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 Fifty-Five: Kenet
I was aiding the General with a revised tally in the afternoon when a young soldier in a wide-brimmed hat came seeking him. I was surprised to learn that he was only looking for Roichal because he was hoping to find me. He introduced himself as Van, and as he swept off the hat once he was inside the tent I recognized him by his brown curls as one of the boys Harman had rescued from a Night Mage’s keep. One of the eldest, and it appeared they had made a soldier of him, now that his eyes were adjusting to the light.
Roichal exchanged a glance with me, as if to tell me he would be right outside if my virtue needed defending, but that he would leave us to speak in private.
Indeed, Van wanted to speak in nearly a whisper. “I want to ask your help. We know not who to turn to.”
I held one of his hands as we sat upon a chest. “What do you need? I am no mage.”
“Not that sort of help,” he said, glancing back and forth. The flaps were up to let the air through, and I could see no shadows of anyone nearby. Roichal was whistling as he set to polishing his sword while sitting on the fallen tree outside. “I hope… I hope you can gain the sympathy of the General for us.”
“But you assuredly have that—!”
“Hear me out. We are mostly from a village called Pallin and the area east of the Serde. The men of that area used to fight raids from Pellon a hundred years ago and we still have a militia.”
A militia too weak to keep a Night Mage from preying upon children, I thought, but I said nothing, waiting to find out what his trouble was.
“The militia is refusing to answer the General’s call,” Van said. “They are refusing to fight on behalf of the crown.”
I was dumbstruck for a moment, then blurted, “Why?”
Van glanced from side to side again. The wind was starting to whip up and I wondered if we might have a summer storm, as we often did on a hot day such as this. “What we have heard is that they refuse fealty and tribute to a king that could not protect them from the attack of the mage.”
“That makes no sense,” I said. “For if what they want is a strong army, they must send fighting men. And was it not the army that rescued you from the mage in the first place? Was that not adequate protection?”
The boy shook his head. “We do not know why the mage left the keep undefended when he did, though we were glad of the rescue. The soldiers at first made out as if they had driven him off, but I now doubt that was the reason.”
“The General means to send a troop of cavalry to put down the uprising before it spreads. Please, you must convince him otherwise! My own father and my eldest brother are there.” Van’s voice rose in vehemence, if not pitch.
“How do you know all this?” I asked.
“I am acting as Harman’s own page now. I have heard him speaking with his seconds about it. They want his mounted scouts to accompany the action, as they know the area so well. The horsemen will move out tomorrow unless you can stop them.”
I sighed. “Do your fathers and brothers know that you have been rescued? Wouldn’t they prefer to join you here than to risk you becoming hostages of our own army?”
He blinked, brought up short by my question. “Hostages?”
Yes, I had been paying attention in at least some of Sergetten’s lessons in statecraft and the mistakes of previous military campaigns in history. “I cannot believe that Roichal would prefer bloodshed over some other way of bringing the militia to heel. Do your people know you are here?”
Van bit his lip. “Harman said word would be sent to our families.”
“And have you heard directly from them? Have you received any letters or messages?”
“Well, no.” His eyes were not focused on me, but on some distant place in his mind. “Perhaps… perhaps they were never told.”
“Or perhaps the word of the rebellion arrived here first.” I could feel the tension rising in him, as if he were preparing to bolt like a rabbit. “Do not even think of running away,” I warned. “You are safe here, and even if you are held as bargaining chips, you will not be mistreated. You have the sworn word of the General on that, remember?”
He looked at me with a pained expression. The wind blew one of the flaps loose and it became suddenly dimmer in the tent.
“Roichal does not break promises. You need not fear for yourselves. But if you truly wish to prevent a fight between the army men and yours, you will go to Roichal yourself now and offer to write a letter to your father, asking him and the rest of them to join us.”
Van shook his head. “I cannot write.”
“Then you shall dictate and I shall write,” I said. I stood to call for the General just as a thunderclap deafened us. When my ears stopped ringing I could hear horses in a panic and men shouting, and a moment later the General burst in, just before another roll of thunder shook the air overhead.
“Get down the hill!” he cried. “Get down there, now!”
We ran with his arms at our backs, as if he could shield us from a bolt of lightning, down to Marksin’s tent, which was the next closest. We were soaked to the skin from just the brief run down the hill, and as we reached the flap to go in, I looked back at the rise we had just come down. Was that why the tree had fallen? Lightning like a sudden claw raked the land, and I saw the tent collapse. A moment later, a dark funnel of wind began to twist from the sky toward the hilltop.
“Down!” Roichal flattened me and the other boy, while the thunder felt as if it shook the ground. Or perhaps that was horses stampeding, I do not know. Van was screaming in terror, nearby trees creaked and groaned, the rain fell so hard as to be louder than my own harsh breath, and thunder rolled and rolled. The packed soil beneath me was turning to mud and I found my fingers sinking into it. Sergetten had told stories of the fierce storms of the plains, but this was the first I’d experienced that was so sudden and so destructive.
But I did not scream like the boy beside me. Perhaps because I believed Roichal truly would shield us from harm. It was easier to lie still and let the thunder vibrate through me. Fighting it would only lead to pain. I held onto the land below me, as the wind threatened to uproot us. The land. My land. My kingdom someday.
In the flash of lightning that followed, though my eyes were closed, I could see the castle, a dark silhouette against the sky of Maldevar, the towers as sharp as the teeth of a wolf. Or the points on a crown.
And then the wind ceased, suddenly lifting, though a final sheet of rain slapped us before I raised my head.
Roichal got up cautiously, then helped Van to his feet. Marksin’s tent was still standing, but many others were not. The sounds of distraught men and horses were loud, even as the raincloud, looking like a mountain, moved to the west, weakening.
There was no time then to speak to the General of Van’s plight, as we were pressed into immediate service, helping the wounded, freeing men from collapsed tents, and so on.
It was nearly midnight before I collapsed, exhausted, onto the canvas floor of Marksin’s tent. Marksin and Roichal came in not long after and Marksin lay down next to me, while the general sat upon the pallet. We were both still fully clothed, too tired to even remove our own muddy boots, but after a moment I nudged Marksin toward him. We each took hold of one of his boots and pulled them free.
“How bad is it, Sir?” I asked, as I set the boots aside.
“Bad, Page, very bad,” Roichal said, lying back on the pallet. “Two hundred armored men on horse couldn’t have done as much damage as that twister did.”
“I am as tired as if I fought them myself, too,” Marksin added, cushioning his head on his bent arm.
“Are the storms always like that?”
“I’ve seen some strong enough to tear the roof from a barn and throw a horse to the next village, but none that swept up quite so suddenly,” he said.
Roichal nodded in agreement. “It was as if it came to attack us.”
I took a deep breath. “Can Night Mages call upon the weather?”
The general looked at me as I settled crosslegged next to Marks. “I am not sure of all their powers, but it certainly seems possible. Why do you ask, Page?”
I closed my eyes for a moment, recalling perfectly the image that seemed burned into my eyelids, of the castle. “I think a Night Mage sent that storm. I think it was Seroi.”
Now Roichal and Marksin exchanged a look. Marksin sat back up. “The Lord High Mage? Why do you think that?”
I could not explain the vision, though. I decided to take the conversation in another direction, the way my father would have done when he was not ready to explain something to a nobleman at his elbow. “Did you know that the boys in Harman’s care are the sons and cousins of the Pallin militia who are refusing to report?”
Marksin looked surprised, more by the change of subject than by the news, I guessed, but Roichal nodded. “I learned so today.”
“Then you know there is no reason to use force to bring them to cooperate,” I said. “Bloodshed will only weaken us further.”
Marksin frowned. “What are you proposing?”
“We have them as defacto hostages. Though perhaps it need not even go so far, if their families are unaware of their rescue and their militia fights on thinking the cause hopeless in the face of Night magic.” I began to take off my still damp uniform. The night was becoming chill in the wake of the storm, but staying damp would only make it worse. “I can see no benefit at all to using force.”
“Other than to send a message to other areas that might be thinking the same thing?” Marksin asked.
I shook my head. “By the time the word of the action spreads, the story may be further twisted,” I said. “And if Seroi is spreading these rumors and stirring up this unrest himself, we only play into his hands by fighting amongst ourselves.”
Marksin looked unsettled, but did not argue further. The general spoke next. “Well, perhaps, but perhaps the militiamen are actually in thrall of a mage themselves? Should we not send a force to the area then?”
“And end up ambushed as you were a decade ago?” I said, my voice rising. Indeed, perhaps it was the exhaustion, combined with the peak of my emotion that caused me to say what I said next. “I cannot let that happen.”
Marksin looked back and forth between me and Roichal. Roichal merely gazed steadily at me, a quiet challenge.
I was down to only my trousers, but I got to my feet. “You do see the sense in what I am saying?” I essayed, giving him one last chance to capitulate.
His gaze never wavered, a hint of amusement at the corner of his mouth. “And if I do not?”
I had no choice. “You know who I am. Though I owe you for my safety and feel a compulsion of loyalty beyond measure to you, Sir, I am nonetheless, not to be denied.”
Roichal chuckled. “I’ve never allowed your father to force a strategy I disagreed with upon me,” he said. “I do not plan to start with his son.”
I folded my arms. “But you don’t disagree with me.”
“Are you sure of that?”
“Yes.” I moved closer, so that my shadow cast by the lantern was not across his face. “Am I wrong?”
“You are not wrong,” he said with a laugh. “Very well, my prince. I would not choose bloodshed unless we were forced to defend ourselves. What would you have us do instead?”
I outlined for him the letters I thought the boys should write. When I was finished, he nodded thoughtfully. “A sound next step. But the letters will have to wait for daybreak, which will come far sooner than any of us might wish.”
Marksin groaned tiredly. Roichal gave him a hard pat on the shoulder. “Too tired to feed our royal guest?”
The field marshal lay his head on Roichal’s knee. “Well, Sir, if the boy has the skill to rouse my prick, he is welcome to whatever he can suckle from it.”
“Very well. No games tonight then, but Page, you should take some sustenance if you can.” Roichal nudged Marksin toward me, then began to undress himself.
Marks gave me a small amount of help getting him out of his damp things and then lay flat while I wasted no time taking him into my mouth. Then I slurped on my own fingers for a moment, getting them wet enough to slide inside him while I worked. Despite his tiredness, he was soon firming up in my mouth, and I used all I knew of him to bring him to a peak quickly.
He was just beginning to twitch in my mouth, his skin breaking out in a sudden sweat so I knew he was close, when the sound of alarmed shouting reached us. I broke off, Marks and I both making hungry gasps, but there was no time to finish. I was still pulling my damp shirt back on when he raced out of the tent, the general right behind him.
Outside I could smell the smoke and ash in the air, then turned and saw the glow of the wildfire from behind the rise. Men and horses were screaming. Roichal and Marksin were having a brief argument, won by Marks when he said, “He isn’t safe with me, no matter what you order!”
Roichal’s answer was a growl, and then to pull me up onto a horse with him, and the next thing I knew, we were racing away from the growing glow in the sky, my arms around him and my cheek pressed against his sturdy, bowed back.
* * *
About the author: Cecilia Tan is the award-winning author of many erotic books and stories and the founder of Circlet Press.