After bathing, Kristen dressed Jason in one of his new red sleeping robes and led him upstairs to his bed. Knowing that Jason was too tired to eat dinner he let the boy sleep, Kristen resting by his side. During the night Erik came by with a bowl of rice and a few slivers of beef.
“I thought you would be hungry.” Erik smiled.
“Thank you,” Kristen said getting out of bed and tiptoeing to the table.
Erik quickly replaced Kristen, lying next to Jason. “Poor boy,”He sighed as he brushed Jason’s face with his fingers.
“What we want from him is not fair,” Kristen sighed before he started eating.
“The project has definitely taken a wrong course,” Erik agreed. “Jason, though is our only hope to fix it... the bonds must be restored. We should have engineered the Legatio to love the Centurion as much as we designed the Centurion to love them.”
“But you see what it is doing to Jason. Knowing that all the people he cares about are going to die is tearing him apart.”
“There is a way around it... and Jason is the key,” Erik said.
Kristen let out a deep sigh before replying. “Some of the other Legatio know that too, but they know that it has to be kept secret. If the Centurions find out that the Legatio are the key to extending their lives, there would be a civil war. It would not be hard for the Centurions to destroy their own future.”
“That is why we are here... to keep Jason safe.” “And how safe is he with us?” Kristen said bitterly. “Are you getting attached to him already?” Erik asked.
“Will you remove me if I said yes?”
“No... but I need to know if you can make the hard decisions when it comes to Jason.”
“I can,” Kristen sighed.
“Good... now who should we bond him to?” Erik said, having gotten Kristen’s word that he would stick to the plan.
“I think we should leave that choice to Jason.”
“If we leave the choice to Jason, nothing might happen,” Erik pointed out.
“Maybe we should give up on the whole project,” Kristen grunted, hating being sneaky.
“This project has been running for over a millennium. It would take too long to start over again, the Dominus are getting impatient.”
Kristen shuddered on hearing that word. “We have less choice than a Famulus slave we pretend to be.”
“Yes...” Erik agreed. “And Jason has even less choice than we do.”
“Erik... I want your word that you will do whatever you can to see that he is not hurt.”
“I promise. I don’t know what I can do to prevent it from happening, but I will try,” Erik swore.
“Thank you,” Kristen said as he finished off his dinner. “It is good to eat real food again.”
“Yes it is... enjoy it while it lasts,” Erik said as he slid off the bed.
“It is so hard watching these people live their lives not knowing the reality of the world they live in,” Kristen said as he rested his head against Erik.
“It is better this way.” Erik hugged Kristen.
“I know... I wish I was like them... clueless.”
“I do as well. Take care, Kristen,” Erik said as he began to leave.
“Take care,” Kristen said as he went back into bed with Jason, wishing there was more he could do for the young man.
Since Philip was moving into one of the homes provided for the instructors on the Academy grounds, the household Famulus would be coming with them. Since Oktor was doing the same, they had all agreed to caravan as a group.
All together, there were five wagons with twelve guards on horseback, the Commandant, Philip, Jason, Alex, Gideon, and all their Famulus servants. Philip, Alex, Gideon, and Oktor rode with the guards. Jason wanted to ride with the guards as well, but knowing that after one long day’s ride, Jason would never want to be near a horse again, Philip insisted that Jason ride on one of the wagons with Kristen and Jonathan.
Now Jason... I want you to sing this...“Beyond the lake...” Jonathan sang in ascending notes.
“Beyond the lake...” Jason copied, but in a high, rich tenor.
“Perfect...” Jonathan cheered.
“Beautiful...” Kristen agreed.
“Now sing... Behind the falls”
“Behind the falls...” Jason replied, now with a growing audience of Philip, Alex, Gideon, and Oktor.
By the time Jonathan’s lesson was over, Jason was able to sing the Academy’s anthem...
Beyond the lake
Behind the falls
After the cave
The Cube stands tall With pens and swords We learn our lesson’s well
To one day fight
To one day write For glory of the Academy... For glory of Academy...
The Centurions all demanded that Jason sing it that very night with Erik playing the flute that Gerick had made. Jason’s voice was so perfect, so flawless, so filled with both the melancholy of life in the Tower, and the joy of his new found life with his Centurion friends and not a face was dry by the end of the performance.
After the three boys had gone to bed under the wagons the adults gathered around the camp fire to talk. “That boy is something special I tell you... and not just because he is the son of Agamemnon,” Oktor declared in an awed voice.
“The prophecy...” Jonathan started.
“Damn the prophecy... I would not be surprised if the boy is not made the first High Ambassador in centuries.”
“Wait a minute... does Jason not have a kingdom to rule one day... let’s not talk about adding more pressure to his life,” Philip spoke up.
“Philip... Jason might be king in name but it is up to the Field Marshals as to what he will do with his life, as it is with all of us,” Oktor replied.
“And there will a child of light be born...” Jonathan spoke up again.
“Shut up... enough with your superstitions!” Philip demanded.
“Go to bed, Famulus,” Oktor agreed.
“Very well... but you can’t stop what’s coming... nothing can. And I tell you, be it Alex, Gideon, you Commander, or you Commandant, one of you will become the demon of darkness and bring about the end of the world,” Jonathan said before leaving.
“Stupid fool... believing in such a legend. What Agamemnon saw in him I will never know,” Oktor sighed. “Whenever people start talking about the prophecy trouble is never far behind.”
“Yes... but he is right, I believe Jason will fulfill a prophecy... our prophecy.”
“That a Legatio and Centurion will bond?”
“Yes and the two animas united,” Philip replied. “But who will it be?”
“Don’t you want it to be yourself?” Oktor asked.
“Of course I do... and if it is Jason, so much the better. That young man still believes that the world hates him but he is the most loved person in the Empire. Oktor... as the Commandant you have the right to mentor Jason. I would like permission to be the one, however.”
“You know I can’t do that... you are his guardian. You cannot be both.”
“But...” Philip tried to protest.
“The law is the law, Philip. I will, however, give you the right to pick Jason’s mentor for him... There is Lacitus, Varrus, Yogar, Amster, two other Philips, Aegis, and Zophar.
“Is it true that Varrus is your lover?”
“Varrus... my lover? I wish... No, that man is too handsome for my taste. We are only good friends.”
“I remember seeing him once... he is handsome... too handsome for being a Centurion.
“Why do you think he was sent to the Academy... he always caused too many good soldiers to become heartsick. That man is trouble, I warn you.”
“If you say so...” Philip grinned, now curious to personally meet this Varrus.”
“I see that my warning will not be heeded,” Oktor sighed as he left the grinning Philip at the fire alone.
“Jason... are you awake?” Alex asked as he poked Jason on the side.
“I am now.” Jason smiled through the darkness.
“So am I, if you are wondering,” Gideon groaned from the other side.
“Good... I want to try something out.”
“What is that?”
“Well, we did camp by the river... why not go for a midnight swim?” Alex suggested with a great deal of eagerness. There was something he wanted to do and needed done before they arrived at the Academy.
“Is Jason a strong enough of a swimmer?”
“That is what we are here for!”
“Alright,” Jason agreed, having never swam at night before. They got up and left for the river.
As they made their way to the river bank, Gideon took Alex aside to see what was up. “You know that Philip will kill you, brother or not, if Jason drowns.”“Gideon... think about it. Once we arrive at the Academy Jason will be surrounded by snot nosed Legatio... do you think that he will remain the person we have come to love unless we do something about it?”
“What are you suggesting... that we kidnap him and take him
far away where we will live happily ever after? That still involves your
brother hunting us down to kill us.”
“No... I suggest we give Jason our anima.”
“What?” Gideon said shocked, his eyes darting to where Jason was by himself undressing.
“We are Centurions... we can bond as many times as we want. If we give Jason enough... he might get his wish and become a Centurion himself. Then he can bond to as many people as he wants.”
“I agree.” Gideon nodded. “But why include me in this?”
“Because this might not work and if I am going to have a bond mate and it can’t be Jason, I would like it to be you.”
“You’re serious?” Gideon said, surprised.
“Yes. Let us form a pact... we will be the blades of a double-bladed sword with Jason as our grip, holding us together.”
“Nice imagery but will Jason agree to it? He knows that we love him... I just don’t know if he loves himself enough to accept what we want to give him.”
“Just follow my lead?” Alex grinned, his tanned body aglow under the white moon’s light.
“Jason... my Jason,” was all Philip could say on seeing the change that had taken place. While his eyes remained a deep green, Jason’s wet hair was now a mix of dark brown with strands of blond mixed in. The boyish look was now completely gone, replaced by one more fitting of Jason’s age, broad shouldered, narrow waist, built abdominals and pectorals. Arms were now wide... a good fourteen-inch bicep. With strong calves and thighs, Jason walked out of the river, streamlets of water running down his body.
“Am I a Centurion now?” Jason asked with hope in his eyes.
“There is only one way to find out,” Oktor declared, glaring at Alex and Gideon who both looked ashamed They had planned it to be like a seduction but the resulting growth spurt had left Jason so exhausted he had almost drowned. With a dagger in hand Oktor took hold of Jason’s arm running the tip of a dagger across it, letting thick red blood ooze out. Then came the waiting... and after an hour had passed, and Jason face becoming pale from loss of blood, Erik pushed his way forwards and smothered the wound with the white powder of ground Centurion bone. At once the bleeding stopped, only to be replaced by another form of bleeding, Jason’s tears.
“But I want to be a Centurion... I was supposed to become like you, Philip.” Jason sobbed as he fell into his guardian’s arms.
Philip gave his brother and Gideon a hard stare before lifting Jason up and carrying him away to the nearby woods.
“I’m sorry...” Alex whispered, while the adults looked at him with disdain.
In a meadow deep in the forest, Philip laid Jason down on the
soft green grass.
“I’m so cold...” Jason said, tears still running down his face.
“I’ll warm you up,” Philip promised as he proceeded to undress himself till he too was naked.
Philip then did what was forbidden, he lay himself down with an uncircumcised man, sharing his warmth with Jason.
It was not just that Jason now had the perfections of a Legatio and a Centurion physically, it was Philip’s deep and abiding love for the young man. Each moment he held him were perfect moments of joy.
More than the anima given to him by Alex and Gideon, Jason absorbed that love. While he wanted so much to be a Centurion, it had been a desire for love that had guided it.
He still wished he could have been born a Centurion, but now that Jason knew — knew for certain that he had the love of others, it no longer mattered... from Philip’s love he found he was able to forgive himself. He was not the filth his mother had claimed him to be. He was a man and as one he had the right to both happiness and sadness as well as the choice of choosing which would control his life.
As he slept in Philip’s arms the last remaining hold his mother had over him faded away.