Kielaad was dragging his feet by the time he was done settling the horses for the night. He cursed his own big mouth for telling Father to go and visit with his old friend and let him care for feeding the animals after Father had brushed them down. He was given directions to the Apprentice Chambers which were, according to Father, reached by means of stairs in a turret off the back of the main tower of the keep. His father and Master Lurian had gone in the opposite direction, talking of ales before dinner and they were soon out of the boy's hearing range.
He found the turret and the stairs and started climbing slowly. He was beginning to feel dizzy from the circular ascent when he came upon a door, but when he tried to open it, he found that it was locked, so he felt forced to keep climbing. The only other door in the tower led onto the battlement at the top. The boy was amazed by how far he could see but he was glad that no one was with him to see how he started shaking when he looked down and realized how far from the ground he was. Jothian Keep was built on the precipice of a great canyon in a curve of the Western Mountains. The front gates of the keep might have been at ground level, but the turret Kielaad found himself atop was jutting out over the canyon. The ground that might have been fifty feet below him at the front of the castle was several thousand feet away from the parapet he was looking over.
The small boy sank to his knees after looking down into the abyss. He sat on the floor of the battlement for a moment while he waited for the world to stop spinning. His young body ached as he entered the stair turret once more. After the shock of crevasse, and given his exhaustion, Kielaad opted to crawl down the stairs on his hands and knees backwards. The lack of a bannister or railing of any kind might have influenced his decision as well.
"What ARE you doing?"
Kielaad turned his face to see the older apprentice glaring at him from the landing where the other door was located. "Is that our room?" he asked ignoring the other boy's question as the answer should have been fairly obvious he thought.
"It is MY room that I am told I must share with you, farm spawn," the older boy sneered.
"I have done you no harm, nor do I seek to," Kielaad stated flatly as he turned around and sat on the stairs for a rest where he was almost eye level with the bigger boy. "Can we not be friends?"
"Friends? You think I want to be friends with a stinking, sniveling pile of horse dung that seeks to usurp my position and thwart my studies?" Corbri snarled. "Not likely, young snot."
"I only stink because I have had no chance to bathe while travelling to get here," Kielaad snapped. "I am not sniveling, either you great toad. If you must know, I went to the top of the turret and looked down at the great canyon below…."
"How stupid of you," Corbri said with an eyeroll. "You look out from a battlement, not down. Any fool knows that. You're quite lucky to have not fallen to your death, or rather I'm unlucky you didn't."
"I ask nothing of you, why are you so cruel?"
"You have no idea of cruelty, little dungball."
"Were you beaten for showing the signs of your gifts? Did your own father call you an infidel and threaten to have you killed by your village guard? Were you forced to leave the only home you have ever known because no one there wanted you? Did you dream of your grandmother's death and then be forced to watch it happen because no one would believe you? I asked for NONE of this, you overgrown, pompous swine. If I could have been just a farm boy tending the fields and the animals, I would gladly have chosen so. I was not given that choice though. So now I'm here in a big, scary castle with a man who cursed my family farm as my teacher and a jealous jackanape with whom I must share quarters and all I want is a bath and a bed," Kielaad yelled out angrily. When he was done he was shaking once more and wiping tears from his face. Both boys were startled then by the ravenous growl from an empty little tummy.
"Bed and bath is all, is it? Methinks you might want food before the bed, and it seems your guts agree, little man," Corbri snorted. He then started to laugh. Kielaad wanted to be angry still, but the moment was gone and soon he was giggling along with his companion. "Come then, mighty warrior mouse. Wash the stench of the stables from you and then we will find our Master and dine on the finest foods you will have ever tasted." He offered Kielaad a hand to help him up from his seat on the stairs. "By the powers, snot, your stench is even worse up close. Good thing I mistakenly poured too much soap into your bath." Kielaad started to snap an angry response, but he saw a smirk on the older boy's face. "My first bath here was the first time I had too much soap as well. I thought perhaps you would like it as much as I did."
"You were just being mean to me to see if I had any backbone," Kielaad said as he looked up at his companion.
"You're a right smart lad," Corbri smiled. "I reckon we'll get along after all, young snot."
"You just wait, I'll have a name for you too… as soon as I think of one," Kielaad grumped, but then gasped as he entered their room to see a giant tub made of a shiny metal against one wall. Inside the tub and overflowing it in practically every direction was a veritable mountain of white fluffy bubbles.
"Well, what are you waiting for? If we don't hurry, Old Luri will have eaten all the best bits of the roast," Corbri announced. "Are you still so young you need help undressing?" he asked as he walked closer and started stripping the smaller boy.
"I can do it," Kielaad protested and squirmed but he was soon bare as birth. He walked up to the tub and then looked back over to his companion. "Well… I might need a little help getting in. This thing is taller than I am," he said with a bit of a blush.
"Such a chore you are turning out to be, snot," Corbri groaned but he didn't seem to be too put out. He grabbed the smaller boy under the arms and just before he dropped Kielaad into the foamy cloud, he tickled him in each armpit.
"No…. No tickles," Kielaad squealed and giggled and squirmed just before disappearing into the suds with a muffled splash. "You shall pay for that attack upon my person, you churlish oaf," the little boy declared in a huff with his arms folded across his chest in displeasure, once he had tunneled his way through the bubbles to glare at his roommate. The effect would have been much more intimidating had he not had a blob of the foam which strongly resembled a jester's cap resting on the top of his head.
"Take your vengeance after you have rid yourself of the stench of horse, little man," Corbrin told him. "Of a truth, I would wager the horse smells better than you."
"I'm sorry," Kielaad said as he sat down quickly into the sudsy tub and started scrubbing. "I had wished we might become friends, but I have ruined that with being a filthy little urchin."
"Urchin you may be, and little, but perhaps you aren't so filthy that I cannot bear your company, snot. Do not weep for your forlorn fate quite yet. Wait for that until I have soundly defeated you in your lessons," Corbrin grumped as he reached over and started helping the little one scrub his hair. "Pray do not bandy it about, but I might perhaps have been a little hopeful that someday another apprentice might come to save me from the sometimes dreary company of our old master."
A short time later, the boys entered the dining hall to find their elders already eating as expected. "Take seats, my boys, and eat your fill," Lurian commanded. "What do I see before me, one apprentice and one babe? What do you wear, Kielaad?"
"I beg forgiveness if I offend, Great Master, but my clothes smelled as bad as the rest of me, so my delicate nosed companion forbad me putting them back on after my bath," Kielaad told him. "He threw my garments into the tub that I had just gotten out of and said that they should soak until the morning to be rid of the smell of travel and horses."
"That I can well understand, my boy, but that doesn't answer the question," the wizard pointed out. "What do you wear now?"
"It is a spare shirt of my own, Master," Corbrin answered. "I gave it that he should not have to wander the castle bare."
"A most thoughtful gesture, Corbri," the other old man said with a smile. "I'm sure it is much appreciated is it not, my son?"
"Yes, Father," Kielaad agreed. "It is most comfortable and softer than any shirt I have ever known." The small boy ran to his father and raised his arms so that the old man could feel the garment he wore. None noticed the glint in Corbrin's eye as this exposed the child's rump to him once more.
"Eat hearty, my pupils," Lurian called out once more. "Tonight is a feast of homecoming for my old friend and his son. We will eat until we burst, and drink until we… until we…."
"Until he forgets what he was saying and looks foolish in front of his new charge," Corbrin whispered into Kielaad's ear. The small boy giggled, but joined his companion at the table and dug into what had rightly been called the best meal he had ever eaten.
After the sumptuous meal, a very sleepy boy was carried back to his new bed by his fellow apprentice. He was mostly unaware of the older boy's roaming hands under his oversized shirt. He was wide awake later on, however, as he was taught the things to do for his elder apprentice to "seal their bond." He was sore in places and in ways that he had never dreamed of the next morning as Corbrin cautioned him to keep their special bond a secret from the old men.
"I taught you to please me because I care for you, my little one," he crooned as he stepped over to Kielaad's bed once again. "If you care for me, as well, you will make no mention of the joys we share with one another away from their old eyes. Now, show me once again what I taught you last night. You did quite well for your first time, but you need practice, just as with our magic, so that you get better and better at it."
"You care for me?" the small boy questioned hopefully.
"Yes, and allowing you to pleasure me in this way is how I show you that care," the teen answered. "Now, speak no more, your mouth has better uses for the moment."
"You seem unnaturally quiet this morning, Kielaad," his father observed at breakfast that morning. "Not that I object. Luri, what were you giving me to drink last night?"
"It was not what that was the problem, old friend, it was how much, and pray do not speak so loudly," the wizard complained. "Corbri, lad, methinks you shall teach our new young pupil what he must learn today. I must return to my chambers for solitary meditations."
"A commendable notion," Tallious agreed. "As I recall, there is no lack of mischief to get into for young minds and hands. Pray, do not destroy the keep while your master and I sleep off the ill tempers of our feast last night." As he was leaving the room, he added, "Kielaad, do not forget to care for our steeds today. They will need fed and brushed whether we ride or not."
"I will care for them, Father," the small boy assured him. "Rest your weary bones."
"Master Lurian will sleep through the day, no doubt, good sir," Corbrin started. "Shall we come for you at the noon hour for lunch, or will you rest as he does?"
"If I feel the need to dine, I shall make my own way, boys," Tallious moaned. "Make peace with one another and grow the bond of your friendship," he instructed.
"Father knows?" Kielaad gasped as the old man staggered away.
"Was he not the apprentice with our master in his day?" Corbrin returned. "You may be sure he knows, but he will not speak of it more than this, as the bond is sacred to the first apprentice and the second. Much of our powers are meant to be kept in secret, young one. As you learned yourself, there are many that hate us for what we are, for we are stronger than they and rightly to be feared."
"The father of my birth feared me?"
"Yes, and sought to break and destroy you by throwing you from your home," Corbrin assured him. "He knew not that we cannot be broken by those without the powers. He knows deep in his heart that someday you will return to destroy him and that whole village for spurning the gifts that you and your second Father could have bestowed upon them."
"Would it not be better to just leave them in their ignorance, that the day might come when they learn what they have lost on their own?"
"No, those that spurn us must be destroyed in order to teach others not to do the same," Corbrin said angrily. "We are meant to rule this realm, Kielaad. Why else would we have such powers? Mark my words, I will rule this world someday. My word will be law for all, as it is now for you." He looked over at his young companion with a sinister smile. "You are mine for the day, little one. Take care of your vile beasts quickly, and then return to our chambers. I would have pleasures this whole day that our bond grow stronger as your Father has said."
"Yes, Corbrin," the small boy answered. He then yelped in pain as the older boy smacked his head.
"In the absence of Lurian, I am your master and you will call me thus," Corbrin snarled.
"Yes, master, I beg your pardon," Kielaad muttered quickly, still rubbing his head and sniffling as a tear or two ran down his cheek.
"Peace, little one," Corbrin said as he gently kissed the spot he had just struck. "If you fail not, I will have no need to strike you."
"Yes, master, I shall do better," Kielaad told him quickly.
"See that you do," Corbrin warned. "Now, go and see to those horrid smelly beasts. I wish not to wait for your pleasures any longer than I must. Try not to stink of them as much as you did when you arrived when you return to our chambers."