Gene's mother saw his future in terms of becoming an accountant working his way up the corporate ladder which did not fit in with his love of art. Of course young married couples love sex, but once a child comes along they grow up and concentrate on doing well. Again it did not fit in with Gene's sexuality. He wondered whether becoming a general was respectable enough, but his mother would still need to find him a suitable wife. The world he found himself in was becoming increasingly attractive. He picked up the torch.
"Supposing I wanted to stay here. Is it possible or do I have to go home?"
T/C will have to return at some stage. You will no longer be a wizard.
"Apart from a car and radio. What's T/C?"
"OK! In that case, I'd like to communicate with the troops. Is there any chance of a nice big screen, so they can watch the drone's camera."
Observation. Acceptable, but you are thinking more.
"Yes, I did learn at school. Battles were lost because bad omens rattled the troops, so a bit of magic might encourage them. The other thing is, I can say my powers are getting weaker while I'm here. I don't know … the stronger my powers seem now …"
Understood. Career options here would be improved. Can show but cannot advise.
Resting soldiers watched curiously as Gene set up. The crowd got bigger and gasped as the drone took off and flew off towards the coast. A ghostly screen appeared showing a map and in the corner a view from the drone. Gene looked around wondering whether his drama teacher knew anything about an audience like this.
"I'm not a fighter." Gene said, "If I drew a sword, I'd probably stab myself in the foot, but generals need intelligence. When the pirates land, we'll know where, when and in what force. General Yousif will lead you into battle, but when the fighting starts, he'll be the best informed general in history."
Gene was surprised when the soldiers, including Yousif, roared with laughter, so he continued, "I've been told the worst part is waiting. I can't change that, but at least you know what we're waiting for. I've been thinking about the enemy. The longer he stays at sea the more supplies he needs to feed his troops. I don't know how likely a storm is, but they scatter fleets and can make soldiers very seasick."
Gene paused again, then concluded, "The pirates think it will take the entire army to guard this coast, and the North is undefended. They're going to be so disappointed when they learn the truth."
Gene was rewarded with loud cheers and excited yells, but it fell silent as he said, "And now it's time to get bored while we watch our enemy struggle."
Yousif joined him and led him into the tent, "You are a general. They're ready to swim out to those ships for you."
"I've picked up bits." Gene said, "It's still scary, but it's easier when you know. Your imagination doesn't play tricks."
"You've had an interesting education. Mine says a good general is the first to kill an enemy as he leads his men. You've told yours you can't do that, yet they still trust you."
"If I can be honest? Neither of us are generals. It takes years of campaigning to learn. You'll be a brilliant field officer but are we planning it right?"
"Yes, we are. Father used to say we're living on borrowed time. You're giving us a chance to win. Think about it. If we lose, we're no worse off but if we win, it'll be years before anyone dares to attack us again. We'd better see if Malcolm is destroying your magic."
There was nothing to see except a white dot on the map crawling across the blue sea. The TV was equally featureless but everyone was watching intently. Suddenly the ships came into camera view, and the watching soldiers gasped as Gene guided the drone down to take a closer look.
"OK, Trey. Let's have the naval experts. It looks as if they've turned."
"I reckon they'll make landfall about here." Trey said, and the two soldiers nodded with one adding, "They're trying for one of those villages. I reckon that one, but if they made landfall near this one then sailed up the coast, the village would raise the alarm. They could wear ship, stand out to sea, and we'd have to wait to see where they make landfall again. Can you imagine how our army would be worn down without our wizard-general?"
"Yousif. What numbers will we have by morning?" Gene asked.
"They'll be all be here, but the later arrivals will be exhausted."
"OK, I'm a general who's going to sleep in a nice soft bed with his slave keeping him warm. How much sympathy should I have for the stragglers?"
"Not much, but spare a thought for me. I'll take what we have towards the coast between the villages."
"No. I'll take them." Gene said, "This lot seems happy with me, but the new arrivals may need an officer they know."
"Excuse me, sir. I'd prefer Yousif to be at the front. We could leave Ivgee behind. You won't need an officer if he deals with them." It was one of the naval experts who had spoken.
Yousif looked happier, "I agree. Gene you've proved yourself to the men so give me a chance."
"So while you're out enjoying yourself, I'll have to make do with a warm bed, and a hot slave."
"A soldier's life is one of hardship. You'll get used to it." Yousif chuckled.
Yousif was surprised the men were still enjoying the banter. Compared to Gene's time, battles and armies were simple affairs. Every soldier was armed with a sword, and a bow, lining up to face the enemy. First they would use bows and arrows to slow or stop the enemy. As they closed it became hand-to-hand fighting, so often it was superstition, morale or confidence that decided victory. The wind would take a ship quickly back to the pirate port, then couriers would take the news to Starislav and in the time it took, the Droyskovan army would be entrenched along the coast. The soldiers knew the problem, but they understood what Gene and Yousif were doing. They also understood how important Gene's magic was. Instead of a small band knowing they were stretched too thin, they were a confident army, curious about how the tactics would develop.
Ivgee proved to be a big man as muscular as he was tall with a scar down his cheek. It pulled his face into a perpetual snarl though Gene was to learn he was a gentle soul, difficult to annoy. However, soldiers knew of his reputation as a fighter, saw his fearsome appearance and did not argue with him.
All he said to Gene was, "I know what's needed. Your slave and your bed are waiting."
Somehow, Gene did not feel like arguing, contenting himself with, 'Wake me an hour before dawn', before doing as he was told. The intimacy he expected was spoiled by Trey standing next to Malcolm.
"Go on. I guess you want something." Gene said.
"Yes Master. Trey wants to wear your collar. He wants to be your slave."
"No." Gene snapped, "It's OK, I'm used to slaves now, but I don't know if I can stay for long. You'll be all right because you can disobey any master and get away with it but Trey won't. What about the rest of his family?"
"His mother is still beautiful and persuasive. She sold herself to a husband who'll look after her, her daughters and youngest son. Trey has reached manhood so should care for himself. He's managed by begging and selling himself, but if he's not careful, he'll end up in the mines."
"Why don't you speak for yourself, Trey?"
"Er, I … er, er … I hate … er," Trey tried.
"You spoke well enough when you were talking about ships. What's different? OK, Malcolm?"
"He's a boy who wants something, and you're a great wizard, Master. He knows about ships, so he can talk about them. Beggars get hurt if they look at someone the wrong way, let alone speak."
Thinking about it, he had noticed Trey hovering around, but he always seemed to be in the background. Gene remembered when they arrived and Trey had seemed curious enough then, but he was surrounded by other kids. Gene thought he figured enough and was taking in Trey's obvious disappointment, and it was important for Malcolm as well.
The guy at the swap shop had been generous and had included various items from the sex toy shelf though Gene was sure he would never use them. Indeed, Gene was uncertain what one or two were for. However, there were a handful of collars including leather ones, complete with padlocks.
"Both of you listen. Malcolm needed people to stop and think before hauling him off to the mines and whatever happens, he'll be a slave. I get people do treat him with respect, but I thought all the cuffs and rings were over the top. You Trey, I'm not keen on enslaving anyone, so I want you to be sure. You can wear a leather collar for now. It'll be locked so only I can take it off for some reason and replace it. You can cut it off, but that'll be it. You'll be on your own. How does that sound?"
Trey stripped off his tunic and knelt, head up a little, waiting for the collar. It was no longer weird for Gene. Having two slaves, and an option to buy into a brothel seemed normal now, but as he often did, he wondered how his mother would react, and increasingly the big question had become: did he want to go home?
Malcolm was not subtle. As soon as the collar was fitted, he was explaining Trey's duties, how to use a magic stove, how to lay sleeping bags, and explaining Gene's likes and dislikes.
"You can have your sleeping bag by the cooker." Malcolm said, "You can start breakfast in the morning for all three of us while I attend to Master's needs."
Gene smiled and again he could not help thinking about his mother. Both she and Malcolm loved to organise his life, but he had to admit, he preferred Malcolm's priorities, but for that first night, Malcolm was to be disappointed. Gene was thinking of battles and people getting killed.
"Set the drone up, Malcolm. I'm going to take another look at the fleet."
"In the dark, Master?" Malcolm exclaimed then sighed, "More magic?"
Gene grinned, "Let's find out. Don't worry, you'll be my number one bed slave when things settle down."
Malcolm grinned in his turn, "Thank you, Master. I think I've got the sign for mushroom, I'll heat you some soup. For all three of us?"
Gene nodded. He had never thought about boys younger than him and Trey was decidedly thin and undernourished. Malcolm was the more attractive choice, and he knew it, so Gene added, "Good idea. I want him to build his strength up before I have him."
"Yes Master." Malcolm replied far less cheerfully, but Gene was satisfied. He was learning to stay on top of slaves. In his turn, Trey watched Gene and Malcolm and saw something special between them, but he did not mind. He knew he had made right decision the moment Gene mentioned feeding him.
Ivgee was also awake patrolling the camp. He watched the drone and as he approached his general's tent, all he heard was three excited teenagers chattering away. The drone had excellent night vision. The ships showed up clearly, and they were still heading for shore.
"They've shortened sail." Trey said, "They're showing navigation lights so there's no reason to unless they're unsure of their position. They don't want to hit a rocky coast unless they can keep plenty of sea room to beat clear."
Trey paused pointing to a chart, "They could easily make this beach. If they arrive at high tide, they could beach their ships and only keep a small anchor party nearby, so the crew could get ashore easily. They'd see anyone in arrow range because there's no cover.
"That's where I first launched the drone." Gene said, "Yousif has taken the other sailors to advise him, so you're my expert, Trey. Am I right in thinking they'll maintain their course until they find a landmark?"
"So they'll be in sight from the land. They'll either turn and disappear back over the horizon or make for the best landing — the beach."
"OK! If they head back out to sea, could they reach the beach?"
"No. They'd have to tack out to sea again. It would take days."
"What's the soonest they could land on the beach?"
"Good! Send for Ivgee."
When Ivgee arrived, Gene said, "I want a couple of men to go to the cliff there and build a bonfire with anything that'll smoke a lot. When the ships are near enough to see, I want them to light it then use a wet blanket to send the smoke in puffs. Sometimes let the smoke rise normally, then make a few puffs, so it looks like dots and dashes of smoke. Do you understand?"
"You want it to look like a secret message, sir?"
"Yes. It would look better if a few soldiers turned up on the beach. Just half a dozen and not all together."
"Yes, I understand, but can you explain why."
"How many lookout points would be needed along the coast to protect it? How would the troops be deployed? If the ships escaped, what would they report?"
"That we're expecting an attack, and we've deployed the army to oppose it."
"That's right. As they approach the beach, groups of soldiers appear on the beach until we outnumber them. What would happen then?"
"We'd have all the advantages. They'd turn and sail away from the coast."
"And then what would they do?"
"Either give up or try again." Ivgee paused thoughtfully, "They might not have enough supplies."
"So they have to try again. Once they're below the horizon, we should have no idea where they're going, so if the same thing happens again?"
Ivgee smiled in understanding, "Without your magic, the whole army would be spread along the coast to meet them. Smoke signals can summon troops nearby but only a few hours march away."
"OK! I'll see if Yousif remembers radio procedures, and you can get started."
There was a mist as it got light the next morning, but it worked in the defenders favour. They lit their bonfires as the ships appeared out of the mist while the crews were relieved to see just a handful of men on the beach. Mists happen in still air, and the ships struggled to make half a knot with the tide.
"What do you make of it?" Captain Gesteny asked his subordinate.
"Those fires are summoning men, but where from? We chose this beach because it's miles from anywhere."
"We may have been seen by some fishing boat which sent word, but for all they know, we could be sailing for the river to raid Droyskova itself. They've brought their army South and split it into companies along the coast, but a couple of hours march inland. I wonder how much that smoke tells them. Damn the wind. It's opposed us all the way and now it fails completely. Signal the fleet to anchor. We'll wait for the tide to turn then head out to sea again. There's a village not so far up the coast, and we could reach it by dawn. We'll send in as many as we can by boat and raid their warehouses for supplies. Let's see how their smoke signals do in the dark."
Yousif was also frustrated that day. He had psyched himself up for his first battle and there wasn't one. He had to admit Gene's plans were working, but they were wizard's plans and in their heads, not physical ones where he could release his nervous energy. He saw the ships anchor. Then watched just as helplessly as they drifted out to sea with the tide until they were lost in the mist. His talking box spoke.
"Trey reckons they're heading for Marne." A voice sounding like Gene said, "We agree they probably need supplies if the ships are full of soldiers. Unless the wind picks up, they won't be there before tonight so can you get there?"
"It's an easy march. Two hours at the most. Can you see them in this mist?"
"Soldiers are coming on deck in shifts to eat and exercise." Gene replied, "The drone is in bright sun and can stay out there all day. I'm going to take a couple of soldiers and see if we can set up a link to the city, and maybe even General Blyne. Trey knows about ships, Malcolm can handle the drone and pass on any information."
In a world with only one radio network, its range was considerably increased. As Gene drove towards the city, the soldiers got used to talking to someone they had left miles behind. When reception got bad, they'd find a suitable hill, set up a beacon and carry on. Only three beacons were needed, so it well before midday when a startled city father, Geog Af Builnia, found himself talking to his son, Yousif. Using radio was easy for Gene, dealing with excited soldiers was harder.
"You should return." One said. "We know what to do, and your place is with your troops. I know you're a different sort of soldier to us but if we travel light except for your magic, we can reach General Blyne in three days."
"OK! I'll do it your way." Gene replied, "Keep in touch but start with, we're in danger, every time. There might be enemy scout parties around so if you say, 'everything is fine'. I'll know you've been captured, and they know what we're doing."
The soldier grinned, "That's clever, sir. How do you think of all this?"
"TV and video won't mean anything but how about I listened to a lot of stories about wars."
"They must have been good stories and well-worth listening to." The soldier said.
His mother complained about him wasting his time, holed up in his bedroom watching rubbish on his tablet, but he had learnt far more than he realised. When he returned to the camp, an excited Malcolm rushed up to greet him, unashamedly kissing him on his lips. Trey sidled up, but he was grinning broadly while Ivgee seemed to be glaring less than usual.
"Your soldiers decided they could do better without me." Gene said to Ivgee, "They sent me back."
"They shouldn't have done that. It's not their place." Ivgee growled.
"I don't like teachers looking over my shoulder so maybe they don't like generals doing it. I wanted to get back here, and they knew it."
"Even so, sir." Ivgee replied, but then he grinned, "With your permission: Malcolm speak to them on that box. Tell them, Ivgee wants to know what progress they're making."
"Who's flying the drone?" Gene asked.
"No-one, Master." Malcolm replied, "What did you call it: auto-pilot? It's doing that, and a soldier is watching the magic … mon-ee-ter … monitor. He'll yell if any of those little green lights go out."
As Gene nodded, Malcolm spoke into the radio handset, but looked up worried.
"They're in trouble, Master." he said.
"No, they're not. They'd say everything is fine if they had problems. If they're captured, they can warn us without making the enemy suspicious."
"Are they really on the other side of the city?" Ivgee asked, "They sound so close."
"I'll have to start teaching about electricity." Gene replied, "It might take years, but it's magic everyone can learn."
"Are you staying for years?"
"That depends on Malcolm and if he wants me to."
Ivgee nodded, "I want you to, but I don't have the same charms as Malcolm. It seems the future of our city rests with him. We've set up a tent with all your magical devices, so you may retire to your own, and not be disturbed."
"I'm hungry. Food first. Malcolm who's cooking, you or me."
"Trey, Master. Burgers and chips, perhaps. Let him show you what he's learnt. I'll fetch water, so you can bathe."
"No. Ivgee. In a camp like this, how healthy do men stay?"
"We try, but dysentery and fever always comes."
"I want all drinking water boiled. It's OK for men to wash themselves in the river, but they're not to drink the water, and they must dry themselves, especially their hands before they touch their faces."
"Those are strange orders, sir. Can you tell me why."
"Water animals come in all sizes, and some are so small you can't see them, but they can live inside your body. Each one gives off poison that causes dysentery, and the more you take in, the worse dysentery gets."
It wasn't a 21st century description of bacteria, but Gene wasn't a doctor, Ivgee had never heard of germs; the explanation was understandable, based in their knowledge.
"The men trust your magic. It will be as you order."
"My magic is limited and if I stay, I'll gradually lose it all. Is it true, armies can lose more men to illness than to the enemy?"
"Yes sir. I've seen it happen."
"All meat products must be cooked until they're hot all the way through."
"That might be a problem." Ivgee said, "It's going to take a lot of firewood to carry out your orders and soldiers aren't used to slow cooking. It's usually a case of making camp and getting something to eat."
"Give me a few days, and I'll see what I can find out. In the meantime, my orders stand."
"Yes sir." Ivgee replied.
Once they had eaten, he said, "Come on, Malcolm. I've got some magic chanting to do, and you can help me."
"I was watching a couple of soldiers who were listening." Malcolm said once they were in the tent, "They were impressed. They'll complain about the extra work and having to wait for rations, but they know you've got your own rations, you expect well-cooked food and you only drink from those bottles."
Gene let his sarong fall to the ground, and he lay down on his sleeping bag, patting the space beside him. Malcolm got the hint and joined him. As Malcolm nestled into him, Gene sighed contentedly.
"To be honest, I'm still thinking our army needs to look bigger than it is. If we cut down on illness, and the enemy doesn't then they'll assume a good number are out of it and sick. The trouble is, I wouldn't mind them discovering this bit of scheming. I don't like anyone falling sick if they don't have to."
"Worry when you get close enough to the enemy to tell them. Do you really want to do magic or can I tempt you with my own?"
"Just lay here, please." Gene picked up the torch, "I need that Internet connection to my own time. I'll make it a wish if I can keep my tablet charged up and connected."
A tiny portal appeared, his tablet, one thing he kept back from the swap shop, came to life. A thought occurred to him.
"I've got a microscope in the cupboard. Can I fetch it?"
The portal widened and Gene stepped through, grabbing a case and hurried back.
"I noticed the time, back there. An hour's passed. I thought it would be seconds."
You forget time Malcolm spent transferring camp equipment, other usage.
"OK! I might need some more supplies. Can I get them?"
No. Access to swap shop gone. No other shop suitable.
"Oh! How long can I keep visiting home?"
Conflict with family is the main factor.
Malcolm was content to lay quietly for a time until he asked, "How does your writing work? I know soup starts with that bendy line, but it appears all over that writing. Is your slave allowed to know?"
Gene thought for a moment, and typed in S L A V E, before pointing to each letter as he replied, "There're a lot of tricks to it but it sounds like 'sss', and this 'le', then 'aa' and 've'. Try putting the sounds together.
"Ssleave, Slave, Master?"
"So if I type this. M sounds like 'mm' there's an 'A' again then an 'L'. What does that sound like?"
"More like Mal. The whole thing reads, 'Malcolm is my slave'."
Malcolm grinned and pointed to 'A', 'M' and 'Y', saying, "Am I?"
"Not quite but you've got the idea. There're a lot of rules to learn, but I'll teach you if you like."
"Yes please, Master," Malcolm replied nestling in even more tightly.
"We've made our point, and you're mine now. Do you want me to take that cock ring off? I could take the cuffs off as well."
"Please don't, Master." Malcolm replied, "Even the blacksmith admires them. He knows they're not iron or silver, so I can only belong to a wizard. Trey only has a leather collar, so I'm much more important. Please don't start asking about what I want, Master. I want to take your manhood in my arse, but I'm content when my duty is to just lie here."
"Yeah! Everything feels wrong at the moment. I'm not used to battles, worrying about clean water and the rest. I wanted a boyfriend, not a slave. I should be worrying about school assignments not about pirates. Part of me wants to push your head down, so you start sucking, but another part, is worried about the drone."
"You're also tired, Master. Just let me play, and you rest."
As he spoke, Malcolm gently wrapped his hand around Gene's pole and stroked it. Gene groaned contentedly. Slowly the tension eased away, and he fell asleep. Malcolm smiled ruefully, pleased his strategy had worked so well and disappointed nothing else was going to happen.
Malcolm was disappointed again when Trey came into the tent because Gene had been stirring, responding to Malcolm's closeness.
Trey took in his sleeping master and whispered to Malcolm, "The fleet has shortened sail again. There's still a mist, so they won't be seen before dark. If they time it right, they'll reach Marne while it's still dark. Are they trying to dodge our bonfire signals?"
"I don't know. Use a talking box — radio to tell Master Yousif. Do we need to wake Master Gene?"
"Yes." Gene murmured, "How is the drone doing?"
"All the green lights are still on, Master."
"I thought you were still asleep, Master." Malcolm said.
"Dozing and I don't feel like moving yet. Malcolm, it's time to ride me, then you can drive me to Yousif. Trey, fetch me a bottle of water."
"Yes Master." Trey replied.
"And then, if you spot the fleet sailing up the path towards our camp you can disturb me: anything else, wait until I'm finished with Malcolm."
Trey grinned, "Yes Master."
Malcolm was also grinning as he straddled Gene.
"Don't!" he said.
"Don't ask me if I want to obey you."
"I wasn't going to. I was thinking of Trey standing astride me, so you could blow him at the same time. We'll try it sometime but not today, because I understand Yousif a little better. I want a quickie, so I can get on with the war."
Malcolm bent forwards to kiss Gene on the lips.
"Thank you, Master." he said.
"Explaining. I can serve you better if I understand, and I'll feel better when you rush off."
Malcolm slid down Gene's legs and lowered his head again, this time to take Gene's manhood in his mouth, his hands exploring, gently stroking, adding to Gene's sensations. They both knew Gene could cum quickly, Gene was relaxed and eager, but there was a difference. Even if an adult burst in, the intruder would wait on Gene's pleasure. His body was getting used to the idea, and the pleasure was building. For once, he was in no rush and Malcolm found himself using all his skills to bring his master to climax. As his fingers entered Gene, creating even more sensations, so he succeeded. Gene felt as if he was exploding as his hipped pumped, and his arse tightened. Tightening around the intruding fingers increased the urgency and Malcolm was nearly caught out by the force with which hot jism hit the back of his throat.
Malcolm shared his master's release, not physically but emotionally. They both collapsed, exhausted, but Malcolm's head rested by Gene's groin. He gently kissed his master who shuddered and grabbed his hair and pulled him away.
"I can't take any more." Gene stammered, "Let me calm down a bit."
"But it pleased you, Master."
"God yes, I loved it. I need to sleep. Just lay there. Don't do anything."
Malcolm happily obeyed, not wanting to spoil the moment. He had to admit, he was in love with Gene, but how can you love someone who could kill you without a second's thought? Ask anyone, free citizen or slave, and they would say it's a mistake. Gene was getting used to giving orders which made the divide between them bigger, yet Malcolm was learning to be more spontaneous which seemed to close the divide.
Malcolm's musings were interrupted by Trey entering the tent.
"It's getting dark." Trey said to Malcolm, "One of those green lights has turned to red."
"I heard." Gene murmured, "We'll have to fly it back."
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