Bastien stared up at his captor before testing the manacles again. There was no give in the chain, and short of removing his thumbs he would not be able to slide the metal off his wrists. “Well, Rien…” He emphasized the man’s name. “That seems rather unlikely. Now, if you wish to ensure a ransom is paid, I suggest —”
The big man tossed something to Bastien. It landed next to him with a clanking sound, and Bastian felt a slight chill when he realized the item was a heavy steel collar. “Don’t worry.” Rien smiled. “You’ll get used to the idea. We’ve still got some travel ahead of us.”
“You cannot possibly imagine I will be cooperative.” He narrowed his eyes.
“Oh, I’m absolutely sure you won’t be cooperative.” Rien’s smile widened. “That’s going to be half the fun.” Rien rose, picking up a set of manacles joined by a long chain as he did. Then he started toward Bastien. As soon as he reached for Bastien’s ankle, Bastien pulled his leg back before lashing out. The big man moved fast enough that the kick didn’t connect. Bastien tried to shift for a better angle of attack, and was caught by the length of chain securing his wrists to the tree. He growled. Rien gave him a smug look. “And you are definitely going to be fun.”
He kicked again when Rien approached, this time connecting with a glancing blow. The larger man nearly caught his ankle that time, and Bastien jerked back. With his hands secured and little room to maneuver, he was at a decided disadvantage even before taking into account his opponent’s greater size and strength.
On the third try, the man caught his ankle and pulled. Bastien slid forward before his wrists were caught by the chain, sending pain up his arms. The heartbeat it took him to regain leverage enough to be able to pull back was enough for the man to close one of the shackles around his ankle. Bastien tried to yank his leg back, but the big man kept hold of the chain. He lifted it, yanking Bastien’s leg into the air and causing the wrist manacles to yank at his shoulders again. The other end of the chain was tossed over a tree branch and the man used it as a pulley to lift and pull Bastien. He cried out in pain, and heard Rien laugh.
“You can give me your other ankle…” Rien shrugged. “And be a bit more comfortable, or you can make me fight for it and I’ll leave you suspended.” He reached for Bastien’s other leg.
Using his trapped ankle for leverage, Bastien kicked again. This time his foot connected with his captor’s face. Bastien felt the man’s nose break beneath the blow. The big man dropped the chain, and Bastien fell back, landing painfully on his wrists.
He put a hand to the broken nose and tweaked it back into place. Then he shrugged before wiping the blood off with a rag. “You’re a wildcat, alright.” Rien gave his prize an admiring look. The knight had already shifted back into a better position, gathering the chain with his foot to prevent Rien from grabbing it easily. “I do like a spirited ride.”
Bast’s eyes widened slightly as he caught the meaning of Rien’s words, and the expression immediately became an angry glare. “You’d be smarter to take the ransom.”
“Smart isn’t something I’m usually accused of being.” He wiped blood away again before sniffing. Then he tossed the rag aside. “If I wanted easy, I’ve have chained you before you woke.”
“You have no cage to hold me.” Bast shook his head. “Let me go now, and I won’t slit your throat before I leave.”
“Well, Bast —”
“My name…” The knight’s eyes narrowed. “Is Sir Bastien Kohler of Lyralind.”
Rien walked over to his saddle bag and removed the woven net. He shook it out of its fold, making it usable. “Your name is Bast. You’re mine.” He flung the net over the other man.
Credit where it was due, even hampered by the net and shackled the knight put up one hell of a fight. Rien had several more bruises before he’d succeeded in shackling the man’s other ankle. He used one of the padlocks to shorten the connecting chain, giving Bast only a couple inches of play between the shackles. Then he shifted so he was straddling the smaller man’s chest. A smile came to his face as he held up the collar.
Beneath him, the knight renewed his struggles. They were having an effect, though likely not the effect the young man had hoped. “Address me as master.”
“Burn in hell, wilder dog.”
His fingers caught his captive’s ginger hair, holding the man’s head still. “Address me as master.”
“I will die first.” Defiant green eyes stared back at him.
“No…” Rien closed the collar around his captive’s neck, securing it with the heaviest of the locks. Solid, weighty steel around the young man’s throat, ensuring there was no chance he’d forget he was wearing the thing. “You won’t.”
The steel was cold and heavy around his neck, and the added weight of the lock made it drag at him. He swallowed. As soon as the big man started to shift position again, Bastien bucked as hard as he could. The big man was knocked off him. “I will see you hang.”
Rien laughed as he stood. “Hanging. Not a bad idea, Bast.” He gathered the net, then tossed it aside. Then Rien walked over and picked up a long length of chain. Bastien immediately began struggling again as the man came back and tried to turn him onto his stomach. Secured as he was, he could find no leverage to overcome the man’s greater strength. A knee was placed on the small of his back, holding him in place.
He heard the click of a padlock as the chain was attached to the wrist shackles. Bastien frowned even as he struggled, uncertain of what his captor intended. There was another click, and abruptly he realized his wrists were no longer secured to the tree. If he could get to the key… Immediately he renewed his struggles, and knocked the bigger man off balance again.
Before he could gain any advantage, the big man rolled away and then hauled at the chain he’d fastened to Bastien’s wrists, pulling Bastien to the side to land with a grunt. “Son of a…” Bastien yanked back, and heard Rien laugh again. The man was enjoying himself.
The other end of the chain was flung over a branch. Bastien realized what was about to happen and immediately tried moving away. The big man caught the chain before Bastien could free it from the branch, and then hauled on it, pulling Bastien back toward him. “Address me as master.”
“I’ll not kneel to some craven dog-lover.” Bastien started shaking his head. “Let me go, you gorbellied scut.”
Rien let the knight go on for a moment, amused and just a tad impressed at the man’s invective. It took a fair level of guts for a man currently in his position to refer to his captor as a milk-livered hag seed. He made a mental note to at some point ask the man what, exactly, a fustilarian was before he started hauling on the chain. Bast was pulled to the branch, and then to his feet as Rien continued using the chain as a pulley. “Address me as master.”
“Gleeking cockwit.” Bast glared at him. “Ruttish ratbane.”
He pulled again, forcing Bast to lean forward as his wrists were pulled up behind him into a strappado. The knight bit back a cry of pain, turning it into yet another curse. “Fen-sucked spleen.” Strain showed on the younger man’s face as Rien slowly continued to pull on the chain, forcing Bast to rise onto his toes.
“Address me as master.”
“Ill-bred fly-bitten shit fed measle.” Bast growled through gritted teeth.
With a shrug, Rien used the last padlock to secure the chain in its current position. Then he walked toward Bast, catching the man’s hair again. “Address me as master.”
Bast spat, hitting Rien in the cheek. “Hedge-born varlot.”
“You’ve got a mouth on you…” He ran a thumb over Bast’s lower lip, then quickly pulled it away as the man tried to bite him. He released Bast’s hair, then picked up another rag to wipe the spittle from his face. Then he crumpled the rag back up, grabbed Bast’s hair again, and shoved the rag into it. It took a bit of effort, with the knight struggling against him. Then he secured the rag in place with a bit of rope, fastening it tightly. Casually, he shoved the knight off balance, and heard the muffled cry of pain before Bast got his feet back under him again. “We’ll see how you’re feeling about the matter in the morning.”
Curses could almost still be made out behind the gag. Rien walked over to the lantern and blew out the flame before going to his bedroll. The gag muffled the sounds his captive was making enough for him to sleep. He lay so that he could see the knight. The young man had the option of going up on his toes to ease the pain in his shoulders, but it was not a position he’d be able to hold for long and he would be forced to suspend himself. Eventually the pain would grow unbearable, and he’d find the strength to rise once more. Sleep, however, was not something his prisoner was going to find tonight.