Letters were frequent in a service where the lower-middle class took advantage of the power of postal work. Two days later, one slipped through the letterbox of Archer Hall. As usual, Lysander hurried to the butler as soon as he had heard the latch slip down; he did this ritual habitually and the Archer butler had quite become used to Lysander’s eagerness.

Today, however, Lysander had been in the midst of his work when the door-flap had swung down. He hadn’t been present that morning, instead rifling through battle-plans and the like had quite left him distracted.

At the knock on the door, Lysander jumped and ink lapped the edges of his parchment. In one moment, he righted the bottle, but the damage already snared perfect neatness.

“Bloody hell.” He stood and dashed to the pack of tissues decorating the bookshelf for this exact reason. “Enter.”

“Just me, sir. Sprayed ink again?”

He chuckled. Typical of his life. “Spilt, yes, Chan. What have you…?”

Chan held out his neat-gloved hand. “Two letters for you, sir.”

Lysander put down his scarred paper and tissue. He tossed the latter into the wastebasket and leapt up to the butler, retrieving his mail. “Thank you, Chan.” He breathed. Rion’s decorative black ink had scrawled the address on one envelope alongside the wax crest. The other letter bore a neater hand, but Lysander ignored the official seal on the reverse.

Chan shuffled away. The second he closed the office door, Lysander pressed the blue envelope to his chest. He grinned, sighing. Already, the sleek half-stubble and square jaw wrestled its way into Lysander’s mind, beyond the tumbled half-images of battle-scenarios and devised foil parries; the new height of the warrior prince bulged, and when his lips would find Lysander’s own, the symmetry would complete itself in marvellous rose-sheen.

He sliced the envelope open with the waiting knife even before the seat of his slacks had kissed the chair-cushion. Out tripped a sheaf of thin paper, square and flat as usual. Lysander allowed it to slide onto the table, but he scooped it from its place before anything more could be lost.

The letter was unwrapped with speed, and Lysander scanned the page in his usual way. What he hadn't bargained for was the dark words carved in darker ink. Lysander stopped. His throat had become clogged.

Overhead, the bells tolled eight, post meridian, and Lysander shuffled in his chair. He swallowed. Confusion hit him first, followed by the harsh chill of his heart as it tore. Beyond knowing the best course of action, Lysander’s mind raced. If gods and ghosts still hunted the blood of a serving family, their howls were the senseless voices coursing his mind. Otherwise, he had been abandoned to the quick pound of his own thoughts.

So, the Costello thought he had the right to disband a tongued relationship on merit alone? He had given no other reason.

When Lysander removed head from hands, he raised eyebrows at the soft trace-lines across his palm.

“You shan’t, Orion. Not this time.”

Their correspondences had been regular and steady and, occasionally, fast, just like their sex, with hands all over the place and legs soon following.

At The Big College, Lysander had broken across the quads with ease to find Rion’s personal office – after all, he had been his tutor for the first year; neither had lived ‘on-site’ (Lysander had abandoned his provided room for the comfort beyond the walk home), but work, tutorials – and play – often took men for overnight stays. With such a smoke-screen, no one batted an eye at Rion possessing a sofa-bed in his office.

When he didn’t lust for the smack of desk-wood, that was. The tinge of reminiscence brought that to Rion.

Lysander, however, had qualms with being the pawn. He scraped back his hair, peering into the cylindrical mirror. Red-stained eyes narrowed at him in turn.

He crunched Rion’s letter in his hands. No more would he play the pawn and the willing boy for the end. When came the last time he had thrust his own control?

“Oh, Apollo, save me from blood-red fury,” he prayed. “Let me come to Rion when he sees the white light.”

The End

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