Atia Selene is the premiere magical university on the continent, and Verity Fen is its brightest star. Handsome, spoiled, and too smart for his own good,Verity has his pick of his fellow students, breaking the heart of any young man who falls into his bed. One of the privileges of Verity’s position is a servant who he treats with disdain, who may prove to be the one man Verity can’t use and use up.
Iskander cares for his master with grace, skill, and discretion, along with a heavy leather belt and a thoroughly commanding attitude. Though sex with Iskander is the hottest he’s ever had, and submission is a bigger turn-on than Verity imagined, he’ll do anything–including a jealousy-provoking affair with another student–rather than submit gracefully to Iskander’s control.
Academic life proceeds as normal until a professor orders Verity to assist him with a secret project. Suddenly, the battles of lust and control with Iskander are not the biggest challenge in Verity’s life. As Verity’s sanity begins to unravel under the influence of an undead sorceress, will Iskander’s love be powerful enough to protect him?
About the Author: Kannan Feng lives next door to Lake Michigan and her current interests include mushroom recipes, deconstructing superheroes, oracles and the Byzantine Empire. She has been previously published in Strange Horizons, Alien Skin, Ruthie’s Club, and Oysters and Chocolate. “The Lord of Misrule” originally appeared in the Circlet Press anthology Kneel to Me, and other stories of hers have appeared on circlet.com and in other Circlet projects. She will welcome great fortune and love in the new year (in bed) and her lucky numbers are 5, 8, 22 and 19.
I earned the right to walk the halls of Atia Selene when I was sixteen, and even at that age, the masters of the Veiled University knew that I would one day join their ranks. I was a prodigy, I was brilliant, and unfortunately for the younger students and the servants around me, I was a holy terror.
After all, before I set my mind to the aetheric arts, I was the youngest son of the House of Fen, a prince by birth and gifted in every way that a man could be. I knew it, and I made sure that everyone around me knew it as well.
In the seventh year of study at Atia Selene, the students who remain are provided with an assistant, but the word fails to do the position justice. I’ve heard the older students refer to their assistant as miracle workers or genii who manage their affairs, search the libraries for the elusive tome that they need, and organize their writings, all while being perfectly even-tempered with the famously eccentric ways of the Veiled University.
It is an extremely demanding job, and when Iskander was presented to me, I was far from confident with his ability to handle it. He was tall, with blue-black hair and the warm, dusky skin that marked him as Liuban-born. There was a spray of dark freckles across his nose that made him look even younger than he was, and I guessed that was actually a few years younger than I was myself.
“You don’t look like all that much,” I said candidly.
He only tilted his head at me, unsmiling, waiting for my command, and impulsively, I reached out to palm his cheek.
For a moment, I considered seeing if he would tumble into the bed at my command and if I could convince him to put that soft mouth to a use that was certainly not outlined in the university charter. Then I remembered myself and stepped back, already embarrassed by my lapse.
No matter what I might have feared, Iskander performed admirably. He returned my books to the library before the librarians came after me with sword and fire, he double-checked my papers’ citations into the wee hours of the morning, he made sure that my desk was kept well-stocked with ink and paper, and he did it all with unfailing grace.
After a while, Iskander become invisible, or at least he mostly did, and with more pretty things hopping in and out of my bed than I knew what to do with, I was happy enough to let him take care of the day-to-day trivia of my life.
Why should I bother about small things like, that after all, when I was in love? The thing about being twenty four is that you can have a new love of your life every few weeks or so.
Unfortunately, on a cold night near to Christmas, my most recent paramour had decided to let me know that he was getting married. He was just two years older than me, and he was getting married. It was crushing, and I spent the next six hours drinking and ranting about the perfidy of men to anyone who would listen to me. I was more than a little annoyed that no one had chosen to accompany me home, and with my apartments filled with cold air and work that I didn’t want to do, I couldn’t see my mood improving at all.
All that said, when Iskander opened the door to my bedchamber to deliver the books that I needed for my next paper, I wasn’t happy with anything.
“Wait, don’t go,” I said, and from the wary look on his face, I could tell that he wasn’t sure of my mood. Well, that made two of us, and I rolled over in the bed, propping myself up on one bare elbow.
“Have you ever kissed a man before, Iskander?”
A lovely blush that colored his face and I grinned inwardly, think about how much I love straight boys. I was startled when he nodded, just once.
“How very lucky,” I said sweetly. “I won’t have to teach you a thing.”
When I beckoned he came to my bedside and dropped to his knees. To my surprise though, he took my chin between two fingers and tilted my head up before dropping his mouth to mine. My shock quickly turned to something else, though, as he demonstrated clearly and beyond the shadow of a doubt that he knew how to kiss. His soft tongue explored my mouth leisurely and with every semblance of enjoying it, and it made me melt and want more. I had anticipated a kiss that was meek and hesitant, but what I got was a feeling of being overwhelmed and completely at Iskander’s mercy. Distantly, I thought that if Iskander had been putting up with me for so long, he would have little mercy to spare.
Iskander brought his hand up to gently touch my face and that was what made me bolt. The kiss wanted to turn into something more, and I knew that I couldn’t let it, not if I wanted things to stay as they were.
I sat up and pulled back from him, wiping my mouth hard, and staring at him with what I hoped was haughty disdain. It was one thing to bait a servant, and quite another to turn into my servant’s willing plaything, and I was furious with myself.
“You can go now, Iskander. Make sure that you confirm my appointment with the discourse counselor this evening.”
He nodded and took his leave, and if my strange and completely inappropriate gesture made him uncomfortable, I couldn’t tell in the way that he took care of his work.
* * * *
Christmas came in with drifting piles of snow and a howling wind, and by the eighth day of partying, I was in a black mood. If one more person came up to me talking of good tidings and good will, I was well prepared to club him over the head with a Yule log. Under the best of times, I’m not fond of the holiday, and this year I was facing it alone without someone to drag into the corner and kiss until I was drunk with it.
All in all, it was shaping up to be a rotten winter when the Feast of Fools rolled around. The Feast of Fools is the world turned upside down, the one night of the year where servants become kings and princes become chambermaids to be fucked and horses to be ridden.
When you put stodgy academics in with people who are meant to serve them loyally and without a peep of dismay, you’d think that something like the Feast of Fools would be banned at the gates and the night spent in prayer and guilt. That’s what you might think, but you’d be wrong because the Feast of Fools is one of the biggest saturnalias that Atia Selene enjoys all year. If I never saw the Chancellor dressed up as the Milkmaid Queen again, it would be too soon.
I had told Iskander to lay out some clothes for me, but I was unprepared for the flat black coat and trousers that were waiting for me on my bed. On one hand, it was nice to have a servant who is so devoted that he can read my moods. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to dress in somber black for the brightest night in winter.
I glanced at my closet, where my significantly more colorful wardrobe spilled out in disarray, but I shrugged and put on the clothes that Iskander had chosen for me. They fit like a glove, and at least they were clean.
* * * *
The Regina Ursae hall was full of people, and the party had started hours before I slouched in. In priest’s black, I stood out like a sore thumb, but with the alcohol flowing free of charge from sundown until dawn, I couldn’t imagine that anyone cared.
I was looking around to rather dismally to see if I could catch someone circulating with a glass of something stronger than the cider and my eyes were drawn to the seat on top of the central dais.
No one’s quite sure who makes the choice, but at sunset every year on the Feast of Fools, a Lord of Misrule appears on the chair that is usually only occupied by the Chancellor. On this particular Feast, the Chancellor was got up in his best Ella Cinders costume and the seat was occupied by my Iskander, wearing nothing but a pair of gray trousers and a blindingly red military jacket trimmed in a general’s gold braid.
Wearing pure black when everyone else was tricked out in eye searingly bright colors made me downright prim, and my first thought was shock at his bare chest and the winking red gem that pierced his navel. How had he served me for so long without my knowing of such a thing? I suddenly wanted to take it between my teeth, but such pleasant thoughts were blown out of my mind when a young man in a mask and very little else swung up to the dais for a kiss.
Nothing could have been more matter of fact than the way that Iskander pressed the man to his knees. With his hand wrapped firmly in the man’s chestnut hair (who was it? I should have known), Iskander kissed him throughly as the crowd cheered. It was more blatantly sexual than the kiss that I had demanded that he give me, and as stupid as it was, I felt the first stirrings of jealousy strike me low in the gut.
I reached for a glass of that something stronger that I had been looking for, but just as I noticed that Iskander’s intent black eyes were searching for the crowd, they locked on me. If I had had my wits around me, I would have ran or at least glared, but as it was, I could only stand there and think rather stupidly of how beautiful he was when smiled in that elegantly predatory fashion.
“Bring Verity here to heel,” he called. “I should very much like to see the Veiled University’s most promising scholar on his knees.”
His voice cracked like a whip and it brought the entire hall surging towards me. A dozen hands pushed me forward, and if I fell, I knew they would carry me. Suddenly and with the force of lightning, I was terrified and when they threw me face first onto the dais in front of Iskander, I knew deep in my marrow that the world was upside down. Iskander was the Lord of Misrule and even if I had him tied up and beaten with a dog whip in the morning, nothing would change the fact that he was going to have his every single whim obeyed like it was the Lady’s word tonight.
His eyes glittered when I was thrown so unceremoniously at his bare feet and slowly he knelt down. Iskander’s hand in my hair was oddly tender, stroking twice before grabbing a great handful and dragging me to my feet.
“I am going to stretch this night forever, Verity,” he whispered in my ear. “Go on and pretend that you don’t like it, if that’s what pleases you.”
Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t even pretend that I wasn’t aroused by having him so close, by having all those people who usually had to bow and scrape before me tearing at me with their bright eyes.
With a showman’s grace, he turned me towards the crowd, letting their jeers and catcalls swell before reaching for his next grand gesture. His hand still fisted in my hair and keeping me straight as an arrow in front of him, his other hand suddenly glittered in the edge of my vision.
A paring knife, I had time to think stupidly. He peels apples with that…
It came up sharp and fast, and for a moment, I thought that Iskander was going to kill me right there. Instead, he found the button underneath my throat and with a deft flick of his wrist sent it flying into the crowd.
There were twelve cloth buttons that closed my jacket, and by the time he was done, they were gone and the jacket was open, showing the fine muslin shirt that he carelessly slashed. It left a pink line down my chest but no more, and then he was working at the ties of my trousers with the point of the knife.
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A fantasy BDSM gay romance novel from Kannan Feng