The Centurion Cycle Book Five ~ Of Shadow and Fire

Chapter Eight: Devotion

So tell me, Julian, how did you end up in the company of the rebels?" Jason asked the next morning as the two men stood in the bow of the riverboat they were now aboard, sailing across Lake Hotha. Gideon stood at the stern with a satisfied expression on his face. After all, Jason had let him join them.

"I am a Castilian," Julian chuckled, the young man was actually two months older than Jason but Jason looked much more mature. "We are as much nobles in Huron as we are in Qul Tos. The woman I was supposed to marry was a Huronite.

"Do you miss her?"

"Hard to miss a woman you've only seen once in your life. Anyway, I'm not really like most men."

"You have Centurion tastes?"

"You could say that. I am ashamed to say it but I once allow one to seduce me. You had just returned to the throne when a patrol of your soldier sought refuge from a storm in my father's castle. When my father sent me to check on them I caught them while they were bathing."

"And," Jason pressed.

Blushing slightly Julian rested his head on Jason's arm. "I had never seen a full grown naked man before let alone a dozen of them. I must have looked like quite a sight with my mouth hanging open for the next thing I knew they had closed and locked the door behind me and formed a circle around me.

Wrapping an arm around Julian Jason pulled the man closer so he could kiss the top of the man's head. "I was most impressed when I first saw Philip naked. Did they circumcise you?"

Reaching with a hand Julian caressed his neck, letting his fingers drop down to the buttons of his shirt. Opening three of them he made enough room for his hand to slide inside where he continued caressing himself. "They did though I did not feel a thing. They kissed me first... a long hot sweet kiss that clouded my mind with the passions I had long tried to bury. The next thing I knew I was naked with a dozen pair of hands caressing my body. One of them had their mouth around my sex, which was dripping with a blue fluid that seemed to excite me even more."

"That is why you didn't feel yourself being circumcised. They used their anima on you."

"Whatever it was it filled me with a happiness I had never felt before. For the next three days I tried to spend every moment with the warriors but after the rains had stopped and the roads were dry they had no reason to remain. They offered to take me with them but my father had not been blind to my new enamor and accused the Centurions of turning me against my own family. In order to avoid bloodshed, the Centurions left without me and I was soon sent away to live with my uncle in Huron. When Huron invaded your kingdom I of course was expected join the war on the side of the Confederacy along with my entire family. As soon as I could I escaped my uncle to stay in the camp of my younger brothers, Tomas and Gabriel. They too had been seduced by our Centurion guests but they had been more circumspect than I. We soon learned our secrets, however. My brothers, however, were proud and would not yield to your will. Since they were the only family I felt I could trust I followed them to the end." Julian said his shirt now completely unbuttoned revealing the coat of dark brown hair that covered his upper chest, narrowing into a thin trail down into his pants.

"Just thinking about it does this to you," Jason asked, wiping a few beads of sweat from Julian's forehead.

"You might say once the dam was broken I could not stop my feelings of desire from overwhelming me. While my brothers found comfort with each other I did not find any with them. I was almost relieved when we were finally captured. I halfway hoped the Centurions who had awakened my desires would find me instead I was imprisoned as a traitor. Then I saw you... looking over us from the top of the labyrinth keep and I thought I saw my salvation. That is why Gideon picked me, he can smell the emotions of other men and as he told me my aroma was very sweet. He made a bargain with me. I was to serve him willingly until the day you dared to visit him. He somehow knew you would come eventually and I was relieved that the day came only after a few weeks in Qul Hoth. I am yours now my king, in mind, body, and soul."

"I cannot accept all that," Jason whispered as he felt Julian wrap an arm around him. "You are your own man Julian. I free you from any oath you made to Gideon."

"I made no oath to Gideon. I made him promise me to give me to you if we ever met."

"But why?" Jason whispered.

"Because, because I love you, my king," Julian said a pair of tears falling from his face.

Jason sighed, shaking his head. "I do not understand."

"A priest came and saw us while we were in your dungeons offering nothing more than his company. He spent a week in my cell with me telling me of all the wonders you had performed for your people."

"I am no god," Jason said in a pleading tone.

"The priest admitted that you believed that but he says what you believe doesn't matter. It is the people's faith in you, not your own admission that makes you our god."

"Please Julian believe me when I say I am not a god," Jason repeated.

"I can't for I know in my heart that you are," Julian insisted, wrapping a second arm around Jason looking like a man clinging to a tall rock in a stormy ocean.

"Please don't," Jason whispered.

"I am sorry your majesty but I must follow my heart. Will you deny that to me?"

"As I said you are a free man... even free to believe such foolishness," Jason said finally returning the man's embrace. Jason knew arguing even further would do no good. The man's faith was flawless. Even if he were to fail his people or even die Julian's belief in him would not falter his devotion was so complete. Taking in a deep breath Jason closed his eyes, replaying a dream he once had. The man he saw was dressed in rags and looked much older but Jason saw that the man was indeed Julian. In this dream, Julian's face still shown with devotion even though the dusty dry wasteland he was crossing would have challenged anyone's faith. Behind him where the multitudes of Ares following him with the same devotion as if Julian was leading them to salvation. It had been one of the few dreams that Jason had that had not fully filled him with a sense of doom. "So be , t Julian. I accept you." Jason forced himself to say, knowing he had just taken another large step towards letting his dreams, and his nightmares, come true.

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"He accepted you I see," Gideon said when Julian left Jason's side after Jason had kissed the top of the beaming man's head.

"You said he would." Julian said in a giddy tone.

"That I did," Gideon said his eyes looking to where Jacob was watching them. "Do you remember what I also told you?"

"Yes Lord Gideon but you must have faith. You do not know if that will come to pass."

"I was right that Jason would accept you?" Gideon sighed.

"You were but I never doubted it."

"You would if you knew how hard of a decision that was for Jason to make. He is not all powerful, not yet at least."

"I know he's not... it is not power or immortally that makes him a god but the people's faith in him."

"Jason will not reject you."

"I know but I've given my word. I have sworn to Lord Philip that I will not harm or lay with Jason."

"My own followers believe in me completely does that make me a god as well or a devil?" Gideon chuckled sadly. "We are all puppets in this world but Jason is not the one pulling our strings."

"I don't understand."

"We are all being used Julian, you, me Jason. There is a greater power out there manipulating us."

"And is that power your god?" Julian asked.

"No, it's the devil and I've made my devil's bargain with it. May Jason forgive me?"

"You mean I'm not supposed to be with Jason?" Julian said his disbelief feeding his anger.

"You are Julian. Jason needs you. He knows that all too well. Neither of you can escape your joined fates."

"Then why do you call it a devil's bargain?" Julian demanded.

"Because I have caused Jason great pain by forcing him to take you. Doing so only confirms Jason's fears."

"What fears?"

"Do you know of the prophecies?"

"No, I don't."

"I see... then let me give you a brief understanding of them. The coming of Philip and Jason into our world is something Centurions have longed hoped for, for it meant that after thousands of years one among the Legatio has come to love us as much as we have always loved them. The coming of our Angel is also a sign of the end of our world."

"You think Jason will destroy it?"

"Nay but nor can he save it. All he can do is save its people."

"So Jason is the key to salvation." Julian said excitedly.

"He is the only way we will avoid extinction. He is more concerned with our very lives, not our souls. You Julian will be one of the few who will help him in his great task."

"And you Lord Gideon?"

"I... I..." Gideon stammered. "I am a plague to this land, the force of death that will join with the force of hatred in destroying Ares."

"Does his majesty know this?"

"He knows the prophecies as well as I do."

"Tell me the prophecy then so I might understand my purpose more." Julian said eagerly.

"Very well," Gideon whispered.

"A child of love and hate be born

A child above a city of white

A maze through which the darkness fights

To claim its love and with love unite

Together the two will force the fight

The force of hatred and death unite

Two worlds of man a war will make

Till Angel, Demon, Man must fly

From Ares red to blue star nigh"

"What is the blue star?"

"I believe it is the salvation Jason will offer... a world free of our puppet masters., Gideon replied.

"Is Jason the child of love and hate?"

"Almost every Centurion believes he is... loved by us but despised by his mother. The next two lines are as good of a description of Qul Tos as I know of, the city where Jason was first found by us. The claimed love is the love all Centurions desired from the Legatio but only Jason has given freely."

"But if you are the force of death what is the force of hatred?"

"I do not know. That part of the prophecy has let to reveal its truth to us."

"If Jason knows you are the force of death why does he let you live?"

Gideon shook his head. "Do you know what Jason intends to do on this journey?"

"He is trying to rescue his friend Alex."

"Yes Alex, otherwise known as the demon Field Marshal Armageddon. A man more monstrous than you can imagine. Jason is risking his life for the sake of an evil man Julian. Do you understand? He is willing to give up everything to save a corrupted soul."

"I see... he knows you are dangerous but can't bring him to hurt you."

"Or have anyone else harm me, but you will. That's why I picked you. Your faith in Jason is so great that you will do what he cannot no matter what it costs you."

Julian shook his head. "I don't know if I can."

"Not yet at least," Gideon agreed. "One day you will when your find your faith guiding you to do nothing else. I am giving you this so that on that day you will have the strength to fulfill your fate." Reaching into his gray coat Gideon retrieved a glowing blue vial of anima. "This is my anima, cleansed of taint. Everything that was ever good in me is in this bottle. I give it to you."

"How did you come by this?"

"I told you I made a devil's bargain. I kept my word so the Dominus kept theirs. Please accept it. Let me know that the best of me will still remain by Jason's side."

"If the Dominus can cleanse your anima why can't they cure you as well?"

"They claim they can't. If I am to believe them they say it is not just my anima that's taint but my core as well... the thing that producing my anima in the first place. If it is removed or broken I will die. Remember that."

"Can't you kill yourself?"

"I've tried," Gideon laughed sadly. "Believe me I've tried... swords, spears, fires and rocks. I even tried jumping off the edge of the highest mountain I could find and yet I still live. All I have achieved is more pain and the loss of a little more of my humanity."

"Then how am I to kill you?"

"I do not know. Maybe your faith will lead you to a way. Please, take the vial."

"No," Julian weakly whispered.

"For Jason's sake take it!" Gideon shouted, baring his sharp teeth, causing Julian to jump back, the vial in his hand. "Forgive me Julian I didn't mean to scare you. At least you have the vial now." Gideon then stood, walking to the ship's railing.

"What do you think you're doing?" Julian demanded.

"I must go now. I only insisted on coming so I could make sure Jason would accept you. Now I've said all I have to say to you so go." Gideon said gripping the railing tightly.

"Gideon," Julian said daring to take a step forward.

"Go," Gideon said with a warning growl. "Go to Jason and tell him I am gone but drink the anima first. It will help him understand."

"As you wish Lord Gideon," Julian said with a final bow.

For a long while, Gideon stood at the side of the ship watching how the moon gave the river a sliver gleam. Then to his surprise, he felt something wet lick his leg. Looking down he saw Jacob giving his a sad expression. "Come to see me off have you?" Gideon chuckled softly. "Well, I guess I can use the company." Seeing no reason to delay any longer he jumped off the side of the ship, Jacob splashing in the river next to him. Together they swam to the riverbanks Jacob's shaking the fur dry on arriving. The two then walked together until they were a mile away from the shore. There several men in long black coats waited, short metallic rods in their hands.

"I've kept my end of the bargain." Gideon shouted.

"And we've kept ours." One of the men said, steeping out of the shadow of a tree to reveal his red hair.

"This is as far as you can go Jacob," Gideon said giving the wolf one final scratch behind his ears. Leaving Jacob behind Gideon approached the men in black.

"That's far enough Gideon," the red haired man said, pointing his rod at him.

"Just get it over with," Gideon sighed, going down to his knees.

"Stun him men," the man ordered as bolts of blue energy leapt from the end of their rods hitting Gideon directly in the chest. It took almost a hundred bolts before Gideon was brought to the ground Jacob letting out a long sad howl as Jason's friend was finally taken away.


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