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← 8. Part 8

9. Part 9 From The Academy

JMH%s's Photo   JMH, 31 May 2012

Chapter Twenty-Three:

Anima's Lure 

While everyone was warming themselves by the fire, Erik looked after Jason, his black bag of mysteries at his side. He had a worried look on his face when he went to Philip to report on the boy's condition.

"The poor boy is burning up," Erik reported.

"What he needs is anima," Darius sighed.

"Well, unless one of us volunteered to be cut open there is no way Jason can get it," Erik pointed out.

"I will," Gideon spoke up.

"Sit down boy," Darius commanded. "None of us are going to die to save Jason's life. The boy would never forgive us or himself."

"Then what can we do?" Gideon asked as worry began to overcome him.

"We do what we can. What chance does he have?" Philip asked Erik.

"Fifty percent, but I do have an idea that might raise the odds."

"Tell us," Darius asked as he wrapped an arm around his lover.

"We all know that Centurion bones can help stop the bleeding of a Legatio. What can Centurion blood do?" Erik asked.

"It's been tried... In the old days a Legatio would drink the blood of a Centurion, hoping to gain our strength. It had no effect," Philip said, holding back his tears.

"I'm not suggesting that Jason drink your blood. What I am suggesting is that some of your blood be transferred to Jason... directly into his veins."

"How will you do that?" Darius asked.

"Something that I learned while a slave in Jadoor," Erik insisted.

"It is worth a try... what do we have to lose," Philip said, hope reappearing on his face. "I of course will be the one to give him the blood."

"He might need more than one treatment," Erik warned.

"We can all take turns," Darius stepped in.

"Even I?" Gideon asked, hoping that the Field Marshal would not tell him to be quiet again.

"Even you," Darius smiled.

Soon Philip was back in bed with Jason, an amazingly flexible tube connecting their two bodies, letting Philip's blood flow inside Jason. It was a little awkward having to hold his arm above Jason's body but Erik told him it was necessary to prevent Jason's blood from flowing into Philip.

After an hour, Philip felt lightheaded but saw that the transfusion, as Erik called it, was having its effect. Some color returned to Jason's cheeks and his breathing became less labored. Erik reported that Jason still had a fever but it was down from what it had been before.

"It might be a few more days before he fully recovers, but I am now sure he will make it," Erik said as he removed the needle from Philip's arm.

"Good..." Darius grinned as he watched his bondmate and

Jason sleep on the bed. "You are a very remarkable Famulus Erik... I've never seen one as trained as you.

"Thank you." Erik blushed.

"When we conquer Jadoor we will have to send our own healers to learn the same skills you have."

"That would be good indeed," Erik said, trying to cover his growing nervousness.

"Dinner's ready!" Kristen called out to them.

"Great... I'm starved," Darius laughed, dropping the subject to Erik's great relief.

"Smells good." Erik smiled as he joined the others at the table hoping that was the end of their questions, for if they ever found out about his real past it would not only mean his death, but most of theirs as well.  

When Alex's twenty-first birthday finally arrived, none of the people he wished to be present were there, but to everyone's great surprise Field Marshal Xavier showed up. With him being the highest ranking adult present, it was his right to circumcise Alex.

"Do you know why the Field Marshal is here?" Alex asked Commandant Oktor.

"No... all he has told me was that he heard a promising student was reaching adulthood this year and wanted to take part in the ceremony."

"But why me... I did cripple Perils' son." "That did not stop you and Gideon from become better friends, maybe the Field Marshal is here to honor that friendship." Oktor said in reference to Xavier being Perils' toady. "The point is you should look at this as an honor and not be so suspicious," Oktor chastised.

"Sorry sir... I guess I can't get over my suspicions. He did vote to have Jason expelled."

"He is a Field Marshal. His orders are not to be questioned, especially by a Centurion who is not even a part of a legion," Oktor warned.

"Are you telling me I should be happy that Xavier has come for me?"

"I am ordering you to be happy," Oktor laughed. "Now go change into your robe. It is never good to keep a Field Marshal waiting."

Hurrying back to his barracks, Alex found a soft white robe with the golden sun of the empire embroidered on the back. Stripping down to nothing, Alex put on the robe and a pair of matching white slippers that had been placed under his cot.

Dressed for the ceremony, Alex walked to the officer's hall

where the Centurion instructors were waiting in a circle. Making his way toward the center Alex saw Xavier, dressed in a gold robe with a white sun emblazoned on the back, a gold knife in his hands. At the Field Marshal's feet was a pair of silver and gold bowls covered in ancient Mord runes. Alex could not read ancient Mord, but understood the ancient writing none the less. They were the five Centurion Oaths... loyalty to the Empire and it's Field Marshals, loyalty to ones commanding officer, loyalty to the men who serve under you, to swear to protect the lives of the Legatio, and to swear to kill any demon, a Centurion who kills other Centurions and Legatio for their anima, who might arise among his people.

In the circle, Alex felt hands behind him remove his robe, leaving him naked as the day he was been born. His body was shaved, removing every single strand of hair. Then scented oils were rubbed over him, giving his tanned skin a glowing sheen. Finally came the time for him to be cut.

Xavier, down on one knee took hold of Alex's manhood with a firm grip. He then used the gold knife to cut around the loose skin, letting the resulting blood drip into the silver bowl below. When the foreskin was finally removed, it was thrown into the gold bowl. The bowl was then taken to the nearby fireplace and the skin burned. The resulting ashes were then added to the blood in the silver bowl in addition to a goblet of wine. The Field Marshal picked up the bowl from the floor and stirred the mixture of blood, wine and ashes with his right index finger. To finish the ceremony Xavier brought the bowl to Alex's lips, pouring the concoction down the young man's throat until the bowl was dry.

Alex was then dressed in a gold silk robe, just like the Field Marshal's. Handed his white one after being dressed, Alex took the robe, a mark of his childhood, and threw it into the fire where it burst into flames. Now emotionally exhausted, Alex was then led away to the room where he would await the coming of the man who would be his mentor.

In the room was a large bed built into the wall. Sitting down on it, Alex could feel the cool white sheets and the soft goose feathers that stuffed the mattress. As the sun had already set, Alex lay down and closed his eyes preparing to fall asleep when the door opened, letting in the soft glow of torch light. In stepped Xavier, naked, a mass of muscles, only a few inches taller but weighing twice as much as Alex. In his arms he carried a large wooden weapon case. "Field Marshal!" Alex said shocked, jumping out of bed and saluting Xavier.

"Go back in bed, Alex... I will be joining you soon."

"What!" Alex said shocked.

Xavier gave Alex a sly smile. "You mean the Commandant did not tell you... I am to be your mentor."

Alex sat himself back down on the bed, feeling both bewildered

if not a little taken a back. "No... I didn't know that." "I can see by your face that you don't understand why I have asked to be your mentor."

"Yes..." Alex agreed, biting his tongue.

"You have every reason to hate me. First I tried to force Jason to live with Perils. Then I voted for him to be punished for that silly duel he was in. I swear to you none of those decisions were mine."

"Yes..." Alex hesitated before really saying was on his mind. "You are also a lap dog of the Senate."

The accusation sent red flames of anger across Xavier's face. He punched one of the nearby wood pillars, cracking it. "I was taken advantage of by Perils... but no longer."

"Prove it," Alex demanded.

"First, I will give you this," Xavier, now back in control of his anger, said as he brought the weapon case onto the bed. He opened it and took out the double-bladed sword Alex had so admired many months ago.

"You cannot bribe me," Alex said while taking the perfect weapon in his hands. He could still remember when weapon smith Logan handed him the sword with its curved blades and how he had felt the strength of it flow into his arms.

"I see you like my gift." Xavier grinned as he wrapped an arm around Alex's waist. He wanted to get the negotiations over with quickly so he could move on to the seduction. "I also want you to look at this," the Field Marshal said, handing the young Centurion two thick scrolls.

"What are these?" Alex asked as he unrolled them, to seeing lists of names and numbers in what appeared to be ledgers.

"Do you know how Senator Peril's family came by its wealth?"

"His family controls most of the trade in Domus."

"Not most, just one single commodity, Centurion bones," Xavier replied.

            "Is that what these scrolls show, the price and the amount of Centurion bones his family sells to the Legatio?"

"Yes, one of the scrolls is the official one Perils gives to the Senate and Field Marshals, the other shows his trade in illegal bones."

"Illegal bones?" Alex asked confused.

Xavier leaned in closer to Alex before explaining. "Perils has been selling our skulls."

"But that is the only part we are allowed to keep after death. Destroying one is considered the greatest dishonor a Centurion can face," Alex said, his temper rising quickly.

"I see your anger matches mine. Hold on to that feeling. We will both need it when we see Senator Perils faces our judgment," Xavier said, taking a vial of precious anima out of his pocket.

"Anima?" Alex whispered.

"Anima can serve other purposes than healing," Xavier replied popping off the stopper with his thumb. "Considering we will be striking at the heart of the Senate we both will need to be strong. This anima came from a very strong Centurion."

Nodding his head, Alex let the Field Marshal pour half the vial into his mouth, Xavier drinking the rest. Within moments both men's bodies glowed with an inner blue light. As the anima spread throughout their bodies so did an uncontrollable wave of lust, something Legatio did not experience when given the same elixir.

After Alex let Xavier mindlessly ravish him and had fallen asleep, the Field Marshal slipped out of the bed and went to a trunk standing in a corner of the room. Opening it Xavier blinked, blinded by the bright blue light of dozens of vials of anima. Taking one into his hand he returned to the bed, this time pouring its entire contents down Alex's throat. Within seconds Alex's eyes were wide open, a mischievous grin on his face. As lust took control of the young Centurion again, Xavier chuckled seeing he now had Alex loosely leashed. With each additional vial of anima that leash would tighten.

Chapter Twenty-Four:

Of Demons and the Angels

"I have returned with what you sent me for great Amplexor," Aidan bowed once he had returned to the catacombs beneath the royal palace.

"I see that you have," Ampelxor smiled, giving Captain Dorian a polite nod before turning toward the stairs he had prevented Aidan from going down last time. "Follow me, I can now show you the answer you seek."

Aidan, taking Dorian's hand in his followed the Son of the

Mother down, deeper underground, into darkness, leading with his hands, pressing them against the smooth, damp tunnel's walls. He then felt Dorian stop suddenly, just before the path ahead of them lit up with a brilliant white light, blinding him.

"Behold King Aidan III, see your heritage and my true glory!" Amplexor declared. When Aidan could see again he saw the open door where the light was coming from, Amplexor standing in the middle of it, his dirty gray brown robes gone, revealing the man's pale marble-like body and his pair of brilliant white wings. "Son of the Mother," Aidan said, his mouth falling open as he sank to his knees in shock and adoration.

            "Now come to me Aidan, son of Darien, and down the line to Tristan, the last of my Saints. Come to me Dorian of the Centurions and meet the first High Priest of the Mother, my lover, Gladius. Come to me both and receive my blessing." Amplexor said in a booming voice.

Hand in hand Aidan and Dorian walked towards Amplexor, past the door which slammed shut hard with a metallic clang, returning the cave to darkness. Inside Amplexor showed the two the mysteries of Jadoor; putting both under spells of bewilderment and awe. Giving them no chance to refuse his blessings, Amplexor set his ancient plans into motion, preparing the way for the resurrection of his lover, Gladius... the lord of all demons, the one who had killed their very creator, the Mother.

The Academy exiles stayed two weeks at Rondus's cabin, allowing Jason to fully recover. During that time Rondus interrogated all of them, hungry for information about the outside world, strange for a man who preferred to live as a hermit.

Jason's recovery was slow. It was not until the third day of blood transfusions that he was able to stomach solid food or even talk coherently. But slowly and surely he did regain his strength until he was able to leave his bed on the ninth day.

Philip and Gideon took turns walking Jason outside to where the goats and sheep were penned near the cabin. Outside the smoky cabin, Jason was able to breathe the fresh air and regain some of the strength he had lost in his legs.

For Philip, those days of recovery changed him. The fear of losing the young man exceeded any threat he had ever faced in battle. Now that it seemed Jason would survive, Philip had reached a decision.

Jason's twenty-first birthday was fast approaching. As a Legatio that would mean little but because of almost losing him, Philip wanted to bring Jason into adulthood the Centurion way and love him as a Centurion would, by giving him his full bond.

The morning of Jason's birthday, Philip woke as he had been fo the past few days, with Jason asleep on top of him. The commander let his rough finger run down the Legatio's spine, triggering Jason to open his bright green eyes.

            Philip's gaze froze on those two wide spheres, becoming lost in the calm stare the young man gave him. "It's time for our walk," Philip chuckled as he gave Jason's shoulders a hard squeeze. Jason climbed off Philip and went to put on the goat furs Kristen had sewn together for winter clothing. Once dressed, Jason saw Philip was already waiting for him, carrying a basket and wearing his Centurion commander's uniform. Instead of taking Jason down the path to the animal pens, Philip led him to one of mine passages Rondus had dug out in his youth. There he took out a wool blanket and laid it on the rocky ground.

"Let's rest here," Philip suggested after he had a swig from a wine skin.

Jason stretched out on the blanket, his skin a few shades lighter than the gray wool. Philip could not help but let his hand slip under the goatskin jacket Jason was wearing and feel Jason's warm smooth skin underneath

"Jason... do you know what I awoke to find this morning?" Philip grinned as he lay over the Legatio, hugging the young man close to him.

"What?" Jason asked as he nuzzled up against his guardian's chest. "When I woke, it was to a sweet taste in my mouth. In fact it is still there," Philip said with a wide smile, letting the blue sheen glowing from his teeth show for the first time.

"Anima?" Jason said surprised. "Yes." Philip nodded his head enthusiastically. "But how? You are bonded to Darius?"

"We never went through the final ceremony of exchanging anima."

"Then why?"

"Because you are the person to whom I want to give my bond, if you will accept it."

For a long moment Jason remained silent. Alex, Gideon, and Varrus had all given him their bonds yet he had yet to give his. More than any other lesson the Legatio Academics had given they had pressed one single fact into his head... he could only give his bond once. All the legends said a Legatio's bond to a Centurion would bring the greatest joy. They also said that the mutual bond would do nothing to stop the bitterness the Legatio would feel for the rest of his very long life once his Centurion was dead. Philip, already 32, had only eight years of life to offer him. They would be good years, the best of years, but would they outweigh the pain Jason would feel once they were over? To love Philip, or anyone for that matter, required that he sacrifice himself to a future life of pain.

For any other Legatio this knowledge would have left doubt, the sole barrier the Legatio had never been able to overcome to give their bonds to the Centurions. Jason however having lived his life in a desert without love, knew what it was like to have none. During the short months he had been in the world of the Centurions he also knew what he wanted, and it was no longer to become a Centurion. For the first time in his life Jason was glad he was a Legatio for it now allowed him to do the one thing for Philip that no one else could... a Legatio's love. It was not that Alex, Gideon or Varrus were any less deserving of his bond. It was that this was the first time Jason had the choice to accept or refuse the bond of a man he knew loved him more than life itself. Philip could be over protective, parental, and sometimes bossy. As a military commander that was to be expected, but at this crucial moment he had left himself vulnerable to Jason's rejection. While Jason had accepted the bonds of the others readily, each one had been given in a moment of passion, no time given to make an actual choice. Now, faced with the choice Jason had no doubts. Philip might not stir the same passions as he felt for Varrus, nor did they share the comradely he had with Gideon or Alex but he had something they didn't. He had the advantage of being the first, the first man to ever show him kindness, the first to offer his protection, the first to show Jason that there was a world beyond the Labyrinth Tower and the cruelty of his mother. He was the first man Jason could say he had ever truly loved. Free of all doubt, and having reached his decision, Jason slipped a finger into his mouth, withdrawing it to show the coat of red anima that now covered it. "I accept," he whispered, showing Philip his finger.  

 

"I..." Philip stuttered, caught completely by surprise. Darius had spoken to him for hours about the rituals that needed to be performed if there were to be any chance of summoning Jason's anima. It was not supposed to be this easy.

"I accept your bond." Jason said, strength returning to his voice.   "But I'm not ready," Philip said , embarrassed. Laughing, Jason took hold of Philip's blue finger. "You're not

ready?"

"I... I need to circumcise you first." Philip said as he dug blindly into his bag for Agamemnon's gold dagger.

"What about the bleeding?" Jason asked, continuing to laugh. He had never seen Philip looking so lost for words.

"You let me worry about that," Philip chuckled, licking his lips so that they were stained blue as he retrieved the dagger. "You really want to give me your bond?"

"I don't think I could have summoned my anima if any part of me didn't want to."

Overwhelmed by the thought of what was about to happen,

Philip couldn't hold back his tears. "I don't deserve this." Reaching out Jason wrapped his arms around Philip's neck, pulling him into an embrace. "Only I can say who deserves my bond."

"But the others?" Philip cried.

"Do you think my love for them is gone? This is bigger than love, Philip," Jason said showing Philip his red finger once again. "I don't understand," Philip whispered, shaking his head. Jason was radiating a peace and calm he had never experienced before. He did not know how the young man had reached such wisdom. It was as if their roles had been reversed.

"Do you need to?" Jason asked, standing up to remove his goat skin clothing. "Does anyone understand something they have never experienced before?"

Waiting until his hands stopped trebling, Philip withdrew the dagger from its sheath and began the circumcision ritual. After both of them drank the mixture of wine and ash, he took hold of Jason's bleeding sex and wrapped his mouth around it, letting the anima that filled his mouth heal the wound. By the time he removed his mouth, the blood was gone, Jason's sex however had become engorged.

"Tradition says we should make love before exchanging bonds." Philip whispered as he removed his own clothes.

"How can there be a tradition for something that's never happened before?" Jason asked lowering Philip down upon his back as he climbed on top of him.

"I..." Philip was about to say he didn't know but was stopped by Jason when he pressed his lips against the Centurion's mouth.

As they rolled about the cave, their lips locked, their animas flowed between their bodies. Instead of the expected purple glow however, what little color Jason skin had was replaced by a brilliant whiteness that started from his abdomen before spreading to the rest of his body. As for Philip, his tan skin was quickly turning black, a darkness that went deeper than that of the Qopo in the southlands. It was an obsidian black, dark yet shiny. Where Jason's body touched his, veins of white lighting danced across Philip's skin.

Neither man noticed any of these changes however both being blinded by the passions their combined anima triggered in each other. As the hours passed each mounted the other, each tasted the flavor of the other's seed, and each passed even more of their anima to the other until both finally reached the point of exhaustion as the sun disappeared

behind the mountains. "Philip?" Jason asked, his white body wrapped around the dark void of his bondmate. "What have I become?" Philip whispered, looking at his clawed hands. "My lover," Jason replied contently, planting light kisses on Philip's neck.

Looking at Jason, Philip saw a man who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, more handsome than any Legatio or Centurion he had seen in his life, even Varrus. Jason, while still slim, looked more muscular than even the fittest Centurion. With a growing urge Philip placed a large hand on Jason's now strong left shoulder. On contact with his bondmate's skin, his claws retracted at once and remained so. His hand tingled with energy as he gripped and rubbed the now hard muscles. Looking at the spot, Philip saw the white veins of his skin glow brighter, while on Jason streaks of gray appeared under all that whiteness.

"Get the knife," Jason said excitedly.

Reaching for it, Philip handed it to his bondmate. He was shocked when Jason use the dagger to cut his thigh, releasing a dark, black blood. Before Philip could say a word however the wound healed itself.

"Why did you do that?" Philip asked confused.

"I needed to know," Jason replied, giving Philip back the black stained dagger.

"Know what?" Philip asked.

"That you wouldn't die," Jason whispered. "I don't understand."

"I am... I was a Legatio but as you saw I will not bleed to death. Maybe the same is true for you. You were a Centurion but given my anima. Maybe you won't die now." Jason said, gray tears running down his white face.

"If it gives you hope. I would feel better knowing you will not look at me believing I will soon leave you," Philip said, squeezing

Jason's healed leg.

"It does," Jason nodded reaching to run his finger through Philip's hair its once straw yellow curls replaced by a white that matched Jason's skin.

Looking at both of their changed bodies and the pile of clothes they had brought with them, Philip couldn't hold back a deep chuckle. "It looks like we'll be going back naked."

"Do we need to go back?" Jason asked, placing a hand on Philip's chest.

"I could feed from you till the world ends but our friends would miss us." Philip replied.

Jason stood up and offered Philip his hand. "Would they even

recognize us?"

"For you that won't be a problem. The moment they see you they'll be on their knees worshiping you. Me, they'll see as a demon."

"Then I guess I will just have to protect you my demon," Jason said, brushing his hand against Philip's chiseled face, watching the white lightning dance where he touched.

"You are not afraid?"

"They are our friends," Jason replied, guiding Philip out of the cave.

"I meant of me."

"Why should I be afraid of you?"

"Look at me!" His voice roared.

Raising his head, Jason placed a reassuring kiss on Philip's black lips. "You are beautiful."

"I am a monster," Philip insisted his solid white eyes flaring with life.

"No you're not. I will never let you become one." Jason said

sternly, gazing at Philip with his solid black opals.

To Philip's surprise he felt as if an invisible and previously unfelt leash had just been given a quick jerk. "If you say so." "I do," Jason replied, placing a hand on Philip's shoulder, massaging it.

Letting out a cat like purr Philip let Jason guide him back toward the trail that would lead them back to Rondus' cabin. If he were indeed the dreaded Demon of legend, at least he seemed to be a tame one.

Chapter Twenty-Five:

Of Mordel and the Dominus

It was past dusk when Philip and Jason were finally able to return to Rondus's cabin. Both of them had to walk back naked. As they approached the cabin they could hear laugher and the smell of roasting meat.

Philip, still not comfortable with his new form, felt that Jason should go inside first to explain things.

"It will be ok..." Jason said calmly, looking up at Philip with his solid black eyes.

He grabbed Jason's hand before the young man had a chance to go inside the cabin. "If they make a move to hurt you, run out as fast as you can," Philip warned.

"They won't hurt me," Jason insisted.

"Yes... seeing you, they just might only want to ravish you." Philip chuckled a little too loud.

"Hey, is that you Philip? Get back in here!" Darius's voice shouted from the cabin. "I guess I should head in," Jason smiled nervously, the cold air not affecting him at all. He walked into the fire-lit room where everyone was still gathered around the table eating. Darius was the first to look in Jason's direction.

"Who are you?" Darius demanded, reaching for his short sword.

"It's me... Jason." Jason replied, ready to run out of the cabin at the first sign of danger.

"Jason...?" Gideon asked confused.

"It is Jason," Erik said in awe, elbowing Kristen to look up from his meal.

"How do you know that?" Rondus yelled, he had already picked up his club and was making his way toward what he saw as an intruder. "There is a resemblance, but look at him... He is white as a ghost, tall, and built like a Centurion. I say knock him out, ask questions later!"

Gideon on hearing this jumped Rondus but was thrown off by the surprisingly strong man.

"Sit down, Rondus!" Caleb ordered.

"Yes Calebos," Rondus backed down immediately.

"Ummmm Jason, if that is who you are... who is that creature behind you?" Darius asked, a little scared.

Jason turned around and saw Philip, wielding a tree branch in his hands like a club. On hearing Rondus' threat, Philip had picked the first weapon he could find and rushed in, his eyes a white glow of anger searching for any threat to Jason. Jason looked up at his counterpart with love in his eyes, oblivious to the rage Philip was showing. "He's Philip." Jason smiled before kissing the ebony man's chest, sending the streaks of white aglow across Philip's black skin.

"Philip?" Darius said in disbelief. Philip tried to hold on to his anger but could not... not with

Jason's love and affection pouring into him with each touch. Wrapping

his arms protectively around his ward, Philip nodded his head to Darius, a white tear dropping down his black face.

"How?" Gideon asked... stunned by what he was seeing.

"Jason gave me his bond and I him," Philip said as if that explained everything.

"But your skin? Nothing like this has happened before!" Darius said dumb struck.

"What does it feel like?" Gideon asked, very curious. He was back on his feet and moving closer to the couple, who now seemed more interested in each other. "It is beyond description," Philip grinned, his manhood already hardening between his and Jason's body.

"Humor us," Rondus smirked. "Jason now feels as if he is a part of me. His heart, his breath,

his thoughts and emotions are all now mine. All we did after I took his anima into me was make love and that is all I want to do for the rest of my life."

Jason too must have had the same idea as he moved his kisses down Philip's body, moving closer to Philip's manhood.

"No more sex!" Erik shouted, holding a strange metal device in his hands.

"Erik... what are you doing?" Kristen asked panicked.

"We need to get them to Mordel! Look at them... they are exactly what the Dominus are looking for!"

"What the hell is going on?" Darius demanded. Famulus were never supposed to give orders... ever.

Erik responded to Darius's comment by pointing the metal object at him. There was a loud bang and Darius went down.

Almost everyone was too stunned to respond, everyone except Philip. He did not know what had happened but it smelt of danger... danger to Jason. He raced to where Erik stood, smashing through the table, sending the food flying. Erik, though, remained very calm and pointed the metal object at Philip.

Right before Philip could reach Erik there was an even louder bang that flung Philip all the way to the other end of the room.

Jason on seeing this went wild with anger and began to run over to Erik but stopped when Kristen tackled him.

"Jason, don't fight," Kristen said in a panicked voice.

Jason struggled to get Kristen off him but slowly he felt himself weaken and his eyes heavy. When Kristen was sure that the fight was out of Jason he stood up, revealing the syringe sticking in the middle of Jason's chest.

"What is going on?" Caleb demanded but not making any aggressive moves toward Erik and Kristen.

"I am a Grau... Kristen is MY servant," Eric explained as he pointed what was clearly a weapon at his partner before turning it on Caleb. "We come from a different country... a country more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

"Powerful... how?" Gideon asked suspiciously.

"Weapons, medicine, our entire civilization makes yours look like something from the stone age... all thanks to the Dominus of course," Kristen explained.

"The Dominus?" Caleb asked.

"Never mind..." Erik glared at Kristen.

"What are you going to do with us?" Gideon asked nervously.

"That is for the Dominus to decide," Erik snickered.

"Erik... why not let them go," Kristen said in a begging tone.

"They already know too much... I will ask the Dominus to let us bring them with us but if they say no, well we will have no choice," Erik said, disappointed in his underling.

"They would never agree to that!" Kristen said panicked.

"Then we will just have to make sure they can never tell anyone

about us."

"You mean kill us," Caleb said bitterly.

"Yes," Erik said, not disturbed at all by saying so. "Kristen... give the subjects the inhibitor, I don't want their condition to progress any further until we arrive back at Mordel." "Mordel?" Caleb asked nervously.

"You've heard of it?" Erik grinned evilly.

"Only in legends... it is also called the Valley of Death. It is a place of evil. Makes sense that you come from it," Caleb said accusingly.

"I am just a servant of the Dominus of Mordel... you don't know evil until you come face to face with them." Erik shuddered.

"Then why do you serve them?" Gideon demanded.

"I bet you would like me to say I had no choice but that would only be half the truth. I serve them for what they give me for my services. My reward will be great now that I have the specimens they have been looking for."

"Jason and Philip..." Caleb realized.

"Yes... a bonded pair of Legatio and Centurion. We have been looking for them for centuries. It has not been as simple as the Dominus had hoped. They thought all they would have to do was transfer the anima between the two symbiotic species to obtain what they wanted. It never worked. There was something missing... something the vast medical knowledge of the Dominus could not synthesize," Erik grunted as he watched his three prisoners.

"Love... they could not force a Legatio to fall in love with a Centurion," Gideon guessed.

"Exactly..." Erik smiled. "The Centurions were always willing but the Legatio would always get cold feet before a true bond could form."

"So you have finally found a Legatio who loves a Centurion... you should be proud betraying them!" Caleb said bitterly.

"Watch it! Erik warned, pointing his weapon at Caleb. "All I did was stun Philip and Darius. I can also blow your head clear off."

"It seems that is what your masters have in mind for us anyway," Caleb spat back. "Is that what happened to Jonathan?"

"Caleb, don't make things worse!" Kirsten begged.

"Why do you care?" Caleb pressed, angry that the man he had been sharing his bed with was turning his back on him.

"He cares because he is not like me... a Grau, a true servant of the Dominus. There is no reward waiting for him back home. He is just a slave, a member of a tribe the Dominus conquered thousands of years ago. If he does not do as I say he and a hundred of his people will be executed."

"You are an evil man," Rondus growled menacingly.

"No, I just work for evil masters." Erik bowed his head, a wide

smile on his face.

"I'm done," Kristen said submissively after giving both Philip and Jason an injection.

"Good... it should take effect in no more than three hours." Erik grinned. "Kristen help us," Gideon begged.

"I'm sorry I can't... my people," Kristen said, unable to look any of his friends in the eye.

His head bowed, Kristen joined Erik at his side, looking ashamed. Then Erik did something very stupid, he handed his weapon over to Kristen so as to reach into his black bag.

Just as Erik pulled out another metal device, Kristen adjusted the setting of the weapon and fired on his superior. The rest watched in horror as Erik's body disintegrated in a burst of flame.

"I always hated that bastard," Kristen said, his back straight and head up, no longer the submissive man he had been pretending to be.

"Kristen!" Gideon shouted in surprise.

"Kristen... I am glad you picked us over Erik, but what about your people?" Caleb asked concerned.

            "My people are proud and hate the Dominus. Since Dominus really want a bonded Legatio and Centurion pair it seems like a good idea to make sure they do not get one. If my helping you stops the Dominus from getting what they want, my people will be willing to sacrifice themselves."

"That can't be the only reason," Caleb pushed.

"No... you are right. I'm doing this for Jason. He reminds me of my own son."

"Your son?" Caleb said shocked. "You look like you are only in your mid-twenties."

"Part of my reward for being selected by the Dominus as an agent was they extended my lifespan. It had its costs though... I had to leave my wife and child behind to be trained and sent across the Barrier Ocean to act as a spy."

"How old are you?" Caleb asked.

"I will be one hundred and twelve in three weeks. My son... if he is alive, will be in his nineties. I very much doubt he is alive though, life in the mines is not easy," Kristen replied, trying to hold back his tears.

"Why do you say that... he might have become an agent like you?" Gideon said optimistically.

"Yes, there is that chance... but only one out of tens of thousands gets selected. For my people, being selected is considered a blessing... it is the only way out of the underground tunnels we are forced to live in," Kristen shuddered

"What sort of world is that?" Gideon asked.

"A barren one... Mordel is a land of death, just as Caleb said. From what I have been told, there is a toxic wind that our planet sails through. Your side of the planet... Ares is shielded by the Barrier while our side is hit constantly by this invisible wind, making life on the surface impossible. As a result, very few of my people have ever seen the sun."

"Sounds like a dreadful existence." Rondus smirked, not believing a word Kristen said.

Everyone watched as Kristen took out a syringe and make his way to Jason giving him an injection.

"What is that?" Caleb demanded. "Something to help cover up the physical changes his body went through when he bonded to Philip. It will take an hour to take effect. We can't be running around with Jason looking like this."

"I guess we have to trust you," Caleb nodded.

"Not until he tells me who these Dominus are!" Rondus demanded his club back in his hands.

"Rondus, he saved us!" Gideon protested.

"Yes, but he kept the fact he was working for someone else from us." Caleb agreed with Rondus.

Kristen finished giving Philip his injection before taking a seat by the bed. "I don't know what the Dominus look like, as I have never seen one face to face. Only the Grau... like Erik, have the right to be in their presence."

"But what do you KNOW about them? Why are they so powerful?" Rondus pressed.

"For a reason my people forgot... our side of this world... Mordel, kept its technology while your side of the world lost it in an accident. Or, we think it was an accident, for while your half remained green with life, ours began to die, and dry up. It has something to do with the barrier. Since it was built travel between Mordel and Ares has almost been impossible until recently.

"So how did your people end up as slaves?" Gideon wondered.

"There was a revolt. My people did not stand a chance, and after a few years the war ended and my people were sentenced to work in the underground cities and mines. By then, however, all the major countries were armed to the teeth. Each felt they had the right and the power to claim the rich lands of Ares for themselves. A larger more destructive war started. Most of the great cities were wiped out. As irony would have it, my people were spared most of the death and destruction as we were safe, underground, digging their cities and mines for them. Things must have become desperate though because soon they started recruiting us to fight their wars."

"How could they run the risk of arming you... you had revolted earlier?" Caleb asked confused.

"They could because back then they didn't need to threaten our people to get us to obey." Kristen sighed.

"What ways?" Gideon asked.

"Things that not even I understand... they used to have a way of altering our bodies to serve their purposes. Centurions, Legatio, Grau, and others all have their origins from the war."

"So it was not a gift from the gods?" Gideon sighed, clearly disappointed.

"Gods?" Kristen laughed. "The Dominus who created you view themselves as gods or so they would like everyone to believe. "

"I must ask you again... what are the Dominus?" Rondus demanded angrily.

"The Dominus are the only great power that survived the wars, the victors so to speak. They are the keepers of all the technology that wasn't destroyed. During the war the barrier, which had been impenetrable for over a thousand years, started to fail. The Legatio, Centurions, Famulus, Jadoorians, and several of the enslaved tribes used that chance to flee."

"The Jadoorians... they are that old of a people?"

"They were one of the largest tribes and unlike mine were one of the last to be free of the Dominus. So when the Centurions and Legatio fled, the Jadoorians escaped Mordel with them."

"What about the Grau? Centurions are supposed to be great fighters, regardless that they are a bunch of fags. Legatio live practically forever even though they can die from a paper cut. What's so special about the Grau?" Rondus barked, not hiding that he was not impressed by either of the two engineered species of men.

"Rondus!" Gideon warned, not willing to let a man he saw as being an unclean Famulus disrespect his people.

Seeing that a fight was about to happen, Kristen continued talking in hope of distracting them. "The Grau are master spies and manipulators. They can take on almost any personality and be believable at it. That is why Erik seemed so charming before he took on his real personality."

"Then why don't the Dominus invade here if they are so powerful?" Caleb demanded. If the Dominus were as strong as Kristen claimed, Caleb couldn't see why they would remain on their side of the world.

"They are afraid to," Kristen said simply.

"Why? You have said how powerful they are... what do they have to be afraid of?" Rondus asked, not impressed so far by anything Kristen had said.

"The barrier... It affects different races differently," Kristen replied.

"What do you mean?"

"Inside each of the Dominus is a core... not an anima core like what Centurions and Legatio have but one made of a substance called ‘animus'. The barrier that protects Ares is like a giant lode stone. When a person with an animus core passes near the field they are like iron, pulled into the field and trapped. That is why Legatio and Centurions were able to pass the field and why the Dominus are so interested in them."

"Still, none of what you have said explains why the Dominus are so interested in Jason and Philip. Why do they need a bonded pair of Centurion and Legatio?"

"I don't know how but my guess is that it is only from them that the Dominus believe they can learn how to cross the Barrier, allowing them to enter the living lands of Ares."

"And that would be bad..." Gideon guessed.

"Very bad," Kristen agreed.

"So what are we doing now?" Caleb asked, completely giving up on trying to control the situation.

"We need to leave this place as soon as possible," Kristen replied.

"Why... Erik is dead." Gideon shrugged.

"Yes, but he has been giving regular reports to other Grau agents," Kristen explained, pointing to the metal device Erik had reached for before his death.

"How?" Caleb demanded.

"It doesn't matter how, just take my word that he was and when he does not give his next report the other Grau will come looking for him. We need to be out of the mountain pass before that happens."

"I'm not leaving my home!" Rondus protested.

"Fine... stay here and be killed or worse experimented on," Kristen sighed. "We all have to leave. Right now the Dominus do not know about Jason and Philip. If any of us stay, however, they will find out."

"No... I won't go. Let them come and I'll kill them for you. They won't get a word out of me," Rondus said stubbornly wielding his club as if he were fighting off a horde.

"You wouldn't stand a chance against them," Kristen insisted.

"You seemed to handle Erik fine," Gideon said.

"That was because I knew Erik would be too busy with the rest of you to worry about me," Kristen said, getting a little tired of havingto explain things. "The Grau will come for us regardless. I can teach you tricks to hide things from them. If they look hard enough they willfind what they are searching for, but it is the best I can do. One day,however, the truth will come out and I will die."

"We will protect you," Caleb replied his anger toward Kristen fading.

"You can try but I doubt you can," Kristen shook his head. "How do we hide our thoughts from the Grau?" Darius asked. "By helping you forget them. You will not remember what I

have just told you. You will not remember that Jason and Philip arebonded," Kristen said.

"Won't we notice that Jason has grown?" Gideon chuckled.

"No... your mind will adjust and fill in the holes. It will just be my job to make sure that all of you fill them in the same way," Kristen explained.

"When do we start?" Rondus grunted, thinking it had been a mistake to let all these intruders stay at his cabin for so long.

"Now," Kristen said as he stabbed Rondus in the side with a syringe.


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