The Wizard and the Torch

by Flaulus

Chapter 15

Few of Gene's friends had noticed just how weak the beer was, but it had been enough to relax them, and they had something to blame bad behaviour on, so they could let go. Some watched Tom cautiously, but he was content to supply the food and mainly soft drinks. He was surprised at the amount of sexual behaviour, but the boys had their excuse, it was a gay couple's party, and one boy produced another reason.

"I'm OK with Gene and Malcolm, but if I am cool for them, I'm not going to worry about a bit of fooling around."

No-one was quite sure what he meant, but it sounded reasonable, and some boys need to experiment if only to prove it's not for them. Add in the lack of phones, not having to explain where they were, and they had a freedom few youngsters ever had. They even had an adult supervising. If he accepted their behaviour, all was well. Tom saw two boys he did not know kissing until one looked nervously at him, but when Tom smiled, he turned back to his friend but with his hand firmly on the other's arse.

"We could swim, we had archery practice, we could explore the woods." It would sound like a great party to their parents.

As the sun began to set, so it seemed like time to go, but most were content to sit around a fire, Tom had built.

As Tom passed out more food, Tom said, "If anyone wants to go, I'll take them home. If any of you want to stay another day, you can. You all know there's more than a bus ride involved, so if you do stay, you'll still get back home when your parents are expecting you. You won't be a day late. Those who want to go, get your clothes and get dressed."

No-one moved, but someone called out, "I don't get it all. Why don't you tell us what's going on?"

"I'll try." Gene said, "I don't know why, but I can do these jumps through time and space. I'm going to start a lot of sentences with, 'I don't know why', and I don't know why I was chosen, but it happened. I'm moving to a new world; it's a lot to take in, and it's not like moving to a new town or school. I don't know why, but I'm saving a civilisation. Well, not just me, Craig is as well and judging by the collar, Benny is joining us."

There were some startled gasps as everyone stared at Benny who sat back, enjoying the attention.

"I felt really weird when I got back here." Benny began, "Can you believe I left this party for a couple of weeks and all you saw, was me going for a walk with Tom? Well, I did, and I went to Gene's place, world, palace. He's a grand wizard advising the government, and Gene and Craig are soldiers who won a war everyone expected to lose. They're heroes and now teaching about science, medicine and everything. I'm going to teach about electricity. It's weird there. I was a slave and got knocked over because I was blocking this guy's way. Do you know what? He stopped, offered his hand to help me up and said, 'Thank you for accepting our ways. They must be difficult to learn for a wizard such as yourself'. We talked a bit, and he more or less said, he was mine to command when I began my work."

"If you're a slave how could you command?" Someone asked.

"I don't get it, but I'm a slave who has to do what Gene says, but I'm also a wizard which makes me important. Gene?"

"Can we skip this discussion, please?" Gene, "I'm fed up with it."

"I'd got in with a drugs gang, they were friendly at first, and it was just somewhere to hang, but then I started doing favours as thanks. It turned out I was doing drug drops, and I was being pressured into trying them. You know. It's just makes you feel good. You want to be one of us, don't you? The trouble was it was turning nasty, and I could see what it was doing to other kids. I wanted out but once in, you stay in. After I got to know Gene's place, I travelled back a few days and spoke to Sergeant Willis. He knows about Gene and took it as normal I was time travelling, but I still can't say it without feeling stupid. Anyway, I told him about a collection I had to make tonight, hang on, I mean for you, for me, it was yesterday. I dunno, it's weird, but it happened. I grassed, so the gang was after me, and I was put into a witness protection scheme. It's still weird because I've disappeared from back there and everyone thinks the police has done it. It's got nothing to do with Craig and Gene disappearing."

"OK! Why this party, Gene?"

"I told you, I'm moving to a new world, and it's my way of saying goodbye. I needed to talk to my mother and there's a couple more who could come with me. I'm not saying who because it has to be their idea.

"I'd come with you," Peanuts said, "But I don't suppose you want me."

"You're one of the two." Gene said, "Just out of curiosity, why does everyone call you Peanuts?

"I'm always eating them. Could I really come? I'd do anything you wanted."

"Careful." Benny laughed, "That's a dangerous thing for a slave to say."

"I mean it, though." Peanuts sobbed, "You get it, Craig. Our family's like Benny's gang."

Craig nodded, "Yeah! I do. Your sisters love shoplifting for stuff to sell on Dad' stall. Your dad does his deals, and my dad sells it as well. Doing the witness protection thing again wouldn't work, would it?"

"No. I can see some faded bruises. Any broken bones? We could just leave some leaflets about refuges for battered kids for your folks to find."

"Yeah, but why would you bother?"

"Craig wants to help you. That's enough."

"I wish I was the other guy." Jimmy Smedley said, "I get it though. My old man would never let go, you couldn't make up a story about me."

"We'll think of something. You are the other candidate. The rest of you have got your lives and no, I don't know what's going to happen to you. I don't know why, but you can only change people's lives when something bad is going to happen. If someone jumps away for good, they disappear from the timeline just as if they died. We'll just have to kill you off."

"Thanks, I think. I mean you don't mean for real do you?"

"No! My plans are always changing, so we'll probably end up waving goodbye as you sail away in a balloon."

"You're still not telling us everything." Another boy called out, "Why are you going to so much trouble? Why not just recruit university students?"

"You're right." Tom interjected, "When it comes to the future, Gene only knows about bad things happening. He's got to accept he can't change everything, but can you imagine how he would feel if he couldn't change anything? Benny and the other two face bad situations, and their lives are going to change. It's coming up to the end of the school year, and some of you plan on leaving school any way, so no-one will think it odd if they're not there next term. Gene didn't choose this particular time to start all this: someone or something else did. So far as we know the rest of you are going to make it out of your teenage years, so we can't interfere in your lives. Gene, Malcolm, come here."

As the two boys stood in front of him, he continued, "Gene needs to say goodbye to his old life and start his new one. Malcolm is my second son, and their lives are together. So far, Gene has just drifted between his options. You're here, so you can see nothing bad has happened to Gene or Craig and now, Benny."

"Can we visit you in your new home?" A boy asked.

"No." Gene replied, "You heard how we planned Benny's departure so none of the evidence links it to us. Your cover is: Dad borrowed a friend's place to give us a pool party. We need to cover our tracks."

"It was a warm night so sleeping bags in the open air were enough. Tom noticed more than one couple zipping their bags together, but he was concerned with his own thoughts, the slave boys Gene owned were looking more attractive.

"I thought you were thinking of going home, Master." Malcolm said as they snuggled up together in their own sleeping bag.

"No, not while I've got such obedient and attentive slaves as Kaith." Gene replied.

"I hope you're teasing me, Master, but I was worried you might be planning to go."

"No! Dad was right, I was drifting, and I was a bit homesick, but I've changed. I've listened to my friends talking, and I don't have anything in common with them. Peanuts skipped a lot of school and never fitted in. I talked to him a bit this afternoon, and we got on. Benny's happy he's not in trouble any more, but I wasn't completely honest. A couple of others at school are hooked on drugs, badly hooked, they probably won't make it, and I can't help them. The point is, I can make a difference to a few, and that's what I want: to make a difference, and I can't do it back home."

"You've made a difference to me, Master. You've saved Droysklova, and Craig saved the pirate's slaves. Please stay."

"I will." Gene promised, "Meeting my mother and my old friends made me less homesick, not more. The only thing I really need to know is how the two worlds connect. I think I know, but one world is fixed in the past and can't be changed, and the other is the present and the future's waiting for us."

Both boys were tired, content to be close to each other and Malcolm, relieved that Gene seemed to have decided, fell asleep, happy and safe.

The next morning the rest seemed happy to spend the day swimming and enjoy a quiet day. By the evening, most were ready to go home though they all made a point of shaking Gene's hand and wishing him good luck.

Gene was happy. Benny and Peanuts stayed behind, nervously waiting to learn about their new lives. The brochures duly appeared in Peanut's bedroom, and his family desperately tried to track him down. They failed, but the police did not turn up acting on his information, so he had not grassed, and they could just forget him.

One of Jimmy's father's stock lines was: don't do that, you'll upset your mother, and Jimmy was a kindly enough child to obey. As he got older, Jimmy talked to his mother more and had found out she considered marrying had been the greatest mistake she had ever made. If anything, Jimmy felt more trapped because he felt obliged to protect her, becoming depressed, ground down by his father's bullying.

That evening, he was a little disorientated as he realised he had a third day to his weekend and had forgotten about the tracker in his phone as his father stormed in.

"Where the fuck have you been all day? Don't you realise your mother was worried sick when I couldn't find you?"

Enough had happened for Jimmy to feel less intimidated.

"Gene's father had arranged a surprise for Gene." Jimmy replied, "He took us to a friend's place. The thing is this guy is filthy rich and likes his privacy. We had to respect that, so we weren't allowed phones. He had a swimming pool that looked like a lake under a waterfall, an archery range and loads of woods to explore. God, he must be rich."

Jimmy had guessed right, and his dad was seeing pound signs.

"Give me his address, and I'll send him a thank-you letter."

"I don't know it. We took a weird route and went in through a private rear entrance. I didn't hear any traffic, so we weren't close to a road."

"There's nowhere like that around here. Start telling the truth, or you're grounded for a month."

"Where did my phone say I was? Who could afford technology to fool you like that?"

Jimmy's father stood glowering at his son, trying very hard not to lash out again, but he could not think of an answer either.

"You're grounded for a week. I put the tracker on your phone for a reason."

With that, Jimmy's father stomped out, heading for the golf club or rather, the bar.

"That was quite a story." Jimmy's mother said, "You're not going to fool him for long though."

"If I could live somewhere else, would you stay with him?" Jimmy asked.

"Your dad would never give up custody. You'd never get away with it."

"I've got a passport for our holidays in France, and I'm not going to France."

"Where would you go?"

"That's a secret, Mum. That's the only thing, I wouldn't be able to see you for a long time."

"I can't believe how much cheerful and confident you seem. It must have been quite a party."

"It was, Mum, but there's something else. I've realised I'm gay. Sorry, but I don't want to be what Dad's tells me to be, and I'm not going to hide it."

"I think I've known, but I agree with your Dad on this one. You need a decent girlfriend to sort yourself out."

"I am sorted, Mum. I like boys, and I'm not going to have a girlfriend just to fit in."

"All the time you live under our roof you will try to be normal. I suppose that Gene boy has confused you, so you're not to see him again. Go to your room."

Jimmy obeyed. Two days of healthy exercise, not worried about revealing his sexuality had re-awoken him. He could see what he had suppressed: his mother was not downtrodden and scared of his father's bullying. Instead, she shared his ideas and provided little more than a buffer against his excesses. If his father said, 'You are going to get psychiatric treatment', it would probably be his mother's idea, but she would say, 'Your Dad may have a point'. It was being constantly manoeuvred into his parents way of thinking that was making him depressed. As he considered his situation in the quiet of his bedroom he understood, trying to confide in his mother simply gave his parents intelligence on his life.

Grounded, he was even more at their mercy, and it was time to act. He looked through his computer deleting any files that linked him to Gene, then used a little script which filled the disk space with zeroes. His father tried to impress Jimmy with his computer skills by recovering files Jimmy thought deleted, but Jimmy was cleverer. While it was running, he wrote an email.

Hey Gene, I tried it your way and told my parents. Mum was OK, but she's going see I get treatment. I've had enough, so I'm off. I've been chatting to a group that helps runaway gay teens, and I'm going to find them. When I'm settled they'll try to get me, and my parents back together. I know finding a group online sounds bad, but they own a little café not far from Victoria. I'll be able to chat to a couple of others before I go with them.

Thanks for the party, and I'm glad you get on with your parents so well, but mine are not going to let me be gay.

I'll message you again soon, Jimmy.

It seemed more like a school essay than a message to a friend, but he wanted to be sure his father understood when he hacked in. Wearing just shorts, T-shirt and trainers, he cycled off towards the station. The last transaction on his card was a rail ticket to London. Hurrying back out, he cycled on and continued to the field they had been taken to for the party. Jimmy was sharp enough to understand grooming, and actually going to London to find the group would be the worst possible mistake he could make. However, he knew about the group because he was getting desperate and was trying to consider his options. Had Gene not given him a new chance, his depression might have made the group preferable to suicide. Either way, his disappearance was not going to disturb the timeline.

When he arrived and was greeted by Malcolm in the woods, he cycled into the city with Malcolm trotting beside him. Such an amazing form of transport immediately labelled him as a great wizard, and his future was assured.

True to form, Jimmy's father his examined laptop and found the message, showing it to his wife.

"You're due that promotion." She said, "If we cause a fuss it could look bad, and you could seem distracted instead of doing your job. It's lucky the recruiting age is sixteen in the UK. We can say he joined the army, and we encouraged it to make a man of him."

It was the last time they ever mentioned Jimmy, and not long after, they moved away.

Malcolm did his best to make the arrivals welcome. Gene could hardly go back when he had brought so many of his friends over so Malcolm felt even more secure. He lived in a slave society, and he was a slave, so it was natural to scheme to improve his situation, to make it more secure, and even his love for Gene was self-serving to a degree, but for the most part he truly loved Gene. Exploring the wastelands was the last big danger. They provided links which Malcolm did not understand to Gene's old life, so they could still cause him to leave. There was not much he could do, except keep Gene close to him.

He relegated Craig to the slave quarters with orders to look out for the newcomers. Craig did not mind as long as Milo was with him, and he was allowed a sleeping bag.

"Are you sure?" Gene asked, when he heard.

"Yes, Master. There's a small annexe beside the main dormitory, and their first job is to convert it into rooms fit for wizards. It will be Craig's domain; or maybe Milo's."

"And by keeping my friends away, you've got me to yourself."

"At night, true. During the day your orders are they should be able to see you whenever they want."

"Since when have you ever obeyed my orders? Seriously though, make sure Craig doesn't see it as a demotion."

"Ever since he got back from the pirate lands, he seems to be happier if he's just a slave. Could it be, he's exploring his feelings and discovering what he likes? He talks to the surgeons about medicine and explains what's needed, but if Milo tells him to do something, he does it."

"As long as he reads up on medicine while we still have the Internet, and passes the information on, Milo can put him over his knee and spank him. What I mean is, let him explore and let him have anything he needs. To be honest, as long as he's not using me to prove he's the big tough guy, I don't care."

"Yes, Master. I think Milo might have ways of proving how tough he is, but it's between them."

"Just don't get any ideas about me. It's not my scene. What about the others?"

"I thought they would take a while to settle, but I mentioned brothel to Benny, and he's already been. Jimmy is making friends with other slaves, and you know what that means. I thought Peanuts would be the shyest, but he goes out exploring, and I'm a bit worried he wants to be alone so much."

"No-one resents being naked and wearing a collar?"

"No, Master. I'm surprised, as I know how shy wizards are, but maybe that party prepared them better than you expected."

"Maybe. So which one do you fancy?"

"All of them Master. I'm not choosy except when I'm choosing a boy to love."

"Any other answer would have got you into a lot of trouble. Don't you ever want to play around?"

"It's another question that could get me into trouble, and you wouldn't believe me if I said no. When you first arrived there were times we were apart, and you gave me permission, but things have changed. You would be more offended if I went with someone now and, yes, it's the slave talking, I would be very unwise to upset you."

"If I said you love being my slave more than you love me, how true would it be?"

"If I was a free boy, I think I would still want to be your boyfriend. As a slave, I love being owned by a wizard. If I forgot I was a slave, would you still love me?"

"I guess that's it. The slave thing is always there. Just tell me if you're ever unhappy."

"What about you, Master? Are getting used to owning slaves?"

"There's a shortage of workers here. Maintaining an army, building cities needs workers, so it makes slaves valuable and worth looking after. There's something else. The rich don't seem to be so greedy here. They seem content to spend their time with their slaves, and it's not always sex. If they like painting, their slave does routine stuff while the master composes the picture. There's more passion, I think. Whatever it is, even beggars on the street seem to be treated better than they do back home, my old world, I mean. I think I can get used to that."

"Is it still your home, Master?"

"No!" Gene replied, "You're here so this is home. It's my way of speaking that hasn't changed."

Malcolm smiled. If Gene was feeling more at home, it could only be good.

Of the three arrivals, Peanuts was happiest with his decision. The only member of his family he could relate to was his uncle with a small plumbing business. He loved being shown the trade without being slapped or kicked if he made a mistake, and he could sit in the office, doing his homework. School, during lessons, was the only other place he felt safe, so he did unexpectedly well with his classwork. The history of plumbing is not an exciting topic, especially for a schoolboy but it linked the two places he felt happy and safe. It now linked him to Craig who was working on basic disease prevention.

Whatever Craig and Milo got up to, Craig still saw Gene as his friend and not his master, and it was Peanuts who was nervous, standing next to Kaith, the serving boy rather than sitting with Craig and Gene.

"Can we cope with more interference from the old world? Peanuts has got some ideas about sanitation." Craig said.

"Come and sit down, Peanuts. It's a wizard's right."

Peanuts obeyed an order rather than accepted an invitation, but he only had his family for comparison, and his older brothers were not kind to him. He looked helplessly around waiting for a slap or worse.

"OK! It turns out, Peanuts knows something about clean water." Craig interjected, "He reckons latrines are dug too close to wells, and there's not enough of them. Wells I mean. He also knows a bit about cleaning swimming pools. OK, there aren't many here, but a lot could be applied to drinking water. I know a bit about his uncle and how the family hated him because he wouldn't do anything shady, but they wanted Peanuts to get an apprenticeship with him, so he could case places."

"It sounds as if you and Peanuts did well to keep out of it all." Gene said.

"My dad didn't care as long as I was the tough guy, so I'd get known as an enforcer, but I'm not. Yousif is about to attack the pirate city. There's going to be some real battles, and I'm glad I'm out of it, but I like being known as the Peace Bringer. Peanuts had a couple of brothers to pressure him, so he had it worse."

"OK, has anyone found out why we picked Jimmy?" Gene asked.

"No. He was into computers, so he won't be needed for a few hundred years."

"His father wanted him to learn about Business Studies." Malcolm said, "I don't know what they are, but his father thought anything else was a waste of time. You could rent him out, and he'd enjoy it. Master, could you have just saved him for his sake and not yours?"

"Yeah, I'm getting used to there always being a hidden reason, so I always look for it."

"If I sent him to my father, I think he'd like the hard work, some of my old clients would like him, and he could pass on wizard farming ideas. Craig's been helping me to do that, but it would keep him as a wizard."

"I'm not ordering anyone to become a prostitute. I know good ones get a lot of respect here, but he has to agree. He's your project, Malcolm. Make sure he doesn't regret coming here."

"Yes, Master. It's a nice order, so I'll obey like a true slave."

"Humph, that'll make a change."

"Don't worry, Peanuts." Craig chuckled, "They're always arguing. Gene is in charge; Malcolm ignores him and does things his way."

"Dad hated me getting uppity while I lived under his roof." Peanuts said.

"Peanuts, you're going to sleep with Malcolm and me tonight. You're a slave, so you don't refuse, but I don't think Craig hates it when he joins us." Gene said.

"No, but Peanuts isn't gay." Craig said.

"No, he's a slave. Look! I know they make more fuss about protecting girls here, but do you honestly think we're going to ram our cocks up his arse if he hates it?"

"No, Master. I'm sorry, I'm just protecting my cousin. Peanuts, their attitude here is, boys have to empty their balls so why not help each other. You'll be all right with Gene and Malcolm."

"I figured I'd have to do something, but it's my first time." Peanuts whispered, as if revealing a dark secret.

"Then slave Malcolm will make it special. You'll just lie back and think about girls or boys while he does all the work, and I watch."

Craig was surprised to see his cousin's penis thicken and swell. According to Peanut's brothers, he was a faggot because he was kind, gentle and clever, and nothing like a real man. They had never sexually attacked him, but they did verbally and physically abuse him. Not being able to resist punches that a man should take then fight back, being told he didn't deserve a dick can have a cumulative effect. Although Gene didn't realise it, saying he could lie back and think about girls or boys made a terrific impact as he realised he could choose.

Gene would remember that night as one of the shortest encounters ever. Peanuts was tense and nervous as he reluctantly settled between Gene and Malcolm. Malcolm gently stroked Peanut's thigh edging upwards and Peanuts was instantly erect. Peanuts felt between Malcolm's legs and raised his eyebrow in a question. Malcolm understood and straddled Peanuts guiding his cock. The head hardly touched Malcolm's cherry when Peanuts jerked violently and cummed. He promptly fell asleep leaving Gene and Malcolm to wonder what had happened.

He might now be a slave who obeyed his master's summons, but he had previously obeyed his brothers or got a blow as punishment. Where Malcolm was so gentle, his brothers did not understand gentleness. Where he had made a request, no matter how cautious, Malcolm had readily responded while his brothers would ignore his request to pass the breakfast cereal. It was the culmination of the kindness he had experienced since he arrived, and he slept deeply in the warmth provided by Gene and Malcolm, so different to the fitful, scared naps he could only manage at home.

The next morning he woke to see Gene and Malcolm's friendly smiles and knew he was home.

"Good morning, Master Gene." he said, then smiled at Malcolm.

While the new arrivals were settling in, Tom and Malcolm were preparing the expedition. For Malcolm, fear that Gene might leave them was fading, and the expedition was more of an irritation to be got out the way. Malcolm mentioned being with other boys and Gene had given him a chance with Peanuts. Kaith looked longingly when he was not invited to join them, but sometimes Gene wanted Malcolm all to himself, and the more it happened, the safer Malcolm was.

Malcolm's plan for Jimmy proved to be a great success. Jimmy relished the hard physical work expected of field slaves. However, he was a wizard, so Malcolm's parents listened respectfully when he discussed farming techniques. He also became extremely popular as a male escort, not only providing excellent sexual services, but because he proved to be an excellent storyteller, weaving stories about his world together with a good mixture of his own imagination. More importantly for Jimmy, he was as far away as he could be from the life his parents had planned. One privilege was he could often visit Gene and his friends.

One day he was wandering through the market when he was stopped by one of his clients, Trader Orsten.

"Good day to you, young man." Trader Orsten said, "Are you working or can I offer you a drink in the tavern."

"Thank you, sir." Jimmy replied, "It's still strange being allowed to drink."

"Yes, so you've mentioned in your stories. Your escapades in trying to get it are wonderful."

"Thank you. When's your next booking?"

"Not for a while, you're very popular. I suppose you miss my tips."

"No, your tongue. It's something else."

Back home, the conversation would have been highly embarrassing but Trader Orsten was delighted with the compliment, aware that others had heard an expert escort, and a wizard as well, praising his prowess.

"It's nice of you to say so, but flattery usually comes at a price. What's yours?"

"Just a favour. If I gave you pictures of plants could your men look out for them and bring me seeds. You travel further than most, so you might be lucky."

"I can do that easily. As a trade I've still got the best of the deal so is there anything else?"

"No, thank you, sir. I'm supposed to be buying supplies, but I should never miss a chance to work, and your office is nearby."

If Jimmy had established himself and made himself popular, Gene was puzzled that Benny also spent so much time in the market but talked to jewellers, silversmiths and tinkers.

"Electric motors need a lot of copper, and I need to be able to solder." Benny explained, "Jewellers use a lot of metals no-one else does while pots and pans stalls also have a lot of copper. Tinkers rivet broken pans or try using molten lead, but the repairs never last long, so I can trade what I know of soldering and brazing for materials. They mainly beat out new pans from sheet copper. The problem is going to be hand drawing copper wire in the quantities we need. I'm going to need a load of slaves."

Peanuts was also concerned with trading, but he rarely returned home without being covered in mud.

"Potters are helping me make earthenware pipes. They get clean water, so they're anxious to help. I've got some friends among the apprentices, we help each other clean up, and we play around a bit. Is that all right?"

"I take it there's more playing than cleaning." Gene said and Peanuts grinned.

Gene spent time with the City Father, Geog Af Builnia.

"General Blyne complains of being overrun." Geog Af Builnia chuckled, "People are flocking to him for medical treatment from both sides of the border. We're using your form of warfare so when Starislav troops move out of a border village for any reason, it comes over to us. Starislav is complaining about losing territory but daren't even regroup their troops. The pirate city is under siege, and the rest of that territory is now ours. The big problem is the rate woodland is being cut down for firewood. There must a better way of stopping disease."

"I know. I'm still able to get information from home so one of my friends is working on it. The problem is marrying up our ways to what's available here."

"But you are working on it?"

"Yes! The first step is convincing people, dirty water causes disease, and many are still not convinced. Boiling water is the easiest idea to introduce, so it was the second step. The third step gets more complicated, and needs more knowledge, but we are dealing with it."

"And you are dealing with fast messages?"

"Yes. Yousif and General Blyne can talk to each other by radio. They will eventually wear out, but if we can produce electricity here, we can build simpler systems."

"Then you may have whatever you need. I do hear of your wizard slaves' activities. Tell me. What project is Jimmy working on?"

Gene grinned. "He's not. I make him study farming methods, but he's happy digging the fields and serving his clients for now. When we occupy land in the wastelands, he'll be able to demonstrate his ideas."

"People talk about his stories. Tell me. Why is he such an enthusiastic prostitute?"

"His father was a bully and tried to decide his future. He had to study and any sort of fun was a waste of time. The trouble is, he's extremely bright and did well as a scholar, but he needs physical challenges. If you worked him until he collapsed, he'd need to try again tomorrow. If he carried on until it was too dark to see, he feel as if he'd beaten you. Imagine how that works with his sexual energy. His father only saw his skills as a scholar and ignored his needs."

"Yes. It fits in with what I've heard. Does he receive his share of the take?"

"Do you mean he gets paid?"

"You didn't know? No. You don't know our ways. Let us say one of your captured slaves is a skilled water diviner. You'd hire him out, and he'd return home with his fee. You would deduct his expenses then split the profit two ways and give the slave his share because he has a special skill. You are entitled to a quarter of Jimmy's earnings. He has another quarter, the family looking after him, another and their owner, the last. With his skills, I would think your quarter is more than our imaginary diviner's half share would be."

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