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 Thrteen: Jorin
“That was some fine work,” Bear said, as he lifted the bucket of warm water to pour it over my head. “Even if Jaiks barely admits it.”
I grinned, running my hands through my hair as the water cascaded down, splashing at my bare feet on the stone. “I still wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of his dagger,” I said. “He didn’t get to be captain of the guard by accident. Should I have really gone for his weak leg?”
Bear chuckled and dipped the bucket into the steaming tub before pouring it over me again. The dirt from the practice ring had been ground into my hair and ears, under my fingernails, everywhere. I looked at my hands. Under the dirt, I was finally starting to see the normal color of my skin, tanned from the summer sun.
Our voices echoed from the vaulted ceilings of the baths, but the continual splashing of water also masked what we said. We appeared to be alone at the moment, but I was always careful what we spoke of. “Bear,” I asked, “if all this is so that someday I may replace you… there is something I must know.”
“Go on, cub,” he said, handing me the bucket. I filled it and then stood on a bench to be tall enough to get it over his head.
“I’ll ask you later,” I teased, “when you don’t have water in your ears.”
He laughed at that, shaking his head under the water like a dog. He wasn’t half so dirty as I had been, having just watched from the side.
I waited until we were seated at banquet that night. As had become usual ever since the night the King had beaten me last, Kenet was seated at his father’s side at the high table, between the king and the Lord High Mage. Bear and I sat below the dais, to one side, where we could see the whole room.
While the musicians were playing I leaned over to say in Bear’s ear, “So, my question. If we’re supposed to be Kenet’s guards, you now, me in the future, how are we to protect him if he’s up there and we’re down here?”
Bear glanced up and I looked away as the Lord High Mage leaned toward the king to say something, placing his hand all too familiarly on Kenet’s shoulder.
“Take a drink,” Bear said under his breath. I must have looked distressed. I sipped my wine and smiled at him. “Better. And the answer, cub, is I don’t know. I liked it better when he used to sit between us here. You might ask, indeed, why he needs a guard at all when he’s barely ever left the palace.”
I nodded, thinking if the greatest danger to him was the man sitting beside him, then there was nothing to be done with daggers or swords or wrestling prowess anyway. I hid my face behind my goblet again. Then I asked Bear, “How did you become his guard in the first place?”
He cracked a wide smile at that. “Same way you did, cub. When he was too tiny to speak he would grab hold of me and not let go!”
That made me laugh. We took turns watching him after that, but Seroi did nothing out of the ordinary. It wasn’t as if we were going to catch him dropping poison into the prince’s wine. But neither of us could leave Kenet completely unobserved. I nearly got to my feet as I saw him go to join the dancing, though. Bear held my wrist under the table.
Kenet joined in a ring dance, and I watched jealously as he spun in and out of the arms of the two young noblewomen on either side of him. No, it was better if I did not watch. I concentrated on tearing a piece of bread into tiny pieces, then eating them one by one.
Bear nudged me when the music ended, and Kenet paused to greet some of the other people at one of the lower tables. Bear grunted. “If you’re to be his guard, you’ll need to learn the names of every person he meets.”
I looked. I could name perhaps two of the six people seated there. “Tell me.”
“One step at a time, cub. I’ll wager Kenet doesn’t know their names either, eh?”
“I thought that was the sort of thing Sergetten was supposed to be teaching him, before he disappeared.”
“You don’t need to learn the lineages and all that. Just who’s who. And who’s dangerous.”
“I already know that,” I said darkly.
“Hush. Here he comes.”
Kenet came to us next, sitting next to me and taking a swallow out of my wine goblet. “Clouds above, dancing is thirsty work,” he said. His skin was damp and I knew if I licked him behind the ear now I would taste salt. I took the wine back and sipped it instead and Kenet looked at me with such intensity that I felt he was trying to read my thoughts through my eyes.
I narrowed mine at him trying to ask him if something was wrong. He just squeezed my thigh once, then spoke. “How was your practice today?”
“Excellent,” I said. “I fought Captain Jaiks to a standstill twice.”
He grinned, pleased, and I leaned close and whispered, “I will show you how I pinned him once we are in bed together.”
He laughed, a high fake laugh, but squeezed my thigh under the table once more, then slipped away for another dance.
Upon the dais, Jaiks was leaning over to hear something the king said into his ear. He nodded and left without another word, then returned quickly but did not speak to the king again, just took up a post standing to one side of the throne. I had never noticed until now that the boot heel on his bad side was taller than the other, helping him to hide his limp. I wondered how old he was.
Would I someday stand in that very spot while Kenet listened to the counsel of his ministers? I could not imagine Kenet taking his father’s place, though. I simply could not picture it.
I saw Seroi get to his feet. He was taller than the king, almost as tall as Bear, but didn’t look as if he had much fat or bulk under his heavy robes. He motioned to Jaiks and the two of them put their heads close together in conference. I saw Jaiks shake his head, but then his gaze suddenly met mine, and although I looked away quickly, my stomach felt full of stone.
Bear’s hand moved to his hilt automatically when he sensed me stiffening like that. “What’s wrong?” he said under his breath.
“Hopefully, nothing,” I answered. I wanted to get up and leave. But whatever was about to happen, I knew they could summon me back at a moment’s notice, and my absence would only make it worse. I was no longer looking at Seroi and Jaiks, but now Bear was.
“What’s he want with him? Don’t look, cub. They’re having a bit of an argument.”
I searched for Kenet. He had finished another ring dance and was standing on the side, clapping his hands while some of the others danced. What had he been trying to tell me with that look, that touch? It wasn’t like him to do something like that right here in front of everyone, even though I’m sure even Bear could not have seen it. I lifted the wine goblet to my mouth again, my lip touching the place where he had sipped.
The king and Seroi were speaking now, and I felt as if I were sinking when the king signaled for quiet and stood.
“Kenet,” he said, and his voice was low and quiet. That worried me more than when he was simply angry and shouting.
“Yes, father.” Kenet hurried to the foot of the dais. “What is wrong?”
“Your tutor tells me you failed to obey his instructions today while practicing for your coming of age ceremony.”
I saw Kenet falter where he stood, as if he might sink to his knees on the spot. “But… but I…”
“Do you deny this?” The King’s face was impassive, almost as if he were tired of the proceedings already.
Kenet hung his head. “I cannot. It is true. I asked… to be allowed to try again tomorrow.”
Try what? I wondered. The nobles assembled probably thought Kenet had refused to memorize a poem or something. I could not help but wonder about the things Kenet had told me—and not told me—about what Seroi did to him.
“You are too willful in these matters. The Lord High Mage must be obeyed when it comes to issues beyond your ken!” Now the king’s voice rose at last, perhaps with a note of panic. What had Kenet done? Had he put himself in jeopardy somehow with his refusal?
Or was it merely that he had defied a man who exerted more power than any, other than the king himself? I glanced at him and saw Seroi was looking at me with a cruel smile. Because who would pay for Kenet’s mistakes?
I would. I broke out in a sweat just sitting there, but I would not move until I was bade to. They exchanged a few more volleys, setting the terms of the infraction and the punishment, its duration and its instrument. I could only hear it with half an ear, as my heartbeat seemed to grow louder and louder.
But one part I did hear that brought my head up sharply and caused Kenet to cry out, “No!” The king had handed a short, coiled whip to the Lord High Mage and told him to do the honors.
“Jorin,” Seroi said, gesturing to the empty space in front of him on the dais as if he were inviting me to dance.
I shot to my feet like a soldier coming to attention. I felt every bit as much dread as Kenet did at that moment, but I was not going to show it. There was no use shrinking from it. No one but the king himself had ever punished me in public before. Oh, Sergetten had swatted me during lessons when Kenet would miss an answer or his attention would stray, but this…? Coiled leather meting out punishment in front of the entire court would be severe enough, but for the whip to be in non-royal hands…? This could not be good.
I shed my boots and clothes quickly, piling them upon a chair before taking my position in front of Seroi, my back to him and facing the assembled, my legs spread and my hands clasped in front of my stomach, my head bowed. Then from above me I heard a chain rattle. I could not help it. I looked up in surprise. A hook on a long chain swung just above my head.
“Captain Jaiks,” the Lord High Mage said, and a moment later, Jaiks was putting my wrists into iron manacles. His eyes held a flicker of sympathy for me, but he could say nothing. The hook lowered a few more feet, took hold of the chain between my wrists, and then up it went.
The king had never chained me like a criminal in order to beat me. It’s merely theatrics, I told myself. Just Seroi’s way of scaring me. Telling myself that didn’t actually make it any less intimidating, though. The hook went up until I was on the tips of my toes, still touching the dais but agonizingly caught between hanging from my arms and holding myself up with my feet. It was difficult to breathe this way. Or maybe the fear was stronger than I thought. I tried to be calm. Surely he hasn’t got much muscle, I thought. He can’t possibly hit as hard as the king.
I was wrong. Maybe the blow was enhanced by magic, but it felt to me like he sliced open my back with a red hot dagger, and I screamed. Thunder’s roll, how many would it be? Ten? Had they said ten? I wasn’t certain I could stay conscious past three.
He waited, the bastard, until the pain had completely ebbed away from the first blow, which was a long time to hang there, panting and dripping sweat. I hoped it was just sweat and not blood, anyway. Then he laid on the second.
It tore me from shoulder all the way to hip. This time it took me a little while to stop screaming. When I did, I realized Kenet was shouting at Seroi.
“I didn’t do it just to defy you!” he insisted, and I could hear he was on the verge of tears himself.
“But you did defy me,” Seroi said, his voice calm and smooth. “Your intent is not at issue here, my prince. Your actions, or lack of them, are. Or can you give me a plausible reason for your reluctance to follow my orders today? Perhaps if you could, it would mitigate the punishment.”
I wanted to tell Kenet to shut up, that I would survive this, and not to give in to the wily bastard. But I could not actually say anything at that moment. And I knew to actually voice those thoughts would make it even worse.
“I just… I just wasn’t ready!” he cried. “I told you that! You said tomorrow!”
Seroi clucked his tongue. “That is not an explanation, my prince.” And with that he struck me again.
I tried not to scream quite so much this time, choking my own cry as much as I could, trying to hear what Kenet might say. Oh my prince, say nothing. Don’t give in to him. I had no idea what Seroi’s game was, only that it could not be good.
Then I shivered at the sensation of a hand skimming down my welted back and over my backside. Who? I was certain no one was that close to me.
“I suspect, my prince, that your resistance to my orders comes from a source other than your own heart.” Seroi’s voice carried throughout the hall, even as it also sounded intimate. “I’m afraid this punishment might be more appropriate than you know. Tell me, my prince, has Jorin been feeding you lies about me?”
“What? No! Don’t be ridic—”
The next blow cut across my buttocks and I was already beginning to doubt I knew how many that had been. Four? Each blow sent my mind spinning.
Then my breath caught as the distinct sensation of fingers brushing lightly over the shaft of my prick sent a ripple through me. I strained to look down, but there was definitely no one there.
Seroi was addressing the king then. “You see, my king, I suspect the source of the corruption is none other than your son’s ladra’an himself. The very boy who spends every night in your son’s company.”
Kenet was staring, as pale as his white tunic. “That… that isn’t… I cannot believe…”
The stammering was getting him nowhere. Meanwhile I fought to hold in a groan as the sensation of a hand working me brought my erection to full length. I heard a female gasp as someone noticed it.
The next blow came then and I tensed, ready for another stripe of agony, but much to my surprise this one—although it sounded just as loud—was much lighter. Almost sensual. My cry had a distinctly different tone to it.
“You may as well confess,” Seroi said from behind me. “I glimpsed the truth today while the prince and I were practicing the ritual. You desire him, you sick creature. While he sleeps, you satisfy your lust for him upon his body, do you not?”
My cock was throbbing now, and I could not hold in the groan this time as the invisible hand milked a glistening droplet from me. This had to be some sorcery of Seroi’s, but I had no way to stop it. I tried to say “No…” but it came out a whisper.
After all, what he was saying was true. Mostly anyway. I could hear the king’s boot heels as he came around in front of me. I opened my eyes just before he smacked my erection with his open palm. “Can you deny it?”
“I would never do anything to hurt Kenet.”
“That isn’t what I asked you!” He smacked me again, and I had the sudden fear that they were going to unman me with the whip. Kenet must have as well, for he rushed forward as if to stop them, only to be grabbed by the king himself who held him with one arm around his throat from behind, forcing Kenet to face me.
He slashed open the front of Kenet’s tunic with his belt knife, exposing Kenet’s chest to me just as the wicked hands squeezed my balls and circled the head of my cock with a phantom thumb. He flung Kenet to the floor then. “You do. You desire him. It’s written in every line of your body.”
I shook my head. “No.”
“Prove it to me, then. If you are still like this,” he smacked my cock once more, “when I am done beating you, you will never lay eyes on my son again. If you are soft, you will be allowed to remain in training as his guard, but you will pay a price of blood to remain with him.”
“But my king…” Seroi said, daring to interrupt.
The king merely snapped his fingers impatiently for the whip. Seroi may have been an evil bastard, but he was not stupid. He handed over the coiled, braided hide and stepped back.
It was me who spoke up. “Price of blood?” I had to know.
“You won’t need this.” He struck my erection with the handle of the whip and I saw stars. “If you are bound by a blood bond, you will never have a wife or family of your own, anyway. And I will be able to trust you to guard my son again, once your fang has been cut from you.”
Kenet’s sob echoed off the stone. I dared a glance at him. Bear was holding him. Bear was there.
Bear would be there to protect him if I was not. “How long will you beat me, my king?” If what he truly wanted was to unman me, he could simply go on until my cock eventually would go limp.
His whisper was for me alone, as he gripped me by the back of my head, his fist in my hair. “Until Kenet begs me to stop.”
So, it was as it had been that day when I had been plucked from the orphanage, my fate entirely in the hands of those more powerful than me. The king threw the whip aside and signaled for the chain to be released. With his grip never slackening from the back of my head, he struck me across the face with his other hand, a heavy, open-handed blow that made me taste blood.
I cannot honestly say whether the phantom touches continued or ceased. I do know I was as erect as ever as I began to lose consciousness between blows. I wondered how much my mouth and nose were bleeding.
Kenet, my dear Kenet. He stepped in to save me, as I had known he would, but at what cost? I do not think at that moment he was even thinking about what might happen next, only that he could not bear to see me struck one more time.
Jaiks and another guard dragged me away. Bear had to hold Kenet back. The Lord High Mage was assuring the king that with the corruption rooted out, his son would surely progress as planned. I passed out as they dragged me down the steps at the back of the dais.
When I came to, someone was shoving me across the bench of a carriage. Jaiks. My hands were bound behind my back now, and I was in rough clothes of some kind. “Captain?” I asked.
“You stupid fool,” he said, sounding weary. “If you weren’t such a fighter, I never would have spoken up for you.”
“Death or banishment? Seroi wanted you killed. Though I may be sending you to your death anyway.” In the darkness I could not see his face. “You’re off to Tiger’s Mouth, son.”
He shut the door of the carriage then, and I heard the latch rattle on the outside. There was the sound of a whip cracking and I was thrown to the floor as the horses leapt forward.
I stayed there on the floor, my hands behind my back and my cheek pressed to the wood, without a single thought for myself then, but only of Kenet. Kenet, my prince, I promise I will return to you. Be strong, be wary! I will return. I promise. We shall be reunited.
I let out a scream of pain and this one had nothing to do with my injuries or bruises. It was the pain of my heart being torn from my chest, the agony of knowing that tonight, for the first time in over fifteen years, he would not sleep in the circle of my arms.
* * *
About the author: Cecilia Tan is the award-winning author of many erotic books and stories and the founder of Circlet Press.