Description King Rafe is subjected to a curse that will cause him, or rather a certain part of him, to become a monster, and his lover and mage-advisor Will is understandably conflicted about this turn of events.
|Updated||11 May 2016|
I remember the moment he told me, because I had finally broken through the pain and had merged with bliss itself. The only way I could have soared higher was if the entire kingdom of Shap had their king inside them the way he was inside me at that moment, and I cast a spell that would let me feel all their joy all at once. It had been three endless, empty weeks! I missed him so much that when I saw him again everything else vanished. And now he was inside me there was nothing in the world but joy and love. Thats when he said it.
Will? he panted. I couldnt see him. I was on my hands and knees, a thin mat the only thing separating me from the cold flagstone of the royal kitchens. Wed come down from his chambers looking for something to eat and gotten distracted.
Yes, majesty? I managed to be facetious, even though I could barely frame the words. His bone — I call it his bone, though I wouldnt want to meet the animal such a bone came from! — it was so hard, and it felt bigger than ever, a physical impossibility I was sure (but that did not stop me dreaming of it often). (Bone was also a good name because — well, to put it coyly, regular bones are never soft, either.)
Stop — calling me — that, he breathed, giving his bone a playful shove that made me gasp. I grinned to myself as the pleasure/pain cascaded through my lower body. I had to tease him about the king business. We were only 17 summers old, barely old enough to pick up a lance. How could my lifelong friend be king? And how could I be a kings chamberlain, much less the kingdoms last member of the secret order of mages? It took an effort to believe we werent just kids who spent all our time swimming and laughing and playing at swords and tasting each others tongues and, well, playing at swords.
Rafe — my lover the king — was whispering now. His strokes were speeding up. Just slightly. Merciful stars, he was so big.
I dont think Ill be able to do this again, he breathed. I could just barely make out his words.
Thats all right, I panted. Half as good next time will be ample.
No, fool, he whispered. Thrust. Thrust. Thrust. No — next time. I cant be inside you anymore.
I didnt believe him. Why not, majesty? Thrust thrust thrust.
It was a few heartbeats before he answered. My bone — growing. Getting bigger. Every day. Wont stop! And in that moment — I found out later he had been holding back — in that moment he thrust the REST of it inside me, a good four fingers worth. Dear holy mother earth!
My own bone exploded, dousing the mat and some of the cold floor in front of me. And Rafe exploded too, deep inside me. We exploded again together, and again. We always explode together. I cast that spell years ago. (To this day Rafe does not know. If you see him, do not tell him.)
He did not pull out of me right away. Instead we collapsed gently onto the stone floor, lying on our right sides, Rafe still mostly inside me. My vision was darkened for a moment and spots swam before me. My heart was pounding violently like an angry blacksmith. Rafe drew me toward him, his strong left arm wrapping around my lithe torso.
As my mind cleared and my body calmed I could feel Rafes always-hard manhood stretching me open, deeper inside me than Id ever felt or thought possible. There was no question it had changed, that Rafe was telling the truth. But that only meant one thing.
Someone cast a spell on you, I said softly.
His hand was caressing my chest, feeling for the few stray hairs Id sprouted there. I know. His feet were caressing my soles from underneath — Rafe is just a hands breadth taller than I am. Or rather, than I was.
It wasnt me.
I know. He kissed my neck and I felt a shiver course through me. It was Loren.
That name had an immediate effect on me. For a brief flash the only emotion I knew was jealous anger. I moved to get up, to get away, but Rafe held me firmly.
What were you — I began, trying to master my emotions. I love Rafe. I trust him implicitly, always. But Loren — him I did not trust. There had been a time Id thought Loren seduced Rafe away from me. But that was past.
I began again while Rafe waited patiently. What happened?
Its very simple. I was on procession. Rafe had been gone the last three weeks, visiting all the neighboring realms, and this time, for political reasons, I couldnt come (he needed me to keep an eye on the chancellors son, whod been making incautious remarks lately to his drinking buddies). For me, the longest three weeks Id endured in years, not only because I missed Rafe desperately, but also because the chancellor, who ruled in the kings absence, hated me and I heartily returned the sentiment.
I forced my thoughts away from the repulsive old chancellor to what Rafe was trying to tell me. You were on pro — you mean, you visited Presshe along the way? Why?
Why not? Rafe said. He sounded distracted, possibly by my ear, which he was presently nibbling, but I was pretty sure he was leading me around to get me answer my own questions.
Rafe, Lorens obsession ever since he became king has been about how evil we are and how Shap is out to destroy Presshe. Hell never soften toward us. Hes taught all of Presshe to hate us.
Rafe was moving on to a gentle tonguing of the inside of my ear. His bone, still stiff and deep inside me, twitched regularly. I took a deep breath, wanting to tell him to stop while we had this serious discussion, and also wanting him not to stop, never to stop.
True, he whispered. But it was worth a try. Risk is better than acceptance of failure, you know.
I said nothing. The origin of that fatuous aphorism was me, quoting my father and mentor. Id said it to Rafe several times two years earlier when war with the southern kingdoms beyond the great sea was looming. Now Rafe was throwing it back in my face. Or rather, into my very stimulated left ear.
Unfortunately, it appears Loren has been studying magic, Rafe said with a sigh, pulling back from my ear and resting his head on his right arm, still letting his left hand gently roam my naturally well-proportioned chest. As soon as we were in private audience he caught me unawares with a spell that put me in thrall to him.
Rafe! I taught you how to resist — !
I know, he said calmly. I did. But when I pushed myself out of the spell, he became nasty. He told me I now faced a choice: submit to him — on behalf of Shap, of course — or face being turned into a monster. Then he laughed at me, Will. He said my reputation as, well, he said as a stallion made it easy to decide what kind of monster to make me.
This was easy to understand. Thanks to indiscreet servants, it was widely known that Rafe was twice as large between his legs as any man in all the northern kingdoms — Shap and Presshe included. And then he cast another spell? I said.
I tried to stop it, but Im no mage.
I told you I should have come.
I know, Rafe said, kissing the back of my neck. Im sorry. Believe me, youre never leaving my side again, especially if Loren of Presshe is involved. He is coming in a month, he said, to collect my submission.
Whats the spell?
You tell me, he said. All I know is, its been getting bigger.
Youll have to pull out of me, I said resignedly. I need to see. How much?
Rafe began gently easing out of me. I bit my lip. Im not sure, he said. About a thumbs breadth a day, I reckon.
I whistled. At that rate, in only a fortnight his bone would emerge from the collars of his tunics! And as for a month —
Thats in length, he went on. He was almost out of me by now. But its wider too.
That I could have told him. So, its keeping the same shape.
Yes. He was out of me now. I turned myself over gingerly to face him.
Can you see anything? he said anxiously.
For the first time that week I allowed my eyes to slip, to fall into what I knew only as my other vision. It was an easy transition. Forcing my eyes back into normalcy was what took concentration.
The stone and wood of the kitchens changed little. But Rafe in front of me was transformed into a translucent, luminous being, an angelic creature. I was seeing his life as if it were light — not the red light of an ordinary cooking fire or they yellow light of fireflies, but the white light of the sun. I smiled — Rafe was beautiful in this vision — unendurably beautiful. The angelic Rafe smiled, knowing how seeing him this way affected me. He looked down. My eyes followed his.
His massive bone was glowing too, but with more than life. There was an envelope of power around it, tinged with red. Its weave was coarse and brutal but well-fashioned, churning with power drawn from the Source. Loren must have learned a great deal from some itinerant master.
I see it, I said softly.
Can you unmake it? he said.
I hesitated only a moment, wanting to give a different answer. No.
I sighed, staring his magnificent glowing manhood. It is set up not to be unmade, I said. If I unlink it from the Source, it will collapse.
And that would also collapse my —
We both shuddered. Perhaps in this case, risk is not better, Rafe said wryly.
I forced my vision back to normal so that I could look him in the eye. There is one thing we can do, I said.
What? Rafe asked, his eyes serious. I think he had an idea what I was going to suggest.
We can transfer it.
To what? he said.
To my manhood.
Rafe shook his head. Its little better for my chamberlain to be able to joust without a lance, than for me to.
The transfer would only be for a month.
Rafes eyes widened. Then you would transfer it to —
To Loren, yes.
Rafe actually laughed. When can we start?
Just one problem, I said, matching his smile. Itll take me a while to brew the potion.
How long, indeed. I glanced down at his manhood, eyeing it judiciously. Id say — ten days. Any more than that and hed have trouble holding audiences even in his bulkiest robes.
Rafe raised an eyebrow. I think he knew I was exaggerating (four or five days was all I needed), but all he said was, Youre the expert. Yes I was — on magic, and on the kings body. We kissed, and spoke no more that night.
Fortunately I started the potion the next day, because there was one thing I hadnt factored into my lewd plan to let the king get as big as we could get away with.
The spell was accelerating.
Why that should be, I do not know. But by the second day it was starting to become apparent — it had grown more than two thumbs widths in two days time. And by the fourth day! I pulled back the covers to find his bone was as wide as the kings powerful forearm, and with its oversized head resting a mere hands breadth from his chin!
It was beautiful. But if it got any bigger Rafe would be unable to reign — the kingdom would be alive with gossip about the kings demonic growth.
As I stared at him he awoke, and was immediately aware of his throbbing, monstrous appendage.
He looked both aroused and upset. Will — he began.
I know, I interrupted him. Give me two hours. Meet me in the my hidden chamber. I was already throwing on my clothing.
Even in this moment Rafe grinned lasciviously. Are you sure your hidden chamber still has room for me?
I grinned back. Just. And then I was gone, to prepare for the most important spellwork of my life a casting that would transform my own life even as it saved my kings.
But as I hurried from the king’s chamber and ran down the narrow castle back corridor, my long flat bare feet smacking on the cold stone, I was waylaid before I even got to the narrow spinal stairs that led down to the rear foundations—not by any agents of evil, or by the dark magic of Loren of Presshe, mind you, but by a 16-year-old boy.
Mind you, it wasn’t just any 16-year-old boy. This was Darek son of Drake, scion of the most powerful family in Shap outside the royals. In fact a branch of their line held the throne, the loremasters say, long, long ago, before it passed to Rafe’s family in a long-forgotten civil war. The result was that Darek’s family wasn’t royal—they just acted like it. He was deeply involved in the politics of the kingdom too, even including himself in the train of Rafe’s recent procession.
Either way, ancestry aside, he stood in my way, directly in the middle of the hallway. I pulled up short, nearly tumbling into him—I hadn’t seen him at first in the windowless passage, weakly lit as it was by a few flickering torches.
“You’ve just come from the king, I see,” Darek said haughtily, eyeing my bare feet and open, flying jacket over no shirt with interest. He was one to talk: Darek was almost always drilling in the marshals’ field, practicing the hundred different military skills he had at his command, and so was seldom seen outside state banquets wearing more than what he had on now: a short, loose pair of breeches and nothing else.
He smiled as I took in his sculpted torso, which had blossomed in recent years with muscle both hard and generous, and smiled, stepping closer to me. Darek made no secret that he considered me, even though I was 10 months his senior, as one of the “privileges” that ought to be accorded the second-most-noble man of the realm as equally as the first. I had rebuffed his advances—politely—more times than I could count.
I chafed—my plans had gone astray and my majesty’s “majesty” was already quite out of hand. I almost felt like I could sense the thick, armlike organ in the chamber down he hall behind me, growing and throbbing and pulsing with restless magic with every heartbeat, my lover staring at it in panicked awe, while far away, in a distant land, a cunning apprentice-mage of a king was laughing at his handiwork.
“I am sorry, my lord, I must attend to an urgent matter,” I said, and I attempted to step around him. But my tall and unusually broad-shouldered accoster easily blocked my way. And now his face was very close. It was comely—all the nobles of Shap were beautiful, and Darek was twice as beautiful as any (but Rafe, of course): sharp features, bright eyes, perfect lips. I found myself momentarily distracted.
“What services to you provide for the king?” he said softly.
I glanced directly into his eyes, startled. “What are you asking, my lord?” I whispered. I suddenly realized his large, strong, smooth hand was on my narrow, naked waist, inside my jacket. I felt myself shiver unaccountably.
“He has been getting stronger lately,” Darek explained, still in a soft, sweet voice. “And his sword has always been the biggest in the land.”
“I didn’t ensorcel him,” I said softly, matching his voice. His face was inches away. “He’s well blessed by nature.”
He looked at me shrewdly. “I know all the swords in the kingdom. And the king’s was vaster yestereve than it was a fortnight ago.”
“I’m sure you’re mistaken, my lord,” I said, but my voice wavered.
“Shall we go see? You know by long tradition I can be admitted at any time,” he added, his eyes flickering just for a second down the hall behind me, before fixing themselves again on mine.
I had no answer. As he spoke again his lips were literally brushing against mine, moving softly across them as they turned and twisted, making me think in turn of how close his tongue was to mine as it danced and curled around his words. The gossamer touch of his lips, and the hint I could just feel of the soft bristle of his unshaven chin, aroused me suddenly and thoroughly, and I shuddered again against his unmovable iron hand, which was now resting against the small of my back under the jerkin.
I barely registered what he actually said with those lips, but when I did I was genuinely alarmed: “I want you,” he breathed, “to do for me as you did for his majesty.”
“My lord,” I whispered, my lips now brushing his in their turn, “you are already big—and strong—and beautiful.”
“Yes,” hissed Darek, adding in an admission he would only have made under these exact circumstances, seducing the court mage: “But my sword is not.” I had seen Darek bathe after exercise and on campaign—nature had been as overgenerous with him as it had with me, and Darek’s, if anything, was unnaturally wide; but we all suffered in comparison to his royal manhood, even before Loren’s mischevous spell.
And as if to seal his hold on me Darek pushed his sweet lips a hair’s breadth closer to mine, all that was needed for us to actually kiss. I closed my eyes for a moment, realizing as I did so that something was … amiss. Darek and I had never kissed—I had never let him get this close. But his kiss, though brief, was sweet.
When my eyes opened they were unfocused, which, in a stroke of irony, made all clear to me. With my unfocused eyes I could see what my focused eyes (and heart) could not: Darek had been subjected to a spell. I could see it, like the ghost of a tiny red ribbon, twisting through the shadowy contours of his mind like a smoky tendril that was once the extremity of some great root.
I saw it all now. Loren hadn’t just put a spell on Rafe—he’d perceived Darek’s potent, longstanding desire for myself, and spelled him, I read from the shape and twists of the wisp of ribbon, to be irresistible to me and me alone. This was just like Loren—a ploy to keep me busy and distracted, so I’d be slow to stop Rafe turning into a “monster.” Probably Daek didn’t even know he was bewitched.
I felt my resolve harden. Loren had underestimated me again. My skills, and my love for Rafe.
Summoning all my years of training I emasculated Loren’s spell, and felt my compulsive attraction to Darek drain away like blood from a dead hare. But a new plan had already formed. Darek’s lust for me would be as useful to me as it was supposed to have been to Loren. I kept my position and repeated our sweet kiss, this time for my own purposes.
“So you want to receive the spell that has been increasing his majesty’s endowment?” I whispered, endeavoring to sound seductive.
Darek was sure he had me. “I insist on it,” he said, his dark blue eyes glinting.
My eyes, I am sure, glinted back. I pretended to agonize for a moment, then uttered, barely audible:
“So be it.”
I could tell he was trying to reign in an expression of triumph, but I was staring deep into his eyes and missed nothing. I smiled, which he took to be the smile of one enraptured. Then I said one thing more: “Come with me,” and, turning slightly so his arm was around my waist and mine around his shoulders, I guided him toward the rear spiral staircase that led down, down, down to my dungeon laboratory, where would receive the gift he sought—and more, much more.
As soon as Will left, Rafe climbed out of his vast four-poster bed and, naked and impossibly aroused, itching with anxiety, started pacing his sprawling chambers, his shapely bare feet barely noticing the soft comfort of the expensive, deeply woven rugs that kept them from feeling the cold stone of the chamber floor. As he paced he instinctively hugged his enormous manhood to his bare, hard-muscled chest, his arms clasping its warmth to him as he grasped his own biceps in each hand. It probably wasn't necessary; he knew from experience that his bone was naturally so stiff and rigid that it had barely moved when he walked around even before it had started growing: Will liked to joke that his "soldier" was never "at ease". But he'd always enjoyed its pleasant, hard, radiant heat being pressed firmly against his groin and his tight, defined stomach by whatever he wore around his waist, whether it be the drawstring of the loose trousers he wore when he was alone with Will (when he wore anything at all) or a tautly cinched swordbelt. And now… his chest-high pillar was stiffer than a stone pillar and just as unyielding, yet it radiated reassuring warmth so easily and unstoppably it was like basking in the summer sun.
His monstrous bone responded to the embrace with enthusiasm and gratitude, of its own accord thrusting up somewhat into the tight space between Rafe's crossed forearms and his almost-hairless, training-thickened chest. Though he refused to look down he felt a huge surge of the lubricating pre-ejaculate his organ produced so prodigiously erupt impatiently from his bone's impressive aperture, and the accompanying wave of pleasure nearly dropped Rafe to his knees. He staggered, finding his feet only by leaning his bare ass and back against one of the bedposts. He tilted his head back against the ornately sculpted oak, breathing deeply as the wave of erotic pleasure slowly subsided. Had his sensitivity and the magnitude of stimulation grown apace with the monstrous increase in his organ? If a simple thrust almost felled him with pleasure, how could he endure an orgasm?
Yet even as these thoughts swirled in the king's disquieted mind, his baser thoughts shifted to Will. He imagined himself pushing into Will, shoving his enormous organ deep inside him, filling Will more literally than he had ever done before. It was impossible—he knew it was impossible. Even when he'd come back from the procession, he'd worried he was too large for his beloved Will, and they would lose one of their most precious shared pleasures. He was so much larger now. He hugged the offending prodigy hard against him, ignoring its need to push, to shove, to feel the the explosive stimulation of ass, of mouth, of hands, of tongues… He would never be able to do what he most desired in this moment, to be inside Will completely, his pale groin pressing hard against Will's buttocks as he spread them with a crotch-bone the size of half an arm. Mother earth, he needed that. He needed Will.
And yet, came a devious stray thought from some unfathomed corner of his skull, what was it Will always said, with arched brow and an adorable twinkle in his amazing eyes? Will had said it on more than one occasion, when Rafe had questioned his lover's stamina or, back at the beginning of their boyish explorations, his ability to take Rafe's original tremendous size. "You forget," Will would say with twinkling eyes: "You address a mage."
His bone, far from being stilled by its tighter confines as he squeezed himself harder, exalted in the hotter, closer quarters. It shoved up again against his embrace, and he felt with overelevated sensitivity the rough texture of the sparse hairs between his smooth, firm pectorals and along his corded forearms. Rafe gasped, and another gout of warm, thin pre-ejaculate spurted forcefully from its wide, sensitive slit and began trickling down the blood-dark, monstrous head and hot, veiny shaft, so that when his organ relentlessly shoved up again without any direction from him the dangerously enhanced pleasure that overcame him deepened even more, thanks to his bone's own devious self-lubrication. An unstoppable moan escaped him, and he shut his eyes, the back of his head pressed against the wood of the sturdy bedpost. He knew he should release his arms, should deprive his eager organ of the slowly slickening, hot and deliciously tight passage he had created for it. He should release himself, if only because he wanted this to be Will.
Will. A rush of love cascaded through him. Will was his, and only his. Reluctantly, eyes closed and head back, he let himself start to slowly, forcefully squeezing through the tight gap between his rigidly clasped arms and a hard chest now sheened with his sweet secretions and fine, emerging sweat, thrusting, fucking, and as the ecstasy filled him, rising and ebbing and overfilling him without surcease he thought of Will, only of Will—of sharing his adoration and passion with him, of entering him, of himself pushed hot and impossibly deep inside his gorgeous man, being in him, filling him, one with him, monstrous organ and all—one with the amazing, heart-wrenching, effortlessly enchanting love of his life.
From his hiding place in the false-backed second wardrobe Elias watched his king gratify his own newly monstrous organ with something like religious awe. In all his years sneaking through forgotten, secret passages, first revealed to him through boyish curiosity and an innate, uncanny knack for finding what was hidden and perceiving what was not meant to be seen, he'd never known a greater joy than on that summer's eve two years before when his nosing round dark and cramped passages untouched by any but mice in what seemed like centuries led him first to a steep and twisting stair and then to a narrow door that almost wouldn't budge, only to open, when forced, into a huge, cluttered, disused wardrobe—in the dark back corner of Prince Rafael's very bedchamber! He'd stared captivated through a small panel in the wardrobe's side, hidden from the outside by a sheer painted silk that Elias guessed formed decorative side panels for the heavy, solid cabinet, and caught his first unguarded glimpse of the man who so dominated Elias's thoughts and much of his life.
His obsession with the prince's arresting beauty and with his endowment, which was both widely rumored and obvious no matter his attire, had led Elias to abandon his uncle's farm and gravitate to the royal city after a single glimpse of the prince, who was touring his village with his now-dead parents, the king and queen; had driven him to join the guards and discover, to his shock, a love of physical training almost matching his yearning for the beautiful prince; had pushed him to find any way possible to get closer to his beloved Rafe, leading to the sublime discovery of a veritable lost warren of confined, lightless, wholly unknown, and exceedingly useful clandestine passages that let him learn the habits of the prince, now the king, and secretly be with the object of desire whenever he liked, which amounted to every moment he was not training, eating, or sleeping—and if it came to that, there had been more than one lonely night when Elias, unwilling to pry himself from his beloved, silently fed on bread and cheese in the second wardrobe and even curled up to sleep among the dusty blankets and ancient robes on the floor of the old wardrobe itself.
That day of discovery, and all the days in between in which he'd squeezed through those narrow channels between the walls, his way becoming more difficult as he grew taller and stronger, was long past. He'd attained a measure and stature enviable by all but the young marshals, the likes of thick-thewed and perfectly sculpted Darek Drakeson always maintaining the nobility's ancestral edge in brawn and beauty alike. There were many, Elias knew, who pined for Lord Darek especially, townswomen and felly guards alike watching him in distant, respectful clusters as he ceaselessly drilled himself in the marshals' field, alone or with one of the other nobles, naked save for the short, dark breeches that were his signature attire; but Elias, even now, after living in the heart of a capital city bristling with beautiful men, had eyes only for one man. These days his grown-up mind tickled with troubling thoughts: that his youthful obsession should have been outgrown by now; that his love was sterile because it was and would always be separated, from without. There was an eternal barrier between them, whether he was in the king's wardrobe, staring unseen through a scrim from a forgotten corner, or standing mere feet from his radiant majesty on parade, one royal defender among hundreds, the king and Elias both clad alike in well-polished military dress. And Elias was not without options in his own world: there were a few who had let him know his dark, sultry looks and loose, black locks were well appreciated, and he even knew that one of his comrades-in-arms, the bright-eyed, sweet-smiling Roger of Guem, was waiting for Elias—waiting for him to come to his senses and live a normal life, and love in a normal fashion, where being in the presence of one's love progressed to the embrace, the kiss, the sharing of a bed and a life and a love that that made two men one. Elias knew these things in his mind; he had no illusions at all: he had always been clear-eyed and insightful even about himself, unlocking his own mysteries as easily as a hidden door or a loremaster's puzzle-box. But for now, at least, it did not matter. His heart was pure, and it was in the king's keeping; and his feet took him where they willed, each fading eve after long drills and simple fare leading him up the steep and secret stairs to the sanctuary of the king.
In his brief career as the king's shadow he'd seen many things, of course. Most of all, he had seen the star around which Rafe himself turned: Will, his chamberlain and lifelong best friend. He'd known of Will from the moment he'd come to the capital: it was common knowledge that as boys Will and Rafe had been inseparable, and now that they'd matured to manhood their bond had only strengthened. As Elias wormed his way closer to the then-prince and future king it became obvious that this bond was even more amorous than the public was aware. What had once been boyish play had evolved and deepened into passion and singular, unparalleled devotion, expressed whenever they were alone in laughing bouts of vigorous, naked wrestling or achingly ardent lovemaking or nights and afternoons spent wrapped comfortable around each other. As Elias had watched, their connection had in anything intensified, and when Prince Rafael, a younger son who had never expected to rule, found himself unexpectedly on the throne before he had even left his teenage years, he'd proclaimed his love for all to hear and let it be know that there would be no suitors for the king's hand, as it already belonged to Willem Owinson, Chamberlain Royal, and that on their turning their twentieth year there would be a royal wedding unsurpassed in living memory.
Elias searched himself often for signs of jealousy toward Will, the love of the king's life and his constant avid companion and enthusiastic lover, and was continually surprised to find he harbored none. His awareness that Will was no rival for him, because the king existed in a world he could not truly enter, was keen and clear and as uncontestable as the sun in the sky or the ceaseless song of the Red River rolling through the hills behind the royal city. But there was more to it than that. Elias saw that Rafe, the king, lived and breathed his love for his boyhood friend and lifelong lover. Will was the light in the king's eye; he was there in the king's broad smile and the glow of his beauty. Even when Will was not present Elias could see that the king's compassion was enhanced by Will's love; his vigor and zeal on the training field was fed by it; his sagacity had an edge to it that was Will's regard and pride. Elias saw clearly from the first that what had drawn him to Rafe was not merely Rafe himself, but Rafe-who-loves-Will. That man, who loved and was loved by Will, was the man who held Elias's heart, whose beauty entranced him. Without Will, there would be no Rafe—not, at least, the Rafe that was Elias's beloved.
And there was one thing more that added new layers to Elias's peculiar relationship with the king and his lover. Though it was known to none but the highest nobles, and both the king and his chamberlain took pains to prevent any from finding out, Elias had seen for himself that Willem Owinson was no mere mortal, but was in fact a secret mage—a member of an ancient order of sorcerers thought to have long since died out in Shap. Magic was not unknown in these lands; self-proclaimed hedge wizards made nuisances of themselves at the occasional public festival, and Elias's uncle had one had recourse to an allegedly magic infusion when nothing else would assuage a sudden outbreak of violent flatulence among his hitherto well-behaved sheep and cattle. (Elias suspected the malady had been orchestrated by the same hedge-wizard who sold his uncle the remedy, but his uncle was not one to willingly believe in the ill intent of others.) From his unique position secreted in the monarchy's very bosom Elias knew many things known to none but a very few, from the peccadillos of grayed and grizzled barons to the unheralded charity of Rafe's adolescent cousin Kein, who though still just a boy tended to spend his afternoons bringing parcels of food to homebound grandmothers and stiff-jointed gaffers; but the prize piece of information, known beyond the king's bedchamber only by three or four nobles of royal lineage (such as Darek Drakeson), was that the king's friend and chamberlain was a secret asset for the protection of Rafe and the venerable and verdant kingdom of Shap.
Knowing that Will was a mage had at first alarmed Elias. He'd waited anxiously for Will to turn from his lovemaking to sudden peer directly at Elias in his hiding place, his arts or some second sight laying him bare, exposing him where normal eyes could not. He'd even had a moment of fright once, early on, when Will had opened his eyes during a passionate embrace with the king and had seemed to look directly at him. For a single second Will's bright eyes had pierced him like an arrow, or so he'd thought. But the mage had turned away, resuming his ministrations to the king's exquisite neck, and Elias had quieted his racing heart. He could not have seen him—would he not have marched over to the wardrobe, exposing him for the king to see, a humiliation worse than death? Whatever skills the chamberlain had, they must not include perception beyond the mortal, and Elias slowly forgot his fear, indulging in the pleasure that came from his beloved's consummate beauty being evoked and transformed by the intense, erotic intimacy of the king and his lover.
Elias had seen other things, too. He'd taken note of the old chancellor's subtly concealed scorn for the young monarch, matched and exceeded by the brasher contempt of the chancellor's truculent son, Gareth, and had beamed with pride at Rafe's perceptive mistrust of both father and son and the covert measures Elias had seen the king take to protect himself from sabotage and betrayal. On the recent royal procession, which Elias had marched with as a member of the guard-elite, second only to the marshals' patrol in popular prestige and standing with the king, he had observed the weight of some unknown burden suddenly taking hold of Rafe the moment he'd emerged from his unscheduled audience with Loren, the trouble-making Crown Prince of Presshe: he had learned something grim in that meeting, and on the march home the king had been disturbed and silent.
Indeed, as he stood here now, agape, his own long, thick member hot and hard and shuddering in his hands at the sight of the king reaching climax with an organ of such impossible magnitude as to inflame any stallion with the deepest envy, the part of Elias's brain not given over to rapture at the intoxicating beauty of the sight before him made the necessary connection between that ominous moment during the procession and Elias's unique knowledge that master sorcerers still practiced their craft in the royal sanctum. Before his consciousness flooded with an ecstasy beyond any he'd given himself in this wardrobe watching the king, before he exploded silently, painting once more the sturdy wood panels with his generous gouts of white-hot seed, his fertile mind formed a single idea that explained both the king's transformation and its portent for the kingdom of Shap: Another sorcerer. Crown Prince Loren, though far away in the fabled Unbreakable Keep at the heart of the ancient coastal principality of Presshe, though generally reckoned as little more than a grudge-bearing loud-mouth and a chronic saber-rattler, was in fact a more dangerous enemy than any knew—any, that is, but the king, his lover, and his secret shadow, Elias himself.
Loren crouched in the corner of the empty, abandoned manor and peered into the broad earthenware basin on the floor before him, watching the reflection in the water not of his own stooping form but of the lithe back and broad shoulders of the Shappian king's mage chamberlain, Willem Owinson, descending a gloomy, curving stairwell into the bowels of the castle. That he would shortly reveal his secret sanctum to that fool Darek, and so to Loren watching through his eyes, Loren was calmly certain. Like Rafael before him, this Willem had fallen into his trap, undoing the obvious love charm that Loren had put on the hapless, if comely, marshal and completely missing the tiny second-eyes spell he'd secreted deep in a corner of Darek's mind. Everything was proceeding to plan.
Loren glanced up, out the window of his empty, borrowed demesne. From where he hunched over the basin he had an excellent view of the glistening citadel of the citadel of Shap, its white stone painted blood red with the fading sunset. He had only to wait. Soon, Shap would be his—and King Rafael with it.