The first light of dawn found Arlic at the hot springs, soaking in the steaming pool. Once he emerged, the two robed acolytes who had taken away his clothing now rubbed him dry with clean cloths, from head to hooves, then brushed him, leaving his snow-white coat shining and smooth; and then they guided him into the circle of stones, to the altar stone at the centre.

He’d known for weeks that this was coming, but being so close to the altar made it real in a way it hadn’t been before, and his heart hammered in his chest as the acolytes laid a patterned, woven blanket over the stone, arranging it just so, doubled over itself. And with that modest padding in place, it was his turn to settle gingerly onto the altar. A beaded leather cuff was wrapped around each of his limbs, padding the thongs that then lashed him to the four posts around the stone, leaving only his head and tail free. Thus secured, they gave his hooves a thorough polish, ridding them of what little dirt had clung to them between the spring and the stone.

And then, while one departed to continue preparations, the other sat with him. As the sun rose higher into the sky, she shifted a small awning to shade him. It was necessary that he remain there for all of Sowing Day, but it was not necessary or at all desired that he be uncomfortable through it; so she kept the light out of his eyes, shifted his bonds when he found they chafed, and brought him food and drink – sometimes water, sometimes wine.

The sun was halfway to zenith when the first man came – Terron, midnight-haired and muscular, the finest hunter in the village; no surprise that he’d been the first to return with the day’s bounty. The acolytes helped him bathe, then brought him over to the altar with only a cursory rub to get water off of him; his coat still gleamed with moisture in the morning sun as he stood by Arlic’s shoulder – west of him, so the youth could look up at him without the sun in his eyes.

“How are you feeling, Arlic?” he asked in that rough-voiced rumble of his.

“Excited,” the youth responded, grinning. “My first time, and it’s to be something important like this? I was hoping it’d be special, but I had no idea…”

Terron ruffled between his ears, smiling down at him. “Special indeed,” he husked. “And I’ve your first contribution for you.”

His member was still soft the first time it slid past Arlic’s lips. Not so the fifth – by then it had swelled against his lips and tongue and stood proudly rigid. It was a fair mouthful, but not an excessive one; as Terron slid himself in and out of Arlic’s mouth, gripping the younger stallion’s head between both hands, not once did Arlic feel a need to draw his attention and get him to slow down.

Perhaps if he’d launched right into vigorous thrusting, that would have been necessary. By the time he did, though, Arlic was well-used to the feel of the man in his mouth, and just worked that sliding shaft as well as he could with lips and tongue. And presently, he was rewarded for his efforts by a heavy groan, strong hands clutching at his skull, and a rush of pungent warmth coursing over his tongue and down his throat.

Once he was spent, Terron drew his softening length free, laid a hand on Arlic’s shoulder in silent approval, and then turned to go.

Terron was the first, but he was far from the last. Next to arrive was the fisherman Hallis, and by the time he came into Arlic’s clear sight his roan coat was groomed fit for his wedding night. He stayed back a little longer, coaxing himself to full arousal, and one of the acolytes anointed his manhood with clear oil; it glistened in the still-ascending sun as he moved to the foot of the altar stone, easing up onto it astride Arlic’s thighs.

The youth knew what was to come, and in spite of a little thrill of uncertainty and doubt, mostly he was still very eager. He shifted his legs as much as his bonds allowed, trying to make it easier for the fisherman to plant his seed.

Hallis had done this for a dozen Sowing Days, and with one hand he guided Arlic’s hips just so, while the other held his own slick length and eased it into place. He was gentle; that first stretch made Arlic gasp and shiver from the unaccustomed delight, but Hallis didn’t push through that tension. He waited for it to subside, and when his heat slid into Arlic’s body, it was a delight from flare to ring to hilt. Nor was the delight any less while he pistoned in and out of the younger man – nor when he lurched forward against Arlic and threw his head back in a bellow, mane tossing, his essence planted deep in the younger man.

He too drew away, and the acolytes tidied Arlic’s pelt somewhat, and brought him refreshment – with a bite of freshly-seared meat, this time; Terron’s catch feeding them already, in all likelihood.

More men came to him as the day wore on, hunters and fishers and other folk whose days depended partly on skill and partly on the richness of Nature’s bounty; these were the ones who’d brought their day’s catch in fairly early. Most of them coupled with Arlic as Hallis had done, and each one left him feeling just a bit warmer inside, knowing what he was taking all their contributions for. A few instead chose to have him drink down their seed – perhaps not as intimate, their essence farther from his own churning orbs, but given to him all the same.

It wasn’t until well past dawn that the first batch of farmers came in – Virnoc with his dappled coat, and his three younger farmhands, all coming to the altar at once. Virnoc came up to Arlic’s head while the first of those hands was anointed, and had gone from soft to rigid in Arlic’s mouth before young Gerritt started to slide in under Arlic’s balls. Gerritt took a couple minutes of thrusting to reach his peak; brown Dellan, after him, rather less; and pale, blue-eyed Saldin was so inflamed by what he saw before he took his place, panting and trembling, that he cried out halfway in, and barely managed to shove his length to the hilt into Arlic’s well-stretched body before the first warm pulse shot out of him.

And even as Saldin was still pumping into him, Virnoc groaned and clutched at his head and sent his own seed coursing over Arlic’s tongue.

Arlic himself was on fire with desire, moaning and thrashing against his bonds when the other males had pulled away. The acolytes held the next group back and came to his side, soothing him, and then reassuring him when the desire ebbed somewhat and he might have felt shame for his lack of self-restraint – that was why he was bound, after all. And if, in spite of all their caution, a climax took him and spent all the efforts so far on his own pelt, there would be more.

He took a deep breath, nodded his understanding, and waited for the next group.

With the farmers finishing their sowing, one field after another, there was scant time to rest now – he took what he needed to drink, or to let his own incipient release fade into the distance again, but there was always someone waiting. With the sun touching the western mountains, his own family’s farmhands came to him – at first his blood relations hung back, but Delric, his golden-coated, white-maned older half-brother, was soon caught up in things – and he made Arlic’s mouth strain as none before him had, between the length and girth of his manhood and the copious rush of his release.

As Delric nuzzled his ears and withdrew, he heard their father say, “You’re sure it’s proper?”

“You’ve already given him your seed once,” said the acolyte who was smearing his length with oil, “and he’s done well for it, hmm? Today especially, he can only benefit from more of it.”

Somewhat bemused, Arlic’s father – big, strong, pure white and blue-eyed, with festival ribbons woven into his mane; an image of what Arlic himself might be, in time – climbed onto the stone, smiling down at his son and nuzzling at his brow. “Done well for yourself today have you? And this isn’t a triumph I can take any credit for… it’s all yours, Arlic. Splendidly done.”

And then he slid in, and gave Arlic the fiercest rutting the youth had had all day. Not a trace of his initial reluctance was showing when he threw back his head and bellowed, pumping hot and fast into Arlic’s body.

And once he’d stepped back, a silence settled over the assembled people – all those men who’d given Arlic their share of seed now gathered around, anxious to see it passed on in turn. Two score of them had planted their seed under his tail; a dozen more had had him drink theirs. And all of what they’d passed on to him was still inside him, waiting.

Waiting for the one that now stepped through a gap in the throng, her robe sliding free of her black-coated body, acolytes taking it away with reverence.

“Goodness,” she murmured, leaning in to stroke Arlic’s jaw. “I think you’ve accounted for all the adult and adolescent men among us, haven’t you? Except for the elderly.”

“Some of them, too,” Arlic protested with a grin. Not everyone who was old was infirm, after all – Garadin the woodcarver had given him as thorough a pounding as men thirty years his junior.

Anassi laughed, swinging into place over him. “Just so, young man,” she breathed over his jaw. “Just so. And you’ve had the resolve to keep all of them in you, not a drop of your own seed spilled. The Mother of All chose well when she guided me to you this year. Surely the essence of so many of us will give rise to a fine, strong child.”

She leaned in a little closer, lips brushing his. “Now,” she murmured, “you don’t need that restraint anymore. You’ve done better than any could have asked of you, Arlic – better than we ever dare hope. Now it’s your turn. Give to me what all these men gave to you.”

Even as the acolytes hastened to undo his bonds, the welcoming heat of her body slid down around his aching member.

It was as well she’d encouraged him to abandon restraint. All the stamina he’d had through the day, holding strong against the sounds and scents of pleasure all around him, against the warmth of seed flowing down his throat or up under his tail, against the stirring of wonderfully sensitive places inside him, abandoned him now that his manhood was engulfed. From the first touch, he arched up from the altar stone, crying out; and by the time she’d risen and fallen atop him thrice, a mind-shattering rush of pleasure surged through him.

When he came back to himself, the back of his head was sore where it had shoved back against the altar – padded or no, it was solid stone under him, and that’d be aching for a bit. But not so much as his loins did from the intensity of his release.

“My, my…” The priestess mouthed at his ear, nipping it lightly. “So strong, so plentiful – I could believe you’d been gathering seed for several days, not just one.” And then, slipping off of him, she nuzzled at his cheek. “You’ve done well today, Arlic. Thank you – from all of us. I think you’ve earned a few restful days to recover – try not to spend all of them in the springs with your admirers, hmm?” And as she turned away, laughing, two giggling fillies with flowers braided in their manes helped him to his feet at last, and over toward the hot springs for a well-earned second soak.

He sank into the water with a grateful sigh. Spring was here at last, and he’d played an important part in the village’s future. Life was good.