New Foundations

by Pen D. Monium
illustrated by salavin


“Hurry, please,” the Royal Guard commanded, his black cloak fluttering around his ankles with every long stride. Thaller did his best to hurry, but the tiny crystal balls in his woven satchel made muted, almost ominous clicks. He glanced down as much as possible, peering into the open neck of his bag, hoping that they remained carefully wrapped in the soft cloth he placed them in this morning. Sir Kassiter would be most displeased if any of them broke.

illustrated by salavin

The guard led him through a wide corridor, open on one side with high, arched windows; Thaller noted the stonework of the walls, so neat that the lines of mortar were nearly non-existent. Kassiter’s construction of the Emperor’s Palace was astounding; it was one thing to see it drawn in neat lines in Kassiter’s plans, but here in full scale! Thaller could hardly grasp the reality of it. He considered it such an honour to be an apprentice of the Master Builder, even though he hadn’t seen his family for nearly two years.

Thaller followed the guard out into a quiet courtyard, trying not to gape at the massive flying buttresses supporting the sides of the main castle. He wanted to veer away and touch them, to feel the natural magic pushing up from the earth, but the guard kept giving him very suspicious glowers over one broad shoulder. Thaller was just as tall as the guard, but far thinner; he continued to follow obediently, not wanting the guard to toss him over one of the buttresses for unseemly staring, or something similar.

He was led into yet another sunlit corridor, and in moments Thaller was pushed none too gently through one open leaf of an imposing double door. The hinges were slightly rusted, Thaller noted.

“Remove your shoes!” The guard hissed behind him. Thaller stumbled in surprise, then knelt to yank off his sandals. He hadn’t seen the lush carpet on the floor, which was odd for him; the carpet was a shade of mustard that clashed horribly with the tapestries hanging from the walls. He was sure Kassiter didn’t have this carpet in the original plans. If he had been the Master Builder, he’d give it such a disdainful glare that it would probably catch fire in shame, but Thaller was just a Junior Draftsman right now. He still practiced his disdainful glare; that carpet was horrid.

“Draftsman Sung,” a smooth voice called out from a dais set at the very end of the room. Thaller snapped out of his glaring and set his sandals on an available shoe-rest. He walked up to the dais, and did not look the Emperor in the face, but gazed down at the lush yet ugly tufts of dark-yellow strands at his feet.

“Your Majesty,” Thaller murmured and hitched at the strap of his satchel. For a few beats, there was no answer to his greeting, just the quick sound of a quill scratching against parchment.

Then the Emperor asked, “Have you brought the plans?”

“Yes, your Highness. Architect Kassiter sends his regrets that he cannot attend–”

“I’m aware of Kassiter’s many shortcomings, the least of which is his advanced age.” The Emperor sounded extremely wry, and Thaller risked a quick glance. His Majesty was not as imposing as he appeared in the many large images that are littered around the city; he didn’t look as old as he was portrayed, even with the streaks of white at his temples. The rest of his hair was a lush cascade of brown curls, and the expression in his eyes seemed more tired than commanding. The Emperor sat at a small desk, so incongruous in this high-ceilinged meeting hall. If it was up to Thaller, he’d separate this area into private and public spaces, arrange an office so the Emperor would feel more focused…

And get rid of the terrible carpet.

Thaller noticed a quick movement in the corner of his eye and turned to blink at a young man who stood in the shadows behind the Emperor’s straight-backed chair. Part of Thaller’s mind was busy redesigning that chair so that it curved more comfortably for long periods of sitting down; the rest of his attention was fixed on the man in the high-collared black robes who took a stack of papers from the Emperor’s left elbow and placed them in a wooden box.

This man raised a small, pale hand and tucked a lock of his own black hair behind an ear. Thaller saw his wide mouth move, but didn’t hear a word. He has a face like a window, Thaller thought, which makes no sense unless one is thinking like an apprentice of the architect Kassiter. Then, one might know how a window could be absolutely beautiful.

illustrated by salavin

“Sorry?” Thaller croaked out when he realized that he was being addressed.

“The plans,” said the young man in a very impatient tone. He narrowed his dark eyes. “His Majesty is waiting.” The words you fool were heavily implied.

“Cayo,” the Emperor said, mildly reproving. So mild, it almost seemed fond.

Cayo offered an apologetic nod in his direction, but his sharp gaze remained locked with Thaller’s.

“Should I– on the table?” Thaller stuttered as he grabbed the strap of his satchel with one hand and took a tentative step forward.

“Why not?” The Emperor glanced up at Cayo, who was shifting some of the papers away to create some space. “Approach, Draftsman Sung. I have many a meeting today, unfortunately. After we review the plans, Cayo will show you the rooms to be reconstructed.”

Thaller stepped forward and up onto the dais, and took out the four crystal balls; he unwrapped each one as quickly as he dared and placed it in on the table. Despite his care, and despite the fact that there was a flat section on each ball to stabilize it, he placed one too close to the edge and it toppled off.

Before Thaller could even think about reaching out with his will to prevent the destruction of one of Kassiter’s precious designs, Cayo was already around his side of the table, kneeling with an eerily graceful speed that caused Thaller to feel hot under his wide collar. He reached out with one hand and tucked it under the ball just before it shattered on the hard wooden surface of the dais. Straightening, he held it out to Thaller, who blinked at him.

There was a small smile playing around Cayo’s lips. “Here,” he said.

“Thank you,” Thaller murmured when he found his breath. He promptly lost it again when he took the ball from Cayo and his fingers brushed against that cool palm. “…fast.”

Cayo’s smile melted into a sly grin, and his face lost that harsh cast. “I’ve been called ‘sprightly’ before, I believe.”

He returned to the side of the Emperor, walking at a normal pace with his hands held behind his back; however, Thaller might never forget the lithe twist of his body as he had caught the glass ball.

“Are we ready?” One of the Emperor’s dark eyebrows tilted up in expectation, and Thaller nodded. He placed the tips of all his fingers on one of the crystal balls, then pulled his hands away slowly, fingers still curved as if he was attempting to increase the circumference of the sphere.

A tiny room bloomed to life between his hands, rotating slowly.

“I always love this part.” The Emperor leaned forward; he was grinning, his face appearing years younger. “Kassiter and his details. Astounding.”

This room’s design was cream and emerald, with swathes of cloth hanging from a painted ceiling. The walls shimmered with a cleverly patterned mosaic. To Thaller’s astonishment, it was Cayo who shook his head, even though he seemed delighted with how Thaller pulled the image from the crystal spheres. His face was almost childish with glee, but he didn’t like the next design, a room partition with thin walls, wood frames and paper, running between bold red columns.

Thaller hesitated over the third design. This one was more elaborate, more personalised, and therefore more susceptible to rejection.

“This one,” Cayo said as soon as Thaller displayed it. “This one. So beautiful.”

illustrated by salavin

Thaller wanted to blurt out that this was one of his designs, placed in the satchel by Kassiter even as Thaller had made shocked noises and flapped his hands around in agitation. It was an outside room placed inside. It was designed for a person who was to be hidden and protected. Cherished. Sturdy trellises led towards the sleeping area while shielding the wide bed from view at the same time. On the other side of the trellises, there were wide steps that led down to a quiet fountain, the floors and walls of which were decorated in blue and gold.

“This one,” the Emperor confirmed. “You will begin as soon as possible.”

Thaller, who was re-packing the delicate spheres back into his satchel, started violently.

“Your Majesty,” he said, and swallowed. “Sir, I don’t think I–”

“You are the representative of the Architect Kassiter, are you not?” The Emperor sounded dangerously on the boundary of displeasure and disappointment. “You’ve been taught by the Master Builder himself, yes?”

“Yes, sir. But I–”

“There will be no further argument.” The Emperor had been leaning forward, his eyes narrowed at Thaller. Now he leaned back, picked up his quill and accepted another sheaf of papers. “Cayo, show Architect Sung the rooms that will be converted.”

Thaller was trying not to faint at the phrase Architect Sung, while Cayo said, “Your Majesty, one of the other guards will take him. I will stay here with you.”

The Emperor gazed up at the ceiling. “No one told me that today was assigned for disobedience,” he pondered aloud. “Cayo. Go with him.”

Cayo let out a sharp breath and then stomped off the dais. It was so disrespectful that Thaller gazed at the Emperor in the fearful expectation that he would surely order Cayo thrown into the gaol, but he simply shook his head and took another parchment to review.

“Come on,” Cayo snapped. He was already at the door. “Hurry up.”

Why did everyone hurry so in this palace? Thaller chased after him as he slipped out, and when he himself got out into the corridor, he saw Cayo surrounded by six hulking guards, including the one that had led him here.

“I want an increased sentinel under all the windows. Shorten the times for crossing,” Cayo was saying, looking each of the men in the face. “And double the guards in front of His Majesty’s office.”

Even though Cayo was a full head shorter than every single one of them, they all nodded respectfully.

“If there are any disturbances, alert me.” He marched off without another word and Thaller followed. Though Thaller’s legs were far longer, Cayo moved at an an unbelievable speed; Thaller was breathless after only a few seconds.

“Is this new room…. for the Empress?” he panted out, almost at a run. Walking with that unbelievable calm, Cayo angled a glance up at him.

“No.” Cayo swerved into a narrow corridor that curved gently. “Her Majesty does not concern herself with this wing,” he said, his voice echoing from the smooth curving walls. Rays of thin afternoon sunshine slanted through narrow slits in the wall.

“Well, who is it for, then?”

Cayo stopped so abruptly that Thaller ran right into him. He reached up to grasp Cayo’s upper arms, trying to steady himself. He found himself looking at the back of Cayo’s head, noticing that his hair was longer than it seemed: most of the black curls was caught up in a messy twist, held in place with a jewelled pin. Thaller had the sudden urge to pull that pin out and see how long it really was. Since he had been apprenticed, Thaller kept his own hair shorn close; he never had time to care for it when designing or assisting Kassiter, anyway, and it seemed he would have even less time now.

Cayo turned around, still standing close to him. He tilted up his chin defiantly, and at this distance Thaller saw the freckles across his nose, and how long his lashes were around his dark eyes. Thaller wanted to measure them, to know the distance from them to the tip of his narrow nose.

“It’s for me,” Cayo told him shortly and sneered at Thaller’s stunned expression. “I don’t want it, not really. However, Varel says I must have it and so I shall. I’m sure I won’t use it, I’ll be too busy with my duties, but it is his command.”

Out of all of that, the only item that Thaller’s brain picked to comment on was this: “You call the Emperor by his first name?!”

Cayo’s sneer deepened. “When the time is right.”

“What are your duties?” Thaller realised how close they were standing and took a small step back. At Cayo’s pinched expression, he said, “I’m not asking to be nosy. If it’s your room, then… well, it’s important to know about you, so it can really be yours.”

“Is that so?” Cayo considered him for a long moment. “My most important duty is to protect the Emperor. I am his personal aide as well. I also see to some of his… other needs.” His sneer returned, albeit in a smaller version. “Is that enough information for you?”

Thaller was rather cowed by him, and he hoped it didn’t show too much on his face. “Whenever you’re free of your duties–”

Cayo’s snort indicated that this was a rare occurrence.

“–what do you like to do?” Thaller forged on bravely. “Do you like to read? Do you write poetry?” Thaller disliked how earnest he sounded, but he found he couldn’t help it.

Cayo shook his head and stalked away; the hem of his robes swirled around his ankles, revealing the trousers he wore beneath. It was only when they arrived at a small, arched door that Cayo murmured, “I like to sing.”

He pushed the door open and indicated that Thaller enter before him. Taking a deep breath, Thaller did.


illustrated by salavin

Thaller curled up in a corner of the large room he’d been working in for two days now; the massive bed was already constructed, painted in shades of earthy brown and placed on a small platform. Thaller had received assistance from some of the servants to drag in a thick, feather-stuffed mattress, and one of them had brought an armful of golden bed-curtains as well, which were now hung and half-drawn. The walls were a deep green, the colour of a forest during twilight, and the small pool at the opposite side was already carved out of the thick stone floor.

He was happily exhausted, content that his design was taking shape. Before, he had built smaller structures under Kassiter’s critical eye… now he was on his own and feeling satisfied so far. A guard had brought him food last night, and informed him that a room had been made ready for his rest. Thaller had simply unpacked the crystals and undid the rawhide cords that ran through the silver eyelets on the sides of his satchel; he spread out the surprisingly large material and slept right within his creation, breathing in its quiet birth.

“Look at this!” A soft voice said from near the doorway and Thaller raised his head, brow furrowing. Where he was seated, tucked near where the curving wall of the pool met the superstructure of the palace, he can’t be seen.

“Architect Sung has done a wonderful job. Very lovely,” a second voice murmured and Thaller flushed with pride as he recognized the Emperor’s deep voice. “Do you like it?”

“I love it,” the first person, Cayo, answered. “Even though I won’t be using it so much. But it’s… it’s…”

“Like home?”

Cayo laughed. Thaller thought that it was such a lovely sound. He yawned – those trellises took so much out of him to construct – and snuggled up to the warm stone of the pool, which would have a gently bubbling fountain in the middle of it when it was finished. He needed to request some gold and lapis lazuli for the pool, if the Emperor can spare them.

He sat up a bit more, neck and back straining: had that been a moan? He heard a low mutter of conversation and then Cayo’s voice again, clear and sultry: “Naughty.”

Thaller swallowed. He shifted to one side, peering up through the fretwork of the trellises. From the pool, the bed was more visible than from the door and he stared. Cayo was kneeling on his new bed, his arms around the Emperor’s neck as His Majesty stood with his hands on those slender hips. They were kissing deeply.

Thaller squirmed, trying to tuck himself against the wall. Cayo and the Emperor fell onto the bed together, Cayo’s legs spreading to accommodate the body of the larger man.

“My beauty,” the Emperor crooned and Cayo made a noise like a pleased kitten. “I have something wonderful in my pocket, would you like to take it out and see?”

The Emperor sat back on his heels, giving Cayo room to search the pockets of his robes; Thaller watched those hands flicker in and out of sight and he marvelled over how fast Cayo was. Does any one person have the right to be that quick?

Cayo withdrew a small, finely-made bottle and peered at it, then laughed again. He continued to chuckle as the Emperor pushed up his long robe and undid the fastenings of his black trousers.

“Do you always walk around with this, Varel?”

Once again, Thaller’s head felt a little light at the ease in which Cayo addressed the Emperor.

“Only when there is hope of planting the royal pole,” the Emperor–Varel–said and Cayo kicked his way out of the trousers, drawing his legs up to plant his feet firmly on the bed. He twisted off the top of the bottle and turned it over to coat his fingers with some thickly viscous substance.

“Yes,” Varel said in a low, greedy voice, staring as Cayo reached between his own legs, his wrist moving in slow, deliberate circles. He undid his own trousers and stroked his erect cock with anticipation. “Open yourself up for me.”

Thaller’s face was so hot, it was a wonder that the pool beside him wasn’t melting by now. He slid a hand down to his own crotch, just cupping his own arousal for now. It was not the best of ideas to spy on the Emperor about to bed his personal aide, but Thaller was pinned there by the vision of Cayo’s pale, slender legs; the muscles in them trembled and stretched as Cayo arched when Varel sank into him.

“Oh,” Cayo moaned, his hands sliding down Varel’s back to grip at the Emperor’s buttocks. “Yes.”

Thallter turned his face away… then turned it back a bit, peeking over the stone lip of the pool as Varel moved on top of Cayo, thrusts measured deliberately between plunge and withdraw while as he braced his arms on either side of Cayo’s head. Cayo was panting, a whine punctuating the end of every breath. They moved faster; Thaller could see Cayo’s bare toes clenching against the darkly lush fabric of the Emperor’s clothing.

Cayo murmured something, and then laughed breathlessly as Varel rolled them both over. The skin of Cayo’s back gleamed palely in the dim light of the room, muscles and bone rippling as he moved ever faster. He leaned forward and gasped, Varel’s fingers clenched at his waist.

illustrated by salavin

Varel thrust up into him, grunted, stiffened. Thaller had to remember how to blink; his eyeballs were dry from such prolonged staring.

Cayo hummed and wriggled. He bent close to Varel, his lover, his Emperor, speaking in a companionable murmur. Thaller ducked back down as they moved, and listened to the rustling of their clothes and the low laughter they shared.

When they went out, Thaller wrapped his fingers around the column of throbbing need that was his cock, and jerked a few times, desperately rapid. He slumped back against the stone as he came. He stared at the unfinished pool and decided that he needed at least an hour’s more worth of rest.

Or possibly four.


On the day Thaller finished Cayo’s room, there was an assassination attempt.

Thaller was walking towards the Emperor’s office, moving slowly and very reluctantly; he had not seen Cayo nor the Emperor since he had watched them, and he had made sure to keep himself locked up with his work. Now that it was over, he was going to inform them that his work was finished and he would be leaving as soon as they approved the final result. He exited the narrow corridor and stopped short, mouth half-open in shock.

The guards, seven or eight of them, were locked in grim battle with intruders. Thaller ducked as a short sword shot towards him and clattered against the stone wall. He crouched behind a column, holding onto its solid protection.

There was a loud scream from inside the office and someone flew out through the door, over the top of the skirmish, to crash into the wall. Thaller started forward, his heart in his throat, for the person sliding down the wall was of the same small build and had the same hair as Cayo. Thaller darted past the guards and the attackers, and was knocked off his feet by a shield crashing into his arm. Gasping in pain, he crawled over to the man who was lying in a crumpled heap. He turned the body over, his eyes already prickling with tears, and then exhaled sharply.

This was not Cayo; he had a similar sharp little face, but it was not him. It was only then that Thaller realized this man was wearing a blue, hooded cloak.

Thaller turned his head, peering into the office and spotting the Emperor propped up against the side of the dais, a hand pressed against his chest. Dark blood seeped from between his fingers. In front of him, whirling so fast that Thaller could only see the white blur of his face and hands, Cayo held off six more cloaked invaders, his lips peeled back from his teeth in a savage snarl.

illustrated by salavin

They were almost as fast as he was; however, every time they tried to slip past his defences, he struck them away decisively. One of them cracked a whip at him, and Cayo snatched the end of it out of the air, yanking the man on the other end close and kicking him in the stomach. For such a small person, he could kick hard; the man with the whip flew across the room as if he had been shot out of a cannon.

“Watch out!” Thaller yelled as one of the infiltrators managed to get around behind Cayo and looped another whip around his neck, pulling tight. Cayo reached backwards and grabbed them by the hair, hauling them over his head and tossing them away, before going down on one hand and twisting up into a kick that was violently beautiful, cracking his heel into the jaw of another assailant. One of them retaliated by stomping brutally into his chest. Cayo collapsed, tried to get up again, but they were now intent on subduing him before they got to the Emperor.

Thaller could give him a chance; just one moment, just a little space, he could give him that. He knelt down and pressed his hands against the floor, mind searching frantically through all the construction charms that had been beaten into him by Kassiter. He yelled hoarsely when someone trod over his fingers and then came to a decision.

Starting from his fingers, the stones began to explode, chips of rock flying. The energy radiated out from him in a circle, ripping up floor and foundation and throwing everyone off their feet. This was a charm created to tear down old structures before any proper work began, and it was not supposed to be so forceful, but Thaller was concentrating on getting it as close to Cayo’s attackers as he could.

There! They stumbled as the paving under their feet was reduced to rubble, the ugly carpet folding into a maze of tricky grooves. Cayo popped up again, his face bloody and hair flying around his face; he went at them as they tried to find their footing, twisting heads mercilessly in a direction and angle that necks were not supposed to go, before letting them fall.

Thaller got to his feet and staggered into the office.

“See to him,” Cayo snapped and raced out, even though the guards outside were getting that situation under control.

“Vicious little thing, isn’t he?” The Emperor chuckled as Thaller tore the cloth on the table into strips, then winced when he strapped them tight around his injury.

“What is he?” Thaller asked, and took a deep breath to stop his shaking hands. “He’s… he’s not human, is he?”

The Emperor’s gaze was stony. “Not fully.”

“He’s like them.” Thaller jerked his chin at the limp bodies scattered around. The Emperor said nothing, but a small, wintry smile touched one corner of his lips. He gazed down at the destruction that Thaller had caused and looked up again, raising an eyebrow.

“I’ll fix it,” Thaller said hurriedly. “I’ll even put in a new carpet.”

As they listened to Cayo yell outside, the Emperor said, “See that you do.”


Cayo was sulking on his bed when Thaller slipped past the trellises and peered around the last one at him. He jumped to his feet right away; he was dressed in some long, shapeless nightshirt. Thaller stared at his finely made ankles for far too long before he became aware that Cayo was talking to him.

“I said I wanted guards three men deep.” Cayo was glaring as if Thaller had been the one to order him to his rooms for rest. “Are they following my directions?”

“I think so.” Thaller edged closer and Cayo hands sketched agitated shapes in the air.

“And twice the number of archers on the roof.”

“Do you like your room?” Thaller cut in and Cayo blinked, then looked around as if he was really noticing his completed surroundings for the first time. The pool, serene with the gold and blue stones, burbled like a quiet, happy stream.

“Yes.” Cayo exhaled slowly. “Yes. I like it, very much. It reminds me of where I grew up.”

“Where was that?” Thaller leaned on one of the sturdy posts that held up the canopy of the bed.

“The forest to the east,” Cayo said and then gave him a smile. “Thank you. For the room, and for helping earlier.”

“Your bruises are all healed,” Thaller noted, bending to look at his face. Even his neck, which had had a ring of chafed red skin formed by the whip, was now clear and smooth.

Cayo stepped into his space and placed his hands on Thaller’s chest. His hands, his quick, dangerous hands, were hot through the material of Thaller’s thick shirt. Cayo tipped up his chin and tilted back his head, an expectant smile crinkling the corners of his eyes. Thaller had his hands around him before he could even think through the consequences properly.

“The Emperor,” he managed to croak out, even as his hands slid down Cayo’s back. Cayo’s eyes were absolutely guileless.

“What about him?”

“Isn’t he your–”

“Not right now,” Cayo said and kissed him. He went up on his toes, pressing Thaller back against the post, and Thaller whimpered at the force of it. He put his hands in Cayo’s hair and removed the pin, dropping it to the floor so he could run his hand through the soft waves. Cayo made that pleased-kitten noise, so incongruous on a person who was capable of snapping necks so easily, and put up one foot on the bed, bracketing Thaller on one side with a strong thigh. Thaller had no idea where to put his hands, and he wanted to touch everywhere: Cayo’s arms and deceptively frail wrists, the secret of the nape of neck beneath his hair, the skin of his thighs. The pads of his fingers tingled with want.

Cayo pulled back and looked up at him, a small frown dividing the space between his dark brows.

“Thaller,” he said and Thaller thought his own name never sounded so nice. “Have you ever done this before?”

“This?” Thaller cleared his throat. “This, as in…”

“As in bedding someone. Intercourse. Sex,” Cayo said. “Have you?”

“With another person?”

Cayo said, “You… you’re a virgin.” His grin was pulled a little too wide. “How nice.”

“You don’t have to sound so… so mocking.” Stung, Thaller started to pull away. At least, he wanted to, but his hands had a different idea. After about four beats too long, he managed to get them a full two inches from Cayo’s body, when Cayo snatched his wrists; Cayo climbed him, wrapping both legs around Thaller’s hips and pinning his hands over his head against the support-post.

“I wasn’t mocking you.” Cayo gyrated against him, fingers digging into Thaller’s skin. “Such an honour for me, Architect Sung, to be your first.”


“What are you waiting for?” Cayo tilted his head, impish. “I’d like to thank you for my room.”


It turned out that Thaller could not get Cayo in bed, unless he wrestled him into it.

It also turned out that Cayo was uncommonly strong, and laughed as if he was being tickled when Thaller struggled to yank his wrists out of Cayo’s grasp. When Thaller finally managed to get free and turned to crawl onto the bed, Cayo slung his arms around his neck, his legs still wrapped tightly around Thaller’s waist, and hung on; his head was tilted back, so that that mess of black hair dragged along the golden sheets as he cackled like one crazed.

Cayo only let go when he was finally against the pillows, reaching over his head. Thaller had built a bank of small drawers right into the head of the bed, and Cayo pulled open one, and retrieved the little bottle.

“Do you have a bottle in each of them,” Thaller asked, fingers worrying the buttons of his shirt. “How did you know which one it was in?”

“It told me where it was.” Cayo tipped down his chin and his eyes went half-lidded, lashes making temporary dark smudges on his pale skin every time he blinked. “Pull my nightshirt up to my waist.”

He didn’t command the Emperor like this, Thaller thought a bit uncharitably, but he hurried to do as he was told. When he looked down, there was a damp spot in the rough weave of Cayo’s shapeless robe.

“See what you do to me,” Cayo purred and Thaller’s head spun. He grabbed the cloth of the nightshirt and shoved it up, revealing Cayo’s thighs. He rubbed his thumbs in greedy circles against the creamy skin, pushing the clothing up further. He was panting by the time Cayo’s cock was revealed, lying stiff against his stomach. A glistening thread of precome spanned from the head of it to his skin.

“Let me show you.” Cayo had already poured the lubricant over his fingers, and reached down between his legs. “Do you want to watch?”

Yes, Thaller wanted to watch; he sat back and stared at Cayo’s fingers push into that tight hole, one then two then three, fast and slick like every thing else he seemed to do. With his knees up and parted, he widened himself to take Thaller’s cock, which Thaller was freeing hurriedly from the confines of his trousers.

“Slow.” The word dragged out from between Cayo’s lips like smoke, and Thaller’s hand was shaking as he gripped himself and shifted forward. He groaned as he pushed in, tight and hot and watched with awe as Cayo writhed underneath him; his eyes weres closed. Thaller ran his hands up Cayo’s sides, up his neck to cup his face.

“Please,” he choked out. “Look at me.”

Cayo opened his eyes. He closed them briefly when Thaller pressed their sweaty foreheads together, and again when Thaller kissed him, gasping against his mouth; but for the rest of their time, his gaze was locked with Thaller’s.

He came before Cayo did, his whole body filled with stone and light, and then Cayo taught him how to use his mouth. Cayo tasted bitter and musky on his palate, and Thaller took him too deep a few times, gagging a bit, but it was worth watching how Cayo trembled and gripped his bedcovers.

Thaller wanted to carve a mountain to pieces, just for him. He wanted to rip up a forest and build a bridge that spanned the entire country as Cayo came down from his high with a lazy smile.

“Thank you,” Cayo said, touching his cheek with loosely curved fingers. “Now, let me enjoy my lovely new room in peace.”


Thaller made sure that the reconstruction of the Emperor’s offices took twice as long as they normally would.

…and he ripped out that stupid carpet completely.

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