Castle Roland

Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity

by Bill W


Chapter 4

Published: 26 Oct 15

Sword of Kings: Forged Out of Necessity

by Bill W
Copyright © 2014 by billwstories

Childhood Memories

Kieren's childhood had been a very lonely one. Even though he had the typical elfin ears, almond-shaped eyes and keen senses those of the race are blessed with, he still stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the light-haired, fair-skinned elves. His coal-black hair, tanned complexion and tall, muscular build, which he inherited from his mother's side of the family, were automatic indicators that he was at least partially an outsider.

It was due to this fact that the other children teased him, unmercifully, about being half-human, or as they put it – a halfling. In fact, it was the use of this particular slur that eventually caused Kieren to withdraw from anyone outside of his family and he stayed mainly by himself. He felt it was easier to be a loner, than to risk the sting of their taunts. He did not try to make friends or do more with the other children than was absolutely required by his studies. Throughout his childhood, Kieren remained physically and emotionally aloof from those around him. It was mostly so he could maintain his sense of pride and ensure his emotional well-being.

Academically, Kieren was an excellent student, with an extremely sharp mind, which allowed him to grasp the complexities of almost any subject he studied. He was also very gifted physically, as judged by the rapid progress he made at mastering the combat skills he was tutored in. Not only that, but he was also a strong swimmer and a fast runner. However, all of these positive attributes only alienated him even further from his peers, because they resented how easily everything seemed to come to him.

For those reasons, Kieren was a very lonely little boy, who often sat back and watched life from a distance. He envied the way the other children got along with each other and admired the activities they devised to help pass the time. However, even by the tender age of nine, he had resigned himself to the fact that he would probably never be close to any of them.

This realization saddened him greatly and caused him to confide in his parents about the problem. They immediately volunteered to intercede on his behalf. They suggested they could speak with some of the other parents and invite their children over, so Kieren would be able to get to know them better. Kieren balked at this suggestion, because he concluded it would only serve to make the other children feel uncomfortable about being in his home. This, in turn, would cause them to resent him even more and deepen the divide between them. After discussing his concerns at great length with both his mother and father, they eventually relented. His parents agreed to allow him to handle the problem in his own way.

One day, after his combat skills class ended, Kieren watched as two of the elves got into an argument over what had happened during the lesson.

"You think it's funny, don't you?" the slightly shorter elf demanded of the other.

"No," the taller boy answered back. "I was just doing what the instructor told us to do when practicing that skill."

"He didn't say you had to beat the stuffing out of me with your staff!" the first elf screamed back, to let the other one know he didn't believe him.

"We were told to act as if we were in a real battle and see how many times we could make our strikes count," the other elf countered. "We were just warned to soften the blows and not make full-force contact."

"Are you telling me that wasn't full-force?" the smaller elf asked, unbelieving.

"Heck no," the taller one replied, with a smirk. "That was only about half as hard as I could have hit you."

"Oh, really?" the shorter boy spat back, rubbing a couple of the areas that hurt the most. "So that makes you think you're a better fighter, just because you were able to put bruises all over my body and make me hurt all over?"

"You could have done the same thing to me," the taller elf countered. "It's not my fault you can't defend yourself."

"So, now it's MY fault that I'm bruised and sore?" the shorter elf asked, amazed. His eyes were wide, showing his shock and hurt. "Are you saying none of this was YOUR fault?"

"No, I hit you with my staff," the taller elf responded, looking slightly remorseful, "but you could have stopped most of the contact, if you knew how to counter my moves."

Kieren watched as the boys continued their argument, knowing they were actually best friends. This had been one of the pairs he had observed in the past and even envied how close they were. This made him wonder why they would fight over something as minor as this, but he didn't want to interfere and then have them turn on him instead. That's why he just sat in the shadows and listened, as they continued their disagreement.

"Well, if that's how you feel," the shorter elf responded, "then I don't want to be your partner any more. In fact, I don't want to be your friend any longer either."

Having said this, the shorter elf pushed the taller one away from him, which merely caused the other to come charging back to push him in return. After giving each other a few shoves, they went back to using words, instead of their arms.

"Fine!" the taller elf countered, after pushing his smaller friend backward one final time. "Then go let someone else pummel the stuffing out of you, because that's what is going to happen, until you learn how to fight."

Kieren could tell by the expression on the speaker's face that he didn't really mean what he'd just said. He was merely acting out of hurt and rejection. It was fairly obvious, at least to Kieren, that these recent developments had both surprised the taller elf and wounded his pride. Even though that might be true, he was doing his best not to show it.

No sooner had the words escaped the taller elf's lips, than the smaller one lunged and tackled him, knocking the larger elf to the ground. Not only were they wrestling about, but they were also beginning to throw punches as well.

Seeing this, Kieren felt he could no longer remain quiet. He couldn't allow them to destroy their friendship over something as trivial as this. Finally, he plucked up the courage to step in and managed to pull them apart, before they could do any serious harm to one another.

"How can you two fight and stop being friends over something so silly?" Kieren demanded. "I've watched you both for ages and only wish I had a friend as great as either of you. I can't believe you're willing to throw it all away, just because of some stupid spat."

The two elves turned and studied this unexpected interloper, as they wondered what right he had to interfere in their argument. They also took some time to consider his words. When they turned toward each other a few seconds later, it was easy to see the guilt written all over both boys' faces. It was obvious they were beginning to acknowledge, at least internally, their own mistakes in this misunderstanding. Seeing they were now no longer fighting, Kieren wondered if either one would have the courage to verbally admit what their expressions told him. He didn't stick around to find out though. He figured he had done all he could and the rest was up to them.

"He's right, you know," the taller youth admitted, after quite a lengthy pause. He also looked a little sheepish about having acted so childish.

"Yeah, I guess it was kind of dumb," the shorter elf agreed, looking equally contrite.

"Only on your part," the taller elf retorted, while punching his friend playfully in the arm as he did so.

At first, it appeared as though the shorter elf was ready to fight again, but then he realized the statement was only meant as a joke. Since he now understood the intent of the comment, the shorter elf forced out a weak laugh and then began to look around.

"Hey, where did that other boy go?" he wanted to know. "Did you see where he went, Romaric?"

"I think he took off in that direction, Garreth," he responded, with a wave of his arm, "but I don't see him now."

"Do you think we should thank him for what he did?" Romaric asked, while studying his friend for a response.

"Yeah, maybe we should, since he did help us stay friends," Garreth agreed. "Come on. Let's see if we can find him."

The two elves immediately started racing down the roadway, as they searched for the boy who had just stopped them from ruining their friendship. Just as they were about to navigate a bend in the roadway, they saw the raven-haired youth cutting across an open field. He seemed to be heading toward a small grove of trees. It was located a little more than halfway across a piece of land, which someone had plowed and was planting crops. Whoever was working the field had intentionally left the trees alone, although the elves didn't understand why anyone would do that. Focusing back on the ebony-haired youth, Garreth and Romaric watched as he disappeared from sight.

"Come on," Romaric urged. "Let's go see what he's doing in there."

The two elves moved fairly quickly across the open expanse, while at the same time trying to be careful about where they stepped, since they didn't want to harm the crops. When they got to the wooded area, they slowed down and quietly slipped into its depths. They then continued looking around, as they attempted to locate the mysterious youth.

After a minute, they noticed movement off to one side, so they hid behind some bushes, to keep from being seen. From this concealed location, they watched the dark-haired boy as he climbed one of the trees. Carefully, he made his way along the various branches and even swung back and forth a few times, as he dangled from one of the higher limbs. However, even though he seemed to be doing this for enjoyment, he didn't appear to be very happy.

The two elves weren't sure why he still looked so sad, but they could tell something was bothering him. He was merely going through the motions of having fun, but wasn't thrilled about what he was doing. Even though they were still puzzled about what his problem was, they decided to remain hidden, so they could keep track of what he was up to.

The youngsters watched as the other boy continued this activity, but he eventually climbed down from the tree and moved over to sit along the edge of a clear little pond. The elves hadn't even noticed the water before he did this, because it had been completely camouflaged by the small copse of trees. As the dark-haired youth sat on the bank, he began tossing pebbles into the water. He then studied the ripples, as they expanded outward from where the tiny stones had disturbed the surface.

After a few minutes of this monotonous activity, he stood up and began skipping stones across the surface. Both elves admired his graceful movements and began to wonder why they hadn't paid much attention to him before. It was true they'd seen him around and had heard some of the other children tease him because he was half-human, but they had never really thought much about him before now. Suddenly, this omission began to bother them.

Their thoughts were suddenly interrupted, however, when they noticed the ebony-haired boy beginning to remove his clothing. They both began to giggle softly as they watched him undress, thus revealing their childish amusement with nudity. Slowly, Kieren took off the last of his garments and made his way down the bank.

Completely naked, he began to wade into the water, before finally diving in. The two elves continued to watch him, while noting how effortlessly he glided through the watery bed. It didn't take long before they started wishing they could join him in his private oasis. However, they never got the chance to act on this desire. Before they could determine their next course of action, Kieren spotted the pair peeking out at him and shouted a challenge.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded, more forcefully than he had intended.

The elves were stunned that they'd been spotted and had possibly upset the other youth. Guiltily, they stood up, but were unable to speak.

"Well, you might as well come join me. My name is Kieren," he advised them, while flashing a half-smile in their direction. He was intrigued at the thought he might have playmates, at least for a brief time.

"The water's really great," he added, as an incentive to get them to agree to his suggestion.

The two elves merely stared at each other, but remained uncertain about what they should do next. After a slight delay, they turned their backs toward him slightly, so they could discuss their options in private.

"Should we really do it?" Garreth asked Romaric.

"I don't know," Romaric responded, "but it does look really great. I wouldn't mind having a swim."

It was obvious both elves wanted to do this, yet each one was still a little hesitant. Slowly, they made their way from behind the shrubbery and into the open.

Feeling slightly uncomfortable about what they were about to do next, they turned away from each other, as well as from the new boy, and sheepishly began to disrobe. Once they were out of their clothing, they started to make a dash toward the pond, knowing the water would help to hide their nakedness. Kieren just smirked as he watched them move in his direction, with their hands strategically covering their delicate parts.

"How did you find me here?" he challenged mildly.

This caused the two elves to stop dead in their tracks at the edge of the pond. They suspected Kieren already knew the answer to this question, so they struggled with how they thought they should explain their actions, so as not to provoke his ire. The elves looked as if they had just been caught stealing candy and hung their heads. During this awkward period, they also forgot to continue hiding the sensitive portions of their anatomy.

"I'm sorry," Romaric finally offered, while trying to figure out how he was going to explain their behavior. "After you left, Garreth and I thought we should thank you for stopping our fight, so we sort of followed you here."

"Yeah, we watched you for a while first though," Garreth added, "just to make sure there wasn't anyone else with you."

Although the boys were still quite uncomfortable about having followed him and then being caught, they could tell the new boy wasn't really upset with them.

"Well, come on. Get in here. It would be a shame not to enjoy yourselves, after you came all this way," Kieren urged, while giving them a broad grin. Finally, the two elves were able to relax again.

Quickly, they complied with his suggestion and dove into the pond. It took them several more minutes to grow comfortable about their nakedness and get used to being around the dark-haired boy. After some awkward moments of hesitation and uncertainty, the three of them began to frolic merrily about in the water. It wasn't long after this began to happen before they started horsing around by dunking each other, competing in races and just having a good time. When they noticed the sun was beginning to go down, they agreed it was time to go home.

"Would you like to come back here and do this again tomorrow?" Kieren asked, hopefully.

"I'm not sure I can," Garreth responded. "My father said something about helping him with some chores tomorrow, after I got home after combat training."

Kieren's face began to drop and reflected the disappointment he was feeling. He thought they were both going to make excuses so they wouldn't have to hang out with him again.

"I might be able to," Romaric volunteered, "but I won't know until I get home. My parents told me I could spend this afternoon with Garreth, but I don't know what they'll say about tomorrow."

"Well, I know I can't, but I'll ask about the day after tomorrow, if you want to do it then," Garreth offered.

He didn't wish to be left out, so he looked at the other two, to see if they were agreeable with his idea. When he looked up, Kieren was smiling broadly, after realizing he had begun to worry much too soon.

"Yes, I can wait until the following day, if that's all right with…" Romaric stopped in mid-sentence. "I'm sorry, I forgot your name."

"It's Kieren," the boy volunteered, eagerly.

"Nice to meet you, Kieren. I'm Romaric and this is my friend, Garreth."

"Hi Kieren," Garreth uttered happily.

"Fine, we'll make it the day after tomorrow then," Kieren agreed, feeling inwardly pleased that he might have made two friends.

From that day forward, the boys spent as much of their free time together as they could, and their little retreat became the focal point of their activities. The triumvirate spent untold hours enjoying this secret place where they could do as they wished, without having to worry about anyone else bothering them. They never hesitated or thought twice about enjoying themselves completely and gradually began to feel close to one another. In fact, it didn't take long before the bonds of brotherhood began to grow very strong.

This culminated four years later, when the trio began their journey into adulthood. It was then that their bodies began to develop and change, as they responded to the ticking of their biological clocks, but it did not affect their desire to be together. It was a time when they were beginning their arduous trek through adolescence, a journey they had not yet completed. It was also the start of the most memorable of their carefree summers. Coincidentally, it would also be the last year they were able to remain free of the duties and responsibilities that would be thrust upon them as they matured.

Over the past few summers, the boys had been coming to this spot to hang out and have fun, but this particular year they had even bigger plans in mind. The trio had discussed the idea of building a fort in one of the older trees, but they knew they wouldn't be able to do this alone. They would need help, and the only people they felt would actually be able to assist them would be their fathers.

At first the boys were reluctant to inform their parents about their little hideaway, but after considering the options, they realized they would have to give in and confront their fathers. If they didn't, they wouldn't have any chance to get what they wanted. After thinking about this some more, the boys selected a specific day when each of them would speak with his father about the idea. They each hoped they would be able to secure their father's approval and assistance.

As each of them sat down with their dads, they explained their plan to build a fort and the desire to camp out there from time to time. After they had done this, they were surprised by the reaction they received in return. The adults readily approved of their proposal and explained it was not as radical as they had first suspected. To support this contention, their fathers independently admitted to having a special place of their own, when they were boys.

It took many days to complete this project, even with the help of the three adults, but it was well worth the effort. In fact, Kieren's father surprised the trio even more, when he climbed out on a rather large branch and tied a heavy rope to it. The rope was attached so that it extended over the swimming hole, so the boys could swing on it and drop into the pool below.

Over the course of that summer, and the summers to follow, the trio would incessantly parade up the ladder and go across the deck. Then, they would take their turn hurling their body from the rail that encircled their woodland castle. They enjoyed an immense thrill of swinging wildly through the air, while whooping and hollering in delight, before dropping into their personal recreational area below. For days at a time, the boys would camp out beside the pool and prepare their own meals from the supplies they had brought with them. At night, they would even sleep in their sturdy fort, which rested several meters above the woodland floor.

It was also during this particular summer that the boys first came to realize the joys of sex. It started innocently enough, when they learned about the pleasure of masturbation, which each of them did entirely on their own. As all boys do, each one loved to handle his own genitals and eventually discovered that rubbing his penis would elicit extremely pleasurable sensations. Once they realized this, they followed it up with even more aggressive rubbing and stroking, until they eventually discovered what it felt like to ejaculate.

The first time this happened to Kieren, he feared he had hurt himself or done some sort of damage. He came to this conclusion after deciding that what came out of his penis looked like pus. That was the ooze that came out of an infected sore if it burst open, so he became deeply troubled. Since he didn't know what to do or whom he could talk to about this, he kept it all bottled up inside himself, while he worried about what was wrong with him. Finally, he couldn't take the uncertainty any longer and decided to tell his friends.

"Something's wrong with me," he confessed, and this sudden revelation startled his two companions.

"What do you mean?" Garreth followed, as he showed an interest in his mate's welfare.

"Is it something serious?" Romaric asked, with deep concern showing upon his face.

"I'm not sure," Kieren responded. "It might be. I think I might have an infection or something."

Kieren looked at the two elves and studied their reactions. He could see they considered what he was telling them to be very serious. This both scared Kieren and made him feel better at the same time.

"Tell us why you think that," Romaric instructed him.

"Well, it's kind of, uh, embarrassing," Kieren stammered.

Now that he had brought it up, he was suddenly questioning whether he wanted to go through with explaining his problem to them. He wasn't sure if he really wanted to inform them about how he discovered this fact.

"Oh come on, you can tell us," Garreth urged him. "We have no secrets from each other."

"Well, as long as you promise you won't laugh," Kieren answered, although he still wasn't sure if he wanted to divulge this type of information. Both elves nodded their heads in agreement, so Kieren continued.

"Okay, well, I was rubbing myself one day…"

"Rubbing yourself where?" Garreth asked, innocently.

"You know," Kieren stammered, trying to decide how he was going to tell him, "Ah… the part of my body that makes me a male," he added, timidly.

Suddenly, a look of understanding registered on both Garreth and Romaric's faces.

"You mean you were flogging the donkey?" Romaric blurted out, without really meaning to.

"What's that?" Kieren asked.

"It's when you rub your hand up and down on your penis until you squirt," Romaric explained, while also using a hand gesture. He was surprised Kieren didn't already know this.

"Where did you learn about that?" Kieren wanted to know.

"I first heard a couple of the older boys talking about it, but then one day I tried it for myself," Romaric responded, seemingly not at all embarrassed to discuss this topic. "I found it felt really great!"

"Yeah, I did too, but that's the problem," Kieren reasoned. "This stuff came out that looked like pus and, well, I'm, uh, afraid something is very wrong with me."

"Heck, no," Romaric assured him, "there's nothing wrong with you. That's the stuff that makes girls have babies, when you squirt it inside of them. Didn't your father tell you about any of this stuff?"

"No, he never tells me about anything," Kieren admitted, while holding back the resentment he suddenly felt toward his dad.

Kieren had always thought both of his parents treated him like a child. Most times he tried to push those ideas to the back of his mind, because there were more important things to think about. Over the next few minutes, Romaric filled Kieren and Garreth in about a few things, although Garreth was already familiar with much of the information Romaric now shared. When the discussion ended, the boys had a decision to make.

"I've heard some of the older boys say it feels even better when someone else does it to you," Romaric announced, with a bit of anticipation on his face. "Would you like to try something like that?"

"You mean with one of you doing it to me and then me doing it to one of you?" Garreth asked, both amazed and shocked. He wasn't sure if he was ready to try anything like that just yet.

"Yeah," Romaric replied, excitedly. "I can do it to one of you, then the next one can do it to me and then the first person can do it to the last one. That way, we'll all have a chance at doing it and having it done to him."

Garreth and Kieren looked at each other, and then back at Romaric, before announcing their decision.

"I guess it would be all right," Kieren responded, in a matter-of-fact way. "It's not like we haven't done it to ourselves or seen each other naked before, so I guess it wouldn't be a big deal to do something like that with each other. I suppose it will be kind of like doing it to ourselves, only slightly different."

Even though his comment might not have made sense to an outside observer, it made perfect sense to both Garreth and Romaric. After Garreth added his words of agreement, they eagerly began to make their plans.

"Why don't I do it to Kieren first," Romaric suggested, "seeing I suggested it and he was the first one to agree."

All of the boys seemed to like this idea and Garreth was actually slightly relieved that he didn't have to be in the first pairing. Eagerly, Romaric instructed Kieren to lie down on the floor of the fort, as he moved beside him and got ready to begin.

Kieren's penis was still limp at this point, so Romaric began to massage his friend's testicles and deflated boyhood first, which quickly caused it to spring to life. Once it was standing tall and proud, Romaric wrapped his fingers around the stiff shaft and began to stroke it, up and down. Kieren's body relaxed beneath his touch and he began to moan in pleasure. Garreth couldn't take his eyes off the spectacle and became instantly hard just watching it. Now, he was eager for his own turn to begin, which wouldn't come for a while.

As Garreth watched, Kieren begin to writhe under Romaric's deft touch. Garreth got an added kick out of seeing Kieren's hips instinctively thrusting up and down, to match the movements Romaric made with his hand. Before long, Kieren made one final thrust upward and then his body stiffened, as strands of a creamy white liquid shot from the tiny slit. The threads hit his chest and then his abdomen, before the final squirts formed a small puddle above and across his pubic region. Romaric continued to stroke him, until the last ounce of ejaculate was teased from his penis. Once the flow had ended, Romaric released his grip and let Kieren enjoy the lingering sensations, as he took his place next to Garreth. With great anticipation, he silently waited for his own turn to begin.

Seeing Garreth had come to grips with any reluctance he initially had about taking part it this, he readily did the same thing to Romaric. With great enthusiasm, he repeated what he had just watched Romaric do to Kieren. Garreth marveled at how the other boy's penis felt in his grip – so much the same, yet so different. Immediately, he knew he would want to do this again and again in the future, since he was enjoying it almost as much as Romaric seemed to be.

Now, he focused on what was about to happen, as he felt Romaric's penis grow even firmer in his hand, just before his friend began to ejaculate. When the pearly strands of semen spurted onto Romaric's body, he didn't shoot nearly as far as Kieren had. Nevertheless, it was still an impressive offering and Kieren sat up just in time to witness Romaric's climax.

While they gave Romaric time to recover, Kieren urged Garreth to take his place, so he could begin to stimulate him. Garreth was already super hard and very excited from watching and helping the others, so it wasn't going to take much for Kieren to bring him to orgasm. Garreth groaned and his body trembled, as Kieren grasped his turgid piece of meat. Garreth also started to shake all over, as Kieren ran his hand up and down his slender shaft.

In less time than it would take to swing out and dive into their swimming hole, Garreth was ready to erupt. His orgasm, however, merely oozed from the head, instead of shooting or spraying about, as the other two had done. No one thought much about it, including the fact that Garreth's results were clearer and runnier than the other pair. Instead, the three boys spent the rest of the time relishing the moment and enjoying what they had just shared with each other. This was only the first of these sessions together, but certainly not the last. Over the coming weeks and months, they would perfect and expand their repertoire.

From that day on, the boys enjoyed their new freedom, but they had to make a tradeoff, in order to be granted the time to do this. In return, they had to accept more responsibility at home. At first it wasn't much, just a few extra chores. At other times, they might have to honor the occasional request to give their parents a hand with a last minute project. No matter what they had to do, each boy was more than willing to accept the new duties and write it off as an equitable trade. After all, wasn't it worth a little additional work to be allowed to spend days on end camping out at their secret retreat? Each of them thought it was fair and the summer just seemed to fly by.

The following summer was still nice, but the trio only got to get away on their own for a couple days at a time and that didn't happen every week. This was because the boys were now required to spend even more time helping their fathers. They were also asked to accept greater responsibilities around the house, so there wasn't as much time for them to get away and have fun. The problem was even more involved than that. It wasn't only about making the time to get away, but also in finding a common time when they could all escape together.

The boys didn't like the idea of going to their special place unless they could ALL go together, and sometimes that stifled their plans. It often worked out that at least one of them couldn't break away from his responsibilities, so they would all wait for their next opportunity instead. Although they still had fun when they were able to do this together, it wasn't quite the same as the year before and the summer seemed to drag by.

Even though they didn't have that much time to spend together, they managed to find enough spare moments to try something new. This was the summer the boys began to experiment with oral sex. One of them suggested it, after he overheard another boy telling his chum about how a girl had done it to him. None of the trio was sure what to expect from this, nor did they know how to go about doing it. Over time they perfected their skills, as they learned by a process of trial and error.

The very first time was somewhat awkward, since they were all slightly hesitant to put something into their mouth that the other person used to urinate. Eventually, however, they discovered it didn't have much of a flavor or taste as bad as they suspected. After that, they eagerly went about performing fellatio on each other. There were more than a few comments about not letting their teeth scrape the skin or suggestions about opening their mouths wider or using their tongues more. After a little more practice, they began to do an acceptable job.

The boys were also extremely hesitant about taking their friend's load into their mouth, which became another temporary sticking point. To accommodate the feelings of the one doing it to him, the boy receiving the oral sex would warn his partner when he was getting close. This way the boy could pull off and then masturbate his friend until he ejaculated.

By the end of the summer, however, they were all getting very good at this. It was around the same time when they first agreed to let one of the others shoot into their mouth. At first, they just captured the ejaculate on their tongue and then spat it out. After they realized it didn't have a disgusting flavor, they willingly began to swallow small amounts of the love-nectar, until they eventually swallowed it all. Now that they had this new form of enjoyment, it turned out to be a very enjoyable summer for the trio.

Unfortunately, the following year was even worse for them, as far as finding a common time to get away. It was becoming nearly impossible to arrange an opportunity when they would all be available to camp out, since they were each expected to do even more at home. There were times when a couple of weeks would pass by before the boys would be able to schedule an opportunity to break away together. However, when they did find a common opening in their schedules, they treasured every moment they were able to be alone. Not only that, but it was also during this time that they became inseparably bound to one another.

It happened late one afternoon, after a fun-filled day in and out of the water. The boys were lounging about on the deck of their tree fort, catching their breath, when Kieren began to think about how much he appreciated his companions. It was due to this personal revelation that Kieren decided to verbalize his feelings.

"I can't adequately explain how much your friendship means to me," he told the other pair. His voice was choked with emotion when he said it. "No matter what happens, I shall never forget either of you. It isn't only because of how much fun we've shared, but it's because of how much I love each of you. It is almost as if the same blood flows through all of our veins."

Garreth and Romaric were totally surprised by this unsolicited outburst, yet they had an idea where their friend might be heading with his remarks. Since he didn't wish for this to get too sappy, Romaric jumped in and offered his own take on what they meant to each other.

"You're right. We are more than friends, we're, well we're brothers," he suggested. "I think we should swear a blood oath to prove it."

Kieren thought about this suggestion and concluded it was more impressive and carried a greater commitment than what he had planned. Even though he liked the concept, he wanted to know more about what Romaric was thinking, before he agreed to do it.

"What exactly did you have in mind?" Kieren asked.

"I think we should promise that we'll always stand by each other," Romaric informed him, "and never let anything come between us."

"Yeah," Garreth agreed, quite readily, "not even girls."

This last comment elicited a little chuckle from the other two, but it didn't lessen their commitment to the idea.

"We should also promise that we'll always live close to each other, even when we get older," Garreth added, in attempt to contribute something substantial to the idea.

"Yes," Romaric agreed, before building upon Garreth's suggestion. "We have to promise that we'll always help each other out, especially if any of us is in trouble."

"Absolutely," Kieren added, since he didn't want either of his friends to think he wasn't as committed or eager as they were about the plan. "No matter what, we shall stick together and no one will be able to do anything to one of us, without having to deal with the other two as well."

It was then that one of the boys pulled out a knife, which they kept at the fort for cutting up meat and other items. Then, each one took a turn puncturing a small hole in the tip of his index finger. This produced a small pool of blood, which they then used to complete their oath. They then took turns touching their self-inflicted wounds against each other's laceration and symbolically blended the blood that ran through their veins. As they did this, they uttered the following words.

"I pledge myself completely to you and promise that from this day forward, until I take my final breath, our lives shall be forever bound." Completing this symbolic act permanently sealed their commitment to each other.

As that summer began to move into its final stages, the boys started to lament their increasing lack of time together. They also began to look forward to the day when they would be on their own. The three of them believed a total emancipation from their parents would allow them more time to hang out with each other, since they wouldn't have to worry about doing what the adults wished. However, only time would tell if things turned out as they hoped.

That very afternoon, the boys were able to get away again, after three weeks of not being together, and they were enjoying a few precious hours on their own. This also happened to lead to their chance encounter with Beraut. Fortunately for them, they hadn't yet reached their special area and were still involved in other activities, so they had not yet stripped down to swim. If they had, their meeting might have turned out differently, even slightly embarrassing.

This unexpected encounter with the wizard led, in turn, to Garreth and Romaric volunteering to go with Kieren on this endeavor. Even though they had to speak up and defy the wizard's directive to remain silent, they were determined to keep their promise. No matter how dangerous this journey might be, they weren't about to break their sacred oath.

Thinking about this recent encounter with Beraut and his friends' pledge to accompany him, brought Kieren back to the present. It also caused him to look at the two slumbering forms on either side of him. Seeing how peacefully his friends were resting made Kieren realize how tired he had also become, so he slid under the covers and slowly drifted off to sleep. Suddenly, he felt content and safe again, as long as they were by his side.

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