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The Romance of Mystery: Book Two

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The subject of another lai I shall now tell. It concerns Sherlock Lackland, who was born a prince and the seventh son of the King of Logres, and relates how he came to take "Gero Valde Fructus" as his motto.

Now around the time of Sherlock's birth, it was widely thought that there was some shame in being an Omega of male form, but they did not have the false idea that we now do, which this lai will also explain and set the story right.

Now it was understood then, as it is now, that women are by their humours cool, while men are by their humours hot. So it were best when the moistness of an Omega were combined in woman's shape that their humours might be balanced to a calm phlegmatic humour that they might keep from the sin of coupling outside of bond. Likewise it were best to set the dryness of an Alpha in male form for a choleric manner as suits the striving required in the field of battle.

If a woman were an Alpha, it was understood that the dry and cool led to black biliousness and a melancholy humour, which made them quite disruptive and fall into divisive behavior. While a man who was an Omega, he burned far too amorous with his sanguine nature and was easily led to sinful coupling outside of bond.

For the King of Logres, this was of no concern. The line of that King had cast forth from as long as history was recorded an unbroken line of Alpha men. Now the King and Queen of that kingdom were quite proud of the six sons they'd cast. With history as their guide, in expectation of presentation, they gave their children Alpha names at birth rather that give a milk name to be changed at presentation. The first born was named Grannoeud, which in the French means Great Knot. All the bells on the cathedral rang when he was born, but were nothing to when he Alpha presented and was Crown Prince made. Their second son was named Snaidhm Mhór, which meant Great Knot in Eire. As he was the second, the Duchy of Clarence was he given at birth. The third they named Magna Nodum, which means the same thing in the Latin and granted the County of Magance. The fourth and fifth were named Certus Claustrum and Magna Clavis, which means sure lock and great key in the Latin and were granted Baronies each in Cantia. The sixth was named Serrure Assure, which means certain lock in the French, and was granted a Barony in Aelfric.

Now when the Queen was great with her seventh child, the King and Queen went to the court of the King of Cambernic to celebrate the presentation of his heir, who though an Omega man and but twelve years old, already had brought great renown to the court of Cambernic having slain a dragon when he was but three and when he was but nine gone on a quest to bring his mother an apple of the Hesperides to cure her sickness.

Now while many in sons the King and Queen were, and though young, those presented were already renown for their knots, but no other renown had they brought. So though the King and Queen came with gifts, in the Queen's heart curled the venomous snake of Spite.

So at the feast in great display, with Spite writhing in her heart, the Queen of Logres said in a loud voice, "I am much surprised that you celebrate the presentation of your heir as an Omega man. For it is well known that for a boy to present as an Omega is sure proof that his mother lay with a demon just after being bred and so the child is but only half his father's and the other part a demon's."

Now before this time, this was not well known, nor in fact believed. For although it is often said these days, it is not true, and before this thrice cursed Queen said it, this false thing was never said. But as she did say it, so was it then believed and the Omegas in the land greatly hated the Queen of Logres for making their lot more difficult.

The King of Cambernic came to doubt his Queen and kept her quite locked up, while he set aside his heir until a second child could be bred and an Alpha proved.

So it was with the snake of Spite well satisfied in her heart, the King and Queen returned to Logres where the Queen was delivered of another boy, who they named Sherlock, which in the local tongue meant sure lock. As there was no land or title left to bestow, he was Sherlock Lackland and as his bequest was given a collar of gold enriched with gems and four bracelets that he might have funds to pay a dower settlement and thus have lands settled on him.

Now Nature listening at the feast in Cambernic decided that in making Sherlock, she'd carefully do her work. She outdid herself in every way. His skin, she made pale as bleached linen. Of his hair, she spun silk into locks of a curling raven's black and of his eyes of emerald set with silver she cast. His face and body, she shaped to perfection. Not content with that she put great work to the shaping of his mind which she poured full of curiosity, and also filled with sanguine impatience as Nature was not tempted to create perfection. Still yet she granted him grace and inborn skill at music should Nurture chance to teach him.

There was one more gift that she gave, but that was not to be made apparent until later.

Now, as Sherlock was but their seventh son, and yet a prince, his parents set him up with a household within the court and left him in neglect to run quite wild. If in his antics, he was over spirited, that was laid down to an Alpha's choleric nature being early felt.

As he was an Alpha prince to be, when he made cutting observations with his unceasing mind, people smiled to his face, while calling him a unnatural boy when his back was turned, thinking he'd not observe it. This thinking was quite false, but Sherlock told himself that it mattered not as he was an Alpha prince to be, and kept to his hungry observation.

Now his elder brothers, but one, followed their parent's neglectful suit as their twofold joys was to contend in every greater rutting to prove their names true and strive against each other for improved position.

That one, who though Magna Nodum was he christened, came to later fame with the name of the Mycroft, by which name he had the titles of a King of the Ostrogoths, Roman Consul and Caesar of Rome in the West besides. All of which were gained by his great craft, as Nature had taken even greater care with his mind than with Sherlock, if not putting as much art in his appearance.

So as that is how he is known to history, this story will also that call him Mycroft. His interest in Sherlock was piqued when hearing of some complaints through some agents that even while youthful Mycroft possessed, he heard Sherlock's young piping voice in observation of an old widowed archer, but recently discharged from service to care for his child. Mycroft looked upon his sibling as if for the first time and paused to correct his error, "Children, my dear boy, children."

Sherlock looked back upon the archer and in being instructed, saw what his elder brother saw and laughed that there was another and with even greater observation.

From then Mycroft applied some nurture to the direction of Sherlock's studies. For it was he who gave his brother a copy of the "Book of the Composition of Alchemy".

The reading of this book created hunger where it most satisfied. Before that day, although Sherlock could observe the surface of things, never would he have imagined the greater mystery all around him.

So when he was but nine, Sherlock declared he'd devote himself to the Great Work of alchemy, whose goal is to burn the dross away and leave what is pure. So he engaged his study.

However, the next time Sherlock chanced to offend a Lord with cutting words, Mycroft waited for him, saying, "Now that you love your studies, you have aught to lose. So as you like to sharpen your wits, practice reasons that when you speak so I should let you keep your books, or else then cultivate better behaviour. Lest what I've given, I take away."

So it was then that Sherlock learned that caring was no advantage.

Now on reached the age of thirteen, the King and Queen at last turned their attentions to their youngest son. They were eager for his presentation that they might throw a feast for it and invite all the Kings and Queens to their court and celebrate their many Alpha sons.

Widowed Omegas were brought before him that he might present. After which they planned to find him a suitable Omega heiress with at least a County so that he might have lands settled on him by way of bonding.

Indifferent he was to each of the widowed Omegas. Although they cried out for surcease in their heat.

Instead he put his mind still to the Great Work. He studied the ways that perfection may be achieved and he'd no patience with less. So it was and is that alchemists study to purify dross metals into noble gold. It is not for greed, but for the purification that this brings. Mortal flesh they sought and seek to purify and so redeem of flesh's ills. Always striving for spiritual ennoblement through inner Revelation that mere transport may be cast off. The philosophers called this Gnosis and theologians call Revelation by her name, which is Sophia.

Following the alchemist Jabir's example, Sherlock was careful to do more than work on esoteric proofs, but made practical works and experiments that he might attain a degree of mastery.

Dedicated as he was, Sherlock declared that he had no wish to bond, nor breed, nor rut, and never would. Rather he would be a student of mystery and yoke himself to the Great Work.

Now as he was a prince, this would not do. But Mycroft counselled his parents that they had but to wait and nature would take its course. The wisdom of which they agreed, and set to their waiting.

Nature standing by agreed she would take her own course and decided it was time for the gift she'd given at birth to bloom.

Sherlock fell first to a sickness of the bowels and then to a sanguine sickness that with rising warmth drove him to his bed within his teaming household. There with all his attendants standing by, he cried out for what he knew not as his entrance wept with an Omega's prima materia, which is to say the primal matter of heat.

The King and Queen were quickly summoned, and the Queen weeping ran back out on seeing her son thus presented. While King looked coldly on and declared that at least they had not settled lands on him while purely bred sons went wanting.

When Desire had done with scourging Sherlock for the first of the many heats that fall into an Omega's life, he fell to melancholy. By his studies he knew as an Omega it would be doubly hard to achieve his aims. An Omega's sanguine nature was pure dross of body and all appetite. Furthermore, although no ancient scholar wrote that an Omega man was of demonic birth, now having experienced Desire's scourge, he entertained the possibility.

Further Omegas were of Eve, who caused the Fall. Yet Sherlock reasoned, for Nature had crafted well his mind, Eve ate of the apple for curiosity's sake that she might know, and he could not fault her for it. While Adam, an Alpha, ate of the apple because it was fair, which was a less noble reason. So by logic, he resolved that Omegas were naturally bent to knowledge and he should take solace that a task that was doubly hard was doubly sweet. Knowing that he faced at least a nine in difficulty, he by logic comforted himself.

So he emerged from his rooms and faced the court with his new status. Even with all his wits, he could not have expected what he found.

The clothes that he'd always worn, he was made to change, as he must dress as an Omega according to ancient sumptuary law. The things that he like to do, he was told to set aside. When an Alpha prince he'd been thought to be, he'd been allowed much wild behaviour. Now he was ever enjoined to Modesty and Chaste Action, which for most is part of their daily upbringing, as there is no way to know what Fate may hold, but for Sherlock he'd always been urged to an Alpha's part.

Now Modesty on being brought to see Sherlock by Nurture, took one look and turned quite around and left the room. While Chaste Action, who had long studied with Sherlock in his rooms, considered the Great Work her most redoubtable weapon and had no concerns in Sherlock's behaviour. Chaste Action is and was a Beta.

In the court, the kindest whispers now to his face were that he'd been poorly named for no sure lock would he be, but a sanguine lock that was sure to open for any key. While others contended that he was well named as he was a surety. While others thinking on his powers of observation spoke quite openly how it must be true that Omega men came about only when their mothers in wanton coupling were jointly bred by a man and a demon. At best it was said, the demon may have worn the King's face, but by the prong of the demon's staff the Queen ought to have known what cleaved her.

In her shame, the Queen withdrew to a nunnery of the Clares, and as it was her own spiteful words that had condemned her thus, she took a vow of silence ever after.

The King quite furious at the whispers his final son had brought, sent melancholy Sherlock to a remote castle in Magnance that was peopled with only Betas.

Here there were no books or paper, but a stone faced Lady Beta, who as the King's own bastard sister, set about teaching Sherlock embroidery. But he would not do it.

He raged within the estate's walls, but poor behaviour only summoned knowing nods that this confirmed his demon birth. This made him rage all the more and loudly threaten to run away into the nearby forest of Broceliande.

The Lady Beta would then always reply that on the road he'd have but one way to support himself and that was upon his back, which might please much his sanguine blood.

Quiet then he grew and withdrew to think in the tower where his chambers were kept.

In that time, Sherlock had only three comforts.

The first was a mixed comfort. A messenger came from Mycroft and with that messenger was a chest full of learned works, and tools of alchemy too. This messenger instructed the Lady Beta that she might do better at keeping Sherlock in check and setting him to the lessons that an Omega must learn, had she these items with which to bargain for that good behaviour.

For Sherlock there was a letter that enjoined him to take opportunity of this time for study and consider himself like to the Omega nuns at the Convent of the Magdalene in Broceliande, who daily devoted themselves to the study of the great mystery with their library vast. But unlike the nuns, he'd one day emerge, when Mycroft had had time to cajole their Father, the King, to a better temper.

This was not the last letter. Many more were forthcoming, which was where the blessing was mixed. They each were full of unwanted advice, but they never came without at least one learned work. The letters that Sherlock received told him that he should take advantage of his lessons with the Lady Beta, that by hearing what not to do, learn an Omega's advantages. That he should cultivate the appearance of graciousness. That he should be quiet and watch everyone around him. That he should be generous with his praise that all would think well of him. That as an Omega he was in a position of greater opportunity for advancement. As a seventh born Omega prince might marry a future King, but the reverse was never so. That he should cozen up to his aunt, the Lady Beta, as she had many good connections at the court Logres and beyond.

Sherlock tried. He tried to cozen up to the Lady Beta and smile grit teeth through instructions on his own evil tempting nature and then like a boiling pot of water he would explode. So it was during these lessons that he took to wandering in his mind the vast library of the convent of the Magdalene that would be so filled with books that it would take up a dozen towers as the one in which he made his rooms. In his thoughts, the Convent came to be a blessed alternative where all were bent on the study of mystery.

The more time he had time to think on it, and now all he possessed was time, the more attractive this prospect became of going to a place built to spin out the dross of an Omega's humours.

He returned to the Great Work with interruptions to learn unnecessary arts as were pressed upon him.

The second comfort was that he was taught the Lute and in being taught, found he liked it. So with his world in stagnation and at war with itself, he took to playing often.

The third comfort was that in the stable tending to the palfreys and jennets that were now all the horses that Sherlock, as a Omega, was let to ride, there was a Beta stable boy named Victor much his age, who rather than calling him demon's get, smiled on him and marvelled at his observations.

They were much in each other's company, the stable boy and the prince. Sherlock fell into voicing all his grievances to Victor's listening ears or imitating those he'd known at court to Victor's laughter, or simply reeling out observations.

In truth, Victor's great admiration was much tempered with desire. Though they may not quicken, Betas can still feel, and Nature had done her work well when she'd crafted Sherlock. There was naught but beauty in Sherlock's every aspect.

Now Desire daily flogged Victor while Temptation whispered in his ear as he sat next to his friend. Victor would at times deliberately turn so that their flesh would touch, which would cause Sherlock to glance up and smile, before continuing with his discourse. Temptation told Victor that Sherlock would into heat fall and from then yearn to couple with any staff near to hand. Temptation said that with no Alpha staff's available, a Beta could take an Alpha's place, and furthermore, as Sherlock's friend, Victor could easily be that Beta. At night, Victor dreamed and groaned on this and resolved to do it.

So it was that when Desire fell to scourging Sherlock with the iron tipped flail of heat, he went to his only friend for comfort in the stables. No good thought spoke in Victor's ear, and Desire gently flogged him on. So Victor made this offer. "As you are in suffering, and my staff cannot make you quicken, let me stroke inside you to fill you and that may give you comfort."

Now Chaste Action, as a Beta, was much embarrassed to be with Sherlock during his heat and had not come with Sherlock when he went to find his friend.

Greatly discomforted Sherlock was and Victor was his friend, and as Sherlock knew there had been a custom in Roman times for such there could nothing truly wrong in it, and Desire thrashed him such that he could hardly think but that he would take any opportunity for ease, so he agreed.

So intemperate in action, Victor did not take Sherlock to a private place. But rather he quickly bent him over a bale of hay and pushed his way in. Once he were seated, Victor moaned on the subject of Sherlock's moist hot channel. As Sherlock knew his Omega humours were moist and hot, largely he ignored Victor's words and sighed at the ease this action brought. He said, "You are right. This gives me some relief." He squirmed back upon Victor's shaft to give it better seat, but for that task that staff was not well suited. Still his motions were such as to set Victor further exclaiming on the desire that Sherlock engendered in him, and Victor gave Sherlock twenty strokes more ere they were discovered.

Faced with having the staff with which he'd sinned removed for that sin, while Sherlock sat in shivering observation, Victor cried out, "The boy's demon nature made me do it. Ere I'd never have made the offense." So Victor was set on the road with but twenty strokes of a crop and Sherlock was locked away in his rooms in the castle's tower.

Being found as they were, there was no way to keep this thing quiet. When the King learned of this, he was much wroth and raged that the demon boy should be mewed up forever, while all about the court the word was spread that Prince Sherlock's virtue had been lost, and even with his princely birth that no Alpha should stoop to take him for who would want a broken cup.

His heat now ended, Sherlock sat at the only window in his tower, which faced out to the forest, and wondered at the shrinking of his world. He curled up in his tiny bed set in the wall and felt as if the walls closed in, crushing his expectations of himself entirely.

With him sat Chaste Action, who likewise was in some despair, but urged comfort on Sherlock by whispering him to him of the spartan purity of study in the Convent of the Magdalene.

Now back at court, Mycroft said nothing in Sherlock's defence. But instead he went to visit their uncle, their maternal grandfather's bastard son, who was a Beta Cardinal at the Papal court. Of this uncle, Mycroft requested Papal Dispensation for Sherlock to have twenty or so strokes in his time of heat from a Beta's staff, being as there'd be no breeding by it. He smiled and said if their uncle could not do so for family feeling, Mycroft offered him some assistance in certain matters, by which the standing of both were much improved. When his uncle agreed, Mycroft requested that it were best that such a dispensation bear a date long before Sherlock's soon to be expunged offense that were no offense at all, being as it had already been forgiven.

The dispensation in hand, Mycroft had some who owed him slight favors make much at court of their surprise that the dispensation was not widely known. Soon those who liked to pretend at knowing exclaimed that they'd always known it and it was then a short step for all to have always known it and the cup of Sherlock's virtue was then by this miracle never broken.

But King was not assuaged in his choleric temper and swore that the demon boy should never leave his tower to which Mycroft smiled and bowed and held his own council.

Now Mycroft sent a messenger with a letter for Sherlock to explain the current turn of events in his lonely tower and bearing also another box of books.

Sherlock sneered at the letter and said to the empty air, "As I've no intent to bond and breed, the reinstatement of my virtue is no matter." Still this letter greatly eased him, for in the study of alchemy there was much importance placed on virtue, though he was finding an Omega's virtue was quite different from an Alphas.

For all that as Mycroft’s letters continued to arrive with their unwanted advice and books, and though he snarled at the letters, he was somewhat relieved that he'd not been forgotten now that he was further locked away from the world.

Sherlock, who had never been alone, but always followed by his household to see to his needs, was now always so in the tower. Sherlock ranged the tower's four rooms, as he had once ranged the castle and before that the court with its vast estate.

Sometimes, he sat before the door that opened on the courtyard and watched feet go by and made observations to the flickering darkness.

He set up his alchemical materials in the second tower room and set to the Great Work.

Sometimes he leaned out his window and read his books, glancing up from time to time to see what he could of the world. Now in his ranging study, he chanced to read in the "Alchemy of Heat" by Hermes Trismegistus upon an alchemic description of the bond. His lip quite curled to read the descriptions of the lesson in an Omega's submission to the Magnus Magister, the knot. Where the soul's struggle against the unyielding will of the divine must be made to give way for only then could transmutation of the soul then occur. He'd have flung the book quite out the window, but he did not have so many books that he could afford to do it.

He turned his face to the sky and used the knowledge from his books to summon the wind that it might blow on his face. He learned other magic too. Somewhat of use, others naught, as he had no idea why he should wish to summon a fairy lover with which to breed. He wanted to fly, not be bred by a bird-man.

He longed to leave this tower, and in his mind the library of the Convent of the Magdalene in Broceliande grew ever larger. In that library of the mind, he walked its aisles and selected from every book he'd ever heard of. He went there and the dross of his body's transport fell away and all that was left was his psyche.

If in his mind, the world grew larger, the place he was in could sometimes smaller grow.

When Desire scourged with his heat, the Lady Beta who ran the estate, would fasten a chain of cold iron to the wall, which to his ankle she would then affix. So that in his intemperate passions, he'd not leap out the window searching for some passing Alpha and so fall to ruin.

The worst of it was that as he lay in sanguine heat, his humours quite out of sort, he tugged upon that chain such that later he'd find ringed scabs from his insistent attempts.

After he was once more freed, he would always revel in being able to climb up and down the stairs, which he'd then do for hours.

In the years that passed, Sherlock outgrew the bed set in the wall, as he grew quite tall, but as there was no space for another, he slept as a cat might do all curled up. He leaned out the window and watched the world go by.

His Fate's cloak grew threadbare and thickly dusted in the ashes blown in from future winds.

Now as Sherlock was always looking out, often others would look up and saw the prince's blooming beauty. For if his attractions had been well wrought at thirteen, they were nothing before what Nature contrived as he grew older yet.

So it was that word of Nature's art quite set to overtake other rumours, for much do people like to speak on beauty.

This was in part assisted by that Mycroft paid some seven troubadours and some seven troubairitz to write poems upon this subject. He set them each out on the road with a purse of gold for their troubles that they might sing the poems that they wrote of the transcendent beauty locked away, much set upon the pious study of mystery.

Now here I must digress. Let Lords and Ladies on hearing of Prince Mycroft's bounty, so clever he was that he was later raised to rulership of Rome in the west, remember to pay well the poets that they commission to give them praise. Lest it is not praise they give, and I'll not over dwell on it here, but save further for a later poem.

Now the second son of the King of Gore heard of these songs, and after some investigation, nothing would do but he get his father to send an offer for betrothal. As this prince was his father's favorite, this offer was soon sent with a generous offer of dower settlement. His offer was not the only one, but his offer was the best and with the best prospects for advancement. So Mycroft was inclined to favor it and set those counselors that owed him favors to work upon his Father, the King, while Mycroft tended to other matters in Rome. The counselors did their work well, and the King decided it best to be rid of his half-born son.

Now as rumours of this betrothal set to fly, the Betas, who kept the estate where Sherlock was kept, gossiped on them hungrily. So Sherlock heard of them, sitting as he sometimes did by the door that kept him in.

His heart beat fast for he knew that in a day or two, his next heat would come and when it past by then it might be too late to escape this fate of a hateful bonding.

On this word, Sherlock's Fate put on a thorny crown of iron all tipped with blood as the smoke of that bond blew on future winds to enfold him.

However, Choice said, "No," and she placed the Convent of the Magdalene large in Sherlock's mind, and laid before him his last opportunity. He reasoned if he was now considered ripe enough to bond, he was now old enough to dedicate his life to the great mystery.

He went upstairs and put on the collar and bracelets of gold enriched with gems that he'd been given as his inheritance at birth. He felt that he was certain to be accepted by the Convent of the Magdalene in Broceliande if he had such as his dowry, despite his demon blood. Although, he planned to argue that it were their Christian duty to help him overcome it and he was well armed with scriptures to prove it. Furthermore, he'd set his dowry as a surety that when his family came to collect him, the Convent would hold them back, else they should lose what he gave them.

With his chemicals, he made aquia regia in preparation for the night. As it fell and the castle grew quiet, he quite dissolved the lock of the door that kept him in. With a single hand, he pushed it open and bringing now his most essential books, and his lute, he set off on a palfrey from the stables.

As he made his way from the estate, Choice shook off his Fate's ashen cloak, although that wind still blew upon him. She led him by the hand and pulled Sherlock's Fate from the shadows into the starry night.

Sherlock rode all the night through and as the sun rose, he came to the forest of Broceliande. The trees were grown quite close and dark, but he was excited enough to be almost singing. This was the first taste of freedom he'd had in long years and he intended to savour it fully like a simple broth brought before a starving man.

Now as it happened, he came to a fork in the road. He well knew that the path to the Convent lay on the right. But on the left, he saw a signpost marked with the alchemical sign of a sleeping curse in warning. The curiosity that Nature had so well-crafted burned with a desire to see this curse and know if after all his years of study, he could lift it. He reasoned in addition that the Convent would still be there ere he were done and he'd have years to enter into reflection in its library.

So unknowing of what fate his curiosity had chosen, Sherlock cantered down the leftward turning path.

Choice sitting next to Fate, atop the sign, gently kissed the Fate that came of that decision upon the joining of neck and shoulder, and smiled at the shiver that came of that kiss. Fate arched his neck that these kisses might continue until his cloak of ashes quite fell off so warm he was. Choice pushed aside the blood tipped crown with its barbs of iron so that it fell to the ground unmourned.

Sherlock saw them not as they were well behind him.