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Clare London - Fiction
The world of Aza City is controlled by the Queen and her womankind, with the best of their men maintained for the military—and for their own pleasure.
Maen is one of the most brave and intelligent Gold Warriors of that City, a favourite of his imperious Mistress and admired by his men. It is common practice for soldiers of Silver and Gold rank to seek casual sexual satisfaction amongst themselves, and yet Maen finds himself cautious of such urges… and therefore alone. His compensation, he believes, is his loyalty to the City, and the comfort of a stable and controlled world.
Then into his world comes Dax, one of the new young Bronzemen recruited by the Household to be trained as soldiers, and marked for the exclusive use of the Mistress. Dax is very different from the usual soldier-in-training--he is bold and challenging, and his fierce hero-worship of Maen disturbs everything. Maen is excited by the growing attraction between them, but shocked, too. An affair with a new, highly-prized Bronzeman is forbidden--if discovered, it carries the death penalty.
But when they find themselves thrown together in a dangerous and hostile environment, without the support of the City and far away from their duty, Maen finds himself risking everything for Dax--his position; his loyalties; and eventually, his life.
Cover Art by Joanna H Krupa. Contact through the author.
This title contains ADULT scenes of m/m romance and erotica.
It was less than an hour from midnight when there was a hammering at the door of my office, and Dax--of all people-- half fell through the door. I rose immediately from my chair, my cup overturning, my papers brushed aside. His clothes were torn and his hair was tangled--there was no sign of his weapon. When he stared at me, his eyes were wild with fear.
“Report!” I snapped at him, knowing that the commander’s voice would be the best to calm his obvious panic.
“Exiles! Ex--a pack of them! Sir--Maen, Sir--there are injured Captains--”
I was at his side in an instant, grabbing his arm, staring into his frightened face. “What do you mean, boy? Where are the Exiles? Where is the attack?” I remembered that Grien had sent Bronzemen to help cover the eastern wall--at once, I knew that Dax had been one of them. I cursed Grien for allowing such inexperienced soldiers into active duties, and I cursed myself for dallying with the Queen-Elect--for not being there to support them.
Dax was gulping in large breaths, obviously trying to gather his wits, to report properly. I admired him for that, for he was young and scared. “The eastern gate, Sir! I was there--with Orven and Justes--also two of the other Bronzemen. They--they’ve been hit, sir, with arrows, then swords of a strange design, I’ve never seen such a thing before--”
I put my hand on his shoulder and it seemed to help him calm down. His eyes were wet with threatening tears, and he clutched at his arm suddenly as if it pained him. “You’re injured?” I asked, urgently. “How are the others?”
Dax paled. “I’m fine, Sir--I can… I’m fine. One of the Bronzemen--he’s dead I think, Sir. The other ran for cover. Justes--I think he may be… I don’t know!” He was struggling with his emotions, and his need to communicate with me. I suddenly realised how frightened I was, that he may have been hurt, maybe killed! I was angry for my other men--but for Dax, it was some other, stronger emotion. I pushed the perplexing thoughts away: they were nothing but alien to me. “Where is Orven? Didn’t he protect you all?”
Dax flushed darkly, shaking his head, but I wanted to strike him in return--didn’t he realise he had to tell me the extent of the problem? “Tell me everything, or I’ll kill you myself, boy!”
“He was with me, Sir, we were--apart from the others. He was--” he gave a sharp, unintelligible curse, that I could only think was in some Remainder dialect. “I’ll not protect him, Sir, though he threatened me. He wanted to touch me.”
“Dax--” I was so frighteningly furious that it stunned me. The man would die for this!
Dax was shaking his head, for apparently I’d missed the point of his report, he wasn’t looking to complain about an abusive Silver Captain. “We were away from the main attack, that’s what saved us. When he realised what was happening, Orven sent me to tell you--to fetch reinforcements--and he went back to support Justes. I think he’s dead as well--I didn’t see--I ran to you!”
And he clutched at my hand on his shoulder, looking up into my eyes. I saw the naked emotion in his face. Such pain--such need--such trust! It chilled me, but it also thrilled through me. “Sir--” he grimaced--he had been wounded, but he was hiding it from me well. “Let me get back to them--to fight! To defend them!”
“You’ll do what you’re told,” I hissed at him. “There’s no place for foolish bravery now. Just take me there, as fast as you can!” I pushed him in front of me, out of the barracks and towards the eastern block. There were no signs or sounds to alert us of any battle, and I feared that the Exiles may already be in the Household: the danger may be more critical than ever. I dreaded what I may find at the eastern gate!
We half ran, for Dax was exhausted and still shocked, and I had no idea how badly he’d been injured. His left arm hung at his side, so I thought it may be cut, maybe broken. If so, he should be resting--he should be splinted, to help it heal. I had no desire for a damaged Bronzeman; one who’d be less than effective in a battle. I watched the pain slide across his face as he stumbled across the courtyard, and I personally ached in sympathy for him.
“You must go back to the barracks,” I urged him. “Sound the alarm! Get Grien--call Bernos and Hull to the gate, and we’ll--”
I don’t know what hit me then--all I felt was a sudden blow to my neck, and a pain that managed to be both sharp and dull at the same time. I felt the breath expelled from my lungs; the energy dragged out from my limbs. There were hands, many of them, surrounding me and pinning my arms to my sides, grasping at my hair to pull my head back. I cursed not being adequately prepared--I cursed caring more for the boy’s welfare than my own, so that it had distracted me at the very moment I should have been most aware.
I heard a cry from Dax, and wrenched my head round to see arms curled around his neck and dark figures appearing from all around the courtyard. Now I could hear the sounds of battle--harsh metal on unyielding shields; hoarse, splintered cries of anger and fear; the gurgling splash and flow of spilt blood.
Then I saw no more; heard no more.
We were lost.