The Stallions' Ride
Vitalis shall be joining us on the tour. Whether this is owing
to his role as Keeper of Epeius, or to his talent as an artist,
or to his irrefutable beauty as a youth, or a combination of all
three, who am I to argue? How lucky I am to have him with me upon
the journey! I am for it doubly gratified that, on those many occasions
when duty shall bind me to Hadrian, Decentius will still be able
to enjoy the warmth of Vitalis’ company. And when Hadrian
is with another, as shall surely be his want, I’ll likely
have my pick of either Vitalis or Decentius (or both!) and we shall
never want for joy and passion. Such a strange and intertwined foursome
Yet if there is satisfaction and relief in knowing that some of
my most cherished friends are accompanying me on this grand adventure,
there is also sadness at the fact that others must, by necessity,
get left behind. And I am not alone in my grief, for Vitalis too
will be feeling the absence of both Anaxamenos and Maltinus.
So it was to the house of Maltinus that Palmetta, Rufus, and the
“three stallions” – Anaxamenos, Vitalis and I
– ventured last night for a farewell dinner. It was Brocca
who named us thusly, ostensibly for our role in the stables but
more suggestively, I think, for the stampeding thunder of our sexual
appetites. Not that we are more rabidly sexual than any other youthful
men! It is simply, I believe, that we are males, and she the mother
of four females. Naturally, then, we must appear to her as rabid,
and will doubtless be seen as such forevermore, even if elderly,
infirm, or proven more chaste than the most fanatical of abstinent
We were greeted upon our arrival by Stolo, as usual. She welcomed
us with large and generous kisses and duly instructed us to pay
our respects to young Merula, who toddled up to us, wide-eyed and
curious. “She’s two!” informed Stolo. “Two!”
Echoed Merula. Thus could there be no dispute. The house was alive
with children and laughter, attention-seeking squeals and guileless
questions. Rufus, being still an infant, was a source of great curiosity
– especially for Merula, who doubted that she had ever been
Maltinus emerged into the courtyard looking happy but haggard. “I
am exhausted!” he joked. “The child forever asks why
why why? How many times must I answer the same question?”
Brocca kissed him gently on the cheek and said, “Why why why
must we be so blessed with children, when our neighbours on either
side have each seen two of their infants taken in as many years?”
Indeed, it was a sobering question, and Maltinus was instantly repentant.
He smiled at Vitalis and I, and said, “See how she bests me
in logic? I am chastised! Come Merula – ask me something!”
We sat for several hours, eating and laughing, speculating on the
grand adventure before us. Corda strategically selected her seat
so as to find herself between both Vitalis and I. She would have
the twin travellers on either side of her, she declared. Brocca
was very curious to know of Sabina, of which I could only give her
impressions. Maltinus asked after the libraries at the Villa, as
well as Hadrian’s personal collection in Rome. I listed for
him as best I could some of the more interesting titles that had
arrived, and he sighed in longing: “Marvellous…”
“How shall you fellows be married,” asked Corda, “while
you are off traipsing about the world?” It was not an inappropriate
question, despite the obvious self-interest that prompted it. “I
can’t imagine we will be gone for more than a few years,”
I replied. “Hadrian will always have business to conduct in
Rome. I’m sure we’ll be back before too long.”
Corda, however, was not so sure as I, and made known her upset at
the prospect of our long absence.
“You shall have many tales,” said Brocca, “which
we all shall eagerly anticipate.” I turned to look at Vitalis
and said, “Not only that, but my words shall be illustrated.”
The prospect of seeing the world through the eyes of Vitalis was
gloriously exciting to everyone, including me. Corda placed her
hand on his thigh and rubbed it eagerly, saying: “Oh, Vitalis!
I simply cannot wait!”
It was quite obvious to everyone what game she was playing, and
Maltinus was more than a little embarrassed by it. “Corda,”
he said, “perhaps you shall help your mother put Merula to
bed?” Corda reluctantly got off the sofa and trudged into
the house. Maltinus smiled at us – half apologetic, half amused.
“So desperately does that girl wish to be married that she
abandons all sense of propriety. Would that she simply behaved herself,
she’d suddenly find the suitors lining up outside our door.”
“Have you told her that?” I asked. “Many times,”
he replied, “and perhaps one day she will not only hear it,
but understand it as well.”
At last the time had come when both infants and elders alike were
feeling the tug of sleep at their eyes. Anaxamenos and Palmetta
had elected to spend the night with her family, and so Vitalis and
I announced our departure. The round of goodbyes was heartfelt and
intense. Maltinus kissed me proudly on the cheek and gazed into
my eyes. His words brought both he and I almost to the brink of
tears: “May you shine forever, Antinous, and remember us.”
“You speak as though I should never return, Maltinus.”
He smiled at that and shook his head, adding, “I speak as
though when you return, I shall no longer be upon the face of the
earth to receive you.” How sobering! And yet how unthinkable.
I hugged him tightly, and said, “My gratitude is boundless,
and of a depth that no sounding could possibly measure.”
To Anaxamenos my love flowed as strongly. And to Palmetta too –
my sister! All in all, it took us the better part of an hour to
exchange our farewells. When at last we were departed, Vitalis and
I took each other’s hand so as to stabilize ourselves on the
There was a small silence between us, until Vitalis broke it thusly:
“How many years shall it be, Antinous, before we see these
randy streets of Subura again?” I looked up at the windows
with their glowing lamplight. I smiled at the thought of what pleasures
were being taken from within them. “Surely,” I replied,
“there shall be ample pleasures on the road.”
He shook his head: “That Corda is a sly fox. She made me hard
this night, and I’m suddenly hard once again. I’m in
a mood.” I stopped and turned to him with a smirk. “A
mood for what?”
He looked around at the houses. “A girl,” he replied.
“I wish to ride something, and take with me into the wild
world a memento of this mighty place.”
“Roman crabs?” I asked.
“Please!” he chided. “We shall shave. We shall
bathe and scrape and ensure no nits come along with us on the road.
You and I, Antinous, are far from the furry bulks of flesh to whom
such critters are attracted. That is a poor excuse, and I reject
I had told Hadrian of my desire to make plans this evening to say
goodbye to my friends, and accordingly he had arranged for other
company. Thus I knew that I was free to seek my pleasures as I wished
– for there would be no need to perform for Hadrian this night.
And so the idea of it slowly became to me more appealing, and at
last I capitulated. “I do not require luxury,” I finally
said to him, “but I shall not find myself in a stone pit.
If I’m to join you, I expect the house to meet acceptable
minimum standards of comfort and cleanliness.” He slapped
my shoulder and said, “Agreed!” And off we went in search
of a brothel.
We did not search long. The place to which we came was mothered
by a soft-spoken and sensual woman named Tulla. Her rooms were modestly
appointed but not uncomfortable by any means. Vitalis raised an
eyebrow at me (“Will this do, O ye of minimum standards?”)
and I nodded. And then I leaned in and whispered to him, “I
want to watch you.” He smiled slyly and seemed to become by
my words even more excited.
So it was that Tulla offered up to us an array of her girls to choose
from, all of whom were undifferentiated to me for there was no one
who stood out. Truth be told, my preference was for Vitalis, and
I found my hardening arousal not in the casual attachment of a girl
to my arm, but in watching my friend hungrily deliberate among his
options. When at last he’d chosen his girl, whose name was
Sona, the four of us were shown to our double-bedded room and left
We did not reveal to them our identities, nor our affiliation with
the court, for such would have been cause to extort from us far
more money than we were willing to part with. Instead we played
as ordinary friends in search of distraction. To my bedfellow, who
would soon prove to be not without considerable talent, I said I
wished to remain but a passive observer. I would not take her, but
asked her to pleasure me with her lips while I sat and watched the
other couple. She complied wordlessly and set to work at my groin,
leaving me a clear sightline to soak in the vision of Vitalis.
He wasted little time. Off came their clothes and into her legs
he went, his hard and familiar prick driving happily inward and
out. I enjoyed my inert and sidelined role; I revelled in the sensation
of being pleasured without effort, all the while observing the scene
before me as if a god in contemplation of its aesthetic qualities.
Vitalis is truly a beauteous youth. His buttocks are round and resplendent;
his lithe body ripples with the promise of manly muscles beneath
the smooth and flawless skin. I watched as his dark hair tumbled
around his face, swaying back and forth as he thrusted. I watched
his lips parting in breathy ecstasy as the cheeks of his ass squeezed
themselves tightly together with each push closer to his climax.
I drank in the sight of straining sinews in the arms that supported
him; of flexing muscles in the thighs that powered him; of the glorious
arch of his spine as his shoulder blades, like retractable fins,
kneaded from within the supple, downy leather of his back. The rhythmic
machination of his body, embroiled in the thoughtless swirl of its
most natural and irrepressible motion, was breathtaking. It propelled
me to my pleasure’s release in perfect timing with his own.
Vitalis collapsed into Sona while she cooed at him and stroked his
hair. My own partner stood up and reached for a jug of wine. She
drank thirstily, no doubt to wash away the flavour that I imagine
she had long ago come to despise. “Thank you,” I said
to her. She smiled at me. Her teeth were not straight, but that
certainly didn’t render her unattractive. “You are very
beauteous,” she said to me, “and thus it was not so
distasteful as with others.” I nodded in silent comprehension.
How lucky I am, I fleetingly thought, to have not been born nor
captured for a slave.
Despite our earlier thriftiness, we ended up paying them well more
than bargained and so left feeling contented and generous. “Farewell,
Subura!” called Vitalis drunkenly to the windows. “Remember
us! We of Hadrian’s departing train!”
And off we trotted to the Palatine, our hearts bursting with excitement,
our balls emptied (briefly) of their lust.
Today this letter shall be rolled and taken to the stables, where
it shall be deposited with Anaxamenos. It shall be the last one
I hand to him in person for a long time. Perhaps I shall send him
whatever others I write from the road, although that may be cause
for confusion, seeing as how they are addressed to one named Lysicles.
What does it matter? They are written for none but the stars. They
are leaves in the autumn’s approaching gale.
And soon, within but days, off shall I gust with them into the awaiting
world. I tremble just to think it! A.