He didn’t take them far, only a couple miles. Just enough he could be sure the useless guards of the beacon wouldn’t find them. Rien stopped his horse, and dismounted. A glance over his shoulder revealed Bast had immediately sunk to his knees when they’d stopped. Aside from the couple hours he’d caught while thrown over a horse, his knight hadn’t slept in days. Nor had he eaten.
Rien dismounted, and walked over. Instead of pouring the water into the man as he’d done the last few times, he simply handed over the canteen. “We’ll make camp here.”
Bast nodded. “How much longer until we reach…” He frowned. “Where are you taking me?”
“Home.” Rien shrugged. “Darodelf.” It had been a couple years. By rights, he should have returned before the last job, but the raid had been too tempting to pass up. He looked down at his knight. And it had worked out well enough. The sun was already starting to set; this was a good a time to make camp as any.
Despite how hungry his captive likely was, the man fell asleep leaning against a tree while Rien prepared the meal. Rather than wake the man, he set aside some food and let him sleep. It gave him time to think. He’d taken the knight captive mostly to amuse himself. A strong, pretty young warrior. Break him on the trip, have a bit of fun, then present the tamed result as a gift. That was before he’d realized exactly what kind of prize he had.
At the beacon Bast had saved his life. An oath of fealty only a few seconds old, given by a man exhausted and starved. Had Bast hesitated even a moment, the sword blow would have landed. He’d dismissed the guards as a threat far too readily, caught up in his amusement of the situation.
The idea of giving Bast away now was laughable. Even if he could transfer the man’s oath to another, he had no desire to do such a thing. Taking Bast among his people was going to be interesting.
Bastien woke to find the sun coming up rather than setting. He blinked, then turned to see Rien already at the morning fire. “Morning, Bast.”
“Bastien.” He sat up slowly. “Sir Bastien Kohler.” He shook his head, driving the last dregs of sleep from his mind. A small part of him had hoped the previous few days had been a dream of some kind. The smell of the food the man was cooking made him painfully aware it had been almost five days since he’d eaten.
“That may suit for others.” Rien shrugged. “But I am your master, and I’m going to call you Bast.” He pointed at the ground next to where he was sitting. “Kneel there.”
His hand touched the collar still fastened around his neck. The chain was heavy, and there were still shackles closed around his wrists and ankles. The warning had gone. The kingdom had a chance. He told himself it was worth it before he stood, and walked over to kneel at Rien’s feet. The Wilder man caught his chin, and rubbed a thumb over his cheek. “Five days, and barely fuzz. How old are you, Bast?”
Rien laughed softly. His dark brown eyes examined Bastien’s face, tilting his head to one side by putting pressure on his chin. He didn’t resist the motion. “You’ll need a better collar.” The man frowned at him thoughtfully. “The wrist cuffs will do, but the ankles cuffs leave something to be desired.”
“You intend to keep me chained, then?” Bastien raised an eyebrow.
The man released his chin before shrugging. “Yeah, I think I do.” Rien chuckled. “I like the way you look wearing nothing but metal.”
“You could give me back my armor.”
“Oh, Bast…” Rien laughed again. Then he reached out and tousled Bastien’s hair. It was all he could do not to try biting the man again. “You know, most men in your position would at least pretend meekness.” He shrugged. “Or maybe this is you being meek, considering you’ve yet to curse at me this morning.” He gestured. “Turn around a little, and put your hands behind your back.”
He frowned, but obeyed. There was a clicking sound as Rien locked his wrists together. “This isn’t…”
“Turn back around.”
“Very well.” Bastien shifted, turning back to face Rien. Rien had a morsel of food between his fingers, holding it like he was offering a treat to… to a pet. “You have got to be kidding me.”
Laughter answered him. “Address me as master.”
“You have got to be kidding me, master.” He glared.
“I know you are hungry, Bast.” The man glanced down at the offered morsel. “Eat.” Rien smiled. “That’s an order, Bast.”
Slowly, he leaned forward, taking the morsel from Rien’s hand. He didn’t miss the man’s smile widening. The sausage, at least, was good. He swallowed, then exhaled when he saw Rien simply pick up and offer another morsel. Instead of holding it between his fingers, this time the man left it in the palm of his hand. “Hag-born giglet.”
It occurred to him that Solsthriem lords probably didn’t make their knights eat out of their hands. Rien couldn’t help but feel that was entirely their loss. Seeing Bast sink to his knees on command alone would have been an excellent start to the morning, but the feel of the young man’s lips against his palm as he took the offered morsels was even more delightful than he’d imagined. Despite the fact the man had to have been starved, he took each bite with obvious reluctance. That just made it even better. “How long have you been a knight?”
“Five years.” Bast’s voice was terse.
“And you’re from Lyralind initially?”
Rien frowned slightly. “You had family in the castle?”
A few moments passed before Bast responded. “My father took the child to safety.”
He let out a low whistle. “If he’s anything like you I pity anybody that tried stopping him.” Rien tilted his head. “Any brothers or sisters? Cause…” He shrugged. “I gotta say if there is I might want to complete the set.”
“It took an army of trolls for you to manage to handle one Kohler.” Bast gave him a level look.
“Fair point.” He frowned. If Bast did have siblings, then he would have to account for the possibility they were going to want to rescue their brother. The father was likely going to want the same. That could present a problem. “Do you have siblings?”
After giving Bast a bite of biscuit, he offered water. Bast drank. He continued feeding Bast by hand until the meal was gone. Then he smiled, holding his fingers up to Bast’s face. Bast stared at him, a trace of uncertainness on his face. “Clean the crumbs, Bast.” He moved his fingers just slightly. “That’s an order.”
For a half heartbeat, he saw Bast consider biting him. Then the man leaned forward and licked the grease and crumbs from Rien’s fingers. He did a poor job, but that hadn’t been the point. Rien rose, and wiped the last traces onto his breeches. “I want to make the Vale by sunset.” He started to pull Bast to the pack horse.
“I can keep pace.” Bast shook his head.
“Easier on you if I just toss you over the horse.”
“I’ll keep up.” Bast started to dig his heels in.
“Bast…” Rien smiled. “You being exhausted when we reach our destination would spoil my plans for the evening.” He picked the smaller man up, ignoring the sound of protest, and set him among the other spoils. Bast let out a fresh slew of curses when Rien tied him in place. As soon as he finished the last knot, Rien shrugged, and smacked him across the ass. “Enjoy the ride, Bast.”
Bastien tried shoving the manacles off his wrists. No luck. He really didn’t want to consider what plans his ‘master’ might have for the evening, but spoiling them was probably in his best interest. They’d shifted direction, and were now heading west. Once they passed the Vale, they were beyond any maps he knew. The Wilders were a fierce people, and there was little beyond the Vale to make invading them worthwhile.
He turned his head enough to look at Rien. He was big, even for a Wilder, likely outweighing Bast himself by a few stone and nearly a head taller. Like most Wilders he was dark-haired and dark-eyed, and he wore the heavy leather vest common to his people. The markings on it would have told Bastien the man’s clan and heritage had he known how to read them, but all he could make out were some stylized dragons.
With a sigh, he let himself go limp. It didn’t take long for a fitful sleep to claim him again.
The Vale was in full bloom. Rien inhaled the scent, and smiled. Almost home. He dismounted, tying the horses where they could reach food and water before untying Bast. Bast groaned a little when he stood, and winced. Rien patted his shoulder. “Come now, it’s not as bad as having your feet bleed.”
“That is entirely a matter of opinion.” Bast tested the manacles binding his wrists together before shaking his head at Rien.
Rather than free the man, Rien left him shackled as he led him down to the stream. He stripped off his vest and hung it on a tree branch before he dragged the knight into the water. He let Bast drink on his own rather than force the issue. Rien took a deep breath before ducking his head under the water, letting the rushing stream remove some of the saddle dirt and sweat. Despite Bast’s restraints, the younger man did the same thing.
Back at the camp he built a fire, then had Bast kneel again. He secured Bast’s ankles together before sitting down. The young man reluctantly allowed Rien to hand feed him again, though he was called a couple more choice names. Rien brushed the knight’s still damp hair back over his ear, then trailed his knuckles down the other man’s throat. Bast glared. Rien smirked. “I wonder how many village girls are crying themselves to sleep in your absence.”
“I am unwed.” Bast tested the manacles again. Rien wondered if the man were even consciously aware of how often he did that.
“Yeah, but I bet there was something in the works. Knight of your skill has probably won a few of those tourney things, yes?”
“Yes.” Bast’s voice was terse.
“Some lordling’s younger daughter is probably heartbroken.” Rien tilted his head. “Am I right?”
Bast continued glaring. “I fail to see why it is of any concern of yours.”
“I like to keep tabs on the number of people who want me dead.”
“If my math is correct, it is everyone.”
Rien laughed. “Eh, probably.” He shrugged. “I’ll bet the girls at those tourneys practically fell over when you glanced their way.” He ran a finger across Bast’s jaw. “Was it a different girl every night, or did you have a favorite?”
“I am unwed.” Bast moved back just a little to keep Rien from catching hold of his chin.
“Yeah but I’m not…” Rien blinked, then grinned. “Or did you tumble boys?”
He held up another morsel of food for the knight, then pulled it back teasingly when Bast went to take it. “Come now. Whose eye did you catch?”
“If you…” Bast gritted his teeth. “Baron Henrik had approached my father concerning the younger of his daughters. He believed the match would strengthen his alliance with the Duke.”
“Did you like her?” Rien raised an eyebrow. “Was she any good? How often did you bed her?”
“I never…” Bast glared. “I would not dishonor her by besmirching her reputation so.”
“Wait, so…” Rien started to hold up another morsel, then shook his head in confusion. A strange thought came to him, and he tilted his head before shaking it again. “Bast…” He rested his arms on his knees and peered down at his captive. “Are you a virgin?”
“Why do you care?”
“Hellfire rising, you are.” He started laughing. “How the…”
“No, seriously, how does…” He gestured at Bast. “Not have eight different beds welcoming him?”
“You think I should defile a woman simply because I take a fancy to her?” Bast narrowed his eyes. “A woman’s virtue is a thing of value, and I would not leave her to suffer the consequences of losing it for some fleeting tumble.”
“Ugh, Solsthriem. As if a woman’s value can be measured in such a manner.” Rien smirked. “You know, I think the next time we invade, we men should find a good vantage point and let our women teach you a few things.” He offered Bast another bit of food, then give the man a contemplative look. “Huh.”
“And what, pray tell, has confused you this time?” Bast raised an eyebrow. “Do you need to count higher tha—”
Rien cut off Bast’s insults by catching the man and dragging him backward to the bedroll. He lay half atop the smaller man. Bast started to struggle before catching himself and going still once more, but his eyes were furious. “I’d been thinking, earlier…” He trailed his hand down Bast’s chest. “Considering who I would present you to…” The knight was tense beneath him, as though his body had been transformed to stone. “But now…”
“Get your hands off me.” Bast tried to shift out from beneath Rien as Rien’s hand moved to the knot of the rope belt.
“Now I think I’ll not share you at all.” Rien chuckled. “I rather like the idea that the only one who has ever had you is me.” He began undoing the knot as Bast struggled and cursed. “That the only touch you’ll ever know is mine.” When Bast growled and tried to move away again, Rien laughed. Bast’s squirming was having the opposite effect that the young man likely intended. “Come now, what happened to that whole fealty thing?”
“Damn you.” Bast shook his head. “I won’t flee or fight you, bastard, but that doesn’t mean I have to let you —”
“Tell me, Bast…” Rien began unfastening the tie on Bast’s breeches. “Would you rather cooperate and enjoy yourself, or have me throw you over the log there and beat you into submis—” Bast let out an impressive string of invective. “Well, I guess that answers that question.”