He returned to find Christophe once again attempting to escape. The young man had actually managed to get one of his wrists free of the chains, though his skin was bloody from the effort. He was frantically working at the other when Lykos stepped into view. Christophe immediately banged his head against the tree limb and uttered a few mild curses. “I didn’t run.”
“Obey letter of law. Hope to escape punish.” Lykos nodded. “Teach you that in military?”
“You didn’t tell me to leave the chains alone.” Christophe tried to give him a defiant look, but the slight cringe in his body language ruined the effect.
“If had removed chains, would you have stayed put?” Lykos raised an eyebrow.
Christophe glared at him. Then he summoned up a little bit of nerve. “No.”
Lykos patted him on the head. “Good boy. Honesty is best policy. Had lied, would have put hot rocks on your feet.” Christophe paled at the threat. “You need bandages. No more damaging self. You damage self, I punish. Understand?” He moved in to undo the lock from Christophe’s other wrist.
“I understand.” Christophe accepted the first aid kit Lykos handed him, and started cleaning up the abrasions on his wrists.
After watching for a moment, Lykos went back to what he’d brought with him. He set the pieces of bar stock down, and saw Christophe jump slightly at the clanging sound they’d made. The bags he brought over and set near his captive. “Brought sandals. You may wear. Feet too soft for hard ground.” He saw the brief hopeful look. “Also, lotion for skin, to stop sun from burning.” The hopeful look faded when Christophe realized clothes weren’t included. His chest and the front of his thighs were lightly scratched from being pressed against the bark of the tree, and he’d not managed to fully escape getting some scratches on his genitals.
The young man used the first aid kit on the worst of the scratches without being told. Lykos gave him an approving nod. Then he took some of the leftover venison and set it on the cutting board he’d bought. The pot he hung over the fire and added water to before going back to the bag. He took out a couple potatoes, celery, and carrots, then set them by the roast. Then he offered Christophe a knife, hilt first. Cautiously, Christophe took it, then looked at the food. “Dinner?”
“Yes. Make.” He waited a moment as Christophe considered the knife, then nodded when Christophe clearly realized attacking would be stupid. Lykos went back to the lengths of metal he’d brought as Christophe began chopping ingredients and adding them to the pot.
The knife wasn’t a fighting knife, and Lykos had already proved going after him with a knife wasn’t a good idea. There was also the fact that his ankles were still attached to the tree by a length of chain. He needed the man to let his guard down before an attack had any chance of success. Lykos was considerably bigger and stronger than he was, and that was before taking into account the man was clearly a skilled and dangerous fighter. There were no marks from where Lykos had been cut into by the scientists, and Lykos had healed one of Christophe’s own wounds by using his blood. The man wasn’t human. Stabbing him might not even be effective.
He nearly dropped the knife when he saw Lykos bending the bar stock with his bare hands. Christophe swallowed. He looked back at the knife, then took a deep breath and went back to finishing the task Lykos had given him.
By the time he’d added the last of the ingredients to the pot, Lykos was walking back over to him, carrying the items he’d made. “Sit.” Lykos nodded at the log.
Christophe obeyed. The items were set down next to him as Lykos bent to unfasten his ankles. The stock had been turned into near circles of metal, one large and four smaller. Rings had been attached to each of the circle. A chill went through his blood when he realized he was looking at manacles. Manacles of bar-stock that Lykos had somehow worked with his bare hands. “Wait…” He tried to pull back as Lykos grabbed his arm.
“Hmmm…” Lykos examined the wrist, then sighed. Christophe blinked as Lykos cut open his own hand again, then spread his blood on the abraded wrist. A moment later, he wiped it off again, revealing undamaged skin beneath. “Better.” Lykos picked up one of the manacles.
“Don’t.” Christophe tried to pull his wrist free.
“Be still.” Lykos narrowed his eyes. The pupils had become catlike slits again. “Or I punish.”
A small whimpering sound escaped him as Lykos fitted the cuff over his wrist. The man bent it closed effortlessly, and then to Christophe’s shock, Lykos easily broke off the excess and tossed it aside. With just his fingers, Lykos began smoothing the ends together as though the steel were clay. A few heartbeats later, the cuff around his wrist was seamless. He stared at it in shock as Lykos grabbed his other arm. Seamless. Which meant there was no way for him to get it open. Despite the threat of punishment, Christophe jerked his other hand out of Lykos’s grip and immediately tried scrambling away.
Lykos sighed and tackled Christophe before his captive had made it more than a couple feet. He took Christophe to the ground and stay atop him as the young man struggled to escape. “Christophe. Christophe.” He kept his voice soothing and gentle.
Beneath him, Christophe made another whimpering sound. “Please. Please just let me go. I won’t tell anyone what you are or where you went. Please.”
He sighed, then dragged Christophe back over. Christophe kept struggling as Lykos attached the chain to his already manacled wrist. Then he let go of his captive. Christophe immediately tried fleeing again, getting to the length of the chain and yanking at it, trying to pull himself free like a terrified, trapped animal. Lykos waited until Christophe collapsed to his knees. Quiet sobs came from the prisoner. “Come here.” Lykos patted the ground next to him.
Christophe shook his head a few times, then exhaled before obeying the command. “Please just let me go.”
“Christophe.” He caught the young man’s chin and tilted his head up, forcing Christophe’s tear-filled eyes to meet his. “Give me your other wrist.”
“No.” Despite the utterance, Christophe offered him a shaking arm.
“Good boy.” He felt the metal in his hand, pliable to his will. The steel seemed to resonate as he touched it, vibrating with power. Gently he sealed it shut around Christophe’s wrist, binding the young man to him further. It would take special tools to remove it without damaging the man the steel held captive. The ankles had to also have abrasions tended before he could seal the manacles shut around them. Tears fell from Christophe’s eyes as the cuffs closed.
Instead of reaching immediately for the collar, he put a hand on Christophe’s shoulder before gently moving it to cup the back of the young man’s neck and pull him closer. With his other hand, he ran knuckles down Christophe’s cheek, brushing away the tears. “Please.” Christophe’s voice shook.
“Today, you beg me not to put them on.” Lykos caressed his shoulder with one hand, keeping a firm but gentle grip on his neck with the other. “Someday, you will beg me not to take them off.” He smiled. “Kneel.”
“Should be proud, boy.” Lykos brushed his fingers through Christophe’s hair. “It has been a long time since I collared anyone. Leash is good. Leash means I am your master. Means I take care of you, protect you, feed you, and train you.” He continued lightly stroking the young man, never releasing his neck. Slowly, he used the hand on Christophe’s neck to begin bringing the young man closer and to his knees. It took a few more minutes of gentle words and petting before Christophe’s body started to relax.
The moment of surrender was visible in the young man’s eyes. Lykos released him, then picked up the collar. Christophe didn’t move as Lykos shaped it around his neck. Another tear fell from his eyes as Lykos finished, and Lykos leaned forward to gently kiss it away. “Good boy, Christophe. Good boy. Do you like your collar?”
There was a soft whimpering sound, and Christophe turned his face away. “Yes.”
“At moment, that is lie. But I can hear in your voice you know it will become true.” Lykos smiled. “But you did not say it right. Do you like your collar?”
“Yes…” Christophe cringed a little. “Master.”
“Good boy.” Lykos ruffled his hair. “Very good. Will keep punishment from earlier small.” He patted Christophe’s cheek. “See? I am kind to you.”
“Six.” Christophe bit back the curse as Lykos’s hand came down on his bare ass again. Small punishment had apparently meant to be laid across the other man’s lap for a spanking. It was almost as humiliating as it was painful. “Seven.”
Thankfully, the man stopped at ten. Then, amazingly, it actually got worse. The man ran a hand down his back, and Christophe realized Lykos was petting him. Just as he’d done earlier, before putting on the collar. Tears threatened again. And it was working. He could feel himself starting to relax again. Then Lykos spoke. “Check food.” He let Christophe go.
He obeyed. The chains rattled a little as he moved. Lykos had fixed the chain to the collar around his neck, leashing him. A chain about five feet long secured his ankles together. Neither hampered his movements at the small camp. They just made escape unlikely, if not impossible. His hand went to the collar, searching for the seam. He could find it, though just barely. If he ran his finger along the edges of the top and bottom, he could find where the ends had been joined together.
The food was done. Lykos had bought a couple bowls. He glanced at the man, then ladled soup into a bowl and brought it to him. “Good boy.”
Christophe found the seam again, then ladled soup into a bowl for himself. He barely tasted it as he ate, and it settled heavily into his belly. At Lykos’s instruction, he put the leftovers into a covered bowl. The camper had a small refrigerator. The chain wasn’t long enough to reach the door, so Lykos put the food and other items away in the camper. Christophe found his voice again when the man came back out and sat down. “What are you?”
“Your kind have several names for mine. Also mix my kind up with other fey. Svartalf, ogre, domovoi, yaksha, troll. Your people jumble stories, add make-believe to legends.”
“You are…” Christophe stared. “You’re a fairy?”
“Bah. Fairy tales. Childish. Get so much wrong.” Lykos smirked. “Give my kind long beards and Scottish accents. Drink too much. And hammers, shovels, pickaxes. As though we needed such things.”
“Beards and…” Christophe blinked. “You’re a dwarf?”
“Also insist we are small.” Lykos held out his hand to indicate height, then waved it dismissively. “That is fault of pixies pretending to be muses. Always with the thinking they are funny.” He shook his head. “Spoiling milk funny first time. After dozen centuries, not so much.”
His legs went a little weak, and he staggered before sitting down. “Pixies are real?”
“Many things real. Then humans come along. And one real fades away for another. Some stayed. Most went. Dwarves…” Lykos shrugged. “Stories do get the stubborn part right.”
The collar was smooth beneath his fingers. He searched for the seam again, and exhaled with relief when he found it. Then a chill went down his spine. “Are there many of you?”
For a long time, Lykos was silent, staring into the dwindling flames. Then he gave a small shake of his head. “No.”