It took Rien a few moments to comprehend what his brother had just said. Next to him, Rachel had gone utterly still. Maela and Bast were staring. Rien swallowed. “It was you.” He looked at Lammert as though he’d never seen him before in his life. “You left the note and the…” He trailed off, uncertain what to say.
“Currish venomed beef-witted boil-brained full-gorged spleen-clotted piss-filled moldwarp. What sort of loggerheaded warped fen-sucked shard-borne doghearted maggot-minded froward monstrosity of a dankishly ill-bred fucking perfidious shit-skinned game are you playing?”
Trust Bast to rise to the occasion. Rien jerked his head in the knight’s direction. “What he said.” He shook his head. “Blood and ashes, Lammert! If you found the keystones that would make you the fucking heir! Whoever finds the keystones —”
“No.” Lammert shook his head. “Whoever brought a keystone to Darodelf. I was very, very careful not to so much as set foot in Clan Draak’s territory while those stones were in my possession.”
“You…” Rien tilted his head. “You don’t…” He took a deep breath. “But you could have been king of the Wildlands, Lammert.”
“I don’t want to be king of the Wildlands, Marinus.” Lammert sighed. “Is that really so hard for you to comprehend?”
“Yes.” Rien waved a hand. “This is…” He clenched his fists. “All of this is because of some half-assed garbled prophecy?”
“Because some felt the prophecy was of value rather than mere words, and sought to ensure it comes to fruition.” Lammert nodded. “We are pieces in a larger game, Marinus, one we dare not take the chance of losing. As small a hope as you are, little brother, it seems you may be the only one we have.”
“But you could have been king of the Wildlands!” Rien growled. “Ruled our people, our home.”
“These are not my people, Marinus. This is not my home.” Lammert shook his head. “And it never was.”
“It’s…” He swallowed. “Do you really hate us that much?”
“Marinus…” Lammert hung his head a moment, then lifted it to meet his eyes. His voice softened. “You were the only reason I came back to the Wildlands the first time.”
“I…” He took a few more deep breaths. “Alright, we…” He exhaled. “We should all get some rest. You’ll stay here, Lammert. Should be safe…” He shrugged. “Ish. I’ll talk to Jochem in the morning, let him…” He frowned, then nodded. “Let you tell him what to do while I get what we need for going after Phillip. You aren’t to leave these chambers without Bast and I accompanying you, got that?”
“I’ll humor you.” Lammert inclined his head toward Rien.
“Good. Cause if you don’t, I’m going kick the shit out of you and let the girls tie you up.” Rien stood. “Everyone relax, and maybe try to get some sleep.” He scooped Rachel up into his arms. “We’ll talk in the morning.”
Bastien remained still as Maela painted the image on his back. The girls weren’t stupid. They’d taken part in the dragon slaying, and they were Rien’s slaves. Being left behind could actually be more dangerous for them than going along. Letting Maela paint him seemed better than letting her sit and fret. Rachel, at least, seemed happy. Of course, she and Rien had kept the rest of them awake half the night. “Is Solsthriem nice?” Maela tilted her head before adding something to the painting.
“Yes.” Bastien smiled, but stayed still. “In the summer, there is the Grand Tourney. It’s a tournament, but it’s more than that. Craftsmen come from all over to show their finest wares. Artists and minstrels come to, and compete just as fiercely as the knights looking for patrons. The nobles like to show off, and it can be like walking through a crowd of colorful birds.” His father was one of the nobles now. “The Magi even get in on things, performing displays of magic and testing people to see if they have potential. And traders bring in wares from all over the world.”
“Did you participate in the tournament?” Maela gave her work a critical look before leaning in with the paintbrush again.
“No, it…” He caught himself about to shrug and stayed still. “My father did. I didn’t want to compete against him, not in what was going to be his last tournament.”
“Lammert said if we are going, we will have to start wearing clothes. Lots of them.” Maela made a vexed noise. “And I can’t dress you as I please anymore.”
“Thank the gods.” He breathed a sigh of relief. She glared at him.
He didn’t have to alter his testament much. Jurgen’s children were already to receive his holdings in the event of his death. At least they were with clan Valyk, and thus somewhat distant from current events. Clan Valyk wasn’t quite as powerful as Clan Draak, but if Diantha thought for a moment her children were threatened the chieftess would not hesitate to go to war. Rutger’s forces were no match for her. And her eldest, Petrus, was definitely his father’s son. And a year older than Rien, for that matter. He named the man as his official heir.
Jochem would keep things in order here. He always did. It was slightly galling to Rien to realize just how unnecessary he was in his own daily life. Fortunately he’d freed Jochem years ago, thus he couldn’t be simply taken away by the queen. The man might have been Ipruci by birth, but he’d lived among them for fifteen years now, even married a Wilder woman.
Rachel brought him tea, and he kissed her, holding her tightly and feeling her melt against him. Despite the fact she’d been a virgin when he’d taken her last night, she’d been an incredibly enthusiastic lover. And more than a little wicked. He had teethmarks on his shoulder. A rather new experience. The only other person that had ever dared sink their teeth into him was Bast. It was rather more enjoyable when Rachel did it.
“Getting supplies without making it obvious what we are doing is going to take some time.” Rien sat down at the table. Maela was painting Bast’s chest, and he smiled at the sight. She was taking the ‘dragon knight’ thing rather seriously. “Though Rutger probably has some clue already.” He glanced at what Lammert was writing, then frowned when he realized he didn’t recognize the script. “What are you doing?”
“I was stripped of my holdings here in the Wildlands.” Lammert continued writing, dipping a quill into ink. “However, Thirza has no authority to strip me of what I own in other lands. I am preparing missives authorizing your usage of said resources.”
“I…” Rien blinked. “You’re actually going to trust me with something like that?”
“Is there a reason I should not?” Lammert kept writing.
“It’s just the other day you…” Rien trailed off. “I remember when I was seven, and Jurgen told me you’d just ridden into the city. I was so eager that I went charging off and…” He chuckled. “Fell off the bridge. You had to fish me out of the river.”
“I did not appreciate the reminder of just how cold that water is in the spring.” Lammert finished one parchment before setting it aside and starting another.
“My teeth were chattering so hard I could barely manage to ask if you’d brought presents.” He hesitated, then ducked his head a little. “You know I still have that puppet. Strings are busted, but…” He swallowed. “Always thought I’d get it fixed one day, give it to my kids when I got around to having some. Where was it from?” He looked up at Lammert. “I can’t recall.”
“Petobae.” Lammert wrote in yet a different script. “They use puppet shows to both teach and entertain the children.”
“I was an ungrateful little brat and I never did thank you for it. So…” Rien put a hand on Lammert’s shoulder. “Thank you, Lam.”
“You are welcome, Rien.”
There was, of course, the downside of Maela’s artistic talent: Rien appreciated it. Rien didn’t want to break out the chains or even the rope when there was the possibility of assassins, so instead he proved he was a creature of pure evil. He told the twins to hold Bastien down. Each of them pinned one of his arms, keeping him on his back for Rien.
Rien’s mouth was hungry on his, and the man’s hands roamed him freely. Now and then the twins helped, pointing out when Rien found sensitive areas or just offering enthusiastic encouragement. Bastien gasped when Rien’s teeth nipped lightly at his left nipple. He tried to pull a hand free, but Rachel tugged it back down, giggling. “I think he liked that, Master Rien.”
“Well…” Rien repeated the action on the right, making Bastien squirm. “I think you’re right.
“Writhled carbuncle.” Bastien panted as Rien’s hand trailed down his side to his hip.
“I’m not convinced that’s even a word.” Rien’s mouth found his again, and to his irritation Bastien found himself returning the kiss. He gave serious consideration to biting the man, then moaned as Rien lifted his hips.
Maela made a purring sound when Rien drove into him, making Bastien struggle against the grip of the twins. They both kept hold of him, preventing his escape as Rien took him. He arched his back, and Rien drove himself deeper inside. Rien’s hand began fondling him, lightly at first, then with increasing insistence. Bastien could hear Rachel moaning as she watched.
He came, only to realize Rien had no intention of stopping the onslaught that easily. The big man stayed inside him, but reached up to grab Bastien’s hair, pulling his head upright to kiss him. His tongue thrust into Bastien’s mouth, probing deeply. As Rien drew back, he caught Bastien’s lower lip in his teeth, nipping lightly before releasing him.
Then he continued fucking Bastien, keeping up a steady rhythm. Rien grabbed Bastien’s legs, lifting him slightly to better drive the full length of his massive cock into Bastien over and over. Bastien found himself moaning at the invasion, and realized to his shock that he was enjoying the sensation. His entire body shuddered when he came a second time, from no more than the feel of Rien pounding inside him over and over.
Only then did Rien finally cum, his cock twitching deep inside Bastien. He released Bastien’s legs before all but collapsing atop him. “You can let him go now, girls.”
Rachel sighed. “Do we have to?”
“Well…” Rien chuckled. “No.”
“But it would…” Bastien panted. “Be appreciated.”
They’d packed what they needed out of his quarters, and now just needed the additional supplies Jochem was getting for them. And the horses. A couple more days, and they’d be underway. He’d actually started to think they’d be allowed to leave in peace. Then word came from his mother, ordering him to send the majority of his guard back to their normal duties tomorrow instead of leaving them at his door. He tried not to feel sick, and told himself that she wasn’t actively trying to kill him. She just didn’t believe Rutger was a villain.
He passed the order reluctantly. Come morning, they’d be undefended save for a token presence. They ate dinner silently, and it was clear none of them was going to sleep anytime soon. He was starting to ponder means of distracting himself when… “Lammert, what are you doing?” His brother had grabbed a sack out of the storage room and was dragging it to the balcony.
“Not dying.” Lammert shrugged.
“Wait, where did that…” Rien blinked. That sack wasn’t his. “Lammert?” He gestured to the others, and they followed him after Lammert.
Lammert dumped the sack out, revealing ropes and climbing harnesses. Swiftly, Lammert began securing one of the ropes to the railing. “Come morning, Rutger will be able to start arranging opportunities to kill all of us.” He tested a knot. “I would prefer to deny him those opportunities.”
“But where did…” Rien scratched his head. “This stuff isn’t mine.”
“I stashed it here.” Lammert looked at him as though he’d asked what color the sky was.
“When?” Rien glanced at the bag. Lammert hadn’t left these quarters once since the trial.
“After I arranged the spear.” Lammert just shrugged.
“But…” Rien turned toward his companions. Oh, good, he wasn’t the only one confused. It was starting to occur to him how very little he actually knew his brother.
“We are climbing down from the balcony, in the dead of night, to escape under the cover of darkness?” Maela tilted her head.
“Oh, that is going to be wonderful in the poem.” Rachel nodded eagerly before accepting the rope Lammert handed her and going to tie it off.
“I…” Bast glanced at the girls. “Are they actually enjoying this?”
“Well…” Rien found himself smiling. He just hoped Rutger underestimated Lammert as thoroughly as Rien himself had. “Aren’t you?”
Bast shrugged, then smiled before nodding.