“I’m fairly confident…” Rien glanced down at the welt on his side before looking over at Bast. “That Jochem said she was docile.”
“She’s a fast learner.” Bast smiled before saluting Maela. “And if you’d kept your shield up like I’d told you she wouldn’t be hitting you.”
Rachel brought him over a glass of water, and he drank it gratefully. “Maela, sweetling…” He grinned. “If you manage to hit me twice more I’ll let you pick a set of nipple clamps for Bast.”
She twirled the blade before returning his grin. “Yes, Master Rien.”
“Hey.” Bast shook his head in protest before accepting the water Rachel brought him.
“You should get him the kind that connect with a chain, sister.” Rachel sat down next to Bast before picking her book up and going back to reading.
“Listen to your sister, sweetling.” Rien shifted to the defensive as Maela came at him again. “She is wise.”
It was tempting to let her through his defenses, but he was certain Bast would have called him on it. Maela wasn’t as skilled as the knight, but she was able enough to take advantage when he performed a drill improperly. With Bast occasionally calling her over to whisper instructions, she made an adequate enough practice partner. He had to hold back due to her own lack of defensive capacity and the simple fact that she simply wasn’t able to take a blow the way Bast could. That seemed to help him improve, forcing him to use more controlled blows.
Two weeks to go before the stars were right. His mother insisted everything match her dream. In some ways, it was a blessing. Bast was already well on his way to recovery, and another couple weeks would mean he could accompany Rien as planned. Just to be safe though, he’d decided to bring Maela and Rachel as well. Both women had been quick to learn every bit of wisdom Efua had been willing to impart, and Rachel seemed dead set on memorizing every piece of dragon lore she could get her hands on.
The simple truth was that he was irritatingly limited in who he could trust. Just a year ago, he would have assumed he could trust Jurgen and Rutger. Now Jurgen was gone, and Rutger… Lammert remained Lammert, and he knew full well that man was watching and waiting. Biding his time for something, and Rien still wasn’t sure exactly what that was.
“Lovely?” He glanced at Rachel before parrying Maela’s attack.
“I’ve found three passages that suggest that when the dragon sheds its scales, the new ones are slightly darker in color before they harden.”
“Anything about getting it to stay on the ground so I can see the scales enough to compare colors and stab the blasted thing?” He countered Maela’s next swing and touched the sword to her lightly.
“Just what we already discussed.”
“Live bait.” Rien exhaled. “I’m really not overly enthusiastic about any plan relying on sheep.”
Bastien held out the blade, checking the balance, before moving through the sword form. His back twinged just a little, but he could move freely. At the end of the form, he lowered the blade, then turned to see Rien watching him. “Few more days, and I should be fit to fight.”
“Good.” Rien rubbed the back of his neck. “Your armor is finished. It should be delivered tomorrow, give you a chance to get a feel for it.” He exhaled. “Have you written your father yet?”
“I…” Bastien shrugged, wincing a little at the motion. “I don’t know what to say to him. It’s not like…” It’s not like he could tell his father he was coming home.
“You could tell him you’re about to embark on a quest to help a soon to be king retrieve a magic sword and slay a dragon.” Rien raised an eyebrow.
“That’s…” Bastien shook his head. “Would just make him more worried than he already is.”
“You could tell him two stunning blonds lovelies regularly bath you.”
He laughed, then the smile faded. “He’s only forty two.” He looked out over the balcony. “Young enough to take another wife, train more sons.” He put the blade back on the weapon stand. “Perhaps I should tell him to do exactly that.”
“Not sure I’d wish brothers on any man.” Rien leaned on the wall.
“He’s a baron now. He will need an heir.”
Rien frowned. “You’re not the sort of thing that can be replaced, Bast.”
“Well, the alternative currently is for whatever lands he has been given to be forfeited to you, and I don’t really think that’s…” He turned, and stared out over the view from the balcony.
A moment later, Rien’s hand came down on his shoulder. “I didn’t ask for your oath, Bast.”
“And yet would have happened had I not given it?” He turned to face the other man. “Phillip would have won, and I would still be here, wouldn’t I?” He shook his head. “Or do you actually think I made the wrong choice?”
“I think…” Rien looked away for a moment. Then he sighed. “I think that sometimes I can be a real nonpareil.”
“That is not the word I would use to describe you, Rien.”
“I’ve heard the words you use to describe me, Bast.” He shook his head, and smiled. “Rachel is still amused by ‘blundering bladder-brain’. I’m concerned she’s going to embroider it on one of my tunics.” His face became serious again before he reached out and brushing some of Bastien’s hair away from his face. “If we’d met under other circumstances, do you think we could have been friends?”
“I…” Bastien blinked. “I don’t know. It…” He shrugged. “Would depend on those other circumstances.” He looked up at Rien. “It’s not a far-fetched notion.”
“Good to know.” Rien’s smile returned. “Tomorrow will be a day of ceremonies. I don’t want you or the girls leaving my quarters. At all. If you need anything, send one of the palace servants for it.”
“And from now until —” He exhaled. “From now on I want you armed.”
“Understood.” Bastien walked back to the weapon rack, and began buckling the sword belt around his waist.
“You’re not talking me out of this.” Rien glared at Lammert. “I’m aware I owe you a debt, but…” He folded his arms. “I wish I could believe this was you being worried about my safety rather than your own desire to be king.”
“Only a fool ever wants to be a king, Marinus.” Lammert shook his head. “And while I am many things a fool is rarely one of them.”
“No, you’re an absolute nonpareil.” Rien took a deep breath. “Though at least you aren’t nagging me to come along.”
“There are matters of actual import to which I must attend.” Lammert narrowed his eyes. “You were correct.”
Rien blinked. Those were words he’d never actually expected Lammert to say to him. “I was?”
“Phillip cannot have acquired so many trolls unnoticed in our land without aid from our people.” He folded his arms. “He has also managed to escape Solthriem’s justice. He did so by fleeing into our lands, where he and his small army of followers have somehow managed to remain unnoticed.”
“They sought refuge from someone.” Rien slowly nodded, then he glared at Lammert. “And you suspect me.”
“Don’t be absurd. Hiding anything requires wit and subtlety, neither of which are traits you possess.” Lammert rolled his eyes. “Other eyes, however, are indeed turning to you. The River Dragon, raider, murderer, kidnapper, and ally of traitors…” He let his arms fall to his sides. “Has been named heir to our throne, to fulfill a prophecy that will unite the clans. The rest of the world is starting to believe they have a vested interest in stopping you.” Lammert raised an eyebrow. “Are they wrong?”
“I…” Rien frowned. “What side are you even on, brother?”
Lammert stared at him for a moment, then gave a small shake of his head. “The fact that you do not know the answer to that question…” He sighed. “Makes me doubt I am on yours.” Music began to rise from the hall. “Go parade yourself, little brother. Enjoy the spectacle.” He turned, and walked away.
He adjusted the sheath securing the dagger to Rachel’s leg and tried to ignore the fact she was smirking at him. “I thought you weren’t supposed to touch us, Bast.” She flicked her fingers through his hair.
“If you’d quit…” She shifted just a little, and he pulled his hands away. “You’re doing that on purpose.”
“It’s still a little bit loose.” She pouted as she positioned her leg in front of him again, hiking up the skirt considerably more than was either necessary or proper.
“If I was allowed to touch you…” He reached for the straps that secured the sheath. “I’d give you a good spanking.”
“Promise?” She wiggled her eyebrows at him.
“Maela…” He looked over his shoulder. “Make her stop.”
“Sister, if you stop teasing him…” Maela’s smile was pure evil. “I’ll make him wear the clamps tomorrow.”
“Ooooh…” Rachel immediately stopped moving about.
“Remind me…” He finished adjusting the straps. “Which of you is the evil twin?”
“Girls…” Rien’s voice came from the doorway. “What did I tell you about torturing Bast?”
“Wait until you can watch?” Rachel smiled up at him.
“Exactly.” He caught her chin and kissed her, smiling as she melted against him.
Bastien let out a steady stream of curses as he went to pick up the other sheath. Maela gave him a brazen smile. Instead of standing, she just leaned back in her chair and slid her legs forward. As soon as he approached, she raised her leg and set it on his shoulder, making her skirt fall back into a puddle on her lap. He immediately raised his gaze to the ceiling. “You’re touching me.”
“Master Rien said touching your shoulder during dressing doesn’t count.”
“Master Rien…” She leaned to the side. “Bast is calling me names.”
“Bast…” Rien’s hand came down on his other shoulder. “Are you being mean to Maela?” Rien made a tsking sound. “Maybe I should let her tie you up until you learn to be polite around the ladies.”
“Does me being pretty much healed mean I can start hitting you with sticks again?”
“Now, there’s an idea.” Rien grinned. “I win, Maela gets to tie you up. You win, you get to tie Maela up.”
“Oh, that sounds marvelous.” Rachel made a cooing sound. “Can I spank the one that gets tied?”
“Of course.” Rien smiled at Rachel.
Maela licked her lips as she looked up at Bastien. “Mmmmm…”
“You people are…” He stepped back from under Maela’s leg. “All insane.”
His skills had improved, and Bast was recovering from a brutal injury. Rien glanced down at his new welt before shaking his head. And the man was still knocking him around the practice ring. It wasn’t doing a lot for his dignity. “You know, there are other ways to release your pent up frustra —” He barely managed to parry Bast’s next attack.
“You have one more day to train…” Bast struck him on the side with another stinging blow. “And you still come in from the shoulder.”
“It’s not like the dragon is going to have a sword.” Rien tried to feint, but Bast shifted to hit him with the shield. “You said the shield isn’t for hitting.”
“I said that’s not its primary purpose.” Instead of stepping back to let him recover, Bast came at him with a renewed flurry of attacks that he only barely managed to block. “Don’t block. If you’re going to use your strength, parry and —” Rien knocked Bast’s blade askew on the next one and nearly managed to tag him in the side. “Better.”
“We leave in two days.” Rien sent another swing at Bast, but the knight spun out of the way before countering. Rien caught the blade on his shield, then managed to tag Bast’s leg. “Will you be ready?”
“I think so.” Bast stepped back, lowering his sword and shield. “Did you decide if your brothers are coming?”
“Lammert hasn’t asked, and I told Rutger no.” Rien lowered his own weapons. “Of course, that’s not really a guarantee they won’t show up.” He looked down at his side, then gave Bast a critical look. “I think you’re the victor tonight.”
“We should get some sleep.”
“Oh, don’t think you’re getting out of it that easily, Bast.” He started taking the practice weapons to the rack. “You don’t want to disappoint Maela, now, do you?” He waved a hand. “Rachel will be happy to assist you —”
“Are you seriously going to make me do this?” Bast tossed his shield onto the rack before turning to face Rien.
Rien blinked. “You…” He tilted his head, then rubbed the back of his neck. “Are you saying you’d rather she tied you up?”
“For the love of…”
“Bast.” He took the practice sword out of the man’s hand and put it onto the rack. “Speak truth. If I made you choose one, would you pick to tie her or for her to tie you?”
“If I had to pick…” He looked away. “I’d rather she tie me.”
“Well then.” Rien caught his neck and began pulling him into the other room. “Why didn’t you say so?”
Bastien sighed as Rien half-dragged him back into the other room. As much as he wasn’t happy about the idea of being tied and at their mercy, he dreaded what Rien might demand if he were the one tying Maela. Rien, however, seemed happy enough with the turn of affairs. “Good news, girls. Bast has insisted you tie him up.”
“That’s not —” He glared at Rien.
“Ooooh.” Rachel’s grin was wide as she came forward to grab one of Bast’s arms. “Do I still get to spank him?”
“That’s —” He tried to pull his arm free, only for Maela to grab hold of his other arm.
“Of course, Lovely.” Rien kissed Rachel. “Take him into the bedchamber, tie him well, give him a good spanking…” Rien offered Maela a vial. “And prepare him for me.”
His eyes widened. “No, that’s —”
“Bast…” Rien ran his fingers through Bastien’s hair. “Cooperate for the ladies. That’s an order.”
“Devil-spawned wanton libidinous…” He couldn’t quite bring himself to speak aloud any actually cruel insults towards either woman, even as they dragged him to the bedchamber. Despite their teasing, they were generally kind to him. And ultimately it wasn’t as though they had a choice in the matter either. He grunted as they hauled him to the bed and pulled him onto it, even as he kept talking.”
“Shameful?” Maela removed his loincloth and belt before she caught his neck and pushed him face down onto the mattress.
“Don’t you mean shameless?” Rachel pulled the end of the rope free from the coil.
“You two manage to be both.” He glared.
“Oh, Bast…” Maela ruffled his hair before catching his arm and pulling it behind his back. Then she caught the other one. He didn’t bother struggling. Rien would have just made him stop if he did. Maela folded his arms behind him, holding them in place as Rachel bound his wrists to his elbows.
Both women moved carefully, despite their obvious glee in their activity. He gave a small hiss when a knot brushed an area still tender, and it was immediately moved. Rachel whispered an apology into his ear. Then she wrapped the rope around his balls. His ankles were bound to his thighs, positioned to not interfere with Rien’s access. The man hadn’t touched him while he was healing, but it appeared that respite was ending. He gritted his teeth against the faint flutter of anticipation in his stomach.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Rien watching quietly, occasionally smiling at the antics of his little hellcats. Bast exhaled as they continued weaving a rope harness around him. Then Maela whispered into his ear. “Smile for me, Bast, and I won’t add the nipple clamps.”
“Merciless minx.” He glared at her. And smiled.
The girls really weren’t showing Bast a lot of mercy. By the time they were done, he doubted the man could move more than an inch in any direction. Rachel proved that true a heartbeat later by bringing her hand down across Bast’s ass. The knight’s yelp was more surprise than pain, but it made the women giggle. Rachel rubbed the spot gently before bringing her hand down again.
Bast squirmed against his bonds before rather creatively expressing the opinion that Rachel was quite possibly just as evil as she was beautiful. Frankly, Rien agreed. It was Maela, however, that dribbled oil onto her fingers before shifting to straddle Bast. The knight actually bucked when he realized was going on, making Maela laugh as she managed to maintain her position. She began fondling Bast’s passage, teasing her victim before she slowly slid a finger inside him. Her smile practically glowed as she took her time preparing the cursing knight. Bast’s breath was coming in pants and soft moans before Maela looked up at Rien.
He waved them both away before approaching the bed, and ran a hand over Bast’s shoulder. “Comfortable?”
“Oh, yes.” Bast craned his neck to glare up at Rien. “You should try this sometime.”
Rien laughed before going to position himself behind Bast. He was already hard from watching the girls, and he knew Bast was well-prepared. So he simply grabbed Bast by the rope harness and drove himself inside. Bast growled in response, though the sound contained more pleasure than pain. He didn’t withdraw, instead shifting to drive his full length inside. Then he slid a hand forward to fondle Bast.
They’d bound Bast well. Rien doubted the man would be able to cum in his current situation. That really wasn’t a reason not to play with him. Slowly, he began caressing Bast’s length, moving his own hips in a matching rhythm. A smile came to his face when he heard Bast moan. Rachel had shown him how the knot worked. A simple tug would free the knight’s manhood. “Address me as master.”
The sounds Bast made bore no resemblance to the requested word. He made out ‘loathsome’ and ‘toad’ but the rest was fairly unintelligible due to Bast pressing his face into the blanket. Rien leaned forward, driving himself deeper into Bast once more. “Address me as master, Bast.” He caressed Bast’s shaft again. “Say please.” More muffled curses came in response.
A groan escaped Rien as he thrust again. Feeling Bast squirming beneath him was a pleasure he’d sorely missed. He was enjoying himself so thoroughly he almost missed the whispered words. “Please, master.”
“Bast?” Rien paused.
His knight struggled against his bonds, then exhaled. “Please, master.”
With a single quick motion, he tugged the rope, freeing Bast’s manhood. Then he drove himself into the knight with renewed vigor. The sound of Bast’s soft cry when the knight came was enough to take him over as well.
Rien withdrew slowly, then shifted to lay next to the knight. They lay for a few moments, both panting, before Rien reached out and brushed Bast’s hair from his face. “Would you like to be untied now, Bast?”
It took him only a moment to release Bast’s legs. “There.”
“What about…” Bast pulled at the ropes still binding his arms.
“Well…” Rien leaned forward and kissed him. “I’m trying to protect you from temptation. He sat up and glanced at where the two blonds were peering in the doorway. Bast immediately turned red at the realization there had been an audience. Rien just laughed, and patted the bed. “Come get some sleep, girls.”
Another serious of curses escaped Bast as both women practically leapt into the bed.
Bastien finished adjusting the barding on the horse he’d been given. Horses had been brought for Maela and Rachel as well, though it had been decided they would spend most of their time in the wagon. He was checking the wagon over one final time when he heard Rien arguing with someone. He turned to see Lammert walking toward him, with Rien moving to intercept.
“I wish to speak to your pet for a moment.” Lammert glared at Rien. “In private.”
“You can step back there, where I can see you.” Rien glared back.
Lammert rolled his eyes, then gestured for Bastien to follow him to the corner. Bastien squared his shoulders before accompanying him. “I’m aware I owe you my life, but that doesn’t mean I am going —”
“Sir Bastien…” Lammert tilted his head before glancing at Rien. Then he looked back at Bastien. “I am curious. What does he think nonpareil means?”
Bastien blinked, then gave Lammert an incredulous look. “He’s been…”
“He seems to enjoy the word.” A small smile played at the edges of Lammert’s mouth. “But it is clear he doesn’t know the actual meaning”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “He wanted to insult me, and asked for an equivalent to asshole.”
“And you…” Lammert nodded. “Well-played.”
“Thank you.” He waited a moment. “Was that really all you wanted?”
“Well, that and to be there to see the look on his face when he finally does learn the word’s actual meaning.” Lammert shrugged. “Good luck, Sir Bastien.” He started walking away. “You’re going to need it.”