Joshua came in dressed in his robes of office, a long black loose fitting coat that reached the ground and covered his arms down to his wrists. A black hood covered his hair and a black gauze veil hid his fine features revealing his steel blue eyes that were framed with thick dark lashes.
“My lord.” Lance said as he bowed in greeting.
“I thought it was agreed that you would call me by my name and I would call you Lance?” Joshua said quietly, his voice like velvet.
Indeed we did sir, but seeing you like this reminds me that I’m not worthy.” Lance offered his hand, intending to lead the teen outside.
Joshua looked at the offered appendage and took a step back. Realizing what he had done, Lance quickly withdrew. “My lord, my apologies. I forgot momentarily that you were forbidden physical contact until after you have completed your service.” Lance walked over and opened the door. “Shall we go?”
The teen nodded and walked out of the room with Lance close behind him.
The robes that Joshua wore were made of light fabric but they weighed heavy on his narrow shoulders. They were the same type he had worn all his life, infant, boy and now adult. They set him apart and made him different from other boys his age. On the trips to the toy store when he was a child, as soon as he and his father walked into the store the manager would descend on them, whisking them away to a special private room that contained toys of a more delicate nature. Breeders were kept away from the guns and tanks that normal boys were allowed to play with. Instead they were given baby dolls. Picture books and puzzles, encouraged to indulge in arts and crafts. As a child Joshua had longed to run and play in the main store like the other boys but his station as a breeder forbid it.
“Do you want to go to the fair first?” Joshua jumped. He could tell by Lance’s tone he had already asked the question once.
“Yes please it’s been so long since daddy took me to one. I’d like to spend as much time as possible there.”
Lance grinned. “You know you are not allowed on the rides don’t you? Strict instructions from your father.”
The excitement in Joshua’s eyes dulled. “None at all?” he asked disappointedly.
“Well I think maybe I can allow the carousel, but you have to promise me that you will hold on tight.”
Joshua rolled his eyes. “I’m not a baby you know. The carousel is for children and old men. I want to ride the dragon.”
“The dragon!” Lance laughed out loud.” And will you have my execution by hanging or firing squad? I’m sorry but I have to say no.”
“Then there really is little point to me going,” Joshua sighed, pouting heavily.
“Is he pouting already lieutenant Bass?”
“General sir, no sir. His lordship isn‘t pouting”
The general smiled. “I know my son lieutenant. You told him no rides didn‘t you?.”
“Well sir I thought maybe the carousel. It seems a shame that he should miss out altogether.” Lance said winking at the teen.
“I do believe my son has had a bad influence on you lieutenant.” The general met his son’s hope filled eyes and sighed. “ I really can’t deny you anything can I? Alright, only the sedate rides mind you. Nothing that can injure him. I will hold you responsible for his safety.”
“You have my word sir,”
Joshua’s eyes were wide with excitement as the carousel went around and around. He wouldn’t admit it to the handsome young officer but it was the first time he had been allowed to sit astride one of the painted wooden ponies. He laughed with joy, his features hidden by his veil as Lance led him off and back into the crowd.
“You have a lovely laugh Josh.”
Joshua bushed behind the black gauze that covered half of his face.
“You are too kind. It’s a laugh just like any other.”
Lance’s eyes devoured the young man as he practically skipped over to look at an art stall. “What would you like to do now my lord?”
Joshua sighed, “I so wish you would call me Josh. I don’t deserve your reverence.”
“But you are wrong. When I was a boy I would see boys like you in their robes and I would see how respected and how worshiped you were and I wanted to be like you. I so wanted to be allowed to wear the robes, to have people bow to me. I envied boys like you.”
“There is nothing to envy. I grew up with no playmates because I was held above the other children. I spent my life in loneliness. I am still lonely.” Joshua whispered sadly as he reached out and picked up a sable paintbrush.
The urge to take the young boy in his arms was immense. He looked around for a distraction, finding one in the form of a candy stall. “Josh look cotton candy. Would you like some?”
Joshua smiled into his veil and nodded enthusiastically. “ I would like that very much, I have never had cotton candy before.”
“Really! Then you really must have some.” The blonde officer made his way over to the concessions stand and purchased a large blue and pink candy on a stick. He handed it to Josh who tore a piece off and passed it under his veil. His eyes lit up as the sweet sugar melted on his tongue and straight away Lance knew that a rule had been broken.
“Don’t tell father will you? He doesn’t allow me sweet things but I do love sugar.”
“I promise I won’t tell him.” They walked side by side the two foot soldiers walking behind them.
“Lance can I ask you something?”
Joshua stopped walking and fiddled nervously with his fingers. “ Do you find me attractive? I know I shouldn’t concern myself with such things but I don’t know how other men see me. I’m a breeder, is that all that is attractive about me. Or is there more?” Joshua’s child like innocence tugged at the southern officers heart strings.
“May I speak candidly my lord?”
“ I wish you would sir.”
“Josh I would give anything to have you as my husband. It wouldn’t matter to me. If you was a breeder or not. I would be honoured to love you.” Lance stepped closer to the teen intending to break yet another rule and embrace him, but before he could the sirens blared out. The north was attacking again.