The Centurion Cycle Book Five: Of Shadow and Fire

Chapter Twenty~Four: Forward the Banners

"We are getting closer to him, I can feel it," Philip said as they approached the border to Aquanos. Already he and his Spawn had to kill three Centurion patrols. Along the way, they had picked up followers, frightened Famulus wishing to flee south."

"It is still many miles to the city of Aquanos," a youthful Famulus names Thaddeus warned.

"At least I know where he is," Philip chuckled. "When I get my hands to him I am never going to let him out of my sight again."

"You are not mad at him."

"I was once a Centurion. How can I be mad at someone trying to be so brave? I am only disappointed in myself. He asked me to come with him and I refused. I only hope Jason can forgive me for my stubbornness."

"I see," Thaddeus whispered.

"Do not worry we both love each other enough to see beyond our faults."

"I must say you seem happier than usual."

"As I said I now know where Jason is. I also know what he is up to," Philip said almost as an afterthought.

"Oh?"

"Yes, I can think of no better hands for he to be in than the Duke of Aquanos and his Demon lover's... other than my own of course."

"You don't mind Jason sleeping with other men?"

"I would be the biggest hypocrite in all of Ares if I did," Philip laughed.

"I see," Thaddeus whispered again.

"Do not worry young man I have no intention of ravishing you. I am eager to fly forward to reach Aquanos as soon as possible."

"You won't leave us behind?" Thaddeus said worriedly.

"No, I won't. I promised I would see you safely to Aquanos and I will keep my word."

"Thank you, Lord Philip. If it weren't for you the Centurion patrols would have killed us by now."

"It is what Jason would have wanted me to do," Philip sighed, his heart aching to be with his lover again.

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Standing on the edge of the practice grounds Armageddon watches Felix perform the hundred exercises of a sword master with expert precision. "Very good Felix," he chuckled to himself when he saw the Legatio perform an exceptionally difficult move.

"Field Marshal," Xavier said, breaking Armageddon's chain of thought.

Turning around quickly Armageddon went down on one knee before the emperor. "Yes, your majesty."

"I have news... news you will find interesting. It seems King Jason of Qul Tos has made his way to Aquanos. He must be a fast talker because the armies of the duke are now moving north to face us."

"I see. How do you plan to respond?"

"By sending you of course. I do not know what the brat is up to but I'm sure he has a few tricks up his sleeves. I can think of no other man better suited to face him then you my demon."

"Do you wish for me to take him prisoner?"

"If you can. It is said he can fly. My guess is that once he faces your armies he will fly away like the Legatio coward he is. I want his armies smashed, however. You will then proceed with the invasion of Aquanos."

"This close to winter?" Armageddon said surprised.

"It has never snowed in Aquanos... it is too far south."

"But still there will be no grass to feed our horses with."

"Feed is expensive so use only infantry," Xavier said with a wave of his hand.

"That would put us at a disadvantage," Armageddon warned. "It will limit the range of our scouts and leave us vulnerable to their own cavalry."

"Our legions have faced harsher odds and prevailed."

"As you say, my Emperor," Armageddon said bowing deeper. "If I do capture Jason I ask that I might use him for my own entertainment."

"What kind of entertainment?"

"There is no love lost between him and Felix. I would like to see the two of them face each other in the dueling ring."

"A duel between Legatio... to the death, how extravagant. An event like that must be held here in the capital of course."

"I will strive to deliver him to you then," Armageddon promised, a smile growing on his face. When Xavier was gone Armageddon couldn't hold back his shout of joy any longer. Jason had finally come as he knew he eventually would. This was the chance he had been waiting for a chance to claim Jason for his own. It had been Philip who had ordered him to remain at the Academy only to fall into Xavier's web. It had been Philip who had jealousy kept Jason close to him but Xavier did not say that Jason's demon had come only that the King of Qul Tos was now in Aquanos. Watching Felix continue to practice Armageddon hatched plans of his own. Jason's return should be met with a proper gift after all.


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