Goodwin Prescott
the Prize Purse

Prelude

The wagons trundled through the forest until reaching the clearing with the hastily excavated pits. Each wagon was crammed with bound, naked men, many with limbs or ribs fractured from being stuffed so tightly together, a few even smothered but still standing, held upright by the living bodies pressed close around. They ranged from beardless youths to grizzled elder warriors. The Boian troops had started rounding them up at sunset the day before throughout Phyleria and marching them into the smoldering city's ruined stadium. Any resisting arrest were killed on the spot. In the stadium they were stripped and bound and hundreds at a time thrust into the creaking wagons for transport to the killing site.

King Boiax, enraged at the stubborn resistence of the Phylerians, had determined to pacify his kingdom's newest vassal province once and for all and make an example for any other enemy who dared resist him. The decree he issued from his war tent to his commanders had been terse and clear.

As each wagon spewed forth its load of terrified captives, hordes of armored Boian soldiers descended on them with whoops of glee, their killing lust fired to a furious heat. The swords, battle axes, spears and daggers flashed in the sunlight as blood splattered in all directions in a scene that was repeated hour after hour throughout the night and ensuing day. The carnage would continue into yet the next night, the killing field illuminated by the furious blazes burning in the cremation pits, the stench of burning flesh spreading out for miles around.

By dawn of the second day, only a trickle of late-captured prisoners was being fed to the sharp steel and by noon more than thirty-three thousand Phylerian men and near-men had been dispatched. The few who had escaped would be ferreted out over the days to come, a few hundred at most, and put to far more lingering deaths to provide sport for the soldiers.

The king further gave secret instructions to his administrators in the vanquished province that, until he decreed otherwise, all transgressions of any type, real or suspected, by Phylerian boys attaining their eighteenth birthdays were to be punished by death without mercy or exception. The goal was to insure that no more than ten percent of the youths lived to see nineteen ... preferably none at all.
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Boiax's living plunder, his twenty perfect young Phylerian warriors, were carefully transported to Gallitza, pampered to preserve their exquisite good-looks and superb bodies for the special purposes planned for them. Along the way, one attempted escape and was killed by an arrow from a startled guard. Furious at the death, Boiax had the cringing guard stripped naked and bound to a post. The man's commander wanted to intervene on his behalf but dared not. As he helped tie the hapless archer to the post, he whispered to him.
"Be thankful the king's rage is so deep! He will vent it quickly and you will die swiftly. Back in Gallitza he'd have sent you to those fiends in the dungeons and you'd have been under torture for hours if not days! we'll secretly see that your family receives your share of the plunder from Phyleria. Just close your eyes and hold steady."
Boiax assembled a host of his best archers and on his signal they let fly at the targeted man, firing to wound rather than kill directly. Shortly, however, bristling like a porcupine, he entered the throes of death even as more and more bolts whistled through the air to thud home in his quivering body.

The Prize Purse ....

1. The King's Invitation
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Glax reclined on his belly on a padded bench in the warm sunlight of the solarium. The dark-haired nobleman was just eighteen but a superbly muscled and matured youth, as handsome and sensuous as a boyish god. He was naked and stretched his smooth-skinned body like a big, tawny cat before glancing up towards Jovan.
"What are you reading that so engrosses your attention that you haven't even bothered to kiss me since your return?"
He was only half jesting. When they were tiny boys they had formed such a close friendship that Glax's prominent father had forced Jovan's family, lesser nobility, to sell him the boy to raise as an extra son, a companion for Glax. When they passed puberty and discovered their budding sexuality, their relationship had quickly become far more than brotherly.

Jovan glanced up from the scroll in his hand and smiled as he saw the lusting admiration in his lover's eyes. He was sitting cross-legged on a pillow on the tiled floor by the shimmering pool, his own nudity only slightly cloaked by the robe draped around his broad, muscular shoulders. He had quickly slipped off his loose tunic as soon as he entered the door. Both he and Glax were shameless exhibitionists, to the great pleasure of the admiring all-male household of their widower father. Also eighteen, he was flaxen and wavy-haired to Glax's ebony curled locks, his skin honey-tanned to Glax's deep bronze, more finely featured and pretty-faced to Glax's strongly masculine good looks.
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What a wonderful pair we make, Jovan mused, mated perfectly by our delicious contrasts. And part of his anatomy developed a mind of its own and flared out its lucious crown, the shaft swelling quickly into steely erection.
"You are such a lusting little satyr, Glax...."
He sighed contentedly, his blue eyes adoring the dark-haired stud stretched out on the bench, his dimpled, bubble-butt jutting starkly above the sensuous curves of his hard back and legs,
"Do you ever get enough?"

"Stop talking and come oil my back...."

Glax cast him a truly wicked, irresistible grin,
"Otherwise I'll have you whipped again."

"You've never had me whipped...."

Jovan laughed as he rose and obediently stepped over to his companion and began rubbing aromatic oil into his velvet skin, loving every moment of the contact.
"No."
Glax purred like a contented tomcat, closing his eyes and luxuriating in Jovan's hands as they caressed and fondled with practiced skill,
"But it could happen."

"Our father would never permit it," Jovan asserted sternly, pretending to take the threat seriously.

"You are right that my father would forbid it. He loves you dearly. But I do not recognize him as your father, despite what the law says about your adoption. I refuse to think of you as my brother. Brothers are not supposed to suck each other's cocks and fuck each other silly on a regular basis! The very thought is ... disgusting."

And they both laughed. Jovan leaned down with his parted lips to correct his error of omission when he had returned from the square. The kiss was long, very wet and involved adroit use of their tongues.

Glax settled back and Jovan began massaging his legs and even his big, handsomely formed feet.

"So what were you reading? Something nasty and perverted?"

"Enough so," Jovan snickered. "An invitation from the king to the state banquet to celebrate the victory over those Phylerian savages. They emasculated and disembowled any of our men they captured before they finally were defeated! That is why the king has dealt so severely with them. Some of them are to be sacrified to the gods beforehand, others will be used for sport at the banquet."

"Oooh...!"

Glax's eyes flashed with excitement.
"That does sound suitably nasty. Father's away on trading business in Parthia, but we shall certainly attend."
They shared a predatory sadistic instinct within their hotly sexed psyches. Much of their foreplay consisted of shared fantasies involving hideous torture and snuff scenes. And then there had been the incidents with the shephard boy and the cook's helper where fantasy had been converted to reality.
"I thought," Glax frowned, "that all the Phylerian stallions had been put to the sword?"

"Word in the square is that a handful were spared to be put to better use in dying. Even the rabble is all agog about the sacrifices."

Unlike the banquet, reserved for the young king's favored guests, the religious ceremonies would be conducted in the open-air sacrificial arena. Anyone could attend. A bloodthirsty mob would be on hand to savor the screams of the victims offered to the martial gods worshiped in war-loving Boia.

Glax almost reached a spontaneous orgasm just imagining the blood-drenched rites, much less the more private pleasures to be offered at King Boiax's party. The foxy monarch, just four years their elder, was already being dubbed "Boiax the Bloody" by the trembling neighbors of his kingdom. Of course, in Boia, that was viewed as a very high compliment. Glax had fantasized repeatedly about enjoying a night in the king's bed but such a summons had never issued, a parade of hunk guardsmen apparantly providing adequate satisfaction for the royal loins.

Too bad, Glax had sighed. I bet His Majesty is REALLY an insatiable stud!

"There's an added twist. A hot one!"
Jovan grinned, even as his fingers slipped into the tender, moist crevice separating Glax's tight ass lobes.
"Ungh!"
Glax flexed and writhed in pleasure as one of Jovan's probing, lubricated digits slipped into his well-trained ass-hole.
"Ohhh ... that is sooo nice!"

"There is a purse of gold being offered as a prize at the banquet."

"We have plenty of gold...."

Glax moaned as the finger continued to move within him, driving him to near madness in his need.
"Stop that and fuck me!"
Jovan ignored the pleading command.
"It's a contest. Candidates will submit to a lottery. The winners get to vie to carry out the most innovative and excruciating execution of a prisoner. The king himself will be the judge."
Ah! Glax realized where this was going. Jovan too lusted after the cock of their royal master. Here might be a chance to draw the king's attention to themselves. Hmmm ... an intensely nasty three way, not to mention the benefits of royal favor. The king was as generous to those he liked as he was savage to those who displeased. A most dangerous but challanging tightrope to tread.
"We might not be drawn," Glax sighed. "You know every thug among the nobility will enter the drawing."

"True," Jovan nodded.

He inserted a second finger up inside Glax's ass canal, enjoying the new spasms of suffering pleasure that induced in his lover,
"But there's nothing to be lost in the attempt. And if you were chosen, with me assisting, you would win, you know."
Glax giggled.
"You're thinking about the shephard again, aren't you?"
They had been hiking in the mountains above the estate just north of Gallitza, luxuriating in the magnificent vistas and riot of spring flowers exploding across the meadows. Without warning, they had happened across a big black wolf enjoying a lunch of freshly killed lamb. The beast, with an infuriated snarl and deeply annoyed glare had opted to flee when faced with their quickly drawn swords.

The paint daubed on the fleeced hind quarter of the lamb identified it as from their father's flock, which they located in a meadow a quarter mile away. The stupid wooly beasts were milling all over creation as they browsed, instead of being in the stipulated tighter grouping. The twenty year old illyrian slave assigned as shephard was nowhere in sight.

Perhaps he had been killed by the bandits who sometimes roamed the hills or more likely had decided to flee. If so, recaptured, he would meet the fate decreed for all runaway slaves in Boia ... death by being slowly roasted over a bed of coals.
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He had not been murdered, nor had he fled. They found the brown-haired, bullish lout kneeling in a forest glade just off the meadow, stripped naked, beating his meat with a furious abandon, his neglected crook leaning against a nearby tree. Even as they watched, he reached orgasm, spewing dollops of his creamy gism far out from his loins. He was blissfully unaware he was being observed.

He was easily taken prisoner, terrified at being discovered by the sons of the master. His blubbering apologies for the lost lamb, when told of the wolf's sneak attack, fell on deaf ears. He had not run away ... but they decided to execute him anyway. It was not a difficult decision ... they licked their lips in eager anticipation as they gazed upon his stripped body. This was an opportunity to finally experience the ultimate thrill they had so long coveted ... a kill.

Shortly the offending slave found himself on all fours, ankles and knees bound to stakes to either side, a loop of rope around his middle stretched taut to an overhead limb to keep him in the desired posture. His legs were widely splayed to completely expose the tightly puckered ass-hole.

First they made a small fire and used the glowing coals to heat a knife. They slowly castrated the screaming prisoner and skewered his severed genitals on a slim stake to display them.

Glax then sharpened the end of the crook with his blade and knelt behind the agonized, writhing Illyrian hunk. He positioned his wooden spear against the tightly puckered anus and shoved it home. Inch by inch he forced the shaft on up into the shepherd's gut. After two feet had been swallowed, he stepped back to survey his work with a pleased eye.
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He invited Jovan to finish the execution by completing the slow, steady impalement. The blond sadist almost salivated as he knelt and began pressing the crook further inside their victim, spitting him like an ox calf being readied for roasting.

It still took a long time before blood began gurgling from the boy's lips as it welled from his ruptured innards. Moments later he began the deep shuddering spasms and choking gasps that presaged death. In the last moments before he would have died, Glax swung his sword and deftly decapitated him. They stuck the head on a stake to display it as well.

They had reported the matter upon their return and a party of shephards were sent running to take control of the scattered flock. Their father had been very pleased at the strong, highly appropriate punishment they had meted out, proudly praising their strength of character.

A few days later a teenaged cook's helper had been caught stealing a gold cup. The shephard's excellent killing fresh on his mind, the father turned the malefactor over to his sons, then sat back to watch the sport. He had not been disappointed.
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They had assembled the household servants to watch as the squealing eighteener was bound upside down by one ankle over the well. He was then lowered into the water until nearly drowned, then raised until he came out dripping, gagging and sputtering.

When he recovered, his lungs burning, chest heaving, down he went again. Over and over his drowning was prolonged as he suffered hellish physical and mental torment.

Just before they sent him down for the final, fatal immersion, they pulled him to the side of the well. While Jovan held the thief still, Glax used a hot knife to very slowly carve the big manhood from between the screaming slave-boy's thighs. His post-castration squeals ended in a loud, wet gurgle was his head went under in the cold water in the bottom of the well.

Oh yes indeed, Jovan was recalling those incidents as he withdrew his probing digits from Glax's violently contracting asshole. He promptly replaced them with his turgid, throbbing cock, lying over the dark-haired Adonis and cradling his upper body from above.

He fucked like a rutting stag.
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When he had emptied his churning loins, Glax positioned him on his back, knees bent and parted, and swiftly mounted him to take his own pleasure.
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2. Gift to the Gods

The following day at high noon there was a triumphant parade through the city's main avenues on the way to the sacrificial arena. Rank upon rank of victorious spearmen, swordsmen and archers marched by to the stirring throb of drums and shrill blare of trumpets. Banners, including those captured from Phyleria, were marched along, waving in exultation. Everyone along the route, including Glax and Jovan, dropped to one knee in obeisance as the king's standard announced his appearance. He was preceded by a great cavalry troop, the huge war horses snorting and prancing, their iron-shod hooves ringing loudly on the stone paving as they passed.

Then suddenly, all alone in his glory, there was Boiax the Bloody himself, astride a magnificent snow white stallion, the high, broad pommel of the saddle sparkling with silver inlay set into the burnished leather. He carried the unsheathed, jeweled state sword in his free hand, occasionally raising it to acknowledge the cheering adoration of the kneeling crowd. He passed at a slow, regal pace, his face solemn, his charger prancing, raising its hooves high with each proud strut.
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In a brilliant, barbaric touch, the young king was barechested, his gorgeous, sculpted upper body reflecting the sun's rays off the smooth, oiled skin. His legs were clad in tight, silky white pants stuffed into the top of his leather boots. His black ox-hide belt was studded with huge rectangular-cut emeralds. The ermine-lined robe of state was fastened around his throat, its folds flowing around his form like silken, purple liquid. A golden sun-burst pendant gleamed between his pecs where it dangled from a sturdy gold chain around his neck and rings displaying large rubies and saphires gleamed on several of his fingers. The heavy gold and diamond diadem crown was seated firmly about his short, curly dark locks.

He was every inch the image of the brilliant self-assured warrior-despot that his people wanted on the lion's throne as the Boian monarchy was styled. He was actually Boiax III, his revered father and grandfather having carried the same name and left it clad in proud accomplishment. Many were already whispering that this newest of the Boiaxes would surpass his sire and grandsire combined and likely be Boia's greatest king of all. From birth he had been reared to rule and the role lay well and comfortably upon him.

Glax gazed up in hero worship. This brawny young lion who was his master looked truly god-like at the moment and he felt a furious swelling start between his legs. At that moment, the king's eyes happened to scan over the crowd where Jovan and Glax were kneeling, passed over them, then darted back to lock directly into Glax's dark orbs. He seemed to read Glax's erotic thoughts and the young noble felt a cold shiver tingle up his spine ... a mix of erotic excitement and deep fear.

But then the king's wide, thick-lipped mouth turned upwards in a soft smile, dimples popping, his eyes flashing with amusement.

The crowd went wild. That smile was one of the things about their king that they loved the best. It was a chameleon's smile masking a range of emotions, joyful mirth or hideous evil, boyish charm or frightening cruelty. It was full of approval and reward for some who saw it, while presaging a lingering death in the royal dungeons for others who received it.

Just now, Glax felt no fear. By the Gods, he does know what I am thinking and it amuses and even pleases him! He saw it in my eyes.

The hand holding the sword raised and wriggled slightly in his direction in a mocking little salute, then the king drew his piercing gaze away and rode on. Glax was unable even to speak he was so moved. It was as if he had looked into the face of some living god. If the great Zeracter himself, king of the gods, really existed, which Glax personally doubted, this would have to be what he looked like!

But then he recalled that that seeing the face of Zeracter was said by the priests to inevitably be a fatal vision and he shuddered. He was playing a dangerous game here.

It had not been lost on Jovan.

"Be careful Glax. Our king is a wild, unpredictable creature who would not hesitate to destroy you if the mood hit him. They say a guardsman who graced his bed and then bragged about it was crucified upside down, spread-legged, and the top of his cross set ablaze to burn slowly downward between his splayed legs. Through it all the king sipped wine and said nothing, simply sat there watching and smiling."

Glax nodded numbly,

"But he knows, Jovan. He knows what I want!"

"Yes," Jovan sighed, "he does. I saw it too. I just hope this proves to be a good thing. I always thought it would be wonderful to have his attention, but now, seeing him in all his barbaric splendor, I have doubts. He is a dangerous predator."

"No," Glax slowly smiled.

His self-confidence was reasserting itself,
"Despite his crown, he is still just a man ... a beautiful, sensuous man ... and we shall one day soon share his bed and know his flesh."
Next, borne on chariots and clothed in spotless white robes, came the evil-eyed old priests, hardened by years of spilling blood and extracting life from young, virile bodies positioned on the altars of the gods they served. Beside them, clad in white loin cloths, their hands bound behind them, lambs on the way to slaughter, rode three strikingly handsome, perfect young men, none more than twenty-one, a slightly vacant, calm expression on their faces.

The sacrificial offerings, Glax thought, his cock hardening even more within his tunic. And slightly drugged to make them more pliant and cooperative as they are killed.

"The gods will be pleased to receive those three!" Jovan gasped in delight. "I see it is true that Phyleria produced many men of haunting beauty."

"Unless the gods are complete idiots, they will have orgasms just upon seeing such prizes adorning their altars...."

Glax grinned wickedly towards his gaping lover,
"Now close your mouth and wipe the saliva from your chin."
Then came another group of Phylerian prisoners, these marching naked and in chains, making a truly exquisite sight. Each was escorted closely by one of the elite royal household guards in his flowing, horse-mane parade helmet. Glax counted them ... sixteen in all ... and evaluated the superb bodies.

Boiax's party toys! What a splendid bunch!

There, he thought suddenly. That one! If I have any say in whom I will have as my victim should I be selected for the king's contest, it will be him!
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His chosen subject was probably a year or two his senior, perhaps twenty, tall and powerful, his body bulging with toned, sculpted muscle in perfect proportions. The dark-haired young stud had strong features, full of courage and resolve. He would perform well under torture and not go easily from life. That he was huge-hung in his hairy crotch was a further qualifier. The effect of parading naked and bound had stimulated him and, like many of the prisoners, his massive cock was jutting up in full erection, bobbing before his hard gut as he strode along beside his guard.

He too was scanning the crowd with his eyes and he spotted Glax staring at him. A mocking little smile played over his handsome, tough face and he gave a slight little bowing nod of his proud head as if to acknowledge Glax's admiration of his naked form.

Oh! Glax almost swooned in his lusting need. Oh yes, you Phylerian stallion, I WANT YOU!

He was tempted to haul Jovan into a nearby alley and fuck him like a bitch for the relief his loins demanded, but managed, just barely, to restrain his raging carnal lusts.

As the parade ended, they made their way up into the arena, an elevated stone platform a full block square with bleachers raised in tiers all around its edges to accomodate the crowds. The floor was fine white sand that would easily blot up spilled blood. Tens of thousands of giddy, delighted citizens poured into the place, an expectant murmur settling over the scene as the priests escorted forth the first of the victims and approached the altar of the God of Fire and Storm, the fearsome Ballestos, the ogre brandished at every Boian child by its parents to gain good behavior and obedience.

Ballestos comes in the night and devours disobedient, unruly children, munching their bones while they squeal and writhe, ran the warning, solemnly intoned.
Well, dreaded Ballestos was about to munch on a starkly gorgeous young Phylerian meat-hunk. Even now the young bull's loincloth was being stripped from him and he was bound onto the stone altar on his knees, his legs widely splayed, his upper body curved over backwards to bow out his chest and flat, rock-hard abs. The young man's sex rod was nearly erect, as usual. All of the condemned victims' penises were smeared with an aphrodaisic ungent that assured such semi-arousal throughout their sacrifice.

On the padded bench in the section reserved for the high nobility, Glax and Jovan watched the preparations for the killing with great relish. They were actually not religious, regarding the elaborate system of gods and goddesses as little more than superstition, but kept their heresy to themselves. Heretics were given to Zeracter himself and that was one altar they did not care to visit close-up!

Regardless of their lack of faith, they still heartily looked forward to the sacrifices, enjoying the splendid entertainment.

Somewhere in the dim mists of the developing Boian religion the priests had magically learned that the gods liked pain. Only young men screaming in excruciating agony would find favor as offerings to the primary, important gods honored today, Ballestos, Maros, God of War, and, of course, Zeracter.

He let his mind wander as the priests intoned the elaborate, boring chants to attract Ballestos' attention from wherever the deity passed time when not munching on wayward children. He didn't notice the smiling young courtier who was suddenly sitting beside him until the whisper came in his ear.

"When the drawing for tonight's contest is made, have this concealed in the arm of your robe. Your palm will be checked. As you reach into the box, let it roll into your hand and pretend to draw it out. It will guarantee your selection."
He felt an object pressed into his hand and glanced at it. It was a jet-black marble ball painted with the royal seal and the number one.
"There will be said to be four such marbles among the sea of white in the box, but there will really be only three. You have the fourth."

"But if the king finds I've cheated, he'll have me killed!" he whispered back in a tense, frightened voice.

"Boiled alive in oil, no doubt," agreed the courtier. "If the cheating was your idea. Since it is the king who desires that you be selected, I doubt you'll be residing in the dungeons. On the other hand, if you really wish to cook in the oil, by all means draw out a white ball when the time comes."

With a slight chuckle trailing behind, he was gone as swiftly as he came just as a loud bellow echoed from the altar and the crowd sighed in collective pleasure. It was the sound Glax had heard once when a masssive yearling bull ox had been gelded on his father's estate.
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Ballestos' priest had just used a heated knife to slice open the Phylerian soldier's belly and was spreading the slit apart. A mix of small chunks and sticks of tender-dry pitch was stuffed into the man's open stomach while he writhed and flexed against his bonds and screamed in shrill agony. A glowing, red-hot coal was brought from the brazier and dropped into the small firebox they had created in living flesh.

Within moments, the blaze caught and the flames licked and danced from within the gut, sending up a curling wreath of grayish smoke. The stench of the burning filled the air and the man's screams as he was roasted from inside were demented.

It seemed to take forever for him to finally die and many in the crowd were openly weeping for joy at the splendid length of his suffering. It meant the god was finding favor in the sacrificial offering and keeping the life within the agonized body for a prolonged period to savor it.

The second Phylerian warrior was given to mighty Maros, God of War. He was bound over the gleaming white block of quartz that served as the altar, his legs obscenely splayed over a deep gutter running down to a golden ewer. When the chanting was complete and, presumably, Maros watching with delight from on far, the priest slowly, patiently cut out the boy's crotch. Dark blood gushed in pulsing streams from the deep wound, cascading into the gutter and then down to begin filling the ewer.

The severed organs were deposited on a gold tray to the side of the screaming soldier.
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When it was clear the boy was faltering from loss of blood, the priest again employed the knife. He deftly opened the chest and reached in to rip free the still pulsing heart. It and the sex parts were very reverently burned while attendants carried off the brimming ewer to serve the fresh, warm blood to the Boian soldiers, each taking just a tiny sip to receive the god's blessing.

Then Zeracter was paid his due.
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The final gift captive was made to kneel on the rough granite dais that served as the chief god's altar. His shoulders and wrists were tightly bound to a stocky wooden cross to his rear. His knees, widely spread, were also tightly secured. After the dutiful rites were conducted to present him to the god, the priest knelt before him and reached between his thighs.

His shriek rang out as his ball sac was cut around at its base with a glowing knife. The severed scrotum was slipped around its contents, leaving the twin seed orbs dangling fully exposed. A small oil lamp was set below the bared sex glands, the flame positioned just right to slowly cook them.

As intended, it took a long time for the nuts to be charred into flimsy, shrivled black debris. When the priest flicked them, they simply crumbled away into the breeze.

The penis was then slowly skinned with the heated knife before it too was roasted. When it was finally ash floating in the wind, a burly assistant priest took up a finely honed sword and positioned behind the pinioned Phylerian ex-stud. The sunlight flashed on the blade as it cut the air with a softly whispered WHOOSH!

The head came cleanly off the shoulders, tumbling through the air to fall several feet away.
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It was a wonderfully executed decapitation and the way the head flew forward was a great sign of the god's favor. The crowd went wild with cheering delight as this last of the sacrifices was concluded.

As they exited the arena, Glax spotted the priests carting the three corpses into the black depths of their forbidden underground temple. It was said they cooked the bodies and devoured the meat and Glax shuddered. He wondered if it was true. Filthy priests!

3. the Chosen Ones

The king assembled all of the nobles who wished to compete for his purse of gold before they departed the arena. The lottery would be conducted now to give the winners a few hours to select their man and make any preparations for their show.

It was explained that there were four black, numbered balls among the dozens of white. The numbers would determine the order of choosing from among the sixteen prisoners available for execution.

Two of the black orbs had been taken when Glax made his draw. The fix worked smoothly and he displayed the black number one ball when he pulled his hand from the box. The king had been watching the process with an amused little smile and now nodded.

"Excellent. Corriantos' son Glax, whom I hear is quite expert at disciplining shephards and kitchen boys, will display his talents for us tonight. I'm sure his brother, Jovan, will assist him as I understand they are quite inseparable. How old are you, Glax?"

"Eighteen, your majesty," Glax intoned from his kneeling position before the makeshift throne in the arena.

"Quite young. That will make it a challange for you to best the bloodthirsty bastards who drew the other black balls. Some of them were butchering other men while you were still sucking milk from your mother's teat. Do you think you can possibly prevail?"

"I fully expect to win, your majesty. Youth does not limit one's resolve or zest for killing, nor one's innovativeimagination, as your majesty himself so wonderfully demonstrates."

"Well said!"

The king beamed, flashing that smile,
"So, if you are so certain of your skills, would you lay a separate wager with me? If you are found the winner, I'll double the purse."

"And if I lose, sire?"

"Your brother Jovan shall be crucified, castrated and flayed alive while I have my breakfast and watch tomorrow morning."

There were gasps from the assembled nobles and little knowing smiles exchanged. The cocky boy was trapped. Everyone knew that Jovan was Glax's lover and the unspeakable pain that losing him would cause. But if he refused the bet he was, for practical purposes, dead. The king did not like having his sport rejected.

His heart throbbing fiercely, Glax allowed his eyes to rise to look at his king, then answered in a strong, clear voice.

"Your majesty does me great honor by offering such a wager. But the life of Jovan is not mine to bet. He is a free man and loyal subject of your majesty, not a slave. He is no coward and I'm sure would consent, but I offer myself instead. If I lose, I shall adorn your cross for your morning's pleasure."

"Sire," Jovan, gulping and pale, interposed, "I am willing to risk this wager just as you offered it, not with my brother as the prize, as much as I appreciate his concerns for me."

"Nobly put, young men...."

Boiax smiled his cat-like grin,
"However, I see fit to exempt Jovan as Glax requests. I'll spare Corriantos' adopted whelp."
He's done his homework well, Glax thought.
"Of course, if Glax is correct about his skills, both will return home unharmed and much richer. If you like, Glax, I will even have another noble, if I can find one unbiased, be the judge so I cannot be said to have been unfair."

"Sire," Glax smiled grimly, "I have utter, unbending faith in your majesty's fairness. I am perfectly content in having you sit in judgment over me. I am, after all, your servant to use as you see fit anyway."

The smile this time was deeply amused, the monarch's eyes sparkling.
"As you will, young Glax. Go then to the prison to make the choice of your man for the killing. You did, after all, draw the ball numbered one."
On the way, Jovan furiously berated his lover.
"Are you mad! He wanted to see me killed but was willing to settle for you!"

"Perhaps, though I think he was just getting to me by threatening you," Glax shrugged. "I'm counting on his really not wanting either of us dead. In any case, had I refused his wager altogether, I imagine we'd both be heading for the dungeons under guard at this very moment anyway."

Jovan sighed,
"I thought of that too. By the gods, I hope you are right about his intentions. If you are condemned, he will have to kill me too. I would not choose to live without you!"
I'll find a way to prevent that idiocy if the need arises, Glax glanced at Jovan and felt tears of love well in his eyes.

In the cells they found the naked man Glax sought with wrists manacled to a dangling chain, ankles to widely spaced floor rings. They couldn't communicate orally through the language barrier but their eyes locked and something very primitive and powerful passed between them ... an ... understanding, even an accomodation.

They knew they were destined for what was to play out in a few hours. One was there to die, the other to do the killing. It was to be a battle of wills. Glax would seek to make the man scream out his lungs as he suffered, the Phylerian would fight not to surrender to his agony, to die with courage.

It was strangely impersonal. Glax bore the buff warrior no ill will, in fact, he admired what he saw in him. The condemned prisoner did not hate this young executioner assigned over him. Oh, he knew Glax would deeply enjoy the process, luxuriating in his agonized suffering, but did not begrudge him that pleasure. Had their roles been reversed, he'd have savored putting Glax to torture and death and would have drawn sweet sexual excitement from it.

It was simply the way things were between men from competing societies. His had lost and now he was to pay the penalty.

In fact, as Glax ran his admiring hands over the naked, chained body, savoring the feel, the man's huge cock swiftly grew hard from contemplating torture at the hands of this handsome youth. He hoped the boy would prove good at it, to give him a fitting chance to prove his manhood in dying well.

Glax stepped back from his chosen victim and admired the sight.

"He's magnificent," Glax sighed. "I knew when I saw him in the parade that he was a real trophy animal. He'll perform wonderfully tonight, holding on to life for as long as possible despite his suffering ... the way a real man should face his death!"

"Isn't it risky to choose such a man." Jovan frowned. "If you can't break him ... bring out his screams ... the king will never declare you the champion. What if this one proves too courageous and strong-willed?"

"I'll just have to take that risk," Glax shrugged. "It'll be worth it for the thrill of killing such a magnificent stag! Speaking of risks, Jovan, what do you say we fuck him?"

"Are you crazy? Right here and now! Unchain him and he'll probably try to kill us!"

"I don't think so...."

Glax studied his man,
"I think he'd like the chance to get off a final orgasm of his own. Maybe I'll even let him fuck me!"
Jovan knew it was a waste of time to resist Glax when he wanted to do something. Nervously he assisted in unchaining the powerful Phylerian warrior enough to permit their planned intercourse. Glax managed to communicate what he proposed to do through graphic sign language and the man looked startled. After a moment though, he bruskly nodded, then dropped to his knees and bent over, thrusting out his dimpled, tight bubble ass and spreading his knees.
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.
Glax took him first, mounting with furious, violent abandon until finally he cried out, froze and pumped his load into the ass canal for what seemed an eternity. Jovan, breathing hard from the powerful stimulation of watching Glax fornicate, was fully prepared when his turn came and he found his own orgasm to be unusually deep and satisfying. There was something incredibly erotic about fucking a man whom you knew you would shortly be torturing and killing.

The Phylerian looked stunned when Glax offered him his own cute rump, but he did not need a second invitation. Glax thought his hole was being ripped wide open and Jovan had never witnessed such an absolutely uninhibited rutting. It went on forever before the climax ripped through the reeling prisoner.

He looked utterly sated and pleased as he was chained back in the position in which they had found him.

Glax leaned up and gave him a long, wet kiss on the mouth before leaving.

"The next time I see you, I shall put you through hell as I slowly force the life from that superb body of yours."

"He can't understand you, you're wasting your breath," Jovan laughed.

"Oh he understands," Glax corrected. "He fully understands! I suspect he's even looking forward to our battle of wills and an end to his shame from being a captive. You know, with my having the first number, I get to choose when we perform. I intend to go last. That means this man will be the last Phylerian warrior in existence! When he dies, the manhood of his people will have been fully exterminated. He knows that too. It's another reason he will die with all the strength and fortitude he can muster."

4. Party Pleasures

The king was always quite the showman when it came to staging his gala affairs, but outdid himself this time. The victory feast featured the greatest assortment and plentitude of food and drink that had ever been served up in Gallitza. And even before the diners had swallowed their first bites after the toasting, the first Phylerian blood was spilled.

To give motivation to the last of the captured warriors to battle each other to the death with zesty enthusiasm, Boiax had promised that the family of the winner of each round would receve a small stipend. That could mean life or death in the shattered economic wreckage of Phyleria and the condemned men proved eager to at least leave back some unexpected benefit for their suffering, manless families.

The first contest was a gladiatorial battle. One handsome, hardened buck was armed with a trident and net.

His opponent had a sword and dagger. Alert Boian troopers kept close watch to react to the slightest hint that the combatants might attempt to attack the king or his guests instead of each other. Since they battled in a small, sand-floored pit below the feasting area anyway, the risk was minimal.
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They went at it with gusto and soon had the excited audience whooping and urging on their favorites. Many bets had been quickly laid after the young hunks had been sized up. Jovan and Glax had chosen opposite "champions" to wager on just for the sport of it. Eventually Jovan's swordsman made a fatal miscalculation in a desperate lunge for the more agile and skilled "fisherman." He found himself suddenly enmeshed in the crippling loops and lines of the expertly thrown leaded net and Jovan made a sour face.
"He's dead."
The trident shortly flashed in the torchlight of the great hall as it was thrust into the struggling swordsman's lower gut, the tines buried just above the pubic hair line. The mortally wounded warrior screamed at the dreadful agony of the spearing, collapsed to his knees, dropping his weapons to grasp at the wooden shaft jutting from his groin.

The victor eventually seized his trident's shaft again and with a vicious jerk ripped its barbed tines free from the netted man whose screams became demented. He thrust again, this time into the upper chest to impale the heart and lungs and the dying Phylerian emitted a last loud rattling gurgle and pitched face forward into the sand.

His killer received a great ovation and a laurel garland was placed upon his head. He received the king's personal vow that his family would receive assistance for his excellent performance. Then at a deft, prearranged signal from Boiax, archers on a balcony above let fly.

THUNK!
THUNK!
THUMP!
THUD!
WHUMP!

The "fisherman" shuddered and staggered, tossed violently around as arrow after arrow hammered into his body, piercing his chest and belly, back and legs until within seconds he had sprouted a forest of feathered shafts. Blood vapors hung in the air about him like a crimson mist. He collapsed, flexed powerfully once or twice and was still.

It had been a swiftly merciful killing but still so graphically violent and unexpected that the stunned diners just sat there for a moment before again bursting into appreciative applause, this time for their king and his highly skilled archers.

The next contest was one of strength, almost comical, which was exactly what was intended to lighten the mood after the gory bloodshed of the opening act. The legs of two Phylerians were staked out on the ground leaving them lying belly-down, hands bound behind their backs. Two unfettered warriors were positioned over them and challanged to determine which of them could break his man's back and then his neck the quickest. The winner would then kill his opponent in whatever manner he chose.

At the king's signal, the executioners seized hold of their victim's chins from behind and began arching them backwards, seeking to apply maximum stress to the spinal columns.
.


.
In about thirty seconds, with a loud, stark crunch, one of the backs broke. Even as the winner gave a hard, swift twist to his man's neck to break it, the sound of the second spine shattering was heard. Breathing hard and looking dismayed, the loser gamely stood there as the victor approached, facing him.
.
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The winner was a strong young bull and he simply wrapped his powerful arms around the loser's waist and raised him from his feet, pulling him up until his crotch was pressed into his belly, the victim's knees straddling his captor's hips. He tightened his arms around the trim waist and locked his fists in the small of the back. Then he gave a mightly, violent squeeze and continued to tighten his grip by the second.

He was crushing the man's diaphram and slowly, steadily asphyxiating him. Belatedly the victim began to struggle and writhe, pressing against the chest and shoulders of his foe and arching his own upper body desperately backwards in an attempt to break the suffocating, agonizing constriction.

The arms holding him contracted like steel as their owner finally put every ounce of his strength into the squeezing hold. Again, you could hear it as the lower spine fractured.

The paralyzed warrior was dying but still concious as his killer tossed him to the ground on his back. A foot was raised and stomped down viciously, the heel hammering the exposed throat, crushing the delicate structure. Death followed almost at once.

The winner received his laurel wreath, his ovation and the king's promise to assist his family. Since the Phylerians were being kept out of the hall until it was their turn to entertain and the corpses from the first battle had been removed, he was unaware of the waiting archers. The look on his face as the arrows began thudding into him so unexpectedly was priceless.

The next two faced each other from either side of the pit. In the middle stood a wood block into which the point of a sturdy war dagger had been driven. At the king's signal both raced for the weapon, but collided and engaged in an all-out wrestling and boxing battle at some length before one finally seized the knife. There was still a heated struggle but eventually the one managed to get a grip on the other behind and brought the blade flashing around and up into his opponent's chest in a skillful thrust directly into the heart from just below the curve of the left pec.
.


.
A quick twist to burst the pulsing organ and it was over.

Another ovation, wreath and promise from the king ... then another whizzing flight of arrows cutting the air like an angry swarm of hornets.

The last two sets of warriors engaged in various forms of wrestling or hand to hand combat to the death. Then the winners met each other. In this last "championship" contest the opponents fought barehanded to one side of a bed of about fifty short, sharp stakes, each a razor tooth jutting up about eighteen inches above the ground.
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One of the young hunks eventually took a punch hard enough to stun him. His foe hauled him belly down by the ankles to the stakes, straddled his hips, and seized the dazed man's knees and drew them high, exposing his thighs, crotch, gut and belly. Carefully not to injure himself, he then edged out over the bed, dragging his captive behind him and driving the jagged points of the wood into his exposed lower body.

When he was satisfied the gut and belly were well enough pierced, he just dropped the legs, spearing in yet more stakes and driving those already stabbing the victim all the way through his flesh. The dying Phylerian was gored deeply, fatally, in a dozen places, including directly through his crotch. He writhed and screamed and bled freely for several long, delicious minutes before he finally sagged and lay limp and broken over the spiny bed of stakes on which he lay impaled.

All in all, everyone agreed that the king's entertainment had been the best such sport ever staged in Boia. The last "winner" was dispatched by his unexpected storm of speeding arrows and it was finally time for the four amateur executioners to vie for the royal gold.

5. the Contest

The competition was stiff! Glax had expected nothing less, of course. This was a moment of extreme importance to all four, far beyond the gold in the king's purse. The blood sport would have the undivided attention of the monarch and his guests and could make or break any of the contestants.

Following Glax's lead, the others had opted to go as late in the play as permitted by their drawn lots. Thus, Gordox, a royal huntsman, went first, having drawn the number four. His execution mode was pretty simple but extremely entertaining and violent.
.

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He suspended his Phylerian by shoulder ropes, hands bound, legs parted and brought out one of the great hunting hounds, a monstrous brute with heavy, powerful jaws filled with long, yellow fangs. The mastiff, more wolf than dog, was used in war as well as hunting and was an experienced maneater. Gordox had started starving it as soon as he heard of the king's contest, just in case he was lucky enough to be chosen.

Now he loosed the salivating, famished monster on the hapless prisoner who could only dangle there and scream out his lungs as the dog savaged his body, literally ripping him to shreds in its frenzied attack, ripping out and devouring chunks of his raw flesh while he still lived.

Of course, the fact that the stud's naked crotch had been smeared with raw meat just before he was put on display guaranteed where the dog's first horrible bite would come as he raced across the pit and hurtled through the air in a snarling, slobbering leap.

The man parts disappeared in a bloody froth as they were literally torn from between the warrior's thighs. It was a hell of a crowd pleaser!

Following that harsh, blood-soaked savagry, the next contestant took his sweet time and afforded the appreciative audience a deliciously protracted killing. Euthadaxes was a Greek serving in the royal guards and was known for his clever innovations. He had invented a number of effective, deadly new war machines that had served good purpose in the recent conquest of Phyleria.

For the feast he had devised a delightful bit of sport for his victim. Suspended by his shoulders on an overhead rope, lines running out from his ankles were pulled back and forth across the pit by Euthadaxes and an assistant to swing him like a giant pendulum. With each sweeping movement of the young man's bound body, a third attendant manning the overhead suspension rope lowered it by just an inch or so, bringing the captive closer to the curving razor-edged blade jutting up between his legs from below. Of course a deft handling of the ankle ropes permitted his handlers to guarantee that the first contact with the blade would be square in his hairy sex center.
.

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There was no doubt of the outcome ... it just took a wonderfully long time before the inevitable cutting began. With just a whispering mist of crimson, the first slight cut was etched across his scrotum and cock shaft, barely breaking the skin. The audience broke into an excited, pleased murmur. The next swing produced a much deeper cut with appropriate pain as well. The crowd broke into applause and delighted laughter as the first scream erupted from the condemned warrior.

After that the human pendulum was screaming continuously and incurring a new, deeper cut between his legs with each trip across the blade.

He lasted a very long time as he was slowly, steadily gutted. Several times the blade became jambed inside, jarring him to a halt. Euthadaxes and his aide had to jerk hard on the leg ropes to force him on along the sharp edge and get him swinging again.

The cut had progressed halfway up his belly and his entrails were hanging out and dragging behind him before he finally died from shock and loss of blood.

Bolnar was not that subtle. His man was secured to a post to his front and the tough, older Boian warrior simply used a red hot poker with suitably excruciating results.
.



The condemned stud's screams were demented over the half hour he suffered, especially when Bolnar slowly worked the glowing rod, reheated to a full, pulsing red, up inside his asshole in the final killing process.

By the Gods, thought Glax ruefully, That is an effective way to kill! I'll have to try that sometime soon if I survive this affair!

Then, all eyes turned to Glax with interest and anticipation. Everyone knew the special nature of this contest and that Glax's very life was on the line with the unprectable king. He knew what they were thinking ... this had better be a good show!

Glax had a secret or two.

On one of his trading trips his father had brought back as a guest a small, older man with slanting eyes and yellowish skin who spoke with a strange lilting accent. He said he came from a great land far to the east. His father hoped to open a trading relationship with this eastern empire, awed at the wondrous goods the wanderer and his small caravan carried with them, including new metals, spices, woods and beautifully cut gemstones. There was cloth of a shining, smooth softness but amazing strength called silk, and a stimulating hot drink brewed from ground leaves of a plant called cha, or tea.

The foreigner's fascinating presence for several months was well-known throughout Gallitza and still talked about, but even Glax's father had not been aware of the close friendship his inquisitive son had formed with the wizened chinese traveler. Something in Glax appealed to the older man and he taught him much about his strange, oriental culture. Among the lessons was the use of long, bronze needles on the human body. Adroit placement, the chinese merchant had explained patiently, could alleviate pain. However, they could also be placed so as to create unspeakable agony and were a favored tool of the torturers of the emperor in far-off Cathay.

And that was the part that fascinated young Glax. He demanded knowledge on just how to accomplish that and the teacher patiently trained him. When he departed, his mentor left the boy with a beautifully lacquered chest of aromatic cedar containing a dozen of the versatile needles that could, allegedly, invoke heaven or hell as the puncturer desired.

His Phylerian stallion, the last of his breed still living, was placed on his knees and his arms bound up over his head. Glax and Jovan settled before him and opened the case. The man looked with puzzled curiosity at the first of the bronze needles that Jovan drew forth and handed to Glax.

Glax positioned the point carefully at a site on the groin within the coils of the pubic thatch just to one side of the genitals. He pressed until it broke the skin and then fed it on in until three inches were buried. The prisoner gasped, his eyes widened, and his body shuddered in deep contractions that corded his muscles beautifully beneath his tawny skin. A firey burning sensation raged up from his loins and seemed to grip him from head to toe.
.


Almost instantly, Glax had taken control of his prisoner's big body and invoked diabolic pain.

The depth of the man's distress was so clear that the king's party became silent and stared down, mesmerized as Glax inserted a second needle on the opposite side of the groin. The Phylerian bucked against his wrist restraints, writhing in horrible suffering. He made pig-like grunts and groans as he fought to cope with the excruciating torment.

Wonderful! Glax exulted. It's working exactly as Lin Pi Yang explained!

The third and fourth needles were slowly skewered through the man's balls. Two more went sideways through his pecs beneath his nipples. A carefully chosen site in each upper, inner thigh was punctured and the man almost went into convulsions. In a devestating attack on key nerve points, two of the needles were pressed into the lower belly, just below the navel to either side, virtually paralyzing the muscular Phylerian.

A single needle was driven into the granite curve of the man's cockroot behind his balls. This piercing actually had a purpose other than pain. The stimulation of the nerves here caused the Phylerian to come to a furious, throbbing, involuntary erection, to the amazed delight of the drooling audience.

The crowd had never seen a man undergoing such exquisite, calculated torture! Glax was playing and controlling the body as if it were a finely tuned musical instrument. Nor had they ever witnessed so heroic and powerful a performance by a man under torture. The warrior had emitted grunts and groans and his face was a masked of grimacing agony, but he had not yet screamed!

That left the terrible twelfth needle.

Glax had forced the cock into steely hardness for a reason. He took the rod in hand and pressed the point of the needle to its head. He drove it in and began spitting the organ down its length, not within the piss canal but in the flesh just to its side. The effect, as the chinaman had predicted, was beyond any man's ability to withstand.

The captive lost it. His screams exploded and echoed in demented waves around the dining hall. Glax and Jovan stepped away and watched the show as the warrior's self-control washed away.

The powerful applause that began and quickly became thunderous was as much for the brave Phylerian as for his torturers. He had broken, finally, but only after withstanding torment that no other man present could have sustained and they all knew it.

After allowing the man to suffer for what he deemed a sufficient interval, Glax moved to end the drama. The man had earned a quick, merciful end to his agony and the terrible shaming of his proud spirit that came from having been broken.

Glax unsheathed a razor-edged broadsword and positioned behind his suffering victim. There were gasps of startled disbelief and even dismay. The boy had done an incredibly good job in the innovative torture of the Phylerian captive. The dreadful needles were a stroke of genius. But now, instead of a good, clean kill, he was going to attempt an unsecured beheading with the prisoner positioned all wrong! It would be sloppy and amateurish and he might even require multiple strokes, an unforgivable faux pas.

What could Glax be thinking?

Even Jovan was on edge. He knew of Glax's skill with a blade better than the others but realized there was real risk involved here. It was an all or nothing gamble and he sucked in a tense breath and held it. He shuddered as he glanced at the king and saw the puzzled, disapproving frown on the monarch's face.

With his arms bound above him, the Phylerian's head was partially blocked. The stroke might well be deflected and there was no curvature to the back of the neck. Worse, the man was free to writhe around and a wrong last minute move could lead to a gruesome but non-fatal stroke or, worse, one leaving the partially severed head sagging awry. Beheading in the Boian art was supposed to be clean and skillful, sending the head rolling away through the air, tumbling, to land several feet away. Anything less would subject the bladesman to deep scorn and disdain.

In Glax's situation, it would doubtless be fatal!

Actually Glax was not really concerned. His other secret, about to be unveiled, was that for years, mostly alone, he had practiced with the sword until he was master of the beheading stroke. Jovan had seen the skill in action with the shephard but had thought the masterful decapitation he had witnessed there had been partly just luck. He had been mistaken. There had been no element of luck at all!

Now he drew back and, without hesitation, his hand steady as a rock, brought the gleaming sword whistling forward. Just the front third of the blade carved into the neck from the side and slashed straight across. Glax had given a quick upward twist with his wrist at the last second and that directed the angle of the strike just as the head came off, sending it flying forward, free of the body. It did a complete somersault before bouncing down over five feet in front of the suddenly sagging, quivering corpse even as the blood began spurting from the stump of the neck.

The killing had been carried out so swiftly that the prisoner had not had time to even realize what was coming. The stroke was of surgical precision, slipped between the arms without even grazing them! Glax retrieved the head and speared it onto a wooden stake set behind the body.

The audience was sitting there in utterly stunned silence. They couldn't believe the perfection of what they had just witnessed. Then slowly the applause and cheering began, spread and became a riot of acclaim as every man present came to his feet.

The king himself even stood!

Jovan felt the burn in his eyes of tears, both of relief and joy.

Boiax left his table and walked down the steps into the pit to examine the placement of the needles in the dead man's flesh, then briefly examined the head on its stake, lightly stroking the soft hair with his fingers.

He looked over at Glax who was kneeling in the sand before him. The stern visage beneath the crown relaxed and transformed into a radiant smile.

"Stand before your king, Glax!"
.
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The boy rose and he found himself staring at the small leather pouch being held out to him in the royal hand.
"Take it, Glax. You are the clear champion here tonight. Well done!"
Epilogue

Glax was not at all surprised that he and Jovan received a quiet order from one of the king's courtiers not to depart the palace after the feast. They found Boaix waiting when they were lead to his bedchamber.

He proved even hotter than either youth had expected, his sexual appetite almost insatiable despite being serviced by two eager, uninhibited young bulls. To their utter amazement, he gave as well as he received and Glax found his cock being sucked by a king and, shortly, lodged deep within the royal gut as the monarch moaned and writhed in pleasure below Glax's thrusting hips.

Afterwards, Glax, somewhat emboldened, asked the question on his mind.

"Sire, was there ever a real liklihood of my losing?"
Boiax laughed.
"None! As erotic as you might look nailed to a cross, I am not so stupid as to destroy my loyal, talented supporters among the nobility just on a whim. Especially ones as attractive as you two, even one who dared to mentally undress and molest his king during a public procession! I was curious to see how far your trust went, though, Glax, or if you'd risk your blond friend here. Had you not done exactly what I expected, trusting me with your life to extricate Jovan from danger, I'd have been disturbed. No harm would have come to either of you, but you'd not have been brought here."

"No, I'd have given you the prize unless you were just absolutely horrible as an executioner, in which case I'd have found an excuse to exempt you from your bet. As it happens, you won in your own right. With the crowd screaming your praises like maniacs I could have given the purse to noone else, though I will admit that you had me concerned with that beheading ploy! I could use a new chief torturer and executioner, by the way. The current man picked some deadly mushrooms in the forest by mistake and they killed him when he dined on them. Would you like the post? Jovan can assist."

"I'd be deeply honored, sire!"

Glax was genuinely delighted. Such a post appealed to him and to achieve it at his age was beyond belief!
"You will also have to move into the palace. Despite rumors, I am not wildly promiscuous or into one night encounters. I also have been without a lover since my last bedmate managed to take a Phylerian arrow through his throat in the final battle ... for which the bastards have paid dearly. You will be joining me here most nights. And do not fear that I will turn on you. I am not nearly as dangerous or volatile as I like people to believe. I have never harmed a lover even if displeased or angry with him."

"May I ask, sire...."

Jovan swallowed,
"It is doubtless a false rumor but there is widespread talk about a guardsman whom it is said shared your bed and then...."
He stopped, gulping, wondering if he had gone too far.
"... and then," the king finished, "talked about it and was crucified and burned for it?"
Jovan just nodded.
"He was no lover. He attempted to become such but we were aware he was secretly a Phylerian agent sent to assassinate me! We gave him the chance to prove his intentions while in my bed and punished him appropriately. That was another of the many reasons Phyleria has been made to suffer so severely. As it happens, I would appreciate your discrete silence about my tastes and our relationship. Or perhaps I should just have your tongues cut out to be safe!"
Both young men gulped and hastened to assure their steadfast loyalty and silence.
"Relax," the king smiled. "I happen to like your tongues just where they are."
He put his mouth to Jovan's and more than proved that statement.

****
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*

Author's Note: The Boi are an enigma. Their origins are unknown but they appear to be a very ancient people, possibly celtish. Sited in the northern Balkans in roman times, they were one of the most fierce barbarian tribes faced by the Romans in defending and expanding their empire. In the first century B.C., a king named Boiax is said to have allied his warriors with some of the germanic tribes for a drive on Rome itself that was finally halted in northern Italy after nearly a decade of bloody campaigns. Eighty to a hundred thousand men perished on both sides in the savage no-quarter battles in which the very existence of a highly terrified Rome lay in the balance.

Finally driven north of the Danube, one branch of the Boi settled to become the Bohemians ... precursors to the Czechs. Another likely migrated east into Ukraine and Russia and, ruthless warriors, eventually established dominance over the primitive tribes there as a ruling elite ... the Boyars. That landed class of petty nobles played a pivotal role in the developing Russian empire for most of its existence until their power, weakened by purges under Ivan the Terrible, was ruthlessly broken by Tsar Peter the Great early in the eighteenth century.