Chapter 35: The Seduction

There was no party to meet the ship when they arrived, and when the oarsmen drew their landing craft in to the harbor at Amysos, Heklitis was deeply concerned. "And no horses for us, either," he commented. He consulted with the ship's captain, who had other stores to be unloaded, besides their belongings, and they sent messengers to Saher's camp, which was an hour from Amysos at fastest speed. They left their baggage in the care of the harbormaster under the name of Saheris El Maduc, and the party of six (the brothers, Heklitis, Atthis, and the two guards for Saheris taking up the rear) sought refuge from the icy rain in a nearby tavern, which seemed dry and clean enough for the Khan of Bithynia. They could have requested a billet with the leader of the town, but that did not seem necessary, since they were awaiting Saher.

They fed, Saheris lightly, since his stomach still occupied most of his thoughts, and those, unpleasant ones. He sat with his brother and the guards, and Heklitis apart with Atthis. He exchanged cold looks with Atthis, who turned her own eyes away when they chanced to meet. It was a distinctly uncomfortable wait, and he passed it as best he could, by throwing draughts with his brother against the tavern wall, as he had learned from his fellow soldiers. He leaned, squatting, against the wooden wainscoting that formed the back wall of the tavern, and took in a surreptitious view of Heklitis and Atthis as they sat, quietly talking, beyond them, just barely out of earshot. "What do you suppose she is talking about to him?" he queried.

"Perhaps she is saying how much she is in love with you, and wishes you would come to her tonight while we are billeted here," Sahelis replied sarcastically. He had no patience left in him for Saheris, and little respect. It was only out of duty and obedience to Heklitis that he paid Saheris any attention whatsoever, after he had tried to accost Atthis on the ship. The only responses he offered Saheris after that were barbs and sarcastic replies, and in the past day, Saheris had gotten used to them, trying as much as possible to ignore his brother's anger.

"You don't think that at all. Listen, I would not have put hands on her if I did not think she wanted me to."

"You are mad, Saheris. They should put you back in that room for another month. Or perhaps they didn't get the sickness in time to cure you, and you are too far gone to be healed."

Saheris pushed at his brother's kneeling form, and toppled him onto his side. "Don't be cruel. You don't know what I suffered in that confinement. Wait until you try it, wait until someone does it to you!"

"It won't happen to me."

"You are so superior, then?"

"Perhaps I am, Saheris. You have done a goodly number of things I would not even dream of. Perhaps you are more bold, but perhaps there is more stupidity in you as well."

"I would take you down for that, I you weren't already down," Saheris replied haughtily. He offered his brother a hand to regain his crouch and throw his dice again. "I can't fight with you, Heli. I missed you too much."

"You have to stop being a barbarian, Heri," he chided, his voice plaintive. "Women are not toys for you to pick up and discard. They are human beings. And believe it or not as you choose: not all of them desire you."

"In this case, I know I am right. She does want me, and if I had one night with those breasts in my hands, I would make her want me. She wouldn't forget that."

"I thought she did, and already had." Sahelis's tone was wry.

He shook his head, a dark look still clouding it. "No, I wasn't myself that night. She caught me asleep and drugged me. I have had a woman, and I have seen one long for me. She longs for me. It will be different next time."

"There will not be another time."

"Oh yes, there will. She will not be coy with me again."

"She is not being coy, Heri. She is simply not your whore!"

"There are things I know about women, Heli, that you do not."

He crossed his arms, and sat, the dice and draughts forgotten. "And what might that be?"

"I have learned to recognize the look of desire."

"Fine, then. This is something I will not have anything to do with. I will not tell them what you said to me, but please say nothing more on it, or I will. But if you try to assault her again, our father may do something severe."

Saheris's face was set. "I know, I am certain. You will see. And before another night passes, I will have her."


The messenger returned, with a party of guards from Saher's army, who would conduct them to the garrison that lay an hour beyond. There were no billets further out than Amysos, and so the messengers encouraged them to billet in the town. Heklitis took charge at this point, and brought them to a house that was meant for Saher and Munduk when they had withdrawn their army from the forest. From there, they planned to sojourn onward. But while they were settling into their billets, another messenger arrived, winded, and explained hastily that they had engaged battle and to stay where they were until Saher and Munduk returned. Saheris jumped up from the table where he sat. "I should be there, I should help my father!" The grim visage of his physician stayed him.

"No, you will do as you are told. You have no authority here, you should consider yourself under house arrest and not free to go anywhere."

Saheris snorted. "There is battle, and I am Saher's heir. Let me to it, let's forget this play."

Heklitis seized him tightly by the front of his cloak then, and spoke through his teeth. "I am sure you can break my arm if you wanted to, Heri, or send me to the ground, but I trust that you have enough morality left in you not to try. Stop, and stop now, or I will have you restrained by the guards."

Saheris glared at Heklitis with pure contempt. "You put your hands on me!" he shrieked. But he sat again, and did not resume his loud demand. He spent the remainder of the hours unpacking his clothing, and polishing his weapons, and said little to Sahelis. They were billeted in the same house, that of the harbormaster who also led the town. He was, relatively speaking, at liberty.

The evening passed in tension, as they awaited word that did not come from Saher. This was to be expected, since Saher would be tending the wounded if they had seen action. He would not come, even for his grandsons, if there remained work to do. He be there soon enough. They dined, once again the brothers and the silent, obtrusive guards at one table, and Heklitis and his fellow, Atthis, at some distance. Saheris found this most unsatisfactory, and strode up to them, his napkin hanging loosely from one hand, a piece of meat still in his fingers.

"How do you find Pontus, lady Atthis? To your liking so far?" He popped the meat into his mouth, chewing happily.

"It is quite cold, considering how far south we have come," she replied politely. Encouraged by her civility, Saheris took a seat. His eyes met Heklitis's, now frowning.

"You don't mind if I join you…"

"Remove yourself at once. You are spending a great deal of my patience, Saheris, and our friendship has been seriously compromised by your arrogant behavior," Heklitis spoke hotly.

"I have never seen you quite so enraged before, Therapeutus," he replied, haughtily, and retired to his seat. "He is surly tonight," he remarked to his brother, but received no answer. He retreated into a sullen silence then, and resumed his meal without enthusiasm.


It was very late. Saheris was still up and awake, restlessly pacing. By some miracle, he had been given a room to himself, which, when the candles were extinguished, reminded him claustrophobically of his room of confinement. The darkness closed in around him, and he took his flint and rapidly relighted the lamp by his bed. The rooms of Atthis and Heklitis were on the bottom floor, those of him and his brother, as well as the Scythians, on the upper. Taking a taper from the table, he lighted it and, without donning his boots, stole quietly from the room. There was 'work' to be done, he thought brightly to himself, and there returned to him the vivid image of Atthis with her gown loosed, her breasts exposed, her hair flowing around her head, as she straddled him on that uncanny evening. How many times he had thought about it since! The very image aroused him, and he paused in the hallway. Oh, let this be what I have so many times dreamed it to be, he whispered, in a hastily-conceived prayer to the goddess of love.

There was no lock upon the door. He pushed it open carefully, reviewing as he did so the moments he recalled of her entry into his room. "Atthis?" he said, his voice pitched low, but loud enough for someone within to hear.

"Who is there? Heklitis?"

"No, it is I, the Khan. You don't want him. You want me."

A light flared from the far side of the chamber, which was quite wide. "I don't want either of you. You should not be here."

"That is what I said to you that night. Do you remember?"

"Not particularly. That was not an assignation, Khan. And there will be no assignation." She was now visible, in the bed at the far side of the room, and he moved slowly but steadily toward her.

"I think you are mistaken. I think you had quite the pleasure that night with me, but we did not really have what we wanted, did we, not entirely…"

"Khan, this fantasy of yours is dangerous for you, and it is surely dangerous for me." Her voice held an edge of anger, and grew in pitch as he approached her. He placed one knee upon the bed

"I think otherwise, Atthis." His hand reached forward, and connected with her arm. She did not struggle then, but held still.

"So you intend to rape me in my bed? Is that it?"

"Not at all. I cannot rape a woman who has asked me of her own will."

"I have not asked you."

"Oh no, you asked that night." She shook her head, unbelieving.

"This is incredible. Do I have to call the guard?" He was now half seated, with one knee bent next to her, and grasped her shoulder with one hand, pushing the cloth away from it.

"This I just have to do…"

"Don't you understand? You are a boy!" she spat at him.

He sat back, arrested by the simple word. "A boy, is that all you think I am?"

"Yes. You are a boy. You may be the Khan, but you are a boy."

"That is why you don't want me? That is it?"

"Look," she replied, her voice now argumentative rather than fearful. "I do not want to hurt your feelings. I know that what happened was very confusing for you…"

"I wasn't confused at all. I want you. And I am here. Take me. I thought you were Munduk's wife then, but you aren't. So there is no reason not to."

"Except that I don't want to."

"I don't believe you." He said simply. He reached out blindly then, and found what he expected, her prominent breasts loose under her sleeping shift, and unlike the first time where she had held him, he had her beneath him. It was a long moment, as he grasped them in his hands, and sought her mouth with his own. "Let me, let me do this thing," he whispered, his voice urgent, his hands rough upon her. He sought, and loosened, the fabric, and it was then she began to struggle.

"Stop, please. I don't want this…"

"Yes, you do," he murmured, and his fingers found what they had been seeking, her bare flesh, and a sound escaped her even as she sought vainly to throw him off. "You are not struggling very hard." He kissed her more urgently then, to his delighted amazement, she responded to him, and his roaming hand found her nipple hard between his fingers, and he squeezed, feeling her body writhe in response to it. So far he had had to force her, but at the moment her mouth began to move against his, he knew he had won. Soon her hands sought his clothing and began to tug on it, and he sat up to release himself from his trousers and tunic. He pulled the tunic over his head, and at that moment, the door opened.

Heklitis's voice came softly, accompanied by soft candlelight which he could see through the cloth over his head. "Atthis, I heard voices, is every --" his words were cut off immediately, which was when he must have seen Saheris kneeling over her on the bed. "What - you!" He nearly dropped the candle, his face white with rage.

"Hello, Heklitis, I got here before you," he said, half-turning toward the opening door. Atthis struggled up from between his knees, adjusting her shift to cover her now naked breasts, and sat up against the headboard, still pinned in position. "Can't you wait until I'm done?"

"What in Apollo's name are you doing, Atthis? You are not - get out of that bed, Saheris!"

"No. I wouldn't be here unwanted."

"Saheris, you should go," Atthis said, her voice now sheepish and unsteady.

He turned to her, "oh, now who is embarrassed? I'm not embarrassed. Why should you be? You weren't a minute ago. Because he is here?" He leapt up from the bed in a single bound, onto his feet, his clothes disarrayed from their fumbling. He pulled his tunic back on. "Change your mind again. I can wait for another day. I know women are indecisive. But at least wash up from him before you have me. You know where I am." He strode purposefully across the room then, retrieving his own candle. Despite the interruption, he felt joyously happy, because he had been proved right. She did want him, and had Heklitis not come in, he would be in her right now, sucking those marvelous breasts, gripping those muscular thighs… As he reached the door, he smiled into Heklitis's shocked face. "Enjoy yourself, I did."

Heklitis let the doorstring fall from his hand as Saheris stepped through it. As the boy left the room, he turned his eyes upon Atthis. "What have you done?"

She opened her mouth, but no words emerged.

"How do you explain yourself? Have you gone mad?"

She gathered the front of her gown together with some dignity, and rose from the bed. "I think you know quite well the position I was in, and had you been interrupted the night you were seduced by Sahera, you might feel just as grateful as I do at this moment. Unfortunately, there was no one to interrupt you."

The shock and anger gradually resolved on his face into anguish. "That is it, he just came down here and seduced you?"

"Isn't that what happened to you?"

"I was a boy, Atthis! You are five and twenty!"

"It was extremely flattering, and I have not had a man since before I was admitted to Eleusis. And I was seduced, at least somewhat. You know how forceful he is."

"And attractive to you, I suppose." She held the candle up closely to his face.

"Heklitis!" she chided. "Jealous? I did not know."

"Perhaps, a little. He is so arrogant, so sure of himself!"

"Yes, not like us. We are very naïve by comparison, despite our greater knowledge. But no, there is something irresistible about him, even though I have wanted to slap his face ever since I first spied him. Perhaps it is the hermaphro--"

"Hush!" he silenced her with a hand on her mouth. "We are not to speak of this aloud, it is for Saher's ears only."

"Of course." So near to him, Atthis suddenly found herself lightheaded, and sagged against him, and he caught her in his free arm. She drew the arm around her, protectively. "Heklitis, thank you for coming in, you don't know how terrible it would have been had he actually --" she turned her face toward his, and reached up the bare inch to touch her lips to his. "I was jealous of you when I found you had been with his mother…" she whispered. He drew back from the touch of her mouth, and his arm loosened from around her.

"Get a grip on yourself!" he said sternly. "That boy has got you all excited."

She clung to the arm, still unsteady. "Of course he has. But it is not really him I want, Heklitis…"

He put his hands hard upon her shoulders and stared deeply into her eyes, which were now unfocused. "You are usually the serious and sober one, Atthis. Stop this. I'm putting a guard at the door, so that he cannot come back to finish his assignation with you. For I am not sure you are to be trusted any further. Give yourself release, whatever it takes to get through this, Atthis, we have serious things to deal with when the Khan returns, and your weakness here is going to make things much harder, not easier."

"I understand," she said, her words now coming slowly. A kind of depression descended on her then, and seemed to she seemed to shrink in his grip.

"Do you think after what that little wretch said to me that I could actually make love to you? That is what he would want! Don't you see that? I know this game, I endured it long enough with Sahera. He is just like her in this way, and I should not forget it. You should not forget it. She caught me up once, and I endured her for nearly eight years afterwards. And never did the Khan know of it. And he needs not know now, unless Saheris decides to make it known. And that would not be wise for him to do."

She nodded again, absently. "I should retire. And yes, you should post the guard."

Heklitis left then, peering cautiously into the hallway, lest Saheris be standing outside the door, listening. He had responded to Atthis with a distinct paranoia, for he sensed that Saheris remained within hearing, just outside the open door. It would be like him to do so, and for that reason, he could not afford to respond to her impulsive kiss. She would feel differently tomorrow, when whatever odd spell that had come upon her, had passed. How well he knew the effect of that spell, for he had fallen under it many times and had to recover himself, after his first fateful misstep with Sahera.

Atthis returned to bed, and left the candle to burn for some time. She was shivering, but more than this, she was painfully awake. Her eyes again and again returned to the door, now guarded, as though she expected at any moment that it would slip open once again, and admit the slight fervent form of Saheris stealing toward her, or the cautious, willowy figure of Heklitis, who at length had reconsidered her offer to him. Heklitis did not return; nor did Saheris. In her thoughts, a fantasy had arisen, as if the rough and insistent hands of the impetuous youth were pulling away her gown and pinning her to the bed, his hot mouth seeking hers, his urgency forcing her to submit to him, to accept him. And accept him, she would have. A wakeful hour passed, and still the fantasy of the sexual struggle with the young Khan had not fled her. She slid one hand across her breast, the one he had grasped in his fingers, and pinched it with her own, as he had done. And with the other she touched, first tentatively, then more fervently. With rapid strokes she released herself, moaning, and as her body relaxed toward sleep at last, one hand lingered long on the breast that he had touched, as though that hand still caressed her.


Saheris could not sleep. Aroused from his attempt to make love to Atthis, he paced once again in his room; a feeling of pure triumph and elation filled him. He had heard an exchange of low, tense words between Heklitis and Atthis before the guard came down, but then was forced to flee, to return to his chamber, before they forcibly hauled him back. What had they said in their exchange? What was she thinking now, what was she doing now? He imagined that she was touching herself, and thinking of him. Because he had been right! She did want him; and the altercation on the boat was most likely because he had approached her angrily and scared her. He should have been more charming, more winning then, and would have had the pleasure of her sooner. And would again, as soon as he could break away, and as soon as he could appeal to the sensible authority of the Khan who would understand that he acted purely upon their mutual desire, and that he had not made any assault.

Sex was not truly on his mind then; he could easily handle his desire in the short term, and had gotten used to the lack of intercourse in his confinement. He didn't like it, but it no longer bothered him as it had done previously, when he had ready access to the whores and other idle women in Maeotis. He would not be able to roam abroad tonight, he knew, and if he woke his brother, it would infuriate him. Sahelis despised being awakened by his night intrusions. So he lay down flat on his back, and began the exercise that Spidios had given him to pass the long hours of night after his candle had burned to the quick, and his study had ended. It was form of meditation which was designed to help him to relax and rest while he was unable to do other physical activity. He kept at this meditation technique, focusing his attention first upon his feet, and relaxing those, then upon his ankles and calves, until they had received the requisite attention and command to relax. In the midst of the exercise, he drifted into a waking fantasy of making love to the athletic and petulant Atthis, and his body tensed all over with arousal. He ran his fingers carelessly over his now-rigid organ, and laughed to himself. "You will have to be saved for the proper moment, …" and dutifully, he started over again with concentrating upon his feet for some minutes until they relaxed, then upon his calves and knees. After what seemed several hours, he finally closed his eyes and slept.

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