.. | the walls of astyanax | chapter 10
When they entered, Achatës shoved a cup of something in his hands almost immediately, giving him a look that said, Drink it. He then went round and greeted the men he knew, lingering with each one and making conversation among the loud banter. Avicenna sipped his drink, his long lost wine, and watched the Spartan work. It was clear he was quite popular with all the men he knew, and with the charm of a handsome smile he could almost too easily gain the favor of those he didn't. It seemed almost too easy, the way he slipped in among them and became one of their own. As Avicenna listened he discerned that the part Achatës played was that a wealthy landowner, a rightful citizen, an acomplished poet and musician. And he came off so well it was almost believable to the Athenian himself, as if it was some secret life Achatës had hidden from him.
A proper slave, Avicenna held tightly to Achatës' arm, partly in character but also partly in apprehension. He could feel eyes upon him in a way he'd never felt before and he was reminded of Pyrrhus, and their first conversation in the stables at his home. He didn't like it; their stares, their low talk.
The room was hot and musky too, filled with the scent of wine and feast. He drank his wine nervously as if it were water. Something about the tangy air and thick atmosphere was having an affect on him, quite similar to the baths and the smell of persimmon oil. It made him lightheaded, and he tightened his grip on Achatës' arm even more.
His muse was broken when Achatës finished his greetings and led him to an empty divan. The Spartan, still casually conversing with his nearest neighbor, reclined on the couch and lavish pillows and pulled Avicenna down like a doll to lay against him. Achatës' bare chest was moist with sweat and his voice as he spoke was a low rumble against Avicenna's ear. He had stretched out comfortably with a hand on the small of Avicenna's back, as if this was a position they laid in all the time. Meanwhile Avicenna could do nothing but lay quietly against him, finding comfort in his scent and watching the other guests. There were perhaps fifteen others, most of whom had someone lying with them in much the same manner. Avicenna counted three girls among them, each looking far too used to the situation.
As the men chatted on, Avicenna busied himself with trying to copy the others' expressions and the languidness of their bodies as they lay. He draped a lazy arm over Achatës' belly instead of having it tucked tightly beneath him and worked to relax his body's stiffness. Almost as if in reward, Achatës stroked his hair a few times, never missing a beat in playing his part. But he was busy conversing, and the gesture seemed to be ordinary and nonchalant.
However, those simple strokes had another meaning and he knew it. It was almost punishment that the Spartan should take advantage of their situation and feel free to touch him so. The thought that Achatës could be mocking him made his anger rise into the flush of his cheeks, but he could do nothing about it. So, unable to pull away or defend himself, Avicenna took refuge in his wine.
Some time later, Avicenna suddenly noticed that the chamber was too hot and the thick, strong wine left a sticky taste in his mouth. His cup had been refilled three times already by his gracious master but now it was empty again. Worst yet, he was vaguely aware that since his belly had not been properly filled in days, the wine was going straight to his head. He looked around, his muddled brain trying to figure out a way to get more wine himself, since the selfish Spartan had not noticed his cup was empty yet again.
He still lay comfortably against Achatës, having perfected the look and likeness of a slave used to lying with his master. It seemed that all the slaves did nothing but look at each other, certainly never partaking in the room's conversations, while their rich masters continued with their own discourse. It was like the room was split into two levels.
Avicenna still wanted wine. He was not so befuddled as to come out and ask for it, so instead he slid up Achatës' chest to rest more face to face and took the cup right out of his master's hand. He drank greedily; felt it spill down his chin. And before he really realized what he'd done, he heard laughter from those who had seen it, and Achatës, his face not a finger's width away from his own, looked quite amused instead of angry. The wine forgotten, Avicenna looked down into the Spartan's eyes, caught there suddenly like an animal in a trap. He couldn't bring himself to look away, though as a slave, he knew he should have.
But Achatës didn't reprimand him either when as a master, he should have. Instead, he simply laid there and held Avicenna's gaze, to all others bemusedly humoring a mischievous familiar. But there was more to that look than what others saw; even Avicenna's wine-ridden mind could feel that. Through the din of the room, he heard someone near them make a comment and it was followed by laughter, Achatës' included. But the Spartan's chuckle faded as he reached a hand up and with his thumb wiped away the wine Avicenna had spilled down his chin.
More friendly laughter.
Avicenna stared down at him, looking surprised by the gesture despite himself. As a slave he shouldn't look surprised, rather, he should have expected it. But through his haze he felt fear. It was real, this was happening. In a little while people would pair or join off and he would be expected to do the same. The moment was at hand and he could do nothing but stare, feel nothing but the body beneath him.
What was he scared about? Achatës had said he wouldn't do that to him, but what would he do? He shouldn't have drank, but to not do so would have aroused suspicion. Avicenna was still frozen there as it all went through his head. He didn't even notice that it had already begun, that the room had quieted from conversation to something else, and he was the one who'd started it.
He looked at Achatës' lips, so close to his own. It would be so easy to merely lean down and touch his own to them. He felt the Spartan's hand run up the back of his neck into his hair right before he realized he'd actually done it, that his open mouth was on Achatës' and that his tongue was not where it should be. The sheer sexuality that the man beneath him suddenly embodied came full force to his brain; only now he just wasn't thinking clear enough about much of anything to stop himself.
Achatës' hands ran down his back and backside, roughing up his robes a bit and revealing his flesh to the open air. Avicenna didn't care. He was remembering the dream he'd had after his fall, when he'd felt a grown man's touch again and how the vision had turned to someone else.
He closed his eyes and enveloped Achatës' head in his arms in a desperate attempt to pull him closer. The Spartan's hands went down his sides again and this time underneath to pull his tunic up. Avicenna pulled his knees up to straddle Achatës' waist with a small groan in his throat. He could feel the open air on his flesh, then Achatës' hands covering him again. His pulse throbbed in his temples, in his throat, his mouth, fingers. All the way down into the pit of his belly and lower, where he suddenly felt that hardness against his inner thigh, matching his own. Powerful, demanding.
It stopped him cold.
As if coming out of a drifting madness, Avicenna broke away with a gasp and looked around, suddenly seeing and hearing nothing but sex when just a moment ago he'd been so blind to their surroundings. No one took any notice of them; they were all preoccupied. Even Tmolus at the opposite end of the room had a pretty girl attending him.
With wide eyes he looked back down at Achatës. The Spartan was staring up at him, his breathing labored through his open mouth. His lips were moist and swollen from the ferocity of Avicenna's kisses; his eyes were bright and hard and challenging. Frustrated.
Avicenna suddenly felt close to tears in looking at him. He could still feel Achatës' passion against him and his own hands still rested on the Spartan's bare chest. Achatës' hands had all but disrobed him and made his tunic just a twist of fabric around him. How had it come to this? It was the power that had frightened him; the overwhelming urge to give himself up to this man when there'd only been one other before whom he'd wished to lose himself in. And this was not him! Philip was dead, it had been a dream, and a fleeting one at that. He was suddenly faced with cruel reality; that it was Achatës lying beneath him, not Philip, that they were two different men, and he had no right to feel the same for both of them like that.
Avicenna felt the heat of his tears stinging his eyes, which began to fall before he could wipe them away. That spurred Achatës into action. He swept his slave up in his arms and smoothly carried him out, thankfully and miraculously unnoticed and carried him through the turns of the house until he reached a room he knew. Kicking the door open, he entered swiftly and all but threw Avicenna on the bed. He then slammed the doors, bolted them and leaned back with a great sigh, putting his face in his hands.
When he looked up Avicenna lay in the middle of the bed, crying. Achatës watched him curl as tight as he could into a ball there, his shoulders shaking and his sobs loud and tortured.
The Spartanís anger and frustration ebbed in watching the youth cry like that. Even in his passionate younger days, no one had ever gotten him so worked up like that boy just had, and to so be denied gratification? It was a test of will he hadn't passed. Anger and frustration had made him storm out of that room to the privacy of this one, an act he would probably have to explain tomorrow. Anger and frustration over why and how Avicenna could change so quickly, like day and night. He'd thought those feelings mutual and while, true, they both were full of wine, he'd felt sure that Avicenna would not have been so passionate about it if he hadn't wanted to. On the sake of the gods, he had started it!
Achatës took another great breath in an attempt to calm himself, still shaken by the effect Avicenna had had on him. If they hadn't stopped there, surely he would not have had the strength to stop after that, no matter what promises he'd made. He stared at the boy on the bed, feeling a great rift between them. It didn't help that Avicenna's clothes were still tangled about his body, revealing soft, pale flesh, virtually untouched and innocent and so vastly unreachable.
"I didn't, I can't," came the soft moan, almost as if in apology. His voice was heart-wrenching. "He... he..." his hiccupping sobs wouldnít allow more.
Achatës ventured to crawl on the bed, slowly as if the boy would run from him. He knew what Avicenna meant; he'd long suspected it. The boy was so confused in his head that he couldn't even distinguish between present and past emotion; he was treating them the same, holding out for that one man to fill the void. In realizing that, all of Avicenna's past behaviors suddenly began to make sense.
"I can't be him, Cenna," he said softly. "I can't."
"You were," came the almost inaudible answer.
Is that what had happened? Had he lost himself that much? Could the boy not even tell the difference anymore?
Achatës shook his head. "No, Cenna," he answered sternly.
Avicenna suddenly uncurled himself and caught hold of Achatës, his face streaked with tears and the pain Achatës could feel. "Achatës," he hissed, grabbing hold of his tunic with white knuckles. He looked as if he wanted to say more but the words wouldn't come. Instead he just bent his forehead to the Spartanís chest. Achatës enveloped him in his arms.
"I don't want to be that to you, don't you see?" he said, hearing the torment in his own voice. "I want to be your lover, Cenna, and I want you to know the difference!"
Avicenna melted to him, his arms coming about Achatës' neck, his face buried in his hair. He had lost so much weight since they'd first met in that cell and Achatës could feel it more now than ever, now that Avicenna was at his weakest moments, physically. Mentally.
"Please," he whispered. Despite his misgivings Achatës felt his body quicken at the very tone in his voice. "Achatës," Avicenna begged again softly, holding him tighter.
The Spartan knew that the boy had such a need for physical reassurance that he wasn't thinking clearly anymore, if ever he had been before. The kind of assurance Pyrrhus's embrace could not have given him. No, a youth himself still, Avicenna craved someone strong, in mind and body both; someone who could take up that role of the only man in his life had left. Someone to love him, teach him. Faced with such a need, Achatës' resolve faltered dangerously- Perhaps Avicenna knew exactly what he needed right now. To be held and comforted. Maybe the rest should come later, when they both were thinking more clearly...
As if sensing Achatës' hesitation, Avicenna leaned up and kissed him, his hands grasping the Spartan's robes and pulling them open. When their lips met this time, it was softer, less rushed. But Avicenna's manner was still the embodiment of his craving, his need for this physical comfort. He arched against Achatës, pressing himself against him and encouraging the Spartan to lie back. As Achatës' head hit the pillows there was something nagging in his head. He stared blankly up at the ceiling while, with the thoroughness of a lover, Avicenna kissed his lips and his throat, lingering here and there and making soft noises that otherwise should have driven the Spartan mad.
It was almost enough to distract Achatës from what he felt was wrong about this. Almost.
Achatës gently pushed him away and sat up, pulling his loosened robes to cover himself. Avicenna stared at him with those deer eyes, confused and still wanting.
"It can't be that simple, Cenna," Achatës said finally, taking a deep, steadying breath. He met they boy's eyes and his first misgivings became more confirmed.
"Why?" Avicenna asked breathily.
Achatës softened his expression and said as gently as he could, "Because I want to know it's me you're thinking about."
Avicenna bowed his head without a word of denial or protest. Only, "I donít know what Iím thinking," said in a whisper and a voice rough with emotion. More tears slowly slid down his already raw cheeks as he hid his face in humiliation now, and shame.
Achatës reached out and pulled him close again, giving him the only comfort he could of warm arms and a soft voice. Avicenna's lean frame shook as his sobs grew strong, fueled now by the disgrace of rejection. Achatës could do nothing but encourage him to put all he could into it. The more Avicenna could let go of now, the better. And the more exhausted he made himself, the better he would sleep.
"Sometimes it's like he's still here. I can still feel him," Avicenna moaned softly, his voice muffled against Achatës' shoulder. "He won't leave me alone-"
Achatës stroked his head and remained quiet. He could feel Avicenna's hands clenched into fists against his chest.
"But I wanted him to be with me. I never wanted him to leave," the boy whispered. He pulled away to glance quickly up into Achatës' eyes. "Don't-" he said with surprising strength, "Don't judge me for that."
Achatës pulled him close again and brushed his cheek against Avicenna's hair. "I don't judge you," he promised. "But I hate him for it, what heís done to you," he said solemnly.
The boy didn't reply. Instead, he nuzzled closer and relaxed a little more, his tears having died down somewhat. He heaved a great, ragged sigh. "I do too," he whispered.
It was some hours later that Avicenna finally drifted off to sleep in the Spartan's arms, pressed firmly against him with arms tucked up to his chest. Achatës lay awake for some time, staring up at the ceiling and absently stroking the boy's hair. He knew he should sleep; he was just as tired as Avicenna, but all that had passed still weighed too heavily on his mind. The emotional turmoil Avicenna had just suffered through should have been a catharsis for both of them, and yet Achatës couldn't feel relieved just yet. Not until he could be sure that Avicenna would recover. But how long would that take?
And how would it be in the morning? Would Avicenna revert to his former cold and surly self? Would these intimate moments between them make him even more bitter? Avicenna shifted against him, sighing like a child.
Achatës resumed his stroking. It had been a mistake to come here; he should have avoided Mycenae altogether. But how could he have known? And yet the other half of him was thinking that this night had been desperately needed. Avicenna had needed to let go of his past and move on, or else he would always be the way Achatës had known him- aloof, even hostile. Wanting contact but afraid of it at the same time.
The boy against him shifted again in the comfort of sleep. Achatës rolled over and pulled him close, wanting nothing more than to be the only thing Avicenna needed to be himself again.
Tmolus woke them in the morning, saving them for the time being from awkward words alone together.
"Morning, scholar," he said with a happy grin.
Achatës rubbed his eyes, aware of Avicenna's weight against him. The boy was awake, but in his slave role he remained silent and still, staring up at Tmolus. The old man had thrown open the muslin drapery that covered the entrance to the outside peristyle garden. The sun came streaming in.
"Felt the need for a private room, hm?" he said with a wink.
Achatës gave his best sleepy smile and kept it polite, though his patience with this place was wearing thin. "You know me," he said groggily.
Avicenna's arms were wrapped around one of his, almost possessively. Achatës heard his stomach growl. He gently shook himself loose as a master would so that he could dress properly. He did so as fast as he could while the old man chattered on. Despite his reluctance to put even a few feet of separation between Avicenna and himself, he knew also that it wouldn't do for the boy to replace one idol with another. He would have to be careful to let Avicenna recover first before attempting anything else between them.
Quickly lacing his sandals, Achatës changed a glance back at the boy on the bed. Avicenna had sat upright, his hair disheveled and his robes still a twist of fabric around his limbs, which he was dutifully trying to unknot. Hours of cathartic weeping had taken their toll on his reddened eyes and flushed cheeks. He still looked so tired, so defeated.
Even still, however, Tmolus didn't seem to notice. Truly, how often did one look directly at a slave?
"Come, we'll go into the town for a meal," the old man said, watching Achatës secure his tunic and robes. "Your boy can stay here and bathe with Phylas' group."
Achatës gave a polite smile. "I'd rather him with me, actually. Last time he got into a bit of trouble, if you know what I mean." He said it with a wink and the old man laughed.
"Very well," he said. "Come meet us in the yards." With that, he was gone.
When they were alone, Achatës hesitated a moment before turning to look at Avicenna. At his gaze the boy raised his chin with a little of his old flair.
"How are you feeling?" the Spartan asked.
"Alive," Avicenna answered, somewhat deadpan.
Satisfied with that answer for the moment, Achatës reached out his hand to help him from the bed. "Come on," he said. "There's a basin here." It was almost second nature to try and help him up but not beyond his notice that the boy actually was letting him touch him at all. Achatës gently patted Avicenna's face dry after he'd washed and took the opportunity to get a good look at him. "You look worn out," he commented. With the palm of his hand he smoothed the boy's hair back. Though it was impossible to know what was going on inside his head, Achatës supposed it was rather a good sign that he was responsive at all.
Without a word, however, Avicenna backed away a little. He fixed his wrinkled tunic as best he could and swathed himself in Achatës' outer robe that he had picked up from the floor. The Spartan remained where he was, silently brooding but ever watchful.
"Achatës," Avicenna said softly, snapping him out of it. He looked up but Avicenna wasn't facing him. "I want to leave this place."
An hour later they were on the road again, packed with fresh supplies, a new, younger mount for Achatës and a heavy silence. Achatës had given Tmolus some excuse as to their speedy return to the road, but had parted with good graces. If he ever had need for disguise again, he would be safe here.
Avicenna avoided looking at his companion. As the hours went by his head became clearer and clearer. He hadn't gone mad in the middle of the night, as it had probably seemed to Achatës. Rather the thick wine, his weariness and hunger and the hopelessness of their situation had made him snap. It was as good an explanation as any but one that even Avicenna couldn't quite convince himself of. And if he didn't even believe it, how was he to persuade Achatës? In any case, thank the gods it had only been the Spartan who was there to see it.
Avicenna rubbed his tender eyes and berated himself. Who was he trying to fool? That excuse certainly didn't explain what had happened between them at the symposium. With last night dawning as possibly the darkest moment of his life since Philip had died, Avicenna realized that the real truth was now out in the open. Achatës knew his deepest secrets. What would he do with that now?
He watched Achatës who rode with his eyes forward but looked as if he were somewhere else in his head.
The Spartan had refused him last night; that was where most of Avicenna's humiliation stemmed from. But he was grateful too of Achatës' good sense. Where would he have been this morning if they had made love? Once again, his companion had proved far more levelheaded than he and it frightened Avicenna that he no longer felt the old familiar bitterness about such things anymore. He was glad for the Spartan's forsight.
"There's a river that runs down the road a bit if you want to stop and rest," Achatës suddenly said.
Avicenna shook his head. "No, I'm all right," he said softly.
The Spartan just shrugged and didn't say more. It was now as if their roles were completely reversed; Achatës seemed more than happy with the silence in which Avicenna had once taken refuge.
When they camped off the road that night Achatës prepared their frugal meal in silence. Avicenna sat a bit away from the fire they had made, his knees drawn up to his chest. He was watching the Spartan work, looking him over as he had done a thousand times and seeing something new with every glance. There were new aspects to his anatomy, those Avicenna now knew what it felt like to touch. Rock hard belly, the planes of his chest, the gentle contours of his ribs.
Avicenna closed his eyes, feeling the weight of how much he had changed since the beginning of this journey, as if he wore a new skin. He was thinking of Pyrrhus, and wondering if the slave boy would notice the change in him or if he would be able to hide it. And with such transformations taking place within him so noticably, Avicenna wondered, had Achatës changed at all?
Interrupting his thoughts, the Spartan came over to set down a portion in front of him. There was no exchange between them, however, as he went right back to his place by the fire to eat in silence. Avicenna stared at the food in front of him, missing his appetite and feeling shut out. By all accounts he should have been starving, but there was just no desire for food. He looked back at Achatës to see him gazing into the fire, lost again in his own thoughts as he ate.
Why was he so silent? Was he angry? Frustrated? Avicenna set his food aside. There was a time when he didn't care what the Spartan thought. But now... This silence that had plagued their trip couldn't go on, even if he had once taken comfort in it.
With determination in the set of his jaw, Avicenna crawled over to the Spartan, seeing his presence noticed by a furtive glance from the corner of an eye. After a moment or two of silence, Achatës said, "We'll reach home tomorrow, did I tell you? It'll take the day to get there, but we'll sleep in proper beds tomorrow night."
Beds, he'd said. Of course they'd sleep separate; the Spartan had women he was returning to."You should eat your food," Achatës said at length.
"I'm not hungry."
"All the same, you should eat."
Avicenna shook his head again. "I'll eat when we get there then," he answered.
From the corner of his eye he saw the Spartan shrug. Achatës wasn't going to fight him on anything it seemed, though he wished he would. At least then he would know where he stood.
He wished Achatës would notice this change in him; he didn't want the Spartan holding that image of a spoiled brat any longer. He wasn't spoiled, he hadn't gone mad. He wanted Achatës to know that his past behavior was a result of something that had been buried deep within him for so long, and now for the first time, he felt strong enough to deal with it. He felt as if all this time he'd been wandering half-asleep with the covers over his eyes, not wanting to see what was around him. This life belonged to him and he had done nothing but hide from it.
As he thought about it, Avicenna laid his chin on drawn up knees. Perhaps Achatës did feel like something had changed. Perhaps he just didn't know how to handle Avicenna anymore. He could see how his behavior would be exhausting up to now, but it didn't seem like the Spartan to give up on him just because of that.
After a while Achatës turned his head to look at him finally. "I suppose we should sleep then."
Avicenna nodded resignedly, unable to think of anything to say. Inwardly he flinched; this awkwardness was eating at his insides. Without further ado Achatës got up to spread their blankets and furs a little away from the fire. Avicenna remained where he was, beginning to wonder if he had been wrong in trying to make a silent peace between them, if indeed that was what he meant to do. Perhaps Achatës really was angry with him- Why would he be so distant all of a sudden?
Avicenna watched him lay their bedrolls out- next to one another. When the Spartan laid down, Avicenna took a moment to make himself comfortable beside him. Achatës had turned his back to him, so he did the same.
He thought about asking out right what was wrong, but decided against it. They could talk about it later. He imagined that there was also another viable reason for Achatës' sudden reticence- Now that they were so close, he was probably anxious to go home. Home to his waiting women. Avicenna wondered what that would be like.
He also wondered what it would be like not being on the road anymore, not near each other all the time. The few days that had passed seemed like an eternity, and so much had happened in that span. What was to come next?
Early the next morning, before the nightswifts had quit calling even, Achatës was up and packing their gear. He made it clear he wanted to be on the road. Avicenna helped tack up as the Spartan packed, determined today to just keep his mouth shut. Achatës' disregard of him last night had left him raw on the inside and more than a little bitter at a second humiliation. He would just keep his distance if the Spartan wanted to play that game. He still had what was left of his pride.
But the sun wasn't even at its noonday position when Avicenna finally broke the silence.
"Do you think Pyrrhus and Sybil are there?" he asked quietly amid the crunch of their horses' hooves in the gravel.
Achatës nodded his head. "If not, they should have at least sent word home."
"What about the other woman you spoke of?"
Achatës finally looked at him. "Helanike?" His tone was soft and reserved when he said her name. "I'm surprised you remember that."
Avicenna played with a patch of his horse's mane. "Your wife?" he asked finally.
"Someday," the Spartan said at length. "She's supposed to be someday."
Avicenna turned his head to look at the Spartan to find him staring off down the road before them, lost in his own thoughts. Though the expression on his face was difficult to read, there was no mistaking the rigidity in his posture and tone of voice. He didn't want to talk about it.
Well that's too bad, Avicenna found himself thinking. He had practically laid his soul bare and here the Spartan didn't even want to 'talk about it'.
"Then who is Sybil?" he asked with much of his old gusto, looking expectantly at Achatës. "Your lover?"
Achatës dropped his gaze. "You could say that," he said after a moment.
Avicenna was about to prod him again when the Spartan, surprisingly, continued. "They're sisters," he said, as if that was statement enough of the problem. They rode in silence a little longer as Avicenna chewed over this new information.
"Well, which do you love?" Avicenna asked suddenly.
"What?" Achatës stared at him, genuinely puzzled at the question that he seemed to have long ago deemed immaterial.
Avicenna looked at him pointedly. "Which one do you love? The woman you're to marry or your mistress? Because you can't say you love your betrothed or else you wouldn't have a mistress, and you can't say you love your mistress because you're not marrying her."
"I can love both," Achatës said a little roughly. He looked off into the distance. "Or neither of them."
Though he didn't let it show, Avicenna found that slightly surprising. From the interaction he had seen between the Spartan and that woman, Sybil, he had figured that there had to be something there. If not, then was he just amusing himself with her? That didn't seem like him. But what did he know? He only knew enough of the trysts of adults to know that love had little to do with anything; he wasn't foolish. His mother and father had not loved each other, nor did he love Pyrrhus. Was that it? Was the Spartan's situation like his? Did his women offer him comfort as Pyrrhus did for him? If so, what would he need such comfort for? He wasn't hurt, sad or lonely as Avicenna had been. He must have just gotten pleasure from it, this trysting with women he did not love.
For some reason, after coming to that conclusion, Avicenna couldn't sit still in his saddle, even when Patroklos began tossing his head with impatience at his fidgeting. This new realization smarted too much like the liaisons his own father had played at. Mistresses, familiars like Lysander... Things he was entitled to as a man but things that had hurt their family, or what there was of it. Was it wrong that he was jealous of anything else that took Philip's attention from him? Was it wrong then to want to be the only thing in someone's life?
He was snapped from his thoughts when Achatës suddenly halted his mount. "There it is," he said, gazing in the distance ahead of them.
Avicenna sat up in his saddle to see better the walls of a great city that lay in the hazy distance. What would it be like here? How joltingly different would it be to see his this rival state from the inside?
He followed Achatës obediently and kicked his mount to move on.
"I haven't been home in quite some time," Achatës said. "I ask that you be silent until we get into the gates of my fatherís estate. No one is to know where you're from, understand? I don't want any added attention."
Avicenna nodded, thinking that it was better to heed Achatës' wishes, even when the last time he'd been told to stay silent things had gone horribly awry. But even that had not been Achatës's fault. It would have happened eventually. Better there among strangers than anywhere else.
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