The Centurion Cycle: Book Four ~ The Road to the Future

Chapter Four: The Road to the Future ~ The Weight of the Crown

Aegis wrapped an arm around Zophar's waist, wishing he could take away the pain his lover was feeling. Even after Lukas was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in Drakor's shale pits, Zophar could not get past his own guilt.

After losing both his brothers, Aegis was not about to lose the man he loved. This time, however, he knew that he could not use his manipulations to fix their relationship. With great effort he let his need for control slip away. "What can I do to save us?"

"Is there still an "us"?" Zophar sighed.

"It is why I did what I did. Now I am asking that you tell me what you need done to keep you, my love."

Zophar remained silent for a long moment before speaking. "I want us to leave."

"To leave Sol?"

"No… I want us to go someplace where we won't be bothered. I want to go someplace where I will not have to worry about you manipulating others."

"Where would you feel that?"

"Eb…" Zophar replied.

"That cursed isle!" Aegis said, shocked.

"Yes… living in exile there is the only place where I believe I can find peace and experience what they did."

Aegis had to admit that Zophar's idea did not appeal to him. On Eb, he would not be able to rise through the ranks and become a general one day. But Aegis had to admit that he owed Zophar a debt for betraying him.

"Alright… we will go to Eb," Aegis relented.

"And you will promise never to leave?"

"Yes… if that is what it takes."

"It will. A ship is sailing back to Eb to rebuild the town tomorrow. We will both be on it."

"Yes..." Aegis relented.

It was not what Aegis had wanted… his ambitions were higher than living in exile on a tiny island but, even in such a remote place, a man could still make his own destiny.

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Aidan, having just arrived back from Sol, watched as his lover Dorian dealt with the mountains of paper work that the church produced each day. He was used to Dorian's constant complaining that being High Priest involved more than just praying and preaching. There were bills to be paid, bishops to appoint, internal squabbles to be settled, and large grants of land to manage. As a Demon, he would rather be off at war.

Due to the need to communicate daily with the church's clerics, Dorian had become fluent in Jadoorian. Galen, the Archbishop of Koor, only helped out when he was needed, and some decisions he insisted Dorian make personally. None of them wanted Dorian to be considered just a figurehead.

"Have there been any more riots?" Aidan asked as he sat down on one of the black cushioned chairs.

"A few… mostly ex-conscripts demanding their pensions," Dorian sighed.

"You have not released your children on them have you?" Aidan asked, concerned.

"Do not tempt me. Also Austrola is begging for assistance against Manthannon. It seems the Arch Matriarch used the Battle of Sol to experiment with her new weapon. Now that she knows that it works, she was using it to blast through Austrola's defenses.

"And what do you think we should do?" Aidan asked, knowing his lover would have already come up with a plan.

"Well according to Diana… officially, the conflict is an internal problem and not covered by the Federation Charter. But I do not see why we cannot ship the most troublesome of the conscripts over to Austrola.

"That would take care of the immediate problem of paying them while our treasury is empty."

"That it would. Until the first payments of tribute arrive from Aquanos, money will be tight."

"I just hope that James is able to pay the massive tribute we're expecting from his Dukedom."

"I am sure he will find a way. He has turned most of those warships you gave him into trading vessels. With the Gate closed, the Domus Empire must rely on Aquanos as its source for any quantity of goods. From what I understand, James has placed a high toll on the roads heading in or out of the empire."

"Good for him." Aidan laughed. He liked it when a friend did well.

"Now that you are back from your vacation… I think I will I take a little leave time myself."

"I do not see how sitting in a trial is anything that can be called a vacation." Aidan frowned.

"True, but you have not been busy trying to keep the kingdom together. There is also a small issue I need to look into."

"And what would that be?"

"Well, since I have been so busy leading the church, my children have felt ignored."

"IS that a problem?" Aidan asked almost laughing.

"A Demon, not under a firm hand, is bound to cause more trouble than not," Dorian warned.

"So you need to go off and give your men a little discipline." Aidan burst into laughter.

"Yes… and a little love as well. Remember, they were Centurions before they became my Spawn. As their superior officer it is my duty to see to their emotional needs," Dorian reminded Aidan.

"I understand." Aidan nodded. From his lover he had learned a great deal about Centurion culture… not the least of which was how officers took responsibility for their men.

As Dorian stood up to leave the office of the High Priest, he looked down on his lover one more time. "When I come back, I expect two things from you."

"Yes." Aidan chuckled, finding anyone giving him orders humorous.

"First, I want you to be ready for me to ravish you on my return."

"I am ready for you to do that now."

"Good… second, I want you to have picked out four of the remaining Centurions to become your Saints, to act as your personal guard and messengers."

"I do have Diana," Aidan pointed out.

"She's too busy with politics and running the Merchant's Guild. I want you to find some men you find personable enough to be around you most of the time."

"By personable are you saying attractive."

"Well, I did know this teacher at the Academy who would have been perfect… Varrus was his name, but I am sure you will be able to find a few select officers among the exiles.

"As you say." Aidan laughed. He had never had a lover who had ordered him to find additional lovers before. But with the way Centurions looked at fidelity, it was not a big surprise.

"Now I will leave you. In two weeks I will want to inspect your new bodyguards." Dorian bowed with a humorous smile on his face.

"I will be ready." Aidan chuckled, sure that an inspection in the horizontal position was what Dorian had in mind.

Once Dorian was gone, Aidan stood up to leave the office only to have the double doors open for three priests carrying stacks of papers.

"Where is his Holiness?" the first priest asked.

"He has gone on sabbatical," Aidan explained.

"But we need his authorization on several items," the second priest insisted.

"Can you not take these matters to the Archbishop of Koor?" Aidan pleaded.

"It was his grace that sent us here," the first priest explained.

"Then leave the papers on the desk. His Holiness will see to them in two weeks."

"Two weeks!" all three priests shouted.

"Your Majesty, these matters need immediate attention," the last of the priests insisted.

"What is so urgent that they can not wait until his Holiness comes back?" Aidan demanded.

"There is the opening of the grain stores to the hungry and needy in Freen and Yelding. Five archbishops have retired and need replacement… any delay in appointment will only lead to chaos in the dioceses. The review of the accounts needs his approval before a new budget can be written. Finally, we need his signature on at least three dozen documents approving the actions of other priests."

"Fine… will my signature be sufficient?" Aidan gave up, feeling as if Dorian had just set him up to do his work for him.

"As one of the Sons of the Mother, yes your Holiness," the priest said, switching titles on Aidan.

"Then leave them on the desk. I will see to them."

"Yes, your Holiness." All three priests bowed before passing him to reach the large ebony table.

Soon Aidan found himself alone, sitting in Dorian's chair, looking forlorn at the documents that covered the entire desk. "How am I ever going to get out of here?" Aidan sighed, as another delegation of clerics came in to leave more documents.

As the sun set, a nun arrived to light the fire and oil lamps in the room. Aidan was about to give up and leave the entire mess for Dorian… If only he had a secretary to go through all these documents and just point to him where he needed to sign. With the amount of paperwork present, Aidan was surprised that Dorian did not have several.

Just as the nun was about to leave, Aidan spoke up to stop her. "Excuse me, but does the High Priest not have a secretary."

"Archbishop Galen is the High Priest's secretary."

"I am not referring to the official one, but personal."

"Oh yes… his Holiness has several." The nun nodded.

"Why are none of them here?"

"Why, they joined the High Priest on his sabbatical."

"That idiot!" Aidan grumbled, feeling as if he had been set up.

Seeing that his Majesty was perturbed by the work before him, the nun walked over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Your majesty, it is not as hard as it looks. All you have to do is find some assistants of your own."

"Do you know where I can find some?" Aidan asked, a pleading look on his face.

"Why yes, many of the Centurion officers served as secretaries for their superiors. That is where his Holiness found his."

"Very well, can you select at least… four to come over and help me with this mess."

"I shall, your majesty, but what should I look for when selecting them."

Knowing that the papers before him represented vast areas of specialty, Aidan nodded his head in understanding. "Two should be good at accounting. Another should have good organizational skills. The last needs to be assertive enough to make sure the clerics do what the documents say."

"I will go looking for such men then. For now, however, why don't your majesty have supper and stop working."

Looking at the elderly nun, Aidan found it hard to argue. "Very well, but when should I expect to have help with all this bureaucracy."

"Before you wake tomorrow, I should have found the men you need, your Majesty."

"Thank you, sister." Aidan nodded to the nun as she left to order his supper.

Twenty minutes later, a rich fish stew and a loaf of rye bread were brought to Aidan in Dorian's office. More hungry than he had thought, Aidan ate everything that put in front of him, ending his meal by breaking into Dorian's liquor cabinet and pouring himself a chocolate liqueur.

Lightheaded, Aidan left Dorian's office, the papers on the desk in chaos. As he did not feel like making the long walk across the square to the palace, Aidan went to the High Priest's bedroom, a room that Dorian had used only on a few occasions.

Tired, but still feeling a sense of dread about what he would have to face in the morning, Aidan covered himself with one of the soft thick blankets and went to sleep.

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Opening his eyes Aidan found another man's face staring back at him. Looking around he saw that he was not the only one; four men were looking at him from around the bed. Two were blond, while the other two had light brown hair. All of them had bodies that looked like they had been sculpted from marble.

"Good morning, your Majesty. Sister Clare sent us to you." One of the four said as they all bowed. They were dressed in the blue and sliver armor of the now defunct Western Centurion Army.

"Well, good morning." Aidan smiled. He did not know if the nun had selected these men for their skills or their bodies, but they were definitely nice to look at.

"Is his Majesty ready for a long day?" one of the blond Centurions asked.

"With your help it will hopefully be better than yesterday," Aidan sighed as he slid out of the bed, just to have three of the men circle around him to dress him for the day. While they did so, Aidan was near certain they were also giving his body an explorative search.

The rest of the day passed like a well-oiled clock. All of his assistants knew exactly what needed to be done, and only interrupted him when an important decision or his signature was needed. By lunch most of what was left over from the day before was finished.

It was after the noon meal that the flirting began. During the break, the Centurions took the chance to remove their heavy breastplates, leaving only their white tunics on. Without their armor, Aidan could feel the hard muscles under their clothes as they purposefully rubbed up against him while they handed him more papers. Then there were all the hands, a squeeze of his shoulder, a holding of his hand, the nuzzling of noses into his black hair.

Aidan had to struggle to not let the building lust take over and interfere with the work that needed to be done. He knew he could order them to stop their attempts to arouse him but, after living with Centurions for so many months, he had seen lower ranking officers do worse to gain the attention of their superiors.

That all changed when the sun started setting, letting its still warm rays stream through the large windows of the High Priest's office. When the room started to warm up, the white tunics came off revealing the bare upper bodies of his Centurion servants. Aidan could no longer hold off the hardening of his manhood, under his royal robes. The men would now add kisses between the handing of reports. Hands not only patted or rubbed his back but now worked to remove the heavy robe he wore.

"Are you not hot under all those clothes," a brown-haired Centurion with dimpled chin asked, as he lifted them off Aidan's shoulders, leaving only his shirt and trousers.

Aidan was indeed sweating, but it was not from the heat in the room. While, during the morning, he had not been able to keep his eyes off the Centurion officers, he now kept his eyes adverted lest he lose all control. He was so lost in holding down his lust that he did not notice that all work had ended for the day.

"Your Majesty?" one of the officers asked.

"YES!" Aidan jumped, looking up from his desk for the first time in over an hour.

Standing in a row were all four officers, all of them fully dressed in their armor.

"It's time to retire for the day," the same Centurion replied.

"Thank you…" Aidan said, abashed, starting to wonder if what had happened during the afternoon had just been his imagination.

"Well sir, if there is anything more you need or… want from us don't fear to ask," the dimpled brunet said with an almost wicked smile.

Feeling his groin stir, Aidan almost said yes, but forced himself to look down before dismissing the four for the evening.

That night in bed Aidan could not stop stirring, the visions of the bodies of his four assistants stuck in his mind. After exhausting himself on his own, Aidan prayed that tomorrow his secretaries would seem more homely than they did today.

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