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 Twenty-Two: Jorin
I was stretching my muscles with the other guards that morning, when Captain Jaiks strode into our midst, whistling merrily. He was without his usual jacket and insignias, and I don’t think I had ever seen him without a hat before, but the scar under his right eye made him unmistakable. He began to stretch, too, and the guards began to get nervous.
I kept my grin to myself. So, Jaiks would be in the ring today? I found myself looking forward to the challenge and wondering whether we would be on horse or on foot.
As it turned out, we would be weaponless, with bare hands and feet. Jaiks paired us off, and the man who faced him first looked glum. “You fight until one yields or loses consciousness. No maiming.” That brought forth a few nervous chuckles. “You’re no good to the crown maimed. Any man who breaks the rules will be sent straight to Tiger’s Mouth. Lose to two opponents and you are eliminated. Last one standing gets a bonus of a week’s pay, unless it’s me, of course.” His feral grin showed he expected to be the last man standing.
“What if it’s Jorin?” one of the others called out.
Jaiks clapped me on the shoulder. “We’ll think of a prize for him if he makes it that far.”
Thus began an enjoyable morning. I liked these kinds of competitions, probably because the more I trained, the better I became at them.
A barehanded fight, Bear explained to me, goes through five stages. He called them circle-distance, when the two opponents are too far apart to touch, foot-distance, when they are close enough to kick, fist-distance, when they are close enough to punch, close-distance, when they are close enough to grab onto, and kiss-distance, a nice way of saying they were close enough to bite. No maiming meant no biting, I had learned early in my training with them, even though I thought it should have been possible to bite someone just hard enough to make them let go, without actually ripping out a chunk of their flesh.
The guards had learned to try to beat me at kick- and fist-distance, because once they grabbed me, I fought with my elbows and knees. I don’t really remember having to defend myself that way as a child before Kenet picked me out of the orphanage, but I must have. It was almost instinctual.
But with training I had become deft at the first few stages of the fight, too, waiting for my moment to close the distance. To me it made sense to close the distance and fight that way if I had no weapon, even if my opponent had a sword. Once close enough to them, I was no longer a target for their blade.
My first two opponents went down easily enough. We were all fighting simultaneously, while Jaiks’ second in command went around judging the matches. Once it was down to eight men who hadn’t yet lost, though, Jaiks among them, they had us fight one pair at a time, while the rest looked on.
Jaiks, despite the limp he tried to hide and the bits of grey in his hair, was as fit as any of his men, and I was surprised by his quickness. He, too, liked to close and force his opponent to yield, the bone of his wrist against their windpipe, for example. Man after man went down before him, usually emerging unbruised compared to their other fights, but just as defeated.
I had my worst trouble with a cavalryman Bear’s size, who would crush me if I ended up in his arms. Fortunately he could be taunted into charging, and I could flip him off me, his own weight making him groan as he slammed into the ground.
That trick, I soon learned, did not work on Jaiks himself. I had barely wiped the dust out of my eyes from my last fight before I realized we would be facing each other. He was standing in the center of the packed-dirt ring, arms crossed and a grim smile on his face.
He shook hands before beginning and then his second barked “Start!” and before I quite knew what was happening, he had borne me to the ground and struck me across the jaw. Hitting the ground knocked the wind out of me worse than the punch, and I got hold of his collar, pulling him in even as I tried to hit him with my elbow. It felt like he had three arms, though, and I could never quite get one of mine free for a shot at him.
But he couldn’t quite make me yield, either. His second finally shouted at us to separate and start over. The men were murmuring, then calling out their encouragement and jeers as we circled each other. I kept expecting him to charge, but now he was patient, feinting with little shuffles of his feet and movements of his hands.
I was caught wrong-footed, suddenly committed to lunging at him when I wasn’t quite ready, but I got my arms around his middle and bore him down. We twisted and wrestled then, again neither one of us quite reaching the point of making the other yield.
Again we went back to our places, both panting and red-faced, both grinning. “You’re still not much of a wrestler,” he said, as we started to circle again. “And your face is still too pretty.”
That made me laugh. “The court ladies seem to like it.”
“Your face, or the wrestling?” shouted one of the onlookers, drawing more laughter.
This time I kicked him in the leg before we went down, and my advantage lasted for perhaps a minute before he finally managed to get an arm around my neck. He could easily choke me to unconsciousness. I tapped him on the back to yield and he let me fall limp to the dirt.
He was looking down into my face, still atop me, when he said, “You would have had me, had you kicked my bad leg instead of the good one.”
“I’ll remember that next time.”
“But next time I won’t go so easy on you.” Then he was up and giving me a hand up.
It wasn’t until much later, as we were heading back up to the castle to get washed up, that I realized how much everything hurt.
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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.