Bastien tried not to stare. Between the two women, they wore almost enough cloth to make a handkerchief. The thought crossed his mind that if Rien had the women to occupy himself with, perhaps he’d leave Bastien alone. The thought was almost immediately followed by guilt at the idea of the women having to put up with the man.
Rien continued talking with Jochem, who it seemed handled all the actual responsibility that came with Rien’s position as a prince. He noted there were faint scars around Jochem’s neck, as though he’d once worn a collar similar to Bastien’s. Yet the man clearly knew his own importance, for he had no trouble at all castigating Rien until Rien presented him with a painting he’d looted from the Duke’s castle. “Jochem, you knew I was alive. I sent spoils back more than once.”
“Without so much as an inventory or missive save some hireling asking for me by name and saying ‘Marinus Draak said to deliver this to you’.” Jochem threw up his hands. “For all I knew, they’d looted half of it before making the delivery. And how exactly was I to know what you wanted done with any of it?”
“If I knew what I wanted done with it I’d have done it.” Rien shook his head. “That’s the kind of thing I keep you around for.”
“You…” Jochem glared. “You…”
“Bast, help him out here?” Rien glanced over his shoulder.
“Imprudent wastrel.” Bastien nodded.
“Yes. You imprudent wastrel!” Jochem poked Rien in the chest. “I’m having copies of the ledgers made for you. They’ll be delivered to your quarters this evening.”
“What of the aqueducts, did that work out?” Rien raised an eyebrow.
“Oh yes, quite well, in fact. The groves have expanded out into the hills. It will take a couple more years before they are productive, of course, but when I visited two months ago they actually succeeded in impressing me.” Jochem smiled. “The vineyards have expanded as well. I sent word to Tineke when I heard you’d arrived. She has quite the tithe she’s been eager to send you.” He shrugged. “I sent her a share from your last delivery to be used in expanding her outbuildings.”
“Well done.” Rien smiled. “Aside from Bast here, you may tell your wife she may pick whatever she likes from my latest spoils. Your son and daughter as well.”
“Thank you, my lord.” Jochem nodded.
“Now get back to work.” Rien clapped him on the shoulder. “I pay you to be brilliant, not to stand about in halls gossiping.” Jochem rolled his eyes, but smiled before taking his leave. Rien’s own smile was fond as he watched the man go, then he turned toward Bastien. “I took Jochem when I was twelve. My first raid.” He chuckled. “Brought him and the other spoils back with me to the encampment, then picked him at random to be my cupbearer that evening. He was standing a couple feet from me when one of the soldiers brought me a report. Jochem took one look at it, upside down mind you, and informed me the quartermaster was shorting the take for the men to gain himself a larger share.”
“I take it he was right?” Bastien raised an eyebrow.
“Turned out to be the least of what the quartermaster was doing. I had him executed and gave the job to Jochem.” Rien shrugged, then turned to look at the woman. “So, which one of you is Maela?”
It was rather amusing seeing Bast avert his gaze every time one of his eyes happened to fall on the women. The blue one was indeed Maela. She gave Rien a smile that managed to be both enticing and demure as she knelt before him. Rachel’s smile was shyer, but no less lovely. He questioned them briefly about their talents. Both could apparently cook, and it seemed while they both could sing and dance Rachel also played both lyre and flute. And it seemed that while Jochem had ensured Maela was fully trained in the pleasurable arts, Rachel was a virgin. Maybe he didn’t pay that man too much after all.
He led all three of his slaves back through the market, and didn’t miss that Maela spared Bast an appreciative glance or two as well. By the time they made it back to his quarters, palace slaves had delivered his earlier packages, as well as the belongings of his two new slaves. He looked them over, noting one in particular, and smiled to himself. “Maela…” He gestured. “Help Bast out of his clothing.”
The knight took a step back as the woman moved toward him. “I’m quite capable of do —”
“Bast…” Rien’s smile widened. “I want to evaluate her skills. Hold still and let her attend you.” The smile became a smirk. “That’s an order.”
“Goatish reprobate.” Bast’s curse drew a confused look from Rachel and a vaguely scandalized one from Maela. He glared as the Maela began undressing him before doing his best to avoid looking at either the women or Rien. His skin started reddening as Maela unlaced his breeches. Her movements were slow and sensual as she made a rather enticing show of undressing him. The woman had clearly picked up that she was doing it for Rien’s benefit rather than Bast’s, and she used her own body to teasingly block his view before offering him tantalizing glimpses. Rien gave her an approving smile.
When she finished, she glanced at Rien for further instruction. He waved a hand at the packages. “Bast here is new to our lands, Maela. Why don’t you dress him more appropriately for a body slave?”
She inclined her head gracefully before selecting attire. Bast clenched his fists as Maela fastened a belt of jeweled metal around his waist before passing the green embroidered loincloth between his legs, and stared up at the ceiling. “Rien…”
“Outside of these chambers, you may dress for battle. Within, however, you will dress for my pleasure.” Rien chuckled before giving Maela an approving nod. Then he gave her an apologetic look. “My pleasure, Maela. You and your sister are to keep your hands off him unless I instruct otherwise.” He met Bast’s eyes. “He will ensure everyone save myself keeps their hands off you.”
Slowly, Bast nodded. “Understood.”
Other than the fact he looked ridiculous, it was a surprisingly enjoyable afternoon. Rachel did prove to be skilled at the lyre, and both of the women had lovely voices. The best part, however, had been when Rien had observed that if he was going to use a sword to slay a dragon, he had best become more practiced with that weapon.
Rien made a growling sound as he picked himself back up from the ground and looked at the fresh welt on his side. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
“Oh…” Bastien shifted his grip on the practice blade. “Only a lot.” He gestured. “Stop trying to hit me with the shield and use it to —”
“You keep hitting me with your shield.” Rien glared. He’d stripped down to his breeches for the training session, meaning each and every one of the welts Bastien had raised was visible. All fourteen of them.
“Yes, that’s because I know how.” Bastien shook his head and positioned his own shield. “The ideal in a duel is for the shield not to be hit at all.”
“Then why bother with —” Rien’s eyes narrowed. “Because when you hold it like that I can’t read your position to predict your swing.”
“See…” Bastien glanced at the women. “Gradually he catches on. Maela, give him a cookie.”
“Maela, how’d you like to give Bast here a good flogging before bed?” Rien glared, then positioned his own shield. “Again.”
Bastien shifted to the side to dodge Rien’s attack, focusing on defense. The man could put a lot of power behind a swing, and was certainly not unskilled. But he’d been right to acknowledge the weakness. Used to an axe, he had a tendency to overswing and reacted just a tad too late each time Bastien left him an opening to go for a simple thrust. He feinted, but this time Rien caught it and shifted his shield into place in time to block Bastien’s shield. Rien pushed back, his greater strength driving Bastien back almost two full paces, then swung.
He rolled to the side to dodge the blow and came up with a short thrust, the tip of his blade touching just under Rien’s ribcage. “Good work with the shield, but not every swing needs to cut a man in half.”
“I like cutting men in half.” Rien shook his head as he stepped back. He gave a frustrated shake of his head. “Again.”
“No.” Bastien shook his head.
“That’s a —”
“Rien, do you want me to beat the shit out of you all night or do you want me to teach you to use a sword?” Bastien smiled. “Because if it is the former, I’m quite happy to comply with that particular order.”
“I’m gonna…” Another growling sound came from Rien. “Fine. Teach me.” He looked around. “Where’s my cookie?”
It was full dark by the time he called a halt to the practice. Bast had taken him through several sword forms before they’d dueled again. He hadn’t yet managed to beat Bast in a sword duel, but his command of the weapon had improved. With a couple months before undertaking the next part of his quest, he was confident he’d be able to handle a sword against a dragon. Rien took a drink of healing potion and felt the bruises Bast had inflicted start to fade. He looked over at where Bast was putting the training weapons back on a rack. At least the ones that had survived. They’d broken three during the session. “Who trained you?”
“My father.” Bast put the last of the wooden swords away. “There were training sessions and drills with other squires and later with other knights, but mostly my father.”
“You, uh…” Rien shrugged. “If you want to write him or anything, Jochem can make sure the letter gets delivered.”
“I…” Bast went still for a moment before nodding. “Thank you.”
He gave the back of Bast’s neck an affectionate squeeze before offering him a sip of the healing potion. “Tomorrow I want you to teach me that move you did where you switched your grip on the sword to stab the guy coming up behind you.” Then he shrugged, and gestured for him and the women to follow him back into the sitting area. “Maela, Rachel, you said you were trained in va’styden?”
“Yes, master.” Both women replied quietly.
“Excellent.” Rien smiled. “Bast, kneel on the bear fur there by the fireplace.” When Bast gave him an irritated look, Rien just smiled wider. “That’s an order, Bast.” Bast glared at him before going over to the fur and sinking to his knees. Rien turned to Rachel and gestured at Bast. “Demonstrate.”
“Do I want to…” Bast trailed off when he saw Rachel pick up a cord of silken rope. He gave a small shake of his head as she started walking toward him. “Rien…”
“Bast…” Rien sat down where he had a good view and gestured for Maela to join him. “You got a chance to show your skills off today, don’t you think our lovely Rachel deserves the same?” He put an arm around Maela, pulling close before brushing her hair back from her shoulder. “Don’t worry, sweetling. You’ll have a chance to show off as well.”
She made a purring sound as she pressed her body against his, her eyes smoldering with intent as she caressed his chest. “Yes, master.”
Bast gave a frustrated shake of his head as Rachel began making unwinding the rope. She glanced at him as if waiting for direction, and he merely nodded. “You’re showing off, Rachel. Be creative.”
“Yes, master.” She inclined her head. Slowly and carefully, she began by lashing Bast’s hands behind his back, placing the knots carefully to avoid damaging him. From there she began weaving the rope into a harness, creating a web that enhanced Bast’s body as much as it restricted it.
Rien began caressing Maela as her sister worked, pulling the woman into his lap. She responded by kissing his neck, and her hands began to move over his body. He directed her to her knees as Rachel gestured for Bast to spread his legs apart. Bast shook his head until Rien directed him to comply. He smiled as Rachel placed the next series of knots where they would press and rub against Bast’s body, then made a small sound of pleasure as Maela took him into her mouth. Bast averted his gaze.
Maela had brought him to climax by the time her sister had finished with Bast. He ran his fingers through her hair, and smiled down at her. “Good girl.” She smiled back.
On the fur, Bast tested the ropes, only to discover doing so had an effect on Rachel’s placement of the knots. He grimaced, and Rien laughed softly. He crouched next to Bast, and ran a finger down the ropes. “What do you think, Bast? Did she do a good job?”
“We’re doing another training session tomorrow, yes?” Bast looked up at him. “I’ll be able to hit you some more?”
His finger trailed down the knots to where Rachel had bound Bast’s cock. A smile came to his face when he realized Bast was hard. “Are you trying to claim you didn’t enjoy having a beautiful woman tying you up?” He raised an eyebrow.
“We can focus on your parries. That will give me plenty of opportunity to hit you.” Bast glared.
“Oh, Bast…” Rien caught his hair before kissing him. “We will train again tomorrow.” He smiled. “And if I catch you going easy on me, I’ll flog you.”
“I assure you…” Bast narrowed his eyes. “That won’t be a concern.”