Welcome to The Prince’s Boy by Cecilia Tan, a tale of a prince and his whipping boy ensnared in a plot of dark erotic magic. Warning: explores themes of dubious consent and situations of sexual jeopardy. NSFW.
A new chapter appears every Wednesday. This week is Chapter Sixteen: Kenet
My father and I went riding together, over West Hill, the next time we met. His moods had not improved lately, yet he still insisted we spend this time together, as designated, every week. The air was warming nicely now, the frits nesting and full summer not long off.
“I hear that there is a grain shortage,” I said to him.
“Where did you hear that?” He rode with one hand holding the reins, the other on the pommel of his sword. The path the horses climbed was too narrow here for us to go side by side, so he went first.
“Here and there.” Jorin had told me he had heard it from the guards. “Is it true?”
“It is true,” my father allowed. “But the greater threat is the Night Riders and the infiltration from Frangit and Pellon. They might have spread the blight to make it difficult for us to feed the army, weakening us. It is too dangerous for us to contemplate a tour for you.”
“Tour?” He had never spoken to me of a tour before.
“We should begin planning the ceremony to celebrate your coming of age. I know it’s happened some time since, but the Lord High Mage tells me you are nearing readiness for the actual ceremony.”
My throat closed for a moment. Did Father know? No, he couldn’t. And even if he did, he probably was sworn not to speak of what Seroi and I were doing almost daily in that tower.
My father went on, ignorant of my distress. “He will choose an auspicious time for the ceremony, and we will mint a coin in your likeness, but taking you on an actual tour of the territories is out of the question. It is far too dangerous at this time.” He sighed. “I myself did not go on a tour at the time of my own coming of age, because of the plague that had struck. Your grandfather thought it wise, and he was quite right, for us to stay here. I waited until your mother and I were married, and then we went together.”
I had not heard this story before, but it explained one of the tapestries that hung in one of the large halls downstairs, that depicted my mother and father on horses, leading a grand parade of some sort. “Where did you go?”
“Everywhere. We went all the way around the border, from city to city, from military post to military post. Father stayed here of course, as it took a full year for us to return, and then he abdicated the throne to me once we returned.” He had reached the crest of the hill, and I brought my horse alongside his. “Your mother and I reigned side by side for nearly seven years.”
Nearly seven years until I came along and killed her, that is. If you asked him, he would tell you he didn’t blame me for her death. He would say she knew her duty to the bloodline was more important than her own life. But in his heart, I think he blamed me. It was never more plain that at a time like this, when his emotions were raw to begin with.
I began to wonder if he agreed to Seroi’s plan to keep me away from women for reasons of his own. Would seeing me courting some young, beautiful noblewoman bring back memories too painful to bear? Or mere envy? I stayed mum on the subject.
He turned and looked at me then. I was his height in the saddle now, though I had not the muscular girth he did. If the image in the tapestry was to be believed, I was as reedy as my mother had been. “Seroi will find a time for the ceremony. Perhaps at high summer.”
“All right.” I met his gaze calmly, wondering what else he would say.
We were silent for a long time, while he thought about something and I waited to hear what he was thinking. I could see his expression changing subtly, as he studied me, and came to some decision.
“You may keep your boy so long as I am king,” he announced. “So long as I hold the authority, you will still need a ladra’an. But neither of you will be treated as boys once your ceremony is complete. You will have duties to perform at court and in the cabinet. Jorin will… do something useful.”
“Bear is training him to be a guard,” I said. “Didn’t you know that?” I had thought it was my father’s idea in the first place to make Jorin train with weapons while I went to my other lessons. Maybe it had been Sergetten’s idea, though, and he only presented it as if it were my father’s idea. Which was exactly the sort of maddening thing Sergetten would do. I missed having him around to be angry at.
Father’s horse started and whickered at something in the grass. He calmed her with a hand on her withers. “I did not realize that, but Bear is wise. He knows you may need someone in the future. Someone other than Bear himself.”
“Bear is not that old…” I began.
“He is old enough,” Father said. “He is slowing down. He is a good man, to take on the training of his own replacement.”
We headed back after that, my horse leading the way this time. I imagined we were going through the forest on a grand tour to far-off cities, and any moment we would come out of the trees into the cleared land before a city’s gates, and a great cheer would rise up from the people amassed on the city’s walls. And they would be chanting my name and tossing flowers to me, because the kingdom would be mine as soon as my father stepped aside, as soon as I completed my grand travels to every corner of the land.
In my visions, though, it was not some queen or noblewoman on the horse beside me, but Jorin. Jorin wearing a crown of falla blossoms and holding my hand.
* * *
Can’t get enough of Kenet and Jorin? Visit The Prince’s Boy fan art gallery on Cecilia’s website!
About the author: Cecilia Tan is the award-winning author of many erotic books and stories and the founder of Circlet Press.