Laresa's World Ch. 24: JonathonbyDarkniciad©
Author's Note: I went a little long again, so I hope the story carries the length for those reading Laresa's tale. Apologies for the delay between Ch. 23 and 24 as well.
Almost no sex in this chapter, either. Just a little heads-up for anyone who might be looking for a stroke story.
The Dark Ages – England
The ringing of metal on metal echoed through the still air. Jonathon grunted, blinking the sweat out of his blue eyes, as he parried Kain's overhand strike. Furrowing his brow, Jonathon stepped back and prepared for his adopted brother's next move. The strike Kain had just launched could have seriously hurt him, had he not deflected it so well. Even dull practice weapons could be deadly when wielded with the sort of power Kain threw into his blows.
Kelanor laughed, urging on his son. Jonathon did his best to ignore it, knowing he had to keep his guard up, if he didn't want to be nursing painful injuries while doing his chores later. Dancing back from a swipe of Kain's sword, Jonathon countered with a blow of his own. In truth, he could have easily penetrated Kain's guard, but Jonathon moved just slow enough to allow Kain the opportunity to parry. Long ago, Jonathon had learned the folly of making his adopted brother look bad, and he knew better than to ever do it again.
Kain deflected Jonathon's half-hearted strike, but slipped slightly in the mud as he did so. Jonathon again attacked, knowing that Kelanor watched carefully, and if he didn't take advantage of the opening offered by the slip, he would surely be punished for it. Once again, Jonathon swung at Kain's shield arm, with the intention of allowing him to recover, and block the blow.
Some of Kain's extensive training showed through, as the young man regained his balance, sending Jonathon's strike high. Jonathon expected the counter, and saw it coming, but recognized an opportunity for Kain to land a blow on him – one that shouldn't hurt too much when it hit. With a grunt, he accepted the blow to his side, mostly blunted by his armor. He would have a bruise, but nothing that would bother him much as he worked later.
Kelanor shouted, "Enough!"
Jonathon came to attention immediately, knowing that even a moment's hesitation would draw a rebuke. Kain, on the other hand, chose to take the opportunity to smash his shield against Jonathon's chest. Jonathon stood firm, putting one foot back to maintain his balance.
"I said enough, Kain!" Kelanor crossed the courtyard toward the two young men. Glancing at Jonathon for a moment, he absently muttered, "Off to your chores, Boy."
"Yes, Sir," Jonathon replied, hurrying to get out of his armor and store away his weapon. He knew that he had to care for his equipment properly, or he would be punished. Likewise, he would be expected to deal with Kain's weapons and armor later as well. Listening to Kelanor praise his son, Jonathon had to fight down a surge of jealousy. Reminding himself that he was just an adopted orphan, and lucky to have what he did, Jonathon moved quickly to the kitchen entrance.
As he passed his other adopted brother, the older man followed Jonathon inside. Once they were within the castle, out of hearing range of his father, Michael said, "You could have parried that strike – and you could have struck him on numerous occasions."
Not sure what to say, Jonathon hesitated. After a moment, he settled on replying, "I must not have been thinking well in the heat, Michael."
Sighing, Michael shook his head. "You were thinking perfectly well. You let that blow land, and you purposely avoided easy hits. What will Kain learn if you do not take advantage of his mistakes?"
Frustration and embarrassment swelled up within Jonathon. He knew Michael's words were perfectly true. He also knew what would happen to him if he took them to heart, however. Michael spent most of his time on the other side of Kelanor's lands, managing the knights in another castle. He could not know what Jonathon went through, whenever he let his true skills show. "I'm sure you could have, Sir, but I'm just not that good."
"You must stand up for yourself, Brother. If you allow Kain to bully you, he will do so for all of your life. Consider it, Jonathon." Clapping Jon on the shoulder, Michael walked the opposite way down the stone corridor.
Jonathon took a deep breath, wishing it were so easy, and made his way toward the armory, to put away his equipment.
Present Day –
Headquarters of the Society of Djinn
Benjamin walked down the trail at a brisk pace, moving toward the cavern that served as the headquarters for the Society. He considered it lucky that he hadn't been pulled over, considering how fast he had been driving on the way back from the airport. He simply could not contain his excitement, and wanted to get to work immediately on the two fascinating objects within the metal box he carried.
The first several days of searching had been quite disappointing. He had located three or four of the ritual burials, only to find the objects that should have been entombed there missing. Despite the pains of his ancestors to keep the objects hidden, the amount of ritual involved in the creation of the Djinn imposed rigid structure on every element of the process. Once he had located the first empty cache, the second had proved to be a measured distance away – identical to the distance required for the burial of the ashes from the sacrifice.
Finally, he had found the flattened silver pearl, shot through with diamond dust. The next cache had likewise yielded a teardrop shaped piece of amber, with a golden sphere within. Two of the objects in hand, Benjamin had decided to return and study them. He could go back at any time to search for more, if the items proved to be important.
Nodding to the sentry, Benjamin stepped into the wall of cool air emerging from the cavern, heading quickly toward the hidden door within. Once inside the headquarters proper, he increased his pace. So close to his equipment and notes now, he couldn't wait to get to work. In his eagerness to reach his room, he didn't even notice the man coming out of an intersecting corridor. They collided, shoulder to shoulder, jarring both men.
"I'm sorry, Daron, I wasn't paying attention to where I was going," Benjamin began. A buzzing and vibration from the box he carried cut off any other words, as did the strange look on Daron's face. Daron looked down at a box he carried, and Ben could hear a faint buzz emerging from it.
Fascinated, and now more excited than ever, "Have you found one of the artifacts? Is it in there?"
Daron looked around nervously, "Yes, but keep your voice down."
Benjamin realized that Daron was part of the group advocating the use of the Djinn to complete their mission of finding all the artifacts. Considering the way Daron was acting, it was obvious that the group planned to keep this artifact – or that they had decided to utilize them.
"Come with me to my room for a moment, where we can talk in private," Benjamin requested.
After a moment's hesitation, Daron nodded and followed Ben down the hall, skipping a little at first in an attempt to keep up with Benjamin's brisk pace.
Back in the Dark Ages...
Jon breathed a sigh of relief as he finished washing the last pot, and put it away. The castle was quiet, the edges of the kitchen lost in a dark gloom, only a circle of flickering torchlight illuminating the space around Jonathon.
Though he knew he would have to be up in only a few hours, Jonathon simply couldn't bear the thought of going to bed without bathing. Between sweating through the sparring match earlier with Kain, and washing all the dishes in the sweltering kitchen, he was gagging on his own smell.
Pouring a little hot water into the round metal tub, just enough to take off the bite of the cold water filling it, Jonathon kicked off his over-large leather shoes. He then stripped off his simple linen tunic and trousers, and shook out his sandy-blonde hair.
The torchlight reflected off the sweat glistening on Jonathon's body, enhancing the appearance of his well-muscled frame. Accustomed to hard work, and lean – but nourishing – rations, Jonathon was a striking figure. Stepping into the tub, he squatted down to splash water over him. The tub was far too small for him even to sit down in, but it served the purpose well enough. He would have to mop up the water splashed out afterwards, but the bath was worth it to Jonathon.
He felt much better, if a little cramped up, once he finished rinsing the sweat and grime off. Bringing a hand to his chin, he frowned at the stubble there. While the rest of the family sported well-groomed beards, Jonathon simply couldn't abide the facial hair. He remembered tasting his soup three hours after he ate it when he had let it grow out, and decided never to do it again at that point. Walking over to a cabinet, Jonathon retrieved his razor. He lamented the additional mopping the trail of water would require, and cursed the lack of foresight that necessitated it.
Kneeling down on the hard stone, Jonathon splashed water on his face, and went to work with the razor. A few minutes later, he ran his hand over his chin, and grunted in satisfaction. Grabbing a cloth, he blotted the rest of the water from his body, and then turned to pull on his clothing.
He paused for a moment, thinking he saw movement in the gloom of the kitchen doorway. Shrugging his shoulders, deciding that his eyes were playing tricks on him, Jonathon dressed and picked up the tub to take it outside and empty it.
Unknown to Jonathon, a brightly blushing young woman hurried through the halls back to her bedroom. Hoping to find some warm milk to help her sleep, Caroline had stepped in front of the kitchen door just as Jonathon turned – revealing himself to her in all his naked glory.
A mixture of shame and excitement boiled within Caroline as she closed her door behind her. Recently come to live with her uncle when her parents passed on, she had felt her heart flutter the moment she saw the foundling, Jonathon. The image of the young man, nude and gloriously handsome, now added strength to the troubling feelings Caroline harbored for her adopted cousin.
Sleep came to her with even more difficulty now, her stomach in knots and her loins tingling annoyingly.
Jonathon sat at his rickety table just inside the kitchen door, wolfing down his dinner. He could be called on at any moment, and knew that his only opportunity for a hot meal lay in eating it as quickly as possible.
As he ate, he couldn't stop his eyes from focusing beyond the slightly open door. The object of his distraction was Caroline, her long, dark hair flowing freely down her back, framing a face more beautiful than any Jon had ever imagined. He could barely think when he was close enough for him to see her brown eyes. She turned toward him, and he quickly put his head down, concentrating on the nearly empty plate of stew before him.
When he dared glance back up, Jonathon saw a slight flush of color in her cheeks, which made her appear even more beautiful to him. Sopping up the last of the gravy on the plate with some bread, he sighed before popping it into his mouth.
Caroline was a lady of quality, and he wasn't even a proper bird. She would be married to an important Lord, someone who could increase Kelanor's influence. With disgust, Jonathon remembered his adopted father's reaction upon hearing of his own brother's death. Kelanor's first thought was of how advantageous it would be to take in the beautiful Caroline, his dead brother little more than an afterthought.
A thump on the top of Jonathon's head pulled him from his dark thoughts, and his continued study of Caroline's face. Rubbing his head, he muttered, "Ow," and turned to find the matronly cook standing over him, scowling. She waved a wooden spoon menacingly, the very weapon that had struck him a moment before.
"Boy, have you lost your wits? I said; go fetch more wood for the cook fires. The bins are nearly empty."
Knowing the hefty cook wielded that spoon with more skill than Kain did a sword, Jon rose quickly and said, "Yes, Ma'am." After a final glance at Caroline, he hurried toward the kitchen exit.
Eight armloads later, Jonathon decided that one more should suffice for a couple of days. Most other men would have to make twice as many trips, but Jonathon had a natural strength and balance, which allowed him to carry far more in a single trip than any other could hope to.
Dumping his current burden into the bin behind the kitchen, Jonathon spun on his heel and headed back toward the woodpile. As he approached, he realized that before long, he would have to take up his axe and replenish the pile as well. He took a little comfort from knowing it would be another month or so before he would need to start lying in the winter stores.
Gathering up his next load of wood, Jonathon saw something sparkling between two of the split logs. Curiosity overwhelmed him, and he put down his burden to see what might be glittering so brightly on such an overcast day.
Pulling the logs out of the way, Jonathon lifted the ring with amazement. He couldn't believe that one of the other servants would have such a fine piece of jewelry, and doubted one of the family had bothered to visit the woodpile for any reason. Turning the ring in his fingers, he examined the golden band for any marks – finding none. Between the gold, and the large amber stone, even the relatively uneducated Jonathon knew it must be valuable. He thought, How did you get here?
Jonathon pulled out the tail of his shirt, forming a little pouch, and deposited the ring in it. He then tucked the ring into his trousers, where it should be safe as he carried the last load of wood back to the bins behind the castle. He decided he would ask his adopted mother if she knew to whom it belonged. Kelanor would likely accuse him of stealing it first, and ask questions later. Esmarelda treated him much better, and might even reward him with a story for finding the obviously valuable ring.
Walking back to the castle, Jon smiled, thinking that perhaps the ring belonged to Caroline. He daydreamed about presenting her with the ring, asking if it were hers, to see her face light up in delighted surprise. That thought made him feel as if he were floating above the ground, hovering the last few steps to the bin.
The cook brought him back to earth a moment later with a scream, ordering him to hurry up with the wood so he could clear the table. Depositing the wood in its place, he hurried back into the castle, before the domineering cook came after him with her spoon again – or something worse.
Aaron's Temple –
At the height of the Inca Empire
Aaron's brides cringed, as he struck his genie hard across the mouth, sending her tumbling to the cold stone below. "Useless bitch! First you can't find that whore Laresa, and now you can't even find an unbound Djinn?"
Karida cringed, knowing the look on Aaron's face, and knowing that the pain she felt now was a pale shadow compared to what he might very well be preparing to inflict upon her. "Please, Master, there are simply no unbound Djinn anywhere that I can locate – at least not one of such power as you desire."
"Useless female. The Ancients must have erred in your selection to become Djinn. You have to be the most powerless genie I have ever encountered. Such simple things I ask of you..." Shaking his head and growling, Aaron turned away from the slowly rising genie, scowling at his frightened brides. "What are you all staring at?"
The women lounging about the temple cast their eyes downward, each and every one having felt Aaron's wrath themselves in recent days.
Turning back to Karida, Aaron grabbed her by her silken robe, ripping the bodice as he dragged her to her feet. "Find me a genie strong enough to overpower Laresa. My patience wears thin. Fail me again, and I will crush your home, and your existence. Do you understand me, you worthless bitch?"
Present Day –
Headquarters of the Society of Djinn
Benjamin held the amber relic close to the box Daron carried once again, getting the same strong reaction as before. Though the silver item had reacted to the Djinn artifact within the box, the reaction of the amber item was much stronger.
"You see, it reacts even through the shielding box," Benjamin said in a rush. "We should open the box, and see what happens when the artifacts without the protective case between them."
The worried look on Daron's face intensified. "Ben, the Society doesn't even know I have this artifact, and the only reason they don't is because it's in this box. I'm supposed to bring it to the group – you know that – and then we'll decide... Well, you know."
Holding the two relics he had discovered in his ancestral homeland in his palm, almost right under Daron's nose, Benjamin said, "But, Daron, think about it! You see what's happening. This could be the most important discovery made since the beginning of the Society!"
Shaking his head, Daron countered, "Then we'll let the group decide. I'm not making a decision like this myself – no way."
Ben sighed. "Very well, but they're no more decisive than the high council. We're wasting our time." Standing up, he pocketed the two items he carried, gesturing impatiently to Daron. "Well, come on then. Let's go."
Back in the Dark Ages...
Exhausted and bleary-eyed, Jonathon wandered into his sparse room, kicking off his shoes as he walked. When he reached the bed, he pulled his shirt over his head, his brow furrowing beneath the cloth when he heard a clatter.
Removing the shirt, he saw the ring and remembered it at last. He had been sent on task after task upon coming back inside from the woodpile, and thus had completely forgotten about the ring. Picking up the piece of jewelry, he once again examined it. For some reason, the urge to put the ring on was gnawing at him like an old hound chewing a soup bone.
Shrugging his shoulders and chuckling, Jonathon slipped the ring on his finger. His first thought was that it looked ridiculous – entirely too gaudy for his taste. The second was that it felt a little tight. Twisting the ring a little, hoping to lessen the irritating sensation, he barely caught movement out of the corner of his eye.
"Saints preserve me," Jonathon muttered when he turned toward the movement to see a swirling cloud of mist. The cloud congealed, becoming more opaque by the moment, and then suddenly transformed into a woman.
Laresa looked around, immediately recognizing the time period, and the general location. She had been to this era before, and she wasn't terribly fond of it, overall. The rich and powerful treated everyone else like animals for the most part, and it hit entirely too close to home for the enslaved genie.
Already sensing fear of discovery from her new Master, Laresa spoke softly, and added a touch of magic to ensure that nothing going on inside the small room could be heard without. "Greetings, Master, I am Laresa. How may I serve you?"
Jonathon stared in wide-eyed amazement at the silvery-haired woman, attraction and fear battling for control of his emotions. Her curves were barely concealed by a thin, flowing blouse, and long expanses of her smooth legs showed beneath the short skirt she wore. Still dumbfounded, Jon couldn't manage to force a single word from his lips. Two words echoed loudly in his mind, however – Demon temptress.