Patreon – The Island

Mark was perfect.  Or nearly, anyway.  He had luscious black hair that contrasted beautifully with his deep blue eyes.  Several years of wrestling, surfing, and rock climbing had given him a wonderful musculature beneath skin that remained pale no matter how much time he spent outdoors.  It was the Irish in him.

He was even a decent guy.  Even though Reggie rarely said yes, Mark generally made an effort to invite him along when going to a concert or other event.  And when Reggie did go, Mark shut down his friends when they tried giving Reggie shit.  Sometimes he’d even take Reggie out, just the two of them, playing the big brother.  The man really only had two glaring flaws.  The first is that he was straight.

Reggie glanced at the door to his room before turning his attention back to the screen.  Mark was in the shower, water dripping from his body as he shook his head under the stream of water.  Mark was straight, and it really wasn’t wise to have a giant crush on his stepbrother.  If the hidden cameras in Mark’s room were found, he’d have a lot of unpleasant explaining to do.

Fortunately, Mark didn’t have a lot of interest in tech.  He supported Reggie’s interest, even showing up to cheer him on at the robot wars.  Reggie turned the feed off as soon as Mark was dressed.  A few minutes later, Mark knocked on the door before sticking his head in.  “Hey, Reggie, I’m heading downtown.  Want to come?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind.”  Reggie reached for his laptop case.  “Could use some out of the house time.”



Primitive: Chapter 17 – The End

“I punched the harbinger of the apocalypse in the face.”  Christophe sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall.

“Ragnarok.”  Lykos shrugged.

“I punched the harbinger of the Ragnarok in the face.”  Christophe kept staring at the wall.

“Not the Ragnarok.  Just Ragnarok.”

“I punched Jörmungandr in the face.”

“Was good punch too.”  Lykos grinned at him.

“I punched a dragon, in the face.”

“You know, if was going to punch a dragon, he was right choice.”  Lykos patted his shoulder.  When Christophe slowly turned to look at him, Lykos shrugged.  “He think it funny, respect your guts.  Other dragons?  They just set you on fire.  Or bit off head.”

“Your grandfather is the World Serpent.”  He exhaled.

Lykos shifted to sit next to him, and put an arm around his shoulder before pulling Christophe in.  “You should sleep.  Was big day.  Nearly got brain fried, nearly nuked, punched dragon, rode off on back of dragon…”

“He flew from Colorado to Holland in less than six minutes.  I can’t even…”  Christophe shook his head.  “We should not have been able to survive the G-forces involved with going that fast.”

“You ride dragon, and you worry about g-strings?”  Lykos tilted his head.

“G—”  He turned to stare at Lykos.  “There you go.  Thinking you’re funny.”  He smiled a little.

“I…”  Lykos put a hand on his chest.  “Am hilarious.”

“Yeah…”  Christophe shook his head.  “Like the plague.”

“Bah.”  Lykos lay back on the bed, pulling Christophe down with him.  Christophe shifted so he was laying in Lykos’s arms, his head resting on Lykos’s chest.  Lykos stroked his hair gently.  “Are you okay, my Christophe?”

“Yeah.”  Christophe nodded.  “Strange as…”  He swallowed.  “I am.”


Primitive: Chapter 14

“You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?”  Christophe narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“You doubt me?”  Lykos gave him a wide-eyed look of shock, but the corners of his mouth twitched just a little.

“There is no such thing as a were-beagle.”  Christophe folded his arms.

“Just the one.”  When Christophe raised an eyebrow, Lykos shrugged.  “Never gamble with pixie.  Always with the thinking they are funny.”  He looked around the camp.  “Few days, jerky will be dry.”

“Yeah.”  Christophe nodded.  “Any chance we could get some pepper or —”

“We leave in five days.”  Lykos turned back toward Christophe.

Christophe blinked.  “What?”  He stared at Lykos for a moment, then his eyes widened.  “You mean…”

“Go Canada.  Find little town.  Cabin.  Get you television.”  He put a hand on Christophe’s shoulder.  “Maybe violin.”

“I, uh…”  He gave Lykos a hesitant smile.  “I would like to learn to play again.”  It took him several minutes to realize that travel would give him the opportunity for escape.  He could…

“Christophe?”  It took him a moment to realize Lykos was speaking to him again.  “Your eyes went away.”

“I was…”  Christophe exhaled, then touched the collar.  “A few nights ago, you forgot to lock my chain.”

“Did not forget.”  Lykos met his eyes calmly.

“You…”  He stared.  “You were testing me.  You…”  He took a deep breath, then stepped forward and shoved Lykos hard enough the man actually took a step back.  “You think taunting me with freedom is fucking funny?  In case you forgot, you fucking kidnapped me.  You…”  He felt the anger start to fade, and that pissed him off again.  “Son of a bitch.”

“Hey.”  Lykos poked him in the chest.  “I not insult your mother.”


“You can write.  Drop letter in mail on way.  What you tell her is your choice.”  Lykos squeezed his shoulder.  “I will not read letter.  If…”  Lykos hesitated a moment.  “If when time to go, you want to go a different way…”  He met Christophe’s eyes again.  “I will take off chains.”

“You…”  He swallowed.  “You’d let me go?”

“Yes, Christophe.  If you want to go…”  Lykos sighed.  “I will let you go.”

“I…”  It was Christophe’s turn to hesitate.  “But then you’ll go after my father again.  You won’t…”  He looked away.  “You’ll kill people.”

“Is possible.  Is also possible they will leave me alone and I will not have need kill people.”

“Let me think about it.”  Christophe couldn’t believe he’d just said that.  Lykos was offering to…  He gave a small shake of his head.  “Let me think about it.”

“Take all time need.”  Lykos patted his shoulder before heading into the cave.


Primitive: Chapter 13

Christophe followed Lykos down the small hill to the stream.  There was a source of water in the caves, but it didn’t have fish.  Lykos kept the leash short, only a few feet, but there was an additional coil of chain in his hand.  His wrist and ankle cuffs, however, weren’t secured together, allowing in freedom of movement otherwise.  Lykos rarely bothered with those chains anymore, but he never removed the leash.  It was no longer even fastened to the collar by a lock.  Lykos had used his power to seal the links to create a ten-foot length of unbroken chain permanently attached to the collar, though longer lengths were often attached.

He sat on a rock, enjoying the sun as Lykos gave the stream one of his critical looks.  “Overhunting.  Fish too small.”  Lykos glared at the water, then sniffed it and wrinkled his nose.  “Fertilizer run off.  Shameful.”

“They’ve been trying to pass laws about the runoff problems, but the corn industry has a powerful lobby.”  Christophe lay back on the rock.  Lykos had secured the leash, giving him about a twenty-foot radius to move around in.  But with living half naked in a cool cave most of the time, the sun felt good and he saw no need to move from where he currently was.  Off in the distance he saw a helicopter heading west.

“Lobbyists.  Should all be drawn and quartered.”  Lykos shook his head as he waded into the river.

“Can’t really argue with that.”  He lifted himself up to rest a hand on his head.  Watching Lykos catch fish with his bare hands remained fascinating.  The man had attempted to teach him and Christophe had even managed it once, but Lykos made it look far easier than it actually was.  Within a few minutes, several fish were on the bank.

Cleaning the fish and game, however, remained his task.  He was getting better at it.  Lykos had caned his feet twice before he’d gotten the hang of properly butchering a deer.  He’d wondered at why the man had brought back so much before realizing that the leaves were falling.  Lykos was stocking up for winter.  “You like chickens?”

It took him a moment to realize Lykos had asked him a question.  “I like chicken.”

“Not chicken.  Chickens.”  Lykos gestured for him to grab the fish.  “I think I steal some.  Eggs.  Meat.  Build little coop.”  He shook his head.  “Cow too big.  Goats better.”

“You…”  He picked up the fish.  “You talk like you intend to stay in the caves forever.”

“Good place.  Secure.”  Lykos nodded.  He frowned when he looked at Christophe, and a couple expressions crossed his face.  “You don’t want to live in cave forever.”

I want you to let me go.  He didn’t say the words aloud.  “I kind of miss television sometimes.  And uh…”  He rubbed the back of his neck.

“Lonely.”  Lykos gave him a look that was surprisingly sympathetic.

“A little.”  He watched Lykos unfasten his leash from the tree for the trip back.

“Perhaps…”  Lykos hesitated before he started back toward the cave.  “We can go north.  Canada.  Find small town where no one will look for us.”

“That uh…”  Christophe nodded.  “Yeah.”


Primitive: Chapter 12

His fingers found the marks on the collar.  Lykos had added a rune, ensuring the collar did not merely mark Christophe as a possession, but Lykos’s possession.  He slid his fingers a bit further and found the seam, then took his hand away when he heard Lykos stir.  Lykos gave him a slight frown.  “You wake early.”

“I…”  He hesitated.  “I was thinking about my mother.  By now she probably knows I’m…”  He exhaled.

Then he felt Lykos’s hand on his shoulder.  “Can get phone, go where there is signal.  You call, tell her you are alive.”

He smiled.  “You’d let me?”

“I have no grudge against your mother.”  Lykos nodded.


Primitive: Chapter 11

He woke up with his Christophe in his arms.  The young man slept quietly, his face peaceful.  Lykos traced a finger along the collar.  It was a fairly spartan thing.  He should put a rune on it, make it clear Christophe was his and…  He frowned.  And there were few left who could even read such things.  Still, he would put the mark on anyway.  His Christophe had earned it.  He leaned over and kissed the young man’s shoulder.

Christophe stirred, blinking up at him.  “It’s morning?”

“Yes.”  Lykos sat up.  “I will make your chain longer before I go.  You can sleep more, if want.”

“I can make you breakfast.”  Christophe sat up, blinking bleary eyes.  He glanced at the cave entrance.  “It isn’t light out yet.”

Lykos caught Christophe’s chin and gently kissed his lips.  “Go back to sleep, my Christophe.  I will see you well into the night.”  He pushed Christophe back onto the bed, and the young man resisted only a moment before laying back down.  Then he put the cover over him before fixing the chain.  Christophe was asleep again before he’d finished.  Lykos smiled, and left the cave.


Primitive: Chapter 10

Guerin looked up at the man who’d entered Darin’s office.  He’d been expecting a scientist, not someone built like a linebacker.  Guerin nodded.  “Thank you for coming, Mr. Wōtan.”

“A pleasure.”  Mr. Wōtan accepted Guerin’s handshake.  “I was told there was a sighting.  Would it be possible to speak with the witnesses?”

“I’m afraid it would not.”  Darin stood, and also shook Mr. Wōtan’s hand.  “Given the delicacy of the matter, the situation had to be contained.”

Mr. Wōtan nodded.  “I see.”

“What can you tell us about this creature?”  Darin folded his arms.  “Is he an extraterrestrial?”

“Quite the opposite, really.”  Mr. Wōtan’s spoke with an accent that sounded Russian.  It put Guerin slightly on edge.  “I would require access to the samples you took to confirm, but if I am correct…”  He shrugged.  “Then you may be better off thinking of him as primordial rather than extraterrestrial.”

“You mean what?” Guerin blinked.  “He’s some kind of Neanderthal throwback?”

“That is one way to put it.”  Mr. Wōtan set his briefcase on the table.

“Mr. Wotan…”  Guerin narrowed his eyes.  “That thing has my son.”

“I am aware of the situation.”  Mr. Wōtan gave Guerin a sympathetic look.  “However, if he was going to kill the boy he would have done it already.  Mr. Darin says that the creature took the boy to bait you into a trap?”

“Christophe confirmed it when the thing let me talk to him.”  Guerin swallowed.  He could still hear Christophe’s bitten back cry of pain.  “This thing needs to be neutralized.”

“Contained.”  Mr. Wōtan’s voice was firm and calm.

“It’s —”

“Captain Guerin, I cannot stress this enough, and I have the backing of your superiors on the matter.”  Mr. Wōtan met his eyes.  “The creature is to be taken alive.”

“You have any idea how many people it’s already killed?”  Guerin glared at him.  “This thing, Li-cost or —”


“What?”  Guerin blinked.

“His name…”  Mr. Wōtan smiled.  “Is Lykos.”


Primitive: Chapter 9

The cot Lykos had set up for him was surprisingly comfortable.  Lykos had purchased a pad, and folded a couple blankets atop that.  Despite the fact that his hands had been shackled behind his back and his ankles secured together, he’d have passed a pleasant night if he hadn’t been dreading the events to come with the dawn.  Lykos had gone deeper into the cave before sunrise.  Christophe’s leash was fastened to the old track, meaning he couldn’t have followed even if his hands and legs had been freed.

He heard a sound and his stomach sank a little.  Lifting his head meant he could see the shine of Lykos’s eyes as the man returned.  Lykos had taken no light source with him into the dark.  He didn’t appear to need one, though he left a lantern in the cave that sheltered them for Christophe’s benefit.  He’d also left a flashlight next to the cot.

Lykos had brought with him what looked to be two pieces of metal railroad track.  He also brought several other pieces of metal back with him.  As Christophe watched, Lykos set to work.  The dwarf used his finger to slice one of the track pieces in half, moving through hardened steel as easily as a hot knife moved through butter.  Christophe half expected to see the metal glowing, but however Lykos worked the material didn’t seem to involve heat.  He swallowed.  “How do you do that?”

“How do you move your hand through water?”  Lykos glanced over his shoulder at him.

“Water is a liquid.  Not a solid.”  Christophe sat up.  “The basic state properties are different.  I couldn’t move my hand through ice.”

“Ah.  Science.”  Lykos nodded.  Then he shrugged.  “Don’t think this is science.”  He set one of the bars atop the longer one to make a cross-shape, then used his fingers to smooth the metal and join the pieces.  He then added small circles of metal to each of the ends of the arms of the…

Christophe’s eyes widened.  The arms of the cross.  Lykos was making a steel cross.  “Lykos —”

“It not yet dawn.”  Lykos glanced over his shoulder.  “You beg already?”

“You intend to kill me.”  Christophe shook his head.

“Kill?”  Lykos shook his head.  “No.  Young, healthy.  Can live days on cross.  Perhaps a week or more, if give you water.”

His body was started to shake a little.  He clenched his fists to try to make the shaking stop.  “I need a word.”

“Word?”  Lykos blinked, then turned back to him.  “What word?”

“So, you know the begging is real and not just reflex.  Give me a word.  I won’t mean anything I say except that word.”  He dragged his eyes from the cross to meet Lykos’s.  “Please, master.”

The nod Lykos gave him was one of approval.  “Two words.  Give you pause to think.  Snow White.”

“Okay.”  He drew in on himself, and took several deep breaths before watching Lykos finish his work.


Primitive: Chapter 6

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.


Primitive: Chapter 4

His captive hadn’t spoken during the last couple miles, but he was starting to flag again.  Despite Lykos intending to continue their trek overland, it was clear Christophe was unable to handle such a journey.  At least, not without assistance and better gear.  Lykos glanced over his shoulder, and Christophe visibly flinched when Lykos’s eyes landed on him.  He lost his footing and fell, grunting in pain when he landed.  Lykos sighed, then walked back toward him.

“Get up.”  He gave a tug of the leash.

Christophe was panting.  He tried to get up again, then winced and cried out.  Lykos sniffed.  He could scent blood.  With another tired sigh, he reached down and grabbed the young man by the front of the shirt and hauled him over to a rock.  He tossed more than set Christophe onto it, then crouched to look at the damage.  The young man’s pants were torn near his left knee, and blood was starting to show through the cloth.  “I can’t keep going.”  Christophe’s voice bordered on a whimper.

He rolled his eyes, then tore the pant leg further to examine the wound.  A jagged shard of rock was still embedded in it.  Christophe yelped as Lykos yanked it out.  He turned the rock over in his hand, then shrugged and tossed it over his shoulder.  The wound was bleeding freely now.  “Leg is not broken.”  Lykos shook his head.  “Get up.”

“It hurts.”  Christophe shook his head.  “I’m losing blood.”

“Soft.”  Lykos shook his head, then looked at the wound again.  It was deep, and it was possible Christophe could lose enough blood to damage him if it wasn’t treated soon.  And perhaps more importantly, the wound may fester or scar.  Neither suited him.  He pulled the knife out.

“What are you doing?”  Christophe cringed away.  When Lykos brought the knife toward him, Christophe started frantically shaking his head.  “Don’t.  Please. I can walk.  I just need a banda—”

Lykos sliced the meat of his own palm, near the thumb.  He let the blood well up, then reached over to put his bloody hand over Christophe’s wound.  Christophe tried to pull away, and Lykos used his other hand to yank the chain, pulling Christophe back into position.  “No move.”

“What…”  Christophe’s face was pale.

“Shut up.”  Lykos gave an irritated grunt.  He focused, feeling the wound as the blood worked.  Then he took his hand away, and held it up for Christophe to see.  The wound on his palm was gone.  “See…”  Lykos gestured at the blood-covered but healed skin of Christophe’s leg, then stood.  He patted Christophe’s cheek with the formerly wounded hand.  “I am kind to you.”


The Duchess: Chapter 6

She hadn’t been lying.  Having them removed was indeed more painful than having them placed.  Ruarc bit back the cry of pain every time, and did not indulge in any groaning.  The look of disappointment on her face almost make the suffering worthwhile.  She must have caught a glimpse of that in his face, because she knew exactly how to retaliate.

“Making me into your whore isn’t enough for you?”  He fought to keep his hands from clinching into fists.

“Are you denying having second thoughts about our arrangement?”  She arched an eyebrow as a smug expression danced on her lips.

“Durante holds my brother’s marker.”

“And you cannot call in markers on your lands to pay it off.  You owe more than the lands are worth, and those markers will belong to me.”  She sat languidly in her chair, as though it was a throne.  It might well have been.

“Do as you demand and my family does well.  Walk away and…”  He swallowed.  “My brother dies in debtor’s prison.”

“Let’s be fair, my darling.  I’ll also see to your personal destruction.  You can be a whore or an outlaw.  One of the two will see your family secure.”  She stretched her leg out onto the footstool.  “Kneel.”

Ruarc bowed his head before dropping to his knees.  A small, bitter laugh escaped him.  “How may I serve, mistress?”


The Duchess: Chapter 5

He rubbed at his wrists, then exhaled before letting Gian take one to sooth the ointment into it.  His ankles had been left shackled together and secured to the chain on the floor.  Gian gave him a concerned look.  “The ropes are nicer if you don’t fight them, my lord.”

Simply fleeing would do him no good.  He might have gotten away with killing Durante, but there was the duchess to consider.  The king’s niece.  Killing her would make him an outlaw if he wasn’t simply executed, and alive her word was worth far more than his own.  She’d laid the trap clearly, and he’d still stepped inside.  “Fighting them seems to amuse her.”

“Oh, yes, my lord.”  Gian nodded.  “She was praising you at breakfast, telling all who would listen how she had to put you in irons.  She feared you’d break the ropes.”  Gian soothed the ointment into his other wrist.  “She’s instructed special restraints be made for you my lord.  Something that can hold her magnificent beast.”  He gave Ruarc a shy smile.  “You frightened me a little when you threw Durante off the bed.  I thought you were going to break free and I’d be punished for not tying you well enough.”

“If…”  Ruarc took a deep breath.  “You’d be punished if I broke free?”

“Of course, my lord.”  Gian gave him a confused look.  “Or if the ropes injure you.  It means I did not perform my duty adequately.”  Gian stood.  “Do you have other injuries, my lord?”

“I’m fine.”  Ruarc nodded.

Gian shifted from foot to foot.  “Are you certain, my lord?”

Ruarc looked up at him.  “I’m fine.”

“I…”  Gian hesitated.  “Are you certain, my lord?”

“Gian…”  He exhaled.  “What concerns you?”

“My lord, Durante did not prepare you before he took you.”

“Prepare…”  He caught on to what Gian was saying and felt his skin start to burn.  “I’m fine, Gian.”

“If my lord would like, I can prepare you before they wish to use you again.”

“I don’t…”  Ruarc shook his head.  “I don’t even know what you mean by that.”

“Oh.”  Gian started nodding.  “I can put oil on my fingers and —”

“Gian.”  Ruarc stared at him and then started shaking his head.  “No, I don’t want you to —”

“My lord.”  Gian put a hand on Ruarc’s shoulder, then crouched slightly so they were eye level.  “If you are not prepared, you could tear, or…”  Gian took a deep breath.  “It is a very painful injury to have, my lord.”

“I…”  Ruarc frowned.  “You know this from experience.”

“Yes, my lord.”  He nodded.  “I would have to prepare well if I were to take you, my lord.  You are bigger than Durante.”

“I won’t be taking you, Gian.”  Ruarc shook his head.  “I have no interest in either defiling you or doing you harm.”

“I…”  Gian smiled at him.  “I wouldn’t mind, my lord.  I like you.”

“Just…”  Ruarc took a deep breath.  Then another.  He had to take a third before he could speak.  “Tell me if you think I am going to need to be…”  He winced.  “Prepared, and I will consider your offer.”


Dragonlord: Chapter 33

He took watch.  Maela and Rachel both curled by Bast, their heads resting on his torso.  Frankly, he considered it a rather heroic act of willpower that he didn’t kick his brother awake and then go pounce on his bed-slaves.  They looked rather adorable in their little dog-pile.  Early on, Bast had objected to the girls using him as a pillow.  The knight had lost that particular battle without the girls even having to call upon Rien for aid.  Maela even had hold of Bast’s hand.

They were all in danger.  Because of him.  He’d had bed-slaves before.  The last one he’d kept for almost a year.  She’d pleased him well enough he’d told Jochem to free her before he’d left.  He’d been fond of her but…  He’d been fond of her the way he was fond of his good boots.  Rutger had been surprised when he’d stepped between the archer and Rachel.  Looking back, so was he.  He’d told Bast that Rutger would target the girls to make him and Bast stand down.  Frankly, he hoped he was wrong, that Rutger wouldn’t use such a tactic.  It was somewhat terrifying to realize if Rutger did, it would work.

Rien was considering pouring himself some tea when Lammert’s eyes abruptly opened.  He sat up, then exhaled before pinching the bridge of his nose.  Nearby, Efua stirred and looked up at him.  “Mi’sala ven adomas?”

“Se cha.  Vola drisis non sala.”  Lammert shook his head at her.

Efua nodded before laying down and going back to sleep.  Lammert however, rose and went to the fire.  Rien shrugged, and grabbed a second cup.  He filled both before handing one to Lammert.  “What language is that?”


“Those are the sea people, right?”  Rien nodded.  “You know, I’ve never actually heard you speak other languages before.  I mean, I guess it’s not a surprise you can, just…”  He shrugged.  “I don’t know.  Suppose I just hadn’t thought about it before.”  Rien tilted his head.  “How many languages are there?”

“Hard to say.”  Lammert shrugged.  “Some regional dialects differ enough they may very well be separate languages, and then there are written works that have outlived any speakers of those dialects.  Even more have been lost save for a relic or two.”

“This contact of yours, where are we meeting him?”  Rien kept his voice quiet, and added another piece of wood to the fire.  The fire was small, but there was a chill in the air.  Maybe he should start fresh tea.

“He’ll find us, you needn’t worry.”

For a moment, he was quiet.  “Did you mean it?”

“Marinus?”  Lammert raised an eyebrow.

“When you said…”  He sighed.  “When you said that this time when you leave, you’re not…”  He looked down at his tea.  “You’re not coming back?”

“Yes.”  Lammert hesitated, then looked up at him.  “You offered to stand as my champion.”

“Yeah I…”  Rien snorted softly.  “Thought you didn’t stand a chance against Ludo and I…”  He rubbed the back of his neck.  “I was pretty sure I could take him.”

“I appreciated that, little brother.  Perhaps more than you can understand.”  Lammert was quiet for a moment.  “Kindly ask Maela to stop, if you would.”

“Maela to…”  Rien blinked, then looked up at Lammert.  “You mean you did notice?”

“I would rather Efua not decide she needs to handle the matter.”  Lammert shrugged.  “I will answer your questions, Marinus, in time.”

“Alright.  I just…”  Rien shrugged.  “You know I don’t actually mind, really.  I mean, if you want Maela to…”  He looked up.  “I could share Bast if you…”

“Sela tenai, Rien…”  Lammert began taking items from their food store.  “You do realize I’m the same age as his father, yes?”

“Yeah, I guess.”  He chuckled.  “So…”  He shrugged.  “Are you and Efua…”  He glanced at Lammert’s side of the camp.  “Or you and Mikaere…?”

Lammert sighed.  “Oh, Marinus.”


Dragonlord: Chapter 31

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.”


DragonLord: Chapter 30

He tried questioning his brother, but Lammert refused to explain anything or answer any questions until they’d bathed.  It made for an unprecedented experience.  Bast, Rachel, and Maela were all naked in the basin with him, and he wasn’t inclined to luxuriate.  Rien didn’t even object when Bast pulled on trousers instead of the loincloth.  Bast must have also been distracted, because he didn’t protest when Maela handed him just a vest instead of a tunic.

They emerged into the living area to find Lammert had made tea.  He held a cup out to Rien.  Rien stared at it a moment.  “You just poisoned a man.”

“Marinus, if I wanted you dead you’d never have made it to your first birthday.”  Lammert lifted the cup.

“Right.”  He took the cup.  “I’m sorry we were too late, Lammert.”

“On the contrary, your arrival was just in time.”  Lammert handed cups to Rachel, Maela, and Bast.  Then he took one for himself.  “Had you not been present, I imagine I’d not have been permitted to walk away from the arena.”

“Probably not.”  Rien sniffed at the tea.  It smelled pretty good.  Then he sighed, and took a deep breath.  “Rutger had Phillip kill Jurgen.”

“So you said.”  Lammert sat down.  “The only way the likes of Phillip could kill Jurgen would be through treachery.”

“We’ll bring charges against Rutger.”  Rien drank from his cup.

“Don’t be a fool, Marinus.”

“Lammert…”  Rien started shaking his head.

“What charge will you bring?”  Lammert took a sip from his own cup.  “That Rutger allied with the man responsible for our brother’s death?”  He glanced at Bast.  “Sir Bastien, would you be so kind as to remind Marinus who he was working with when he took you prisoner?”

“But he —” Rien cut himself off.  He made himself take a couple breaths.  He’d missed too much already.  If he went charging in, he’d end up tripping and falling on his own axe.  He sat down in the chair across from Lammert.  Rachel sat beside him, and he put his arm around her.  “I spoke to Jochem.  He said you…”  He frowned.  “He said you gave your holdings away before…”  He looked up at Lammert.  “Why?”

“Because the next time I leave these lands, Marinus…”  Lammert swirled his tea before taking another drink.  “I’ll not be returning.  One way or another, they were going to cease to be mine anyway.  I’d rather Jurgen’s children have them than Thirza give them to Rutger.”

“They were supposed to…”  Buy time.  Whoever had left him the keystones had promised they would buy time.  Perhaps they had, just not enough of it.  He couldn’t blame Lammert for wanting to leave.  He sighed.  “Damn it.”

“What happened with the dragon?”  Lammert raised an eyebrow.

“We found it and…”  He hesitated.  Then he glanced at Bast, and sighed.  “And Bast killed it.  The blade bonded to him.”

“That…”  Lammert leaned back.  “Makes everything more complicated than it should be.”

“No, it’s alright.”  Maela spoke up.  “It still fits the prophecy, because Rien wields Bast.”

“She’s got a point.”  Bast’s voice was resigned.  “I owe Rien fealty.”

“I brought the keystone, and led the expedition that got the blade and killed the dragon.”  Rien nodded.  “That makes me the future king.”

“No, Marinus.”  Lammert shook his head.  “That makes Sir Bastien there the kingmaker.”

“Bast belongs to me.”  Rien frowned.

“For now.”  Lammert exhaled.  “Until someone finds means of taking him away from you.”  He looked up at Bast.  “I do not mean to impugn your honor, Sir Bastien.  But the fact that you kneel to Marinus proves you have a price, and even if that were not true…”  He sighed.  “Every man has a breaking point.”

“Bast can’t be bought.”  Rien glared.

“You bought him with warning drums, Marinus.  Thirza won’t bother to find his price.  She’ll have him shattered, smelted, and reforged into whatever manner of blade she feels best suits Rutger’s hand.”  Lammert leaned forward.  “You’re the heir apparent, Rien, for now.  But you are not the king.”

““The blade is bound by honor, not by chain.”  Maela spoke up.  “The fate of oath and crown are sealed together.”