When Jason finally beheld the walls of Qul Tos, he was amazed at what he saw. When he had left the city, for what he had believed would be forever, the walls had been broken down and the road leading into the capital empty. Now, where the Labyrinth tower once stood there was a full fortress. Smoke rose from the city, but this time it was coming from chimneys instead of burnt-out buildings.
When the party came closer to the city gates, they found that a long line of people and wagons were waiting to be allowed entrance. Philip, not willing to wait, took the party past the line of people who looked at them with suspicion, if not anger.
"Get back to the end of the line!" one man shouted heatedly.
"Yeah!" a younger woman shouted as well.
Soon the whole line was in an uproar, as Philip continued to move forward. It was not surprising that the serfs and other peasants looked down on the party. All of them were dressed in goat-hair coats and looked more like wild men from the mountains than civilized folk.
Eventually, the ruckus attracted the attention of two Centurion guards watching over the line of hopeful workers. "Go to the end of the line like everyone else!" one of the guards shouted as the party got close to the city gates.
"You mean I have to wait for a bunch of Famulus, before I can take command here?!" Darius shouted, moving past Philip.
"And who may you be!"
"I am your Field Marshal!"
"Yeah…and I am Senator Perils!" the guard laughed back.
Darius, his eyes filled with rage for being disbelieved, took off his goat-hair coat and undershirt and turned his back to the guards, showing off his elaborate tattoos, including one of a long sword that ran down his spine; the mark of a Field Marshal.
The two guards saluted. "Field Marshal Darius!"
"You," Darius shouted, pointing at the guard who had not made the snide remark.
"You will escort us to the palace…you will then find a whip and beat some manners into this fool," Darius growled as he pointed to the offending officer.
"You will then give the whip to me," Philip added, an evil smile on his face.
"Yes, sirs!" The guard saluted sharply again while his partner looked glum.
After that, no more insults were thrown their way. They passed the gates and were guided up the long road of Labyrinth Way, right to the palace. At the gates to the palace they were forced to stop again but, as soon as the guard explained whom he was escorting, the gates were opened immediately.
Inside the palace walls there were hundreds of people busy repairing and expanding the buildings. Everyone in the party, except for Rondus, smiled on seeing the signature steam and smoke of a bathhouse coming from a newly constructed building.
Nothing at the moment would have made Philip happier than to wash Jason's body until his pale skin shown white again, but things still needed to be done… the first being to place Jason back on the throne.
Darius, partly for convenience sake, but mainly because he was tired of smelling like a goat, had left his clothes at the city gate. All he had to do now was show his back to the guards to be guided to the throne room. Inside, there were many nobles shouting, almost to the point of screaming, at a man sitting on a wooden bench in front of the throne.
"I have heard enough. Your serfs are human beings… our Famulus live better and have more freedom than what you give them. None of you have come to terms with the fact that this kingdom is now a protectorate of the Domus Empire. That means that your serfs now have the right to choose their own masters, just like any Famulus. If you want your serfs back, you had better give them reasons to want to return," Varrus shouted at the angry nobles.
"They are our property!" a noble shouted back. "This makes you nothing more than a thief!"
Varrus calmed down before speaking again. "You forget that, by the treaty between Domus and Qul Tos, you were only allowed to keep your titles…not your homes, not your lands, and not your serfs. It is only by my kind grace that you are allowed to keep anything!"
That seemed to silence the nobles. If the peasants found out that the nobles had no legal claim to the land they farmed, or their very persons, it could lead to a complete revolt. It would be better that the trouble making serfs just leave their lands and go to pollute the cities.
Now that the arguing had died down, Jason felt free to run over to his old staff master. "Varrus!"
"Who are you?" Varrus laughed as he was tackled off his bench by the dirtiest, smelliest, but most handsome man he had ever seen.
Jason laughed and planted a kiss on Varrus before responding. "It's me, Jason!"
"Jason!" Varrus said, amazed. The man before him looked to be in his mid-twenties, and was much taller and broader shouldered than the young man he had remembered falling madly in love with. But the eyes, the green eyes were the same, as well as the innocent smile. Varrus could feel himself hardening under the weight of Jason's body.
"I'm sorry. What Oktor did to you was my fault." Jason began to cry while his massive body shook.
Varrus had to struggle with his desire to make love to Jason right then and there, and the need to comfort the young man. "It's alright, Jason…we are back together again. Who cares about Domus and the Centurions… we have each other."
"I know… and we have Philip too."
"Philip?" Varrus asked, amazed, just as a shadow fell on the two of them.
Standing above them, looking surprisingly pleased, was Philip, his arms crossed and his mouth in a wide grin. "We need to talk."
"How about a bath?" Varrus offered, having gotten a good whiff of Jason and the others.
"That would be perfect," Philip agreed.
The bathhouse was small, by Domus standards, and only had three pools of water: one warm, one hot, and one cold, but it was a great reward after all their traveling. Varrus was surprised to see that not only Jason's body had changed. Philip, Darius, and even Caleb looked more built than when he left the Academy. He was even more shocked when Jason took Caleb aside to one end of the pool and began kissing and necking the older man as if he were the seducer.
"There is some of Jason in you," Philip started out, nuzzling Varrus.
"What do you mean?" Varrus asked confused.
"Some of Jason's anima is inside you… I can feel it in you."
"I didn't know he gave me any. It must have been that last kiss in the woods. The question is…how do you know?"
"Jason and I are very much lovers." Philip smiled softy.
"You are bonded?"
"I think we are!" Philip smiled wider. "But I do not remember how it happened."
"So you want me out of the way…" Varrus said disappointedly.
"No. I am in love with all of Jason… including the little bit of Jason that is inside you."
"So you want us to become lovers?" Varrus asked, confused.
"I want to include you in our love making. I am confident in saying that Jason loves me more than any other person in the world. Yet… he also loves you greatly. How can I deny a person I love the right to express the love he feels for others?"
"So, is that why Jason is with Caleb?" Varrus laughed, noticing the two men's actions from the corner of his eye.
"No…that is different. It is Caleb who is madly in love with Jason. Jason wants to give Caleb the happiness he desires. That is why he has taken him on as another lover, just as I am giving Darius happiness by keeping him mine.
"What about me?"
"Jason wants you to be his lover… don't you feel the same?"
"Yes I do… that is why I worry you will get jealous."
"I just might…" Philip agreed before becoming more serious. "There is something wrong with me, Varrus… a madness that is growing inside me. Jason seems to be the only person who can get rid of it. When I make love to him my mind clears and all my anger goes away. I am scared Varrus…what if I lose control and hurt Jason? That is why I need you. I need someone who loves Jason almost as much as I do to look out for him…protect him from me if needed."
Varrus did not understand all he was being told, but the look of fear and desperation coming from Philip's eyes told him all he needed to know. Philip was truly scared of what he would do if he went insane. If what Philip said was true…that he loved all of Jason, including the little bit inside him, then he might be the only person who could stop Philip from doing something he might regret.
Seeing that Varrus understood what he asked of him, Philip pulled Varrus into a deep kiss. "Go to Jason now…he missed you terribly."
Varrus nodded his head and swam over to where Jason had just lifted an exhausted Caleb out of the water. Varrus, at 7'2" was glad he still towered over Jason. He swam up behind Jason and wrapped his long arms around Jason's waist.
"How is my student?" Varrus whispered in Jason's ear before licking it.
Jason sighed and leaned back against Varrus. "He missed his teacher."
"Jason, I don't think you can even begin to realize how much I have missed you. Being skinned was nothing compared to being sent away."
"Can we be alone?" Jason asked. The heat of both Varrus' body and the water was getting to him.
"Yes…I would like that," Varrus agreed, taking Jason's hand and leading him out of the baths and to the stairs leading into the palace.
Out of the water, a pair of newly trained Qul Tos Famulus approached them, carrying towels and a pair of white bathrobes. Once the two of them were dressed, Varrus led Jason down a hall that connected the bathhouse to the rest of the palace.
After climbing several flights of stairs and going down a half-dozen hallways, Varrus led Jason to his bedroom…a room decorated totally in white. The walls, floor, ceiling, furniture and bed sheets were all of the same brilliant hue. Varrus, having the remains of a once dark tan, stood out like a rock in the middle of a snowdrift. Letting his white robe fall off his body, he revealed his tall, muscular, but scarred back to Jason. Jason reached up and touched those scars gingerly as if touching them would hurt one of the two men he loved with all his heart.
Varrus let Jason run his warm hand on his back before turning around. He looked down at Jason's precious face…a more mature, but still innocent expression marked it while his green eyes, near the point of tears, shimmered.
With one arm, Varrus pulled Jason closer to him so he could kiss the young man's forehead. He then used his other hand to untie the bathrobe, letting it fall off his shoulders to the floor. Varrus bent down and kissed the top of Jason's forehead while he wrapped both arms around the back of his neck.
While drawing Jason closer to the bed, Varrus made a confession; "I have not slept with another person since that day in the woods."
"Why?" Jason asked. He knew of the Centurion sex drive.
"Only you seem to matter to me now. You are the only person I want next to me in bed. I want you to be my one and only lover."
"I love you too," Jason confessed.
"I know," Varrus replied with a smile.
Varrus lowered both of their bodies onto the soft white bed and drew Jason close to him so their bodies were pressed together. Already both of them were hard, pushing against each other's bodies. Soon the two men were humping against each other, each of them looking for an opening. Varrus was the first to find it.
He pushed inside Jason's ass very slowly, to minimize the pain for Jason as well as to let himself capture the feel of penetration. Once all the way in, Varrus just held himself there while he lifted Jason's head for several deep kisses. Then, very slowly, he began to pull out until only the very tip of his sex remained inside. Varrus kept it like that for a few seconds before he slammed back in, full force, his balls slapping against Jason's ass. Varrus repeated this over and over again while Jason let out a deep moan each time he felt Varrus' manhood rub against a sensitive spot inside him.
Varrus, seeing Jason's manhood hard and leaking, took hold of it with his callused hands and squeezed out more of the fluid. He pulled out of Jason and wrapped his mouth around his lover's manhood, sucking and licking the salty fluid. Jason did not last long and soon came in Varrus' mouth. Varrus climbed up and kissed him, then pushed back into Jason until he too reached climax. Varrus lay on top of Jason, remaining inside his lover while he kissed Jason all over his face and neck.
Jason, for his part, had a dreamy look on his face, running his fingers through Varrus's brown hair. Varrus was also smiling, holding tight to the young man who meant so much to him.
Varrus had just finished kissing Jason's neck and was about to kiss his Legatio lover on the tip of his nose when he saw that Jason's eyes were now two pools of darkness. "Jason?"
"Varrus." Jason smiled. He pushed Varrus onto his back and landed on top of him. Drops of purple fluid dripped from his mouth, landing on Varrus's chest. Varrus didn't know why it was purple but he was sure he knew what it was… anima… and he wanted it. Jason gave it to him.
Jason planted his lips against Varrus', letting the fluid pour into his mouth. Varrus felt warmth overtake him with a sudden itch on his back followed by severe pain, but Jason still held him close.
Where the scars on Varrus's back had been, something was trying to rip out. It pulled and tugged against the skin until two seams appeared near his upper spine. Out of them came a pair of giant, raven-black, feathered wings, wet with blood. Varrus let out a deep scream of pain as the damp wings stretched in an attempt to dry.
Only when the wings were fully extended did Jason release his kiss, his eyes back to their green color.
"Varrus?" Jason asked, dumbfounded by what he saw.
"Jason…" Varrus said, exhausted, in pain, but feeling elated.
"I don't know." Varrus smiled. He felt too happy to worry about it. He stood up and flapped his wings a few times, letting them dry. When that was done, he had a pair of silky soft wings as black as his room was white. Varrus then looked down at his naked lover, smiling at him widely. Offering Jason a hand, Varrus lifted him up and took him in his arms, wrapping his black wings around Jason's white body. Doing so felt so right to Varrus that he began to cry from joy. Jason looked so protected…so loved beneath his wings.
Varrus then noticed that a corner of his mind now seemed to be inhabited by a visitor. He could now feel Jason's emotions and understand Jason's thoughts. With that knowledge came understanding. He now knew that Philip was Jason's savior and deepest lover. Jason felt he owed all joy and happiness to his Centurion rescuer. Varrus' place in Jason's heart was different; Varrus was his role model as well as well as his sexual idol. Where Philip was most loved, Varrus now knew he was most desired.
Understanding this, Varrus understood that he would have to share Jason with Philip. The two loves, while different, were both very powerful. Jason wanted to love both men and, in his innocent mind, there was nothing wrong with this. All his time in the Labyrinth Tower had left him not knowing of the jealousies of love; that to try and love two different men could lead to resentment. For Jason, love was something to be given to all people. It was his greatest quality, and maybe curse, that he loved so easily.
Varrus laid Jason back down on the bed, keeping his wings wrapped around the younger man tenderly. Both of them fell asleep, sharing each other's dreams as they shared each other's bodies and minds.