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Thread: The Red Cabal

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    The Red Cabal

    Hello everyone! I have been working on a story on and off for a long time and have been honestly questioning whether I had the talent/practice to create an engaging story that anyone would want to read. I hope to start self publishing to kindle a bit later on, but for the moment I'd like to get some of my work out and being read. This story is in a fantasy/sci-fi vein, but I prefer to write erotica that comes to a slow boil and somehow ties the sexual element into a kind of necessary/unavoidable role. I hope - and I hope you'll tell me! - that I am able to accomplish this without making the story boring to read. It starts out a little slow on the erotic side but there's plenty of explicit scenes and awkward, horny tension to come (hah, pun!) So I hope you enjoy.

    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 1

    Where I live, everyone fears the Sorcerers.

    I've heard all manner of stories about them. They eat children, some say, in order to gain their unholy powers. Mama says they consort with all manner of demons and dark powers, and they have to do whatever the demons tell them. There are omens around their birth, like the ground going fallow for the season and fruit falling from the trees early. Those are just the stories most people believe, but there are dozens more and they're all just as terrible.

    Once though, I met a man traveling out to the borderlands from the City, and he didn't seem to take our fears too seriously. He didn't set anyone straight, but he did tell me that while there were plenty of reasons to fear a Sorcerer, it didn't have anything to do with cannibalism or evil demons. In the city, they get a lot of respect - some of it out of fear, but a lot of it from the good they do. At first I didn't believe him, and it was a long time until I did. But these days, I feel differently.

    What is certainly true is that when a child becomes an apprentice, he's always taken early on. The youngest anyone I know ever heard of was only two years old. The oldest was only 10. I don't really know why, but my best friend Arnie Hiller says it's because they don't know any better and the Sorcerers can mold them into 'servants of the evil ones'. But you have to be born for it, it isn't something you can learn, everyone knows that for sure.

    That's why everyone was shocked when they came for me a week after my 19th birthday.

    I was at home, having just come in from picking apples at Chief Hiller's orchard. All the men work the orchards this time of year, just after the end of the summer. I'd been a man by anyone's reckoning for five years and I worked in a different field every season except the winter when the women did the canning and we got to take a few months off, although that usually meant building and repairing things.

    Mama had laid out supper for Arnie and I, and was about to sit down herself when someone thumped the door with an urgency. She went to answer, and came back into the kitchen white faced and on the verge of tears. She was followed by a monster of a man, at least two head taller than me, and too wide to get your arms all the way around his shoulders. He was dressed in reds and dark browns and had the seal on his leather chest plate that everyone would recognize as soon as they were old enough to speak.

    "Simon Rake. You are called before the cabal to learn the arts. Come with me this night." His voice was softer than a man his size ought to have, and carried with it a finality as sure as death. My mother fell to tears and fled the room. She could barely look at me as she did. I couldn't tell if the look in her face was the terror and sadness of losing me or... or of me.

    Arnie had gotten up from the table, and backed into the corner of the kitchen opposite the man from the cabal. He managed to look at me without running away, and spoke up for me, "There's a mistake. Simon... he's too old. It can't be right, you've got the wrong one. Right Simon?"

    I could only nod mutely. It had to be a mistake. Kids, right? They have to take kids, everyone knows that like they know the sun rises and sets every day.

    "There is no mistake. You must come, now. It is the law, and there are consequences to ignoring the call." His tone was the same, but his eyes - his nearly black pools - seemed to be full of pity, or sympathy.

    For every family it was like this, when they came. Sudden, unexpected, and final. They came, and the new apprentice went without any fanfare. Sometimes it was early, sometimes it was a bit later, but the law was the law, and for a good reason. Probably the reason most people, at least out here, fear the Sorcerers. When they don't get training, they Release and really awful things happen. The stuff of nightmares. I didn't know why at the time. The thought that I might have been overlooked for so long...

    Imagine suddenly realizing that at any moment everyone around you, everyone you know and love, could be killed in the most horrible ways you can imagine – or worse. As far as I knew, that's what happened - all the magic coming up took on whatever form it wanted, whatever's locked up inside the overlooked apprentice's mind, and maybe it was so scary to go through that every form reflected that fear. The last thing that I wanted was to harm any of the people that had been my family, and there were hundreds of people within just a few miles.

    The consequences our guest meant were different though. The cabal didn’t let it get as far as a Release if anyone refused, or refused to let the child be taken. Which is why no one ever refused. The warden’s orders were known to all – those that wouldn’t go would be executed instead.

    I looked at Arnie to say good bye but he turned his eyes away and stared at the ground. The wardens didn’t make mistakes. If he was here for me, it was because somehow I was destined to become an apprentice and had been lucky enough not to Release and doom everyone in sight. So I muttered a weak farewell, and followed the big man out through the den and into the night air, looking over my shoulder to see if I could get a last look at Mama. She was nowhere to be seen.

    It wasn’t a very chilly night, but somehow the darkness seemed colder than it had an hour ago. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do, so I just followed my escort to the big horse hitched to a small cart.

    I had questions, I suppose. I wanted to ask what would happen to me, what my mama would do without me, which charter we were going to, even what his name was. But somehow I felt that talking wasn’t right at the moment, and when I thought about saying anything at all the words just wouldn’t make the journey from my mind to my mouth.

    He rummaged through a bag on the big gelding and then turned to face me with something in his hands. It was a contraption of leather and metal, glinting with the moon light. I couldn’t see it clearly, but as I let him slip it over my shoulders and onto my chest I knew I had seen something like it before, just a few years ago during a trip to sell grain at Ochfell west of the town. I hadn’t gotten a close up look, but the man wearing it had been some kind of fugitive, escorted by two deadly looking wardens.

    The thing settled over my chest, and enclosed my hands. A collar snapped shut around my neck almost too tight for comfort – although, I doubt this was a major consideration in its creation. He bound it in the back, and then drew a pearlescent glowing sphere from a pouch at his side.

    I had never seen one before, but I knew what it was. They had them in the cities to power the things that the sorcerers and engineers made. It was a mana stone, putting off its own small purple light that wasn’t really purple but some other color that my eyes seemed unable to interpret for any length of time. He pressed the mana stone into the metal surface of the device over my chest, and then I felt something.

    It’s not easy to describe. It was like the air suddenly got heavy around me. Not harder to breath, but as though it was pressing in on me, holding me tight. Except I didn’t feel it with my body, with my skin. It was deeper than that. Something I didn’t realize could be restrained in me was now somehow… obviously inaccessible. It wasn’t a part of me I had ever looked at, nothing I knew was there. But now that something was happening to it I could tell, in the space where it now wasn’t, that it had been there all along.

    I realized I had stopped breathing and sucked in a breath. Suddenly my knees were a little weak and I began to sway in my attempt to keep my balance. Great big hands enclosed my shoulders and I was firmly steadied. I looked up in the darkness towards the massive shadow that stood over me.

    “You will be alright,” came his voice from the darkness, “This thing we call an interdictor. It will ensure that you cannot release while we travel.”

    I nodded mutely, and then forced words out of my throat. “Is… is that my magic?”

    “I would not know what you feel. I do not have magic. Not like you do. But yes, it holds the magic down so that it cannot arise. It feels different to everyone I am told.” He squeezed my shoulders lightly, and then turned and guided me towards the cart. “There are blankets here if you are cold. The journey is three days. If you have a need for anything, tell me and I will see to it if I can.”

    I let him help me into the cart and lowered myself down onto the cushioned floor of it. There was something soft against the low wall at the front, and I leaned back against it. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

    I heard his sigh whistle through the hair around his mouth. “It is unusual for an apprentice to grow as old as you without training. No apprentice I have retrieved is ever happy to go to the cabal. Some come from families close to a charter and they do not need to be retrieved, but out here, especially so near the Scar, well… I know that you are frightened. But it is not a bad thing, to be an apprentice.” He raised the step at the rear of the car up and locked it into place to form the rear wall, “You will see. I am August. Please, if you need for anything, tell me so.” With that, he rounded the cart and hoisted himself onto the horse, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

    The horse and the cart lurched into motion and quickly took on an urgent but not uncomfortable pace. I watched the torches throughout my village become distant pinpricks of light and then disappear entirely into the night. Eventually I slept.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    August woke me as the dawn was just beginning to light the distant skyline. There was only a little visibility yet, but I could see his face clearly at this close distance better than I did when he had come into my home.

    All of his features were large. His great face bore several scars, many of which were covered by his beard which, while not long in the way many of the older men in my village wore them, was none the less full and obscuring. His hair was thick and tousled from days on the road. He moved with a kind of spring loaded tension, ever step effortlessly smooth, every action deliberate. He lowered the step and then helped me rise and step out of the cart.

    “Stretch your legs a bit,” he said, and then uncorked a water skin, offering me the open end, “and take some water. I have rations for a meal, but we will need to eat quickly and continue on. Careful,” he said as I sputtered just a bit from trying to drink too quickly. I nodded, and looked at my confined hands.

    The interdictor had some kind of metal mittens that I could see more clearly now. In the early light, I could also see thin gold filigree crisscrossing the surface of them both. “Will you let me out of the… mittens, or are you going to hand feed me?”

    “I will help you eat, yes. Until you are safely into the charter house, I cannot release you from the interdictor.” He produced two packages from a pack, and brought them to the cart where he began to un-wrap them.

    We ate in silence, it was some kind of vaguely sweet, heavy bread with jerky in the middle. I would chew and swallow, and August would nonchalantly offer another piece and place it in my mouth when I opened it. It was very strange to be hand fed like this and although I awoke hungry I quickly lost my appetite out of sheer awkwardness. August seemed to accept my indication that I was simply full and wrapped the remainder of the rations up and replaced them in the pack.

    Having slept at least through the better part of the night, there were, I foresaw, going to be embarassing complications very soon. August, however, did not need me to bring this up.
    “Come, I’ll take you to relieve yourself over here,” he said, gesturing vaguely off the side of the dirt road we had been travelling on.

    “Ah… I mean… how do we do this?”

    August, I imagine, had done this before. It was part of the job I’m sure, but this was a new concept to me and not one I was comfortable with. There only seemed to be one possible option.

    “I will hold it for you. If not, you will eventually soil yourself. We must be going soon, it will only last a moment, and it’s better to get used to it now.” He jerked his head in the direction of the grassy ground for emphasis.

    I sighed, made an involuntary struggle against the mitts and was of course unable to either free myself or reach very far forward – or down – and finally followed him over.

    With care, but also efficiency, August unlaced the front of my trousers, lowered them to expose me and then took hold of my most private bit and pointed it away from my pants. His hands were a bit calloused, but very warm, and the suddenness of it shocked me a bit. I was immediately sure that I would not be able to relieve myself in this situation, and said as much.

    “I wish there were another way, Simon, but there isn’t. It’s too dangerous, to you, to take the interdictor off. Just take breath and relax. Its unusual, that’s the only reason you’re tense – so just pretend that it isn’t.”

    I shook my head, and could help chuckling with reflexive derision. “No, no, no. I can’t pretend it’s normal, no one has ever touched me at all, much less another man, much less for the purpose of… of… helping me piss! This is ridiculous, and there is no way that I can – GYAH!”

    August’s other hand had come around and pressed me to him. His free hand snaked over my stomach and found my bladder and I felt his warm fingers press firmly into me and down. Almost instantly the pressure built and released itself and my piss steamed in the morning air as it fountained out of me and away, clear of my trousers and boots.

    When it tapered off, August gave me a series of brief, sharp shakes to clear off the last drops, and then tucked me back into my underclothes and laced my trousers back up. “I apologize, but you must come to terms with the reality of your situation. In less than three days you’ll go before the cabal and everything in life is going to become very strange compared to where you were.” He led me back to the cart, but continued talking with his infinitely patient tone of voice. “Most apprentices are taken much younger than you are. They haven’t gotten used to living life in a certain way so much. Even the oldest, no more than 12, are quick to adapt. For you it will be more difficult, but no less necessary. Life is different now.”

    He helped me into the cart and I settled in, but did so with as much body language to maintain my indignation as I could. I refused to show him the strange collection of emotions that had settled into the pit of my stomach - embarrassment, anger, and something else. It wasn't fair that the first time I had had anyone's hands... down there... was for something like this. Worse, I hadn't entirely disliked his touch; not really. I refused to acknowledge this to myself at the time, though, and instead glowered at August.

    August didn't seem to notice, or was entirely unaffected. He raised the step into place. “Is there anything that I can get for you?”

    I shook my head and looked away from him, out towards the brightening horizon. In my head, my thoughts were a tumult. It was strange to feel so much like a prisoner, but be treated so politely. As we rode, my thoughts tumbled around, in part fearing what kind of new reality August had meant and, in part – though I was almost terrified to think these thoughts – wondering what it would be like to wield magic, to be powerful. What was magic like? How did it go from this strange pressure inside me to bolts of lightning or wonders like the interdictor? I wonder if I’ll have to eat children?
    Last edited by VagrantSong; November 1st, 2012 at 07:25 PM.

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Welcome, VagrantSong. What an intriguing story. Much different from the usual in the forum, but interesting and addicting. Even though you said it would be slow on the erotic side, I beg to differ.... I found it rather erotic that a 19 year old man needed someone else to help him in relieving himself. Also the fact that, being the first time anyone touched this area, he felt an awakening and tinge of excitement at its happening. I look forward to the continuation.

    Craiger

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Wonderful! Thank you for letting me know. I intend to kind of play with a few things that I'm not personally well versed with. Simon has a long road ahead, full of surprises!

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    (I think I got all of the glaring errors. It'll be tomorrow before chapter three is up.)


    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 2

    The road was long but not uncomfortable. I didn’t get used to August helping me piss, but I lost the energy to remain surly about it. We didn’t speak much; August wasn’t much for talking when it wasn’t necessary and while I had questions I got the impression these were for asking later on.

    August also scared me a little. He wasn’t unkind, and as he said he tended to my every need although they weren’t many. But in the full light of day, when I could see him more clearly, he had more and more the look of someone who had done unthinkable things. I found myself wondering what might have happened if I had refused to go.

    The law was clear on the matter – you went with the warden if one came for you, or you died. Most apprentices – all of them, really, as I understood it – were only children. Had August cut down someone so young? And if so, how many? What kind of person did you have to be to carry out such an act? My warden was a mystery with his gentle voice and his battle scars; his careful watch over my captivity and his sympathetic eyes.

    The sun had risen on our third day, and we stopped for our last meal on the road. We ate in silence in the cart, August watching me consume each bite before offering me another. We hadn’t spoken almost at all since the first night, no more than was absolutely needed. Finally, though, I couldn’t contain my questions any more.

    “What are they like? The sorcerers, I mean. Have you met many?”

    August was, as was always the case it seemed, unaffected by the sudden question. “I have met many. They are people like anyone else. Many are very powerful. Some bear it with humility, others do not. They laugh like people, cry like people. They bleed.” He shrugged. After a moment he swallowed the bit of bread he’d been chewing on as he talked. “What do you know of them?”

    I looked away, embarrassed by my potential ignorance. “Well, we don’t see many. Any at all, really, I guess.”

    “Don’t be so sure.”

    I hesitated, measuring my words. “Where I’m from, well… most everyone thinks that the sorcerers are evil.”

    “Many men are evil. Sorcerers aren’t above the struggle every man faces.”

    “I guess so, but that’s not what I mean. My mama told me they eat children, and that that’s how they get there power.” It sounded like the most ignorant thing a backwoods yokel could say, and my face flushed as the words came out.

    August was quiet, and I looked over at him, steeling myself against his judgment. He was looking at the ground, his face obscured by collar of his jacket. His shoulders were trembling. I thought for a moment he was angry, until he threw back his head and laughed. It was a sound I couldn’t actually believe was leaving him; with the scars and the beard and his killer’s grace you’d only ever expect to hear the laughter of some maniacal killer but this was full of mirth. He laughed like I had told him a very funny joke. My ears burned.

    He gained control of himself and shook his head, looking at me sideways as he turned the bread over in his hand and tore off another chunk. “I haven’t heard that one before. You know yourself, don’t you? Did you eat a child to get your power?”

    “Of course not,” I said, indignant and angry and feeling the weight of my own thoughtlessness. “It’s just something people say. That’s all. What I mean is that people think sorcerers are evil by nature. Whether it’s that, or serving some evil power, or selling their souls or something. I guess…” It was all foolish, of course. If I only took the time to think about my situation, I could realize everything I had heard before was rubbish.

    Here I was, aware of my own magic for the first time even if I hadn’t noticed it before, and I hadn’t done anything to get it. Just because I hadn’t seen it before doesn’t mean that it wasn’t always there. I did wonder though…

    “Do you know why I never… you know… Released? Have there been others as old as me?” The thought had weighed heavy on me for three days now. I suppose if we had all of our facts wrong, it was possible that we were wrong about the age of apprentices as well. Or the Release and the way that it happened. As far as we all knew, it was something that happened in a town someone passing through had been to. You heard these stories at markets from merchants that travelled the world and saw everything. How much of what I thought I knew was wrong? Probably all of it.

    “That I cannot say. Maybe they will have an answer at the charter house. You will learn many things. I have never taken an apprentice as old as you are. The oldest was 13, and this was considered a rare thing.” August brushed the last crumbs from his lap, and offered me the last bit of bread. I took it, chewing thoughtfully.

    After I swallowed, August was still sitting, rather than packing us up for the last leg of the journey. I thought he might have more to say, but instead he looked at me patiently. I took the hint. “Why did it take so long to find me then?” I didn’t know how anyone was found, but it seemed like there had to be a way.

    He nodded slowly, then turned away and looked out towards the distant mountains. “I do not know. When an apprentice is born, sometime in the first few years their magic makes a kind of ripple. The Seekers feel the ripples, and send a warden when they determine where it comes from. Your village is close to the scar, and sometimes it is more difficult to find them there. The oldest apprentices come from the borderlands, normally. Children born near a charter house are sometimes taken at birth. But all that I do is go and retrieve. No warden questions their orders.”

    He stood then and began the business of getting us set to travel. I didn’t have anything else to ask, until I remembered another bit I had heard. “Is a warder the same thing as a Blade?”

    August tossed the now nearly empty ration pack into the back of the cart and lifted the step into place. “No. The Blades are bound to the sorcerers personally. One Sorcerer, one Blade; for every sorcerer.”

    “Oh. Wait… so, I’ll… have?... a blade as well then?” I wasn’t sure of the word to use, but felt instinctively that mine was wrong.

    “After a manner of speaking. Every sorcerer is bound to a Blade, by charter law.” He stepped lightly into the stirrup and onto the back of the gelding, quickly checking the rigging that held the cart to the saddle as he did.

    I rolled this over in my thoughts, wondering suddenly what the reason for this was. Beyond the folk tales about what sorcerers could do – make lightning, and fire, or heal broken bones or anything else, call up demons, turn people into rodents and lizards – I hadn’t heard anything about what the Blades were, just the title.

    “You will find out soon now. We’re perhaps half a day from the - ”

    It came from out of nowhere. One moment the world was calm and quiet, the next a terrible noise filled the air. I would have pissed myself if August hadn’t already helped me empty my bladder, but I did cringe and instinctively rail against my bonds.

    It fell from the sky like a bird of prey. It might once have been. It had a sinuous neck, lined with bright red feathers, and a huge body; at least as large as a healthy horse. As it came at us from the sky, its wings opened wide to slow it’s descent with a crack of thunder and a sudden gale that threatened to topple me the rest of the way out of the cart.

    Unthinking, a hurled myself the rest of the way, landing on my back on the uneven ground. The breath left my lungs and my vision darkened briefly. I was stunned from the fall and could barely move, but tried to squirm onto my stomach and crawl under the card. The creature shrieked again, so much louder now that it was close to us, and dust rose from the ground and assaulted my gasping mouth and my terror widened eyes. I coughed, and squeezed my eyes shut against the grit. Blinded, I struggled to recall which direction the cart was in, knowing at any moment I would feel a final piercing pain as the thing killed me, or worse, ate me alive!

    I couldn’t see anything happening, but I heard amidst the beating of wings and the screeching, squawking sound of a behemoth avian an almost equally thunderous shout. I felt it in my bones, vibrating in the air. It was August, I knew, and wept as I prayed to whatever God was watching over me to please, please, please let him not be killed, let me not be eaten, let us please live.

    Something scraped over metal. The horse screamed, and I heard the cart lurch, its wheels groaning and squeaking, and felt a sudden warmth over my back – the cart was no longer between me and the beast, and I was exposed and blind and barely able to move with this damned contraption on me. I struggled against my bonds, sobbing openly now for salvation, and tried to wriggle myself away from the sound of the fighting.

    Then it was over. I heard a heavy thud and a rasping, gurgling sound. Something scrabbled over the ground for a moment, and then all was still and quiet again. Hurried footsteps came towards me and although I knew they were human my panic still had hold of me and I continued to try and crawl backwards. My rational mind had shut down and all I could think of was escape, every fiber of my body screaming at me to run away.

    Something massive grabbed me, and held me down. A great hand grasped my head to hold it still and I struggled to pull away until water poured over my face. I sputtered and coughed, until some kind of cloth touched my face and rubbed my eyes. They still stung, and I could still feel the grit under my eyelids but I opened them, blinking rapidly to clear away the dust and the water both.

    August was over me, one hand on my chest, the other on my face with a rag. He was speaking to me, I realized. My panic receded but slowly, and the sounds he was making resolved themselves into words as I watched his mouth move. “Simon, calm down, calm down! It’s over, it’s dead, you are safe. Breath, Simon, stop struggling!”

    I tried to comply when I understood what he was saying. My body still shook with adrenaline, and the pit of my stomach was pulling the rest of me around it, the urge to curl into a ball was overwhelming. I had seen beasts from the Scar before – and it could only have been that – but normally far off or already dead. Not many got past the borderlands where practically everyone was trained to keep them from getting out. It was the fact that I was so immobile that had terrified me. Even had I had some place to run, or some defense, I couldn’t have done a thing to save myself.

    August helped me sit up, and continued to clean the grit from my face. I could see the mass of the thing now, laid out in the aftermath of its death throes. It was some kind of giant bird, but its face was twisted and malformed. The feathers that covered much of it body were slick, and it seemed that many of them weren’t straight. How the thing was able to fly I couldn’t say, but all of the creatures in the scar were magical in some way. Its wings were at least as long as two horses on either side. Blood soaked the ground underneath it, a thick rust colored oil.

    I glanced furtively around, feeling the terror of a small animal looking for more predators, and caught sight of August clearly now.

    His face was covered with blood. The fur lining his coat was matted from his right shoulder down to his waist as far as I could see. His expression was as calm and patient as it ever was, but as he stood to help me up I saw the pain flash across his face. “How bad are you hurt?” I asked.

    He shook his head sharply, and I could hear his breath. “I have been injured far worse and lived. Are you in any pain? You fell hard, is it painful to breath at all, around your ribs?”
    I took a brief inventory of pain, and while my back was still sore, nothing suggested I had broken anything. Still, I had seen a man lose a hand to a thresher once and claim it didn’t hurt until almost an hour later, the shock of it numbing him to the loss of limb. If I had broken a rib I might not know until the last of the adrenaline left my system, and for now I was still wound tight. I shook my head as I rolled my shoulders and tried to flex my spine.
    August nodded, then turned towards the cart, which had been overturned along with the horse in it’s desperation to flee.

    The back of August’s coat had been slashed open from shoulder to hip, a diagonal wet leather and fur. He was bleeding heavily, I could see, and I knew that a wound like that could bleed a man out, or become infected fast. Panic gripped me again, from a dozen different angles. “Great merciful Gods, August! Your back, you need something, you could die from that!”

    August turned back to look at me, wincing as he did, his face grim. “It will be fine, I will tend it, I have bandages.”

    “No, no, August, listen to me, you need to be sewn up. You have to let me out of this thing, I can stitch it up, you can put me back in it, but if you don’t let me tend that and you die, I’ll be stuck out here and helpless!” I staggered towards him. His steps were slow, and he turned away from me towards the cart again but had lost the grace I had seen in him before. He had lost blood, and a lot of it. How long before he passed out?

    “August,” I stepped in front of him, and put my shackled hands out towards him imploringly. “Please, please, you have to let me out of this so that I can sew you up, I can’t defend myself, I can’t even get the horse up and ride to the city if you pass out or die or… or… or anything, you have to let me out!”

    He looked at me for a moment, and I saw his resolve falter at the same moment his eyes sagged just slightly. He continued to look from the cart to my chest for another moment though. Weighing the dangers, I knew. Finally he put a hand on my shoulder, and I felt the weight of him in it. He was dizzy, I knew, from the loss of blood. “The Release,” he said, his voice far steadier than his body, “it happens under stress, often in defense. There is a great chance your power will try to get out of you. You have to keep calm, you have to forget the scar beast. Can you do that?”

    A new kind of fear knotted up in the pit of my stomach. Maybe that was true, how could I know? The moment he took it off of me, I might lose control of a power so new to me I wasn’t even sure where it was. I turned my attention to the place where the pressure was still present inside. I had gotten almost used to it and it took some focus to feel that sense of tightness somewhere indeterminate. If it was trying to get out, I wouldn’t even know what to look for. I took a breath, and tried to steady myself. I forced the last of the panic away, and tried to focus entirely on the task at hand. I needed a steady hand to stitch August up, just the way it was in the field. I had seen blood before, there was nothing to be afraid of. When someone gets a gash a mile from the nearest house, whoever is closest is the doctor.

    I nodded sharply, using the gesture to solidify my resolve, and thrust my hands out again towards August. He hesitated only a moment before plucking the mana stone from the chest piece and methodically undoing the various clasps that held the interdictor in place.

    Immediately I felt the pressure dissolve, but whereas in the past I had never noticed it I was now aware of what exactly had been surpressed.

    I had lived with it all my life and never known. There was a quiet hum inside me, like a string wound tight running from the bottom of my feet up to the top of my head. It had stopped humming when the device was put on me, and now it was able to vibrate freely again. Other people, people without magic, didn’t feel this hum. I knew it now, but before it had just been… what I felt like all the time. Sometimes the hum had been quieter, and sometimes louder. Sometimes it had made my very bones vibrate with it. It was there again, and I recognized the feeling of my magic just under the surface of me, but somehow deep, deep inside at the same time.

    I took a breath, focused on calming myself down, and went to the cart to find the bandages and anything else that would help. August directed me to the saddle bags, where I found a small paper bound parcel. In it were strips of linen, a handful of small needles as well as a larger, curved one, some kind of liniment in a jar, and what felt like deer gut suture thread.

    I helped August to remove his coat, his chainmail that I had never noticed before, and the leather jerkin underneath. The chain was cut through like cloth. By the time I had it off of him, I could see the real damage.

    The wound was deep, and long, but not quite to the bone. Blood had already dried in the wound and around it, and I cleansed it with water from a skin. There were no spirits, but I added some of the salt from the rations to the water the way I had seen it done before and shook it to dissolve the salt thoroughly.

    I focused on cleaning the wound as gently as I could. Though it oozed blood continuously, the bleeding was even and slow. Deep as it was, no arteries had been cut. August’s skin was pale, though, and the hair on his massive back was matted with dried blood from his neck down. There was only so much water in the skin, and I had used all of the salt in the rations, so I had to be judicious about how I used it. I made sure the wound was clean and would worry about cleaning any other blood off later.

    It was slow work, and I am no gentle surgeon. The stiches I made were sufficient, but ugly to look at. By the time I finished tying and cutting the final suture, the whole wound was puffy and red. I took the jar of liniment and held it up so that August could see it. “Is this suitable to put on the wound?”

    He didn’t answer. I leaned forward to look at his face, and saw that his eyes had closed. He had been leaning against the cart while I worked. How long had he been unconscious? I shook him as much as I dared, but he didn’t stir. He was breathing, at least. I sniffed the liniment. It was pungent and vaguely sweet, with a kind of cool smell as well. My knowledge of such things was fairly limited. I could make them under my Mama’s direction, and had collected herbs for her and the other healer in town, but had never really learned what did what. I did know that the pungent smell and the minty smell probably meant it was soothing, and that it was to help the flesh heal faster.

    I hoped for the best and applied the stuff along the whole wound. His skin was hot under my fingers, and once he twitched and I thought he had awoken. He did not, though, and was still unconscious when I finished. There was a knot of worry slowly building up in my stomach again. What if my work wasn’t enough? What if it was the wrong liniment for it and putting it on the wound was a mistake? What if the creature had some kind of poison that neither of us knew about? He could be slowly dying and there was nothing I could do about it.

    I had to get him laying down, I knew that much. Always when someone was injured at home, they were treated – stitches sewn or bones set – and then they had to lay down. Trying to move him by force was not an option, August was well over twice my size. And, I couldn’t lay him on his back, especially not on this ground. I rummaged in the spilled contents of the cart for the blankets I had used the night before, when it had been exceptionally chilly. The blanket I laid out on the ground behind him and then, bracing myself with both legs, I pulled him sideways out of his leaning position and hooked one of his massive arms over my neck as I strained to keep him from flopping on the ground.

    I got him lowered down, though, without falling, and then pushed him forward so that he was on his side. A bit of work positioned his legs so that his position supported itself, and I propped up his arm so that the weight of it wouldn’t pull against the sutures.

    This took at least a half an hour, and when I was satisfied that he wouldn’t suffocate or tear the sutures, I examined them again. I wouldn’t know what an infection looked like until it was too late, but I needed to do something to keep myself focused. It was past midday at least, the sun was a third of the way towards the horizon from its highest point. I knew how to make camp, but this road was on the plains around Porthaven, and there was no wood to make a fire.

    I sat, despair beginning to creep up on my worried stomach, and stared at the slowly heaving form of August as he breathed slowly in sleep. I was worried for my own safety, but also for his. For his role as my warden, yes, but personally as well I realized. Well, I wasn’t a generally uncaring person, but this fear was surprisingly personal. I liked August, and had been entirely dependent on him for three days and three nights. It wasn’t something I could entirely grasp because it was entirely new, but seeing him helpless like this gave me a feeling of protective fear. I had to keep him safe, get him healed. I was woefully unprepared for that task, and knew that I would fail. I would fail August.

    THRUM…

    I gasped, leaned forward, and reflexively brought my hands to my chest. The feeling of it had run through me like a bolt of lightning. That hum inside me had done something I had never felt it do before. Panic tried to take my mind again. Was this the precursor to the Release? Did all the others this had happened to feel this exact way before all hells broke loose from them?

    TTTHRRUMMMMM…

    I took deep breaths, tried to calm myself down. Once before I had fallen from a tree. It was a long fall; time had seemed to slow down, and I remembered feeling the hum that was always there shift itself into my skin. It had been deep down one moment, and then right under my skin the next. It was an elastic feeling, the way a lute string feels when you pull on it. I tried to think about the hum, about the lute string, about how you could see it vibrate and if you put your finger on it, it would go still again.

    I put my finger on the string inside me as firmly as I could. I had to stop vibrating.

    The feeling subsided slightly. My mind slipped off of it too easily, and I kept having to push other thoughts, other fears, out of my head to focus on it. I took a breath and held it for a moment… by and by, the vibration receded until it was down to its normal background hum. I sucked in a breath slowly through my nostrils, kept my eyes closed, and tried to feel it there, tried to make it stay that way. It responded, became a stable, constant hum again, and I finally opened my eyes and relaxed for a moment after the struggle.

    My mind was quiet at that moment. Tired, I suppose, the way your arms don’t want to move after a day of hard labor, and your legs just want to collapse under you. Everything feels still after the day is done. I put a hand on August’s back to feel for the warmth and see that it wasn’t spreading.

    I don’t know what made me think of it, and I’m not entirely sure what I did, but as I touched him I felt him. Not the way you feel something with your hand, but in some way I felt sort of… all of him, all at once, under my hand. I could feel the wrongness of the wound, the way it interrupted some part of him. And like the lute string, I pulled at my inner hum, stretched it up to my hand, and played a note on it that was impossible to describe if you can’t hear it yourself. It was the sound of August the way he was supposed to be.

    Nothing happened immediately. I felt the note pass through me, felt the hum rise up and then fall back down again. My hand tingled, and I felt the thick muscle of August’s shoulder give a slight twitch, and that was all. I sighed, and shook my head. I sat there, watching the angry wound as though I would see any changes, and tried to think of what I should do next. Nothing came to mind, and I realized it was going to be a very long evening, and a very long night.
    Last edited by VagrantSong; November 1st, 2012 at 11:42 PM.

  5. #5
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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Welcome to the story board and what a start to your writing career! A different kind of story and very well presented



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    Re: The Red Cabal

    (This one is a little long, but when I went back for editing I just couldn't find anything else to clip out, or a good place to break the chapter up without having a useless filler chapter. Anyway, please enjoy! And if you feel my writing is rubbish, PLEASE say so, the most embarrassing thing is to think you're writing well and then find out only your mom thinks so, right?)(My mom hasn't read this story.)

    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 3

    It was night time before August stirred. I had tried to find some way to make a fire, but there was nothing available to burn on the plains. The cart was too well built to break down without any tools. Instead, I had shrugged on August’s torn and blood encrusted coat to keep warm, covering him as well as I could with the remaining blanket.

    He groaned, and started to move, and stopped when he opened his eyes and saw me. I had positioned myself in the curve of his body to keep us both warm – with his loss of blood, I reasoned he might suffer from the cold more so than myself. I put a hand on his shoulder as he started to move. “Don’t, you’ll pull your sutures. How are you feeling?”
    He took a few breaths, probably taking stock of himself. Finally he grunted, and let his head fall back onto the makeshift pillow I’d put beneath his head. “Tired. Thirsty. Alive.”

    I had saved the last water skin for when he awoke; or, I suppose, when he died and I had to find my way to Porthaven alone. I uncorked the skin and pressed it to his lips. He drank gratefully, and reached up to take the skin from my hand and help himself.

    “You’re probably in no condition to travel,” I said, “but do you think you can make it into the cart? If you can tell me how, I can take us to Porthaven.”

    August tucked his arm under him and began to sit up again.

    I tried to hold him down a second time, but I might as well have tried to stop the tide from rising. “If you split your sutures, there’ll have been no point in my trying to keep you alive in the first place!” I gave him as disapproving a look as I could but in the darkness there wasn’t much point to it but to make me feel better. With a sigh intended to convey the disapproval he couldn’t see, I got to my feet and got behind him as he stood up. I didn’t help him.

    When he was standing, I could see his silhouette in the dark. He seemed somewhat smaller without his shirt and chainmail, much less the bulky fur lined coat, but still massive. I traced my fingers gently along the ridge of the wound, checking for heat or puss or any sign I could find that there was infection.

    Though there should have been much still, the heat had gone. Nothing was swollen or oozing that I could feel. “Well,” I said, “I guess it looks better. Don’t go bending over or stretching your back though, you could still pull it open again.”

    August turned to me slowly, and then reached over to feel the lapel of his coat on my shoulders. “There’s another shirt in my saddle bag. Has the horse been fed, watered?”

    I flushed and was glad he couldn’t see me clearly enough to realize it. I hadn’t thought of the horse at all. I should have, how else did I expect to get anywhere if the need arose? “I… no, I haven’t. I was distracted.”

    “He’s probably grazed a bit, but he’ll need to be watered before we head off. Where is the interdictor?”

    I froze for a moment. “It’s in the cart. I managed to get it upright and put everything in there to keep me busy. I wasn’t able to hitch it back to the horse though.” I became uncomfortable at the thought of putting the thing back on. I didn’t know how much control I had, but I felt that I had more than I did before – which was, potentially, none – and wasn’t going to Release spontaneously.

    “I’ll make it to Porthaven,” August said, “but may need you to help. We can leave it off for now, but I can’t take you into the city without it. It’s simply too much risk for everyone there.” He turned away and walked towards the big gelding.

    I followed after, rolling up the blankets and tossing them into the cart as I passed by it. “While you were asleep, something happened. I don’t know for sure, but I think maybe I can hold onto it now. My magic, I mean, I don’t think I’m in danger of Release.”

    “There’s no way to be sure,” August said, his tone calm and patient as if the entire preceding day’s events hadn’t happened. “would you risk thousands of lives to be more comfortable?”

    Well, when he put it that way. I realized it was just my pride at having overcome… what? I didn’t know for sure that that’s what had happened, I had just made a panicked assumption. Maybe it happened all the time to sorcerers everywhere and wasn’t a big deal at all. “I guess you’re right.” I left it at that.

    * * * * * * *

    I kept a reasonable pace with the gelding, letting it judge the ground ahead on its own. August rested in the cart, and I followed the road as he had instructed, making the turn north when the road split. Though there had been some cloud cover before, it had cleared away and let the light of the nearly full moon illuminate the world enough to see just enough to keep moving.

    If it was half a day’s riding from where we were, then I figured we would make it to Porthaven by dawn. Then, I would go to the charter house and do whatever it was you did when you became a chartered apprentice. Learn magic, I supposed. I could feel it there still. Now that I knew where to look, it was ever present in my awareness, like an itch that you couldn’t ignore. I wondered if I would ever get used to it, go back to not realizing it was there like I had been my entire life.

    Periodically I looked back at the cart, to August. Vaguely I wondered if he would need any of the kind of help I had needed. The thought was embarrassing, and I looked back towards the road fearing foolishly that he would know what I had thought. The memory of the feeling of him holding my member while I pissed passed through my mind unbidden, and I started to push it out of my mind but… I let the memory linger, let my mind wander with it.

    I never really took an interest in anyone in my village that way growing up. Oh, I discovered all the developments of my own body, and I was keen enough to know that similar things happened to everyone. I had discovered how to please myself when I was alone, and I knew that it was part and parcel to sex. I wasn’t entirely naïve. But I never really had an attraction to any of the girls I knew. They were pretty, many of them, but where Arnie had been constantly smitten by some girl or other I simply didn’t feel the urge to pursue them like he did.

    I considered the hum of my magic again, and wondered if that wasn’t some part of my newly discovered nature as well. Maybe sorcerers just didn’t… you know…? A new host of thoughts arose with this one. What my future would be like, for one. I’d had my own farm to look forward to one day, I had always hoped. I supposed that was out of the question now. No one ever heard of a farming sorcerer. Or a farmer with magic. What would be the purpose? A sorcerer could just magic up whatever he needed, right?

    I looked back to check on August again. No change. I realized it had been only minutes since I checked, and I had been checking every couple of minutes from the time I got up on the horse when we left the site of the scar beast’s corpse. There was no point; I resolved not to check again.

    For hours I was alone with my thoughts, until I jerked suddenly and realized I had fallen asleep. The moon was a good distance through the sky, but there were many hours left. I wanted to trade with August, but my sense of duty to let him rest and heal overrode any desire to lessen my own burden. Probably the horse knew the way back to Porthaven, and would simply follow the road the rest of the way in.

    Just as I was gathering my will to stay focused an alert, I caught sight of a glint in the distance. It was off the road to the west, but seemed close enough that we could make it there in short order. I couldn’t see the terrain in the dark, but as long as I was careful and let the horse find it’s own footing it should be fine. I looked back to August, but he seemed to be sleeping. Better to ask forgiveness, I thought, than permission.

    I knew what he would think if I asked him, but at the moment there was nothing stressful happening – nothing dangerous, nothing to fear. So the likelihood of Release was minimal if it was anything. We could travel faster in the day, and there was a chance they had something that would help August. It was better to have him sleeping in a bed or at least a barn, than to be out and exposed like he was.

    I made up my mind, and tugged the reigns to lead the gelding off the road and towards the distant torchlight.

    August spoke up immediately. “Follow the road north until porthaven, Simon.”

    “There’s a house in this direction, I can just see the lights. Probably it’s a farm out here, there are a few close to the cities.” I let the horse pace itself over the uneven ground.

    “We cannot stop for any reason, Simon, we need to get to Porthaven as quickly as possible. You can’t risk those people.” He was moving around in the cart, I could feel. There was a chance he would simply haul me off of the saddle and take over driving himself.

    I tried to take on the kind of voice that my mother used when she had needed to convince someone they were being ignorant. “I can’t keep this up all night, I’m not a soldier or a warden. You need to stay out of the saddle because I’ll need you when we get to Porthaven. It’s too dark to travel safely and without rest there’s still a chance your wound could get infected. The best thing to do is to try and bed down for the night and travel the rest of the way tomorrow.”

    August protested, but I held up a hand for silence the way my mother did when she had decided the conversation was over, all issues resolved.

    To my surprise, it seemed to work. I heard August sigh, and the weight shifted in the cart again as he settled back down. To so easily give in, he must still have been exhausted.

    As we neared the source of the torchlight, I could see that we were luckier than I had thought. The source wasn’t a farm, but an inn. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure what money we had. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to ask, and perhaps seeing August’s condition it wouldn’t matter. Once near enough, I lashed the gelding’s reigns to a post and went to the cart to let the step down.

    “It’s an inn. Do we have money?” I steadied August as he climbed down from the cart, although it wasn’t necessary.

    “No need,” he said, “it’s Malak’s inn, I know the place. I know Malak. She’ll put us up for the night.” He walked towards the inn door and I followed after collecting the saddle bags from the horse and the pack from the cart.

    The inside was quiet and warm. A few tables with chairs littered the room, and a long bar lined the far wall. Beside it was a stair way leading up into the upper floor. A fire smoldered in the hearth, and only a few people sat about the place in groups of two and three, talking quietly. No one paid us much attention as we entered, except a woman sitting in front of the hearth. She saw us as we came into the main room, and then stood and approached us. She was a robust woman, with bright red hair massed on her head in tangled curls. She wore trousers, I noted, and boots that looked ready to travel in. When she came closer, her expression changed from polite to genuinely happy to see us.

    To see August, I realized as she closed the distance and embraced him. “August! So good to see you-” she broke off, looked at his face in concern now, and then to me and back. “What’s happened to you? You’re a mess!”

    “Took down a bird on the way the Porthaven. She got a few licks in. I’m fine. My young… friend here stitched me up.” He gestured towards me.

    “I’m Simon Rake,” I said, extending my hand.

    She took it and shook it firmly. “Well thank the Shining Gods for you, Simon. I’m Kerie Malak and very pleased to meet you.” She looked back to August. “If something happened to you out there, we’d never know it. This is why you need another squire, August, it’s a dangerous world out there even for you.”

    She threw her hands up then, and turned towards the far end of the room. “Where is my head, hey? Come have something to eat, the both of you. You’ve got a look of hunger about you. You’ll be needing a room then?”

    August confirmed this, and we followed her to the bar. She busied herself on the other side, then produced two large mugs of something steaming before leaving through a door to some other room behind. In moments she was back with two steaming bowls.

    The mugs had some kind of bitter cider that warmed my chest and stomach as I drank it, and the bowls contained a hearty soup with meat, potatoes, and an assortment of beans and other vegetables. I realized I had missed feeding myself a bit, but felt a pang of mild disappointment at the same time. I ignored the strange feelings, and lost myself in a warm meal.

    August ate more carefully than I. Kerie watched with concern, and then turned to me. “Simon then. You aren’t quite dressed to be a Warden, but you’re travelling with one. Are you daft enough to want to enlist?”

    I shook my head emphatically and swallowed the last bit of potato I was chewing. “No, not a warden. I’m on my way to the charter-”

    August coughed, his face twisted up in pain for a moment and then cleared. “Simon’s come from the borderlands to find a home in the city. He’s a decent stitch, I think he’d do well mending in the Charter Wards.” He clapped me on the shoulder, firmly but not enough to upset my seat. I nodded agreement, but was puzzled inwardly.

    I had thought that people close to the cities were more used to sorcerers. I couldn’t see any reason to keep this fact from Kerie, but August likely knew something I didn’t, so I went along with it. “My Mama taught me some, but our village doesn’t have a proper doctor. I’d like to learn, and then later on maybe go home again to help out there.” August's eyes were on me and I saw for a moment a similar sympathetic look I had seen the night he’d come to take me.

    “Well, I think that’s a fine plan,” said Kerie, giving August a long look. “But for right now you both must be exhausted. This young one looks about ready to fall asleep in his bowl. Let me get you a room for the night, and I’ll be inspecting your work on my August as well. Come on now, let’s go.” She cleaned up the bowls and mugs, and lead us up the stairs and down a hallway to one of the last doors along the wall.

    “I’ve got just the one room tonight, I’m afraid, but I’m sure you can make do with it. Trading fair’s coming this week, so there’s been good business the past few days.” She opened the door to let us in, and handed August a key. Then she pointed back towards the stairs, “You’ve got horses outside?”

    “Just one,” said August, “and a cart. It’s tethered out front.”

    “I’ll see to it,” she said, “and I’ll be back with some fresh linens for your wounds. Barrin will be up in a moment with some hot water for the bath.” She gave August a last appraising look, and then left back down the hall towards the stairs.

    August closed the door quietly. I could tell he was on the verge of speaking, but he tilted his head slightly as though listening for a moment more. He seemed satisfied after a moment, and began to unlace his shirt. “No one here is a stranger to sorcerers, but it would be best if we didn’t mention your status publicly.”

    “Do you think there would be trouble?” If they were so commonplace, surely the people in this region were more educated. Not the kind of people who believed the sorts of stories the more rural villages told their children.

    “Not precisely, no. It is just best to be cautious all around. You’re too old to look like an apprentice, not knowledgeable enough to pull of being a sorcerer, and not wearing the interdictor. To most people, that can only mean that you are old enough to lose control.” He folded the shirt neatly and laid it on the wooden table against one wall.
    “Let me see the sutures,” I said, touching his arm to turn him.

    His eyes fell to my hand, lingered there a moment, and then to my face. I got the feeling, suddenly, that I should not have touched him so casually.

    I took my hand away. “Please, they need to be checked.” I made a motion with my hand indicating he should turn around, and he complied.

    They looked fine. In fact, they looked better than they should have so soon. I thought back to my misguided attempt to make him well with my magic, and wondered if I hadn’t gotten close to the mark. I had heard some sorcerers could mend flesh and bone before your very eyes, and that isn’t what had happened, but perhaps that story was also a tall tale. Or perhaps it was something that took more finesse than I had with my first attempt at magic.

    The thought made me shiver a bit. I hadn’t know what I was doing, and if I knew anything at all about magic I knew it could be terribly dangerous. I could have made the situation worse, could have killed August or changed him somehow.

    “You’re healing remarkably fast. I’m sure the folks at home would love to know what’s in that liniment you carry.”

    August glanced back over his shoulder, then looked forward again and grunted something akin to a short chuckle. “It’s for muscle soreness. I’m not as young as I look, and the saddle makes me sore after a day of riding.”

    I cleared my throat reflexively, and continued to make a show of examining my work and the quickly healing wound. “Well, whatever it is, I think you’re clear of infection and the sutures are holding. I guess you’ll make it after all.”

    “Indeed.” He turned to the table and began to remove the rest of his clothing. I had seen other men naked before, bathing in the river or lying out in the fields when it was hot and time for a break. It was never a big deal.

    I found myself turning away at this event, though, just as August’s trousers and underclothes came down, exposing his backside to me. There was no reason for it, no excuse I could come up with, but for some reason I very much wanted to see the rest of him and felt instinctively that this was not okay. What would my Mama say about having such thoughts? Or the other men in the village.

    Well, at this point I guess they wouldn’t say anything, I’d probably never see them again. Suddenly, I felt a deep sense of loss. I had been sad before, but it was overshadowed by the trauma of being taken. All I could think about at the time was what my future held for me and whether it would be good or bad. I hadn’t thought about the past at all, really, until this moment. On some level it hadn’t been real, I could simply go back after I became a sorcerer but…

    That was unrealistic, I realized. Everything I knew – or thought I knew, anyway – about sorcerers and magic came from people who steadfastly believed them to be corrupt. My mother hadn’t held me when I was taken, or even been able to look straight at me. My best friend had looked away while I was taken, and they both had to have known – maybe even hoped, at that moment? – that they would never see me again.

    I realized there were tears in my eyes, and it had become difficult to breathe through my nose. I lifted a hand to my face to wipe the tears away, and sat down on the edge of the small bed.

    August’s voice was close to me when he spoke, “Are you alright?”

    I startled a bit, and turned around on reflex. I hadn’t heard him approach, and he was standing near me now, naked as the day he was born. His body was covered in thickly corded muscle, and thick black hair. I tried not to let it happen, but my eyes crawled down the length of him of their own accord, my mouth slightly agape. In my head a voice was screaming at me, Look away, look away, look away!

    His body was the epitome of masculine power. I hadn’t known such a thing could occur to me until I saw it, but everything from his form to his hair to his uncountable scars said “This is a Man, this is the definition.” There were big men in my village, and I had seen bodies at least August’s size before, but it was more than just that. His stature was full of confidence and grace. Just by seeing him you knew he had power. His scars told me of his will to live, the shape of his muscles told me he was build for survival, not for working in fields.

    I stared at what nestled between the tops of his thighs. Even in this, there was a sense of masculine power. It was heavy and full in every respect, even relaxed as it was. I had compared myself to other boys at home before – we all had at some point as we grew up together – and I had never measured up short though I wasn’t the largest I had seen. But none of them had anything that actually looked like a thing of power. It rested regally atop two large orbs dusted with the same color hair that covered the rest of his body. He hadn't been cut, but skin around the end of it didn't entirely cover the crown of his kingly member, and it filled out the sleeve of him, showing clearly the helmeted shape of it.

    “Simon, some might consider it inappropriate to stare so openly.” August’s voice broke my trance and I immediately flushed with heat – I had to have blushed from head to toe. It was ridiculous that I should be so mesmerized by his body. Nothing about our interaction had been remotely physical in that way, and I had never looked at anyone at home this way. It simply wasn’t done!

    But I can’t say that I never wanted to. How much of who I am is because of where I was? I realized with a sudden horror that whether I could admit that I enjoyed seeing him that way or not – at least part of me betrayed my true interest.

    I drew a leg up onto the bed, attempting to casually hide my betrayer behind my thigh. “I’m so sorry. I, ah… I don’t… I’m sorry.” I was mortified and couldn’t think of anything that I could say that could mitigate my shame.

    August, as ever, seemed untouched by the event. He simply turned and approached the tub. At about that time, there was a knock at the door. I took the opportunity to busy myself by answering it, and a stout young man perhaps only a little older than myself entered.

    “I’m Barrin, I’ve got the hot water Miss Malak asked me to bring. Six buckets and an extra tub, will that do it?” He indicated the hand cart behind him. I marveled that he had gotten it up the stairs, there was a large wooden tub like the one already in the room, with three buckets in it and three along the side.

    “Yes, that will do it. I’m Simon.” We shook briefly, and he turned to bring the handcart in. “How did you get that up the stairs?” I can’t say I was more than passing curious, but needed some casual chit chat to ground me again.

    “Oh there’s a lift at the end of the hall, sir. I just load it up and winch it to this floor, then come up and get it. Easier that way.” His tone suggested I should have known this, so I refrained from saying anything else. He didn’t seem to even notice August standing stark naked near the tub, or to care in the slightest when August came to the cart and unloaded two buckets for his own bath.

    How could anyone see that man and not be shocked? I found something else to occupy my eyes while August and Barrin set the new tub and the remaining buckets on the ground. Two tubs. Side by side. Six buckets of water – three for August’s bath; three for mine. My heart began to pound in my chest and anxiety made me fidget with the hem of the blanket.

    Barrin politely saluted each of us and then left with his cart. “Let me know if there’s anything more I can bring you, Sirs.” He closed the door behind him as he left.

    August poured three of the buckets of steaming water into one of the tubs, and then put first one and then the other foot in, and lowered himself into the water. I saw the pain on his face as he did, and knew that the position was pulling at the wound on his back. A pang of concern brought me to my feet, and August looked at me with a momentary expression of mirrored concern before it occurred to him why I had moved so suddenly. “It’s fine, Simon. I’m alright. I have been in worse shape before.”

    I sighed, and sat back down. “That’s hard to believe. That’s one of the worst wounds I’ve ever seen, you’re lucky it missed your spine, and I can’t believe nothing was broken.”

    He shook his head and leaned back gingerly into the sloped back side of the tub. Though the wood was smooth I knew just the pressure on the wound must be painful, but he didn’t show it. I wondered at the wisdom of getting the gash wet so soon, but perhaps August did look like the type of man that knew about recovering from grievous injuries.

    “This scar here,” he indicated a barely visible white hairless line running from the left side of his chest down into the water towards his hip, “I got during a tour in the borderlands. Spilled my guts, and I had to hold them in while I made my way to the nearest encampment. They were short on supplies, and the only sorcerer there had no skill in healing. We had to liberate a bowstring to stitch it up, but didn’t have enough length for all the necessary sutures. I had a place to rest, but everything else was against me. I healed, as you can see. Just takes time.”

    I nodded, stricken dumb by the story. He walked Gods know how far while keeping holding in his own guts. What the hell kind of life makes a man like August?

    He took a rag from the side of the tub and began to wash his arms and chest with careful patience. When I remained where I was, he looked at the other tub and then to me. “I don’t mean to be rude, Simon, but after three days on the road, you will have a distinct smell about you by the time we get to Porthaven. Perhaps you should bathe?”

    I stood a bit too abruptly, “Yes, of course. I know.” I found I was unable to move. By and by I gathered the will to take a few awkward steps towards the tub.

    “You’ll first undress, so that you can wash your skin.” Now his tone was almost mocking, at least as close to it as August was likely to get it.

    I sneered at him, and turned away. I took off my shirt and my trousers, and hooked my thumbs into my underclothes. I couldn’t pull them down.

    This was madness. There was no sense in my shyness, August had undoubtedly seen dozens of men naked, perhaps hundreds. One more wasn’t going to phase him in the least. And for Gods’ sakes he’d held my dick while I urinated at least a dozen times now.

    I breathed deeply and pulled my underclothes down, let them drop to my ankles and then kicked them off. I turned and studiously filled my tub with the water from the buckets. Finally though, I was unable to keep myself to looking at August.

    To my shock, he was watching me. I hastily sank into the warm water, which was hot enough to make me want to jump right back out again, but I endured and stared at my feet through the water.

    “Simon,” August said, “thank you for taking care of me. It was a difficult thing to do, I know. And, you could have simply run off and left me but you didn’t. I certainly wasn’t in any shape to go after you.”

    I shook my head, pride and shyness warring in my chest. “I couldn’t have just left you. It wouldn’t have been right.”

    “There is your proof that being a sorcerer doesn’t make you evil. Being a good person is about doing what you know is right, when it needs to be done.”

    My heart leapt a little in my chest. A man like August, who had seen so much, who had battle scars all over his body, who had done Gods only knew what in his life, was grateful to me, and thought that I was a good person for it. Some of the embarrassment at my exposure left me, and I began to wash myself. When I had scrubbed everything down but my back, I reached behind me with the rag to do so and August caught my attention with a snap of his fingers.

    I looked up, and he gestured towards the rag in my hands. “Here, let me, it’s easier.”

    I handed it over to him and turned away. The tubs were up against one another in the relatively small room by necessity and he didn’t have to reach far. I tensed a little when he pressed the rag against me, but soon relaxed. His hands were strong, and as he washed my back I felt his fingers press into my muscles and massage me. I realized I was sore from the road and hadn’t known until just then. Some of that soreness melted away for a bit.

    When he had finished, I turned and took the rag that was draped between our tubs, the one he had been washing with before. I knew he hadn’t been able to reach his own back in his condition, and without needing to ask him he turned away. I wet the rag down and squeezed warm water over him from shoulder to shoulder and then did my best to clean him without irritating the wound. Some of the water became rust colored as it ran into the bath water.

    He made no sound as I worked, and I dared not try to massage his muscles the way he had mine for fear of hurting him, but I found myself taking my time. I didn’t want the experience to end, but eventually it would become obvious I was washing him perhaps too thoroughly.

    I pried my hands away from him, and laid the rag over the edges of the tubs where it had been. August turned, sank into the water and leaned back against the tub. I did the same, and we soaked for a time without speaking. Under the water, without really thinking about it, my hand found my hardened turncoat and stroked it slowly. Shame quickly put a stop to it, but try as I might to focus on something else it didn’t show any sign of going down. Then I will sit in this water until I fall asleep or it gets too cold to stay up.

    In the tub next to me, August snored.

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 4

    At great length, the water cooled. So, finally, did my tumescence. It wasn’t an option to allow August to continue to doze in the water, and I knew that he had already been too long there. I stood slowly from the water, and reached for one of the towels stacked nearby. As I did, the noise I made woke August from his nap.

    “How long was I out?”

    I turned, covering myself reflexively with the towel, and shrugged. “Long enough, I think. You need to get out of the water or the wound won’t be able to breathe.” I picked up the other towel and handed it to him.

    August stood up from the water and began to towel off. I looked away as he did, finished my own drying process, and then stepped from the tub and dried my feet and legs. I heard the water dripping as he left his own tub, and heard the rustling of the towel. I steadfastly refused to watch.

    “Simon,” he said, “I’m afraid I may need a little help.”

    I turned, concerned, and he held the towel out towards me. “I will have a hard time reaching my legs and feet without pulling the sutures. If you wouldn’t mind?”

    I took the towel and approached, trying to determine how I would do this without coming face to face with… well, it would be quick.

    I knelt with the towel, just to the side of him, and reached forward with it, quickly rubbing down his legs. As I reached his feet he raised one leg up and allowed me access to the whole foot. I dried this, and then he lifted the far leg in its turn. I leaned forward with the towel.

    It was too late to turn back when I realized that to lean that far forward placed my face inches away from his thankfully still sleeping dragon. I quickly toweled off his foot and hurriedly withdrew, but in my haste overcompensated. My weight shift reflexively to my more stable foot and consequently drove my face into August’s crotch.

    It only lasted a moment, but it was heavy against my face, and warm. The weight of it was solid, and the smell of it was, despite the recent bathing, still strongly musky. The thick curly hairs at the base of it brushed against my closed eyelid. Though it was brief, I felt that I hesitated too long before tumbling backwards in an effort to get away.

    I fell onto my ass; legs akimbo, my towel fallen around an ankle and, again, betrayed by my trusted friend. I looked up in horror at August, who had a strange look on his face. I couldn’t decide if he was amused or disgusted.

    His voice gave neither any support. “Are you okay?” He held out a hand to help me up, but I scrambled to my feet without taking it and covered myself with my towel again.

    “I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m so sorry. I lost my footing, I wasn’t… it was an accident, not… I wouldn’t do that, I promise. It was an accident.” The words came out tumbling over one another, and August’s eyebrows slowly crept up his face until I finished, exasperated, and finally turned away.

    I jumped nearly out of my skin when his hand covered my shoulder gently. The touch was so light, so soft, and conveyed clearly what his voice didn’t. “Simon, I don’t begrudge you what you cannot control. It’s really okay. You are young, besides, and given what we’ve been through, it’s natural for there to be some affection between us.”

    Between us? I didn’t turn around. I waited. I didn’t really know what I was waiting for, but felt that there was something that might happen, something I simply didn’t have the courage or the knowledge to start. I trembled beneath his hand. When nothing happened, I reached slowly for his fingers. As I made the briefest contact, his hand withdrew.

    Where there had been a moment of lightness in my chest, now there was a sinking, bitter feeling. August didn’t owe me anything, and we had only known one another for a few days. I had never wanted… whatever it was I wanted from anyone before, and there was no real evidence that August wanted anything from me. Some affection between us.

    I went to the bed and sat down on. August’s weight shifted the thick mattress from the other side. “It happens on the battlefield often. Men will seek comfort where they can, and each day you rely on your comrades, sometimes you save their lives and sometimes they save yours. You reveal your innermost self to them, and want to find something to remind you that you are still alive.” He sighed, “But this is different. There are complications you don’t understand. Tomorrow, you will go to the Charter house, and you will learn there. You do not have the freedom that other men do. Your power has a cost.”

    I sat in silence, examining my feelings and weighing what August had said. Maybe that’s all that this was. We had survived something together. He had cared for me, made me dependent on him, and I had cared for him and made him dependent on me. This was a kind of situation that could happen to two people regardless of their natures.

    And this cost… I didn’t have the room to think about it now. The reality was, I wanted something, on some level, from August and it wasn’t something that I could have.

    Whether he wanted it as well or not, obviously it was irrelevant. So I took a deep breath, pulled the blanket down from the top of the bed, and crawled under it.

    August’s weight shifted, the light from the table lamp extinguished. The bed shifted again, and I sensed the warmth of a body close to me under the cover. Everything else in my mind, all of the clouded thoughts and complicated feelings vanished, and all I could feel was a pull on my body, my mind, and my heart.

    I turned over to face him, though we couldn’t see one another now. “What are the complications?”

    I was close enough to feel his breath as he spoke. “Your power can be harmful to others if even a small amount is released in the wrong way. It isn’t my place to say more than this.”

    I snorted and sat up, and in a moment of immature anger I punched him in the shoulder. I regretted it immediately but it hadn’t been strong enough to really mean it.

    This was not, apparently, August’s take on the gesture. Before I knew what was happening, he had risen up, one massive hand taking hold of my shoulder and pushing me down with barely any effort at all. I collapsed backwards and before I could move he was on top of me, pinning me down.

    “Don’t strike me so lightly!” His breath was in my face, hot and fierce as the words came out. I had not heard him raise his voice like this before and it terrified me. I tried to pull my face away but there was nowhere to pull it to. “Your world,” he continued, “is not the same as it was. By some miracle, you’ve survived this far without the rules that have governed others like you for a thousand years. But to them, and to me, you are a child. You don’t know the consequences of your actions, but the messes you make through your ignorance will require more than a broom to sweep away! Your mistakes cost bodies now, Simon. Lives!”

    I was shaking under his grasp, and wanted to scream at him, but all that I could manage was a terrified whisper. “Please just tell me if you know. Give me that in exchange for your stitches. Please, August; I’m lost here, in so many ways.”

    Though his weight didn’t move, he sighed, and his voice softened. “You have pleased yourself before?” I understood the emphasis, and nodded. “Though you didn’t realize it at the time, when you came to your full, some of your power escaped you. When you are alone there is little harm, most of the time, and as young as you are. When you are with someone else though… there is a great deal of harm that can be done, and there is a very high risk that it will be.” He shifted to the side with a grunt that I know came from the tugging of the sutures over his wound. “Sorcerers make no children. Their power is fatal to the recipient. With some training, you will be able to enjoy your life in that way, but you will never be with a woman; it would be death for her.”

    I absorbed this, and considered whether or not I felt it was a loss. I wasn’t sure. I had never begun to think about children, and so far no girl had ever caught my interest – though not for lack of trying. But then… “Are all sorcerers then… do they only sleep with men?”

    I felt him shake his head. “Some choose celibacy. Others do, though. Many, I suppose. I’m not privy to the private lives of many of them.”

    “But to some of them you are?”

    He was quiet. I waited, but received no answer. I suppose it was somewhat rhetorical, more of a joke to make light of the tension than to ask a real question, but in his silence I felt an answer he would not give. “Alright, well… but that is only if I… well… only if I reach my full then?”

    He grunted assent, but with a note of question.

    “Well, then, I suppose that answers my question.”

    We were both still for a long moment. Inwardly, I steeled my courage. I let the pounding of my heart build it up within me. My arms wanted to move, my hands to reach out, but until I could bring myself to it they were frozen there before me. I waited for August to move, or to turn away. Or to say something else. I waited for the smallest change to give me the escape that I only half wanted.

    When it didn’t happen, almost of their own accord, certainly without my express permission, my hands sought him out under the cover.

    I almost drew my hands away when I encountered him. The tension had not been lost on him, and the conclusion that I had come to had apparently not been either. He was erect by the time my fingers found him; firm, and warm, and pulsing with life and need. My own pulse beat in my neck and my chest as I wrapped my fingers around him and squeezed gently. He sighed, this time with release rather than impatience or consternation, and as I moved forward he rolled onto his back slowly and cautiously.

    Still he said nothing, but his arm moved passed me and I felt him position it behind his head. Permission was given, it seemed.

    I moved close to him, pressing my body and, yes, my own firmed cock against him. I let my hands explore him. His stomach was firm but flexible, and I could feel the ridges of his abdomen under the thick black hair that covered his torso. I trailed my fingers down the length of his stomach and through the thick bush of hair around the base of his hardness that was so, so much bigger than my own.

    Soft, it had been a beautiful thing, a true badge of his manhood. Erect it was power incarnate, it seemed. I desperately wished for the light, but desired nothing so little as to interrupt this moment. So instead I followed the length of it from the base to its moistened crown with my hand. It was thick, so much so that I could not touch my fingers to my thumb around it. The skin was so soft compared to the rest of this man, and glided easily over the flesh beneath it.

    A smell drifted to me, something vaguely sweet and pungent. It pulled at me, but I wasn’t prepared to do what my instinct instructed me I should, so instead I laid my head on August’s stomach and tried to see the shape of it in the darkness. It was perhaps half again as long as my own, and the thickness of it was uniform all the way to the helmet shaped tip. I gripped the skin more firmly, and drew the sleeve that concealed its head back. August inhaled deeply, and sighed out his breath with a sound of encouragement.

    Careful not to allow the skin to cover him up again, I moved my fingers back to the head of it and felt there a slick fluid that had covered it and, I found, was slowly oozing down the full length now that it was freed. I knew about this, though I never produced much myself. Likewise I had seen the untouched skin on other boys before, but it was the custom in my Father’s family to remove the excess shortly after birth, so it was absent from my own member.

    I spread the thick fluid over my fingers, and down the shaft of him, and continued my descent to take his sachet in hand. The great things churned beneath my touch, full of life it seemed. Perhaps from both the coolness of the night and from the excitement of the moment, they had drawn up into a mound covered with thick, curly hairs. I stroked them lightly with my fingertips, as I sometimes did my own, and August told me with his breathing that this pleased him.

    I fought the urgency I felt in my hands and my heart, but after some time returned my hand to his shaft and spread more of his fluid along the length of it. Gripping it tightly, I twisted my hand slowly around it, until my fingers nestled in thick hair, and then drew my hand up again. When I reached the crown, I let my fingers play upwards and over the top, brought my palm up and made the short circular motion that I enjoyed most. August’s hips lifted a bit, pressing him back into my grip, and I stroked again down to the curly hairs and back.

    With each upstroke he pulsed and hardened more, jerking so forcefully as I came down that I lost my grip twice. His hardness astonished me. I had been so hard before in the past, but not often and normally only as I reached the end. His had not faltered for a moment since I began, and while I had lost all sense of time in my adventure I knew it had been longer than it normally took me in the dark hours of the night.

    I quickened my pace, but only a little. The smell of him was intoxicating, and I drew his cock towards me, slid down his body so that my face was closer, and brushed the tip of him over my lips. I curled them in and brought the stray fluid there to my tongue. It was a complex taste, different than anything else I had known. The salt of it played along the middle of my tongue and something else about it settled into the back of my mouth. I leaned in for more and without really expecting to do so, found that I longed to take him into my mouth. I did so, parting my lips as pressed down and took the head of it into my mouth. Fluid spilled out onto my tongue, and I sucked at it to keep it from escaping.

    August made a sound now, a low moan of approval. I felt his hand move, and then it was on my head. He didn’t push me as I half expected, but only rested his hand there, tangling his fingers in my hair. The warmth of his hand urged me on, though, and I took in more of him until I couldn’t open my mouth any wider. I sucked gently, and played my tongue over the swollen tip to lap up more of the fluid there.

    As I came up, he became suddenly rigid underneath me. His cock swelled somewhat more and as I was suddenly trying to remove my mouth, his hand held me in place as his hips thrust up, pushing him back into my mouth just as a keening sort of groan left him. His full exploded from him and into my mouth. I struggled both to swallow it down and to pull myself off of him. As each burst of new fluid poured into me, though, I gave up the struggle and simply allowed him to thrust over and again into my mouth, depositing each time another burst of fluid.

    Five or six times this was repeated, and by the last thrust the sound he was making had become a low growl that I could feel in his stomach. The rumbling, vibrating sound awakened a strong combination of tension and relaxation in me, and I laid there even after he has stopped his thrusting, resting him in my mouth. His hardness didn’t subside for some time and I sucked and kissed at it until finally it was seemed to be exhausted and gradually withdrew from where my face lay.

    A while longer I continued to hold it though. Reverie had taken me, and I lay calmly on August’s stomach, idly stroking and squeezing him, feeling the weight of his now sleeping beast in my hand. It was so large even in this state, and so warm. I wasn’t certain what to think about the experience. Certainly I had enjoyed it, certainly I felt a kind of pride had having brought him forth, but there was a part that was ashamed as well.

    I had nothing to fear from this, I knew. No one would know; no one would punish me. But somehow I felt I had been… marked, or changed in some way. Someone who did not know me would look at me now and would know without even realizing why, that I had done this. Beneath this, though was an even stranger feeling.

    I desperately wanted to repeat the experience again. To feel August release himself into me. I had been given something when he poured his seed out for me, and even now there was a kind of warmth spreading through me. At the moment it had happened I had been shocked at first, but quickly overtaken by a joy and excitement. I knew that what I had done for me felt wonderful to him, and in some way because of that it had felt wonderful for me. Was it normal? Was it always that way? Was it something special? What had it been for him?

    These questions tumbled around my mind for a time, and then were lost to true darkness as sleep took me. The last thought trailed over my slowing mind as I closed my eyes and lost myself. Will I see him again, after the charter house?

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Shame on you, VagrantSong. It is passed midnight for me and I must get to bed, but I haven't read Chapter 4. It will have to wait until tomorrow. You have certainly captivated me with your story. I hope I will meet Simon and August in my dreams and complete the intense feeling I sense between them. I do not want to check Chapter 4 as yet because I have the feeling it will be the same as my dreams....pleasant and sweet.

    Craiger

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Cheers mate! Five and six should be edited and up today if I get the time.

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    OK, chapter 4 exceeded my expectations. Though I did not dream of these two throughout the night, just reading the chapter fulfilled my ultimate satisfaction. That, VagrantSong, was eroticism at its best. I certainly hope for Simon's sake that this is not the last time he will witness such an intimate experience with August.

    "I have been working on a story on and off for a long time and have been honestly questioning whether I had the talent/practice to create an engaging story that anyone would want to read." Please do not short-sell yourself. Your talent and writing is amazing. Thank you for bring this story to us. I truly look forward to the ensuing chapters.

    Craiger

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    (Another long one! I keep trying to pare them down, if you read something that seems entirely uneccessary - those of you that have an opinion on such things - let me know.)


    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 5

    August said nothing about our encounter the following morning. Nothing had changed at all, as far as I could tell. Though I wondered that she hadn’t brought them earlier the night before, there were fresh strips of linen in a package by the door outside when I went to ask about them. Along with them was a longer strip to wrap around August’s waist, and a jar of some pungent salve.

    I directed August to sit on the edge of the bed, and he obeyed without objection. I folded my legs under me and sat behind him. The degree to which the wound had healed was remarkable, and I wanted to discover whether it was because of my efforts the day before or because of some part of his nature that I wasn’t aware of. But the risk of revealing to him that I had tried to use magic on him without any understanding of what I was doing seemed too great, and so I simply spread the ointment over the wound, laid the shorter strips over it, and then wrapped the longer around his chest and waist to secure them. Within a few minutes the work was done, and I touched his shoulders lovingly and indicated as much.

    August thanked me shortly, and we gathered our things and headed out. Kerie was nowhere to be seen, but Barrin gave us our filled water skins and let us know that the horse and cart were ready outside. In a few minutes we were loaded up and ready to go, and August brought the interdictor out as soon as we were a good distance from the inn.

    “Do I have to wear it now?” I asked. “How far do we have to go?”

    August approached with the device and gestured for me to raise my arms. I did so without question because although the thing wasn’t terribly comfortable, the idea of having August tend my needs again was thrilling. I blushed as he lowered it over my head and arms, and arranged the straps and metal mitts to secure me. When he tightened the straps behind my back and along the sides, I realized that they were tighter than they had been before and I had less reach.

    When he finished, he finally answered me. “It’s not far, perhaps a few hours. But we’ll begin to see more people on the way, and there would be trouble if I was seen to be restraining you close to Porthaven. By law you should have been restrained the whole time, under all circumstances.”

    He offered no more explanation as he helped me into the cart and raised the step into its secured position. I sat back and leaned against the cushioned wall. We continued on in silence. I wanted to ask about the night before, or to tell him that I enjoyed myself, or that I wanted to do it again. I wanted to ask if I would see him again after we reached the charter house. But each time the words came up and I looked to him on the horse they retreated from my lips and I couldn’t work up the nerve to say anything. Something about his silence seemed more final than before and perhaps it was just my own shyness but I sensed that these were questions he didn’t want to ask.

    I had hoped that we would stop to eat, or that I would feel the urge to relieve myself during our short journey, but neither was the case. The yellowing long grasses of the plains passed us by along with a handful of carts leaving Porthaven, one of which carried a contingent of armored men.

    Finally, the walls of Porthaven peaked over the furthest hills and as we came over them, Orden’s River came into view as well. It was wide enough to be considered a lake, but wound east and west through the plains and foothills flowing east towards the ocean that was still leagues away. Great manaships were visible from here both by their sheer size and by the frothy lines behind them that contrasted the dark water of the river.

    Porthaven’s walls hardly made it a fortress, but they were stone and high enough that scaling them would be an endeavor. The only visible guard towers were here at the front gates, and men in similar armor to those that had passed us earlier stood watch atop them, and on the ground. They paid me no attention as we passed, and only accepted some document from August with barely a word. You wouldn’t know by watching them whether they knew each other or not. I suppose I expected August to be more familiar to them. There was no reason to believe this of course – on some level I must have imagined that all soldier types inherently had some kind of brotherly camaraderie.

    I was surprised the Porthaven inside the walls wasn’t much more than a very large village. I had half expected there to be a keep or something else appropriately foreboding for the home of a cabal charter house. Instead, the streets were wide enough to take two wagons abreast and the building arrayed along them looked hardly as sturdy as the while timber cabins that composed most of the homes in my own village.

    On the other hand, in every direction I saw carts driven without horses. Of course where there was a charter house, there would be a guild of engineers. Mana stones could power machines that didn’t need to run off of steam, and were in use in places that could afford the cabal’s fees. I wondered if I would learn to make them. The sorcerers and the engineers went back together as long as anyone remembered, except those with a more thorough education in history, and when I was young and had seen an engine hauling more goods than we could safely expect our work horses to pull I had briefly dreamed of being an engineer. Perhaps it was possible to be both, now?

    The people looked like people anywhere, though I saw a few dressed in the way I expected all city dwellers to dress. Near the borderlands most people were relatively poor compared to those in the richer coastal cities. No one with much money would choose to live out there, with a few exceptions – and those that did choose the borderlands dressed in practical clothing because you never knew when something would come out of the Scar.

    August stopped the cart in front of a large building. It was slightly more ornate than the others, but still not what I had expected. You grow up imagining that sorcerers all live in great imposing towers crafted by magic. This looked like it might belong to a city official at the most, but certainly didn’t look constructed with eldritch powers.

    With little ceremony, he helped me out of the cart and onto the ground. I looked up at him, searching for some hint of my fate in his expression, but there was nothing there to indicate anything other than that he was awake. His movements had become a little more fluid and I suspected that this meant he was healing still. When he had closed the back of the cart, he put a hand on my back and guided me towards the door of the building.

    On the door was the seal of sorcery – a hand with an eye in the center, encircled by a snake eating its own tail. Behind the hand a torch and a sword were cross over one another, and arcane symbols graced the empty spaces the figure made within the circle. August knocked on the door three times, and almost immediately it was opened.

    The man that answered had a similar battle worn look to him that August did, and bore the sign of the Warden on the front of his vest, but didn’t wear the armor that August normally did. He wasn’t as tall, but his face had a few scars, and his hair and beard were cut to a utilitarian style. Though taller than me, he seemed small beside my Warden. He was, though, handsome in the same penultimate masculine way.

    “Charter Warden Alvir, I bring Simon Rake to the charter house of Porthaven. He is touched by magic, and is brought to learn the arts or to perish in the attempt.”

    Perish in the attempt?! I looked up at August, panic gripping my chest.

    “We receive him, Warden Fane. Your duty is discharged.” He reached forward and placed his right hand on August’s shoulder, which gesture August returned in some kind of salute. Then August turned to leave.

    “Wait!” I spoke up as Alvir took me by one of my bound hands and turned to look towards August. He had stopped and turned to look at me calmly. “Will I… is this the last time I will see you?”

    Warden Alvir made a possibly displeased noise in his throat, but delayed taking me inside and waited for August to respond. “Your old life is gone this day, Simon Rake. Everything up to the moment you enter that door. Where you are going, you will require all of your focus, all of your attention to be on one thing – mastering the power inside of you. You cannot afford to be attached to anything from your old life, or you will fail and you will die.”

    I stared at him for a long moment, waiting for him to say something more; like “Good bye, it was fun,” or anything to indicate that we had made any kind of bond. Instead, he watched me for a moment, and then turned to mount his gelding. An ache settled into my chest, and I drew in a deep breath as I watched him ride off. It was accompanied then by a trembling nervousness as Alvir drew me into the building and closed the door behind us. I tried to just put everything out of my mind, put it behind me, but all I could think about was that first my home, and then August was taken away from me. What would be next?
    The charter house was comfortably furnished, though sparsely decorated. Manalamps lit the interior, more than I had seen in one place before. They gave off a very soft but very illuminating light; here the light was simply a pale yellow but I had seen them a time or two before in other colors. The floors were carpeted, and as Alvir lead me through several rooms I saw that simple but elegant rugs took up much of the floor space in the larger rooms.

    Ultimately I was lead to a small den with two couches and several comfortable looking chairs. A small table was positioned between the couches and a wide tray with two glasses and an opaque pitcher had been set out. Alvir said nothing as he guided me to one of the couches and helped me sit down. As he asked no questions and made no remarks, I kept my mouth shut as he examined the straps and locks of the interdictor and then, satisfied, left me alone.

    Though quiet for the most part, I could just barely hear distant voices. The sound of wheels over cobbles had followed us into the house for the first couple of rooms, but could not be heard here so I assumed that I was far into the interior of the house. Above me I could hear footsteps. There seemed to be a number of people here although I hadn’t seen anyone on our transit to this part of the house.

    After an uncomfortable length of time with my own thoughts – which consisted largely of my night with August, the state of his wound, and the image of my Mama turning away from me and retreating into her room – the door on the back wall of the room opened soundlessly and admitted a tall man in a long red jacket.

    His hair was pulled back to the base of his neck making his square face seem more severe than it actually was. His lips and eyes seemed to be colored unnaturally, but only enough to make them stand out from his face. He was handsome, I thought, but not really attractive. He seemed to be slender in general, but the clothing he wore seemed heavy and it was difficult to see past the array of dark reds and browns.
    He sat down across from me, and poured a glass of water from the pitcher on the table. After he had taken a sip, he sat the glass down and then cross one knee over the other and gave me a studying look. I did my best to look unperturbed by the interdictor or his behavior. “You are quite old for a new apprentice. I believe you are twenty, no?” His words were precise and clipped.

    “Nineteen, sir.” I replied, trying to imagine that I was talking with one of the merchants on a trading route instead of a man who I assumed was a sorcerer who could kill me with a thought, or boil my blood or…

    “I am Vanas Quell. I am the charter emissary for the red cabal. Do you know the different cabals?” His tone was that of a teacher giving a student a second lecture on the same subject.

    “I don’t, sir. I thought there was just one cabal.”

    He shook his head. “There are in fact five. The Red, the White, the Gray, the Green, and the Cabal of the Eye.” He tilted his head to one side, and I saw his eyes crawl over me from head to toe and back. “You will be chosen by one of them, and trained under the watchful eye of a master. Tell me, what did you do in your old life? I understand you village was known for their apples.”

    I nodded, swallowing reflexively at his reference to my ‘old life’. “I didn’t have a profession, sir. I helped out with everything I could. I stitched some people up when there were injuries on the fields. I was good at it, I guess. I helped with the harvests, and sometimes traveled with the farmers to the trade cities. I’ve built houses, helped deliver calves and foals, and I can fix a wagon. I just sort of did whatever needed doing.”

    Vanas listened with an expression of boredom, his eyes slightly out of focus. When I stopped talking, after a moment he took another sip of water and smiled at me though it didn’t reach his eyes. “Well, at your age there is a possibility, many suspect, that you have… utilized… your magic in some way already. There is very little room for another explanation for how you survived so long without training.”

    I shook my head, “No, sir! I didn’t even know it was there until August put the interdictor on me. Then I just knew something was missing until he got wounded.”

    Vanas’ eyebrow twitched. “August. Your warden? I see. And when that happened?”

    I blinked, and sat back a little, keenly aware of my restraints. August wasn’t supposed to have removed the interdictor under any circumstances. If I said anything now, it might get back to him and there could be some kind of punishment. On the other hand, if I tried to lie to Vanas he might know that I’m lying – I didn’t know enough to tell a convincing one – and there could be consequences for me. After all there was a possibility I might ‘perish in the attempt’; was it possible execution was an outcome for me here? Vanas was waiting on a response and I wasn’t sure what to say, so I silently begged August for forgiveness and simply told the truth.

    “Warden August defended us from a giant bird from the scar. I don’t know where it came from, but it was just there all of a sudden. And he was hurt; he would have bled out if we didn’t do something about it. So I told him to take off the interdictor just long enough for me to sew up his wound. But he passed out and I couldn’t put it back on myself, so I tried to stay calm and waited for him to come around before he put it back on me.” There. Enough truth and enough lie to hopefully at least lessen August’s punishment if there were going to be any.

    “Well, well,” he said, his tone either approving or mocking, I couldn’t tell which. “You’ve had quite an adventure here, haven’t you? Well, then. When Warden August released your restraints, what did you feel?”

    I was more comfortable with this subject. I had spent that whole day exploring the feeling while trying not to upset anything that might cause a catastrophe. “It’s hard to put into words. But, it kind of felt like there was this… this lute string that ran right through the center of me. Only, it isn’t really in the center of me the way it sounds, but in a kind of… other direction that’s towards the… well the center of me…”

    “I understand. Please, go on.”

    “Oh, of course you do. Well it was a vibration like someone had plucked that string. I realized I had felt it before since… forever it seems like, and I remembered a bunch of different times when something about it had changed and I noticed. But I thought it was normal, I didn’t know it was magic, I promise! I never tried to use it until August was hurt and it was to save…” I trailed off. My excitement had gotten away from me.

    “Please, do go on.”

    I looked at the floor and became suddenly uncomfortable. Aside from his instruction to keep explaining I wasn’t getting any feedback from Vanas. He might be furious, he might be impressed, or he might not care at all what I had been through or what I thought about it. “His wound looked terrible. Maybe the bird was poisonous, I thought. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t really think it through. But I kind of… pulled it out from my center and made it kind of… vibrate the way August was suppose to, before he got hurt. I don’t really know a better way to explain it.”

    Vanas nodded, “And when you ‘pulled it out,’ what did you feel? How did it move when you did that?”

    I thought about the experience again. “Kind of like I had pulled the string up to my hand. It wanted to pop back into place, to go back to the center. I kind of plucked it, if that makes any sense, and made it make the sound that August sounded like. But it wasn’t a sound, not really.”

    Now there was a change in Vanas’ expression, and it didn’t seem positive. “You say you pulled the ‘string’ itself up?” I nodded in response. “Well, child. Very well, thank you for your honesty. Was there anything else of note in this adventure of yours?”

    I shook my head, almost certain that anything else I told him about would incriminate someone, somewhere, or maybe me if I hadn’t sealed my doom already. Vanas stood up and walked to the door he had entered from.

    Before he left, he issued orders to someone outside the door, “Make him comfortable, this will take a bit longer than expected. No, don’t remove it; it could still be very necessary.”

    After this exchange, someone else entered through the door and closed it behind him. This man was younger, perhaps around my own age. He had a far more casual look to him than did Vanas and I realized that what had kept Vanas from being truly attractive was his very manufactured appearance. This other sorcerer – he was dressed in a similar style – seemed more relaxed and unconcerned that he was beautiful. He had unbelievably green eyes that stood out in stark contrast to his lightly tanned skin and nearly black hair. I could see them clearly from almost across the room.

    “Simon Rake. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he bowed slightly, though his hand had moved as though to extend it until he perhaps thought better of it given my restraints. “I’m Quentin Stav, master Vanas’ protégé. I’m to make you as comfortable as possible, it seems the council may be some time. Is there anything I can get you?” Though cultured, his voice was more casual than Vanas’ as well.

    After my terse and direct interview with Vanas, Quentin was a relaxing presence. I sighed, and sat back into the couch. Speaking with Vanas had caused me to unconsciously sit up straighter, and I realized I was stiff from maintaining the position. “I don’t suppose taking this off is an option?” I lifted my mitts as far as I was able to indicate the restraints.

    Quentin turns his hands up apologetically. “I’m very sorry; I know how uncomfortable they are. But I really can’t. Is there anything else? Some water, or food if you’re hungry?”

    I shook my head, and Quentin nodded sympathetically before turning to leave.

    “I could use some company, though,” I said quickly, the words coming out of me really before I had a chance to consider them. Waiting in the silence, unable to really move about, alone with my many, many thoughts did not seem appealing at all.

    “Of course!” He turned around, smiled at me, and took a see on the other end of the couch. He drew one leg up, adjusting the long cloth that had seemed before to be a skirt of some sort but was clearly split up both sides and concealed his loose, dark brown pants. He started talking almost before he hit the cushion. “So, you are nineteen, right? And never had any problems?”

    I shook my head. Talking to Vanas I had felt under pressure to relate things precisely, but Quentin put me far more at ease, and talking about it felt good. “I never knew anything about me was different until the Warden put this on me.”

    “That’s really incredible. I mean, you may not realize it but you beat some unbelievable odds. Sometimes a younger kid Releases, usually out of trauma, but once you get to be about twelve or thirteen it basically just a matter of days if it hasn’t happened yet. I wonder why…” He gave me a quizzical, almost expectant look, as though I might have an answer. “So,” he continued, “what was it like? Being summoned by the Warden, I mean. I was taken so long ago, I don’t remember it. Here in the city, your parents just give you up, I was barely a year old.”

    For him to say such a thing so easily – without any indication it bothered him – made me unreasonably sad. Quentin might never have known his mother, I realized, or any of his family. He’d been a sorcerer his entire life. What must that have been like? Probably normal to him, I supposed.

    I sighed, and looked up at the ceiling as I gathered the experience to mind. “It was… frightening, I guess? At the time I was pretty numb about it. I know that apprentices are taken young, so the thought that it might happen to me, I think just never entered my mind. Or anyone else’s. So when August knocked on the door… it was an impossible thing that had suddenly happened. All you can really do, I think, is sit and feel like you don’t know what’s real, and wonder if you ever did.” Putting it into words brought so many other things to mind.

    “August?” He raised his eyebrows in question.

    “My Warden. His name is… er, was, I guess, August.” I must have had some kind of telling look on my face. Or maybe, as I had feared, I really was marked in some way. Quentin gave me a sly look.

    “You’re on a first name basis with your Warden,” he said, matter-of-factly. “What happened between you and the Warden?”

    “What? Nothing! We just rode here. Well, I mean, there was a scar beast. But, it wasn’t...” I tried to throw up my hands in exasperation and met the resistance of the straps that held my hands down. Somehow the inability to cast off the question manually compelled me to continue to explain. “There was nothing between me and August, okay? How could there be? He just picked me up, brought me here, and then left, end of story.”

    Quentin sidled closer to me, and put his hand on my knee. He leaned close and waited for me to look him in the eye. “Look, it’s okay. The Wardens? They’re pretty much all gorgeous. They live hard lives, they’ve all seen time on the borderlands and sometimes even in the Scar, and survived. So, there’s something about them that’s just…” he sighed, “…makes you want to be alive with them. Right?”

    I blushed and looked away. He took his hand away, and leaned back. “So, you and the Warden. Well that’s a new one. I guess most of us get taken too young for it to be a consideration. You’re probably a first! Well, at least I hope.”

    I cut him a dirty look, and then studied the couch across from us. After a bit, the urge to keep talking grew too strong to resist. “It’s just… I mean I had never been with anyone before. So it was kind of, new and… something. I don’t know. He just left, you know, when we got here. I guess that’s how it always is, right?”

    Quentin shrugged. “Most of the time. Look, don’t worry about it. First times aren’t really all that special. Everything’s clumsy, and sloppy, and you cum way to fast.”

    I studied his face for a moment, suddenly wondering something that I couldn’t quite form into a real thought. “I… I didn’t ‘cum’. It would have been too dangerous.”

    “What do you mean? That’s not a problem with the interdictor on. You can’t get anyone pregnant, but you also can’t give anyone mana poisoning… wait,” he frowned, cocked his head to one side, “were you wearing it when you and the Warden…” he watched my face, which must have given it away. “He let you out. Long enough to make it with you. Or, at least, make it, what… on you?”

    I blushed furiously again and shifted uneasily in the interdictor. I was embarrassed to be found out but also… what? Angry, or lied to? August had made it seem like he wanted to be with me, but seemed adamant there was no way. Or had he? I couldn’t remember the details of our exchange before the, frankly, fun part, as clearly as I did immediately after. “I’m not really comfortable talking about it,” I said finally.

    Quentin took me at my word and backed off. He poured a glass for each of us, and offered to help me drink. I thanked him and took a sip, and then glanced at the door for perhaps the tenth time. Though he asked very personal questions, I was enjoying Quentin’s company. Still, I wondered how much longer I would have to wear this thing.

    “Well, how are you feeling now. I mean, about being here. Being gifted?”

    “Gifted?” I snorted, “Is that the proper term for it?”

    He looked at me as though I had told him warmth and good food were for the birds. “Well, yes. I mean, that’s what it is, a gift.” He considered a moment, and then nodded slightly, “I understand that it seems like this has upended your life. But, you’ve got to be a little excited. Magic is incredible. I mean, yes, it’s also dangerous, and it can do a lot of harm. But with training, with practice, you can do some things that just… defy description.” When I didn’t seem convinced enough, he smiled and accepted my apparent challenge. “Want me to show you? Nothing flashy; not inside, anyway. Just a little taste of what’s in store?”

    I had never seen magic used before. To say that I was entirely opposed to the idea would be a lie, but the thought did immediately make me nervous. Something could go wrong, or we could get caught, I thought. Though it did seem silly – surely Quentin was competent enough that it was okay for him to use magic. What else did you become a sorcerer for? “I guess, sure.”

    What I expected was some illusion, or maybe some sparks. Or something. I can’t say for certain what it was that I imagined when he asked me, but among the many things that briefly came to mind, what he did was not among them.

    Quentin gave me a wickedly mischievous look. His body language changed dramatically as he leaned forward and rested one hand on my knee. He leaned in close to my ear as his hand ran up my thigh slowly. I was frozen in a combination of expectation and fear, and could barely breathe. “Just relax, and keep quiet,” he whispered.

    I felt, at first, something warm. My initial, ludicrous thought was that I had soiled myself, but the warmth grew, and then seemed to be coming from somewhere inside. It moved between my hips, and then settled somewhere between them and inside. I felt it expand, begin to vibrate…

    And then pleasure like I had never known or imagined before blossomed in me. I had cum before, and I knew the nature of the feeling. This was the peak of that feeling from nowhere, sustained. I don’t know if I made any sound, but I must have, because the next moment Quentin’s hand was over my mouth. For some reason I found myself trying to chew at his fingers. My body shuddered, I wasn’t sure if I was erect or not, but it simply didn’t matter. There was no room in my mind for shame, or shyness, or anything but the unceasing, fiery orgasm that was enveloping me with no end in sight.

    It stopped as suddenly as it had begun, and I gasped, and turned to Quentin with tears in my eyes. My abdomen was sore, and I realized I had been rigidly flexing everything in my body and hadn’t even breathed while the pleasure consumed me. I started to speak, and the feeling took me again.

    This time I was looking at Quentin, saw his expression and his eyes as he watched me. They were fascinated, it seemed, as though he were studying me. They were also full of some kind of affection. He smiled down at me as I slowly sank down. My hips thrust towards nothing, simply out of reflex, and I started to moan in ecstasy, to give myself over to it, but Quentin’s hand was on my mouth again and the feeling subsided.

    He held a finger to his lips, “You have to be quiet, Simon. This is just a little bit… well, not wrong precisely, but frowned upon under the circumstances.”

    I tried to reach for him and was caught, again, but the restraints. I became frustrated and tried to sit up again. Quentin helped me, and then moved quietly to the door. He opened it, looked out, then stepped out for a moment. When he returned, he closed the door behind him and locked it. Then he moved to the other door, and locked it as well. He came back to the couch but didn’t sit down. “The council will likely be discussing your situation for a little while. I…” he smiled in such a way that I realized this probably passed for bashful for him, “…I want to tell you that I think you are simply adorable, Simon. And it’s a shame that you gave August something without getting anything back.” He bit his lip a little, and then glanced again towards the door. I mirrored his movement, the same concern likely in my mind as well.

    “If you’ll trust me, I’d like to give you something. Consider it a… welcome home gift.”

    I nodded, not a thought in my mind. At the moment, all I could do was think about that feeling Quentin had given me. Though I vaguely understood him, the words he said didn’t really mean anything in context to one another. All I knew was that anything Quentin wanted to give me, I wanted to receive it.

    Quentin extended a hand towards the ground. His eyes moved to the walls, and the ceiling and then he slowly closed his fingers into a fist, eyes closed and muttered something I couldn’t quite here. However, there was suddenly a distinct absence of sound from outside the room. More magic, I thought, but was very quickly distracted by my wandering mind and my suddenly keen excitement. He then extended a hand towards me, turned it over, and raised it up. The air around me seemed to thicken and press in around me, and I was lifted into the air by something invisible. There was a day when this would have sent me into a blind panic. This particular day, I was merely amazed, and hopeful that something very, very good was about to happen.

    Quentin approached, carefully unlaced my trousers, and then drew them along with my underclothes down to my hanging ankles. I remained suspended and restrained, but didn’t feel the weight of my legs hanging from my hips. All of me was supported with whatever magic Quentin had summoned.

    He walked around me slowly, touching my legs, my buttocks, and my very hard member. He weighed my jewels, squeezed them slightly, and then leaned in and inhaled deeply. His face so close to my aching sex sent electric shivers up my spine. “No one can hear us at the moment,” he said, “and I will have some advanced warning if someone approaches the room. Tricks of the trade that you’ll hopefully learn soon.” He stopped in front of me after a second circuit. “So feel free to make any noise that strikes you.”

    He did something again, but it wasn’t the same as before. This time it was fleeting and less focused in one place. Electric currents tingled over my skin and lingered where he touched me. He caressed my thighs, drew his fingers around my hips and down over my buttocks, and then back down to the very backs of my knees. Where his fingers touched me, tingles spread out over my skin.

    He leaned forward and kissed the very head of my cock, his tongue flickering out from between his lips. The warmth and moisture of it brought a gasp from my throat, and I pushed forward to silently beg for more of it. I didn’t receive it, but Quentin spoke a word quietly, and touched his fingers to the spot just behind my sac, very near the opening in the rear of me. Something just inside me pulsed, and a pressure built slowly under his fingers. My balls roiled and withdrew, and the pressure continued to build and work its way up my quivering rod until it reached the head. I felt the onset of my full, but it never arrived. Instead I hung there motionless, gasping for air, thrusting pitifully into nothing with my hips and helplessly, desperately longing to cum.

    Quentin’s other hand touched my cock, stroked it gently, the way one might stroke a pet. The feel of it seemed like it would put me over this agonizing edge but only intensified the feeling.

    I became aware of the noise I was making, my throat constricting and releasing in short gasps and groans. I was nearly hoarse, my mouth dry and my throat aching. The feeling of being there before the brink of some final ecstatic void had become almost existentially painful, and Quentin’s questing fingers trailed across my stomach, wound through the tuft of hair at the base of my cock, and then over my thigh again. I thrust continuously now, my back arched in some primal effort to release my seed. There was no amount of moving that was going to accomplish this though, and the flavor of the frustration I felt was unlike any emotion that had been within me before. The urgency that I had felt for the rush to the peak of it in the past was magnified a hundred fold and all that I wanted was to be let go to fall into the depths of that final climax.

    “What was that, Simon?” Quentin asked. His voice was near my ear, though I knew him to be there before me, as I could feel his hands both there at the apex of this feeling he was giving me and on the crown of my rod where his moistened palm rubbed slow circles around me.

    I had spoken without realizing it. “Please, please,” I begged him, shamelessly, “I want to cum. Please let me cum, Quentin! I can’t take… I can’t take anymore… oh Gods,” I was sobbing now, my desperation felt throughout every bit of me. My heart pounded in my chest. My stomach and hips ached from the effort of thrusting. All of the discomfort, though, was colored in the beautiful light of the Almost There. “Please, please, please, please….” I chanted the word now. I struggled against my bonds thoughtlessly. There were no thoughts in my mind, not of the past, or where I was, or August, or my family, or anything at all. All that existed was this feeling.

    Quentin made a pleased noise, and then I felt warm wet bliss envelope me from the tip to the very base. The sensation was acute and crystal clear, and every moist bump on his tongue stood out as a sharp and shining pinpoint of white hot pleasure. The pressure built up within me, and I could feel the vibration of it pulsing in time to his ministrations as he sucked and licked me in a slow and even rhythm. As he took me down unto the perfect beauty of his mouth, I felt his fingers near my anus move, and without any warning, I exploded forth.

    I couldn’t see anything, my vision simply winked out of existence. I didn’t hear anything. None of my senses gave me any information except those that told me I was emptying out my very soul through the whole length of my aching and glorious cock, and there Quentin’s mouth was, drawing it from me in an unceasing current. I felt his tongue on the belly of my beast, felt his lips tighten around the base of me, sensed the suction of him as he drew up and suckled from me every bit of the fluid that I knew had come from me.

    My body shook. I couldn’t speak, could barely make a sound. My throat ached, my mouth was parched. I felt my body change position, and felt myself laying on something, but couldn’t identify what it was and didn’t care. I tried to reach down and touch myself, but something prevented my hands from getting there. Waves of pleasure continued to resonate through me as the dark came for me and swallowed me up into a dreamless sleep.

  12. #12
    Virgin
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    Oct 2012
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    Code of Conduct

    Re: The Red Cabal

    (And now, a lecture in sorcery. And some other stuff. )
    (I hope that others are enjoying these chapters as much as I am. Having put the project down for over a year, I am rediscovering some of it now and getting through this, and the last, whole chapter without... interruptions... was tough.)


    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 6

    When I awoke, I was alone and made of pain.

    What had happened to me seemed now like a very pleasant dream. The fact that it had actually happened – and judging from the extent and location of much of my aching, I knew that it had not, in fact, been a dream – was also a bit frightening. I couldn’t say for certain that I craved a man’s touch, or to touch another man. I suppose I enjoyed it, and perhaps at this point it would be my only recourse in the future; but it wasn’t something I was ready to commit myself to.

    However, what Quentin had done to me he had done without my permission. I couldn’t honestly say I didn’t enjoy his demonstration – I had done so. It was just that in doing it he had overthrown my will so entirely that he didn’t have to ask permission, and I had been so enthralled by the feeling of it that I had no choice in the matter. No one would have. There may not have been any pain, no real forcing of anything, but I had been none the less entirely under his power and deep inside I knew both that at any time he could take control again if he chose to… and that a part of me very much wanted him to make that choice.

    Deep beneath the part of my that thought thoughts and reasoned things out, some bit of me craved to be a slave to his power.

    I shivered, and through an effort got myself sitting up. The lighting hadn’t changed, and I didn’t have a window to the outside world, so I didn’t know how long I had been out. My head was still swimming a little and it was an effort to organize my thoughts. I looked around for some sign of the passage of time, but could find none, and so instead simply sat with my thoughts and waited.

    Perhaps a few minutes, or perhaps an hour, later the door through which Vanas he left and Quentin had entered opened again, and Quentin stepped through. “Ah, you’re awake! Wonderful. I suppose you were quite… exhausted after your ordeal.” He smiled wickedly, and brushed my cheek with his fingers when he was close enough to reach me. “It was something, wasn’t it?”

    I nodded, bit my lip, and roused my words. “Quentin, that was, absolutely… amazing. I can’t say that it wasn’t. But I think you shouldn’t do that to me again.”

    Quentin raised a quizzical eyebrow, and sat down next to me. “Oh, Simon…” his tone was apologetic, but, something else as well. “If I wanted to, you wouldn’t stop me. Even now, you want it again. Am I wrong?”

    I gaped at his openness about it. He knew full well the difference between our ability, my restraint notwithstanding, and seemed to be indicating that my will didn’t matter on this subject. I sputtered for a moment with sheer indignation. “Look, that may be, and you may be more powerful than me and maybe you know more than I do; but that doesn’t give you a right-“

    My cock exploded with a blinding surge of pleasure. I came, hard, into my underclothes as I gasped for breath and writhed on the couch. Quentin smiled down at me as it subsided. “You were saying…?”

    “Quentin, stop… please-” Another sledgehammer of ecstasy, and I came, again, my cock pulsing and twitching and gushing into my underclothes again. I could feel the wetness spreading. My heart pounded in my chest and I could barely breath. Sucking in air, I tried to right myself, to stand up but only managed to tumble helplessly to the floor.

    “You’ll learn this eventually, young Apprentice: here, we learn first to obey and to serve; and then if we survive, we become the masters of the next generation of whelps. In the White, you’d be mending broken arms and cleaning instruments. In the black you’d be copying old musty tomes or categorizing scrolls or some such. The green would have you polishing arms and armor, or fusing alloys all day in the heat. The Eye… well I’m not sure what they do, the lot of them are insane from seeing too much, I think.” He put a foot on my hip as I tried to stand, and pushed me onto my back. I tried to sit up, but was stricken again by his power, and this time my ejaculation was painful along with brilliantly wonderful. I thrust my hips forward, sobbed shamelessly from the pain, the pleasure, the helplessness. I looked up at Quentin through my tears. “Fortunately for you, you’ve been taken by the Red. And you’ll be serving me personally for quite some time! Master Vanas is quite taken with you, but has two other young apprentices to master. You’re to be my first, and I have so, so much to teach you.”

    I shook on the floor, unable to move, all I could do was let the tears flow and mewl pitifully, trying without any hope at all to reach my sore and throbbing privates. My balls ached and felt swollen, and my erection wouldn’t subside and had become so painful I felt there must be damage. I heard his words, felt them sink in, and fought against the feeling of excitement that tried to overtake my mind. It wasn’t right that he should be able to do this to me. I felt the wetness in my underclothes growing cold, and felt embarrassed and dirty, as though I had soiled myself.

    “So, my apprentice! What say you? Are you prepared to serve well?” Quentin’s slippered foot found my painfully hardened cock and pressed down upon it only a little. The pain was excruciating.

    “Stop it, Quentin,” I begged, “Please, please stop, it’s not fair! Please… please…” I begged through my tears, and he gave me a pitying look.

    I came again, and screamed until my throat was hoarse. As I lost the voice to do so any longer, Quentin’s voice drifted to me almost musically. “Ah, I didn’t hear that clearly, Apprentice. What did you say?”

    My hips fell back to the ground, my body spent. I could barely see, couldn’t move. My limbs were heavy with exhaustion and pain. My heart pounded and was on the verge of bursting I knew. Everything ached so acutely that my world was made of pain. “Yes,” I managed to mutter raggedly, “yes, Master. I can serve. I can serve. I can serve.” My mind was empty of all other thoughts. I repeated it like a mantra, over and over again, silently hoping and fearing that he would touch me with his power one more time.

    “Wonderful!” He exclaimed, as though I had made the decision on my own and he was overjoyed that I had agreed with his plan. “Well, first thing’s first – let’s get you cleaned up, shall we? It’s a long road ahead.”

    I wasn’t sure what he meant by it, and I couldn’t piece together coherent thoughts, but I accepted his help standing up. To my slight surprise, he wrapped one arm around me and under my opposite shoulder to help me walk. I needed it, my legs could barely support me.

    We left the room, walked down an impossibly long hallway, and entered another room that was clearly a bedroom. He took me to the bed and helped me sit down.

    “Now,” he said, some sternness in his voice, “Let’s get this off, shall we?” He went about unhitching the straps and locks that held the interdictor in place, and finally lifted it off of my shoulders. The ache in my body was slightly relieved by this, but my upper body was stiff. I felt the hum of my magic return and took some comfort in its presence. “You must be in quite a lot of pain. Come here, we’ll get you a bath and see what can be done about it.”

    At his direction I stood up, and he unclothed me with little ceremony, and then appraised my naked body. “Oh my, yes. You poor thing, look how swollen you are.” There was genuine sympathy in his voice and it confused me. It was he that had done it, but I bit back the words for fear of reprisal, and instead only looked down to see myself.

    My erection hadn’t subsided in the slightest, and the whole of it was red and throbbing. My jewels were as swollen as they felt and were and angry red and purple all over. The vein along the back of my member which had never been very distinct before was now pulsing visibly, and as blue and winding as a river must seem from the sky. The head was glistening with wetness still and was bruised, it seemed. Being out of my trousers was some relief, but the pain was still great, and I began to cry for fear that it had been damaged somehow.

    Quentin shushed me, and then drew me to him and wrapped his arms around me. “Oh, come now, my dear apprentice. Hush, hush, it will be okay. Come to the bath,” he turned and began to strip his own clothing off, laying it on the dresser near the door to the lavatory. He stripped down until he was naked, revealing his body to be quite beautiful. It was lithe and well proportioned, and besides the hair on his arms and legs he was smooth all over. He had a body that might have been developed from a lifestyle of eating well and little time idle, but not from any kind of hard work. I could see the curves of his muscles but thought that I probably had a bit more on me.

    I followed him obediently, but before he drew the water he opened a dark wooden box that lay on the counter and drew out a metal ring just a few inches wide. It was the same shiny slate gray of the metal on the interdictor, with the same flowing golden filigree etching as well. He touched it and I sensed the faintest response in my magic, just a whisper of something. The ring popped open, revealing and impossibly fine hinge.

    He came towards me with it. “This,” he explained, “will work in a similar fashion to the interdictor. Until I can train you to master your power entirely, you will wear it. It won’t suppress your magic, don’t worry, but it will help me to monitor your power. You won’t be able to actually release any kind of magic intentionally or involuntarily without my assistance.”

    I considered protesting, but didn’t have the will to do so and so stood mutely as he gently lifted my painfully sensitive cock and bruised testicles, and closed the ring around the base of them both. Immediately the blood flowing into my cock was unable to leave and it began to pulsate in time to my heartbeat, each throb another painful lashing. I started to bend over reflexively to alleviate the feeling, but Quentin stood me up, kissed me on my cheek, and then lightly on my lips, and lowered his hand to my waist.

    I felt his cool fingers stroke the underside of me so lightly that I could barely tell that I was actually being touched. My magic reacted to something again, this time more distinct, and a cool feeling spread through my sore member and his companions, cutting the pain. I looked down and saw the redness fading to its normal tone. Before my eyes, the swelling in my boys subsided and the red and purple bruising flushed away. The blood also receded from it, and it began to soften. I sighed with relief and watched until it was entirely flaccid and resting sleepily on the pillow of my full sac.

    “Thank you,” I said quietly to Quentin. “It feels much better now.” I was genuinely grateful for his caring treatment. I also cursed myself inwardly for feeling a sudden flicker of affection for him. I would do as I was told, and I would learn, and I would endure because I had no choice but to do so. But I refused to like this man in the slightest, and silently vowed that I would show him my power one day, when it was finally mine.

    Quentin led me to the edge of the bath, and turned one of two metal bars. Water came gushing out from a pipe between them, already steaming. I marveled at it. Vaguely I remembered hearing about this before, but I hadn’t seen it for myself. I had always had to haul water in order to take a bath, or simply bathe in the river. This was an absurdly convenient alternative. When the water had filled the tub to a few inches below the rim, Quentin helped me in and directed me to lie against one of the two sloped walls. I did so, gingerly slipping into the hot water and allowing my body to adjust to the heat as I did.

    Quentin followed me, and I couldn’t help but watch him as he did. It was the first time I had actually looked at the front of him, and I saw that he was quite beautifully hung as well. It wasn’t that it was large, though it was perhaps my size. The skin was simply a creamy, slightly tanned shade and was smooth. He had been cut, but instead of the ring of discolored skin that I had his was uniform to the end, where the skin gathered into delicate little folds and wrinkled around a head that was slightly narrower at the tip than at the flaring ridge beneath. He seemed to have groomed the hair there as well, as it was not as copious as it perhaps should have been naturally, and there was no hair at all on the sac beneath his cock.

    It sank out of sight and I followed it down into the water with my eyes, imagining that one day I would have the power to make his cock red and swollen with soreness. I would make him cum again and again no matter how he begged, until blood ran from the end of it.

    Though he noticed some expression on my face, it was not apparently telling enough to betray my thoughts. “I’ll teach you to take care of it later on. It’s a, well, extra-curricular skillset. But I suppose you have held one besides your own before, yes? For your Warden?”

    I nodded. “Not for very long, though.”

    “Well, you must have a natural talent then. Or it had been a while for the Warden, one or the other. Maybe he liked the idea of unloading himself onto a virgin.” Quentin smiled and I suspected from the shape of it that this was something that he himself enjoyed.

    I shook my head though, “He didn’t unload on me. It went into my mouth.” The memory flooded back to me, and I could taste him again in my mind. There had been so much, that as I lay awake that night I tasted him until I fell asleep.

    “Oh? I see. How did it feel?” He gathered up a sponge and poured a pearlescent liquid onto it from a small pitcher, and massaged the sponge until white foam began to appear, and then lifted one of my legs from the water and began to wash me.

    “I don’t know. Good. At first I was a little startled, I wasn’t going to drink it. But August held me down and made me. After the first few, ah, sips, I started to like it.”

    “I am very glad to hear that, but it isn’t what I meant. I mean inside. What did it make you feel, down deep. Happy, angry, heavy, light?” He cleaned between my toes.

    I considered this, and remembered the feeling afterwards, of being full of joy and warmth. “I felt sort of full of life, I think. I felt warm inside, and my heart was at ease and I just wanted to lay there and be happy forever.”

    Quentin nodded, “What you felt is the acquisition of a bit of his Rin. A kind of essential energy.”

    I frowned, and watched him for a moment. He seemed so concentrated on what he was doing, as though cleaning me was a task worthy of great concentration. “What does that mean?”

    Rin is a kind of basic substrate of life. Everything has it to some extent, but people especially, and men more so than women. The ability to have magic, the presence of a special channel, comes from the part of the father because it is the Rin that is used to build that channel. For the male, the Rin is in the seed. For women it is in a different place.” He stood, and indicated that I should as well.

    He went on as he washed my back. “You can’t acquire more Rin than you were born with permanently, but you can borrow it for a little while. It breaks down in the body fairly quickly. What you felt was more alive, because for the moment you had more Rin. Were you in control of your power, and knew what it meant, you would have found that while it was still present you were able to channel more mana.”

    I considered this, but it didn’t have any real context for me. I stayed quiet as he washed my back and buttocks, and flinched but didn’t pull away when I felt his slick fingers brush my anus and wash me there as well. I felt a brief thrill at the touch but immediately felt the urge to clench and close myself off. Quentin chuckled behind me, and then turned me around to wash my arms and chest.

    “How do you channel mana?” I asked. I thought I was using the word correctly, but so far my only experience had been something that didn’t feel like channeling anything – more like plucking a string.

    “Oh, I’ll show you very soon. However, I understand that you’ve had an experience already, trying to heal the dear Warden. Master Vanas said that you ‘plucked the lute string inside of you’, is that accurate?” He squeezed foamy soap from the sponge into his hand and began to very gently wash my flaccid meat and everything around it. It was very pleasant, and I had to concentrate to answer his question.

    “Yes. I didn’t know how else to put it. Was that channeling?”

    “No, it wasn’t. That was something else. In fact, it’s the reason we took you instead of the white. You have what is called a flexible channel. You can move it around although it will always go back to where it is supposed to be. For most people it isn’t like that, but it’s a prerequisite for the red.” He took more time than seemed necessary to finish washing my privates, and then handed me the sponge. He poured a little more of the liquid soap from the pitcher onto it, and then turned away from me, presenting his back.

    I took the wordless command and imitated his actions, massaging the soap into a foamy lather before beginning the work of washing his back. “What does it mean?”

    “Well for one it means there are certain things you will be able to learn that others can’t. It also means you are less at risk for release because, well, you could say that the walls that contain your power are flexible enough that they stretch instead of fracture when there is pressure on them. With training, you’ll have a great capacity for power. There is a limit to how much mana some sorcerers are ultimately able to channel. For those of us with a flexible channel, that limit is significantly higher. In fact, the only real limit to it is your ability to withstand the mana.”

    “So the vibration that I feel, is that the mana?” I scrubbed his buttocks, and then knelt to wash the backs of his legs.

    Quention turned slightly, and rested the fingers of one hand on the split of his cheeks. “Here, too. Don’t worry, it doesn’t bite.”

    I blushed, and then squeezed some of the foam onto my hand, realizing that this was not the only task I was expected to imitate. I slid my fingers between his cheeks and lightly rubbed the opening there. It was very soft, it felt, and had a somewhat rubbery resistance to it that felt it would easily give way to penetration. I resisted the urge to push my finger into it.

    “To answer your question; yes. The vibration is the mana. The thing that is vibrating is the channel. When there is very little mana, or it has been restricted in some way, the channel will be quiet. When there is more, the channel will be very loud. If you take too much too fast, the vibration will shatter the channel in most cases. With yours, you will likely be unable to bear the vibration before that happens. Part of the training that I can give you is to learn to withstand it; to control yourself in general. This is our specialty, you could say.”

    I had finished with his legs by the time his explanation was completed, and he turned around before I stood up, presenting me with a now rigid and standing cock. The head of it was quite pink, I realized, and it was slender compared to mine. I stood, and he did nothing to stop me, but presented an arm which I began to wash obediently. I tried to think of another question, as I found that I very much wanted to learn more, but wasn’t sure where to begin. “What did I do then, when I pulled at my channel? I mean that… well it seemed that August’s wound healed faster than it should have, and I didn’t know whether that was something I had done or not.”

    “Ah, yes. Resonance induction.” He presented the other arm. “It may be a bit beyond you at the moment, but what you accomplished was to set up a kind of reciprocal arrangement between your own channel and the, shall we say, your ideal of what the Warden was. His essential structure, that is. Everything has a form and a function. You had in mind, I suspect, some imago – that is, an idealized image – of the Warden in good health. You applied that imago to the vibration of your channel, and through sympathy caused his form to resonate at a similar rate. Therefore the function followed suit and tried to fulfill the new ideal as imposed by your sympathetic vibration.”

    I finished this arm and began washing his chest. The words didn’t make sense to me, and had done more to confuse me than to explain anything.

    Quentin chuckled at my silence. “Don’t worry, apprentice. You’ll understand later on. We’ll build one block at a time until you are a fortress of knowledge. Now, one last bit left…” I had paused after scrubbing his stomach. His cock was still at attention, rigid and bouncing slightly with his pulse.

    I squeezed some of the foam into my hand, and let the sponge fall into the water. I did very much want to touch him, but not because it was him. Thus far I had handled only my own, and August’s; and his I had very much enjoyed exploring. I was more relaxed with Quentin now that he wasn’t torturing me, but I didn’t particularly like him just because he wasn’t forcing his will onto me at the moment. Still, he had a quite beautiful rod and I was excited at the idea of being allowed to experience another.

    I took it into my hands and spread the foam over it, gently washing all of it and then doing the same for his acorn sized testicles. They were smaller than mine, but still a handful. The smoothness of his sac was a novelty – mine was not as thickly covered as August’s had been, but certainly that of a grown man. Quentin’s slipped smoothly through my fingers as I washed him. He made a throaty, pleased sound, and I looked up to see that he had closed his eyes and was smiling slightly. Briefly I considered a truly barbaric violence, but it washed away as I considered the likely terrible repercussions.

    Though he hadn’t asked it of me, I began to stroke him slowly, letting my hand glide up and over the head as I had done for August. Quentin made another pleased sound, and I felt him jump in my hand. The motion made me smile involuntarily, and I experimented with different degrees of pressure, alternating between squeezing on the upstroke and sliding on the downstroke, then reversing so that I had to force the head of his cock through my fist on the downstroke. He seemed pleased, and he rested a hand on my shoulder, the other on my head as I plied my curiosity on him.

    After a moment more of this, he leaned down to retrieve the sponge, and rinsed himself off. I began to stand as well, thinking that this was an indication that our bath was completed, but he stopped me with a hand on my head and then pointed simply towards the ground. I knelt and looked up at him for instruction.

    He smiled, and brushed my lips with his fingers. “I’d like you to take some of my Rin, apprentice. I think you know the way to retrieve it, yes?”

    I nodded, looking up at him, into his marvelous green eyes, and then examined his cock with a new curiosity. I licked my lips, took the shaft of him in one hand, and then leaned forward and suckled at the head. It was smooth, but produced no fluid as yet. I felt something stir around the head of my own cock, and withdrew, looking down in puzzlement.

    “It will help you better to learn,” Quentin said. “Go on.”

    I did, and attended the sensation as I placed the head of his cock back into my mouth and massaged it gently with my tongue. At the same time, I felt a warm and wonderful pleasure at the head of my own member, which was itself becoming quickly engorged. Whatever I did to Quentin, I reasoned, I would feel myself. I let this inform me of the efficacy of my work as I took more of him in, and explored with my tongue.

    I sucked gently, and felt the pressure around my rod respond in kind. I felt my own tongue caress the soft skin along the belly of my own shaft, and finally felt the tip of my cock pressing into the back of my mouth. The line between which of us I had in my mouth was becoming fuzzy.

    I gripped tightly and drew skin up with me as I withdrew him from my mouth, and suckled at the gathered skin, nibbling lightly with my teeth. I didn’t care for this sensation, and moved on to try other things. I sucked hard on the head of it, twisted my hand to and fro as I rose and fell on it, slipped the tip of my tongue into the opening at the very top. At each new trial I discovered what felt good and what was merely distracting. I found a steady pace and a technique that I very much enjoyed, my head rising and falling, the soft skin of his cock gliding over my tongue, my hand not gripping the skin but sliding over it and twisting just slightly as the head of him left my mouth before reversing the motion and descending again.

    Quentin was rewarding me with a series of gasps, moan, and long sighs. Both hand had tangled in my hair, and while he was not pressing my hard, he guided me to control my speed, holding my to a tempo he enjoyed most. It was a stimulating pace, and I felt myself reaching close to the edge of coming.

    I kept this pace for some time, and my jaw began to show signs of failing. I enjoyed myself, and it seemed to me that although I was close to my threshold, perhaps Quentin was not – the result then being that while I was nearly on the verge of spilling my seed, he was some time away yet.

    At last, however, his hands gripped me a bit tighter, his body became slightly more rigid, and his hips began to thrust slowly in time with my work. “Yes, yes… keep going, apprentice… you are doing so very well…” His voice was smoother than it had been, and was weighted with lust and approval. His words spurned me to focus my efforts more, and I sensed that he was soon to give me his seed.

    “Ahhhh,” he sighed, and I felt him harden more, felt the tip of him swell to bursting. My hand had taken hold of his jewels, and I held on to them as they tried to ascend. “Yes, keep going… you’re such a good boy… good boy… I’m going to cum very soon now. Drink it all down, my apprentice, don’t miss a drop… good boy… sweet boy… I’m coming now!
    And he did; his rod spasming in my mouth as he said it. I leaned in, took it down into the back of my mouth, and sucked hungrily at him until the gushing subsided. I continued to suck as though he had not yet poured out his seed to me, and although no more fluid left him his cock continued to spasm periodically.

    At the same time, my own orgasm was unleashed, and I moaned around him as I emptied whatever fluid I had managed to collect in the last hour into the warm water. I reached down and stroked myself squeezing all of it out of me and then running my fist lightly over my hardness and reveling in the sensation of the warm water around my sensitive cock.

    The warm feeling flooded me, but was accompanied by something else as well. Something that buzzed around my chest and then my abdomen. For a moment it made me nauseous and I feared I would lose my stomach, until finally it settled and seemed to fade down into me. I looked up at Quentin, who’s green eyes now looked on me with a startling affection. Looking at him, feeling his gaze upon me I felt… perhaps loved, is the right word, but there was something else in it I couldn’t define. I sense of pride and appreciation filled me, and I found myself leaned forward to embrace him, pressing my cheek to his stomach.

    He patted me on the head, and then ran his fingers through my hair. “Yes, you are a wonderful apprentice. A very, very good boy. You did such a good job, Simon. Good boy.” I realized what I had seen in his eyes as he spoke, and it complicated my feelings. I didn’t dislike it, but that was the problem. Under his tender hand, I realized he had looked at me like a pet that had done a trick and what was worse – I glowed under the approval and desperately wanted to please him more. I cried quietly, but couldn't tell the difference between tears of loss... or tears of joy.

  13. #13
    JUB Addict Craiger's Avatar
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    Re: The Red Cabal

    I'm going to get you, VagrantSong. I just finished Chapter 5 and it is well past midnight and I have to leave Chapter 6 until tomorrow. Rather, Today....... I couldn't stop reading 5 and now I am so worked up I don't know if I will sleep. I think I want to find out if I have magic. If it can happen at nineteen for Simon, it can happen now for me.....................

    Craiger

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    JUB Addict Craiger's Avatar
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    Re: The Red Cabal

    VibrantSong, I couldn't let the afternoon pass without finishing Chapter 6. I feel the struggle Simon has with Quentin and that fine line between love and hate. He may still have a twinge of desired revenge, however over time this may pass and the two will become closer. Even more so that Master and Apprentice, but, I am sure there will be many ups and downs.

    Your writing truly helps in visualizing not only the events that happen, but the setting in which they happen. I felt myself drawn into a bath and could feel the warmth and caressing of each man. After finishing this chapter I may need a bath myself..... Waiting for the beginning of Simon's tutoring. (And more of the erotic experiences.)

    Craiger

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    ((I've found some minor errors in the above chapters and have tried to be more careful with my editing, but I am rewriting bits as I go as well and am not very good at the editing part. Consider these to be revision 2, but probably a third will be necessary later on. if any of you are grammar or spelling nazis and I have offended your sensibilities, please point it out to me.))
    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 7

    I slept in a small guest bed that slid out from beneath Quentin’s larger one. My exhaustion carried me through the night, and did not wake until breakfast was brought for us.

    I was instructed to serve Quentin first, and he directed me through a short ritual whereby the tea was prepared and set out in just such a way, and the plate and utensils were arranged just so. It took time and patience, but I was rewarded with a pleasurable brush of his power for executing the ritual properly the first time.

    I was surprised to find that we would not actually be staying at the charter house. Apparently, all of the Red apprentices were trained in Osland, further north. Arrangements were made, and I was given a garment to wear, one similar to Quentin’s but less elaborate. They were nonetheless the finest clothes I had ever worn, consisting of a thick red knee length tunic made of fine wool, dark brown trousers and black boots. I was given an overcoat as well.

    I examined the ring around my cock and balls more closely as I dressed – as closely as I could, at least. Though it didn’t seem to be terribly snug, it resisted any effort to remove it. I didn’t try terribly hard, but just a little test seemed to demonstrate that it was affixed to its position by some arcane force and not simply by virtue of its location. It was smooth, and although I saw the hinge when Quentin had opened it I could not find any seam with my fingers.

    I was of course aware of my magic, which was an oddly comforting thought. The more I explored it, the more attached to the feeling I became. Though I might not have known it all the time, its presence had been a constant companion in life and one of the small consistencies amid the many changes of the last week.

    In short order, Quentin retrieved me from our suite, and instructed that I should be silent unless spoken to at all times when we were not alone. This was true as a rule for all apprentices as a matter of tradition and training. We would be making one stop, I was informed, on our way to Osland; the Fraternity of the Blades in Vandholme.

    I wanted to ask about this, but we were joined by Master Vanas and two others in similar outfits to mine. One of them was a sandy blonde haired man with a neatly groomed beard, the other was a boy just on the verge of manhood. It was possible he was at least my age or a year younger, but he could have been as young as fourteen or fifteen. I immediately had more questions, but held my tongue and only acknowledged them with the same polite nod that they saluted me with.

    Vanas and Quentin discussed the travel plans, and revealed that we would be met in Vandholme by two others, one of whom was bringing in a new apprentice, while the other had only just raised theirs to something called ‘adeptus’. I took this to be a kind of rank just above an apprentice.

    When we boarded a large coach, two other men were there waiting for us. Quentin introduced one of them – a man slightly taller than me, well muscled and tan. His hair was trimmed to a short, practical length and his eyes, I noted, were nearly violet. He was also armed to the teeth, as was the other man, bristling with two swords, a variety of long and short knives, and several other accessories that I didn’t recognize. “Apprentice, this is Galen. He is my Blade. While my word supersedes his in all matters concerning your education, you are to treat his words as my own when they are not in conflict.” This statement brooked no question as to whether I would understand my instructions and I smiled politely at Galen in greeting. He did not return the gesture in kind, but nodded grimly instead.

    The coach took us through the city and to the docks, where we boarded a small vessel that seemed not much more than a raft compared to the great manaships that towered over us. Once our things were loaded by the crewmen, we settled in below decks.

    Our room was small and bare; nothing more than a small bed, a square table and two chairs, all of which were bolted securely to the floor. There was a chest as well, into which Quentin’s belongings had be placed – I myself had nothing now but the clothes that I wore.

    Once alone, I hazarded a question not entirely sure whether there was a protocol to observe while we were alone. “August – ah, my Warden – told me a little about the Blades. There is a blade for every sorcerer, is that right?”

    Quentin nodded in answer, and shucked the uppermost layer of his clothing, folding it neatly and placing it in the chest before explaining. “That is the way of it, apprentice.” He sat in one of the chairs, and waved a hand at the other. I sat there, and tried to become comfortable in some position on the hard surface. Quentin continued, “Since the day of Demise, when the old powers were stricken down in the conflict that gave birth to the scar and its native denizens, every sorcerer has been bound to a blade. Do you know the reason why?”

    I started to shake my head, but Quentin raised an eyebrow expectantly. So I considered his words, and tried to piece together an idea from what I had observed. “Well… Galen was well armed, so his role must be martial in some way. And, I suppose I haven’t seen weapons on any sorcerers so far; but then again I have heard that magic can be destructive so I guess a sorcerer isn’t really unarmed just because he doesn’t have a weapon you can see. Do the blades protect the sorcerers?”

    He nodded slowly, but continued to wait.

    “Can I ask a question, Quen- ah, Master? I think it will help me figure out the answer.” Quentin gave his permission with a nod. “The Scar; I know that it was the conflict with the old powers that created it. But I don’t know what the old powers were. We only ever learn of them by name, but I never learned more than that; once I was old enough to work I only learned the things I needed to know to work the fields and sometimes help out in other ways. So, what were the old powers?”

    Quentin sat back, and looked distant for a moment. “A little over five hundred years ago, magic was tame. By this I mean that it wasn’t harmful in and of itself. There were many sorcerers, and it is said that women wielded magic as well. Some of them, the most powerful among the sorcerers of that age, seized control of the nations in an agreement that together they would rule everyone.

    “As is often the way of it when men grasp for power, they ultimately fell to war. They assembled great armies, and for a very long time drove the world into darkness. A group of sorcerers and witches came together to bring their collective tyranny to an end, and met them for a final battle in the place we know now as the Scar.

    “These sorcerers, the old powers, had amassed a power inconceivable today and they came with their great armies, which were not only plain soldiers of leather and steel but of magic as well. That this small collection of magic users could defeat such collective might was unthinkable. Instead, they unleashed their power into the land itself, which rose up and swallowed the old powers and their armies. The whole world is said to have shaken with the upheaval, and indeed histories from the other side of the world record the great disasters that followed in its wake.

    “Afterwards, magic was no longer tame as it had been. It was driven wild by the devastation and, some of us believe, by the sudden outpouring of the corrupted powers of the tyrannical sorcerers who died that day, and the twisted magic they had wrought on their soldiers and beasts.”

    He tilted his head to one side slightly, examining my face. “Does this enlighten you, apprentice?”

    It had. I imagined being there in the aftermath, seeing the devastation of whole nations, and knowing that it was all due to these people with their great power. I would want to know that such a thing could never happen again. “Master, do the Blades watch the sorcerers? I mean, for some sign that something like that could happen again?”

    Quentin smiled grimly. “That is so, apprentice. Each sorcerer, upon his ascent to adeptus, is bound to a Blade, who thereafter is indeed a kind of guardian and ally – but also a watchful judge. Should the sorcerer lose control of his power, or should he tread a dangerous path to ever greater power, we say that he should fall upon his own Blade. It is our punishment, but it is self-imposed.”

    The more I learned of what it meant to be a sorcerer, the more I was frightened to become one. I thought about Quentin’s admonition that my magic was a gift, and didn’t see how he could believe such a thing. But there was something missing to the equation. “But Master, how can a man without any magic be expected to undertake such a task? Wouldn’t a sorcerer who wanted to take power just kill his Blade with magic?”

    “In their great wisdom, the first council of the Great Cabal considered such a thing,” his sarcasm was only slight. “In the process of bonding, the Blade is made untouchable by a sorcerer’s power. Should Galen judge that I have erred, that I have violated my… parole, as it were, he would cut me down and I would be powerless to stop him. I couldn’t hope to out match him with steel and my power would pass through him as though he were not there.”

    It made sense, now. With the Blades to watch the sorcerers, nothing like the Scar could ever happen again. Immune to magic, or at least to the magic of a sorcerer, they were a credible threat to keep everyone in line. On the one hand it didn’t seem fair, that all of us should be subject to such scrutiny and judgment; on the other, though, it was practical and it was a group of sorcerers who had decreed that it should be so. Perhaps they were right to do so.

    “Master, you said that before the scar, magic was tame. And that now, after the conflict with the old powers, it’s wild. What does that mean?”

    Quentin smiled at me with some degree of pride, I thought, and a tingle of pleasure coursed through my groin and up my spine. “Astute question. Mana, the substrate of magic, is in its current state unstable. It acts unpredictably when not confined to a rigid structure. Hence in the scar we see the scar beasts and worse – and a sorcerer is ever in danger of Release if he should lose control over his power when the strength of that power exceeds the integrity of his channel. It is because through the scar, and through the channel of every sorcerer, mana seeks to burst forth into this plane.”

    He pressed both hands together, palms facing one another. “If this hand,” he wiggled a finger on the top hand, “is our world – that within which we live and move and have our being – then this,” he wiggled a finger on the bottom hand, “is the world in which mana exists in its entirety. That plane was, at one time, peaceful and calm, and when a sorcerer – or anyone with a channel – drew mana up from that plane it was likewise peaceful and unyielding, and could be easily shaped to the desired end.”

    He parted his hands a bit, and between them I saw several glowing currents. It was a marvel, as until now I had experienced Quentin’s magic first hand, but never actually seen it with my eyes. “The little currents,” he explained, “are like the channels that are within sorcerers. The channel itself exists between the two world, and allows mana to pass into this world through a series of what we call ‘inner gates’. There are one hundred and eight of them, but they don’t all have to be open in order to bring the mana into our world, just a few of them is sufficient. However, the more that are open, the greater the amount that can be brought forth at once, and with a greater degree of refinement.” He pushed his hands back together and the eldritch currents vanished.

    “That is the first task in your training. It is likely that some of your inner gates are opened already, as this occurs naturally to a point. We will have to open more of them, gradually, so that you may come into your true power and so that we can control the process. Should the mana come forth and break the gates on its own… well, this is the precursor to the Release.” He stood, and began to disrobe. “Take your clothes off.”

    I hesitated only a moment, and then complied. In moments we stood before the table naked.

    Quentin took my by the hand and led me to the bed, where he say but bid me to stand before him. “Come here,” he indicated the space between his feet. I moved there and stood uncertainly, wondering if he would ask me to service him again.

    Instead, he placed two fingers on my abdomen, just below my navel. I felt a vibration, both at his fingers and within the stirrings of my own magic. The feeling began just under his fingers, but seemed to deepen a bit at a time until I felt a kind of pressure build up inside me. Just as this happened, he nodded slightly and took his fingers away. “The first nine gates are already opened. The state of them seems fine. The degree of power that you are able to feel within you now is the result of those nine gates. There are ninety nine left, although most of us open perhaps seventy all together.”

    I didn’t understand the significance of this, but accepted it and endeavored to remember it.

    Quentin placed a hand on my hip, and drew me forward a bit more. “Each cabal has its own particular method for opening the gates. Most of them find our particular method… distasteful. I will tell you now that there is a risk to this method in and of itself. However, our cabal does not raise an adeptus to sorcerer unless he has mastered the process entirely. I will assist you in opening the tenth gate now.”

    I nodded my acceptance of this, but betrayed my bewilderment at the same time. “What should I do, master?”

    His hand slid around my hip and gripped my backside. I immediately felt myself begin to harden in anticipation of his mouth, but instead his fingers found the space between my cheeks and began to slowly slip down towards my anus. “You must only follow my directions. I will enter you… here,” a finger pressed slightly into me but did not enter. I rose up onto my toes in an instinct to escape, but his other hand found my hip and pushed me back down onto my heels.

    “Master, I…” I dared not refuse him directly, “I’m afraid that it will hurt.” I had once tried to slip a finger into myself in the past, and while it had been strangely stimulating, it had seemed at the same time somewhat unnatural and had been mildly uncomfortable.

    Quentin shook his head, and massaged me with his finger as he drew me a bit closer. “The first time, there may be some slight discomfort, apprentice, but I assure you that very soon after it will be quite pleasant.” I felt a tingle of warmth flow from his finger into me, and the pleasure of it caught me off guard. I pushed against his hand and then lifted a hand to cover my blushing face.

    He patiently drew my hand away and then, by my wrist, pulled me down onto the bed. I let him move me into the center of the small mattress, which wasn’t more than cloth stuffed with straw and wool, and then awaited his instruction.

    Instead of speaking, he moved behind me and then spread my legs with his knees. I turned my head so that I could see with a little effort that he had knelt there. I felt his hands on my buttocks, and then he spread them and lowered his head.

    I gasped as his tongue touched me, the sensation causing me to raise my hips against him. It flickered around my entrance and then pressed in. I gasped, and turned my face into the thin pillow and writhed as he dipped into me and moved in slow massaging circles. After a moment more I couldn’t tell what he was doing, only that I enjoyed the feeling intensely and found that I wanted him deeper inside.

    This continued for minutes, until I felt him lift his head away, and then felt a finger press against my hole and begin to massage me. To my surprise I found that in seconds he had slipped past the normally tight opening without any pain at all, and then he did something that brought an involuntary wail to my throat. At almost the same time, the gentle rocking of the vessel became suddenly more pronounced and I thought in some distant part of my mind that this feeling had actually made the world move.

    He massaged something inside me, just past the opening, and with each slow, deep press of his finger I felt a piercing kind of pleasure shoot through my long since firmed cock; a feeling that started deep within me put ran the length of it until I felt strangely on the verge of relieving myself although nothing of the sort happened. I startled slightly when I felt him bite one of my buttocks, the pain strangely transformed by this other feeling he was giving my insides into a shockwave of pleasure. I cried out as it took me, and heard him issue a throaty chuckle behind me. He bit again and again I moaned into the pillow, rocking my hips up and onto his hand in an effort to push him deeper.

    Finally he withdrew, slowly, and although there was a very brief discomfort just as he left me fully I immediately felt emptier than I had and wanted him in me again. As if in response to this silent plea, I felt something else press against me. I recognized intuitively what he meant to do and was suddenly tense again. I knew not to defy him, for if he saw it necessary he could easily overcome my wishes, but I was still certain that anything larger than his finger would almost certainly harm me.

    The warm, soft head of his cock was pressed against my entrance, where he massaged it into me as he had his finger before. There was a sudden feeling of something bursting through the tight ring of me accompanied by a sharp pain. I shouted involuntarily into the pillow, and raised a hand to push him off but he caught me by the wrist and easily pinned my arm down. I sucked in a breath and tried to endure the pain until it subsided. It seemed to last an age, but he did not push it any deeper than it was.

    Gradually the pain did subside, and I felt him begin to push in just a bit before retreating slowly and then pressing into me again. Each time he pressed forward it was a little deeper than before, until I felt him pressed against my backside and felt the whole of him inside me. It did not yet feel as good as it had when his finger had worked on me, but it was not unpleasant either.

    He withdrew from me almost entirely, and then slowly thrust forward again, and this time I felt the familiar sensation of needing to relieve myself as his cock pressed up against the same place that his finger had. I lifted my hips in response to meet him as he completed the motion and sighed with pleasure.

    After several more of these slow thrusts, he pushed into me entirely and laid his body down on top of mine. His stomach and chest pressed against my back, and I felt his breath near my ear. “Is there any more pain, apprentice?”

    “No, Master,” I said with a sigh, and writhed a little, rolling my hips in order to feel his member move inside me.

    “Mmmm, very good, but the purpose is not only to give you pleasure.” With that he lifted himself up, and withdrew from me. He pulled on my hip, and I rolled over obediently. He took my hand, and urged me to sit up, whereupon he drew one of my legs over his and adjusted us both so that I sat on his lap face to face, my legs wrapped around his waist.

    Taking hold of my hips he lifted me slightly. He maneuvered in some way that pressed the head of his cock against my entrance once more, and then guided me down onto it until it was completely within me again. I rolled my hips in an attempt to repeat the motion myself, but he steadied me and planted me firmly onto him again. “Stay put,” he said, stern but amused. “Close your eyes, and focus on my presence within you. Feel me there, filling you up.”

    I did as directed, and let the sense of him inside me become the only thought in my mind. It wasn’t difficult, as I had found that these pleasures quite effectively clouded my ability to think coherently anyway. I simply sat that, back straight with the support of his arms, and felt him inside me.

    He guided my thoughts with his words, directing me towards my channel, into it, into the vibration. He led me to sense through it the vibration present in him, and then to become receptive to him in the same way that my bottom had been receptive to his rod. At length, I felt a kind of pressing deep within me that seemed or originate from where he had penetrated me, but was at the same time present in some deeper place – the place where I felt my channel that was inside but somehow at an infinite depth towards the center of me.

    He lifted me up, and then set me down. I felt the humming of my magic intensify as his cock pressed into me. Again he repeated to movement, and again the humming intensified. With each repetition, I felt the vibration within me become more pervasive, more acute, and more urgent, until it seemed to consume my whole being. It had never been so all present before, and I feared that it might burst out of me at any moment. My fear was overridden by my pleasure and my trust, however, and I focused on containing the vibration as I was gently instructed.

    “When the gate opens, you will feel a sudden increase in the vibration. You must let it happen, do not try to force it down. Trust me, trust that I will see no harm come to you,” he thrust into me again, harder this time. “Let the power come through the gate, and embrace it, let it take you.” He thrust again, more urgently, and deeper. I began to tremble, impaled upon him so completely that I couldn’t tell how deep inside me he was, only that it seemed to be into my very core. “I will impart my Rin and fortify your channel, so that it will be able to handle the new power; while it is within you, strengthening you, you must tame the power by embracing it and making it yours. I will guide you. Now, give yourself to me.” He thrust again, and again, each time deeper than before it seemed, and each time I cried out and tried more and more to let myself give over my fear and surrender to him.

    At last he thrust, and growled into my chest as he held me tight to him, his fingers digging into my back as he held on to me. Within me I felt his cock swell up and then begin to jerk violently as something warm spread into me. I cried out as a chord rang out in my magic, something within me breaking open and releasing a flood of power as wild as the ocean in storm. It swept over me and through me, and in a panicked moment of doubt I tried to stand against it and felt it tearing at me from the inside. I heard Quentin’s voice and then sensed his power coursing into me and let myself be swept up by the tide of magic and pleasure, my body thrashing about of its own volition as I came, hard, and felt the hot liquid splash against my own chest, and then my face as a second forceful ejaculation struck me with the force of the power I felt inside. I was washed away in it; lost at sea and adrift in the storm.

    I reveled in the power that swept me up and carried me elsewhere, and my mind had become as vast and wide as the heavens. Quentin, the room, the boat, the river upon which it sailed, the earth through which the river had cut its course; all of it was before me and I was entirely beyond my body. I felt myself falling away from my own center until I reached some immeasurable peak and then began a slow fall through eternity.

    I collapsed forward, aware of myself again, onto Quentin, who held me tight still. He was still inside me, still entirely hard, and I could feel the warmth of him deep within the center of me. Our channels vibrated together, I knew, and it felt as though there were two of them within me, though I knew one of them to be his. My eyes closed, my mind exhausted, and something inside me raw and painful but intact, I lifted myself up until he was nearly out…

    …and lowered myself again. He gasped, and I smiled to myself, feeling his pleasure resonate between us. The feeling of him inside me was a kind of completeness, and I rode him slowly, bracing myself on one arm to better control my body. I raise and lowered myself in a steady rhythm, each time feeling closer to the brink, each time taking him as deep into me as I could.

    Quentin grasped my hips with both hands and assisted, guiding me up and down the length of him, grunting and growling as he did and slowly increasing out pace until both of us were wild with pleasure and bucking against one another. Suddenly, Quentin’s hand was on me, and my cock began to vibrate furiously, every cell pounding with imminent release. “Cum with me, Simon! Ah, sweet Gods, cum, cum!”

    I did, and I felt him empty himself into me at the same time, both of us wild with the passion of the moment and wailing as our channels pulsed in him, our frantic orgasms throbbing through us as we continued to pound against one another. I continued to cum, as did Quentin inside me, for minutes it seemed, or hours, unable to stop myself from thrusting him into me until finally we both collapsed onto the bed.

    I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and Quentin did not move me, and so I slipped into a gentle repose for a time. As I fell into sleep, I could feel Quentin’s cock still inside me, twitching ever so often, and still hard.
    Last edited by VagrantSong; November 5th, 2012 at 07:44 PM.

  16. #16
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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Lordy, I have to take a breather.......again you have recreated experiences that I have witnessed myself though without the magic. However the act and experience was as magical as you have portrayed. You have a gift of words and description, VagrantSong.
    Being that this story is of a world we do not live in, it makes it more intriguing and allows us to drift into a dream state of fantasy. A place that we can live and create many of the pleasures that are not always available to us in our own world. Certainly those pleasures reside in our world by not to the depth that your written word has expressed. On with Chapter 8.

    Craiger

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    fantastic story please continue

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 8

    The rest of the voyage to Vanholme was uneventful. The mild weather saw us safely down the river for two days until we arrived at the town, and during the journey I learned everything that I could from Quentin. We opened no more gates in this time as I learned that my channel would need time to adjust to the additional pressure.

    It was a strange thing to contain so much more power at once. It seemed to me that the intensity of the ever present vibration of my channel had almost doubled, and at times it became uncomfortable. I had adjusted by the time we reached the port, though, and with Quentin’s assistance had learned to regulate the mana through my channel with some concentration.

    The port of Vanholme was connected to the city by a wide and short cobble road, but the city itself was visible from the river. Porthaven had been a city built around a port, where as the port of Vanholme had been built to serve the city, and Vanholme was a fortress of a city.

    The walls were taller than Porthaven’s and made of great slabs of stone. Towers were spaced at regular intervals and guards could be seen at the tops of them and along the tops of the walls. Great iron spikes jutted out near the tops of them, and between some of them were hung great cauldrons. There were more armed and armored men and women here, and even many of those that did not appear to be soldiers carried swords and or bows, or both.

    Master Vanas, his apprentices, and his blade – whom Quentin told me was called Harth – went ahead of us and Quentin paid the ship’s captain the remainder of his fee for our safe arrival before he and Galen and I traveled up to the main city.

    Inside, Vanholme was what I imagined a military encampment to be like. There were civilians, but almost everyone bore some kind of weapon or was engaged in martial training. At the center of the city stood a great keep, made of a different kind of stone than the walls. These stones were darker – nearly black – and as we approached I sensed a very subtle resonance through my channel. I wanted to ask Quentin about it, but as we were not alone yet I kept my questions to myself for the time being.

    We stopped finally outside of a great stone house. It was more elaborately decorated than the other buildings further from the keep, but still maintained the look of a place suited to defense against a siege. The entire city had this look without exception and nowhere had I seen simply buildings of wood that could be easily set ablaze in the event of an invasion.

    This building was also a Charter House, and as we found our quarters I learned that many of the current tenants were apprentices on the verge of attaining their Adeptus status. They would remain in Vanholme until they were raised and would immediately thereafter bond to one of the recently graduated Blades. Until that day, I heard, the apprentice would not meet his Blade – the day that they met would be the day they were bound together. I imagined that this was a practical matter, a way to form a kind of professional relationship rather than a deeply personal one that might prevent the Blade from carrying out his final duty if necessary.

    Our rooms were simple, and I was given my own small quarters just off of Quentin’s own room. Galen vanished shortly after we entered and I wondered where he had got to but it seemed of no consequence to me so I didn’t ask Quentin.

    When we were alone, however, I did ask my master about the magic that seemed to emanate from the keep. “Indeed there is magic in the keep,” he confirmed, “very old, and very powerful. The place itself was built with magic, the very stones borne here across the skies from mount Orden and enspelled to withstand any assault. It hasn’t been tested for ages, of course, not since before the treaty of emperor Song. Such things were made before the Scar and have stood against the tide of time. It was the work of hundreds of sorcerers wielding the greatest limits of their power.”

    I marveled at the thought. Though the power I felt now was much greater than I had known before the opening of my tenth inner gate I knew that I was nowhere near as powerful as Quentin or even most other apprentices. And yet, how much power must have gone into the making of such an artifact?

    It raised another question to my mind as well, and one that I had been hesitant to ask. I still was, but my desire to understand my magic more deeply overrode my desire to appear patient. “Master, when will you teach me to use my magic? I mean, to actually do magic?”

    Quentin gave me an appraising look, and folded his arms over his chest. “When you appear to be ready, apprentice. Even the smallest act of magic can go awry without the proper skills to understand how even a simply task must be performed. You must be able to control your channel with ease, focus the direction that the mana flows within you and from you, and to actually see what you are doing. Currently, you would be blind and would almost certainly make a fatal mistake. After we have opened a few more gates, you should begin to see the flow of mana clearly, and then you will be able to perform magic.” He seemed to observe me, perhaps to determine if I demonstrated some quality he was judging in me. Perhaps I did it by nodding obediently and dropping the subject, because he smiled at me and went about gathering his unworn clothing into a sack that had been provided to us.

    I was directed to undress and place my clothing in the sack as well, but was given nothing else to wear. After this, Quentin went to leave with it, and I became panicked. “Master, what do I wear?”

    He glanced at me over his shoulder before leaving and said as he did so, “Nothing, apprentice. I will return shortly.”

    I stood around for a moment in the buff save for the ring around my privates, and went to the window to draw the curtains over one another and ensure my privacy. Then I retreated to my small quarters and took the blanket from the bed to wrap myself in. At least this way I had some degree of dignity to maintain.

    There wasn’t much to do in our suite alone so I occupied myself with my training. It consisted of an exercise in visualizing my channel, filling myself with the awareness of its vibration and tuning it first down and then up. I was assured that in time I would learn to adjust the degree of power within me at a moment’s notice, but for now the vibration waxed and waned only slowly, fighting me each time my concentration slipped.

    So involving was the practice that I only vaguely registered the knock at our door the first time, and fully noticed it only after it was repeated more urgently. Quentin, of course, would have no need to announce himself and so I reasoned it must be someone else. Mortified, I sought out some shred of clothing though I knew there to be none available. The knock came again, and I thought that whoever it was must have known I was there or they would have gone by now. Perhaps it was someone Quentin had set to check on me.

    I gathered the blanket around me then, and went to answer the door.

    It was Vanas’ apprentice, the older one with the sandy blonde hair and short beard, who was on the other side. He looked me over curiously with a pair of pretty, pale blue eyes. “Begging your pardon. It’s Simon, isn’t it? I’m Alexander, we weren’t introduced before, I’m one of master Vanas’ apprentices.” He had an accent that I had heard before, and it made me wonder if he was from the southern isles where they raised sheep for wool.

    I nodded, but said nothing. I couldn’t remember the rule precisely, but wasn’t sure if I was allowed to speak to other apprentices. Maybe I was only supposed to keep quiet when the Masters were around?

    Alexander seemed to understand my reluctance, and waved a hand dismissively at nothing. “It’s okay for us to talk to each other. We’re just not allowed to talk when we’re with our Masters. We’re supposed to be quiet and observe when we’re in mixed company, but Master Vanas’ given us the rest of the day and I believe Master Quentin is with him.”
    “Oh,” I said, and immediately felt as though I’d done something that would get me into trouble. Still, Alexander had been an apprentice for longer than I had, and I suspected he had not good reason to intentionally try to make trouble for me. “Well, I’d invite you in but I’m not sure that’s okay.”

    “And you’ve got no clothes on,” he said, smiling in a way that made his face quite beautiful. “It’s alright, I just wanted to say hello. In Osland we’ve a dorm house for the apprentices. You’ll likely be in my dorm as my friend Hesker was just made Adeptus and moved out. They try not to leave us our own rooms for too long.”

    “Well it’s good to meet you, Alexander. Um...” I looked down at my blanket and then back into the room.

    Alexander seemed to take the hint, but then continued talking anyway. “Right, well, I heard you were only just taken. You’re something, you know? A new apprentice at your age, it’s right strange! The Gods must have you name written down somewhere, I suppose. How are you finding it? Master Quentin, I mean, and training?”

    I smiled uncomfortably and tried to make it obvious that I didn’t particularly want the company. “Its okay, I guess. Different than what I’m used to and kind of... well kind of private I think.”

    “Oh? I guess I shouldn’t pry, but Master Quentin was Master Vanas’ apprentice, you know. Probably they teach the same way, although Master Vanas says Master Quentin was always kind natured. Master Vanas believes in discipline, which I suppose is good.” He stood, looking at me and waiting for a response, which I didn’t give. Finally he shrugged off his coat and offered it to me, “I’m sorry, I bet Master Quentin’s taken everything to the wash. We all get only the one suit until we make Adeptus, would you like this for now?”

    The coats that we wore were loose fitting, and aside from the breadth of Alexander’s shoulders nothing else was revealed about his form while he wore it. I took it from him, though, and found myself looking at his shapely arms. He was muscular from the shoulder to the wrist, and while I hadn’t paid much attention before I saw that he had broad, thick hands as well, and thick fingers atop them. His tunic fit tight around him, and it was obvious his body had developed into a work of art. I tore my eyes away and looked down at the coat in my hands. “Ah, if that’s okay, sure. I mean, you won’t get in trouble, will you?”

    “Oh, no,” he said, waving again at nothing as though warding the question off, “there’s no rule against it. It’ll cover you to the knees. And, Master Quentin wouldn’t mind if I visit for a bit, I think, he’s always taken a liking to me and helped out a bit with my training from time to time. He’s a bit more hands on than Master Vanas, and training with him is certainly more fun. I can always leave when he gets back.”

    I blinked, and stepped back into the room to admit him. Though it did seem like there could be trouble in the future, I very much wanted to find out more about what he thought of Quentin’s training, and I wondered how Vanas’ training differed.

    He came in, and I retreated to my room to change into the coat. Alexander, to my surprise, followed me casually and watched me as I started to take the blanket off, until I saw him watching. “Ah, Alexander, I’m going to change now.”

    He nodded, and continued watching, and then flushed a little. “Oh, you mean you... right, I’m sorry, it’s just – I forget you’re actually new, most of us grew up seeing one another and just sort of... not to worry, I’ll sit out here.” He left and drew the sliding door closed behind him. I dropped the blanket and pulled on the coat. I buttoned it up the front and like my own it came nearly to my knees. While I still felt quite exposed, it was easier to manage than the blanket.

    I returned to the main room and thanked Alexander again for the coat, and then took a seat in one of the three padded chairs around a half-moon table that was set against the wall. Alexander had seated himself in the opposite chair while I changed.

    “So,” he started, “how is your training going? Master Quentin’s a talented teacher, isn’t he? Master Vanas is very academic, a lot of lecturing. Of course his cultivation practices are a lot of fun, I just started them this past year, but Master Quentin helped me open my twelfth and thirteenth gates – have you learned about those yet?”

    I nodded, not really sure whether Alexander’s torrent of words left room for a verbal response. They didn’t seem to as he went on.

    “That was something else all together, wasn’t it? I mean, when we’re young we don’t do that kind of training, mostly we just spend a lot of time meditating and doing hard work to learn discipline while we learn how it all works. We sometimes got to hear about it from the older apprentices, but it’s considered poor practice to introduce the apprentices too young.” That answered a niggling question that had bothered me for the past few days. “How was it for you?”

    I blinked, realizing he had stopped talking and was waiting for me. “Oh, ah... yes, it was, um... good.”

    He smiled mischievously, a glint coming to his pale blue eyes, “Just ‘good’?” His tone was conspiratorial, and he slid his chair a little closer and leaned forward a bit over the table, “When we opened my twelfth gate, it was unbelievably amazing. I think I came three or four times before it opened up, and could barely walk the next day! And Master Quentin is... well, somehow I think it would be a lot less fun with a Master who wasn’t so handsome, don’t you think?”

    I gaped at the openness Alexander was displaying, and my face was warm. These experiences seemed incredibly private to me, certainly I wouldn’t just talk about such things with a stranger. Yet he seemed to have not an ounce of bashfulness or shame in him and it was uncomfortable. I found myself smiling compulsively though at the audacity.
    “Alexander!” I scolded him through my embarrassed grin, “I can’t believe you just said that! And Master Quentin isn’t all that handsome... he’s nice enough, I suppose but not really my...” I trailed off. My what? My preference? Did I have a preference? Augusts mighty form came to mind and I pushed the image away.

    “Not your type,” Alexander supplied. “But that can’t matter too much. I mean, you did cum, didn’t you? I’ll bet you never felt anything like that before!”

    “Well, I... I mean,” I stammered, and looked away, “it was something. But maybe it’s different for you. I mean, honestly I kind of felt like,” I paused, momentarily wondering if this would come back to haunt me, but the weight of it had been almost torturous, “well, like it wasn’t really my choice. No one asked me if I wanted to join the Red, they just took me, and I hadn’t ever been with anyone before then, not really.”

    Alexander’s face fell just a bit, and he frowned. “Simon, did Master Quentin... did you tell him no?”

    I thought about it for a second. My first reaction was to affirm this, but I had to admit that this hadn’t really been the case. Had it? That first day, when he had dominated me with his power, I had begged him to stop, but when he had touched me later... “No, Alexander, I didn’t tell him that. It’s strange because I didn’t really want to at first but it just became... expected later on. And I enjoy it, I guess. That is... I suppose I look forward to it.” I did, I realized, and shuddered a little. I sought out that spark of hate I had held onto before and frantically fanned it back to life. Quentin wasn’t abusive to me, he hadn’t hurt me except the once, and he had known he had the power to heal my pain when he did. I hadn’t been damaged. But, I reminded myself, it still wasn’t right to do that to someone.

    “It’s like that after a while,” Alexander mused, his own eyes cast off in the distance now. “You start to crave it. They’re careful with us, you know. I’ve seen some of the prisoners they use to train apprentices in the art. All they can do is sit around mindlessly and wait for the next time.”

    “Prisoners? What do you mean? What art?”

    Alexander looked as though he’d given something away he wasn’t supposed to, but the look passed quickly. “I suppose it’s nothing you shouldn’t know, but when they teach us how to do what Master Quentin can do, we use condemned prisoners. It’s a sight better than what they’d be getting otherwise! The healthiest ones get the option – hang, or go to the Red. Better than the white,” he shivered visibly, “training their arts is gruesome work. Got to have something to heal, you know?”

    I frowned at him, considered this, and wanted to be sure I was coming to the right conclusion. “We, what, get them off you mean?”

    Alexander smiled grimly, and shook his head, “Not exactly. I mean it happens, but we learn how to make them feel good, how to give them pleasure with magic. Only, most of the time when you’re learning you give too much. It can destroy the mind, you know. They get addicted, until it’s all they can think about. They’re useless for anything else at that point, but they become kind of like docile animals. They stop eating, stop drinking, stop sleeping. They just wait around until someone comes to give them the feeling again. You’d think it would be kind of hot... you know, just living for pleasure, coming all the time.” He shrugged. “Better than hanging, I guess, but not really being spared if you ask me. Still, they’re the worst of the worst you know? They’d’ve just hanged anyway.”

    I nodded slowly, wondering suddenly if I could do that to someone. It twisted my stomach to think about it, but I hadn’t really considered until now that eventually the training would be over. Eventually, I’d be a sorcerer and I wouldn’t have Quentin guiding me and, well, making love to me or whatever it was. I’d be doing it to others. Even the taste I had been given of Quentin’s power had perhaps changed my view of him, but he had been holding back.

    I was suddenly terrified. If he wanted to, Quentin could do that to me. Destroy my mind with pleasure. I wanted to think that I could keep myself, but who could know that for sure? I didn’t want to find out.

    Alexander saw something in my face that triggered an alarmed response in his voice. “Oh, no, no, no! Look, we’re far too valuable to be wasted like that. The Red is the smallest cabal, because you have to have a special kind of channel. And the Masters don’t get raised to full status unless they pass some rigorous testing and undergo quite a bit besides. I don’t know all the details, but I remember when Master Quentin came back from it, and he looked... well, it’s hard work. He’d never slip like that, really, and he wants you to make it to sorcerer.” He reached out and put a hand on my knee, “Really, Simon, you have nothing to worry about.”

    I nodded, my worry only slightly abated. It made sense, of course. I’d be useless as a sorcerer without my wits. Still, I was morbidly curious – what kind of pleasure could be so intense, so all consuming, that it damaged your mind forever? What I had felt so far was certainly unthinkable – I couldn’t have imagined it before it happened, didn’t know that such a feeling was possible. And Master Quentin was being careful not to give me too much.

    “So, did you have any lads at home?” Alexander thankfully had decided to change the subject.

    “No. I mean, not how I think you mean it. I hadn’t been with anyone until Quentin. I mean Master Quentin. Well, not exactly anyway, I had a kind of... night with a man on the way to Porthaven.” I decided not to spread around the knowledge that I had been intimate with my Warden.

    Alexander raised an eyebrow and the conspiratorial tone returned to his voice. “Oh? Do tell!”

    I shook my head, “There wasn’t much to tell. I mean, it was one sided and short, so...”
    Alex feigned sympathy, “He didn’t have much to work with then, downstairs?”

    “What? No! I mean, yes, he did, but that’s not what I meant.” Alex held his hands about a foot apart, the unspoken question on his face, and I laughed. “No, not like that. I mean, maybe, it was dark, but, I don’t know...”

    “Oh come on, tell me! It’s all fun, you’ve got to loosen up in his outfit!” He prodded my knee with a hand, “Tell, tell!”

    I shook my head and looked away, wishing I wasn’t so amused by his interest and could stop grinning. Finally I sighed an looked back at him. “Well, like I said, it was dark.” I related to him my experience with August, and the he must have liked the details because he’d started to touch himself rather, I thought, inappropriately by the time I finished the story. “Good Gods, Alexander! Control yourself!”

    Alexander didn’t stop, but slowly massaged the thing in his trousers with his palm. “Can’t help it, friend; that was some story. I’d have liked to have been there for it. All the boys here are either too young, you know, or too hooked on their training. Still a few of us manage to get some recreational training in together, time to time.” He was eying me with those blue eyes and I cleared my throat, glancing compulsively to where his hand was now massaging quite vigorously.

    “Alexander, if you’re suggesting what I think... well... I’m just not sure it’s a good idea. I mean, Master Quentin...” I looked at the door, suddenly expecting him to come in at any moment.

    “Hey, hey,” Alexander said, moving to the edge of his seat so that his knee touched mine. “It’s alright. Until we’re adeptus, we’re allowed to do whatever we want as long as we don’t have instructions contrary. Did Master Quentin tell you that you couldn’t play with anyone else?”

    I shook my head but also thought it probably wasn’t the sort of thing that would be necessary to give instructions on. I took it as a kind of given that I was only supposed to interact like that with Quentin but maybe it was as common as Alexander said. And he was very handsome. The beard he wore was thick, but well groomed and ran the length of his jaw line. It was the same sand and hay color as the hair on his head, and it gave him a very masculine look – in a way, like August’s face, but younger and with no scars.

    “You’re very pretty, you know,” he said to me.

    I could see the sincerity of it in his face, and I self consciously turned my face away from his. “Don’t say that,” I said, “men aren’t ‘pretty’.”

    “Oh, they can be,” he countered, reaching out with his free hand to touch my knee, where he massaged it slowly. He hands were very strong, I realized, and the thought of them on me elsewhere gave me a flutter in my stomach. “I don’t much care for the big, gruff types, myself. I like ‘em pretty.”

    The way his voice had become a little deeper, a little quieter, thrilled me enough to draw my attention to the sudden pulsing feeling below. “When I saw you with Master Quentin,” he said as he drew closer, “straight away I wanted to know what was under those clothes.” His hand slid under the edge of the coat where it lay on my upper thigh, and he slid forward and lowered himself to the floor in front of me. He pushed my knees apart, a little, and bent his head down to my leg.

    I gasped a little when he kissed the inside of my thigh, and then gripped his head involuntarily when I felt him bite me. It was only a little painful and only for a moment. I wanted him to take me, then, but alongside that feeling was another, and it overrode my moment of anticipatory passion very quickly. I was suddenly very uncomfortable, and I lifted Alexander’s beautiful head away from me. There was a puzzled look on his face as he saw mine.

    “I really just... I can’t, Alexander. Not now, anyway. I can’t really explain it,” I shrugged, and tried to look as genuinely apologetic as I felt. “This is all normal for you, and the Masters, and the other apprentices I suppose but to me... well, it’s just all a little too much for me. I know I have to train with Master Quentin but, I guess I feel like I still need to hang on to something that I can still be in control of.”

    He tilted his head to one side thoughtfully, staring at me and meeting my eyes for a long moment. Then he nodded, leaned forward again and kissed my knee, and got back to his feet. “Okay, Simon. I understand. We all tend to get carried away around here, I guess we’re oversexed! But I can respect that need. I think we all have it sometimes.”

    I nodded thankfulness, and stood up. After this awkward moment I felt it was time to see him out. We walked to the door, and he turned and smiled at me.

    I don’t know what made me do it. Maybe it was the fact that he had stopped when I asked him to. Maybe it was his kindness, shown to me from the moment he gave me his coat to wear. Maybe it was the interaction with someone, anyone, who just talked to me like a person and didn’t somehow dominate me. Whatever the reason, when I saw him smile I tilted me head up, leaned into him, and pressed my lips against his.

    Alexander didn’t miss a beat, and met me just as I reached him, and I felt the soft fullness of his lips on mine and nearly collapsed at the knees. Our lips parted and enveloped one another, and his tongue brushed mine and then I was in his arms, held tight as we explored that moment.

    The feel of it was undeniably enjoyable, and for just the moment I was able to lose myself in it willingly – there was no magic here overthrowing my mind, no inner war railing against it; I simply chose to let it take me.

    For a long time, it seemed, we stood there embracing and kissing one another, and at the moment that I had begun to change my mind about keeping him here with me there was a very polite knock at the door frame.

    As though suddenly burned, Alexander and I threw ourselves apart and I saw that Quentin was there in the doorway looking bemused at the two of us. He folded his arms slowly over his chest and appraised each of us in turn, his eyes lingering on me a moment longer than on Alexander. “I see you two are getting along then, yes?” His smile was almost vicious but I didn’t sense any real malice in it. “Did I arrive too early, or too late?”

    “Nothing happened,” I quickly supplied, and looked at Alexander for confirmation. Alexander, though, only bowed his head to hide a small smile.

    “No matter,” Quentin said, unfolding his arms and waving dismissively. “My visit with Master Vanas was cut short, so I’m sure he will be looking for you, apprentice Alexander. I would not keep him waiting, were I you, I suspect I returned ahead of him but...”

    Alexander took the hint, turned and waved at me a little, and then began to leave.

    Quentin stopped him, and put a hand on my shoulder. “Just a moment, apprentice Alexander – I believe you are forgetting your coat.” He turned to me, “Please return Alexander’s coat, my apprentice.”

    I watched Quentin’s face for a moment, before remembering the possible consequences of defying him – especially in front of another apprentice – and the potential embarrassment of that possibility. It would be far more mortifying than disrobing in front of Alexander.

    I began to unbutton the coat, and Alexander kindly looked away. As I undid the final button, though, I wished he would look. I slid the coat from my shoulders, and Quentin took it from me and then stepped forward, turned, and stood beside me. He held the coat out for Alexander who wouldn’t be able to take it without looking, and couldn’t look without seeing me.

    “Your coat, apprentice Alexander.” Quentin’s voice held the same amusement as before but it sounded more bitter in my ears. I suspected there was nothing truly mean spirited about it but...

    Alexander turned, kept his eyes on Quentin and the coat, and accepted it from him. He turned around then to head out, but as he did I saw his eyes dart towards me at the last moment as he lost his control and although I felt the slightest bit self conscious I also felt a bit disappointed at the same time. He left, and Quentin closed the door quietly behind him.

    “Alexander, eh? He is the only eligible young man in our entourage at the moment, I suppose, and not a terrible choice among others either. You enjoyed yourself?” He took a seat at the table where Alexander and I had sat and talked before, and gestured at the nearest seat.

    I took the instruction for what it was and sat down as well, drawing both of my feet up onto the chair to give me a sense of being less exposed. It was foolish of course – Quentin had seen me at the height of my unbridled ecstasy and there was nothing left to hide from him. Still, I felt as though some new element of intimacy that he hadn’t yet spied on had been inadvertently given to him and yet again the sense of losing anything that was purely mine weighed down on me.

    “He’s very kind,” I said, placing a subtle emphasis on the word, though unable to put any real spit into it. “We only talked for a while.”

    “I’d say that you did more than that. Was it your first time?”

    “Kissing him?”

    “Kissing anyone, apprentice.”

    I blushed, still aware of the tingle of him on my lips. “Yes,” I muttered.

    Quentin laughed a little, and reached out to touch my hands where they were clasped over my knees. “You aren’t in any trouble, Simon. We encourage apprentices to form strong bonds. Assuming both of you survive your ascent, you’ll know one another for many long years to come. Our fraternal bonds are far greater than those of the other cabals, and it is part of what gives us our strength. We are not without our... politics, but there is great trust among those of us who formed such bonds in youth.”

    I nodded, glad to be free from any repercussions but ready to move on to another subject.

    To my surprise, however, Quentin merely smiled at me, and then stood. “I have yet other business to attend to. We’ll be leaving in the morning and will make no stops between here and Osland, so be well rested.”

    “Master, will we not... ah,” I bit my lip and cursed myself inwardly, realizing suddenly that I had been awaiting his return so that I might feel the touch of his power again. It had crept up on me without my realizing it.

    Quentin seemed to understand me, though, and seemed suddenly to loom over me, his calm eyes drinking me in, and I thought that I must look so craven there, like one of those condemned men the apprentices plied their fledgling arts on. After a moment, he leaned forward, his mouth near enough to my ear that I could hear his breathing. “Fight against the craving, my apprentice. There is more to your lessons than just what we have discussed and done together.”

    He stood up, gave me another appraising look, and then turned and left the room.
    I stared after him, and measured within myself the degree of my disappointment at his going. The sense of need that I felt was not quite so acute as to overtake me easily but...

    I shivered, shook my head and finally slapped myself a few times in the face. It left my cheek stinging, and I focused all of my attention there until I felt the sting subside and be replaced by the warm blood that had risen to my skin.

    I performed my exercises again and again, until the subtle pang of need faded into the background and was forgotten. I will not lose myself, I repeated inwardly again and again until, still sitting in the chair, I became lost in meditation and finally fell asleep.
    Last edited by VagrantSong; November 8th, 2012 at 12:48 PM.

  19. #19
    JUB Addict Craiger's Avatar
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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Another great chapter, VagrantSong. And, another very interesting character in Alexander. By your description of him, I think I can understand why Simon was somewhat smitten. I know I would be.....lol I can see this new found bonding develop into an intense relationship. Particularly if they become roommates in Osland.

    Craiger

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    I love the background to this story you can lose yourself into it and get really turned on by the sex - can't wait to read the next chapter

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    Thank you! There's quite a bit of editing needed for the next couple of chapters, and some rewriting - I've updated a lot of the story since my first go at it, and am having to keep track of changes to the early chapters so i can rewrite accordingly later on! But it's wonderful that you enjoy the story itself; I don't particularly like to read quickie hook-up stories, and I love fantasy, but have had such a difficult time finding smutty gay well written fantasy. So a little while back I decided to try and write my own. It's a little harlequin, but keeping an epic story on track while working in plenty of hot scenes is not a simple task. They become a little less frequent later on, I warn, but hopefully the story will make it worth the read to encounter them!

    peace

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    I think your writing has such an intriguing plot that there is no need for hot scenes in every chapter. You have built characters that can stand alone and the story holds a mystery that is constantly drawing one deeper into the fantasy. I will say, the erotic scenes, when they appear, are exceptionally hot, but life, even in a fantasy world, is not entirely about sex. You have certainly produced more than what you referred to as "smutty gay fantasy."

    Craiger

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    Thanks for the new chapters. You certainly have skills a plenty when it comes to telling a story. There is a place here for erotic fiction as opposed to the more pornographic stuff that some readers enjoy and has to be catered for. Keep up the good work!



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    Re: The Red Cabal

    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 9

    I saw Alexander again the following morning for breakfast. We ate in the same small dining hall as the Adepti who lived there in the Vanholme charter house, but at a smaller table well removed from them. I noted that each one of them sat beside a lightly armed man, and was somewhat relieved to see that not all of the Blades were as grim as Galen.

    While we ate, I learned more about Alexander. He had been taken as an apprentice at only six, and while he had a vague memory of his life before his whole world has been that of the cabal for as long as mattered. He told me about the early training, which was mostly spent reading and writing. He was taught the sciences, both common and arcane. I realized as he told me these things just how wide the gap was between our levels of education. Oh, I could read and count and do the math related to my old world, and I understood the basic principles of commerce from going on trading trips. But I started to worry that I could never catch up fast enough.

    “It’s not as hard as you think it will be,” Alexander was saying. “I’ll help you study, and with a little hard work you’ll know everything you need to know.”

    I tried to look encouraged. “I know, but sometimes it seems like even the younger apprentices are just... smarter than I am.” He started in with the look of sympathy again. “Okay, okay. I learn quickly, I know I can figure it all out. With you to help me.” I smiled and touched his knee, trying to help him feel like he was improving my mood.

    We weren’t even in Osland yet, and already Quentin had started pushing knowledge into my head. There were a series of landmarks that had to be achieved academically before I could really start trying to learn to use magic. However – and Quentin was deadly serious when he explained this – I was already far more developed, magically, than many students my age, and if I didn’t learn to control my power fairly soon complications could still arise. The pressure of it had made my nerves raw. Being with Alexander and not having to think about it alleviated the feeling somewhat, but he also seemed to be intent on pushing my education forward.

    I wasn’t entirely sure what it was about me that Alexander seemed to like so much. When he’d come to find me for breakfast that morning he had been incredibly nice to me and had kept it up without fail. It was very... well, sweet, but somewhat uncomfortable as well.

    Alexander took everything about his situation for granted. This was how life was for him. I did learn that he’d been very close to an older apprentice for a long time before Nathaniel was raised to adeptus. Nathaniel was back in Osland, but apprentices and Adepti were not allowed to socialize very much outside of any lessons that they assisted with, so as far as Alexander was concerned the relationship was over, at least for now.

    “Do you know what time we’re leaving for Osland,” I asked, trying to change the subject.
    Alexander shrugged, “Master Vanas doesn’t tell me those kinds of things. He just calls me when he wants me, or tells me to stay put until he gets back.”

    That happened a few moments later, and I wondered irrationally if Vanas, or Quentin for that matter, were able to somehow magically eavesdrop on us whenever they wished. Alexander gave a little start, just barely noticeable, and then informed me that it was probably about time to go. When I asked, he looked at me with a bit of surprise.

    “The Masters can call us through the rings. Hasn’t Master Quentin told you, or shown you?”

    I shook my head.

    “I’m sure he will soon. The range is pretty far, and when you feel it you just kind of follow it to them. Hard to explain, but for right now I need to go. I suppose you could come with me if Master Quentin hasn’t called you, but it might be better to head back to your quarters until he comes for you.” He stood up and left his dishes where they were.

    I did the same, and immediately felt guilty about leaving them. However, I could see there were people moving about the room busily cleaning up dishes at other now vacant seats. I left the table, and only looked back once as I followed Alexander out.

    Though I did want to stay near Alexander – his presence gave me a sense of comfort that I had been lacking lately – I very much did not want to be around Vanas in the near future. So instead I headed back to our quarters to await Quentin.

    I passed several other people on the way there. While walking with Alexander, he had commented on the good looks of a few apprentices and Adepti, and about one Sorcerer who had seemed to hear and disapprove. It had made me uncomfortable but I couldn’t really say why. There was an openness to his attraction to other men that somehow still didn’t seem right to me. It seemed like it should be more private, or somehow secret.

    The thought was ridiculous, of course. It was no secret how the vast majority of sorcerers would have to direct their interests in love and whatever else. I still had trouble just looking at some of the attractive men and acknowledging to myself that I found them so.

    I waited in our rooms for perhaps an hour before Quentin arrived with Galen and informed me that we would be leaving shortly. It wasn’t yet midday, but the plan was to ride through until we reached Osland. For the ride there, he gave me a thick, heavy book. I had never held a thing like it before. I could read, of course, and had read books in the past, but they were normally small things bound together loosely. This had a hard leather cover and a full spine, and the front cover had an embossed title, “Introductory Lessons in the Decayed Sciences.”

    I was to read as much as possible before reaching Osland, and ask questions when necessary. As we left the room, I asked Quentin about using the ring to call me.
    “Ah, well, I haven’t had occasion to use the Call, so I suppose it slipped my mind. Here, I’ll show you.”

    Though he made no overt gesture that I could see, I felt the ring vibrate and the feeling of it shocked me momentarily so that I stumbled. Quentin chuckled, and let me catch up to him.

    “That... buzzing feeling, that was the Call?” I adjusted myself uncomfortably.

    “It doesn’t have to be that feeling, but yes. It’s my preferred method. Some Masters are far harsher. Vanas prefers much nastier methods, but feels in encourages a prompt response.” Besides this he made no comment, but I wondered what it was that Alexander had felt when he was Called.

    “When I feel it, how will I know where to find you?”

    Quentin waved a hand vaguely, “You’ll know. There no sense explaining what it will feel like, just trust, for now, that all you need to know is that if it happens it means I would like you to come to me.”

    Without any other choice, I accepted this wordlessly, and then followed Quentin out to the front steps where our coach, as well as Vanas, Alexander, Caerdwin, and Harth awaited us.

    We boarded, and I dutifully opened my book to read for the duration.

    * * * * * * * *

    We rode well into the night, as promised, without stopping. I read chapter after chapter, trying to slowly make sense of the material while not showing my confusion openly. Not in front of Vanas, anyway, or Alexander though for different reasons.

    On the course of the trip, Alexander and I played a kind of game of subtle flirtation. We were, of course, expected to keep quiet and still for the journey. So we disguised our small gestures behind shifting feet and adjusting clothing. We managed a brush here, a touch there. I was lucky to have been seated beside Alexander, with Quentin on my other side and across from Vanas so that they could talk easily if they chose and not have to talk over us. They did so, casually chatting about recently raised Adepti and who they thought would make sorcerer.

    They also talked about the choices made by the council of Blades regarding what blade was bound to what Adeptus. I didn’t realize before then that the choice was made by them, but it made sense. I wondered about the criteria, but Vanas and Quentin didn’t so much discuss this as comment on choices they thought were well made, confusing, or poor in their own opinions.

    The material in the book began with what I suppose was expected to be basic science about the world in general. I started by learning about basic forces at work around us, but had a hard time understanding how anything but gravity was actually doing anything around me. Then I read about how large things are made up of unthinkably small things; and that for that matter it was all mostly empty space. The land that we walked upon was simply the portion of huge plates covering the world which jutted up from the ocean, and when two of these plates moved, as they ever did with such slowness we could never notice in a single lifetime, this caused the ground the shake.

    I understood most of it although it was difficult to accept, but some of the book was concerned with math and calculation that was beyond me. Little attention was given to magic, and mana, and how mana played any role in the working of the world. Everything there seemed exclusively concerned with the mechanics of entirely physical things. Still, it was fascinating to read even the parts that I didn’t understand at all, and I found my mind wandering at various points towards far off places where burning liquid rock was said to pour out of great mountains from the very heart of the world itself.

    When it became too dark to read easily, Quentin summoned a tiny light that managed to illuminate the pages without, somehow, seeming to originate any light the way that a candle flame would. Nightfall, it seemed, was no escape.

    I was perhaps halfway through the entire book when we arrived in Osland. It was late enough that we had perhaps a few hours before the first signs of dawn would begin to arrive. As we left the cabin of our coach I realized just how exhausted the trip had made me. This did not stop me from marveling at the home city of a cabal, however.

    Osland had no walls like Vanholme or Porthaven. There was a clear limit to the city, where the buildings changed suddenly from cabins and cottages to beautiful works of stone and marble. The streets were illuminated with manalamps. Even at this late hour there were people in fantastic clothing - which nearly bordered on costumes in many cases - strolling the sidewalks and congregating in parks. The streets were some kind of smooth and flat surface, very much like a sort of black stone. The ride become smoother than I would have thought possible once we entered the main streets of Osland, with only the movement of the horses drawing the coach interrupting the sense of gliding forward.

    All of the faces of the buildings were beautifully painted and decorated, and the trees along the sidewalks were carefully groomed. Flowers grew in every available break in the sidewalks, and in small gardens set into the middle of particular wide roads to divide the flow of traffic going to and from the center of the city.

    There were mana driven carriages as well, more than I had seen in either Porthaven or Vanholme, and the watchmen that could be seen here and there had mana infused armor identifiable by the glowing manastones set into them to keep the magic in them active.
    All of this was enough to make me feel as though I had left the real world and waked in some story book dream. I had never seen so much richness and technology in one place. Our village had had a single mana driven thresher that had taken years to save for. Such things were very expensive, and I had only seen a handful of such devices in cities before. Here it was so commonplace that it seemed almost silly.

    It also made me feel entirely out of place. I tried very hard not to look around with so much of the wonder that I felt when we disembarked before the college, as I was afraid I must look like some backwoods hick with my eyes wide and my mouth hanging open as it was – or as it seemed it must be, anyway.

    Quentin watched me as I climbed the steps to him at the door to the great marble building we had stopped in front of. “The cities where the Cabals are based are all somewhat like this, though each in their own way. I think you’ll find life here very different from life in the country.”

    I had no words, and only nodded my head. Quentin drew me into the building and I saw that the inside was as lavish as the outside. “You’ll be staying in the apprentice dormitory,” he explained as we walked through the main room. Reds, golds, and dark browns made the place feel sensual and deep. “I’ve arranged for you to share a room with Alexander.” I heard the note of suggestion in his voice, and blushed at it.

    Quentin touched my shoulder gently. “Give yourself the chance to bond with him. It will go a long way towards helping you adjust here, and I have already told you that Alexander is a fine young man.”

    “He has been very kind, Master. Thank you for placing me with him.” I tried to sound as grateful as I felt. I really was excited to have a room with him. At the same time...

    “I won’t tell you not to be nervous, Simon,” Quentin said as though reading my mind, “because I think there is no way to avoid that. But, if you will try to let yourself go a little, try to imagine you’ve always been here and that this life is normal for you, I think that you will find it easier to feel at home. It’s no small task for anyone, I know.” He patted me on the shoulder, and pointed towards the stairs where Alexander was waiting for me. “Go on now, Alexander will show you to the room. It’s late yet, but there will be food still in the kitchen, so the two of you should eat something and then retire. You may have tomorrow to explore a little, and then we will begin your education in earnest. Find time tomorrow to study; I’m sure Alexander can help you.”

    With that he pushed me gently towards the stairs, and left. Alexander met me half way, and took my hand to lead me up the great staircase and down a series of hallways that ultimately took us to his – that is, our – room.

    “So,” Alexander asked when we entered, “what do you think?”

    It was smaller and simpler than I had expected from the seeing the rest of the building. The walls were undecorated aside from their coloring, and the two beds were, while both wide enough to sleep two bodies, fairly plain. There were two desks adorned with two manalamps, and one of them – presumably mine – had a packet of paper, several quills, two inkwells and a small, plain wooden box set upon it.

    I added the textbook to the collection, and wandered around room. There was plenty of space so that two people wouldn’t feel as though they were constantly on top of one another. As I tested the bed I found that while not as soft as the beds Quentin had slept in while at the charter houses, it was certainly finer than any I had slept on before.

    “It’s fine,” I said, unable to think of a better word. “Better than any room I’ve lived in before. Which was only one, I suppose. I like it alright.”

    Alexander looked concerned, and I tried to smile as though I meant what I had said – which I had, in truth, but I found it difficult to feel excited about it. He sat on the edge of my bed, and patted the spot beside him. I accepted his invitation and sat down as well, unconsciously clasping my hands as I did.

    He placed one of his hands over mine. “It must be a lot. Tomorrow I’ll take you out into the city and you can see what this place can be like. It will be fun! You’ll see.” He leaned over to kiss me and in a moment of strange panic I turned away. I regretted it immediately, and tried to recapture the moment but it had passed, and Alexander looked embarrassed.

    “Alexander, I’m sorry. It isn’t that I don’t want to, though. I promise, that isn’t how it is.” He nodded, but didn’t look at me. “This is really new for me. I do like you, the Gods know, you’ve been so kind to me and I’ve really needed that.” So what was the problem?

    I didn’t have an answer, but the pause seemed to give Alexander some kind of answer I hadn’t spoken out loud and he stood up from the bed. “I keep forgetting that,” he said, and finally looked at me, “I don’t mean to pressure you. Why don’t we get a little sleep, and see how things go tomorrow. Sounds good?”

    I nodded, and in the dim illumination of the manalamps I watched him undress for bed. He turned away from me to do so, and perhaps intended to give me some degree of privacy, but I forgot to undress myself as I watched.

    Alexander had a magnificent body. He wasn’t large, but he was muscled as though he did hard work. He slid under the blanket on his bed before turning to look in my direction, and paused when he saw that I hadn’t taken any of my clothing off. He sat up on his elbows, concerned. “Are you not tired?”

    I nodded absently, and then worked up the courage to reach up and loosen the laces at the collar of my tunic. Alexander looked away politely, and I completed the task. I very much wanted him to watch me, but didn’t say so. Instead, when I had taken everything off, and walked to the side of his bed and pulled down the corner of the blanket.

    Alexander did turn to see me then, and smiled. “You are beautiful, you know. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, really. I won’t be offended, and I don’t think anything will make me like you any less.”

    “I know,” I said, “but maybe tonight you can just keep me warm?”

    He only nodded, and lifted the covers to let me in. I slid into them and felt his warm body against mine. He moved so that he was facing me, and I turned onto my side so that he could press against the back of my body. One of his arms slid underneath my neck, the other over my ribs and Alexander held me tight against him.

    I lied there feeling Alexander’s breathing slow against the back of my neck; his body gently rocking mine as his chest and stomach pushed against me with each breath. Quentin’s words came back to me, and I imagined for a moment that being here – here at the Cabal, here in Osland, and here with Alexander around me – was where I had always been. Just for a moment, as I drifted off to the sound of his breathing, I did feel better.

  25. #25
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    Oct 2012
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    Code of Conduct

    Re: The Red Cabal

    Red Apprentice
    Chapter 10

    I awoke to Alexander’s lips pressed to mine. For one very brief moment I was alarmed, but the feeling of him against me quickly overcame my panic and I melted into the sensation.

    His hands caressed my stomach, my hips, and my chest. Light fingers played small circles around my nipples, and with those strong hands he reached around me to my buttock and pulled me easily until we rolled sideways and I found myself laying down on him. He stroked my back, dragging his fingers down my back. Involuntarily I flexed my back and drew my hips up to meet him, and his hands gripped my firmly and pulled me forward.

    We ground against one another, and in the back of my mind some small voice tried to remind me that I wasn’t ready to give myself over like this. The heat of this moment drowned it out, though, and Alexander’s lips and teeth found my neck. I lost all control and reflexively pulled away from the sensation that had lit the entire left side of my body up with pleasure, but his hand gripped a handful of my hair and held me in place. A deep, rumbling growl left him as he pulled me tighter in and bit me again, his hips and his thoroughly roused beast pressing into mine.

    We were kissing again, and through some mysterious motion below me he slid his knees between mine and spread them, then directed them up so that I straddled his hips. He reached down and adjusted himself until I felt his cock slap firmly against my exposed opening. The feeling took me by surprise and I gasped. It was stifled as his tongue entered my mouth, warm and smooth and stronger than it seemed it should be. I suckled at him until he retrieved it and took my bottom lip between his again.

    His hips rocked beneath me, rubbing the head of him up and down against my entrance and I could only think of how badly I wanted him to come into me. I reached back and felt for him. I hadn’t actually seen him hard before, though I had felt it through his pants just once, and seen the bulge of it there. With my fingers wrapped lightly around it now, I could tell that though not very long, perhaps not as long as mine, it was easily twice as thick, so that my middle finger just touched my thumb. I became suddenly worried.

    I found the moisture slowly spilling from him and used it to lubricate his piston as it pumped against me, now between my hole and my hand, and let my pleasure rise through my chest and throat. As these sounds escaped me, they seemed to spurn him and he growled again, becoming more urgent in his thrusts, more intent and aggressive. He bit my neck, my shoulder, my nipple, and his fingers gripped and scratched my back and shoulders. I distantly worried there would be signs of our morning left on my skin, but couldn’t bring myself to care and certainly didn’t want him to stop.

    He bit my earlobe, and his tongue tickled the ridge of my ear, and as he did he whispered to me, “Let me inside, kitten; I can make you feel so good if you’ll let me.” As he called me this, he dragged his fingers down my spine again and, like the namesake, I writhed and lifted my hips as the feeling curled me backwards.

    I didn’t answer, but instead used some of the fluid from his now weeping member to slick myself, and pressed the thick head of him against me. He let go of me enough to allow me to sit upright, and in this position I found that I had less fear of his entry – I lifted myself a bit to readjust and then very slowly sat down, taking just a bit at a time as I relaxed to accommodate his girth. Alexander watched me with apparent fascination, one hand gripping me and stroking me slowly, the other caressing my stomach, chest, and legs.

    I bit my lip and winced at the sudden sharp pain as the last bit of the crown of him popped into me, but his hand rolled over the head of my cock and the sudden almost unbearable sensation distracted me. I grabbed his wrist to stop him, but he struggled against me, smiling wickedly as my legs shook and I was unable to hold myself up. I fell by inches until he was fully inside me, and it was a vastly different sensation than what I had felt before.

    Quentin had been slender, and I had certainly felt thoroughly penetrated by his length, but he required a certain angle to give me the best part of the experience. With Alexander this wasn’t so – he filled me so completely that he touched that part of me with no effort at all and I immediately felt my orgasm on the verge of gushing out of me and onto his stomach.

    I took hold of his teasing hand with both of mind and forcibly removed it from me. “You have to stop... stop...” I lost my train of thought as his hips thrust and although I was certain I had him in me as far as was possible, he somehow thrust deeper still. My breath caught and then released with a sigh and a moan that felt as though it came from that deep down place and rolled out of me, rolling over my thoughts and distractions and bringing me to some place that was entirely in that present moment.

    Impaled as I was upon him, I lacked the will to move anymore and so only held myself as steadily as I could as he withdrew from me slowly and then thrust again with some force. Again the sound of my ecstasy escaped me and I looked down when he growled again. The sound was fierce, and possessive, and put me in the mind of some hungry animal quickly closing on its prey.

    Something about the sound, the sight of the sweat on his face, the smell of him, and the exertion together awakened in me an echo of his aggressive taking of me. I began to rise and fall in time with him but against his rhythm. As he rose up to me I sank forcefully down to meet him, until I rocked steadily on his hips, and our tempo began to pick up. I placed my hands on his chest to support myself and watched his face. He had closed his eyes, and a look of concentration had stolen over him and I felt that he must be thoroughly taken over by the single minded purpose that I had felt before when so close to my full.

    His pace slowed, and his hands held my hips and settled me down against him. “Slow down, kitten, slow down. I don’t want to cum so quickly.”

    Knowing that being within me had given him such pleasure I felt a certain kind of power over him. It’s a difficult feeling to describe, precisely, but I very much wanted to be responsible for his pleasure – for it to be, as it were, my decision that he should cum now, or later.

    I decided: now.

    As strong as his hands were, they couldn’t stop the gentle rocking of my hips; I simply had more leverage in my position. He tried to hold on to me though, and failed, and a nearly tortured look came to his face. I didn’t move quickly, as I wanted to see the moment build up on his face.

    “You have to stop, kitten, I’m very close,” he begged me and raised himself up enough to get a better hold on me. It was a futile attempt, of course, and I reached behind me and found the velvety pouch that had drawn mostly up into him. I took his stones in hand and tugged them and I lifted myself up, squeezing just enough to encourage him but not so much as to hurt him. I wasn’t sure he would enjoy this – I had done it to myself before and it always brought me quickly to climax.

    It seemed the same was true for my hungry wolf. His brow drew in, and he chewed his lip, and I felt his balls tug against my grip as they tried to draw up to accommodate his release. He swelled within me enough that I felt it distinctly, and I slowed on my ascent until I was withdrawing him barely fast enough to notice. My descent was just as slow, but beneath me his stomach tensed, the muscles of his chest and arms bulged, and his hips began to vibrate with the effort to keep from thrusting into me again. I felt myself smiling as I watched his struggle, and then his eyes opened and looked into mine.

    It was something I had never seen before, and the image of it will be forever upon my memory. When he could no longer resist the call of it, he burst into me – pulse after pulse of hot fluid that I could feel as it gushed into me. As he did, his eyes widened, and I saw his pupils nearly overtake the color in his eyes. His expression was one of sorrow, of gratitude, and of lust, all at once, and I nearly lost myself to him in it. There was a kind of innocence there, as though for a moment some part of him had become a child again and was looking out through his eyes.

    It was such a brief expression, but I saw it, all of it, so clearly that my heart leapt and I could only laugh with joy at having seen something of such rare honesty. It passed, though, in a blink, and he was thrusting again, and practically howling as he came. He raised himself up and wrapped his arms around me, continuing to slowly drive into me again and again, but more slowly now.

    I wrapped my own arms around his shoulders, and bent my neck to kiss him. It was full of need, and something else... the way he lifted his face to mine, hungry for my lips, seemed almost devotional. I felt the full force of his devotion, as well, and it made me feel like some deity on high, dipping down from the heavens to lay my blessing upon my dearest follower.

    His hand slid between our stomachs and gripped me tightly. His hand was slick with something, and as he held me tightly to him, and kissed me, and fucked me, his fist tightened and worked me into a thrashing orgasm so quickly I was overtaken by it before I realized it was coming. My seed spilled into the wet space between us and he continued to stroke me. I squirmed and cried out, and struck him – though perhaps, not convincingly – about the shoulders as he tortured me mercilessly. He had taken back the power I had earned, I knew, and had all of the leverage now. His hammering of my ass hadn’t abated at all, and he was as hard as he had been at his peak, and something about the direction of his thrusting was striking me again and again in some deep and secret place.

    I felt my heart would crack my ribs, could barely get a breath, and his hand twisted and rolled in the slippery mixture of cum and sweat and whatever he had used initially to make his hand so soft and slick, and as I gasped and tried to free myself I heard him laughing at me. He bit me, quite hard, on the nipple and I yelped and beat his shoulders in earnest now. But the whole of it brought me to laughter as well, and in moments we collapsed onto the bed in a heap.

    Exhausted, sated, my nostrils full of the scent of sex, I let the laughter run its course, and then reached for Alexander’s hand. He found me first, and lifted my fingers to his mouth and kissed them. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

    The concern in his voice was genuine, and sobering, and I felt ashamed suddenly that I might have made him think that he would. “No, no! Not at all. I was... surprised,” I said, “but it was wonderful. It hasn’t felt like that for me. Not even Master Quentin’s... um, training, felt like that. I think because...” I hunted for the words. The experience was so singular, so unique, that I wasn’t sure how to express it.

    “It’s okay,” Alexander said, and kissed me, “I understand. I’m glad. I’ve wanted you so much, from the time I saw you. And, you make me feel... just...” he only growled again and drew me close and held me.

    We laid like this for some time, before finally he loosed me and rolled onto his back. I snuggled close and put my head on his chest, and listened to his heart beat.

    “We have the day to ourselves. One of very few, I’m afraid. So, we should make use of it.”

    “I thought we were,” I slid my hand down his stomach and took hold of his now softened cock.

    “Mmmm...” it seemed he wouldn’t speak more, but he regained himself, “yes, well, that’s one use anyway. But you need to get out and see the city. It’s an amazing place, and if you look around a bit I think you’ll really like it. We’ve got a fair amount of freedom any time that we aren’t training or studying. I have some friends that I think you’d like as well.”

    I hummed my assent, but remained preoccupied with the desire to play with him for as long as he would let me. Eventually, though, we did get out of bed. He took me to the lavatory where, to my utter amazement, the tub had not only knobs which, as in Porthaven, supplied water that was already hot; but also a tall pipe with a fixture on the end of it which by the lifting of a lever near the brass knobs emitted warm water like rain.

    I had never even heard of a rain bath before. It was another unique experience, and with a sponge and some liquid soap Alexander washed me fastidiously. I did the same for him, and we lingered for a bit in the warm rain until it seemed we had simply been there long enough.

    We dressed, and left the warm confines of our dorm. Somehow stepping out into the world again seemed to replace the weight that had momentarily been lifted off of me. I tried to recapture the sense of freedom and belonging that I had felt before, but it was a struggle. The soreness I felt from the morning’s experience was an awkward but strangely pleasant reminder that I tried to focus on, and it did help.

    Osland was a city like nothing I had ever imagined. Much of it was beyond what I ever could have imagined; I knew about devices powered by mana stones, but only on a small scale like the thresher from my home. My old home, I chided myself. But in Osland…

    Coming into the place I had only seen what was obvious in the dark. Mana lamps lined the streets, and there were carriages driven by them. During the day I saw that there was a great vehicle Alexander called a rail car that carried people by the hundreds all around the city, suspended in the air over a metal rail. The metal I learned was arcanite – mined from the edge of the scar, it would transmit mana as a current, and the figures laid into it caused the rail car to be both suspended and held in place over it. Some other mechanism drove the car forward along its unalterable path.

    A bridge that led from the inner city, where the Red Cabal was housed, crossed over a wide river that Alexander explained was artificial. Water from around the city was purified by pumps that pulled water in, removed everything from it with magic, and then pumped it back into the city, including waterways which crisscrossed the city. Barges floated on the waters, carried from one end of the city to another, and when they encountered the bridges they raised themselves up to allow them passage by means of quietly rumbling engines under the pavement.

    Every building was supplied with light and heat, and in the hottest months with cooling. All of them had running water and rain baths as well.

    Vanholme had been as populated by sorcerers so I wondered why it hadn’t had the same advancements. “Didn’t Master Quentin tell you what the Red does?” Alexander was shocked at my lack of knowledge.

    I shrugged, “He mentioned that the means of opening my inner gates were particular to the Red Cabal, but not really more than that. We talked about the others a little as well but not extensively. We mostly discuss how mana works – I have a lot of catching up to do. Maybe he doesn’t think history lessons are as important as keeping me… well, teaching me control.”

    “Well, that’s a product of it, I suppose.” We crossed through one of the many small parks towards a district where Alexander intended us to find breakfast as he explained. I noticed that just before this happened, his tone changed just so. “The Red Cabal specializes in what we call meta-magic. Our discipline is to study how the taming and control of mana, including the channel through which it flows in the sorcerer. The rings we wear, the interdictor, and the unique training methods we use to open the inner gates – all of them originated with the Red. Osland is the heart of the Red Cabal – so the advancements that are made are introduced here first. The rail cars were only installed a few years ago, but the metal is very expensive, so it will be some time before other cities can build them.”

    It started to make sense, and his lesson also gave context to why Quentin focused so much of my education on the way that mana worked and acted. I imagined that if I had been taken by the white I might be learning what it does in the body instead; or the history of its use by the black.

    I realized, though, that what was not present with all of the mana apparently surrounding us on every side was the sense that it was there. “Wait – when we were in Vanholme, I felt the mana laid into the stones of the keep. If the rail is enchanted, and there are pumps and engines all over the city, why can’t I sense those?”

    We waited to cross the street towards a white building with a wide patio at one corner dotted with small round tables and simple metal chairs. Alexander nodded approvingly at me, “You’re observant. I like smart,” he smiled at me, and winked. I blushed; and wondered momentarily if that reflex would ever go away. “The mana at work here is tamed,” he explained, “The arcanite circuits and the glyphs give it a kind of fixed nature. There are places where you would feel the mana more strongly, but they’re kept very well protected. There can’t be any free mana, or people would get sick.”

    I didn’t understand entirely, but I trusted that this was so. I knew that to be put to any use mana had to be tamed first, so it followed that this must also be true when it was used in these technologies. I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that all of these people – and myself, now – were living on top of a powder keg, though.

    The place Alexander led me to showed me a selection of fruits, breads, oats, meat and eggs as well as some sweets that I hadn’t seen before. I opted for a simple breakfast of eggs, sausage and some kind of ring shaped bread with seeds baked into the top of it. Alexander had a cup of dark, bitter tea that he claimed was practically the water of life which I almost spit out when I tasted it. I had never had the chance to try the bean-tea before; where I came from it was a needless expenditure though I knew the village chancellor had been fond of it.

    We ate in relative quiet as I watched the new world around me. Everyone, it seemed, wore lavish clothing that was as decorative and artful as it was practical. In some cases, the practicality of it seemed to take a secondary role in the design of the clothing. Here and there were apprentices hurrying about the city that stood well out from the crowd by the simplicity of their garments - which were exactly the same as ours, of course.
    After this we spent another several hours wandering around the city. Alexander showed me places to find entertainment, food, drink, and other delights that while rare in my old life were apparently commonplace here.

    Eventually, we rested in one of the larger parks. Alexander wanted to know more about where I had come from and the night that August had come to retrieve me. Though I was sure that my old life would seem unimaginably boring compared to his, I told him about the farms, and my mama.

    “What about your father,” he asked when I had left the subject of family for my few friends.

    I shook my head. “I never knew him. Mama said he went to the borderlands to earn money and never came back. The same was true for a few of the boys I knew growing up. It happens, from time to time.” There was good pay on the borderlands, for very, very dangerous work. It attracted naïve men and women alike, and some years, when the crops were spare, a few people always left. Only a handful returned, and normally with grievous injuries. When they did, they normally started their own farm; most of the farm owners around my village were borderlands veterans.

    It was during this conversation that someone else’s words caught my ear. Some distance from us, I heard the word ‘scar’ and ‘breached’ in the same sentence. I turned to Alexander and frowned. “Did you hear them? I think they said something about a breach at the Scar.”

    Alexander’s expression mirrored mine, and he stood up and walked towards the people I had overheard. I followed him. They weren’t apprentices, but that’s all I could tell from looking at them. One of them was tall and yellow haired, the other a bit shorter than myself and dark featured. Both of them seemed alarmed, but there tone was more one of gossip than of the heart freezing panic that the subject raised in me.

    “Yes,” the shorter one was saying to Alexander, “that’s what I heard, at any rate. There was a breach around Dun’s Hill. The entire fort overrun in a night. Can you imagine? There hasn’t been a breach for over a decade and nothing like that. Just a few clever animals here and there, but nothing like this. Ava here says she has a cousin who’s come in from Fenner, not ten leagues north and east of Dun’s Hill.” My heart skipped and I suddenly found it difficult to breathe. Dun’s Hill wasn’t two days west of my village – I had traded there two years before with Fen Azgood; his grain for their iron.

    Ava, I realized suddenly, was a woman. Her features were ambiguous at best, and from her trousers and short hair I had assumed she was a man as well. When she spoke, her voice had a quality to it that, while certainly feminine, seemed out of place coming from her. “My cousin, Lan. He told me that soldiers and sorcerers came through the town and told everyone to go east and north. They mean to head it off. You can see it here – at the west road – there are some leaving to meet them. Not many, but enough to notice.” Her accent was one I hadn’t heard before, and making out her words was somewhat difficult.

    When I had understood, though, I pulled Alexander towards the inner city. “I need to ask Quentin…”

    Master Quentin,” Alexander corrected.

    “…yes, Master Quentin, about this. Dun’s Hill is close to where I lived. We’re not equipped for something like this, there are no soldiers, no magic, not even a fence much less a wall. If something like this could roll over Dun’s Hill fortress in a night…” I struggled not to run, not to let my imagination run wild, and Alexander gently reminded me that we couldn’t do anything from here regardless how fast we found anyone who could confirm the story. As we neared the bridge, I felt my ring vibrate sharply. I stumbled, cursed, and as the angle of my hips changed in the process I felt the ring grow warmer to a peak of gentle heat; as I corrected myself the heat waned. I grunted and took note of the direction that caused the ring to heat up, and we headed generally that way.

    Before we reached Quentin, Alexander was called by Vanas, and was forced to leave. By the look on his face, Vanas preferred a different Calling signal than Quentin did. I spared a moment to privately be disgusted by the man, and then followed my own Call to where Quentin waited in what I assumed were his quarters.

    Quentin was garbed differently than I had seen before. His robes were more extravagant, with gold embroidery and a squared collar that nearly came to his chin. When I entered the room, he set down a sheaf of paper and beckoned me to sit.

    “Master,” I began without waiting for him to speak, “I heard there was a breach at Dun’s Hill. Is it true? Someone in the city said that people were leaving to meet them. Are you going? Are we going?”

    Quentin showed no reaction to my questions, or to my speaking out of turn, but placed a hand on my knee and leaned forward a little. “Calm, apprentice.” There was a long moment in which I momentarily hung impatiently in the silence, waiting for his next words, until I realized that he literally meant for me to calm myself.

    I sighed and did so; taking several deep breaths, closing my eyes and finding the little spot at the center of me that Quentin had taught me to rely on as the seed of my ‘true self’. Though the mind is in turmoil, this Seed which births the True Self is ever at peace, ever watchful, ever untouched by the impermanent.

    “As far as I know,” Quentin was saying as I opened my eyes, “it is true. Dun’s Hill was overrun the night before last. News has chased us, it seems, up from Vanholme, where a message reached the keep by magic. All of the Cabals are bound to deal with a breach of this scope, so a number of our sorcerers and adepti are called to assist in recovering Dun’s Hill and cleaning up the rabble that escaped. They weren’t expecting something… like this.”

    I stared at him, waiting for more. He tilted his head to one side and returned the look. “I am not among those leaving, Apprentice. And no apprentices will be going anywhere, either. The Adepti will be in supporting positions only. This is none of your concern, but everyone must be made aware.”

    “Master, Dun’s hill is-”

    “I’m well aware, Simon.” He looked at me then, his face both soft and hard at the same time. “You cannot be distracted by your old life. Not because of this, or anything else. Be here, now, Apprentice. Your life depends on it. Tomorrow, we will open another inner gate, and you will begin to learn how to put your magic to use.”

    I nodded to him, but didn’t entirely mean it. How could I not worry about my ‘old life’? Old for me was not much more than a week before. The stock in Mama’s cupboard would have been much of the same food I had put there the day before I was taken. Perhaps she still hadn’t cleaned out my room, or given away – or perhaps burned – my things.

    The kinds of things that lived in the Scar were nightmare creatures. I had seen one of them not two days into my journey here and the thought of so many of them – enough to overrun a fort full of soldiers who lived for nothing else than to keep them in – made me cold.

    Quentin hugged me – a strange gesture despite everything – and told me again not to dwell on it, and sent me away. He reminded me that I had studying to do as well and that I would be expected to have learned something of value by tomorrow.

    Before I left, I recalled that Alexander had been Called as well. “Are all of the masters telling there apprentices, then?”

    Quentin shook his head. “I told you because you were bound to hear it eventually and it was pertinent to your… circumstances.”

    “Why would Vanas have called Alexander at the same time then? We were both supposed to have the day off, I thought.” I immediately wished I could recall the words – it was no business of mine and I expected Quentin to let me know this.

    Instead, and picked up the paper he had been reading before and looked over it again. “Vanas is among those called to assist. He’ll be leaving tonight.”

    “What happens to Alexander?” I feared that Quentin would tell me he was leaving as well, but this wasn’t the case.

    “I’ll be taking over his training in Vanas’ absence.”

    I let out the breath I had been holding, and nodded. It didn’t offset my dread entirely, but it was a small comfort.

    “Study hard and sleep well, Apprentice,” Quentin said as I turned to leave, “Tomorrow’s lessons will be very taxing indeed.” I couldn’t have said why but something in his tone made me very uncomfortable.

  26. #26
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    Re: The Red Cabal

    I very much hope that everyone has enjoyed these ten chapters! This will be the last chapter posted here. There are several more written that I need to edit, and summary chapters run to about 38 but that could change later on. I'm hoping to have the book finished and published on Kindle by february or, perhaps a little earlier, and since I started this process I've rewritten much of the first couple of chapters so what I publish will be more polished and, hopefully, even more engaging!

    Thank you all for your comments and support, it has been very encouraging and has given me the confidence to keep myself going on this project. It's a big dream of mine to be an author, and to bring together fantasy fiction and gay erotica, so with luck, hard work, and patience, I hope that I will make this come true in the near future!

    I'll continue to post other short one-shot stories on the forum, as I write them on occasion to practice and to explore different themes and imagery. So, i'll be around!

    peace

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    All the chapters have been extremely interesting in seeing a somewhat naive boy blossom into an experienced man. In only a short week or so he has witnessed more than most will ever see in their lifetimes. There have been some very erotic chapters, but chapter 10 was exceptionally well written. The bonding between Simon and Alexander, hopefully the beginning of a lasting relationship, was extremely intense and arousing. You certainly have brought this story to life as I can visualize every scene as though I were a part of it.

    VagrantSong, I feel both sadness and happiness about your decision. Sad because I have become very entrenched in this work and have looked forward to each new chapter. Happiness for you and your publishing the story on Kindle. I would ask that you keep us informed on when it will be published so we can continue to enjoy your writing on our Kindles. I will miss Simon, Alexander and even Quentin. Best of luck to you and I look forward to more of your stories here on the forum.

    Craiger

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    Thank you for your kind words! This has been exactly what I needed to get myself motivated to finish the book and really polish it to a shine. I have spaced out the sexy scenes a bit more with the additional chapters, and given Simon a more concrete personality and background. I had thought at first that cutting him off from his past so early, and then revealing it over time would reflect his initial numbness and desire not to face the true loss he had suffered, and sort of bring the reader with him on his slow acceptance and reflection on it. Instead, I decided that this just prevented the reader from empathizing with a loss that they couldn't really see. So the story now has a much better opening I feel, especially having written Simon enough now to have a better sense of who he is - I was able to go back and introduce him as a more stable character from page one instead of building up to it later on. And while I still don't give him a clear description, I think that the image of him is a bit clearer to the reader from the context of the first few chapters while still leaving plenty of room to sort of step into his skin. The original chapter 10 is now chapter 13; the original chapter 1 is now edited into the new chapter 3. I've also edited much of the dialogue and some of the descriptive text throughout to better reflect the changes and give each character a much clearer role. Quentin for instance I originally sort of envisioned as a fellow apprentice, but then wrote him as Simon's teacher, and had to go back and rewrite his introduction to be a bit more mature but still not as stuffy and rule-laden as Vanas. Simon also I think now maintains the more masculine, but sensitive, personality I originally wanted for him. I wrote much of my own fluctuating personality into him by virtue of writing first person, which always makes it a little difficult to maintain a consistent character rather than writing your own mood from day to day!

    I will say that as of the current changes and summaries - Alexander will be an eye opening experience for Simon; Quentin may not have Simon's best interests at heart; Simon had a very real emotional attachment to his old friend Arnie (whose name may change) and was able to reveal this before he was taken - Arnie was more torn by the event and sort of stuck by Simon rather than turning away - and the two of them will meet again but probably not how you think; there is a much bigger plot developing than just Simon's personal journey as the Sins of the fathers are laid upon the children; and finally, August (who is a far more distinct character with just a little bit of rewriting) will be back in Simon's life in a big way...

    I'm plugging away as fast as I can, but don't want to rush it too much. I have an excellent literary analyst assisting me with making it, I hope, a very good book and I'm unbelievably excited to be, now, over halfway done.

    peace!
    Last edited by VagrantSong; November 19th, 2012 at 10:18 PM.

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    I also found and fixed a multitude of hard to spot spelling and grammar errors. Oy! Perhaps no one caught them, but I found so many that I thought I must seem ignorant or entirely lacking an education in the english language to anyone reading the story!

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    I really look forward to re-reading "The Red Cabal" with all the new and revised portions. As I said before, I will miss it from the forum, but will be one of the first to load it into my Kindle. Please do keep me advised as to when it is published.
    You spoke of the multitude of errors, and I did see a few, but nothing that distracted me from the intensity of the story. You are hardly ignorant or lacking an education, in my opinion. Not with the excellent ability you have shown in writing this wonderfully romantic fantasy. Best of luck and remember us from time to time with more of your writing.

    Craiger

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    Re: The Red Cabal

    What a truly fantastic story, it is a great read, yes a few typos and errors but you can read past them.

    I really hope your career as a successful author is a fulfilling and profitable one for you.. good luck

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