"Jason told Logan, Logan told me and now I am telling you..." Varrus started.
"Tell you what?" Philip asked.
"Jacob is back."
"That damned wolf... how did it ever find us here?"
"We don't know... guided most likely."
That raised Philip's suspicions. "Guided by whom?"
"A Grau," Varrus confessed, a look of worry on his face.
"A Grau! And why would a Grau guide Jacob to Jason? I tell you why... that wolf is a spy."
"A spy!" Varrus laughed.
Philip threw a fist against a stone column, causing part of it to chip off. "That wolf has never been normal... Tell me I am wrong about that!"
"You're right... the wolf is unusual. But Jason says..."
"Jason says what? That we should trust the animal? That it is his obedient pet?"
"No... Jason says Jacob is his son," Varrus whispered.
"I talked to Kristen about it... and he says the Dominus have the means of creating life from something so simple as two drops of blood."
"Philip, if anyone knows anything of what the Dominus can do, it is Kristen."
"So how did they get Jason's blood?"
"Remember Erik? According to Kristen, Erik collected blood from Jason on a regular basis. His blood was taken to Mordel where the Dominus used it to 'create' Jacob... not a wolf, Kristen called it a Dalf... a werewolf."
"A werewolf... and I suppose his bite can change a person into a wolf as well?"
"Remember when Jason was bitten and you ran Jacob off? Jason's eyes turned green for a while."
"I should still kill that wolf -- that werewolf -- for that."
"Well, Jason now tells me that Jacob was forced to do that by the man who gave the other drop of blood... a Grau named Thomas."
"I see... but why then has Jason not changed into a Dalf or whatever they are called."
"Kristen says it is because Jason was a Legatio when he was bitten. Remember that Legatio age slower than we Centurions or even Famulus. Kristen is certain that Jason will change one day... he is just unsure as to when?"
"But if Jacob is a werewolf... then why has he not changed into a half-human half-man beast?"
"The same reason that Jason has not changed... Kristen says he is not old enough yet."
"Are there any more surprises you have yet to tell me?" Philip demanded.
"One other... Thomas was seen in the woods near the Back Door Fort.
"And why is he not here in chains before me?"
"He escaped of course... using one of their weapons."
"If only Jason would let me flood the valley with my children," Philip cursed. "But with his leash around my neck, and with the Qopo elephants attacking our gates, it will not be long before we are pushed back into the Labyrinth."
"But in the Labyrinth, our men will be safe and their elephants useless," Varrus pointed out. "I am certain that not even a Grau can sneak in."
Pounding his fists on the parapet, Philip grunted. "Retreating into the Labyrinth was only supposed to be a last resort."
"It is the best option we have, and we still have the back tunnel."
"Yes... but we are not making the enemy pay for taking the palace... I had hoped they would have sent their infantry against us. Tens of thousands could have died by our archers. Now it looks like we will have to give it up at the cost of a few hundred."
"That's war... you can't control everything. We might be forced to give up the walls, but you can try and hold the palace proper. The enemy has to pass through the palace before they can get to the entrance of the Labyrinth."
"And risk our men being cut off from escape?" Philip replied angrily.
"I said it was an option... nothing about how good it would be."
"Well, the enemy attacked the gates three times and we only have two logs left."
"Then I think we need to start our retreat," Varrus replied calmly
"Yes... but leave enough men on the walls to hide that fact from the enemy." Philip nodded.
Two hours later Jason entered the room with Geoff. Seeing the tired expression on Philip's face, Jason gave Geoff a parting kiss before going over to his lover. "I'm sorry I was so upset about the trees."
"I know how much they meant to you," Philip apologized.
"I will plant new ones. There are plenty of saplings near the fort. Geoff will help me." Jason replied
"Did he find you in the garden?"
"Yes... we talked. He loves trees more than I do," Jason said, not wanting to tell Philip about Geoff's dark past quite yet.
"I did not know that was possible." Philip chuckled before moving on to more serious matters. "If there is anything in the palace you can't see destroyed or stolen you better have it sent up to the keep tonight."
"We are going to pull back?" Jason asked.
"We have no other choice... at least not a wise choice."
"I'll fly down tonight."
"Good... how was your stay at the fort."
"It was good to have space to fly." Jason grinned.
"And you have Jacob again"
"Yes... but he seems nervous."
"Just like you were when I found you." Philip smiled remembering the day when he had found Jason, hair uncut, wearing a woman's dress and scared that monsters had come to kill him."
"Yes..." Jason blushed.
For a long while, the two men sat in silence, just looking at each other and remembering all that they had gone through together in less than a year. In one more month it would be their "anniversary", the day the Labyrinth fell. Hopefully, history would not repeat itself.
Lauren did not know what to do... it had been two months now since she had had her blood flow. She knew very well what that had to mean... she was pregnant.
When Sirrus had found her in her village, and lifted her onto his horse, she had felt like a princess finding her prince. And, at first, Sirrus had treated her as such. It was only later in the war that she learned what her true role was... the vessel to contain his rage.
When the war was going well and Sirrus was happy, things were good. But with Lord Brashear undermining his command, those days were now few and far between. It was not that Sirrus beat her... at least not physically. It was the things he would say to her... the threats he would make.
Tonight was such a time... Sirrus had spent hours trying to convince Brashear to continue sending his Qopo mercenaries against the gates, sure that the Centurions could not maintain their firewall. Brashear, ever cautious, did not care for the idea of mad elephants running around the city after dark.
Sirrus, giving up on Brashear for the night, proceeded to get very drunk before making his way back to the tent he shared with Lauren. There he leered at her, whipping out his sharp tongue.
"You whores are all the same... I don't know why I put up with your filth."
"..." Lauren remained silent.
"No response... no sharp wit... no little bit of feminine wisdom?"
"Well, I know how to get you to talk... how about I hand you over to my men. I'm sure they can get you talking."
Knowing that would mean being raped, Lauren began to speak. "Please don't..."
"Please don't what?" Sirrus snickered, enjoying how he was able to control her.
"Please don't send me to your men."
"Why should I not?" Sirrus said as he undid the buckle of his belt.
Lauren knew what she was supposed to say... it was the same thing Sirrus had insisted she say from the very beginning. "I love you."
"You love me?" Sirrus said in surprise as if that was the first time he had heard her say that. "And why do you love me?"
"Because you are a great and noble man," Lauren said, her head hanging low.
"And what are you." Sirrus snickered.
"I am a whore... a slut... a filthy animal unworthy of your love."
Sirrus took his index finger and used it to raise her chin. "Look at me when you say that."
"I am a whore... a slut, unworthy of your love," Lauren repeated, tears running down her face.
Sirrus then stepped back and pulled down his pants. "You are all those things... but I am willing to give you my love anyway... see how generous I am."
Lauren stared at Sirrus hard sex with disgust. It sickened her that his treatment of her excited him. Nothing would have made her happier than to go down on her knees and bite the thing off. That is not what she did though. She knew that any attack on Count Sirrus would not simply be punished with death. The Count would make sure that she suffered... that she would be handed over to his men and raped until they tired of her. With so few women in the camp... that would take a long time. Then, after that, she would be handed over to lower-ranking officers and down the line until she was finally sold to the Qopo... a fate that scared her more than death.
No... she had to find a way to stay alive until the war ended and Sirrus returned to his wife. Being pregnant with his bastard was a quick way to get on his bad side. The only thing that kept her spirit up was the hope that the Centurions would be victorious. The stories from her village had always said that Centurions were monsters who would rape the men that they defeated in battle. The vision of Sirrus bent over and being raped by a Centurion giant almost allowed her to forget her own situation, letting a smile form on her face. It was always at these moments that Sirrus would spit on her.