Rules of Challenge: A death challenge can only be made Between Centurions of the same rank,
Unless a superior officer intercedes,
Or between a student and a teacher if the teacher feels the student represents a threat to the empire. It must be held at sundown on the day the challenge is given. If one or both fail to enter the circle by sunset then that person(s) life is forfeit. The match lasts till one or both are dead,
Or if one attempts to flee the circle, in which case his life is forfeit.
The winner has rights to the person’s anima. The bones belong to the Legatio except for the skull, which belongs to all Centurions, to be entombed under the Grand Hall of the Field Marshals with all honors.
The carriage stood waiting outside the broken city walls, the Famulus having converted the passenger compartment into one large bed. After tucking Jason in and leaving him a water skin, Philip climbed onto his black horse but remained nearby while the rest of his men went into their formation. After ten minutes the sound of 30 trumpets and 60 drums filled the mountain valley. The army of 15,000 men then let out a final cheer of victory before turning their back to the city, starting their long march back to Domus.
Philip remained by Jason for as long as he could, telling him of the three Field Marshals, the Legatio Senate and the Council of Famulus Elders; the three branches of government connected together by the superior authority of the Three Field Marshals: Gorr, Field Marshal of the East, Lukas Field Marshal of the West, and Xavier Field Marshal of the Home Guard.
However much he enjoyed being with Jason who seemed to absorb everything he was told like a dry sponge, Philip could not let his responsibility to his men go unattended. Two had been wounded in the final battle while three others were involved in a lover’s quarrel.
It was while he was trying to break up another one of their fights that he lost control of his temper. “I have had enough, Horn... Ged wants nothing to do with you, so you will leave him alone.”
Horn, his face red with anger, was not going to let the issue go that easily. “I risked my life to save his. He owes me!”
“If you want to claim a debt, that is between the two of you but the law is clear... you cannot even order a Famulus to your bed.”
Feeling he had been made a fool, Horn saw only one choice... “I demand that Ged meet me in the circle. He has to fight me to regain the life he owes me.”
“No,” Philip said sternly.
“It is my right!” Horn shouted, nearly insane with anger.
After a long silence during which Philip glared back at Horn, Philip reached his decision. “I am Ged’s commander, so it will be me you will face in the circle.”
“I don’t want to fight you, sir,” Horn said, a hint of nervousness in his voice. Philip was a master of the double-bladed sword while Horn had only mastered the spear.
“If you issue a challenge to Ged, then it is my right as commander to act in his place.”
“I challenge Ged,” Horn repeated in a more somber tone.
“Then you will face me in the circle tonight. Now get back to your ranks. I don’t want to have to come back here again,” Philip ordered as he took his horse back to Jason’s carriage. “Damn fools.”
On returning to the carriage Philip took out a silver coin and tossed it through the open window of Jason’s carriage. In a matter of moments, Jason pale, thin face popped out and grinned at Philip. “You’re back!” Jason laughed.
“Yes... just had to straighten a few of my men out.” Philip sighed, unable to hide his frustrations.
“I’m sorry,” Jason said guiltily.
“Why are you sorry?” Philip asked, embarrassed that his emotions showed so easily.
“You should be with them, not spending your time with me,” Jason replied.
“You have to be joking. They prefer me not being around.” Philip laughed.
“I see...” Jason said, not understanding.
Seeing the stress leave Jason’s eyes, Philip too began to relax. “Anyway... I prefer being around you a lot more than them anyway.”
“I like you being with me as well.”
“So tell me ... how old are you?”
This took Philip aback. A twenty-year-old Centurion would be over 6’4” in height and over 230 pounds of muscle. Even the Legatio would be 6’ by this age. If Philip had to guess, Jason was only 5’2”, malnourished, and below 100 pounds.
“When is your 21st birthday?” Philip asked.
“Three seasons from now,” Jason replied.
“Good... that will be plenty of time for us to fill you out. For us Centurions the 21st year is very important. It is the year you enter adulthood and pick your first bond-mate.”
“Bond-mate?” Jason asked, curious. “Lover,” Philip explained. “A lover?” Jason asked innocently.
“Hahahahaha... I keep forgetting that you have been living in a nunnery.”
“I read about nunneries...I don’t think my mother’s bodyguards would have like the Labyrinth Tower being called that.” Jason frowned.
“I bet they wouldn’t. But none of them are alive to complain.”
“What about Melissa?” Jason asked concerned, suddenly worried for her.
Philip took a deep breath before answering. “I am sorry, Jason, but she died shortly after we found her,” he said, not willing to let the young man endure the whole truth.
Unlike the death of his mother, the death of the only person who seemed to care about him triggered wave upon wave of sadness and fear. Jason was only now realizing that all the people he had known in his life were now dead.
Philip, seeing the sadness and fear on Jason’s face, jumped off his horse and climbed into the carriage. “Jason, it’s alright.”
“They are all dead,” Jason cried as he hugged Philip tightly.
“I know,” Philip cooed as he rocked the young man in his arms before lowering him on the bed.
“You killed them all?” Jason asked hoping it was not true.
“Yes we did,” Philip said honestly.
“Why... what did they ever do to you?”
“Your mother killed your father and was hurting you.”
On hearing that, Jason began to wail. “So it WAS my fault! All those people had to die because of me!”
“Shhhhhh... it was not your fault, Jason. You are completely innocent.”
“Why do people have to kill each other?” Jason asked, his hot cheek cooling against the cold metal of Philip’s armor.
“Because of hate... fear... and love... all the emotions that make us human.”
Not wanting the one person who seemed to care about him to be associated with death, Jason started to beg; “I don’t want you to kill anymore.”
“I’m sorry, Jason, but I am a Centurion... it is what we do.”
“Please...” Jason asked again.
“Shhhhh... I promise. I won’t kill again... if I don’t have to,” Philip said.
Jason was not fooled. “You are going to kill again.”
“Only because I have to,” Philip said quickly. “I don’t have the luxury of not killing.”
“Then promise you won’t kill me,” Jason whispered. “Ohhhhh Jason... I would never ever hurt you. How can you think such a thing?”
“I don’t know... I still don’t know why people kill, so I don’t know why you would not kill me. You killed everyone else I know.”
“And I hope you never have to kill,” Philip said as he hugged Jason gently. “I want you to meet my brother when we reach Domus.” Philip said to cheer Jason up.
“You have a brother?” Jason said, surprised.
“Yes I actually have dozens, my father is very conscious of his duty to produce us warriors.”
“I don’t understand?” Jason said, confused not just by what Philip was saying but how his own body was responding to Philip’s touch.
“Well, in Domus there are three types of people... the Famulus, our servants and women... Centurions like me ... and the Legatio, our poets, historians, and bureaucrats. When a Centurion sleeps with a woman, a Legatio is born. That is how you were born. Your father was the General Agamemnon, a Centurion. When a Legatio sleeps with a woman though, a Centurion is the result.”
“What happens if a Legatio sleeps with a Centurion?” Jason asked when Philip didn’t say more.
“Since all Centurions and Legatio are male, no child is born... but the bond is said to be the strongest any two men can experience, emotionally and physically.”
“Sex?” Jason asked, guessing at the mysterious word was what Philip was hinting at.
“Hahahahaha... how can I describe it... sex is the physical showing of affection and the giving of pleasure. It is the bonding of two people, however, that makes it special.”
Seeing Jason adjust himself in the carriage Philip realizing that he needed to also, looking down at his abdomen. There he saw the deep blue glow coming from his rippled abdomen and he knew what it had to mean... his body wanted to bond to Jason, to claim him as a lover; yet looking down at the frail man, Philip knew that now was not the right time. Still that did not mean he could not let Jason enjoy himself. “Our talk has excited you.”
Blushing deep red Jason didn’t dare to reply, covering the front of his pants with both hands.
“I hope you don’t find this question embarrassing but, in the Tower did you ever let yourself... find pleasure in your body?” Philip asked, covering his mouth as if to cover coughing.
“Melissa said never to talk about it.” Jason replied nervously.
“I’m sure she had her reasons. To further hide your maleness from your mother most likely. Now that you’re among other men you need to know that taking pleasure from yourself is completely normal.”
“Then why does it feel different now?” “How does it feel different?” Philip asked.
“I...” Jason stammered, turning his gaze away from Philip.
“I understand,” Philip chuckled. “New experiences can trigger new feelings. I think it would be best to leave you now.” Going back on his horse he spurred it forward, moving away from the carriage but not beyond earshot of Jason. When he didn’t hear any of the sounds he had expected he felt an urge to return to see if Jason was alright.
“Remember he’s a King.” Philip reminded himself. It would be humiliating if he returned to find Jason with his pants down. He also had to remind himself that unlike Centurion youths who took pride in impressing their comrades with their vocal expressions of pleasure, Jason had most likely learned to pleasure himself in total silence
This work is the original creation of the writer who holds all rights to it. 2011 All rights reserved.