Nico looked up from where he’d been eating quietly to see that his father had risen. He made to stand up, too, but Kore’s hand on his leg made him stay.
“I thank all of you who have come to this grand feast today,” said Aides, eyes scanning the crowd of lords, ladies, and their progeny that had come to the banquet hall. Their masks only just hid their identities, but Nico had no doubt that his father knew exactly who was who.
“I raise a toast to my son, Nykos, whose naming day today marks not only his thirteenth year on this world, but also the day when by law and by tradition, you and I may begin to speak about how he is to be betrothed,” said Aides.
More than a few lords raised their glasses to that. Nico looked for them, as his father had taught him, and tried to weed out the ones that only wanted the treasure of their kingdom. Nearly all the lords that had raised their glasses were looking at Hades’ richly decorated robes instead of his face. Nico sneered in disgust, but quickly hid his face behind his cup of wine.
Kore smiled at Nico and patted him on the head. “It seems you have found the lords that you want to avoid, little prince,” she whispered to him, as he fidgeted in his seat and took a bite of the big slab of meat that the servants had deposited on his plate. He looked up at his step-mother and nodded.
“As much as I appreciate your attendance here today,” said Aides, face hardening as he spoke, “Today is not the day that I give my own son to any of you as though I were simply selling a piece of meat.”
Though many of the lords, particularly the ones that had raised their glasses earlier, sputtered in outrage, there were quite a few that were looking at Aides with new admiration. Nico couldn’t help but feel proud of his father.
Truth be told, though, Nico did not know what he had expected. He knew that Aides truly held many of the other nobles in contempt, calling them greedy swine that only knew the allure of money thanks to the rampant avarice and narcissism that had been allowed to flourish among the kingdoms of man before the Dominion arrived.
More than the greed, Aides despised the fact that so many of the nobles traded children off to others for political clout. In fact, Nico wondered if the lords that were nodding along to Aides’ words were traded away as children, once, and still bore some resentment to their fathers.
“Ten years hence,” said Aides, some of the lords muttering angrily, some of them clinging on to his every word, “I shall hold a tournament in honour of my son. I suggest that those among you that would have his hand in marriage seek out his favour. Perhaps he will be swayed to help you then.”
Aides turned and locked eyes with Nico. “And since I value my son’s happiness over any political or fiscal advantage that you think you can offer me, I will trust his judgment. He will decide whether the winner of the tournament is worthy of his hand in marriage.”
“This is outrageous!” said one of the lords, a man that would have been slightly attractive with his handsome jaw and graying hair, if not for the fact that his face was slowly turning an angry shade of purplish red. “The Dominion has addled your mind, Aides, if you think we will agree to your nonsense proposal!”
The lord huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “ You should be the one begging us for our daughters’ hands in marriage!”
Aides cast his eyes from one side of the hall to the next. Soldiers that were stood in neat columns to either side of the banquet hall began to move. “And you have allowed the ways of old to hold you back, lord Ambir. The Dominion rules over us now, and your ambition for power and wealth will not get you much of the Imperator’s favour.”
Aides’ face was stern, and frankly, Nico found, rather intimidating. “Toss lord Ambir out of the banquet hall. I do not wish to see his face unless he learns to accept that the world is changing. If any of his ilk shares his views, then I suggest they leave or face expulsion as well.”
Nico sat up, peering over the table at the lord that had dared speak out against Aides. He did so love it whenever his father dispensed harsh justice on people that clearly deserved it. Soldiers clad in black armour with gold trim—the colours of Aides’ house—took the belligerent lord by both arms and dragged him along the central aisle out of the banquet hall.
“Bytha!” the lord called out, eyes locked with the aging but beautiful dark-skinned woman he had sat with. Nico wondered if she came from the same place that Kore did. He looked over at his step-mother and saw a twinkle in her eye. He decided that Kore definitely knew the woman. “Bytha come out here at once and protest this injustice!”
All eyes turned to the woman as she rose from her seat and turned to face her husband. Even Aides seemed to have an amused expression on his face. “I would, my lord,” said Bytha, “but I see no injustice done here. I do however see an old man that should know better acting like a child because he couldn’t sell his own daughter to the highest bidder.”
Lord Ambir’s face turned as crimson as a tomato, and Nico couldn’t help but shriek with laughter where he sat. It was improper, but a lot of the other princes were laughing along with him. Even Aides looked like he was suppressing a laugh. Kore was hiding her mouth behind a silken handkerchief.
The door slammed shut as soon as lord Ambir was shown out. Aides struck the side of his goblet with his fork to bring order to the banquet hall. It took a minute for the last few sniggers from the younger nobles to die down. “Lady Ambir,” said Aides, “Should you ever need shelter from Lord Ambir, you are welcome to seek asylum in our home. My wife has informed me that she would make sure you enjoyed your stay in safety.”
Lady Ambir flashed a brilliant smile at Aides and Kore. Considering what he had just seen, Nico was beginning to understand why Aides was so popular with the ladies.
Given Kore’s offer of enjoyment, and what Nico had heard on nights when he couldn’t sleep, he could only assume that Kore herself was rather popular with the ladies, as well.
Aides looked about the hall, eyes boring into every noble that dared to return his gaze. “Who else thinks that I should beg that you allow me to betroth my son to your daughters?” Silence was the answer to the question. “And if my son were to wed a man, should he prefer it? Who would stand in the way of that?” The tension that formed in the room was palpable.
Another of the lords, a portly man wearing a very visible pendant of a golden hammer, spoke up. “It is unnatural,” he hissed, rising from his chair. He grabbed his wife’s arm, but she slapped his hand away, emboldened by the rebellion of Lady Bytha.
When it seemed that his wife was not leaving, and that his daughter was refusing to budge as well, the man moved to pick up his son. Unfortunately for him, the boy was looking dreamily across the tables at another young man seated next to his handsome father.
“We—” the lord paused, seemingly at a loss for words now that his entire entourage had declined to go with him. “—I am leaving. Viari damn you—” the lord looked at his wife and his children, “—and you and this entire fucking kingdom.” A few of the younger boys giggled at the profanity.
Aides smiled, lips thinning in their characteristic manner whenever he was amused. “Veýto gîrë Di’Lertanys idë neto rissë`na1 d’cilaninnë idë`re2” said Aides. The flush that stained the man’s face got impossibly redder. He looked like he was about to retort with an insult of his own, but Aides simply smiled, held out his arms, and said, “The threats of your god mean nothing to mine.”
The doors to the banquet hall slammed shut behind the lord and the few others that had risen to leave with him. Again, Aides turned to the family that had been left behind. “Like with Lady Ambir, my wife and I offer you shelter should you need it, Lady Dyr”
The pretty woman, whom Nico just noticed was probably a few decades younger than the lord, nodded at Aides and gave him a sweet smile. “Very well, now that the rabble has shown itself out,” said Aides, “Shall we proceed with the ball?”
Nico looked out of his window. It now seemed so long ago, the masquerade ten years ago where Aides had announced that a tournament would be held in his honour, so that he could judge whether its winner would be worthy of his hand in marriage.
Nico looked down over the walls and parapets of the castle, his eyes wandering moonlit stone and dirt and grass. How long had it been since he last visited that hill that had once meant so much to him? Truthfully, he didn’t know.
Nico longed to see a certain young man again, but over the last ten years, he had only been disappointed again and again. He had almost given up hope on the promise that had been made to him so long ago, but some part of him wanted to believe that Will could do it. Another part of him feared that Will had realized that the heavens were too lofty an ambition to reach.
The creaking of the door to his bedchamber drew Nico from his thoughts. He turned to face the door. Another young man stood there, bathed in the pale moonlight that streamed through the one open window in the room. Sharp eyes as green as the seas stared back at Nico with hungry lust.
Nico saw the young man look up and down his body appraisingly, and he couldn’t help but return the favour. Perseus was to be his entertainment that night, after all.
Sex was the one indulgence that Nico allowed himself to have. He was never going to bear a bastard son, no matter how hard his partners tried—and he did encourage them to try very hard—so his father let him have his way. As Perseus slid the coarse tunic off of his torso, Nico decided that he was definitely going to have his way.
At first, Nico reminisced, it had been the stable boy that he had invited into his bed. Eventually, though, the young man’s father, a strict traditionalist and one of the few people that still adhered to Sanctum teachings, found out and put an end to it.
Next had been one of Nico’s bodyguards. It wasn’t that difficult to seduce the soldier once he found out that the young man was single and couldn’t seem to find any luck with either men or women. Unfortunately, Aides had found out about it and had scolded him thoroughly for compromising his own security.
The poor soldier had been reassigned to the opposite end of the castle after that, but last Nico had heard, Aides had helped the soldier find a partner to warm his bed.
Whatever the case was, since then, Nico had had a steady stream of daring young men coming to his bedroom every few weeks or so. The Dominion openly encouraged the exploration of sexuality, though Tretalleri men were some of the most frustrating people Nico had ever had the displeasure of trying to seduce. He’d seen them naked, and they all were reasonably endowed, but apparently they had little to no sex drive whatsoever—except for during certain times of the year.
Perseus cleared his throat and shuffled a little bit, where he stood, shaking Nico from his thoughts once again. Nico looked at Perseus, “Tell me, Prince of Horses, do you believe in the Nine?”
A tinge of red seeped into Perseus’ cheeks. “I do now,” said Perseus. “Father took a while to abandon Viari.” Perseus looked down and tapped the toes of his right foot three times on the floor before looking up again at Nico. “But I swear, I am okay with this, and I know how to please a man.”
Nico laughed as the blush on Perseus’ face, which, frankly, was adorable, deepened. “I shall be the judge of that,” said Nico. He was more than ready to be pleased. For the last three weeks, what with all the preparation for the tournament going on, Nico had only had his hands and the toys, that Korë had had made for him, to give him company during his lonely nights.
Nico stepped away from the window, slipping his arms from the sleeves of his night gown, but not quite undoing the cloth belt that cinched the sheer black silk of it around his waist. Nico looked down his torso and traced his hands down from his chest to his navel. “I wonder,” he whispered, in a sultry voice as he walked toward his bed, “Is the Prince of Horses as well endowed as the beast he’s named after?”
The shyness in Perseus’ eyes seemed to evaporate. The knight’s tunic was tossed aside as he walked to stand in front of Nico. “Why not approach me and find out?” said Perseus, eyes glittering in the darkness of the night.
“Is it my place to seek favour from one who wishes to be my champion?” quipped Nico, as he sat down on the edge of his bed and tilted his head at Perseus. “Or, is it your place to seek favour from me?” he said, with a grin. “Show me,” he demanded.
“Yes, my prince,” said Perseus, fingers flying to the ties that held his breeches up. The smooth silken fabric slid down Perseus’ legs to the floor, rasping as it rubbed against the coarse hairs that covered Perseus’ legs. “D-do you like what you see?” said Perseus, a hint of timidity returning to his voice.
Nico reached out and cupped the full balls and substantial cock that had just been exposed to him. He gave the soft member a few tugs and felt it twitch under his touch. He smiled and looked up into sharp green eyes. He bared his teeth, almost savagely, and said, “It will do.”
It didn’t take very long for Nico to find himself pinned under Perseus, legs splayed to either side of the burgeoning knight. The cloth belt that had been tied around his waist was now undone, the robe in a disarray underneath him.
Nico himself was alight with lust. His manhood was rigid as a rock, and as much as he wanted to reach down between his legs to stroke himself, Perseus’ hands holding his arms above his head would not let him.
As exciting as this position was, Nico couldn’t help but dearly wish that Perseus had had at least the courtesy of allowing him a taste of that deliciously curved cock that was grinding slowly against his. Unfortunately, like most other supposedly “straight-laced” men that had come to his bedroom, Perseus’ idea of sex seemed to be confined to sticking his cock in a warm, welcoming ass.
Nico supposed that things could be worse. Percy could have looked utterly hideous, for one, but the sculpted shoulders, well-defined abdomen, and piercing green eyes left little more to be desired—other than the chance to get to admire those features with either his fingers or his mouth, of course.
Nico decided then that if Perseus won his tournament, that he could live with marrying Perseus. Truth be told, Nico found the prospect of teaching someone, who was raised in traditionalist Sanctum values, the true breadth and depth of sexuality quite exciting.
Nico’s thoughts were immediately derailed when he felt cool fingers pressing warm oil into the cleft of his ass. He rolled his hips, eagerly bucking against the tentative touch. He sighed, relaxing himself, as one of the fingers slowly slid into him.
When Perseus wriggled his finger inside of Nico, Nico couldn’t help but think it wonderful that the knight knew the value of preparation.
When Perseus curled his finger and rubbed the pad of it against that small bundle of nerves inside of Nico, making him keen with delight, Nico grinned. “Ah,” Nico panted, toes curling as Perseus repeatedly stroked that one spot inside of him, “it seems you know how to make this fun, too, eh?” Nico groaned. “There might be hope for you, yet.”
1 Veýto gîrë Di’Lertanys fitë neto rissë`na — May the Stranger usher you unto peace. Though rissë does mean peace, this is more closely associated to the peace of death rather than peace that is the lack of war. As a result, saying Veýto gîrë Di’Lertanys fitë neto rissë instead of Veýto girë Di’Lertanys fitë neto rissë(May the Stranger guide you unto peace) is considered an insult as the former is a death wish for the party being responded to.
2 di’cilaninnë idë — My lord