The Golden Lotus
By L.E. Bryce
When his master is defeated in battle, the concubine Tamet volunteers to take his place as a royal hostage. But when betrayal leaves Tamet trapped in an unfamiliar land, with a prince who both attracts and repels him, what fate will the future hold for him?
Elements: M/M, Fantasy
This one has not the balls to suffer in silence. Rahmad gazed down at his kneeling captive. He will seize any offer I make, as long as he can crawl back to his mother's skirts and perfumed palace.
"You may have me in chains," the young man said, lifting his chin proudly, "but you have not won."
Stepping forward, the High Prince let his leather-clad fingers caress his captive's cheek before roughly cupping his chin in his palm, wrenching the young man's head to one side so that he faced the plain below. "Look well, Prince Senesret. My forces have taken the field, and even now my troops are pushing the remnants of your father's army back beyond the borders of Juva. You may deny it all you wish, but in the end it is my deeds, not your words, that matter."
"Your victory is but temporary."
Rahmad smiled and let his hand fall, though the temptation to backhand the young man remained. From the moment the Juvan prince was captured, he had expected some show of defiance from the youth. Senesret did not disappoint. Smudged kohl gave his eyes a wild look, his wig hung askew, and gore spattered his gilt armor; the blood had come from the bodyguards who had kept him from the worst fighting, and who ultimately fell defending his chariot.
He is merely a boy pretending to be a general, Rahmad thought contemptuously. Senesret had not even bloodied his sword, nor had he the decency to take his own life rather than be captured. On the plain below the gates of Atrija, where the dead and wounded were still being tallied, six hundred Juvan prisoners awaited the conqueror's pleasure. Given his own losses, and the inconvenience of mustering an army and marching across the desert in the blistering heat, Rahmad had little reason to be merciful.
It was unfortunate that the Juvan kings, enemies for more than eight generations, had forgotten their opponent's lineage. Rahmad's dynasty was not the weak one that had ruled Tajhaan for two hundred years and brought it to the brink of ruin, but was descended from a line of vigorous desert chieftains. With this victory, Rahmad became a conqueror in the eyes of his people, earning him the right to add the honorific dharu to his patronymic, and guaranteeing that the Juvans would now pay heed when he warned them not to cross his borders.
"I think not," he replied. Letting his lips curl into a predatory smile, he added, "Of course, you realize I could strike your head off and mount it on a pike as I have done with your fallen soldiers. But in light of your obvious youth and inexperience, I am prepared to be reasonable. You will return to Tajhaan with me as a hostage--"
"I would rather die than set foot in your filthy--"
This time, Rahmad silenced his captive with a swift backhand across the face. Senesret recoiled, tasted the blood from his cut lip, and grew silent.
"Let me remind you again who is the victor and who is the prisoner," growled Rahmad. "Your incompetence has cost many worthy lives on both sides, so I do not think you are in a position to bargain. However, since you so vehemently reject my hospitality, I am willing to return you unharmed to your father if you can provide me with a suitable substitute."
Senesret smiled, blood staining his teeth scarlet. "If that is all, I have servants who will--"
"I am not interested in menial laborers," said Rahmad, enjoying the prince's look of consternation. "You will provide me with someone of noble blood, young prince, willing to stand surety for your continued good behavior."
In truth, he almost hoped that no one would vouch for the prince, and that Senesret would be forced to participate in his captor's triumphal procession before ending his days in Tajhaan, well-treated but in the humiliating position of royal hostage. However, experience taught Rahmad that sooner or later his captive would plot against him, forcing him to execute the young man, and that sending him home would avert much trouble later.