against Hammand’s lips as he brushed them with his. But the strokes of his hand increased yet again. “…Just let go, don’t fight it.”
“Ah… ah…” Hammand was incoherent now but he couldn’t stop the sounds. Asgar loved those moans though and ground up into him even harder.
Hammand’s face scrunched up and a series of short gasps escaped in between their kisses. His body jerked spasmodically as he exploded into Asgar’s hand, heaving as shot after shot of creamy fluid tore viciously through his loins and out of his cock.
“That’s it my love… that’s it.” Asgar whispered before biting into that neck as he switched to stroke himself fast, shuddering as he also came long and hard within seconds.
They slid deeper into the water, wrapped in each other.
After a while Asgar washed them both and carried the small man to the main bedchamber. Much as he wanted to do so much more to him, he remembered Miriam’s warning and knew he had to be patient.
For both their sakes.
* * * *
The day started out fine. Miriam awoke before the cock crew as usual and readied herself for the day. She was in the kitchen when a handmaiden, Hirva came with a message from the Queen—a very strange message indeed.
“Her majesty would like you to cook a small banquet of goat stew, dark cornbread and eggs with the usual trimmings, olives, cheese… she said you will know what I mean. She said it is for a private audience and you are to tell no one of it. Not even Prince Hammand. To speak of it is to seek her wrath.”
Miriam nodded quietly and the woman hustled away. She had been asked to prepare a meal?
This was to be separate from the usual meals she prepared for the royal house on certain occasions and it puzzled her greatly. For one thing, the Queen had never asked this of her before. For another because she had been asked to prepare Asgar’s favorite meal.
And most of all because immediately after she got the message; her back began to hurt. Not just tingle. Hurt. That meant something was amiss.
What did this have to do with Asgar?
She didn’t have long to ponder because the same handmaiden returned looking quite embarrassed, this time on orders to watch the actual preparation of the food. Keeping her fears to herself, Miriam prepared the food in record time. But when she had packed it up in a food basket to take herself, Hirva stopped her.
“Do not trouble yourself Miriam, I have been told to bring this myself.”
Miriam parted with the food, her back burning something terrible at this point. Moving as fast as she could, she packed an identical basket, donned a black hooded cloak and said some chants to herself as she dusted the edges of the cloak and the basket.
She could not make herself invisible, but she did what was within her power and caused herself to be unnoticeable to anyone passing her by. No one would be able to tell that the person walking past was her.
She approached the Queen’s chambers, just in time to hear the next errand being given. Her suspicions were proven to be right.
“Go and fetch me my son’s slave Asgar. The huge one that looks like a warrior, I am sure you have heard of him, no? Good, then fetch him. Tell him he is to dine with me tonight and is to come with you immediately.”
Oh dear Isis!
Miriam went to work, heading straight for the dining chamber. Thankfully, having lived there for the better part of Prince Hammand’s life, she knew the Queen’s wing of the palace like the palm of her hand. The table was set for two, but with a meal for one already laid out. The Queen’s seat at the head of the table had no food laid ready. It was just as Miriam suspected.
Without a second thought, Miriam took the plate of food from her basket and laid it out exactly as the other one had been. She placed the other plate in her basket and rushed off to hide behind the heavy curtains that covered the chamber.
She waited. A soothing prayer slowly calmed her fearful heart. But her back burned raw and bright.
* * * *
They both stared at each other and then back at the handmaiden. The prince was seated on the large bed, leaning slightly against a heap of pillows. The huge slave was on the floor with the prince’s small feet in his hands. He was massaging them.
“Mother wants Asgar to meet her for a private dinner?” Prince Hammand questioned. “In her chambers? Why?”
Hirva’s eyes remained downcast, afraid now. This was the second time she had gotten an incredulous response when she delivered the Queen’s message. First mother Miriam, now the prince. She knew something was wrong; she just had no idea what. She hated that she was the messenger. It was never good to be such a messenger.
She pursed her lips. “I do not know my Lord. But she had mother Miriam cook the dinner. It is all set and waiting,” she added helpfully.
Their expressions brightened a bit at that like she hoped it would. Maybe the Queen was warming to Asgar? Was that even possible?
“Just me?” Asgar asked. “Not the Prince and I?”
“Just you. And you are to come with me now. She said not to keep her waiting.”
Asgar took a deep breath and moved up. He knelt before Prince Hammand who frowned at the action before realizing it was for the benefit of the slave. He wished he were as alert as Asgar was. He loved him so.
“I’ll go with her. It’ll be okay. She probably just wants to talk. Go speak to Miriam. She might know more.” He squeezed Hammand’s right hand with his, out of view of the handmaiden.
Hammand smiled shakily and nodded, squeezing back. “I will go to Miriam’s.”
Asgar stood up and turned to the handmaiden. He straightened out his clothes. “Let us go then.”
She bowed to Prince Hammand and they left the chamber quietly.
* * * *
Miriam waited until she heard the Queen call for the table to be cleared of food before she was satisfied enough to leave. As suspected, Queen Shila had ensured that Asgar ate all that was put before him.
“Now let us talk about serious matters slave,” she heard the queen say as she slunk out slowly, unnoticed.
“Serious matters?” Asgar asked, not bothering to hide his surprise.
“You and my son. What is this between you two?”
“I am simply his slave, my Queen.”
“You didn’t act like a slave in Renakan. You acted like a lover. And we both know he is not permitted to have a lover. Ever. Until marriage. And that cannot be to you. Not ever.” She made the last statement with disdain.
Asgar remained expressionless as would be expected. “I am but his slave your majesty. I take care of him as best I can. I have never touched him in that way nor do I imagine to. I would die for my master.” He focused on the truth of his words – that he was Prince Hammand’s slave – that he took care of him as best he could. Nothing else, he repeated it to himself again and again, forcing it to be his reality and make real his words spoken to the Queen.
She looked at him, remembering her plan. He did not seem at all discomfited. The food had been eaten so its effect should be starting by now, should it not? She calmed herself, reminding herself that he was still in her presence.
“How do you feel?” she asked, unable to restrain her curiosity.
“I am fine your majesty, thank you.” He kept his eyes lowered as expected.
“Good. So… you say you are not his lover?”
Asgar presented her with a suitably shocked expression. “No my Queen. I cannot even imagine it.”
“Where do you sleep?” she asked abruptly. “I hear you are not among the slaves and have never mingled with them as is expected.”
“I sleep at the door of Prince Hammand’s chamber at his order. But some nights I sleep on the floor at the foot of the prince’s bed
stated. “He keeps me there as his protection.”
“Mmh, protection from what?”
“He has bad dreams sometimes…”
“Bad dreams of what?”
“He does not say, my queen. I simply offer my presence so that he has some peace to sleep without worry. I only do as I am told.”
“And nothing else happens? Why do I find that hard to believe?”
Asgar said nothing.
“Does he love you?”
“I do not believe so, my queen. I am but a slave to fit a purpose.”
“We will see about that. I hope for your sake that you are telling me the truth. I do not think you understand the gravity of your situation. If I find that you have defiled my son in any way even for a second—even just a touch—I will have you hanged before the whole of Renadi.” Her eyes flashed with restrained anger which she had been holding back until now. “I love my son slave. But I will not condone relations with men, whether he is of age or not. Whatever inclinations he might have mean nothing. He shall marry the one we have chosen for him and he shall marry soon.”
It was not his place to argue so he said nothing.
“How do you feel now?” she asked again.
“I-I cannot complain your majesty,” he replied. What did she care how he felt? She was very strange indeed.
“I will be watching you closely from now on. If there is anything going on – any foolhardy emotions he may be entertaining, whether you are aware of it or not, you had better find a way to put a stop to it because I will not hesitate to have you killed. In fact I would enjoy it, seeing as you have already had a most negative effect on my son. He has always been the easiest to handle of all my children. Now he is standing up to me! There must be a reason for that and I very strongly believe that reason is you.” She took a deep breath.
Asgar tried to keep himself as calm as possible, knowing she was staring hard at him, and waiting for him to have a reaction that would give him away.
“We will see how the next few days go.” Her words puzzled him. “If there is no change, I will speak to you again.” What change?
“Stand up!” she ordered all of a sudden. He did that immediately, straightening up but keeping his eyes downcast. He could feel her eyes looking him over still.
She stood up as well. “Turn around,” she said as she approached him. Queen Shila was only a little woman, just slightly taller than Hammand. That did not restrain her in any way.
She began to circle him. “I can see what he would see in you. But then again, there are ten of thousands of ‘you’ out there who can replace you in the blink of an eye. You would do well to remember that, slave. Now strip.”
Asgar stiffened before he could stop it and she noticed. Of course.
Queen Shila folded her arms over her chest with a wicked chuckle. “A modest slave, are we? Strip or I will have you stripped by my guards and flogged naked before the entire palace.”
The guards who were so quiet it was almost as if they were not there, stepped out of the shadows, swords ready. The Queen raised a hand to still them, smirking at Asgar.
He pulled down his loose trousers and was about to step out of them when she told him to stop. Queen Shila walked round until she faced him, looking down at his groin. Her face was unreadable. She looked up at him.
“I can see that if you did defile him with that it would be easily detectible. Don’t you agree?”
“I don’t understand, my queen?” he feigned. He knew more often than not only those who indulged in what Miriam had shown him would know the exact carnal intricates of being with a man. The Queen was clearly not one of them. Of that he was not in the least surprised.
She watched him sternly in thought for a moment. “We will leave it that way. For now.”
Suddenly something struck her, she couldn’t pinpoint whether it was his face or his expression at that very moment or his height and stance. But as soon as she blinked, the memory left her. Something familiar. About this slave. It unnerved her, why would she recognize a slave, even for an instant. She never did. That must mean something…
“So where are you from originally?” Queen Shila knew the answer, but asked anyway in the sly manner she had. She had drilled her son about this after all.
“I have no memory of my past, my Queen.”
She frowned at him, obviously in doubt at his words. “Nothing at all? I find that very hard to believe.”
She never believes anything, Asgar groaned inwardly.
“Are you sure there is nothing you are hiding?”
“No my Queen. I have nothing to hide. I believe my memory left me at when I was struck.” His hand went to his scar. The Queen didn’t even waste more than a second trained on the scar. It wasn’t of any significance to her.
She walked back to her chair, flicking a finger at him. “You can put your clothes back on.”
“Thank you, my queen.”
“And you feel fine?”
She frowned. “You may leave. If… I will send for you in about three days time.”
“Yes, my queen.”
Asgar rushed off, heading for Miriam’s chamber immediately. He had so many questions for her. Why was the queen asking if he was fine? Did she expect him not to be?
* * * *
“I can’t marry that girl, Asgar! I can’t!” Ham whispered in tears. “I can’t live a lie. What is the big deal anyway? It’s not as though I am the crown prince or something. And even if I were, there are still my other brothers if I did not live up to expectations, are there not?”
Asgar remained quiet, allowing him rage.
“You’re not saying anything…” Ham accused as he watched him. “You don’t care?”
“It is not that, my prince. I’m just not sure what the options are if you refuse that’s all. It’s a difficult situation.”
“Difficult? It’s a difficult situation? How can you say that Asgar?”
Asgar’s eyes widened at the realization that he had said the wrong thing. “Hammand, we need to think about this…”
“Do you want me to marry her?” Hammand looked bleak and defeated now, like he was lost.
Asgar stammered, afraid as ever to voice the depth of his feelings. He was a slave; that was his reality. He had no right to a prince; no right to expect more than what Hammand could give within the rules.
“But I love you!” Hammand’s face froze in shock at his outburst and he covered his hand with his mouth, still staring at Asgar as tears began to flow. He felt sick… it seemed like he was alone in this; his love was unrequited. He wanted to hide somewhere and die.
Then Asgar smiled, wide and bright and full of joyous relief. He walked from the window to where Hammand stood and dropped to his knees before him, hands going to the slim hips. He let his heart pour out through his eyes so Hammand could see his love, feel his love for him flow out.
“I want you to marry me, Hammand. Me. Asgar, of unknown origin. Not some princess from God knows where. I love you, my prince. You are my light, my life. I want you all to myself forever. But I don’t think I have a right to ask that of you.”
The prince’s eyes overflowed with tears and he was happily blinded. “Oh Asgar, I thought… I was so afraid you didn’t feel the same.” He slumped into the open arms that enveloped him tenderly. “I want to marry you too. I want to belong to you…”
“You have every right Asgar. My heart belongs to you alone. All of me belongs to you. But if I tell my parents that they will have you beheaded. I can never tell anyone. It’s bad enough that they already suspect, I don’t want to give them a reason to take you away from me.”
They held each other tight.
“We can run away together…” Hammand began thoughtfully “We could go far away from here so no one would find us…”
“Oh Ham…you think I haven’t thought of that? Can you imagine what would happen? The search? They will say I kidnapped you. You know how the whole country looks upon liaisons between royals and slaves, not to speak of taking a royal captive. They will have the whole country upturned looking for us. Besides, how will you survive out of here? You are used to all these comforts and I cannot deprive you of them. I don’t want these beautiful hands to have to work.” He kissed the small fingers one by one. “It would be too hard on you, my love. You would end up hating me.”
“No! I could never hate you. I don’t care about my stupid hands! I can work. I’m not a baby Asgar! We can do this. We need to do this or we will lose each other. I cannot survive without you. I can’t! Don’t ask me to, Asgar, please. We have to get away from here.” He stared into Asgar’s eyes pleadingly. “I can get a lot of money from the royal coffers, so we will have something to tide us over until we… no Asgar, not just you, until we both find work.”
Asgar said nothing, his face a mass of conflicting emotions. He didn’t want Hammand to work. He wanted to provide for his prince in the way he was used to living. And that was so impossible that it hurt.
Hammand watched his hesitation with pain and tore himself from his arms, rushing out to the balcony. He gripped the banister with shaking hands and tried to control the heaving. The tears burst forth when strong warm hands wrapped him from behind.
“I love you my prince, do you hear me?” Asgar rasped vehemently “I love you. We will figure something out. Just give me a bit more time to think about it. If I can’t think of anything else, then we will start preparing to run… okay?”
The nod he eventually got was slow and hesitant. Asgar knew Hammand was still upset that he was not completely into the idea of eloping. As fantastic as having Prince Hammand all to himself sounded, he needed to worry about their survival on the outside. He had learned from experience that it was a lonely place out there, especially if you had no money. He needed to think of something soon.
Hammand was still crying so that when Asgar’s hands began to rove round his body to take his mind off their worries, he slapped them away angrily.
Asgar’s hands returned again, sliding into the prince’s shirt and up, flattening over his nipples and rolling. Hammand arched into them and moaned as lips trailed across his neck and shoulders. Long fingers teased downwards till they got to his waistband, flattening again as they slid through to surround his waiting hardness.
As Asgar’s hands wrapped around the tightened flesh, he stepped backwards with his prince until they were back indoors. Asgar kicked off their trousers, sat on the bed with Ham on his lap and began to stroke the base of his cock and his inner thighs.
The prince’s small hands reached backwards over his head to hold onto Asgar’s neck as his body shuddered at the huge man’s ministrations.
“Asgar please…” Ham could feel Asgar’s big cock against his back and he wondered hazily if his love could feel the same torture he was feeling right now.
Asgar turned him around so he was facing and straddling him. He kissed the little man as he grabbed the oil on the stool at the side of the bed. Cupping the pert buttocks in his hands, he mused that they were a perfect fit in his hands just as he had known they would be the first time he had seen Prince Hammand. He began to grind Ham slowly against him so their cocks rubbed on each other.
The sensation was priceless.
Hammand stared down between them in wonder at what he was feeling and at Asgar’s size. It seemed to be more than double his, in length and girth. It was both a frightening and an arousing sight.
“You’re so big Asgar,” he whispered in between gasps and kisses.
“I know my love,” the big man replied softly, increasing his kneading and grinding for he did not want Ham to focus too much on his size and become afraid. He let his fingers glide over Ham’s virgin pucker, putting particular pressure on it as moved past to knead the small buttocks.
Surprising bolts of pleasure added to fire already building in his small body. Asgar’s fingers had touched him so intimately that he would have been really afraid if he was not so overwhelmed by the feeling they brought forth. It was amazing and unreal. He wanted him to do it again but was terrified to ask. Instead he lost himself in the other sensations.
When Asgar sensed Ham was getting close to release he slowed down, picking up the bottle of oil and pouring some onto their cocks. He delighted in Ham’s yelp as the oil hit, the small man’s hips involuntarily tilting up again and again.
Asgar grasped both cocks in his hand and began to stroke them together. Hammand cried out and his shoulders went up as if into his neck as the electricity took hold with each heated stroke of that hand. It wasn’t long before he started to keen and at this Asgar covered his mouth with his and increased his strokes tenfold, losing himself in sensation as well.
Hammand came first with a lot of uncontrollable jerking though Asgar followed a few seconds after, his come hot and heavy as it pumped out of him. They kept kissing frantically as they came down from their high.
* * * *
They heard about the Queen’s anger some days later. No one seemed to have any idea why she was having all her handmaidens flogged for no apparent reason. The princesses were in tears about it but had been unable to get answers from their mother, other than her calling the handmaidens all ‘incompetent idiots who couldn’t do a simple thing right’. It was rumored that she would have had her advisers flogged as well if not for the damage that would do to her court.
However, after all the interrogations, Hammand was not eager to be in her presence. He was angry with her and she with him it appeared. He would stay out of her way for now. Maybe for good even; until he convinced Asgar to run away with him.
Miriam had a good idea why Queen Shila was upset. She had tried the saved plate of food on some rats she caught in her cellar. They had died within two hours of feasting on the hearty food. She knew the Queen had tried to kill Asgar. She was pouring her anger and frustration on them because the poison did not work.
The Queen had no idea what Miriam had done.
She had not told Asgar about this the night he had come to her after meeting with the Queen. Wanting to be sure before she made accusations of any kind, she only warned him to be alert from then on as the Queen would have people watching them.
The big man came to see her again to help with carrying some bulk food into her stores and had not seemed surprised when she gave him the news. Prince Hammand had been out for the day inspecting a new market, which was just as well, considering the information.
“I suspected something was amiss when she kept wondering if I was feeling okay. Gods, she had seemed so eager about it. Why would she be so eager for me to die? What did I ever do to her?”
“I think despite our best efforts, she believes there is something happening between you and the prince. I must say, it is difficult not to see it.”
Asgar looked away, a slight flush tingeing his cheeks. “What do we do now?”
“For one thing, we cannot let Hammand know this. Ever.”
The big man frowned, “Not another secret Miriam. They are building. I do not think I should be…”
“Asgar. Can you imagine if he knew about this? Think about how he would react, what he would do.”
He knew already. Hammand would barge into his mother’s presence and accuse her, anyone present be damned. He would not contain his anger. He would want the whole world to know he loved Asgar. He would want them to run off together.
It looked like that time was near now. Ham had been right all along. They could not be here, not if they wanted to be with each other in the true sense of the word. It was too dangerous now.
“Okay, we won’t tell him anything.”
“And remember, be alert at all times. No more eating dinner with Queen Shila, Asgar. This is your life at stake. Feign an illness or something.”
He nodded sadly, feeling heavy of heart all of a sudden. “I will be careful.”
* * * *
"Can I wash you today?" Hammand asked shyly as they climbed into the bath. He had been longing for this for a long time now since they had started bathing together.
"Of course." Asgar smiled. "If you want."
They settled into the large tub, the hot water rising up in heady billowing steam. Asgar was a bit surprised when Hammand scooted behind him, hiding his face. He smiled as he wondered what his little innocent was up to but allowed him do what he wanted.
The prince shifted until he was seated directly behind Asgar and then wrapped his small body around him as best he could. Asgar chuckled softly at his efforts and leaned back into him, just a bit.
"Are you sure that’s a good idea? I do not want to crush you…"
"I know you will not," he whispered back, rubbing Asgar's strong shoulders with his hands and the sponge.
The big man relaxed a little but braced himself to one side so that not all of his weight was on the small man. He felt himself thickening as the small hands roved his body, the innocence of their touch disappearing as they moved lower and lower. He was unable to stifle the gasp that escaped him when the hands encircled his erection, hips jutting up jerkily in surprise and then in eager pleasure.
"Ham?" he croaked as the fingers teased the sensitive underside, feeling like they were a million fingertips and not just ten small maddening fingers doing to him what he had been doing to his prince every other day for a while now. It looked like he was getting his own medicine now. And it was glorious.
As the fingers flicked over the slit repeatedly, he could not keep his head from lolling, the fire that coursed up his spine was too heady. It had been so long since he was touched by another this way. He began to go a bit crazy, grabbing behind him for the determined little creature that tortured him as his dominant nature reared its head in full force.
Stroking the small thighs, he grabbed hold and lifted them both as he moved onto his knees. Hammand was determined to bring Asgar to orgasm so he kept on despite the tremors of fright and desire that sang through his body, his slim cock hardening to full staff.
"Asss... gar!" Hammand cried out with a shudder as Asgar’s long fingers began to tease his cheeks while he hung over the powerful back. Asgar reached easily between them to Hammand’s most private place and circled slowly with precision. Hammand was unable to stop his thighs from widening to allow more access, strange sounds escaping him with each swish as he tried hard to keep up with his ministrations on the large cock in his hands. His own cock was burning a hole in Asgar’s back.
Thankfully just as Hammand was about to lose his fight, he let out a whimper. That sound went straight to Asgar's loins and with the shaky fingers losing their grip on his tortured cock head giving just the right kind of pressure, the large man bowed over hard, roaring as he spurted into the water.
Hammand gasped in fear as he was somehow torn off Asgar's back and slammed into the bath, the big man coming down on top of him still groaning, as his orgasm wouldn’t abate. Asgar held Hammand against him, keeping the small man's legs round his waist. He sank back on his heels so Hammand was straddling him. Hammand squirmed, panicking a bit at the feral glint in Asgar's eyes and then stiffening in shock as the long fingers went at him again with more pressure this time.
He was unable to move. Asgar had him imprisoned completely with his arm pressing his shoulders down so he was grinding onto Asgar's still hard cock. Fear and excitement fought through his system, bubbling in his blood while he wished he had never been so bold as he was today.
Suddenly, Asgar’s arm no longer held him down. His face crumpled as it felt like all focus was between his legs. The teasing pressure Asgar was putting there seemed to escalate; creating an intense sensation that sent Hammand’s body into steady meltdown. His legs shook and he gasped as he stared sightlessly into Asgar's face. Asgar pushed himself further back so he was leaning against the tub. Their foreheads slammed together as Hammand blindly tried to lift himself to no avail. The fingers followed him up, all on target, massaging harder into his fluttering virgin flesh and there was no escape. Hammand's back arched and hands flung around crazily as the fingers felt like... felt like...
And then the prince was coming like a storm, collapsing onto his love's heaving chest with incoherent cries, his small body burning, melting.
Asgar held his prince as the small man cried out the aftershocks, his eyes closed tightly as he cursed himself for coming so fucking close to deflowering Hammand. Thank the gods he had stopped just before his fingers delved into that pliant flesh. He had been way too close.
By Isis, just the thought of that tiny pulsing entrance made his cock burn all over.
The rest of their bath was a haze to the prince. By the time he came back to his senses he was in his bed all curled up in Asgar's arms. He stared at Asgar wide-eyed, confused and overwhelmed.
Asgar knew he had questions but he simply kissed him tenderly. "One day at a time, okay?"
Hammand nodded slowly, blushing prettily. He marveled to think that there was more where that came from. Oh God, he couldn’t wait! Even though he was scared out of his mind, he couldn’t wait.
"What was that?" Hammand couldn’t resist asking shyly with his head burrowed into Asgar's neck.
"Just me giving you pleasure…" Asgar chuckled when he found Ham was ducking away from his fingers, which were trying to catch the small chin.
Eventually he tilted his face, catching Ham's lips in light kisses as he nudged his face up. Hammand giggled in between kisses until Asgar deepened it, driving his tongue into the soft mouth and rediscovering its nectar.
Ham found his hands held and stretched above him, the excitement building over the fear this time as they stared at each other. He did not understand the intensity of Asgar's gaze but he felt like that intensity was within him. His small legs clambered around Asgar's waist of their own accord this time.
Asgar groaned at the contact, fighting the hunger raging in his loins. Ham had no idea what he was doing to him.
His lips crashed on Ham's as his weight joined in, knocking the air out of the small prince. They stayed that way for a long time, kissing deeply, curled so intimately that their bodies felt like one.
Later that night Asgar found he could not sleep. His prince lay in his arms, snuffling quietly every now and then. Asgar knew things were getting out of hand. He was steadily losing control of himself around Hammand. Look what I almost did!
That would have been the worst thing, especially now that the suspicious queen had scheduled Hammand’s tests for every other week now.
Hammand was right; they needed to leave town. It was either that or he would run away. But he couldn’t leave Hammand; he couldn’t do that to him. Running away was not an option for him; he couldn’t be without Ham either. Maybe it was time to elope.
There was so much to be done.
* * * *
The priests hovered over the hearth, blasts of steam billowing all around the room. The room which was filled with their humming as they chanted the songs of their goddess, Caca. It was so hot that anyone else in there would have fainted by this time. The priests however did not even break a sweat.
The small prince lay in the room across from them, watching the steam seep through the edges of the door as it always did. He was completely naked under the light white cloth. In all the years since the tests started, he had never gotten used to it. He hated the stern old men, with their expressionless faces, prodding and sniffing his body in the most intimate places. It brought tears to his eyes every time.
The ceiling was very high and domed; he knew the intricate drawings that trailed all over it by heart and could draw them with his eyes closed. All the glistening instruments and potions were laid out on the table to the left of his head as usual, in order of use. At least the priests were clean and tidy and always gentle on him if nothing else.
“Are you ready, my prince?” the head priest spoke softly as he began with the usual question. He was a very old man but didn’t seem to have aged at all since Prince Hammand had begun these tests. It was as if his aging had stopped when he reached a hundred. He had a long thin face, which was strange considering that his chin was weighed down in jowls. Maybe he had been fat in his other life.
“Yes.” Hammand closed his eyes.
He was immediately surrounded by all the other priests, their shuffling feet the only thing to be heard amidst their collective humming. Hammand’s eyes remained closed and he tried to still the cringing as they held his legs wide apart and began.
It was almost past three hours before they were done, an hour longer than usual. Thankfully Hammand was not aware of the time, he just thought they were being slow due to age. They were taking extra care with their work for a very good reason.
Queen Shila sat restlessly in the front room, unbeknownst to her son as she awaited the results of the tests. She had decided to see for herself, hear the results live from the priests. Also because it was the last check before the festival and Hammand’s betrothal.
The old men had been perplexed by her appearance; their string of questions had shown this. Unfortunately they would not let her enter the main test room it was an abomination they said and she would be cursed if she tried it. They left it up to her to decide, not wanting to cross the Queen themselves as they were all about peace.
She decided to wait in the next best room. Even the Queen knew not to cross a goddess like Caca.
It was pretty difficult for her to accept that nothing physical was going on between her son and his slave. They were too connected; you could almost feel it. Their eyes seemed to burn when they looked at each other and they were almost always touching in one way or the other. There was something there. She just had to find it.
The head priest shuffled in and she sighed elaborately. He showed no sign that he noticed. Or maybe his wrinkled face gave no room for further expression. Not that she cared.
“All is well. He remains a virgin, my queen.” He obviously had no idea she wanted alternative news.
“Are you sure?”
“The tests never lie.” He was almost indignant in his belief in his goddess. “Caca would never let impurity pass her by.”
The queen pursed her lips unhappily. “So not even touches…?”
The priest frowned at her this time. “A touch? That does not take away purity.” He calmed himself visibly. “We seek the bodily fluids of carnal knowledge and changes in flesh. There have never been any of these found on Prince Hammand and that has not changed. He remains pure.”
“So you want me to believe that he loves someone and yet they have not lain together?”
“Love does not take away purity, my queen. It may bring alive the need to taste of the flesh but in itself it does not. You need to understand, we are not against love. We believe in love and its power. We seek to keep it alive by ensuring purity before the right passage of time. Your son is pure.” He paused, small black eyes boring into her as he saw his words made no difference. “Doubt can be a wicked feeling. Do not let it consume you. He is a virgin. Caca does not lie.”
“Thanks for the diatribe,” the queen said dryly. She arose and sauntered over to look out of the window as the sounds of the carriage taking her son home came filtering through.
He instantly looked apologetic. “I didn’t mean… My queen, I did not mean any offence… I…”
She stopped him with a wave of her hand, face concentrated in thought.
“If he is in love…” the priest ventured tentatively, “it may be time for marriage? That way he would be free to enjoy this love of his, and you would have some peace?”
She turned and stared at him incredulously for a long moment. Then, remembering that he had no idea that Hammand’s love was but a dirty slave, she burst out laughing. If only it was so simple.
The priest simply watched her. He bowed stiffly as she snapped for her entourage and departed. His sigh of relief was slight thanks to a lifetime of training but inside it was a heave.
* * * *
Asgar was called to Queen Shila’s presence once again. He had expected the summons much earlier as the queen had said it would be three days. It was almost two full moons now.
She spent almost half an hour staring at him, wondering. Her most trusted adviser had tested the potion he had sought for the task on some swine and they had died within two hours. The potion was potent. So why hadn’t it worked on him? She had seen the poison put in the food personally so there was no doubt that it had been done. It was the strangest thing.
If anything he looked even healthier than the last time she had seen him. The bastard did not even fidget under her gaze. What manner of slave was this?
“I have not called you here to continue to deny that you are in love with my son. So do not even start with the denials. The entire palace can see what I see and that is enough for me. Now, let us talk.”
Asgar straightened up, listening.
“I am sure we both know that Hammand is a virgin in both ways.” Asgar opened his mouth to deny but an unbelievably vicious look flashed at him shut him up quickly. “I have had him checked every week because of this, which I am sure you are aware of. But you… it is obvious you have known a woman. However, have you known a man?”
Asgar sputtered in shock at the question.
“Have you had carnal knowledge of a man?” She repeated carefully. She seemed to be really enjoying this. It was so hard to believe this was his love’s mother.
“No, my queen.”
His reaction was ignored. “My son has known neither. An utter virgin. So is it not only fair to let him taste the love of a woman’s body before dooming him to a life with a man? Is it not fair to let him know for sure that it is a man he wants?”
The big man said nothing, fighting the urge to spill out his love for her son. But his own doubts were rearing their ugly head as she fed him those words. With Ham asking that they run off together, he feared that he was making him want to do so. He wanted Ham to know a woman, to be sure, like he was sure. That despite everyone else, man and woman alike, he wanted only him.
“If it were your son, or your friend… would you not want them to have that knowledge? To make that choice, knowing everything?” She was fast losing patience with him. “Answer me!”
Asgar was not fooled; he knew she hated him. He also knew, whether or not Hammand chose him over women, she would still hate him and would probably keep trying to kill him. But he needed to let this happen… for Ham.
“Yes. Yes I would, if it were my son, or my friend.”
Queen Shila smiled triumphantly. “So it is settled then. Prince Hammand will taste the wonder between the thighs of a woman. Believe me, when he does he will never look back.” She pointed to a low stool by her side. Asgar had not noticed it until now. “Come. Sit. We have planning to do.”
“Planning?” Asgar asked even as he moved to sit down tentatively.
“Of course, did you think I would do this myself?”
“No, my queen, but –”
“No buts slave.” She smiled viciously, knowing full well that she did not need a slave to arrange such a things when she had numerous advisers better placed for such. Even members of her court would have been all too happy to help. But she wanted Asgar to be part of it for good reason.
She made a mental note to speak to Hammand’s most trusted adviser about this slave. She really needed to know from whence he came. “Now tell me. What kind of women does my son like?”
Asgar gulped. He felt the bile rising in his throat. He prayed to Isis for strength.
* * * *
Three weeks later
The door to his inner chamber opened and Hammand smiled as he turned around, knowing it was Asgar. The big man stepped in, smiling back but only slightly. Hammand walked up to him, rubbing the thickly veined arms with his palms. Somehow this action warmed Asgar’s blood, leaving him bursting with love for the little man.
“Are you okay?”
“I have just been told by one of your mother’s handmaidens that I am to attend a prayer session with your mother.”
“Oh.” Hammand said in thought. His expression softened as he looked up at Asgar. “That’s not bad… she’s usually in a good mood when she goes for her prayers. Maybe she’s trying to come to terms with us?”
“It could be. Hirva said something about prayers for the prince and his chosen… I’m not sure about it though. It could even be your brother she meant; he is betrothed too isn’t he? As far as she knows me and you are nothing to each other.”
“Really? The prince and his chosen?” His prince sounded so hopeful for the impossible that it wrung Asgar’s chest painfully.
“She does not say when we are to return. Will you be okay?”
Prince Hammand pushed up on tiptoe, lips puckered for his kiss. He got it, soft and sweet, giggling as he was hoisted up into strong arms. “I’ll be okay. She asked yesterday that I meet with some of her advisers about some taxes to be put on those who make her jewelry. That should take up most of my day. They will be in her chambers any minute now. Be careful you?”
“Of course my love. You know I will.”
They kissed for a bit longer and then reluctantly pulled apart to dress for their respective duties. Asgar was wary about anything to do with the queen now. She wouldn’t hurt her beloved son would she?
He shrugged his misgivings off.
TO BE CONTINUED…