After his refusal in the morning, the bit was put back between his teeth. Rien poured water down his throat before again pulling him after the horse. At the first stop, some hours later, Bastien let himself fall into a sitting position.
Rien walked over to him, holding the canteen. He let the man pour water into him without complaint or fuss. That made Rien smile when he made the usual request. “Address me as master.”
“No.” The word was slurred by the bit in his mouth.
His captor shrugged, closed the canteen, and started to haul Bastien back to his feet. Or he tried to, anyway. Bastien didn’t budge. When Rien grabbed his collar, Bastien let himself go limp. “Get up, or I’ll drag you.”
“No, you won’t.”
Even with the bit, it was clear the man had understood him. “Won’t I?”
“If you wanted me dead, you’d have already killed me.” Playing the man’s game was going to end in Bastien losing. Eventually, exhaustion and hunger would make him delirious enough to give in. A couple more nights like the last two would likely manage it. Some part of his mind was already trying to convince him to just give in and escape later. Except his captor had already made his intentions toward Bastien clear.
“Tell you what, Bast…” Rien shrugged. “Address me as master, and we can stop here for the day.”
“Bast, let’s be clear…” Rien tousled his hair, making Bastien pull away. “Anybody here gets fucked, it’s going to be you.” He walked over to the pack horse and returned a moment later.
A chill went down him as he realized what Rien was carrying.
Rien ran a hand down the flogger before smiling at his captive. “Nice, isn’t it? Brand new.” He let the leather strands trail over Bast’s shoulder. “Yours will be the first flesh it tastes.” He shrugged. “Get up.”
“If it’s all the same to you…” Bast’s words were difficult to make out. “I think I’d just as soon let you beat me unconscious.”
“Except I won’t.” Rien shook his head. “I’ll beat you until the blood flows, then pour a potion down your throat. I’ve got plenty. Over, and over, until you are a broken wreck begging to service me.” He grabbed Bast’s hair. “Address me as master.”
He wasn’t sure if he was pleased or disappointed when Bast stood again. Instead of putting the flogger away, he attached it to his belt. The naked form of his prize was just begging for a taste of the lash. Of course, given what he already knew of the young knight, there would be plenty of opportunity for chastising him.
His body was numb enough that walking was actually less painful than stopping. Rien frowned at him when they stopped, and turned to look back. Bastien followed his gaze, and realized he was starting to leave bloody footprints. His captor shoved him to his knees before pouring a dose of the healing potion down his throat. “Stubborn oaf.” Rien shook his head.
“Grotesque monstrosity of a skunk’s scrotum.”
“That reminds me.” Rien tilted his head. “What is a ‘fustilarian’?”
Rien laughed, then took a drink from the canteen. “You know I can think of a lot of better uses you could put that mouth of yours too.” The man leered at him.
“I suggest you not put anything inside you do not want bitten off, you execrable shard-borne eunuch.”
“Bast…” Rien caught his hair. “I assure you…” Rien licked his lips. “I am most definitely not a eunuch.” Rien straightened. “Address me as master.”
“Loathsome putrescent nut-hook.” Bastien glared. “Malodorous leper.” One good thing about being kept awake all night. He had plenty of time to come up with better things to call the man than master. “Withered jacka —” The bit was shoved back between his teeth.
Forced marching was considered an excellent way to break a man. Sleep deprivation, keeping someone in a painful stress position, hunger. All good methods. Nudity also helped break a man down. They’d forced marched captives from another wilder clan once. Midway into the second day, even the strongest of them had broken.
Rien rolled clear of Bast’s second kick and used the chain to yank the man off his feet again. There was a decent chance he was going to piss blood after the kick the knight had just delivered to his gut. Four days, and his captive had neither run out of fury or invective. “Address me as master.”
“Arse-breathed wormwit.” Bast glared. “Grunge-sucking carrion-licker.”
He laughed. “Bast, I can’t wait to see what you’re like tamed.”
“You won’t live long enough, you avoirdupois pillock.”
At least the man’s struggles were weakening. He was able to tackle Bast to the ground and get the bit back between his teeth without too much trouble. “I think as soon as we get to a blacksmith, I’m going to get you a muzzle.”
The sun was full in the sky when the horses halted again. Bastien took a couple more stumbling steps before collapsing. His feet were bleeding again. It took him three tries to catch the battlefield meditation again, but when his captor approached with the canteen Bastien was able to give him a defiant look.
Water was poured down his throat. For good measure, Rien also gave him a small dose of a potion. He considered spitting it back out, but his chances of finding an advantage improved if he wasn’t crippled. They were on a bluff. Maybe he could push the rutting bastard off it? “Address me as master.” Rien unfastened the bit.
“Froward fool-born horse drench.”
Rien started laughing before straightening back up. A frown came to the man’s face, then he shaded his eyes to look at something in the distance. He shook his head. “His high and mightiness may be calling up more than he can put down.”
Bastien turned to see what had caught Rien’s attention. His blood went cold. “Phillip is gathering trolls.”
“Mercenaries want to get paid.” Rien shrugged. “Trolls are just hungry.”
From the positioning, Phillip’s forces were going to drive the trolls into the valley and the… “He intends to destroy the Spire.”
“Sound strategy. The trolls will slaughter the Magi, but they won’t loot the place.” Rien nodded. “Trolls are resistant enough to magic to pull it off.”
“We need to send a warning. The fifth beacon is not far from here.” Bastien started to get back to his feet, his exhaustion driven from his mind.
“Bast…” Rien snorted. “Those trolls there?” He jerked his head in their direction. “Phillip is taking them out of my land and driving them into Solsthriem. I’m good with that.”
“If the Magi fall…”
“Phillip will probably get to be king, but since he’s weakened his forces badly, we get to come over the border and pillage our little hearts out.” Rien grinned.
“Thousands will die.” Had his father made it to the king? At least then they’d know Phillip was a traitor. It would help, but not enough. If those forces reached an unprepared Spire, the army might not have a chance to move in to defend the cities.
His captor tugged on the chain leash before heading back to the horses. “Time to get moving. I don’t want to risk some troll looking up.”
“Phillip didn’t pay you.” Bastien shook his head. “Here is an opportunity for you to avenge that.”
“I did get paid, Bast.” Rien pointed at the saddlebags. “Not sure what else thwarting him will get me.” Rien climbed into the saddle.
Fists clenched. Bastien set his feet before looking up at him. “It gets you me.” When Rien turned to look at him, Bastien took a deep breath. “Master.”