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An Apprentice's Adventures

by Mark Friedman

Chapter 8

I moaned as I slowly came around. My head throbbed. For a moment, I wondered where I was, and then it all came rushing back to me. I tried to stand up, but found myself tied up. I looked around, and noticed that it looked like I was in the same place that I'd originally been dragged to. I wondered if I should try calling out in the hopes that some passerby would hear and help, but I figured that since the people who'd grabbed me hadn't gagged me, there probably wasn't a very good chance that anyone would hear me.

I wondered just how long I'd been out. Would it have been long enough for anyone at the embassy to have missed me yet? I figured that I couldn't take the chance of my absence being overlooked for too long, and figured I'd better try and escape. Obviously there would be at least one more attempt on King Osvaldo's life, and I had to warn him.

I looked around, hoping that there was something I could get to that could be used to cut the ropes that bound me, like in the stories I read. But there was nothing around that I could see in the dim light that would be of use. Well, I thought, it was probably a dumb idea anyway. Even if there was something there that could be used to cut the ropes, I probably wouldn't have been able to get to it. I felt like crying. I wished Denali was there. I was sure he'd be able to figure out what to do.

Thinking of Denali, I remembered what it felt like to always have him around. I realized he filled a part of me I'd never known was empty. I loved him, in a way that was different from how I loved my family or hanging out with my friends, and I'd never thought it was possible to have feelings for someone like that.

A door opened, and the guy who'd spoken when I'd been grabbed came through. He saw I was awake and grinned. "Good, you're awake," he said.

He came over to me and pulled out a small (but very sharp-looking) knife. "Now, I know I said we wouldn't do anything else to you until Osvaldo was dead, but I don't know if I really want to wait that long to make you suffer."

My eyes widened as he started stroking my cheek with the flat of the blade. "Oh, the things I could do to you," he said, sounding almost joyful. "The ways I could make you suffer, make you beg me to kill you just to end the pain."

"You're crazy!" I said, unable to keep my voice from trembling.

"Maybe," he said with a shrug. "It's entirely possible. But then, that's probably a good part of what makes me so dangerous."

Suddenly there was a commotion outside, and a moment later the door flew apart as a guy came crashing backwards through it. He landed hard on his back, and a moment later Captain Tomicka stepped through the doorway, sword in hand.

The guy who was with me scooped me up off the floor and held me in front of him with his left arm, pressing his knife (which was in his right hand) against my throat. "Don't come any closer!" he hollered at Captain Tomicka. "I'll kill him!"

"Put him down," Captain Tomicka said. "You and your associates are in enough trouble as it is."

"I know," the man said, backing up towards a wall. "That's why you're going to let us go. I won't hesitate to kill this boy if it comes to that."

"You don't want to do that," Captain Tomicka told him. "It's over. Let him go."

"I can't do that. He's my ticket out of here."

I hadn't realized we were at the wall, right next to a small ground-level window, until a hand suddenly grabbed the guy and pulled him up against the wall. The hand held the guy's right arm, keeping it pulled back just enough to keep him from being able to cut my throat. The guy struggled against the grip, then stiffened while making a gurgling sound. He dropped the knife, and his arms went limp.

I quickly got out of his grip and spun around, stumbling backward. I then noticed what had caused his reaction – the large knife which had been plunged into the side of his neck. He dropped to his knees and then keeled over to one side, and that's when I saw Denali's face peering in at the window (where he'd laid down on his stomach to be able to look and reach through). I was never so glad to see him.

The guy who'd originally been knocked through the door had gotten up, but at the sight of his friend laying dead on the floor, he quickly stuck his hands up. Captain Tomicka pointed his sword at the guy and said, "Don't move."

A few moments later, two more soldiers came in. "Sir, the area is secure," one of them told Captain Tomicka.

"Good work, Corporal Roeman. See that this man is detained."

As Corporal Roeman and the other soldier got to work on tying up the guy on the floor, Denali had gotten up and rushed around to the entrance, and pushed his way past Mage Landyn, who had just come in, and charged over to me, scooping me up in a crushing embrace before locking lips with me.

Denali ended the kiss, and began checking me over to make sure I was all right. Meanwhile Captain Tomika came over and pulled out a knife, getting to work on cutting the ropes.

"Captain, you don't know how glad I am to see you," I said. "But you should know, these guys are buddies to the guys who tried to kill the king at the reception, and they're planning on trying again!"

"Oh, we know," he replied. "When I got a message from Ambassador Kroaswell stating that you had left on an errand for him and hadn't returned for some time, on a hunch I decided to send a message to the palace insisting that they add some extra guards around the king, and those guards arrived just as this guy's friends made their attempt."

"The king? Is he all right?" I asked a bit panicked.

"Oh he's quite all right," Captain Tomicka assured me as he cut away the last of the ropes. "The assassins, on the other hand, not quite so much."

I breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good to know. Anyway, how did you find me?"

"Oh, we had a little help," Mage Landyn said, gesturing to Denali.

"I don't understand," I said. "How did you even begin to know where to look for me?"

"A lifebond is a strong thing," Mage Landyn explained as he placed a hand gently on the back of my head. The throbbing in my head immediately stopped. "Two lifebonded people can sense to a certain extent the location of each other, and I was able to work with Denali to track you down."

We headed outside, Denali's arm protectively draped around my shoulders. As we made our way back to the embassy, I noticed that it was evening. I took a deep breath, glad to be free.

After a bite to eat, Denali and I went into our bedroom. "I need a bath," I said.

"I think I'll join you," he said. Suddenly Denali scooped me up and deposited me onto the bed. He got onto me and gazed into my eyes as he slowly started grinding his crotch against mine.

"Hey!" I protested. "I thought we were going to take a bath!"

"We will," he said with a grin.

He then began entering me, and I moaned out. When he was all the way inside me, he began gently thrusting, and I wrapped my arms and legs around him, holding him tightly. He began going faster and faster, soon pumping energetically. As he pounded my butt, I realized how much I needed that after having gone through the earlier events of the day, and I suspected Denali needed it as much as I did. All too soon I felt my ejaculation building, and I tried to hold back. But it was a loosing battle, and within moments I cried out and began shoving my crotch into him as best I could as I came all over us. Denali thrust once, twice, a third time before arching his back and crying out and releasing his own load into me. He collapsed onto me, and both of us breathing hard.

He kissed me hard before pulling out of me, and we got up and headed to the bath, Denali's arm around my shoulders. We bathed together, just relishing being in physical contact with each other. When the water started getting cold, we got out and dried off, and headed back into the bedroom.

Climbing into bed, he said gently into my ear, "I love you, Aidan."

"I love you, too, Denali," I replied.

Interestingly enough, one of the pirates captured turned informant rather quickly, and within a matter of weeks Andaresian forces launched a surprise attack on the main pirate base that those who'd attempted to have King Osvaldo assassinated had been operating out of. From what I heard, it was enough to break organized piracy in the region.

King Osvaldo had a meeting with me a few days after he got the reports about what happened, and asked me what kind of a reward I wanted for both saving his life and helping to defeat the pirates. After getting over my initial surprise, I admitted that I hadn't really done anything with the intent of getting a reward out of it, and that I really just wanted to see our two nations get along peacefully. If I was to be given any reward, I wanted it to be that.

He smiled and turned to Ambassador Kroaswell, who was standing next to me. "Ambassador Kroaswell, you have a very wise young man for your aide."

"I certainly like to think so, Your Majesty," Ambassador Kroaswell replied.

As we were heading back to the embassy, Ambassador Kroaswell said, "Aidan, I want you to know that was a very mature answer you gave the king. I'm very proud of you."

"Thank you, Sir," I replied, feeling warm all over.

I'd love to say that a whole lot of exciting things happened for the rest of the time that I was there at the embassy, but actually the following few months went by pretty quietly. Denali and I continued to enjoy a lot of sex, like the two teenage boys we were.

Almost before I knew it, Ambassador Kroaswell's regular aide arrived. Hajo Bayani was a tall, slender guy who looked to be about 20. We spent several days going over everything that he should be aware of as Ambassador Kroaswell's aide at the embassy.

As I worked with Hajo and got ready to head home myself (and as Denali, Talise and Halian got ready to come with), I couldn't believe that it was almost time to go home. I'd heard a few times adults talking about how it felt like something had only just happened when in reality the event in question had really happened months or even years before. I used to wonder what they meant by that, but now I thought I might understand.

The day finally arrived for me to go. Denali and I got up early, as Talise had made transportation arrangements with a trading caravan headed to Toskel, and the caravan master wanted to get an early start. It was the only caravan of any sort that was headed anywhere near Toskel for the next two weeks, so if we missed it, we'd either be on our own for the journey or we'd have to wait for the next caravan. Before leaving, I stopped in to see Ambassador Kroaswell one last time.

"Aidan," he said after a bit of small talk, "you've been a good aide, and I shall miss you."

"I will miss you, too, Sir," I replied.

"I wouldn't mind your staying here in some sort of capacity, but I do understand that you're eager to get home. I wish you the best of luck, and somehow, I get the feeling that you'll have much success in life."

We shook hands, and I headed out.

For most of the journey, nothing much happened. Talise and Halian were in one wagon, while Denali and I were in another.

However, that changed just after we traveled through the Anxion Pass. A couple of the wagons had started having some trouble which the caravan master thought might be very problematic if not fixed soon.

Fortunately, because I recognized a rather weird-looking rock formation a short way back, I was able to offer a suggestion to the caravan master, and within an hour we were on our way to Klodia.

Late that afternoon, we rolled up to Klodia, and were greeted at the outskirts of town. I heard a familiar deep voice coming from the front of the caravan, conversing with the caravan master, and I hopped down and moved up to the front. I found the caravan master talking with Pacey, the guy who'd knocked me out all those months ago.

"Oh, it's you again," Pacey said when he saw me.

"Afraid so," I replied.

"Well, I'm a bit surprised you'd come back here, considering how we met," he said.

I shrugged. "I know it wasn't intentional, and I'm not one to hold a grudge. Besides, these folks," I indicated the caravan master, "are kind enough to be giving me a lift home, and that's kind of hard to do if their wagons give out on them."

Pacey grinned. "Fortunately you brought them to the right place to help with that, and I'm not just saying that because we're the only settlement worth noting for almost 50 miles. Anyway, while we take care of it, there are some people here who probably wouldn't mind seeing you. They're in the communal room, once you get your stuff put in the guest rooms."

I nodded my thanks, and we followed Pacey's assistant in to the guest rooms and got our personal stuff put in there (most of the stuff in the wagons would be remaining in them, except for the 2 wagons being fixed, which would be unloaded to make it easier to fix the wagons). Denali and I put our stuff in our room (interestingly enough, the very same room I'd stayed in the first time I was there), and he flopped onto the bed for a moment.

"Nice bed," he said. "I think I could stay here for a while."

"All right," I said. "I'll be in the communal room if you want to see me for anything before I get back."

He nodded, and I headed into the communal room. Several people glanced up when I entered, and I received a bunch of greetings. As I was greeting everyone back, I noticed Jovana sitting over at one of the tables next to Kala. She looked up and we made eye contact. She smiled and I quickly went over as she rose.

"Good to see you again, Aidan," she said after giving me a quick kiss (to several whistles from others).

"Good to see you, too," I said. "And I guess congratulations are in order," I said, gesturing to her rather large belly.

"Yeah," she said, glancing down. "Me, pregnant. Who'd have thought?"

"So, who's the father?" I asked.

She just looked up at me, and I suddenly felt myself go cold. "No…" I quietly said.

"Yes," she simply said.

I stumbled back a bit, and sat down unsteadily on the bench. "But I thought you said humans wouldn't get pregnant from a griffin mating flight," I said to Kala.

"No, I said it was not likely, not impossible," she replied, the sympathy clear on her face. "This is one of those rare times it happens."

"Not to be mean or anything," I said, "but are you sure the baby's mine?"

"Yes," Jovana said. "I had not been with any other guy since the previous mating flight some months before that one, and have not been with any guy since."

"Interesting you should arrive now," Kala told me "The baby is due any day now."

"Now, I don't mean to sound accusatory or anything," Tamin said, "but you should know we hope you'll be a good, responsible father and help Jovana with the baby. We realize it wasn't intentional, and we don't know what your viewpoints are on marriage and such, but we don't think that means that you shouldn't be involved. Plus, an unwed mother in our society is something of an outcast, to put it politely."

I tried to remain calm, although it wasn't easy. Here I was, 13 years old – and about to become a father! Taking a deep breath, I said, "Well, marriage…may be a problem. While I was in Jaana, I met someone, and we…well, lifebonded. He's here with me. So you can imagine that it could be a bit difficult with the idea of my marrying Jovana."

There was a bit of murmuring in the room, and I quickly added, "But that doesn't mean that I don't want to be involved in raising my baby. I still will help take care of him or her.' I thought for a moment. "Look, you can come with me," I told her. "I've got this cousin, named Kavon, who's just a little older than you. He's single – or at least he was when I left – and I can introduce you. I think he'd really like you, maybe enough to, I don't know, consider marrying you."

"But what if he decides not to?" Tamin asked. "What if he, like you, has found someone else since the last time you saw him?"

I took a deep breath. "Then Jovana can live with me and my lifebond – his name's Denali, by the way. It may be difficult, but I'm sure he'd understand if I married Jovana." I turned to Jovana. "And you'd understand that I'm lifebonded to him, right?" She nodded a bit hesitantly.

"Please excuse me," I said. "I think I should go talk to Denali. He should hear about this from me."

I hesitantly got up and headed back to the room I was sharing with Denali, feeling a bit numb. How could this have happened?! I wasn't even sure what to say to Denali about Jovana's pregnancy, much less what I'd say to my family when I saw them again.

I entered the room, and Denali looked up at me from where he still lay on the bed. He grinned, but the grin faded away after a moment. "Aidan, what's wrong?" he said.

I sat down on the bed next to him. "Denali, you remember me telling you about Jovana? The girl I had sex with here when the griffins mated?"

"Yeah," he said.

"Well, because of that…she's pregnant."

He plopped his head back onto the pillow and was quiet for a few moments. "Well," he finally said, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I mean, that's something that can happen when a guy and girl have sex, right? So, what are you planning on doing about it?"

"Well, I was thinking of taking her and the baby, when it's born, back to Toskel with us and introducing her to my cousin Kavon. Here, they kind of look down on unwed mothers, and I feel that it's kind of my responsibility to help her out with that, since I am the baby's father, after all."

"Right," he said.

"Look, I have to tell you – I told them that if, for whatever reason, it didn't work out between Jovana and Kavon and they didn't get married, that…well, I'd marry her. You understand, right?"

He laid there without saying anything for so long that I said, "Denali, please don't be mad."

"I'm not mad," he said. "This is just a lot to take in. She knows we're lifebonded, right?"

"Yeah, but like I said, I feel responsible for putting her in this situation in the first place, even though I realize it's not anybody's fault that we had sex as a result of the griffins' mating flight."

"You're right," he said. "I'm not crazy about sharing you with anyone else, but I understand you feel you need to take care of her. Certainly it's good for you to want to be in your baby's life."

"Thanks," I said.

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