Surrender in the Reach- Opening Chapter

Theo panted hard.

With all his might he lifted his golden shield, grunting with the strain it put on his forearm. His muscles screamed at him to stop, but how could he? The Corporal ordered defence training. If he did not raise this shield again he was going to get a blow to the head.

He really wished he had not been caught staring. Corporal Jin had been out early. He was a renowned and skilled archer and carried an elegant, non-regulation white, double recurve bow with him. An honour granted only to him in the squad. It was whispered he had hobbled four centaurs attacking a Captain with a single arrow.

True or not, Jin was impressive. Theo had watched him in the early dawn breaking over the target range. Armour and padding removed, Jin slimed down considerably, but his tight stomach and chiselled chest were not in the least disappointing. Unruly blond hair moved softly in the chilly breeze. It looked so soft, almost like corn silk and contrasted sharply with the rest of the Corporals hard physique.

Theos mouth had been dry as he watched the piercing blue eyes, normally shaded by a helm, narrow and take aim. Jin’s whole torso tightened as he drew the bow and Theo was mesmerised. The only thing that kept him half aware he was in reality and not some perfect dream, was Jin’s skin.

It was covered in scars. Bullet wounds, blade marks, even what looked like the half-moon cut of an axe to his flank. Theo had the burning urge to touch every one of them. To feel the knotted tissue against the perfect alabaster skin. To hear the Corporal tell of the story behind each mark in his deep, bass voice. Warm and rich…

Theo would then put his lips to every imperfection and tell Jin how beautiful he was…

It was at that moment that Field Medic Erin had turned up and Theo’s dreams were crushed under the gaze of a grinning medic and a very angry Corporal. Jin had snarled at him for ‘wool-gathering’ there was no place in the Seraph for time wasters and even a raw recruit should know that.

So here he was. Getting attacked by his Corporal. They had been at this since early afternoon and now the sun was setting on another hot summer’s day. Theo thought he may dissolve inside his armour. Still he managed to get his shield in place just as Jin’s blade came crashing down on his shield. Theo staggered back. The blow had numbed his entire arm and the shield clattered to the ground from his nerveless fingers.

Panting he held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. He was done. His eyes fixed on the ground, defeated. His whole body went ridged and his eyes flew to the Corporal’s sweaty and smirking countenance when he felt the tip of a very sharp blade at his throat.

“You are dead,” Jin purred.

Theo swallowed but could not even bring himself to speak.

“Not bad, for fresh meat,” the Corporal chuckled and returned the blade to his side. Suddenly he was all business again.

“Get cleaned up,” he demanded. “You are on night patrol. It’s been a long hot day so half the city will be seeking ale to slake their thirst. There will be trouble, boy so get out there and help your squad-mates.”

Theo saluted, stiffly. Wincing as he did so.

Jin barked a laugh and tossed a small glass vial at him before marching off.

“Get some whore in Ossan to rub that into your arms, works a treat.”

Theo’s brown eyes looked from the vial of oil in his dark skinned hands; then to the commanders back. He felt his stomach flip over and he bit his lip.

An Ossan pretty boy was not what he wanted.

He wanted what he could not have and burned with the temptation to reach for it anyway.