She ran her fingers through Ruarc’s hair. He was firmly secured in the pillory, partly bent over and with his legs spread apart. She’d fixed weights and little bells to the clamps she’d attached to his more sensitive bits, and now and then she could hear them jingling. “You’ll be pleased to know I have sent the first stipend to your sister.”
He slowly raised his head to look at her, though the pillory made him have to crane his neck to do so. “She’ll be pleased.”
“I’ll allow you to write to her tomorrow.” She ran a finger down his cheek. “I will read it before I allow it to be sent.” She walked behind the pillory, then trailed her fingernails down his side. He twitched, making the bells jingle.
Vitalia smiled, then flicked her fingernail against his scrotum. He made a small sound as he jumped a little at the sensation. Then she walked all the way around to face him again. “You wanted a warrior.” His voice was quiet.
“I have one.” She ran her fingers through his hair again.
“You won’t for long, if this continues.” He exhaled. “Men are weakened in captivity, especially held like this. If you want me to be able to fight for you…” He raised his head again. “You’ll have to allow me to —”
“Exercise, yes.” She nodded. “Tomorrow I will allow you a few hours to train.” She crouched to look him in the eye. “Tonight though, I want to see you squirm.”
He winced a little as Gian tended to the injury. The duchess hadn’t been content to simply taunt him with his servitude. She’d required a more tangible reminder of his position. The leather collar he’d expected, even prepared himself for on some level. The duchess, however, hadn’t been content with that. She’d driven thin slivers of metal through each of his nipples, then placed small metal hoops through the holes she’d made and sealed them shut. “They will not get infected, my lord.” Gian smiled up at him.
“Supposed that’s somewhat better than the alternative.” Ruarc nodded. Then he frowned at the young man. “You have…?”
Gian moved the opening of his robe just enough to show a pierced nipple to Ruarc. “My former master did these, along with the three in my cock, my lord.”
“You…” Ruarc blinked. “In your…?” He stared at Gian. When Gian nodded, Ruarc exhaled and said a small prayer that he wouldn’t have to deal with that being done to him. “Gods.” Then he tilted his head. “Your ears are pierced as well?”
“Oh, yes.” Gian started to smile, but it died on his lips. “I’m not allowed to wear earrings though, since I dropped one belonging to the mistress and it was lost.” He smiled shyly. “I have a lovely pair of pearl teardrops with silver doves in flight. Those are my favorite.”
Ruarc smiled at Gian. “I’m sure they look lovely on you.” He started to rise, then gave a frustrated shake of his head. “Gian, you haven’t laid out a tunic.” He grabbed the trousers.
“The mistress told me not to, my lord.” Gian gave him an apologetic look. “She said it would defeat the purpose, my lord.”
“Of course.” He took a deep breath. Why go for merely causing him pain when she could humiliate him as well? “Well, she gave me permission to walk the path down to the pond and shirt or no, I’m walking the path down to the pond.” He shrugged, then grabbed his boots before turning toward Gian. “Why don’t you come with me?”
“You mean…” Gian’s eyes went wide. “Leave the castle?”
“I wish.” Ruarc sighed. “The walls, but not the lands.” He saw Gian shift his weight a little. “Gian?”
“Yes, my lord?”
“I’ll protect you.”
“I…” Gian nodded. “Alright, my lord.”
Vitalia held the bit between her fingers and raised an eyebrow at Ruarc. He was glaring at her. “I did say we’d go for a ride.” She smirked a little. It took a moment for his fists to unclench, but then he dropped to his knees with his head bowed. “Good boy.”
The bit went between his teeth as she fastened the bridle over his head. He grimaced as Durante secured the saddle to his back and shoulders. Vitalia stroked Ruarc’s hair. It was hard to contain her eagerness. This was the first time she’d had someone both strong and submissive enough for this particular desire, and she’d held off as long as she could stand it.
She’d even had a riding habit made special. A hint of a girlish giggle escaped her as she climbed into the saddle. Then she yanked a little on the reins. Despite the addition of her weight and the saddle, Ruarc rose smoothly. He couldn’t talk with the bit in his mouth, thus couldn’t ask what she wanted. Rather than bother with verbal commands, she simply dug her heels into him.
By the time he was halfway up the path, she was laughing freely. She should have attached bells to him before this, or perhaps given him a tail. Vitalia used the riding crop to spur him to greater speed, though he didn’t go faster than a light jog even when she smacked him a couple more times. He’d cooperated thus far, and she decided to hold off instead of hitting him again. When they returned, she’d ask. And if his reason didn’t satisfy her, well, she hadn’t had the opportunity to actually punish him yet.
Ruarc held still while Gian treated the abrasions the afternoon had left. Sitting still while the young slave attended him was rapidly becoming commonplace. Unlike many of the other things becoming common, this one he didn’t mind. It was possible Gian was the only person on this godforsaken mountain he actually liked. “No, if you do it properly when you crack the dried mud off the scales come off with it.”
“That still seems a very strange way to eat fish, my lord.” Gian smiled, then frowned.
“No stranger than pickling them, if you think about —” He hissed a little Gian soothed the ointment onto a particularly tender location. Then he took a couple deep breaths.
“She was in a very good mood when you returned, my lord.” Gian moved up to sooth the ointment into the scratches the duchess’s nails had left on his shoulders.
Good mood was an understatement. As soon as they’d returned from the ‘ride’, she’d dragged him into the bed chamber and ridden him in a completely different fashion. Then after she’d been satiated, she’d picked the riding crop back up and insisted on a reason as to why he hadn’t run when she’d demanded it. Fortunately, she’d accepted his explanation that her weight on his back had affected his balance enough that if he’d run, he’d have risked too great a chance of falling.
Soon Kiera would have gold in her hands. That thought was all that kept him from turning to strangle the duchess and damn the consequences. He might be a whore, but the duchess paid well for her games. “That dungeon is…” He swallowed. “There are things there that…” He tried not to shudder.
“Not all the things there are toys, my lord. Sometimes, there are bandits or the like who must be dealt with. She would never subject you or I to the spiked chair, my lord.” Gian patted his shoulder soothingly, mindful of his injuries. “You will not scar, my lord.” He offered Ruarc a potion.
“You know, you can call me Ruarc.” He accepted the potion.
“I…” Gian blinked. “My lord?”
He laughed softly. “Gian, let’s face facts. I’m as much her slave as you are. Maybe more, because her method of enslaving me is legal.” He smiled at Gian. “So, Gian, my friends call me Ruarc.”
“I…” Gian gave him a shy smile. “Yes, Ruarc.”
Madzia couldn’t keep the smile off her face as she watched the men practicing below. The duchess had finally decided to lengthen her husband’s leash and let him assume a few of his duties. A few of the guard had thought they didn’t need to listen to their mistress’s new pet. The guard that had uttered the words aloud was currently being tended by the healer. “They mistook your wolf for a lap dog.” She offered the duchess some chilled wine.
“I’ve been thinking of him as my destrier, but a wolf suits as well.” Vitalia took the wine, then smiled as Ruarc sent the three dozen guards he’d pronounced ‘salvageable’ through another drill.
She offered him a cup of the wine when he approached, and he gave her a nod that was just slightly wary before turning to the duchess. “Half your men should refund you their pay and apologize for impersonating guards.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Others for impersonating human beings.”
Vitalia laughed. “You broke one of my gate keepers.”
“If his stance had been correct that blow would have stung…” Ruarc shook his head. “But it would not have broken his leg.”
“I was referring to the broken arm.” Vitalia arched an eyebrow.
“He annoyed me.” Ruarc shrugged. “Do you want a decent guard or not?”
Her smile widened, and she glanced at Madzia. “See how keen he is to keep me safe?” She leaned forward a little. “Get them competent.”
“Yes, my lady.” He bowed before returning to watch the drill.
“Yes, my lady?” Madzia raised an eyebrow.
“I think I owe you a reward for pointing him out to me.” Vitalia grinned. “Maybe something in rubies?”
It was a shock to realize he’d been at the castle a full month. The duchess had finally consented to allow him to ride, and Sita was all but dancing in the saddle. He patted the mare’s neck, then glanced over the view. Part of him wanted to ride away from the castle at a dead gallop. The duchess had made the consequences for such an action abundantly clear. Leave, and he’d be signing his brother’s death warrant. He let Sita go to a fast trot, and took the path that circled the castle.
They stopped near a stream, and he dismounted to let Sita drink and help herself to a few mouthfuls of the tall grass. Ruarc caught a branch above his head, then leaned his head on his arms. “Kind of ironic.” He sighed and glanced at Sita. “I avoid becoming a Wilder slave only to end up a slave to one of my own people.”
Sita nickered in response before taking another mouth of grass. Ruarc smiled at the horse. The crossbowman had been reloading the crossbow when a spear had smacked the man in the back of the head, dazing him. He’d assumed he was dead at that point, but the man who’d knocked out the crossbow man had lent him a shoulder to get to one of the Wilder’s healers. The Stone Dragon had slung the crossbow man over his back and carted him. After his leg had been tended, the Stone Dragon had left the choice of being enslaved or being released up to him. Naturally, he’d chosen being released.
The other man had rolled his eyes and told him that he’d come to regret that decision. “That son of a bitch was right. Wilders actually have ways slaves can earn their freedom.” He went to the river and splashed water on his face before sitting on a rock. Maybe he should have invited Gian along, taught the guy how to fish. Next time.
Durante smirked a little as he watched Madzia riding the knight. The duchess had positioned herself over her husband’s head, and the young man was frantically trying to service both women. They’d chained him down on the bed, and both of them held lit candles in their hands. Now and then, they’d drip the hot wax down on their victim, making him squirm and hiss.
He tightened his grip in Gian’s hair as he forced his cock down the smaller man’s throat, then held him in place until Gian began struggling for breath. He let Gian up just enough for him to get a gulp of air, then shoved him back down again as he watched the scene in front of him. The duchess hadn’t yet allowed him a turn at Ruarc’s mouth. That was fair enough. He didn’t want to be the one in danger if the knight was pushed too far too quickly. Durante smirked as Madzia let wax drip onto one of Ruarc’s pierced nippled. Ruarc arched violently in response, exactly as Madzia wanted.
It was Madzia’s orgasmic cry that took Durante himself over the edge. He withdrew to shoot his load onto Gian’s face and forehead, smearing it across the man’s cheek before wiping himself clean on his hair.
As gently as he could, Ruarc wiped the damp cloth across Gian’s eye. The young man was red faced, and there were bruises on his wrists and his cheek. “Why did he slap you?” Ruarc raised an eyebrow.
“He likes to.” Gian shrugged. “It’s never hard enough to do damage. He just…” Gian went quiet.
“He’s a servant. He treats you as beneath him to make himself feel better.” Ruarc slowly nodded. Durante hadn’t tried anything like that with him. The groom needed the duchess’s permission to touch him, and seemed to recognize that anything else would incur both the annoyance of the duchess and the immediate revenge of Ruarc himself. He felt a cold anger thread through his stomach. But apparently Gian was fair game. He should…
“There is nothing you can do about it, Ruarc.” Gian touched his hand. “She would punish you if you tried.”
“They teach you to read minds in Manisar?” Ruarc gave the eye a critical look. It was still red, but clean. Tending his fellow slave was strangely comforting. Part of him wondered if that was why Gian was always so solicitous of him.
“I do not have to.” Gian smiled. “Your eyes say everything. You are a knight. You want to protect people who cannot protect themselves.” He looked away, his expression suddenly shy. “And you are kind.”
“You’ve tended me often enough.” He started to ask how Gian’s leg was, then just shook his head. Durante had thrown Gian to the floor at the beginning, and the young man had banged his knee. Ruarc shrugged, then just picked Gian up and carried him toward the slave’s small bedchamber. He laid Gian on the bed. “If it’s not better by morning, you’re taking a potion.”
“The duchess —” Gian started shaking his head.
“She lets me have them, which means they are available.” Ruarc narrowed his eyes. “If you need a potion, Gian, I’ll see to it that you get one.” He pulled the blanket over his friend.
“Thank you, Ruarc.”
Ruarc smiled, then on a whim leaned forward and kissed Gian’s forehead. “Get some sleep.”
He stood, and headed back to the bedchamber he shared with the duchess. Of all the things that occurred in this castle, having to share her bed to sleep was the part he hated most.