The last month had been among happiest Jason could remember. It was as much due from its stability as from the reassuring love he was receiving. Each morning he woke up in Philip's arms, his lover purring softy. He would quietly leave the bed and go to the balcony, where Varrus would already be waiting for him.
Together the two would fly around the city, hand in hand, until they reached the main courtyard of the palace. There, they would continue their exercises by practicing the quarterstaff. With wings, their sparring had taken on new dimensions, with higher jumps and diving attacks. The practices would always arouse their passion for each other as they let articles of clothing fall, and as they became covered with sweat. Nearly naked, they would end their practice with some hand-to-hand combat, Varrus always making sure that he ended up on top of Jason, their limbs entangled.
In Varrus' strong arms, Jason would be carried to the small bathhouse where the two would make love on the heated marble floor. Varrus was always the guide to their lovemaking. After both had been sated, they would wash off the results. When dressed for the day, they joined Gideon, Caleb, and Kristen for breakfast before going to the throne room to hold court.
Jason's presence there was less for him to make decisions than to appear before the nobles and learn the ways of government. Decisions about the direction the kingdom would take were always made the previous night, during meetings held with Varrus, Philip, and Caleb.
After the nobles and petitioners were gone, Jason would eat lunch and spend the afternoon with Gideon. His relationship with his old schoolmate had grown since he had bonded to him. Unlike with the others, Jason could relax and act his true age around his similarly aged friend. It provided him a welcome break from the formality of court. Often the two would play tag, with the skies over the city being their playing field. They would then fly off to the nearby woods, where they would make, not necessarily passionate, but definitely energetic love that would usually involve the loss of a few feathers. When the two were finally tired, they would fly back to the palace where they bathed and put on fresh clothes in time for dinner.
Dinner was always in the Labyrinth Keep with the old group at the table, including a moody Rondus. Afterward, Philip and Jason would go to a separate sitting room to talk with each other before retiring to bed. Jason would make love to Philip for the third, and by far the most passionate, time before falling asleep.
When certain his lover was sleeping, Philip would leave Jason tucked in bed and meet with Varrus and Caleb to discuss the business of the kingdom... just as they were doing tonight.
"How is the building progressing?" Varrus asked Caleb.
"The foundation for the public baths has dried and is ready for the building. It will take until autumn before it is completed."
"But at least there will be hot water for winter." Philip smiled.
"Yes... but you still see the Domus Famulus boiling their pots of water every night." Caleb laughed.
'You could always open the palace bath." Philip smirked.
"For all twelve thousand of them? No. The palace baths can't handle that many people," Varrus argued.
"It has made competition for palace jobs fierce." Caleb grinned.
"How are the fortifications?" Philip asked, returning the conversation back to topic.
"The city walls are completely repaired, and the artisans have finished carving the demon and the angel on the towers at the gate... very formidable looking if I do say so myself. The carvings of the Demon Spawn and the Saints on the palace walls will take some time, however. Five of seven barracks are now finished, and three more are being built inside the Labyrinth. The garrison stands at fifty thousand, not including your Demon Spawn," Caleb listed.
"Good!" Philip grinned, trying to hide his nervousness.
"Philip!" Varrus laughed.
"Yes..." Philip said guiltily.
"How many Demon Spawn are there now?" Varrus demanded.
"Uhmmm... a lot," Philip said evasively.
"More than the five hundred you told Jason?" Varrus smiled wickedly.
"More or less." Philip grinned.
"Alright, keep your secret. Just be careful that Jason doesn't find out." Varrus gave up.
"Oh he knows... I don't keep secrets from him. He just doesn't demand I give him a specific number."
"I'm glad he is so understanding." Varrus sighed.
"I tried to keep it at five hundred but I kept on getting requests from thirty eight-thirty nine year old Centurions. It was hard, but I told them that I had promised Jason that there would be no more than five hundred. I guess some of them went to Jason because, a few days later, Jason told me I could have as many as I felt were necessary."
"Lucky you." Varrus grinned.
Just then Darius came strolling into the room wearing a sleek red and black leather outfit that matched his skin, carrying a whip in his hand. He strolled over to Varrus, pulling his chair back so he could slide his backside down Varrus' chest into his lap.
"You seem to be pretty lucky as well." Philip grinned.
"He's your pet... you are the one who should be taking care of him," Varrus moaned.
"Maybe you should not have been so energetic the last time. Darius told me you are really quite skilled." Philip chuckled, loving how Darius was looking at Varrus with puppy dog eyes.
"I only did what you asked me to do," Varrus insisted, trying to avoid the giant grin Darius was giving him.
"And you did it very well. So, unless we have any more business, I suggest we all retire to our lovers," Philip proposed as he left the conference table.
Back in the bedroom he shared with Jason, Philip looked at his lover, admiring his white skin in the moonlight. While Jason was now better built and stronger than any Centurion, he still looked fragile in Philip's eyes. He watched Jason sleep, the white veins of Philip's skin glowing. It was something that happened whenever he touched or thought of his love. Letting the red silk robe he was wearing slip off his taut body, Philip moved closer to the bed, sliding up the black sheets while pulling them off Jason's body. Philip was happy to see that Jason was sleeping on his stomach, which made the round mounds of his ass so easy to get to. Climbing between Jason's legs, he licked the underside of his Angels thighs, triggering black veins to appear on Jason's perfectly white skin.
When he reached Jason's ass, Philip nuzzled his nose between his lover's cheeks, taking in the smell of the perfumed water he bathed in. Philip ran his tongue up and down the crack, leaving a wet trail. He pulled Jason's cheeks apart, letting his tongue probe deeper until it was up against his rosebud.
By this time Jason was awake, trying to hold back laughter and moans of pleasure. He lifted his rear to meet Philip's tongue and moved side to side so it would hit the right spot.
Philip, his passions rapidly climbing and his manhood now engorged, flipped Jason over onto his back, lifting his legs over his head. Philip pushed his manhood inside Jason, gaining the satisfied feeling of finding the correct key to a complex lock. Philip knew, deep down, that Jason preferred the slow gentle lovemaking he had with Varrus, and he tried to do his best for the first half to give that to Jason but, in the end as always, the demon in him needed to be sated, leading him to thrust harder and faster, his pelvis slapping against Jason's body.
When Philip released his seed he was not only releasing what he felt was his love for Jason but also removing the poison that could drive him into a true demon's madness. Only Jason and his Saints could contain the rage inside Philip and his Spawn. That is why Philip wanted Jason to make more children...more Saints, so that his own children, his Spawn, would not fall into madness. As things were, a pit had been dug for his Demon Spawn to deposit their seed into, to remove the poison. The pit had become foul, the ground around it blackened and lifeless.
Depositing his seed inside Jason though, was only half the process. Next Philip needed Jason's own seed to remove any of the remaining poison in his blood. Letting Jason's legs fall back down to the bed. Philip nestled his head in Jason's groin and proceeded to put Jason's manhood in his mouth. Even with all the care he took, Philip was amazed that his now sharp teeth didn't cut Jason as he sucked on him. It did not take him long to receive his antidote and reach the greatest level of calm he could experience. Afterwards, with his massive body, he would climb up Jason until they were face to face. They would then kiss each other with a fierce intensity, Jason wrapping his white wings around Philip's dark body. Finally, when they were ready for bed, Philip rested his head on Jason's shoulder and purred his lover to sleep.
Tonight they were asleep for only two hours when Varrus came in through the balcony, a look of worry on his face. Philip, his ears never asleep, recognized the sound of Varrus' approach and so stood up calmly before going over to his friend.
"Your report?" Philip asked.
"The ambassadors from the other Eastern Confederacy nations have all disappeared. They were supposed to meet with me tonight to discuss the unusual activity on our borders.
"Any strange activity from their embassies?" Philip asked as he went over to pick up his red robe from the floor.
Smoke is coming from their chimneys. With all the warm weather we have been having I doubt it is to keep out the night's chill."
"They are burning documents," Philip realized.
"That would be my guess," Varrus agreed.
"When will we hear from our border scouts?'
"See if we can find out sooner," Philip requested.
"I will send my best men after them."
"See Gideon. With his wings he should reach the border and be back by dawn."
"I will," Varrus nodded. "I will also start bringing in supplies."
"I thought you had filled the city warehouses to the brim?" Philip laughed.
"I have, but, with all the new people moving in, we will need more food if this is an attack," Varrus pointed out.
"If it is war we face, and it looks like the city will be besieged, the people cannot stay here," Philip replied, more as an order than a suggestion.
"But this is their home."
"Their lives are more important. Before the city is cut off, we will need to move most of the Qul Tos population out to the neighboring towns. In fact, you should start making preparations for their evacuation."
"What of the Domus Famulus and Legatio?" Varrus asked.
"The Domus Famulus have been trained for siege life. They can be of use making arrows, cooking meals, and acting as healers. They would not be underfoot like the Tosians. As for the Legatio, I bet that when word comes of war, they will wish they had gone someplace other than here, but they are now too important for us to let go."
"Too important?" Varrus asked, confused.
"Darius and I have been talking to the other generals in the Eastern Army. I was going to tell you this, sooner or later but, now that it looks like we are facing war, I might as well tell you now... the Eastern Army is defecting to Qul Tos. It would have happened sooner but without Legatio to give birth to new Centurions it would never work. Now that we have a thousand of them however, we have a chance to keep Centurion culture alive." Philip smiled.
"So we are accepting Xavier's deal?"
"Yes. Xavier has his own problems. With the Western Army about to fall, he will be up against the entire Federation army. The type of force he will be facing will be a fraction of what the east can send against us; after all they still have to worry about the Empire of Lahore beyond the wastes."
"Do you know much about Lahore?" Varrus asked, thinking of a possible alliance.
"No, and neither do the Easterners. Before the wars between Domus and the East, they would join together to protect themselves from the suicide attacks from Lahore Empire across the Desert of Flames. Only once did the Confederacy try to counterattack, sending tens of thousands of men across those endless sands. Not a single man came back to tell what happened. For all I know, no one on this side of the world has ever seen the empire, but its existence was the reason General Agamemnon, Jason's father, did not crush the Eastern Confederacy in the last war. He insisted that we needed a buffer between Lahore and us. So trust me, while Jadoor can send every man woman and child against Xavier, the Confederacy will always keep a significant number of troops on their eastern boarder just in case Lahore tries to attack," Philip explained.
"Lucky for us, then."
"This will not be an easy fight, regardless. Just as the Federation has gotten better, I am sure the East has learned a few lessons about fighting us. I would prefer to beat them out on an open field of battle, but our best chance is to wear them down as they try to capture the capital."
"But I have just started rebuilding the place," Varrus pouted.
"And it was going to be a beautiful city. I'm just glad you had enough sense to also improve the fortifications," Philip joked. "You'd better get back down to the palace and wake up Gideon."
"Fine... If I'm late coming for Jason, tell him to wait for me."
"I will... I know how important your time with him is."
"Yes... Gideon and I can never thank you enough."
"Each of you give Jason something he needs... how could I ever deny that to him?" Philip asked in an impossible attempt to give off a friendly smile in spite of the threatening look of his fangs.
"You know he loves you most of all." Varrus grinned.
"I don't need you to tell me that. Now get going, and tell Gideon that if he comes back before dawn, he can spend the remainder of the night with Jason and me."
"Oh, he will love that... he's heard stories of the things you do with that tail of yours. He might fly across the kingdom, aroused by just thinking about it."
"I don't mind, as long as it gets him to fly fast. Now go!" Philip laughed.
"I'm going." Varrus laughed, walking back to the balcony, and then flying down to the palace below.
Philip sighed... he would not have minded taking Varrus into his bed... just to feel what Jason experienced with him. Due to his connection to his Angel, Philip could tell when Jason felt strong emotions. And, that was why Philip timed his love making to Darius to coincide with when Jason and Varrus made love. Philip knew what he was...he was Jason's soul mate. Varrus was Jason's teacher and mentor, not to mention the most handsome of his three lovers, and that left Gideon as his comrade and confidant. Each met a need Jason had, to be loved by the man he cared most about, to be loved and respected by his role model, and to be able to relax with a friend. Philip wished he had such friends but, besides Darius, none of the other Demon Spawn triggered much emotion from him other than lust. He guessed that was why it had been so easy for him to create over a thousand Spawn while Jason had only forty Saints. The emotional cost of being attached to so many people would have been too much for Jason.
Noticing that Jason had rolled over on his side, Philip returned to the bed and spooned up behind him, kissing the back of his neck. Right now, the last thing Philip wanted was to give Jason the bad news. He wanted his Angel's sleep to be left undisturbed.
Looking out the balcony window from the bed, Philip could not help but be reminded of the first night he had slept with Jason, back when the Labyrinth Tower still stood. The location of the room he had chosen in the keep as his bedroom had not been random at all. As close as he was able to tell, it was at the same location as Jason's bedroom in the Labyrinth Tower. Varrus had torn the tower down to build the much larger keep. At sunset Jason often stared out the balcony window, making Philip wonder if Jason noticed that the view was the exact same one he had had for those many years when his mother kept him a prisoner. If so, Philip hoped it did not pain Jason, but gave him a sense of comfort. How ironic that the place, from which Philip had rescued Jason nine months ago, was now his home again. Hopefully, it would turn out to be a much happier place this time.
The offer to spend the entire night with Jason was indeed just the motivation Gideon needed. He flew so fast to the first border checkpoint that he was almost exhausted when he landed.
It was only thanks to the legend of the Angels of Qul Tos that Gideon was not shot down as he landed within the wooden stockade walls. Still, several Centurions with long pikes surrounded him as soon as he landed.
"Well, other than an Angel landing in the middle of our camp... no," the commander laughed.
"Darn... that means I have to go on to the next fort."
"Oh, don't go yet..." all the Centurions begged. It was not often that a half naked Angel visited them at their isolated base... in fact it had never happened before.
"Sorry, I have a schedule to keep and a bed waiting for me." Gideon laughed, as he got ready to take off again.
"Wait..." the Commander shouted. The appearance of Gideon had gotten more excitement out of his men than they had had in months. He was not going to allow this young morale booster leave so soon.
"I'm sorry, I really have to go," Gideon insisted.
"One of our patrols will be back in a few minutes. They can give you some idea if anything is happening at the border. That way you won't have to go to the other forts."
"That would save time," Gideon agreed, seeing the logic of it. If he got back before dawn he could fly up to the Labyrinth Keep and give his report to Philip in person. Philip might even be so grateful as allow him to slip between the sheets with Philip's luscious tail wrapped around the two of them. Just thinking about it was exciting him, which of course the Centurions were glad to witness.
"Would you care to bathe while you wait?" the commander offered.
At first Gideon was keen to accept the Centurion's offer, but noticing the lustful looks the hundred or so men were giving him, Gideon was betting he would not be given a chance to relax so declined the offer.
Then, as the Centurions began to move in closer, Gideon felt hands rubbing the soft feathers of his wings. "Now come on, men... I know you are glad to see me...but I must really be going."
Feeling that his safety was in danger, Gideon lifted himself off the ground and soared into the air. Glad that he was away from the men's hungry gazes Gideon made his way over to the next fort, which was closer to the border. Halfway there, he started smelling smoke, a scent that became stronger as he got closer to where the next fort was supposed to be. Finally, when he crested a hill, Gideon found the source of the smoke. The wooden fort that had been built on the next hill was in flames. But that was not the most startling thing. In the valley below was a sea of red torches, marking the presence of tens of thousands of armed men. Now knowing that what Varrus had feared was true, Gideon made a u-turn back to Qul Tos.
On the way back Gideon flew close to the first fort. He was tempted to not warn the men of the army heading right for them, but that would not have been honorable, so he flew close but this time remained in the air.
Inside the fort Gideon was surprised to find the four men who had tried to grab his wings, stripped down and being lashed. On seeing that Gideon had returned, the Commander bowed to him and apologized.
"Thanks, but that is the least of your worries. The fort three hills away has fallen to a massive army from the east. It’s heading in your direction. You need to flee back to the capital," Gideon explained.
"I am sorry, but we can't do that. We are Centurions and it is our job to hold the border at all cost." The Commander bowed.
"But you will be slaughtered!" Gideon said, panicked.
"If that is our fate, so be it. It is your fate to fly back to Field Marshal Darius and tell him what is happening. Go!"
"I will...one day I hope to collect your skulls so your story will be remembered," Gideon said solemnly.
"To be immortal would be our greatest reward." The Commander saluted.
After that, Gideon flew as fast as he could back to Qul Tos, heading right for Philip's balcony to report what he had seen. The sun was far from rising when he gave his report and he was indeed allowed to join Jason in Philip's bed. But, as for Philip joining them, that did not happen. Philip, Darius and Varrus spent the rest of the night making plans and sending out orders.
The war for the survival for Qul Tos and the people of Domus had begun.