I just spent all day writing part two of “The Tithe-Boy” instead of writing my NaNoWriMo novel. I hope you appreciate this!
Before we begin, I should note that there is kinky sex (a bit of D/s, mention of biting, and flogging) of the m/m variety and voyeurism, because I’ve always wanted to write a voyeuristic kind of scene for some reason. I haven’t separated the smut this time, so if you want to skip it:
STOP READING at the phrase “Sevian’s great discovery was a secret passage in the library….”
START READING again at “I pulled myself away….” (not as dirty as it sounds)
Otherwise, if you do read it, let me know if you think I did better than Fifty Shades of Grey.
For part three, Tom has his first day of magic training!
Ready to read? Hit the jump and let’s get started! As usual, apologies in advance for spelling and grammatical errors, any research fails (especially re: m/m sex, floggers, and secret passages) are mine, obviously.
The Tithe-Boy, Part 2
The carriage rumbled along pleasantly for a bit, but I felt the change in terrain immediately when it happened, dirt road giving way to something much smoother. It didn’t feel like a cobblestone road, but I didn’t dare look out to see where we were. Fulgaris was once again intent on his book, as if he had made this journey a thousand times before.
“You may look outside, if you wish,” he said to me, never taking his eyes off the page he was at.
I had to admit, I was curious to see where we were, and curiosity overcame caution as I carefully pulled the curtain covering the window pack. I’ll just peek, just a peek won’t hurt….
I hastily yanked the curtain back over the window and fell back against my seat. “L-Lady!” I stammered. “The colours! So….many….”
Fulgaris had a glass of water in his hand, which he was holding out to me. “A perfectly normal reaction to overstimulation of the senses,” he remarked, placing the glass in my hands. “Drink.”
I suppose I should have paused to consider whether the drink was drugged, but I was so overwhelmed that I downed its contents in one gulp, placing the glass off to one side.
Lady! It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. So many colours, shades I knew and others I could never have imagined. The city was saturated by colour, and not just on the buildings, but the people as well. We passed a woman in a teal dress with hair of the same shade piled high on her head like a small tower. I saw vests of crimson and robes of saffron, and it was all moving, moving as the crowd did. The few who noticed our carriage’s progress made a brief obeisance—usually a bow, a gesture that was not only restricted to men—and then continued on their way.
It was all too much, and I wondered how I was expected to live here in the presence of all these hues and shades. The town seemed drab and dull and lifeless by comparison. Oh, how could a human even hope to reproduce some of the colours I’d seen?
My back remained stubbornly stuck to the back of my seat for the remainder of the carriage ride. Fulgaris said nothing more, merely turning a few more pages in his book.
Suddenly, the carriage came to a stop. “We have arrived,” he said, shutting his book and glancing at the door, which suddenly popped open.. I didn’t bother to ask how he knew that we had arrived without the benefit of a window to check the route. Then again, he seemed to know much while having access to little.
As he made to exit the carriage though, the words just tumbled from my mouth. “Are you a god?” I blurted out.
He turned to me, golden eyes fastening on mine. “No, child,” he said simply, and then he was gone from the carriage, holding out a hand to help me disembark.
I stepped out of the carriage and into the light, and gaped up at the structure before me in disbelief.
It was a house, of that I was certain, but I’d never seen such a massive house before. So many windows! We were standing before a large gate made of smooth, dark metal, which swung open at Fulgaris’ touch, revealing a fountain in the shape of a mermaid—naked as the day was young—pouring water from an urn. The doors were made of a dark brown wood, but the door was not what drew my attention, but the man standing next to it.
His skin was the colour of slate, and his eyes were dark red. At first, I thought he must be a statue of some sort, but I saw how his chest rose and fell as he breathed. He was carrying a halberd, and as Fulgaris approached, he raised it in a salute. “Welcome back,” he said, his voice was warm and pleasant, neither deep nor high, and I liked him instantly, though I could not fathom why that was the case.
To my great surprise, Fulgaris’ expression softened, and I saw something resembling a smile settle on his face before he addressed the man. “Well met, Karios.”
Karios snorted. “Oh, what is this ‘well met’ nonsense? Have you been trying to scare the boy with your aloof nobleman act?” But he was smiling at the golden god, giving me a small nod. “Hello there, boy. Don’t let Lord Fulgaris frighten you, he may act like an antisocial twit most of the time, but he actually has a heart under all that iron.”
Fulgaris scowled but said nothing , merely stepped up to the doors and flung them open.
The first thing I noticed was the gigantic staircase dominating the room, which split in either direction. The second thing I noticed was that everything in the room, from staircase to floor to ceiling, was the colour of ivory, except the carpet leading up the stairs, which was red. I had never felt so exposed in my entire life, not even when I had stood in that line when the carriages were just arriving.
Fulgaris wasted no time in ascending the stairs, waiting on the landing for Karios and I to catch up. “You will be spending most of your time in the western wing,” he informed me, nodding towards the left hallway. “It is where you will sleep, but most importantly, it is where you will learn.” He began to head up the left set of stairs, I following behind him like an eager puppy.
The corridors in the western wing were not as well lit as the receiving room, but rather than seem confining, I found it strangely comforting. We passed only a couple doors before Fulgaris stopped at one. “This is where you will sleep,” he told me, raising a fist to rap sharply on the door. “Sevian! Open up!”
It took longer than I would have expected, but eventually the door was opened by a boy close to my own age. “Excuse me, Lord,” he said. “I was, ah, a little busy.”
“I am certain you were, Sevian,” Fulgaris remarked dryly, nudging me towards the door. “This is Tom, he is a tithe-boy like yourself, and will be learning the magical arts with you and Helaira from now on.”
“Oh!” The door was flung open, and I had my first good glimpse of Sevian. He was unlike any boy I had ever seen, shoulder length mousy brown hair and pale skin framed eyes that were such a vivid green that I would have mistaken him for one of the glittering gods that were not gods that walked the streets of the city.
“Welcome, Tom,” he said breathlessly as he took my hands and pulled me into the room. It was actually a suite of rooms, as I was now standing in an open space with a table and a set of plush seats close to a fireplace, which was currently unlit. “Helaira is tending to her toilet at the moment, but she will be out in a moment.” He turned his attention to Fulgaris. “He will be studying with us, truly?”
Fulgaris nodded. “He has the Potential, Sevian, as do you, as does Helaira.”
Sevian seemed pleased with this answer. “Oh, good, I was hoping you would choose another boy. Helaira is fine company, of course, but—“ he narrowed his eyes at me. “You are a boy, are you not?”
I was momentarily taken aback by the question. “I….yes, as far as I know….” I said. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Sevian shook his head, and I noticed Fulgaris give him a look that concealed a warning. “Oh no, it’s nothing like that,” he said. “In any case, I hope we all get along. We’ll be seeing a lot of each other, after all.”
Fulgaris withdrew until he was standing at the door. “I entrust his care to you and Helaira,” he told Sevian. “Be kind to him, Sevian, do you hear me?”
Sevian paled as he met Fulgaris’ gaze, his expression severe, and I too, would eventually learn to tremble when he slid on that particular mask, but the boy did not flinch under that gaze, only bowed formally, murmuring a “Yes, Lord,” as he came out of it.
“Good,” said Fulgaris, and now he was back to being merely slightly on the cool side as he left the room entirely. “Be sure to inform him of everything he needs to know, Sevian,” he called, and then he was gone. I knew he was gone even though I had heard no retreating footsteps.
Sevian sighed. “I hate when he glares like that,” he told me. “Anyways, we break our fast at seven in the morning, lunch is at noon, and supper is at six. Be sure you are punctual, Fulgaris despises those who lack punctuality. Actually, since we will be together most of the day, you probably won’t have to worry overmuch about punctuality, but just so you’re aware in case we are ever separated–Oh, look, here’s Helaira now!
The girl that stepped out from what I presume was the latrine had long dark hair and eyes as grey as Karios’ skin. Her skin, on the other hand, was a warm gold in colour
“Helaira,” said Sevian. “This is Tom; Fulgaris brought him in this morning.”
I didn’t like the way Sevian was referring to me as if I were a cow, but Helaira didn’t seem to notice. “Pleased to meet you, Tom,” she said, and I noticed suddenly that she was wearing men’s clothing, or, more accurately, that she was not wearing a dress.
All of a sudden, I wasn’t sure how to react. All the women in my town wore dresses, every single one of them, and none of them would dare wear jackets and breeches. “Why aren’t you wearing a dress?!” I blurted out. “I thought you were a….a girl.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sevian cover his mouth to hide his laughter, Helaira just looked annoyed. “I am a girl,” she stated firmly. “There’s no such thing as boys’ clothes and girls’ clothes, only clothes and stupid people. Lord Fulgaris says I may wear what I like, and I like dresses and breeches, but these are easier to move in, so I wear them.”
I honestly didn’t know what to make of my new home, where everyone wore impossible colours and girls dressed in boys’ clothing, but it wasn’t as if I could leave. Everyone in town was very clear on that point. One a tithe-child was taken, they never came home again.
“I-I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t—this is all new to me, I—“
Helaira shook her head. “Just watch what you say, Tom, was it? Some of the people around here won’t be as forgiving as I am if you go saying everything that comes to mind,” and then, unexpectedly, she smiled. “I understand how you must feel. I was new here too, once.” She turned to Sevian. “Did you show him his room, yet?”
Sevian shook his head. “I was just about to. There’s nothing much to see, really. It’s just a bed and a night table.”
“Well, we should show him the rest of the place,” she said. “So he doesn’t get lost.” She took my hand. “Come on, Sevian and I know this whole place from top to bottom!”
Sevian and Helaira took me on a whirlwind tour of the house. The first room we stopped at was the practice room, as they called it. It was a large open space, presumably where we would go to practice magic, though I had no idea what practicing magic entailed, and Helaira and Sevian wouldn’t say a word on the subject. Next, we headed downstairs to the dining area, which boasted the longest table I had ever seen in my life, and the kitchens, the heat and smoke in which hurt my eyes, but evidently did not hurt Sevian’s enough for him to swipe three rolls from the cook, a thin man who had turned away for a moment to tend to a large cauldron filled with Lady-knew-what. I suddenly found myself wondering exactly what someone like Fulgaris ate, and supposed I would find out that night.
After our brief diversion in the kitchens, we headed up the stairs and into the eastern wing, where the library and the bathing chamber were located. It baffled me that one could have an entire room dedicated solely to bathing—as my family only had a wooden tub that we dragged out whenever one of us needed a bath, if we bathed at all—but that was the purpose of this room. The other rooms, they told me, were mostly bedrooms, including the one where Fulgaris slept, but as all those doors were closed, we didn’t go into them. Lastly, we went out into the back area to wander amongst the gardens and hedges until we tired of that, and besides, Sevian informed us that it was now time for dinner. I had no idea how he knew, as I saw neither sundial nor other time-keeping apparatus, but hurried back inside regardless. Better to err on the side of caution than risk Fulgaris’ wrath because we weren’t punctual.
I did not know what to expect from dinner, only that when we entered, Fulgaris was already seated at the head of the table, with Karios at his right hand. The table was set with three other places and no more. I suddenly wondered how often he used the whole thing.
Sevian, who was in the lead, had skidded to a halt before the threshold, and now he entered the room at a more sedate pace, the bow he gave Fulgaris a little less formal, and then he took the seat to Fulgaris’ left. Helaira followed suit with only a brief lowering of her eyes, sitting next to Karios, and then it was my turn. I sketched out a bow that I hoped was passably respectful, then, at a nod from Fulgaris, hesitantly took a seat next to Sevian. “You need a bit of practice,” he whispered. “But don’t worry, you’ll improve.” He smiled at me encouragingly, and I smiled back before glancing in horror at my plate. Just how much cutlery did one meal require?!
Fortunately, Sevian appeared to have been expecting this, for he leaned over and pointed to the outermost fork. “Just go from the outside in,” he said. “It’s not as intimidating as it seems.”
Fulgaris clapped his hands together, and the meal began.
I hadn’t noticed any servants in the mansion itself, but they emerged now, bearing silver trays which they set before us. I didn’t even want to attempt to name all the dishes they set before me, though I knew that one was soup and one was salad, I couldn’t seem to find a name for any of the ingredients. One thing was for certain, however, it was all delicious, every last bite was savoured. I felt like a king, and Sevian and Helaira seemed to really be enjoying themselves as well. The last thing they brought out was a swan that looked as if it were made of glass. Imagine my surprise when they started breaking off pieces and setting them on our plates, or when I bit into mine and found that it was sweet.
“It’s sugar,” Sevian informed me. “I have no idea how they manage to make it so opaque, though, the one time I tried to do it, it turned all brown.”
I glanced at Helaira, but she only shrugged. Beside her, Karios was grinning, the sort of grin that said that he knew the secret but wouldn’t tell any of us.
When we had finished eating, and Fulgaris and Karios had withdrawn from the dining room, the three of us went back to our suite, but it wasn’t long before Sevian approached me, grinning from ear to ear ”Do you want to see something interesting?” He asked me.
“What?” I asked, wondering what he was talking about and not liking that grin one bit.
Sevian had a mischievous glint in his eye. “What Fulgaris and Karios do when we’re not around, of course,” he said.
Seated across from, Helaira rolled her eyes. “Is this another one of your schemes that will get us all in trouble, Sevian?”
Sevian bristled, suddenly defensive. “It’s just something I found!” He said. “Come on, it’ll be fun! I’ll just show you and then we can just pretend we never saw anything.”
Helaira sighed, but she stood up. “Fine, I’ll come with you. How about you, Tom?”
As much as I didn’t want to get into trouble, this was a chance to learn a bit more about Fulgaris, and I knew precious little about him other than that he liked to read and almost never smiled. “Fine, but we better not get into trouble for this.”
“It’ll be fine,” said Sevian, gesturing for us to go ahead of him.
Sevian’s great discovery was a secret passage in the library which concealed a sort passageway and a room decorated in red and gold. The floor was strewn with pillows, but the only real furnishing in the room was a chair, facing a wall. There was a chest of mahogany wood off to one side, but it was closed and, as far as I could tell, locked.
“Isn’t it great?” Sevian whispered excitedly.
“Great?” Helaira glanced at the mess of pillows. “Empty is more like it….”
I agreed with her. I couldn’t imagine what this room was used for. I slid into the chair, wondering why in the Lady’s name it was facing the wall—
–and then I saw it.
There was a hole in the wall, small enough to be concealed by a gold coin. Some instinct told me that I didn’t want to know what was on the other side, but now I was curious, and so I leaned forward to look.
I was looking into a bedroom, that much I could tell, if the canopied bed was any indication. Off to the side a bit, but not out of my line of sight, was a strange wooden post.
Fulgaris was in the bed, and as far as I could tell, he wasn’t wearing any clothes.
“Hey! Let me see!” Sevian hissed, and I shifted so that he could take a look. I was happy to concede it to him, turning away so he wouldn’t see how hotly I blushed.
“I want to see too!” said Helaira, nudging Sevian aside so that she could take a look. “Oh,” was all she said, but her face didn’t redden as mine had
Fulgaris! Naked! This is wrong; we shouldn’t be here!
I heard a door open on Fulgaris’ side, and the sound of someone shuffling around, and I couldn’t resist taking another look.
Karios had entered the room and was standing at the right side of the bed, facing Fulgaris. He was fully clothed, thank the Lady, but his shoulders were slumped like a man carrying a heavy burden. “My Lord,” he said in a voice heavy with sorrow. “I have done wrong by you and your House.”
Fulgaris shifted a little, and the sheets flowed like water to accommodate the movement. “What have you done, my servant?”
“I had a dalliance with a maid in the carrot patch,” said Karios.
Besides me, Sevian stifled a giggle. I didn’t see what was so funny about dallying in a carrot patch.
“Oh, indeed?” said Fulgaris, I couldn’t see his expression from this distance, but I imagined he was less than amused. “And did the maid consent to this dalliance?”
“Yes, Lord,” Karios replied immediately. “But I regret to inform you that the carrots are now….quite inedible….”
“Indeed,” Fulgaris agreed. “It is a grave matter, the matter of carrots. Well, I suppose I shall have to punish you for your transgression, then. Kiss my hand.”
I watched as Karios sank gracefully to his knees and pressed his lips against the back of Fulgaris’ palm, watched as Fulgaris swept the sheet aside and rose naked from the bed, watched as Fulgaris hauled Karios to his feet to kiss him passionately, possessively.
I turned away from the small hole. I had seen men and women kiss before, but never two men, and never like this. This wasn’t something that men in my town did with other men, and now, here was Fulgaris, and here was Karios, and they were….
Sevian was watching them now. “He’s taking all of Karios’ armor off,” he whispered. Someone moaned, and Sevian’s eyes widened. “It looks like Lord Fulgaris is….biting him? Oh, now what are they doing?”
I heard it, then, a thump, followed by a grunt, and there it was again, and again, and, Lady help me, I had to see what was going on. I shoved Sevian aside, peering through the hole.
Karios’ was completely naked now, and tied to the strange wooden pole by his wrists, Fulgaris was stalking around him, striking him with something. Wait, I knew it. I’d seen the March use something like it on criminals in town. People always gathered to watch, and bet on how long the person would last. I couldn’t remember the last time we had gone to see one. Grandmother hated such things; mother said it served as a deterrent to criminals.
This one didn’t seem like the same kind, though. It was smaller, for one thing, and Karios wasn’t screaming, not in the way he would have If the March had been hitting him. His back was pink with welts that stood out starkly against the grey of his skin, but they were not bleeding.
As I watched, Fulgaris came around behind him, letting the tails of the flogger caress his back and buttocks, Karios moaned, and then Fulgaris flicked his wrist, and he whimpered a little before moaning again. I watched a Fulgaris pressed his lips against Karios’ neck. “I love it when you whimper for me, my servant.” He purred. “I love it when you moan and scream for me, but most importantly….” I couldn’t see what he was doing, but whatever it was made Karios moan loudly.
“….I love this part of you,” he said. “Every inch of it. I love how it rises at my command….” and then his hands were at his sides again, and Karios let out an agonized moan.
“And, ah yes….” he purred. “I do so love it when you beg me to free you of it….”
“P-P-P-Please, Lord,” I heard Karios gasp. “P-P-Please….”
“Dear me,” said Fulgaris, reaching up to free his wrists from their bonds. “I forget how inarticulate you can be after a flogging, but my answer is no, of course, not until I take my pleasure, at least….”
And take it, he did.
I watched with morbid fascination as Karios knelt and took Fulgaris’ into his mouth watched him kiss and lick and such on it until Fulgaris ordered him to stop, grabbing him by his short black hair and practically dragging him to the bed. There was a brief pause as Fulgaris reached into a nearby drawer and took out a jar of some sort of strange liquid, and then I watched as Fulgaris mounted Karios.
Now this, I had seen something like it before. I had seen bulls mount cows and stallions mount mares in the fields and had even seen a stallion mount another stallion before, though my mother insisted that the stallion had confused the other male with a female. Fulgaris didn’t seem confused, though, and that was the precise moment when I began to question everything I took for a given in that little town.
It did not take either of them long to finish—though Karios had to ask permission before Fulgaris would let him—and after they had both collapsed in a tangle of limbs, Fulgaris drew Karios into his arms, murmuring in his ear. After a few minutes of this, Fulgaris kissed him, and then he swept out of the room.
I pulled myself away from the hole, exchanging looks with Sevian and Helaira, who both seemed just as perturbed and intrigued as I was.
“What was that?” asked Helaira.
“I don’t know,” I replied, but I think they….liked it?
“Tom, Sevian, Helaira….”
Sevian screamed and a chill ran up my spine at the sound of Fulgaris’ voice. He had been naked when he left the room, but now he was clad in a robe of midnight blue, wearing an expression somewhere between utter serenity and as angry as storm clouds, or a forest fire.
“Would one of you mind explaining to me,” he began, his voice deceptively calm, “what all of you are doing in this room?”
Helaira and I exchanged glances, wondering how best to put it to him, but then Sevian blurted out “We were just curious!” and that was that.
Fulgaris raised an eyebrow. “Oh, is that so?” He turned his focus away from Sevian to me, and his expression softened. “Tom, did you see anything that frightened you?”
“I….a little,” I said in a small voice.
Fulgaris nodded to himself. “We will discuss it later, then, in my study. As for you….” and here he rounded on Sevian again. “I do not appreciate neither mine nor Karios’ privacy being violated in such a matter. Sevian, I know you bear the brunt of the blame for this little….excursion….so you will be tasked with helping to serve dinner for the next week,” and then he skewered all three of us with his gaze. “And if I catch any of you in this room without my express permission—and I will catch you, children, mark my words—I will have you all whipped. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Lord Fulgaris,” we chorused.
“Good,” he said, and then he turned and walked out of the room, leaving the three of us gazing after him.