I’m a Masker. You might say I was born one. My mom was a Masker and I was born in the House of Masks in Arko sixteen years before the Sack. That’s how people talked about it now, with the capital ‘S’. My mom and the Mother of the House talked me out of ‘joining’ the greater society, saying that if I stayed a Masker, outside of caste and normal laws and protections, I could maybe do more for people than if I joined the fight against the conquerors. Besides I was just second threshold and a child.
They were right. Now according to most people my parents... that was the Mother of the House and my mom again, since I don’t have a father like normal kids... had ‘held me back’. As a boy normal society figured I would be in my prime around age ten or eleven, so at age sixteen I’d be seen as ‘aged’, at least for a lover.
Mother (as opposed to mom) said that that wasn’t sex but a power difference and she didn’t deal in that. The House of Red Leaves was the oldest House of Masks in the Empire, she said and for all that we sold sex, providing a service as old as the Empire itself or older and she, for one, was not going to pander to older men who wanted to hurt little boys.
I was nervous and excited about the night I would lose my virginity. It would mean I would be a full working member of the staff and paid that way instead of having to hang around with the babies and go to the attic school and do all kinds of maintenance chores, though mom said she did them because it was healthy and made for a ‘more rounded person’.
My mom fled normal caste in Arko after her husband beat her when she was pregnant with me. He was crazy and convinced I was a girl and nearly beat her to death. That was my dad and I was just as glad I’ve never met him. She ran... or crawled... to the House and managed to stay conscious long enough to answer the questions to set her free of her caste and her husband. She’s said, ever since, that she was a lot happier.
The House of Red Leaves wasn’t your normal whore house, or crib. Mother always said there were quite enough of those without her having to add to that particular tide of misery. Most whore houses didn’t run schools, orphanages and groups of midwives. But the House had always been a refuge for those willing to wear the silver mask.
Left side face... you were a lover of your own sex. Right side face, opposite sex. Full-face to the nose both sides, both. I was pretty sure I was a full-facer because girls were nice... They smelled good and made me tingly... a little. But it was the boys who would make me break out in a sweat and have orgasm dreams at night. So Mother said I should start with a man for sure.
Along with my reading lessons and history and numbers we learned about sex and sensuality. Singing and dancing and massage. At sixteen my voice had settled into a proper deep voice for an Arkan man, not a soloist but was good for choruses, my dancing was competent though I was not a star. Where I excelled was massage. I was a big boy and when I fill out I would be muscular. Mom was an Aitzas before she gave up her caste and I had the spun -blond hair almost to my ankles.
Learning massage on each other meant that we got to know a lot of bare bodies and it was interesting when I got old enough to start growing hair on my testicles and could feel the excitement in me come up... if I let myself think that way. My teacher always said that a massage could either be innocent as babies or sensual and sexual as a client wanted. It depended on what you thought.
Tonight was my big night and instead of ‘auctioning off’ my virginity, the way some Arkan pimps would, I’d put on my first real mask and go down to the main floor with the other Maskers. I’d get to pick who my first client was instead of having him picked for me. Mother trusted me to do that.
Of course I’d have a whole room full of my aunties and uncles... the other Maskers... who would be there to steer me right if I accidentally picked someone they thought might turn violent, or even just make my first time uglier than it needed to be. It wasn’t like I was going to be alone. And Ordas, the doorman, would be right there if someone needed ejecting.
I went downstairs and nodded at Ordas in his seat at the door and Rosalie kneeling in the centre of the floor to be the greeter, who welcomed every guest, client or not, and had them lock their weapons in the cubby wall. No weapons allowed in the House. She winked at me through the eyeholes of the mask and I grinned back.
The Main Hall was full already, even though it was early. Since the straight-haired Yeoli from their elite guard had found the place we usually had a lot of them in, though lots of them didn’t yet realize they could buy sex here, but came for the music, the foot rubs and other massage – the innocent kind -- and the food and drink. Yeolis.
I avoided the Enchians. They were as violently against sex between men as the Hyrene were. An Enchian willing to sleep with me would have to be drooling drunk to let those urges out and likely to be violent, nasty or both.
Did I like any of the Arkans? Hmm. They were mostly regulars and they already had their favourite maskers. I didn’t want to cut in on Nuninibas or Banurasas. I took up a cup of kaf from Lilliam and she smiled and tilted her head toward a group of men clustered around the music box as Mother set up its delicate machinery. All Yeolis. All young. All new. Young enough to be new warriors sent from Yeoli. Probably not old enough to have fought and sacked.
Mother said that Yeolis felt guilty for having conquered the Empire and sacked the city. It depended on what they did with that guilt. If they turned it to blame and were ashamed, it was all likely to go bad. Especially if they were drunk. But if they understood they felt guilty it was all right and then you’d just have to explain about the buying sex part.
A really pretty young man watched Mother place the enormous paper thin metal disc in its slot and set the clips to make sure it wouldn’t quiver and put wavers in the music as it turned. He was one of the newbie Yeolis. Dark blond hair cut warrior short. Big, loose curls. I think I’d like to run my hands through them and see what they feel like.
It’s like he felt me looking and looked up at me. Nice eyes too. I liked the curve of his upper lip, almost as defined as a girl’s. Lovely warrior muscles. Someone talked him into wearing an almost see-through shirt and its warm enough in the city that they usually don’t wear those sleeveless, over the head blanket-shirts of theirs inside.
I stood next to him and smiled and he smiled back. “This is a beautiful machine! I’ve heard that it plays music as beautiful as it looks.”
“It’s special all right. I hear there’s one in the Marble Palace and perhaps two more in the whole world, though I don’t know where.” -- “Mother,” I said. “Let me wind it for you?”
I handed my cup to the nice young Yeoli who’d just put his hand out to hold it, and stepped up to the ornate handle. I knew from years of winding that it wasn’t brute strength needed, but a more delicate touch. The spring was one of the most fragile parts and most expensive to replace. If one didn’t wind it enough the music would not be played through to the end and having someone run up and re-wind the spring half way through the piece though tolerable, was less than elegant. My bending and turning would show me off to the Yeoli man nicely.
“My name’s Chavicha,” the Yeoli said, handing me my cup back as Mother waited for us to all be seated to listen.
“Oh dear. I’m afraid I’ll mangle it.” I tried my best. “Shafisha? My apologies for that, but I’m Promithas.”
“That’s not bad for an Arkan tongue. Oh, she’s going to start it.”
The piece was Tisiminas’s Selestialis, written for the unearthly high tones of the music box and Chavicha listened raptly. I looked at his profile while he did. I’d heard the piece before and it wasn’t as if I couldn’t listen and look at the same time. He had a scattering of freckles across his cheeks and a dimple to one side of his mouth when he smiled. Hyasintha re-filled my cup and nodded at me, knowingly at him, behind his head.
He’d been here before so maybe I wouldn’t have to explain everything. But who knew if he liked boys as much as girls? I mean, everyone knew that Yeolis were pretty easy about that kind of thing but some were more one way than the other.
When the piece was done he drew in a deep breath and wiped a tear. Yeolis. So emotional. I loved it.
“So, Promithas,” he said to me as people began stirring and talking again. “Do you have a specialty?”
“I do all kinds of massage,” I took a deep breath, suddenly shy where I thought I’d just be all right. “Would you like to see my massage room?” Not as subtle as I’d hoped but right now, just thinking about putting my hands on his body was making it a little difficult to sit, gracefully, without twitching around to ease my erection.
He grinned at me and I was happy to see he had all his teeth, bright white against his tan. “Are you having some problem, Promithas?” Oh, he was teasing me. “I’d love to see your room. Unless you… um…” His grin grew wider. “Are going to have difficulty walking there?”
“You are a wicked young man,” I said with as much dignity as I could. After all, I was the professional here. “I’ll be fine, thank you.” I liked his laugh and he offered me his hand to help me up. I liked that bare hand. He touched really well. I left my cup on the occasional table, though he took his wine glass.
My massage room wasn’t far anyway, it was just down the hall. Like everything in the house it was the best quality Mother could afford and I actually shared the space with the others. There were eight such rooms along this corridor, four on each side. It had a dark cream silk on the walls, with kaf coloured accents and the table itself was lush green and floral with gold accents. I lit the lamps with one of our scented tapers.
“If you’d like I could give you a massage,” I said. “An innocent massage is much cheaper than a full one.” He was right behind me and I could feel him standing there, though my hair was loose and I couldn’t feel his breath on my neck. He was taller than I was. I turned around and found I was right, he was very close. His eyes had interesting bright green flecks in them.
“Ah. So you are one of those who sells…” he paused, probably looking for a polite way of putting it.
“Not so innocent massages, yes.” I said. I smiled at him. Now he was blushing and had to clear his throat when he tried to answer me.
“I… I’m not sure I can afford you… Promithas…”
“I am.” Mother said I didn’t have to limit my choices. If a young man struck my fancy I shouldn’t have to worry if he were too impoverished to pay.
“Promithas… I…” he had sounded so… worldly in the Hall. Now he sounded like my age. “Um…”
“Do you want me?” I finally asked him straight out. Yeolis. No use being indirect. Fritilaria had flirted with one all evening and was sure he didn’t want her before she whispered that straight question in his ear.
“Oh. Yes,” he said, sounding flustered. I smiled then, and licked my bottom lip.
“Then maybe the mask and the gloves should come off before I get to work?” He laughed again, as much at himself as at what I said and one finger came up to trace the bottom edge of the mask. His fingertip was gentle, and then he cupped my face.
“I’d like that.” His voice was husky. I pulled my gloves off slowly, even though it wasn’t the same way I would with an Arkan. Laid my bare hand on the thin shirt over his muscular chest. He was very warm. He watched me, fascinated as I raised the mask off my face with my bare hands and he smiled again. “Such… mystery.”
“And behind it, we’re just people,” I hung the mask on the hook on my door that would tell everyone the room was occupied. “Why don’t you just hang your clothes on the hook there and hop onto my table?” Yeolis. They like things straightforward.
“Oh, um. Sure.”
“Have you had many… lovers?” I asked him as he stripped off his shirt and kilt as though they were on fire, trying not to smile, so excited I thought I would burst right there, but I had more training than that.
“I’ve... um… a few.” he said, trying to sound worldly. His erection stood proud in his nest of curls, quite slender, much like the rest of him. Then he had to go hide it, lying face down on my table. Oh this is going to be such fun.
“My goodness.” I wasn’t about to tell him he was going to be my first. And I was starting to wonder about him. Weren’t Yeolis sexually active early? I pulled off my own shirt, but left my kilt on for now. I coiled and clipped my hair up out of my way so I could start with the deep massage.
The oil on the candle burner was part of what scented the space and was lovely and warm on my hands and on his back. His skin was smooth under my palms and his muscles taut.
I enjoyed his groan and looked forward to making him make a lot more noises. “So what is the Yeoli word for ‘penis’? I know the Arkan ones and they’re either technical, rude or crude.”
He turned his head sideways and I could just see his smile as I kneaded my way down his smooth back. Does he shave? No. His hair is fine gold thread against his tan. I can barely see it in this light. “Oh, that feels so good. I didn’t know I was that tightly wound.... um... ‘paena’ is the Yeoli word. But most people say ‘virya’... oohhmmmm.”
“Firia. I like the sound of that.” The big muscles of his rear were tight and had that lovely dip in the sides that I loved running my fingers over. I made my strokes deep and slow, thanking the Ten that I didn’t have to walk anywhere more than a step or two. My own ‘firia’ was aching again and I had to use all my restraint to finish the work first before indulging him and me both.
Nice thighs. Hard calves. “Turn over please. And if you’re more comfortable being covered I can give you a towel.” Sometimes people would tighten up without any covering, feeling too vulnerable.
“I’mmm, all right.” His words were muffled and he was so relaxed he was almost drooling into the pillow.
I was careful with his feet. The callus needed a lot of oil and I took my time. Around then I unsnapped my kilt buckle and let it slide down onto the floor. I went up around to his head and pulled the seat out from under the table with my foot and worked on his head and neck and then leaned all the way forward to run my hands over his chest, my palms flat and firm over his nubbins of nipples.
He twitched hard and gasped, I could feel his breath against my torso. “Please...” he said. “Oh, kahara.” As I stepped around to the side of the table again his eyes opened, blurred and vague with the sensations I was giving him. He’d softened during the massage as I thought, and hardened again as I worked back up his body.
I oiled my hands fresh and slid them, warm and slick over his whole groin. His hips rose up involuntarily as he thrust into my hands and he made a wordless noise, almost a scream. I took my fingers away, just cupping his tight-clenched sack in one hand and let him sink down again. I leaned forward and whispered in his ear... “just one question...” I kissed the spot under his ear before I continued. “... do you prefer to take? Or be taken?”
He panted, lips parted. “I... I...”
I licked his neck and he quivered all over. “... or both?”
“Yes.... oh yes...I think.”
Oh Ten gods, a virgin too? Oh Ten. I was taught that men would lie about how experienced they were, but I’d never seen it before. Well, let us put my book learning to the best use.
I kissed him deep and his arms came up around me, covering me with the oil I’d used on him. Oh I liked that enclosed sensation as he learned to kiss me back. I played with his nipples and his firia until he was almost writhing with it. I showed him all the ways he could be kissed. Mouth, nipples, firia. I was careful with licking and sucking him because he’d come far too quickly. I decided I liked the Yeoli word. “You... you’re teasing me!” he cried. I smiled up his body at him.
“Yes.” I was so ready to take him in, open and willing. He’ll feel so good inside me. I reached to pull him upright just as he undid my hairclip, sending my hair tumbling down to the floor. “Teasing you till you’re just about crazy.”
“Don’t... oh... please don’t.” His eyes were wild, full of the first sexual fires, and he was so beautiful. “I need... oh...” I took his hand and put my wrist in it.
“So... you may take what you need.”
For a moment he sat frozen then, pulled me close. “I’m here for you,” I whispered as his hand holding my wrist and the other on my back grew more urgent. “The table has handholds.” He kissed me this time rather than me kissing him and I opened up to his wonderful, delicious urgency. This time... this time, I wouldn’t cool him.
I slid onto the table face down, the cushioning warm from him on my chest as he kissed my skin wherever he could reach. His warm, bare, oil-slick hands pulled me close as he found the table spots for his knees and I reached for the loops for my hands, aching to push back...
His firia was hot against me and I nearly cried out in frustration when he managed to hold back. “I won’t hurt you?” His lovely hot weight was on me and I nearly cried. I could feel the head of him against my anus, and he quivering hard, wasn’t giving me what I wanted.
“NO! Oh, now you’re teasing me!” I panted. “Shafisha, please!” I’d opened myself well before tonight so a full grown man wouldn’t hurt me. “Don’t stop for the love of the Ten!”
Shafisha laughed and pushed and I was filled with the lovely hot length of him. Professional or not I cried out it felt so good. “yes! Yes!” He was beyond stopping now and I pushed back, bucked back against him, feeling my own firia hard against the bench and he only had four or five strokes in him, I could feel it. His orgasm started in his heels, a tightening rising and rising till he arched back, his hands tangled in my hair, arms at full stretch, head thrown back, a howl of joy soaking into my silk walls.
I was so close I could feel it quiver around the broken edges of my thinking, and then it washed over me too. Oh Ten Gods ten gods ten gods...I see white and cling to the couch as he pours into me and I pour myself out like water on sacred ground.
Shafisha nearly fainted I think and his weight came down much heavier on me. Lovely weight, both of us panting as if we’d run a race. “Oh Ten,” I said faintly as he put his hands on either side of me, gently lifting himself off. “That is very different with a partner.”
He froze. “What?” I pulled myself forward and flipped over, tugging my hair out from under me. He looked down at me confused.
“I’ve never done it with a client before,” I said and reached up to brush his hair off his face. “Especially on who’s not sure if he likes taking or being taken.” I smiled up and him and he almost collapsed next to me on the bench, half on me but his weight on his elbow, one arm still across me.
“You knew I never had... and you never had either...?” He started laughing and I had to laugh with him.
“Well if you don’t mind being my first client, I won’t mind being your first sex partner.”
“I thought... you seemed... but...”
He stroked my hair out of my face and wound a whole long lock around his fingers, looking at that rather than at me. “So if you don’t mind,” I said. His emerald and topaz eyes flickered up to mine and he smiled. “I get to explore a lot of things tonight. Would you care to help me? On the House.”