The Dream of a Thousand Nights [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Shira Anthony
eBook Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
eBook Description: Neriah, the crown prince of Tazier, escapes his father's deadly wrath with the help of a Jinn named Tamir. Knowing that the other Jinn would find and punish him for falling in love with a human, Tamir takes Neriah's memories of their brief time together and leaves him with only a jade pendant as a token of his love. Tamir is then stripped of his powers and imprisoned for his crime. Ten years later, Neriah is still on the run from the King's assassins, but each night he dreams of a lover whose face he cannot see and whose name he does not know, but who fills his heart with peace. Tamir, freed at last from his prison cell, poses as a pleasure slave and offers to serve the prince. Although Neriah does not recognize Tamir, he falls in love with the powerless Jinn. But just when Tamir has earned Neriah's trust, he is forced to betray it. There may be no hope of mending their broken relationship, but Tamir is determined to see Neriah on his rightful throne--even if it costs the Jinn his life.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2011, 2011
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2011
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Neriah ran down the narrow passageway between the hedgerows, stumbling over roots and rocks. His bare feet were now bloody, but he knew that he could not stop. The guards who pursued him had but one goal in mind: his death. His eyes burned with unshed tears at the memory of what he had seen as he fled his room in the palace. He swore under his breath that he hadn't had the presence of mind to grab his sword. He was unarmed. Vulnerable.
Why are they trying to kill me? What have I done to warrant this? Why would Father--?
"Over here!" shouted one of the men.
He could hear footsteps close behind--the guards would soon overtake him. He brushed his long dark hair from his eyes and threw off the silk jacket he wore, tossing it under one of the large bushes. He followed this by removing his shirt and the silk scarf around his head--the bright fabrics were too visible. He pulled the gold earring from his ear and struggled to remove the rings from his fingers, shoving them into his pockets as he continued to run, panting, toward the high wall that surrounded the palace.
I have to get over the wall, he thought as his lungs began to ache from the strain of running for so long. At least on the outside, I have a chance.
The wall loomed above him now with its smooth, white stone, and he looked around in desperation, trying to spot something upon which to gain a foothold. And then he saw it--a climbing rose, ancient and knotty, unyielding. It stretched up against the wall, attaching itself tenaciously to the grooves between the stones. Beneath it on the ground were yellowing rose petals, the remnants of early summer now left to decay. He ran toward the vine just as the palace guards had spotted him.
"There he is!" one called to the others, pointing toward the garden wall.
Neriah grabbed the gnarled stem of the ancient rose, ignoring the pain of its thorns as they dug into his soft hands. He clambered up, clutching one of the smaller branches that climbed high above the garden. The branch bent with his weight, and he began to fall backward, managing at the last moment to get hold of another branch and steady himself. He felt his knees burn against the smooth stone as he struggled upward, reaching the top of the wall. Winded, bloodied, his face covered in dirt, he stood at the top and looked back at the palace, its deep blue and gold turrets silhouetted against the sky.
Mother, he thought as he fought back tears, I'm sorry I couldn't save you. I promise I'll avenge your death.
One of the pursuing guards began to climb the rose after him, causing the old vine to shudder and shake beneath the man's weight. Neriah looked down at the street below. Several vendors had set up their stalls beneath where he stood, their booths covered with bright fabrics attached to simple wooden poles. There were more shouts from behind him in the garden as he teetered on the edge, trying to find a spot to land.
They'll kill you if you stay, he reminded himself as he looked at the tops of the stalls and wished that they weren't so far down.
He saw his mother's face in his mind's eye, recalling her battered body on the marble floor and the lifeless glaze of her eyes. They had been looking for him--he was sure of it--and she had refused to tell them where he was. Her sacrifice had saved his life. She wanted you to live, he told himself. He frowned and, gathering his courage, jumped.
* * * *
"Is he dead?" came a voice at the periphery of his consciousness.
"No. I fixed his body. He's just asleep, Kuri," replied a second voice, deeper than the first. "Bring me the blanket."
"You'll be banished for saving him, you know," said the first voice. "We can't help humans. Not unless we're commanded."
"I won't let him die here," answered the second voice. "Just bring me the blanket. Now."
He heard the sound of footsteps, then felt strong hands tucking something warm around his aching body. He struggled back to consciousness and looked up into a pair of amber eyes that sparkled like sunlight and reminded him of the finest jewels his mother wore. The thought of his mother made his heart ache, but something in the compassionate gaze of those almond-shaped eyes put him at ease, and he felt the pain begin to recede.
"Don't try to speak," said the young man who leaned over him. "You must rest for now. Don't worry. You'll be safe here."
* * * *
He awoke again to absolute darkness. He struggled to sit up, panicked that the guards had found him. He imagined himself in the dungeons below the palace, his arms bound to his sides. But as the haze of sleep and exhaustion began to clear, he realized that his arms were held at his sides by the blanket that was wrapped around him.
"Please," he whispered into the blackness. His voice was hoarse, his mouth parched. He felt himself pulled upward, and gentle fingers brushed his matted hair from his face.
"It's all right," came the reply. It was the same warm, high baritone he had heard before--the voice, Neriah guessed, of a young man. "Your body has been mended. But you haven't had anything to eat or drink since I found you two days ago." He felt the coldness of metal pressed to his mouth, the cool liquid soothing to his dry lips. "Don't drink it too fast. Your body won't tolerate it." He slowed his gulps and relaxed, allowing his weak body to be supported.
"Thank you," he said, his voice sounding less rough.
"Can you sit on your own?" the young man asked.
"I think so," he answered as he found the wall behind him and rested his weight against it.
He heard footsteps, then the sound of a small oil lamp being lit. He blinked to focus on his companion, who looked to be about sixteen or seventeen--his own age. "I am Tamir," replied the young man, whose hair was a deep red in the lamplight. He wore simple cotton clothing--the shalvar kameez of a peasant--and his long hair was tied in a high ponytail with a piece of green fabric. Neriah found himself captivated by the exotic beauty of the boy.
"Tamir," Neriah repeated, "you've been very kind to me."
The edges of Tamir's mouth turned upward in a tender smile. "When I found you at the edge of the market, I feared you were dead," he said.
"I am called...," Neriah hesitated, afraid to reveal his true name, "Sheva." He hated to lie to his savior, but his fear was great, both for his own safety as well as Tamir's.
"I'm pleased to have met you, Sheva," Tamir replied, sitting cross-legged in front of Neriah. "Do you think you can eat?"
Neriah nodded, feeling his belly complain. Tamir handed him a small flatbread. Neriah tore a piece of the bread and began to eat it with relish. "I'm sorry I cannot offer you more," Tamir said, pleased to see his companion's fine appetite. "Perhaps tomorrow--"
"You needn't apologize," Neriah interrupted, gazing at his rescuer. "I can't thank you enough for all that you've done for me."
"Were you being chased?" Tamir asked as Neriah continued to eat the bread. "I heard that you were atop the palace wall--that you fell."
"I...," Neriah began, unsure of what to say. He wanted to tell the other boy the truth--that he was a prince, that he had done nothing wrong, and that his mother had died to save his life--but he found himself oddly tongue-tied. Despite his unease, he felt a strange sense of peacefulness radiate from his companion.
"It's all right," Tamir said, "you needn't tell me anything. I've been in a fair number of fights myself. Kuri said the Royal Guards were searching the marketplace."
Neriah coughed on the bread, having inhaled a bit of it in his alarm at the news. Tamir put his hand on Neriah's back and, with a deft flick of his wrist, hit Neriah between the shoulder blades. The piece of bread on which Neriah had choked flew out of his mouth.
"I'm sorry, Sheva," said Tamir, looking wretched, "I didn't mean to startle you."
"I'm fine, Tamir," Neriah replied as he tried to calm his racing heart. "I guess I just ate a bit too fast for my own good." Their eyes met, and Neriah took in the strong lines of Tamir's jaw, noting the soft indentation of his cheek and the dimples at the edges of his mouth. He is beautiful, he thought, admiring the ethereal quality of Tamir's eyes. His next thought was one of grief and self-reproach. How could you even think such a thing at a time like this? He felt tears threaten and clenched his jaw. He would not show weakness to anyone, let alone a stranger. He was, he reminded himself, still a prince.
"Something is wrong," Tamir ventured, noticing Neriah's hard expression. "Those men. Why were they after you, Sheva?"
Neriah wiped his eyes and frowned. "I... I stole something from them," he lied as he forced the image of his dead mother from the forefront of his mind. "They chased after me. I thought they would kill me." He looked at his hands and said nothing more. A lie and the truth. He hoped it would suffice as an explanation of how he had come to be injured.
Neriah needn't have worried, for Tamir replied, "You don't have to tell me more. You should rest. Tomorrow, when you are stronger, you can make your way out of the city, if you wish."
Neriah studied the other boy's face for a moment. If he'd wanted to turn me in, he would have done so by now, he thought. Still, he hesitated. Why would this boy--this commoner--wish to help him?
"I promise no harm will come to you while you sleep," Tamir added, as if he had read Neriah's mind. The effect of these words upon Neriah was almost magical. Neriah knew, in that instant, that Tamir spoke the truth. Too tired to argue with himself over the wisdom of this blind trust, Neriah just said, "Thank you," and lay down upon the makeshift pillow once more.
* * * *
Neriah awoke sometime later, Tamir's body pressed against his own, warm and comforting. Without thinking, he wrapped his hands around the young man's chest, burying his head against Tamir's back, desperate to think of something other than the dangerous future that awaited him outside these walls. He heard Tamir sigh, and he released Tamir from the embrace, afraid that he had overstepped the boundaries of their newfound friendship.
It was then that Tamir rolled over and reached for Neriah. Neriah could smell the other boy's sweet fragrance, which called to mind jasmine and spices. They lay that way for the longest time, neither of them speaking. "I haven't been truthful with you," Neriah admitted, "I--"
"Shhh," Tamir replied, pressing his fingertips to Neriah's soft lips. "I do not need to know. I just wish I could ease your pain."
The lamp, which had been burning since Tamir had lit it hours before, now guttered and died. Neriah reached for Tamir and ran lithe fingers through his crimson hair. It felt like silk in Neriah's hands. "I am sorry to have put you through this," he said. "I don't deserve such--" But his words were cut short this time, not by Tamir's fingers but by his lips, pressed against Neriah's.
Neriah felt his pulse quicken. The kiss broke and Neriah began, "Tamir, I--"
"I'm sorry," Tamir interrupted. "I should not have touched you. I beg your forgiveness."
Neriah opened his mouth to speak, to tell Tamir that he had done nothing wrong, that he wanted this too. Instead, he kissed the redhead. He had never lain with another man before, but his need to possess those full lips was so great that he found he could not help himself.
Their kiss deepened, and Neriah's desire for the young man beside him grew. His hands sought the smooth skin of Tamir's chest of their own accord. He felt the hard muscle beneath the warm skin and, in the darkness, he kissed Tamir's shoulder. He heard Tamir gasp in pleasure as Neriah's hands probed beneath the boy's cotton shalvar, and he felt Tamir's hardness grow beneath his fingers.
"Sheva," whispered Tamir, pulling Neriah's hands away, "Please... let me pleasure you."
Neriah tried to protest, but Tamir's gentle lips met his own, and Neriah found that he had no will to resist him. Tamir pulled Neriah's pantaloons away, tracing Neriah's body with his fingers. Neriah felt dizzy, overwhelmed by the other boy's touch. None of the women he had lain with had ever touched him in this way, nor had he responded to them so powerfully, despite their beauty. "Please," he moaned, as Tamir began to cover his body with feathery kisses. He could not think--he didn't want to think--he just wanted to forget the ache in his heart.
"Let me take away your pain, Sheva," Tamir said, finding Neriah's hard length and kissing it. Neriah inhaled sharply and closed his eyes. It was at once the sweetest and most stunning revelation of Neriah's young life--not the fact that it was a man pleasuring him thus, but that he could feel anything so overwhelming, so wonderful, even as his heart grieved.
How does he know? Neriah wondered. And yet the truth was plain--Tamir understood the depth of his pain and his need.
When he thought he could stand it no longer, that his release would come at Tamir's warm lips, Tamir freed him from his mouth and clasped his arms around him. Neriah, overcome, claimed Tamir's lips once more and they held each other. And in that brief moment, Neriah knew he would never know anything as warm and reassuring as Tamir's arms.
"Let me guide you," Tamir whispered, licking his hand and taking Neriah's erection in it. Neriah, understanding what was to come, did not protest, but moved to press against the tight place between Tamir's buttocks. What followed was pure bliss, and Neriah's sorrow evaporated as he lost himself in the warmth of his companion. Tamir's soft skin was more beautiful than any woman's, the way his body molded to Neriah's like the most sensual of kisses. Neriah knew that Tamir, too, shared the same joy as he, for Tamir's cries of pleasure mingled with Neriah's own in the dark stillness of the night.
"Why would you do this for me?" Neriah heard himself say afterward, his breath ragged with release.
"Because I could," came the answer, along with the arms that encircled him in blissful warmth.
"But you know nothing about me. You owe me nothing," Neriah persisted, uncomprehending.
"But I do know you, beloved," Tamir replied, his voice like the sigh of the wind through an orange grove in Neriah's ear. "You are kind and brave and strong. It is the least I could do for you."
Still entwined, the two boys fell asleep, Neriah's head against Tamir's chest.
Tamir awoke at daybreak and, for the longest time, just watched Neriah sleep. His eyes traveled along the prince's well-defined jaw to his high cheekbones, following the hollow of his cheeks to the slender nose and dark eyebrows. Unable to contain himself, Tamir traced his fingers over Neriah's graceful lips for a moment, then reached to pull a narrow gold chain from around his own neck. Dangling from the chain was a jade pendant, etched with a depiction of the moon and two stars. He fingered the pendant for a moment, and his eyes filled with tears.
"I cannot come with you, my Prince," he said with great tenderness as he kneeled over the sleeping Neriah and placed the chain around his neck. "But perhaps, when you sleep, you will dream of me."
He touched his hand to Neriah's forehead and whispered, "Now, forget me."
* * * *
A soft breeze blew through the palace windows. Neriah inhaled the delicate fragrance of orange blossoms and stretched his arms over his head. "Are you content?" came a man's voice from beside him
"I...," Neriah hesitated, unsure of his response. Warm lips pressed against his own; the taste was familiar and intoxicating. He was not unhappy, and yet....
"What is it you desire?" his companion inquired.
Neriah hesitated once more.
"I can give you anything you wish. Diamonds, rubies, land, women...."
"I have no need for those things," Neriah answered, claiming the lips that had spoken those words.
"What, then? What do you desire, beloved prince?"
"I want to know your name."
Neriah sat up in his bed and shivered. It had been the same dream now for weeks, although he had come to wonder if he hadn't dreamed it long before and forgotten it. Each time, he would awaken out of breath, aroused, and with an emptiness that pierced his soul to its core. He could remember the intense passion his dream companion had awakened in his soul, but he could never remember the face of the lover in his dreams, nor did he ever learn his lover's name.
"My lord," came a soft female voice from the entrance to his tent, interrupting his thoughts. "May I bring you something to drink? Should I send your manservant to help you dress?"
"I need nothing," he replied as he dismissed the servant girl. "Leave me." She bowed low and backed away from his tent.
It was always like this--those who knew who he was would insist on doing everything for him--and he despised it. Despite his royal blood, he was more than capable of attending to his own needs. Years of living by himself on the run from his father's men had taught him to guard his independence. He knew that the servants found him cold and unreachable, but he cared little. His place was to lead them, not to befriend them. In truth, he had few people whom he could call "friends" at all, and he preferred it that way.
He stood up, covering his naked body in a silk shalvar kameez of the deepest blue, edged with delicate gold embroidery, and stepped into a pair of red velvet slippers. He walked over to a low-slung chair in the center of the tent and sat, frowning and rubbing his chin. He had heard the men return from their night raid on the enemy encampment. He would wait for a report before deciding what his next move should be.
"You may enter, Uryon," Neriah said with a nod to the captain of his personal guard.
A tall, broad-shouldered man with short, dark hair and bright green eyes walked into the tent, bowing low. He wore a deep purple shalvar kameez and a red scarf wrapped around his head. At his waist was a broad sword with an inlaid hilt, along with a small, jeweled dagger. Neriah himself had given Uryon the dagger as a symbol of the trust he placed in his officer, and Uryon had not disappointed him--Uryon had, countless times, protected Neriah at great peril to his own life. The prince knew that he was fortunate to have men such as Uryon under his command.
"We were successful," Uryon announced as he kneeled before Neriah. "Sheik Karana's men are either dead or have fled into the hills. We have brought back the spoils of the raid."
"Spoils?" Neriah ventured a slight frown playing upon his lips. "I have no need for spoils."
"Nevertheless," Uryon replied, "there were several women taken in the battle, along with a male slave, and three chests of gold. Your Highness must--"
"Make arrangements for the women to be returned to their villages," Neriah interrupted. "You may send them back with enough gold that they will be provided for."
"And the slave?"
"Is he friend or foe? What are his origins?" Neriah asked. Another loyal, able-bodied soldier would be a welcome addition to their ranks. Several of Neriah's best men had been won in battles with the enemy. He had earned their gratitude and their loyalty in freeing them.
"He won't reveal from whence he comes," Uryon replied. "He refuses to speak to anyone but you, Your Majesty."
"He knows who I am?" Neriah asked, surprised at this turn of events. His identity as Neriah, the banished Crown Prince of Tazier, was a secret known only to his closest followers and loyal servants. To others, he was known as Sheva, a wealthy sheik who opposed the rule of the current King of Tazier.
"No," Uryon explained, "but he will not speak unless it is to our leader, Lord Sheva."
"A spy, then," Neriah said, his face darkening, "perhaps in my father's employ?"
"It is possible," the other man replied, "although if he is a spy, he is a crafty one."
"How so?" asked Neriah.
"He had been kept to pleasure his captors," Uryon answered, looking uncomfortable now. "Or so the women have told us. They appeared"--Uryon hesitated for a moment--"quite jealous of his charms."
Neriah leaned back on the carved wood chair and chuckled. "Intriguing," he said, holding a finger to his lips. "A spy posing as a pleasure slave? I had no idea my enemies were so... civilized."
Uryon said nothing.
"Bring him here," Neriah said, a roguish grin upon his lips. "We shall see this beauty that the women envy."
Uryon bowed once again, then left the tent. Neriah stood up and smoothed his hair back, binding it together with a bit of leather, then walked over to the small table in the corner of the tent to glance at a map. He knew that he and his men would need to depart from their current location if they were to make their attempt upon the city before the weather grew too cold. He guessed that it would be at least four months before they would be in a position to threaten the palace in any meaningful way, and they would need to recruit many more fighters before they would stand a chance against the Tazier Royal Guard. Once he had dealt with the trifling matter of the slave, he would gather his officers and discuss their next move.
"My lord," Uryon said from the entrance of the tent.
"Enter," Neriah replied without turning around. He laid the map back on the table. "You may leave us, Uryon," he added. "I will call you when I have decided what to do with our"--he paused--"guest."
"As you wish, my lord."
Neriah turned around to say, "Let's see what we have here. I have heard--" but the words died on his lips.
Neriah had expected a delicate and feminine beauty, but the man who stood before him was neither. He stood straight-backed, broad-shouldered, and bare-chested. He looked Neriah in the eyes. If he feared for his own well-being, he did not show it. His arms were bound, but he seemed unconcerned. His crimson hair and amber eyes were startling; his skin glowed with the warmth of days spent in the sun, his high cheekbones and strong jaw unmistakably masculine and powerful. He was, no doubt, a beautiful specimen, and Neriah at once understood why the women had been jealous: they had wanted him for themselves.
"What is your name, slave?" Neriah asked, his face betraying none of his inner thoughts.
The slave bowed. "I am Tamir, my lord."
"From whence do you come? To whom do you owe your loyalties?"
"I come from a land far from this one," Tamir replied. "I owe no country my loyalty."
"Indeed. Then you will not name your homeland?" Neriah pressed, growing irritated.
"I cannot," answered Tamir.
"You will not?"
"I cannot," Tamir repeated, unfazed.
Neriah's eyes darkened in anger, and he slapped Tamir across the face with the back of his hand. "If you defy me, slave, you will have no one to blame but yourself if I kill you."
Tamir's eyes registered surprise, but he stood his ground.
"You mock me," Neriah said, his face as hard as stone.
"I would never mock you, my lord," Tamir said. "I am here to satisfy your desires."
Neriah laughed. "And what would you know of my desires?"
"Every man has something which he desires above all other things," Tamir replied.
"I have everything I could desire," Neriah laughed. "Money, power, women--"
"And yet you are full of pain and emptiness," Tamir observed.
Neriah laughed again. "How convenient. And you, no doubt, propose to fill that emptiness?" he asked, shaking his head with scorn. "What utter nonsense, to think that you, whose life is in my hands, could hope to satisfy me."
"Nevertheless," Tamir replied, "I am offering just that."
"Will you pleasure me, then, slave?" Neriah retorted. "I have heard you are quite skilled."
"If that is what you wish, my lord," answered the other man without hesitation. "I offer myself to you to use as you will."
Neriah considered the offer. He had long since tired of the servant girls who had given themselves to him. And, although he chose not to lie with the men in his command, there had been other men with whom he had shared his nights. In the end, though, none of them had satisfied him, and his cold heart had grown colder throughout the years.
"Show me, then," he said, his blue eyes glittering black with the challenge, "of what pleasures you speak. But you must do so without the use of your hands, slave."
Tamir did not complain, but moved closer to Neriah. For a moment, his face was so near Neriah's that Neriah thought the other man might kiss him. He did not, instead dropping to his knees and, using his teeth and tongue, untied the drawstring of Neriah's silk shalvar. Still using his teeth, he pulled the fabric downward, allowing it to pool around Neriah's ankles. Neriah did not move, although his physical need was obvious.
Tamir rubbed his face against Neriah's hardness, tantalizing his captor by brushing his lips against it, but not yet using his tongue. Neriah watched, intrigued by the other man's movements, finding himself far more aroused than he had anticipated at Tamir's touch. Tamir brushed his soft red hair against Neriah, and Neriah's breath caught in his throat as he remained transfixed by the fluid grace of Tamir's body. Even without the use of his hands or his mouth, Tamir had succeeded in doing what Neriah had begun to believe was impossible: Neriah wanted to feel the other man's mouth, and he wanted it so much that he fought the urge to beg for it.
"That is enough...," Neriah began to say, but at that moment Tamir took Neriah in his mouth as if he had read his mind, and Neriah felt all semblance of self-control evaporate. The way Tamir used his tongue to trace the delicate tip, pausing at its edge and circling it, then running his teeth over the shaft--Neriah thought that he might lose his mind. He wanted to cry out in pleasure, but instead he bit the edge of his tongue to stifle the sound. He would not let a mere slave know of his vulnerability, his need.
It was both torture and bliss, to be so moved by another's touch and yet to be unable to acknowledge it. If Tamir knew of Neriah's thoughts, he did not show it, but continued to suck deliberately, turning to press his shoulder between Neriah's open legs and rub all of Neriah's manhood with his bare skin and his hair. Neriah closed his eyes, trying to decide if he had the will to stop this or if he even should. But his need was too great and, when his release came in Tamir's mouth, Neriah bit his tongue so hard that he tasted his own blood, so difficult was it for him not to shout or moan. His body, however, betrayed him, shuddering with pleasure, his breath coming in ragged gasps.
Tamir looked up at Neriah, but there was no triumph in his amber eyes, just a bright passion that burned there. Neriah pulled his shalvar back up to his waist and retied it. "Do not think for a moment that your skill will earn you anything more than your life," he said, his voice cold as he glared at Tamir.
"I am grateful," Tamir replied, standing up. "It is my pleasure to serve you, my lord. I am content with that alone."
"Uryon!" Neriah called.
The captain entered the room and bowed. "My lord."
"He will remain with us," Neriah said with a glance at Tamir. "But until he sees fit to tell us where his allegiance lies, he will be our prisoner."
"Sir?" Uryon said, looking surprised. "But where--?"
"He will sleep in my tent," interrupted Neriah, having anticipated Uryon's question. Uryon averted his eyes to hide his surprise. Neriah turned to look at Tamir. "I assume a dry floor is sufficient for your needs?"
"Of course, my lord," Tamir replied, his expression unreadable. "It is far better than many places I have slept."
"See to it that he is bathed and given clean clothing," Neriah instructed Uryon, ignoring Tamir's words. "Are you proficient with a sword, slave?"
"I am," Tamir replied.
"He will assist your men in tending to the horses," Neriah told Uryon. "He will train with them as well."
"But, my lord...," Uryon protested.
Neriah's eyes narrowed. "Are you challenging my orders?" he demanded.
"Of course not, my lord," Uryon replied, "but since his motives are unclear, is it not a risk to provide him with a weapon?"
"If he gives you any reason to doubt his loyalty," Neriah replied, "you may kill him. Do you hear?"
"Yes, my lord," answered Uryon, bowing. Then, taking Tamir by the shoulder, Uryon escorted him out of Neriah's tent.
For a moment, Neriah stood and frowned, watching the place where the two men had just left. Without thinking, he pulled on the gold chain at his neck, extracting the jade pendant from under his kameez. The stone was warm, and he absent-mindedly stroked it. He would not let this man manipulate him--this slave who knew how to inspire lust in others. Frowning, he replaced the pendant beneath his shirt and called for his breakfast.